Prelude to Pouring Out the Seven Bowls of Wrath -- Part 2 (series; Lessons on Revelation)
by John Lowe
3 And they sing the song of Moses the servant of God, and the song of the Lamb, saying, Great and marvelous are thy works, Lord God Almighty; just and true are thy ways, thou King of saints.
The opening words of the song are “Great and marvelous are thy works!” These words also occur in verse 1 . . . John saw a sign which was “great and marvelous” . . . great and wonderful because of the great and wonderful victory which is made available through the accomplishment of that which John beheld.
The psalm is in two parts. The first part tells what the ransomed will sing. They will sing “How great Thou art!” They say, “How great and marvelous are thy works, Lord God Almighty.” They will sing, “How good Thou art!” They say, “Just and true are thy ways thou King of saints.” They will sing, “How glorious Thou art!” They say, “Who shall not fear thee, O Lord, and glorify thy name?” (15:4).
It is a twofold song, the song of Moses and the song of the Lamb. The song of Moses was sung at the Red Sea (Exodus 15). The song would be sung in the afternoon service each Sabbath as a reminder to the Jews of God’s deliverance and sovereignty. The song of the Lamb is sung at the crystal sea. It celebrated the ultimate deliverance of God’s people from the power of Satan.
The song of Moses was a song of triumph over Egypt, the song of the Lamb is a song of triumph over Babylon; the song of Moses told how God brought His people out, the song of the Lamb tells how God brings His people in; the song of Moses was the first song in Scripture, the song of the lamb is the last; the song of Moses commemorated the execution of the foe, the expectation of the saints, and the exultation of the Lord, the song of the Lamb deals with the same three themes; the song of Moses was sung by a redeemed people, the song of the Lamb is sung by a raptured people.
The judgments in these viles are terrible. Words cannot describe the pain, the woe, the anguish, the misery they will bring; but they are “true and righteous.”
Some Bible scholars say that John was describing not two separate songs, but one song celebrating deliverance and victory. They had been delivered from the power of the Antichrist, but they were in heaven because they had been delivered from sin through the death of the Lamb. In this case, the song they sing is referred to as “the song of Moses and the song of the Lamb.” While the words of this song are not the same as the song attributed to Moses in Exodus 15, it has a similar theme—deliverance and justice. Through their song, those who have avoided the wrath of God are worshipping Him because He will make Himself known in the world.
In the last part of verse 3, we read, “Thou King of saints.” The Greek here should read “Thou King of nations.” Jesus is not the King of the saints; we are members of His body—we are the New Testament Church. But He is the King of Israel, King of Ages, King of kings, King of the earth, and King of all nations. Nowhere in the Bible is He referred to as King of saints. We, the saints, will reign with Him here on the millennial earth (1 Corinthians 4:8, 6:2-3 and Revelation 1:6). No matter which title you give Him, it doesn’t change a thing, for it has already been settled between Father and Son that Christ will be the object of universal worship and acknowledgment. There will be no place where He will not be worshipped.
4 Who shall not fear thee, O Lord, and glorify thy name? for thou only art holy: for all nations shall come and worship before thee; for thy judgments are made manifest.
The song contains a millennial scene, anticipating the full blessedness of Christ’s reign on earth when all nations will worship Him. He is the “King of nations” (15:3), not “King of saints” as in the Authorized Version.
This is the second part of the song, and it tells us why the remnant will sing.
• They sing because of the majestic virtue of God. They say, “Thou only art holy.”
• They sing because of the magnificent victory of God. They say, “For all nations shall come and worship before thee.” This does not mean that eventually everyone will be saved. The thought is very much like that recorded in Philippians 2, “at the name of Jesus every knee will bow”; it means that whether in grateful worship or defeated submission, eventually, all nations will give Christ the honor He is due.
• They sing because of the “manifest” vengeance of God. They say, “For thy judgments are made manifest.”
• They sing to glorify God and His ultimate victory over the entire world.
• That is the song! We are given just the barest outline of it. Each line could be expanded into a book. It commemorates in heaven the triumph soon to be enacted on earth, a triumph as complete and guaranteed as heaven itself.
