Comfort for the
Saints (Revelation 15)
Let's call to mind
that in Revelation 6:10, the saints asked God how
long it would be before He avenged the blood of the
slain saints shed by their oppressors. Here they
are told that it is now time for the punishment due
for the suffering brought about by the dragon and
his allies. The forces of heaven are given the
directive to implement the wrath of God upon the
enemies of righteousness. Those who are still alive
are given a picture of the triumphant martyrs who,
having died at the hands of Domitian, kept their
faith and endured to the end. The assurance to the
oppressed is that if they too shall overcome the
persecution to be inflicted upon them, they also
shall receive the crown of life. It is as if the
fallen martyrs are cheering their earthly brethren
on to victory.
It is significant
to note that once again, the saints are being
exhorted to keep the faith. Don't give in, don't
give up, the God of all creation is aware, still in
control, angry with the beast and is about to step
in and set things right. The cruel oppressors are
about to face the wrath of God. In the end, the
Roman Empire, as powerful as it seems, will succumb
and the faithful saints of God will emerge
victorious. "What then shall we say to these
things? If God (is) for us, who (is) against us?"
(Romans 8:31). (ASV)
And I saw another sign in heaven, great and
marvellous, seven angels having seven plagues,
(which are) the last, for in them is finished the
wrath of God. (ASV)
John saw a great
and marvelous sign in heaven. There were seven
angels with seven plagues to dispense on the earth.
The number seven represents completeness to the
people of the time. This would suggest that John's
vision previews the complete wrath of God which is
to be directed toward the unrighteous. Biblical
history is replete with examples of God's punishment
upon the unrighteous. Sodom and Gomorrah, Egypt,
Babylon, Assyria and many others suffered defeat at
the direction of God due to their rebellion. These
judgments on earth pale to insignificance in the
view of the judgment yet to come, when the eternal
punishment of Hell shall be manifested upon them.
Notice that the
text refers to the "finished" wrath of God. This is
no way means that the punishment of the unrepentant
oppressors is over. God's eternal wrath will
continue to be upon those outside of Christ,
manifested in the eternal punishment of Hell.
(Reference Revelation 14:10-11). This merely means
that God's anger is complete and will be poured out
on the Roman Empire until His purpose is fully
executed. The Christians are being told here that
the Roman Empire is going to eventually fall as a
result of their persecution.
"And I saw as it were a sea of glass mingled with
fire; and them that come off victorious from the
beast, and from his image, and from the number of
his name, standing by the sea of glass, having harps
of God." (ASV)
This "sea of glass" was mentioned previously
in Revelation 4:6, "And before the throne there
was a sea of glass like unto crystal: and in the
midst of the throne, and round about the throne,
were four beasts full of eyes before and behind."
The glass was mentioned in conjunction with the eyes
of the living creatures and probably illustrates the
transparency of everything to God who knows all
things. (cf. 1 John 3:20) and sees all the works of
man, (Job 34:21-22, Hebrews 4:13). The sea
represents a barrier between two points. A barrier
from which turmoil and disaster can erupt suddenly
and with little warning. Fire represents both the
judgment of God and purification from sin. The "sea
of glass mingled with fire" here would then
seem to represent the all seeing eye of God, burning
with the fire of the impending judgment. And
standing there by the sea of glass are those who
were "victorious from the beast", separated
from God by the confines of their physical existence
but still in fellowship with Him as Christians.
Those who rejected emperor worship and refused to
accept the mark of the beast are there, ready to
witness the coming fire. "How long, O Master,
the holy and true, dost thou not judge and avenge
our blood on them that dwell on the earth?"
(Revelation 6:10). The time has come and the
faithful are there, looking on, encouraging their
still living brethren and praising God. In
revelation 21, the sea which stands between God and
His children on earth is gone. The saved then stand
in the actual presence of God in Heaven.
Let's pause and
look at the "harps of God" in this context.
The victorious are represented as standing beside
the sea of glass mingled with fire having the harps
of God. Attempts have been made to literalize the "harps
of God" in an attempt to legitimize the use of
Manmade instruments of music in our worship today.
The first problem with this is that if one is going
to literalize the harps of God, one needs to look at
literalizing the sea of glass mingled with literal
fire too. The second problem with this that must be
dealt with is that if there are literal harps of God
in heaven, we can be assured they are not made by
the fleshly hands of men. A third problem with this
is that this vision is not one of the saints in the
eternal bode of heaven, rather, the vision is of the
redeemed still on earth, known as the body of
"And they sing the song of
Moses the servant of God, and the song of the Lamb,
saying, Great and marvellous are thy works, O Lord
God, the Almighty; righteous and true are thy ways,
thou King of the ages."
Moses and the
Israelites sang a song of victorious deliverance
over the Egyptian forces after they were destroyed
in the Red Sea, (cf. Exodus 15:1-19). The
Christians of the day, especially the Jewish
Christians, would recognize this figurative
representation of victory instantly. The song of
the lamb is a figurative expression for the
deliverance from the bondage of sin. Thus the
combined effect of both songs is a song of
deliverance from both earthly oppression and the
complete and utter deliverance and triumph over sin
that is realized through Christ Jesus, the lamb.
Moses' song of deliverance and Jesus' song of
redemption are the ones only the redeemed who were "purchased
out of the earth" can sing, (cf. Revelation
"O Lord God,
the Almighty; righteous and true are thy ways, thou
King of the ages." Notice the similarity to the
wording from Psalms 145:17, "Jehovah is righteous
in all his ways, and gracious in all his works,"
The book of Revelation is saturated with
allusions to Old Testament scripture.
"Who shall not fear, O Lord, and glorify thy
We will let the
Bible comment on this beautiful verse.
