Revelation 15:1-8 Part 1

REVELATION 15:1-8 Part 1



1)    Then I saw another great and awesome sign in the heaven; for God’s wrath was carried out in full through seven messengers having the last seven plagues.

2)    I saw as a crystal sea mingled with fire and the ones overcoming the beast and its image and the number of its name standing on the crystal sea having God’s harps;

3)    and they sing the song of Moses the servant of God and the song of the Lamb saying, ‘great and awesome Your works, Kurie the Almighty God; just and true Your ways, King of the ages.

4)    Who shall not fear Kurie and glorify Your Name - alone holy?  All the nations shall come and bow before You, Your righteous acts be manifest!’

5)    After this I looked, and the holy place in the tabernacle of testimony in the heaven was opened,

6)    and the seven messengers having the seven plagues came out of the holy place clothed in pure white linen and girded about the breasts with golden girdles.

7)    And one of the four living creatures gave to the seven messengers seven golden bowls being full of the wrath of God – the One Living into the ages of the ages;

8)    and the holy place was filled of smoke from the glory of God and from His power; and not one was enabled to enter into the holy place until the seven plagues of the seven messengers were finished.



Since John is now shown another great sign in the Revelation of Jesus Christ (this one termed “awesome”), here in chapter fifteen; and since it follows the sign of the woman and the sign of the dragon which he was shown in chapter twelve (and which continued through fourteen); and since it is vital to all the rest of The Revelation; and since we’re entering into our fourth year (as of this morning) of preaching through John’s letter to the Churches, I’ve decided to use this first Sunday of the new year in recap and review.

We all need reminding (that includes me); we all need to remember.  We can’t just begin again with another great sign in the heaven without considering what has come before it, as if it was something brand new all by itself.  It’s certainly not by itself.  There are fourteen chapters and a hundred and fifty hours of preaching that come before it; and it includes a massive amount of Revelation from God that forms the context!


So… all that being said, listen to this once again.  These are words of Jesus, just before His crucifixion, as they were recorded by Luke:


Luke 21

20) And when you see Jerusalem being encompassed with armies, then know that her desolation nears.

21) Let them that are in Judea flee unto the mountains; and let them that are in the midst of her depart out; and let not them that are in the country enter therein.

22) For these are days of vengeance, that all things which are written may be fulfilled.


Let’s just begin our time together this morning by speaking about God’s Covenant, and about the Revelation of His Covenant in history.

As we have seen in the concluding verses of the Gospel of Matthew, our Lord Jesus  is the risen, ascended and triumphant Lord of heaven and earth.  He is Lord.  He is Savior. He is Mediator/Executor of the covenant.  And He doesn’t rule “in” heaven; He rules everything “from” the heaven.  He has been given all authority in the heavens and on the earth… all the host of heaven and all authorities in the creation – including all of the creatures that were cast from the heaven.

And He doesn’t rule from “outside” history; He rules IN history!  He rules history.  He doesn’t “break into” history. It IS His history.

What we study and preach and learn is the history of God - Father, Son and Spirit.  What we study is the revelation of God - Father, Son and Spirit.  What we study is the covenant of God - Father, Son and Spirit.

We don’t study God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit “breaking into history” and intervening on various occasions, and being in constant warfare and conflict with evil!  That kind of neo-orthodox dualism denigrates the covenant, and the salvation wrought by Jesus Christ, and the authority of The Christ Who is the presently reigning King of Kings over all things in the heavens and upon the earth.  He isn’t just “involved” in history; it is HIS history!

The second point here is that Jesus Christ was appointed Mediator/Executor of the covenant in history!  This same apostle, John, just a few years before he penned The Revelation, said, “For God SO loved the “cosmos” – the creation, all that He had made – that He ‘gave’ His only Son….”  All of this happened in history, as covenantally decreed!  You see, God loves His creation; and He has covenanted to save His creation!  And He did so from the beginning!

The creation is history; the promise of the Mediator is history; the setting apart of a peculiar people is history; the specifics of the covenant stipulations is history; the arrogant rebellion against the covenant requirements by that peculiar people is history; the birth, death, burial, resurrection and ascension of the promised Messiah/Mediator is history; the termination of the relationship with that peculiar people is history, as is His having kept-for-Himself a remnant of that peculiar people; the covenant inclusion of peoples of all the nations and tongues and tribes is history, and it is a linear history.  It is not cyclical.

