The Messianic Judgments, 6:1-16:21
3. The battle with the beasts, 11:19-15:4
ix] The saints are triumphantSynopsis
John sees another vision of the last day; it is a two part-vision - a bad-news and good-news vision. In the first vision, John sees seven angels preparing to pour out the seven last plagues of judgement. Then, in the second vision, he sees those who are victorious, those who have persevered in faith. These victorious ones are standing on a floor that looks like a glowing glassy sea and they are singing the song of Moses and the Lamb.
The kingdom of God is at hand; a day of cursing, a day of blessing.
i] Context: See 11:19. The opening verse points forward to the Exodus-like plagues of judgment about to fall on the earth, 15:5-16:21, and the inevitable destruction of the secular city, the harlot Babylon, 17:1-18:24. The next three verses point back to chapters 11:19-14:20, resolving the war between the beast and the children of the woman (the secular city and the Christian community) through the victory of the children / the redeemed and their presentation before the Ancient of Days.
ii] Background: See 1:1-8.
iii] Structure: The saints are triumphant:
A two-part vision:
The angels gather, v1;
The angels prepare the judgment of the seven bowls.
The victorious gather on the glassy sea, v2-4;
The victorious sing a song of praise to God.
John's visions reveal two perspectives, one heavenly and one earthly. In the earthly visions we are in the church looking out on a world corrupted by the powers of darkness, a world where the secular city, Babylon, manipulated by the beast (corrupt political power, ideology, shibboleths, ...) and his mentor, the red dragon (Satan), wage war against the Christian community. In time terms, this war rages between Christ's ascension and his return. In the heavenly visions we are transported to the precincts of the heavenly temple and the throne of God. In time terms it is one minute to midnight on the day of judgment.
The passage before us presents a heavenly perspective. There are two visions (shmeion, "signs, portents"), both are introduced by kai eidon, "And I saw." The first vision introduces us to the seven "last" plagues about to be poured out on an unsuspecting world, 15:5-16:21. In the second vision John sees the church militant / victorious, the redeemed who have persevered in faith to the end. They are gathered in the temple, standing epi, "on, upon", a floor wJV, "that looks like", a glassy sea; it is the floor of heaven that spreads out before the throne of the Ancient of Days, cf., 4:6. They are holding harps and singing praise to God. John calls this hymn "the song of Moses .... and the Lamb", a hymn which celebrates victory over, and deliverance from, the powers of darkness in the exodus, Ex.15:1-18, and on the cross.
Is there still time to repent on the day of judgment?: Koester makes the point that the plagues of judgment "press the beast's allies to repent." Yet, is Koester right? John goes to great lengths to describe the horror of the day of judgment, but in time terms it is short lived, and this for the sake of the elect, cf., Mk13:20. In the final day there is no time to repent, so now is the time to repent. Of course, the problem we face is that Biblical eschatology is both realized and inaugurated, it is now and not yet.
In John's realized heavenly perspective we see the victorious Lamb entering his heavenly estate with angelic acclimation. On the cross he has put down the red dragon and his mate (Jn.12:31) and now ascends on high with the redeemed and in their company enters the eternal city. On this terrible day of judgment there is no time for the allies of the beast to repent.
In John's inaugurated earthly perspective we are given a glimpse of a moment of grace tucked in before the day of judgment, a moment between Christ's ascension and his coming to the Ancient of Days. Although mortally wounded, the red dragon pursues the woman's offspring and so tribulations ensue for the Christian community. As well as persecution by the beast, the Christian community must face the many harbingers of the day of judgment that spills into the present, the "wars and rumors of wars." In this moment, repentance is still possible, but don't delay, for on the day of judgment it will be too late to repent.
Text - 15:1
The saints are triumphant, v1-4: i] The angels gather to prepare for the last judgment, v1. This momentary vision prepares for the coming judgment of the seven bowls and the consequent destruction of Babylon.
kai eidon "I saw" - and i saw. Indicating a step in the narrative.
mega kai qaumaston acc. "[another] great and marvelous [sign]" - [another sign in heaven], a great and marvelous, wonderful, amazing one. Standing in apposition to "sign, portent."
aggelouV (oV) acc. "[seven] angels" - Standing in apposition to "sign".
econtaV (ecw) pres. part. "with [the seven last plagues]" - having [seven plagues]. Technically, the participle here is adjectival, attributive, limiting "angels"; "who had seven plagues." As already noted, when John uses this word as a participle he often ignore syntax and uses it as a finite verb; cf., 1:16. "I saw another sign in heaven, seven angels. They had seven plagues / they carried with them seven plagues, the last plagues of all."
