THE REVELATION OF CHRIST
Lesson Number 28
THE HEAVENLY SCENE
Then I saw another sign in heaven, great and marvelous: seven angels having the seven last plagues, for in them the wrath of God is complete. And I saw something like a sea of glass mingled with fire, and those who have the victory over the beast, over his image and over his mark and over the number of his name, standing on the sea of glass, having harps of God. They sing the song of Moses, the servant of God, and the song of the Lamb, saying: "Great and marvelous are Your works, Lord God Almighty! Just and true are Your ways, O King of the saints! Who shall not fear You, O Lord, and glorify Your name? For You alone are holy. For all nations shall come and worship before You, For Your judgments have been manifested." After these things I looked, and behold, the temple of the tabernacle of the testimony in heaven was opened. And out of the temple came the seven angels having the seven plagues, clothed in pure bright linen, and having their chests girded with golden bands. Then 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. The temple was filled with smoke from the glory of God and from His power, and no one was able to enter the temple till the seven plagues of the seven angels were completed. (Rev 15:1-8, NKJV)
Throughout the book of Revelation a positive note is apparent. The Lord Jesus is unveiling Divinely appointed certainties to His people. This is necessary for our faith to flourish. Faith, by its very nature, cannot stand on a shifting or uncertain foundation. A lack of assurance is always evidence of a lack of faith and the presence of unbelief. Spiritual life is always advanced by faith, and unregenerate life is always advanced by unbelief. There are no exceptions to these extremities of life.
When the vision of the ages is considered with certainties in mind, a edifying freshness is imparted to the book. The hearts of the faithful are warmed by such considerations, and those who are spiritually lethargic become more acutely aware of their jeopardy. Think for a moment of these things-all certainties.
 Jesus is surely exalted, and will surely come (Chapter 1).
 The churches are certainly being evaluated by Jesus, and will be appropriately rewarded (Chapters 2-3).
 The heavens are certainly ruling, dominated by tranquility and praise (Chapter 4).
 Jesus alone possesses the power to unfold the book of Divine destiny, and is in strict control of the destiny He unfolds (Chapters 4-10).
 The truth of God will be repudiated where once it was embraced, yet it will prevail (Chapter 11).
 The devil could not thwart the entrance of Jesus into the world, or the work He came to do (Chapter 12:1-11).
 The devil is fierce, and has directed all of his diabolical powers against the church (Chapter 12:12-13:18).
 All Israel shall be saved (Chapter 14:1-7).
 Satan's simulation of the church shall ultimately fail, being cast down by the Almighty (14:8-20).
There is no possibility of these appointments failing! Those who, by personal faith, align themselves with the Lamb will triumph. Those who choose to fit into this world will be condemned. The Lord Jesus Christ cannot lose, and Satan cannot win. The truth of the Gospel will not be reduced to obsolescence, and the fabrications of the devil will not ultimately succeed.
Although I have made this point repeatedly, I must do so again. A failure to take hold of this truth will result in the thwarting influence of both fear and delusion. The Living God reigns in the affairs of men. He has not abdicated the throne, nor has He left the reign of the Kingdom in the hands of wicked men. This reality is affirmed over and over in Scripture. The repetition of the declaration confirms men are slow to apprehend it. This condition exists because circumstance appears to contradict it.
The very term "Most High God" declares His unquestionable Sovereignty. This is affirmed in every age, or dispensation (Gen 14:18; Psa 78:56; Dan 3:26; Mark 5:7; Acts 16:17; Heb 7:11). Our God is "the Highest" in every conceivable, and inconceivable, sense of the word (Psa 18;13; Lk 1:32; Lk 6:35). He can "command deliverances" (Psa 44:4), and is "a great King over all the earth" (Psa 47:2). From old time until this very hour, He is "working salvation in the midst of the earth" (Psa 74:12). He alone is the "Judge," putting down one and setting up another (Psa 75:6). All men are to come to the knowledge that He "alone is the LORD . . . the Most High over all the earth" (Psa 83:18).
It is ever true, "Whatever the LORD pleases He does, In heaven and in earth, In the seas and in all deep places" (Psa 135:6). Those who resist and oppose Him will be brought down in ignominy and shame. This includes Satan and his angels, the despotic powers he has raised against the people of God, and all who have embraced his delusion. Conversely, those who receive the Son and live by faith are "more than conquerors." They will be upheld during all trial, and their faith will be richly rewarded in the world to come.
The Scene Shifts
Now the scene shifts. We have seen the unleashing of the unmixed wrath of God. An absolute overthrow of all who sided with the Lord's adversaries has been witnessed. We will again scrutinize the "last time." Two realities will again be confirmed. First, Divine wrath is reserved for the enemies of God. Second, the faithful will not be hurt by that wrath. There is a body of people that have been delivered from the wrath to come! Their faith is their assurance of that great deliverance. God be praised for that reality!
"Then I saw another sign in heaven, great and marvelous . . . " The last time John recorded seeing "a sign" in heaven was at the beginning of the twelfth chapter. "Now a great sign appeared in heaven: a woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet, and on her head a garland of twelve stars" (Rev 121:1, NKJV). There, the beginning of a fierce war between Satan and the saints was initiated. This was launched by the devil because he had no more access to the Son, and therefore turned his attention to those joined to the Son by faith.
The sign is said to be "great and marvelous." The vision is significant. It depicts the execution of Divine purpose, and is anything but incidental. This is not history foretold before it happens, but a revelation of heavenly objective. God is not a heavenly commentator on the affairs of men, but the Governor among the nations. What John sees is "great" because it cannot be averted. It is "marvelous" because it enraptures the heart of those who perceive it. This is not something novel or entertaining. It is not a matter for speculation, but for spiritual contemplation. This is a declaration of the work of the Lord.
