The Song of Moses and of the Lamb
1. And I saw another sign in heaven, great and marvellous, seven angels having the seven last plagues; for in them is filled up the wrath of God.
2. And I saw as it were a sea of glass mingled with fire: and them that had gotten the victory over the beast, and over his image, and over his mark, and over the number of his name, stand on the sea of glass, having the harps of God.
3. And they sing the song of Moses the servant of God, and the song of the Lamb, saying, Great and marvellous are thy works, Lord God Almighty; just and true are thy ways, thou King of saints.
4. Who shall not fear thee, O Lord, and glorify thy name? for thou only art holy: for all nations shall come and worship before thee; for thy judgments are made manifest.
5. And after that I looked, and, behold, the temple of the tabernacle of the testimony in heaven was opened:
6. And the seven angels came out of the temple, having the seven plagues, clothed in pure and white linen, and having their breasts girded with golden girdles.
7. And one of the four beasts gave unto the seven angels seven golden vials full of the wrath of God, who liveth for ever and ever.
8. And the temple was filled, with smoke from the glory of God, and from his power; and no man was able to enter into the temple, till the seven plagues of the seven angels were filled.
You will remember, no doubt, that in connection with our interpretation of chapter 11 we called your attention to the fact that in that passage things were revealed only in general outline, while they were to be explained in detail in future chapters. If in that light you consider the passage we are now called to discuss, you will have no difficulty finding its counterpart in chapter 11. Chapter 11 spoke of the two witnesses that were oppressed and persecuted and cast out by Antichrist, but caught up to God in heaven. And after the witnesses were caught up, we read of the sounding of the seven trumpets, the voices that sing in heaven, and the opening of the temple of God that is in heaven, followed by signs of great judgment upon the earth. Evidently this passage is now worked out in detail, not only in the present chapter but also in future chapters. Already we have studied the rise of Antichrist and his power. We have received an insight into his nature and work. And we have seen how he would persecute the church that refuses to worship the beast and his image. We have also become acquainted with the attitude of God over against this power of Antichrist, and seen that in the end He would redeem and fully deliver His church and destroy the wicked antichristian kingdom. Now then, the destruction of Antichrist is worked out in greater detail in the chapters following. In chapters 15 and 16 we have a vision of the seven vials of the wrath of God as poured out on the earth by the seven angels. These two chapters belong together, and they are related in such a way that our present chapter serves as an introduction to chapter 16, while in the latter the actual pouring out of the seven vials is pictured.
Of course, here we are reminded of the general plan of the book of Revelation. There are seven seals. And when all of these seven seals are opened, the wrath of God and of the Lamb against the kingdom of Antichrist will be finished. But these seven seals do not maintain their character as seals throughout. The seventh seal reveals itself as seven trumpets, and the seventh trumpet as seven vials. We must remember, as we have repeatedly stated, that it is not in harmony with the contents to take these seals and trumpets as being strictly successive, nor as being entirely contemporaneous. Taking them as a whole, they are both successive and contemporaneous. In principle there is nothing new in the seven vials. Only there is progress again, so that the destruction, which was more complete in the seven trumpets than in the seven seals, is now entirely complete in the seven vials, and the wrath of God is finished in them. Let us therefore now, first of all, discuss the passage of chapter 15, which speaks of the song of Moses and the Lamb.
The first verse of the chapter announces the general theme of its contents. John tells us: “And I saw another sign in heaven, great and marvellous, seven angels having the seven last plagues; for in them is filled up the wrath of God.” John speaks here of another sign in contrast with the signs he has seen before. The sign of the woman arrayed with the sun and with the moon under her feet, the sign of the beast with the seven heads and ten horns, and the other sign, of the two-horned beast, the sign of the angels flying in mid-heaven and of the Lamb on Mount Zion, of the Holy One coming to reap, being seated on the white cloud â€• all these signs John has already seen. And now he beholds another sign. That sign which he now beholds is great and marvellous. It is, in other words, awe-inspiring and wonderful. And no wonder: for the sign which he now beholds is of the greatest importance. It cannot be looked upon without having the effect of filling our hearts with an overflowing emotion of wonder and joy. John beholds seven angels. And although, no doubt, the sight of these seven angels standing side by side is already astounding â€• for they are glorious and beautiful, shining in their appearance, pure and bright â€•yet their purpose and message is still more awful. These are the angels that have the seven last plagues, John tells us. Just in general he tells us here that they have the seven plagues. Evidently they do not have these seven plagues of themselves. No, angels are also creatures: and they have no power except it be given them from above. But the power of these seven plagues is given them, and they now hold this power. They possess the power of pouring out these plagues and evidently destroying the earth. For the destruction implied in these plagues is complete. The text tells us that in these plagues is finished the wrath of God. Evidently that does not mean that with these seven plagues the final judgment has already come upon all nations before the throne of God. Still less does it imply that when these seven plagues shall have been finished, the subjects of the kingdom of Antichrist shall have received all their punishment. No, in that sense the wrath of God is not finished in these plagues. That wrath of God is infinite, as His majesty is infinite. If that infinite majesty is attacked, it is simply the demand of the law that the creature thus attacking that infinite majesty also be subject to infinite wrath and death eternal. And therefore, the wrath of God in that sense of the word is not fulfilled in these seven plagues. But with a view to time the wrath of God is now finished. Even as in the vision of the harvest we called your attention to the fact that in it we were given a vision not of the last and final judgment of all before the throne of God, but simply of the end of time, of the finishing of the wrath of God with a view to this sinful and wicked world, thus it is also here. When these angels shall have sent the seven plagues which they have the wrath of God shall have been finished in so far that there shall be no power on earth any more that shall provoke His wrath. The wicked world shall be no more. Antichrist and his kingdom shall have been completely destroyed. The end of this dispensation shall have come. And therefore, with a view to this significance John might well speak of the greatness and marvellousness of this sign of the seven angels that were about to realize all these things.
