Chapters 15 and 16 of Revelation are a literary section of the book of Revelation, chapter 15 introducing the seven bowls that begin in chapter 16. It’s very interesting to note that the 3rd woe which is the seventh trumpet is really the seven bowls. And the seventh bowl is really chapters 17 & 18 which is the Fall of Babylon. There seems to be a continual connection between these plagues that God has sent for the purpose of redemption, but it’s been rejected. Let’s dive into chapter 15 verse 1, “Then I saw another sign in heaven,…” – there had been 3 symbols, this one is “great and marvelous, seven angels who had seven plagues, which are the last,…” – we know from chapter 16:1 and really 15:7 about these last 7 plagues as the 7 bowls; same kind of bowl like a low saucer that the prayers of the saints were in back in chapter 5:8. And it continues, “…because in them the wrath of God is finished.” – the word wrath is the word ‘thumos’ which means “in a passion, outburst” is used in chapter 14:8. There’s another word, ‘orge’ also used in 14:10. These 2 words appear again, ‘thumos’ and ‘orge’, meaning settled opposition through emotional outburst in chapter 19:15. Now the word “is finished” is the aorist passive form of the verb tells us that it means it’s coming to a consummation; we are at the end completely. Now, remember the seals are about a quarter of the earth is affected. Likewise the trumpets, about a third of the earth is affected. This time, all the earth is going to be affected and the intensity has been growing, and here we are approaching to the very end.
Notice in verse 2, “And I saw something like a sea of glass…” – we’ve seen this ‘sea of glass’ back in chapter 4:6. It was before the throne. Many believe this is another metaphor for God’s holiness. We see it several times in the Old Testament: Ezekiel 1:22; 10:1 where this ‘sea of glass’ is part of the Old Testament revelation, but oddly enough there’s a new element here, the sea of glass is “mixed with fire”. There had been many theories about why it’s mixed with fire, some say it’s the setting of the sun being the last day of history. Others say it’s a symbol of judgment, being fire. Some say, no, it’s the blood of the martyrs. Some say because we’re in a passage that draws heavily on the exodus plagues, it’s an allusion to the Red Sea. Honestly, with that many theories, we simply do not know. The Williams Bible translation says, “and standing upon the sea of glass”, but it could be by the sea of glass, and if it is by the sea of glass, they’re ready to approach God. If they’re on the sea of glass, they’ve already crossed God’s holiness. The question is, who could that be? It says, “…those who had conquered the wild beast,” – now ‘conquered’, in what sense? From earlier chapters we know that the martyrs were certainly the overcomers who resisted to the end. But everybody didn’t die, though they had to be ready to, so I would say it’s the martyrs and the overcomers together; or it’s the church triumphant. Now the ‘wild beast’ is mentioned first back in chapter 11:7 and these 2 beasts are completely explicated in chapter 13. Notice as it says, “…his statue…” that’s discussed in chapter 13:14-17, and the number representing his name, that’s in chapter 13:18, and the number is 666 which i believe is not a proper name, but the superlative of human imperfection. Now notice again as it says, “…and they had harps that God had given them.” Who are they? If you will remember back in chapter 5:8, it’s the angels who have harps. As a matter of fact, in chapter 14, the harpers harping on their harps, and it seems again to be the angelic groups, the elders, the living creatures, and the angels. But here it’s the saints having harps which is a symbol of praise of God, I think. Look at verse 3, “And they were singing the song of Moses, the slave of God, and the song of the Lamb:” – this ‘song of Moses’ some say, goes back to the opening verses of Exodus 15 where they sing thanksgiving after having been delivered from Egypt by the Lord, and i think that’s probably the allusion because this is like a new Exodus. It’s showing the unity of the Old Testament and the New Testament, and it’s showing the motif of deliverance from persecution. I think that’s probably true although another song of Moses found in Deuteronomy 32 and some use that as the background. Notice where it says, “…the slave of God…” – that’s an honorific title in the Old Testament; used of Moses, used of Joshua, used of David. So, you can see it’s not as derogatory as it seems. “… and the song of the Lamb:” – we’ve seen this song or a new song in chapter 5:9 and chapter 14:3. This is not a song of personal deliverance but of corporate deliverance. Most people try to