Having “overcome” the Beast, the saints stand on the Sea of Glass and sing the song of Moses and of the Lamb – Revelation 15:1-4.
The fifteenth chapter introduces seven angels poised to empty the seven “bowls of wrath.” But first, we see the picture of “overcoming” saints standing on the “sea of glass” and “singing the song of Moses and of the Lamb.” This victorious company has overcome the “beast, its image, mark, and number.”
The description of this company is transitional. It introduces the seven “bowls of wrath” and concludes the literary section on the “war in heaven.” Structurally, it parallels the “seventh seal” and its transition to the “seven trumpets” – It introduced the seven angels who were prepared to sound the “seven trumpets” – (Revelation 8:1-6, 15:1-4, 12:1-14:20).
Before the “seven trumpets” were sounded, the “prayers of the saints” were offered on the “golden altar,” where they ascended like “incense” to God. An angel hurled fire from the altar to the earth, causing “claps of thunder, loud voices, flashes of lightning, and an earthquake.” Likewise, in the present passage, before the seven angels are dispatched to unleash the “bowls of wrath,” the “overcoming” saints sing the “song of Moses” in worship to God.
The saints were standing on the “sea of glass.” Having triumphed over the “beast,” they praised God for His “just and true ways,” which prepared for the unleashing of the “seven bowls of wrath” that completed His “wrath” – (Revelation 16:17-21).
The series of “seven trumpets” and “seven bowls of wrath” are parallel on several levels. The first four judgments of each series impact the earth, sea, freshwater supplies, and heavenly bodies. The fifth trumpet/bowl causes darkness and pain. The sixth item in each series unleashes malevolent forces from beyond the Euphrates River, and the seventh concludes each series with a final judgment scene.
SEVEN LAST PLAGUES. Like the “seven trumpets,” the “seven bowls” are described with language from the ten plagues of Egypt (“And I saw…seven angels having the seven last plagues.”
The “seven last plagues” were anticipated by the judicial pronouncements in the preceding chapter. They provide the graphic picture of the execution of those judgments, and they culminate in the destruction of the “great city” – Babylon. And the “seven angels” with the “bowls of wrath” may be identical to the seven angels that sounded the “seven trumpets.”
The seven “plagues” are presented in the literary order received by John, not necessarily in their chronological order. Collectively, they constitute the “last plagues” that complete the righteous judgments of God. The destruction unleashed previously by the “seven seals” and the “seven trumpets” was partial, but the “seven last plagues” have universal and lasting consequences. They are the “last ones” because in them the judgment of God is consummated.
SEA OF GLASS. The image of the saints “standing” on the “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 to the nation of Israel after its deliverance from Egypt:
- (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 your works, Lord God, the Almighty! Righteous and true are your ways, O King of the ages! Who shall in anywise not be put in fear, O Lord, and glorify your name, because alone full of lovingkindness; because all the nations will come and do homage before you, because your righteous deeds were made manifest.”
“Standing.” The verb provides a verbal link to the previous visions of the victorious saints “standing” before the “Lamb” and the throne, and of the image of the priestly company that John saw “standing” with the “Lamb Mount Zion.” Unlike the “inhabitants of the earth,” the saints are 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).
In the Old Testament, the “sea” was the abode of “beasts” and “Leviathan,” and the latter often represented the Egyptian Pharaoh. Thus, the “glassy sea mingled with fire” represents the persecuting activities of Satan, only now subdued by the “Lamb” – (Psalm 74:12-15, Isaiah 51:9-11, Ezekiel 32:1-6).
Previously, the “sea of glass like crystal” was before the throne. Now, it is “mingled with fire.” It is the place from which the “beast ascended,” and it is identical to the “Abyss.” “Fire” represents divine judgments, and therefore, the “sea of glass” is the source of evil and opposition – (Revelation 8:7-8, 9:17-18, 13:1, 14:7).
In Exodus, liberated Israelites stood “beside” the Red Sea. Now, however, the “saints” are standing “upon it,” for they have “overcome” the “beast.” This is the same group portrayed previously as the 144,000 undefiled males “standing on Zion. In both visions, the saints had “harps” and “sang” the song of the “Lamb.” The same group from “Mount Zion” now stands victorious on the “glassy sea,” having traversed to the other “side.”
This is also the same company as the sealed “servants of God” and the “innumerable multitude” of men and women that 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 the 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” and sat on his Father’s Throne – (Revelation 2:7–11, 3:21, 5:5-6, 12:11).
“Because all the nations will come and render homage before you.” This clause 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. The “Lamb” was sacrificed to redeem an “innumerable multitude” of men and women “from every nation.” The massive physical dimensions of “New Jerusalem” are not without purpose, for God intends to populate “New Jerusalem” fully – (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 final “wrath of God” on the “inhabitants of the earth,” the “kingdom of the Beast,” and the “Great Whore, Babylon.”
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