However, John does not merely behold their general presence and appearance on the scene of his vision. He also is privileged to describe some of the details concerning them. In the first place, he tells us of their origin, informs us whence they come as angels of the wrath of God. For he tells us: “And after that I looked, and, behold, the temple of the tabernacle of the testimony in heaven was opened: And the seven angels came out of the temple, having the seven plagues.” Also in chapter 11 we came into contact with the same idea. In connection with the seventh trumpet we there read: “And the temple of God was opened in heaven, and there was seen in his temple the ark of his testament.” And then the significant expression was added: “and there were lightnings, and voices, and thunderings, and an earthquake, and great hail.” And there we explained that the symbol evidently meant that when God is about to make of all the earth His temple, judgments of destruction are sure to follow. Thus it is also here. The temple is His holy place, His dwelling, in the narrower sense of the word. But now that temple is still in heaven, is limited, therefore. Surely, He also dwells in this dispensation in the hearts of His people. But, in the first place, it must not be forgotten that at this stage there shall be no more people of God on the earth, and, in the second place, that God shall make of all creation His city and His dwelling place. He therefore shall break forth from His holy place which is in heaven. He shall break forth as the Holy One. He shall break forth with His testimony, His law, in order to establish His righteousness in all the earth. And when He thus issues forth from His holy place for the purpose of making of all the earth His temple, when He thus issues forth in the fire of His holiness, the result cannot but be that all sin and wickedness is bound to meet with destruction and distress. Only He does not issue forth personally. No, the seven angels come out of His temple, out of the temple of God which is in heaven. They must reveal themselves as angels of wrath, which spell woe to the wicked world. In the second place, John is able to describe their appearance. They are seven in number, which symbolizes what John has already mentioned in the first verse, namely, that in their plagues which they have the wrath of God shall be finished, and, at the same time, that by the work of these angels the kingdom of God shall finally be completed. Seven is the symbol of the completion of the kingdom. And for that reason there were seven seals and seven trumpets. Only in the case of the seven seals and also in the case of the seven trumpets the work ceased with the sixth; and after the sixth had been fulfilled, the scene was allowed to change. The wrath of God, therefore, had not yet been finished. But now it is different. Not six angels shall pour out their vials, but all seven. And when all of these seven shall have done their work, the kingdom of God shall have come to its completion, and all the power of opposition shall have been broken down. They appear bright and pure and beautiful, arrayed with precious stones, pure and bright. A golden girdle, which reminds us of the royal priesthood of the King of kings, is about their breasts. They are, as it were, over-poured with the glory of the holiness of God, Whose wrath they now represent. With a reflection of the glory of the Holy One, from Whose presence they issue forth, they now enter upon their work. In the third place, John describes how they receive their vials of wrath from the creatures, from one of the four. There is a beautiful symbolism in the vials, or bowls, of wrath. Each of them receives a vial. And that vial is filled with the wrath of God, that is, with His holiness in relation to the world of sin. And as each pours His vial upon the wicked world, that wrath of God becomes a powerful force of destruction. And as far as the fact is concerned that in the vision they receive that vial from one of the four creatures, he tells us in beautiful symbolism that all creation is concerned in the work these angels are to perform. The four living creatures that represent all animate creation in its state of perfection are concerned in the work of these angels. They are privileged to hand them the vials of the wrath of God. And thus they stand, these angels, ready to finish their work, just waiting for the command. It is therefore indeed a sign, great and marvellous. It is one of the most wonderful periods in all the history of the world. It is the eve of the realization of all things, the eve of that moment when God shall appear in all the power of His holiness, when His Word shall appear to be the truth also over the wicked world, when His name shall appear glorious and victorious over all things. It is the eve of that greatest of all events, for which the hearts of all God’s people long and yearn for which the souls beneath the altar cry day and night without rest. It is the eve of that event when Christ shall appear as the Lamb that hath been slain, as the victorious King of kings, as the Mighty One that has power over all things, as the Anointed One over Zion, His holy place. It is the eve of that event which shall show the futility of all the works of the devil and shall forevermore do away with the kingdom of darkness. It is the most momentous period in the history of the world, the eve of the realization of all God’s counsel. And it is on the eve of this greatest of all events that we hear the song of those that stand at the crystal sea, singing the song of Moses and of the Lamb. It is that event, which they already see, which they do celebrate in their song.
