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  • Writer's pictureSteve McAtee

Week - 28 A Prelude to Doomsday Revelation 15:1-4

Updated: Dec 15, 2021

Authored by Jerry Marshall Introduction:

An old farmer went to the city one weekend and attended the big city church. He came home and his wife asked him how it was. “Well,” said the farmer, “it was good. They did something different; however, they sang praise choruses instead of hymns.”

“Praise choruses,” said his wife, “What are those?” “Oh, there okay. They’re sort of like hymns, only different,” said the farmer. “Well, what’s the difference,” asked his wife. The farmer said, “Well it’s like this, let’s suppose that I noticed that cows got into the cornfield again and I wanted to tell you. And let’s suppose that I composed a song like a worship chorus to let you know that the cows where in the corn. It would go something like this...

‘Martha, Martha, Martha, Oh Martha, Martha, Martha, the cows, the big cows, the brown cows, the black cows, the white cows, the black and white cows, the COWS, COWS, COWS are in the corn, are in the corn, are in the corn, the CORN, CORN CORN.’ Then if I was to repeat that whole thing two or three times-well that would be like a praise chorus.”

Now if I composed a hymn to communicate this information, it would go something like this. “Oh Martha, dear Martha, hear thou my cry. Inclinest thine ear to the words of my mouth. Turn thou thy whole wondrous ear by and by, to the righteous and glorious truth. For the way of the animals who can explain? There in their heads is no shadow of sense, harkenest they in God’s sun or His rain, unless from the mild tempting corn they are fenced. Yea those cows in glad bovine, rebellious delight, have broke free their shackles, their warm pens eschewed. Then goaded by minions of darkness and night, they are all my mild sweet corn have chewed.

So look to that bright shining day by and by, where all foul corruptions of earth are reborn. Where no vicious animal makes my soul cry, and I no longer see those foul cows in the corn. Then, if I were to do only verses one, three and four, followed by a key change on the last verse; well that would be a hymn.

You don’t have to be around the church very long before you find out that one of the flash points of contention in the body of Christ is the issue of music in the church. And in the heat of the debate and dialogue over this issue we tend to lose sight of the purpose of music in worship and end up emphasizing our preference of music in worship.

It might serve us well to ask first what worship is and then secondly, what is the purpose of music or songs in worship?

“To worship is to quicken the conscience by the (holy) character of God, to feed the mind with the truth of God, to purge the imagination by the beauty of God, to open the heart to the love of God, to devote the will to the purpose of God.” William Temple, the hope of a New World.

Worship is the heart so warmed by the truth about God and His mighty deeds that it boils over into praise, adoration and obedient service.

Worship incorporates the celebration of the mighty deeds of God in history. For example, His creation, His mighty providence, His covenant of redemption, His redemptive revelation through Jesus Christ in the incarnation, the crucifixion, resurrection and the ascension Christ to the right hand of the Father.

Psalm 145:1-71

A psalm of praise. Of David.

I will exalt you, my God the King;

I will praise your name forever and ever.

2 Every day I will praise you

and extol your name forever and ever.

3 Great is the LORD and most worthy of praise;

his greatness no one can fathom.

4 One generation will commend your works to another;

they will tell of your mighty acts.

5 They will speak of the glorious splendor of your majesty,

and I will meditate on your wonderful works.

6 They will tell of the power of your awesome works,

and I will proclaim your great deeds.

7 They will celebrate your abundant goodness

and joyfully sing of your righteousness.

In the text before us today, we have a song of worship, which incorporates the themes of two other songs of worship. This song of worship, along with many others that are recorded in Scripture should serve as our models for the kind of songs that effectively enhance our worship. They also serve as object lessons of the purpose of music in the church.

I have titled the chapter before us today, “A Prelude to Doomsday,” because in this chapter we have some preparatory activities that are followed by the last expression of God’s wrath inflicted upon the inhabitants of the earth by what is called His bowl Judgments. These plagues are last in the series of judgments because they will complete God’s wrath.

I. The Sign in Heaven (Revelation 15:1)

1 I saw in heaven another great and marvelous sign:

Previously, John had a vision of two other signs in heaven recorded earlier in this book. The first is found in Revelation 12:1, which was the sign of a women clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet and a crown of twelve stars on her head (a reference to the nation of Israel and her plight during the time of the Great Tribulation).

The second is recorded in Revelation 12:3 and that is the sign of the great red dragon (a metaphorical description of Satan in the zenith of his power during the time of the Great Tribulation).