It is interesting that in both cases, the vision begins with a depiction of the triumphant and glorified saints. In the twelfth chapter, they are seen as "a woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet, and on her head a garland of twelve stars." In the text before us, they are seen as those "who have the victory over the beast, over his image and over his mark and over the number of his name" (15:2). In both cases, the saints are opposed by Satan, and in both Satan is utterly frustrated. In the first, the Messiah was brought forth and returned triumphantly to glory, in spite of Satan's efforts to stop it from happening. In the second, the saints follow the same course, passing through the world and arriving safe in the presence of the Lord, Satan's subtle opposition notwithstanding.
Why Start With the Saints?
Why, when dealing with Satan's opposition to, and frustration by, the Living God, are we confronted with the saints? Because this world is the appointed amphitheater in which the saints are being readied for their reign with Jesus. Satan is the "prince of this world" (John 12:31), but the world does not belong to him. He is the "god of this world" (2 Cor 4:4), but is not sovereign over it. "All that is in the world" (1 John 2:16) is employed by the devil to subvert the saints, yet the "the earth is the Lord's and the fulness thereof" (Psa 24:1). Satan walks to and fro in this world, "seeking whom he may devour" (1 Pet 5:8), but the purpose for the world did not originate with him!
The Saints Are the Reason
The saints are the reason for the world, and the world is the appointed "field" in which their maturity is being realized! Bringing them into the picture confirms their appointed destiny will be realized, their adversary notwithstanding.
We Need to Know
Suffering saints need to be apprized of this again and again. There are many things crying for their attention. They represent the world, and life in it, as the end of all things. To obtain comfort and recognition here is set forth as the greatest of all objectives. But it is not!
There is another world, and another time, for which faith prepares us. There is a sea that is not agitated like those of the world, but is calm as an ocean of glass. Those who safely arrive at this haven of rest shall have passed through tempestuous waters. They will have successfully endured the assaults of the wicked one. The fabrications foisted upon the world by the devil will all have been in vain. Their progress was not impeded by the most crafty approaches, nor by the most ruthless.
So, we begin with the saints, for they are the "apple" of God's eye (Psa 17:8; Zech 2:8). Christ "loved" them, and "gave Himself" for them (Gal 2:20; Eph 5:25). This Revelation was given to John with the body of Christ in mind. It is not a commentary on the devil, the beast, or the false prophet. Its purpose is not to expound the effectiveness of an antichrist, but the triumph of the Christ! The center of this vision is not a beast, but the Lamb! The "seat of Satan" (Rev 2:13) is not the object of Divine exposition, but the "Throne of the Lamb" (Rev 21:1,3). Those who succumb to the artifices of the beast are not the theme, but those who triumph over the beast!
The "sign" concerns what God is doing, not what the devil is doing! It appears in heaven because "the heavens do rule" (Dan 4:26). We must not lose this perspective! It is a revealed and indispensable one. It will sustain the soul of the saint. All glory to God for such a view!
WRATH THAT IS COMPLETE
" . . . seven angels having the seven last plagues, for in them the wrath of God is complete." To this point, there have been numerous judgments poured out upon the wicked. They have been partial, designed to do at least two things. First, they were executed to alert sensitive hearts to the necessity of repentance. Second, they served as proof that the reprobate could not mend their ways or come to repentance. Still, all such judgments were partial. Thus we read of the destruction of a "third part of the trees," a "third part of the seas," and a "third part of the creatures" in the sea dying (8:7-10). A "third part of the waters," the "sun," the "moon," and "the stars" were also stricken (8:11-12). Even a "third part of men" are said to have been slain (9;15). Earlier, a "fourth part of the earth" was ravished (6:8). A "tenth part" of a corrupt city fell, "seven thousand men" were "slain," and "the remnant" became frightened (11:13).
Partial judgment! Partial judgment! Partial judgment! All such judgment is but introductory to what is coming! As grievous as such judgments may have appeared, they were but fragmentary and mixed with mercy. There is, however, an appointed "day of wrath" that will not be partial. It is "the wrath to come," from which Jesus has "delivered us" (1 Thess 1:10). At that time, every opposing and obstinate person and group of persons - every competing influence - will be dashed to the ground, never to rise again.
Until that day, it is possible for lethargic souls to grow accustomed to the partial judgments of God-the execution of measured wrath. Such wicked men imagine there will always come a time of relief, and that recovery will always be an option for them. But this is all an imagination. At this very moment, the wrath of God is all in place, ready to be poured out upon those who reject His Son, despise His mercy, and make havoc of His people. In these times, it is not fashionable these days to speak of such things, but that is only because of the dominance of sin.
Do not shrink back from viewing this picture! It is both accurate and stimulating to the soul. The day of wrath is so significant that it requires seven angels, so to speak, to manage the ferocity of Divine indignation. It is so extensive, that only "seven last plagues" begin to describe it suitably.
It is no wonder Scripture speaks of "heaping" up wrath (Job 36:16). Paul spoke of those who "treasured up wrath" for themselves "in the day of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgment of God" (Rom 2:5). James, brother of our Lord, wrote of "heaping up treasure for the last days" (James 5:3). All of these statements were driven by an acute awareness of what is coming. Although personal and collective sin may appear to have gone unnoticed, they have not.
Investments in the Future
Every person, and every institution, is making an investment in the future. Either mercy or wrath is being treasured up - accruing unimaginable yields for those who are storing them up. Satan was "destroyed" by means of Christ's death (Heb 2:14)-but that was but a down payment of what is to come. The godless governments of this world were overthrown by Divine judgment-however, that is but a faint reflection of what is to come. Spiritual Babylon will be overthrown, together with all who promoted and served her-but that is only a sample of the coming wrath that will be poured out.
When you are tempted to feel sympathetic toward those who oppose the Lord and seek to corrupt His truth, think of the day of wrath. It will serve to diffuse any temptation to be naive about the seriousness of such things. This is not intended to encourage hateful attitudes toward people, for that is also rebellion against the Lord, Who forbids such responses. The purpose of honing up our sensitivity in this area is in order to avoid our own involvement in Satan's insurrection.
