Revelation Chapter 15


Mike: November 19, 2009

Scripture text for this study: Revelation 15

The following information should be of help to the reader while reading this post:

[1] Notes and material from Mike are in original black font.
[2] Notes from Steve Gregg are from the following source: “Revelation: Four Views (A Parallel Commentary).”
[3] Notes from Sam Storms are from the following source: “A Study of Revelation 14-15, Part III.”
[4] Notes from David Guzik (a Futurist) are from: “David Guzik’s Commentaries on the Bible.”
[5] Notes from Adam are in red font.


Verse 1:   “Then I saw another sign in heaven, great and amazing, seven angels with seven plagues, which are the last, for with them the wrath of God is finished.

According to the Futurist view, the sign John saw signifies God’s final judgments on earth dwellers during a future 7-year Tribulation. The Preterist view generally sees these plagues as those which fell upon apostate Israel during the Roman-Jewish War as it led up to Jerusalem’s destruction in 70 AD. Steve Gregg notes that we have seen this type of prelude before, saying, “This chapter gives a prelude to the judgment of the seven bowls [which take place in chapter 16]. There was a heavenly scene of victory in chapters 4-5, just prior to the breaking of the seven seals, and a similar prelude in 8:1-6 anticipated the seven trumpets” (p. 344).

Sam Storms comments, “This ‘sign’ John now sees in heaven is the third such portent, the first two being that of the pregnant woman in 12:1ff. and the great red dragon in 12:3ff.” Sam Storms views the bowl judgments which are to come, not last as regards the “sequence of history,” but “last in terms of John’s narrative.” He notes that some understand the reference to these plagues as “the last” to mean that the time for repentance is now past. In any case, the text ties the meaning of this phrase to the fact that with these seven plagues “the wrath of God is finished.” [Some translations render this phrase, “the wrath of God is complete.”]

Gregg (p. 344) quotes from David Chilton, who writes,

There is no reason to assume that these must be the “last” plagues in an ultimate, absolute, and universal sense; rather, in terms of the specifically limited purpose and scope of the Book of Revelation, they comprise the final outpouring of God’s wrath, His great cosmic Judgment against Jerusalem, abolishing the Old Covenant world-order once and for all.

Verse 2:And I saw what appeared to be a sea of glass mingled with fire—and  also those who conquered the beast and its image and the number of its name, standing beside the sea of glass with harps of God in their hands.”

Q: Who is seen standing beside the sea of glass mingled with fire?
A: Those who had conquered the beast, its image, and the number of its name (
See chapter 13).

Sam Storms proposes that since this chapter references the exodus of the Israelites from Egypt (as we will see), such an allusion can also be seen in this verse. He offers the following thoughts:

Given the ‘new exodus’ motif in this chapter, this ‘sea’ probably alludes to the Red Sea through which the Israelites were delivered. Others have seen it as identical with the ‘sea of glass like crystal’ (4:6) which stands before the throne in heaven.

Steve Gregg is one who opts for the latter, saying,

The sea of glass here is referring to the throne room of God based on what we read in Rev 4:6. There is the added detail that the sea of glass is mingled with fire, suggesting the judgment about to proceed from Gods throne. Evidently they are the same group as the 144,000 in the preceding chapter, except they are no longer on ‘Mount Zion’ but in heaven, with harps given them by God (v. 2), corresponding to the harps from heaven that played the ‘new song’ that only the 144,000 were able to learn (14:2-3).

Verses 3-4:And they sing the song of Moses, the servant of God, and the song of the Lamb, saying, ‘Great and amazing are your deeds, O Lord God the Almighty! Just and true are your ways, O King of the nations! Who will not fear, O Lord, and glorify your name? For you alone are holy. All nations will come and worship you, for your righteous acts have been revealed.’”

The original song of Moses was the song of deliverance sung by the Israelites in Exodus 15. David Guzik remarks, “Only one song is sung, but this song goes by two titles (the song of Moses, and the song of the Lamb). The two titles refer to a single song. Here is a perfect union between law and love, between the Old Covenant and the New Covenant.” Steve Gregg comments (pp. 344, 346),

It is, of course, the Lamb, and not Moses, who was instrumental in the deliverance of which they sing, but the reference to Moses calls to mind again the Exodus and reminds us that Jerusalem had become the new Egypt (Rev. 11:8). The original ‘song of Moses’ was the song of deliverance sung by the Israelites when they found themselves permanently free from their former oppressor (cf. Exodus 15). As Egypt had lost ‘horse and rider’ in the Red Sea, so Jerusalem’s horses had been bridle-deep in a virtual sea of blood (a truly red sea!—Rev. 14:20).

Sam Storms breaks down the lyrics to this song in a helpful way: “The lyrics that follow in vv. 3-4 do not appear to be drawn from the song of Moses in Exodus 15, but rather come from a variety of OT texts.” He lists these sources as follows:

“Great and marvelous are Thy works” comes from Ps. 111:2-4 (and Dt. 28:59-60 LXX).

