Keys to Understanding the Book of Revelation
Then I saw another sign in heaven, great and marvelous: seven angels having the seven last plagues, for in them the wrath of God is complete.
Not to bore my readers with details, but there is so much in this verse alone that could be said. I will however, make just a few comments here concerning the 'seven angels' and the 'seven last plagues'. As we have noted throughout this study; the number 'seven' holds much significance in Bible prophecy. As in the beginning of this lofty book, the letters to the 'seven' churches of Asia were letters written to an actual ( named ) literal certain number of churches ( Ephesus, Smyrna, Pergamos, Thyatira, Sardis, Philadelphia, and Laodicea ), but we can see that this certain number of churches ( why JUST them? ) is indicative of a wholeness, a completeness.
The 'seven last plagues' should immediately bring to mind the ten horrific ( for them ) plagues that God, through Moses and Aaron ( ironically, later, the high priest ) visited upon the Egyptians who were holding captive the 'children' of Israel, or God's covenant people ( typically ). It is interesting to note that the final plague, that became the final, crushing ( Romans 16:20 ( Psalm 91:13 ) blow to the Egyptians, was 'death'! When Jesus died upon the cross of Calvary; He fulfilled, among other prophecies, God's promise to the serpent, in Genesis 3:15, that 'I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your seed and her Seed; He shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise His heel'. Part of Jesus' stated purpose in coming to earth as a Man was 'that through death He might destroy him who had the power of death' Hebrews 2:14 ( Hosea 13:14 ). As we've noted, in some of Jesus final words on the cross, recorded in John 19:30; He cried 'It is finished!'
And I saw something like a sea of glass mingled with fire, and those who have the victory over the beast, over his image and over his mark[a]and over the number of his name, standing on the sea of glass, having harps of God.
John is obviously looking at the same scene as in chapter four, when he looked through 'Heavens Open Door'. A 'startling' difference, as you can see, is that this 'sea of glass' was 'mingled with fire'; 'fire' as we have often seen in the Scriptures, specifically the Prophets, and throughout this study, is most often indicative of judgment. John wrote, in I John 5:4a, that 'whatever is born of God overcomes the world', this 'world', in the covenant context, of course, being that 'world' under whose oppression they labored, the Old Covenant economy of the first century. Although this is applicable to us as well today; it is important to our state of mind, and joy of heart, I believe, to realize this historical context, and that these words of comfort ( which should give us comfort, as well ) were meant for a particular audience which was facing a particular situation ( 'the Great Tribulation' ) .
We've already discussed somewhat the significance of the 'harps', but to look at it from a slightly different angle; I'm sure that most, if not all of my readers will remember these words in I Samuel 16:14; 'But the Spirit of the LORD departed from Saul, and a distressing spirit from the LORD troubled him': in the following verse, we see that David, the future king of Israel, was employed to 'take a harp and play it with his hand', thus bringing some small comfort to Saul, by the consequent departure of the 'distressing spirit'. The significance of this story, I believe we can see, as relates to John's words above, is that not only were these harps being used to praise and worship God, but also to bring comfort to those saints who had been persecuted to the death, that waited patiently ( Revelation 6:9 ) for the judgment of God, which was about to be ( Greek mello ).
They sing the song of Moses, the servant of God, and the song of the Lamb, saying: “ Great and marvelous are Your works, Lord God Almighty! Just and true are Your ways, O King of the saints![b] Who shall not fear You, O Lord, and glorify Your name? For You alone are holy. For all nations shall come and worship before You, for Your judgments have been manifested.”
