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Saturday, May 25th, 2024
the Week of Proper 2 / Ordinary 7
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Bible Commentaries
Revelation 15

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Verses 1-8

The Sea of Glass and the Seven Angels

Revelation 15:1. John sees “another sign in heaven”. A sign means more than an event. It is an event with a message, an event with a signal. He has already seen two times earlier a sign in heaven. In the first sign Israel was centered and the Child That would come forth from it, that is the Lord Jesus (Revelation 12:1-Exodus :). The second sign showed the dragon and his furious attempts to kill the Child (Revelation 12:3-Esther :).

Both signs tell us about the history of Israel and what will happen to this nation in the time of the great tribulation. The sign that John sees now tells us about the events that the rest of the human race will be facing. It is not just a sign. It is “great”, which means that it is a huge sign. It is also “marvelous”, for it will exceed the comprehension of everyone who will have to do with it.

The sign consists of “seven angels who had seven plaques, [which are] the last”. You have already been a witness of the seven seal judgments and of the seven trumpet judgments. Now the seven bowl judgments follow. After these seven plagues there are no more plagues. With these seven plagues God has fulfilled His wrath and His righteous wrath has become completely silenced. But what you will see in these plagues will provoke every imagination. They are of unprecedented size and fierceness and they follow one another at a fast and irrepressible speed.

Revelation 15:2. But before these last judgments will break loose you first see again the “sea of glass” which you also saw in chapter 4 (Revelation 4:6). There the sea was like crystal. Here the sea is “mixed with fire”. A group of people is standing on the sea of glass. That means that the sea is the basis of their presence in heaven. These people are transparent like glass, they have become known in public. They are in total agreement with the holy presence of God, they have not one dark spot of sin. Therefore they do not need the water of purification anymore and therefore the sea is not fluid anymore. They have also endured the test of their faith and now they are to the praise and glory and honor of Jesus Christ (1 Peter 1:7).

Their faith has been tested in a way that we can hardly imagine. But I hope that their faithfulness to the Lord will encourage you and me to also remain faithful to the Lord in our trials which are so much less heavy. They have stood eye to eye with the beast in his devastating death threat, but they have gained victory over the beast.

It is a multiple victory. In the first place they have defeated “the beast” himself by not bowing to him, in any which way he had threatened them. With their head up, looking to heaven (cf. Acts 7:55; Acts 7:59), they died the martyr’s death. In the second place they have triumphed over “his image”, the image of the beast, by not heeding the deceiving appeal to worship this idol. In the third place they have conquered “the number of his name” by not selling their soul in order to take part of social life in that way (Revelation 13:15-Esther :). Not this group but the beast is the great looser.

The result of their victory is that you see them standing here, raised from the dead, alive and singing. The harps that they have are “harps of God”. The harps were given to them by God, destined to be used to glorify Him Who has given the power to remain standing. Their death may definitely be the end of their existence on earth, but definitely not the end of their existence to God.

Revelation 15:3. And what do they sing? They sing two songs: “the song of Moses” and “the song of the Lamb”. Moses is here called “the bond-servant of God”. The company that sings his song consists of people who like him were faithful servants of God. Only when you are obedient you can sing a liberation song. Moses sang his song with the Israelites directly after they were liberated from Egypt (Exodus 15:1-Job :). It is the first song in the Bible. In that song they sing about the power of God Who has triumphed over the power of Pharaoh and his horsemen. It is a song that fits in the mouth of conquerors of the beast. This is the last time in the Bible that something is said about a song.

They also sing the song of the Lamb. They owe this song to the Lamb. It’s because of Him that they could sing this song, because He has delivered them. In the song of the Lamb they give praise to the Person of the Lamb. Through the Lamb the Israelites were delivered (Exodus 12:1-1 Chronicles :), through the Lamb all the believers of all ages have been delivered (Revelation 5:9).

In the songs the “works” and the “ways” of God are celebrated (Psalms 103:7). The works are extensive and impressive (Revelation 15:3). They are ascribed to the “Lord God, the Almighty”. ‘Lord’ is His name as Master, Owner. He is the Owner of the whole creation. In this book He exercises His right to the creation. As ‘God Almighty He is working to regain possession of His creation. He does not need any help from anyone. The judgments that are abundantly exercised in this book are an expression of His almighty works. Just as almighty He is in keeping His own.

As “King of the nations” (Jeremiah 10:7) He goes along different ways for His purpose. How hard the nations may try to stop Him in His ways, that will all appear to be useless attempts. In majesty, authority and power He exceeds far beyond them. In His dealings with them He is “righteous and true”. His ways have a righteous foundation. The different judgments that pave the way to His goal are deserved. The believers of that time understand that. They agree with it and look forward to Him (Isaiah 26:8-1 Samuel :). He is truthful in using the judgments. There is no deception in it. He judges because He is displeased about evil and not because of malicious pleasure.