And now John beholds this third sign which he describes using a couple of superlatives (“Great and Marvelous”). He uses these terms in order to convey the importance and significance of this sign because it has to do with the final outpouring of God’s wrath. The concluding expression of God’s judicial anger poured out upon those whose love; loyalty and devotion have been given to the Antichrist.

“The seals visited great plagues upon the earth, the trumpets still greater plagues, but these are the greatest and most awesome of all.” Dr Morris

A. The seven angels (1a)

John beholds in this heavenly sign... seven angels with the seven last plagues—

Angels, have been used of God throughout this book as agents of the Lord carrying His judgment upon the inhabitants of the earth. But the significance of task of these angels is revealed in what they have.

B. The seven last plagues (1b)

The seven last plagues—last, because with them God’s wrath is completed.

The wrath of God has been unfolding sequentially in three telescoping series of seven judgments. The first series of seven were the seal judgments, which unleashed upon the world of the future, a spirit of conquest, conflict, famine and death. These horrors were followed by a great earthquake, an eclipse of the sun and the moon and a rain shower of fallen stars (asteroids). When the sixth seal was snapped by our Lord, a strong geographical disturbance occurred causing every mountain and island on earth to be moved.

The telescoping feature of these judgments is seen at the point of the snapping of the seventh seal by the Lord - because out of the seventh seal comes the seven trumpet judgments.

Revelation 8:1-2

1 When he opened the seventh seal, there was silence in heaven for about half an hour. 2 And I saw the seven angels who stand before God and to them were given seven trumpets.

The Trumpet Judgments brought even more catastrophe upon the inhabitants of the world during the time of the Great Tribulation. The sounding of the first four trumpets rocked the entire ecological system of planet earth (Revelation 8:7-13). The sounding of the fifth and sixth trumpet blast released demonic beings from the Abyss who inflicted pain, suffering and eventually, death to a third of the world’s population (Revelation 9:1-19). And what was the response of the inhabitants of this world to these seal and trumpet judgments?

Revelation 9:20

20 The rest of mankind that were not killed by these plagues still did not repent of the work of their hands; they did not stop worshiping demons, and idols of gold, silver, bronze, stone and wood—idols that cannot see or hear or walk.

But now, we come to the seven last plagues, the final expression of God’s wrath in this telescoping series that issue from the blast of the seventh trumpet. These final expressions of God’s wrath are described as plagues, which in the original language of the Scriptures, refer to a blow or a wound. In this context the word refers to the judicially inflicted blows of judgment that will strike the world with deadly force.

These plagues are described as the Last. They are the last because in them the wrath of God expressed against the world during the time of the Great Tribulation will be fully and finally completed.

These seven last plagues will finish the telescoping series of judgment. The word “finished” is a translation of the Greek word, teleo which means to bring to a close, to finish or to complete. Like the words of Christ on the cross when He said, it is finished!

“It’s important to note that the fact that they are called the “last” implies that the preceding trumpet and seal judgments were also plagues expressing the wrath of God.” Not the wrath of Satan, not the wrath of man. The seal judgments, the trumpet judgments and now the bowl judgments, are all an expression of God’s future and final wrath.

As a matter of fact, every person from every social stratum fully recognized that what was happening to them was an expression of the wrath of God way back after the breaking of the sixth seal.

Revelation 6:15-17

15 Then the kings of the earth, the princes, the generals, the rich, the mighty, and every slave and every free man hid in caves and among the rocks of the mountains. 16 They called to the mountains and the rocks, “Fall on us and hide us from the face of him who sits on the throne and from the wrath of the Lamb! 17 For the great day of their wrath has come, and who can stand?”

The seal judgments, the trumpet judgments and these seven last plagues which are later described as the bowl Judgments, all express the wrath of God inflicted upon those who inhabit the earth during the time of the Great Tribulation.

The church is promised that its destiny does not include being subject to God’s end time wrath. Therefore, I respectfully disagree with my brothers and sisters who hold to the post-tribulational theory of the rapture or the pre-wrath theory of the rapture of the church because both theories see the church subject to the end time expressions of God’s wrath (cf. 1 Thessalonians 5:9; Revelation 3:10).

II. The Sea and the Victorious Saints (Revelation 15:2)

A. The vision of the sea (2a)

2 And I saw what looked like a sea of glass mixed with fire

John uses comparison language in order to convey what he had seen with his own eyes. What he saw looked like a sea of glass mixed with fire.

One scholar stated; “What John saw was a transparent crystal platform before God’s throne, shimmering and glistening like a tranquil, sunlit sea.” And this sea of glass mixed with fire seems to be reflecting the brilliance and the majesty of Him who sits on the throne with a virtual symphony of color. John had beheld this sea-like crystal platform before as he attempted to describe the very throne room of God.

