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Bible Commentaries

Lange's Commentary on the Holy Scriptures: Critical, Doctrinal, and Homiletical

Revelation 15

 

 

Other Authors
Verses 1-8

4. Preparation, in Heaven, for the Judgment

Revelation 15:1-8

a. The Ideal Preparation

1And I saw another sign in [ins. the] heaven, great and marvellous, seven angels having the [om. the] seven last [om. last] plagues [ins, the last]; [,] for in them is filled up [finished] the wrath [anger][FN1] of God.[FN2] 2And I saw as it were a [ins. glassy] sea of glass [om. of glass] mingled with fire: and them that had gotten the victory [those conquering] over [from] the beast [wild-beast], and over [from] his image, and over his mark [om. and over his Mark,][FN3] and [and] over [from] the number of his name, stand [standing] on [or by] the [ins. glassy] sea of glass [om. of glass], having the [om. the][FN4] harps of God 3 And they sing the song of Moses the servant of God, and the song of the Lamb, saying, Great and marvellous are thy works, [ins. O] Lord [,] God Almighty [,the All-Ruler]; just and true are 4thy ways, thou King of Saints [om. saints—ins. the nations].[FN5] Who shall [or should][FN6] not fear thee [om. thee][FN7] O Lord, and glorify 34 thy name? for thou only art holy (ὅσιος) 8 : for all [ins. the] nations shall come and worship before thee; for thy judgments are made manifest [were manifested].

b. The Real Preparation. Equipment of the Angels of Judgment, or the Seven Angels with the Vials of Anger

5And after that [these things] I looked [saw], and, behold, [om., behold[FN9]ins. opened was] the temple of the tabernacle of the testimony [witness] in [ins. the] heaven was opened [om. was opened]: 6And the seven angels came out of [from] the temple, having [or that had][FN10] the seven plagues, clothed in [ins. linen[FN11]] pure and [and] white [glistening] linen [om. linen], and having their breasts girded [girt around the breasts] with golden girdles 7 And one of the four beasts [living-beings] gave unto the seven angels seven golden vials full of the wrath [anger] of God, who liveth for ever and ever [into the ages of the ages]. 8And the temple was filled with smoke[FN12] from the glory of God, and from his power; and no man [one] was able to enter into the temple, till [until] the seven plagues of the seven angels were fulfilled [should be finished].

EXEGETICAL AND CRITICAL

SYNOPTICAL VIEW

The fundamental idea of the whole section, Revelation 14-15, is the End-Judgment in its general form—the same Judgment which subsequently branches into the three special Judgments upon Babylon, the Beast, and Satan himself in conjunction with Gog and Magog. The fundamental idea of this first division [chs 14, 15] of our section is the preparation of the End-Judgment, or the judgment of the Vials of Anger,[FN13] in Heaven. Because this great judgment brings about the final decision, it is preceded by a very great and solemn preparation in Heaven, the description of which runs through two chapters, the judgments then being executed upon the earth itself, in swift succession, by the outpouring of the Vials of Anger ( Revelation 16). Thus, this heavenly proleptical celebration of the End-judgment is analogous to the great proleptical celebration of the Seven Seals of world-history in chs 4,5.

The anger of God is the manifestation of His love in the forth-going and predominancy of His righteousness unto judgment. God’s anger ordains death as a punishment for sin—as a reaction against the spiritual death of Prayer of Manasseh, continuous disobedience or germinant apostasy (comp. the art. Zorn [anger, wrath] in Herzog’s Real-Encyklopädie). And inasmuch as anger impels apostasy, or hardening, which is but another form of apostasy, to a crisis, it conducts to eternal death through spiritual death—i. e., it manifests itself in judgment.

But as the very first manifestation of anger was but the climax of a rhythmical succession of chastisements under the reign of long-suffering ( Romans 2:4-5), so also the true anger- [or wrath-] period, the great day of anger [or wrath], appears in a succession of constant augmentations.

Great, however, though the anger-judgments may be, so that they wear the aspect of endless and nameless darknesses—as, e. g., in the destruction of Jerusalem, in the fall of Constantinople,—before God they are weighed and measured, and their measure and operation are appointed them by God’s faithfulness. Thus, anger is contained in golden vials; it is so scrupulously prepared in Heaven, so pondered over, so permeated by the Divine Intelligence, that, as a heroic act of Divine reason, it embodies in itself precisely the opposite to what is described in the heathen pictures of the envy of the gods, and the might of destiny. Our remarks hold good especially in regard to the moderation and limitation of the anger-judgments for the righteous, who are oftentimes externally exposed to the same tempests as the godless—in regard to the cutting short of the troublous days, as the Lord expresses it (see Comm. on Matthew 24:22); they are, however, also applicable to the operation of judgment in general.

As these Anger-Vials are, on the one hand, akin to the Trumpets, and unmistakably parallel with them (see Int., p, 86), they form, on the other hand, an antithesis to them, in that the Trumpets are predominantly exhibited in the light of judgments in order to awakening (see Revelation 11:13), whilst the Vials of anger generally operate as judgments of hardening (see Revelation 16:9; Revelation 16:11).

The first great vision in the Heaven-picture of the end of the world is the throng of the elect centre of the Church Triumphant, representative of the Church Triumphant itself. The scene is on Mount Zion. That Mount Zion can neither be situate in Heaven, nor be geographically understood of the eminence on which the Temple stood in Jerusalem; is evident from the symbolical import of the expression. Accordingly, Mount Zion is the real State of God, in its consummation. The heavenly appearance, Revelation 1:12, becomes, Revelation 4:2, the sphere of the heavenly Throne. In Revelation 7:9, the Church Triumphant is depicted in the process of its growth. Here we have the picture of its preliminary spiritual consummation. It is still, however, to be conceived of as in the sphere of the beyond, for only in Revelation 21. is the union between the Christian further and hither shores consummated in the descent of the heavenly Jerusalem, as the City of God, upon the earth. Then, and not till then, the complete pneumatico-corporeal transfiguration of the world, and the real resurrection, are declared. The spiritual consummation of the Church, however, is declared in this earlier passage—its blessed, secure position above the anger judgments now about to break upon the earth. The centre of the picture is formed by the Lamb. He is surrounded by144,000 elect souls. To the query as to whether these are the same souls that appear as sealed ones in Revelation 7, we would answer: First, that the crisis of trial lies before those sealed ones, whilst these who surround the Lamb have passed it, and are, to the triumphant prophetic gaze, perfected ones, the centre, therefore, of the innumerable throng of Revelation 7:9. Secondly, the symbolical import of the number144,000 must be carefully regarded in this passage also. We need not, therefore, press the inquiry as to the identity of the two bands as individuals, but may regard as established their identity as a whole; inasmuch as the sealed elect of this world must also appear in the other world as perfected elect ones. The companions of the Lamb, therefore, are the complete number of the centre of the blessed, representing the entire Church Triumphant.[FN14] They have the Name of Christ and the Name of the Father written on their foreheads, i. e., they are perfected confessors, and hence not such as think they must obscure the Name of the Father by the Name of the Lamb; nor are they such as act in a converse manner. That the Seer intended to represent this throng as composed exclusively of Jews is an utterly ridiculous assumption, from beginning to end. It Isaiah, however, particularly ridiculous when the designation of them as virgins is literally understood of celibacy, and the climax of absurdity is reached with the explanatory citation of the Old Testament provision, in accordance with which sexual intercourse rendered unclean for a time. For marriage itself was so far from being represented in the Old Testament as defiling, that, on the contrary, the greatest promises were attached to it. Even Mary, the Mother of our Lord, was obliged to pass through a legal purification, and the Apostle Peter was married. To attribute such a view as the above to the writer of the Apocalypse is to regard him as a dualistic ascetic. Even the Patriarchs and Prophets would, on this ground, be excluded from the number of the elect by this supposed Judaist or Judaizing non-Judaist—for the historical interpretation advances even to the latter conception of the Apocalyptist.

This great optical wonder is followed by a great auricular wonder. The new song of the consummation of the Church Triumphant bursts, in a grand harmony, from Heaven. It sounds like the roar of many waters, for it is the united praise offered to God by the redeemed peoples. It sounds like a great thunder, for it is the completed, world-refreshing revelation of God. It sounds like the harping of harpers, for all true art has entered into the service of the holy. And they sing a new song. These words seem to relate primarily to the harpers, for it is declared that they sing it before the Throne, before the four Life-shapes and before the Elders. The Song of Solomon, however, is not their property; it is given to them as the perfect blossom of revelation; hence it is also new—a marvel of Song of Solomon, which has never before been. We must not overlook the fact that the new song, like the State of God, passes through different stages of development before attaining to perfection; see chs. Revelation 5:9; Revelation 14:3; Revelation 15:3; Revelation 19:6 (comp. Exodus 15; Psalm 96:1). Even the144,000 elect must learn the Song of Solomon, and they alone can learn it, because it presupposes the entire depth and circuit of their experience and the whole state of their being “bought from the earth.”

They have not defiled themselves with women. It is manifest that this can be understood only symbolically, for virgins are spoken of. The symbol, however, does not consist of women themselves, but of defilement with women, by which defilement the women themselves are more particularly characterized ( Proverbs 9:13). That illicit intercourse is here referred to, and not marriage, may be understood as a matter of course, in a Book which closes with the Bridal of the Lamb. The Biblical representation of idolatry and apostasy under the figure of harlotry is familiar to all readers of the Sacred Writings, and the idea referred to is the more obvious here, since immediately before the great apostasy has been depicted. The doing of these virgin souls was, however, founded upon their being.[FN15] As virgins, they have also kept themselves pure from all fanaticism and party-spirit in their piety, for both these forms of the defilement of piety are also, in particular, very fatal forms of subtile idolatry. Their virginity is expressed in the fact that they follow the Lamb whithersoever He goeth—follow Him, therefore, in all His historical and heavenly movements and advances, and follow only Him. Absolute, pure obedience in absolute, pure trust, is the sign that they are bought from among men as first-fruits (see Comm. on James 1:18) unto God and the Lamb. As, however, the consummation of their electness was based upon redemptive grace, evidence of that electness was given, above all, in the characteristics of uprightness ( Proverbs 2:7; Ecclesiastes 7:8) and veracity. Grotius rightly makes mention of the fact that all idolatry is infected with falsehood ( John 3:21). The fact that they should not be represented as sinless and having no need of redemption, is manifest from the declaration concerning them, that they stand before the Lamb, that they are bought, and that no falsehood was found in their mouth—no species of untruthfulness—and that they stand as, in every respect, wholly perfected, blameless—as is expressly affirmed—before the Throne of God.

After this exhibition of the security of the whole blessed Kingdom of God, the announcement of the Judgment may be made. This Judgment has three sides:

First, it Isaiah, for the righteous, final redemption; hence, its proclamation as an everlasting gospel, the eschatological gospel of the final σωτηρία, through the judgment, to eternal blessedness and well-being ([Heil] Matthew 25.; Luke 21:28). This gospel is proclaimed to all who sit on the earth, all who are most firmly attached to earth ( Revelation 15:6), before the coming of the Judgment itself; and the proclamation is conjoined with an admonition to voluntary self-humiliation before God, Who is here pertinently designated as the Creator, the Cause and Lord of all things, and particularly also, as the Author of the fountains of waters, i. e., all original geniuses.

