And I saw another sign in heaven, great and marvellous, seven angels having the seven last plagues; for in them is filled up the wrath of God.
Verse 1. - And I saw another sign in heaven. The last time we had this expression was in Revelation 12, where the history of the war between Satan and the Church was begun. Once more we have a new departure, the seer again, as it were, returning to the beginning? in order to trace the course of the punishments inflicted on men for their worship of the devil. Revelation 15. gives a short summary of this, which is expanded in Revelation 16; and it is introduced, as usual, by a vision of the saints in glory, in order to comfort and support the Christian in his warfare (cf. Revelation 6:1, 2; Revelation 7:3; Revelation 14:1-5, 13). The "sign" is what is described in the following account. "In heaven" probably merely means in a conspicuous position (cf. Revelation 12:1). Great and marvellous. On account of the terrible nature of the events depicted. Seven angels having the seven last plagues; for in them is filled up the wrath of God; seven angels having seven plagues, the last [ones], because in them is finished the wrath of God. The seer describes what he sees subsequently, as if all the actors were present at one moment. In reality, he sees the actions of the "seven angels" in succession. The number seven denotes the universal, all-extending nature of the plagues (see on Revelation 1:4; 5:1, etc.). They are the last plagues, because they lead on to the description of the final fall of the power of the devil in its various forms, and to the account of the last judgment of God and the eternal bliss of the saints in glory.
And I saw as it were a sea of glass mingled with fire: and them that had gotten the victory over the beast, and over his image, and over his mark, and over the number of his name, stand on the sea of glass, having the harps of God.
Verse 2. - And I saw as it were a sea of glass mingled with fire. "And I saw" indicates a new phase of the vision (cf. Revelation 14:6, 14, etc.). The sea was like glass, either because of its pure transparent appearance, or on account of its consistency; the saints being subsequently described as standing on it. (For a full discussion of the meaning, see on Revelation 4:6.) The sea, the elders, and the triumphal hymns of praise are all characteristic of the vision in Revelation 4. Mingled with fire. In Revelation 4. it was described as "like unto crystal." The fire is an emblem of purity; the same idea is also conveyed by the "crystal." Fire is also a symbol of judgment, which is the theme of the song of the saints (ver. 4). And them that had gotten the victory over the beast, and over his image, and over his mark, and over the number of his name, stand on the sea of glass, having the harps of God; and them that come victorious from the beast and from his image, and from the number, etc. Omit "and over his mark," according to all the best authorities. Standing by (or, on), having harps. (On "the beast" and "his image," etc., see on Revelation 13.) These victorious ones stand by (such, probably, is the force of ἐπί) the sea (see above and on Revelation 4:6). The "harps" are characteristic of the heavenly melodies (Revelation 5:8; Revelation 14:2). This multitude has been before described in Revelation 7:9. From his image; that is, from the temptation to worship the image.
And they sing the song of Moses the servant of God, and the song of the Lamb, saying, Great and marvellous are thy works, Lord God Almighty; just and true are thy ways, thou King of saints.
Verse 3. - And they sing the song of Moses the servant of God, and the song of the Lamb. Most probably the song of deliverance after the passage of the Red Sea (Exodus 15.), to which this bears a general resemblance. Moses is called the "servant of God" in Exodus 14:31 and elsewhere. The song of Moses is also the song of the Lamb; the Old Testament and the New Testament Churches are one. Saying, Great and marvellous are thy works, Lord God Almighty (cf. Exodus 15:7, "And in the greatness of thine excellency thou hast overthrown them;" also Psalm 111:2; Psalm 139:14). This song, like that in Revelation 4:8, is addressed to the "Lord God Almighty." Just and true are thy ways, thou King of saints. The reading of the Textus Receptus, ἁγίων, "of saints," is certainly incorrect. It does not appear in any Greek manuscripts, but was inserted by Erasmus to represent the sanctorum of his Vulgate, which word, however, is itself a corruption of saeculorum, the true Vulgate reading representing αἰώνων. Ἐθνῶν, "of nations," is read in א, A, B, P, 1, 7, 8, 14. etc., An-dress, Primasius; while αἰώνον, "of ages," is the reading of א, C, 95, Vulgate, etc. It has been conjectured that ΑΙΘΝΩΝ (by itacism for ἐθνῶν) has been confused with ΑΙΩΝΩΝ. a parallel to the reading, " King of nations" is found in Jeremiah 10:7, Hebrew text and Theodotion, but not LXX.: "Who would not fear thee, O King of nations?" which is very like the succeeding clause in ver. 5, especially in connection with the "nations" there mentioned. The title "King of the ages," or "eternal King," is applied to God in 1 Timothy 1:17, and in the Book of Tobit twice (13:6 and 10), but seems unknown to the Old Testament.
Who shall not fear thee, O Lord, and glorify thy name? for thou only art holy: for all nations shall come and worship before thee; for thy judgments are made manifest.
