V11Then I saw another sign in heaven, great and marvelous, seven angels who had seven plagues, [which are] the last, because in them the wrath of God is finished.. John sees “another sign in heaven”. A sign means more than an event. It is an event with a message, an event with a signal. He has already seen two times earlier a sign in heaven. In the first sign Israel was centered and the Child That would come forth from it, that is the Lord Jesus (Rev 12:1-21A great sign appeared in heaven: a woman clothed with the sun, and the moon under her feet, and on her head a crown of twelve stars;2and she was with child; and she *cried out, being in labor and in pain to give birth.). The second sign showed the dragon and his furious attempts to kill the Child (Rev 12:3-183Then another sign appeared in heaven: and behold, a great red dragon having seven heads and ten horns, and on his heads [were] seven diadems.4And his tail *swept away a third of the stars of heaven and threw them to the earth. And the dragon stood before the woman who was about to give birth, so that when she gave birth he might devour her child.5And she gave birth to a son, a male [child], who is to rule all the nations with a rod of iron; and her child was caught up to God and to His throne.6Then the woman fled into the wilderness where she *had a place prepared by God, so that there she would be nourished for one thousand two hundred and sixty days.7And there was war in heaven, Michael and his angels waging war with the dragon. The dragon and his angels waged war,8and they were not strong enough, and there was no longer a place found for them in heaven.9And the great dragon was thrown down, the serpent of old who is called the devil and Satan, who deceives the whole world; he was thrown down to the earth, and his angels were thrown down with him.10Then I heard a loud voice in heaven, saying, “Now the salvation, and the power, and the kingdom of our God and the authority of His Christ have come, for the accuser of our brethren has been thrown down, he who accuses them before our God day and night.11And they overcame him because of the blood of the Lamb and because of the word of their testimony, and they did not love their life even when faced with death.12For this reason, rejoice, O heavens and you who dwell in them. Woe to the earth and the sea, because the devil has come down to you, having great wrath, knowing that he has [only] a short time.”13And when the dragon saw that he was thrown down to the earth, he persecuted the woman who gave birth to the male [child].14But the two wings of the great eagle were given to the woman, so that she could fly into the wilderness to her place, where she *was nourished for a time and times and half a time, from the presence of the serpent.15And the serpent poured water like a river out of his mouth after the woman, so that he might cause her to be swept away with the flood.16But the earth helped the woman, and the earth opened its mouth and drank up the river which the dragon poured out of his mouth.17So the dragon was enraged with the woman, and went off to make war with the rest of her children, who keep the commandments of God and hold to the testimony of Jesus.).
Both signs tell us about the history of Israel and what will happen to this nation in the time of the great tribulation. The sign that John sees now tells us about the events that the rest of the human race will be facing. It is not just a sign. It is “great”, which means that it is a huge sign. It is also “marvelous”, for it will exceed the comprehension of everyone who will have to do with it.
The sign consists of “seven angels who had seven plaques, [which are] the last”. You have already been a witness of the seven seal judgments and of the seven trumpet judgments. Now the seven bowl judgments follow. After these seven plagues there are no more plagues. With these seven plagues God has fulfilled His wrath and His righteous wrath has become completely silenced. But what you will see in these plagues will provoke every imagination. They are of unprecedented size and fierceness and they follow one another at a fast and irrepressible speed.
V22And I saw something like a sea of glass mixed with fire, and those who had been victorious over the beast and his image and the number of his name, standing on the sea of glass, holding harps of God.. But before these last judgments will break loose you first see again the “sea of glass” which you also saw in chapter 4 (Rev 4:66and before the throne [there was something] like a sea of glass, like crystal; and in the center and around the throne, four living creatures full of eyes in front and behind.). There the sea was like crystal. Here the sea is “mixed with fire”. A group of people is standing on the sea of glass. That means that the sea is the basis of their presence in heaven. These people are transparent like glass, they have become known in public. They are in total agreement with the holy presence of God, they have not one dark spot of sin. Therefore they do not need the water of purification anymore and therefore the sea is not fluid anymore. They have also endured the test of their faith and now they are to the praise and glory and honor of Jesus Christ (1Pet 1:77so that the proof of your faith, [being] more precious than gold which is perishable, even though tested by fire, may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ;).
Their faith has been tested in a way that we can hardly imagine. But I hope that their faithfulness to the Lord will encourage you and me to also remain faithful to the Lord in our trials which are so much less heavy. They have stood eye to eye with the beast in his devastating death threat, but they have gained victory over the beast.