And here’s the point we need to get to here.  The Word of God is the special Revelation of God’s history.  It is God’s perception of all that is His; it is His history.  There is the history of Revelation and a Revelation of history!  And the covenant that He entered into to save all that He made, and to glorify Himself in that salvation, has been revealed in His Word.  And the whole Word, Genesis to Revelation, came from the same mind – the same perception; and it’s all historical; and it all agrees.  And it’s all Christian.

And that’s exactly why, when the Mediator came, that He quoted extensively from the covenant and from the prophets concerning the Mediator of that covenant!  It all agrees!

So, when we come to the text of St John’s Revelation, we see more clearly the history of Revelation, the history of the covenant, the history of salvation…  and we can depend on it.  We follow the history – God’s history – and we can quote from the covenant documents, we can quote from the Psalms, we can quote from the prophets; and we can be sure that the “capstone” of the Revelation of God, here in John’s letter to the Churches, follows the same linear history that all the rest of Scripture follows… because it all agrees.  How can it not?

John’s Revelation was written in history; it belongs there.  And it is a part of the Bible!  It may seem strange that that even needs be said.  But it’s crucial, because some treat it as if it weren’t!  When they approach it, they do so as if it weren’t connected to the rest of Scripture!  From what they say about it, it looks as if it was written completely separately from everything that came before it!  No history; no connections; no similarity of language; no sequence; and certainly from some deity that had little, if anything, to say about it in the other sixty-five documents.  It’s as if it’s just “out there by itself” with no historical sequence.  (Maybe they like it like that, because they can “make up” stuff; and sell books that predict ominous, doomsday events yet to come!).

But St John’s Revelation isn’t out there all by itself.  It was inspired and written in history, in sequence; and it is connected to all the rest of God’s Word.  It is the “fullness” of all that was written (that’s the quote that we read earlier from Luke twenty one). 

And not only that, but it was inspired by the same Holy Spirit Who inspired Deuteronomy, and the Psalms, and Isaiah, and Ezekiel, and Hosea, and Matthew and the letters of Paul.  That fact seems almost universally neglected… for what purposes I’ll leave to your good senses.

But Scripture is not a collection of stories, you see.  And the Bible isn’t a book about the great heroes of the past.  It’s not a book of moral platitudes.  And it’s not an encyclopedia of spiritual thought.  And it’s not just a book about history, it is history… GOD’S history – His perception of His Own history.

As we’ve learned several times over, Scripture is God’s Revelation of Himself in history.  It is of Him; it is His Word; it is for Him; it is for His glory.  And it is the Revelation of His covenant with His creation in His history!  That’s why we call the approach to it all “Covenant continuity”.  NOT futurism; NOT idealism; NOT historicalism: NOT preterism … Covenant continuity.

Just for a minute let me put that in perspective for you.

First, let’s see that God’s covenantal Word is not a series of predictions about what’s going to happen in the future!  That’s not the purpose of God’s covenant.  Truly there are prophecies in the Word; but “predictions” about the future isn’t the purpose for them.

Well, what’s the purpose?  The Bible is a continuous Revelation of God’s covenant with His creation and all His creatures, which includes the requirement for compliance from those to whom He has covenanted!

From the beginning, in history, God has said: here is My covenant with you.  Should you be “faithful” to Me, this is what the positive results will be… the abundant blessings.  However, should you not be faithful to Me, these are the negative sanctions!  And the continuity of all of the Bible exists in the explication of those positive and negative sanctions!

In other words, the “predictions” made by our covenanting God and His prophets and His Only Son have to do with the promises made to man in history… either blessings or curses.  His covenant lays out in great detail all the positive results of faithfulness; and, at the same time, what terrible sanctions will come to those who dare to be unfaithful by charting their own way.  (And, of course, we see the longsuffering, patient calls for repentance by way of the prophets… calls which, when unheeded and despised, generate “multiples” of God’s wrath which, as seen here in chapter fifteen, reach a perfect “seven” finality.)

