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Bible Commentaries

Heinrich Meyer's Critical and Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament

Revelation 15



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Revelation 15:2. τοὺς νικῶντας. So here (cf., on the other hand, Revelation 2:7) Lach., Tisch. 1854 and IX. [W. and H.], in accordance with A, C, א, Elz. Tisch. 1859 has νικοῦντ . adopted from C. The addition derived from Revelation 13:17, ἐκ τοῦ χαράγματος αὐτοῦ before ἐν τ. ἀριθμ. (Elz.), is certainly false.

Revelation 15:3. τῶν ἐθνῶν. So A, B, 2, 4, 6, al., Compl., Plant., Genev., Beng., Lach., Tisch. The variation τ. αἰώνων (cf. 1 Timothy 1:17) occurs in C, א 1, 18, Vulg. (var.: caelorum) [adopted by W. and H.]. The rec. τ. ἁγίων is almost without any testimony.

Revelation 15:4. The σε after φοβ. (Elz., Beng.) is to be erased according to A, B, C (Lach., Tisch. [W. and H.]). א has it after τίς. The same testimonies require δοχάσει, instead of δοξάσῃ ( א, Elz.).

Revelation 15:6. λιθον. So A, C, Vulg., Ambrose, Beda, Andr., al., Lach. [W. and H.] The rec. λινον (Tisch.) seems to be a modification which occurs already in B ( א: καθ. λινους).

Revelation 15:8. καπνοῦ. B indeed has ἐκ τοῦ κ. (Tisch.), and the omission of ἐκ τοῦ was readily suggested; yet the mere καπνοῦ by itself (Elz., Lach., Tisch. [W. and H.]) is attested by A, C, א, al.

In a new vision (Revelation 15:1 : καὶ εἱδ. ἄλλο σημ.)(3591) seven angels are represented, who are to bring the last plagues determined by the wrath of God. After they who stand, as victors over the beast,(3592) at God’s throne, have celebrated the wonderful and righteous works and judgments of God, whose end is now to be introduced by the seven angels (Revelation 15:2-4), these angels, coming into heaven from the opened temple, receive from one of the four beings (Revelation 6:6 sqq.) seven vials full of the wrath of God, whose pouring-forth is then described in ch. 16.

Verse 1

Revelation 15:1. ἄλλο σημ. The manifestations in ch. 14., with which the present angelic manifestation is contrasted as an ἄλλο σημ., were also apocalyptic signs.

μέγα καὶ θαυμαστόν. The greatness (Revelation 12:1) and marvellousness lies not only in the fact that seven angels—not archangels(3593)—appear at once, but also in their peculiar equipage: ἔχοντας πληγὰς ἑπτά. Manifestly John wishes, by this expression,(3594) to say more than that they had a sign (“signatur”) of the plagues to be brought by them, as that possibly their eyes shone like flames of fire;(3595) the idea is, that they who have the ἐξουσια to bring the plagues described in ch. 16.(3596) have and hold these plagues themselves. In what way this is to be understood, is not said; it belongs to the θαυμαστόν of this vision. But it is worthy of notice with what beautiful, artistic transparency the declaration of the actual ordination of these plagues is communicated, in that (Revelation 15:5 sqq.) the seven angels, who are described again also in Revelation 15:6 as οἱ ἔχοντες τ. ἑπτὰ πληγ., receive special vials, through the pouring-out of which the plagues can first be brought to plastic representation.

From Revelation 15:5, where the ναός in heaven is opened, and then the seven angels proceed therefrom, Züll., De Wette, Ebrard, etc., correctly infer that in Revelation 15:1 a point cannot be designated lying within the vision actually before Revelation 15:5, as though John in Revelation 15:1 had only first beheld the seven angels themselves, but in Revelation 15:5 their coming forth from the ναός, etc.; rather in Revelation 15:1, the chief subject of the entire vision extending to Revelation 16:21, yea in a certain way embracing the entire final development,(3597) is first given preliminarily, while the more detailed account as to how the seven angels actually come forth follows then (Revelation 15:5) after the heavenly hymn, Revelation 15:2-4,—during which the angels are to be regarded as in the still closed ναός,—has praised beforehand the righteousness of the judgment to be executed by them; and then they themselves are certainly equipped for (Revelation 15:7) their work, and directed (Revelation 16:1) to fulfil their calling. Cf. Revelation 12:6 in its relation to Revelation 12:13 sqq.

