The Song Of Moses And Of The Lamb
You will remember, no doubt, that in connection with our interpretation of Chapter 11 we called your attention to the fact that in that passage things were revealed only in general outline, while they were to be explained in detail in future chapters. If in that light you consider the passage we are now called to discuss, you will have no difficulty finding its counterpart in Chapter 11. Chapter 11 spoke of the two witnesses who were oppressed and persecuted and cast out by Antichrist, but caught up to God in heaven. And after the witnesses were caught up, we read of the sounding of the seven trumpets, the voices which sing in heaven, and the opening of the temple of God which is in heaven, followed by signs of great judgment upon the earth. Evidently this passage is now worked out in detail, not only in the present chapter but also in future chapters. Already we have studied the rise of Antichrist and his power. We have received an insight into his nature and work. And we have seen how he would persecute the church which refuses to worship the beast and his image. We have also become acquainted with the attitude of God over against this power of Antichrist, and seen that in the end He would redeem and fully deliver His church and destroy the wicked antichristian kingdom. Now then, the destruction of Antichrist is worked out in greater detail in the chapters following. In Chapters 15 and 16 we have a vision of the seven vials of the wrath of God as poured out on the earth by the seven angels. These two chapters belong together, and they are related in such a way that our present chapter serves as an introduction to Chapter 16, while in the latter the actual pouring out of the seven vials is pictured.
Of course, here we are reminded of the general plan of the Book of Revelation. There are seven seals. And when all of these seven seals are opened, the wrath of God and of the Lamb against the kingdom of Antichrist will be finished. But these seven seals do not maintain their character as seals throughout. The seventh seal reveals itself as seven trumpets, and the seventh trumpet as seven vials. We must remember, as we have repeatedly stated, that it is not in harmony with the contents to take these seals and trumpets as being strictly successive, nor as being entirely contemporaneous. Taking them as a whole, they are both successive and contemporaneous. In principle there is nothing new in the seven vials. Only there is progress again, so that the destruction, which was more complete in the seven trumpets than in the seven seals, is now entirely complete in the seven vials; and the wrath of God is finished in them. Let us therefore now, first of all, discuss the passage of Chapter 15, which speaks of the song of Moses and of the Lamb.
The first verse of the chapter announces the general theme of its contents. John tells us: "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." John speaks here of another sign in contrast with the signs he has seen before. The sign of the woman arrayed with the sun and with the moon under her feet; the sign of the beast with the seven heads and ten horns; and the other sign, of the two-horned beast; the sign of the angels flying in mid-heaven and of the Lamb on Mount Zion; of the Holy One coming to reap, being seated on the white cloud, - all these signs John has already seen. And now he beholds another sign.
That sign which he now beholds is great and marvellous. It is, in other words, awe-inspiring and wonderful. And no wonder: for the sign which he now beholds is of the greatest importance. It cannot be looked upon without having the effect of filling our hearts with an overflowing emotion of wonder and joy. John beholds seven angels. And although, no doubt, the sight of these seven angels standing side by side is already astounding, - for they are glorious and beautiful, shining in their appearance, pure and bright, - yet their purpose and message is still more awful. These are the angels who have the seven last plagues, John tells us. Just in general he tells us here that they have the seven plagues. Evidently they do not have these seven plagues of themselves. No, angels are also creatures: and they have no power except it be given them from above. But the power of these seven plagues is given them, and they now hold this power.
They possess the power of pouring out these plagues and evidently destroying the earth. For the destruction implied in these plagues is complete. The text tells us that in these plagues is finished the wrath of God. Evidently that does not mean that with these seven plagues the final judgment has already come upon all nations before the throne of God. Still less does it imply that when these seven plagues shall have been finished, the subjects of the kingdom of Antichrist shall have received all their punishment. No, in that sense the wrath of God is not finished in these plagues. That wrath of God is infinite, as His majesty is infinite. If that infinite majesty is attacked, it is simply the demand of the law that the creature thus attacking that infinite majesty also be subject to infinite wrath and death eternal. And therefore, the wrath of God in that sense of the word is not fulfilled in these seven plagues. But with a view to time the wrath of God is now finished. Even as in the vision of the harvest we called your attention to the fact that in it we were given a vision not of the last and final judgment of all before the throne of God, but simply of the end of time, of the finishing of the wrath of God with a view to this sinful and wicked world, thus it is also here. When these angels shall have sent the seven plagues which they have, the wrath of God shall have been finished in so far that there shall be no power on earth any more which shall provoke His wrath. The wicked world shall be no more. Antichrist and his kingdom shall have been completely destroyed. The end of this dispensation shall have come. And therefore, with a view to this significance John might well speak of the greatness and marvellousness of this sign of the seven angels who were about to realize all these things.
