************ Sermon on Revelation 15 ************
By: Rev. Adrian Dieleman
This sermon was preached on May 17, 2009
"The Final Exodus"
What do we see in Revelation 15? With John, we see three things. First, we see seven angels with seven plagues. Second, we see a crowd. They are standing by the seashore. They are singing. Musical instruments are being played. Third, we see the tabernacle of the Testimony and the smoke from the glory of God and from His power.
Does any of this sound familiar? Does any of this look familiar? Doesn't this sound and look like the Exodus? The Exodus, remember, started with the ten plagues so that Israel could be freed from the slavery and bondage of Egypt. This was followed by the children of Israel crossing the Red Sea on dry ground. On the other side, they stood on the seashore singing songs and playing tambourines because Pharaoh and his army were drowned in the sea. Finally, they ended up at Mt. Sinai where God's presence covered the mountain, the Law or Testimony was given, and the tabernacle was built.
The Exodus. That is what we have in front of us this evening. The final Exodus. We have the plagues. We have the punishment of God's enemies. We have the new Israel celebrating escape from the slavery and bondage of sin. We have the tabernacle of the Testimony and the smoke of God's presence. Knowing their Old Testament, John's audience would have recognized the Exodus event and the Exodus language in Revelation 15. As a persecuted people, they would have been comforted. Why? Because the Exodus shows them all that God is willing to do in order to fulfill His promise, "I will be your God and you will be my people." This should comfort the church today as well. Whether the church faces the persecution of the first beast (Rev 12 & 13) or the deceptions of the second beast (Rev 13), she should find comfort and hope and peace as she looks at the Exodus. Why? Because we are reminded of all that God is willing to do to keep His promise, "I will be your God and you will be my people."
I I Saw Seven Angels with Seven Plagues
A "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" (Rev 15:1).
John sees a "sign." A sign points beyond itself to something else. The Bible is filled with signs. The bronze snake of Numbers 21 is a sign – it points beyond itself to Jesus on the cross. The sacrifices and ceremonies of the Law are signs – they point to the completed and once-for-all sacrifice of Jesus. Moses is a sign – he points beyond himself to Jesus, our chief prophet and teacher. Likewise in our passage. John sees a "sign" that points beyond itself; so, we are to see more than the plagues of Egypt; we are to see the final Exodus and the deliverance of God's people from sin and Satan and misery.
John calls it "another" sign. Which means there are "other" signs that John saw. Which raises the question of what they are. We see the first two signs in chapter 12:
(Rev 12:1) A great and wondrous sign appeared in heaven: a woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet and a crown of twelve stars on her head.Remember who the woman is or who she represents? She represents the people of God, the church, all true believers of all times and all places. The red dragon, on the other hand, represents Satan and all the forces and powers of evil.
(Rev 12:3) Then another sign appeared in heaven: an enormous red dragon with seven heads and ten horns and seven crowns on his heads.
B So John saw three signs: the woman, the dragon, the plagues. What is the connection between the three? Very simple, really. The dragon attacks the woman, the church. The third sign is God's answer to these attacks because God's enemies are destroyed and God's people are freed. Remember, it replays the Exodus; it is the final Exodus. The dragon is vanquished and the woman delivered.
C "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" (Rev 15:1).
John didn't just see a sign; he saw a "great and marvelous" sign.
The sign is "great." Great is a word the Bible uses in a number of ways: great in quantity, great in degree, great in size, great in status, great in duration. The sign John sees is also "great" – great in every way imaginable.
The sign also is "marvelous." Marvelous means amazing, wonderful, remarkable, astonishing. This was the common response to the miracles of Christ (Mt 9:8; Mk 6:5). And, in Revelation 13, John told us that astonishment was the world's response to the so-called "resurrection" of the first beast (Rev 13:3).
The third sign is "great and marvelous." How great? How marvelous? Look ahead to verse 3. Do you see what is said there about God?
(Rev 15:3) "Great and marvelous are your deeds, Lord God Almighty. Just and true are your ways, King of the ages."Do you hear that? The same language is used for the sign that is used for God! Both are "great and marvelous."
The first sign – the woman – is "great and wondrous" (Rev 12:1). The third sign – the seven angels with seven plagues – is "great and marvelous" (Rev 15:1). The second sign – the dragon – is simply "another sign" (Rev 12:3) – not great, not wondrous, not marvelous. Why is this so? Because the second sign is not of God and from God and to God. In fact, the second sign is the exact opposite. There is nothing great about it. Nothing wondrous. Nothing marvelous. It may fool the world for a while. It may appear wondrous and marvelous. But it is only appearances. When it comes down to it, the dragon really is nothing to fear.
D "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" (Rev 15:1).
What is so great and marvelous about seven angels with seven plagues? Why would language used for God be used for seven angels with seven plagues?
