Revelation 15: The Song of Victory


Bible Study Series: Revealing Jesus in Revelation

Revelation Chapter 15: The Song of Victory


by I Gordon


Revelation 15 Bible Study Lesson - The song of lamb and victoryWelcome! We come now to the shortest chapter in Revelation and maybe my shortest message in Revelation as well. We shall see. This chapter is a bit of a breather. Nestled between the winepress of chapter 14 and the 7 last plagues of chapter 16, it allows us to catch our breath a little! We shall focus on a heavenly scene with saints in song and joyful assembly around the throne. Yes, the chapter does mention the seven angels with the seven last plagues, so we will talk about them... but it won't be our primary focus. So apologies plague fans, they have to wait till next time! This is going to be about rejoicing. This is going to be about the song of faith. It is going to be about victory. So we'll explore:

  • The announcement of seven angels with the seven last plagues
  • An important little word study on an important little word that points to Jesus
  • The two songs sung in heaven: 
    • Why are they singing the song of Moses? 
    • And what is the theme of the Song of the Lamb?
  • Why is the temple closed in heaven during the seven last plagues?

The Wrath of God is Completed

Rev 15:1 I saw in heaven another great and marvelous sign: seven angels with the seven last plagues--last, because with them God's wrath is completed.

You may remember that the last 'great sign' in heaven that John saw was of the woman from Revelation 12. So this is another (of the same kind) great sign, but is also said to be a marvelous sign. The word for marvelous here means 'beyond human comprehension, wonderful, remarkable'. This indicates it is an even greater sign and its remarkableness lies with the seven angels having the seven last judgements of God. We've seen the seven seals and seven trumpets already. Now come seven angels with seven bowls containing the seven last plagues. And the wrath of God is said to be 'completed' in them. This tells us that these bowl plagues go right through to the return of Jesus and the judgements that occur at that time. For it is not till Jesus has put down God's enemies that the wrath of God is complete. And then begins His long awaited reign! Now there are some who only see the wrath of God in these bowls and not before. They think that before this is just the wrath of Satan and man. But we know that each of the previous seals and trumpets come directly from the throne of God. And our text here only says that God's wrath is completed in these bowls, not that it is fully contained in them. We have previously seen God's wrath mentioned in Rev 6:16, Rev 6:17, Rev 11:18 and Rev 14:10. 

So why are there seven last plagues? Throughout Revelation we have seen the judgement of God and the response of man. Typically, the response is what we see in Revelation 9:

Rev 9:20-21 The rest of mankind that were not killed by these plagues still did not repent of the work of their hands; they did not stop worshiping demons, and idols of gold, silver, bronze, stone and wood-- idols that cannot see or hear or walk. (21) Nor did they repent of their murders, their magic arts, their sexual immorality or their thefts. 

David Guzik explains the Old Testament background for the final seven plagues:

"This idea is also in Lev 26:21: Then, if you walk contrary to Me, and are not willing to obey Me, I will bring on you seven times more plagues, according to your sins.  These seven last plagues are God's judgment on a disobedient and contrary world."... "The ancient Greek word for wrath is thymos.  As was the case in Rev_14:10, there are two words for wrath or anger in Biblical Greek: thymos (a volatile, passionate anger) and orge (anger from a settled disposition).  This is a place where God's anger "flashes" hot."
Pastor David Guzik

So with these 7 last bowls the stakes are intensified. God's anger flashes 'hot'. But they also complete His wrath. Now this is an important word to focus on. Many of you have been writing in asking for more in-depth Greek word studies. Well... when I say 'many' maybe I should say 'some'. Well... when I say some, it's closer to none. But I like this one. The Greek word used at the end of this verse is 'teleo' where it is normally translated completed or finished... with these seven last plagues the wrath of God is 'teleo' - completed. Let's explore this word. 

Word Study Time - teléō

The complete Word Study Dictionary says this about 'teléō': 'end, goal. To make an end or to accomplish, to complete something, not merely to end it, but to bring it to perfection or its destined goal, to carry it through.' So let's look at some examples and as we do remember this word is 'to bring it to perfection or its destined goal, to carry it through':

  • Jesus fulfilling the prophecies: Luk 18:31 Jesus took the Twelve aside and told them, "We are going up to Jerusalem, and everything that is written by the prophets about the Son of Man will be fulfilled (teleo).
  • Paul completing his ministry: 2Ti 4:7 I have fought the good fight, I have finished (teleo) the race, I have kept the faith.
  • The Mystery of God: Rev 10:7 But in the days when the seventh angel is about to sound his trumpet, the mystery of God will be accomplished (teleo), just as he announced to his servants the prophets."
  • The 1000 year Messianic Kingdom: Rev 20:7 When the thousand years are over (teleo), Satan will be released from his prison

So Paul's ministry was complete, coming to its perfect and destined goal. Jesus' fulfillment of all the prophecies of His first coming was complete and perfect. At the 7th trumpet the mystery of God will reach its desired and planned end. As will the 1000 year Kingdom age on this planet.