However, John does not merely behold their general presence and appearance on the scene of his vision. He also is privileged to describe some of the details concerning them.
In the first place, he tells us of their origin, informs us whence they come as angels of the wrath of God. For he tells us: "And after that I looked, and, behold, the temple of the tabernacle of the testimony in heaven was opened: And the seven angels came out of the temple, having the seven plagues." Also in Chapter 11 we came into contact with the same idea. In connection with the seventh trumpet we there read: "And the temple of God was opened in heaven, and there was seen in his temple the ark of his testament." And then the significant expression was added: "and there were lightnings, and voices, and thunderings, and an earthquake, and great hail." And there we explained that the symbol evidently meant that when God is about to make of all the earth His temple, judgments of destruction are sure to follow. Thus it is also here. The temple is His holy place, His dwelling, in the narrower sense of the word. But now that temple is still in heaven, is limited, therefore. Surely, He also dwells in this dispensation in the hearts of His people. But, in the first place, it must not be forgotten that at this stage there shall be no more people of God on the earth; and, in the second place, that God shall make of all creation His city and His dwellingplace. He therefore shall break forth from His holy place which is in heaven. He shall break forth as the Holy One. He shall break forth with His testimony, His law, in order to establish His righteousness in all the earth. And when He thus issues forth from His holy place for the purpose of making of all the earth His temple, when He thus issues forth in the fire of His holiness, the result cannot but be that all sin and wickedness is bound to meet with destruction and distress. Only He does not issue forth personally. No, the seven angels come out of His temple, out of the temple of God which is in heaven. They must reveal themselves as angels of wrath, which spell woe to the wicked world.
In the second place, John is able to describe their appearance. They are seven in number, which symbolizes what John has already mentioned in the first verse, namely, that in their plagues the wrath of God shall be finished, and, at the same time, that by the work of these angels the kingdom of God shall finally be completed. Seven is the symbol of the completion of the kingdom. And for that reason there were seven seals and seven trumpets. Only, in case of the seven seals and also in the case of the seven trumpets the work ceased with the sixth; and after the sixth had been fulfilled, the scene was allowed to change. The wrath of God, therefore, had not yet been finished. But now it is different. Not six angels shall pour out their vials, but all seven. And when all of these seven shall have done their work, the kingdom of God shall have come to its completion, and all the power of opposition shall have been broken down. They appear bright and pure and beautiful, arrayed with precious stones, pure and bright. A golden girdle, which reminds us of the royal priesthood of the King of kings, is about their breasts. They are, as it were, over-poured with the glory of the holiness of God, Whose wrath they now represent. With a reflection of the glory of the Holy One, from Whose presence they issue forth, they now enter upon their work.
In the third place, John describes how they receive their vials of wrath from the creatures, from one of the four. There is a beautiful symbolism in the vials, or bowls, of wrath. Each of them receives a vial. And that vial is filled with the wrath of God, that is, with His holiness in relation to the world of sin. And as each pours His vial upon the wicked world, that wrath of God becomes a powerful force of destruction. And as far as the fact is concerned that in the vision they receive that vial from one of the four creatures, he tells us in beautiful symbolism that all creation is concerned in the work which these angels are to perform. The four living creatures, who represent all animate creation in its state of perfection, are concerned in the work of these angels. They are privileged to hand them the vials of the wrath of God.
