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The Church, having been prepared in the preceding Chapter, by seeing her Safety in Christ, is in this Chapter taught concerning the Ministry of the seven Angels, with the seven last Plagues. The Song of Moses and the Lamb. The seven Angels come forth from the Temple.
And I saw another sign in heaven, great and marvellous, seven angels having the seven last plagues; for in them is filled up the wrath of God.
This is a short, but sweet Chapter. It seems in its contents, principally designed to fortify the Church with the assurance of victory, that the Lord's people, in the worst of times, might feel no fear from any outward exercises, being strengthened with inward grace. It opens with a sign, which John calls, great and marvellous. And great and marvellous it always is, when the worm Jacob is made to thresh the mountains. And great and marvellous also upon another account, when grace is so blessedly shown to the Church, in the same moment, the wrath of God is poured out on the ungodly. There is nothing so affecting to a child of God, as when, in the time he feels: some new token of God's love, is conscious, when receiving it, he merits God's displeasure; and beholds that displeasure poured out on others, no more undeserving than himself. The words, upon such occasions, burst involuntarily from the heart, overwhelmed under a sense of distinguishing grace: Lord! how is it that thou dost manifest thyself unto me, and not unto the world, John 14:22 .
(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. (3) And they sing the song of Moses the servant of God, and the song of the Lamb, saying, Great and marvellous are thy works, Lord God Almighty; just and true are thy ways, thou King of saints. (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.
By a sea of glass, we cannot literally accept the term, for John saith, that he saw, as it were, a sea of glass; meaning, most probably, from its shining quality, or, as the sea not unfrequently is, like a mirror. I do not presume to speak decidedly, but as it is said, that this sea of glass appeared as if mingled with fire, and persons standing upon it, and having the harps of God; I confess, that I am inclined to think, the great truths intended to be represented by the whole, is the fountain of Christ's blood; the work of God the Spirit, as a spirit of judgment and a spirit of burning; and the love and grace of God the Father, giving to all the redeemed, who are here said to stand upon it, the song of redemption to sing, And I confess that I am the more inclined to this conclusion, from what the blessed victors over the beast are said to sing. The Song of Moses and the Lamb. And what is that but redemption? This song Moses sung on the banks of the Red Sea, through which Israel was brought safe, while Egypt was destroyed. And what was this, but as typical of redemption by Christ? Exodus 15:1-18 . And the joining together the servant and the Lord, in my view, as plain as words can make it shows that redemption by Christ was then intended; and that Moses acted but as Christ's servant. Hebrews 3:5-6 .
But, what I yet more particularly request the Reader to observe with me in this place is the glorious distinction of character given to the Lamb, as descriptive of all Sovereignty and Almightiness. Nothing can be more palpably clear and evident, than that the words of this song are expressly addressed to Christ. King of saints, is one of the special and personal titles of Christ. He is made King in Zion, by the decree of Jehovah. Psalms 2:6 . And as in all the departments of nature, providence, and grace, Christ presides; and in creation, as well as redemption, he is the Author; those glorious titles, and ascriptions of praise, are in common with the Father and the Spirit, his own. And what a blessed decision then is the whole, to his eternal Power and Godhead, who is One with the Father over all God blessed forever. Amen? Romans 9:5 .
The subject here included, which the Holy Ghost hath taught the Church to gather, in this view of the sea of glass, appears to me to be so highly interesting, that while the Church is called upon to behold the faithful standing upon it, singing the triumphal song of redemption, methinks I would ponder it a little as I look on, and beg the Reader to do the same, that we may both together, if it please the Lord, under his divine teaching, take part in it!
When we behold the opposition of hell, to the Church of God, uniformly carried on through all ages, from the first of creation to the present hour, and are assured from scripture, that there will be no intermission in this war until the final consummation of all things; when we take into this view of the subject, that the issue hath nothing doubtful, or uncertain in it; and when we consider no less, that the first, and great design with God, in his threefold character of Persons, hath been for the ultimate accomplishment of the divine glory, we cannot but be immediately impressed with this conviction: that the whole, from beginning to end, hath been from all eternity so arranged and ordered, that not a single circumstance could be left, but, in relation to men, or things, without an injury to the one vast plan of Jehovah. Comparing great things with small, in the curious construction of a machine, every part hath its distinct operation; and every part, however small, contributes as essentially to the whole, as that whole, when taken together. The Prophet's vision, which he saw, had eyes in the wheels, Ezekiel 1:18 . Hence, all in the vast scheme of the Lord's government, in the kingdom of grace, as well as in all the departments of nature, are ultimately ministering to his glory. Even the very wrath of man shall praise him, Psalms 76:10 . However differently the views of bad men, however oppositely they intend, the Lord hath so arranged and ordered, that they shall contribute, and become subservient to the Lord's design. So sure is that scripture. The Lord hath made all things for himself; yea, even the wicked for the day of evil, Proverbs 16:4 .
