Name That Tune!
When God delivers us, we should change our tune.
Revelation(53) (Part of the Jesus Unveiled(51) series)
by Stuart Johns(204) on November 18, 2018 (Sunday Morning(291))
Deliverance(2), Thanksgiving(1), Worship(16)
Name That Tune!
“Some years ago my wife and I went to see Shakespeare's Hamlet. Near the end of the play there is a climactic fight scene—guys swordplay all over the stage. Well, that night, right in the middle of all that action, Hamlet suddenly shouted, ‘Stop! Stop!’ All the actors stopped and looked puzzled. Then Hamlet stepped to the edge of the stage and said, ‘Someone's been hurt. Is there a doctor in the house?’
Apparently, during the fight, his knife had flown from his hand into the audience and struck a woman above her eye. The play stopped for a while till they could attend to her and ensure she was all right. Then Hamlet said, ‘Places,’ and the actors all resumed their frozen mid-fight poses till he said ‘Action,’ and they finished the scene and the play.
When we read biblical prophecy, we come across passages where God, the great healer, is given time to attend to lost souls. The action described is put on hold for a time while God carries out the work of redemption. But soon, God will say, ‘Action!’ and this scene will resume and the end-time drama will come to a crashing end.”
(Lee Eclov, Vernon Hills, Illinois, “Hamlet” Production Resembles Prophetic Events)
Singing in the choir at Harvey Cedars Bible Conference
My brother and I worked at Harvey Cedars Bible Conference on Long Beach Island, NJ for three summers when we were teenagers
At that time, all staff participated in the choir
We would have practices every day, if I remember correctly, and then we would go out to local churches in NJ and Eastern PA on Sunday evenings to perform
We also had cassette tapes recorded for each year that we were there and they were sold at the concerts we did
Singing in the choir was one of the highlights of the summer for me
There was one song I enjoyed most, that I remembered hearing the choir sing, when I was a young boy going to Harvey Cedars for vacation with my family
I was excited when we sang that same song while I was on staff
It is called “Moses” by Ken Medema [https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=s6JQ3EXNBhw]
It talks about Moses going to Egypt to set the Israelites free
Singing connected us to each other and to the audience at the churches where we sang
We were worshiping the Lord together
Singing when I’m happy
I don’t know about you, but when I’m down and feeling sorry for myself I don’t normally sing – I normally grumble – I don’t even sing a song of lament like the Psalmist did
Now the flip side is true – when I’m feeling good and everything is going great, I love to sing
Oklahoma, the musical has a song that sums up how I feel most of the time – “Oh, what a beautiful mornin’, Oh, what a beautiful day, I’ve got a beautiful feelin’, Everything’s going my way.”
Eeyore from Winnie the Pooh
How many of us can relate to Eeyore’s statement? – “If it is a good morning, which I doubt.”
He is the quintessential pessimist – the cup is half empty and it has a hole in it
We all experience struggles and hardship in our lives
It’s easy for us to sing a song of lament during those tough times
Too often we forget to sing the songs of deliverance, praise, and thanksgiving, when God delivers us from those struggles and difficulties
We should be quick to change our tune when God does the miraculous for us
We see in this passage a continuation of the grain harvest scene from Revelation 14:14-16. The believers who have been victorious through the social, religious, and economic hardships, enacted by the beast, are singing a song of deliverance to God. John wants us to understand that . . .
BIG IDEA – When God delivers us, we should change our tune.
GOD (Revelation 15:1-8)
Chapter 15 has three parts to it
Each is identified in the Greek by the phrase kai eidon, which means “And I saw”
This phrase is found at the beginning of vv. 1 (I saw), 2 (And I saw), and 5 (I looked)
It also has an ABA chiastic structure
We see the introduction of the seven angels in v. 1 before we learn of the song of the saints and then more details are given about the seven angels in vv. 5-8
In v. 1 the angels have the seven last plagues with them, which represents the completion of God’s wrath
And in v. 8 we will see that no one can enter the temple in heaven until the seven plagues of the seven angels were completed (again this is referencing the completion of God’s wrath)
The song of the saints is sandwiched between these two matching references
Sign (v. 1)
John sees another great and marvelous sign
Two signs have already appeared in heaven and we see them both in chapter 12
The first is found in Rev. 12:1 which was a woman clothed with the sun (this sign was identified as a great and wondrous sign)
The second is found in Rev. 12:3 and was an enormous red dragon (this one was just identified as another sign)
This great and marvelous sign is seven angels with the seven last plagues
“Signs point beyond themselves and disclose the theological meaning of history. That there are seven angels having seven plagues speaks of the certainty and completeness of divine wrath against all unrighteousness. They are great and marvelous in their awe-inspiring effect on all of nature, the human race, and the kingdom of Antichrist.” [Mounce, The New International Commentary on the New Testament, Revelation, 284]
The New International Version (NIV) adds the word “last” a second time for effect, but this is not in the original Greek
The New Living Translation (NLT) translates it without the second “last”
Revelation 15:1b, Seven angels were holding the seven last plagues, which would bring God’s wrath to completion.
