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The Angels with the Seven Vials and the Opening of the Temple.
The sea of glass and the song of praise:
v. 1. And I saw another sign in heaven, great and marvelous: seven angels having the seven last plagues; for in them is filled up the wrath of God.
v. 2. And I saw as it were a sea of glass mingled with fire; and them that had gotten the victory over the beast and over his image and over his mark and over the number of his name stand on the sea of glass, having the harps of God.
v. 3. And they sing the song of Moses, the servant of God, and the song of the Lamb, saying, Great and marvelous are Thy works, Lord God Almighty; just and true are Thy ways, Thou King of saints.
v. 4. Who shall not fear Thee, O Lord, and glorify Thy name? For Thou only art holy; for all nations shall come and worship before Thee; for Thy judgments are made manifest.
The general woes which were to strike the earth and especially the Church, directly or indirectly, were pictured in previous visions. But in the fifth vision, which opens here, the plagues, or the revelation of the wrath of God over the enemies of the Church, are depicted, the present chapter serving as an introduction for the series. The prophet writes: And I saw another sign in heaven, great and marvelous: seven angels having the seven last plagues; for in them is completed the wrath of God. And I saw what resembled a glassy sea mixed with fire, and those that had come away conquerors from the beast and from his image and from the number of his name standing at the glassy sea, having harps of God. This was a portent as great as any of the preceding ones, and it was full of marvels. That the tables have now been turned, and that the kingdom of Anti-Christ and all the enemies of Christ shall now be visited with plagues, is a great and marvelous fact, but a fact that should fill the believers with comfort and courage. The seven last plagues the seven angels had, including the plague of the final Judgment; for the wrath of God was to find its completion, its final fulfillment, in these plagues. The crystal sea which was mentioned chap. 4:6 is here again included in the vision, mixed with fire, as a symbol of divine majesty. On its shores all the faithful believers, all the Christians that had refused to be blinded by any anti-Christian pomp and doctrine, were assembled, with harps in their hands, ready to sing a hymn of praise to the God of their salvation.
This song is now described: And they sang the song of Moses, the servant of God, and the song of the Lamb, saying, Great and wonderful are Thy works, Lord God the Almighty; just and true are Thy ways, King of the nations. Who shall not fear Thee, Lord, and glorify Thy name? For Thou alone art holy; for all nations shall come and worship before Thee, because Thy righteous judgments are revealed. As Moses, the prophet and servant of God, sang a hymn of praise after the final deliverance from the host of Pharaoh, Exodus 15:1-27, so the saints in heaven sing a song in honor of Him that delivered them out of all the dangers and tribulations of the last days. There is no mention of their own works nor even of their own sufferings; their only thought is the exaltation of God and of the Lamb. They extol Him for the greatness and marvelousness of His works in dealing with them in His mercy, for the justice and truth of His ways in dealing with all nations. For the final result of the Lord's doing will be that all nations, all men, will be obliged to acknowledge His sovereignty and to give honor to Him as the holy Judge of the nations. The judgments of the Lord, as they were about to be revealed in this vision, would impress all men so that they would finally, in the midst of their obstinate hatred of Him, and in spite of themselves, have to admit that they were right and true. Separate from sinners, pure and holy, beyond all fault-finding, He reigns as the King Supreme.
The seven angels with the seven vials:
v. 5. And after that I looked, and, behold, the temple of the tabernacle of the testimony in heaven was opened;
v. 6. and the seven angels came out of the temple, having the seven plagues, clothed in pure and white linen, and having their breasts girded with golden girdles.
v. 7. And one of the four beasts gave unto the seven angels seven golden vials full of the wrath of God, who liveth forever and ever.
v. 8. And the temple was filled with smoke from the glory of God and from His power; and no man was able to enter into the temple till the seven plagues of the seven angels were fulfilled.
The hymn of the perfected saints served as a prologue to the revelation whose preparatory incidents are now shown. It was a marvelous sight which met the eyes of John: And after these things I saw, and there was opened the temple of the tabernacle of the testimony in heaven. This was the very innermost shrine and sanctuary, the most holy place of the heavenly temple. The temple is here called the tabernacle of witness, since it symbolizes the presence and revelation of God's justice, and its opening indicated that the most holy God was now ready to speak and to act through His representatives, or messengers. This the prophet describes: And there came out of the sanctuary the seven angels having the seven plagues, clothed in white, shining linen, and girded about their breasts with a golden girdle. The fact that these angels were clothed in gold and light gives an indication of, their origin, while the linen denotes their sacred office as priests of the Lord. These seven angels were the bearers of the seven last plagues against the enemies of the Lord.
And another fact is related in the preliminary incidents: And one of the four living beings gave to the seven angels seven golden vials filled with the wrath of God, Him that lives forever and ever, and the sanctuary was filled with the smoke of the glory of God and of His power, and no one is able to enter into the sanctuary until the seven plagues of the seven angels are completed. One of the four cherubs that stood around the throne, acting at God's command, delivered to the seven angels bowls, or vials, filled with the wrath of the everlasting God. And the seven angels were not to hold back with this wrath, but were to pour it out upon the enemies of the Lord. This revelation of God's justice was attended with praise and honor for Himself, as the smoke indicates which filled the sanctuary. See Isaiah 6:4. Till the plagues are over, the presence of God is unendurable and His majesty unapproachable.
The meaning of this picture seems fairly evident. From the sanctuary of God, from the midst of the Christian Church, men should arise as witnesses and soldiers of Christ to attack and overcome the kingdom of Anti-Christ and all anti-Christian teaching. Clothed in linen they were and with golden girdles, in the garments of the exalted Christ. For they were sure from the very start that their testimony and their battle would be victorious, since they were dealing with enemies that had really been overcome through the victory of Christ. Thus these angels, witnesses of God and for the Lord, were to be instruments of the wrath of God to convey to all enemies of the Church God's condemnation. With the smoke of the glory and power of God arising and following them, what enemy will be able to withstand them?
In two preliminary, or introductory, pictures, that of the perfected saints praising the Lord, and that of the seven angels receiving the vials of God's wrath, the seven last plagues upon the enemies of the Lord are ushered in.
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Kretzmann, Paul E. Ph. D., D. D. "Commentary on Revelation 15". "Kretzmann's Popular Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 22 / Ordinary 27