The Judgment Isaiah, secondly, for the world ripe unto perdition, an actual fall into perdition. Hence the proclamation: Fallen, fallen is Babylon the great! Be it here observed that in this passage it is not Babylon in the narrower sense of the word, to which reference is had, as in Revelation 17. As in Genesis,, Revelation 1, water is at first spoken of in the most general sense, then in a special sense, and finally in the most special sense, so here by Babylon the whole ungodly Anti-christianized world is intended. At the outpouring of the seventh Vial of anger, this ungodly and Antichristian world, represented by Babylon, is divided into three parts ( Revelation 16:19), when the general Judgment branches into the three special judgments: upon the Harlot, or Babylon in the narrower sense; upon the Beast; and upon Gog and Magog under the leadership of Satan. Concerning the more general Babylon which has, undoubtedly, for a considerable time had its culmination-point in the more special Babylon, it is declared: She gave all the nations [heathen, Gentiles] to drink of the wine of the anger [or rage][FN16] of her fornication. Antichristianity is a unitous evil mock-growth, which has twined its stifling tendrils throughout humanity, as, on the other hand, the tree of the Kingdom of God has pushed its holy roots throughout the same. The wine of the anger of fornication is only materially identical with the anger of God (see Revelation 11:18); in a formal point of view it forms an antithesis thereto. The wine of the anger of fornication Isaiah, as sin, passionate, riotous intoxication in apostasy; as a judgment, it is also the wine of the wrath of God, the mind-deranging operation of the death-judgments of God.

Finally, the judgment consists, in the third place, of the sentence which interprets the facts. Thus the actual separation of the sheep and the goats ( Matthew 25) precedes the sentence passed upon them. The sentence of the Angel is conditioned as follows: If any one worshippeth the Wild-beast and his image, and receiveth his mark on his forehead or on his hand. The one implies the other: recognition of the power of the Beast, and appropriation of the false idea of the system, theocratic or practical testimony. The sentence is as follows: he incurs the internal judgment of having to drink of the wine of the anger [or wrath] of God—deadly derangement of the mind; this is a wine mingled, i. e., here poured out (presented, credenzt) unmixed [οἵνος κεκεράσμενος ἄκρατος],[FN17] as the strongest and most intoxicating beverage, in the cup, the self-limiting decree, of His wrath [ὀργή]. The external local result is as follows: he shall be tormented with fire and brimstone in the presence of holy angels and in the presence of the Lamb. The outward and apparent form of the Judgment is fiery self-consumption in the ever affluent new elements of fiery irritation. For as, to the righteous, every affluent experience is transformed into the gentle oil of the Spirit, Song of Solomon, to the wicked, every experience becomes brimstone—fuel for his passion. The temporal result of the Judgment is as follows: the smoke of their torment ascendeth into ages of ages. Smoke rises from fire; not, however, from a clear fire, but from that which is hemmed in and dim. Here, doubtless, the fire of hate is particularly referred to—fanatical passionateness in apostasy. Hence it is further declared: they have not rest by day and by night; this they have not, not in a good sense ( Revelation 4:8), but in a bad sense, as demonic beings, and the true causality thereof lies in their very apostasy;—the context is: who worship the wild-beast and his image, and if any one receiveth the mark of his name. The fact that the condition of damnation can continue into the ages denotes, indubitably, the temporal immensity of that condition, but is also, at the same time, expressive of æonic figurations and alterations of it.

At the close of this sentence, we again encounter the saying of Revelation 13:10, amplified by the declaration that the patience [endurance] of the saints is also evidenced in keeping the commandments of God; their faith, meanwhile, appearing as a faith in Jesus. Only through this patience or endurance can a man escape that sentence of æonic fiery death. Here also, as in Revelation 13:10, this spirit of blessed calm forms a contrast to the fire-smoke of the restless ( Isaiah 48:22). Here again the Seer significantly insists upon the fact that a vital veneration of God and faith in Jesus necessarily accompany each other.

The sentence unto damnation is now contrasted with the sentence unto blessedness. But why does not the Angel give utterance to the latter, and not a voice from Heaven? We might reply, because the experience of the celestial blessedness of proven Christians passes the experience of Angels. According to the context, this beatitude is pronounced by the Spirit, i. e., the Spirit of the Church Triumphant; Hebrews, therefore, gives utterance to a testimony of direct experience. The beatitude of the blessed dead Isaiah, however, specially signalized, and commended, as it were, as an inscription for gravestones, with the command: Write. Although this precious sentence ( Isaiah 48:13) holds good for all times—blessed are the dead, etc.—it is of particular moment when regarded in its bearing upon the last times. Then are the dying, who die in the Lord as they have lived in Him, to be accounted particularly blessed, because they are taken away from the storm of the last days (see Isaiah 57:1).

We, therefore, interpret ἀπάρτι in the following sense: Such are henceforth peculiarly blessed, because they attain unto rest from their sore conflicts, whilst the blessing of their works, and also their perfected vocation to ideal activity, accompany them into the Church Triumphant.

Before passing to a consideration of the three Angels of the beginning execution of the End-Judgment, we must examine the relation of these three Angels to the preceding three Angels of the announcement of Judgment. It is natural to suppose that the first three Angels form an organic totality (ἄλλος Isaiah 48:15, ἄλλος Isaiah 48:17, ἄλλος Isaiah 48:18, akin to ἄλλος, ἕτερος, ἄλλος, 1 Corinthians 12:10), and not that an abstract series of other and still other Angels is cited. The second angelic triad, then, corresponds to the first, and the following scheme is formed:

A. The Announcement of the end. The Lamb standing on Mount Zion ( Revelation 14:1).

1. The ἄλλος ἄγγελος, the proclaimer of the everlasting Gospel, or the Gospel of eternity ( Revelation 14:6).

2. The ἄλλος δεύτερος ἄγγελος, as the proclaimer of the decided fall of Babylon the Great ( Revelation 14:8).

3. The ἄλλος ἄγγελος τρίτος, the proclaimer of the judgment upon the worshippers of the Beast ( Revelation 14:9).

4. The voice from Heaven: Proclamation of the blessedness of the dead who die in the Lord.

B. The Accomplishment op the End. Appearance of the form of the son of man on the White Cloud ( Revelation 14:14).

1. The ἄλλος ἄγγελος, issuing out of the Temple, proclaiming the hour of the Judgment (the beginning of the entire Judgment) as a judgment upon Babylon ( Revelation 14:15).

2. The ἄλλος ἄγγελος, issuing out of the Temple in Heaven, with the sharp sickle for the consummation of the harvest ( Revelation 14:17).

3. The ἄλλος ἄγγελος, Revelation 14:18, issuing from the Altar, having power over the fire of sacrifice—who challenges the preceding Angel to the completion of the End-Judgment, as that Angel ( Revelation 14:15) had in his turn challenged the form of the Son of Man ( Revelation 14:14).

We, therefore, distinguish the group of the proclamation of Judgment (A) and that of the execution of Judgment (B). The former is under the dominion of the Lamb, Who stands fast forever on Mount Zion as the Head of the Church Triumphant; the latter group is under the dominion of the form of the Son of Man on the white cloud, with the crown upon His head, and in His hand the sharp harvest-sickle—under the Christ, therefore, as He comes for Judgment upon the world ( Matthew 26:64; comp. Daniel 7).

With the first Angel, who has proclaimed the eternal Gospel, i. e., the Gospel of a blessed eternity, the final σωτηρία ( Revelation 14:6), corresponds the first Angel of execution, in that he notifies the Son of Man of the hour or time of harvest, and summons Him to the harvest; whereupon, He Who sits upon the cloud, casts His sickle upon the earth and reaps the earth. This harvest ( Revelation 14:16) Isaiah, without doubt, the harvest of the wheat ( Matthew 3:12; Matthew 13:39), with which the Parousia begins ( Matthew 24:31), corresponding to the Gospel of the final redemption, and to be distinguished from the harvest of judgment ( Revelation 14:19-20). Distinctive marks: The Angel of Revelation 14:15 goes forth from the Temple, i. e., the ideal Temple of the ripened Church of God, for the ripeness of God’s Church for redemption is the sign of the ripeness of the world for judgment; this Angel Isaiah, the symbol of the decree of the Father ( Acts 1:7). Again, this first harvest is called simply the harvest of the earth; it begins with Christ, as the Judge of the world, casting His sickle from the cloud to the earth—that Isaiah, with the commencement of His Parousia itself. Here, therefore, the earth which is reaped, is to be understood in the more special sense of the term.

With the second Angel of proclamation, who cries out: Fallen is Babylon ( Revelation 14:8), corresponds the second Angel of execution ( Revelation 14:17). This latter Angel issues forth from the Temple of Heaven, for the judgment unto judgment is based entirely upon the objective sentence of Divine Righteousness, which decides when the internal corruptness [Verderben] of the world must find its judgment in external ruin [Verderben]. Even this Angel of judgment, however (who bears a similarity to the import of Michael, the judging Christ), receives the summons to the execution of judgment from another Angel, the third Angel of execution. This Angel issues from the Altar; he has authority over the fire. This is what qualifies him to call for the fire of judgment. For every little flame, every fire of sacrifice, has been a pre-exhibition of the great sacrificial burning at the end of the world. Thus with the third Angel of proclamation ( Revelation 14:9), who announced that law of the Kingdom in accordance with which the sentence of damnation ( Revelation 14:9-11) and the Judgment, as a judgment of fire, ensue, corresponds the Angel of the actual fiery Judgment, whose world-historic prefiguration is sacrifice.

We scarcely need mention that this double angelic triad forms a group of symbolical figures; in which the first triad belongs more to the economy of Christ, and the second more to the economy of the Father.

It may appear particularly remarkable that the harvest of judgment is represented as a gathering of the vine—the vine thus, apparently, having an entirely different import here from that assigned it John 15:1. It might here be suggested that all Antichristianity will be a corrupt and apostate Christianity. There Isaiah, however, another motive which lies at the door, viz, that of conforming the entire picture to the central idea of the wine-press, Isaiah 63. The wine-press of wrath or deadly judgment brings with it the retribution for the great blood-guiltiness of the world’s history—especially as manifested in the history of the martyrs;—this retribution is exhibited in the mighty river of blood in which, at the end of the world, the life of the old humanity pours forth. The treading of the wine-press is accomplished without the city;[FN18] an antithesis by which only the City simple, the City, of God, can be intended. The depth of the river of blood is indicated by the declaration that it reaches to the reins [Zägel] of the horses—not to the bits [Zaüme, German Version], for in that case the horses would necessarily sink. It is with difficulty, therefore, that the horses of world-development ( Revelation 6:2; Revelation 19:14) can labor through this stream; it is only through a great crisis that the new world issues from the old. The bloody stream itself overspreads1000 stadia, the symbol of an æon, by the space of600 stadia, by which an immense extent of further suffering is indicated.

