Day 15. The Song of the Lamb (Revelation 15:2-4)


Audio (12:05)

Agnus Dei, seal matrix (1250-1400 AD), Wiltshire, England, copper alloy, 21.7 mm diameter.
Agnus Dei, seal matrix (1250-1400 AD), Wiltshire, England, copper alloy, 21.7 mm diameter.

We've left our vision of the 144,000 who follow the Lamb wherever he goes. Now we read that the earth is harvested. Judgment is described as "the great winepress of the wrath of God" (Revelation 14:19). Now John is about to see the seven angels with seven plagues coming to complete the outpouring of the wrath of God.

Those Who Have Conquered the Beast (Revelation 15:2)

But before this happens, the scene moves to a crowd of people with harps in their hands singing the Song of the Lamb.

"And I saw what appeared to be a sea of glass mingled with fire --
and also those who had conquered the beast
and its image and the number of its name,
standing beside the sea of glass with harps of God in their hands."
(Revelation 15:2)

The location seems to be the throne room, since the sea of glass is mentioned (Revelation 4:6). This time the sea of glass is "mingled with fire." The singers aren't numbered, but their identity is given, "those who have conquered the beast and its image and the number of its name." Let's give the characters in this scene a further look.

Beast. The beast rising out of the sea (Revelation 13:1-10), is a symbol for the Antichrist, a puppet of Satan, the dragon (Revelation 13:2b).

Image. The False Prophet (the beast rising out of the sea, Revelation 13:11-15) has been working to get people to worship an image of the beast (Revelation 13:14).

Number. The number of the name of the beast is 666,84 that marks all the Antichrist's followers (Revelation 13:16-18). The 144,000, on the other hand, bear the names of the Lamb and the Father on their foreheads (Revelation 14:1; Day 13).

Those who have conquered probably include the martyrs who have given their lives for Jesus rather than deny him (Revelation 6:10), "the ones coming out of the great tribulation" (Revelation 7:14).

"And they have conquered him by the blood of the Lamb
and by the word of their testimony,
for they loved not their lives even unto death." (Revelation 12:11)

Harps of God in Their Hands (Revelation 15:2b)

The singers are "standing beside the sea of glass with harps85 of God in their hands." (Revelation 15:2b). Each one carries an instrument used to accompany their singing. We're not sure what this harp looked like. In the Psalms, two kinds of stringed instruments are mentioned, the lyre or kinnôr,86 and the larger nēbel, plucked with the fingers.87 Psalm 33 commands us:

"Give thanks to the LORD with the lyre (kinnôr);
make melody to him with the harp (nēbel) of ten strings!
Sing to him a new song;
play skillfully on the strings,
with loud shouts." (Psalm 33:2-3)

The modern-day equivalent of a plucked instrument, of course, might be a guitar, mandolin, or bass.

The Song of Moses and the Song of the Lamb (Revelation 15:3a)

They're not just playing harps, they're singing.

"And they sing the song of Moses, the servant of God,
and the song of the Lamb...." (Revelation 15:3a)

The Song of Moses refers to the victory song sung by the people after crossing the Red Sea (Exodus 15:1-3), rejoicing in Yahweh's glorious victory over Pharaoh's army. It is all about God! The Song of the Lamb is similar. It, too, gives praise to God who has brought victory over Satan, the Antichrist, the False Prophet, and their armies. Let's meditate on the Song of the Lamb line by line.

"3b Great and amazing are your deeds,
O Lord God the Almighty!
Just and true are your ways,
O King of the nations!
4  Who will not fear, O Lord, and glorify your name?
For you alone are holy.
All nations will come and worship you,
for your righteous acts have been revealed." (Revelation 15:3-4)

God's deeds are spectacular, numerous, and worthy of amazement.88 Just consider the wonders in the sky above and the earth beneath as the angels open the seals and pour out the bowls of wrath. "Shock and awe" don't begin to measure our reaction.

God's ways are "just and true." Miracles can be counterfeited, but righteousness and truth cannot be faked. God's ways, even his terrible punishments, are "just and true."

God's titles reflect his exalted nature. He is called, "Lord God the Almighty," which corresponds to the Hebrew titles of LORD (Yahweh), God (Elohim), and The Almighty (El Shaddai). He is also titled, "King of the nations" (ESV, NRSV, NASB, NJB), "King of the ages" (NIV), "King of saints" (KJV).89 Each nation has its ruler, its king, but God is the King of kings, the Great Suzerain before whom all lesser kings prostrate themselves. He is "King of the nations."

All Nations Will Worship You (Revelation 15:4)

Verse 4 discusses the implications of this fact among the nations of the world. The plural Greek noun is ethnos (from which we get our word "ethnic").

"Who will not fear, O Lord, and glorify your name?
For you alone are holy.
All nations will come and worship you,
for your righteous acts have been revealed." (Revelation 15:4)

I am excited when I read this, just as I am when I read about the white-robed saints standing before the Lamb "from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages" (Revelation 7:9, Day 8). The Israelites tended to be quite nationalistic and often despised "the nations" (Old Testament) or "the Gentiles" (New Testament), probably because the pagan practices of "the nations" were so repugnant to God's holiness.

But there is a strong theme in both Testaments that God will save the nations of the world, and they will recognize God's universal Kingship over all kings and nations, revere and fear him, and come to worship at Jerusalem (Mount Zion), bringing their wealth with them. The classic passage is found in Isaiah.

