15 million Ukrainian are displaced by Russia's war.
Millions miss a meal or two each day.
Help us change that! Click to donate today!

Bible Commentaries

The Biblical Illustrator

Revelation 15

Verses 1-4

Revelation 15:1-4

Seven angels having the seven last plagues

Divine severity and human heroism


Divine severity. Undoubtedly in the government of this world there is the stormy as well as the mild, the gloomy as well as the pleasant. The government under which we live on this earth often assumes aspects of terrible severity.

Human heroism. The heroes here suggested are:

1. Those who have conquered the wrong. Sin is a hideous, ravenous, iniquitous “beast,” served and worshipped by unredeemed men the world over. The foe against which the true hero fights is sin, and sin only.

2. Those who ascribe their victory to God. Observe--

(1) Their posture is one of safety. The sea does not surge about them; it is beneath them. It is a position of splendour. The crystal sea on which they stand is made brilliant by fire. There is no posture of soul so sublime and safe as the true posture of worship. The Shekinah beams around them as their glory and defence. Observe--

(2) Their anthem.

(a) Triumphant praise.

(b) Philanthropic devotion. (David Thomas, D. D.)

The song of Moses … and the song of the Lamb.--

The song of Moses and the Lamb

The triumphant choir. He calls these triumphant choristers “conquerors out of the beast,” which implies that victory over him is an escape from a dominion in which the conquerors before their victory were held. They have fought their way, as it were, out of the land of bondage, and have won their liberty. By Christ we conquer. Through faith, which lays hold on His power and victory, we too may conquer.

The position of this victorious chorus. As Moses and the ransomed hosts stood on the shore of the Red Sea, so these conquerors are represented by anticipation as standing on the safe beach, and looking out upon this sea of glass mingled with fire, which, calm, crystal, clear, stable, and yet shot through and through with the red lines of retributive judgment, sleeps above the buried oppressors. Observe that besides its picturesque appropriateness and its historical allusion, this sea of glass has a distinct symbolical meaning. “Thy judgments are a mighty deep.” “Oh! the depth of the riches, both of the wisdom and of the knowledge of God; how unsearchable are His judgments, and His ways past finding out!” That great ocean of the judgment of God is crystalline--clear though it be deep. If we cannot look to its lowest depths, that is not because there is any mud or foulness there, but partly because the light from above fails before it reaches the abysses, and partly because our eyes are uneducated to search its depths. If it be clear as far as the eye can see, let us trust that beyond the reach of the eye the clearness is the same. And it is a crystal ocean as being calm. They who stand there have gotten the victory, and bear the image of the Master. By reason of their conquest, and by reason of their sympathy with Him, they see that what to us, tossing upon its surface, appears such a troubled and tempestuous ocean, is calm and still; and their vision, not ours, is the true one. It is a “sea of glass mingled with fire.” Divine acts of retribution, as it were, flash through it, if I may so say, like those streaks of red that you see in Venice glass, or like some ocean smitten upon the one side of every wave by a fiery sunlight, while the other side of each is dark. So through that great depth of God’s dealings there flashes the light of retribution.

The occasion of the song, and the song itself. “They sing the song of Moses and of the Lamb.” The “song of Moses” was a song of triumph over destructive judgment; the “song of the Lamb,” says my text, is set in the same key. The one broad, general lesson to be drawn from this is the essential unity, in spite of all superficial diversities, of the revelation of God in the Old Covenant by law and miracle and retributive acts, and the revelation of God in the blew Covenant by the Cross and Passion of Jesus Christ. And there is another principle here, and that is the perfect harmony of the retributive acts of God’s destructive dealings in this world, and the highest conception of His love and mercy which the gospel brings us. “When the wicked perish,” says one of the old proverbs, “there is shouting.” And so there ought to be. When some hoary oppression that has been deceiving mankind for centuries with its instruments and accomplices is swept off the face of the earth, the more men have entered into the meaning of Jesus Christ’s mission and work, and the more they feel the pitying indignation which they ought to feel at seeing men led away by evil, and made miserable by oppression, the more they will rejoice. And the last thought that I would suggest to you is, that according to the teaching of my text, we may take that old, old story of the ransomed slaves and the baffled oppressor, and the Divine intervention, and the overwhelming ocean, as a prophecy full of radiant hope for the world. That is how it is used here. Pharaoh is the beast, the Red Sea is this “sea of glass mingled with fire,” the ransomed Israelites are those that have conquered their way out of the dominion of the beast. And the “song of Moses and of the Lamb” is a song parallel to the cadences of the ancient triumphant chorus, and celebrating the annihilation of that power which drew the world away from God. (A. Maclaren, D. D.)

The hymn of the victors

Who were they that sang? It is a question of moment for men still. Man is man the world through, and no temptation has touched us with its polluting finger which did not touch them. The image of the beast and the varied semblances of sins had presented themselves to their minds. The stamp of indulged desire, of unrestrained passion, of selfishness and mean thoughts, of untruth and cowardice, of unmanliness and impurity, was heated ready for their brows and backs as it is for ours. The number of the beast is sometimes a swelling magnitude, always a perfected and enticing product in the computation of earth. Public opinion, now elevated to a moral law as high in authority and terrible in sanction as that of Horeb, had to be counted with and opposed by them as by us. The morals of their age had to be avoided as a test or guide, and they, as we, had to rise higher than material interests, and explode, with the stout breath of earnestness and sincerity, the bubbles which, though hollow and worthless, were radiant under the worldly sun. They had come victorious from the beast and from his image, and from his mark and from the number of his name. The essence of their triumph lay in this--that they had educated themselves to look upon the permanent relation of things. The tendency that always tempts us is to see only the narrow relations that are close about us. They think only upon the daily occupation of hand and head, and their converse with their friends embraces no greater theme. But the true mind, beyond the glare of the present, sees the brightness of another life, and the reality of another world. He is continually applying the standard of eternal life to the fragmentary portions of existence on earth.