It is a multiple victory. In the first place they have defeated “the beast” himself by not bowing to him, in any which way he had threatened them. With their head up, looking to heaven (cf. Acts 7:55,5955But being full of the Holy Spirit, he gazed intently into heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God;59They went on stoning Stephen as he called on [the Lord] and said, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit!”), they died the martyr’s death. In the second place they have triumphed over “his image”, the image of the beast, by not heeding the deceiving appeal to worship this idol. In the third place they have conquered “the number of his name” by not selling their soul in order to take part of social life in that way (Rev 13:15-1715And it was given to him to give breath to the image of the beast, so that the image of the beast would even speak and cause as many as do not worship the image of the beast to be killed.16And he causes all, the small and the great, and the rich and the poor, and the free men and the slaves, to be given a mark on their right hand or on their forehead,17and [he provides] that no one will be able to buy or to sell, except the one who has the mark, [either] the name of the beast or the number of his name.). Not this group but the beast is the great looser.
The result of their victory is that you see them standing here, raised from the dead, alive and singing. The harps that they have are “harps of God”. The harps were given to them by God, destined to be used to glorify Him Who has given the power to remain standing. Their death may definitely be the end of their existence on earth, but definitely not the end of their existence to God.
V33And they *sang the song of Moses, the bond-servant of God, and the song of the Lamb, saying, “Great and marvelous are Your works, O Lord God, the Almighty; Righteous and true are Your ways, King of the nations!. And what do they sing? They sing two songs: “the song of Moses” and “the song of the Lamb”. Moses is here called “the bond-servant of God”. The company that sings his song consists of people who like him were faithful servants of God. Only when you are obedient you can sing a liberation song. Moses sang his song with the Israelites directly after they were liberated from Egypt (Exo 15:1-181Then Moses and the sons of Israel sang this song to the LORD, and said,
“I will sing to the LORD, for He is highly exalted;
The horse and its rider He has hurled into the sea.
2“The LORD is my strength and song,
And He has become my salvation;
This is my God, and I will praise Him;
My father’s God, and I will extol Him.
3“The LORD is a warrior;
The LORD is His name.
4“Pharaoh’s chariots and his army He has cast into the sea;
And the choicest of his officers are drowned in the Red Sea.
5“The deeps cover them;
They went down into the depths like a stone.
6“Your right hand, O LORD, is majestic in power,
Your right hand, O LORD, shatters the enemy.
7“And in the greatness of Your excellence You overthrow those who rise up against You;
You send forth Your burning anger, [and] it consumes them as chaff.
8“At the blast of Your nostrils the waters were piled up,
The flowing waters stood up like a heap;
The deeps were congealed in the heart of the sea.
9“The enemy said, ‘I will pursue, I will overtake, I will divide the spoil;
My desire shall be gratified against them;
I will draw out my sword, my hand will destroy them.’
10“You blew with Your wind, the sea covered them;
They sank like lead in the mighty waters.
11“Who is like You among the gods, O LORD?
Who is like You, majestic in holiness,
Awesome in praises, working wonders?
12“You stretched out Your right hand,
The earth swallowed them.
13“In Your lovingkindness You have led the people whom You have redeemed;
In Your strength You have guided [them] to Your holy habitation.
14“The peoples have heard, they tremble;
Anguish has gripped the inhabitants of Philistia.
15“Then the chiefs of Edom were dismayed;
The leaders of Moab, trembling grips them;
All the inhabitants of Canaan have melted away.
16“Terror and dread fall upon them;
By the greatness of Your arm they are motionless as stone;
Until Your people pass over, O LORD,
Until the people pass over whom You have purchased.
17“You will bring them and plant them in the mountain of Your inheritance,
The place, O LORD, which You have made for Your dwelling,
The sanctuary, O Lord, which Your hands have established.
18“The LORD shall reign forever and ever.”
). It is the first song in the Bible. In that song they sing about the power of God Who has triumphed over the power of Pharaoh and his horsemen. It is a song that fits in the mouth of conquerors of the beast. This is the last time in the Bible that something is said about a song.
