Revelation Chapter 15
Revelation chapter 15 is the shortest chapter in the book of Revelation but even in it there are many thoughts to challenge our understanding. This chapter is the prelude to the pouring out of the seven last plagues and it logically follows the messages warning of judgment in Chapter 14.
"And I saw another sign in heaven, great and marvellous, seven angels having the seven last plagues; for in them is filled up the wrath of God." (Rev 15:1)
"Another sign" is referring to another after those mentioned in chapter 12 where the same original word ("semeion" Strong's #4592) here translated as sign is translated as "wonder."
What is the significance of saying seven last plagues? It is interesting that of the ten plagues that fell on Egypt at the time of the Exodus, the seven last plagues of the ten fell only on the Egyptians and did not affect God's people. God's people were protected from the seven last plagues and it seems they will be protected during the seven plagues at the end of the world.
The wrath of God is very misunderstood by most people. An understanding of the wrath of God can be obtained from what Paul wrote about it. This verse talks about the wrath of God being revealed:
"For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who hold the truth in unrighteousness;" (Rom 1:18)
I have colored some words in that verse to correspond with the color-coding system used on a page in a series of pages explaining
about the wrath of God.
Further verses in the chapter describe the sins of people for which we might expect God to react in anger or displeasure but note carefully what He actually does (the same color-coding is used):
"Because that, when they knew God, they glorified him not as God, neither were thankful; but became vain in their imaginations, and their foolish heart was darkened. Professing themselves to be wise, they became fools, And changed the glory of the uncorruptible God into an image made like to corruptible man, and to birds, and fourfooted beasts, and creeping things. Wherefore God also gave them up to uncleanness through the lusts of their own hearts, to dishonour their own bodies between themselves: Who changed the truth of God into a lie, and worshipped and served the creature more than the Creator, who is blessed for ever. Amen. For this cause God gave them up unto vile affections: for even their women did change the natural use into that which is against nature: And likewise also the men, leaving the natural use of the woman, burned in their lust one toward another; men with men working that which is unseemly, and receiving in themselves that recompence of their error which was meet. And even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a reprobate mind, to do those things which are not convenient;" (Rom 1:19-28)
Since, by this point in Revelation, the lost have made up their minds and there is no further hope for them, God leaves them completely to the results of their own choices. This is reflected in this statement:
"He that is unjust, let him be unjust still: and he which is filthy, let him be filthy still: and he that is righteous, let him be righteous still: and he that is holy, let him be holy still." (Rev 22:11)
This is not a ruling that people cannot change (God does not restrict free-will) but rather a recognition that they are settled in their choices and there is no further use in pleading with them to change their ways.
"And I saw as it were a sea of glass mingled with fire: and them that had gotten the victory over the beast, and over his image, and over his mark, and over the number of his name, stand on the sea of glass, having the harps of God." (Rev 15:2)
John here sees a new scene which jumps forward as the plagues are not actually poured out for a few more verses. He sees those that had gotten victory over the beast on the sea of glass in heaven. However, we have already, before this, seen them in heaven early in chapter 14 before the messages were given. Revelation chapter 15 and the book of Revelation as a whole is not all in sequence. For instance, there are seven scenes of the Second Coming spread throughout the book.
The sea of glass is before the throne:
"And before the throne there was a sea of glass like unto crystal: and in the midst of the throne, and round about the throne, were four beasts full of eyes before and behind." (Rev 4:6)
This is another example of fire in the presence of God and bears some resemblance to Ezekiel's vision of the throne of God (Ezekiel 1).
Who is standing on the sea of glass? It says "them that had gotten the victory?" and since the mark of the beast has not always been in effect and is not even yet, it doesn't seem that it includes all the saved. The 144,000 are pictured before the throne in chapter 14 so it must include at least them.
How did they get the victory?
"And they overcame him by the blood of the Lamb, and by the word of their testimony; and they loved not their lives unto the death." (Rev 12:11)
It helps to know that the words "victory" (Rev 15:2) and "overcame" in the verse above are both from the same original word. They got the victory over:
- the beast
- the image of the beast
- the mark of the beast
- the number of his name
Is this all the same victory? It was a victory over the prospect of death:
"And he had power to give life unto the image of the beast, that the image of the beast should both speak, and cause that as many as would not worship the image of the beast should be killed." (Rev 13:15)
They got the victory in that they did not regard their own lives as so important as to try to save it by compromise - "they loved not their lives unto the death."
"Having the harps of God" Harps were used (exclusively) by the 144,000 in chapter 14:
"And I heard a voice from heaven, as the voice of many waters, and as the voice of a great thunder: and I heard the voice of harpers harping with their harps: And they sung as it were a new song before the throne, and before the four beasts, and the elders: and no man could learn that song but the hundred and forty and four thousand, which were redeemed from the earth. These are they which were not defiled with women; for they are virgins. These are they which follow the Lamb whithersoever he goeth. These were redeemed from among men, being the firstfruits unto God and to the Lamb." (Rev 14:2-4)
Here are teh groups mentioned in Revelation chapter 15 in comparison with those mentioned in chapters 14:
Revelation Chapter 14
Revelation Chapter 15
|in heaven (v2)
||in heaven (v2)
|before the throne (v3)
||on the sea of glass (v2, before throne - Rev 4:6)
|harpers harping with their harps (v2)
||having the harps of God (v3)
|without fault (v5)
||gotten the victory over the beast etc (v2)
For a continuation of this study of Revelation chapter 15 go to the Song of Moses (Rev 15 part 2).