Studies In The Book of Revelation
By Jonathan Mitchell
Chapters 15 through 18 present scenes of the ministry of judgment, and we begin this section with another sign:
1. Next I saw another sign in the atmosphere (or: sky; heaven) – great and wonderful (marvelous): seven agents continuously holding the last seven plagues (smitings, strokes), because within them God’s strong passion (fury; wrath) is (or: was) brought to its goal (completed; finished, ended).
2. And I saw as it were a glassy (crystalline) sea having been mixed with Fire, and the folks (or: those) continually overcoming (being progressively victorious; presently conquering) from out of [the power of] the little wild animal (creature; beast), and from out of [the nature of] its image, and from out of [the identity of] the number of its name, standing (or: having made a stand) upon the glassy (crystalline) sea, continuously holding God’s lyres (harps).
3. And they repeatedly sing the song (or: ode) of Moses, God’s slave, as well as (or: even) the song (or: ode) of the little Lamb, saying, “O Lord [= O Yahweh], The All-Strong (Omnipotent, Almighty) God, Your acts (works) [are] great ones, and wonderful ones (marvelous ones)! The King of the nations (multitudes, ethnic groups; [Sinaiticus & p45 read: King of the ages])! Your ways (roads, paths) [are] just ones (fair and equitable ones in accord with the Way pointed out) and true (or: real) ones!
4. “O Lord [= O Yahweh], who may by no means (or: who may in no way) fear You and glorify (bring good reputation to) Your Name? Because [You] only (alone; without accompaniment) [are] appropriately pious, sanctioned, benign [Vat. 2066 reads: Set-apart (Holy)]. Because the multitudes (nations: ethnic groups) WILL arrive, and they WILL worship in Your presence (in Your sight; before You). Because the results of Your righteousness (effects of Your fairness and equity, just decrees and decisions, actions according to the way pointed out, results of justification, actualization of justice and rightwising of relationships) are manifested (or: were brought to light; were made to appear).”
5. Later, after these things, I saw, and the Temple (Divine habitation; sanctuary) of the Tabernacle (or: tent) of the Witness (testimony; evidence) was opened up within the midst of the atmosphere (or: in heaven),
6. and the seven agents – those continuously holding the seven plagues (smitings) – came out of the Temple, being clothed with bright, clean (unsoiled, pure) linen [other MSS: lithon - stone], and having been bound with a girdle around the breasts [with] golden girdles.
7. Then one out of the four living ones gave (or: gives) to the seven agents seven golden bowls (or: shallow cups) continuously brimming (being full) of the strong passion (rushing emotion; fury; anger) of the God Who is continuously living on into the ages of the ages (or: of God, the One continuously living [and proceeding] into the [most significant] eons of [all of] the eons).
8. And the Temple was made full of smoke from out of God’s glory, and from out of His power (or: ability). And no one had power (or: was able) to enter into the Temple until the seven plagues (blows; smitings) of the seven agents would (or: can) be brought to their goal and completed.
Here is another set of sevens. It could be that these are thus described to indicate that this is another view of what is happening with the seven trumpets (= messages). The idea of 7 is repeated in the phrase "last 7 plagues" – or the completeness of the strokes and smitings that were to fall on that generation, "because within them God’s strong passion (fury; wrath) is (or: was) brought to its goal (completed; finished, ended)." But as we take an overview of this scene, we see echoes of Exodus in the plagues brought against Egypt through the rod of Moses. Recall the purpose of those plagues as given by Paul in Rom. 9:17. For the Scripture is saying to Pharaoh that,
“Into this itself (or: For this very thing) I roused you forth (I awakened and stirred you to come out), SO THAT I may display and demonstrate in you My power and ability, SO THAT My Name would be thoroughly proclaimed (preached and published far and wide) within all the land (or: in the entire earth).” [Ex. 9:16]
The completion of God's strong passion would of necessity be a part of the "PLAN of the ages" (Eph. 3:11, Diaglott). "And this is in harmony with God's MERCIFUL PURPOSE for the government of the world when the times are ripe for it – the purpose which He has cherished in His own mind of restoring the whole creation to find its one Head in Christ; yes, things in heaven and things on earth, to find their one Head in Him" (Eph. 1:9-10, Weymouth).