' Then Moses and the children of Israel sang this song to the LORD, and spoke, saying: “I will sing to the LORD, for He has triumphed gloriously! The horse and its rider He has thrown into the sea! The LORD is my strength and song, and He has become my salvation; He is my God, and I will praise Him; my father’s God, and I will exalt Him. The LORD is a man of war; the LORD is His name. Pharaoh’s chariots and his army He has cast into the sea; his chosen captains also are drowned in the Red Sea. The depths have covered them; they sank to the bottom like a stone.“Your right hand, O LORD, has become glorious in power; Your right hand, O LORD, has dashed the enemy in pieces. And in the greatness of Your excellence You have overthrown those who rose against You; You sent forth Your wrath; it consumed them like stubble. And with the blast of Your nostrils the waters were gathered together; the floods stood upright like a heap; the depths congealed in the heart of the sea. The enemy said, ‘I will pursue, I will overtake, I will divide the spoil; My desire shall be satisfied on them. I will draw my sword, My hand shall destroy them.’ You blew with Your wind, the sea covered them; they sank like lead in the mighty waters. “Who is like You, O LORD, among the gods? Who is like You, glorious in holiness, fearful in praises, doing wonders? You stretched out Your right hand; the earth swallowed them. You in Your mercy have led forth the people whom You have redeemed; You have guided them in Your strength to Your holy habitation. “The people will hear and be afraid; sorrow will take hold of the inhabitants of Philistia. Then the chiefs of Edom will be dismayed; the mighty men of Moab, trembling will take hold of them; all the inhabitants of Canaan will melt away. Fear and dread will fall on them; by the greatness of Your arm they will be as still as a stone, till Your people pass over, O LORD, till the people pass over whom You have purchased. You will bring them in and plant them in the mountain of Your inheritance, in the place, O LORD, which You have made for Your own dwelling, the sanctuary, O Lord, which Your hands have established. “The LORD shall reign forever and ever.”' ( Exodus 15:1-18 ( Deuteronomy 32:1-43 )
This lengthy quote from 'the exodus' is sung by the first century Christians, as John 'sees', because they have undergone much the same persecution at the hands of the Old Covenant 'children' of Israel, as they themselves had undergone at the hands of their own cruel taskmasters, the Egyptians, and they, as Moses and his 'children' did, rejoiced over the judgment that God had visited upon His and their enemies.
After these things I looked, and behold,[c] the temple of the tabernacle of the testimony in heaven was opened.
In the manner of clarification; John almost repeats himself here, and as we'll see in the last few verses of this 15th chapter of the Revelation, revealing where these 'angels' came from; from the 'temple' in 'heaven'. from the very Presence of God!
'When Solomon had finished praying, fire came down from heaven and consumed the burnt offering and the sacrifices; and the glory of the LORD filled the temple.[a] And the priests could not enter the house of the LORD, because the glory of the LORD had filled the LORD’s house' ( II Chronicles 7:1 & 2 ( Isaiah 6:1, Ezekiel 43:5 )
You might remember also; John's words very like these, that he wrote in the very beginning of his vision, when he first saw 'a door standing open in heaven'. Now, also in the manner of clarification; John recorded that he saw the Temple itself ( ? ) 'opened' to his wondering eyes!
And out of the temple came the seven angels having the seven plagues, clothed in pure bright linen, and having their chests girded with golden bands.
'Then Moses brought Aaron and his sons and washed them with water. And he put the tunic on him, girded him with the sash, clothed him with the robe, and put the ephod on him; and he girded him with the intricately woven band of the ephod, and with it tied the ephod on him. Then he put the breastplate on him, and he put the Urim and the Thummim[a] in the breastplate. And he put the turban on his head. Also on the turban, on its front, he put the golden plate, the holy crown, as the LORD had commanded Moses.' ( Leviticus 8:6-9 )
'Then I turned to see the voice that spoke with me. And having turned I saw seven golden lampstands, and in the midst of the seven lampstands One like the Son of Man, clothed with a garment down to the feet and girded about the chest with a golden band.' ( Revelation 1:12 & 13 )
I'd like to point out here, the very noticeable similarities between John's vision of the Son of Man in Revelation 1 and his vision of the angels that carried the seven last plagues, in which 'the wrath of God is complete' in the passage above. As I pointed out in a recent article, 'Angels, Unaware';
'Traditionally; 'angels' have been spirit-beings that fulfill many different purposes, from guardian 'angels' to 'angels' of mercy. Along these lines; can not human beings fulfill these purposes as well?'
