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Bible Commentaries

Alford's Greek Testament Critical Exegetical Commentary

Revelation 15

CH. 15, 16 THE SEVEN VIALS. And herein,

Verses 1-8

Revelation 15:1-8 .] PREFATORY: the description of the vision , Revelation 15:1 ; the song of triumph of the saints victorious over the beast , Revelation 15:2-4 ; the coming forth of the seven angels and delivering to them of the seven vials , Revelation 15:5-8 .

And I saw another sign in heaven great and marvellous, seven angels having seven plagues which are the last ( plagues ), because in them is completed the wrath of God (I have adopted an unusual arrangement to throw the ὅτι into connexion with ἐσχάτας , for which epithet it renders a reason. It is to be observed 1) that this verse is evidently only a compendious description of the following vision: for the angels themselves are not seen till Revelation 15:6 , and do not receive the vials containing the plagues till after they are seen: 2) that the whole of God’s wrath in final judgment is not exhausted by these vials, but only the whole of His wrath in sending plagues on the earth previous to the judgment . After these there are no more plagues: they are concluded with the destruction of Babylon. Then the Lord Himself appears, ch. Revelation 19:11 ff.). And I saw as it were a sea of glass mingled with fire (see ch. Rev 4:6 and note: not merely glassy : the ὡς indicates the likeness: it was as it were made of glass . The addition μεμιγμένην πυρί is probably made as bringing into the previous celestial imagery an element belonging to this portion of the prophecy, of which judgment is the prevailing complexion. The fact, that the personages of the former heavenly vision are still present, Revelation 15:7 , seems to remove all doubt of this being the same sea of glass as that before described ch. Revelation 4:6 , in immediate connexion with which the four living-beings were mentioned), and the conquerors (the pres. part. has the force of simple designation, as so often in this book) of (see ref.: they have come victorious out of the strife: cf. Thuc. i. 120, ἀγαθῶν δέ , ἀδικουμένους ἐκ μὲν εἰρήνης πολεμεῖν , εὖ δὲ παρασχόν , ἐκ πολέμου πὰλιν ξυμβῆναι ) the beast and of his image and of the number of his name (i. e. of the temptation to worship his image and to receive the mark consisting of the number of his name, ch. Rev 13:17-18 ), standing on (does ἐπί import actually “ upon ,” so that they stood on the surface of the sea, or merely on the shore of? On every account the latter seems the more probable: as better suiting the heavenly imagery of ch. 4, and as according with the situation of the children of Israel when they sung the song to which allusion is presently made. The sense may be constructionally justified by ch. Revelation 3:20 , and Revelation 8:3 ; the fact of ἐπί having a genitive in the latter place not setting it aside as a precedent) the sea of glass, having harps of God (sacred harps, part of the instruments of heaven used solely for the praise of God. We have had them before mentioned in ch. Revelation 5:8 , Rev 14:2 ). And they sing the song of Moses the servant of God (i. e. a song similar to that song of triumph which Moses and the children of Israel sung when delivered from the Red Sea and from the Egyptians, Exodus 15:0 . In Exodus 14:31 , Moses is called, as here, the servant ( θεράποντι , LXX, as also in Heb 3:5 ) of God (see also Numbers 12:7 ; Joshua 22:5 ( ὁ παῖς κυρίου )): and this song is formed on the model of parts of that one: see below) and the song of the Lamb (it is not meant that there are two distinct songs: the song is one and the same; and the expression which characterizes it betokens, as do so many other notices and symbols in this book, the unity of the Old and New Test. churches. Their songs of triumph have become ours: the song of Moses is the song of the Lamb. In this great victory all the triumphs of God’s people are included, and find their fulfilment), saying (the song is a reproduction of several portions of the O. T. songs of praise), Great and wonderful are thy works (Psalms 110:2 , 138:14, LXX), Lord God Almighty: just and true are thy ways (Ps. 144:17; Deu 32:4 in Moses’ song), thou King of the nations (or, of the ages (see 1Ti 1:17 reff. and note). The confusion has apparently arisen from the