A. Past Lessons and Review
- The Lamb and 144,00 at Mt. Zion (Rev 14:1-5)
- Three Angels Fly Through the Air (Rev 14:6-13)
- The Earth Is Harvested (Rev 14:14-20)
B. Text of Revelation 15
“1Then I saw another great and marvelous sign in heaven. Seven angels were holding the seven last plagues for they will complete the wrath of God. 2Then I saw something like a sea of glass mixed with fire and those who had conquered the beast and his statue and the number of his name were standing on the sea of glass holding harps of God. 3They sang the song of Moses—the servant of God—and the song of the saints saying,
‘Great and marvelous are your works, Lord God Almighty. Just and true are your ways, king over the nations.’ 4Who will not fear you—Lord—or glorify your name. Because you alone are holy for every nation will come and will worship before you, for your righteous deeds will be made known.’
5After these things I looked, and the temple (the tent of testimony) was opened in heaven. 6Then the seven angels who were holding the seven last plagues came from the temple. They were clothed in clean shining linen and wearing gold linen down their chests. 7Then one of the four living beings gave to the seven angels seven golden bowls full of the wrath of God who lives forever and ever. 8The temple was filled with smoke from the glory of God and his power. It was so thick that no one was able to enter the temple until the seven plagues of the seven angels were complete.” (Rev 15:1-8)[ref]Unless otherwise noted, all translations are my own.[/ref]
Photo Credit: Phillip Medhurst Collection
C. General Remarks
“These events are the ‘seven last plagues’ preceding the second coming of Christ. As previously indicated, the chronological order of events in Revelation is presented basically in the seven seals (6:1-17; 8:1). The seventh seal includes all of the seven trumpets (8:1-9:21; 11:15-19). The seven bowls of divine judgment are included in the seventh trumpet. The order of events forms a dramatic crescendo, the seventh seal being all-inclusive of the end-time events including the seven trumpets, and the seventh trumpet including the events described in the seven bowls. Christ then returns immediately after the seventh bowl. The intervening sections such as 10:1-11:14; 13-14; 17-18 do not advance the narrative chronologically. Chapter 19 follows immediately after chapter 16 in the chronological development.” (Walvoord, Revelation, 231)
“We are honing in on the greatest showdown of them all. We left the dragon and the two monsters behind, two chapters ago. They have drawn many into their destructive ways. It is time, now, for the destroyers to be destroyed. This is the purpose of the seven last plagues, and of the cataclysmic judgments which follow them.” (Wright, Revelation, 140)
“Chapters 15 and 16 bring to consummation the chronologically ordered events leading up to the second coming of Christ described in chapter 19.” (Walvoord, Revelation, 231)
“Chapter 15 is a sort of celestial interlude to introduce the pouring out of the seven bowls of wrath in chapter 16. The former facilitates an understanding of the latter. It is time for what has been anticipated in the cup of wine (14:10), the harvest (14:14-16), and the vintage (14:17-20) to be delineated in its chronological fulfillment.” (Thomas, Revelation 8-22, 228)
“The whole scene is very symbolic of what is about to happen. The angels coming out of the sanctuary indicate that the judgments to be poured out step from the holiness of God and are properly required of God, who must do all things right.” (Walvoord, Revelation, 236)
II. THE SEVEN FINAL PLAGUES (Rev 15:1)
Καὶ εἶδον ἄλλο σημεῖον ἐν τῷ οὐρανῷ μέγα καὶ θαυμαστόν, ἀγγέλους ἑπτὰ ἔχοντας πληγὰς ἑπτὰ τὰς ἐσχάτας, ὅτι ἐν αὐταῖς ἐτελέσθη ὁ θυμὸς τοῦ θεοῦ.[ref]Greek text used for my translations is the Nestle-Aland 28 edition of the Greek New Testament[/ref]
“Then I saw another great and marvelous sign in heaven. Seven angels were holding the seven last plagues for they will complete the wrath of God.” (Rev 15:1)[ref]Unless otherwise noted, all translations are my own.[/ref]
A. Another Sign
The words “another . . sign” remind us John has seen previous signs. Those are the woman in Rev 12:1 as well as the dragon in Rev 12:3. We talked about how the woman is likely the nation of Israel and the dragon is Satan. There are other views, but this seems to be the beast biblical view.