The LAST Plagues
The phraseology is important. These are not merely torments to be concentrated upon the ungodly. They are "seven plagues, which are the last" (NASB)-the final and complete outpouring of Divine indignation.
"LAST" is a term peculiarly associated with Deity. Emphasizing that anything that is "last" is administered by the Lord, Jesus first revealed Himself to John as "the First and the Last" (1:11). By this He meant nothing is started without Him, and nothing is finished without Him. He has the first word, and He has the last word. Satan cannot institute an initiative without the Lord's approval. And, Satan can finish nothing. The Lord alone is the Finisher!
None of Satan's projects will ever be truly completed! In the end, only the will of the Lord will be thoroughly executed! When, therefore, we read of "the seven LAST plagues," we are confronted with the final overthrow of Satan's work. In a display of irresistible power, the kingdom of Satan will be brought down with telling precision. Not a single pillar of his purpose will be left standing. No person who remained captive by him will escape. There will not be a single amalgamation of personalities aligned against the Lamb of God that will remain standing. Their empires will fall, their knees shall bow, and their tongues confess that Christ IS Lord, to the glory of God (Isa 45:23; Rom 14:11; Phil 2:10).
In the end, the promise of Hosea will be fulfilled against not only the grave, but everything inimical to mankind and in rebellion against God. "O Death, I will be your plagues! O Grave, I will be your destruction! Pity is hidden from My eyes" (Hos 13:14). Sinners only imagine they will escape this sevenfold outpouring. This final effusion is so certain, it is mentioned as already in place, only awaiting the finalization of time.
A Word About Free Will
During "the day of salvation," the word is sounded throughout the world: "Whosoever will, let him take the water of life freely." These words are shouted by the Holy Spirit, and those in Christ Jesus join in sounding the invitation (Rev 22:17). Every individual, at some time, is free to accept this invitation. This has been called "free will" by some, even though the Holy Spirit never uses the term in that manner. Should a person choose to continue spurning this invitation, there will come a time in this world when they will not be able to believe (John 12:39). Their hardened hearts and seared consciences will finally be rendered impervious to the heavenly solicitation.
Our text, however, declares a time when the will of unregenerate men has no place whatsoever. They will be overthrown whether they want to be or not. They will be thrust out from the presence of the Lord, whether they want to be or not. Their wills, in the day of God's wrath, will be utterly impotent. If they want rocks and mountains to fall on them, their desire will not be granted. If they desire to be hidden from the face of the Lamb, their request will not be honored.
If men are going to employ their wills in obtaining the salvation of the Lord, they had better do it now. Their will is fragile, and can be taken from them, like Nebuchadnezzar's was from him (Dan 4:33; 5:21). It may appear that men are free to spurn the invitation of God and oppose His Sovereign will. But it only appears to be so. There is an appointed day in which all such freedom will be summarily withdraw. Wayward souls and lethargic believers must be reminded of these sobering realities.
The Wrath of God Is Finished
The very expression startles the soul - "for in them is filled up the wrath of God." This speaks of the full and unreserved expression of Divine wrath. It is as though God divested Himself of that trait, depositing it in the place to be occupied by the damned-a frightening thought.
Other versions read this way. "For in them the wrath of God is complete" (NKJV, "because in them the wrath of God is finished" (NASB), "for with them the wrath of God is ended" (RSV), and "last, because with them God's wrath is completed" (NIV). The will of God does not have an end, but His wrath does! The love of God will never conclude, but His wrath will!
The day will finally dawn when there will be no further need for plagues. Chastisement will be a thing of the past, and the wrath of God will no longer be an incentive to flee to Christ. The very thought of this is arresting. The seven last plagues do not suggest Satan and all of his hosts will cease to be tormented. It does mean such torment will never again be initiated, or have a beginning
.VICTORY, TRANQUILITY, AND JOY
"And I saw something like a sea of glass mingled with fire, and those who have the victory over the beast, over his image and over his mark and over the number of his name, standing on the sea of glass, having harps of God." Before the wrath of God is poured out, we are again given to glimpse the triumphant ones. Although their foe was fierce and cunning, yet they gained the victory over all of his machinations. Even though they lived with the handicap of an earthen vessel, yet they were "more than conquerors" through Christ Who loved them (Rom 8:37). They gained the victory in a savage war zone and with, what appeared to be, insurmountable handicaps.
Here is a vision every struggling believer needs to see! Their faith is able to peer into the future. They can behold the outcome of the good fight of faith, and the vision will sustain them in times of difficulty. While it is imperative that we be aware of our adversary, and expert in the use of spiritual weaponry, there comes a time when we must lift up our eyes. By faith we need to consider what awaits us on the other side.
Like A Sea of Glass
"And I saw something like a sea of glass . . . " John is given to see a placid sea - a vast body of celestial water characterized by calmness and serenity. There is never trouble and turmoil in heaven-only upon the earth. Furthermore, there comes a time when our eyes must behold the state of things in the heavenly places, where we have been raised in Christ Jesus (Eph 2:6).
There is far too much said these days about what is happening on the earth, and too little about what is happening in heaven. All too frequently, more is said about the affects of situations in the earth. Saints need to know how the heavenly realms have been influenced by what occurs in the world.
The "sea" we here behold is nothing less than the habitation of God's throne. As it is written, "Before the throne there was a sea of glass, like crystal" (Rev 4:6). The closer you get to the Throne, the less agitation can be found! This glassy sea speaks of absolute calmness and order. It declares the absence of agitation and turmoil. Shaking and disruption may appear in the earth, but it is not found in heaven!
The wicked, and the realm of the wicked, are the exact opposite of God and His glorious habitation. As it is written., "But the wicked are like the troubled sea, When it cannot rest, Whose waters cast up mire and dirt. 'There is no peace,' Says my God, "for the wicked" (Isa 57:20-21).
