First we are told by John that he sees a sign. Verse 1 says, “….”
This is the 3rd time John has seen a spectacular sign in Revelation. In chapter 12 verse 1 he said, “A great and wondrous sign appeared in heaven: a woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet and w crown of twelve stars on her head.” This we woman we learned symbolized the nation of Israel. Then in verse 3 of chapter 12 he described another sign, “Then another sign appeared in heaven: an enormous red dragon with seven heads and ten horns and seven crowns on his heads.” This dragon is Satan and his end-of-days worldwide government. So we had two signs, one representing Israel, and one representing Satan and his end-times world government.
Now we have a 3rd sign in chapter 15. A sign of 7 angels holding in their hands the final expression of God’s wrath against the earth. A sign that God will save Israel. A sign of the destruction of Satan’s work on earth.
What is a sign? An indicator. A sign was an indication of what is real right now. Jesus’ miracles were signs that indicated to people around Him God was in their midst. A sign however is also an indicator of what’s to come. Visions and dreams given to men by God contained signs that indicated future events. Daniel, Ezekiel, Isaiah, John the Apostle, etc.
Should we look for signs? No.
#2: The Sea (v2a)
Second we see a Sea. Notice the first part of verse 2, “…..”
This may be the same sea we came across in chapter 4 verse 6, “Also before the throne there was what looked like a sea of glass, clear as crystal.” If so, then the sea is now marbled with a fiery storm. I imagine in my head the placid and still surface of this sea, giving it an appearance of glass, but, beneath a swirling and glowing and flashing fiery activity.
What do we make of such a sea? Considering a group of victorious believers stands next to this sea singing the song of Moses, perhaps the sea recalls the Red Sea of Israel’s origins. When God delivered them from slavery in Egypt, they passed through the red sea and on the other side the sang the song of moses (Ex. 15). The picture there was one of God’s deliverance and the victory He gave to His people. Is that now the same picture given us in Revelation 15? These faithful believers – refusing the mark of the beast, fearing not their own death and the wrath of the Beast, exiting this world violently only to gloriously enter the next world? Delivered by God, victorious over their enemies, witnessing the destruction of their enemies by God’s power, and standing by a sea singing praise to God?
Beyond that I wouldn’t speculate as to any symbolic meaning. I would just say its part of the heavenly scene around the throne of God. The fire, absent in chapter 4 we might presume is present here in chapter 15 because it is the climax of God’s fiery judgment on earth. Perhaps the fire in the sea reflects the fire of its Maker’s disposition in Judgment.
#3: The Song (v2b-4)
Thirdly we see the Song. Follow along in verses 2-4, “….” Look carefully here, this song of praise accompanies the judgment of God against evil. It is the genre of worship songs that celebrate God’s destruction of His enemies. Its in the vein of Moses in Exodus 15 when he sung praise to God memorializing His victory over the Egyptian armies at the Red Sea. It’s the song of This is the victory song, the song of overcomers. They are not singing a dirge, they are not singing a love song, they are not singing a lament. They are filling the halls of heaven with the voice of triumph. These are the ones who overcame the Beast by the blood of the Lamb. He killed them but all he did was send them to heaven to be with their Creator who is coming with a vengeance upon the beast who killed them.
Notice the location where this song is sung: next to the sea, and, in heaven.
Notice who sings this song: those who were victorious over the beast.
Notice that God wants them to make music: He gave them harps to play and a song to sing
Notice who the song belongs to: Moses and the Lamb
Notice the content of their song: fear God, glorify God, and worship God. Its the same content that was preached by the angel in 14:7, “….”
This song and this scene are reminiscent of the song sung by Moses back when God delivered them out of Egypt. After taking them through the Red Sea God drowned Pharoah and his armies as they hunted the Israelites, thus saving them. As the Red Sea normalized Moses lifted up a song praising God for judging the enemies of Israel, celebrating their deaths at the hand of God. God protected them, preserved them, and fought for them. And the praised Him for it. Now at the end of the Bible another group is standing next to a sea, praising God for judging their enemies.
We do the same.
#4: The Seven (v5-7)
Next, the passage shows us “the Seven”. Verses 5-7 say, “…”
They came forth from the temple, the immediate presence of God. The tabernacle of the Testimony reminds us of the Holy of Holies in the OT. Israel’s whole existence was centered on the presence of God in the Tabernacle, then later the Temple built by Solomon. It was in the Tabernacle where only the priests were allowed, for they ministered there in the holy things of God. Then in the Tabernacle, there was the Holy of Holies, or, the Most Holy Place, where no priest except the High Priest was allowed. And only he was allowed once per year, on the Day of Atonement. It was where the Ark was. The Ark held a jar of manna, the staff of Aaron that had budded miraculously, and, the 10 commandments on the 2 stone tablets. Above the ark, in the Holy of Holies, the shekinah glory, the radiant immediate presence of God dwelled.
But this Jewish tabernacle and temple were only copies of the true ones in heaven. Hebrews 8:5 explains the Jewish high priests “served at a sanctuary that is a copy and shadow of what is in heaven.” The temple in heaven where God dwells is discussed here now. We come to it now as 7 angels exit the temple.
These angels hold in their hands the 7 bowl judgments. Verse 1 said, “Seven angels with the seven last plagues – last, because with them God’s wrath is complete.” Verse 7 says these bowl judgments were handed to them by one of the 4 living creatures that surround the throne (4:6-8). These bowl judgments are the final series of judgments God is unleashing on the earth. There were the 7 seal judgments, then the 7 trumpet judgments, and now the 7 bowl judgments, which begin in chapter 16. This moment is the preparation for these final plagues.
And we can see they are dressed for the occasion: clean, shining linen with golden sashes around their chests – just like Jesus in the first chapter. This is the holy clothing, the clothing of those engaged in executing God’s justice. It reflects their own righteousness before God, that their garments are not soiled by sin and evil. It also reminds us that righteousness judges wickedness, because here they come with the wrath of God.
#5: The Smoke (v8)
Fifthly and lastly today we notice the Smoke in this passage, verse 8 says, “….”
For the final phase of judgment everyone must exit the building. God is going to be alone as He completes His judgment. Smoke begins to swell the temple and billow out its passageways. Smoke is most often associated with God’s glory. Isaiah in his vision said, “At teh sound of the seraph’s voices the doorposts and the thresholds shook and the temple of heaven was filled with smoke” When giving the 10 commandments at Mount Sinai, Exodus 19:18 said, “Mount Sinai was covered with smoke, because the LORD descended on it in fire.” The rolling and turning smoke indicated the very presence of God. And in the final days of the Tribulation, as the 7 bowl plagues are poured out, God will be alone in the temple, in His glory, satisfying His wrath with each judgment.
He must be alone because only He is the Judge.
What are some take-aways for us?
- Trust God is just.
- Wait for God’s justice
- Turn to God’s salvation: Jesus Christ.