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Bible Commentaries
Revelation 15

Gann's Commentary on the BibleGann on the Bible

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Verse 1

Revelation 15:1

Chapter 15 - The Song of Moses: The Seven Last Plagues

(Not the song composed at the crossing of the Rea Sea, Exodus 15, as comes to many minds first, [That was Miriam’ song] but Moses’ Song of Deuteronomy 31:19; Deuteronomy 31:22 ; Deuteronomy 31:30 ; Deuteronomy 32:1)

The Angels of the Last Plagues Introduced, - Revelation 15:1

The Testimony of Redeemed Jewish Christian, - Revelation 15:2-4

The Angels of the Last Plagues Make Their Appearance From the

Temple of God in Heaven, - Revelation 15:5-8

Chapter heading = The Seven Last Plagues

The seven bowls which are introduced in chapter 15 and described in chapter 16 are the third in a set of three cycles of divine plagues sent for the purpose of redemption (cf. Revelation 9:20-21; Revelation 14:6-7; Revelation 16:9, Revelation 16:11). Each cycle gets progressively more severe: 1/4, 1/3, and total destruction. This is possibly based on “the cursing and blessing” section of Deut. 27–28. - Utley

15:1–16:21 The third and final cycle of seven judgments (see note on 6:1–16:21) is introduced with a vision of God’s victorious people singing a hymn of praise (15:2–4). Then a scene of the Temple is presented (15:5–8), from which angels emerge bearing the bowls of God’s judgment upon the earth (16:1–21). - NLTSB

And I saw . . (Greek kai idou) again introduces a new scene, this time in heaven (cf. Revelation 13:1, Revelation 13:11; Revelation 14:1, 6, 14; Revelation 15:2, 5)

another great and marvelous sign . . λλο σημεῖον looks back to Revelation 12:1, Revelation 12:3. This view of the appearances as ‘signs’ belongs exclusively the second half of the Apocalypse, and serves to connect the present vision with the series which began with the Sign of the Sun-clad Woman. - Swete

sign . . = symbol or figurative illustration about God’s judgment or wrath.

John’s explanation here in Revelation 15:1 is that these seven last plagues "fill" up the wrath of God.

seven angels . . These appear to be a different set of seven angels from the seven in Revelation 8:6.

Here preparation is made (as in 8:2) for another sevenfold series of visions. - CBSC

This final “sign” relates to the preceding great signs of the woman in Revelation 12:1 and the red dragon in Revelation 12:3. These seven angels should not be confused with the two groups of three angels in the preceding chapter (Revelation 14:6-20) or with any other previous group of angels. - BKC

marvelous . . The adjective “marvelous” (G2515 θαυμαστός (thaumastos); cf. Revelation 15:3) is added because John understood the seven angels to represent that Gods wrath is completed (GK 5464)—i.e., the “last” (GK 2274) plagues—and they are awesome as well as final in character. - EBCNT

having seven plagues . . They are not suffering from the plagues but are responsible for delivering them upon the earth. - FSB

seven last plagues . . Introduces the bowl judgments in Revelation 16:1-21; cf. Revelation 21:9). - NIVZSB

the wrath of God is complete . . The final set of seven judgments upon the earth following the seals and the trumpets. - FSB

It denotes at once the finality and the completeness of the visitation. - Swete

wrath ... complete . . This cycle of seven last plagues (15:1–16:21) brings God’s wrath against his enemies to completion (see Revelation 16:17; Amos 1–2; Rom 1:18–2:16). Revelation returns later to the subjects of God’s wrath (Revelation 19:15-21). - NLTSB

Verse 2

Revelation 15:2

And I saw . . (Greek kai idou) again introduces a new scene, this time in heaven (cf. Revelation 13:1, Revelation 13:11; Revelation 14:1, 6, 14; Revelation 15:2, 5)

a sea of glass mixed with fire . . See Revelation 4:6, The addition of fire here may be a reference to judgment. - FSB

a sea of glass mingled with fire . . Probably describes an optical appearance much like that of Revelation 21:18, Revelation 21:21. It gives no reason for doubting that this is the same sea of glass as in 4:6: it is not till now that the Seer’s attention is specially directed to it, and he now describes it in more detail than before. - CBSC

those who have the victory . . Includes martyrs and survivors who did not succumb to pressure and persecution.

