CHAPTER FIFTEEN - PRELUDE TO BOWL JUDGMENTS
(1) Then I saw another sign in heaven, great and marvelous, (2) seven angels who had seven plagues, (3) which are the last, (4) because in them the wrath of God is finished.
1. Then I saw another sign in heaven, great and marvelous = is the third and final heavenly sign that marks this section of the Revelation. This sign follows the first two signs indicated in Revelation 12:1and 3. This suggests that while Revelation 12:1-6 retrogresses in the historical chronology of the end time events. Revelation 12-13 is not a parenthesis in a purely technical sense. The purpose of the retrogression is clear. It provides the backdrop for the wrath of God in its final form. The woman, the dragon, the beast, and God highlight the four major players of the eschatological end. The woman and her offspring are the object of the dragon’s wrath. The dragon and his supporters are the object of God’s wrath.
2. Seven angels who had seven plagues = like the two previous heavenly signs offers a summary of the sign before a detailed outline is presented. As the rest of this chapter demonstrates, there is a process involved in how these seven angels will operate. Revelation 15:6 indicates that the seven angels emerge from the temple, which supports the notion that Revelation 15:1 is a summary statement. We are not told the nature of the seven plagues the seven angels have. This also supports the summary nature of Revelation 15:1. Like the trumpet judgments (Rev 9:20), the final expression of God’s wrath is characterized as "plagues."
3. Which are the last = defines the limits and nature of these plagues. Last connects the seven plagues with the trumpet judgments of Revelation 8-11. There is no basis to connect the seven seals with the trumpet and bowls as wrath of God. Equally last suggests something previously. Therefore, there is no basis for those who attempt to define the bowls as the wrath of God, but not the trumpets. Ample evidence demonstrates the opposite is true. Revelation 22:18 states, "…God will add to him the plagues which are written in this book…." The plagues of this book are defined in Revelation 16:1 and 9:20.
4. Because in them the wrath of God is finished = completes the summary description of the third and final heavenly sign. The wrath of God as it is expressed in the Greek occurs about forty times in various formats in the Old Testament. The eschatological wrath of God against the nations is clearly the focus of this text. 1 Thessalonians 1:10 makes clear that faith in Christ delivers one from the eschatological wrath of God. It is therefore clear that those who suffer God’s wrath do not have a relationship with Jesus Christ.
(1) And I saw something like a sea of glass mixed with fire, and (2) those who had been victorious over the beast and his image and the number of his name, (3) standing on the sea of glass, holding harps of God.
1. And I saw something like a sea of glass mixed with fire = begins this important detailed explanation of the final expression of God’s wrath against the dragon and his followers. John is clearly attempting to explain with figurative language what he sees. There is no literal sea or fire. This is figurative. However, what the literal referent is will be more difficult to explain. The second half of this verse explains that the victorious people described are standing on the sea of glass. Therefore, the sea of glass is a literal physical service that can support a standing person. This description of a sea of glass also occurred in the description of the throne room of God in Revelation 4.
2. Those who had been victorious over the beast and his image and the number of his name = indicates the primary focus of this pericope. The three primary obstacles to faithfulness on the part of believers are highlighted. The beast, his image and his mark are the beasts that believers must contend with here. These people were victorious. The exact nature of their victory is not clear.
3. Standing on a sea of glass, holding harps of God = concludes the initial vision portion seen by John concerning the audience before God. The importance of music before God is heightened by the presence of harps of God.
(1) And they sang the song of Moses, the bond-servant of God, (2) and the song of the Lamb, saying, (3) "Great and marvelous are Your works, O Lord God, the Almighty; (4) righteous and true are Your ways, King of the nations! (5) Who will not fear, O Lord, and glorify Your name? (6) For You alone are holy; for all the nations will come and worship before You, (7) for your righteous acts have been revealed."
1. And they sang the song of Moses, the bond-servant of God = details a song of the overcomers before the throne of God. It is clear that the great man of God of Pentateuch fame is the subject of this portion. The song that follows in Verses 3b-4 does not accord explicitly with any song of Moses mentioned in the Old Testament (Exod 15:1-18, Deut 31:30-32:43, Ps 90). It might be that the words of the song of Moses are not recorded here.