Do we see a purpose statement in ch. 15, above? I would suggest that vs. 4 points the way,
“O Lord [= O Yahweh], who may by no means (or: who may in no way) fear You and glorify (bring good reputation to) Your Name? Because [You] only (alone; without accompaniment) [are] appropriately pious, sanctioned, benign [Vat. 2066 reads: Set-apart (Holy)]. Because the multitudes (nations: ethnic groups) WILL arrive, and they WILL worship in Your presence (in Your sight; before You). Because the results of Your righteousness (effects of Your fairness and equity, just decrees and decisions, actions according to the way pointed out, results of justification, actualization of justice and rightwising of relationships) are manifested (or: were brought to light; were made to appear).”
In ch. 16:9 we will see the purpose again stated, though unfulfilled at that time, "... and they did not (or: do not) CHANGE THEIR MINDS (their way of thinking) TO GIVE HIM GLORY." The same idea is repeated in 16:11. God's judgments are always brought to cause humanity to repent, have a paradigm shift and then return to Him. But for this to happen the kingdoms of this world must first be broken; Babylon must fall. Still, "when Your judgments are in the land/earth, the inhabitants of [that] world WILL LEARN righteousness" (Isa. 26:9).
In looking at the present scene beginning in 15:1, we need to discern the concept, idea and message which "seven agents holding the last seven plagues" presents to us.
If we take the preterist view of this vision, we will have to come to the conclusion that this vision is in the context of the fulfillment of judgment prophesied against Jerusalem, and that these agents poured out their shallow cups during the period of AD 68-70. The fall of Babylon (a figure of corrupt Jerusalem, "which then was"), which we see in the latter part of this current vision, was a figure of the fall of Jerusalem. God made a conditional promise to Israel at Mara, under the old covenant, in Ex. 15:25-26,
"There He made for them a statute and a judgment, and there He probed them, for He said: IF you shall hearken, yea hearken, to the voice of Yahweh your Elohim and do what is upright in His eyes, and give ear to His instructions and observe all His statutes, then all the illnesses which I placed on the Egyptians I shall not place on you, for I am Yahweh, your Healer."
But again in the 1st century we see that they did not keep the "IF," and these bowls echo the "illnesses" which He placed on the Egyptians. Moses prophesied of Israel's demise in Deut. 4:26-28, "I call heaven and earth to witness against you this day, that you folks shall soon utterly perish from off the land whereunto you go over Jordan to possess it.... and Yahweh shall scatter you among the nations..."
But even here Moses gives a promise of restoration in vs. 30-31, "When you are in tribulation, and all these things are come upon you, even in the latter days, if you turn to Yahweh your God and shall be obedient unto His voice, (for Yahweh your God IS A MERCIFUL GOD), He will not forsake you..."
But let us turn to the timeless message of this chapter. In vs. 2-4 we have a parenthetical scene which takes us back to ch. 4:6, the glassy sea, and lets us know that the setting of this vision is once again "before the throne." Yet now the sea is not only glassy (calm, at peace), but it is "mixed with FIRE" – a symbol of God, and the purification and character which has been mixed into the lives of those here represented. These are overcomers; they are "continually overcoming" out of the situations involving the little beast (religion, society, culture and the carnal/estranged nature), its image (the image of the earthy, 1 Cor. 15:49) and its identity. They have made a stand ("and having done all, to stand," Eph. 6:13) upon this peaceful sea (remember it was faith that allowed Peter to stand and walk upon the sea) – allowing God's peace to arbitrate in their hearts (Col. 3:15). Now they continuously hold God's lyres, which are a figure of praise and rejoicing – they are the rebuilt Tabernacle of David (which was the type in which musical instruments were introduced as a part of praise before the presence of Yahweh) which had fallen down into ruin (Acts. 15:16).