τὰς ἐσχάτας. Not “the last in this way,”(3598) nor the last which a certain portion of the enemies has to endure,(3599) but for the reason: ὅτι ἐν αὐταῖς ἐτελέσθη θυμὸς τοῦ θεοῦ.(3600) This is misunderstood, however, by Hengstenb., who concludes that with Revelation 16:21, where the seven plagues are at an end, the entire final judgment has been recounted,—as should have been the case also in Revelation 11:19 and several times before,—and that then, with Revelation 17:1, a repetition of that final judgment occurs which renders prominent new sides. Yet not only the very number indicates a meaning analogous to that of the seven last plagues, as the plagues described in the seal- and trumpet-visions, which do not contain the final judgment itself, but have only introduced that immediately before which belongs in the seventh trumpet,(3601) and consequently in the seventh seal;(3602) but, in the sense of the Apoc., the judgment cannot occur at all under the conception of a plague, since, according to the description in ch. 17 sqq., the judgment extends infinitely far over what is contained up to Revelation 16:21. The plagues described also in ch. 16.,(3603) not without a reference to those of Egypt,(3604) have in themselves something preparatory to which the final action corresponds. As by the trumpet-plague the dwellers on earth are not brought to repentance,(3605) so also neither are they by the vial-plagues.(3606) The more certain and immediate, therefore, is the actual final judgment, whose description then also immediately follows that of the last plagues,(3607) and to which, therefore, we are directed in the midst of the plagues as to something immediately impending.(3608) The result of this is that the fulfilment of the wrath of God ( ἐτελέσθη)(3609) is to be understood only relatively; viz., in so far as it is manifested in the “plagues.” No more plagues will come after the vial-plagues; but then the Lord himself will come to administer his final judgment.

Verses 2-4

Revelation 15:2-4. Before the beginning of the last plagues, immediately preceding the end itself, yea before the opening of the heavenly νάος (Revelation 15:5), and accordingly even before the actual coming-forth of the seven angels,(3610) a song is heard in heaven which proclaims the righteousness of the ways of God, now near their ultimate goal as worthy of adoration,(3611) and whose sense declares that they who, standing by the sea of glass, raise this song of praise, are the victors over the beast.

ὠς θάλασσαν ὑαλίνην μεμιγμένην πυρί. Ebrard is wrong in understanding here a different sea of glass from that in Revelation 4:6; for the article missed by Ebrard must be lacking, because by the expression ὡς θαλ. ὑαλ., just as in Revelation 4:6, it is chiefly to be indicated that not an actual sea of glass, but only something like a sea of glass, is designated. It is not until at the close of Revelation 15:2, that, since by the first accurate expression recalling Revelation 4:6, ὡς θάλ. ὑαλ., an end is placed to all misunderstanding, it is expressly said, with a certain want of precision, ἐπὶ τἡν θάλ. τὴν ὑαλ. That the addition μεμιγμένην πυρί cannot be referred here to any thing else than in Revelation 4:6, follows likewise from the close of Revelation 15:2, which shows that the essential designation of what is meant lies in the words θαλ. ὑαλιν., while the μεμιγμ. πυρί expresses a more special, although in this place a significant, side-reference. Because of the addition μεμιγμ. πυρί, the false interpretations of ὡς θάλ. ὑαλίν., Revelation 4:6, appear here in new applications. Grot. understands here “the mass of Gentile Christians inflamed with love to God;” Coccejus, “the peace of the world, and the operation of the Holy Spirit in the world;” Calov., who refers the θάλ. to baptism, and the πὺρ to God’s wrath, interprets: “That grace will not be denied to penitents in the midst of the flames of Divine wrath;” Vitr. explains that the victors stand upon the firm ground of the truth illumined by the fire of Divine righteousness; the allusion to the lightning, Revelation 4:5, Eichh. and De Wette interpret as meaning the atmosphere; Züll. and Ewald, the floor of heaven; while De Wette, Hengstenb., Ebrard, Stern,(3612) maintain a reference to the Red Sea, at which the children of Israel sang their song of praise. But it is just this passage(3613) which, because of its other contents, is adapted for furnishing the correct interpretation also for Revelation 4:6. That which is like “a sea of glass,” by which(3614) the victors stand, designates, like the river of life,(3615) the eternal fulness of joy in God’s presence, with which the victors will be rewarded. But if, in this passage; the sea appears also as “mingled with fire,” thereby the unity of God’s saving grace and judging righteousness is designated in like manner; as already in the fundamental description of the glory of God, Revelation 4:3 sqq.,(3616) both points are harmoniously(3617) presented, and, as in general in prophecy concerning the end, both parts of the subject belong together.

τοὺς νικῶντας. The pres. part.(3618) designates the idea without regard to time.(3619)

ἐκ τ. θηρ. Winer, p. 345. On the subject, cf. Revelation 13:7; Revelation 13:15 sqq, Revelation 14:13.