Now there is another meaning and usage of this word 'teleo' as the Word Study Dictionary writes: ''By implication, to pay off or in full, such as taxes, tribute, which is also the meaning of télos (G5056). A tax, toll, custom (Mat 17:24; Rom 13:6).' 

With this in mind, what is the most important 'teleo' in the New Testament you ask? The four examples already mentioned are all awesome in their own right, but the most important is one we haven't mentioned yet. 

  • Joh 19:30 When he had received the drink, Jesus said, "It is finished (teleo)." With that, he bowed his head and gave up his spirit.

If you want to talk about bringing something to its desired and perfect goal, in all of eternity there will never be an event that matches what Jesus did, while being nailed to a cross 2000 years ago. And what was the second meaning of this word again? 'To pay in full.' As Jesus' death reached its perfect and desired goal, He 'paid in full' the debt that mankind owed. 

The entire work of redemption had been brought to completion. The single Greek word here (translated "it is finished") has been found written on papyri receipts for taxes, meaning "paid in full".
John MacArthur

Col 2:13-14 When you were dead in your transgressions and the uncircumcision of your flesh, He made you alive together with Him, having forgiven us all our transgressions, (14) having canceled out the certificate of debt consisting of decrees against us, which was hostile to us; and He has taken it out of the way, having nailed it to the cross.

The full certificate of debt, all that we owed, was nailed to the cross and Jesus said this was on Him, and He had paid it in full. Let us never get used to that thought!

The Song of Moses

Rev 15:2-4 And I saw what looked like a sea of glass mixed with fire and, standing beside the sea, those who had been victorious over the beast and his image and over the number of his name. They held harps given them by God (3) and sang the song of Moses the servant of God and the song of the Lamb...

We now see a fuller scene from heaven. John sees more than just the seven angels but myriads of people standing beside a sea of glass that is mixed with fire.

"The sea is designed to reflect the glory of God.  In chapter 4 its description 'like unto crystal' speaks of the holiness of God.  Here the sea mingled with fire speaks of divine judgment proceeding from God's holiness."
John Walvoord

Those standing have harps in their hands. We've seen harps previously with the elders in Rev 5:8, so clearly this is why Christians sit on clouds and strum harps for eternity right?! Um... no! Far from it! But there is worship, harp strumming and rejoicing to be had for these ones have been victorious over the Beast (Antichrist) and his image, and are now free in perfect peace and joy!

Now it is interesting that they sing 'the song of Moses' and of the Lamb. Let's start with the former and see why this is relevant. You will no doubt remember Israel's escape out of Egypt, chased by Pharaoh and his army, and their walk of faith as they trusted God and moved through the Red Sea. In Pharaoh you had an evil dictator, the leader of the then known world, who opposed God, opposed His people, and was not about to let them go free. This story is played out again in the last days under the Antichrist who will again oppose the people of God and try to keep them captive under His control. So as we see these believers singing the song of Moses in Heaven, the obvious question is what is that song? What is it about? This song is from Exodus 15. Just looking at the first part, there we read:

Exo 15:1-6 Then Moses and the Israelites sang this song to the LORD: "I will sing to the LORD, for he is highly exalted. The horse and its rider he has hurled into the sea. (2) The LORD is my strength and my song; he has become my salvation. He is my God, and I will praise him, my father's God, and I will exalt him. (3) The LORD is a warrior; the LORD is his name. (4) Pharaoh's chariots and his army he has hurled into the sea. The best of Pharaoh's officers are drowned in the Red Sea. (5) The deep waters have covered them; they sank to the depths like a stone. (6) Your right hand, O LORD, was majestic in power. Your right hand, O LORD, shattered the enemy.

