Basic Facts from… The REVELATION (Part 9)

Basic Facts from… The REVELATION (Part 9)

Taken together, Revelation 15-16 form “the beginning of the end” of the visions John sees of God’s judgement against the world. The seven plagues these chapters depict represent God’s “perfect” (complete, full) wrath. The praises in 15:2-4 come from those who have emerged victorious over the “beast;” now, they are seen standing on God’s side of the sea. The “song of Moses…and the Lamb” unites the faithful of both old and new testaments in one whole – “the saved” – and it celebrates the mercies of God, not the victory of those singing it. John also says these are the “last” plagues; pouring out these “bowls” (16:1) is the final expression of God’s wrath in judgement (but not the completion of it).

At this point, the opportunity for repentance has passed as final judgement has begun: The redeemed are exalted and God’s judgement is finished

The eight verses of chapter 15 introduce the bowls of wrath to be emptied in chapter 16. The fact that there are seven plagues suggests that they represent the “fullness” of God’s wrath (i.e., “all of it”) against a sin-hardened and impenitent world. The image of a “sea” that looks like glass mingled with fire is thought to represent the peace experienced by Christians who had endured fiery trials (cf. 1 Peter 4:12). In chapter 4, the sea separated people from the transcendence of God, but here those who died in faith are able to approach Him (NOTE: Christians already possess this privilege, through prayer). In Revelation 21:1, the sea will no longer exist; when the saints are perfectly united with the Father, all separation will have ended.

The “harps of God” in vs. 2 symbolize praise. Combining references to both Moses (the servant of God) and Jesus (“the Lamb”) emphasizes deliverance for all the redeemed of both covenants (with no separation between them). The song here praises God’s works, ways, name, and acts, and vs. 4 complements Philippians 2:11, and echoes passages such as Psalm 11:2 & 139:14, Amos 4:13, Deuteronomy 32:4.

The angels in 15:5-8 are the same as in vs. 1, and the “temple of the tabernacle of the testimony” looks back to the old testament’s symbols of the presence of the Almighty. The angels’ appearance in vs. 6 reminds readers of old testament priests (Note Hebrews 1:14 – like priests, angels are ministering servants on behalf of the saints). The smoke John sees in vs. 8 looks back to 2 Chronicles 5:13-14, where smoke was the visual “evidence” of God’s presence in the temple. The fact that “no one was able to enter” suggests that at this point His judgement cannot be averted even by repentance; old testament priests could enter the tabernacle/temple to offer intercession, but that privilege is no longer possible here.

Like the trumpets, the seven bowls of wrath in 16:1-21 lead up to and end with a scene of judgement. They are emptied on those who have the “mark of the beast,” but where the trumpets called for repentance, these bowls express judgement when the time for repentance has passed.



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