1. And I saw another sign in heaven great and marvelous, seven angels having the seven last plagues; for in them is consummated the anger of God. 2. And I saw as it were a sea of glass mingled with fire, and them that had the victory over the beast, and over his image, and over his mark, and over the number of his name, standing by the sea of glass, having the harps of God.
3 And they were singing the song of Moses the servant of God, and the song of the Lamb; saying, Great and marvelous are Thy works, O Lord God Almighty; just and true are Thy ways, O King of saints.
4 Who shall not fear Thee, O Lord; and glorify Thy name, for Thou alone art Holy: therefore all the nations shall come, and shall adore before Thee; because Thy judgments are made manifest. 5. And after these things I saw, and behold, the temple of the tabernacle of the testimony in heaven was opened. 6. And the seven angels that had the seven plagues went out of the temple, clothed in linen clean and bright, and girded about the breasts with golden girdles.
7 And one of the four animals gave unto the seven angels seven golden vials, full of the anger of God who liveth for ages of ages. 8. And the temple was filled with smoke from the glory of God, and from His power: and no one could enter into the temple, until the seven plagues of the seven angels were consummated.
The preparation for disclosing the last state of the church, and for laying open the evils and falsities in which they are (verses 1, 5-8); from whom those are separated who have confessed the Lord, and have lived according to His precepts (verses 2-4).
Verse 1. “And I saw another sign in heaven, great and marvelous,”
Revelation by the Lord concerning the state of the church on earth, what it is as to love and faith.
“Seven angels having the seven last plagues,”
The evils and falsities in the church, such as they are in its last state, disclosed universally by the Lord.
“For in them is consummated the anger of God,”
The devastation of the church, and then its end.
Verse 2. “And I saw as it were a sea of glass mingled with fire,”
The farthest boundary of the spiritual world, where those were gathered together who had religion, and worship from it, but not the good of life.
“And them that had the victory over the beast, and over his image, and over his mark, and over the number of his name,”
Those who have rejected faith alone and the doctrine of it, and so have not acknowledged and imbued its falsities, nor falsified the Word.
“Standing by the sea of glass, having the harps of God,”
The Christian heaven in the boundaries, and the faith of charity with those who were there.
Verse 3. “And they were singing the song of Moses the servant of God, and the song of the Lamb,”
Confession from charity, and thus from a life according to the precepts of the law, which is the Decalogue, and from faith in the Divinity of the Lord’s Human.
“Saying, Great and marvelous are Thy works, O Lord God Almighty,”
All things of the world, of heaven, and of the church were created and made by the Lord from Divine love by Divine wisdom.
“For just and true are Thy ways, O King of saints,”
All things which proceed from Him are just and true, because He is Divine good itself and Divine truth itself in heaven and in the church.
Verse 4. “Who shall not fear Thee, O Lord, and glorify Thy name,”
He alone is to be loved and worshiped.
“For Thou alone art Holy,”
He is the Word, the Truth, and Enlightenment.
” Wherefore all nations shall come and adore before Thee,”
All who are in the good of love and charity acknowledge the Lord alone as God
“Because Thy judgments are made manifest,”
The truths of the Word openly testify this.
Verse 5. “After these things, I saw, and behold, the temple of the tabernacle of the testimony in heaven was opened,”
The inmost of heaven was seen, where the Lord is in His holiness in the Word, and in the Law, which is the Decalogue.
Verse 6. “And the seven angels that had the seven plagues went out of the temple,”
Preparation by the Lord for influx from the inmost of heaven into the church, that its evils and falsities might be disclosed, and thus the evil be separated from the good.
“Clothed in linen clean and bright, and girded about the breasts with golden girdles,”
This was from the pure and genuine truths and goods of the Word.
Verse 7. “And one of the four animals gave unto the seven angels seven golden vials,”
Those truths and goods, by which the evils and falsities of the church are disclosed, taken from the sense of the letter of the Word.
“Full of the anger of God that liveth for ages of ages,”
The evils and falsities that would appear and would be exposed by the pure and genuine truths and goods of the Word.
Verse 8. “And the temple was filled with smoke from the glory of God and from His power,”
The inmost of heaven full of the Lord’s spiritual and celestial Divine Truth.
“And no one could enter into the temple, until the seven plagues of the seven angels were consummated,”
To such a degree there, that more could not be endured, and this until after devastation the end of that church was seen.
Author: Emanuel Swedenborg (Apocalypse Revealed)
THE HEAVENLY HARPERS
WHO WERE AS IT WERE ON A SEA OF GLASS MINGLED WITH FIRE;
AND THE SEVEN ANGELS HAVING THE SEVEN LAST PLAGUES.
And I saw as it were a sea of glass mingled with fire; and them that had gotten the victory over the beast, and over his image, and over his image, and over the number of his name, stand on the sea of glass, having the harps of God (Rev. xv. 2).