In Revelation 15 is represented the preparation of this Judgment which is about to be executed through the medium of the Vials of Anger. It might be conjectured that the Earth-picture of the Anger-Vials would begin here, but individual traits are against such a supposition—especially the festival-keeping on the crystal sea. First, then, the Seer beholds another sign in Heaven, the seven Angels with the last seven plagues, or judgment-strokes, with which the anger of God shall be filled up. Again, however, the vision must strengthen the courage of the faithful; the description of the terrible angelic forms is therefore preceded by a picture of the celebration of the Judgment in the congregation of the blessed. The glassy sea is here, as in an earlier passage [ Revelation 4:6], the completed history of the peoples as a history of salvation, sub specie æterni, translumined by the Spirit of God; Divinely still and transparent, and Divinely moved. Here, however, it is mingled with the appearance of fire (see p34); for this new world-form has passed through the sacrificial fire as well as through the fire of the universal judgment; moreover, the reflection of the Vials of anger falls upon the crystal splendor of this sea. Hence, the blessed are here designated as victors over the Beast. Their victory is detailed. They have vanquished not only the temptation of the Beast, but also the temptation of his Image, the temptation of his mark, the Antichristian symbol; aye, they have overcome even the temptation to a covert [Verblümt] recognition of him by the assumption of the number of his name in a restless pursuit of vanity. And now they all have harps; harps of God, as Divinely inspired singers and players. The new song which they sing is now called the song of Moses, the servant of God, and the song of the Lamb. Of the two Song of Solomon, the song of the typical redemption ( Exodus 15.) and the song of the real redemption, one unitous, grand anthem of redemption is born. Even the Law Isaiah, in the light of the consummation, glorified into a phase of the Gospel; and it is also, in spiritual forms, its very self glorified, elevated—and, by being elevated, in a sense abrogated [aufgehoben],—transmuted into celestial custom ( Matthew 5). This song has reference to the imminent final Judgment from which they, through the redemption, have escaped, as Israel escaped from the pursuit of Pharaoh. Hence, mention is first made of the great wonders of God, particularly as manifest in His conduct of the Final Judgment. Hence, God is again magnified as the All-Ruler [Παντοκράτωρ],[FN19] and His ways, in particular,—His government and providences [Führungen und Fügungen=leadings and joinings]—are extolled as righteous and true; as righteous in His world-historic retribution—as true in His final fulfillment of all prophecies and threats. Thus He approves Himself the essential King of the nations (not simply of the saints, after the scantily attested reading).[FN20] Thus the worship of the true fear of God appertains to Him at the end of days as much as, and still more than, in the days of the Old Covenant, for this fear is fundamentally diverse from the fear which is cast out by perfect love. The supreme reason for this worship is expressed in the words: He only is holy—words declaratory of the Absolute Personality, not merely as a negation of all impersonal conduct, but also as the Founder and Awakener of the Personal Kingdom of Love, in Whose almighty traction of love all nations [Heiden, heathen, Gentiles] shall come and worship before Him after they have beheld the grand manifestation of His judgments. These words point to a great conversion, to take place amidst the development of the world’s judgment.

After this pre-celebration of the Judgment of Anger, the Seer, with new amazement ( Revelation 15:5), beholds the equipment of the seven Angels for the execution of the Judgment. The scene opens with the opening of the Temple of the Tabernacle of the Witness, i. e., the Ark of the Covenant—the Holy of Holies, therefore. There the holy Law reposes, which has testified the will of God to the nations; thence, therefore, perfect retribution proceeds, as a punitory providence which itself bears the mark of the Holy of Holies, and hence is to be regarded entirely as a providence in order to the protection of personal life.

This providence issues from the Holy of Holies, under the guidance of the seven Angels who are to execute the seven last plagues. These Angels themselves appear as highly consecrate spirits, clothed with pure, glistening (or pearl-beset?[FN21]) linen, for they accomplish the deliverances of supreme truth and righteousness solely, in executing the sentence of the anger of God; they are no mediums for the outflowings of dark and unfree passion, no ministers of blind and senseless fate-strokes. Hence they are also girded as for a festal celebration, about the breast—not as for labor, about the loins; they are girded with golden girdles, the signs of Divine strength, self-determination, and bound-abiding faithfulness.

The seven Vials of Anger are given to the Angels by one of the four Life-shapes. Here it is particularly manifest that these Life-shapes cannot be regarded as symbolical forms of creature life.[FN22] They stand between God and these high Angels—who may not, indeed, be identified with the Archangels—and receive the Vials, which are full of the anger of God. One of them distributes the Vials; greater explicitness is not accorded to the vision—hence it would be mere guess-work were we to conjecture that the Lion was the recipient and distributer of the Vials.

Why do we here find the expression: Who liveth into the ages of the ages? The domination of God’s wrath in inflictions of death is conditioned by this life. The manifestation of absolute Life is a decree of death to obstinate sinners.

Furthermore, God withdraws Himself from human view as an angry God. Thenceforth the Temple was filled with smoke from the glory of God, so that none could go into the Temple until the seven plagues were fulfilled. This phenomenon cannot be resolved into the more general fact that the glory of God veils itself in the pillar of cloud or in a pillar of smoke ( Exodus 40:34; 1 Kings 8:10; Matthew 17:5), although it is connected with that fact. For the Temple was not previously filled with smoke, to the eye of the Seer; he has even had a mysteriously expressed sight of God. But as God, as the Holy One, in general conceals Himself from the gaze of sinful Prayer of Manasseh, so this is especially the case in His judgments. “He made the darkness about Him His covering—His pavilion round about Him dark waters [Wassernacht], clouds upon clouds,” Psalm 18:11. Thus He covers Himself when He comes with terrors upon His enemies. For the Prophet Isaiah also ( Isaiah 6), the Temple in which he has seen the glory of Jehovah, afterwards becomes filled with smoke; a sign that this Temple should be burnt, but also an expression of the fact that God Isaiah, for the human eye, hidden most in His judgments, most difficult of comprehension therein. That affectionate and familiar boldness which seeks an immediate access into the Temple, to God, shrinks back amid the thunders of majesty; nevertheless, the Mercy-seat is set up in front of the Temple in the person of Jesus Christ for all in the whole world who seek for refuge ( Romans 3).

[ABSTRACT OP VIEWS, ETC.]

By the American Editor

[Elliott:[FN23] Revelation 14:1-5, is parallel with chs 12, 13, and presents a view of the true Church gathered around the true Christ (the Lamb—standing, not yet enthroned)—in antithesis with the merely nominal Church gathered around the enthroned Antichrist, as set forth in those chapters; Revelation 14:2-3, mark a progression in their condition—they refer to the Reformation;—the harpers are the rejoicing members of the churches of the Reformation; the voice of many waters and of a great thunder implies the uniting of both nations and princes in their rejoicing; the new song, the song of the Reformation, as set forth by Luther: “Learn to know Christ, Christ crucified, Christ come down from Heaven to dwell with sinners! Learn to sing the New Song of Solomon, Thou Jesus art my righteousness; I am Thy sin; Thou hast taken on Thyself what was mine; Thou hast given me what is Thine.”

Revelation 14:6-8 are parallel with chs 15, Revelation 16:1-14 ( Revelation 11:15-19), and set forth the missionary advance of the true Church throughout the Era predicted in those passages (see on p296 ).

Revelation 14:9-20 are connected with Revelation 16:15 to the end of the Apocalypse (see on p297 ).

Barnes: Ch14. contains a succession of symbolical representations, designed to comfort those exposed to the troublous events of chs 12, 13, by showing the ultimate result of those events: There is represented by the vision of (1) Revelation 14:1-5, the character and final triumph of all the redeemed; (2) Revelation 14:6-7, that the gospel will be preached among all nations, and that as indicating the near approach of the consummation; (3) Revelation 14:8, the destruction of Antichristian, Papal Rome; (4) Revelation 14:9-12, the certain and final destruction of all the upholders of that power; (5) Revelation 14:13, the blessedness of all who die in the Lord; (6) Revelation 14:14-20, the final overthrow of all the enemies of the Church; the harvest representing the righteous to be gathered into the Kingdom; the vintage, the wicked to be destroyed.—Ch15 commences the statement of the manner in which the pledges of the preceding chapter would be accomplished, which statement is pursued through the subsequent chapters, giving in detail what is here promised in a general manner—it “is merely introductory to what follows, … and designed to introduce the account of those judgments with suitable circumstances of solemnity.”

Stuart: “The combination of three such powerful enemies against Christianity (the Dragon, Satan [p240]; the First Beast, Pagan Rome; the Second, the Pagan Priesthood [p261]), was in itself of fearful import. … To animate the courage, however, of this noble little band, (of Christians), the writer arrests the progress of action in the great drama, in order to hold out the symbols of ultimate and certain victory: Symbol First is of the Lamb (Christ) on the earthly Zion, surrounded by His144,000 sealed ones—not forces to be employed against enemies, but trophies of victory already achieved; Second, consists of a triplex series of proclamations of (a) the ultimate and certain spread of the gospel throughout the whole world, Revelation 14:6-7, (b) the absolute and certain fall of mystical Babylon (heathen Rome), Revelation 14:8, (c) the awful punishment that awaits the followers of the Beast; Third, is constituted of a triplex series of actions—(a) the reaping, Revelation 14:14-16 (the harvest which is ripe, i. e., the enemies of the Church whose wickedness is consummated), (b) the gathering, Revelation 14:17-19 (also the wicked), (c) the treading of the wine-press, Revelation 14:20.[FN24]

Ch15. A Heaven-scene preceding the infliction of the seven last plagues: the martyrs around the Throne sing the song of anticipative triumph, and praise the justice of God as about to be displayed in the overthrow of the Beast, Revelation 15:2-4; the smoke preventing the entrance of any one into the Temple, Revelation 15:8, indicates that no one is permitted to intercede for those about to be punished, and consequently, that their punishment is certain and inevitable.

Wordsworth: Revelation 14:1-5. This vision reveals that, although during the sway of the Beast many would fall from the faith, yet the true Catholic Apostolic Church of Christ (the144,000—the number of completeness and union in the true doctrine and discipline of Christ, as preached by the twelve Apostles) would never fail, and would finally triumph over the power of the Beast, and would stand with the Lamb on Mount Zion (in antithesis to the rising of the Beast from the sea) in His Kingdom, which will never be destroyed (comp. Psalm 125:1, etc.); the virginity of the144,000 ( Revelation 14:3) indicates that they were not corrupted by the spiritual harlotries of Babylon ( Revelation 14:8; Revelation 17:1-5); the song of triumph ( Revelation 14:2-3), is that of Angels chanting the victory of the Church.

Revelation 14:6-7 predict the universal proclamation of the gospel (by literal Angels?), and that as a preparation for the End (compare Matthew 24:4).

Revelation 14:8 is anticipative of the fall of Babylon, i. e, Papal Rome.

Revelation 14:9-11, a warning (by literal Angels?) against worshipping the Beast.

Revelation 14:14-16, Vision of the Last Judgment, as (1) a Harvest, the ingathering of the good; (2) a Vintage, the crushing of the wicked.

Revelation 15:1. “St. John, having been brought in the foregoing chapter to the eve of the Day of Judgment, now Revelation -ascends, as usual, to an earlier point in the Prophecy; and enlarges on the judicial chastisements to be inflicted on the Empire of the Beast.”

Revelation 15:2-4. “Anticipations, continued and expanded, of the future victory of the faithful over the power of the Beast.”

Revelation 15:5-8. “Preparation for the pouring out of the Seven Vials on the Empire of the Beast.”

Alford: Ch14. This is not entirely another vision, but an introduction of a new element, one of comfort and joy, upon the scene of the last; it is anticipatory, having reference to two subjects to be treated of afterwards in detail—(1) the mystic Babylon, (2) the consummation of punishment and reward; it is general in its character, reaching forward close to the time of the end, and treating compendiously of the torment of the apostates and the blessedness of the righteous. It naturally divides itself into three sections: I. Revelation 14:1-5. The144,000 are identical with those of Revelation 7:4, and represent the people of God; their introduction here serves to place before us the Church on the holy hill of Sion (“the site of the display of God’s chosen ones with Christ” [“the seat of God’s true Church and worship?”]), where God has placed His King, as an introduction to the description of her agency in preaching the gospel, and her faithfulness in persecutions. II. Revelation 14:6-13. The four announcements of this section form the text and the compendium of the rest of the Book—these are of (1) the universal proclamation of the gospel as previous to the final judgments, Revelation 14:6-7, (2) the fall of Babylon (Rome, Pagan and Papal—principally Papal; see on Revelation 17), as an encouragement for the patience of the saints, Revelation 14:8; (3) the final defeat and torment of the Lord’s enemies, Revelation 14:9-12; (4) the blessedness of all who die in the faith and obedience of Christ. III. Revelation 14:14-16. The Harvest, i. e., the ingathering of the saints, answering to the proclamation of the gospel in Revelation 14:6-7. IV. Revelation 14:17-20. The Vintage of Wrath, fulfilling the denunciations of Revelation 14:8; Revelation 14:11.

