The Weekend Word
The Seven Angels with Seven Plagues
- We just saw the final judgment in chapter 14 – what could be left? Nothing! but John is going to retell the judgment story again – he is going to ratchet it up as he now tells it through the 7 bowls. (chapters 15 & 16)
- In this extended vision, John uses a vast collection of imagery from the Exodus account. The reader will encounter the miracle of the Red Sea, the singing of a new song on the shore of the Red Sea, and the presence of the Law as the justification for God’s judgment in the form of many of the same plagues that God used on Egypt. The first verse of this section serves as something of a summary statement
1 Then I saw another sign in heaven, great and amazing, seven angels with seven plagues, which are the last, for with them the wrath of God is finished.
- What we will see here is God’s reply to the previous worship scenes and prayers we saw in chapters 5&8. These bowl plagues are God’s response to the prayers of the church – for God to vindicate himself and his church.
- John is seeing another sign – see Rev 12 – this is his 3rd sign – and it is great and amazing – 7 angels – 7 plagues (note the similarity to Egypt).
- Again we see, as we have throughout, God at work to judge and to save.
2 And I saw what appeared to be a sea of glass mingled with fire—and also those who had conquered the beast and its image and the number of its name, standing beside the sea of glass with harps of God in their hands.
- “Sea of glass…” – perhaps the fire and trials of life and victorious life at the same time. The 3 friends of Daniel in the fiery pit … as I said, perhaps.
- “Those who had conquered” – we have seen them before – these are the same people we saw in ch 4&5 – these are the 144K of ch 7 and of ch 14.
- “Those who have conquered” is a description of God’s church of all time – past, present and future.
- “standing beside the sea…” – I think they are standing on the victorious side of the sea after they have conquered the beast (through Jesus Christ) – this is reminiscent of crossing the red sea – they were victorious then and are victorious now.
3 And they sing the song of Moses, the servant of God, and the song of the Lamb, saying, “Great and amazing are your deeds, O Lord God the Almighty! Just and true are your ways, O King of the nations!
- This is what we do in the divine worship service – we stand in the presence of God.
- The song of Moses is the song of the Lamb. The hearers would think immediately of Exodus 15 – and associate how Israel was liberated from their bondage.
- But where are they standing? By the sea of glass – this is like the counterpart to the Red Sea.
- Follow this progression – these are the people who have washed their robes in the blood of the lamb. They haven’t defiled themselves, they have not worshiped the beast, they have not worshiped false gods, they have not worshiped the emperor (speaking in John’s day).
- They continue to be faithful witnesses to Jesus. They are virgins (as described in 14:4-5) and they have come out of the great tribulation – ch 7.
- Now we can visualize these people being led by the lamb – he is the 2nd and greater Moses who leads us safely through the sea. These are those who fear, trust and love the one true God above all things.
- This is the greater exodus that has happened. Now we stand safe on the other side of the sea – and we celebrate, how? Playing on our harps / musical instruments, which corresponds to 1 Chronicles 16:42.
4 Who will not fear, O Lord, and glorify your name? For you alone are holy.
All nations will come and worship you, for your righteous acts have been revealed.”
- 1-4 – we see in this worship scene what we have seen in the other worship scenes. We see things in this world for what they really are, we see them as facts – we see them as truth.
- What do we see? That God and the Lamb reign – the red dragon and his 2 beasties do not reign. The victory has been won. Jesus has died, Jesus has risen and Jesus is Lord. God’s works are just and true.
- God’s works are just and true.
5 After this I looked, and the sanctuary of the tent of witness in heaven was opened,
- Verses 5-8 – these golden bowls are filled with God’s wrath. In Rev 8:3-5 we see a rendition of the same action.
- Earlier the bowls were filled with the prayers and now they are filled with the response to those prayers.
- If you want to be a bold Christian – pray. It is odd that we have so many saying they don’t know how to pray and on the other hand we have world renowned ‘experts’ in prayer writing books that fill miles of bookstore shelves on “how to pray” – but so few teach the Lord’s Prayer.
6 and out of the sanctuary came the seven angels with the seven plagues, clothed in pure, bright linen, with golden sashes around their chests.
- Where are they coming from? Out of the sanctuary.
- Whose work are they doing? Coming out of the presence of God, they are doing God’s work.
- How are they dressed? As the royal servants of God. They are dressed as the priests – Ex 39 & Ezek 44 – not just priests but high priests Ex 28; Rev 1:13 (talking of Jesus the high priest himself)
7 And 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,
- Verses 7 & 8 look at how the glory is expressed. God who lives forever and ever is revealed in the smoke.
- Take note of the forever and ever. For those in Christ this is very good news. To those who will be in hell – not such good news.
8 and the sanctuary was filled with smoke from the glory of God and from his power, and no one could enter the sanctuary until the seven plagues of the seven angels were finished.
- “The sanctuary was filled with smoke” – Throughout Scripture, smoke is an indication of the Divine Presence and Holiness of God (Ex 19:18-20; 40:34; Is. 6:1-5). So it is here. Smoke fills the sanctuary for it is the place of God’s Divine Presence and Holiness.
- 2 Chron 7 – the glory cloud at the temple dedication
- 1 Kings 8:10 – when the priests came out, the cloud filled the temple