go back to different parts in the Old Testament to find different allusions here. “Great and wonderful are your works,” – it seems to me the structure through here is A > B > A > B because when it says the Lord God Almighty One, the next phrase is going to say something else, and then it’s going to repeat the Lord God Almighty in little different words when it says, “…O King of the ages”. This word ‘Lord God Almighty’ has been used several times in the book of Revelation so far: chapter 1:8; 4:8; and 16:7. It really combines three Old Testament titles for God – Yahweh, Elohim, and El Shaddai. It says, “…upright and true your ways,” – that’s an important phrase to have in here because sometimes in the midst of persecutions, Christians really begin to wonder about the justice and love of God. God is going to set things straight even when we don’t understand everything. It will be worth it. And then it says, “…O King of the ages (or of the nations)” – this seems to be an allusion back to Jeremiah 10:6-7 signifying His universal sovereignty. John stresses this truth, and it must have been a real comfort for the troubled early believers. “Who will not fear, O Lord, and glorify Your name?” – the ‘Name’ represents Yahweh. Even amid God’s plagues they still wouldn’t glorify God. They did it for a brief period back chapter 11, but when the beast came and did wonders, these fickle people were pulled away to the beast’s miracles. Now it says, “All the nations will come and worship you,” – there seems to be an Old Testament theme that all Gentile nations will flow unto Jerusalem, but here the idea is ‘flowing unto the Lamb’. You might want to see Psalms 86:9; Isaiah 66:23; and Malachi 1:11. And I think in the negative sense in Philippians 2:11, meaning although everybody is going to come and acknowledge God, Philippians 2 says but it’s going to be after the time of salvation is passed, every conscious creation is going to recognize the awesomeness and the priority of Christ, but if they don’t do it before death or before the 2nd Coming, it will be in the sense of judgment and not in the sense of salvation. Now notice as it mentions, “…because the justice of your sentences has now been shown.” – This is very important in a persecution setting where God is going to set it straight. The Old Testament thought God had to do it in this lifetime, but then since life is so unfair, they recognize that God was going to set it straight in the next stage.
Angels With The Last Plagues
Verse 5, “After this I looked, and the sanctuary of the tent of testimony …” – this sanctuary has appeared in chapter 11:19, now we see the ‘tent of the testimony’ that goes back to the tabernacle. We see it many times in the Old Testament, and one allusion in the New Testament (i.e., Acts 7:44). Some say that is the ‘spiritual tent of worship’ mentioned in Hebrews 9:23, it “was thrown open in heaven,” – showing access to the very throne of God, and out of the central front of the shrine come these “…seven angels bringing the seven plagues…” – (last judgment bowls}. Notice as it says, “They were clothed in clean, brilliant linen and had belts of gold around their breasts.” – this goes back to Exodus 28:4, it’s a symbol for the high priest, but there’s a manuscript variation that instead of clothes, some take it to mean a “precious stone” (cf. American Standard translation). Some see an allusion here to Ezekiel 28:13 that Satan was clothed in gemstones, and so maybe it is allusion to the word ‘stone’. But ‘linen’ seems to fit the context best. And the ‘gold belts around their breasts’ are much like Daniel 10:5 for the angel, but also like Christ in Rev. 1:13. “Then one of the four living creatures gave the seven angels seven bowls of gold, full of the wrath of God…” – now these 7 bowls are very low shallow golden bowls used in the temple. We see them back in chapter 5:8 where they had the ‘prayers of the saints. “…who lives forever and ever,” – that is the root meaning of the term Yahweh which means the ‘Ever living only living God’. “And the sanctuary was filled with smoke…” – you might want to see Exodus 19:18; 40:34; 1 Kings 8:10-11; and Isa. 6:4. Some say it’s a symbol of God’s holiness like the ‘Shekinah cloud’, others see it as the presence of the prayers of the saints put on the incense altar that causes the smoke, I’m not sure which it is. And then it says, “…from the glory and power of God, and no one could go into the sanctuary…” – that sounds much like Exodus 40:34-35, and I think the meaning is when God’s final judgment begins, there can be no intercession. The judgments must come to pass. The main point is the inevitability of the plagues. When the ‘Day of the Lord’ has come, nothing can stop the final judgment.