Ch15. Prefatory to the Seven Vials: Revelation 15:1, the description of the vision; Revelation 15:2-4, the song of triumph of the saints victorious over the Beast; Revelation 15:5-8, the coming forth of the seven Angels, and delivering to them of the seven Vials. (See also in Expl. in Detail in loc.)

Lord: Revelation 14:1-4. The144,000 are the same as those of Revelation 7; they are also the Witnesses of Revelation 11raised from the dead; they have not belonged to the apostate Church, nor sanctioned the blasphemous usurpations of the Wild Beast, but are pure worshippers of God; they are the first-fruits unto God (distinguished from the complete harvest of Revelation 14:15-16); the song of Revelation 14:3 is their song.

Revelation 14:6-7. The Angel represents a body and succession of men, who are to bear the everlasting gospel both to the nations of the ten kingdoms, and to all other tribes and languages of earth.

Revelation 14:8. Great Babylon is the aggregate of the nationalized hierarchies of the ten kingdoms; she symbolizes the teachers and rulers of the churches, with whom the kings of the earth join in the institution, practice, and dissemination of a false religion; uniting with her in the usurpation of the rights of God as lawgiver, etc.; her fall is her severance from the civil governments, and dejection from her station and power as a combination of national establishments; the Angel is the representative of a body of men, his flight in mid-Heaven denotes their publicity and conspicuity, and his annunciation, that there is to be a public and exalting celebration of her overthrow.

Revelation 14:9-13. The warning implies that notwithstanding great Babylon has fallen from her station as a national establishment, men are still worshipping the Wild-beast and its image, and receiving its mark—those Romish hierarchies are still to subsist after their fall, and acknowledge the Pope as their head; the symbol foreshows that after great Babylon has fallen from her station as a combination of nationalized hierarchies, numerous teachers shall arise who shall publicly and strenuously assert the exclusive right of God to enjoin the faith and institute the worship of the Church, etc.

Revelation 14:14-16. The one like the Son of Man represents (not Christ but) a human being, raised from the dead in glory, like the human form of Christ in His exaltation—the period of this agency, therefore, is after the revivification of the Witnesses; those harvested by him are the saints, living and mortal.

Revelation 14:17-20. The dejection of the vine into the wine-press signifies that those whom the vine symbolizes are to be crushed by the vengeance of the Almighty—the treading of the wine-press outside the city (the symbol of the nationalized hierarchies), denotes that the grapes are from their vineyards—the river of blood symbolizes the vastness and visibility of the destruction; the dejection of the vine into the press is a different work from the treading—the former is the work of the reapers, the latter of the Son of God.

Revelation 15:1-4. A Heaven-scene wherein the entire mass of witnesses, who throughout the ages have held the testimony of Jesus, and refused submission to Antichristian powers, are represented as praising the wisdom and rectitude of the Almighty.

Revelation 15:5-8. The introduction to the pouring out of the Vials, indicating that no intercession by the saints on earth for the salvation of Antichristian foes is to be offered during this period.

Glasgow: Revelation 14. The144,000 are the same as those of chap7—they are the first-fruits (comp. Exodus 13:15; Exodus 34:20), representing all God’s ransomed people; the Angel of Revelation 14:6 symbolizes the ministry of the gospel from the beginning (specially as missionaries to the heathen); the Angel of Revelation 14:8 represents home missionaries, who are more controversial and Protestant than the preceding; the third Angel, Revelation 14:9, symbolizes the Protestant ministry; the dead of Revelation 14:13 are the martyred dead of all ages; the one sitting on the cloud, Revelation 14:14, is Christ in His humanity throughout the gospel dispensation sitting on the cloud (the symbol taken from the cloudy pillar), which ever abides over the Church; the Angel of Revelation 14:15, the whole body of Christ’s ministry—the time of their prayer to Christ coincides with the death of the Witnesses, the reaping-time of His compliance with that prayer is that of the resurrection of the witnesses (the Reformation); the Angel of Revelation 14:17 is the Holy Ghost; that of Revelation 14:18 represents persecuted saints; the vintage symbolizes the wasting wars that followed the Reformation.

Revelation 15. The resurrection of the witnesses symbolizes the Reformation, and also presents a general view of the glorious events and retributions that followed.—E. R.C.]

EXPLANATIONS IN DETAIL

Revelation 14:1. And I saw, and behold.— Lively introduction of the new, great vision of the heavenly pre-celebration and preparation of the final Judgment. The consummation of the Church, as appearing in the144,000 virgins, is symptomatic of the consummation of the earth, of its ripeness for judgment.

The Lamb ( Revelation 7:17)—here in the radiance of His glorious spoils of victory.

On the Mount Zion.—Is the mountain to be conceived of as in Heaven (in accordance with Grotius, Hengstenberg, Ebrard, et al.)? Or is it, in accordance with De Wette and Düsterd, to be taken in its “proper” acceptation, i. e., literally? Düsterdieck applies the epithet allegoristic to the interpretation of Mount Zion as the Church (after Bede, Calov, et al.), in his chronic misapprehension of what allegorism is. The vision Isaiah, evidently, a picture of the Church Triumphant, resident in that spiritual Heaven which pervades Heaven and earth. Mount Zion, however, particularly symbolizes the lofty citadel, the eternal fortress of the people of God.

And with Him a hundred and forty-four thousand.—There is as little foundation for the belief that these144,000 are composed exclusively of Gentiles (Düsterdieck) as for the assumption that the144,000 of Revelation 7 are Jews exclusively. For a discussion of the question as to the identity (Grot, Vitringa, and many others) or diversity (Bleek, Neander, et al.) of the two assemblies, we refer our readers to the Synoptical View [also Add. Note, p193.—E. R. C.] The144,000 of the present chapter are, as a whole, the same kernel of the Church of God—a kernel, however, which has developed, from a host of combatants warring on this side of the boundary which divides this life from the life to come, to a host of victors who have crossed the line; as, similarly, the seal on the foreheads of the first has become the open inscription of appertinency to God and Christ.

Revelation 14:2. A voice from the Heaven.—The heavenly character of the voice is the main thing; the sounds are sounds of perfection. The voices are in part voices of Christian nations (the voice of great waters), in part the voices of great Prophets (the voice of a great thunder), both the former and the latter being perfected in holy art (the voice of harpers). In a certain degree, therefore, the voice from Heaven certainly does represent the144,000 themselves (Bengel, Hengstenberg, et al.); more strictly speaking, however, it is the true fountain of song within the Church of God, whose outflowings pass but gradually to the entire Church;—the choir of the celestial Church.—Great waters ( Revelation 1:15).—The voice of a great thunder ( Revelation 6:1).—Harps (or citherns).—With all its sublimity, the Song of Solomon, in its spiritual beauty, is as exquisitely delicate as the music of the cithern. [Alford comments: “The harpers and the song are in Heaven, the144,000 on earth; and no one was able to learn the Song of Solomon, i. e., to appreciate its melody and meaning, so as to accompany it and bear part in the chorus.” On the other hand Lord remarks: “The Mount Sion on which the144,000 stood was that of the heavenly tabernacle… The Song of Solomon, accordingly, which he heard from Heaven was their song; not the song of the other redeemed or of angels. This is apparent from the representation that it was sung before the Living-creatures and Elders, and that no one was able to learn it but the144,000. To suppose it to have been sung by others, is to suppose that they had already learned it.”—E. R. C.]

Revelation 14:3. A new song.—As the Old Testament is new in comparison with the primeval time; as the New Testament is new in comparison with the Old Testament; as the eternal gospel is new in comparison with the gospel of principal σωτηρία; so the new song is new in comparison with Moses’ song of redemption;—a more developed form is the conjunction of the two songs ( Revelation 15:3).—And no one could learn the song, etc.—The condition whereon the learning of it is dependent is not artistic talent, but the depth of ethical experience, such as is possessed by the144,000. The highest æsthetics, the most profound artistic intelligence, in the simplest words.

Revelation 14:4-5. On different attempts to construe the following, see Düsterd.

Attributes of the144,000: 1. They are virgins (παρθένοι, virgin-like [Jungfräuliche]; the Greek term is applied to men as well as to women) in a religious sense; they have kept themselves pure from idolatry (Coccei, Grot, et al.), ideal iconoclasts, who, it may be, even as heathen, perceived the myths to be but symbols. The words [παρθένοι γάρ εἰσιν] have been infelicitously referred to monkish asceticism by Roman Catholic exegetes; to celibacy (Augustine, Bede, Rothe, Düsterdieck); to chastity (Hengstenberg; abstinence from all fornication, De Wette); to the Christians of the last days (Hofmann). And thus the symbolism of the entire Old Testament, bearing upon this point, has been unable to obtain a foothold in the minds of these commentators. And the flimsy deductions which Neander and others (also Düsterdieck especially, see his note, p466) have drawn from the misunderstanding, are a result of this ignoring of the Old Testament symbol, a recognition of which should the more assuredly have been induced by the fact that this virginity forms the extreme contrast to the extreme abomination of idolatry, viz.: the worship of the Beast.[FN25]

2. These (with emphasis) are they who follow the Lamb, etc.—Düsterdieck and others lay stress upon the present, follow, in order to confute the interpretation of the term as a preterite, expressive of the following of Christ to tribulation and death (Grot, Bengel, Hengstenberg). They are the constant attendants of the Lamb, it is declared. The latter thought, however, is inclusive of the former one, even as it is also the result of it. [“If He goes to Gethsemane, they follow Him thither; if He goes to Calvary, they take up their cross and follow Him thither. He is gone to Heaven, and they will be with Him there also.” Wordsworth.—E. R. C.]

3. These were bought.—Emphasis is laid upon the personal worth of these souls by the repetition of οὗτοι. They are redeemed [bought] in a special sense, agreeably to their destination of being an ἀπαρχή for God and the Lamb. [“Redeemed from among men—language derived from the Book of Exodus: ‘The first-born of my sons I redeem’ ( Exodus 13:15; Exodus 34:20). This exhibits the144,000 as representing all God’s ransomed people.”—E. R. C.]

Does ἀπαρχή constitute an antithesis to the entire world (in accordance with De Wette, et al., comp. James 1:18), or, which is more probable, to the general throng of believers (Ewald), or of the blessed (Bengel, Düsterd, et al.)? In accordance with the distinction made, Revelation 7, between the144,000 and the innumerable multitude, a special selection is likewise intended here. In this view, the difference between the Augustine-Calvinistic and the Biblical doctrine of election is clearly apparent.

4. In their mouth was not found falsehood.—“The term ψεῦδος (comp. Revelation 21:27) is to be apprehended in its general import, and not to be limited to the falsehood of idolatry (Grot.: non vocarunt deos, qui dii non sunt, Bengel), heresy, or a denial of Christ (Hengstenberg).” Düsterdieck. This deliverance is more than half recanted by the remark that a certain antithesis to the sphere of falsehood in which the seducing pseudo-prophet moves, is obvious, (after Ewald, Ebrard). Idolatry is the primary form of falsehood, see Romans 1.

Summation of attributes: For they are blameless.—Here, again, their æonic disposition is cited as the basis of their temporal conduct; as in Revelation 14:4 : for they are virgins.