ἔχ. κιθάρας τοῦ θεοῦ. Cf. Revelation 5:8, Revelation 14:2, 1 Chronicles 16:42. The “harps of God” are such as serve only for the praise of God.(3620)

The song is characterized as: τὴν ᾠδὴν ΄ωϋσέως τοῦ δούλο΄ τοῦ θεοῦ καὶ τὴν ᾠδὴν τοῦ ἀρνίου. It is not two songs that are designated;(3621) also no allusion whatever is made to the connection between prophecy and the gospel;(3622) altogether false is every explanation that does not acknowledge that the song immediately following, introduced by the λέγοντες, is at the same time both the song of Moses(3623) and the song of the Lamb. But this does not mean the song wherein these former idol-worshippers declare their conversion to Moses and Jesus, or rather to “the God of these,”(3624) nor the song of Moses(3625) applied to Christ and the things of Christ;(3626) but the song which is composed alike by Moses and the Lamb, and is taught to the victors.(3627) By this the same view is significantly expressed, which appears in another way also in Revelation 10:7, Revelation 7:9 sqq., in combination with Revelation 7:4 sqq. and Revelation 14:1; viz.,(3628) that the essential unity of the O. and the N. T. Church, which collects its victorious members from Jews and Gentiles, is attested and represented in the most definite manner,—a view which is absolutely incompatible with the Judaism charged against the Apoc. by Baur, Volkm., etc. [See Note LXXVIII., p. 413.] The song has the O. T. psalm tone, as what is in clear accord with the O. T. manifests itself everywhere in the details.(3629) In a more definite form the character of a song of the Lamb is not distinctly expressed; but in fact it is also such, because the δικαιώ΄ατα of God serve for the glory of the Lamb.

΄εγάλα καὶ θαυ΄αστὰ, κ. τ. λ. Cf. Psalms 111:2; Psalms 139:14; 1 Chronicles 16:9.


παντοκράτωρ, Revelation 4:8, Revelation 11:17. Cf. Revelation 1:8.

δίκαιαι καὶ ἀληθιναὶ αἱ ὁδ. σ., Psalms 145:17; Deuteronomy 32:4.(3630)

βασιλεὺς τῶν ἐθνῶν. Jeremiah 10:7. From this passage originate also the following words,(3631) and just in this way is the ascription of praise especially appropriate, because treating of the judgments on the Gentile world, which gives divine honor to the beast.(3632)

ὅτι, κ. τ. λ. Of the three clauses introduced by the ὅτι, the first two are co-ordinated with each other, since the former in its way gives the basis for the interrogatory τίς

τὸ ὄνομά σου, and the last words ὅτι τὰ δικαιώμ. σ. ἐφαν. that for the immediately preceding clause ὅτι πάντα, κ. τ. λ.

μόνος-g0- ὅσιος-g0-. The variation ἅγιος arises from the classical linguistic prejudice, according to which the predicate ὅσιος, which in the N. T. is said only (Revelation 16:5) of God, is applied to godly men.(3633)

Although the words ὅτι μόνος ὄσιος present the alone holiness of God simply as the ground because of which every one must fear him, and the name of God be praised by every one, the fundamental reference to the succeeding words is not so readily afforded. The interposition of the first clause ὅτι μόν. ὅσ. modifies in a certain degree the inner connection, in the sense that the words ὅτι πάντα τὰ ἔθνη, κ. τ. λ., which express the sum of the O. T. prophecies concerning the conversion of the Gentiles—and that, too, in its universality, so that the question is not that in fact only a certain number of the heathen are converted—give the foundation for the thought of the question, τίς οὐ μῂ φοβ., κ. τ. λ.: “Thee, who art the King of the nations, every one must and certainly shall fear, for all the nations shall adore Thee as their King.”

ὅτι τὰ δικαιώματά σου ἐφανερώθησαν. For, from the works and judgments which the righteousness of God has executed, and in which he has been revealed as the βασιλεὺς τῶν ἐθνὼν, the nations shall learn to know his adorable name.(3634)


LXXVIII. Revelation 15:3. τὴν ᾠδὴν ΄ωυσέως, κ. τ. λ.

So Alford: “It betokens the unity of the O. and N. T. Churches. Their songs of triumph have become ours; the song of Moses is the song of the Lamb. In this great victory all the triumphs of God’s people are included, and find their fulfilment.” Gebhardt (p. 255): “That is, Christians above, after they have overcome all the temptations of antichrist, look upon the holy and righteous judgments of God, or his works and ways with the world, as once Israel looked upon the plagues of Egypt and the Red Sea,—indeed, in these visions, the Egyptian plagues frequently furnish the type,—they sing the song of the deliverance of their persons, the song of salvation, as the children of Israel once sung it (Exodus 15), in its Christian fulfilment. Christian salvation is essentially that of the O. T., the completion once prepared, but now begun.” J. Gerhard (L. T., xviii. 17): “Because the Church triumphant consists of saints of the O. and the N. T.; and just as the Israelites, after their deliverance from Pharaonic bondage, praised God in the song of Moses (Exodus 15), so the blessed, after their deliverance from the tyranny of persecutors, and all the adversities of this life, praise God in the song of the Lamb, or Christ.”