In vs. 3 & 4 we see this praise figured by an ode, a song. Note that this is one song – one ode – which is referred to as the song of Moses AND the Little Lamb. The song is the same for both of them, for Moses prefigures Christ. This is a symbol of the Law which was fulfilled through Christ, the Lamb which is God and Who takes away the sin of the world. It is a message of deliverance and salvation. This song affirms what God does (His acts are great, wonderful and right). His ways, the paths He ordains for humanity, are just paths and true roads (ways of reality). Who [implying no one] can but fear Him and eventually bring glory to His Name?
Vs. 4 gives us three "becauses." They are all because of Him. Nothing is mentioned in this ode of the works of a human, or even of His set-apart folks. It is because HE is the only One Who is appropriately pious, benign and sanctioned by God's laws. It is because of Him that the multitudes (the nations; all ethnic groups) WILL arrive, and they WILL worship in His presence. It is because of that through the work of Christ His righteous acts ARE MANIFESTED, brought to light and made to appear. Remember that this is also the song of Moses – there is a continuity portrayed here. They are acts of deliverance and justification – but they are also acts that are a prelude to a walk in the wilderness.
In vs. 5-6 we return to the main vision, and the setting is the Temple. Vs. 5 refers to it as the Temple (or: sanctuary) of the Tabernacle of the Witness, again tying it to the types with Moses, David and other figures of the O.T. Yet here it is now OPENED, and is in the heaven (this ties in with ch. 11:19). That the agents come out of the Temple would signify that they are PRIESTS. This is further seen in their garments. Priests were "bound with a golden girdle around the breasts." We also see the figure of the overcomer, the "bright, clean linen" (ch. 3:4). Keep in mind, also, that the Temple is now the Body of Christ. Thus, these agents are a part of His Body.
Vs. 7 reaffirms the "throne room" setting, for one of the four living ones is on the scene. He gives the golden cups of God's strong passion to the 7 agents. Another picture of the living ones is Ezk. ch. 1, and there, in vs. 28, above them is the "appearance of the likeness of the GLORY of Yahweh." Form this I would infer that the strong passion which is to be poured out is associated with, or has its origin in, the glory of God – and it will bring Him glory and praise.
In vs. 8 we see that the Temple is "made full of smoke from out of God's glory, and from out of His power." When the six-winged burning one of Isa. 6:2-4 said that "All the earth (or: Land) is filled with His glory,... the house was filled with smoke." In Ex. 40:34-35, when Moses had finished the work of the Tabernacle, "the cloud covered the tent of appointment, then the glory of Yahweh filled the tabernacle, so that Moses was unable to enter into the tent of appointment, for the cloud tabernacled on it, and the glory of Yahweh filled the tabernacle."
We see a similar situation with the dedication of the Temple in 1 Kings 8:10-12. Here, "the cloud filled the house of Yahweh so that the PRIESTS could not stand to minister because of the cloud: for the glory of Yahweh had filled the house of Yahweh. Then spoke Solomon, 'Yahweh said that He would dwell in thick darkness.'" Here in the Unveiling, in 15:8, where it says that "no one was able (or: had power) to enter into the Temple," it should be understood that this would refer to those serving as priests, as in 1 Kings 8, above. It should also be clear that this scene in the Unveiling involves the Temple, His body, being filled with the glory of God. We must be filled with His glory in order to administer His decisions upon humanity.
Thus we see that the outpouring of His strong passion is also a part of the manifestation of His glory. This was the case when Yahweh delivered Israel out of Egypt – it brought Yahweh a name among the nations. Joel 2:2 speaks of this as "A day of darkness and of gloominess, a day of clouds and thick darkness, [yet] as the morning spread upon the mountains – a great and strong people." Now Peter, in Acts 2:16, referred to the outpouring of the Holy Spirit on the Day of Pentecost as being "that which was spoken by the prophet Joel." It began with a manifestation of His glory, but later there was also His judgment, in AD 70. All these things also happened in the 1st century with a view to our admonition, as well as to those upon whom "the ends of the ages" had come down to meet.