And thus they stand, these angels, ready to finish their work, just waiting for the command. It is therefore indeed a sign, great and marvellous. It is one of the most wonderful periods in all the history of the world. It is the eve of the realization of all things, the eve of that moment when God shall appear in all the power of His holiness, when His Word shall appear to be the truth also over the wicked world, when His name shall appear glorious and victorious over all things. It is the eve of that greatest of all events, for which the hearts of all God's people long and yearn, for which the souls beneath the altar cry day and night without rest. It is the eve of that event when Christ shall appear as the Lamb Who hath been slain, as the victorious King of kings, as the Mighty One Who has power over all things, as the Anointed One over Zion, His holy place. It is the eve of that event which shall show the futility of all the works of the devil and shall forevermore do away with the kingdom of darkness. It is the most momentous period in the history of the world, the eve of the realization of all God's counsel. And it is on the eve of this greatest of all events that we hear the song of those who stand at the crystal sea, singing the song of Moses and of the Lamb. It is that event, which they already see, which they celebrate in their song.
John says: "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. And they sing the song of Moses the servant of God, and the song of the Lamb."
We ask: who are these singers at the sea of glass?
In the first place, we learn of them that they are those who come off victorious from the beast and his image and the number of his name. In the most literal sense of the word, therefore, they are those who have lived at the time of the final manifestation of the antichristian kingdom. When the Antichrist reigned supreme and all the world wondered after the beast, when he established his universal emblem and gave to all men a sign, they lived on the earth. They were in tribulation. They were those who refused to worship the beast. They were those who could neither buy nor sell, who could not live in the midst of society, who were the outcasts in the streets of Jerusalem, which is spiritually Sodom and Gomorrah, where also our Lord was crucified. They, therefore, have fought a fierce battle. But in their battle they were sustained by the faith in Jesus and by His testimony, and they remained faithful. Outcasts in the earth for the name of Jesus, they looked forward to the day of their final victory. Exiles and refugees, without a place to stand, they nevertheless refused to worship the beast; and they remained faithful even to the end. Now they stand by the glass sea, and at the eve of their final victory, already glorified themselves but awaiting the final destruction of their enemy; and they sing the song of victory.
But is this multitude then limited to a small number of the people of God who have lived at the time of Antichrist?
We do not think so.
Truly, they have been in the thickest of the battle. It was for them to live at the time of Antichrist in all his power and fulness. The honor and privilege to live at that time was in store for them. For thus it is in reality: it will be a time of special privilege for the people of God to live at the time of Antichrist. It is much rather a cause of longing and yearning, than of fear and trembling, for the people of God to live at that time. Is not a soldier in the battle honored by being in the thickest of the battle? And shall not the soldier of the kingdom of Christ by faith deem it an honor to be in the thickest of the fight against the power of Antichrist and to show that he fears nothing even though he be hated of all men and of all nations? And therefore, it is a special honor to be deemed worthy to live at that time. God shall have His strongest children, His best forces, in the world at that last period. And therefore, to belong to those picked forces of Christ in the world at the time of Antichrist shall be the greatest honor conceivable. For that same reason I have no doubt but that there shall be a special place in store for them in the new heaven and the new earth, - a place which they alone can occupy. I have no doubt but that they are the leaders in the chorus which is here singing at the sea of glass.
Nevertheless, I do not think that this number is limited to them. For, in the first place, as we have said before, in principle the Antichrist and his power are in the world from the very beginning. Not merely in the end, but also at the time of the apostles he was already in the world, denying that Jesus is the Christ. Still more: not merely in the new dispensation, but also in the old that same power was already in the world, trying to realize itself and opposing the kingdom that was to come. It was already in the time of Elijah, in the time of Moses, in the time of Abraham, in the time of Nimrod, that he attempted to establish his kingdom. It was at the time of Enoch, who testified of the coming of the Lord against it, and even at the time of Abel, who clung to the truth and became a martyr. And therefore, it may be said indeed that in principle the people of God fight the same battle all through the ages, even though this battle shall rage most severely in the time of the full manifestation of the antichristian kingdom. Abel fought that same battle. Enoch fought the battle. Noah fought the battle. All the witnesses and prophets of the Old Testament fought that same battle. All the martyrs of the new dispensation also fought that same battle. Only, that one great battle becomes most severe at the time when Antichrist shall reveal himself in all his power. And, in the third place, subjectively it may also be said that all the saints of the old, as well as of the new dispensation, hoped and longed for the coming of that day of which these victorious ones sing. It was the hope of Israel. It was the keynote in the prophecies of the old dispensation. Enoch already spoke of it against the wicked world of his day. And the souls under the altar cry for it day and night. All the history of the world looks forward to this day. Is it conceivable, then, that only a small part of the people of God are standing here at the sea of glass, now God is about to reveal His righteousness and power over the antichristian enemy, to sing this song of victory? No, we do not believe this. All the saints, all those who have been faithful, from Abel to the last witness, in the kingdom of God on earth shall stand there at the sea of glass to join the victorious crowd in singing their song of Moses and of the Lamb. And as we shall see presently, this is supported by the fact that the song which they sing is that of Moses and of the Lamb, combining therefore the Old and the New Testament in one.
