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Sermon Bible Commentary

Revelation 15



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Verse 2

Revelation 15:2

The Sea of Glass Mingled with Fire.

With all the mysteriousness of the book of Revelation, one thing we are sure of: that in it we have the summing up of the moral processes of all time. There may or may not be a special meaning discoverable in its pictures, but this there certainly is. The verse which is our text represents, in a highly figurative way, the result of all moral contest. We may call that our subject.

I. Those who had gotten the victory over the beast stood on a sea of glass mingled with fire. What is the meaning of this imagery? I confess that I do not pretend to know in full what is intended in the Revelation by this term "the beast." But, on the principle which I have just stated, I think it certainly means, in its largest sense, the whole power of evil in all its earthly manifestations, everything that tempts the soul of man to sin or tries his constancy with suffering. The sea of glass is evidently the type of repose, of rest, of peace; and fire, with its quick, eager, searching nature, testing all things, consuming what is evil, purifying what is good, never resting a moment, never sparing pain—fire all through the Bible is the type of active trial of every sort, of struggle. "The sea of glass," then, "mingled with fire," is repose mingled with struggle. It is peace, and rest, and achievement, with the power of trial and suffering yet alive and working within it. It is calmness still pervaded by the discipline through which it has been reached.

II. This is our doctrine, the permanent value of trial—that when a man conquers his adversaries and his difficulties it is not as if he had never encountered them. Their power, still kept, is in all his future life. They are not only events in his past history: they are elements in all his present character. His victory is coloured with the hard struggle that won it. Just as the whole fruitful earth, deep in its heart, is still mingled with the ever-burning fire that is working out its chemical fitness for its work, so the life that has been overturned and overturned by the strong hand of God, filled with the deep, revolutionary forces of suffering, purified by the strong fires of temptation, keeps its long discipline for ever, roots in that discipline the deepest growths of the most sunny and luxuriant spiritual life that it is ever able to attain.

III. There are several special applications of our doctrine to the Christian life which it is interesting to observe. (1) It touches all the variations of Christian feeling. The redeemed world—all the strong vitality which that name records will be the fire that will mingle with the glassy serenity of its obedient and rescued life. (2) Here we have the picture of the everlasting life. What will heaven be? I find manifold fitness in the answer that tells us that it shall be a sea of glass mingled with fire. Is it not a most graphic picture of the experience of rest, always pervaded with activity, of calm, transparent contemplation, always pervaded and kept alive by eager work and service, which is our highest and most Christian hope of heaven? Heaven will not be pure stagnation, not idleness, not any mere luxurious dreaming over the spiritual repose that has been safely and for ever won, but active, tireless, earnest work, fresh, live enthusiasm for the high labours which eternity will offer. These vivid inspirations will play through our deep repose, and make it more mighty in the service of God than any feverish, unsatisfied toil of earth has ever been. The sea of glass will be mingled with fire.

Phillips Brooks, Twenty Sermons, p. 110.

Verse 3

Revelation 15:3

The Song of the Triumphant Church.

Our text suggests two topics of discourse; for it gives what may be called a definition of the song which the triumphant Church sings, and it then furnishes the words of which that song is composed. We have, therefore, in the first place, to examine the language by which the song is described: "the song of Moses the servant of God, and the song of the Lamb"; we have then, in the second place, to consider the language employed: "Great and marvellous are Thy works, Lord God Almighty; just and true are Thy ways, thou King of saints."

I. Now it admits of no dispute that when the song of the triumphant Church is called "the song of Moses the servant of God" the reference is to the Church of the Israelites and their leaders when Pharaoh and his hosts had been buried in the waters. And it is very observable, and in some respects almost mysterious, that it should be this "song of Moses" to which glorified saints still strike their harps. The song was not only of thanksgiving to the Lord, but exultation over the wicked, rejoicing in their destruction. The song of the triumphant Church is described not only as "the song of Moses," but as that also of "the Lamb." "They sing the song of Moses the servant of God, and of the Lamb." Now we may be said to feel more at home with "the song of the Lamb" than with that of Moses, for this is a song of which even now we can strike some notes; whereas we look on that of Moses with a kind of awe and dread, as though it were not suited to such minstrelsy as ours. "The song of the Lamb," which the Evangelist heard, may be considered as that "new song" which is given in other parts of the book of Revelation, the burden of which is the "worthiness" of the Redeemer. The "thousand times ten thousand of thousands" which are "round about the throne" were heard by St. John saying with a loud voice, "Worthy is the Lamb that was slain to receive power, and riches, and wisdom, and strength, and honour, and glory, and blessing." There is something similar to this in the strain which mingles with that of lofty exultation as the Church beholds her overthrown enemies. And if, therefore, "the song of Moses" be one which shows such subjugation or refinement of human feeling as is almost unintelligible, at least "the song of the Lamb" is in thorough harmony with what is now felt and chanted by believers; it is the song of grateful confession that we owe everything to the Redeemer, and that His blood and righteousness have been the alone procuring cause of our deliverance from ruin and our title to immortality.