B. Seven Angels?
Thomas observes that this is the first reference to this group of angels in the book of Revelation because there is no article in the Greek before “angels.” The Greek article is often used to say, “these are the people mentioned earlier.” This use of the article is called the “anaphoric (previous reference)” use of the article (Wallace, Greek Grammar, 217). However, there is no article here so Thomas (Thomas, Revelation 8-22, 230) states that this is a new group of angels. They are first introduced here and will appear six more times throughout the book (Rev 15:6, 7, 8; 16:1; 17:1; 21:9).
C. Final, Last, Ultimate
The phrase, “last” is one of the evidences that these three series of seven judgments happen in some sort of successive or chronological manner. This idea of the seven plagues being “last” supports the “telescopic view” that has been discussed earlier. In this view there appears to be some type of chronological order to three sets of seven judgements.
Jesus used the same word to say “it is finished” in John 19:30.
E. Translation “for” or “because”
Different translations differ on the translation of ὁτι which I have translated above as “for.” Other popular translations also chose “for” (ESV, NRSV, KJV 1900, NKJV, HCSB, RSV, AV 1873). A few others chose “because” (NASB95, LEB, NIV).
III. THE GREAT SONG (Rev 15:2-4)
A. Glass, Fire, and the Conquerors (v. 2)
Καὶ εἶδον ὡς θάλασσαν ὑαλίνην μεμιγμένην πυρὶ καὶ τοὺς νικῶντας ἐκ τοῦ θηρίου καὶ ἐκ τῆς εἰκόνος αὐτοῦ καὶ ἐκ τοῦ ἀριθμοῦ τοῦ ὀνόματος αὐτοῦ ἑστῶτας ἐπὶ τὴν θάλασσαν τὴν ὑαλίνην ἔχοντας κιθάρας τοῦ θεοῦ.
“Then I saw something like a sea of glass mixed with fire and those who had conquered the beast and his statue and the number of his name were standing on the sea of glass holding harps of God.” (Rev 15:2)
1. Sea of Glass Mixed with Fire
Sea. Mulholland says that the “sea” is a symbol of the rebellious realm (Mulholland, “Revelation,” 539).
This sea of glass is supposed to reflect the glory of God (Walvoord, Revelation, 233).
2. The Identity of the Conquerors
Walvoord says that the conquerors “belong to the saints martyred during the time of great tribulation, confirming that the time schedule is near the end of the period and contrasting them to the believers of other ages. The fact that they are able to stand on the sea of glass reflects God’s faithfulness in upholding His own in keeping with His divine character” (Walvoord, Revelation, 233).
These people likely are the martyrs of Rev 12:11 who did not follow the beast of the sea or beast of the earth in Rev 13.
3. The Distinction of the Conquerors
These conquers are the ones that probably did not conquer the beast physically, but spiritually. They conquered by maintaining proper worship in Jesus Christ our Savior and not in the wicked and false trinity that is described throughout the book of Revelation (the beast of the earth in Rev 13:1-10, the beast of the sea in Rev 13:11-18, as well as Satan himself Rev 20:10).
These men and women made a distinction to be different than the rest of the world that follows the false trinity. The Greek text yields an insight to this in the use of the preposition ἐκ which is a “mark of disassociation from someone or something” (Mathewson, Revelation, 204). Meaning, these people have purposefully and intentionally distanced themselves from the beast and his statue.
4. The Attitude of the Conquerors
These people have a reverence and love for God clearly seen in the song they sing in Rev 15:3-4, “Great and marvelous are your works, Lord God Almighty. Just and true are your ways, king over the nations. Who will not fear you—Lord—or glorify your name. Because you alone are holy for every nation will come and will worship before you, for your righteous deeds will be made known” (NLT). The response from these conquers is very different than the response of the ungodly and wicked when they are confronted by God as seen in the next chapter:
- “Everyone was burned by this blast of heat, and they cursed the name of God, who had control over all these plagues. They did not repent of their sins and turn to God and give him glory.” (Revelation 16:9, NLT)
- “and they cursed the God of heaven for their pains and sores. But they did not repent of their evil deeds and turn to God.” (Revelation 16:11, NLT)
In contrast to the evil and wicked, these people focus their attention and devotion on God.