them that had gotten the victory over . . Lit. them that overcame [the same word as “him that overcometh” in chapters Revelation 2:3] from …: them that, as we might say, “fought their way clear of” all these dangers and temptations. R. V. “come victorious from.” - CBSC

beast . . = Rome

second beast . . = Religious arm or Rome, ("the media" WG; paganism, the emperor worship cult)

(Some, as Franklin Camp say it represents Judiazing teachers.)

number of name . . = 666, Caesar Nero.see note on Revelation 13:18.

John see the victors on a sea of glass, which was about the throne of God, having harps of God. (Praising God)

standing on the sea . . Reference is to the "sea of glass" not to a literal sea (Revelation 21:1).

But perhaps no more is meant than when we speak of a town lying “on the sea:” this is supported by the fact that Israel sung the song of Moses on the shore, after their passage. And the Greek preposition used, though naturally translated “on,” is the same as in the phrase “stand at the door” in Revelation 3:20. - CBSC

standing on the sea of glass . . Some translations have “on” (NASB, NKJV), and some have “beside” (NRSV) or “by” (TEV, NJB). The Greek preposition’s basic meaning is “upon.” This metaphor speaks of those overcomers being close to God. The “sea” in Revelation stands for a separation between a holy God and sinful creation. This sea is completely removed in 21:1 when full fellowship is restored. - Utley

harps . . It does not appear that these harpers are the same as those in Revelation 5:8; nor Revelation 14:2. (CBSC)

harps of God . . Signifying joy, gladness, celebration over their victory. It reads as though God had given (or caused them to be given) the harps.

Verse 3

Revelation 15:3

the song of the Lamb . . There are not two songs, but one. It describes deliverance for God’s people and judgment for their enemies (compare Revelation 5:9-13; Revelation 7:10-17). - FSB

the song of Moses, the slave of God . . In Exodus, the song of Moses marveled at God’s wonders, character, and majesty, similar to the song in Revelation 15:3-4 (see Exodus 15:1 –21; Deuteronomy 32:1 ff). - FSB [Deuteronomy 31:30]

the song . . These martyrs sang two songs as seems clear from the repetition of the words “the song.” Moses recorded two songs in praise of God’s faithfulness and deliverance of the Israelites. Of these the one in Exodus 15 seems slightly more appropriate for these martyrs to echo than the one in Deuteronomy 32 because it is a song of victory. Nevertheless they both contain similar emphases. - Constable

the servant of God . . Exodus 14:31 is particularly referred to; but also in Numbers 12:7; Joshua 1:1-2, Joshua 1:7, Joshua 1:13, Joshua 1:15, Joshua 22:5; Psalms 105:26 “the servant of the Lord” is used as a special honourable title of Moses: cf. Hebrews 3:5. - CBSC

song of the Lamb . . See Revelation 5:8-14. These two songs celebrate two great redemptive events: 1) deliverance of Israel by God from Egypt through Moses; and 2) deliverance of sinners by God from sin through Christ. - MSB

the song of the Lamb . . For the Lamb has redeemed them, as Moses redeemed Israel. “The song of the Lamb” is not a different song from “the song of Moses,” but the same interpreted in a higher sense: well illustrated by the Christian use of Psalms 114:1-8 and the other Passover Psalms, - CBSC

song of the Lamb . . The song of the Lamb seems to be a song not recorded elsewhere in Scripture, though some commentators have suggested several different Psalms. Probably this song follows in verses 3–4. - Constable