IT must have been a great relief to the Apostle John to gaze upon the sublime scene he here describes after the sad close of the preceding chapter. He had been horrified by a stream of blood, the symbol of truths of all kinds entirely violated and corrupted, so that the mental horses, the understandings of men, could not drink.
Now he beholds a sunny sea, bright with the radiance of heaven, and angelic forms glorifying the Lord, singing the songs of the blessed, accompanied by the harps of Odd. One of the loveliest scenes on the earth is a calm, bright sea, glittering in the sunshine. It sparkles with beauty, and it reflects the sky.
The sea is symbolic in Scripture. On a grand scale, it means the vast world of knowledge and thought.
Out of it, raised by the sun, come the waters which form rains, rivers, and fountains, which fertilize and beautify the land. Hence such declarations as that the knowledge of the Lord shall cover the earth as the waters cover the sea (Isa. xi. 9). The Lord described the preaching of the Gospel as a net cast into the sea, which gathered fish of every kind (Matt. xiii. 47). In one mind, its collection of external thought is its sea. Hence we read, Let the floods clap their hands (Ps. xcviii. 8).
The sea of human thought has its tides, its flows and ebbs, its advances and retrogressions, and sometimes it is lashed into fury. Wild tempests rage there, and many a ship goes down. The wicked, says the prophet, are like the troubled sea, when it cannot rest, whose waters cast up mire and dirt. There is no peace, saith my God, to the wicked (Isa. lvii. 19, 20). The new Divine truth brought into the world by the Lord, in the dispensation of the Gospel, was as a river of righteousness flowing into the sea, which being brought into the sea, the waters shall be healed (Ezek. xlvii. 8).
What a beautiful representation does the sea give of the mental state of the angels–their thoughts clear, pellucid, calm, bright, and happy. No dark enigmas or perplexing mysteries now; no puzzling difficulties or unintelligible dogmas–the sea is clear as crystal. It is transparent. Divine light shines through. All is bright, serene, and lovely. Nor are there storms there. They had been troubled on earth. They had trembled sometimes lest their bark, so tossed and toiling, should be wrecked; but infinite mercy had brought them safely through, and they had reached the desired haven. Now all was peaceful, calm, and blessed. They stood as it were on a sea of glass.
The sea was, however, mingled with fire. They had been baptized with the Holy Spirit and with fire. In heaven there are no cold thoughts, no clearness like the keen glare of a bright wintry day. The truth is blended with love, the crystal is mingled with fire. Their land is married (Isa. lxii. 4). All things in heaven are in harmony and union. Here we sometimes get judgment without gentleness, cleverness without principle, and without loving kindness; but it is not so above. Their bright and beautiful thoughts are all mingled with the fire of holy love.
Tranquil as the angelic life appeared to John, it had not been always so. The blessed ones had encountered their trials in the world, and had gotten their victory over the beast, and over his image, and over his mark, and over the number of his name.
The spotted beast like a leopard, with the bears feet, the emblem of worldly society with a superficial religion, must in every one be overcome. What is a man profited if he gain the whole world and lose his own soul?
How vain are all things here below,
How false, and yet how fair;
Each pleasure has its poison too,
And every sweet a snare.
Beautiful as are earths sons and daughters, fair as are the accomplishments which education evolves from our wondrous gifts, the endowments of our benign Creator, the trail of the serpent is over them all.
Look at our skilled artisans, the clever, busy workmen whose wondrous talents mould our engines, make our railroads, construct our ships, and make our handiwork known and prized in every quarter of the globe; yet see these same men, if their hearts are not touched by the sacred principles of living religion, in their haunts of pleasure and in their domestic circles, gradually, as life advances, becoming coarser and coarser, until their unbridled appetites and brutal selfishness lands them in hideous helplessness or deplorable idiocy.
They have not overcome their sins, and their sins have overcome them.
Just so with our commercial men. Unrivalled for their talent and energy, they explore every nation, open up the riches of every portion of the earth. But if earth is their all, if they are contented with the world, and its pleasures, how hollow, how stupid their life becomes. Often the overbalanced mind flies to the drunkards cup, to escape monotony, and the morbid millionaire becomes a helpless set. He did not overcome in the battle of life, but slunk into the ignoble sloth of luxurious glut, with morbid self-indulgence, and he obtained its foul reward.
If we look higher, where the leaders of society ought to be, how few are they who fight the good fight of faith, and get the victory over the beast.
Al cannot bear adversity, but still fewer are they who can nobly bear prosperity. Reared in the lap of plenty, not trained to self-control and Godlike, virtuous industry, betrayed by flatterers to fancy that Gods laws will be suspended for them, they oft become the prey of sharpers, the slaves of vice, marred, enfeebled, and broken in mind and body, ere life has half finished its course–rotten before they are ripe. Yet, oh, how glorious, when, through faithful struggle, we get the victory over the beast.