5. The Location of the Conquerors
Translations render the Greek preposition ἐπὶ in different ways. The most popular translation says that the conquerors are “on” the sea of glass (NLT, NASB, KJV 1900, NKJV, HCSB, AV 1873). Less popular are the translations that say that the conquerors are “beside” the sea of glass (ESV, NIV, NRSV, RSV). And one translation says that the conquerors are “by” the sea of glass (LEB).
B. The Title and Deed (v. 3)
καὶ ᾄδουσιν τὴν ᾠδὴν Μωϋσέως τοῦ δούλου τοῦ θεοῦ καὶ τὴν ᾠδὴν τοῦ ἀρνίου λέγοντες·
μεγάλα καὶ θαυμαστὰ τὰ ἔργα σου,
κύριε ὁ θεὸς ὁ παντοκράτωρ·
δίκαιαι καὶ ἀληθιναὶ αἱ ὁδοί σου,
ὁ βασιλεὺς τῶν ἐθνῶν·
“They sang the song of Moses—the servant of God—and the song of the saints saying,
‘Great and marvelous are your works, Lord God Almighty. Just and true are your ways, king over the nations.’” (Rev 15:3)
Some translations translate ἔθνος as “nations” as I have above (NASB, ESV, NIV, NRSV, HCSB, NLT). Two translations chose “ages” based on a variant reading in some manuscripts (LEB, NRV). Then, the odd translation is “saints” followed by KJV, NKV, AV). There is some manuscript support for each translation, but I believe the best manuscript support is for “nations.”
C. The Payee and Loanee (v. 4)
τίς οὐ μὴ φοβηθῇ, κύριε,
καὶ δοξάσει τὸ ὄνομά σου;
ὅτι μόνος ὅσιος,
ὅτι πάντα τὰ ἔθνη ἥξουσιν
καὶ προσκυνήσουσιν ἐνώπιόν σου,
ὅτι τὰ δικαιώματά σου ἐφανερώθησαν.
“’Who will not fear you—Lord—or glorify your name. Because you alone are holy for every nation will come and will worship before you, for your righteous deeds will be made known.’” (Rev 15:4)
1. Glorifying God as an Appropriate Response
At least two passages stand behind this idea of glorifying God.
- “Who would not fear you, O King of nations? That title belongs to you alone! Among all the wise people of the earth and in all the kingdoms of the world, there is no one like you.” (Jer 10:7, NLT)
- “All the nations you made will come and bow before you, Lord; they will praise your holy name. For you are great and perform wonderful deeds. You alone are God.” (Pss 86:9–10, NLT)
The idea here is that glorifying God is our appropriate response to him. It is what we are supposed to do because of God’s character and righteous deeds.
2. Coming to His Temple for Worship
This is not the only place that the Bible talks about coming to the Lord’s temple to worship during the end times (Pss 2:8-9; 24:1-10; 66:1-4; 72:8-11; 86:9; Isa 2:2-4; 9:6-7; 49:22-23; 66:18-24; Dan 7:14; Zeph 2:11; Micah 4:2; Zeck 8:20-22; 14:9; Mal 1:1).
3. An Old Testament Song
This song that is song has its roots in the song of Moses and Miriam in Exod 15 as well as the message of Moses in Deut 32. Walvoord leans toward Deut 32 (Walvoord, Revelation, 234) because it is more comprehensive and encompassing. Thomas leans toward Exod 15 because it was a song of victory similar to this song.
IV. THE GREAT TEMPLE (Rev 15:5-8)
A. The Open Temple (v. 5)
Καὶ μετὰ ταῦτα εἶδον, καὶ ἠνοίγη ὁ ναὸς τῆς σκηνῆς τοῦ μαρτυρίου ἐν τῷ οὐρανῷ,
“After these things I looked, and the temple (the tent of testimony) was opened in heaven.” (Rev 15:5)
QUESTION: THE NEW TESTAMENT DESCRIBES CHRISTIANS AS THE “TEMPLE” (1 COR 3:16; 2 COR 6:16; EPH 2:21; 1 PETER 2:5), YET THIS TEMPLE IS NOT CHRISTIANS. WHY DO YOU THINK THAT IS?