No less than twenty-three times "the sea" is mentioned in Revelation. Three of these texts deal with the heaven's environment (15:2), the sounding of praise (5:13), and the resurrection of the dead from the sea (20:13). All of the remaining references are associated with either judgment or agitation of some sort (7:1,2,3; 8:8,9; 10:2,5,6,8; 12:12; 13:1; 14;7; 16:3; 18:17,19,21; 10:8).
The glimpse we are now afforded lifts us from earth's trouble. We are given to rise higher than difficulty can reach-beyond the wake of disturbance.
Mingled with Fire
" . . . mingled with fire . . . " Here is a most vivid picture of Divine wrath in control. It does not break forth unrestrained and ungoverned. The Divine character is held in tact, and the realm of heaven is undisturbed. The wrath of God, depicted by the fire, is always executed in strict conformity with both God's character and purpose. It never flares out of control, or in opposition to His Divine constitution.
This is not a sea of fire, but is only mingled with fire. Hell is described as "the lake of fire" (Rev 19:20; 20:10,14,15). The sea we behold now, however, is one reflecting the environment in which Divine purpose was conceived and will be completed. It has to do with the Throne of the universe, and not the punishment of those rebelling against it. This is a picture of Divine control.
Those Who Have the Victory
" . . . and those who have the victory over the beast, over his image and over his mark and over the number of his name . . . " The wrath of the almighty in all of its fierceness does not touch those who have triumphed in Christ Jesus. Not only have they laid hold on eternal life, they have gained the victory over Satan's fabrication of the church. Mind you, the devil leveled an assault against them that has no equal. He raised up emperors and their kingdoms against them. He sought to drown them in a flood of corrupt and "damnable heresies" (2 Pet 2:1).
Judging by appearance and the historical prattling of men, it looks as though the adversary's assault was effective. We look upon the earth, and key Kingdom people are counted as "the filth and offscouring of all things" (1 Cor 4:13). Abraham is gone. Isaac and Jacob are gone. The holy prophets are martyred and gone. The Apostles of the Lamb are gone. Timothy, Titus, Luke, Mark. Epaphroditus-all gone! Their names are not in the history books used in public schools. Instead, the very ones who persecuted and slew them are written up as though they were great men. We study in schools of ancient Rome, but not of the saints it slaughtered. Our children are taught of the religious of the world, but not the saints over which they were granted temporal power.
In this book, we are given to see the judgment of the Lord upon these despots. The "vine of the earth," which judged the saints of God to be unworthy of life, will be plucked up from the earth. Those it nourished will be thrown into the winepress of the wrath of God.
And what of the saints of God? How do they fair during this outpouring of Divine wrath and indignation? If you peer closely, you will see them in the peaceful and heavenly realm-untroubled, free, and home at last!
From earth's perspective, the saints are losers. No aspect of the wisdom of this world would consider them conquerors. The "beast" raised up by Satan refused them prominence, and became the apparently dominant force in the world. Agreement with the beast and its agenda became the touchstone of acceptability. But what is heaven's assessment of these rejected people? They are declared to have "gotten the victory over the beast," which ruled the world! Although an "image" was made to the beast, and all men required to worship it, the saints triumphed over that "image." Even though the whole world was willing to receive the "mark of the beast," rendering service to it, those with the Lamb gained the victory over that "mark," refusing to receive the commendation of Christ's foe. Oh, that more of this mind might be realized in our time.
Once more, the "beast" is a depiction of the competitive force of earthly government. The "image" is the same force, or power, of government in a religious shroud. The "mark" is the effective influence of Satan's organized effort upon the individual. The grace of God enables those who receive it to overcome all of these Satanic initiatives.
Standing with harps
" . . . standing on the sea of glass, having harps of God." What a different sight than was beheld when these saints were still upon the earth! How often were they tossed on the billows of circumstance, and jostled with the high waves of trouble! Often their frail barques seemed as though they would break apart as these saints sailed through great difficulties and sore troubles.
The saints are not sinking or drowning in the sea-they are standing upon it. They are in harmony with heaven, and have remained in God's favor. The fall of the wicked and the reaping of the "vine of the earth" has had no effect upon them at all!
The "harps" they hold are not their own. They do not represent an achievement, but rather portray a gift. The phrase "the harps of God" signifies insightful praise. These triumphant souls, like David of old, "disclose" the glorious mysteries of God "upon the harp" (Psa 49:4). Once these were struggling against wicked forces. Now they are singing the song of victory. On earth, they fought the good fight. Now they sing! The smoke of battle has cleared. The kingdoms of this world have been overthrown. False religion has fallen to the ground. The vine of the earth has been plucked up. And what of the saints? They are rejoicing!
A Word of Comfort
Every child of God can be assured of ultimate safety from the wrath of the Almighty. This text carefully shows us triumphant saints BEFORE the pouring out of God's complete wrath.
Satan will tempt us to fear being caught in that wrath-or perhaps even in the oppressions initiated by the devil. But such temptations are to be resisted with zeal. Those who put their trust in Christ will stand at last on glory's tranquil sea. They will enter into eternal safety, and sing insightful praise to their God. The Lord will give them His own harps, and they will hold them confidently and joyfully. Their persons and their praise will be acceptable. Faith excludes us from God's wrath, and protects us from the devices of Satan! Fight to keep it, and ask God to help your unbelief!
THE TRIUMPHANT SONG
The Spirit now elaborates on the song of the redeemed. Their song is as specific as their faith. It is a two-fold song, having both height and depth. "They sing the song of Moses, the servant of God, and the song of the Lamb, saying: 'Great and marvelous are Your works, Lord God Almighty! Just and true are Your ways, O King of the saints! Who shall not fear You, O Lord, and glorify Your name? For You alone are holy. For all nations shall come and worship before You, For Your judgments have been manifested.'"