Revelation 4:6

6 Also before the throne there was what looked like a sea of glass, clear as crystal.

Moses, along with Aaron, his sons and the seventy elders of Israel beheld a similar vision of the Lord and this sea-like platform beneath His feet.

Exodus 24:9-10

9 Moses and Aaron, Nadab and Abihu, and the seventy elders of Israel went up 10 and saw the God of Israel. Under his feet was something like a pavement made of sapphire, clear as the sky itself.

B. The vision of the victorious (2b)

And, standing beside the sea, were those who had been victorious over the beast and his image and over the number of his name. They held harps given them by God.

These victorious ones were at one time the victims of Satan, the Antichrist and his False Prophet in their joint effort to eradicate them from the world. All who would not give their love, loyalty, devotion and worship to the Antichrist.

They were no doubt martyred because of their refusal to worship the image of the Beast (the Antichrist), or to receive the mark of the Beast on their right hand or forehead. But now, they stand on “the other side,” beside this resplendent sea of transparent glass mixed with fire that serves as the platform for God’s throne.

They did not compromise their loyal commitment to Christ their King in spite of the political pressure placed upon them by the Beast, the religious pressure place upon them by the False Prophet or the economic pressure place upon them for refusing to take the Mark of the Beast. These victorious ones are those who have been redeemed during the Tribulation.

Revelation 12:11

11 They overcame him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony; they did not love their lives so much as to shrink from death.

You may recall from our previous studies of this book, that the False Prophet, acting in behalf of the Antichrist, established a universal law which required all people on earth to worship the image of the Antichrist and also receive the mark of the Antichrist on their right hand or on the forehead under penalty of death (Revelation 13:14-18).

Later in the book of Revelation, these martyred “Tribulation Saints” are described as being resurrected at the time of the Second Coming of Christ and reigning with Christ during the Millennium (Revelation 20:4-6).

But at this point in John’s vision, these victorious saints are gathered on “the other side” and are about to sing a magnificent song of worship. And God Himself provides the musical instrument to accompany their singing. For each of these martyred saints held harps given to them by God.

These martyred Saints, standing in the presence of God, break out into two anthems of victory and praise because their prayers to avenge their deaths is about to be fully and finally answered (Revelation 6:9-10).

III. The Song of the Victors (Revelation 15:3-4)

3 and they sang the song of Moses the servant of God and the song of the Lamb:

The song of Moses is no doubt the song that Moses composed and was sung by the nation of Israel immediately after their miraculous deliverance from Pharaoh and the Egyptian armies having crossed the Red Sea. Now on the other side of the sea they sang the song of Moses (Ex 15:1-21).

The primary thrust of the song of Moses was on the mighty work of God in miraculously delivering them from their avowed enemy. So it was primarily a song of victory and deliverance. “Evidence suggests that the first century Jews regularly sang this song on Sabbath evenings in their Synagogues.”

The song of the Lamb (Revelation 5:9-14), is also a song of victory. It is an anthem of triumph over the ultimate adversary, which is sin and death through the redemptive work of Jesus Christ.

John Phillips, in his commentary of Revelation points out the comparisons and contrasts of these two songs.

“The song of Moses was sung at the Red Sea, the song of the Lamb is sung at the crystal sea; the song of Moses told how God brought His people out, the song of the Lamb tells how God brings His people in: The song of Moses was the first song in Scripture, the song of the Lamb is the last. The song of Moses commemorated the execution of the foe, the expectation of the saints, and the exaltation of the Lord; the song of the Lamb deals with the same three themes.”

These martyred saints fully understood that it was only because of Our Lord’s gracious redemptive work on the Cross-and His victorious resurrection that they are saved. “They had been able to overcome the beast and the dragon not only because of their willingness to witness and to die for their faith, but because of the blood of the Lamb.”

The song of the Lamb is a song of salvation, redemption and victory over sin and death.

“Just as deliverance from Egypt, with its divine plagues of judgment on Israel’s enemies, became for the Jew a signpost of God’s just rule over the world, so God’s eschatological judgment and the deliverance of the followers of the Lamb bring forth from the victors over the Beast exuberant songs of praise to God for his righteous acts in history.”

This worship song contains four ascriptions of praise and adoration. Although the words of this song of praise do not identically match the song of Moses or the song of the Lamb, the themes of these songs as well as the particular emphasis on the character of God and his mighty deeds are the same.

A. The works of God (3a)

“Great and marvelous are your deeds, Lord God Almighty.

