Revelation 15:3

Revelation 15:3
they sing
ᾌδουσιν [Adousin] , present tense, they are singing. the song of Moses
Some take the song of Moses to commemorate the victory which God gave Israel at the crossing of the Red Sea when Pharaoh’s troops were destroyed in the sea (Ex. Ex. 15:1-18). The motivation for the song was the miraculous intervention of God on the singers’ behalf.

Then Moses and the children of Israel sang this song to the Lord, and spoke, saying: “I will sing to the Lord, for He has triumphed gloriously! The horse and its rider He has thrown into the sea! The Lord is my strength and song, and He has become my salvation; He is my God, and I will praise Him; My father’s God, and I will exalt Him.” (Ex. Ex. 15:1-2)

The song recognizes the uniqueness of God. “Who is like You, O Lord, among the gods? Who is like You, glorious in holiness, Fearful in praises, doing wonders?” (Ex. Ex. 15:11) and brings to mind the blasphemous parody of these words as attributed to the Beast (Rev. Rev. 13:4+). The lyrics of the song before us also recognize God’s uniqueness: “For You alone are holy” (Rev. Rev. 15:4+). Both songs indicate that God is to be revered and feared (Ex. Ex. 15:14-16 cf. Rev. Rev. 15:4+). There is another song of Moses which may also apply to the period currently underway. This is the song he wrote to the children of Israel prior to his death. For he knew they would not follow the LORD in his absence. “For I know that after my death you will become utterly corrupt, and turn aside from the way which I have commanded you. And evil will befall you in the latter days, because you will do evil in the sight of the LORD, to provoke Him to anger through the work of your hands” [emphasis added] (Deu. Deu. 31:29 cf. Rev. Rev. 9:20+). Although that song was given to the children of Israel, it contains elements which apply to the global situation at the time of the end and are reflected by the lyrics found in this chapter. Moreover, the song is sung to all who would hear:

Give ear, O heavens, and I will speak; and hear, O earth, the words of my mouth (Due. Deu. 32:1) . . . For I proclaim the name of the LORD: ascribe greatness to our God. He is the Rock. His work is perfect: for all His ways are justice, a God of truth and without injustice; righteous and upright is He (Deu. Deu. 32:3-4) . . . For their vine is of the vine of Sodom and of the fields of Gomorrah; their grapes are grapes of gall, their wine is the poison of serpents (Deu. Deu. 32:32 cf. Rev. Rev. 11:8+; Rev. 14:18+) . . . Vengeance is Mine, and recompense; their foot shall slip in due time; for the day of their calamity is at hand, and the things to come hasten upon them (Deu. Deu. 32:35) . . . Now see that I, even I, am He, and there is no God besides Me (Deu. Deu. 32:39) . . . Rejoice, O Gentiles, with His people; for he will avenge the blood of His servants, and render vengeance to His adversaries; He will provide atonement for His land and His people (Deu. Deu. 32:43).

We call your attention to the final verse of the song which distinguishes between O Gentiles versus His people. Furthermore, it states that He will provide atonement for His land and His people. In the context of the verse, His people can only be the Jewish nation. His land is the Promised Land. Thus, we see that the song of Moses in Deuteronomy Deu. 32:1 is intended to be heard more broadly than merely by the children of Israel. It spans a period of time which culminates with the restoration of the Promised Land to Israel: the Millennial Kingdom.

The Deuteronomy song is not entirely unrelated to the events of the seven last plagues, in that the words “just and true” in Rev. Rev. 15:3+ are part of the central theme of the song (cf. Deu. Deu. 32:3-4). It also predicts the ultimate subjugation of all nations to God (Deu. Deu. 31:1-8; Deu. 32:44-Deu. 33:29), which is the hope of this song too. Specific points of similarity to the Deuteronomy song include Rev. Rev. 15:4+ with Deu. Deu. 32:3; Rev. Rev. 15:3+ with Due. Deu. 32:4; Rev. Rev. 15:4+ with Deu. Deu. 32:4; the fire of God’s anger with Deu. Deu. 32:33; and plagues of hunger, burning heat, pestilence, wild beasts, vermin, the sword with Deu. Deu. 32:23-27 (Ford).1

We see a pattern of application and extension throughout the book of Revelation. Principles which are illustrated by God’s interaction with Israel in the OT are amplified and extended to apply more broadly to the population of the entire globe during the Tribulation.2 Although it seems as if elements from both of Moses’ songs apply to this time of the end, the more immediate context speaks of victory and praise and most likely points to the song of victory upon escaping Egypt (Ex. Ex. 15:1-18) rather than the song of judgment. Deu. 31:30), now preserved as Deuteronomy Deu. 32:1-43, which might well also be sung appropriately by these tribulation martyrs. . . . However, the most appropriate [song] seems to be the actual song at the Red Sea, praising God for His great salvation.”3