“O Lord God, the Almighty” is found repeatedly in the prophets Haggai, Zechariah, and Malachi.

“Righteous and true are Thy ways” echoes Dt. 32:4. It would seem that this phrase parallels the first, “showing that God’s sovereign acts are not demonstrations of raw power but moral expressions of his just character” (Beale, 795).

Compare these with 16:7 and 19:2 and it becomes clear that what John is declaring to be great, marvelous, righteous, and true are God’s judgments against the unbelieving world…

“Thou King of the nations” alludes to Jer. 10:7.

“Who will not fear, O Lord, and glorify Thy name?” This, too, echoes Jer. 10:7.

“For Thou alone art holy; for all the nations will come and worship before Thee, for Thy righteous acts have been revealed,” all comes from Ps. 86:8-10 and Ps. 98:2.

The wrath of God against apostate Israel is now finished (verse 1), and the end of the old covenant age has come (Matthew 24:3). So it’s fitting that John would hear the song of Moses at this time. The old covenant age was initiated with the giving of the law through Moses. That age was now coming to a dramatic end, and the new covenant age was shining forth. This was also a marvelous work of the Lord, and the nations were being gathered to worship Him.

Verses 5-6:After this I looked, and the sanctuary of the tent of witness in heaven was opened and out of the sanctuary came the seven angels with the seven plagues, clothed in pure, bright linen, with golden sashes around their chests.”

Sam Storms remarks,

The OT background to the concept of ‘seven plagues’ is probably Lev. 26 where four times it is said that God will judge Israel ‘seven times’ if she is unfaithful (vv. 18,21,24,28). Here, too, in Revelation we have four sets of seven judgments (seals, trumpets, thunders, bowls).

This is a good observation by Sam Storms, and it’s interesting that, being a Historicist, he would say this. The Historicist view says that the book of Revelation has been, and is being, fulfilled throughout this present Church Age. Unfaithful Israel, which Storms spoke of, was judged and destroyed a generation after Christ’s death and resurrection, fulfilling and vindicating His own prophecies (e.g. Matthew 23:29-38, 24:2, 24:34; Luke 19:41-44, 23:28-31). This likely reference to Leviticus 26 is one more indication (among many that we’ve seen) that these judgments recorded by John were indeed intended to fall upon faithless Israel in his day.

In verse 6 we see that “the seven angels with the seven plagues” (the bowl judgments) are “clothed in pure, bright linen.” For me personally, this calls to mind a scene in Revelation 19, where we read the following (19:14), “…And the armies of heaven, arrayed in fine linen, white and pure, were following Him [Jesus] on white horses…” First of all, this passage is popularly interpreted as referring to Christ’s future Second Coming. Is this the case? This is something we will consider later.

Secondly, I had always assumed that these armies must be the saints of God, especially in light of 19:8, which speaks of Christ’s Bride: “…’it was granted her to clothe herself with fine linen, bright and pure’—for the fine linen is the righteous deeds of the saints.” In chapter 19 it may very well be that those armies are indeed the saints of God (i.e. people). This is something we will examine in more depth when we get to that point in our study. Yet it’s interesting that here in chapter 15 it is angels, and not people, who are “clothed in pure, bright linen.” This is something to keep in mind perhaps…

Verse 7:And one of the four living creatures gave to the seven angels seven golden bowls full of the wrath of God who lives forever and ever…”

Sam Storms says, “The verbal similarity between ‘the seven golden bowls full of the wrath of God’ here in 15:7 and the ‘golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of the saints’ in 5:8, together with 8:3-5, suggests that the saints’ prayers for vindication in 6:9-11 are now being fully answered.

Verse 8: “…and the sanctuary was filled with smoke from the glory of God and from his power, and no one could enter the sanctuary until the seven plagues of the seven angels were finished.”

John sees the temple, or sanctuary in heaven, opened for the second time in his visions (compare to Revelation 11:19). Steve Gregg comments (pp. 350, 352):

Just prior to the outpouring of the bowls, the temple fills with smoke from the glory of God (v. 8). This harks back to the dedication of the tabernacle (Ex. 40:34-35) and Solomon’s temple (I Kings 8:10-11), in both of which cases, as here, no one could enter the sanctuary. In the present case, it is generally agreed that the emblem suggests a debarring of intercession, such as might ordinarily occur in the temple, for the city about to be judged.

Gregg then quotes David S. Clark and Jay Adams, who both concur that the “day of grace was past” for this city, so that intercession would no longer have any effect until God’s wrath had been completely poured out. Gregg adds,

The seven plagues to follow (16:1-21) will re-enact several of the Exodus plagues on Egypt, but because these are the last plagues (v. 1), the order of the Exodus events is reversed. John sees the glory of God in the tabernacle of the Testimony first, and after that the plagues, sent not to free God’s people from slavery (the redeemed are already free), but as a last effort to bring the earth’s inhabitants, like Pharaoh, to repentance.


Our study of Revelation 16 can be found here.

All of our Revelation chapter-by-chapter studies, and any other posts related to the book of Revelation, can be found here.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s