Verse 4. - Who shall not fear thee, O Lord, and glorify thy Name? Omit "thee." The latter part is from Jeremiah 10:7 (see on ver. 3). The former part contains the same idea as Jeremiah 10:6, "Thy Name is great in might." Compare the similar ascription of praise to the beast in Revelation 13:4. The following three clauses supply the reasons for thus fearing and glorifying God. For thou only art holy: for all nations shall come and worship before thee; for thy judgments are made manifest; for thy righteous acts have been made manifest (Revised Version). "Holy" is ὅσιος, not ἅγιος. It is a word which is applied more particularly to human acts. Perhaps it is used here in connection with the manifest justice of God's acts before all nations; cf. the song of Moses (Exodus 15:11), "Who is like thee, glorious in holiness," etc.? The three clauses supply the reason for fearing and glorifying God, as mentioned in the first part of the verse.
(1) He himself is in his nature holy;
(2) his sway extends over all nations;
(3) the righteousness of his acts is now visible to all.
Afford adds, "Thy deeds of righteousness acted out towards the nations, both in the publication of the gospel and in the destruction of thine enemies."
And after that I looked, and, behold, the temple of the tabernacle of the testimony in heaven was opened:
Verse 5. - And after that I looked, and, behold; and after these things 1 saw. The characteristic commencement of a new vision or portion of a vision (see on Revelation 4:1, etc.). The temple of the tabernacle of the testimony in heaven was opened. The tabernacle had its counterpart in heaven (Hebrews 8:5). In Exodus 25:16, 21 we have the reason of the title "tabernacle of the testimony" - a name which is common in the Bible (see Exodus 38:21; Numbers 1:50, 53; Numbers 9:15; Numbers 10:11). The "temple" is the ναός, the inner shrine, the holy of holies which contained the ark of the testimony, which in Revelation 11:1.9 is seen in connection with the judgments of God. Thence now proceed the angels bearing the plagues for men.
And the seven angels came out of the temple, having the seven plagues, clothed in pure and white linen, and having their breasts girded with golden girdles.
Verse 6. - And the seven angels came out of the temple, having the seven plagues; there came out the seven angels that had, etc. These angels are distinguished from the other angels only by the fact that they bore the seven plagues. These they have not yet, but they receive them directly after. The phrase is added here to distinguish the angels meant. These angels have once before (ver. 1) been described in the same manner. Clothed in pure and white linen, and having their breasts girded with golden girdles. Λίνον, "linen," is found in א, B, P, 7, 14, 97, Andreas, Primasius. Λίθον, [precious] "stone," is read in A, C, 38 (margin), 48, 90, Vulgate. It seems more probable that λίθον is the correct word; for in no other place in the New Testament is λίνον found except in Matthew 12:20, where it signifies "flax;" while the ordinary word for linen, viz. βύσσος or βύσσινος, is found in Revelation 18:12, 16, and Revelation 19:8, 14, as well as in Luke 16:19. If λίνον be the correct reading, the image is perhaps suggested by the priestly garments (cf. Exodus 28:42, and vide infra). For the idea of "clothed in precious stone," the LXX. reading of Ezekiel 28:13 is usually quoted. We may refer also to the stones of the high priest's breastplate, and to the description in Revelation 17:4. And having their breasts girded with golden girdles (cf. the vision of our Lord in Revelation 1:13, and the priestly attire described in Exodus 28:8).
And one of the four beasts gave unto the seven angels seven golden vials full of the wrath of God, who liveth for ever and ever.
Verse 7. - And one of the four beasts gave unto the seven angels; four living beings. These, as representing life on the earth (see on Revelation 4:6; 5:9), are appropriately chosen as the medium for conveying to the angels the plagues about to be inflicted on men. This description is very like what is related of the cherubim - from which the idea of the living beings is evolved (see on Revelation 4:6) - in Ezekiel 10:7, "And one cherub stretched forth his hand from between the cherubims unto the fire that was between the cherubims, and took thereof, and put it into the hands of him that was clothed with linen: who took it, and went out." (On the "seven angels," see on ver. 1.) Seven golden vials full of the wrath of God, who liveth forever and ever. Seven; as showing the complete nature of the wrath of God (cf. ver. 1," In them is fulfilled," etc.). Golden; the characteristic of the heavenly things and places (cf. Revelation 4:4; Revelation 21:18, etc.), and which is also sometimes used of other things to indicate gorgeousness and unusual splendour (cf. Revelation 18:16). (On "vials," see on Revelation 5:8, and compare with Revelation 14:10, "the cup of his indignation.") Compare the expression, "who liveth forever and ever," with the possible reading of ver. 3, "thou King of the ages."
And the temple was filled with smoke from the glory of God, and from his power; and no man was able to enter into the temple, till the seven plagues of the seven angels were fulfilled.
Verse 8. - And the temple was filled with smoke from the glory of God, and from his power. The "smoke" suggests
(1) the cloud, or Shechiuah, the symbol of God's presence and glory (cf. Exodus 16:10: 24:16);
(2) the sign of God's active operation (Exodus 19:18);
(3) the token of judgment and calamity (Isaiah 14:31; Psalm 18:8; Revelation 14:11). All three significations receive their fulfilment in this place. And no man was able to enter into the temple, till the seven plagues of the seven angels were fulfilled; should be finished (Revised Version). Just as when God manifested his presence on Sinai the people were not allowed to approach, so here no one is allowed to approach the ναός, the dwelling place of God, while he is manifesting his judgments. The description is intended to convey an impression of the awful sacredness of God's presence. (For the explanation of the parts of this verse, see on previous verses.)