The tipping point – Wednesday, 34th Week in ordinary time – Revelation 15:1-4
So far we have seen the plague of the seven seals (6:1-8:1) and of the 7 trumpets (8:2-11:19). In chapter 16 we will hear of the seven angels with seven plagues or the seven bowls of wrath of God that are poured on those who bear the mark of the beast. The seven angels are no doubt the traditional 7 archangels of late Jewish angelology. In I Enoch (Enoch is an apocalyptic book popular before the time of Christ and for several centuries afterward. Its original language was likely Aramaic) they are listed as Uriel, Raphael, Raguel, Michael, Sariel, Gabriel, and Remiel. In Jewish literature they are often called the “angels of the presence.”
Chapter fifteen prepares us for the pouring out of the bowl of judgments that will take place in chapter sixteen. They are the last judgments because “they exhaust the anger of God”; with them God’s anger is satisfied. Like the earlier series of calamities, this too is a manifestation of the wrath of God on his enemies. God’s wrath is building to a grand climax.
Each set of calamities have been in sets of seven (seven seals and the seven trumpets) and now we have the last of the series of seven calamities seven bowls of wrath. However, the final destruction of Rome, the seat of the Roman Empire and the cause of the suffering to the early Christians is yet to come in chapter 17. The final judgment of the beast and the dragon will take place in Chapter 19:11- 20:10. A vision of the victorious martyrs precedes the vision of woe that will take place in Revelations 15:5–16:21
John, the author of the book, now sees a sea of glass. This sea of glass was mentioned in 4:6 but now a detail is added. It is mingled with fire. The saints who have triumphed over the beast are pictured as standing by the shore of this heavenly sea, holding harps of God. The harp or the lyre, as we have seen in 5:7-8, is a musical instrument used for the praise and worship of God.
The saints sing a hymn of praise to God for his mighty acts, anticipating the final victory and the execution of God’s righteous judgments. They now sing the Song of Moses, the servant of God. The Song of Moses may be an allusion to Exodus 15:1-18, where Moses and Israel sing a song of deliverance after having passed through the sea.
This Song of Moses is given the designation of the song of the Lamb. It is the Lamb who has made possible the deliverance of the Christian. The interesting thing about the particular song in heaven, in Rev.15 is that it is both old and new. It is both the song of Moses, and the song of the Lamb. The song of the Lamb was fairly new, but the song of Moses was well over 1200 years old when John wrote. What Moses did for the Old Testament people of God, Jesus has done for the New Testament people of God. Here is a perfect union between law and love, between the Old Covenant and the New Covenant.
What is frightful about this teaching is that it seems as though the cup of God’s wrath, the measure of human iniquity has reached a tipping point; after which the wrath of God begins to overflow. Once the overflow of God’s wrath begins to trickle from the brim of human sin it starts a chain of events which cannot be prevented. God’s wrath is poured out on the children of disobedience.
However, we have to be careful when speaking of God’s anger not equate it with the kind of anger we ourselves are prone to from time to time. Our anger is often a spontaneous and uncontrolled emotional reaction to a situation and is often quite out of proportion to what actually happened. God’s anger is measured and balanced. It is not really anger in our sense. Rather, it is the response he gives to those who totally reject his call to a life of truth and love and union with him. In fact, it is not God who rejects and punishes his people. Rather, it is they who reject him and find themselves in terrible isolation from the One for whom their whole being craves.