II. "Great and marvellous are Thy works, Lord God Almighty; just and true are Thy ways, thou King of saints." Such is a portion of the lofty anthem. Taking this anthem in its largest application, we may say that it celebrates the greatness of the plan of God as displayed in the occurrences of the judgment-day. And it is well worthy our attention that these two characteristics should be finally declared to distinguish the whole business of the judgment. It will be "a great and marvellous work" when the "tares shall have been separated from the wheat," all unrighteousness detected and exposed, the wicked banished and the faithful exalted. And this is not the whole of the chorus. The Church affirms God's "ways" to be "just and true," as well as His "works great and marvellous"; and this is a most important assertion when considered as called forth by the transactions of the judgment. The judgment will include in its searchings and sentences the heathen world as well as the Christian—men who have had none but the scantiest portion of revelation and those who have been blessed with its fulness. And even in a Christian community there is the widest difference between the means and opportunities afforded to different men; some being only just within sound of the Gospel, whilst others are continually placed within sound of its messages. All this seems to invest with great difficulty the business of the judgment. It shows that there must be various standards: one standard for the heathen and another for the Christian; one for this heathen or this Christian and another for that. And there is something overwhelming in the thought that the untold millions of the human population will undergo an individual scrutiny; that they will come man by man to the bar of their Judge, each to be tried by his own privileges and powers. We can hardly put from us the feeling that in so enormous an assize there will be cases comparatively overlooked, in which due allowance will not be made, or in which sentence will not be founded on a full estimate of the circumstances. But whatever our doubts and suspicions beforehand, "just and true are Thy ways, thou King of saints," is the confession, which will follow the judgment. It is a confession, we are bound to say, in which the lost will join with the redeemed. The feeling of every condemned man shall be that, had there been none but himself to be tried, his case could not have received a more patient attention or a more equitable decision. The praise which is chanted on the glassy and fiery sea tells us that God will be justified when He speaketh, and clear when He judgeth.

H. Melvill, Penny Pulpit, No. 1656.

References: Revelation 15:3.—Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. iii., No. 136; Homilist, 3rd series, vol. iv., p. 20; H. Wonnacott, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xiv., p. 186.

Verse 3-4

Revelation 15:3-4

The Triumph of Goodness.

I. Moses is not to be regarded here exactly as a historic personage; certainly it is not the song which he composed that is meant, nor the song that was composed by the Lamb; but here is the theme: Moses and the Lamb. And what was Moses in this heavenly tableau, to the thoughts of those addressed but the beginning of a great Divine dispensation of mercy and of education? He, far back in the wilderness and in the beginnings and sources of history, organised truth, and beauty, and right, and set a-going those great services by which the soul was to be enriched and ennobled. In other words, he was the beginner. The song, beginning with Moses and ending with the Lamb, connected the very first dawn of Divine truth, in the earliest periods, with its first flow and all its mutations clear down to the time of Jesus Christ, who in Jerusalem was, and who now in the new Jerusalem is, typified as the Lamb. The figure to us is almost dead, but to the Jew, who had been accustomed to associate with the sacrificial lamb whatever was sweet, whatever was beautiful, whatever was pure and unworldly in perfection, the figure meant immensely more than it means to us.

II. The song was of triumph. It was the shout, the jubilatic outcry, of the universe, that stood around about the ends of things, looking back to the beginning and seeing the way of God down through the whole dispensation of time in the world, now fulfilled and brought to a triumphant close in the other life. All that there was in the different heroes, all that there was in the different dispensations, all the judgments, all the sufferings, all the reformations, all the growths, all the developments, all the victories, whatever had gone to make up the moral elements in human history, in the household, and in matters touching priestly offices and prophetic qualities in those who witnessed in the wilderness, in prisons, and in the mountains, the apostolic administrations, and all the after-periods, and doubtless all that which has come down from the Apostles' day to ours; all these things constitute the theme of that great, heavenly, outbreaking song. And what is the result of it? It is simply the chanting of the old bard by which the deeds of his chief are narrated, as we narrate the achievements, enterprises, battles, and victories of an hero. "Great and marvellous are Thy works, Lord God Almighty; just and true are Thy ways, thou King of saints. Who shall not fear Thee, O Lord, and glorify Thy name? for Thou only art holy: for all nations shall come and worship before Thee; for Thy judgments are made manifest." Here, then, is the Divine catastrophe—evil gone under; imperfections swelled out to perfectness; ungrowth and crudeness brought up to ripeness and to beauty; goodness triumphant through the universal realm. All nations shall come to Thee, not one being left out.

III. This was the vision, not of time, but of the upper sphere; and it was this: the absolute triumph of the Divine part in man. They who have gone before, and for generations yet those that shall follow us, must see the flesh stronger than the spirit in the great mass of mankind. Time, looked at from any high standpoint, is a most sad and dreary experience, unless we have some outlet, unless we have some compensation somewhere. The might and power of past ages has been physical, passionate, sensuous, devilish; and although here and there there have been sprinklings of goodness, although here and there there have been a thousand sweet voices heard, yet in the main the chant of time has been hoarse, harsh, cacophonous. In the main the movement of the human race has been the movement of vast bodies with vast sufferings, and vast wastefulness, and vast uselessness. But they who stand disengaged from the ignorance and darkness of time, they who are lifted up, and are at a point of vision where they can see the past, the present, and the future—I behold them, not bearing witness to us, but in their own unconsciousness breaking out into ecstacies of gladness because God is justified. He who brought into existence this globe, with all its miserable populations, in the last estate shall stand and be glorified in the thought and feeling of those who behold the end as well as the beginning. "Thou only art holy." "All nations shall come and worship before Thee." Why? "For Thy judgments are made manifest." There is charity; there is explanation; there is reconciliation; there is harmonisation; and in the end it shall appear, when we see from the beginning to the end of this tremendous, and as yet uninterrupted, riddle of life and time, with an unclouded eye and with a vision just, and true, and perfect—then it shall appear that God is lovely and beautiful.

H. W. Beecher, Christian World Pulpit, vol. viii., p. 165.


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Bibliography Information
Nicoll, William R. "Commentary on Revelation 15:4". "Sermon Bible Commentary".

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