They stand by the sea of glass. We have met with this sea of glass, shining like crystal, earlier, in the fourth chapter of this book. You remember how there it was pictured as being part of the dispensation of perfection which is to displace this dispensation of sin. Especially did it symbolize the truth that in the new creation the glory of God shall be reflected in all His works. Well, here we meet with the sea of glass once more, though from a slightly different point of view. It tells us, in the first place, that these singers are no more on earth. In the days when the seven vials shall be poured out and destruction shall be completed, God shall have His people with Him. It is the church in glory. And the sea of glass is here mingled with fire because it reflects the wrath of God as He shall presently reveal it over the wicked world and for the salvation and glory of His people.
And thus the entire scene reminds us of the children of Israel standing at the border of the Red Sea, looking back upon that sea which had become the sea of wrath for the enemies, but at the same time the sea of their own salvation. Even as the children of Israel stood by the sea, reflecting the wrath of God, so stand these victorious ones by the sea of glass mingled with fire. Even as that sea in the case of Israel had become the cause of destruction for the enemies of God, so also this sea of glass symbolizes the reflection of God's wrath which will destroy the Antichrist and his kingdom. Even as in the case of Israel the same sea that was instrumental in destroying the power of opposition was their own salvation, so also shall these victorious ones enter into their full inheritance if God shall have caused the vials of His wrath to be poured out over the wicked world. And even as the children of Israel at the Red Sea sang of victory, so do these victorious ones exalt the arm and the righteousness of the Lord, the God of their salvation.
Let us, then, for a few moments pay attention to their song.
In the first place, it may not escape our attention that they sing their song on harps of God. That is, God Himself had given them their instruments of music. He is the author of their harps. He is at the same time the author of their song. Never would they have sung this song were it not for the grace of God. Never would they have remained faithful unless God through Jesus Christ had sustained them by His grace. Never would they, therefore, have been able to sing this song, were it not that God Himself had formed them to be His people. They have harps of God.
In the second place, it may draw our attention that their song is designated as being the song of Moses and of the Lamb. Evidently this does not imply that this multitude is singing two songs, one of Moses and another of the Lamb, but that the same song is at the same time the song of Moses and the song of the Lamb. Once more, it points to the fact that history repeats itself, and that one phase of history in Scripture is typical of the other, so that it may be said that Israel of the old dispensation already sang the song of the Lamb, and vice versa, that the people of the Lamb of the new dispensation also sing the song of Moses. Old and new dispensations shall be one. There is no break, no difference between them in glory. They form one multitude, and they sing one song. And that one song, sung by one multitude, is the song of Moses and of the Lamb. And therefore, also here the miserable world-conception of those who postulate an eternal difference and separation between Jew and Gentile is condemned. Jew and Gentile, one in Christ, sing the same song, the song of Moses and of the Lamb.