See, too, the subject and the value of their song. Like nearly every hymn in this Book, it tells of the works of God. It is not silent upon the judgments that are seen, nor upon the sorrows and failures of men; but it looks to the One Hand that is powerful, and it asserts that all the works which are done by God are just works and true. There is a sense in which we can clearly see this ourselves, for we can distinguish between the operation and the result. There is a solvent with God for the issues of human deeds. Man works while God overrules. Centuries of investigation have been heaped upon centuries; books beyond counting have been written; but notwithstanding, we are still like children gazing curiously at a great machine, and our conclusions and theories are like heaps of shifting sand upon a forsaken shore.

Behold the prospect they hold out.

1. It is a prospect of advancing holiness to themselves. Though enwrapt within eternal blessedness there are long distances, we will not say of purity, but of attainments, which they may yet tread. Is immortality, then, a range and region of perpetual progress? Are we not to lie down in it and sleep, and let the great worlds of a renewed universe wheel round unthought of and unobserved? The whole of the Book says, No. It speaks of endless activity, of mightier attempts and more glorious achievements than we dared to conceive on the earth, of ceaseless efforts towards a glad success.

2. As to the progress of earth. “All nations,” they say, “shall come and worship before Thee.” Out of the present actual world there is constantly springing, hour by hour, another world, which in its turn begets a fresh condition of things; for nothing sleeps, and events are never still. The prophecy in this light is inspired with force and fruit. There is a progress of the nations, and therefore of those who compose the nations, distinctly foretold. For worship is the condition of progress, development, and advancement. The nation, as the man, which has ceased to worship, has ceased to grow. Ideals then are lost or dissolved. The higher is unattained because there is no vision of the Highest. But where worship is real, unflagging, and unabused, where nations can see the Eternal One, that sits upon His throne, and hear the hymns that swell from lips of brothers who have fought the good fight of faith, and by the might of Christ have won, there is the guarantee of national principles that will not be cheaply sold, of national stability that challenges and defies assault, and of national progress that expands and strengthens because it has learnt that there is a rhythm and sweetness in the life which has shaped itself to the changeless law, and an articulate gladness and glory which issues from the cross of self-denial and sacrifice. (W. M. Johnston, M. A.)

The song of God’s heroes

The service of song is the highest employment of redeemed man. The redeemed whom John saw in vision had left behind them all the imperfections of life, and reached its consummation. The toil and the care were ended. The long battle had closed. Here is the first point to be marked, viz., that perfection of life was the spirit of their song. All the discipline of the earthly had been for this end, that every conflict of the heart should become the element of praise; that every sorrow should change into thanksgiving; that their souls, by all the education of life, should be tuned as harps for God. We may observe still further, that it is the noblest office of music to become the language of those emotions that border on the infinite and eternal. There is nothing in this world that can so completely lift a man’s soul above the cares and doubts of time, right up to the throne of God, as the inspiring notes of a psalm of praise. Here, then, is the lesson which the words have for us to-day: just as Christian life approaches the heavenly spirit, that life becomes one song of praise. For the essential principle of Christian life is self-surrendering love to God, and that can bring thanksgiving out of sorrow. You may have known men, old and grey in the Christian conflict, over whom great sorrows have rolled, but they are yet young in soul, for life has renewed its youth in thanksgiving.

That song unites the spiritual heroes of all the ages. Men from the dispensation of Moses--men from that of Christ; this seems implied in the words, “They sing the song of Moses and the Lamb.”

1. The true heroes of all ages are engaged in one conflict. We are told in the 13th chapter that “the beast had power given unto him to make war with the saints.” There were men in the past whose battle was hard fought in the heart--they overcame. There are such men now. Life is full of heroisms. He who in the little things of daily life fights on unnoticed and unknown, is in spirit a great warrior. The man who does not know hard struggles does not know how the soul rises into song.

2. One means of victory--faith … Observe what a glorious idea this gives of heaven. Men from all ages united by one conflict; their song tuned to one spirit of praise. No age is barren--as in music, many voices, but one harmony …

Its theme is God’s connected dispensations. On earth we praise God for redemption; in heaven they praise God for the whole economy of revelation. (E. L. Hull, B. A.)