Dr. H. C. Woodring gives the following outline to the entire song from Exodus 15: 

  1. Prelude (v. 1)—The triumph of Jehovah.
  2. Stanza 1 (vv. 2, 3)—What He is: strength, song, salvation.
  3. Stanza 2 (vv. 4-13)—What He has done: victory over past enemies, deliverance of His people from Egypt.
  4. Stanza 3 (vv. 14-18)—What He will do: victory over future enemies; bring His people into their inheritance.
  5. Postlude (v. 19)—Contrast of the defeat of Egypt and the deliverance of Israel."
Stop and Think
Can you look back and think of experiences where you have learned and praised Him for these three things:

1) Who He is - This song speaks of the Lord being our very strength. The 'I AM'. The One who is here and with you right now. Think about the difference that would make if you could truly grasp and hold onto that!
2) What He has done - Think about past deliverances through the hand of God. Think about the times when it seemed like you were going down and the waters were too great... but He lifted you out and made a way.
3) What He will do - Think about what is to come. How does what you have experienced of God in the past prepare you for the future?

So this song of Moses is sung once again. Just as the children of Israel sang by the sea after the Lord defeated Pharaoh and his armies, so these in heaven are seen standing by a sea of glass having overcome the Antichrist. The greater exodus, it should be said, is the one where believers have left this world and found their home in the next! That is what we are seeing in Revelation 15. Now some of you may say - 'yeah that's cool... but there is a difference in the stories. God destroyed Pharaoh and allowed the Israelites to live. Here it is likely that the Antichrist has martyred these believers while He is allowed to live.' Yeah, fair point.. but bear in mind what it is that overcomes the world and the Antichrist. What is it? Our faith!

1Jn 5:4-5 ...everyone born of God overcomes the world. This is the victory that has overcome the world, even our faith. (5) Who is it that overcomes the world? Only he who believes that Jesus is the Son of God.

Following Jesus and not bowing down to the Antichrist will demonstrate incredible faith. Trusting God and not taking the mark is overcoming. And yes, dying for that faith is victory. They will rejoice and sing the song of Moses on that day knowing that this world, it's corrupt satanic leader and all it contains has no hold on them anymore! But that's not the only song being sung...

The Song of the Lamb

Rev 15:3-4 ... and sang the song of the Lamb: "Great and marvelous are your deeds, Lord God Almighty. Just and true are your ways, King of the ages. (4) Who will not fear you, O Lord, and bring glory to your name? For you alone are holy. All nations will come and worship before you, for your righteous acts have been revealed."

There is actually One greater than Moses to be honored here and it is the One who has given all believers victory, even Moses himself. And that is the Lamb. Look at the breakdown of this song:

  • It speaks of the worthiness of Jesus - The Lamb, Lord God Almighty, King of the ages! Is it not mind boggling still that the Lord God Almighty, the King of all ages... would become the lamb... 
  • It speaks of the works of Jesus - Great and marvelous are your deeds, Lord God Almighty. Your righteous acts have been revealed.
  • It speaks of the ways of Jesus - Just and true are your ways
  • It speaks of the wonder of Jesus - For you alone are holy
  • It speaks of the worship of Jesus - Who will not fear you, O Lord, and bring glory to your name? All nations will come and worship before you,

It is all about Jesus just as it should be!1 Think for a moment again of what these martyrs have gone through. They opposed the dictator of the entire world. They did not comply with his dictates. They were hunted down, rounded up, locked up and eventually beheaded... with people despising them throughout the whole ordeal. Yet when they are seen in heaven there is not one word of what they went through. There is no 'I' or 'me' in this song. Their whole song is one of victory in Him, rejoicing in Him, praising... Him. They are completely focused on the glory of the Lamb! We can learn from that - even while here. Always ask the Lord what He would have you to learn in the midst of your trial. Focus on Him, not on the difficulty you are experiencing. And place you hope in what is to come. God is a wonderful deliverer - whether you experience temporary earthly deliverance or not. But our future is assured! Victory to God is far more than earthly temporal deliverance. It is holding to the faith even if you are not delivered. This is victory. This is overcoming! So these ones singing the song of the Lamb are victors, not victims. We live in an age where it is becoming fashionable to think of ourselves as victims with someone else to blame. But there is none of that here and it is faith in Christ that moves us from victims to victors.

Faith & being upheld in the midst of suffering
As an example of this, here are two stories of faith from this week... 
We have a tenant staying in my Mum's old home and this week she txt'd me from her home country of South Korea. Now this was a little odd as she was meant to be here and was shortly due to go home for and be with her husband. So I txt'd back saying I didn't realize she had left but hoped she had a great time back with her husband and extended family. She then replied saying she had sad news. She and her young boys had gone home because her husband, the boy's Dad, had been killed in an accident. I couldn't believe it. Heartbreaking. So I txt'd back saying I was so sorry and that I'm a Christian and would pray for her. She replied that she is a Christian too and it was only her faith that was keeping and upholding her through this great trial... but that God was good. 

