Preliminary Vision in Heaven, Revelation Chapter 15 Verse 1 to 16:1 (NASB)

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    And I saw another SIGN in HEAVEN, GREAT and MARVELOUS,

This is the third sign John writes about: Sign 1 (Israel) is in Revelation 12:1 and Sign 2 (the red dragon) is in Revelation 12:3. This sign follows the harvesting of the earth. It shows the preparations for the pouring of the seven bowls of God's wrath upon the earth. Note that while the action takes place on earth, the sign is given in HEAVEN. This indicates that God is directing this sign.

The expression, GREAT and MARVELOUS, is used in verse 3 and is associated with God's works.

    seven ANGELS who had seven PLAGUES, which are the last,

These seven angels probably are specifically designated with these PLAGUE judgments. They are attendants in the temple of heaven (verse 6). They understand how their pouring out the contents of each of their bowls will afflict the earth. In particular, one of them indicates a judgment against the great harlot (Revelation 17:1). At another time, one of them shows John the BRIDE of the Lamb (after the bowl judgments are completed).

We should be aware that with the sin curse brought upon the earth (Genesis 3:17-24), the cleansing/purging of evil HAD to happen because God is HOLY and RIGHTEOUS.  This evil would not go unpunished.

    because in them the WRATH OF GOD is FINISHED.

When I think about how powerful God must be to have created earth (and ultimately me), what kind of power (verse 8) is embedded in the WRATH OF GOD!

Believers and those who do not take the mark of the beast are NOT on the earth but rather are in heaven on the sea of glass (next verse) getting their harps ready to play the 'song of Moses'.  The unbelievers will experience the PLAGUES contained in the seven bowls (chapter 16).  Many will die. Babylon gets its judgment at this time too (chapters 17-19).
    And I saw, as it were,

John continues on looking (Revelation 4:1). He is aware of what is going on. Seeing, observing, being alert is not optional for a believer. It is required:

    a SEA OF GLASS mixed with FIRE, and

The SEA of GLASS is symbolic of the victorious Christ upon whom we can STAND. The fire denotes pending judgment (Hebrews 12:18-29).

Glass is formed by heating up silicates, and this SEA of GLASS apparently is getting hotter and hotter.  Compare this SEA of GLASS with the one around the throne (Revelation 4:6). They probably are the same but this one reflects the 7 pending bowls of judgment. Hence mixed with FIRE.

    those who had come off VICTORIOUS from the BEAST and from his IMAGE and from the NUMBER of his name,

Each of the seven churches had blessings for their victorious overcomers (Revelation 2:7, 2:11, 2:17, 2:26, 3:5, 3:12, and 3:21). However, these VICTORIOUS ones are not those from the seven churches. Rather they are the ones who persevered through the beast's deception (Revelation 13:10 and 14:12). They did NOT take the NUMBER (Revelation 13:18).

    STANDING on the sea of glass, holding HARPS of God.

The beginning of the seventh trumpet finds humble worship (Revelation 11:16) face down and totally subservient. These saints are STANDING tall as witnesses of God's final judgments. It is for them, in particular, that these judgments are done. They observe with unblinking awe that they made the right choice and that God is this powerful. They probably knew it all along but didn't realize it until this moment.

Look how Daniel sees this moment (Daniel 12:1-3-4).

The HARP appears to be "the God instrument" (Psalm 33:1-2-3 and Revelation 5:8). The devil knows this and apparently tries to reproduce the same sound/music in Babylon (Revelation 18:22). However, I have a feeling the beast/devil has no idea how to play the HARPs like these STANDING here do!

    And they SANG

This is the "Praise and Worship" time before the temple is opened (verse 5) for a very different "passing out the bowls" service.

    1) the song of Moses the bond-servant of God and

It does not matter which of the two Old Testament songs of Moses (Exodus 15 or Deuteronomy 32) this song is patterned after. The theme is of victory after very difficult times.

This part of the song is specifically Jewish in context and meaning (see the "Thy Works" comments below).

    2) the song of the LAMB, saying,

This really is only one song, a merged version of the song of Moses and of the song of the Lamb. And I suspect this is only a snippet of the whole song. The result of this song is given in Daniel 7:13-14 where we see the LAMB's victory and the resulting dominion accrued to Him.

  •     GREAT and MARVELOUS are Thy WORKS, O Lord God, the Almighty;
This is really a continuation of the thanksgiving begun in Revelation 11:17 since we again see the fullest and most complete title for God used there also.

