Monday, September 1, 2014

REVELATION 15: 1-8 THE SEVEN ANGELS WITH SEVEN PLAGUES

The  writer of Ecclesiastes  has  correctly  observed,  “What has been is what will be , and what has been done is what will be done , and there  is nothing new  under the sun “ (Eccl. 1:9) And so we note that  the history of the world is an ever recurring  order of events. Kingdoms come and go. Civilizations rise and fall as they either  decay internally or as they  are externally attacked and destroyed. Where are the great civilizations  - the Persians , the Romans , The Greeks , the Incas of whom we only read in history books?  People flee from this continent to the next, only to flee again   within a few generations.   
With regard to the history of the church  this is also true.  Through the preaching   of the Word applied to the  heart of the hearers by the Holy Spirit ,  gospel churches  have been established . These churches  become lampstands in a dark world, and they serve for a while , and when the church compromises ,  the dark world  swallows  them again.  We see this in Revelation 1-3
We see that God’s people are repeatedly  persecuted in this world (Chapters 4-7)  and the judgments of God against  the persecutors  are repeatedly seen, but God’s judgments fail to move   the persecutors to repentance (Chapters  8-11). Why is  it like that ? Why do we  fail to learn  from history? 
Behind this  relentless conflict between the church and the world there is  a deeper, darker reality. There is continual warfare between Christ and Satan. There  is  perpetual conflict between the seed of the woman (the church) and the dragon  (Genesis 3:15 à  Rev. 12-14)

The question which now arises is  this. Will this continue forever?  Will this  endless  vicious cycle continue forever ?  Will God  do something to stop this?  The answer  is  twofold.  First, we must understand that God has always acted in history in terms of  His temporary  judgments. Every famine , every tsunami , every  so called ‘natural disaster’ or plague  or war  (and we have seen 2 vicious World wars in the 20th century) – all these  are  the temporary  judgments of God.  Secondly , we need to know that  all this will end someday – on that day known as the  day of the Lord  - the  final outpouring  of on Judgment day. This day  is often spoken about by the prophets , the apostles and the Lord Jesus Christ.  William Hendriksen says : “ When  the wicked , often warned by the  7 trumpets of judgment  continue to harden their hearts, death finally plunges them  into the hands of an angry God.” [1]

As we  come now to the 15th chapter   this day has now arrived. [15:1] 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 .  When this day  comes there is  no further  opportunity for repentance.  This will be  the  time  for God’s  unrestrained  and terrible wrath. The trumpets have warned and urged the world to repentance , but the  bowls are poured out [2] on those who have not repented.  Those  who have received the mark of the beast, who have worshipped the dragon and the  anti-christ and  who have believed the deceitful words of the false prophet – who have lived in the  city  of the great prostitute called metaphorically , Babylon will now experience the full fury of the terrible wrath of God!
It is true that  this  vision of the 7 bowls of God’s outpoured wrath  runs parallel to the  vision of the  7 seals and the  7 trumpets, and yet this vision of judgment    is greater and more terrible. It is FINAL!  The 7 plagues  poured out all at once symbolize  divine perfection and completeness.

THE SEA OF GLASS  MINGLED WITH FIRE : ( vv. 2- 4)
Before  John  will tell us what  the  7 angels will do with the seven plagues , there is a brief interruption in vv. 2-4  in which we get a glimpse into  what happens to the  true believer in this time :  [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. [3] And they sing the song of Moses, the servant of God, and the song of the Lamb,…
John  beholds a sea of glass , and  beside the sea  there is a  joyful  multitude, playing their harps and singing the songs of Moses and the Lamb. This imagery   refers to the  time  when in the time of Moses  God   closed the  Red sea over  the  Egyptian troops  who  were pursuing Israel as they fled from Pharaoh  (Exodus 14),  after  which Moses sang  his famous song of victory in Exodus 15 : “ I will sing to the LORD, for he has triumphed gloriously ; the horse and his rider he has thrown into the sea…”  (Ex.  15:1).
Now everything in the Bible ( particularly in the OT)  has a fuller meaning and purpose. This victory  over Pharaoh and  his army  is  a  small picture  of the  deliverance of God’s people  at the end of time  over Satan, the anti-christ and the false prophet. Therefore this song  that the redeemed church sings here can be rightly called the  song of Moses and of the Lamb . In both cases  the LORD  has given the victory  to His OT and His NT people.  He has helped them to escape  from  the utter destruction. 
They stand by the sea of glass. We have  come across this  term  once before in Chapter 4:6 . There the  context was  in heaven-  a sea of glass before the throne of God ,  a place of perfect beauty and splendor , and here too  is a picture of the redeemed people of God  who  are now  in heaven, beside the throne  of God , as the Lord  prepares  to pour out the seven bowls of  His wrath over the wicked world.  They are safe while  the fire of God’s judgment upon the  earth  comes from the perfection  of heaven.
In response to this  act of perfect justice, they praise Him  for His righteous judgment  in vv. 3&4 … saying, “Great and amazing are your deeds, O Lord God the Almighty! Just and true are your ways, O King of the nations! [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.”