The song of Moses and the Lamb

Without pretending to settle what events may be thus prophetically alluded to, we may safely consider our text as belonging to a glorious season, when Christ shall have mightily interfered on behalf of His people, and swept away those who have resisted His authority. The song is a song of exultation, sung by the righteous, and called forth by judgments which have overwhelmed the wicked. The song is one not only of thanksgiving to the Lord, but of exultation over the wicked, and of rejoicing in their destruction. We hardly know a more perplexing truth, nor one which more shows how vast a change will have passed over our feelings when we shall have put on immortality, than that of our acquiescing in the punishment of the wicked; yea, of our approving that punishment, and magnifying God for the vindication of His attributes. It is not merely that those whom wrath overtakes and consigns to perdition will be our fellow-men, beings of the same race, and therefore linked with us by most intimate associations. This were much; for this would seem enough to seal our lips, or cause lament to mingle with our song. But it must come to pass that, in variety of instances, there will be the division of families, so that whilst one member is with the Israelites, another will be with the Egyptians. And this division must be thoroughly known. We must believe that, with all the consciousness that some whom they tenderly loved have earned for themselves a heritage of shame and despair, the ransomed of the Lord will feel how the Divine attributes have been magnified in the punishment awarded to the impenitent, and join in praising their Maker for the manifestation of His justice. And this--however we may shrink from what appears so unnatural--this describes to us what is loftiest in Christian attainment, and what, therefore, may justly be looked for in our future state of being. I know that it would be Christian perfection to have God all in all; to make Him so completely the centre of the affections, or to be so lost in Deity as to have no will but His will, and no end but His glory. We proceed to observe that the song of the triumphant Church is described, not only as the song of Moses, but as that also of the Lamb. “They sang the song of Moses, the servant of God, and of the Lamb.” Now we may be said to feel more at home with the song of the Lamb than with that of Moses; for this is a song of which, even now, we can strike some notes, whereas we look on that of Moses with a kind of awe and dread, as though it were not suited to such minstrelsy as ours. It is the song of grateful confession that we owe everything to the Redeemer, and that His blood and righteousness have been the alone procuring causes of deliverance from ruin and a title to immortality. And there is vast beauty in the retention of the name of the Lamb in the melodies of heaven. Were not the wounds of the Redeemer the arms with which He mastered the enemies of God? and what are they now but trophies of the unmeasured achievement? To appear therefore as the Lamb, “a lamb as it had been slain,” in the midst of all the magnificence of the everlasting city, is to appear as the mighty Conqueror who led captivity captive. And if it be as the Lamb that Christ is most glorious, what but the song of the Lamb shall be most on the lips of those for whom He died? We doubt not there will be many and various hymns chanted in the celestial temple. Archangel to angel, cherubim to seraphim, and man to man, will roll sublime choruses, such as our speech cannot now embody, nor our thought embrace. But one hymn there will be which shall be peculiar to men. One anthem shall be heard in which none but those who were once ready to perish will be able to join, but which their voices will never be weary of uttering: “Thou wast slain, and hast redeemed us to God by Thy blood, out of every kindred, and tongue, and people, and nation.” “Great and marvellous are Thy works, Lord God Almighty; just and true are Thy ways, Thou King of saints.” Such is a portion of the lofty anthem. To take this anthem in Rs largest application, we may say that it celebrates the greatness and the justice of God as displayed in the occurrences of the judgment day. And it is well worth your attention, that these two characteristics shall be finally declared to have distinguished the whole business of the judgment. It will be a great and marvellous work, when the tares shall have been separated from the wheat, all unrighteousness detected and exposed, the wicked banished, and the faithful exalted. The spectacle has never yet been presented to the inhabitants of this earth, so fraught with the manifestations of Omnipotence as shall be that of the general judgment. What display of power can equal that which will be given by the resurrection of the dead? And if the gathering together of the buried generations, reconstructed and reanimated, be the mightiest imaginable display of God’s power over matter, what shall more declare His power over mind than that laying bare of all the secrets of men’s hearts, on which the last sentences shall be founded, and by which they will be justified? Then you must add the portents and signs which are to herald the Judge: the storm and the calm alike proclaim that Omnipotence is there. But this is not the whole of the chorus. The Church affirms God’s ways to be just and true, as well as His works to be great and marvellous. And this is a most important assertion, when considered as called forth by the transactions of the judgment. There is something overwhelming in the thought that the untold millions of the human population will undergo an individual scrutiny; that they will come, man by man, to the bar of their God, and each be tried by his own privileges and powers. We can hardly put from us the feeling that, in so enormous an assize, there will be cases comparatively overlooked, for which due allowance is not made, or in which the sentence is not founded on a full estimate of the circumstances. But whatever our doubts and suspicions beforehand, “Just and true are Thy ways, Thou King of saints,” is the confession, you observe, which will follow the judgment. It is a confession, we are bold to say, in which the lost will join with the redeemed. The feeling in every condemned man shall be that, had there been none but himself to be tried, his case could not have received a more patient attention, or a more equitable decision. And we rejoice in hearing the chorus which is chanted on the glassy and fiery sea. It tells us that God will be justified when He speaks, and clear when He judgeth. (H. Mellvill, B. D.)

The song of Moses and of the Lamb

What has one to do with the other? Here are the oldest of recorded events and words joined with the farthest and latest possible events and words. Here is the beginning of earth’s human history united with its Divine consummation. Here are the words of earth and heaven coupled together. The song of Moses, and the song of the Lord Christ--the song of Israelitish victory and of Christian victory, in one breath of thanksgiving. And as we look more carefully we see it is all very full of parallels. The singers in both cases stand by a sea--the Red Sea of Egypt, and heaven’s sea of fire,--and they are each singing in an attitude and strain of deliverance and freedom from enemies and of victory. And the sentiments of the two songs are the same. God’s great power and display of judgment, and the acknowledgment of all nations.

When I find an event like the old Israelitish victory, or a song like that of Moses, carried forward and appearing in the future heavenly history and combined with Christ’s victory and song, it lights up human life with a new meaning and radiance.

