1 I saw in heaven another great and marvelous sign: seven angels with the seven last plagues—last, because with them God’s wrath is completed. 2 And I saw what looked like a sea of glass glowing with fire and, standing beside the sea, those who had been victorious over the beast and its image and over the number of its name. They held harps given them by God 3 and sang the song of God’s servant Moses and of the Lamb: “Great and marvelous are your deeds, Lord God Almighty. Just and true are your ways, King of the nations. 4 Who will not fear you, Lord, and bring glory to your name? For you alone are holy. All nations will come and worship before you, for your righteous acts have been revealed.” ~ Revelation 15:1-4
Today, we transition into Revelation 15. The book of Revelation surveys God's solution to the crisis of history; how God will bring about the long awaited and promised world of peace and blessing. After centuries of patient waiting and putting up with man's arrogance, hatred, greed and the bloodshed that has long been going on, God says there comes a time when He will call a halt to it all. Revelation 15 is the shortest chapter in the book of Revelation because it is a preliminary to Revelation 16.
In v.1 of today's text we read, "I saw in heaven another great and marvelous sign: seven angels with the seven last plagues—last, because with them God’s wrath is completed."
We have reached a turning point of history when we come to these seven bowls of God's wrath. God will then begin to set up his kingdom upon the earth.
The word “plagues” is quite an interesting word. In the Greek language this word means a blow, or a stripe, that is a wound, a scar. It can even mean a calamity. When we think of the word plague, we think of some kind of illness or a disease. The term is used, for example, in Luke 12:48 of flogging someone, where you take a whip made of leather with pieces of glass or stone or shell and you strike someone until their back is beaten down to the very end of their tissue and even leaves their organs, in some cases, exposed. These plagues come in rapid-fire in these final seven judgments that are poured out in hours and days, right at the very end in rapid succession. And they are death blows, mortal wounds that come with deadly force.
In v.2-4 we read, "2 And I saw what looked like a sea of glass glowing with fire and, standing beside the sea, those who had been victorious over the beast and its image and over the number of its name. They held harps given them by God 3 and sang the song of God’s servant Moses and of the Lamb: “Great and marvelous are your deeds, Lord God Almighty. Just and true are your ways, King of the nations. 4 Who will not fear you, Lord, and bring glory to your name? For you alone are holy. All nations will come and worship before you, for your righteous acts have been revealed."
In this scene John describes a great host now seen in heaven standing on the sea of glass. We first saw this sea of glass in Revelation 4, and there we understood it to be a symbol of the righteous holiness which the Holy Spirit imparts to those who come to Christ. This is the only basis for man to appear in the presence of God. This righteous holiness is described as mixed with fire, because it is a holiness manifested in the midst of persecution.
By the way, in heaven there will be no sea. John isn't describing water here, he is describing cut glass that refracts light. There will no longer be any separation of nations by virtue of seas. There will not be any sea in God's eternal kingdom, and yet, there will be a river of life. More about that later.
Before the throne of God in heaven there will be some kind of a crystal platform, some kind of a transparent, glistening crystal platform, perhaps so transparent that John is looking up through it and seeing the throne of God. In Ezekiel 1:22 we read, “As the color of awesome, dazzling crystal stretched across the sky.” In this verse Ezekiel describes the base of God’s heavenly throne.
In v.2, these martyrs are said to be "victorious over the beast." It appeared as though when these left the earth they were losers, but when they arrived in heaven they are winners! Man is under the illusion that what he sees happening is actually according to the way he views it, but it really is not. The antichrist thinks he is getting rid of his enemies, but what he is really doing is running a shuttle service to heaven!
This host of martyrs sings two songs, the Song of Moses (recorded in Exodus 15 as the Israelites came out of Egypt and crossed the Red Sea), and, the Song of the Lamb here in Revelation 15. These songs are the first and last songs in Scripture, and both of them are a description of the deliverance of God's people by His power, based upon a blood redemption. When Moses and the Israelites sang the Song of Moses they were looking back to the blood of a lamb put on the doorposts to keep them safe when the Angel of Death passed through the land of Egypt. In today's text, the martyrs are praising God and honoring Him for His power that has delivered them from the wrath of the antichrist, and of God, based on the blood of redemption shed by the Lamb of God.
The striking thing about this Song of the Lamb is, there is not one single word about their own achievements! The only pronoun used in this song is "your." In v.3 they sing, "Great and marvelous are your deeds, Lord God Almighty. Just and true are your ways, King of the nations."
This brings up a great point. You probably have noticed that there are times when God seems to say that we get to heaven because of our good works. We saw this in Revelation 2-3 when God addressed the seven churches. This is not the case. But, when God looks at us through the lens of His Son's applied perfection, we appear as such. Make no mistake about it, my friend, it is only through Christ's perfection that are we acceptable to the Father.
In Job 21:30 we read, “The wicked is reserved to the day of destruction. They shall be brought forth to the day of wrath.”
Even way back in Job's day the people knew there was the wrath of God on the horizon. Whatever a man sows he will reap. When we sin, there will be consequences. This is the kind of wrath by which God destroys the whole world of sin.
In Romans 1 we see that when God turns the rebellious over to their sin, it will come with built-in consequences that will engulf them. And, all of history is rushing to this final expression of the wrath of God. And the longer I live, obviously, the closer we get to it. But, there is a great paradox to be found in all of this. God has always been working behind the scenes to save sinners from His own wrath.
Herein lies the marvelous reality of the nature of our God who encompasses both righteousness and holiness alongside mercy and grace that makes justice and judgment the twin of love and kindness. And as we’ve learned in the book of the Revelation, even up to the very last scene, judgments falling all over the place in the world, all of the sealed judgments and the trumpet judgments, all through that period of time right down to the shattering of the universe, the devastation of the earth and the final bowl judgments that we will see in Revelation 16, all through all of this final expression of judgment that is coming in a time called the tribulation, God has always been calling sinners to salvation.
In v.4 of today's text we read, "Who will not fear you, Lord, and bring glory to your name? For you alone are holy. All nations will come and worship before you, for your righteous acts have been revealed."
When all of His love is refused, when all of His grace is rejected and all His mercy is scorned, the only thing left is His inevitable and final wrath. Why? Because man chooses not God's umbrella of protection. We have a choice to make, whether to bow our will to Him or to have it our way.