In discussing the design of this vision it must first of all be stated that, in accordance with the construction of the whole Book, the vision has not a backward reference to Revelation 13, but a forward reference to ch. xvi, as a life-picture of the final σωτηρία contrasted with the final Judgment. Church-historical interpretations of particular details—some of which are of a remarkable character—see in Düsterdieck, p468, and De Wette, p143. Christiani’s reference of the144,000 to the Church of the last time agrees better with the context than many another interpretation. A reference to the Israelitish Church of the end [Luthardt] belongs to a Judaizing chiliasm.

Revelation 14:6-7. Another Angel.—The reference of the expression “another Angel” to Angels who have previously appeared upon the scene (De Wette, Düsterdieck), is untenable. The difficulty of ἄλλος was, perhaps, the cause of its omission in Cod. B.; see above.—Flying;—Comp. Revelation 8:13.—In mid-heaven.—A herald to the whole world.—An everlasting gospel.—Ebrard: “The older exegetes, together with Lücke, are probably right in understanding the import of the tidings to be salvation in Christ generally.” (Note by the same com.: “Of course this apprehension does not in the slightest degree justify the arbitrary allegoristic references of the three Angels to Wickliffe, Huss, and Luther, and the like. Calovius understood by the first two Angels Luther and Chemnitz, most coolly appropriating to himself the honor of being the third.”—In conjunction, that Isaiah, with the other opponents of syncretism; see De Wette on this passage; also Düsterd, p474.) Other interpretations of the three Angels, see collected in De Wette, p147 (Peter de Bruis, Wickliffe, Luther, etc.). Ebrard refers the Angel of the everlasting Gospel to the preaching of the Gospel amongst the heathen, which, according to Matthew 24, precedes the end. But though the old Gospel Isaiah, in respect of its purport, an eternal Gospel, it should, as the Gospel of principial salvation, be distinguished from the Gospel of the final redemption to eternal felicity; and the new proclamation, of which the present passage speaks, is not for the heathen alone, but for the whole earth. One-sided, but not incorrect, is the explanation of Corn. à-Lapide: A message promissory of the eternal good things in Heaven. According to Hengstenberg, the message of the Angel is a Gospel [even for the enemies of God], inasmuch as his exhortation to repentance is conjoined with the grant of a respite for repentance. But there is no intimation here of a respite for repentance in the strict sense of the words. The last-named commentator interprets the attribute eternal as having reference solely to the irrevocability or certainty of this Gospel. On the reference of this Angel to Luther, comp. Hengstenberg, II, p133.

To declare glad tidings unto them, etc.—The fact that this message is not addressed simply to the heathen who may still be left (Ebrard, p408), is clearly evident from the further explication of those for whom it is intended: to every nation, etc. Neither can it be said that the Angel’s exhortation to repentance is distinct from his message of joy:—the message in its totality is the everlasting Gospel, in the form of a parænesis [παραίνεσις].

The general character of the exhortation:—Fear God, etc., rests upon the law that the preaching of the end goes back to the preaching of the beginning; and that partly on account of the fact that most Christians have learned very little from Christianity, and that there is now no time to lose. The fear of God, according to the text, would be for many the beginning of salvation, as it is elsewhere declared to be the beginning of wisdom. Finally, in the eternal Gospel, the form shall have become transparent for the universal Gospel, and a real worship of God, Who, besides the Heaven, has made the earth and the sea and fountains of waters—all in a symbolical sense—would be the actual foundation of conversion, the beginning of all Christian development. This Gospel Isaiah, certainly, conditioned, but, as conditioned, it is also a real Gospel (see Luke 21:28). It cannot be denied that the passage is suggestive of man’s absolute dependence upon God, as opposed to a false dependence upon, and subserviency to, the Beast;—the particular truth, however, which it is designed to exhibit Isaiah, that the judicial power of God is based upon the fact that He is the Creator of all things.

Revelation 14:8. And another, second Angel, etc.—It is not on account of the dramatic vividness of the scene that one Angel follows another (Düsterd.), but because of the rapid succession of particular items in the approaching judgment—a truth of which Grotius was sensible when he commented thus: Quot rei nunciandæ, totidem nuntii.

Fallen.—One of the sublimest words of consolation for advanced Christians. Comp. Isaiah 14. Before God, the thing is decided; the decision on earth approaches. The passage Isaiah, therefore, a proleptical description, in prophetic form, of an imminent event (see Revelation 11:18).—Triumphant certainty is expressed in the repetition: fallen!

Babylon the great.—Babel was, even in Genesis, the primeval type of a God-opposed world-power; in the Prophets, Babel [or Babylon] became the greatest type of the anti-theocratic world-power; and here the typical expression is perfected in the type of the antichristian world-power. Godless self-exaltation ( Daniel 4:30), apparent crushing omnipotence over against the Church of God, and perfect impotence in face of the suddenly approaching storms of Divine judgment—are tie individual features of the type. Here, however, as has already been remarked, the reference Isaiah, not to Babylon in the narrower sense of the term, but to Babylon in the most general sense, culminating, of course, in Babylon in the more restricted sense.

Who gave all the nations to drink of the wine of the anger [or rage] of her fornication.—Wine is a symbol of enthusiasm; fornication is a symbol of idolatry; and θυμός in this connection is the wrathful [angry] zeal of fanaticism.[FN26] As fanaticism, in its lust of rule and its intolerance, corresponds with internal irreligiousness and profligacy, so idolatry itself corresponds with actual unchastity. These characteristics are found combined in the religion of ancient Babylon, and are in process of constant development, corresponding to the increasingly God-opposed character of the world-powers. Various have been the false interpretations of the wine of anger, as e.g, poisoned wine and ardent wine—explanations rightly rejected by Düsterdieck. Yet the expression can not be regarded as significant purely of the wine of the anger of God; rather, together with the anger of the heathen [nations] or the Harlot, the reaction of the Divine anger develops into judgment (see Revelation 11:18; Revelation 17:4; comp. Romans 1:21 sqq.). Thus the fornication also is not simply “fornication committed with great Babylon” (Düsterdieck), but, above all, the fornication of the Harlot herself (see Jeremiah 25:16; Jeremiah 51:7). De Wette and others assert that this Babylon is pagan Rome solely (Tertull, Augustine, etc.); not papal Rome (Vitringa, Bengel, et al.), or Jerusalem (Abauzit, Herder, et al.), not even the wicked world or world-power (Andreas, Bede, et al.). Hengstenberg also confounds Babylon in the wider and Babylon in the narrower sense ( Revelation 18). Similarly Ebrard. It should, indeed, be observed that the judgment upon the great universal world-Babylon commences with the judgment upon Babylon in the narrower sense of the term.

Revelation 14:9-11. And another, third Angel.—He proclaims the code or norm of judgment in an eschatological form.—With a great voice.—This clause is wanting in the description of the second Angel. Hengstenberg thinks that this is because the proclamation of the second Angel is related to that of the first as the particular to the general, whilst the proclamation of the third Angel is of a general cast again. The distinction, however, lies also, and in a greater degree, in the purport of the announcements.

If any one worshippeth the Wild-beast, see Revelation 13.—He also shall drink, etc.—Düsterdieck: “Καὶ αὐτός (comp. Revelation 14:17) represents the individual as incurring judgment equally with the Harlot herself (compare Ewald)” A nearer reference of the καὶ αὐτός would, perhaps, be to the fact that he has previously, in company with the Beast, himself drunk the wine of anger of Antichristian fanaticism, and presented the same to others (see Revelation 9:17-18; Revelation 13:10; Hengstenberg, 2, p151). Taken in the abstract, the reference to the Beast would also give a good sense. The meaning is that none shall be able to excuse himself on the plea that the Beast or the False Prophet seduced him; every one who has worshipped Antichrist shall be personally responsible for the fact—he himself, man for man. An important rule, as opposed to those who hold that individuals belonging to a great mass are personally excused from responsibility. The error is the greater when it includes the belief that the holiness-treasures of a heavily indebted hierarchical system[FN27] are available for personal profiting.

Of the anger of God.—Anger for anger—the holy coming as a retribution upon the evil.

Which is mingled [=poured out—prepared] unmixed.—The expression, literally apprehended, contains a contradiction; it must, therefore, be taken as an oxymoron. Now if, with Wetstein and others, we take κερᾷν in the trite sense of to pour out, no distinct point is visible. The explanation of Züllig: “pure essence of mixtures” [spices, etc.], needs not to be refuted. Hengstenberg, on the other hand, seems to hit the point: “In the Divine wine of anger, mixture with water corresponds to the element of grace, of compassion. The entire absence of such an element is represented here.” Düsterdieck calls this comment artificial. [See Text. and Gram, Note19.—E. R. C.]

In the cup of His wrath.—Here ὀργή appears—the stronger form of θυμός. [See Text. and Gram, note29.—E. R. C.]

Tormented with fire and brimstone.— [“See Revelation 20:10, and Isaiah 34:9-10, from which the imagery comes. De Wette is certainly wrong in interpreting ἐνώπιον, nach dem Urtheilein the judgment of. It is literal, and the meaning as in Luke 16:23 sqq, that the torments are visible to the angels and the Lamb.” Alford.—E. R. C.]

And the smoke of their tormentRevelation 19:3; Isaiah 34:10; Matthew 25:41. Smoke is a phenomenon attendant upon imperfect combustion. If they burned with free devotion in sacrificial fire, they would blaze refulgently, without smoke; the more the flame is restrained by resistance, the thicker and blacker is the smoke which pours forth. Hence, also, βασανισμός is not pure [passive] suffering, but a racking or torturing process. Hengstenberg: “They have no rest day and night from being tormented”—with reference to Revelation 20:10, and in opposition to Vitringa, who interpreted the passage as referring to the torment of conscience.

They have not rest by day and by night.—Absolute unrest or excitement—a frantic condition, therefore—forms the spiritual aspect of their βασανισμός.

Who worship, etc.—The present form of the verb must not be overlooked. The offence continues along with the βασανισμός. It is not: who worshipped. With the punishment, the crime which at the first merited that punishment, endures.

Revelation 14:12. Here is the endurance [Lange: patience], etc.—Are these words a digression of the Seer, or are they the concluding utterance of the Angel? In accordance with the analogy of Revelation 13:10 (comp. also Revelation 14:18), they are a practical digression of the Seer. Thus Hengstenberg regards them: “The verse has reference to the point of view, the purpose to which the foregoing is subservient.” Does this mean that the warning against this hell-punishment is the source of the patience [endurance] of the saints? This is about the theory maintained by those who occupy a legal stand-point; it was the theory of the Middle Ages, and is still the theory of the most popular Protestant sermons which advocate a turning from sin to holiness principally on the ground of the pain thereby to be escaped. The patience [endurance] of the saints, however, has its source in the righteousness of God, in that sacred and Divine justice which is here depicted in characters of flame (see Revelation 13:10). The explanation: Here is the place for patience, here it must give proof of itself (De Wette, Hengstenberg, Ebrard), virtually translates ὦδε by hither! which, undoubtedly, in and for itself gives a good sense; it is also mediately to be retained as a challenge, as is evidenced by the subsequent sentence. The construction οἱ τηροῦντες “is informal, like Revelation 1:5; Revelation 2:20” (Düsterdieck). In the sense of the Seer, however, a second ὦδε, Isaiah, probably, presupposed. The expression: The commandments of God and the faith of Jesus, Isaiah, doubtless, of wider scope than the distinction of Law and Gospel. The whole of revelation is grounded in the eternal righteousness of God, and culminates in the faith of Jesus, which is principially the steadfastness of Jesus Himself.