And the beautiful thing is that the covenant promises never change.  God is faithful to His Word – always.  He is the same yesterday, today and tomorrow.  And all His Word is in His language and from His perspective!  We have to learn the language and see things through His eyes and by His Word.  And the language in that Word is the same from beginning to end!

Just to illustrate these things for you from an older testament prophet, Jonah, who our Lord used as a “sign” to the pharisees about God’s covenant being extended to the Gentiles should Israel not repent, Jonah (reluctantly) preached to Nineveh (a Gentile city/state) about God’s coming wrath upon the city.  And he called them to repentance.  Well, Nineveh did repent; and the promises of wrath from God were averted!

On the other hand, Israel was called to repentance – over and over, with patience and longsuffering.  But they would not.  And God’s covenantal promises of seven-fold, horrific destruction were not averted.  And that’s exactly what our Lord told the pharisees who asked Him for a sign.  And He said “I give you no sign other than the sign of Jonah”.  In other words, when He decreates Israel for breaking God’s covenant, He will then extend covenant inclusion to the Gentile nations; for they will repent, He said.

So… you see, that continual, prophetic activity through all the prophets of Scripture, including our Lord Jesus Christ, were in the same language all through the Word; and the prophecy was not “predictive” in purpose.  The primary purpose was to require repentance and fulfill the covenantal promise!

And, you see, God has the right to do that!  Since the earth belongs to Him; since the sun, moon and stars belong to Him; since all the angel/messengers belong to Him (including the ones cast from His Presence); since mankind belongs to Him… He has the right to do with it as He wills.  All the rebellion comes about as men and women and children conclude (or act as if) He has no right to do that!

Looking at it from God’s perspective, any creature of His who concludes that he has rights of his own is in revolt against His creator!  How does the “pot” question the potters “potmaking” is Paul’s analogy.

And God has the right to judge any creature that responds to Him in rebellion; and He’s perfectly just and righteous in doing that.  That’s what His Revelation is about!  The covenant is about the promises that God made to His creation.  It reveals His decree to save it.  He loves it, and He reveals Himself to it; and any part of that creation that revolts against Him will receive no mercy.

The creation itself is made in the image of His glory cloud/tabernacle; and man was made “the image of God” to rule over the creation.  That’s why God loves it all… it was all made to reflect His glory!  And as messenger/angels rebelled in God’s tabernacle, so has mankind rebelled in the image of His tabernacle.

This is evident from Genesis to The Revelation of Jesus Christ.  And as the tabernacle-in-the-heaven was cleansed of rebellion, so will the creation that reflects it be cleansed of all rebellion.  And it all has to do with the salvation and protection of all by way of His covenantal promise! 

The whole of the Revelation, from Genesis to what is shown to John here, is a continuous and uninterrupted narrative.  Should you obey Me, He says, these will be the blessings inherent in your faithfulness.  But should you seek your own way, these are the curses that adhere to your unfaithfulness.

And because of the curse upon all mankind due to the revolt against Him by the first man, He even provided His Own propitiatory blood sacrifice to pay the price for that cursed sin nature!  And He even revealed that to man from the beginning, and in great detail.  And, then, in sublime faithfulness to His covenant promise, and in the fullness of time, He sent the second Person of Triune God, God the Word, to BE that sacrifice.  And all those of the promise are forgiven their sin and preserved in the Person of the perfect sacrifice!

So you see that there is continuity in God’s revealed Word.  And the integrating factor in that continuity is God’s covenant… His promise.  It is the same Word from beginning to end, and it hasn’t changed… because it’s the same GOD from beginning to end.  And He doesn’t change.  His Word stands in all of history.

In no part of the sixty-six documents that have been providentially preserved for us is there a “time out” or a “detour” (so to speak) in God’s dealing with His creation or his creatures.  And John’s Revelation is certainly not an exception.  There are no exceptions.

The Revelation takes its place sequentially in history; and the scope and content of it, as is to be expected, comes to us right after the other sixty five, the last thirty nine all in one generation (forty years).  And it deals with the same thing:  God’s covenant.  As Luke quotes our Lord: “these are days of vengeance, that all things written may be fulfilled.” 

His creatures either live in His covenant promises, or they seek to do whatever is right in their own eyes.  And the promised blessings accrue to those who “faith” in those promises (that’s a verb, by the way), while the promised sanctions accrue to those who don’t.