1. It has, in the first place, this value: it connects the end with the beginning. How early that old victory and song of Moses were--one of the very first human victories under God’s guidance! How far away seems that first victory from the heavenly end, when there shall be no more struggle or pain! How since Moses multitudes and generations and companies of men have all had their contests again and again! How, with every day, it comes to each one of us! How premature seems the old song of victory when a new enemy is to come immediately! How ceaseless seems the struggle to us! And so God puts into one phrase for us the earliest and last song of victory, the beginning and the end, the song of Moses and the song of the Lamb, the victory of Moses over Pharaoh and one evil, and Christ’s victory over all evil and all enemies. No matter how early in the struggle you may be, the end is shown, and Christ’s victory is coupled with it, and you are to think of them together. Do not say, discouragingly, “The contest will be renewed again in another way to-morrow”; but say, “The contest will end surely, and ritually victoriously in the Lamb’s triumph.”

1. But there is a better, deeper thought of encouragement than this, which comes out of that connection--“the song of Moses and of the Lamb.”

2. It is that all righteous issues, and all struggles of men, are parts of Christ’s issue and struggle and victory; and so each man’s song is sung with and in the new song of the Lamb. We need to think of this. Christ’s contest and death and victory were not all a history alongside of ours, to which we can look up from our own and take courage; but they contain ours and all the struggles and victories of the servants of God everywhere. See how close and dear that makes Christ’s life to you. Oh, as I am led through a life’s discipline, am told to do without this or that, am bid to contend with this or that selfishness, am pressed hard by this or that sorrow, am tempted to give up my trust in God’s care and to be sour or reckless, how it helps me to go and put all this experience into the gospel story, to translate it into the struggle of the Lamb of God, to think of it all as a part of His issue. My struggle and victory to-day is no mere disjointed, separated thing, done alone and without lasting effect, but it is a part of a great victory of the Lamb already won. This little song, which I sing through my tears, as I conquer a hard temptation and struggle through a sea of evil, is a part of Christ’s song. It does not lose itself in earth’s air and die, but it shall live in Christ’s song to the end of eternity, when tears are all wiped away.

3. And so that brings me to a third thing which the phrase teaches us about our life on earth--it is that God would have it happy. Earth’s song He continues into heaven, not its tears: Moses’ song of victory, not of his troubles. Are you singing any hymn of victory to-day? Are you joyful over a dead sin, or are you merely merry in slavery or sad in defeat?

What we learn of heaven and of its life from the text.

1. First, it gives us this thought of heaven: as a place in which each one of us has a marked individuality and history, even in Christ’s presence. Heaven would be an unbearable place unless we lived ourselves individually--enjoyed and felt ourselves. And this thought is given us in the fact that the song sung by Moses the servant of God is remembered and repeated there. Human names and experiences and victories are mentioned there in the very company of the name and experience and victory of the Lamb. A city of kings will heaven be; all natures marked and distinct; all with a history and a claim to distinct remark and notice.

2. Then there is this further thought--the communion of saints. They not only all join in the song of the Lamb, but in the song of Moses the servant of God. They use the words which commemorate not only Christ’s victory, but the victory of Moses too. Think of it: the voices that all go up to Christ, all also using Moses’ experience and Moses’ song words! It is that Christian truth: Your experience is mine, and mine is yours. Every man’s victory I sing, and every man sings mine, as part of that same salvation of the Lamb which has rescued and sanctified you or me or the man who sings. Oh, get some of this heavenly power of communion of saints now! Do not let anything cut you off from a life that is showing God’s victory. Sing its song; put yourself into its experience and place, and you will sing your own song and fill your own place all the better and more fully.

3. Then, lastly, this text tells me of the thoughts which are the atmosphere of heaven. Often we wonder--“What is the new song? What will be my state of mind--what my sentiments?” This passage tells us. The song of the Lamb is the song of Moses, the servant of God. The words of the song of heaven. They are but the nobler, fuller use of Moses’ lyric words. Heaven’s song is a new setting to God’s harp of any song we have sung on gaining a spiritual victory over enemies by God’s power here and now and in this earthly life. Let a man triumphantly resist a temptation, conquer a passion, win a new grade of character by God’s power, and he has the very sentiments exalting and moving his heart and life which the new song will have in richest and completest harmony. (Fred. Brooks.)

The song of triumph

The life of the redeemed is here represented as a service of song. This will not seem surprising if we reflect on the function of song. There has never been a time in which music has played so large a part in the general life as it does to-day. What is music? It is not the mere pastime of an idle hour, or the mere sensuous gratification of an artistic mind.

1. It is a language, the highest, except poetry, that we are acquainted with, if indeed, in fundamental particulars they can be separated the one from the other. It is often the only language that can give expression to the highest thoughts of the mind or the deepest feelings of the heart. It is also to be noticed that all life, as it approaches perfection, becomes melodious. The life of heaven, then, is a service of song, not after any idle or sensuous fashion, but because the life of heaven is life perfected. Man in complete accord with his surroundings, man moving in absolute harmony with the will of God, man redeemed from all imperfections, and cleansed from all sin by the very constitution of his nature, is man melodious.

2. It is worth noticing, further, that there is no music like the music of triumph, and no songs like those which celebrate deliverance. And I take it as beautifully significant, that the burden of this song should be what it is, and that it should be called “the song of Moses and of the Lamb.” Moses, the much tried servant of God, the heroic leader of a stiffnecked people; and the Lamb, the eternal symbol of sacrificial suffering and sorrow. For it is a mistake to suppose that noble sorrow nobly borne silences the voice of song. Shelley says, “Our sweetest songs are those that tell of saddest thoughts.” It is partly true; it is mainly sentimental. But this is wholly true, that sorrow nobly borne is impotent to hang or keep the harp upon the willows. Song breaks from it as the phoenix from the flames. The most triumphant poem of this century is “In Memoriam,” and we know the sable circumstances of its birth. It is even so. Some birds sing best in the dark. And in the gracious providence of God beauty is not far away from ashes. The oil of joy exudes from mourning, and the garment of praise often covers a spirit of heaviness.