How differently this multitude sings than the religious multitudes of the earth. They sing of the "works" of the Lord. They proclaim the "ways" of the Lord, and "glorify" his name. They recognize Him as the ONLY holy One. They worship Him, and confess that His judgments have been revealed. They are Christ-centered in the glory because they were Christ-centered in the earth.
The Song of Moses and the Lamb
Ordinarily, Moses and Christ are contrasted in Scripture. As it is written, "For the law was given through Moses, but grace and truth came through Jesus Christ" (John 1:17). Again, the righteousness of which Moses spoke is contrasted with the righteousness that comes from faith in Christ (Rom 10:5-10). When it comes to the administrations over which they presided, there is a vast difference between Moses and "the Lamb." Moses brought Law, to which absolute conformity was required. The Lamb brought grace, which addressed the deficiencies and incapabilities of men. Moses gave something to men. The Lamb offered Himself for men. Moses prescribed offerings. The Lamb was Himself the offering. There is a contrast between Moses and the Lamb.
Those standing triumphantly on the sea of glass do not sing the song of Moses the Lawgiver, but of "Moses, the servant of God." They are singing the song of deliverance, as Israel did on the banks of the Red Sea (Ex 15:1-19). Deliverance is one verse of the song. It was prefigured in Israel's emancipation from Egypt. It is realized in its fulness in "the Lamb." Too, in Christ both Jew and Gentile are joined together as "one new man" (Eph 2:15). They can sing together in this world. They will sing together in the world to come!
But there is another aspect of this song that is important. It speaks of the "works" and the "ways" of God. His "works" were made apparent before the eyes of men through Moses-and that in an unparalleled manner. His "ways" are realized by believers in Christ Jesus. The redeemed will sing of what God has done, and of His righteousness in doing so.
The point here is that the saints are not only grateful for the destruction of the wicked, but with the righteousness of that destruction. Also, they not only glory in their personal deliverance, but in the uprightness of that deliverance.
In this world, these two perspective-the works of God and the ways of God-are not united in men's understanding. Too often, they tend to think of God's character without regard to His working. Conversely, some are prone to consider His works without discerning their righteousness. But in the world to come, the triumphant saints will sing both verses of the song!
King of Saints
This is the only place in Scripture this phrase is used. Elsewhere in this book, the Lamb is called "King of kings" (17:14; 19:16). Other translations say "King the nations" (NASB, RSV) and "King of the ages" (NIV). The phrase "King of nations" is also applied to the Lord in Jeremiah 10:7. Purported textual scholars say that Erasmus inserted the phrase "King of saints" into the text. All of this adieu is unwarranted. Revelation views the saints themselves as "nations" in 21:24. Those with faith in God have always been the sanctifying element in the nations. The phrase "King of saints," therefore, presents the REASON for Christ's kingship. He is not only OVER the saints, He is reigning to "bring them to God" (1 Pet 3:18). To put it another way, He is governing the world with a mind to accomplish this objective. The song of the redeemed is not the mere statement of a theological tenet. It is the affirmation of insightful souls. Satan's aggression was against the saints, but Christ's reign was for them. The two beasts instituted initiatives against the saints, but Christ has initiated a reign in their behalf.
Who Shall Not Fear Thee?
Who shall not fear thee, O Lord . . . " Now that God prepares to pour out His wrath, who will fail to fear Him? In His temporal judgments, many refuse to fear Him, or to repent of the transgressions (Rev 9:20; 16:9,11). When the Lord bares His holy arm, there will not remain a solitary personality who will not fear Him! This language speaks of the subduing of all resistance. It also addresses the voluntary acknowledgment of the righteousness of God by the saints.
The fear of the Lord should be cultured in this world, so it will not be to ones condemnation in the next world. Develop a godly fear, and shrink not from it. Learn to live, move, and speak, with an acute awareness of the presence of the Lord! All of the marvelous promises to those who fear the Lord are made to those who obtain that fear in world. "Oh, how great is Your goodness, Which You have laid up for those who fear You" (Psa 31:19). "You have given a banner to those who fear You, That it may be displayed because of the truth. Selah" (Psa 60:4). "Wisdom and knowledge will be the stability of your times, And the strength of salvation; The fear of the LORD is His treasure" (Isa 33:6).
Fearing the Lord is being acutely aware of His presence. In the day when God prepares to empty His wrath upon the ungodly, there shall not be a solitary soul unaware of Him-not a single one!
Who Shall Not . . . Glorify Thy Name?
"Who shall . . . glorify thy name?" In this case, to glorify God is to exalt His Person, or draw attention to Him. This is done by verbalizing His praise, or failing to declare ones self-i.e., laying the hand upon the mouth (Job 40:4; Psa 39:9).
Though unrecognized in this world, the day is coming when "every eye shall see Him," "every tongue" confess Him, and "every knee" bow to Him (Rev 1:7; Rom 14:11; Phil 2:10). At that time God will be "justified in all of His sayings," and openly overcome all who have contradicted Him (Rom 3:4; Psa 51:4). Whether through praise for salvation or in acknowledgment of wrongness, God will be glorified!
God Alone Is Holy
" . . . for thou only art holy." What a confession! God alone did what was right! The enemies of the Lord will mount no platform then. Blasphemies will not be belching from the mouth of the beast, nor will spiritual Babylon be drawing attention to itself. No cause that is in contention with God's eternal purpose will be declared or defended in that day!
God is holy, pure, and unmixed with any lower attributes. His righteousness is not imputed, but is inherent. At some point the soul must be brought to acknowledge this. If that acknowledgment takes place in this world by faith, it will be a blessed confession in that day!