Two things about the vile judgments differ from the seal and the trumpet judgments:
1. The throne in Heaven is the source of the seal and trumpet judgments. But the temple is the source of the viles. The temple takes the place of the throne in the vial judgments, introducing, therefore, an even more violent judgment than ever before witnessed on this earth. These viles, filled with judgment, come from God in His holy and righteous character.
2. These viles contain the wrath of God against the organized systems of evil, which are in power here upon the earth at that time; and the pouring out of these viles of God’s wrath will mean the end of all evil power here upon earth. God’s judgments upon evil men and their systems are being completed in order that the millennium can begin, and there will then be peace on earth and goodwill toward man for the space of one thousand glorious years of peace.
5 And after that I looked, and, behold, the temple of the tabernacle of the testimony in heaven was opened:
“And after that I looked, and, behold”—We are now to be taken into the holy of holies in the heavens and given a description of divine splendor such as is rarely surpassed even in this closing book of the Bible. The “temple of the tabernacle” is the holy of holies where the ark of the testimony was kept. The “tabernacle of the testimony” is a Greek translation for the Hebrew “Tent of Meeting” (see Numbers 17:7; 18:2). The imagery recalls the Exodus in the wilderness when the Ark of the Covenant (the symbol of God’s presence among His people), which contained the Ten Commandments, resided in the tabernacle. The ark speaks of the faithfulness of God in keeping His covenants. The tabernacle was a portable place of worship that the Israelites would carry with them as they journeyed through the wilderness. Later, when they settled in the Promised Land, a permanent structure was built—the temple.
“The temple of the tabernacle of the testimony in heaven was opened.” Under the Law of Moses, the holiest of all was concealed from the eyes of the people. Mystery shrouded that sacred area. But here the mystery of God is “finished” (see 10:7). The way into the holiest is now open to all the redeemed, including the tribulation saints (see 11:19). This is God’s dwelling place, where He is approached and worshipped, and from which He issues His just judgments.
God Himself has commissioned and equipped these seven angels for the terrible job they are to perform. God’s temple of old was a temple of grace . . . a temple of mercy . . . a temple of longsuffering. Here His temple is opened for judgment such as the world has never known. The wickedness of earth’s dwellers deserves judgment in all of its bitterness and fury because they have insulted God as far as it is possible to insult God.
Notice the site that meets the eyes of John.
6 And the seven angels came out of the temple, having the seven plagues, clothed in pure and white linen, and having their breasts girded with golden girdles.
John does not see the Jewish high priest ministering in the holy of holies, but rather “seven angels,” or messengers, emerging from the inner sanctuary of the “temple.” And yet they are clothed with the garments of the priest (as was Christ—see 1:13). These angel-priests are about to vindicate the offended holiness and justice of God. The servants of God are going to rid the earth of all that has caused creation to groan. God is now going to fulfill His covenant with Israel. Through His servants, who come out from the place where the Law of God rests, God will demonstrate that all men and nations who defy His law must suffer for their sins.
A description is given of these messengers of wrath. John says, “And the seven angels came out of the temple, having the seven plagues, clothed in pure and white linen, and having their breasts girded with golden girdles.” They do not act with impatience or in a spirit of independence, but in strict accord with the will of God. They come out from His presence to face a world that has reached the climax of its wickedness. They depict divine righteousness (purity), for they are “clothed in pure and white linen” (The cleanliness of linen often refers to the holiness of the person.), and are wearing golden girdles across their “breasts.” Their garments are free from corruption, immorality, and injustice. They had come out from God’s presence to do God’s bidding. These angels would be in charge of the seven plagues—that is, the bowls with the plagues—just as seven angels had blown the seven trumpets (8:6). What they are about to do is terrible, but it is absolutely right. No stain or spot of sin, no hot passion of their own is mingled with their acts. They are calm and unemotional in what they do.
The angels, being seven in number, suggest the completeness or perfection of that judgment they are sent to execute. Their solemn task is to carry out the severest of God’s judgments upon this earth.