"By myself have I sworn, the word is gone
forth from my mouth (in) righteousness, and shall
not return, that unto me every knee shall bow, every
tongue shall swear." See also Romans
14:11, Philippians 2:10-11.
" ...for thou only art holy"
1 Samuel 2:2
"There is none holy as Jehovah; For there is
none besides thee, Neither is there any rock like
"...for all the nations shall come and worship
before thee; "
"All nations whom thou hast made shall come and
worship before thee, O Lord; and they shall glorify
Revelation 15:4 "...for thy righteous acts have
been made manifest."
2 Thessalonians 1:4-5
4 "so that we ourselves glory in you in the churches
of God for your patience and faith in all your
persecutions and in the afflictions which ye endure;
5(which is) a manifest token of the righteous
judgment of God; to the end that ye may be counted
worthy of the kingdom of God, for which ye also
Let's back up now
and look at the whole of John's description of
praise in its entirety.
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, O Lord God, the Almighty;
righteous and true are thy ways, thou King of the
4 Who shall not fear, O Lord, and glorify thy
name? for thou only art holy; for all the nations
shall come and worship before thee; for thy
righteous acts have been made manifest.
What a beautiful
picture of praise to God we have here. It embodies
so much. Entire books could be written about these
two verses of scripture and never fully cover their
content. As one studies through John's Revelation
and struggles with understanding the symbolic
language, it is a great comfort that intermingled
within this letter are passages that stand out so
clear to us in their meaning. One of the main
things we pick up from this and other similar
passages is that praise and worship to God is the
privilege of the redeemed. While this blessing is
extended to all, not all decide to avail themselves
of it, choosing rather to live in rebellion to God's
will. And it is those who so refuse who will never
know this privilege.
"And after these things I saw, and the temple of
the tabernacle of the testimony in heaven was
The word "temple"
here is rendered from the Greek word "naos"
This word alludes directly to the inner sanctuary of
the Tabernacle, known as the Holy of Holies. Within
this chamber of the tabernacle was kept the Ark of
the Covenant which contained the tables of the law,
called "the testimony." The image here is that the
royal throne room of Heaven itself was opened up and
what was about to come forth was coming forth from
Jehovah Himself and will be supervised under His
personal direction. God is angry and the doors of
the inner sanctuary are thrown open to the view of
John, thus revealing the gravity of God's
"and there came out from the temple the seven
angels that had the seven plagues, arrayed with
(precious) stone, pure (and) bright, and girt about
their breasts with golden girdles."
And there came out
from the very holiness of God Himself, the plagues
of judgment. Seven plagues carried by seven
angels. As noted earlier, the number seven is
representative of that which is complete. The seven
seals in Revelation 5 and 6 reveal the wrath of God,
the seven trumpets announce and warn of the coming
wrath of God, (Revelation 8), and the seven bowls
execute the wrath of God. The doom of the Roman
Empire is sealed. It will be methodically and
absolutely trodden out under the feet of God like
treaders pressing the juice out of grapes in a
The glorious array
of the angels with their precious stones in golden
girdles most likely signifies that these angels are
coming forth from the presence of God almighty with
a solemn mission to carry out. The adjectives
"pure" and "bright" are representative of the purity
and holiness of the judgments of wrath to come.
"And one of the four living creatures gave unto
the seven angels seven golden bowls full of the
wrath of God, who liveth for ever and ever."
The four creatures
here being the same ones mentioned in Revelation
4:6; 5:6-8; 5:14; 6:1-6; 7:11; 14:3, and later on in
19:4. The idea here being that in understanding the
symbolism of John's Revelation, the figurative
language is consistent and a consideration of all of
it throughout can be used to help unravel the
mysteries of this book.
The wrath of God's
judgment is now given over to the angels for
implementation. The plan is complete, God's will on
the matter is settled. The time has come. The
blood of the martyrs, just like the blood of Cain's
brother Abel, is crying out from the ground, (cf.
Genesis 4:10), and now the punishment has been
dispatched to the angels for execution and is about
"And the temple was filled with smoke from the
glory of God, and from his power; and none was able
to enter into the temple, till the seven plagues of
the seven angels should be finished."
The temple here is
still indicative of the Holy of Holies. Looking at
this from the view of the oppressed Christians, it
is probable that the smoke is representative of
God's anger. However this is not always the case in
the Old Testament. For example, Mt. Sinai in its
entirety smoked and quaked from the presence of God
when he descended to speak with Moses. The smoke
could therefore be representative of God in action.
Either view is consistent with the theme of the
scene being described by John.
None were able to
enter into the temple until all was finished. There
will be no intercessions. There will be no
distractions. The execution of God's wrath on the
Roman Empire is of a paramount priority, under the
personal supervision of almighty God Himself, with
the doors of Heaven's throne room itself thrown open
wide to His view.
What a picture of
comfort this must be to the living saints. God is
in control. The Roman Empire as evil and cruel as
they have been in their persecutions is now going to
be called out for their actions. The oppressed
Christians can't buy, they can't sell, they can't
participate in any kind of transaction whatsoever.
Their friends and families have been turned over to
the state, tortured, maimed, sold into slavery and
killed. They worship God in fear of their lives
every day, often assembling in secret places out of
the public eye. They have seen their brethren
rounded up and fed to beasts in the Roman games for
the enjoyment of the citizens of Rome. They have
seen their brethren hung on posts in the street,
doused with oil and lit afire to serve as street
lamps. They have seen their properties seized,
their children abused. They have been persecuted
and ostracized by the general populace who hate them
and blame them for every thing bad that happens.
This message of divine intervention could not come
at a better time. God is about to put a stop to
this and nothing is going to stand in His way or
detract Him from this mission. When He is finished,
the Roman Empire who has so viciously and cruelly
oppressed the innocent faithful will fall.