"of" . . In the case of both songs, the genative “of” is probably subjective: Moses and the Lamb were responsible for these songs, not the subjects of them. - Constaable

great and marvelous are Your works . . This statement from the song of the Lamb extols God’s powerful works in creation as He providentially upholds the universe (cf. Psalms 139:14). - MSB

Almighty . . God is omnipotent (cf. Amos 4:13). - MSB

O Lord God, the Almighty . . This is an allusion to the three most used OT titles for God (cf. Revelation 1:8; Revelation 4:8; Revelation 11:7; Revelation 16:7). “Lord” refers to YHWH, the Savior, Redeemer, Covenant God. “God” refers to Elohim, the Creator, Provider and Sustainer of all life on earth. The “Almighty” refers to El Shaddai, the Patriarchal name for the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob (cf. Exodus 6:3). - Utley

King of the saints . . Read, of the nations or of the ages; the best editors are divided in their preference for one of these readings, but both are better attested than that of the received text. See Jeremiah 10:7, which no doubt is quoted, in these words and the clause following, and perhaps decides the balance of probability in favour of “nations.” - CBSC

King of the nations . . (some manuscripts read King of the ages), not a localized deity attached to one nation or to a human monarch with limited authority. - NLTSB

King of the nations . . In keeping with the angel’s eternal gospel (Revelation 14:7), the King of the nations will be feared, glorified, and worshiped by

all nations (Psalms 86:9; Jeremiah 10:7) for his righteous acts of judgment (Psalms 98:2). - ESVSB

Verse 4

Revelation 15:4

Who would never fear, Lord . . A rhetorical question: all will fear and glorify His name. See Exodus 15:11. - FSB

This rhetorical question (cp. Jeremiah 10:7) assumes that only a fool would fail to do so (cp. Revelation 14:7; Revelation 16:9; see Psalms 14:1; Psalms 53:1). - NLTSB

holy . . Not the same word as is applied to God in Revelation 4:8 &c., but ordinarily used of human piety or holiness—and in that sense applied to our Lord, in His human character, in Hebrews 7:26. It is only used of God here and in Revelation 16:5 (the true text): in both places the sense is that God is “justified in His saying and clear when He is judged.” - CBSC

all nations will … worship . . Some will be forced to acknowledge God (cp. Philippians 2:10-11), but all will recognize that God’s deeds and judgments have been revealed and are righteous and just. - NLTSB

all nations will come and worship . . Alludes to Psalms 86:9. The Almighty, not the beast, is the true sovereign who will duly receive worldwide worship (cf. Revelation 7:9-10; contrast Revelation 13:8, Revelation 13:14). - NIVZSB

judgments . . God’s holy and perfect character inevitably demands that He judge (cf. Psalms 19:9; Nahum 1:3, Nahum 1:6). - MSB

thy judgments . . Rather, righteous acts, cf. Revelation 19:8. The word occurs only once besides in the N. T., Romans 5:18. - CBSC

Judgments manifest . . = Josephus says 1,300,000 killed in 42 months.

Verse 5

Revelation 15:5

After these things I looked . . (Greek meta tauta eidon) indicates a transition to a new vision and a new subject: the bowl judgments. These are in a category of their own. John saw the heavenly temple opened. This gave the seven angels who carried the bowl judgments egress from God’s presence. He is the one who sends them. - Constable

καὶ μετὰ ταῦτα εἶδον . . A formula which usually introduces a new and important vision; cf. 4:1, note. The Seven plague-laden Angels form the most striking group since the Seven Angels of the Temple (rev 8:1). - Swete

temple of testimony . . The “tabernacle of testimony” refers to the temple as the building that housed God’s law, - Constable

temple, the tent of the testimony . . This description emphasizes the tabernacle as the site of God’s covenant testimony (compare Numbers 17:7). The judgments that are about to take place flow from people’s rejection of God. - FSB

the temple of the tabernacle of the testimony . . This refers to the ark of the covenant in the Holy of Holies (temple) where God dwells (see note on Revelation 11:19; cf. Numbers 10:11). - MSB

temple ... testimony . . Revelation 11:19. For the phrase “Tabernacle of the Testimony” (or “Witness”—the word is the same) cf. Acts 7:44; see Numbers 1:50). - CBSC

the temple of the tabernacle of testimony in heaven was opened . . In Revelation 4:1 a door in heaven was opened for John; in Revelation 11:19 the Ark of the Covenant appeared in the temple for believers to see.