"Thy Works" can be both physical and spiritual. That is, this part more closely aligns with the Song of Moses.  Moses saw GREAT and MARVELOUS WORKS:

"Thy Ways" are spiritual attributes, RIGHTEOUS and TRUE. Both of these attributes belong to Christ, the LAMB (John 1:17, John 14:5-11, Matthew 25:31-46).  The King of the nations had been claimed by the beast (at least he thought so) - Revelation 13:7.

The singers here went through the first half of the Tribulation (similar to crossing the Red Sea) without taking the mark of the beast. They counted on the TRUTH and the RIGHTEOUSNESS of the King of the nations. And they were RIGHT!

This verse is the first part of the song. The second part follows in the next verse.  Check out the parallel song in Jeremiah 10:6-7-10.
    "Who will not FEAR, O LORD, and GLORIFY Thy name?

This is the most likely response of a true believer who realizes the awesomeness of God and how to FEAR this almighty God. The result is a spontaneous GLORIFYING His Name!

In the Old Testament, Jeremiah came to the same conclusion (Jeremiah 10:6-10). So this theme is an eternal theme, and we, present day believers, would do very well to understand this question.

This question parallels the one posed in Revelation 13:4 about the beast.  But remember who is singing this time (verse 2).

    For (1) Thou ALONE are holy;

The main word to emphasis here is "ALONE". This HOLINESS is unique to God and the Lamb.  The four living creatures understood this (Revelation 4:8). At some time, everyone will understand this (Philippians 2:9-11).

According to Watchman Nee, HOLY is a description of God's nature.

    For (2) all the nations will come and WORSHIP before Thee,

The individualism implied above is now expanded to 'nations'. That nations, all of them, will come and WORSHIP before the Lamb has been prophesied from old (Psalm 66:1-4, Psalm 72:8-11, Psalm 86:8-10, Isaiah 66:22-24, and Zechariah 14:16-21).

Looking into the future, even in the new earth and new heaven, this principle exists (Revelation 21:22-24-27).

    For (3) Thy RIGHTEOUS ACTS have been REVEALED."

The RIGHTEOUS ACTS are God's works according to Watchman Nee. This is HOLINESS (nature) revealed in works.

It is implied that the RIGHTEOUS ACTS have been revealed to the singers, both individually and nationally. These RIGHTEOUS ACTS expose the evil of the last days.  That evil penetrates governments should not be a surprise (see comments in Revelation 12:3).

Today, we often hear, "That isn't FAIR!"  But by this time, the coming judgments embodying the FULL/COMPLETE WRATH of God (verse 7) will be absolutely FAIR because of God's HOLINESS and RIGHTEOUS ACTS!

    After these things I looked,

John is doing what he was told to do (Revelation 1:19).

This is the third 'I looked' in the last two chapters. Each time John sees something different.
    1)    The Lamb on Mount Zion (Revelation 14:1)
    2)    The Harvesting of the Earth (Revelation 14:14)
    3)    The TEMPLE of the TABERNACLE OF TESTIMONY is opened for the seven bowl ceremony.

    and the TEMPLE of the TABERNACLE OF TESTIMONY in heaven was opened,

This is symbolically Jesus Christ as the fulfiller of the LAW (TESTIMONY - Exodus 25:16-22). We see the innermost part of the tabernacle containing the ark being made open for this vision. The ark was both the mercy seat and the container of "the LAW". In this verse, there is no mention of the mercy seat (Hebrews 10:1-10). The time for mercy is past; now it is time for "the LAW" through judgment to act.

On earth, the devil tries and succeeds in taking ownership of this part of the temple (Matthew 24:15-28 and Daniel 11:29-35). But this TEMPLE of the TABERNACLE OF TESTIMONY is in heaven where God and the Lamb are in charge.

For continuity, this verse really gets us back into the main thread of Revelation. That is, it is a continuation of the temple opening in Revelation 11:19. Recall that the seven bowls (verse 7) are contained within the seventh trumpet (Revelation 11:15-19). 
    and the seven ANGELS

Seven denotes completion; with the seven bowls these seven angels are going to carry, we will see the completion of God's wrath (verse 1).

This is the third set of seven angels. The first set were the angels to the seven churches (Revelation 2). The second set were the trumpet blowers (Revelation 8:6). This set has a different job to do as we will see.

    who had the seven PLAGUES

While there is not a one to one correspondence to the plagues God sent via Moses upon Egypt, this indicates that PLAGUES are real and probably fall into categories:

  1. Water into blood
  2. Removal of animals (livestock and fish) for food
  3. Removal of grains and vegetables for food
  4. Fire from above
  5. Physical ailments (sores and boils)
  6. Earthquakes
  7. Foul spirits (frogs)
Each category is a study unto itself.
    came out of the temple,

This is really the Holy of Holies, Naos in Greek,  part of the temple. Thus these are angelic priest types. Compare to the earthly high priests (Exodus 28:28-30).

    clothed in linen, clean and bright,

Linen denotes righteousness. It is this righteousness about which the song was sung (verse 3) and will be the garment of the bride, the believers, at the wedding supper (Revelation 19:8).