"It shall come to pass in the latter days
that the mountain of the house of the LORD
shall be established as the highest of the mountains,
and shall be lifted up above the hills;
and all the nations shall flow to it,
and many peoples shall come, and say:
    'Come, let us go up to the mountain of the LORD,
    to the house of the God of Jacob,
    that he may teach us his ways
    and that we may walk in his paths.'" (Isaiah 2:2-3)90

Part of this great turning to God among the nations is a result of the evangelization of the whole world that Jesus spoke of.

"This gospel of the kingdom will be proclaimed
throughout the whole world
as a testimony to all nations,
and then the end will come." (Matthew 24:14)

Every Knee Will Bow (Isaiah 45:23; Philippians 2:10-11)

The invitation is being proclaimed in our day to all people groups. But the invitation to the nations had also been issued long ago, in Isaiah's time.

"Turn to me and be saved, all the ends of the earth!
For I am God, and there is no other.
By myself I have sworn;
from my mouth has gone out in righteousness
a word that shall not return:
    'To me every knee shall bow,
    every tongue shall swear allegiance.'" (Isaiah 45:22-23)

There will come a time when Christ returns in all his glory that the nations and their kings will all recognize his preeminence and bow before him. This is the time when the promise of Philippians 2:10-11 is fulfilled (a passage we've seen before).

"At the name of Jesus every knee should bow,
in heaven and on earth and under the earth,
and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord,
to the glory of God the Father." (Philippians 2:10-11)

This does not, however, promise universal salvation, that ultimately all will be saved. Many will be saved, praise the Lord, but all will kneel. When Christ appears in his glory, all nations will realize that he is King -- though, for some, it will be, sadly, too late.

"Then will appear in heaven the sign of the Son of Man,
and then all the tribes of the earth will mourn,
and they will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven
with power and great glory." (Matthew 24:30)

Grace to All Nations (Revelation 15:4b)

I am the descendant of some of these pagan nations who have been saved. My people come from the pagan Picts, Celts, and Norsemen, among others. So I am thankful for missionaries like St. Patrick and St. Columba who brought the gospel of salvation to my people. Whatever your ethnic heritage, you've probably experienced the same grace of salvation of the "nations."


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On that Day when Christ returns, the Song of the Lamb will celebrate this. But in spite of our forbears' past sins, Jesus died to bring all nations to the Lord, to redeem them by his blood. This is the Song of the Lamb that we can join in also, that "all nations will come and worship you" (Revelation 15:4b).

Prayer

Thank you, Jesus, for bringing salvation to my pagan forefathers! You are merciful! Now I pray that you will bring a mighty wave of revival over the Americas and Europe, over Asia, Africa, and the islands of the sea, that many, many will come into your Kingdom in a new wave of salvation before you come, that "all nations will come and worship you." In your gracious name, I pray. Amen.

Day 15 Meditation (Revelation 15:2-4). In what way is the Song of the Lamb like the Song of Moses that was sung after crossing the Red Sea? Why do you think the sound of voices accompanied by instruments is pleasing to God? What will it take for all nations to come to the Lamb in our own day?
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Endnotes

(References and Abbreviations)

[84] There's a lot of dispute about what 666 stands for. But one simple way to look at it is that 777, the number of completeness and perfection, would stand for God, while 666 falls short of perfection.

[85] Kithara, "lyre, harp" (BDAG 544). 1 Corinthians 14:7; Revelation 5:8; 14:2; 15:2; 18:22.

[86] 1 Samuel 16:3, 23; 18:10; 19:9. The kinnôr was "a musical instrument having strings and a wooden frame," and commonly associated in the Bible with joy and gladness (Tremper Longman III, How to Read the Psalms (InterVarsity Press, 1998), pp. 97-98).

[87] "Harp" (NIV, NJB, ESV), "psaltery" (KJV) translate nēbel (Louis Goldberg, nbl, TWOT 1284b). Josephus, Antiquities 7.12.3. Daniel A. Foxvog and Ann D. Kilmer, "Music," ISBE 3:440-442, John N. Oswalt, knr, TWOT #1004a

[88] "Amazing" is thaumastos, "pertaining to being a cause of wonder or worthy of amazement, wonderful, marvelous, remarkable" (BDAG 445).

[89] There is some uncertainty about the best reading between "King of the nations" (ESV, NRSV, NASB, NJB) and "King of the ages" (NIV). While the KJV "King of saints" is not well-supported by the ancient manuscripts, the readings of "nations" (ethnōn) and "ages" (aiōnōn) are about equally supported in the best ancient Greek manuscripts. So it comes down to deciding which is the most probable reading. Metzger (Textual Commentary, p. 765) and his team favor "nations," but with a {C} rating ("considerable degree of doubt"). They speculate  that "ages" was probably introduced by copyists who recollected 1 Timothy 1:17 ("the King of the ages, immortal, invisible..."), and that "nations seems "more in accord with the context of verse 4 ("all nations will come and worship you")."

[90] See also, for example, Jeremiah 10:7; Psalm 22:27-28; 86:9-10; Zechariah 2:11; etc.

Copyright © 2020, Ralph F. Wilson. <pastor@joyfulheart.com> All rights reserved. A single copy of this article is free. Do not put this on a website. See legal, copyright, and reprint information.