similarity of ΑΙΘΝΩΝ ( ἐθνῶν ) and ΑΙΩΝΩΝ : but which was the original, it is impossible, in the conflict of authorities, to decide): who can but fear (Thee), O Lord (these two clauses are from Jeremiah 10:7 , but not in the LXX [116] [117] [118] . The title “King of nations” is especially appropriate, as it is God’s judgments on the nations, and their effects on them, which are the theme of the Church’s praise), and shall glorify (the construction is a mixed one, compounded of τίς οὐ μὴ δοξάσῃ and τίς οὐ δοξάσει ) thy Name? because Thou only art holy ( ὅσιος is only used of God here and ch. Revelation 16:5 ; hence the var. ἅγιος . Düsterd. quotes from the Schol. in Eurip. Hec. 788, τὸ πρὸς θεοὺς ἐξ ἀνθρώπων γενόμενον δίκαιον ὅσιον καλοῦμεν . This first ὅτι grounds the τίς οὐ μή in the attributes of God ): because all the nations shall come and worship before thee (so it is declared in reff. LXX. This second ὅτι grounds the τίς οὐ μή in matter of fact ): because Thy righteous acts (= Thy judgments: thy deeds of righteousness acted out towards the nations, both in the publication of the Gospel and in the destruction of Thine enemies) have been made manifest (the aor. as so often lately, looking back over the past and regarding it as matter of history, simply as the past. This third ὅτι grounds the πάντα τὰ ἔθνη ἥξ . in its immediately exciting cause the manifestation of God’s judgments). And after these things I saw, and there was opened the temple of the tabernacle of witness in heaven (see on ch. Revelation 11:19 , Revelation 16:17 . The ναός is the holy place of the tabernacle, to which latter the appellation τοῦ μαρτυρίου is here peculiarly appropriate, seeing that the witness and covenant of God are about to receive their great fulfilment): and there came forth the seven angels (viz. who were before mentioned: the οἱ does not point out any particular seven, such as the archangels. On the other hand, if we omit the second οἱ , we must not violate the force of the anarthrous participle by saying “the seven angels who had ,” οἱ ἔχοντες . The E.V. here is strictly correct) which had (or, “ having .” This was their office: but they had them not yet) the seven plagues out of the temple (cf. ch. Revelation 14:15 ; Rev 14:17 ), clad in linen (the remarkable reading λίθον can hardly be genuine, though strongly attested: see digest. There is a precedent for λίθον ἐνδεδυμένοι in Eze 28:13 ) pure ( and ) glistening (the well-known clothing of angels and heavenly beings, see Acts 10:30 ( Rev 1:10 ), ch. Revelation 19:8 ; Matthew 17:2 [119] , Mat 28:3 ), and girt round their breasts with golden girdles (being in this like our Lord Himself as seen in vision, ch. Rev 1:13 ). And one from among the four living-beings (appropriately to the symbolic meaning of these ζῶα as the representatives of creation , see notes on ch. Revelation 4:7 ; Revelation 4:11 , inasmuch as the coming plagues are to be inflicted on the objects of creation) gave to the seven angels seven golden vials (the φιάλη was a shallow bowl or cup, usually without a stand or foot, in which they drew out of the κρητήρ or goblet: so Plato, Crito p. 120 a, χρυσαῖς φιάλαις ἐκ τοῦ κρητῆρος ἀρυττόμενοι . The Schol. on II. ψ . 270 explains it οὐ τὸ παρ ʼ ἡμῖν ποτήριον , ἀλλὰ γένος τι λέβητος ἐκπέταλον ἐκ παντὸς μέρους δυνάμενον ἔχειν . Cf. Eurip. Ion 1181 ff.; Xen. Cyr. v. 2. 7), full of the wrath of God who liveth for ever and ever (this addition serves, as in ch. Revelation 1:8 , to give solemnity to the fact related). And the temple was filled with smoke from (arising from) the glory of God and from His might (i. e. from His presence, in which His glory and His might were displayed. The description calls to mind similar ones in the O. T., e. g. Psalms 18:8 f.; Isaiah 65:5 . See also below), and no one was able to enter into the temple (cf. 1 Kings 8:10-11 ; Exo 40:34-35 ) until the seven plagues of the seven angels should be finished (the passages above referred to give the reason: because of the unapproachableness of God, when immediately present and working, by any created being. See Exodus 19:21 . When these judgments should be completed, then the wrathful presence and agency of God being withdrawn, He might again be approached. Many other meanings more or less far-fetched have been given, but where Scripture analogy is so plain, the simplest is the best).

