Seven Last Plagues
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58. Seven Last Plagues
Revelation 15.1-4

"I saw in Heaven another great and marvelous sign, seven angels with the seven last plagues - last because, with them, God's wrath is completed. And I saw what looked like a sea of glass glowing with fire and standing beside the sea, those who had been victorious over the beast and its image and the number of its name. They held harps given them by God and sang the song of God's servant Moses and the Lamb: 'Great and marvelous are your deeds, Lord God Almighty. Just and true are your ways, King of the nations. Who will not fear you, Lord, and bring glory to your name? For you alone are holy. All nations will come and worship before you, for your righteous acts have been revealed.'" (Revelation 15.1-4)✞

Blood Heat and Darkness

Ten Egypt PlaguesJohn of Patmos tells of the pouring out of the seven last plagues with which God's wrath concludes. The plagues cause terrible sores on those with "the mark of the beast who worshiped his image." When this second bowl pours out, the sea becomes a sea of blood and results in all life in it dying. The third angel's bowl makes all rivers and springs turn to blood. The fourth bowl will cause the sun to become so hot as "to scorch men with fire." The fifth plague will bring complete darkness. The sixth bowl flows on the River Euphrates. The land will dry up so that armies can travel to Armageddon's great battle at 18 miles southeast of the modern Haifa. From this location, the assembled troops advance towards Jerusalem for a final battle against Jesus Christ. The last plague is "thundering and lightning and a mighty earthquake and finally an announcement of the coming of Jesus." Jesus' followers would be greatly encouraged, but it would, undoubtedly, bring profound misery for those who are not. John of Patmos' arrangement of the numbers here in two sets of seven is typical of how the apocalyptic writers tend to arrange their material in groups of ten, seven, or three. Two groups of seven would approach perfection.

Lake of Fire

Lake of FireBefore John of Patmos tells of the seven angels with the seven last plagues, he paints a word picture of those who had come through martyrdom for Christ. They stand beside the seas of glass glowing with fire. Glass in antiquity made jewelry, beads, window panes, and tableware. It is, however, rare and very precious. It appears here as a glass fire sea that is glass intermingled with fire. Fire and burning in Scripture are together the symbols of judgment. The light of the fire of judgment, which descends upon the earth, grimly illuminates the whole scene.

Moses Servant Song

Paphos AmphitheatreThe martyrs in Heaven are given harps by God and sing Moses' servant song. They also join in the music of the Lamb. The "King of the Nations" mentioned in this Revelation passage appears in some manuscripts as the "King of the Ages," which emphasizes not just his geographical control but also Jesus' eternal power. In this passage, we hear Moses' servant song. Phrases in this song come from Psalm 111.2-3 "Great are the works of the Lord; they are pondered by all who delight in them. Glorious and majestic are his deeds, and his righteousness endures forever." Jeremiah 10.7 adds, "Who should not fear you, King of the nations? Among all the wise leaders of the nations and in all their kingdoms, there is no one like you." Psalm 86.9 is used "All the nations you have made will come and worship before you, Lord; they will bring glory to your name." Finally, Psalm 98.2 concludes, "The Lord has made his salvation known and revealed his righteousness to the nations."

Miriam's Song

Moses' sister Miriam also sang and danced a song of praise to the Lord when the children of Israel triumphantly crossed the Red Sea. The English Biblical scholar H. B. Swete (1835-1917) comments, "The saints have now come safely through the sea of martyrdom and have arrived at the shore of heaven." There they sing Moses' song and dance on the shore of Heaven with joy. The martyrs in heaven emerge victorious from their contest with the forces of evil and the Antichrist. They often die the most savage of deaths, and yet they emerge here triumphant. It is the very fact that they die that makes them victors. If they remain alive by denying their faith, they would be defeated. Again and again, the Early Church records describe a day of martyrdom as a day of victory. On such a day, faithful Christians process to the tomb of the martyr and worship God there. We read of one martyrdom from the prison diary of a young woman martyred in Carthage in 202-203 AD called "The Martyrdom of Saint Perpetua." "The day of their victory dawned, and they walked from prison to the amphitheater as if they were walking to Heaven, happy and serene in countenance." Jesus says in Matthew 16.25, "For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will find it." The Greek phrase "their life" can also mean "their soul." The real victory is not to prudently preserve life but to face the worst that evil can do and, if need be, to be faithful in death. A wise old Christian named Miguel de Unamuno y Jugo (1864-1936), a famous Spanish poet, philosopher, and mystic, once said, "May God deny you peace, and give you glory."