3. It is further suggested by this vision of the redeemed, that the conquerors of all ages take part in this song. The conflict varies from age to age. The beast that has power to make war against the saints assumes many forms. And the radiant hope here “set before us,” is that all who have overcome, will unite in the eternal song. For there is no power which can unite the hearts of men like music, as they know full well who march to battle with the beating of the drum or the notes of the pibroch. Now think of a society gathered from all ages and lands, filled with a life of which song is the only natural and adequate expression, and you have a picture of “the better land” as John saw it in his prophetic dream. It is likely that it occurred to him in this form, as he watched from his lonely rock some sunset glories blazing far and wide across the blue Mediterranean. Out there, on the very verge of the horizon, he catches sight of the faithful ones, no longer groaning beneath the oppressor, no longer struggling with the beast, and no longer divided among themselves: one perfect society, telling in unending song of the wondrous works of God, proclaiming the eternal vindication of His just and righteous ways, and reminding us that the confusions of time are only in appearance, and that the essential harmony will be made manifest by and by. Conclusion:

1. Let us expect conflict. “No cross, no crown.”

2. Let us look for victory from the right source. “Looking unto Jesus,” etc. (James Thew.)

The song of the glorified

The joyful employment of glorified spirits.

1. The song in which all the saints shall join in heaven is a song of triumph over dangerous and powerful enemies.

2. Saints in glory are here said to sing the song of the Lamb, or a song in which they are instructed by the Lamb of God, which has respect to the glorious deliverance which He hath wrought out for them.

The subject-matter of this song.

1. The great and wondrous nature of the works of God shall be made the subject of devout and joyful celebration in the world of glory.

(1) The vast works of creation will then be seen in an their magnitude and beauty. Many glorious effects of God’s creative power, of which we have now no knowledge, will then be disclosed. From an elevated point will glorified spirits survey the works of creation, and be pleasingly astonished at their almost boundless immensity, their beautiful order and gradation.

(2) Then also the great designs of Providence will be laid open in all their lustre and glory. As the intellectual sight will then be amazingly strengthened and improved; so the darkness which now veils many of God’s providential dispensations shall then be dispersed.

(3) Then also shall the godlike purposes of Divine grace to save many sinners from hell, and bring them to heaven, be displayed in all their loveliness; their origin and end will be fully disclosed, and furnish the saints in glory with rich occasion for admiration and joy. These great and marvellous works of God will be then perfectly known, and harmoniously celebrated.

(4) The infinite power of God, which is a just object of terror to the wicked, and which will inevitably plunge them into perdition, is the source of consolation and the subject of praise to all true believers. Holy pleasure mixed with solemn awe attends a contemplative view of this Divine attribute even in the present life. In heaven Jehovah shall be praised as the Lord God Almighty. This character will excite the profoundest reverence as well as the highest pleasure in the breasts of the heavenly worshippers, for as it will proclaim the infinite distance there is between them and their maker, so it will insure to them everlasting peace and safety. For what power can control the will, or alter the purposes of Him who in might is infinite? The justice and truth of God’s ways are celebrated in heaven as well as their great and marvellous nature. “Just and true are Thy ways, Thou King of saints.”

(1) In the upper world glorified spirits celebrate the justice of God--His justice towards friends and foes, the perfect righteousness of His dealings towards all ranks of creatures in heaven, on earth, and in hell. There in a particular manner do they acknowledge the justice and propriety of all those events which puzzled and disturbed their minds when here below. They have no accusation to offer, no complaint to bring against the King of saints; in the whole of His management they heartily acquiesce, and sing a lofty song of praise to His justice and rectitude.

(2) But the heavenly choir celebrate the truth as well as the justice of their Maker. Just and true are Thy ways. As a God of Truth the Almighty hath invariably revealed Himself in all ages, and this title very properly belongs to Him (Psalms 100:5). As such He is justly extolled by His people now, but in a much nobler manner shall He be praised on this account hereafter. Then the truth of His predictions to the world at large; His inviolable regard to the promises made to the Church in every age and in every state; His fidelity to every individual that has made or shall make a part of it; His steady attachment to that covenant which through His Son He enters into with every true believer, and His immutable care to confer the blessings it contains, shall be the topics of joyful acclamation by glorified spirits.

(3) The people of God are repeatedly spoken of in the sacred oracles under the title of saints, “Thou King of saints.” Now these pure and happy souls have God for their King. The great God indeed is the Sovereign of all His creatures. He exercises universal dominion over the works of His hands, and His right thereto is founded on the nature of things, and the relation He bears to them. He is the Creator and of course the Sovereign and Lord of all. All creatures owe Him subjection and obedience, and over all He rules without control. But saints are under His peculiar government. He is their King in a sense which can be applied to none but such as fear and love Him, and have His image drawn upon their hearts. Application:

1. Let us be thankful for the pleasing descriptions of the heavenly world which are given us in the gospel of Christ.

2. Let the consideration of the state to which our deceased believing friends are advanced, and the manner in which they are employed, mitigate our sorrow on account of their removal hence.

3. Let the subject of the songs of Zion be improved for present comfort. Are the works of God no less just and true than they are great and marvellous? Do they as loudly proclaim his unspotted rectitude and inviolable faithfulness as the exceeding greatness of His power and majesty? Let every fearful thought then be instantly dismissed. Let every rebellious sigh be hushed in the Christian’s breast.

