Song of Moses and the Lamb

Synopsis - Having “overcome” the Beast, the victorious People of God stand “upon” the Sea of Glass to sing the song of Moses and the LambRevelation 15:1-4


Fiery sea - Photo by Mark Harpur on Unsplash
By Mark Harpur on Unsplash
The fifteenth chapter of Revelation introduces the seven angels poised to pour out the contents of the seven “bowls of wrath.” When they do so, they will unleash the “seven last plagues upon the earth.” Then Chapter 16 describes the effects of these seven “plagues,” which collectively complete the “wrath of God."

Before the angels empty their “bowls,” the book of Revelation presents the reader with a picture of the saints who have “overcome” the “Beast from the sea,” its “number,” and its “image.” After this group “sings the song of Moses,” John sees the “sanctuary of the Tent of Witness in heaven” from which the seven angels are dispatched to deliver their deadly cargoes to the “inhabitants of the earth - (Revelation 15:1-8).

The series of “seven bowls of wrath” concludes at the end of Chapter 16 with a final judgment scene that is punctuated by “flashes of lightning, and loud voices, and claps of thunder, and a great earthquake,” all followed by a storm of unbelievably heavy “hail” - (Revelation 6:12-178:1-511:15-1916:17-21).

This is the third of the sevenfold series of judgments recorded in the book. As in the previous two series, the third one culminates in a final judgment scene:
  1. The Seven Seals (Revelation 6:1-8:1).
  2. The Seven Trumpets (Revelation 8:6-11:19).
  3. The Seven Bowls of Wrath (15:1-16:21).
Old Testament imagery is employed to paint the background portrait for this next vision, including the plagues of Egypt, the exodus of Israel from Egypt, the defeat of Pharaoh in the Red Sea, the “Song of Moses,” and the “Tent of Testimony” carried by Israel in the wilderness. Each of the seven “last plagues” about to be unleashed corresponds to one of the ten plagues of Egypt.

The first paragraph in Chapter 15 is transitional. It introduces the “bowls of wrath” and concludes the present literary section about the “war in heaven” - (Revelation 15:1-4, 12:1-14:20).

Structurally, Chapter 15 is parallel to the seventh seal with its transition to the seven trumpets. The opening of the seventh seal introduced the seven angels that were standing before God, each holding a trumpet and prepared to sound it. Before the seven trumpets began to sound, there was a worship scene to prepare for what was to follow – The seven judgments unleashed by each trumpet blast - (Revelation 8:1-6).

Before the "seven trumpets" sounded, the “prayers of the saints” were offered on the “golden altar” to ascend like incense to God. Next, an angel hurled fire from the altar onto the earth. This, in turn, produced a display of “claps of thunder, loud voices, flashes of lightning, and an earthquake.”

The seven angels with the seven trumpets then began to sound their horns in sequence, a process activated by the “prayers of the saints.” Likewise in Chapter 15 - Before the seven angels are dispatched to unleash the “bowls of wrath,” the “overcoming” saints sing the “song of Moses” in praise and worship to God.

The literary section that began in the twelfth chapter of Revelation consists of seven visions, each marked by the formula, “and I saw,” or, “and behold,” as follows:
  1. The Dragon’s war against the woman and “her seed” - (12:1-17).
  2. The Beast from the sea - (13:1-10).
  3. The Beast from the earth - (13:11-18).
  4. The Lamb and the 144,000 on Mount Zion - (14:1-5).
  5. Three angels announce the impending final judgment - (14:6-13).
  6. The final judgment and the Son of Man’s “harvest” - (14:14-20).
  7. [Transition] - The victory song on the Sea of Glass - (15:2-4).
In Chapter 15, the saints are standing on the “sea of glass,” a transitional section that builds on the judgment of “Babylon” and the “inhabitants of the earth” announced in the preceding section.

Having triumphed over the “Beast,” the men and women redeemed from the earth now praise God for His “just and true ways.” This prepares for the “seven bowls of wrath” that complete His “wrath,” especially in the seventh bowl with its final punishments on Babylon and the “cities of the nations” - (Revelation 14:6-20, 15:3, 16:17-21).

The series of the Seven Trumpets and of the Seven Bowls parallel each other on several levels.  For example, the first four judgments of each series impact the earth, sea, freshwater supplies, and heavenly bodies. The fifth item trumpet/bowl causes darkness and pain. The sixth item in each series unleashes malevolent forces from the Euphrates River, and the seventh items conclude each with a final judgment scene.

Both sevenfold series use language and imagery from the ten plagues of Egypt to describe their respective judgments.

The Seven Last Plagues
  • (Revelation 15:1) – “And I saw another sign in heaven, great and marvelous — seven messengers having seven plagues, the last, because in them was ended the wrath of God.” – (The Emphasized Bible).
And I saw another sign in heaven.” This statement is almost identical to the opening clause of the twelfth chapter - “And a great sign appears in heaven.” It marks the end of the preceding section and the start of a new one - (Revelation 12:1).