They also sing the song of the Lamb. They owe this song to the Lamb. It’s because of Him that they could sing this song, because He has delivered them. In the song of the Lamb they give praise to the Person of the Lamb. Through the Lamb the Israelites were delivered (Exo 12:1-131Now the LORD said to Moses and Aaron in the land of Egypt,2“This month shall be the beginning of months for you; it is to be the first month of the year to you.3Speak to all the congregation of Israel, saying, ‘On the tenth of this month they are each one to take a lamb for themselves, according to their fathers’ households, a lamb for each household.4Now if the household is too small for a lamb, then he and his neighbor nearest to his house are to take one according to the number of persons [in them]; according to what each man should eat, you are to divide the lamb.5Your lamb shall be an unblemished male a year old; you may take it from the sheep or from the goats.6You shall keep it until the fourteenth day of the same month, then the whole assembly of the congregation of Israel is to kill it at twilight.7Moreover, they shall take some of the blood and put it on the two doorposts and on the lintel of the houses in which they eat it.8They shall eat the flesh that [same] night, roasted with fire, and they shall eat it with unleavened bread and bitter herbs.9Do not eat any of it raw or boiled at all with water, but rather roasted with fire, [both] its head and its legs along with its entrails.10And you shall not leave any of it over until morning, but whatever is left of it until morning, you shall burn with fire.11Now you shall eat it in this manner: [with] your loins girded, your sandals on your feet, and your staff in your hand; and you shall eat it in haste—it is the LORD’S Passover.12For I will go through the land of Egypt on that night, and will strike down all the firstborn in the land of Egypt, both man and beast; and against all the gods of Egypt I will execute judgments—I am the LORD.13The blood shall be a sign for you on the houses where you live; and when I see the blood I will pass over you, and no plague will befall you to destroy [you] when I strike the land of Egypt.), through the Lamb all the believers of all ages have been delivered (Rev 5:99And they *sang a new song, saying, “Worthy are You to take the book and to break its seals; for You were slain, and purchased for God with Your blood [men] from every tribe and tongue and people and nation.).
In the songs the “works” and the “ways” of God are celebrated (Psa 103:77He made known His ways to Moses,
His acts to the sons of Israel.
). The works are extensive and impressive (verse 33And they *sang the song of Moses, the bond-servant of God, and the song of the Lamb, saying, “Great and marvelous are Your works, O Lord God, the Almighty; Righteous and true are Your ways, King of the nations!). They are ascribed to the “Lord God, the Almighty”. ‘Lord’ is His name as Master, Owner. He is the Owner of the whole creation. In this book He exercises His right to the creation. As ‘God Almighty He is working to regain possession of His creation. He does not need any help from anyone. The judgments that are abundantly exercised in this book are an expression of His almighty works. Just as almighty He is in keeping His own.
As “King of the nations” (Jer 10:77Who would not fear You, O King of the nations?
Indeed it is Your due!
For among all the wise men of the nations
And in all their kingdoms,
There is none like You.
) He goes along different ways for His purpose. How hard the nations may try to stop Him in His ways, that will all appear to be useless attempts. In majesty, authority and power He exceeds far beyond them. In His dealings with them He is “righteous and true”. His ways have a righteous foundation. The different judgments that pave the way to His goal are deserved. The believers of that time understand that. They agree with it and look forward to Him (Isa 26:8-98Indeed, [while following] the way of Your judgments, O LORD,
We have waited for You eagerly;
Your name, even Your memory, is the desire of [our] souls.
9At night my soul longs for You,
Indeed, my spirit within me seeks You diligently;
For when the earth experiences Your judgments
The inhabitants of the world learn righteousness.
). He is truthful in using the judgments. There is no deception in it. He judges because He is displeased about evil and not because of malicious pleasure.
V44“Who will not fear, O Lord, and glorify Your name? For You alone are holy; For all the nations will come and worship before You, For Your righteous acts have been revealed.”. The conquerors are impressed about God’s works and ways. Could you imagine yourself and other people not to be fearing and glorifying the Lord if you let yourself become aware of God’s omnipotence and kingship? That’s no question for the conquerors. They see Him, they see His deeds and His purpose. They also see the rebellion of the beast and his followers and the foolishness of their works and ways. They praise the Lord as the only Holy One against the prevailing ungodliness on earth. He alone is fully separated from the evil.
His “acts”, which are His righteous deeds (cf. Rev 19:1111And I saw heaven opened, and behold, a white horse, and He who sat on it [is] called Faithful and True, and in righteousness He judges and wages war.) that “have been revealed” in His judgments, coerce the nations to draw near to Him and bow down before Him (Psa 72:1111And let all kings bow down before him,
All nations serve him.
). They will have to acknowledge that no one else is God, but He alone. The general worship of the beast makes room for the general worship of God Whom alone is worthy of worship.
Pay attention that the conquerors do not sing about their own experiences, about their perseverance and their victory over the beast. They are much more occupied with the power of God, with what He has done. They are full of His righteousness and holiness. Isn’t that an indication for you to especially think about what God has done in the Lord Jesus when you give Him thanks?
V55After these things I looked, and the temple of the tabernacle of testimony in heaven was opened,. With John you now get to see the preparations for the last plagues. “The temple … in heaven was opened.” You’re looking into the temple, the dwelling place of God’s holiness. This dwelling place is here closely related to the tabernacle that is here called “the tabernacle of testimony” (Exo 25:2222There I will meet with you; and from above the mercy seat, from between the two cherubim which are upon the ark of the testimony, I will speak to you about all that I will give you in commandment for the sons of Israel.; Num 10:1111Now in the second year, in the second month, on the twentieth of the month, the cloud was lifted from over the tabernacle of the testimony;). The tabernacle was God’s transportable house during the journey of Israel through the wilderness. In the interior of the tabernacle was the ark and in the ark the two tablets of stone were placed. The two tablets of stone are ‘the testimony’. You’re looking here at the deepest interior, the heart of heaven.