Verses 5-8

Revelation 15:5-8. After the introductory song καὶ μετὰ ταῦτα (Revelation 15:5),(3635) the seven angels which hold the seven plagues come out of the heavenly temple, and receive seven vials full of the wrath of God.

ναὸς τῆς σκηνὴς τοῦ μαρτυρίου ἐν τ. οὐρ. Cf. Revelation 11:19. It is not the holy of holies(3636) that is designated by the entire expression, but the proper temple(3637) in heaven, which is more accurately described by the addition of the gen. τὴς σκ. τ. μαρτ.,(3638) as the ναός belonging to the tabernacle of the testimony, i.e., including it,(3639)—not as existing in the σκην. τ. μαρτ.(3640)

The heavenly δόξα of the seven angels is to be seen from their adornment; one attribute, the golden girdle, they have in common even with the Lord himself.(3641) The first expression ἐνδεδ. λίθον καθαρὸν λαμπρὸν, in which, considering the manuscript authority for it, the λίθον can scarcely be a clerical error,(3642) is by no means to be so explained as to refer to Christ himself, the corner-stone(3643) or the “various adornments of virtues,”(3644) as the clothing of the angel; if, however, only a comparison with Ezekiel 28:13 ( πᾶν λίθον χρῆστον ἐνδέδεσαι) give an explanation that is at all events satisfactory, a plural, nevertheless, would possibly be expected, as πᾶν λιθ. stands in Ezekiel. The idea must, then, be that each angel wears a garment set with a pure, brilliant gem. The later expositors all follow the reading λίνον, according to which the angels appear in sacerdotal garments.(3645) Hengstenb. compares this with Revelation 19:8, where, however, the expression λίνον does not occur. Ew. ii. refers properly to the fact that the καθαρόν does not appear to require the idea of a garment. But the weight of the witnesses who advocate the reading which is more difficult, and yet not to be derived from Ezekiel,(3646) is too great. א also appears by its peculiarities to betray with what difficulty the attempt was made to explain away the difficult-to-be-understood λίθον.(3647)

That one of the four beings (Revelation 4:6) gives(3648) to the angels the vials of wrath, is significant, because it has to do with plagues which pertain to all earthly creatures whose representatives those beings are.(3649) As in their song of praise in Revelation 4:7, they looked towards the end, so also the end does not come without their participation.(3650)

τοῦ ζῶντος εἰς τοὺς αἰῶνας τῶν αἰώνων. The making eternity conspicuous has the same relation as already in Revelation 1:8.

καὶ ἐγεμίσθη, κ. τ. λ., Revelation 15:8. The smoke with which the temple is filled,(3651) is not the sign of the incomprehensibility of the Divine judgments,(3652) nor directly of the wrath of God;(3653) but, as the text itself explains, that the smoke is represented as proceeding from the glory and power of God ( ἐκ δ. τ. θ. καὶ ἐκ τ. δυν. αὐτ.), as a sign of the majesty, actually present in the ναός, of God revealing himself immediately in his power. In the cloud of smoke there the כבוֹד יה״ (3654) is enthroned, which now, as the addition κ. ἐκ τ. δυνά΄εως αὐτ. especially emphasizes, will be manifested on the side of its omnipotence. The subject, it is true, refers to a revelation of judgment upon enemies, that is full of grace to believers; but the interpretation of the smoke fails to be in accordance with the text, if this be regarded as, on that account, either a sign of Divine wrath, or even of God’s grace working for the good of the godly.(3655) Beng. says, correctly, concerning the καπν.: “The covering of Divine Majesty.”(3656)

καὶ οὐδεις ἐδύνατο εἰσελθεῖν, κ. τ. λ. The description depends upon types like Exodus 40:34; 1 Kings 8:10 sq.(3657) Incorrect are all the allegorical explanations which depend upon the presumption that the heavenly ναός represents the Church on earth.(3658) Just as incorrect, and entirely remote, Grot.: “God was not willing to give any other oracles but these.” Nothing whatever is said, also, to the purport that no one could go into the temple, in order by prayer to avert the threatening judgments.(3659) The correct explanation is derived from the words ἄχρι τελεσθ., κ. τ. λ., which, upon the foundation of the general idea of the inaccessibility of God as present in his personal δόξα,(3660) suggests that not until satisfaction shall be rendered his holy wrath, by the full execution of all the plagues impending from God’s justice, shall access to him be possible. Until then, the immediate presence of his glory and power (Revelation 15:8 a) must consume all creatures.(3661)


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Bibliography Information
Meyer, Heinrich. "Commentary on Revelation 15:4". Heinrich Meyer's Critical and Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament. 1832.

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