All Nations Will Come
" . . . for all nations shall come and worship before thee; for thy judgments are made manifest." It is right that this should take place, for our God is the "Governor among the nations" (Psa 22:28; Isa 40:15; Jer 10:7). Although "the nations" appeared to have been in charge of their own destiny, they were in the hands of the Lord. He raised up their leaders, and set them down. It is true, whether perceived or not, "And He changes the times and the seasons; He removes kings and raises up kings; He gives wisdom to the wise And knowledge to those who have understanding" (Dan 2:21).
Our text speaks of the time when this will be publically acknowledged. The judgments of God will be "manifest," or apparent, as He prepares to pour forth His wrath. Not only will individuals confess that He is Lord, nations will do so also. This is affirmed elsewhere in Scripture. "Yes, all kings shall fall down before Him; All nations shall serve Him" (Psa 72:11). "All nations shall call Him blessed" (Psa 72:17). "Now it shall come to pass in the latter days That the mountain of the Lord's house Shall be established on the top of the mountains, And shall be exalted above the hills; And all nations shall flow to it" (Isa 2:2).
There is a preliminary sense in which this text is fulfilled. As nations turn to the Lord, as prophesied in Isaiah 2:2, they come and worship, acknowledging the one true God. That will occur when "the knowledge of the Lord covers the earth as the waters cover the sea" (Isa 11:9; Hab 2:14). It will also occur at the threshold of eternity, when "all nations" will acknowledge the Lord alone is "King over all the earth" (Psa 47:2; Zech 14:9).
The Logic Behind the Situation
It may seem but incidental that "the nations" come and worship before the Lord. But this is not the case. There are reasons why the nations must stand before the Lord and acknowledge His holiness and superiority.
The Lord Formed the Nations
First, the nations are the result of the Lord's doing. They are not the product of human ingenuity. They all owe their origin to the Living God. Not only that, the Lord placed them in certain areas, and determined the times of their rising and falling. This was done in such a manner as would provoke them to seek the Lord. Here is how Paul stated the case. "And He has made from one blood every nation of men to dwell on all the face of the earth, and has determined their preappointed times and the boundaries of their dwellings, so that they should seek the Lord, in the hope that they might grope for Him and find Him, though He is not far from each one of us" (Acts 17:26-27). A common source was established from which "all nations" sprang: "one blood" (Adam). Later, the Spirit affirms the "whole earth was populated" by means of "the three sons of Noah" (Gen 9:19). Under Divine guidance, "the isles of the Gentiles divided in their lands," with unique languages, families, and nations (Gen 10:5).
Any view of "the nations" that does not have God at its center cannot be true. The sociologist may expend energies analyzing the rise and fall of nations. Seemingly plausible explanations for various cultures may be developed, and classifications of men be generated and received. But the nations will not give glory to the sociologists and historians. They will eventually give glory to God for their existence. They will also give an account to Him for how they responded to the advantages He gave them.
The time of history occupied by the nations, as well as their geographical boundaries, were established by the Lord. It is right, therefore, that all nations should eventually acknowledge the Lord-willingly or unwillingly.
Salvation Wrought Before the Nations
God's great salvation extends to the extremities reached by sin. Sin affected "all nations," and so did salvation. The prophets foretold this reality in glorious language. "The LORD has made bare His holy arm In the eyes of all the nations; And all the ends of the earth shall see The salvation of our God" (Isa 52:10). In a preliminary sense, this took place on the day of Pentecost, when devout men "out of every nation under heaven" heard the Gospel of Christ (Acts 2:5). There was a lively sense of the universality of the Gospel. It had relevance and deliverance for every nation-even to those who were "afar off" (Acts 2:39). Anywhere and everywhere the Gospel is preached, its application to "all nations" becomes apparent.
"For as the earth brings forth its bud, As the garden causes the things that are sown in it to spring forth, So the Lord GOD will cause righteousness and praise to spring forth before all the nations" (Isa 61:11). God has salted the earth with His people-individuals who willingly and aggressively praise the Lord. As a witness to the effectiveness of His salvation, He has caused this praise to erupt "before all nations."
"For I know their works and their thoughts. It shall be that I will gather all nations and tongues; and they shall come and see My glory" (Isa 66:18). God has determined that "all nations" will "come" to behold His glory. There will be a universal awakening of unparalleled proportions, for the Lord has declared it. Do not hesitate to believe it.
"At that time Jerusalem shall be called The Throne of the LORD, and all the nations shall be gathered to it, to the name of the LORD, to Jerusalem. No more shall they follow the dictates of their evil hearts" (Jer 3:17). This was introduced at Pentecost. All nations, nevertheless, were not "gathered" to Jerusalem at that time. The Lord has declared, however, that this will happen. We do well to believe it.
And what does all of this have to do with our text. A great deal, indeed! It shows the righteousness of all nations worshiping before the Lord. They owe their origin to Him. They were strategically placed so they would seek after Him. He revealed Himself to them in the propagation of a glorious Gospel. It is right, therefore, that they should acknowledge Him!
This view of the nations is not common in our time. Rather than viewing the peoples of the world according to the Scriptures, the contemporary church has allowed scientists, historians, psychologists, and sociologists to define humanity. This is inexcusable! It is neither right nor innocent. God has simply said too much about the nations of the earth to justify the acceptance of human classifications. Our text speaks of a time when all of this will become clear. For some, it will be to condemnation. For others it will be a time of vindication.
Groups in the Last Day
While we are not saved in groups, Scriptures reveal that the day of judgment will include the testimony of clusters of people. This is an awesome consideration. "The men of Nineveh will rise up in the judgment with this generation and condemn it, because they repented at the preaching of Jonah; and indeed a greater than Jonah is here" (Matt 12:41). The people of Nineveh will give honor to God in that day! How do you suppose the city of Joplin will compare with Nineveh in that day, not to mention Chicago, New York, or Los Angeles-London, Paris, or Mexico City? There are bodies of people that have received great advantages from the Lord. They will have to acknowledge those advantages, either to their condemnation or justification!