We also had an old friend and his family come to our homegroup this week, whom I hadn't seen in years. He shared about the loss of his 12 year old daughter (who loved Jesus!) to a brain tumor earlier this year. She had been fighting cancer for 6 years - half of her life. You don't get much more difficult than these stories. But in both cases their faith not only held strong... but it held them. And their love ones who have gone to Jesus, because they knew Him, will be rejoicing and singing the song of the Lamb... and waiting patiently for that day when they can all be reunited once again.

Now you will note that the song of the Lamb not only contains praise but also a preview of His coming Kingdom where 'All nations will come and worship before you, for your righteous acts have been revealed.' And that is a day that all believers hope and long for!2 

Psa 46:6-11 Nations are in uproar, kingdoms fall; he lifts his voice, the earth melts. (7) The LORD Almighty is with us; the God of Jacob is our fortress. Selah (8) Come and see the works of the LORD, the desolations he has brought on the earth. (9) He makes wars cease to the ends of the earth; he breaks the bow and shatters the spear, he burns the shields with fire. (10) Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth. (11) The LORD Almighty is with us; the God of Jacob is our fortress. Selah

In this coming day, all the nations will fear the Lord and He will be exalted throughout the earth. It goes without saying that that is not yet! In our day, the fear of God is conspicuous by it's absence! But God's word is true and the kingdoms of this earth will fall, melt and fear before the coming of the King!

Activity in Heaven...

Rev 15:5-8 After this I looked and in heaven the temple, that is, the tabernacle of the Testimony, was opened. (6) Out of the temple came the seven angels with the seven plagues. They were dressed in clean, shining linen and wore golden sashes around their chests. (7) Then one of the four living creatures gave to the seven angels seven golden bowls filled with the wrath of God, who lives for ever and ever. (8) And the temple was filled with smoke from the glory of God and from his power, and no one could enter the temple until the seven plagues of the seven angels were completed.

The chapter concludes with preparations and activity occurring in heaven. As well as those singing songs of praise, there is still work to do for seven specifically assigned angels. So we see the Heavenly Tabernacle, upon which the earthly one was based (Exo 25:8-9 and Heb 8:9) being opened. There is light, smoke, and seven angels in shining apparel. 

"They are clothed in pure, white linen; this is symbolical of the righteousness which demands the judgment wrath about to be poured out. And the golden girdles with which their breasts are girdled speak still more of divine righteousness. God in His righteousness must judge and now His wrath in completeness is about to be felt on the earth."
A.C Gaebelein

The angels are seen in priestly garments performing their role as servants of the living God. And it is a solemn sight for the heavenly tabernacle is closed until their actions are complete. Tony Garland writes that this is 'perhaps one of the most mysterious and wondrous verses in all of Scripture. It surely must indicate a period of great privacy and intensity in the mind of God attending the final outpouring of His wrath.'3 There is a connection here with the final work that must be done for the nation of Israel. William Newell writes:

We find in the temple, in 11:19, the ark of God’s covenant; and again, in 15:5, the remarkable expression “the temple of the tabernacle of the testimony in heaven.” This indicates that God is about to fulfill His covenanted promises toward Israel, for to Israel belong the covenanted things (Rom 9:4). We are back on Old Testament ground, prophetically. Consequently, we saw in 12:1, immediately after the mention of the ark of God’s covenant, the great sign which sets forth in heaven God’s counsels concerning the Woman, who represents Israel. They will involve the full accomplishment of God’s word in Psa 2:1-12 - that He will set His king upon His holy hill of Zion,- despite the opposition of all the earth!"
William Newell, Revelation A Complete Commentary

And how appropriate this word is today. God will set His Son, His King, upon the holy hill of Zion in Jerusalem - despite the opposition of all the earth. We see that opposition today. It is growing. People are protesting Israel's very existence around the world. Marches are held with signs calling on the world to be 'cleaned' of all Jews. It is an opposition with a demonic source. And what does God think? God sits in the heavens... and laughs! So hold up your signs. Chant your slogans. Say 'From the river to the sea, Palestine will be free' all day every day if you are so inclined... Nothing will stop God's plan! It is the voice of a mouse against a lion. The Lion. And this world will see what a angry Lamb can do. J. Vernon McGee writes "We have seen the gentle Jesus, and now we see the wrath of the Lamb. You never think of a little lamb as being angry. A lion can roar, but not a little lamb. The wrath of the Lamb is going to startle the world someday." 