I also stressed the important fact that both the Hebrew מַלְאָךְ ( 'mal'ak' )and the Greek ἄγγελος ( 'aggelos' ) mean simply, 'messenger'. As we read in Revelation 2; John was to relay this information to 'the angels of the seven churches': the question has been raised, 'who were these angels?' Traditionally, I believe, there has been little argument against the view that these 'angels' referred to the pastors, or overseers of these churches. If this is true, then the 'angels' that John saw in his vision ( for remember, it was a vision! ) were just men who relayed God's message to His people, thus the 'angels' in the passage above, bringing ( signs of ) the final judgment of God to bear on the enemies of His people were but men, pastors ( prophets ) even, bringing God's final message of warning ( and comfort ) to His Old Covenant 'children'!
Then one of the four living creatures gave to the seven angels seven golden bowls full of the wrath of God who lives forever and ever.
Having been over this 'ground' before; I need not say much here, except that I find it rather interesting that the 'four living creatures' that we saw back in the 4th chapter of the book of Revelation ( verses 6-9 ), which seem to be significant of the animal creation of God ( Genesis 1:21-27 ). In part one of this study; I wrote, concerning these beasts, 'The living creatures being 'in the midst of the throne, and around the throne', tells us that not only were these 'cherubim', protectors of God's glory, doing their job, guarding the Holiness, the throne of God, but as His creation, in the 'midst' ( Greek μέσος ), of His very throne, ostensibly ruling with Him, as the Israel of God!' The passage above, from Revelation 15, only serves to bear witness to this truth, because not only were they 'in the midst' of the Throne,but they were ruling ( passing judgment ) along with God, delivering to the 'seven angels' ( Revelation 1:20 ), the final judgment on God's Old Covenant 'children, seven 'golden bowls full of the wrath of God'!
The temple was filled with smoke from the glory of God and from His power, and no one was able to enter the temple till the seven plagues of the seven angels were completed.
'Then the glory of the LORD went up from the cherub, and paused over the threshold of the temple; and the house was filled with the cloud, and the court was full of the brightness of the LORD’s glory.' ( Ezekiel 10:4 )
'When the Lord has washed away the filth of the daughters of Zion, and purged the blood of Jerusalem from her midst, by the spirit of judgment and by the spirit of burning, then the LORD will create above every dwelling place of Mount Zion, and above her assemblies, a cloud and smoke by day and the shining of a flaming fire by night. For over all the glory there will be a covering.' ( Isaiah 4:4 & 5 )
'Now Mount Sinai was completely in smoke, because the LORD descended upon it in fire. Its smoke ascended like the smoke of a furnace, and the whole mountain[a] quaked greatly.' ( Exodus 19:18 )
'When Solomon had finished praying, fire came down from heaven and consumed the burnt offering and the sacrifices; and the glory of the LORD filled the temple.[a] And the priests could not enter the house of the LORD, because the glory of the LORD had filled the LORD’s house.' ( II Chronicles 7:1 & 2 )
Ezekiel recorded, in his prophetic utterance, how the Glory of the Lord came to rest one final time, as a significant prelude to His adverse judgment upon the wicked and apostate house of Judah ( Israel ), and Isaiah comforts His people by His promise that, once this adverse judgment has found it's fulfillment; then, and only then, will God's Presence finally come to it's final rest, once again, in the midst ( Luke 17:20 & 21 ) of His people. At Mount Sinai; God descended in a typical foreshadow of the judgment that He would later pass upon His covenant children as they continually apostatized, and we see chronicled above, that no one, including the priests, were not able to enter the Temple, nor attend to their duties ( verses 4-6 ), until God had consumed the burnt offerings and sacrifice, thus in a type, signifying that the way to His presence had been opened ( Hebrews 9:8 ), which had been accomplished at the cross, but was now manifest through His adverse judgment upon His Old Covenant 'children', in the destruction ( Matthew 22:1-14 ) of their 'fleshly' city ( Hebrews 11:13-16 ( 12:22 ) and Temple.
As we continue in this study; my prayer is that God will use my feeble words, by His Almighty Spirit to reveal to my readers that the judgment is indeed past ( for those in Christ ), and that this book ( of Revelation ) is nothing to fear, but is there for our learning ( understanding ) and instruction on how God dealt with His ( Old ) covenant people.
In the love of Christ,
and by God's grace and mercy,