"But it will be more tolerable for Tyre and Sidon at the judgment than for you" (Lk 10:14). The day of God's wrath will include a comparison of peoples. We are not to compare ourselves with ourselves, but God will contrast nations, cities, and other people groups. Tyre and Sidon were judged for their sin (Isa 23:1-18; Ezek 26:1-28:26; 29:18; Amos 1:9-10). But those ancient cities did not have the advantages of hearing the Gospel. A comparison will be made of those cities with those subjected to "the glorious Gospel of the blessed God" (1 Tim 1:11).
"And whoever will not receive you nor hear you, when you depart from there, shake off the dust under your feet as a testimony against them. Assuredly, I say to you, it will be more tolerable for Sodom and Gomorrah in the day of judgment than for that city!" (Mark 6:11). Here is a sobering contemplation! Think of Sodom and Gomorrah receiving more Divine lenience in the day of wrath than Joplin, Springfield, Tulsa, Moscow, or Melbourne. All of this is involved in the nations worshiping God and giving glory to Him. No person, no nation, no body of personalities will be excluded from the grand confrontation. All will be aware of His wrath. All will realize the supremacy and righteousness of the Lord. For some, it will be a confirmation of what they acknowledged by grace when they were in the world. For others, it will be the prelude to condemnation. We do well to consider these realities, and prepare for the consummation. The day is scheduled!
THE TEMPLE IS OPENED
As the end looms before us, we are drawn closer to the Throne. Our minds are no longer focused upon the earth and the affairs of men, but upon the determinations and judgments of God. The significant thing about the last time is not what men do, but what the Lord does. As elementary as that may appear, it has eluded many a soul. Not a few interpretations of this book major on the activities of men rather than the working of the Lord. World governments, centralized economies, and restricted commerce are too often declared to be the heart of this book. Such representations ignore the Lord, degrade His Gospel, and give too much honor to men. They also produce fear, and are of no comfort to suffering saints. The perpetrators of these contrived views have not gone unnoticed by our Lord! They have cause men to think less of Christ, and motivated them to fear men and circumstance more than the living God. That, dear reader, is ver serious.
"After these things" is the beginning of a new, but related, consideration. We have seen the triumphant saints, safe on the glassy sea BEFORE the finishing of God's wrath. We have also witnessed the summoning of all nations before the Divine tribunal to behold the manifestation of the judgments of the Lord. Our vision, however, is not allowed to remain on the saints. Nor, indeed, are we permitted to linger in perusal of the nations. Rather, our minds are drawn to the citadel of the heavenly sanctuary.
What we are beholding must be understood from a heavenly point of view! The "fleshly mind" is never more out of order than in the consideration of last things! The scholar and the linguist cannot help us here! The historian and the sociologist stand with their hands upon their mouths as we consider the outpouring of Divine wrath. Even the stately theologian, with his finely spun system of theology, must step aside here. We are dealing with Divine determinations, not human achievements. We are confronting the government of God, not the bureaucracy of men. Here is the outcome of eternal purpose , not the fruition of human intent. The judgment that is going to be poured forth is coming from God! Previously, we have seen Satan's activity. We have been told of the deeds of two malicious beasts. We have even been reminded of the activities of the saints. All of these things have taken place under the government of the exalted Lamb. But now we are going to be faced with the Lord's doing-and it will be "marvelous in our eyes" (Psa 118:23).
The Temple of the Tabernacle
"After these things I looked, and behold, the temple of the tabernacle of the testimony in heaven was opened." The language is borrowed from the ancient tabernacle worship. The term "temple" refers to the holy of holies, which was hidden from view. The phrase "tabernacle of the testimony" is found in Numbers 10:11. "The testimony" refers to the ark of the covenant, in which the law of God was placed. The tabernacle, in that case, was for the housing of "the ark of the testimony" (Ex 25:22). The ark itself remained closed.
The imagery is describing the act of revelation. The Lord is going to unveil the destiny of the wicked. In particular, the judgment that has already been determined and will surely be executed. Satan had a plan, and sought to execute it against the people of God (12;15). The first beast had a plan, and initiated it against the saints (13:7). The second beast also had a purpose, and sought to fulfill it (13:12-17). Now, the purpose of the Lord will be divulged, and it shall be executed in its fulness.
The word "opened" is used numerous times in this book. It is nearly always used to describe Divine activity. I believe the only exception is when the beast "opened his mouth in blasphemy against God, to blaspheme His name, His tabernacle, and those who dwell in heaven" (13:6). Even in that case his mouth was "given" to him-an expression of Divine government (13:5).
Earlier, a door was "opened" in heaven, revealing the activeness of the Lord (4:1). The book of Divine destiny had seven seals, each one being "opened" by the Lord. This depicted the unveiling of God's purpose (6:1,3,5,7,9,12; 8:1). The bottomless pit was "opened" by an angel from heaven (9:2). The "temple of God was opened in heaven," again disclosing heavenly intentions (11:19).
Now the Lord unveils His judgment. He does not tell us how things will turn out, as it were, for the ungodly. Rather, He reveals what He is going to DO to the ungodly. The devil and sin will not merely run their course. They will be brought to an end by an act of judgment. It is not that they merely have been allotted a period of time, after which they become powerless. The conclusion of the wicked will not be found in their ineffectiveness, but in their judgment by God Almighty!
This is a view that must be apprehended by every believer! They must come away from any tendency to think of the end of all things as though God were not in control. When we consider Satan and his initiatives, we must flee to the "temple of the tabernacle of the testimony." We must take hold on a heavenly view of things.
Seven Mighty Angels
"And out of the temple came the seven angels having the seven plagues, clothed in pure bright linen, and having their chests girded with golden bands." As John gazes at the opened "temple," he beholds seven angels proceeding from that sacred area.
