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The Book of Revelation

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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)

Revelation 15:1
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.

Revelation 15:2
"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 Christ. 

Revelation 15:3
"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 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 14:3). 

"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. 

Revelation 15:4
"Who shall not fear, O Lord, and glorify thy name?"  

We will let the Bible comment on this beautiful verse.

Isaiah 45:23
"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. 

Revelation 15:4 " ...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 our God."

Revelation 15:4 "...for all the nations shall come and worship before thee; "

Psalms 86:9
"All nations whom thou hast made shall come and worship before thee, O Lord; and they shall glorify thy name."

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 suffer:"

Let's back up now and look at the whole of John's description of praise in its entirety. 

Revelation 15:3-4
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 ages.
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.

Revelation 15:5
"And after these things I saw, and the temple of the tabernacle of the testimony in heaven was opened:"

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 intentions. 

Revelation 15:6
"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 winepress. 

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. 

Revelation 15:7
"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 to commence. 

Revelation 15:8
"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.

Church of Christ Lessons on the Revelation of Jesus Christ

1.  Understanding Revelation
2.  Symbolic Objects in Revelation
3.  Understanding the Numerical Symbolism in Revelation
4.  Identifying the Opposition Characters in Revelation
John's Introduction to the Churches of Asia

6.  John's Vision of Jesus Christ
7. The Church who Left Her First Love, Ephesus
8.  Smyrna, the Suffering Church
9.  Pergamum, the church in Hell's Headquarter
10.  Thyatira, the church that Condoned Sin
11. Sardis (The Dead Church)
12. Philadelphia (The Church With Opportunity)
13.  Laodicea (The Lukewarm Church)

14.  Letter to Your Church
15.  John's Throne Vision (chapter 4)
16.  God the Redeemer Revealed  (chapter 5)
17.  God the Avenger of His Children (Chapter 6)
18.  Who Will Be Able To Stand  (Chapter 7)
19.  The First Four Trumpets
(Chapter 8)
20.  The Fifth Trumpet (Chapter 9:1-12)
21.  The Sixth Trumpet Announcement (Chapter 9:13-21)
22. The Little Book and the Unutterable Thunders (Rev 10)
23.  The Seventh Trumpet Announcement (Rev 11)
24. The Conflict (Revelation 12)
25.  Revelation 13 (Identification of the First Beast)

26.  Revelation 13 (Identification of the Second Beast)

27.  Chapter 14 (The Victorious Lamb and the Redeemed)
28.  Revelation 14 (The Turning Point)
29.  Revelation 14 (The Sickle and the Winepress)
30.  Chapter 15 (Comfort for the Saints)
31.  Chapter 16 (Bowls of Wrath)
32.  Chapter 16 (The Battle of Armageddon)
33.  Chapter 17 (The Scarlet Woman)
34.  Chapter 18 (Fallen  is Babylon)

35.  King of Kings and Lord of Lords (Chapter 19)
36.  The Fall of Satan  (Chapter 20)
37.  Heaven, the Home of the Soul  (Chapter 21)
38.  The Spirit and the Bride Say Come  (Chapter 22)
39.  The Dating of the Revelation

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Revelation 21:5-7

And he that sat upon the throne said, Behold, I make all things new. And he said unto me, Write: for these words are true and faithful.  And he said unto me, It is done. I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end. I will give unto him that is athirst of the fountain of the water of life freely.  He that overcometh shall inherit all things; and I will be his God, and he shall be my son.