Now.  Seeing things from God’s perspective (the covenantal perspective), through His revealed Word, is the integrating factor.  Any other mode of approach to The Revelation (or any other document in the Bible) leaves everything wide open to the prophetically challenged imaginations of men.

The mystics and the predictors and the doomsayers and the moralists and the newspaper exegetes aside, let’s lay out a sequence from the perspective of the covenantal hermeneutic (God’s perspective).

“In the beginning God…” (and we don’t have to do a whole lot more than that in order to indicate that this is all from His perspective), “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.”  Then He said, “Let us make man our own image” (all of it reflecting the glory of God over the firmament of His glory cloud/tabernacle).

Then God revealed His gracious covenant with Adam and his wife.  I created you, He said. I created you Our Own image.  You are “creature”.  Now you be faithful to Me.  Should you obey, you will live.  But should you not obey My covenant, you shall die (positive and negative sanctions).  Of course we all know that Adam and Eve wished to be “as God” and decide for themselves what was right and wrong.

Having received the covenantal curse, all mankind proceeded to do the same:  what was right in their own eyes.  And please note that the curse upon Adam for his unfaithfulness also included a prophecy of One to come Who would extricate mankind (and all of creation) from that curse, and return it to its original reflection of the glory of God.

Well, the curse upon depraved mankind continued through to the inundation of the earth, in which God “saved” mankind through the baptism of the flood.  Nine people, mankind, were covenantally and graciously saved by water, indicating the covenantal preservation of God’s promise to save man from his accursed estate.  There was One Coming, a New Beginning of mankind (a second Adam), Who would expiate the effects of the curse and propitiate the wrath of the Father toward cursed and rebellious mankind.

Then we see God call one man from (what is now called) Iraq, by way of Haran in western Syria.  And by the grace of God through the gift of faith Abram was given to see “the day” of the coming sacrifice for the sin of mankind.  God “established” His covenant with Abraham - positive blessings for his faithfulness and negative sanctions for revolt and rebellion.  Israel came from the loins of Abraham; and so did God’s covenant, through the Christ, to be extended to the Gentile nations – all promised to Abraham.

And then, upon the release of Israel from captivity, God established His covenant with Israel.  What He gave to Moses on Mt. Sinai was an in-depth and thorough explication of His covenantal Law-word.   In it was a full revelation of His morality (in the Commandments and case law), and a comprehensive revelation of the coming sacrifice for the sin of the world.  And near Moses’ death, this is what God told him to say to them before they went into the promised land (Deut. 29):


15) …See, I have set before you this day life and good, and death and evil;

16) in that I command you this day to love Yahveh your God: to walk in his ways and keep his commandments and his statutes and his ordinances, in order that you may live and multiply, and that Yahveh your God may bless you in the land where you go in to possess it.

17) But if your heart turn away, and you will not hear but shall be drawn away and worship other gods and serve them,

18) I denounce unto you this day, that you shall surely perish; you shall not prolong your days in the land whither you pass over the Jordan to go in to possess it.

19) I call heaven and earth to witness against you this day, that I have set before you life and death, the blessing and the curse: therefore choose life that you may live, you and your seed;

20) to love Yahveh thy God: to obey his voice and cleave unto him; for he is your life and the length of your days….


Be faithful and the blessings will be poured out in abundance; be unfaithful and receive the negative sanctions.  Moses went to great length to elaborate on the blessings, and to similar elaboration on the sanctions for disobedience.  This is God’s covenant with mankind, and explicated in great detail to Israel.  And He called Israel His “son”, which He “birthed” from the womb of Egypt; and also referred to the nation with terms having to do with “chastity”.

And it is very similar to the analogy of marriage, isn’t it?  In fact, the Scripture describes marriage in the same terms that God uses in His covenant with Israel.  His covenant is a promise of faithfulness, and a warning of covenantal divorce and execution for unfaithfulness on Israel’s part.  That marriage analogy continues through to the end of John’s Revelation (as we’ll soon see).

Well, Israel didn’t obey.  She was unfaithful to God from the beginning.  The nation, and its tabernacle, were not the reflection of the glory of God and the tabernacle in the heaven.  The sanctions of His covenant were promised again and again all through the prophets.  Final de-construction of God’s “paradise” were threatened should Israel not repent.  (The marriage analogy includes, of course, divorce and the death penalty for fornication.)