John says: “And I saw as it were a sea of glass mingled with fire: and them that had gotten the victory over the beast, and over his image, and over his mark, and over the number of his name, stand on the sea of glass, having the harps of God. And they sing the song of Moses the servant of God, and the song of the Lamb.” We ask: who are these singers at the sea of glass? In the first place, we learn of them that they are the ones that come off victorious from the beast and his image and the number of his name. In the post literal sense of the word, therefore, they are those that have lived at the time of the final manifestation of the anti-Christian kingdom. When the Antichrist reigned supreme and all the world wondered after the beast, when he established his universal emblem and gave to all men a sign, they lived on the earth. They were in tribulation. They were the ones that refused to worship the beast. They were the ones that could neither buy nor sell, that could not live in the midst of society, that were the outcasts in the streets of Jerusalem, that is spiritually Sodom and Gomorrah, where also our Lord was crucified. They, therefore, have fought a fierce battle. But in their battle they were sustained by the faith in Jesus and by His testimony, and they remained faithful. Outcasts in the earth for the name of Jesus, they looked forward to the day of their final victory. Exiles and refugees, without a place to stand, they nevertheless refused to worship the beast; and they remained faithful even to the end. Now they stand by the glass sea, and at the eve of their final victory, already glorified themselves but awaiting the final destruction of their enemy; and they sing the song of victory. But is this multitude then limited to a small number of the people of God that have lived at the time of Antichrist? We do not think so. Truly, they have been in the thickest of the battle. It was for them to live at the time of Antichrist in all his power and fulness. The honor and privilege to live at that time was in store for them. For thus it is in reality. It will be a time of special privilege for the people of God to live at the time of Antichrist. It is much rather a cause of longing and yearning, than of fear and trembling, for the people of God to live at that time. Is not a soldier in the battle honored by being in the thickest of the battle? And shall not the soldier of the kingdom of Christ by faith deem it an honor to be in the thickest of the fight against the power of Antichrist and to show that he fears nothing even though he be hated of all men and of all nations? And therefore, it is a special honor to be deemed worthy to live at that time. God shall have His strongest children, His best forces, in the world at that last period. And therefore, to belong to those picked forces of Christ in the world at the time of Antichrist shall be the greatest honor conceivable. For that same reason I have no doubt but that there shall be a special place in store for them in the new heaven and the new earthâ€•a place which they alone can occupy. I have no doubt but that they are the leaders in the chorus that is here singing at the sea of glass. Nevertheless, I do not think that this number is limited to them. For, in the first place, as we have said before, in principle the Antichrist and his power are in the world from the very beginning. Not merely in the end, but also at the time of the apostles he was already in the world, denying that Jesus is the Christ. Still more: not merely in the new dispensation, but also in the old that same power was already in the world, trying to realize itself and opposing the kingdom that has to come. It was already in the time of Elijah, in the time of Moses, in the time of Abraham, in the time of Nimrod, that he attempted to establish his kingdom. It was at the time of Enoch, who testified of the coming of the Lord against it, and even at the time of Abel, who clung to the truth and became a martyr, And therefore, it may be said indeed that in principle the people of God fight the same battle all through the ages even though this battle shall rage most severely in the time of the full manifestation of the antichristian kingdom. Abel fought that same battle. Enoch fought the battle. Noah fought the battle. All the witnesses and prophets of the Old Testament fought that same battle. All the martyrs of the new dispensation also fought that same battle. Only that one great battle becomes most severe at the time when Antichrist shall reveal himself in all his power. And, in the third place, subjectively it may also be said that all the saints of the old, as well as of the new dispensation, hoped and longed for the coming of that day of which these victorious ones sing. It was the hope of Israel. It was the keynote in the prophecies of the old dispensation.