Another Great and Marvellous Sign in Heaven.
SUMMARY.--Seven Angels with the Seven Last Plagues. The Sea of Glass. The Song of Moses, and the Song of the Lamb. The Temple Opened. The Temple Filled with the Glory of God.
With this chapter begins a detailed account of the closing judgments upon "the beast and its image and those who have the mark of the beast." Their overthrow, as the great city Babylon, has been seen in 14:8-10 , but in the chapters 15, 16 , the Seven Last Plagues which come as judgments and tend towards the overthrow are given. The fourteenth chapter gives a summary of future events; the fifteenth, sixteenth, seventeenth, eighteenth, and nineteenth chapters present the same events in detail. These chapters are all connected with the fall of spiritual Babylon, and open with these words: "I saw another great sign in heaven, great and marvelous, seven angels having the seven last plagues." The opening of the seventh seal carries the reader to the triumph of Christianity over Roman Paganism. The seven trumpets lead us onward to the overthrow of the western Roman Empire by the Goths, Vandals and Huns, and the ruin of the Eastern Empire by the Saracens and Turks. The last trumpet of the seven reaches to the close of secular history with the trump of the Archangel. The seven vials also give the history of an epoch, and, like each of the series of seven, bring us to the end of that epoch. They present the series of calamities that first weaken and then destroy the power of Papal Rome. Each one of three series of seven leads to the completion of a well-defined purpose. The seven seals have a definite object, and lead us to the accomplishment of that object in the overthrow of Roman Paganism. The seven trumpets have a definite object, and lead us to the fulfillment of their design in the overthrow of the Roman Empire. Equally definite is the object of the seven vials, and equally certain that the last vial will accomplish the utter overthrow of that blasphemous power, which is variously described as a "city of fornication," "the great city Babylon," the scarlet adulteress, and the seven-headed and ten-horned beast.
1, 2. I saw another sign in heaven. Another scene displayed, different from those just past, and startling in its character. Seven angels having the seven last plagues. Called the last plagues because they are the final plagues which are sent upon the beast and its image; they bring the series to a close. They "fill up the wrath of God." The great feature of this vision is the seven angels with the seven last plagues, but they are not seen at first when the vision opens; not until verse 7 is reached. The vision opens with the scene of verse 2 . 2. I saw as it were a sea of glass mingled with fire. In 4:6 "the sea of glass, clear as crystal," was seen about the throne of God. It is the emblem of the calmness and purity of God's rule. Here the sea is mingled with fire, a symbol always denoting judgments. This shows that the time for judgments, coming from the throne of God, has come. And them that had gotten the victory over the beast. These are the redeemed of 14:1 , who are there seen standing with the Lamb on Mount Zion. They now engage in triumphant songs over the approaching overthrow of their great enemy. Having the harps of God. Musical instruments wholly dedicated to his praise.
3, 4. They sing the song of Moses . . . and the song of the Lamb. When Israel was delivered from Egypt they sang the song Moses as they had done on the shores of the Red Sea. Here, the spiritual Israel, redeemed, standing on the crystal sea, sings a song of deliverance, but it is the old song to a new strain; the song of the Lamb now; of the Redeemer. Just and true are thy ways. The salvation of the true worshipers and the judgment seat upon which the wicked beast, demonstrated the truth and justice of God. 4. Who shall not fear thee? The judgments now given to the seven angels showed that God is a consuming fire, as well as a sun and a shield. We are left in no doubt concerning the identity of these singers. They are "them that had gained the victory over the beast and his image, and over his mark and the number of his name." The ground of their rejoicing is also recorded. "All nations shall come and worship before thee; for thy judgments are made manifest." The mighty arm of God is to be revealed in bringing to naught the powers of evil, and especially all the great enemies over whom they had been victorious. The saints who have undergone the persecution of the beast are represented as rejoicing because the day of its judgment has come.
5-7. Behold, the temple of the tabernacle of the testimony in heaven was opened. After that I looked. The apostle looks again and "behold, the temple of the tabernacle of the testimony in heaven is opened." The tabernacle of the testimony was the Holy of Holies. Into it none but the High Priest entered, and he only to make intercession for the forgiveness of sins. It is the type of the Holy of Holies above, the mercy seat in the heavens where our High Priest intercedes for us, and where the smoke of the incense of prayer arises to God. 6. And the seven angels. The angels mentioned in verse 1 . Arrayed with precious stone, pure and bright (Revision). Probably precious stones covered their garments like those of the robe of the high priest. They come out of the temple as priests of destruction. 7. And one of the four living creatures. For notes on the Four Living Creatures see chapter 4. As the servant and agent of the Almighty he hands the seven vials of God's wrath to the angels. The Revision has "bowls" instead of "vials." The thought is that in succession seven plagues are to be poured upon the earth.
8. And the temple was filled with smoke . . . and none was able to enter into the temple until, etc. Does this mean that the heavens are shut against man during this period? Does it mean that no one can enter the true Church until the plagues are poured out? So some have mistakenly maintained. The doors of the kingdom were opened on Pentecost, and will never be closed until the marriage supper of the Lamb. The true meaning is plain. The place of intercession has just been seen. The seven wrath angels came forth. The smoke then fills the temple so that no one can approach the place of intercession. The Greek original says no one, instead of no man. It means that the Divine purpose is fixed; the wrath angels shall pour out their vials, there is no place longer given for intercession to prevent the just judgments of God. The time of intercession has passed by, and the time for judgment has come. "No one can enter the temple" to the tabernacle of testimony, the place of intercession, to avert these judgments "till the seven plagues of the seven angels were fulfilled."