And John’s Revelation is the fullness of God’s covenant decree – the “capstone” of the Scripture – as God executes the sanctions of His covenant.  John’s is a warning to the new Churches in the nations about the awesome acts of God shortly to occur.  And they are to be faithful, and take heart, and be assured and comforted; this is the King of Kings – the Mediator/Executor of the covenant - divorcing the harlot nation and bringing upon her the promised death penalty while, at the same time, securing to Himself a promised, faithful people through the Perfect Sacrifice of Himself for their sin. 

The Revelation to John isn’t the “end of the world”; it is the termination of a covenant relationship with a peculiar people – a covenant in which God revealed the coming of the “Son of Oil” – the Anointed One; the Christ of God, the Savior of the world; a covenant by which God has been absolutely faithful, patient and longsuffering with this people who despised Him, turned His Word upside down, killed His prophets, killed His only Son, and then persecuted the Church of the resurrected Christ.

The Revelation is concerning the termination of the covenant with an idolatrous and adulterous nation, and the extension of the covenant to all the Gentile nations, tongues and tribes – to the ends of the earth… all to the glory of God, and all prophesied in the older Scripture (in the very same language)!  John’s letter to the Churches is the next (and last) Revelation in the sequence of events in God’s history called “covenant continuity”.

As Luke quotes our Lord from His Olivet Discourse (just before His crucifixion): “For these are days of vengeance, that all things which are written may be fulfilled.”


What was shown to John here, and what he records and sends to the Lord’s Churches, is the written record of the “filling up” of all things that are written!  It is the fullness of Moses five books; it is the fullness of the prophets; it is the fullness of the historical books; it is the fullness of the wisdom literature; and it is the fullness of the doctrine and teaching of the apostles of Jesus Christ!

So, just what should one expect to find when hearing and reading The Revelation – and hearing it preached?

The Lord Jesus Christ, in all His glorified splendor, appeared to John on the isle of Patmos.  And He tells the apostle to write all that he saw and that is and that is about to be.  And then He gives John seven messages – one each to be sent to the seven Churches directly from Him.

And the seven messages, if you remember, come right out of His Own written Word!  They have to do with covenantal faithfulness of His people here at the end of the age and in the face of terrible persecution.  Those who keep His Commandments and hold the testimony of Jesus, even unto death, will receive the crown of glory; and those who fall away in unbelief will be dealt with severely, according to the sanctions of the covenant.

Then John is called up into the glory cloud/tabernacle of God underneath the firmament of the creation, over which reigns Almighty God: Infinite, Eternal and Unchangeable in Being, Wisdom, Power, Holiness, Justice, Goodness and Truth.

And John is shown what “was”, and “is” and what is “about to be” (all from the Word of God in the Scripture).  And just as he saw it, he is to write it and send it to the Churches.  The was, and is, and about to be… all from God’s perspective and in His language – as it was revealed to Moses and the prophets!

Just as had been described by the prophets before him, John saw the glory cloud/tabernacle of God in the heaven.  He was there. He saw the angel/messenger/creatures numbering in the ten thousands times ten thousands.  He saw the “elder creatures”.  He saw the mercy seat with its four awesome cherubim/creatures.  And He saw the firmament – over which existed the “Person” – the Ancient of Days – Almighty God.

John describes all of this for the Churches so they, too, would know that all this that he was shown was the “pattern” for God’s creation of the heavens and the earth.  The created cosmos, called into being by the Word of God, was to “reflect” – to “mirror” – the tabernacle of God in the heaven.

That’s why God loved the creation that He had made… it reflected His glory.  The worship and adoration and obedience of all the creatures in the heaven was to be reflected in the worship and adoration and obedience of man – the image of God on earth.

But like some of the messengers in the heaven, the creatures on the earth rebelled, and it was all cursed.  It no longer was an image of the tabernacle of God in the heaven.

John is shown the sacrificed Lamb of God standing in the holy place in midst of the glory of the Spirit – as reflected in the tabernacle in the desert.  He is the Savior of the world – God’s Own sacrifice to Himself - that man, the image of God, and the creation itself would all be restored to its reflection of the glory of God.