The “plagues” unleashed by these seven angels were anticipated by the judgment pronouncements recorded in Chapter 14. The “seven bowls of wrath” present a graphic picture of the execution of these judgments. They culminate in the destruction of the “great city,” Babylon, and the “cities of the earth.” The “seven angels” may be identical with the seven angels that sounded the “seven trumpets,” but this is not certain - (Revelation 14:6-11, 16:1-21).
The seven plagues, the last ones.” This is the literary order in which John received the vision of the “seven last plagues,” not necessarily their chronological order.
The “plagues” are called collectively the “last ones” since they complete the righteous judgments of God on unrepentant humanity. The destruction unleashed in the series of “seven seals” and “seven trumpets” was partial. In comparison, the “seven last plagues” have universal and lasting consequences. They are the “last ones” because in them the judgment of God is consummated.

The Greek verb rendered “finished” or teleō can be used metaphorically for “filling” something to the full. The literary context suggests this is the intended sense here. The wine of God’s wrath has been “prepared unmixed in the cup of His wrath.” All who took the “mark of the Beast” are compelled to drink it.

Furthermore, the seven golden bowls are “filled full of the wrath of God.” The picture is one of the bowls “being filled full” to the very brim, that is, “brimming” to the point of overflowing with His wrath. Thus, the seven bowls are “full of the seven last plagues” – (Revelation 14:10, 15:7, 21:9).

The Sea of Glass
  • (Revelation 15:2-4) – “And I saw as a glassy sea mingled with fire, and them who escape victorious from the beast and from his image and from the number of his name, standing upon the glassy sea, having harps of God; 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, the Almighty! Righteous and true are thy ways, O King of the ages! Who shall in anywise not be put in fear, O Lord, and glorify thy name — because alone full of lovingkindness; because all the nations will have come, and will do homage before thee, because thy righteous deeds were made manifest?” – (The Emphasized Bible).
The vision of the victorious saints “standing” on a “sea of glass” and singing the “song of Moses” stresses the Exodus theme. The glassy sea corresponds to the Red Sea, the Beast to Pharaoh, and the victorious company of saints to the nation of Israel after its deliverance from Egypt, hence, the overcoming saints sing the “song of Moses” AND the “song of the Lamb.”

Standing.” This verb provides a visual and verbal link to the previous vision of the victorious saints “standing” before the Lamb and the Throne, and the image of the priestly company “standing” with the Lamb on “Mount Zion.” Unlike the “inhabitants of the earth,” this group is well able to “stand” on the “day of the wrath of the Lamb and the one who sits on the Throne” – (Revelation 6:17, 7:9-17, 14:1-4).

Fiery sea - By Mark Harpur on Unsplash
Fiery sea - By Mark Harpur on Unsplash

In the Old Testament, the “sea” is the abode of “beasts” and “Leviathan,” and the latter often represented the Pharaoh of Egypt. Thus, the “glassy sea mingled with fire” represents the persecuting agents and activities of Satan, only now subdued by the Lamb - (Psalm 74:12-15Isaiah 51:9-11Ezekiel 32:1-6).

Previously, a “sea of glass like crystal” was seen before the Throne. Now, John sees a “glassy sea mingled with fire.” The “sea” is the place from which the “Beast ascended,” as well as the Abyss.

In the book of Revelation, “fire” most often refers to divine judgments, Thus, on some level, the “sea of glass” is a source of evil and opposition - (Revelation 8:7-8, 9:17-18, 13:114:7).

In the Exodus story, liberated Israel stood “beside” the Red Sea. In Chapter 15, the “saints” of the Lamb stand “upon it.” This portrays their victory over the “Beast,” its allies and plots.

The Greek verb rendered “overcoming” is in the present tense, a participle that signifies ongoing action. This suggests that the “saints” are in the process of “overcoming the Beast.” This is the same group portrayed previously as the 144,000 undefiled malesstanding on Zion” - (Revelation 14:1-4).

In both passages, the victorious saints have “harps” and “sing” a song to the “Lamb.” The group from “Zion” now stands victorious, having traversed to the other “side” of the “sea.” It is the same company as the sealed “servants of God” and the innumerable multitude of men who came out of the “great tribulation to stand” before God and the Lamb - (Revelation 7:1-17).

The use of the Greek verb nikaō or “overcome” provides a verbal link to the churches of Asia that were summoned by Jesus to “overcome,” to the “brethren” who “overcame the Dragon,” and to the Lamb who “overcame” in order to sit on his Father’s Throne  - (Revelation 2:7-113:215:5-6, 12:11).

Because all the nations will come and render homage before you.” This is more than a word of praise or an act of worship. It anticipates the inclusion of the “nations” among the inhabitants of the city of New Jerusalem. The judgments about to be unleashed are not entirely punitive; they have a redemptive aspect.

When the angel announced the “everlasting gospel,” he summoned men to repent and fear God. Despite all that has occurred and the “plagues” about to be inflicted, there is still hope for men and women. The “Lamb” was sacrificed in order to redeem an “innumerable multitude” of men and women from every nation. The massive physical dimensions of New Jerusalem given in Chapter 21 are not without purpose – God intends for New Jerusalem to be inhabited – (Revelation 21:24).

Having “overcome” the “Beast,” the followers of the “Lamb” now stand victorious in worship before him as the “seven angels” prepare to unleash the “wrath of God” on the “inhabitants of the earth,” the “kingdom of the Beast,” and the “Great Whore, Babylon.” As in the earlier series of “seven trumpets,” an act of worship precedes the judgments of God.

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