Revelation 14:13. And I heard a voice.—We cannot fix this voice upon any distinct person [i. e., “saint or Elder” (Hengstenberg)]; nor are there two voices (the first voice and the speaking Spirit, Züllig). It is the voice of God’s Spirit Himself in the Church Trumphant, in His sympathy with the Church in the last time. The temptation to apostasy is more prevalent than ever: Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord. Düsterdieck (in accordance with most commentators) rightly distinguishes between the theme, which closes with ἀπάρτι, and the subsequent rationale. On a preposterous reference of ἀπάρτι to the last sentence, see Düsterdieck. With Cocceius and Hammond, we firmly adhere to the view that the proposition does not simply contain a general consolatory truth, but that it has a special bearing upon the last troublous time. Those, however, who die in the Lord are not to be apprehended as martyrs of the old style (Züllig); for the expression is not: die for the Lord’s sake (Grotius, et. al.), but in Him, in positive fellowship with Him.—Henceforth is by Roman Catholic exegetes explained (Stern) as intimating that the intermediate state of purgatory is now [at the end of the world] done away with; by De Wette, Hengstenberg, Düsterdieck, it is interpreted as signifying that the glorious end is near—hence also the perfect beatification of believers. This explanation should be retained only upon the condition that special stress be laid upon μακάριοι, with reference to the temptations and trials of the last time; but precisely this has previously been disallowed by Düsterdieck. Our explanation of the manifoldly interpreted ἵνα is indicated in the translation of the text given in the beginning of this chapter. See the author’s Dogmatik, p1243.

[“The mention of the endurance of the saints brings with it the certainty of persecution unto death. The present proclamation declares the blessedness of all who die not only in persecution, but in any manner in the Lord, in the faith and obedience of Christ. And the special command to write this, conveys special comfort to those in all ages of the Church who should read it. But it is not so easy to assign a fit meaning to ἀπάρτι. That it belongs to the preceding sentence, not to the following one, Isaiah, I conceive, plain. … And, thus joined with the former sentence, it must express some reason why this blessedness is to be more completely realized from this time when it was proclaimed than it was before. Now this reason will quickly appear, if we consider the particular time, in connexion with the proclamation which is made. The harvest of the earth is about to be reaped; the vintage of the earth to be gathered. At this time it Isaiah, that the complete blessedness of the holy dead commences: when the garner is filled and the chaff cast out. And that not on account of their deliverance from any purgatorial fires, but because of the completion of this number of their brethren, and the full capacities of bliss brought in by the resurrection.” Alford.—“The language is evidently not to be construed as implying that they who had died in the faith before were not happy, but that in the times of trial and persecution that were to come, they were to be regarded as peculiarly blessed who should escape from these sorrows by a Christian death.” Barnes.—E. R. C.]

For [Lange: But] their works follow with them.—A rejection of the bare idea of reward is detrimental to the idea of retribution itself. The same spirituality of Theology which combats the idea of legal merit as pertaining to works, has also to maintain the truth that those works of believers which have been done in God have become for the performers of them not simply powers and virtues of the new life, but also riches of that life. The κόποι, as such, are left here—from them the blessed rest; but as ἔργα, as ideal operations, they pass with them, as their escort, into eternity. Not simply the memory of their deeds accompanies them, but also the love-blessing of this whole world in which they have helped to build the future. [May not the distinction be this: They rest from their labors (service rendered with fatigue and pain), but their works (service to be rendered without fatigue and pain) follow them? See Add. Comments on Revelation 7:15, and foot-note (*) (2d column), p154.—E. R. C.]

Revelation 14:14. And I saw, and behold (a new vision-wonder, the Judgment scene itself).—The Angels of the announcement of Judgment are succeeded by the Angels of the execution of Judgment; Christ being, as before, at the head. Düsterdieck’s superscription of the following section: “further figurative announcements of the now imminent judgment,” overlooks the antithesis between this section and the preceding one.—A white cloud.—Commencement of Christ’s Parousia. The fact that Christ alone can be intended is manifest not only from the attribute of the golden crown and the parallelism with Daniel 7:13; Matthew 26:64, but also from the harmonious contrast between Revelation 14:14 and Revelation 1. In the latter passage, Christ stands, as the Lamb, on Mount Sion, keeping holy-day in the midst of the Triumphant Church; in the former, the King Militant appears on the white cloud to execute judgment upon the world. Even the parallelism which the three following Angels of execution sustain toward the three preceding Angels of announcement, serves as evidence that none other than Christ can be intended.[FN28] Hence, Düsterdieck rightly rejects the interpretation of the figure as an Angel (Grotius, et al.), or as heroic princes, proclaimers of the principles of evangelic truth (Vitringa).—A sharp sickle.—The implement of harvest in the hand—a symbol of beginning judgment.

Revelation 14:15. Another Angel.—No reference is had to Revelation 14:14, nor to the preceding Angels (Düsterdieck); the reference is to the two following Angels; see above.—Send forth thy sickle.—Such a command Isaiah, certainly, not in harmony with the position of a real Angel; assuredly, however, the decree of the Father (see above) is most aptly set forth in a symbolical Angel.

Revelation 14:16. Cast His sickle.—The commencement of the judgment, therefore, precedes the actual Parousia of Christ.[FN29] The Harlot, or Babylon, is first judged through the Beast ( Revelation 17:16); then follows the appearance of Christ, for the destruction of the Beast himself ( Revelation 19:11). Babylon, or the fallen theocracy, is destroyed by mankind; the Antichristian bestialization and deification of man is destroyed by Christ; Satan, with his rabble rout, is destroyed by God the Father.—And the earth was reaped.—This is the true harvesting of the fruit, the net produce of the harvest-fields of earth for God ( Matthew 24:31).[FN30]

Revelation 14:17. Another Angel.—This Angel represents the judgment of reprobation, or the dark side of the Judgment. According to Hengstenberg, this Angel is Christ Himself again. It is wrong to suppose either that Christ only is intended or that a mere ordinary Angel is meant. Why should not the Angel, as a symbolical unit, represent that plurality of Angels, who, according to Matthew 13:41, are the executioners of judgment? The present passage is not identical with Revelation 19:15, nor with Isaiah 63. Certainly, Christ is Himself the Judge in reference to the reprobate as well as to the blessed, but the Angel, as such, is the symbol of a manifestation of Christ which must be distinguished from Christ Himself. Hengstenberg sees in this Angel a terrible warning to those who might suffer themselves to be driven by fear into concessions; he does not say, however, what concessions he means—the expression is so indefinite that it might even mean concessions against the hierarchy.

Revelation 14:18-19. And another Angel.—See chs. Revelation 8:3; Revelation 16:7. The altar here is not the altar of burnt-offering on earth, but the altar of incense in Heaven.—Out of the altar; this can be said only of a symbolical Angel. The mythical idea of a fire-angel (De Wette) must be rejected (see above).

Gather the clusters of the vine of the earth.—Hengstenberg: “Such an antithesis between the harvest and the vintage as is assumed by Bengel, is not indicated by any feature of the description.” Manifestly, however, the first harvest, as the fruit harvest [fruit—in the primitive sense of that which is profitable and good.—Tr.], is characterized by the fact that the harvest-field has become dry or white in appearance; the grapes, on the other hand, are full of grape-blood. See Ebrard, pp416–18. Compare Joel 3:18. The remarkable choice of the figure of the vine, the grape, and the blood of the grape might, primarily, be based upon the fact that the vintage comes later than the wheat-harvest—thus signifying that the judgment upon the wicked is not until after the ingathering of the righteous. To this, however, must be added the consideration that Christ calls Himself ἄμπελος ἀληθινή, an expression suggestive of the contrast of a vine which is such in a merely symbolical, unreal sense. Such an one was the Old Testament Theocratic Church at first. The whole vineyard early became corrupted, however, according to Isaiah 5. The vine was laid waste, Psalm 80. It became a degenerate vine, Hosea 10:1; Jeremiah 2:21; Deuteronomy 32:32. It is to be given over to judgment, Ezekiel 17:6-10. The fact that the Old Testament vineyard, with its vines, has become a fief [Lehnsbesitz, the old feudal term=estate in loan, trust-estate] of the New Testament Church of God, is declared by the parable Matthew 21:33 sqq. Christ, the true [wesentlich=essential, genuine] Vine, is the author of true [see preceding parenthesis] eternal joy and inspiration; the symbolical vine of the New Testament Church, therefore, in so far as it differs from Christ, is a vine which attains its maturity in spurious enthusiasms, fanatical and untrue joys and festivals. The most terrible thing in its degeneracy, however, is the fact that its clusters acquire their juice [Blut] by blood-shed—that it has been the author, to a constantly increasing extent, of demonic joys of bloodthirstiness; hence pure blood flows from it when it is trodden in the wine-press, and the conception grape-blood or juice is exchanged, with fearful irony, for blood (see Isaiah 63:3). The base-lying thought is the following: as much blood as the vine has drunk in, shall be pressed out of it again in the great winepress of the anger of God.

Revelation 14:20. Without the city.—Explained by most commentators of Jerusalem; by others of Rome. In the symbolical apprehension of the passage, only the City of God can be meant. But is this the Church, as Hengstenberg maintains, or the heavenly Jerusalem, as Bede, et al., affirm? The external Church, at all events, can not be intended, since the text treats of the end of the world, a time when the Church is fallen. The visible appearance of the heavenly Jerusalem ( Revelation 21:2), however, is preceded by the Judgment—in the first ( Revelation 18:24; Revelation 19:2), second ( Revelation 19:17 sqq.), and even third instance ( Revelation 20:9). Nothing, therefore, save the vital Church of God of the last time can be understood—in its quality, incontrovertibly, of passing into the visible appearance of the heavenly Jerusalem and the imperishable City of God ( Revelation 21); as, on the other hand, the treading of the grapes begins with the judgment upon Babylon (to which judgment it seems, also, to have special reference), but extends through the subsequent judgments into the æons. We are of opinion that this æonic duration is that which is denoted by the1600 stadia (see above).—In view of all this, therefore, the application of without the City to the contrast of Heaven is not entirely incorrect, but too external. Curious interpretations of the reins, see in Düsterdieck’s note, p478. [Alford regards the City as that of Revelation 11:2, viz.: Jerusalem; so also Barnes, etc.; Wordsworth, as the New Jerusalem; Lord, as that by which the apostate hierarchies are represented.—E. R. C.]

For a thousand and six hundred stadia.—By this we understand a punitory suffering extending beyond this present æon into future æons, a state of misery to which the eye can see no limit. Manifold interpretations of the number, see in De Wette. The complete number1000 and the age of Noah at the time of the deluge (Andreas). The number4×400, denoting the expanse of the earth and the four regions of Heaven (Victorinus, et al.). The length of Palestine (Bengel, et al.), with reference to Jerome. Extension of the Roman dominion (Mede). The British Islands (Brightman: the Reformation; Cranmer: the Angel, Revelation 14:18!). Martyrdom of converted heathen (Alcasar). According to Ebrard, the number should be analyzed by40. “The number40 is the number of punishment; 40×40 Isaiah, therefore, the number of involved punishment.” An involved [mathematical sense] temporal measure of punishment of some1600 years does not exactly coincide, however, with the æonic succession of judgment.