4. Let us all be ambitious to join hereafter in this delightful song, and for that end let us now seek an interest in the Divine favour through the Redeemer. (N. Jennings.)

Israel in Egypt

Regard the position of the children of Israel as emblematical of our own. And here we observe that, like the Church of God, the vast host of Israel had been delivered from bondage. With a high hand and an outstretched arm, our God has led us forth from the place of our captivity, and joyfully we pursue our way through the wilderness. But with the children of Israel it was not all joy; they were free, but their master was at their heels. Pharaoh was loth to lose so valuable a nation of servants. Affrighted Israel beheld her infuriated oppressor close at her rear, and trembled for the issue; even so it is with some of you; you think you must be driven back again like dumb cattle into Egypt, and once more become what you were. But once more: the children of Israel were in a position more wonderful than this. They came to the edge of the Red Sea; they feared their enemies behind; they could not fly on either hand, for they were flanked by mountains and stupendous rocks; one course only was open to them, and that course was through the sea. God commands them to go forward. The rod of Moses is outstretched, and the affrighted waters divide; a channel is left whilst the floods stand upright, and the waters are congealed in the heart of the sea. O living army of the living God! ye, like Israel, keep the floods of Providence still standing fast: but when the last of you shall be gone from this stage of action, God’s fiery wrath and tremendous anger shall dash down upon the ground whereon you now are standing, and your enemies shall be overwhelmed in the place through which you now walk safely.

The triumph of Moses was a picture of the ultimate triumph of the Lamb. Yes, the day is drawing nigh when God’s enemies shall no longer make it necessary for God’s providence to be apparently disturbed to save His people, when the great designs of God shall be accomplished, and therefore when the walls of water shall roll together, whilst in their inmost depths the everlasting burning fire shall still consume the wicked. Well, I now want to show you why it was that Moses triumphed, and why it is that by and by we shall triumph. One reason why Moses sung his song was because all Israel were safe. Oh! it is my strong belief that in heaven there shall not be a vacant throne. I rejoice that all who love the Lord below must at last attain to heaven. But, perhaps, the major part of the joy of Moses lay in the destruction of all the enemies of God. I see the trembling church, fearing to he overthrown: I mark her leaders bending their knees in solemn prayer, and crying, “Lord, save Thy people, and bless Thy heritage.” But mine eye looks through the future with telescopic glance, and I see the happy period of the latter days when Christ shall reign triumphant.

Some interesting particulars in the song which will doubtless have a place in the everlasting orchestra of the redeemed when they shall praise the Most High.

1. The first thing I would have you notice in it is, that from beginning to end it is a praise of God, and of nobody else but God. The last song in this world, the song of triumph, shall be full of God, and of no one else. Here you praise the instrument; to-day you look on this man and on that, and you say, “Thank God for this minister, and for this man.” To-day you say, “Blessed be God for Luther, who shook the Vatican, and thank God for Whitfield, who stirred up a slumbering church” but in that day you shall not sing of Luther, nor of Whitfield, nor of any of the mighty ones of God’s hosts; forgotten shall their names be for a season, even as the stars refuse to shine when the sun himself appeareth. The song shall be unto Jehovah and Jehovah only.

2. And next note that this song celebrated something of the fierceness of the enemy. I believe the last song of the redeemed, when they shall ultimately triumph, will celebrate in heavenly stanzas the wrath of man overcome by God. Sometimes after great battles, monuments are raised to the memory of the fight, and of what are they composed? They are composed of weapons of death and of instruments of war which have been taken from the enemy. Now, to use that illustration as I think it may be properly used, the day is coming when fury, and wrath, and hatred, and strife shall all be woven into a song: and the weapons of our enemies, when taken from them, shall serve to make monuments to the praise of God.

3. And then note how they sang the total overthrow of the enemy. I believe that at the last, a part of our triumph will be the fact that there is not one left. We shall look abroad throughout the earth, and see it all a level sea, and not one foeman pursuing us--“not one--not one”! Raise thyself never so high, O thou deceiver, thou canst not live, for not one shall escape. Lift thy head never so proudly, O despot, thou canst not live, for not one shall escape. O heir of heaven, not one sin shall cross the Jordan after thee; not one shall pass the Red Sea to overtake thee; but this shall be the summit of thy triumph--Not one, not one, not one of them is left.

4. Furthermore, in this song of Moses you will notice there is one peculiar beauty. Moses not only rejoiced for what had been done, but for the future consequences of it. He says--“The people of Canaan, whom we are about to attack, will now be seized with sudden fear; by the greatness of thy arm they shall be as still as a stone.” Oh! I think I hear them singing that too, sweetly and softly--“as still as a stone.” How would the words come full, like gentle thunder heard in the distance--“as still as a stone.” And when we shall get on the other side the flood, see the triumph over our enemies, and behold our Master reigning, this will form a part of our song--that they must henceforth be “as still as a stone.” There will be a hell, but it will not be a hell of roaring devils, as it now is. They shall be “as still as a stone.”

5. And last of all, the song concludes by noticing the eternity of God’s reign, and this will always make a part of the triumphant song. They sang--“The Lord shall reign for ever and ever.” Then I can suppose the whole band broke out into their loudest strains of music. “The Lord shall reign for ever and ever.” Part of the melody of heaven will be--“The Lord shall reign for ever and ever.” That song has cheered us here--“The Lord reigneth; blessed be my rock!” And that song shall be our exultation there. “The Lord reigneth for ever and ever.” (C. H. Spurgeon.)

