H^6, Chap. xv.
The Seven Vial Angels.
This Sixth Vision is Heaven is very briefly described. It occupies this fifteenth chapter, which consists of only eight verses.
The structure of the Vision is as follows: --
H^6, xv.1-8. The Sixth Vision |in Heaven.|
The Seven Vial Angels.
H^6 A xv.1. The Seven Angels.
B 2-4. Worship offered.
A 5-7. The Seven Angels.
B 8. Worship no longer possible.
It is the Vision which introduces us to the most terrible of all the Visions which affect the earth; for it is followed by the Seven Vials, the seven great and final judgments which close up the whole series set forth in chapters --
xvi. The Great Judgments.
xvii. The Great Whore.
xviii. The Great City.
The next, and last, Vision in Heaven is immediately followed by the Apocalypse of the Son of Man Himself.
Short as this sixth Vision is, it is full of significance, and points to the decisive results to be obtained in the next Vision on Earth, to which it introduces us.
This is clearly set out in the first member:
xv.1. And I saw another sign in Heaven, great and marvellous: seven angels having the last seven plagues (or, seven plagues, which are the last); because in them was completed the wrath (or fury) of God:] The word |because| is connected with the word |last,| as shown in the alternative rendering, above. This sign is |great and wonderful,| i.e., wonderfully great in its nature and extent and importance and results. It is the completion of the |covenant of marvels| which the Lord made with Israel in Ex. xxxiv.10. The plagues themselves are not yet. They do not actually follow till the next chapter; and then they follow on from the sounding of the seventh Trumpet. The Trumpet contains, and consists of, and expands into, the seven Vials, and is |the third Woe| Trumpet. The results of that sounding are about to take place: and they are heralded by the Heavenly utterance, which sets forth their object. The sign itself is given in the first verse.
xv.2. And I saw, as it were, a glassy sea] It does not say it was glass, or even glassy, but that it looked as if it were glassy or smooth. It was
mingled with fire:] In iv.6 it was |like crystal.| Here it looks as though fire were mingled with it, betokening the heat and fierceness of the coming judgments which were then about to be announced; for wrath was at its height.
and those that had gotten the victory from the Beast, and from his image, and from the number of his name standing upon the glassy sea, having harps of God (i.e., Divine or Sacred harps).] The worshippers here are particularly defined as those who had come out of and through the great Tribulation. Their numbers are not given, so that they appear to be distinct from, or to include the 144,000 mentioned in the previous chapter and in chap. vii. They may be |the remnant of the woman's seed| (xii.17), for they, by Divine protection, were |overcomers.| If so, this glassy sea is in contrast with the Red Sea; while the harps tell of the Kingdom at length come; for we do not read of harps in the earthly temple till the Kingdom was set up on earth.
In the previous Vision in Heaven (the Fifth), singing is mentioned, but no words are given, for the song was |new,| and no one but the singers themselves could learn or understand it.
The song which is sung in this Sixth Vision is both old and new, for it is the song of Moses and of the Lamb:
xv.3. And they sing the song of Moses the servant of God, and the song of the Lamb,] Why these two songs are always regarded as one, and referred to Exodus xv., we do not understand. Alford says |it is not meant that there are two distinct songs; the song is one and the same,| and it is |similar to that song of triumph| in Exodus xv. The simple question is, Whom are we to believe. If words are of any use, it says two songs, as plainly as words can say it. The word |song| is twice repeated. |The song of Moses and the servant of the Lord| is one song, and |The song of the Lamb| is another song. There is nothing about the former being |similar| to Exodus xv. Such an interpretation as that robs the whole statement of all accuracy, deprives it of its beauty, and takes from us the instruction which is intended to be conveyed to us. In Exodus xv.1 it merely says, |Then sang Moses and the children of Israel this song,| and it is as much connected with Miriam as with Moses, as to human agency in authorship.
But there is a song, particularly and definitely described as |the song of Moses,| in Deut. xxxii. And a most wonderful song it is.