2. And the song of the Lamb = indicates either a second song or a song that accords to both Moses and the Lamb. We have no explicit knowledge of such a song. It might be that the song recorded in verses 3b-4 is the song of the Lamb and this is the first time it is introduced to the world at large.
3. Great and marvelous are Your works, O Lord God, the Almighty = indicates the first subject of the song—God the Father.
4. Righteous and true are Your ways, King of the nations = maybe a reference to Jesus Christ. However, it is probably a reference to God the Father.
5. Who will not fear, O Lord, and glorify Your name = are two rhetorical questions that expose the might and power of God. It simply cannot be resisted. Yet, in the bowl judgments to follow the beast-marked worshipers will resist. Therefore, the point here is this: God is worthy of all glory, even if He does not get it.
6. For You alone are holy; for all the nations will come and worship before You = suggests another reason that God alone deserves all praise and worship. Clearly, God is in control, but He has not finished His agenda because the nations have not arrived for God’s universal praise service.
7. For your righteous acts have been revealed = indicates the reason the nations will gather.
(1) After these things I looked, and (2) the temple of the tabernacle of testimony in heaven was opened, and (3) the seven angels who had the seven plagues came out of the temple, (4) clothed in linen, clean and bright, and girded around their chests with golden sashes.
1. After these things I looked = indicates a new vision sequence.
2. The temple of the tabernacle of testimony in heaven was opened = introduces the judgment of God that will follow in the form of seven bowl judgments. We cannot with certainty identify the tabernacle of testimony. However, it appears that the purpose of this place is to assure the reader that the wrath of God about fall is justified and verifiable. Who opened the doors of heaven’s temple is not stated. However, the reason the doors are opened is to allow the seven plague-carrying angels to exit.
3. The seven angels who had the seven plagues came out of the temple = indicates the emergence of the seven angels who execute the wrath of God. The exact nature of the wrath is not yet indicated.
4. Clothed in linen, clean and bright, and girded around their chests with golden sashes = describes dress of the seven bowl-carrying angels. The particular Greek term for linen, linon, occurs only here in the Revelation. Whether this suggests that the dress of these seven angels is different from others in the book of Revelation who also wear linen dress is not clear. The golden sashes underscore the special status of these seven angels.
(1) Then one of the four living creatures (2) gave to the seven angels seven golden bowls full of the wrath of God, who lives forever and ever.
1. Then one of the four living creatures = indicates that a person closer to the throne of God commissions the seven bowl-carrying angels.
2. Gave to the seven angels seven golden bowls full of the wrath of God = is the first indication of the nature of God’s wrath about to be unleashed on the earth. The particular bowls given to the angels suggest a shallow surface, which indicates quick delivery of content.
(1) And the temple was filled with smoke from the glory of God and from His power; and (2) no one was able to enter the temple (3) until the seven plagues of the seven angels were finished.
1. And the temple was filled with smoke from the glory of God and from His power = suggests that the temple in heaven is the scene from which the final wrath of God will be executed upon the living earth-dwellers. Smoke is a biblical motif that appears in context with manifestations of God throughout the Bible (Lev 16:12-13; Exod 19:18, 40:34-35; Isa 6:4). What is the purpose of God’s presence in His temple at this point in the chronology of the Revelation?
2. No one was able to enter the temple = is a common response to the manifestation of God’s glory. Exodus 40:16-38 recounts that Moses was unable to enter the "tent of meeting" because the cloud of God’s glory filled it. I Kings 8:1-66 details the dedication of Solomon’s temple, which resulted in the filling of the temple with the glory of God such that the priests could not enter it. Why no one is able to enter God’s temple is not explained. However, in context since the final expression of God’s wrath is going forth, there is no need to enter. There is no intercession at this point and there is no appeal.
3. Until the seven plagues of the seven angels were finished = sets the limits of God’s unapproachableness.