taV escataV adj. "last" - the last ones. The adjective serves as a substantive standing in apposition to "seven plagues"; "seven plagues, the last of all." Not used in temporal terms, rather "they are John's last look at the end", Boring.
oJti "because" - Introducing a causal clause explaining why the plagues are the last ones.
en + dat. "with [them]" - in [them]. Probably instrumental, expressing means; "by means of them ...."
tou qeou (oV) gen. "God's [wrath]" - [was completed the wrath] of god. The genitive "of God" can be taken as verbal, subjective, "the wrath enacted by God", or adjectival, possessive, "God's wrath", or ablative, source / origin, "the wrath from God." The aorist "was completed" is often treated as future referencing, "will be completed." Over 80% of aorists are past referencing, but some are present and future. Even so, the time signature of the aorist tense is not dominant, aspect dominates - punctiliar / perfective. "They are the final expression of God's anger", TEV.
ii] The victorious gather on the glassy sea, v2-4. In a second momentary vision, John sees the redeemed standing on the glowing floor of heaven, a glowing glass floor that stretches out before the throne of God. They are the victorious ones, those who have persevered in faith, those who have remained true to the Lamb through the tribulations and temptations thrown at them by the beast, the one whose name carries the number 666 = BEAST. The redeemed join together in an antiphonal hymn which celebrates the victory first won by God's servant Moses in the exodus and then finally won by the Lamb on the cross at calvary, a victory which inaugurated / realized the kingdom of God.
kai eidon "and I saw" - Serving to indicate a step in the narrative; the next vision.
wJV "what looked like" - as [a sea made of glass]. The comparative here introduces an object clause / dependent statement of perception expressing that John saw; "I saw what appeared to be a sea of glass .... and also those who had conquered the beast", ESV. John follows Daniel by using "like / as" to increase the sense of mystery
memigmenhn (mignumi) perf. mid./pas. part. "glowing [with fire]" - having been mingled [in/with fire]. The participle is adjectival, attributive, limiting "sea"; "a glassy sea which glowed with fire." "Mixed with fire", Moffatt; "shot through with fire", Phillips.
puri (ur uroV) dat. "with fire" - The dative expresses association / accompaniment, "suffused all through with a glow of fire", Cassirer, although Smalley thinks it is instrumental, expressing means, "mingled by fire."
epi "[standing] beside [the sea]" - on [the sea made of glass]. John's favorite spacial preposition usually expresses "on, upon." It can mean "beside, near, at, ..." and is usually translated this way, but the sea is wJV, "as, like", a glassy sea, so probably John is telling us that the redeemed are standing on a highly polished glowing surface - something like a disco dance floor!! This is a beautiful and peaceful "sea", not the ever restless raging sea from which the beast emerged; it is "the floor of heaven", Smalley. Contra Boring who thinks this symbol is a negative one, particularly with the presence of fire; "for John, [fire] is the stick that God uses to whip the sea into a judgmental froth" - "the sea is a symbol of instability and chaos." See "sea of glass", 4:6, for the other use of this image.
touV nikwntaV (nikaw) acc. pres. part. "those who had been victorious" - [and I saw as] the ones conquering, [of the beast and of the image of it and of the number of the name of it, having taken their stand on the glassy sea]. The participle serves as a substantive, part of a second object clause / dependent statement of perception expressing what John saw. The participle estwtaV, "standing", serves as the accusative complement of "the ones conquering"; "and I saw the ones conquering ...... standing ......"
ek + gen. "over [the beast]" - of the beast. The genitive here is used to express separation, "away from the beast", they have kept themselves from the beast; "came off victorious from the beast", Phillips; they were victorious "by separating themselves from", Beale. They weren't the ones "who had defeated the beast", CEV, rather they were the victorious ones, conquering ones, the ones who had persevered in faith and not succumbed to the beat; they had kept themselves apart from the beast, its temptations and pressures to conform. If John does mean that the redeemed are victorious "over" the beast then they are the ones "who defeat the dragon by their association with the blood of the Lamb and by their own revolutionary testimony about the lordship of that Lamb", Boring.
kai "and" - Smalley takes this conjunction as epexegetic; "those who were victorious over the beast, that is, over the image and the number which is its name", ie., the idolatrous image of the beast and its number, 666; cf., 13:15, 17-18, Daniel 3. For John, the beast / secular city was displayed in statues of the Emperor and in temples dedicated to the worship of the Emperor.