Though it is impossible, with our present scanty faculties, to go very far into a discovery of this subject, as opened to us in redemption; yet the mere outlines of it do display a somewhat of glory in it, in relation to the Lord's wisdom, and love, and grace to the Church, as cannot fail, under his divine teaching, to give the redeemed child of God an unspeakable pleasure in the view. And, while we look on this sea of glass, and by faith hear the song of redemption, it will be blessed to learn the notes of it, and sing it with them.
The first view in which it strikes me, is the divine glory manifested to the Church, in her everlasting relationship to her Husband. This is never to be lost sight of, through all the chapters of redemption. Christ, as the Head of his body the Church, was so constituted from all eternity. And as his Church was chosen then to be holy, and without blame before God in love, from her union him; so it is plain, God's first design, and the accomplishment of his last purpose, in relation to his Church, must be the same. Holiness, and glory, the Lord first intended. Holiness, and glory, the Lord will surely accomplish. Laying this down as a truth perfectly scriptural, and therefore unquestionable; the word of God leads us on to observe, what means the Lord hath ordained, and by what powers he will bring it to pass, Ephesians 1:4-5 ; Titus 1:2 .
Secondly. We view the Church in the time-state, a fallen sinful State, in which she hath lost all her created holiness in Adam; and is brought into sin and misery, with all the tremendous consequences, which arise therefrom. Here gives opportunity to the Lord, for the vast purposes of his redemption. And, as in the eternity past, the Church had all her holiness in Christ; and as in the eternity to come, all her holiness and glory are in Him; so here, all the blessings of redemption, in her recovery from this time-state of sin and misery, are founded only in Him pardon, mercy, and peace, are the blessings derived from his cross; and all Christ is, as the Redeemer, and all he hath wrought in redemption, is for this express purpose, to gather his Church from sin and misery, and to present her to himself a glorious Church, made so by himself, 1 Corinthians 1:30 ; Ephesians 5:26-27 .
Thirdly. All the opposition of hell, and all the agents of the devil among men, are only accomplishing the very purposes, which shall best minister to the Lord's glory, and the welfare of his people. Their opposition tends to endear Christ. And the sorrows they put the Lord's people to, have a blessed tendency, to wean the heart from the earth, and to make Christ and heaven more dear. Yea, the very sense of our own sins, and what we feel from the risings of corruption; all have their use, in the promotion of the Lord's glory, and our happiness. There never would have been such sweetness in heaven, as the redeemed will find there, had they never known sin; nor felt the love and grace of Christ, in redeeming them from it. It is blessedly said by the Holy Ghost, that God was willing to make known the riches of his glory, on the vessels of mercy which he had afore prepared unto glory, Romans 9:23 . Now, notwithstanding God had afore prepared those vessels unto glory, they never could have been vessels of mercy, had they not been first vessels of sin. Mercy implies favor shown to the miserable. Glory and holiness, if given, are given from love, and choice. So that redemption gives a new and additional relish to heaven, and our felicity becomes heightened thereby, in that having once known the sorrows of sin and misery, we sing our song of triumph in redemption, as on a sea of glass, mingled with fire.
Fourthly. and above all By this blessed process, the Church of God derives an unspeakable joy, and full of glory, in knowing Christ under his double blessed name, both as an Head, and as a Redeemer; and God our Father hath a double glory of praise and love, from his Church. He hath chosen us in Christ before the foundation of the world. And he hath accepted us in Christ in time to the praise of the glory of his grace. And God the Holy Ghost hath a double glory of praise and love, in having anointed the Church in Christ, when the Church was set up in Christ before the world, and when regenerating, the Church in Christ from the Adam-fall transgression in time, when dead in trespasses and sins. And hence the double song of Moses and the Lamb. It would have been a glory inconceivably great and blessed, had Jehovah, in his threefold character of Person, when making the Church one with Christ, have taken the Church at once to heaven with Christ, without passing through this world of sin and misery. It would have been a blessedness unspeakable, and full of glory, even if passing through this world without knowing sin, or misery, or anything of a fallen state. But then, we should have known nothing of the sweet and gracious office-character of the Holy Persons of the Godhead, as we now know them. We should have been forever ignorant of that electing love of God the Father, in distinguishing, preserving, pardoning grace, and mercy. We should have lost that sweet and precious character of Jesus, as our God, our Kinsman Redeemer; neither should we have known God the Holy Ghost, as the Quickener of our spirits, from death and sin, to life, and righteousness in Christ. And heaven itself would never have rung, as it now doth, and forever will, with the sweet sound of redemption, and the beholding Christ as our Redeemer. But now, by this vast scheme, of infinite wisdom, love, and power, we discover (little as our discoveries go towards a perfect apprehension of such a mystery) enough to admire, and in that admiration to adore, the wonders of divine love, in the wonders of divine wisdom. Oh! how may every regenerated, redeemed, justified, and sanctified believer, as he looks on this sea of glass by faith, and hears the blessed spirits singing the song of Moses and the Lamb, join the chorus of praise, saying, Great and marvellous are thy works, Lord God Almighty; just and true are thy ways, thou King of saints!