Compare how Daniel saw this Son of Man in his vision (Daniel 10:5-7).

    and girded around their breasts with golden girdles.

Christ, as High Priest in heaven (Hebrews 5:1-10) is dressed this way (Revelation 1:13).

The girdle indicates service and a golden girdle denotes Godly service. Also the girdle (or sash) had some protection value. Note what it is that these 7 angels will be assigned to do.  They will be protected by God Himself.
    And one of the four living creatures gave to the seven angels seven GOLDEN BOWLS

These are the four living creatures who are introduced in Revelation 4:6,7 and are active in the pronouncement of the seal judgments (Revelation 6:1-8).

Creation has been waiting for the judgments starting by this mixing of the WRATH of GOD with the plagues (Romans 8:19-21).

GOLD denotes diety which ties it directly to the WRATH of GOD. The bowls also were bronze utensils used in temple worship of this God (Exodus 27:1-3-8 and Amos 6:1-6-7).

Contrast these bowls with the ones in Revelation 5:8.

    full of the WRATH OF GOD, who lives forever and ever.

We have no concept of the full WRATH OF GOD because we know Him as a God of LOVE. This WRATH may be 7 different kinds of WRATH or, more likely, the FULL WRATH OF GOD is mixed in with each of the plagues the seven angels are carrying (previous verse).

"forever and ever" is a given for God. This implies that the WRATH of GOD existed before the creation of this earth. What is hard for us humans to grasp is how the TOTAL LOVE and FULL WRATH of GOD has coexisted within God "forever and ever". It is one of the deep mysteries of GOD.
And the temple was filled with smoke
The judgments soon to be emptied upon the earth are a direct result of God's holiness. Smoke is related to this holiness and righteous anger (Isaiah 6:1-4-7; Habakkuk 2:18-20; Lamentations 3:40-54; and Psalm 74:1-11). We do not see the fire itself (maybe too horrible to witness even in a vision).  But the results (smoke) of the judgments are visible.
  • from the GLORY OF GOD and
  • from His POWER,
We see it as: In King Solomon's time, one could request a fair hearing if they had been accused of a crime. The person would run to the temple and grab onto the horns of the altar (1 Kings 1:41-53). Here in Revelation during the last 3 1/2 years of the tribulation, this no longer is an option even in heaven. All are barred from the heavenly TEMPLE until the judgment (bowls) of God are FINISHED (Revelation 16:17).
    And I heard a loud voice from the TEMPLE,

The voice coming from the TEMPLE indicates this is a direct command from God. John probably recognizes this loud voice as the same one as in Revelation 1:10.  That loud voice asked John to start recording the whole revelation we are studying.

    saying to the seven ANGELS,

Angels don't do anything on their own. They ALWAYS are obedient (except for Lucifer and his followers). Recall, however, that these angels served in close proximity to God (Revelation 15:6).

    "Go and pour out the seven BOWLS of the WRATH OF GOD into the earth."

This command and the subsequent pouring of the bowls fulfills the first part of Zephaniah's prophesy (Zephaniah 3:8-13). It also is the "quickly" part of the third woe (Revelation 11:14).

God is no longer willing to tolerate unrepentant mankind nor the Antichrist (Satan in a human body). Isaiah in Isaiah 42:5-8-9 says that God will not give His glory to another. Yet that is exactly what mankind at this time is doing. LOOK OUT! This is a direct violation of God's commandment (Exodus 20:4-6). A JEALOUS and HOLY GOD will extract vengeance!

A little side note: Where these bowls are to be poured is translated in many different ways. That is, "into, upon, on, over" are just a few of the prepositions used to identify where on earth the wrath will hit. Since the earth has never experienced the FULL WRATH OF GOD before (we got a little taste in Noah's time), these seven BOWLS (plagues) will have a GREAT (this word is used in chapter 16 more than any other chapter in the Bible....watch for all the GREATs) impact especially on those who have the mark of the beast.
"Scripture taken from the NEW AMERICAN STANDARD BIBLE, Copyright The Lockman Foundation, 1960, 1962, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995 Used by permission."

References to the Revelation of Jesus Christ are in bold italics. All other references are in bold only