In the 11th chapter of Revelation there was a spontaneous worship service that broke out as the 7th trumpet sounded. Between those verses and the verse before us now John clearly defined the events that predicated such praise and the chapters 15 and 16 complete the chronological events, which end with the 2nd coming described fully in the 19th chapter. The seven last plagues are the last of God’s judgments preceding His return. Looking at the book of Revelation in chronological sequence you will see that chapter 19 follows chapter 16 and as such chapter 10-11:14, 13-14 and chapters 17-19 do not advance the narrative. So, what we have before us the last of the “three woes” of chapter 8:13. If we were on a trail in the Bitterroot Mountains we would call this a switchback, a zigzag road, designed to climb a steep hill; John takes us through the difficult time of the judgment of God in the tribulation period.
Vs. 1-4 A sign and a song
The word “another” is the same as we have seen elsewhere in this book and means “another of the same kind”. John is linking this sign with the two signs of chapter 12:1-3, which were:
- The woman, (Israel) who was about to give birth to the Messiah
- The great red dragon (satan) and the final world ruling empire under his control
The last sign is the finished work of the first sign (Jesus’ incarnation) and His judgment will be upon the 2nd sign. The sign is described as “great and marvelous” and is the only time these words appear in the N.T. These seven plagues are said to complete or fill up the wrath of God. Going back in these symbols we have seen that there were first seven seals, and the 7th gave way to the seven trumpets and the 7th trumpet now brings about seven bowl judgments which will transpire at the end of the tribulation.
The word used for “wrath” does not mean the accumulation of anger but rather the word is “thumos” which refers to the fierceness of wrath. It is what lies behind the idea of Paul’s words to the Romans in 2:5 where he writes “treasuring up for yourself wrath in the day of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgment of God”.
Vs. 2 John sees what he did in the 4th chapter in the sea of glass only this time it is mingled with fire. The crystal sea spoke of God’s Holiness as we are told in 1 Tim. 6:16 that God is “dwelling in unapproachable light, whom no man has seen or can see”. Fire speaks of His divine judgment. What is interesting is that we see the saints able to “stand” on the sea praising Him. The only way that are able to stand upon God’s Holiness and righteous judgment is because of His faithfulness in their lives. Some see in James’ words in 1:22-25 a picture of cleansing nature of God’s Word as we are told “man observing his natural face in a mirror; for he observes himself, goes away, and immediately forgets what kind of man he was.” Clearly these saints will observe their faces and not leave! In the O.T. the sea of glass was where the high priest would look into and see his own reflection and be reminded of his need to be cleansed. What a glorious picture this is as we see that the saints will be able to stand and see their reflection without spot or blemish, as they are complexity in the victory of Christ washed in His blood and made white.
The word here for victory is the same word rendered “overcome and conquer” seen some 15 times in this book. In the 12th chapter we were told “they overcame him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony, and they did not love their lives to the death.” So, their “victory” came about based upon three things:
- The blood of the lamb: The work of Christ
- The word of their testimony: The Word of Christ
- They did not love their lives to the death: The faithfulness of Christ
The harps again speak of a joyous celebration and as such we see that as the believer as victory because of the work of Christ, the Word of Christ, and the faithfulness of Christ all that is left is worship.
Vs. 3 John listens in on the song of praise and hears two songs blended into one.
- Song of Moses: The first one is the song of Moses, and we can go back into the O.T. and find out that Moses wrote two songs recorded for us.
- Ex. 15 where the song rejoices in the redemptive deliverance of God from Egypt.
- Deut. 32:1-43 where Moses sings a song of indictment against the nation and tells them of conditions by which they will be blessed or judged.
In the 2nd verse of Exodus 15 we read, “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.” Then in Deut. 32:4 we read “He is the Rock, His work is perfect; For all His ways are justice, A God of truth and without injustice; Righteous and upright is He.” Notice here in verse 3 that God’s works and ways are praised. I believe every person ought to have this verse tacked up some where they can read on a regular basis, “Great and marvelous are Your works, Lord God Almighty! Just and true are Your ways, O King of the saints!” It is impossible for God’s works and ways in our life to be anything but “Great, marvelous, just and true.” That may not make our experience any less painful, but it will bring us peace and joy in their midst!
2. Vs. 4 Song of the Lamb: The second part of this song is in anticipation of Christ’s reign and as such is a call for all to come to His holiness and worship Him. The final sentence is a stanza to the truth that His justice will transpire. To mankind we question God’s fairness in dealing with our affairs, heaven may well ponder this only from the other perspective as God is so patient with our unrighteousness.
Vs. 5-8 Seven angels and seven bowls
Vs. 5-6 In Heb. 8:5 we are told that earthly tabernacle was “the copy and shadow of the heavenly things, as Moses was divinely instructed when he was about to make the tabernacle. For He said, “See that you make all things according to the pattern shown you on the mountain.” It is here where God’s presence dwells and it is here that his righteous judgments shall come.
As John looks, he sees a vision of the Holy of Holies and the curtain is parted by seven angels, no doubt in response to the martyr’s cry of 6:9-11 of how long. As we ponder this scene we note that God’s judgment comes from His holiness and they are complete, as there are seven final plagues, furthermore they are right as the clothing of the angels indicate God’s righteousness.
Vs. 7-8 Contact is broken, as none are able to enter the temple while the glory of the Lord fills it. The prophet Ezek. Says in 33:11 “‘As I live,’ says the Lord GOD, ‘I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but that the wicked turn from his way and live. Turn, turn from your evil ways! For why should you die, O house of Israel?’” The solemnest of this association is humbling as we ponder His love in light of His holiness and our sinfulness!