1. The Temple Is the Tent
The Greek phrase here ὁ ναὸς τῆς σκηνῆς includes a genitive of apposition which is literally translated “the temple, which is the tent.” Therefore, this is the heavenly equivalent of what was with Israel in the wilderness. The NET Bible takes this view as well as Mathewson, Revelation, 207.
2. The Tent of the Testimony
The NET has a good study note saying that “tent of testimony” occurs 130 times in Exodus thru Deut. “Testimony” refers to the ten commandments, which is revelation of the righteous will of God (Exod 16:34; 25:41; 31:18; 32:15; 40:24).
B. Seven Angels (v. 6)
καὶ ἐξῆλθον οἱ ἑπτὰ ἄγγελοι [οἱ] ἔχοντες τὰς ἑπτὰ πληγὰς ἐκ τοῦ ναοῦ ἐνδεδυμένοι λίνον καθαρὸν λαμπρὸν καὶ περιεζωσμένοι περὶ τὰ στήθη ζώνας χρυσᾶς.
“Then the seven angels who were holding the seven last plagues came from the temple. They were clothed in clean shining linen and wearing gold linen down their chests.” (Rev 15:6)
QUESTION: WHAT DO YOU THINK THE COLORS OF THIS CLOTHING SAYS ABOUT THE CHARACTER AND NATURE OF THESE ANGELS?
Again we see that these are the “last” plagues as was mentioned in Rev 15:1. The end is coming near.
2. Linen Meaning
The linen worn by the angels symbolizes their righteousness in action. They are “pure” for their mission of “purification” of the earth.
C. Golden Bowls of Wrath (v. 7)
καὶ ἓν ἐκ τῶν τεσσάρων ζῴων ἔδωκεν τοῖς ἑπτὰ ἀγγέλοις ἑπτὰ φιάλας χρυσᾶς γεμούσας τοῦ θυμοῦ τοῦ θεοῦ τοῦ ζῶντος εἰς τοὺς αἰῶνας τῶν αἰώνων.
“Then one of the four living beings gave to the seven angels seven golden bowls full of the wrath of God who lives forever and ever.” (Rev 15:7)
1. Different Bowls than Incense
In Rev 5:8 we read about “bowls filled with incense.” Those are different bowls as they were being used in the heavenly throne room seen among the four living beings, the twenty-four angels, and myriads and myriads of angels around the throne.
2. What the Bowls Looked Like
These bowls likely were shallow bowls or saucers.
D. Temple Filled with Smoke (v. 8)
καὶ ἐγεμίσθη ὁ ναὸς καπνοῦ ἐκ τῆς δόξης τοῦ θεοῦ καὶ ἐκ τῆς δυνάμεως αὐτοῦ, καὶ οὐδεὶς ἐδύνατο εἰσελθεῖν εἰς τὸν ναὸν ἄχρι τελεσθῶσιν αἱ ἑπτὰ πληγαὶ τῶν ἑπτὰ ἀγγέλων.