Sing Lord Song

Moses Crossing Red SeaThe victorious martyrs in Revelation sing the Lord's song. "Great and marvelous are your deeds, Lord God Almighty." The Lamb's music is the Redeemed One's Song that the martyrs alone can learn. They also sing Moses' and Miriam's songs, from Exodus 15 after the safe crossing of the Red Sea. "The Lord is my strength and my song, and he has become my salvation. Who among the gods is like you, Lord? Who is like you — majestic in holiness, awesome in glory, working wonders? The Lord reigns forever and ever." The phrase, "the Lord is my strength, and my song," also means "the Lord is my strength and defense." Our song is also our defense!

Recite the Shema

Bedtime ShemaEvery Jew at each Sabbath evening synagogue service has the memory of the song of the Lord stamped upon it. They recite the "Shema," the creed of Israel, and follow it with two prayers. One of these prayers calls them to sing a particular chorus, "A new song did they that were delivered sing to thy name by the sea-shore, together did all praise and own thee King, and say, 'Jehovah shall reign, world without end. Blessed be the Lord who saves Israel.'" Moses' song commemorates the most extraordinary deliverance in the history of God's people. The victorious martyrs are brought through the seas of persecution to sing a new song unto the Lord in the promised land of Heaven.

The Martyrs' Song

Open Bible and crossThe victorious in Revelation sing their own martyr's song to the Lord and King of the Ages and praise God's greatness. "King of the Ages" or "King of the Nations" emphasizes God's eternal nature and omnipotence. The martyr song is almost entirely composed of quotations from the Old Testament. There is also not one word about their achievements, but it is a lyrical outburst as they praise God's greatness. "True it is that thou art Jehovah our God, and the God of our fathers, our King, and the King of our fathers, our Savior, and the Savior of our fathers, our Creator, the Rock of our Salvation, our Help and our Deliverer. Thy name is from everlasting, and there is no God beside thee." "Great and marvelous are your deeds, Lord God Almighty. Just and true are your ways, King of the ages. Who will not fear you, O Lord, and bring glory to your name? For you alone are holy. All nations will come and worship before you, for your righteous acts have been revealed."

Just True King

Winding Pathway up to HeavenThe name of the great and just true King is worshipped by believers and angels in Heaven, as they praise, so people forget themselves. Heaven is a place where people think and remember only the Lamb of God and the Heavenly Father. The Irish Biblical scholar R. H. Charles (1855-1931) writes, "In the perfect vision of God, the self is wholly forgotten." It is as if when we become absorbed in God's wonder, we completely forget our petty needs. H. B. Swete (1835-1917), a fellow commentator on the Book of Revelation, agrees with this concept, "In the presence of God, the martyrs forget themselves. New wonders surrounding them absorb their thoughts. The just true king and the mighty scheme of things, in which their sufferings form an infinitesimal part, are opening before them. They begin to see the great issue of the world drama, and we hear the doxology with which they greet their first unclouded vision of the true king and his works."

Justice and Holiness

Chain LinksFor the martyrs, justice and holiness join like the links of a chain. Revelation 15.3b repeats, "Just and true are your ways, King of the ages." Having this kind of King means that the truth is prominent. His perfect justice matches God's supreme holiness and purity. He is scrupulously fair in his judgment because his holy standards are so clear. Today's church tiptoes around in our politically correct society and often calls for justice without reference to holiness and truth. It is later surprised that no real justice appears in the absence of holiness and truth!

"Seven Last Plagues"
by Ron Meacock © 2020

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