The form of the Greek verb for “completed” means that God’s wrath has reached it goal [Easley, Holman New Testament Commentary, Revelation, 270] or has been brought to a conclusion [Patterson, The New American Commentary, Revelation, 299]
John immediately sees another scene in heaven
Song (vv. 2-4)
Sea of glass mixed with fire
We were introduced to something like a sea of glass in Revelation 4:6 that was before the throne of God
It is probably safe to say that this is the same “sea of glass” and that those who are victorious are standing before the throne of God
The “sea of glass” is now mixed with fire
We saw before that the sea of glass was a metaphor for the majesty of God
Fire is normally symbolic of God’s judgment, so this sea of glass mixed with fire is simply telling us that something has changed or is about to happen
Easley helps us to understand this imagery from a natural point of view, “Whenever an ocean’s appearance shifts, a change in the weather is at hand. The change from the appearance of clear glass to that shot through with fire signals stormy weather ahead. In view of the awesome and terrible atmospheric conditions about to come to earth (16:18, 20, 21), no wonder the heavenly sea is fiery.” [Easley, 271]
Have you ever been on the water when a weather front starts to come in? (then you understand the change from calm water to rough water)
While change is coming, the focus is less on that and more on those who are standing around this “sea of glass” mixed with fire
Victors standing by the sea
These are the individuals who have suffered through the tribulation period and probably experienced martyrdom, because they did not give in the pressures of the beast
They were victorious over three things
The beast (political, reject Christ, follow the Antichrist)
His image (religious, reject Christ, worship the image of the beast at the demand of the False Prophet)
Number of his name (economic, reject Christ, take the mark of the beast, so they could buy and sell)
Two important notes
Promised inheritance for those who are victorious
The Greek word translate “victorious” here in Rev. 15:2 is the same Greek word translated “overcome” at the end of each of the letters to the seven churches
It’s from there that we see what the victorious saints will inherit [Mounce, 285; Osborne, Baker Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament, Revelation, 563]
Tree of life (Rev. 2:7)
Deliverance/protection from the second death (Rev. 2:11)
Hidden manna (Rev. 2:17)
Authority over the nations (Rev. 2:26)
White garments (Rev. 3:5)
The honor of becoming a pillar in the temple of God (Rev. 3:12)
The honor/privilege of sitting with Christ on His throne (Rev. 3:21)
Similarities between the Exodus from Egypt
God had provided deliverance for the Israelites when they were being pursued by the Egyptian army
They thought they were doomed when they were stuck between the Egyptians and the Red Sea
Then God did the miraculous and parted the Red Sea allowing them to cross over on dry ground
When the Egyptians entered the sea bed, God caused the waters to return to their place and completely destroy the Egyptian army
As the Israelites stood by the Red Sea, safe and secure, they sang a song of deliverance
They were no longer lamenting their misfortune of being trapped
They had changed their tune
When God delivers us, we should change our tune
John not only sees the victorious saints standing by the “sea of glass,” he also notices that they are holding something
They were holding harps given to them by God
We saw in Rev. 5:8 that the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders had harps
Hand-held harps were common, and part of the worship in the temple
The victors were accompanying themselves as they worshiped God
They were singing the song of Moses and the song of the Lamb
The song of Moses is recorded in Exodus 15:1-18 (read that passage)
There is debate about whether or not there are two songs being referred to here or just one song
If it is referring to two separate songs, both are songs of deliverance
The song of Moses is a reminder of how God brought the Israelites out of bondage to the Egyptians
The song of the Lamb is a reminder of how God brought humanity out of the bondage to sin
They’re not in opposition to each other, but focus on the same theme (God’s mighty acts in saving His people, both OT and NT)