“The temple was filled with smoke from the glory of God and his power. It was so thick that no one was able to enter the temple until the seven plagues of the seven angels were complete.” (Rev 15:8)
1. Smoke as the Symbol of God
Smoke here is a clear sign of God’s presence based on other uses in the Old Testament:
- “All of Mount Sinai was covered with smoke because the LORD had descended on it in the form of fire. The smoke billowed into the sky like smoke from a brick kiln, and the whole mountain shook violently.” (Exod 19:18, NLT)
- “Then the cloud covered the Tabernacle, and the glory of the LORD filled the Tabernacle.” (Exod 40:34, NLT)
- “When the priests came out of the Holy Place, a thick cloud filled the Temple of the LORD. The priests could not continue their service because of the cloud, for the glorious presence of the LORD filled the Temple of the LORD.” (1 Kings 8:10–11, NLT)
- “Then the priests left the Holy Place. All the priests who were present had purified themselves, whether or not they were on duty that day. And the Levites who were musicians—Asaph, Heman, Jeduthun, and all their sons and brothers—were dressed in fine linen robes and stood at the east side of the altar playing cymbals, lyres, and harps. They were joined by 120 priests who were playing trumpets. The trumpeters and singers performed together in unison to praise and give thanks to the LORD. Accompanied by trumpets, cymbals, and other instruments, they raised their voices and praised the LORD with these words: ‘He is good! His faithful love endures forever!’At that moment a thick cloud filled the Temple of the LORD. The priests could not continue their service because of the cloud, for the glorious presence of the LORD filled the Temple of God.” (2 Chron 5:11–14, NLT)
- “When Solomon finished praying, fire flashed down from heaven and burned up the burnt offerings and sacrifices, and the glorious presence of the LORD filled the Temple. The priests could not enter the Temple of the LORD because the glorious presence of the LORD filled it. When all the people of Israel saw the fire coming down and the glorious presence of the LORD filling the Temple, they fell face down on the ground and worshiped and praised the LORD, saying, ‘He is good! His faithful love endures forever!’” (2 Chron 7:1–3, NLT)
- “Then the glory of the LORD went up from the city and stopped above the mountain to the east.” (Ezek 11:23, NLT)
- “Then the man brought me through the north gateway to the front of the Temple. I looked and saw that the glory of the LORD filled the Temple of the LORD, and I fell face down on the ground.” (Ezek 44:4, NLT)
The seven plagues being completed is such an important thing for the narrative of the book of Revelation that I don’t want us to miss it. Here’s some other great ways to translate the idea that the seven plagues are ending the judgment of the book of Revelation:
- “were completed” (LEB, NIV, NKJV, HCSB)
- “were ended” (NRSV, RSV)
- “were finished” (NASB95, ESV)
- “were fulfilled (KJV1900, AV1873)
- “had completed pouring out” (NLT)
V. CONCLUSION AND APPLICATION
A. To the righteous, judgment is righteous. To the wicked, judgment is wicked.
“When the Bible speaks about God ‘judging’, or putting into effect his ‘judgments’, it is just as much a case for celebration as for anxiety” (Wright, Revelation for Everyone, 137). One of the Psalms reflects this, “Let the heavens be glad, and the earth rejoice! Let the sea and everything in it shout his praise! Let the fields and their crops burst out with joy! Let the trees of the forest sing for joy before the LORD, for he is coming! He is coming to judge the earth. He will judge the world with justice, and the nations with his truth” (Pss 96:11–13, NLT).
And again in a couple Psalms later, “Sing a new song to the LORD, for he has done wonderful deeds. His right hand has won a mighty victory; his holy arm has shown his saving power! The LORD has announced his victory and has revealed his righteousness to every nation! He has remembered his promise to love and be faithful to Israel. The ends of the earth have seen the victory of our God.” (Psalm 98:1–3, NLT).
“Let the sea and everything in it shout his praise! Let the earth and all living things join in. Let the rivers clap their hands in glee! Let the hills sing out their songs of joy before the LORD, for he is coming to judge the earth. He will judge the world with justice, and the nations with fairness.” (Psalm 98:7–9, NLT)
The view of God’s judgment as righteous is the view of those who are righteous. They have been waiting for God to return in his glory and power and influence for a long time. They are ready for the nasty events of Rev 6-14 to come to an end, and which now has happened. For the righteous the judgment appears righteous.
B. The Old Testament is still important!
Here, in the 66th book of the Bible, a reference is made to the Song of Moses. That song of Moses is likely in the second or fifth book of the Bible (Exodus or Deuteronomy). It is interesting to me that in the last book of the New Testament a reference is made to one of the first books in the Old Testament. Meaning, the Old Testament still matters!
C. God lives forever and that’s a sign that he is the one who wins!
There is a saying that those who win get to write history. In this case it is God who wins, and he is the one who reigns forever as a testament of his magnificent glory and splendor!