Great and marvellous are Thy works.--

The works of God, as King of saints, great and marvellous

The work of redemption, which God has wrought, and in which the saints are peculiarly interested, is a marvellous wore.

The various revelations by which God has brought the saints, in the several ages of the world, to the knowledge of this redemption, are also marvelous.

The dispensation of God’s providence toward the church, in correcting and punishing her for her declensions, and in delivering her out of dangers and afflictions, are great and marvellous.

That work, by which God fits and prepares the saints for glory, is great and marvellous.

1. The conversion of a sinner is a great work, as it makes in him a mighty change.

2. This is a marvellous work, as it is a work of marvellous grace.

3. This is a marvellous work, as it is wrought in a marvellous manner.

4. This is a great work, as it is effected by Divine power.

The dispensations of God’s providence toward particular saints, in bringing them to glory, are great and wonderful. (J. Lathrop, D. D.)

God’s wonderful works

It is said of Napoleon that when Marshal Duroc, an avowed infidel, was telling a very improbable story, giving his opinion that it was quite true, the Emperor quietly remarked, “There are some men capable of believing everything but the Bible.” Infidels look at the Holy Bible superficially, and find fault with the form in which it appears, and reject it because of its mysterious contents, thereby maintaining that religion ends where mysteries begin. It is true that there are events too high, too wonderful and too deep, such things as pass our understanding, recorded in God’s most holy Word. For instance, the doctrine of the Trinity in Unity, Three Persons yet one God, is most mysterious. This we cannot possibly understand, but then God does not ask us to, only to accept it with childlike faith. Again, the whole scheme of our Redemption from beginning to end is a profound mystery. Now look at some of God’s mysterious and marvellous works in creation.

1. And first in the “field.” Think of the various kinds of small seeds, such as wheat, barley, oats, and rye, which the sower takes in his hands, sows, and leaves in the earth to take care of themselves, but really to be looked after and to be taken care of by God.

2. Furthermore, God cares for our pleasures and happiness as well aa for our sustenance. This may be seen in the abounding and universal beauty of this magnificent world, where everything works so silently, so surely, and so harmoniously, thereby obeying the laws ordained by its Maker. Oh, let us pray earnestly against harbouring the spirit which, indeed, observes the works of God and of Christ, which simply arouses our curiosity, “makes us marvel, and leave Him, and go our way,” as the Scribes and Pharisees did when put to silence.

3. Again, not only once a year, as in the harvest, are the marvellous works of God visible. “The heavens declare the glory of God, and the firmament sheweth His handy work.” What a glorious sight by day to behold the “sun, which cometh forth out of his chamber, and rejoiceth as a giant to run his course,” and by night to see the clear moon and the twinkling stars! Can we look up there, and not think of God the Maker and Upholder of them all? Alas for us if we can and then simply “marvel and go our way” without a thought of Him. Whilst we accept mysteries in the “natural world,” shall we reject “Bible mysteries”? (J. T. Hughes.)

Just and true are Thy ways.--

The rectitude of God

The demands of His law attest the truth of this testimony. The Heavenly Teacher has reduced all the demands which the Eternal Governor makes upon us to a twofold command.

1. “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart,” etc. Is this demand just? This depends upon three things.

(1) Whether we have the power of loving any one supremely.

(2) Whether God has attributes adapted to awaken this love within us.

(3) Whether these attributes are revealed with sufficient clearness to our minds. The affirmative to these things must be admitted by all.

2. “Whatsoever ye would that men should do unto you.” Not “whatsoever men do unto you,” that might be sinful; but whatsoever ye would that men should do unto you. Would you have them false, dishonest, unkind, tyrannic, towards you? Whatsoever ye would that they should be to you, be so to them. Can anything be more just?

The intuitions of His moral creatures attest the truth of this testimony. In all moral intelligences there is--

1. An intuitive sense of the right. All have an inbred sentiment of right and wrong. This sentiment implies a moral standard, and what is that standard but God?

2. There is an intuitive love of the right. All moral souls love the right in the abstract; they are bound to do it. “I delight in the law of God after the inner man.” All consciences go with God.

3. There is an intuitive remorse. Misery springs up in the soul from a conscious departure from the right. Cain, David, Belshazzar, Judas, are examples.

4. There is an intuitive appeal to God under the wrong as the Friend of the right. Oppressed humanity involuntarily looks to God as Judge of all the earth. Deep in the soul of the moral creation is the feeling that God’s ways are just and right. No argument can destroy this consciousness.

The mediation of His Son attests the truth of this testimony.

1. His life was the development of Divine righteousness. He was incarnate rectitude. “He did no sin, neither was guile found in His mouth.”

2. His death was the highest homage to Divine rectitude. He could have escaped death. It was the inner sense of right that urged Him on.

3. His system is the promoter of Divine righteousness. His truth inculcates it; His Spirit promotes it. His Spirit comes to “convince the world of sin, righteousness,” etc.

The retributions of His government attest the truth of this testimony. Look at the expulsion of Adam, the deluge, the burning of Sodom, the extermination of the Canaanites, the destruction of Jerusalem, and the dispersion of the Jews. Look on to the retribution of the last day, and see what rectitude marks the whole (Matthew 25:1-46.). (Homilist.)