The seed of the great vengeful dragon that was cast from the heaven pursued the seed of the woman all through God’s history, with the purpose of cutting off the covenant promise.

God had raised up a special people unto Himself, and gave them a special “paradise” on earth and an actual replica of His tabernacle in the heaven.  From them the “seed” would come – nurtured and protected by God the Father through all history, even though the dragon would raise up four great beasts against this people through its history.  God protected the people of “promise” through it all!

This special people desecrated God’s paradise with its harlotry and idolatry; and it desecrated God’s replica tabernacle with its idols and its rebellion; and the covenant promises and sanctions would be brought against it.  And John sees all of the sanctions – all of them prophesied throughout Scripture!  And we’re about to hear, in the following chapters, what John wrote concerning what was “about to be” in the seven bowls of the wrath of God against this special “paradise” nation.

But the “seed”, those of the promise, had been saved from that wrath… all from this special people that God had kept for Himself.  John sees them – all hundred and forty-four thousand standing on the new Mount Zion with their Savior, fulfilling God’s promise to save Israel.  The “seed” is Christ and His bought-and-paid-for bondservants.  They are “firstfruit” of His resurrection.

In His sovereign will and dominion, God had used the dragon and all its provocations in order to manifest His Anointed One and all those that belonged to Him by covenantal promise.

And because of the faithfulness of God the Son, The Son of God, The Son of Man, He was given dominion over everything that was made, in order that He would restore it all to its proper reflection of the glory of God the Father… a further work after having completed His work of Executor of the covenant sanctions against Israel.

The wrath of the Lamb against those who had persecuted Him, against those who had pursued and persecuted and killed many of those for whom He had died… John saw and heard their blood cry out for the vengeance of the Lamb of God.

And when He was done, not one stone would be left on another; and God’s “heaven and earth – Israel”, God’s second “paradise” on earth, would be a “sea” of blood from one border to the other in the greatest catastrophe in the history of the creation.


Now, before we finish our recap and preparation for chapter fifteen, I want to make a few comments about God’s “perception” of all of this.

The Scripture makes clear that God is unchangeable, and that His Word stands forever, and that His decree from before the foundation of this cosmos is non-negotiable.

The Revelation of Jesus Christ to the apostle John (and by him to the Lord’s Churches) incorporates the entirety of the written Word from the casting of Satanos from the Presence of God and His tabernacle in the heaven, to the decree to create the cosmos and man, all the way to the de-creation of Israel, and the creation of the New Heavens and the New Earth in Christ Jesus – the Word of God made flesh.

The great mystery sealed to Daniel is revealed here, in that God’s paradise/Israel would be de-constructed, and the covenant would incorporate all nations tongues and tribes (as promised to Abraham), and that that the seed of Abraham in Christ would rival the numbers of the stars and the grains of sand on the seashore!

It’s all to the end that God is glorified in all that He has made; it is all to reflect His glory.  And by the further, and continuing, work of the risen and ascended Son of Man – the enthroned King of Kings, all of this creation will once again mirror the glory of Almighty God the Father over His glory cloud/tabernacle.

And from beginning to end, in the written account of the Revelation of God all through His history, it’s written in His language as He revealed it.

So when we say “as God sees it”, or “in God’s perception”, or “as God perceives it”, it isn’t as if He’s just “looking on”; it isn’t as if He simply describes things to John as they take place!

His perception is His perception because He has caused it to be!  And John is “shown” here what has been caused to be, and what is, and what is about to be.  And he is shown the very “causal” mind of God from the casting out of rebellious messengers to the casting out of rebellious Israel and the casting of all self-serving creatures “into” the eternal lake of fire and brimstone.

He is also shown the causal mind of God with regard to all His creation and all His creatures of the covenantal promise!

All this to say that we have one Revelation, from One Almighty God Who is changeless; it is all His history, and it is all in His language, and it all agrees; and The Revelation of Jesus Christ to John is the “fullness” of all that has been written.

And all the Churches, including this one, have been told to “keep the Commandments of God” and to “hold the testimony of Jesus”; for that is how they are made manifest!

Next Lord’s Day, John is shown another view of the hundred and forty-four thousand of the twelve tribes of Jacob, as he sees another great (and awesome) sign in the heaven.