Revelation 15:4. The conquerors are impressed about God’s works and ways. Could you imagine yourself and other people not to be fearing and glorifying the Lord if you let yourself become aware of God’s omnipotence and kingship? That’s no question for the conquerors. They see Him, they see His deeds and His purpose. They also see the rebellion of the beast and his followers and the foolishness of their works and ways. They praise the Lord as the only Holy One against the prevailing ungodliness on earth. He alone is fully separated from the evil.

His “acts”, which are His righteous deeds (cf. Revelation 19:11) that “have been revealed” in His judgments, coerce the nations to draw near to Him and bow down before Him (Psalms 72:11). They will have to acknowledge that no one else is God, but He alone. The general worship of the beast makes room for the general worship of God Whom alone is worthy of worship.

Pay attention that the conquerors do not sing about their own experiences, about their perseverance and their victory over the beast. They are much more occupied with the power of God, with what He has done. They are full of His righteousness and holiness. Isn’t that an indication for you to especially think about what God has done in the Lord Jesus when you give Him thanks?

Revelation 15:5. With John you now get to see the preparations for the last plagues. “The temple … in heaven was opened.” You’re looking into the temple, the dwelling place of God’s holiness. This dwelling place is here closely related to the tabernacle that is here called “the tabernacle of testimony” (Exodus 25:22; Numbers 10:11). The tabernacle was God’s transportable house during the journey of Israel through the wilderness. In the interior of the tabernacle was the ark and in the ark the two tablets of stone were placed. The two tablets of stone are ‘the testimony’. You’re looking here at the deepest interior, the heart of heaven.

Therefore the place from where the next acts happen are in relation with the holiness of God (temple), just like it is written on the tablets of stone (tabernacle of the testimony). According to those tablets, the law, God will not only judge His people, but also the world. On those tablets the demands of His righteousness and holiness are written. God has no other standard according to which He judges than the standard which He has established in the law. For those who have the need to ‘recalculate’ God, can gain evidence here. It always becomes apparent that God is justified in His words and when He is judged He always has the victory (Romans 3:4).

Revelation 15:6. The temple has been opened in the sight of John. Then it is not the high priest or priests whom he sees coming out of it, as you may be expecting. No, he sees “seven angels” coming out. Those angels do not come from that sanctuary with blessing, but with judgment. They have “the seven plagues”, of which you have read in Revelation 15:1 that those are the last plagues.

The appearance of the angels fills people with respect. They are “clothed in pure bright linen”, which shows that they represent God in His holiness. Wherever they act in judgment, their purity will sharply contrast to the filthiness of objects that they judge. By this contrast the righteousness of the judgment is underlined.

They also have the “golden sashes” girded around their chests. Their chests speaks about their inner man, their heart, their feelings. Angels also have feelings. They are not insensitive machines that are executing what they were ordered to do without any feeling. The feelings of these angels are guided by the glories of God of which the gold speaks. Glories of God are all the attributes of Him that have become visible. Also in the judgment glories of Him become visible, like holiness and righteousness. Everything that does not fulfill those glories, represented in those golden sashes, is judged by them. In this aspect they look like the Lord Jesus (Revelation 1:13).

Revelation 15:7. Then “one of the four living creatures” comes forward. The living creatures are closely related to the throne of God (Revelation 4:6-Judges :), the place where justice is provided. One of them gives each of the angels a golden bowl. Each bowl is “full of the wrath of God”. The seven bowls together make clear that it is about a full wrath. The bowls are wide, shallow bowls of which the contents can easily and quickly be poured out.

When these bowls are emptied there will be nothing more left on which God must still let His wrath loose like fire. What you see here is therefore a very solemn, but also terrible moment. The seven most terrible plagues from the history of earth are about to break loose. These plagues will be sowing death and destruction. They will make an end to everything that is alive. In that way there comes an end to any form of life that had been lived without God. In God alone there is life. He “lives forever and ever”. Everything that does not draw life from Him will be tortured forever by the pains of death.

Revelation 15:8. After the bowls have been distributed “the temple was filled with smoke”. This time it is not the smoke of God’s glory in which He was clothed when He came to dwell with His people in the tabernacle and in the temple on earth (Exodus 40:34, 35; 1 Kings 8:10-2 Kings :; cf. Isaiah 6:4). This time it is about God’s glory that is exhibited in the judgment and wherein His power becomes visible. The smoke indicates that it is no longer possible to enter into the temple for intercession (cf. Lamentations 3:44). The time of intercession is over.

There is no more delay, the judgments are inevitable and concluding. Only when the judgments have been fully executed and when everything that is in contrast to God has been removed, the temple is to be entered again.

Now read Revelation 15:1-8 again.

Reflection: What are the characteristics of the company on the sea of glass? What are the characteristics of the seven angels?

Bibliographical Information
de Koning, Ger. Commentaar op Revelation 15". "Kingcomments on the Whole Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/kng/revelation-15.html. 'Stichting Titus' / 'Stichting Uitgeverij Daniël', Zwolle, Nederland. 2021.
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