Commentator John Phillips compares and contrasts the two songs: “The song of Moses was sung at the Red Sea, the song of the Lamb is sung at the crystal sea; 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 exaltation of the Lord; the song of the Lamb deals with the same three themes.” (Exploring Revelation, rev. ed. [Chicago: Moody, 1987; reprint, Neptune, N.J.: Loizeaux, 1991], 187)4

the servant of God
Although Moses was not allowed to enter the Promised Land, at his death he was recorded to be “the servant of the LORD” (Deu. Deu. 34:5 cf. 1Chr. 1Chr. 6:49; 2Chr. 2Chr. 24:6). Perhaps Moses’ greatest service of God was the part he played in the giving of the Law, the Law of Moses (Ne. Ne. 9:14; Dan. Dan. 9:11; John John 1:17; Heb. Heb. 3:5). The law given through Moses forms the testimony referred to in the tabernacle of the testimony” which follows (Rev. Rev. 15:5+). the song of the Lamb
Since the lyrics recorded next do not match the Song of Moses nor do they explicitly mention the Lamb, it may be that these sing three different choruses: (1) the song of Moses (Ex. Ex. 15:1-18 or Deu. Deu. 32:1-43); (2) the song of the Lamb (Rev. Rev. 5:9-14+); and the song recorded here which speaks of God the Father. The mention of Moses (and subsequently, the tabernacle of the testimony , Rev. Rev. 15:5+) is an intentional allusion to the parallels between the liberation of the children of Israel under King Pharaoh and the release of all believers from the kingdom of the Beast (Rev. Rev. 13:2+).

There is surely no conflict, as some have taught, between the dispensations of Moses and the Lamb. The written law was given by Moses, and grace and truth came through Jesus Christ (John John 1:17); both are integral components of God’s will for man.5

Great and marvelous
Job wrote that God “does great things, and unsearchable, marvelous things without number” (Job Job 5:9), “God thunders marvelously with His voice; He does great things which we cannot comprehend” (Job Job 37:5). One of the marvelous things that God did was his division of the seas in the Exodus from Egypt (Ps. Ps. 78:12-13). Another is His creative work as manifest in marvels of the human body (Ps. Ps. 139:14-15). God told Israel, “Behold, I make a covenant. Before all your people I will do marvels such as have not been done in all the earth, nor in any nation; and all the people among whom you are shall see the work of the Lord” (Ex. Ex. 34:10). These marvel especially at their preservation through death from the midst of horrendous persecution of the saints upon the earth. See #20 - Saints. Almighty
Παντοκράτωρ [Pantokratōr] , see commentary on Revelation 1:8, Revelation 4:8.

just and true are Your ways
These attributes are fundamental to the person of God:

For I proclaim the name of the LORD: ascribe greatness to our God. He is the Rock, His work is perfect; for all His ways are justice, a God of truth and without injustice; righteous and upright is He. (Deu. Deu. 32:3-4)

Mercy and truth have met together; righteousness and peace have kissed. Truth shall spring out of the earth, and righteousness shall look down from heaven. Yes, the LORD will give what is good; and our land will yield its increase. Righteousness will go before Him, and shall make His footsteps our pathway. (Ps. Ps. 85:10-13)

When God passed by Moses and proclaimed His character, He said, “The LORD, the LORD God, merciful and gracious, longsuffering, and abounding in goodness and truth” (Ex. Ex. 34:6). Since all His ways are just and true, it is not possible for God to lie (Num. Num. 23:19; Rom. Rom. 3:4; Heb. Heb. 6:18; Tit. Tit. 1:2). This is why Jesus could claim His self-witness was true: “Jesus answered and said to them, ‘Even if I bear witness of Myself, My witness is true, for I know where I came from and where I am going; but you do not know where I come from and where I am going’ ” (John John 8:14). Even unbelieving Gentiles witness to the truth of God:

Pilate therefore said to Him, “Are You a king then?” Jesus answered, “You say rightly that I am a king. For this cause I was born, and for this cause I have come into the world, that I should bear witness to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth hears My voice.” Pilate said to Him, “What is truth?” And when he had said this, he went out again to the Jews, and said to them, “I find no fault in Him at all.” (John John 18:37-38)

King of the saints!
The NU and MT texts have King of the nations.6 Both are true. “Who would not fear You, O King of the nations? For this is Your rightful due” (Jer. Jer. 10:7). The Lamb is said to be “Lord of lords and King of kings” (Rev. Rev. 17:14+ cf. Rev. Rev. 19:16+). Another textual variant has “King of the ages” (cf. Jer. Jer. 10:10; 1Ti. 1Ti. 1:17).7


1 Robert L. Thomas, Revelation 8-22 (Chicago, IL: Moody Press, 1995), Rev. 15:3.

2 This is one reason that preterist interpreters tend to see everything in the book of Revelation in light of God judging Israel. They fail to see the distinctions between the time of the end and the overthrow of Jerusalem in A.D. 70 and the extension of God’s principles relating to Israel’s rebellion being applied wholesale to a rebellious world.

3 Henry Morris, The Revelation Record (Wheaton, IL: Tyndale House Publishers, 1983), Rev. 15:3.

4 John MacArthur, Revelation 12-22 : The MacArthur New Testament Commentary (Chicago, IL: Moody Press, 2000), Rev. 15:3-4.

5 Morris, The Revelation Record, Rev. 15:3.

6 “The reading of the Textus Receptus (ἁγίων [hagiōn] ), which has only the slenderest support in Greek witnesses (296 2049, neither of which was available when the Textus Receptus was formed), appears to have arisen from confusion of the Latin compendia for sanctorum (sctorum) and saeculorum (sclorum [=αἰώνων [aiōnōn] ]; ‘saint’ is also read by several Latin writers, including Victorinus-Pettau, Tyconius, Apringius, and Cassiodorus.”—Bruce M. Metzger, A Textual Commentary on the Greek New Testament (Stuttgart, Germany: Deutsche Bibelgesellschaft, 1994), Rev. 15:3.

7 P47, א*, and C have King of the ages.