This we believe to be |the song of Moses| which is sung here; while the words given in Rev. xv., in verses -3 and 4, are |the song of the Lamb.|
|The song of Moses| in Deut. xxxii.1-43, is a rehearsal of God's dealing with Israel from the beginning to the end. It is an epitome of the history of the whole nation in its relation to God. It is introduced to us in Deut. xxxi.19: |Now, therefore, write ye this song for you, and teach it the children of Israel; put it in their mouths, that this song may be a witness for me against the children of Israel. (20) For when I shall have brought them into the land which I sware unto their fathers, that floweth with milk and honey; and they shall have eaten and filled themselves, and waxen fat; then will they turn unto other gods, and serve them, and provoke me, and break my covenant. (21) And it shall come to pass, when many evils and troubles have befallen them, that this song shall testify against them as a witness; for it shall not be forgotten out of the mouths of their seed: for I know their imagination which they go about, even now, before I have brought them into the land which I sware. (22) Moses therefore wrote this song the same day, and taught it the children of Israel.| Then in verse 28 we read that Moses said |Gather unto me all the chiefs of your tribes, and your officers, that I may speak these words in their ears, and call heaven and earth to record against them: (29) For I know that after my death ye will utterly corrupt yourselves, and turn aside from the way which I have commanded you; and evil will befall you IN THE LATTER DAY, because ye will do evil in the sight of the Lord, to provoke him to anger through the work of your hands. And Moses spake in the ears of all the congregation of Israel the words of THIS SONG until they were ended.|
Introduced with such solemnity, we expect to find something most wonderful and significant in |the words of this song|; and we are not disappointed.
It is divided into ten members (ten, the number of ordinal perfection, marking its completeness), and these members are arranged as an Introversion: the first corresponding, in its subject, with the tenth; the second corresponding with the ninth; the third with the eighth; the fourth with the seventh; and the fifth with the sixth.
All the stages of Israel's history receive the Divine description and verdict; and the Scriptures recording that history are marshalled in their order.
It will not be necessary for us to give all the words of this song; but our readers will turn to the place where it is written, and read it with the key to it which we now give. They will at once see the wonders of this song, and understand why it should be heaven's theme at this particular juncture in this Sixth Vision in heaven, immediately before those judgments which shall fulfil all its words: --
|The Song of Moses| (Deut. xxxii.1-43).
A 1-6. God's call to Hear: and the reason. The publishing of Jehovah's name: His perfect work and righteous ways.
B 7-14. The goodness and bounty of Jehovah to Israel. (Period of the Pentateuch).
C 15-19. Israel's evil return for that goodness. Their pride: forsaking of God; despising the Rock of their Salvation; moving Him to anger. (Period, past history. The Historical books).
D 20. Divine reflections on the period while Israel is |Lo Ammi| (not my people). (Period of Minor Prophets, esp. Hosea).
E 21. Jehovah's provocation of Israel. (Period of
Acts and present Dispensation).
E 22-25. Jehovah's threatening of judgment on Israel in the great Tribulation.
D 26-33. Divine reflections on the period while Israel is scattered. (Hosea).
C 34-38. Israel's evil return for Jehovah's goodness. Their helpless condition moving Him to pity. He not forsaking them. Their Rock useless. (Period of present history).
B 39-42. The Judgments of Jehovah. (The period of the Apocalypse).
A 43. God's call to Rejoice: and the reason. The publishing of Jehovah's Kingdom. Vengeance on Israel's enemies. Mercy for His Land and for His People. (Fulfilment of all Prophecy).
How fitting that now, and here, at this stage of the Apocalyptic visions and judgments, the witness and testimony of this Song should be rehearsed, as intimated in Deut. xxxi.19, and that another Song should be associated with it, adding and combining such phrases of Ex. xv. as will be appropriate for that particular season which shall then have arrived.
The words of |the Song of Moses| are given in Deut. xxxii.: and the words of |the Song of the Lamb| (i.e., given by Him and relating to Him), are now recorded, as follows:
|Great and marvellous are Thy works, O Lord God, the Almighty: Righteous and true are Thy ways, Thou King of the nations. (4) Who should not fear, O Lord, And glorify Thy name?
Because thou only are holy: Because all the nations shall come and worship before Thee: Because Thy righteous judgments were manifested.|]
These are the words of |the Song of the Lamb,| and they tell us that, in spite of the awful character of these coming judgments, God is |Holy| and |Righteous| and |True.| The Old Testament Titles are heaped together here. |The Lord God,| pointing us back to Gen. ii. iii., and the setting right of all that was then put wrong. |Almighty,| or the Lord God of Hosts (see Preliminary Points). He is the God of the hosts of Israel (Ex. xii.41, 51). |The Song of the Lamb| looks forward to the completion of all that |the Song of Moses| foretells.