The deeds (works) of God are great (megas) in the eminency of His ability and power to carry out His purposes. And His deeds are marvelous in that they cause those who witness His works to stand back in awe and amazement.

Whether His works are revealed in His mighty miracle at the Red Sea, or His even greater miracle on Mount Calvary and the empty Tomb, or the miraculous way He avenges the martyrdom of His Tribulation Saints. His works are great and marvelous!

B. The ways of God (3b)

Just and true are your ways, King of the ages.

The ways of God, refers to the various methods and means by which He carries out His sovereign purposes. His ways are always just and true. Whether that includes the destruction of the rebellious Pharaoh and his army, or whether that includes the destruction of the inhabitants of the earth during the time of the Great Tribulation who refuse to repent of their sins and turn to God for the salvation of their souls.

The ways of God are just and true and He is to be praised! They are just in the sense that they are always virtuous, equitable and altogether righteous. They are true as opposed to that which is imperfect, defective and faulty. His ways are just and true even when that includes allowing His children to pass through the difficult pathway of persecution.

This is a clear example of believers who did not formulate their theology based only on their experience. Certainly, what they experienced was horrible - but such an experience did not diminish the truth about the ways of God - they are always just and true even when they include hardship for the believer.

For our God is the king of all the ages. Because of some variances in manuscripts of the NT, some translations have the King of all the Saints, or the King of all the nations. The point to be made here, no matter the variance found in the manuscripts, is that God is sovereign over all. He is the King of all, majestic in his power, righteous and all his ways.

C. The worthiness of God (4a)

4 Who will not fear you, O Lord, and bring glory to your name? For you alone are holy.

This particular ascription of praise is framed in the form of a rhetorical question. Who will not fear you? Who will not venerate you, reverence you and treat you with deference. And who will not glorify your name. “To glorify His name is to praise Him for all that He is, has accomplished, and will accomplish.”

For you alone are holy. The word for Holy in the original is the word, { hos’-ee-os not the word most commonly used} which speaks of moral purity, the absence of evil or free from moral defilement of sin. This word speaks of the moral perfection of God. In this context it refers to the moral perfection of God manifested in the exercise of His end time judgments.

So God alone is worthy of our worship because He alone is morally perfect and pure. And that moral perfection is manifested in all that He does.

D. The worship of God (4b)

All nations will come and worship before you, for your righteous acts have been revealed.”

The song of the victorious saints concludes with a joyful anticipation of the Millennium when all the nations will come and worship the Lord in universal recognition of who He is and the righteousness of what He has done, in the exercise of judgment during the time of the Great Tribulation.

This was prophetically declared in the OT.

Psalm 86:8-10

8 Among the gods there is none like you, O Lord;

no deeds can compare with yours.

9 All the nations you have made

will come and worship before you, O Lord;

they will bring glory to your name.

10 For you are great and do marvelous deeds;

you alone are God.

Zechariah 14:16

16 Then the survivors from all the nations that have attacked Jerusalem will go up year after year to worship the King, the LORD Almighty, and to celebrate the Feast of Tabernacles.

The cause of this universal worship is...for your righteous acts have been revealed.”

All the nations of the world will worship the true and living God especially in reflection of His righteous acts in the exercise of his judgment during the time of the Great Tribulation culminating with the second coming of Christ and the establishment of the Millennial Kingdom. The rightness of all that God had done to get to the point of the Millennium will be the primary prompter of praise.

Practical Implications

1. The most important aspect of songs sung in the worship of the Lord is not the style of music; the instruments used to accompany the song, the performance of the song or the rhythm of the song. What is most significant are the words of the song and how well the message of the song accurately conforms to the revelation of God and His mighty deeds.

The songs we have recorded for us in Scripture are impeccable in terms of doctrinal accuracy. They must serve as models for the songs we sing today in the church.

2. Appropriate music in the church feeds the mind with Biblical truth, prompts the will to holy behavior and stimulates our emotions in a wholesome manner.

3. Music in worship serves primarily to communicate truth about God and His mighty deeds. Any entertainment value that might be derived is secondary at the most.

4. The goal of those who prompt us to worship is to maximize the worshipper’s attention to God, and minimize the worshipper's attention to them (John 3:30).

5. Those who sing songs of worship (solo or congregational), must always remember that God is the audience, not the people in attendance.

6. Those who make up the body of Christ are not only saved from the eternal wrath of God which sentences all unrepentant sinners to hell forever, but also, the eschatological wrath of God which will be expressed during the Great Tribulation through a telescoping series of judgments.


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