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Chapter Fifteen Glorified Israel
Revelation 15-16 form one connected vision depicting the final scenes of the dispensation of judgment, which occupies a large portion of the content of the book of Revelation. We need to remember that the Revelation is primarily a book of judgment. While it may seem very pessimistic to be occupied with so many fearful scenes, all is bright at the end. The book does not close until the new heavens and new earth are brought in, where righteousness will dwell throughout a blissful eternity. Therefore I need not apologize for continually bringing before you picture after picture of God’s judicial dealings with the prophetic earth. He has given us these revelations out of kindness to us. We may be warned by them to avoid what lies ahead of this guilty world and to shun every form of the apostasy which He is so soon coming to judge.
The Glorified Witnesses (Revelation 15:1-5)
In the last chapter we noticed that there was one particular company of saints in Heaven who responded in a very noticeable manner to the 144,000 Israelites standing on mount Sion. In the fifteenth chapter the scene is changed. The prophet sees what is going on in Heaven, and this company at once comes before his vision (1-3).
The redeemed company standing on the sea of glass with the harps of God is not to be confused with the church of the present dispensation. We are told that they sing the song of Moses the servant of God and the song of the Lamb. Clearly then, they are Israelites. They are singing the song of Moses, which is the celebration of Jehovah’s victory over Israel’s foes, and the song of the Lamb, which is the song of redemption. They are those who have been slain by the servants of the last great apostate power, but who have been raised from the dead and raptured during the tribulation period. Perhaps they are the two witnesses of chapter 11. But they are at least like them in that they have been faithful witnesses on earth and because of their witness-bearing have been put to death. They are seen as raised from the dead and caught up to God and to His throne. Like the elders, they have in their hands the harps of God and are a worshiping company.
These are said to stand on the sea of glass, which is here represented as mingled with fire (2). The sea of glass, as pointed out previously, corresponds to the brass sea in Solomon’s temple and the brass laver in the court of the tabernacle. It is an illustration of the Word of God needed for cleansing on earth; in Heaven it is crystallized, a glassy sea on which the glorified saints take their stand to praise Him who has redeemed them to Himself and made them forever clean. The glass is seen as mingled with fire because of the fiery trial through which these martyrs have passed.
I would observe that the rendering “King of saints” (kjv) at the close of verse 3 is generally recognized as faulty. The better manuscripts read “nations” though some have “ages” in place of “saints.” Nowhere is the Lord spoken of as “King of saints.” He is, however, “King of the nations” and the “Ruler of the ages.” These glorified witnesses to His saving power praise and adore Him for His justice and truth. They recognize the righteousness of His ways and the holiness of His person. Because of this, all nations will come and worship before Him in the day that His judgments are displayed. Observe, it is not the grace of God that will bring the nations to own His authority and worship before Him. It is “when [his] judgments are in the earth, [that] the inhabitants of the world will learn righteousness” (Isaiah 26:9). Nowhere does Scripture teach the conversion of the world through the preaching of the gospel in this dispensation. Eventually, the world will be converted, but only after the unbelieving portion has been purged out by judgment. The remnant left for the kingdom will give glory to the God of Heaven.
In the fifth verse we have another of the “openings” of this marvelous book. We read, “And after that I looked, and, behold, the temple of the tabernacle of the testimony in heaven was opened.” The mention of the tabernacle of the testimony brings Israel again before us. It reminds us that these judgments carry out God’s covenant with His ancient people Israel, when the nations that have oppressed them must be punished. “Jerusalem [is] a burdensome stone for all people: all that burden themselves with it shall be cut in pieces, though all the people of the earth be gathered together against it” (Zechariah 12:3). Therefore the nations who have vented their hatred on Israel cannot escape the wrath of God.
The Seven Angels (Revelation 15:6-8)
The seven angels are to complete the wrath of God. They introduce and close His final visitations in judgment on the Gentiles. Then the many prophecies of retribution in Scripture will be fulfilled. “It is a righteous thing,” said the apostle Paul, “to recompense tribulation to them that trouble you” (2 Thessalonians 1:6). If this could be said in regard to saints of the church period, how much more in regard to Israel. Many people have been troubled with what are called the imprecatory Psalms. They cannot understand David calling down the judgment of God on His enemies, or Israel’s prayer for the overthrow and destruction of all their foes. But in the righteous government of God, those nations that have oppressed and sought the destruction of His people must be visited with the fierceness of His wrath.
Joseph Cook told how at the beginning of the Civil War, a gentleman was in conversation with a minister of the gospel. He was objecting to the imprecatory Psalms because they did not seem to him to be in harmony with the spirit of Christianity. As they talked together a newspaper was brought in, and the minister read, “The federal army is marching upon Richmond.” “Good,” exclaimed the other, “I hope they will destroy it.” “That,” cried the preacher, “is an imprecatory psalm.” The point is that it is thoroughly in keeping with God’s mind to desire the triumph of righteousness and the overthrow of what is iniquitous.
God’s glory is at stake. His righteousness demands the punishment of iniquity, both in this world and in that which is to come. He does not apologize for dealing thus with unrighteousness, nor do His servants need to apologize for Him.
Verse 8 indicates that when the seven angels are about to come forth to execute their awful mission, it will be one of intense concern in Heaven. The temple is seen filled with smoke from the glory of God and from His power. Man, though redeemed, is represented as standing outside in awe, awaiting developments.
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Ironside, H. A. "Commentary on Revelation 15". Ironside's Notes on Selected Books. https://www.studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 24 / Ordinary 29