Notice what Scripture says. We are told these are the "last" plagues. Now, we see many plagues throughout the pages of Scripture. We see the ten plagues that were visited upon Egypt. We see the plagues that were visited upon the Philistines after they captured the ark of the covenant (1 Sam 5). We also see plagues over and over again when the children of Israel rebelled against the Lord: when the people made and worshiped the golden calf (Ex 32), when Israel complained about a lack of meat (Num 11), when the ten spies gave a bad report (Num 14), when Korah and Dathan and Abiram and their followers rebelled against the leadership of Moses and Aaron (Num 16), when Midianite women led the men of Israel into the worship of Baal (Num 25), when David led the people to trust the size of their army rather than the Lord God Almighty (2 Sam 24). We have seen plagues earlier in the Revelation: at the opening of the fourth seal (Rev 6:8), at the opening of the seventh seal (Rev 9:18), after the blowing of the sixth trumpet (Rev 11:6). John has heard about or seen so many plagues, but now he finally sees the "last" plagues.
I want you to also notice that with these plagues "God's wrath is completed." To help you see this, let me do a quick review of the judgments we have seen so far in the Revelation. We saw the seven seal judgments; we learned that they are visited upon a fourth of the earth. Then we saw the seven trumpet judgments; we learned that they are visited upon a third of the earth. And now we see the seven bowl judgments; these judgment are visited upon all of the earth. Do you see the progression, the increasing intensity? With these seven bowl judgments God's wrath is completed. No more judgments.
"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" (Rev 15:1). Isn't this great and isn't this marvelous?! No more plagues. No more judgments. God's judgment of His enemies is finally finished. And, God's salvation of His people is now fully accomplished. God's plan to judge and to save is realized.
Remember, this is the last Exodus. So, put yourself in the place of Moses and Israel as they stand by the Red Sea at the time of the first Exodus. You have been cruelly oppressed. You have been in bondage. You have been slaves in Egypt. But now you see the bodies of your oppressors floating in the sea like so many dead fish. And, you are free. Wouldn't you think the plagues are great and marvelous – after all, they are the means used by God to punish your enemies and to secure your freedom?! Likewise, the plagues of the last Exodus are great and marvelous.
In fact, in the history of salvation, there is only one event that is greater and more marvelous than the Exodus. And that, of course, is the cross. What can possibly be greater and more wonderful than God's judgment against the sin of the human race being visited upon Jesus? And, what can possibly be greater and more wonderful than the freedom from sin and Satan that Jesus gives to His own?
I am sure you realize that the plagues of the last Exodus are a great and marvelous sign only – ONLY – if you are one of those being saved. On the other hand, if you reject God in Christ, if you have not repented of your sins and do not believe in Jesus, then this is a scary and frightening sign. I want to warn you, congregation, that the time when God's wrath is completed is getting closer and closer. So far, in John's visions of the seals, one fourth of the world map has already been colored. In John's visions of the trumpets, one third of the world map has been colored. With the seven last plagues, what remains will be colored. Do you see the noose getting tighter? Do you see that the time of execution is almost here? Do you realize the final Exodus is about to take place?
II I Saw the Temple
A We now move on to the third thing John saw – I am saving the second and most important thing for last:
(Rev 15:5,8) After this I looked and in heaven the temple, that is, the tabernacle of the Testimony, was opened ... (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.Tabernacle, testimony, smoke, glory, power ... As I already mentioned, we are being pointed to the first Exodus.
After Israel crossed the Red Sea her destination was Mt. Sinai – Mt. Sinai where God descended upon the mountain and covered it with the smoke and glory of His presence and gave the Law upon two tables of testimony. Where were the tablets kept? They were put in the ark of the covenant which, in turn, was kept in the tabernacle. So, John sees the place where the Law is kept.
But take note of exactly what John sees in the final Exodus. John sees the temple/tabernacle and the Law. He doesn't see the ark – the ark upon which the blood was sprinkled to atone for disobedience. When John sees the temple, all that he sees is the Law. He doesn't see the mercy seat. He doesn't see the blood of atonement. Which means what? Which means bad news for unrepentant sinners. Which means judgment and only judgment with no more opportunity for repentance and salvation. In other words, John sees a place from which unrepentant sinners can expect only wrath and judgment. No prayers for mercy. No intercession. Only law. Only wrath.
B "Out of the temple came the seven angels with the seven plagues" (Rev 15:6). Out of the temple. Who lives in the Temple? Isn't that the abode of God? So, the seven angels come out of God's presence. They are doing God's bidding and God's work.
"They were dressed in clean, shining linen and wore golden sashes around their chests" (Rev 15:6). Does this sound familiar? Doesn't this sound like the description of Christ Jesus in Revelation 1? So the seven angels come out of the Temple as representatives and image-bearers of Christ. So, they are also doing Christ's bidding and Christ's work.
"Then one of the four living creatures gave to the seven angels seven golden bowls filled with the wrath of God" (Rev 15:7). We have seen the four living creatures earlier in the Revelation. They are the most elite of the angels. They are the closest to the throne of God. They do two things: they lead heavenly worship and they administer justice. As an administrator of justice standing closest to the throne of God, one of the four living creatures gave bowls to the seven angels. These bowls are shallow and wide so the contents can be poured out quickly and easily. What are the bowls filled with? They are filled to the brim with "the wrath of God."