(5) And after that I looked, and, behold, the temple of the tabernacle of the testimony in heaven was opened: (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.
It is not heaven, the place of the blessed in glory, that is here meant; for what is said soon after, verse 8, of being filled with smoke, if there were no other cause, would do this away. But it is the Church, which for the most part all along is intended, when heaven is mentioned. From the Church, therefore, John beheld the seven angels, or messengers, coming forth, with the seven last plagues. Perhaps these may mean even some very humble ministers of Christ, in his Church. Their number seven, (which is a perfect number,) is not very probably intended, a certain number of seven, and no more, neither of one particular period; but the perfection of their order, being ordained by God the Holy Ghost, and their perfection in Christ. Their dress also being priestly, in white linen, and girt about the breasts with golden girdles, implies their order, in being made both Kings and Priests to God the Father, Revelation 1:6 . Reader! do observe what uniformity in all God's people. Their robes, are Christ's robes. Their ordination is from Christ. And, as the worshippers of the beast, and of the dragon, have their marks: so the Lord's people have their's. Oh! the unspeakable mercy, in these distinctions! The Lord knoweth them that are his! 2 Timothy 2:19 . And, let not the Reader forget, that this is the security, against the awful day coming on, when all shall worship the beast, except they whose names are in the book of life of the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world, Revelation 13:8 ; Ezekiel 9:5-6 .
(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. (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.
We have heard nothing of those beasts since the opening of the vision at the fourth Chapter, to the seventh, excepting once at the, fourteenth; but now here is one of them coming forward again, to give the seven vials, full of God's wrath, to the seven angels. The beasts, and the angels or messengers, are acting as servants on those high occasions; and, as they all are said to come forth from the temple, it plainly shows, that the judgments to be poured from these vials, on the seat of the beast and false prophet, will be from the Church.
I do not think it necessary to enlarge on this part of the prophecy, as what is here said is only by way of preparation to what is to follow, under the ministry of the vials. The temple filled with smoke should seem to refer to what is said of the Lord's house by Isaiah, Revelation 6:4 . It cannot, I think, as some have supposed, refer to the heresies with which the Church was beset; for those heresies are from without, whereas the smoke here is within. Moreover, it is said, that the temple was filled with smoke, from the glory of the Lord; a decided proof, in my view, that the smoke cannot refer to heresies of any kind. But I leave the Reader to his own conclusions upon the subject, under the grace of God,
READER! we were called upon in the last Chapter, to shout with songs of holy joy, in beholding the Lord, our great and glorious Redeemer, standing with his Church, on Mount Zion, encircled with his army: and here we are called upon again, to shout with the Church, in beholding the people of God, who have gotten the victory over the beast, and over his image, and over his mark, standing upon the sea of glass mingled with fire, singing the song of Moses and the Lamb! Oh! the felicity, when from a renewed heart, regenerated by grace, we can sing the praises of Him, who hath called us out of darkness, into his marvellous light!
And already we contemplate the sure victory over hell, and all the awful heresies abounding, in the view of the angels going forth from the Church of God, with their vials of God's wrath, to pour out upon them. Every false religion, every idol, and abomination, shall sink under the dreadful plague, to be poured upon them. The man of sin, that mystery of iniquity, which still doth work, shall be destroyed; and that wicked one, both of East, and West, the Lord will consume with the Spirit of his mouth, and destroy, with the brightness of his coming. We see the seven angels coming forth from the temple. We behold them armed with the seven golden vials, full of the wrath of God. And, by faith, we contemplate the glory of God which shall assuredly follow, when they begin their awful visitation. Lord Jesus! arm thy redeemed with grace, and strengthen them with power, to bear their testimony against the awful abominations of the day. And, oh! for grace to look on, stand still, and see the salvation of our God! For yet a little while, and the antichristian heresy of the West, and the false prophet of the East, shall both be no more; and the true Church of Christ shall behold them, with the dragon, all cast alive into the lake of fire and brimstone, and shall never again harass and afflict the Church anymore. Even so: Amen!
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Hawker, Robert, D.D. "Commentary on Revelation 15". "Hawker's Poor Man's Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 15 / Ordinary 20