Conclusion

So that sets the scene for the coming chapter. And as we conclude, let's end with that thought that we started with. That is, the word study for today because it sums up this chapter well. Do you remember the word? That's right - 'teleo' meaning

  1. The bring to perfect completion
  2. To pay in full.

We spoke about Jesus' use of this word on the cross, saying 'It is finished' before giving up His spirit. This was the perfect plan of God, seen all the way through, coming to perfect completion. And it was the ultimate 'paid in full' statement that has ever been spoken. The ones that are seen in Revelation chapter 15 know this well and will sing of His praise forever! As I hope you will! Theirs, and hopefully yours, is the song of victory... the song of Moses... the song of the Lamb!

But there are others who will not receive this payment. They will not repent. Like Jesus' perfect work of salvation, Revelation gives us a glimpse of God's perfect wrath as well. So note again that this word 'teleo' also means 'paid in full'. What is the greatest comfort for the believer is also the greatest warning for the unbeliever. For if a person doesn't allow Jesus to pay the price of their sins in full, they will then experience the perfect, complete, judgement of God. Their 'paid in full' will be through the wrath of God for those same sins. 

And that is the focus of the next message!



FOOTNOTES

  1. Your . . . Your . . . You . . . Your . . . You . . . Your . . . You . . . You . . . Your: These martyrs are only focused on God.  They don't even focus on their own costly and glorious victory.  They have the heart of true worship: It's all about God, not about us."
    David Guzik

  2. See Psa 2:8-9; Psa 24:1-10; Psa 66:1-4; Psa 72:8-11; Psa 86:9; Isa 2:2-4; Isa 9:6-7; Isa 66:18-23; Jer 10:7; Dan 7:14; Zep 2:11; Zec 14:9.

  3. Here we have perhaps one of the most mysterious and wondrous verses in all of Scripture. It surely must indicate a period of great privacy and intensity in the mind of God attending the final outpouring of His wrath. It probably indicates an unwillingness to allow for even the possibility of distraction until what has been initiated finds its completion and likely signifies the holiness of the moment, as when Moses could not enter the tabernacle when the glory fell upon it (Ex 40:35) and the priests could not minister in Solomon’s Temple (1Kings 8:11).
    Tony Garland

    "What follows should be contrasted with like scenes, when mercy was present: “The temple was filled with smoke from the glory of God, and from his power.” We read in Exo_40:34-35 words of great blessedness. Moses had constructed the tabernacle which God said He desired that “He might dwell among them,” and had finished it, according to the divine directions: “Then the cloud covered the tent of meeting, and the glory of Jehovah filled the tabernacle. And Moses was not able to enter into the tent of meeting because the cloud abode thereon, and the glory of Jehovah filled the tabernacle.” This was blessing indeed! Again, when Solomon had built the temple according to the directions given David, his father, by the Spirit of God, and had made his great prayer of dedication, we read in 2Ch_7:1-4 :   “Now when Solomon had made an end of praying, the fire came down from heaven, and consumed the burnt-offering and the sacrifices; and the glory of Jehovah filled the house. And the priests could not enter into the house of Jehovah, because the glory of Jehovah filled Jehovah’s house. And all the children of Israel looked on, when the fire came down, and the glory of Jehovah was upon the house; and they bowed themselves with their faces to the ground upon the pavement, and worshipped, and gave thanks unto Jehovah, saying for he is good; for his loving kindness endureth for ever.”

    Here again was unlimited blessing. The very priests are unable to enter the temple or to minister; for all was full of the glory of the blessed presence of Jehovah. But what a fearful contrast here in Revelation! Sin had caused God to leave His earthly house in Jerusalem: first the glory left (Eze_8:1-18; Eze_9:1-11; Eze_10:1-22; Eze_11:1-25); then the Lord of the house Himself came and saw, and left it desolate (Mat_23:37-38). Now, in Rev_14:1-20, the majority of Israel are in covenant with Antichrist himself (Dan_9:27; Joh_5:43); the nations are in hellish league with Satan to refuse God’s Son His throne. So we read these awful words: “None was able to enter into the temple, till the seven plagues of the seven angels should be finished.”

    No words of ours are needed here. Only calm reflection upon the fact. God will so turn to anger, at last, that all else ceases, even in heaven! Wrath will be the only business. “Who may stand in thy sight when once thou art angry?” (Psa_76:7).
    William Newell, Revelation, A Complete Commentary