Osborne only sees one song in view and therefore translates it, “the song of Moses, that is, the song about the Lamb.” [Osborne, 564]
If we remember the final plague that caused Pharaoh to let the Israelites go, then we understand the connection between the song of Moses and the song of the Lamb
The Israelites had to sacrifice a perfect lamb and spread the blood of that sacrifice on the doorposts of their homes
This identifying factor protected them from the death of their firstborn son
Jesus is the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world
He was the perfect sacrifice, once-for-all, to take away humanities sin and not just to cover it up
What we see then in Revelation 15:3b-4 is the song that they are singing
It is important to note that the victors are not singing about their triumph over the beast, rather they are singing “about the sovereignty, glory, justice, and righteousness of their Almighty God and King.” [Akin, Christ-Centered Exposition: Exalting Jesus in Revelation, 253]
The first two lines are a great example of Hebrew parallelism (the second line repeats the idea of the first line, but with different words)
The first part is celebrating God’s works
The second part celebrates God’s ways
The Lord God, who is Almighty, is also King of the ages
Next we see a rhetorical question
Who will not fear you, O Lord, and bring glory to your name? (Rev. 15:4)
We see the same kind of question in the song of Moses, “Who among the gods is like you, O Lord? Who is like you – majestic in holiness, awesome in glory, working wonders?” (Exodus 15:11)
The obvious answer to the question is “no one!”
Finally, we see three reasons for bringing glory to the Lord God Almighty, who is King of the ages
The Lord alone is holy
The Greek word used for “holy” means “perfect moral purity”
The Lord is the only One who has perfect moral purity – there are no others
All nations will worship before you
This means that no one will be exempt from worshiping the Lord
We will either do it voluntarily as His children or in recognition of who He is at the final judgment
Philippians 2:9-11, Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.
Your righteous acts have been revealed
The victors are standing by the “sea of glass” and worshiping the Lord for who He is and what He has done
PRINCIPLE – Our worship of God should focus on thanking Him for who He is and what He has done.
When was the last time God delivered you?
It’s easy to sing a song of lament/sadness/anger to God when we are struggling physically, emotionally, spiritually, or financially
It’s also easy to forget to worship Him for what He has done after He has delivered you
Did you change your tune after He delivered you?
When God delivers us, we should change our tune
Did you remember to thank Him for what He did?
My Next Step Today Is To: Thank the Lord, through worship, for how He delivered me from a recent situation or circumstance that was difficult.
When was the last time you thanked God for extending His grace and mercy to you in salvation?
We see who God is through His gift of salvation for every person
He is loving (Jn. 3:16a; Jer. 31:3)
He is all-powerful, because He raised Jesus from the dead (1 Cor. 15:4)
He is full of grace (Eph. 2:8-9)
He is merciful (not getting what we do deserve)
The list could go on and on
We also see what God did to deal with our sin
He made a way for us to have our sins completely removed
He sent Jesus to die on a cross to take our punishment for sin
He allowed Jesus to come alive again, so that one day we can be resurrected with Him
He is preparing a place in heaven for those who have believed in Jesus Christ and received eternal life
My Next Step Today Is To: Worship the Lord for who He is and what He has done, so that I could have eternal life.
When was the last time you just worshiped God for who He is?
Perhaps everything’s been going great in your life
You haven’t been struggling physically, emotionally, spiritually, or financially
In those times, we can and should worship God for who He is
Adoration is simply acknowledging God’s many attributes (Triune, Love, Truth, Sovereign, Holy, Just, Omnipresent, Omniscient, Omnipotent, Eternal, Infinite, Immutable, Wisdom, Majestic, Good, Faithful, Merciful, etc.)
My Next Step Today Is To: Worship the Lord through adoration (acknowledging His many attributes).