[116] The MS. referred to by this symbol is that commonly called the Alexandrine, or CODEX ALEXANDRINUS. It once belonged to Cyrillus Lucaris, patriarch of Alexandria and then of Constantinople, who in the year 1628 presented it to our King Charles I. It is now in the British Museum. It is on parchment in four volumes, of which three contain the Old, and one the New Testament, with the Epistle of Clement to the Corinthians. This fourth volume is exhibited open in a glass case. It will be seen by the letters in the inner margin of this edition, that the first 24 chapters of Matthew are wanting in it, its first leaf commencing ὁ νυμφίος , ch. Matthew 25:6 : as also the leaves containing ἵνα , John 6:50 , to καὶ σύ , John 8:52 . It is generally agreed that it was written at Alexandria; it does not, however, in the Gospels , represent that commonly known as the Alexandrine text, but approaches much more nearly to the Constantinopolitan, or generally received text. The New Testament, according to its text, was edited, in uncial types cast to imitate those of the MS., by Woide, London, 1786, the Old Testament by Baber, London, 1819: and its N.T. text has now been edited in common type by Mr. B. H. Cowper, London, 1861. The date of this MS. has been variously assigned, but it is now pretty generally agreed to be the fifth century .

[117] The CODEX VATICANUS, No. 1209 in the Vatican Library at Rome; and proved, by the old catalogues, to have been there from the foundation of the library in the 16th century. It was apparently, from internal evidence, copied in Egypt. It is on vellum, and contains the Old and New Testaments. In the latter, it is deficient from Heb 9:14 to the end of the Epistle; it does not contain the Epistles to Timothy, Titus, and Philemon; nor the Apocalypse. An edition of this celebrated codex, undertaken as long ago as 1828 by Cardinal Angelo Mai, has since his death been published at Rome. The defects of this edition are such, that it can hardly be ranked higher in usefulness than a tolerably complete collation, entirely untrustworthy in those places where it differs from former collations in representing the MS. as agreeing with the received text. An 8vo edition of the N.T. portion, newly revised by Vercellone, was published at Rome in 1859 (referred to as ‘Verc’): and of course superseded the English reprint of the 1st edition. Even in this 2nd edition there were imperfections which rendered it necessary to have recourse to the MS. itself, and to the partial collations made in former times. These are (1) that of Bartolocci (under the name of Giulio de St. Anastasia), once librarian at the Vatican, made in 1669, and preserved in manuscript in the Imperial Library (MSS. Gr. Suppl. 53) at Paris (referred to as ‘Blc’); (2) that of Birch (‘Bch’), published in various readings to the Acts and Epistles, Copenhagen, 1798, Apocalypse, 1800, Gospels, 1801; (3) that made for the great Bentley (‘Btly’), by the Abbate Mico, published in Ford’s Appendix to Woide’s edition of the Codex Alexandrinus, 1799 (it was made on the margin of a copy of Cephalæus’ Greek Testament, Argentorati, 1524, still amongst Bentley’s books in the Library of Trinity College, Cambridge); (4) notes of alterations by the original scribe and other correctors. These notes were procured for Bentley by the Abbé de Stosch, and were till lately supposed to be lost. They were made by the Abbate Rulotta (‘Rl’), and are preserved amongst Bentley’s papers in the Library of Trinity College, Cambridge (B. 17. 20) 1 . The Codex has been occasionally consulted for the verification of certain readings by Tregelles, Tischendorf, and others. A list of readings examined at Rome by the present editor (Feb. 1861), and by the Rev. E. C. Cure, Fellow of Merton College, Oxford (April 1862), will be found at the end of these prolegomena. A description, with an engraving from a photograph of a portion of a page, is given in Burgon’s “Letters from Rome,” London 1861. This most important MS. was probably written in the fourth century (Hug, Tischendorf, al.).

[118] The CODEX SINAITICUS. Procured by Tischendorf, in 1859, from the Monastery of St. Catherine on Mount Sinai. The Codex Frederico-Augustanus (now at Leipsic), obtained in 1844 from the same monastery, is a portion of the same copy of the Greek Bible, the 148 leaves of which, containing the entire New Testament, the Ep. of Barnabas, parts of Hermas, and 199 more leaves of the Septuagint, have now been edited by the discoverer. A magnificent edition prepared at the expense of the Emperor of Russia appeared in January, 1863, and a smaller edition containing the N.T. &c., has been published by Dr. Tischendorf. The MS. has four columns on a page, and has been altered by several different correctors, one or more of whom Tischendorf considers to have lived in the sixth century. The work of the original scribe has been examined, not only by Tischendorf, but by Tregelles and other competent judges, and is by them assigned to the fourth century . The internal character of the text agrees with the external, as the student may judge for himself from the readings given in the digest. The principal correctors as distinguished by Tischendorf are: A, of the same age with the MS. itself, probably the corrector who revised the book, before it left the hands of the scribe, denoted therefore by us א -corr 1 ; B (cited as א 2 ), who in the first page of Matt. began inserting breathings, accents, &c., but did not carry out his design, and touched only a few later passages; C a (cited as א 3a ) has corrected very largely throughout the book. Wherever in our digest a reading is cited as found in א 1 , it is to be understood, if no further statement is given, that C a altered it to that which is found in our text; C b (cited as א 3b ) lived about the same time as C a , i.e. some centuries later than the original scribe. These are all that we need notice here 6 .

[119] When, in the Gospels, and in the Evangelic statement, 1 Corinthians 11:23-25 , the sign (║) occurs in a reference, it is signified that the word occurs in the parallel place in the other Gospels, which will always be found indicated at the head of the note on the paragraph. When the sign (║) is qualified , thus, ‘║ Mk.,’ or ‘║ Mt. Mk.,’ &c., it is signified that the word occurs in the parallel place in that Gospel or Gospels, but not in the other or others .

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Alford, Henry. "Commentary on Revelation 15". Alford's Greek Testament Critical Exegetical Commentary. 1863-1878.