John has seen a dragon - but it did not come from the temple! He saw a first beast that rose out of the sea, not from the temple! He saw a second beast come from the earth, not from the temple! That means those foes, though formidable, would not have the final word! They were not invincible, nor would their cause continue to flourish. Only what comes "from the temple" will last, whether blessing or cursing! The beasts cursed the faithful and blessed the wicked. But the faithful did not remain cursed, nor did the wicked remain blessed!
Remember, angels have been sent to minister to the heirs of salvation (Heb 1:13-14). These mighty angels are no exception to that rule. They come from God, and they come for the ultimate benefit of the saints. While men major on the beast and his mark, the Lord opens heaven's temple and shows us holy angels sent forth to execute judgment! Some poor saints are never given this view by those who supposedly minister to them.
God always uses means. His judgments are executed by His servants. In this case, the final and complete judgment of the wicked will be administered by angels. We have no record of a holy angel failing in his mission-and these shall not fail in theirs! The "last plagues" possessed by these angels have been given to them by the Lord of glory. He has determined to punish "with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of His power" all who "know not God and obey not the Gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ" (2 Thess 1:8-9). That appointment will never be reversed. Salvation, in fact, delivers us from the coming wrath (1 Thess 1:10). Now come the angels, possessing the last outpouring of Divine wrath.
They are clothed in "pure bright linen," depicting the righteousness of their mission. Those who speculate about whether God is capable of such fierce wrath or not, do well to consider these angels. Behold what they carry, and the garments they wear. Their's is a holy purpose, as seen in the "golden bands" about their chests. What they are about to do is right, and is to be so considered by every person. Let us cry, "True and righteous are Your judgments" (Rev 16:7). Not a single aspect of these plagues extends beyond the perimeter of God's will or righteousness. They are together right. They are in strict control, and will accomplish a predetermined purpose. Saints have nothing to fear from these plagues. However, those who reject Christ have everything to fear from them, for they are leveled against them..
"Then 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."
There is a harmony in heaven that is glorious to behold! In the earth, it is exceeding rare to find harmony, even among those bearing Christ's name. But it is not so in heaven. Within the proximity of the Throne there is always perfect accord and consonance. See, one of the four living creatures joins in this judgment. We were introduced to these exalted personalities in the fourth chapter (4:6-9). They have played a prominent role throughout the Revelation (5:6-14; 6:1,6; 7:11; 14:3).
There is a note of finality in this text that should awaken every lethargic soul. There are seven angels, representing a thorough execution of the judgment. There are seven gold bowls, depicting the extensive nature of destruction. These bowls are "full of the wrath of God," showing that nothing but wrath will be experienced by those upon whom the plagues are poured. They are "golden bowls," denoting the purity and value of the judgment.
This is not a tentative judgment, but that of "God who lives forever and ever." His wrath has always been reserved for the ungodly, even though He was forbearing with them.
Men will not be used to execute this judgment. Men were employed in the bringing down of Egypt, Babylon, Persia, Greece, and Rome. But holy angels will bring down the ungodly.
No Way To Avert the Judgment
"The temple was filled with smoke from the glory of God and from His power, and no one was able to enter the temple till the seven plagues of the seven angels were completed." This language confirms the impossibility of averting this judgment. Once the hour of judgment arrives, nothing will be able to stop it.
The language comes from the dedication of both the tabernacle and the temple, prefigurements of eternal purpose. Ex 30:34-35; 1 Kgs 8:10-11). When the glory of the Lord filled those holy sanctuaries, no person could enter them! No service was rendered by men! No sacrifice was made, and no intercession was accomplished.
You may recall that there were times when holy men made effective intercession for other men. Moses made intercession for Israel, turning the wrath of God from them (Ex 32:11-14). Samuel prayed for the people, moving God to spare them (1 Sam 12:19-25). Even now, the Lord Jesus is making intercession for the saints of God (Heb 7:25). Believers are urged make intercessions for all men (1 Tim 2:1). Those beholding a brother sin a sin that is not unto death can pray for him, expecting life to be granted because of their prayer (1 John 5:16). Great benefits have surely been realized through intercession.
But when the "day of His wrath is come," no further intercession will be made. The temple will be so filled than no one can enter to plead for another! Having brought the saved safely through the wilderness of life, God will devote Himself to the destruction of the wicked. That destruction will be thorough. It will not be in phases, with periodic interruptions of peace and tranquility. No one "will be able to enter the temple till the seven plagues of the seven angels" are "completed."
Although some do not believe this is possible, God will "shut up His tender mercies" in the day of His wrath (Psa 77:9). Repentance will be "hid" from His eyes (Hos 13:14). He will not change His mind about the wicked in that day, give them space to repent, or dull the edge of His mighty sword. Doubt it not, "It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God" (Heb 10:31). Take hold of this truth!
The awesomeness of this passage is designed to do several things. First, it promotes an aggressive faith. Those who believe God will pour out His wrath upon the wicked will exercise diligence to be excluded from that number. They will fight the good fight of faith, gaining ground in the Spirit. Second, it neutralizes any temptation to think the wrath of man works the righteousness of God (James 1:20). When you are tempted to retaliate against the wicked, think of the wrath that awaits them if they do not repent. It will provide an incentive to "bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you" (Matt 5:44). Third, the consideration of these things makes sin less appealing. Those who fall into sin have forgotten what awaits sinners.
I cannot close this lesson without observing the effect of this passage on tendencies to embrace novel interpretations of Revelation. We are living in a time when earthy explanations of this book are being aggressively promoted. In their wonderment about one world government, a common money system, and the mark of the beast, people are forgetting the wrath of God. Their attention has been turned to what "man can do" to them-even though Jesus forbids such thinking (Matt 10:28). Such fears are not innocent or harmless. They neutralize faith, obscure heaven, and accentuate life in this world.
Take hold of the message of this book, and do not let it go. Jesus has given it to the churches, and it belongs to them. God will uphold His people, even though Satan opposes them. The wicked will be punished, even though they appear to prosper. In the end, the saints will stand in perfect peace and joy while the wicked are destroyed.