John sees one final thing in heaven, which brings us back to the seven angels he saw in verse 1
Saucers (vv. 5-8)
The temple was opened
John describes the temple as the tabernacle of the Testimony
This description takes us back to the wilderness with the Israelites
“The word for temple is naos rather than hieron. The former references the sacred things particularly, whereas the latter word covers the entire temple complex.” [Patterson, 302]
So what is opened to John’s view is the holy of holies, which housed the ark of covenant that contained both copies of the Ten Commandments
The Ten Commandments were also referred to as the Testimony
Since God, the author of the Testimony, is in the heavenly temple, it can rightly be called the tabernacle of the Testimony
The seven angels with the seven plagues come out of the temple
Perhaps John wrote verse 1 after seeing the whole scene played out, or while John’s focus is drawn to the victors singing by the “sea of glass” the seven angels enter the temple
Either way, the seven angels are now coming out of the temple after being in the presence of God
John’s description of their clothing simply lets us know that they are functioning in a priestly role with purity
They are going to pour out the contents of God’s wrath on the inhabitants of the earth in a just way
One of the four living creatures gives each of the seven angels a golden bowl
Each bowl is filled with the wrath of God, which will be characterized by the plagues that each of the seven angels already have in their hands
The bowl was not a deep soup bowl like we would think about today, but rather a swallow bowl used for cooking liquids
Osborne states that “these could be the golden saucers found on the table of showbread and used for sacred libations to God (Exod. 25:29; 27:3; 38:3) as were the censers in Rev. 5:8. By using these bowls, two points would be made: (1) the outpouring of judgment is a sacred offering to God, vindicating his name and bringing him glory; and (2) they come in response to the prayers of the saints (5:8, cf. 8:3-5).” [Osborne, 570]
The actual plagues and the pouring out of God’s wrath will be covered in Rev. 16, next week
The temple was filled with God’s glory
Once the seven angels came out of the temple, we see that God’s glory fills the temple in the form of smoke
God’s power is also described as smoke here
No one was able to enter the temple at this point
This is not unusual – it is seen in other parts of Scripture also
Exodus 40:34-35, Then the cloud covered the Tent of Meeting, and the glory of the Lord filled the tabernacle. Moses could not enter the Tent of Meeting because the cloud had settled upon it, and the glory of the Lord filled the tabernacle.
1 Kings 8:10-11, When the priests withdrew from the Holy Place, the cloud filled the temple of the Lord. And the priests could not perform their service because of the cloud, for the glory of the Lord filled his temple.
I like how Keener expresses it, “the glory exceeded human ability to withstand.” [Keener, The NIV Application Commentary, Revelation, 387]
This reminds us of Moses face after he had been in the presence of the Lord in the Tent of Meeting – his face shown so brightly that the Israelites asked him to cover his face until the shekinah glory would fade
My prayer, for us, is that we would experience the glory of God in this place – that His glory would come down and that we would radiate His glory on our faces to those in our community
Have you changed your tune after God has delivered you?
Have you thanked God for His salvation?
Have you simply worshiped the Lord through acknowledging His many attributes?
There is power in corporate worship
We are connected to each other as we worship the Lord for who He is and what He has done for us
He has allowed us to witness His increase through five salvations and four baptisms so far this year
We have experienced His supernatural provision for faith promise giving to the GROW capital campaign in the amount of $25,810, which allowed us to pay off the roof debt of $19,000
We have helped our community through benevolence and other ways
“We live in a music-driven era. My son must have the car radio cranked up full blast to his favorite radio station the instant the ignition is turned on. Wherever we turn, commercial jingles reach out for our pocketbooks. All of us have had the experience of not being able to get a silly pop tune out of our head; thus is the power of music. If advertisers know the power of melody and harmony, how much more important is music and singing when put into the worship of God?
What, you may ask, is the possible connection between my life today, the experiences of ancient Israelite multitudes singing beside the Red Sea, and the future singing of those beside the crystal sea in heaven after Christ’s return? The common thread is the desire to acknowledge the character and deeds of God Almighty through singing.
Far from being a pie-in-the-sky, floating-on-clouds, playing-harps=after-we-die chapter, this passage can encourage us to be people of worship and singing today. When we look back on ancient Israel and ahead to the victorious saints in heaven, we realize that we have the privilege of standing in the unbroken line of people who worship God with their music and singing.
God expressed his ineffable holiness through overwhelming smoke at the wilderness tabernacle. Just as surely we, too, may get a fresh glimpse of his holiness by visualizing the overwhelming smoke in the heavenly tabernacle that John saw in this chapter.”