Revelation 15:1. Another sign in the Heaven.—The Seer has already beheld the unitous phenomenon of the final Judgment; he now sees the historic preparation and development of the same in the succession and intensification of the Anger-Vials or judgments of hardening. The antithesis to the sign in Revelation 14:14 is the pragmatical preparation of the Judgment. The sign, however, is a sign in the Heaven; it still belongs to the Heaven-picture. “The greatness and marvellousness of the sign does not lie solely in the fact that seven Angels—not Archangels (Züllig, Stern; comp. De Wette)—appear simultaneously, but also in their peculiar equipment: ἔχοντας πληγὰς ἑπτά” (Düsterdieck). Hengstenberg thinks that even before the reception of the Vials they might have been recognized as the Angels of the seven plagues by some sign—especially by eyes like flames of fire. Züllig, De Wette, Ebrard, Düsterdieck, rightly regard the vision of Revelation 15:1 as the superscription of the immediately following section, as the Angels themselves do not issue from the Temple until Revelation 15:5 (in opposition to the conception of Hengstenberg). We do not think, however, that the section under this superscription reaches to Revelation 16:21 (Düsterd.), but hold that it ends at Revelation 15:8, since with Revelation 16:1 a new picture—the Earth-picture—begins.

The seven plagues—the last.—That Isaiah, the eschatological last anger-strokes, which bring in the final Judgment; these plagues are, manifestly, characterized as judgments of hardening. The last: This term Isaiah, on the one hand, not to be construed as having reference to individual life, or to be taken partially (Bengel); but on the other hand, neither should it be confounded with the final Judgment itself (Hengstenberg), as Düsterdieck justly remarks. ̓Ετελέσθη denotes not so much the coming to an end as the consummation, the full development of the anger of God. Even in this point the New Testament preserves its septenary, in contrast to the ten plagues under which Pharaoh and the Egyptians hardened themselves. As, however, those plagues were instrumental to the redemption of the people of Israel, so are these instrumental to the perfect redemption of the New Testament Church of God. For the unitous mass of the earth all plagues do indeed come to an end with the last of these plagues; it is not so in the case of the enemies of Christ.

Revelation 15:2-4. And I saw as it were [Lange: an appearance as].—It might be queried: Is not this a second and therefore superfluous pre-celebration of the Judgment, since we have already had one pre-celebration of it in Revelation 14:1-5? That, however, was the general pre-celebration of the entire Judgment, with reference to the Church Triumphant and its escape from said Judgment; here we have the more special pre-celebration of the plagues of anger, the second part of the Heaven-picture. The antithesis to the fearful stormy succession of those last strokes of anger is formed by the crystal sea—the world-history of the saints, calmed and clarified in God; the antithesis to the impenitent world on the earth is formed by the conquerors by [on] the crystal sea; the antithesis to the blasphemies of those visited by the plagues is formed by the heavenly celebration in Song of Solomon, and adoration of the righteous judgments of God.

As a glassy [Lange: crystal] sea mingled with fire, see Revelation 4:6.—Düsterdieck justly remarks, against Ebrard, that the article [before sea] must be absent because it is only the image of a crystal sea that is spoken of. The greater stress must be laid upon this circumstance, since the idea of a crystal surface of sea mingled with fire does not come within the possibilities of thought, and hence Ewald, in consequence of his insisting upon the reality [materiality] of the image has arrived at the conception of an “ineffably seething and foaming mass, a fiery broth” (see Düsterdieck, p484). The image of a crystal-clear sea in Heaven may, however, readily appear as though illuminated and reddened by the fiery glare of the Anger-Vials on earth; and this very reflection is expressed in the song of praise which refers to the judgments of God; moreover, the clarified world-history has itself passed through the fire of earthly world-history (see p 34 and Revelation 4:6). [“The addition, μεμιγμένην πυρί, is probably made as bringing into the previous celestial imagery an element belonging to this portion of the prophecy, of which judgment is the prevailing complexion.” Alford.—E. R. C.]

And I saw those conquering.—To this passage, again, a great and confused mass of interpretations attaches. De Wette: The multitude and glory of the blessed (And, Areth.). Baptism (Primas, et al.). The Divine truth in which believers have their station (Vitringa). Multitude of the heathen (Alcas.). Gentile Christians (Grotius). De Wette: The atmosphere. The last named commentator rejects the reference to the brazen sea in the Temple, but assumes a reference to Israel’s passage through the Red Sea. The fire has also been variously interpreted: Trial-fire (Andreas; others: temptation, persecution, conflict). Martyrdom (Primas.). Love (Grot.), etc. See De Wette, p152. According to Düsterdieck, the crystal sea mingled with fire denotes the unity of the beatific grace and the judicatory righteousness of God. The conquerors are not simply martyrs (in accordance with Eichhorn, Ewald, et al.), neither are they (because of the present: νικῶντας) such as are still in the conflict; they are, in a proleptical representation (De Wette), the congregation of victors, especially those of the last time, over against the great plagues of the last time and those who blaspheme under them. ̔Εκ τοῦ θηρίου undoubtedly does not mean that they have destroyed the power of the Beast; from this fact, however, it does not follow that it must mean: away from the Beast [vom Thiere weg], as if they had kept themselves at a distance from him.

[On (or by) the glassy sea.—“Does ἐπί import actually upon, so that they stood on the surface of the sea, or merely on the shore of? On every account the latter seems the more probable, as better suiting the heavenly imagery of Revelation 4, and as according with the situation of the children of Israel when they sung the song to which allusion is presently made. The sense may be constructionally justified by Revelation 3:20; Revelation 8:3.” Alford.—E. R. C.]

Harps of God.—Tuned solely for the praise of God (Beng.).

Revelation 15:3. And they sing, etc.—The song of Moses is the lyrical celebration of the typical redemption by Moses; the song of the Lamb the celebration of the real redemption by the Lamb; and the two songs in their unity as one song are the lyrical celebration of the Old and New Testament revelation faith, in view of the whole redemption which began with Moses, was decided with Christ, and is now thoroughly consummated through the fiery judgments of God. Not two Song of Solomon, therefore, sung respectively by Old and New Testament believers (Andr.); not the song of Moses applied to Christ and the things of Christ (Grotius); not a song composed at once by Moses and by the Lamb (Ewald, Düsterd.); but the whole redemption as mediated by Moses and Christ, with a distinct reference to the song of Moses and the passage through the Red Sea, as a type of the passage through those rivers of fire by which the faithful of the last time shall be separated from the hardened sinners of that time.

Great and marvellous, etc.—The thought of Vitringa: Canticum Mosis habet spiritualem et mysticum sensum, secundum quem si accipiatur fit canticum agni, contains something of truth inasmuch as even in the song of Moses, together with the omnipotence of God, which destroyed the enemy and saved the people of Israel, the manifestation of His holiness is especially magnified, and it is also even intimated that the whole event must make a startling and a relatively awakening impression upon the heathen. Comp. Exodus 15:14-16 with the conclusion of the song in the Apocalypse.

Revelation 15:3-4. The song first glorifies, in an objective contemplation of the Judgment, the marvellous, all-swaying, kingly rule of God over the world, in particular over the nations—a governance now attaining its consummate appearance, especially in the righteousness and truth (absolute consistency and faithfulness) of His ways. Then, secondly, it declares the impression made by this rule upon the conquerors: it produces the most sacred awe of the holiness of God, and a joyful enthusiasm which prompts them to praise His name as it shines in the perfection of His revelation. Thirdly, the song expresses the prophetic expectation of the effect which these judgments of God shall produce upon the world of nations;—a genuine New Testament trait as expressive of the hope that many shall yet be converted even under the ministry of the Vials of Anger, Exodus 9:16; Exodus 14:7; Psalm 126:2; Micah 7:16.—In Revelation 15:4, as well as in Revelation 16:5, ὅσιος is used “in reference to God, which is unusual.”

Revelation 15:5. Opened was the Temple.—It is more precisely defined as the Temple of the Tabernacle of the witness. According to Grotius, Ebrard and others, the Holy of Holies is itself intended; according to Ewald and Düsterdieck, the Sanctuary proper is intended, as an adjunct to the Holy of Holies. Hengstenb.: “The Temple in its quality of being the place of the testimony.” The Temple as the Sanctuary, in contrast to the Holy of Holies, also needed not now first to be opened; see Syn. View.—Be it further observed that the seven Angels are symbolical figures of anger in the ramification and course of its domination. [“The ναός is the holy place of the Tabernacle, to which latter the appellation τοῦ μαρτυρίου is here peculiarly appropriate, seeing that the witness and covenant of God are about to receive their great fulfillment.” Alford.—E. R. C.]

Revelation 15:6. Clothed in linen pure and glistening.—Their adornment is similar to that of Christ. Their import also Isaiah, doubtless, connected with that of the Archangel Michael. The reading λίθον gives occasion to many debates here (see Düsterdieck, p486). Clothed with Christ, the Jewel, or with the ornament of the virtues (Andreas)? This is destitute of all appropriate meaning, and about the same remark may be applied to the explanation that (with reference to Ezekiel 28:13) a garment bestudded with precious stones might be understood. In conjunction with such a λίθος the adjective λαμπρός would be rather superfluous, and καθαρός, at all events, would be inappropriate.

Revelation 15:7. And one of the four Living-beings [Lange: Life-shapes].—Here, likewise, the false interpretation reappears, according to which the four Song of Solomon -called Beasts are representatives of the creature, and hence one of them appears because the plagues concern the whole creation.—Into the ages.—The eternity of God surpasses the time of the seven Anger-vials. The Vials of Anger also denote death, unceasing and repeated—and over against them stands the eternally Living One.

Revelation 15:8. With smoke.—Veiling of the Divine Majesty (Bengel). Also a sign of His un-approachableness in the manifestation of His holiness. See Isaiah 6.; Exodus 40:34; 1 Kings 8:10. Comp. Syn. View. Different interpretations, see in De Wette, p154; Düsterdieck, p484. There are some very curious interpretations amongst those cited, as for instance that of Cocceius: The human ordinances of popery debar men from faith. Or that of Calov.: Symbol of the blindness of unbelief.

[“No one was able to enter into the Temple (comp. 1 Kings 8:10-11; Exodus 40:34-35) until the seven plagues of the seven Angels should be finished.—The passages above referred to give the reason: because of the unapproachableness of God, when immediately present and working, by any created being. See Exodus 19:21. When these judgments should be completed, then the wrathful presence and agency of God being withdrawn, He might again be approached.”—Alford. See also the conclusion of the abstract of Stuart, p282.—E. R. C.]

[ADDITIONAL NOTE ON THE SECTION]

By the American Editor

[This section consists, as it seems to the writer, of three complete visions, and the beginning of a fourth—each relating to a period still future, and terminating with the consummation of the present æon (the æon immediately preceding the establishment of the Millennial Kingdom). Each of these visions is independent—each contemplating matters not referred to in any of the others, and each describing events mentioned by all the others, though in a different mode and under different relations.

Vision I, Revelation 14:1-13, is introduced by the strong disjunctive formula, Καὶ ἴδον, καὶ ἰδού, and consists of several consecutive parts.—Part first ( Revelation 14:1-5) contemplates the body about to possess the Kingdom—the Lamb with the completed ἀπαρχή (see p193)—standing on the Mount Sion.[FN31] It describes also the condition and character of the chosen companions of Christ.—Part second ( Revelation 14:6-7) relates to a universal proclamation of the Gospel preceding the outpouring of the Vials of anger. Whether the Angel, in this and the following parts, denotes a real Angel, or symbolizes a body of men specially commissioned for the purpose indicated, it is impossible now to determine.—Part third ( Revelation 14:8) foretells a proclamation of the fall of Babylon (see on Revelation 18:2).—Part fourth contemplates a public proclamation of woe to be visited upon the worshippers of the Beast; (the execution of the judgments set forth in this and the preceding proclamation is presented in detail in chs 16–19)—Part fifth is designed for the comfort of the saints. It refers ( Revelation 14:12) to the ground of their endurance, viz.: the sure destruction of the power of their persecutors; and then declares ( Revelation 14:13) their certain blessedness when the trials of this life are ended.