tou onomatoV (a atoV) gen. "[the number] of [its] name" - [the number] of the name [of it]. The genitive is adjectival, possibly epexegetic, explaining "the number" by specifying it, "the number, that is / namely, its name", although idiomatic may be closer to John's intentions, "the number which represents its name." The beast has it name, and a number which represents its name - beast = 666.
econtaV (ecw) pres. part. "they [held harps]" - having [harps]. The participle is adverbial, modal, expressing the manner of their standing; standing holding harps. On many occasions in the Revelation, the participle "standing" functions like a finite verb and so is treated that way by the NIV; cf., 1:16.
tou qeou (oV) gen. "given them by God" - Variant "Lord God", probably an interpolation. The genitive is ablative, source / origin, "harps from God", as NIV. Although "harps" is not a verbal noun, it could be taken to contain a verbal idea, so Beale, Smalley, .., "harps for playing to God", ie., objective genitive.
The hymn clearly alludes to the thematic content of Moses' song in Exodus 15, although there is no formal relationship between that hymn and John's hymn here.
tou qeou (oV) gen. "of God's [servant]" - [and they sing the song of moses, the servant] of god. The genitive is adjectival, relational / possessive, with the whole genitive phrase "servant of God" standing in apposition to "Moses". The genitive "Moses" is usually taken as verbal, subjective, "the song sung by Moses" / "the song that Moses sang."
MwusewV (hV ewV) gen. "Moses [and of the Lamb]" - of moses [..... and the song of the lamb]. The genitives "of Moses" and "of the Lamb" are problematic. At first glance we could classify them as verbal, objective, a song "about Moses and about the Lamb", but then the song is not actually about Moses or the Lamb. The genitives could be subjective, a "song sung by Moses and the Lamb", so Beale, but does the Lamb sing songs? Mathewson suggests that the genitives are verbal, the first subjective, "the song that Moses sang", and the second objective, "the song about the Lamb." The chances are that the sense behind these genitives is extensive, thinking which, in the Semitic mind, is often encapsulated in an adjectival, attributive / idiomatic genitive. When we look at the following hymn, we note that it is an antiphonal response to the victory God has won in the exodus / salvation facilitated first by Moses and particularly by the Lamb on the cross of Calvary. As such, the sense of the genitives can be expressed in the following terms: "they sang the song which celebrates the victory won by Moses and the victory won by the Lamb." The verb "they sang" is a historical / narrative present, probably indicating a slight scene change.
legonteV (legw) "-" - saying. Redundant attendant circumstance participle expressing action accompanying the verb "they sang". For John's use of this participle to introduce speech see legwn 1:17.
oJ qeoV (oV) "[Lord] God [Almighty]" - [great and marvelous / amazing / wonderful the works / deeds of you, lord] god [almighty]. Nominative of address. As with "almighty", "God" stands in apposition to "Lord".
twn eqnwn (oV) gen. "[king] of the nations" - [righteous / just and true the ways of you, king] of the nations. The genitive is adjectival, idiomatic / subordination; "king over the nations."
tivV "who" - Interrogative pronoun, nominative subject of the verb "to fear." "This rhetorical question assumes that all will fear and glorify God", Koester - inevitably so!
ou mh + subj. "[will] not [fear you]" - [may] not not = never ever [fear you, lord and will glorify the name of you]. The double negative + subj. forms a subjective of emphatic negation. Interestingly, in the parallel statement "and glorify your name", the verb doxasei, "will glorify", takes a future indicative rather than an expected subjunctive. Again we see another example of the future tense replacing a subjunctive in the Revelation.
oJti "for [you alone are holy]" - because [only you are holy], because [all the nations will come and worship before you], because [the righteous acts of you were manifested]. Here introducing three causal clauses explaining the ground / reason why God is feared and his name (ie., his person) is glorified, so Boring, Koester, Osborne, ... Beale and Smalley suggest that the second is consecutive, expressing result; "you alone are holy with the result that all the nations will come ...." "Who is there who will not revere you, O Lord, or will not glorify your name? All will inevitably revere you and glorify your name because you, and you alone, are holy; because all nations will inevitably come and worship you; and because the justice of your decrees are plain for all to see."
enwpion + gen. "[worship] before [you]" - Spacial, "before, in the presence of"; "all nations will come and worship you", ESV.