Now the entire heavenly tabernacle appears (cf. Exodus 38:21; Numbers 10:11; Numbers 17:7; Acts 7:44).

This OT allusion is developed in Hebrews 9:23. This literary unit uses the Exodus and the wilderness wanderings period as an OT backdrop. This symbolizes the second, ultimate exodus from bondage (bondage to sin).- Utley

yemple of the tabernacle . . - the open temple in heaven was a tabernacle of testimony - where God’s Word was! Is it speaking of The Most Holy Place? Matthew 23:34

Swete points out how John follows the usual LXX pattern in alluding not to the Solmon’s Temple or its successors, but to the Tabernacle in the wilderness, the "Tent of Witnesses" Numbers 9:15; Numbers 17:7; Numbers 18:2; Exodus 27:21; as also Westcott points out in Hebrews, p. 234.

heaven . . = His Word is there-- The N.T. covenant scriptures

(Parallel idea to the two tables of Law retained in the Tabernacle from Sinai. Now God’s new covenant; Word made sure in heaven’s tabernacle.

was open . . Similar to Revelation 11:19. The opening of temple doors or gates could signal judgment, such as in the Deuterocanonical work 3 Maccabees 6:16–21. A parallel is found in Virgil’s Aeneid where the temple of Janus in Rome was opened prior to battle. - FSB

“Was opened in Heaven” would give the sense, more accurately than the order of the A. V. - CBSC

Verse 6

Revelation 15:6

out of the temple . . These seven angelic beings come from the very innermost part of heaven’s temple, which shows their authority because they come from the very presence of God. - Utley

The Sanctuary is not opened here as in Revelation 11:19, for the purpose of revealing the Ark of the Covenant, but to allow the Seven Angels to issue in procession from the Presence-Chamber. The angels of Revelation 14:15, Revelation 14:17 f., also came forth from the Sanctuary, but singly and with less solemnity; the curtain was not drawn back to let them pass. - Swete

seven angels . . - Clothed like priests, - Revelation 1:13 by these garments we associate them with Jesus of ch. 1. Revelation 1:13.

having . . We should probably read “which had”: we see in v. 7 that they did not come out having them [for they are given them in the next verse by one of the living creatures]. [- CBSC

seven plagues. The final, most severe judgments from God, described in chap. 16 (see note on v. 1).

dressed in clean, bright linen garments . . Typical clothing for angelic figures (see Daniel 10:5; Daniel 12:6-7; Ezekiel 9:2; Ezekiel 10:2). - FSB

Linen, a symbol of purity, was also worn by the priests when performing their duties (see Leviticus 16:4, Leviticus 16:23; Exodus 28:39-43; see also Ezekiel 9:2-3; Daniel 12:6-7). The function of these angels is not intercession; they are agents of judgment. The linen therefore represents the purity and justice of God’s judgment. - NLTSB

girded with golden belts . . These angels resemble the figure from Daniel 10:5 [the Son of Man] and the glorified Christ in Revelation 1:13. - FSB

linen … golden bands . . The fabric represents holiness and purity (Revelation 19:14). These are belts or girdles, running from the shoulder to the waist, that each of the 7 angels wear over his garments. The bands demonstrate riches, royalty, and untarnished glory. - MSB

Their dress is described as (1) “linen” which was worn by priests in Exodus 28:4; or (2) the ASV translates this as “precious stone” which follows the Greek uncial manuscripts A and C, and may be an allusion to Ezekiel 28:13 as the angelic clothing of Eden. - Utley

gold sashes across their chests . . [These] probably symbolize their divine mission as ministers of justice on God’s behalf (cp. Revelation 1:13). - NLTSB

Their snow-white linen tunics are girded high ... (Revelation 1:13) with golden belts, the symbols of royalty or of priestly functions; they are [ministering spirits] (Hebrews 1:14), and they are vested for their liturgy. - Swete

Verse 7

Revelation 15:7

one of the four living creatures . . One of the living creatures (Revelation 4:6) gave each angel a bowl full of God’s wrath.