Vision II, Revelation 14:14-20, is introduced by the same formula as the preceding. It contemplates Christ in the exercise of His office as Ruler over all things (comp. Ephesians 1:22)—(1) as gathering His ripened Church from the earth ( Revelation 14:15-16); and (2) as executing judgment upon His enemies. This execution of judgment, as in the preceding vision, is more fully set forth in chs 16–19.

Vision III, Revelation 15:1-4, is not indeed introduced with the same formula as the preceding; it commences, however, with one equally significant. It is purely a Heaven-scene. It contemplates, on the one hand, the chosen ministers of the judgments about to be executed; and, on the other, the entire glorified Church gathered before the Throne as worshippers, and as spectators of the course of Divine Providence on earth. (Is not this assemblage the same as that mentioned Revelation 7:9? See Add. Note, p193.)

Vision IV. begins with Revelation 15:5, and extends to the close of Revelation 17. This vision is introduced with one of the most significant disjunctive formulas employed in the Apocalypse: Καὶ μετὰ ταῦτα ἴδον (see foot-note, p150, first column). It consists of three parts.—Part first, Revelation 15:5-8, sets forth the preparation of the ministers of vengeance for their work, and the heavenly events attendant thereupon.—Part second, Revelation 16, describes the execution of their work.—Part third, Revelation 17, contains a supplemental statement concerning the Harlot and the Beast, upon whom judgment had been executed.—E. R. C.]

Footnotes:

FN#1 - There are three words which in the E. V. are translated wrath: viz.: θυμός, as here; ὀργή, as in Revelation 15:10; παροργισμός, which occurs only in Ephesians 4:26. The instances of the occurrence of the first two are as follows: Θυμός: Luke 4:28; Acts 19:28; Romans 2:8 (indignation); 2 Corinthians 12:20; Galatians 5:20; Ephesians 4:31; Colossians 3:8; Hebrews 11:27; Revelation 12:12; Revelation 14:8; Revelation 14:10; Revelation 14:19; Revelation 15:1; Revelation 15:7; Revelation 16:1; Revelation 16:19 (fierceness); Revelation 18:3; Revelation 19:15 (fierceness); Οργή: Matthew 3:7; Mark 3:5; Luke 3:7; Luke 21:23; John 3:36; Romans 1:18; Romans 2:5 (bis), Romans 2:8; Romans 3:5 (vengeance); Romans 4:15; Romans 5:9; Romans 9:22 (bis); Romans 12:19; Romans 13:4-5; Ephesians 2:3; Ephesians 4:31; Ephesians 5:6; Colossians 3:6; Colossians 3:8 (anger); 1 Thessalonians 1:10; 1 Thessalonians 2:16; 1 Thessalonians 5:9; 1 Timothy 2:8; Hebrews 3:11; Hebrews 4:3; James 1:19-20; Revelation 6:16-17; Revelation 11:18; Revelation 14:10 (indignation); Revelation 16:19; Revelation 19:15. From a comparison of these passages, especially those in the Apocalypse, it will become apparent that the latter is the intensive, of the former (see Lange in Expl, in Detail on Revelation 15:10),—that the effects of θυμός are for the most part experienced in the present life; those of ὀργή in the life to come. In accordance with what he regards as the manifest design of the Spirit to distinguish between the objectives of these terms, the Am. Ed. throughout this translation renders the former by anger and the latter by wrath. It may be objected that this change of the translation of θυμός involves a change in the formula Vials of wrath that has become a household phrase. It may be answered that due regard for the distinctions made by the Holy Spirit requires a change here, or in the rendering of ὀργή; and the latter would require an alteration of the formulas—the wrath of the Lamb ( Revelation 6:16), the great day of His wrath ( Revelation 6:17), the fierceness of His wrath ( Revelation 16:19), the wrath of Almighty God, Revelation 19:15.—It should be remarked that in the confused translation of these terms the E. V. closely follows Luther’s Version, as it generally does in other instances.—E. R. C.

FN#2 - The translation contemplated is as follows: “Seven angels having seven plagues—the last, for in them is finished the anger of God.”—E. R. C.]

FN#3 - Revelation 15:2. Omitted in the best Codd. [Omitted by א. A. B*. C. P6, 7, 14, Vulg, etc.; it is given (see Tisch.) only by1, 35, 36, 79.—E. R. C.

FN#4 - Crit. Eds. omit the article with א. A. C. P.; it is given by B*. 2, 7, etc.—E. R. C.]

FN#5 - Revelation 15:3. Two variations: of the æons, of the saints. [Crit. Eds. give τῶν ἐθνῶν with אc. A. B*. P1,6,7, etc.; τῶν ἀγιῶν with?; א*. C18, 95, Vulg, Cl, Fuld, etc., read τῶν αἰώνων. Alford judiciously remarks: “The confusion has apparently arisen from the similarity of ΑΙΘΝΩΝ (ἐθνῶν) and ΑΙΩΝΩΝ; but which was the original, it is impossible, in the conflict of authorities, to decide.”—E. R. C.]

FN#6 - The construction here is irregular—the first verb being φοβηθῇ; the second, δοξάσει.—E. R. C.]

FN#7 - So Crit. Eds. with A. B*. C. P1,12, etc, Amos, Fuld.; 6, 7, Cl, etc., subjoin σε; א. places it before οὐ φοβ.—E. R. C.]

FN#8 - Crit. Eds. give ὅσιος with א. A. C. P1, etc.; B*. 6, 7, 8, read ἅγιος.—E. R. C.]

FN#9 - The ἰδού is supported only by Vulg, Cop, Prms, Er.; Crit. Eds. omit with א. A. B*. C. P1, Syr, Arm, Æth, etc.—E. R. C.]

FN#10 - Lange and Tisch. read οἱ ἔχοντες with A. C, etc.; א. B*. 1, etc., omit οἱ; Alf. brackets, Treg. marks with *.—E. R. C.]

FN#11 - Revelation 15:6. Codd. A. C, etc. [ Amos, Fuld.] give the difficult reading λίθον; א. B*. [P. Vulg. Cl.] support the Rec. [Lange, Alf, Tisch, give λίνον; Lach. and Treg. λίθον.—E. R. C.]

FN#12 - Revelation 15:8. Καπνοῦ without ἐκ τοῦ, according to א. A. C. [P.]. [So Crit. Eds. generally; Tisch. (1859) prefixed ἐκ τοῦ with B*.—E. R. C.]

FN#13 - For the employment of this term rather than wrath see Text. and Gram. (Note28) on Revelation 15:1. In consequence of the confusion of θυμός and ὀργή in the accepted Version, the same confusion exists in the language of German, as in that of English-speaking, Theologians. As the German Zorn, like the English wrath, is used to translate both these words; and as it is capable of being rendered by both anger and wrath, the Am. Ed. takes the liberty of using the one or the other of these English words according as the reference is to θυμός or ὀργή.—E. R. C.]

FN#14 - See Add. Note, p193,—E. R. C.]

FN#15 - Schiller: Gemeine Naturen zahlen mit dem was sie thun, edle mit dem was sie sind.

FN#16 - See Text. and Gram. under Revelation 14:8, note16.—E. R. C.]

FN#17 - See Text. and Gram. under Revelation 14:10, note19.—E. R.C.]

FN#18 - May there not be an allusion to the fact that the crucifixion of Christ, in which the sin and, par excellence, the blood-guiltiness of the world culminated, took place without the city—Tr.]

FN#19 - See on p94.—E. R. C.]

FN#20 - See Text. and Gramm. under Revelation 15:3, note33.—E. R. C.]

FN#21 - On the reading λίθον, see Düsterd. [See also Text. and Gram.—E. R. C.]

FN#22 - See Add. Note on pp 161 sq.—E. R. C.]

FN#23 - There is considerable complexity in the last part of Elliott’s great work. The whole of chs 12–14he regards as a connected revelation written on the outside of the Roll, and presenting a revelation parallel with that presented in the other portions of the Apocalypse (inside written) to the close of Revelation 19. (see Revelation 5:1). Chs12–14:5, he regards as extending to what he styles the primary end of the period of1260 days, about A. D, 1789–93 (see p260); Revelation 14:6-20, as above.—E. R. C.]

FN#24 - The above seems to be the division contemplated by Stuart.—E. R. C.]

FN#25 - Alford: “There are two ways of understanding these words. Either they may be figurative, implying that the pure ones lived in all chastity, whether in single or in married life, and incurred no pollution (see 2 Corinthians 11:2); or they may be meant literally, that these purest ones had lived in that state of which St. Paul says, 1 Corinthians 7:1, καλὸν ἀνθρώπῳ γυναικὸς μὴ ἅπτεσθαι; and as between these two meanings, I conceive, that the somewhat emphatic position of μετὰ γυναικῶν goes some way to decide. It is not ἐμολύνθησαν, the fact of impurity in allowed intercourse, but μετὰ γυναικῶν that is put forward, the fact of commerce with women. I would therefore believe that in the description of these who are the first fruits from the earth, the feature of virginity is to be taken in its literal meaning. Nor need any difficulty be found in this. It is on all hands granted that he who is married in the Lord enters into holy relations or which the single have no experience, and goes through blessed and elevating degrees of self-sacrifice, and loving allowance, and preferring others before himself.… But neither on the other hand can it be denied that the state of holy virginity has also its peculiar blessings and exemptions. Of these, the Apostle himself speaks of that absence of distraction from the Lord’s work, which is apt to beset the married, busy as they are with the cares of a household and with pleasing one another. And another and primary blessing Isaiah, that in them that fountain of carnal desire has never been opened which is so apt to be a channel for unholy thoughts and an access for the tempter. The virgins may thus have missed the victory over the lusts of the flesh; but they have also in great part escaped the conflict. Theirs is not the triumph of the toil-worn and stained soldier, but the calm and the unspottedness of those who have kept from the strife.”—E. R. C.]

FN#26 - See Text. and Gram. (note16) in loc.—E. R. C.]

FN#27 - Whether the indebtedness has a human or a Divine bearing—i. e., whether it signifies the issue, by the system in question, of more promissory notes than its capital will cover,—or whether it is indicative of a moral involvement toward God—the German leaves undecided (Heiligkeitsschdtze eines schwer verschuldeten hierarchischen Systems); Dr. Lange’s somewhat frequent use of the équivoque, however, favors the idea that both aspects of the matter were contemplated by him.—Tr.]

FN#28 - For a different view, see abstract of Lord, p283.—E. R. C.]

FN#29 - This conclusion does not follow. If the appearance of the Son of Man on the white cloud be the “commencement of Christ’s Parousia” (see comment on Revelation 14:14), then, manifestly, the casting forth of the sickle does not precede that Parousia.—E. R. C.]

FN#30 - For a contrary view, see abstract of Stuart, p282.—E. R. C.]

FN#31 - It is an interesting question, Where is the Mount Sion here mentioned? Is it earthly or heavenly? In the judgment of the writer, it is heavenly. Christ as Head of the Millennial Kingdom does not come into visible manifestation (on earth) until after the pouring out of the Vials (see Revelation 19:11-16). The earthly Jerusalem and the earthly Sion are types of places in that glorious world where Jesus and His disembodied saints now are (comp. John 14:2-3; Hebrews 12:22), awaiting the time for the establishment of the Basileia and the manifestation of the Sons of God on earth.—E. R. C.]

 


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Bibliography Information
Lange, Johann Peter. "Commentary on Revelation 15:4". "Commentary on the Holy Scriptures: Critical, Doctrinal, and Homiletical". http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/lcc/revelation-15.html. 1857-84.

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