Those that have persevered , and  who had conquered the beast and  its image and the number of its name  represent  all God’s people  at all times. They  have resisted   Satan and his  kingdom, and have escaped to  heaven,  just like all of Israel  at the Exodus had resisted Pharaoh  and left Egypt   for the promised land.  Do you see the parallel ?  

Almost since the beginning of time Satan  had  been at work in this world, undermining , destroying  God’s work. Abel ,  Enoch ,  Noah, Abraham , Isaac , Jacob, Job  etc.– all  fought the battle. All the witnesses and prophets of the Old Testament fought that same battle. All the martyrs of the  NT  fought that same battle. You and I , dear believer fight that same battle  to escape the coming wrath .  The people of God fight the same battle through all the ages, even though this battle shall  be most intense   before the end of time .  All those that overcome  are part of that great  line of the men and women of faith  mentioned in  Hebrews 11. These are the ones that have reason  to  praise the Lord.  

The song which they sing   has nothing about man’s glory  in it. It is a song that  exalts  the greatness and power and glory of God. It is God's greatness, God's truth, God's righteousness, God's holiness, that is celebrated here.  Secondly ,  these  singers  sing from the perspective of those  that are in heaven . They  live  now by  sight, and  not by faith any longer !  God's greatness is now clearly manifested in all His works. His truth and righteousness is now distinctly displayed in all His ways. It has all been realized.  These multitudes sing of the final fulfillment of all prophecy, and they include the elect people of God from every nation , tribe and tongue  ( v.4 àsee Rev. 7:9) 

THE SANCTUARY OF THE TENT OF WITNESS IS OPENED : ( vv  5-8)
[5] After this I looked, and the sanctuary of the tent of witness in heaven was opened, [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.
As said before,  the  15th chapter   announces the  final judgment   which will come from  the  temple of God in heaven  from the sanctuary of the tent of witness in heaven.  The true people of God have been accounted  for. They have been taken  care of.  Now everything is ready for that final judgment  on the  wicked  of the earth – those who have despised God , and who  have embraced Satan’s rule.  This will be, as Jesus said a time of wailing , weeping and gnashing of teeth. ( Matt 24:51;25:30).
The 7 angels  are His terrible  executioners.   The fact that they are  seven  (number of completion) indicates  that they  will complete their work now.   
Formerly there were the announcements  made  by  the  seven seals and seven trumpets.  After both of these   there  followed a long pause.  The wrath of God in these  each of  these  instances was  delayed . It  was  partial  and not  final. In this instance  it is final. All  seven bowls are  now  poured out.  
 [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, [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.
John now  describes how  each of the angels  receive their  bowls  full  of  the wrath  of God from one  of  the  four living  creatures [3]  who are  around the throne , on each side of the throne (Rev 4:6)  - in special relation and proximity to the  throne of  God  . Herman Hoeksema  thinks that   the four living creatures,   represent all animate creation in its state of perfection.[4]

Obviously , all this is yet in the future . It  will be  ( apart from the  incarnation , crucifixion and resurrection  of Christ)  the most awesome  event in all the history of the world. It  will be the end of the world  as we know it .

APPLICATION : WHY SHOULD WE LOOK FORWARD TO HEAVEN ?

1.     Because it   will be  the end of all  evil , strife  and suffering .
2.     Because  this is the only place of  safety from the terrible wrath of God
3.     Because  heaven is a place  of unspeakable glory  and of joy and peace ; the presence of the One  who  really loves us .

And so Jonathan Edwards said, “It becomes us to spend this life only as a journey  toward heaven … to which we should subordinate all other concerns of life. Why should we labor for or set our hearts on anything else, but that which is our proper end and true happiness?”
In his early twenties, Edwards composed a set of life resolutions. One read, “Resolved, to endeavor to obtain for myself as much happiness, in the other world, as I possibly can.”

Scripture tells us we should be looking forward to a new heaven and a new earth, the home of righteousness” (2 Peter 3:13).  In John 14: 1-7 , Jesus  promises  His disciples  that He would prepare a place for them  and take them to heaven .
Unfortunately, many believers find no joy when they think about heaven. What is  your attitude toward heaven? Do you long for heaven ?  (as Paul did in  Phil 1:23 ?) . How often do you think of and long for heaven?  How often does your church talk about heaven ? Do you and your family talk about heaven?

When you fix your mind on heaven and see the present in light of eternity, even little choices become tremendously important. After death, we will never have another chance to share Christ with   those who are going to hell. We will not have  the ability to invest our money  in the expansion of God’s kingdom .
The Bible  makes  it very clear that the one  need  of this life is to prepare for the next. What we need is a generation of heavenly minded people who see human beings and the earth not simply as they are, but as God intends them to be. Peter says, “So then, dear friends, since you are looking forward to this, make every effort to be found spotless, blameless, and at peace with Him” (2 Peter 3:14).



[1] William Hendriksen : More than Conquerors , p. 157
[2] Ibid, p 158
[3] The four living creatures are mentioned in  Rev 4:6 ( description) ,8,9 ; 5:6,8,11,14; 6:1,6,11; 14:3; 15:7; 19:4
[4] Herman Hoeksema : Behold He cometh , p. 520 

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