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The Vision preparatory to the Seven Vials.
CHAP. XV.; and CHAP. xvi. ver. 1.
1 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.
2 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.
3 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
4 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.
5 And after that I looked, and behold the temple of the tabernacle of the testimony in heaven was opened:
6 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.
7 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.
8 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.
1 And I heard a great voice out of the temple, saying to the seven angels, Go your ways, and pour out the vials of the wrath of God upon the earth.
Ver. 1. Another sign in heaven, seven angels, &c.] The scene of the vision continues the same, heaven
and earth in view, and the angels, who are the actors passing between both. The present exhibition is preparatory. Such a general representation had preceded the seven seals and the seven trumpets; this precedes the seven vials. We are now in the midst of the warfare carried on by the Church of Christ, under his auspices, to resist the formidable efforts of the combined enemies. It is a silent warfare, operating chiefly in the human heart. But heaven is now seen interposing visibly to repress the pride and arrogance of the antichristian usurpers. And as seven angels, by sounding the alarm with trumpets, had foreshown the several shocks of battle which the Church should sustain from her enemies, so seven angels, by pouring forth seven vials, express the vengeance of the Almighty, poured out on the triumphant worldly powers, checking their career, embittering their success, and finally overwhelming them in destruction.
They are to be accounted, as the word λnyn expresses, so many blows or strokes; visitations of divine Providence on unrepentant sinners. Such fell on Pharaoh and the hardened Egyptians, who, persisting in their obstinate opposition, were overwhelmed in the Red Sea. The number seven implies a complete visitation.1 "When I begin, I will also make an end, saith the Lord." (1 Sam. iii. 12.) So, with the last of these vials, "the wrath of God will be completed." And it is in allusion to this completion, that they are called "the last plagues;" for they do not seem to extend to the very last times of final judgment, but to end with the beast and false prophet finally and completely subdued; with whose continuance in action, therefore, they seem cotemporary.
1 Note, ch. i. 4.
Ver. 2. A sea, glassy, mingled with fire, &c.] This glassy sca has been already displayed as standing before the throne of God, (ch. iv. 6.) where it was seen to represent the purifying blood of the Redeemer; the price of human redemption, in which alone the vestments can be washed white; by which alone the Christian can be presented pure before God. But the Redeemer has two characters, conformably to the offices assigned him on earth; the one of meekness, in which he came to suffer; the other of exaltation, in which he returns to reign, and to pour out vengeance on his enemies. We are now arrived at that point of the prophetic history, in which this vengeance begins to be poured out. We therefore see the glassy sea mingled with fire; its waves flashing flame; symbolically expressive of anger and vengeance. Here we see collected, as in an appropriate situation, those who, during the usurpation of antichrist, had contended for the faith; and suffering, had gained that victory, which is only to be acquired by the blood of the Lamb." (Ch. xii. 11; vii. 13; 1 John v. 4, &c.) The purification of the priests for the service of the earthly temple, was in the brazen sea; these, who are to minister before the God of heaven, are purified by the heavenly sea; by the blood of the Redeemer. And many of them, having poured out their own blood in his cause, and after his example, now begin to enjoy the triumph which was promised them under the fifth seal. (Ch. vi. 9-13, where see the note.) They are now to be" avenged."
Ib. Of the beast.] EK TOV Inpiov, "not," says Dr. S. Clarke, over the beast, but from out of the midst of the beast: for, by this expression is implied, not only
1 See note, ch. viii. 7.
their conquest, but the difficulty of it, by a few persons, adhering steadfastly to the true religion, in the midst of idolatrous and corrupt nations.
Ver. 3. The Song of Moses.] These holy sufferers no longer cry under the altar for the delayed vengeance of their just God. (Ch. vi. 9, &c.) The promised time is come (Luke xviii. 8.): they now see, as they express in their song,—their triumphant song, like that of Moses after the destruction of Pharaoh, (Ex. xv.) the great and wonderful works of God, who has led them to victory by sufferings; subduing the proud arm of flesh, and bringing all nations to an acknowledgment of his just and wonderful power.1 The nations had been early invited to worship in the name of Christ; they had forsaken their ancient idolatry, and had come to his courts: but the temple was shut; there was none to teach them the truth as "it is in Jesus." A great part of the nations, who have been turned from their idols, through the operation either of the Papal or Mahometan religions, do not even now worship in truth. But when the final vengeance upon the beast and false prophet, which is here promised, shall be completed, the temple will be opened, and the nations shall “worship in the beauty of holiness," "with an holy worship." This seems to be the reason, why the nations are introduced in this song, (v. 4); and for this cause I prefer the reading i0vwv, before that of awvwv, in this verse. It seems supported also by the
Ver. 5. The temple of the tabernacle of the testimony.] The holy place, the local habitation of the Almighty, was thus called. (Num. i. 50, 53.) There
1 Compare Ps. lxxxvi. 8, 9, 10.
2 See also Jer. x. 7.
the cloud and the glory appeared, when the Lord was wroth with the congregation. (Num. xvii. 42.) "The
Ver. 6. Clothed in pure resplendent linen.] "fine linen is the righteousness of the saints." (Ch. xix. 8.) The external habit agrees with the internal purity; the angels have the same kind of raiment as their Lord. (Ch. i. 14.)
Ver. 7. One of the four living creatures.] See note, ch. iv. 6. The vials of the wrath of God are given to the angels by one of those ministering spirits nearest the throne; by the cherubim; which implies, that they come immediately from the divine presence.
Ver. 8. The temple was filled with smoke.] The presence of God, especially when he is wroth, is commonly represented as such. (Is. vi. 4; Ex. xix. 13, &c.) And at the dedication of the first temple, when the presence of the Lord, "as a cloud, had filled the house of God," the priests could not stand to minister. (2 Chron. v. 13, 14.)
The seven Vials poured out.
CH. xvi. ver. 2, to the end.
2 And the first went, and poured out his vial upon the earth: and there fell a noisome and grievous sore upon the men which had the mark of the beast, and upon them which worshipped his image.