And I saw another sign in heaven, great and marvelous, seven angels having the seven last plagues…
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. And I saw as it were a sea of glass mingled with fire: and them that had gotten the victory over the beast, etc. This fragment of John's vision, or dream, brings under our attention and serves to illustrate two subjects:
(1) Divine severity; and
(2) human heroism.
I. DIVINE SEVERITY. "And I saw another sign in heaven, great and marvellous, seven angels having the seven last plagues; for in them is filled up [finished] the wrath of God" (ver. 1). Undoubtedly in the government of this world there is the stormy as well as the mild, the gloomy as well as the pleasant. The government under which we live on this earth often assumes aspects of terrible severity. Its manifold ministers or angels bear to us manifold "plagues " - afflictions, which our sin-stricken consciences refer to Divine indignation or wrath.
1. The principle of severity is seen in material nature. In the inorganic realms all things do not seem mild and pleasant. We have tornadoes sweeping destruction over sea and land, we have earthquakes that engulf cities, sounds are heard and sights are witnessed that overwhelm with terror and alarm.
2. This principle of severity is seen in the plantal realm. In gardens and orchards, as well as in the fields and woods, the open commons and the wild prairies, there is heard the moaning groan and felt the blasting breath of severity shivering the fruit, scattering the blossoms like hoar frost, freezing the very roots of life.
3. This principle of severity is seen in the sentient domain. From the behemoths that prowl in the forests, and the leviathans that sport in oceans, to the tiniest microbes in the microscopic world, there are aspects of severity, pains of birth and death, of hunger and thirst, and of predatorial ravages and tortures. There is an undertone of sadness heard throughout. "The whole creation groaneth," etc.
4. This principle of severity is seen in human history. Bodily diseases, secular indigence, social annoyances, heart bereavements, physical dissolution, - in all these there is often the ghastly appearance of Divine severity. The "seven angels," with their "seven plagues," appear in all directions. I am far enough from averring that the ministry of pain is a malignant ministry, but, otherwise, it is benign Will the ministry of pain ever continue? Will the "seven angels" be ever on the wing, bearing the "plagues"? Cowper says -
"The groans of nature in this nether world,
Which Heaven has heard for ages, have an end." Will they have an end? Heaven grant they may!
II. HUMAN HEROISM. "And I saw as it were a sea of glass [a glassy sea] mingled with fire: and them that had gotten the victory over [that come victorious from] the beast, and over [from] his image, and over his mark, and over [from] the number of his name, stand on the sea of glass [standing by the glassy sea], having the harps of God. And they sing the song of Moses," etc. (vers. 2, 3). The heroes here suggested are:
1. Those who have conquered the wrong. They are those "who have gotten the victory over the beast." And what is the beast? Moral wrong in all its elements and forms. Sin is a hideous, ravenous, iniquitous "beast," served and worshipped by unredeemed men the world over. The foe against which the true hero fights is sin, and sin only. He who destroys life and tramples on human rights is no hero, but a mercenary murderer. From no character do I recoil with such horror as from him who sells his time, his body, his all, to slaughter his fellow men. Nor do I feel scarcely a greater abhorrence for such a character than for those who, professing to be the ministers of Christ, rhetorically extol such as heroes, and subscribe to monuments to perpetuate their infamous history. I wonder greatly that the reports of the horrors of that war lately going on in the Soudan, inaugurated and supported, alas! by what has been rightly denominated the shuffling, starving, slaughtering Parliament of the time, do not rouse all England to arms against the Governments and the Churches that can tolerate for an instant such stupendous crimes.
2. Those who ascribe their victory to God. Observe:
(1) Their posture. "They stand on the sea of glass, having the harps of God" (ver. 2). It is suggested that their position is one of safety. The sea does not surge about them; it is beneath them, hard as ice. It is a position of splendour. The crystal sea on which they stand is made brilliant by fire. There is no posture of soul so sublime and safe as the true posture of worship. The Shechinah beams around them as their glory and defence.
(2) Their anthem. "They sing the song of Moses the servant of God, and the song of the Lamb" (ver. 3).
(a) Their anthem breathes triumphant praise. They recognize in their triumphs the "great and marvellous works" of God, and the truth and rectitude of his ways. God is righteous. "Just [righteous] and true are thy ways, thou King of saints [the ages]" (ver. 3). Notice:
) The demands of his Law attest the truth of this testimony. The heavenly Teacher has reduced all the demands which the eternal Governor makes upon us to a twofold command.
(i.) "Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart." His demand is our supreme love. Is this demand just? This depends upon three things:
(a) Whether we have the power of loving any one supremely.
(b)Whether God has attributes adapted to awaken this love within us.
(c) Whether these attributes are revealed with sufficient clearness to our minds.
The affirmative to these things must be admitted by all. All men do love some object supremely. The Eternal has attributes in every variety of aspect and attraction. The heavenly Teacher has reduced the demands to another command.
(ii.) "Whatsoever ye would that men should do unto you, do ye even so unto them." Not "whatsoever men do unto you" - that might be sinful; but "whatsoever ye would that men should do unto you." Would you have them false, dishonest, unkind, tyrannic, towards you? Whatsoever ye would that they should be, be so to them. Can anything be more just?
) The intuitions of his moral creatures attest the truth of this testimony. In all moral intelligences there is:
(i.) An intuitive sense of the right. All have an inbred sentiment of right and wrong. This sentiment implies a moral standard; and what is this standard but God?
(ii.) An intuitive love of right. All moral souls love the right in the abstract; they are bound to do it. "I delight in the Law of God after the inward man." All consciences go with God.
(iii.) An intuitive remorse. Misery springs up in the soul from a conscious departure from the right. Cain, Belshazzar, Judas, are examples.
(iv.) An intuitive appeal to God under the wrong as the Friend of the right. Oppressed humanity involuntarily looks to God as Judge of all the earth. Deep in the soul of the moral creation is the feeling that God's ways are just and right. No argument can destroy this consciousness.
) The mediation of his Son attests the truth of this testimony. Christ came to establish judgment - rectitude in the earth. "What the Law could not do in that it was weak through the flesh, and for sin condemned sin in the flesh."
(i.) His life was the development of Divine righteousness. He was incarnate judgment. "He did no sin, neither was guile found in his mouth."
(ii.) His death was the highest homage to Divine rectitude. He could have escaped death. It was the inner sense of right that urged him on.
(iii.) His system is the promoter of Divine righteousness. His truth inculcates it. His Spirit promotes it. His Spirit comes to convince the world of sin, of righteousness, etc.
) The retributions of his government attest the truth of this testimony. Look at the expulsion of Adam, the Deluge, the burning of Sodom, the extermination of the Canaanites, the destruction of Jerusalem, and the dispersion of the Jews.
(b) Their anthem breathes philanthropic devotion. "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 [righteous acts] are made manifest" (ver. 4). The words may be regarded as expressing a desire that all men, all the nations, should worship God. Genuine piety is always philanthropic. He who loves the Father will love his children, and will desire all the brethren to worship the Father "in spirit and in truth." Genuine piety and genuine philanthropy are convertible expressions, modifications of the same sovereign principle - love. - D.T.
Parallel VersesKJV: 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.