Many passages in the Prophets and Psalms speak of the same glorious result of God's judgments.
The first of the Six Angels (xiv.6, 7), had proclaimed that Gospel which is from everlasting, which calls on all to |Fear God:| and now the heavenly singers ask, |Who shall not fear Thee?| They take up the very words of Jer. x.7; and to this time Ps. cii.13-22 and Micah vii.16, 17 refer.
But Ps. lxxxvi.9-12 is specially to the point:
|All nations whom Thou hast made shall come and worship before Thee, O Lord:
And shall glorify Thy name,
For Thou are great, and doest wondrous things.
Thou art God alone.
Teach me Thy way, O Lord: I will walk in Thy truth; Unite my heart to fear Thy name.
I will praise Thee, O Lord my God, with all my heart: And I will glorify Thy name for evermore.|
|The Song of the Lamb,| it will be seen, is made up of nine lines, nine being the number associated with judgment.
The second of the three reasons, |Because all the nations shall come and worship before Thee,| points to one of the results of completed judgments, realised in Millennial days. (See Is. lxvi.15, 16, 23. Zech. xiv.16, 17. Ps. lxvi.1-7; lxxii.1-4; lxxxvi.8,9. Zeph. ii.11).
The third reason is the |righteous judgments| of God, which will then be made manifest. This is the meaning of (...) (dikaiomata). Lit. it is righteousnesses, but the form of the word denotes the outcome of the righteous act, the righteous thing done; and the thing done, must be added, according to what the context requires. Here, it is |righteous judgments.| That they are, and always will be righteous is testified again and again. (See Isa. lix.18, 19).
With this agree the closing words of |the Song of Moses| (Deut. xxxii.41-43).
|Rejoice, O ye nations, with His People:
For He will avenge the blood of His servants,
And will render vengeance to His adversaries,
And will be merciful unto His Land,
And to His People.|
Compare also Ps. lxxvi.8, 9. Is. xxvi.5, 8, 9. Ezek. xxxix.17, 21.
xv.5. And after these things I looked, and the Temple (Naos) of the tabernacle of the testimony was opened in heaven: (6) and the seven angels who had the seven plagues, came forth out of the temple (Naos), arrayed with precious brilliant stone, and girt about their breasts with golden girdles. (7) And one of the four Zoa gave to the seven angels seven golden Vials (or Bowls) full of the fury of God, who liveth for ever and ever] We have already noticed above that both the Tabernacle of Moses and the Temple of Solomon were only copies of the Tabernacle and Temple in Heaven. The Realities were there, the copies were on earth. It was the Naos or Holy of Holies which was opened, i.e., the Naos of the Tabernacle. Opened to give exit for the seven angels from the presence of God, as it was in chap. xi.19. Again the Zoa are introduced as initiating judgments. The Zoa are related to Creation and to the earth, as we have seen, and these judgments are to clear the earth of all that causes creation's groanings. We have retained the word |Vials| because its usage is so fixed and associated with these judgments, though all know that the (...) (phiale) as a shallow bowl. The bowls were golden, and belonged to the altar.
L.Tr. WH. and RV. read (...) (lithon) stone, instead of (...) (linon) linen. Compare Ezek. xxviii.13 and Dan. x.6.
xv.8. And the Naos (or Holiest) was filled with smoke from the glory of God, and from His power; and no one was able to enter into the Naos, until the seven plagues of the seven angels should be finished.] When the Tabernacle was opened by Moses and the Temple by Solomon, there was cloud, but not smoke (Ex. xl.34-36.1 Kings viii.10, 11). Here it is |smoke,| for this is the hour of God's judgment (xiv.7). No intercession can now be made. No worship can be offered while it lasts. It will be again as it was in the days of Lam. iii.44: --
|Thou hast covered thyself with a cloud,
That our prayer should not pass through.|
Five of the ten plagues of Egypt are the same as five of these Bowls, as we shall see below. We would only add here, that as they were literal, so will these be.
We have now come to the end of the long parenthesis and series of Episodes which are given in chap. xii.1 -- 8. We now take up again the results of the sounding of the seventh Trumpet in the chronological order of events. Chap. xi. -19, gave us the general but very brief summary of those results, in the third Vision on Earth. The full detailed account of these results would have postponed too long several things necessary for us to know, had they been given in exact chronological sequence. We have now had that necessary knowledge interposed, and are ready to take up the events in their proper order.