What does all this tells us? That it is God's judgment the seven angels are carrying out. And, it is God's plan of salvation they are bringing to completion.
C Notice the description of God that is added: "who lives for ever and ever" (Rev 15:7). The seven angels are pouring out the wrath of the God Who lives for ever and ever. If you are an unbeliever, this description of God should frighten you. You can persist in rejecting the Gospel. All your life you can reject the Gospel – at weddings, baptisms, funerals; in the hospital, on the golf course, at work; in the home and bedroom and office. In health and sickness, riches and poverty, life and death you can persist in unbelief. But, BUT, there will come a day when you will meet God – the God "who lives for ever and ever." You cannot escape God. Therefore, you cannot escape God's judgment.
By the way, do you notice how often the Revelation brings up judgment? Let me remind you of what we have seen so far: the seven seals, the seven trumpets, the seven bowls, the four horsemen, the earthquakes, the thunders, the flashes of lightning, the rumblings, the three woes, the plagues. Why? Because salvation means nothing if you don't know what you are saved from. If you don't know sin, judgment, and wrath you won't know salvation. If you don't the horror of the Exodus you won't know its joy either.
III I Saw a Sea of Glass
A We now move to the second thing John saw. In the Greek text it receives the place of prominence – sandwiched as it is between the two mentions of the seven angels with the seven last plagues.
"And I saw what looked like a sea of glass ..." (Rev 15:2). We have seen the sea of glass before – in Revelation 4. Remember the series of astonishing circles we saw in Revelation 4 & 5? At the center we saw God on His throne (Rev 4:2) – and He is absolutely majestic, awesome, magnificent, and glorious. Also at the center we saw a Lamb, looking as if it had been slain (Rev 5:6). Before the throne, we saw seven blazing lamps, which are the seven spirits of God. Encircling this is an emerald-like rainbow (Rev 4:3). In a circle around this are the four living creatures (Rev 4:6). Surrounding this are the 24 elders seated on 24 thrones (Rev 4:4). Then comes a circle of thousands upon thousands of angels (Rev 5:11). Before and around the throne is a sea of glass (Rev 4:6); it separates God from His creation; the sea of glass is an Old Testament image that shows us God is transcendent, separate, and altogether different. After this sea of glass comes every other creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and on the sea (Rev 5:13).
"And I saw what looked like a sea of glass mixed with fire ..." (Rev 15:2). Now, as any child knows, you cannot mix water and fire together. But this is apocalyptic literature so John sees both water and fire. Water is clear and fire is red. So what do we have? We have a red sea! See how cleverly John ties in with the Red Sea of the first Exodus?
B What or who does John see by this red sea? "Standing beside the sea, those who had been victorious over the beast and his image and over the number of his name" (Rev 15:2). Who is standing by the sea? Believers, true believers, believers who were willing to put their lives and their livelihoods on the line for the Gospel, believers who were persecuted for their faith, believers who are overcomers. If you are a true Christian believer, if you repent of your sins and believe in Jesus, then you are one of those John sees standing by the sea.
Now, where are these true believers standing? By the shore of the red sea – the same place as Moses and Israel at the time of the first Exodus. They are standing on God's side of the sea of glass! With the coming of the last plagues and the completion of God's wrath, they can enter into the very presence of God Himself (Rev 15:8).
C What are they doing? "They held harps given them by God ..." (Rev 15:2). At the first Exodus, Miriam and all the women played tambourines and danced. Now, at the final Exodus the true believers hold harps – and play them. They are making joyful music, music of celebration.
What else are they doing? They "sang the song of Moses the servant of God and the song of the Lamb" (Rev 15:3). A more clear translation is "the song of Moses the servant of God, that is, the song of the Lamb." In other words, it is the same song. So what? This means the first Exodus was anticipating and looking forward to the final Exodus, that the first Exodus finds its fulfilment in the final Exodus.
Listen to the words of the song of Moses and the song of the Lamb:
(Rev 15:3-4) "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."
Imagine the scene at the first Exodus: the Israelites are standing safely on the shores of the Red Sea, Pharaoh and the Egyptian army has just been destroyed, and the Israelites are singing praises to God. Now imagine the scene at the final Exodus: the true people of God are standing safely on the shores of the red sea, the enemies of God have been destroyed, and they are singing praises to God. Isn't this a little gruesome? Doesn't this show a lack of political correctness? How can we rejoice in the judgment of God's enemies?
God is "just and true" in all His ways. He is fully and completely righteous and holy. He never makes mistakes. And, those who stand on His side of the sea of glass are made like Him – altogether righteous and holy and just. So, we rejoice knowing what God has done and what God is doing is just and true.
John saw three things: seven angels with seven plagues, the tabernacle of the testimony, a sea of glass mixed with fire. John saw the final Exodus.
Notice, there is no weeping, no cringing, no gnashing, no moaning, no wailing. Instead, there is singing, rejoicing, exalting, and the playing of musical instruments. God is being praised. God is being praised. Notice that: God is being praised. Not one word of the song is focused on you or me or I or we. The focus is God Who lives for ever and ever. The focus is God Who has destroyed His enemies and rescued His people.
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