It is interesting that God described the prayers of the saints as being held in bowls in Revelation 5:8. These prayers thus connect with the outpouring of these judgments in a suggestive cause and effect relationship.

The two sets of bowls in chapters five and here are different, however, and they contain different things. The priests in Israel’s earthly temple also used bowls in their worship (1 Kings 7:50; 2 Kings 12:13; 2 Kings 25:15). - Constable

vials . . = bowls. The bowls are filled with God’s wrath which they will be pouring out upon the enemies of the saints.

Bowls are also mentioned in Revelation 5:8 where they contained the prayers of the saints.

seven golden bowls . . These are shallow saucers, familiar items often associated with various functions of the temple worship (1 Kings 7:50; 2 Kings 12:13; 2 Kings 25:15), such as wine (Amos 6:6) and blood sacrifice (Exodus 27:3). Their flat shallowness pictures how the divine judgments will be emptied instantly rather than slowly poured, drowning those who refused to drink the cup of salvation. - MSB

full of the wrath of God . . cf. Revelation 11:18; Revelation 14:10;

There is a connection throughout Revelation to the prayers of His persecuted children and the wrath of God on unbelievers. - Utley

golden bowls … wrath of God. Recalls the bowls that hold the prayers of God’s people who cry out for vindication (see note on Revelation 5:8; cf. Revelation 6:9-10; Revelation 8:3-5). - NIVZSB

God who lives forever and ever . . The reference to the living God “who lives forever and ever” adds more solemnity to an already solemn scene (cf. Revelation 10:6; Deuteronomy 32:40; Hebrews 10:31). - Constable

Verse 8

Revelation 15:8

smoke from the glory . . Alludes to the theophany at Sinai (see Exodus 19:16-18). [Exodus 40:34-35] Smoke or cloud often accompanies a visible manifestation of God’s presence (1 Kings 8:10-11; Isaiah 6:4). - FSB

This was a common OT description of the presence of God (cf. Exodus 19:18; Exodus 40:34; 1 Kings 8:10-11; Isaiah 6:4). This is an allusion to the Shekinah cloud of glory which represented God’s presence to Israel during the Exodus. But because of the contextual connection with the bowls, it may refer to the abundance of incense representing the prayers of God’s children for justice. - Utley

and from his power . . On this occasion the smoke proceeds from (κ) the Divine glory and power, i.e. from the personal character and attributes of God and His boundless resources, two grounds of undying fear to His enemies. - Swete

no man was able to enter the temple . . Allusion to Exodus 40:34-35 where Moses was not able to enter the temple because of the cloud and the glory of the Lord. Neither priests in 1 Kings 8:11.

His awesome presence in the temple until the plagues are finished (Revelation 16:17) prohibits even angels from entering it (cf. Isaiah 6:4; Habakkuk 2:20). - EBCNT

till the seven plagues ... were fulfilled . . This possibly means that there was no stopping God’s wrath once it had begun. This wrath is difficult to correlate theologically with Revelation 16:9 and Revelation 16:11, which implies that redemption is still the purpose of the last bowl - Utley

The plagues being for redemptive purpose indicates there was time after the plagues for repentance. These plagues then symbolize a judgment upon "Babylon", the "harlot" Jerusalem, giving repentant Jews an opportunity to still embrace the Son of God as Savior. - WG

Bibliographical Information
Gann, Windell. "Commentary on Revelation 15". Gann's Commentary on the Bible. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/gbc/revelation-15.html. 2021.
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