Therefore the place from where the next acts happen are in relation with the holiness of God (temple), just like it is written on the tablets of stone (tabernacle of the testimony). According to those tablets, the law, God will not only judge His people, but also the world. On those tablets the demands of His righteousness and holiness are written. God has no other standard according to which He judges than the standard which He has established in the law. For those who have the need to ‘recalculate’ God, can gain evidence here. It always becomes apparent that God is justified in His words and when He is judged He always has the victory (Rom 3:44May it never be! Rather, let God be found true, though every man [be found] a liar, as it is written, “That You may be justified in Your words, And prevail when You are judged.”).
V66and the seven angels who had the seven plagues came out of the temple, clothed in linen, clean [and] bright, and girded around their chests with golden sashes.. The temple has been opened in the sight of John. Then it is not the high priest or priests whom he sees coming out of it, as you may be expecting. No, he sees “seven angels” coming out. Those angels do not come from that sanctuary with blessing, but with judgment. They have “the seven plagues”, of which you have read in verse 11Then I saw another sign in heaven, great and marvelous, seven angels who had seven plagues, [which are] the last, because in them the wrath of God is finished. that those are the last plagues.
The appearance of the angels fills people with respect. They are “clothed in pure bright linen”, which shows that they represent God in His holiness. Wherever they act in judgment, their purity will sharply contrast to the filthiness of objects that they judge. By this contrast the righteousness of the judgment is underlined.
They also have the “golden sashes” girded around their chests. Their chests speaks about their inner man, their heart, their feelings. Angels also have feelings. They are not insensitive machines that are executing what they were ordered to do without any feeling. The feelings of these angels are guided by the glories of God of which the gold speaks. Glories of God are all the attributes of Him that have become visible. Also in the judgment glories of Him become visible, like holiness and righteousness. Everything that does not fulfill those glories, represented in those golden sashes, is judged by them. In this aspect they look like the Lord Jesus (Rev 1:1313and in the middle of the lampstands [I saw] one like a son of man, clothed in a robe reaching to the feet, and girded across His chest with a golden sash.).
V77Then 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.. Then “one of the four living creatures” comes forward. The living creatures are closely related to the throne of God (Rev 4:6-76and before the throne [there was something] like a sea of glass, like crystal; and in the center and around the throne, four living creatures full of eyes in front and behind.7The first creature [was] like a lion, and the second creature like a calf, and the third creature had a face like that of a man, and the fourth creature [was] like a flying eagle.), the place where justice is provided. One of them gives each of the angels a golden bowl. Each bowl is “full of the wrath of God”. The seven bowls together make clear that it is about a full wrath. The bowls are wide, shallow bowls of which the contents can easily and quickly be poured out.
When these bowls are emptied there will be nothing more left on which God must still let His wrath loose like fire. What you see here is therefore a very solemn, but also terrible moment. The seven most terrible plagues from the history of earth are about to break loose. These plagues will be sowing death and destruction. They will make an end to everything that is alive. In that way there comes an end to any form of life that had been lived without God. In God alone there is life. He “lives forever and ever”. Everything that does not draw life from Him will be tortured forever by the pains of death.
V88And the temple was filled with smoke from the glory of God and from His power; and no one was able to enter the temple until the seven plagues of the seven angels were finished.. After the bowls have been distributed “the temple was filled with smoke”. This time it is not the smoke of God’s glory in which He was clothed when He came to dwell with His people in the tabernacle and in the temple on earth (Exo 40:3434Then the cloud covered the tent of meeting, and the glory of the LORD filled the tabernacle., 35; 1Kgs 8:10-1210It happened that when the priests came from the holy place, the cloud filled the house of the LORD,11so that the priests could not stand to minister because of the cloud, for the glory of the LORD filled the house of the LORD.12Then Solomon said,
“The LORD has said that He would dwell in the thick cloud.
; cf. Isa 6:44And the foundations of the thresholds trembled at the voice of him who called out, while the temple was filling with smoke.). This time it is about God’s glory that is exhibited in the judgment and wherein His power becomes visible. The smoke indicates that it is no longer possible to enter into the temple for intercession (cf. Lam 3:4444You have covered Yourself with a cloud
So that no prayer can pass through.
). The time of intercession is over.
There is no more delay, the judgments are inevitable and concluding. Only when the judgments have been fully executed and when everything that is in contrast to God has been removed, the temple is to be entered again.
Now read Revelation 15:1-8 again.
Reflection: What are the characteristics of the company on the sea of glass? What are the characteristics of the seven angels?