God’s ways just and true

Take a straight stick and put it into the water, and it will seem crooked. Why? Because we look upon it through two mediums, air, and water: there lies the deceptio visus; thence it is that we cannot discern aright. Thus the proceedings of God in His justice, which in themselves are straight, without the least obliquity, seem unto us crooked; that wicked men should prosper, and good men be afflicted; that servants should ride on horseback and princes go on foot; these are things that make the best Christians stagger in their judgments. And why? but because they look upon God’s proceedings through a double medium, of flesh and spirit; that so all things seem to go cross though, indeed, they are right enough. And hence it is that God’s proceedings in His justice are not so well discerned--the eyes of man alone being not competent judges thereof.

Verses 5-6

Revelation 15:5-6

The seven angels came out of the temple, having the seven plagues.

Angelic agencies of retribution


1. The instruments employed by God for executing His wrath upon sinners--angels, seven angels: not that He needs them, but He is pleased to make use of them, and they are but instruments in His hand, who receive all their efficacy from the hand that uses them.

2. From whence these seven angels come, namely, out of the temple, more immediately from the presence of God, implying that they came forth to execute vengeance by God’s special directions, and consequently that the work was very well pleasing unto God which they went about.

3. How they are furnished, having seven plagues--namely, to inflict upon the idolatrous enemies of the Church.

4. In and after what manner these angels were apparelled and appeared.

(1) They were clothed in pure and white linen, to denote the holiness of their persons, as also the holiness of that work which they had then in hand.

(2) This clothing of theirs was girded to them, expressing thereby their great readiness for, and their great alacrity in, their work.

(3) The girdle wherewith they were girded was a golden girdle, exactly answering the habit of the high priest, when he entered into the holy of holies, to inquire of God, or came out with an answer from God.

5. From the whole learn, that when the Lord comes to pull down Babylon, as well as to build up Sion, He will appear in glory; the angels are God’s special ministers; when they go forth to pour out the vials of His wrath upon Babylon, they appear gloriously apparelled, glittering like the high priest, and girded with golden girdles. (W. Burkitt, M. A.)

Genuine discipline of soul

The source of genuine soul discipline. “After that (these things) I looked (saw), and, behold, the temple of the tabernacle of the testimony in heaven was opened.” The discipline, as we have seen, was of a painful character. It involved “seven angels” with “seven plagues.” Whence did it proceed? Not from secondary instrumentalities, fortuitous circumstances, or a heartless, rigorous fatality, but direct from the presence of the Infinite. The language here points to the inner compartment of the old Jewish tabernacle, known as the “Holy of Holies.” There the Jew regarded Jehovah as especially revealing Himself to them, and as communicating to them His ideas and plans. To a genuinely disciplined soul all influences from heaven tending to purify and ennoble are regarded as coming direct from the presence of the Great Father. Its inner eye, so to speak, is so opened and quickened that it glances into the very shrine of the Almighty.

The ministers of genuine soul discipline.

1. They are complete in number and qualification. “Seven angels” and “seven plagues.”

2. They go forth direct from His presence. “Came out of the temple,” etc.

3. They are divinely marked and attired as God’s priests. “Clothed (arrayed) in pure and white linen.”

4. They have a commission of severity. True soul-education involves pain. The very severity is a blessing.

The indispensability of genuine soul discipline. “No man (no one) was able to enter into the temple till the seven plagues of the seven angels were fulfilled” (should be finished). The idea suggested is that no man could enter into the shrine or into the immediate presence of God until the discipline had been fully accomplished. (David Thomas, D. D.)

Verses 7-8

Revelation 15:7-8

Seven golden vials full of the wrath of god.

The wrath of God


1. That what was called seven plagues in the foregoing verse is here called seven golden vials full of the wrath of God: in this verse vials are full cups. Vials of wrath are prepared when the measures of a people’s sins are filled up; full cups of sin are followed with full vials of God’s wrath. Next, these vials are said to be of gold, signifying that these judgments proceed from a just God, with whom there is no corruption nor iniquity in judgments, He being holy in all His ways, and righteous in all His works. These vials are also said to be full of the wrath of God, who liveth for ever and ever, as an aggravation of the same, it not being like the wrath of a mortal man, of short continuance; it is the wrath of Him that ever lives to maintain His wrath, and to uphold and sustain the sinner under the execution and infliction of this wrath, that the sinner cannot run from Him.

2. The executioners of this wrath are said to be seven angels. The angels, which are merciful attendants upon the godly, are also at God’s command, the executioners of His wrath upon the wicked. These angels are here said to be seven, to signify that God’s judgments upon His Church’s adversaries shall be heavy and great; one angel plagued all Egypt, and destroyed Sennacherib’s mighty host, but here went out seven angels to destroy antichrist.

3. The tremendous dreadfulness of this wrath, intimated by filling the temple with smoke, thereby signifying that the wrath of God, kindled against His enemies, shall be unto them like a devouring and consuming fire, before the flame of which burst forth, a cloud of smoke appears. Learn--That almighty God is glorified in the destruction as well as in the salvation of sinners; His glory is as well seen in His smoking wrath against the wicked, as in His saving mercy towards the godly. The temple was filled with smoke, from the glory of God, and from His power; it follows, no man was able to enter into the temple; that is, to deprecate God’s anger and supplicate His mercy, or to avert the plagues threatened and now just ready to be inflicted; when mercy has been long offered and despised, the Lord at last becomes inexorable, and will suffer none to intercede or plead with Him (Jeremiah 15:1). (W. Burkitt, M. A.)


Copyright Statement
These files are public domain.
Text Courtesy of Used by Permission.
Bibliographical Information
Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on "Revelation 15". The Biblical Illustrator. 1905-1909. New York.