As to the meaning of this expression, it cannot be difficult to understand it. As we have already indicated, the whole vision plainly refers to the passage through the Red Sea by the children of Israel, which constituted their final deliverance from Egypt. They had been oppressed by the mighty arm of Pharaoh, but by a still mightier arm they had been delivered. But the enemy pursued them and aimed at their destruction. At the Red Sea arrives the critical moment. Through that sea God causes His people to pass in safety, but by the same instrumentality He destroys the enemy. Just as the flood was both a means of salvation for God's people and a means of destruction for the wicked world, so was the Red Sea the means whereby God saved Israel and at the same time destroyed the pursuing enemy. And as the enemy is destroyed and the people are safe on the other shore, Moses composes this song of victory, in the which he exalts the arm of Jehovah, sings of joy over the destruction of Pharaoh and his host and because of the salvation of God's people, (cf. Exodus 15). Now this entire incident is typical of Christ and His salvation. Moses as the mediator of the Old Testament is the type of Christ, the Mediator of the new dispensation. Even as Moses, so Christ leads His people out of the house of the bondage of sin. Even as Moses and his people, so Christ and His people are the object of the pursuing wrath of the enemy. But even as Moses, so also Christ leads His people safely through the waters of separation and of wrath, strikes those waters of the wrath of God, so that they become at the same time a means of salvation for His people and a means of destruction for the enemy.
Now then, at this moment the people of Christ stand at the sea of glass, all delivered from sin and from the oppression of the enemy. And they see how God will pour out His wrath upon the enemy. Yea, they already see that wrath poured out and the enemy destroyed. They place themselves upon the standpoint of the completed and full wrath of God. And therefore, their condition is now exactly like that of the children of Israel after they had passed through the Red Sea and had seen the destruction of their oppressors. And for that same reason they now sing the same song, exalting the power of Jehovah, the salvation of His people, and the wrath visited upon the wicked power of opposition. Truly, the song of Moses is the song of the Lamb. Even as Moses taught his people to sing his song, so the Lamb taught His people to sing this song. And essentially they are alike, sing of the same theme, the one being merely a type of the other.
What then do they sing? "Great and marvellous are thy works, Lord God Almighty; just and true are thy ways, thou King of saints. Who shall not fear, 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."
Let us briefly note the main features of this song. In the first place, it cannot escape our attention that there is nothing in this song of man, but that it is from beginning to end an exaltation of the greatness and power and glory of God. It is God's greatness, God's truth, God's righteousness, God's holiness, that is here celebrated. In the second place, it must draw our attention that from the very contents of the song it becomes plain that these singers already live by sight, not by faith. Here upon earth we also glorify God's greatness and His power and righteousness and truth and holiness. But it is a glorification by faith, which is an evidence of things unseen. These attributes of God Almighty have not yet been fully revealed. But now it is different. God's greatness is now clearly manifested in all His works. His truth and righteousness is now distinctly displayed in all His ways. His holiness has been revealed. It has all been realized. In this dispensation it seemed that the devil and the Antichrist were mighty, were true, and, in fact, were righteous, and that God would not have the victory, but suffer defeat. Long was the period of longsuffering. And often the people of God asked with the poet of old, "Is there no knowledge with the Almighty?" But when the vials of God's wrath shall have been poured out, it shall be publicly manifest, and that before all the world, that God Almighty sits in heaven and laughs and realizes all His counsel in spite of the workings of Satan and his servants. His truth and His righteousness and His power and holiness shall then be revealed.
In the third place, we may notice, too, that these multitudes also sing of the final fulfillment of all prophecy, namely, of this, that now all nations should fear Him and glorify His name. It seemed for a time as if all nations should glorify and fear the Antichrist. But now it is all different. They who feared Antichrist were not the nations; they were the branches of the nations which were to be cut off and cast into outer darkness. The nations have been preserved, and they are in this multitude, represented by it. Presently the new heavens and the new earth shall appear in glory, and then all nations shall fear and glorify the mighty acts and name of the Lord God Almighty forever and ever.
We too, while we are still in this world, may indeed sing this song of Moses and of the Lamb, though not yet in perfection. We are still in the world. And in the world we are still in the midst of battle. But by the grace of God we can listen to the song of the redeemed, and learn it, and look forward to the day when we all shall stand by the sea of glass, delivered from sin and oppression, delivered from the enemy that always surrounds us, free to serve and glorify the God of our salvation, in order to sing the song of Moses and of the Lamb. May our faith cause us to look forward in hope and teach us to sing this song of victory in the midst of the present battle.
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