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Bible Commentaries

F. B. Hole's Old and New Testament Commentary
Revelation 15



Other Authors
Verses 1-8

CHAPTER 15 BEGINS another sub-section of the book. Chapter 14 gave a series of visions, in which things were presented to us in brief summary. In verses 9 and 10 the wrath of God against the beast-worshippers was announced. We now learn in much more detail how that wrath will be poured out.

The seven angels having the seven last plagues are introduced to us as “another sign in heaven.” This expression has occurred twice before at the beginning of Revelation 12:1-17, though our Authorized translators used the word “wonder” instead of “sign.” The three signs in heaven are, then, first, that of the elect Israel, out of whom Christ sprang; second, that of the dragon, the great opponent of the Man Child, operating by means of the two beasts; third, that of the angels to whom it is given to pour out the vials filled with the wrath of God, which wrath is specially directed against the beasts and all who own their authority. The wrath of the dragon and the beasts is against the Man Child and all who own Him. The wrath of God is against the dragon and all who own him.

It is evident, then, that Revelation 15:1-8 does not follow Revelation 14:1-20 chronologically, but rather breaks back to a time preceding the execution of the harvest and vintage judgments by the Son of Man; just as we find the wrath of God against Babylon announced under the seventh vial at the end of Revelation 16:1-21, and then full details of Babylon’s fall given in Revelation 17:1-18 and Revelation 18:1-24. Its fall indeed had been briefly announced in Revelation 14:8.

But before John had to contemplate the outpouring of the vials in detail he was given a vision of those who will be carried in triumph as overcomers through that terrible period and then ascribe the glory of their victory to God. The mingling of fire with the sea of glass would indicate that these victors had been subjected to the fiery trial of death but from their martyrdom had stepped into victory. Consequently their song is not only that of Moses but of the Lamb. The first song recorded in Scripture is that of Moses in Exodus 15:1-27, celebrating Jehovah’s victory in crushing the might of Egypt and redeeming His people. Our verse gives us the last record of a song in Scripture, and again the song of Moses appears for once more and finally God is crushing the adversary and redeeming His people. But coupled with that is the song of the once suffering but now triumphant Lamb, for in their suffering they had trodden in His steps, and it is never to be forgotten that He triumphed in and through His suffering and apparent defeat.

The song celebrated God’s works and ways in judgment. They may be full of mystery while in process of accomplishment, but once completed they are seen to be great and marvellous, righteous and true. The names by which He is addressed are not those indicating the peculiar relationship in which He stands to the church, but those relating to Israel and the nations —the Jehovah, Elohim, Shaddai, of the Old Testament. And then again, the correct reading here is evidently, “King of nations,” and not “King of saints.” There is a strong resemblance here to Jeremiah 10:6, Jeremiah 10:7, where the wrath of God against the nations is prophetically announced. The King of nations will subdue all nations in His wrath, and vindicate and glorify His elect.

The song closes in giving three reasons why God should be feared and glorified. First, because of what He is in His gracious holiness; second, because of His supremacy, which will ultimately command the homage of all nations; third, because the rightness of His judgments is now being made manifest. The word here is literally, “righteousnesses,” the same word as is used for the righteous acts of the saints in Revelation 19:8. God’s judgments are so righteous that the prophet could say, “When Thy judgments are in the earth, the inhabitants of the world will learn righteousness” (Isaiah 26:9). In contrast to this, Israel will at last have to confess, as we do today. “All our righteousnesses are as filthy rags” (Isaiah 64:6).

Having been granted the vision of these, who though victims under the beast were nevertheless victors over his power, a wholly new scene unrolled itself before John’s eyes. He saw the seven angels with the seven last plagues come out of “the temple of the tabernacle of the testimony in heaven.” This is a remarkable phrase. In the Old Testament we read of “the tabernacle of testimony” in the wilderness and also of the “temple” when the people were in the land; both of them figures of the true. Here both figures are coalesced. Out from the inner shrine of the Divine presence, where the testimony to all His purposes had been preserved, came the seven angels, empowered to deliver the final strokes of judgment, previous to the manifestation of His purpose for the earth by the appearing of Christ.

The two verses which close chapter 15, emphasize the exceeding solemnity of this moment. The vials handed to the angels were full of the wrath of God, who lives to the ages of ages—the eternity of His Being adding an infinitude of weight to His wrath. They were handed to them by one of the Living Creatures, that we saw in chapter 4, symbolizing the power, endurance, intelligence and swiftness of the Creator’s ways in dealing with a rebellious earth. And again, the temple was filled with smoke from the glory of God. We had smoke from the pit in chapter 9, symbolic of Satanic influences which excluded all that is Divine. Here we have the Divine glory excluding all men and all that is merely human, while these last plagues were in process. There is an analogy between the plagues of Egypt, preceding the death of the firstborn, and these seven plagues, which will precede the revelation of God’s Firstborn from heaven.


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These files are public domain.
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Bibliography Information
Hole, Frank Binford. "Commentary on Revelation 15:4". "F. B. Hole's Old and New Testament Commentary". 1947.

Lectionary Calendar
Thursday, October 22nd, 2020
the Week of Proper 24 / Ordinary 29
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