There are times in which the struggle to live the life of virtue is painful and trying; but as a rule, the Saviors yoke is easy, and His burden is light.
Troubles come to all, the virtuous as well as the vicious; but to the virtuous they are disciplinary, they are blessings in disguise. To the vicious they have no saving result, they are only the premonitory signs of deeper plagues and deadlier disease.
Why not, then, enter upon the battle with the beastly part of your nature, and gain the victory? Fight faithfully, and you are sure to win, again and again, and every time you get a blessing.
To him that overcometh,
O promise of our God,
Thou art a glorious helper
Along our pilgrim road.
How can we be discouraged,
How can we faint and fall;
Behold our God has promised
We shall inherit all.
The old man of our nature, though covered up by the refinement of society, and the training of education, is underneath now, as ever–earthly, sensual, devilish; a hell in miniature. Why not be up and doing, that the crooked may be made straight and the rough places plain?
Do not imagine for a moment that believing any dogma as a substitute for righteous living will effect any good. Doing right is believing; but thinking which does not lead to faithful practice, is a delusion and a snare.
Dont let the beast suggest to you that to conquer him is impossible, that a man cannot change his nature. Such fancies are pitiful. Every one is constantly changing his nature; the good are daily becoming better, and the bad worse. Ye must be born again, said the God of nature and grace, and shall we contradict him?
See what labor will be given by the merchant or the warrior for an earthly triumph, a temporal reward–what training, what education, whit persevering toil–and for what short-lived enjoyment! Cannot we labor to attain a PRESENT and an ETERNAL blessedness with a faithfulness as true and lasting?
See what labor some men will give to make friends of themselves! How perseveringly they will go on, sin after sin! The slave of his appetite will glutlonize and drink, though merciful headaches, stomach aches, and pains of various kinds, warn him away from his curse times without number; yet he perseveres in his self-created sorrows until the last blow comes, and his house falls, and great is the fall thereof. Had he served his God as he had served his sin, he would have gotten the victory, become a beautiful angel, and had a harp of God.
Do not for a moment listen to the image of the beast, or the doctrine that we cannot live the life of heaven upon the earth.
In the hands of skilful reasoners it looks plausible sometimes; and when urged with zeal, it seems to speak as if it were the essence of piety, and carries away the superficial; but it is for all that a deadly enemy of the Savior, whose whole aim is to transform man into a likeness to Himself.
Be ye perfect as your Father in heaven is perfect, is no idle precept, but a blessed encouragement.
We are to be perfect as Christians in our degree as our Heavenly Father is perfect infinitely in His degree.
A thoughtful mind will easily get the victory over this image, or this doctrine. Attend to the Divine Teacher.
Except your righteousness shall exceed the righteousness of the Scribes and Pharisees, ye shall in NO CASE enter into the kingdom of heaven. Surely He, who is the King of Heaven, knows.
The Christian is not expected to become perfect in love all at once. But let patience, said James, have her perfect work, that ye may be made perfect and entire, wanting nothing (James i. 4). Seest thou how faith wrought with his works, and by works was faith made perfect (James ii. 22). Press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of GOD IN CHRIST JESUS. Let us therefore, as many as be perfect, be thus minded (Phill. Iii. 14, 15).
How plainly does John, the beloved disciple, speak: And hereby we do know that we know Him, if we keep His commandments He that saith I know Him, and KEEPETH NOT HIS COMMANDMENTS, is a liar, and the truth is not in him. But whoso keepeth His word, in Him verily is the love of God PERFECTED. Hereby know we that we are in Him (1 John ii. 3-5).
The Lord does not require more from any man than he can perform. He must begin the heavenly life as a babe learning to walk, and be fed with the sincere milk of the Word, that he may grow thereby. Should he stumble from weakness in his early religious career, he will not be treated as though he sinned from wickedness, but with mercy and wise consideration. The steps of a good man are ordered by the Lord, and he delighteth in His way. Though he fall he shall not be utterly cast down, for the Lord upholdeth him with His hand (Ps. xxxvii. 23, 24.)
The genuine student of the Holy Word, therefore, will easily get the victory over the false doctrine, which is the image of the beast. He must also be victorious over his mark.
Christianity soon made its mark in the world. Ye are our epistles, said the Apostle, known and read of all men (2 Cor. iii.2). To be a Christian in early days was to be a good man. Pliny said to Trajan, as recorded in his 97th letter: The Christians meet on a certain stated day, before it is light, and address themselves in prayer to Christ as God, binding themselves by a solemn oath never to commit any fraud, theft, or adultery, never to falsify their word, or deny a trust, when called to deliver it up. See how these Christians love one another, was the language of observers then.
The mark of the beast is described by Wesley in his time, and is a very different mark from that of the early Christians: Are there not Christians in Canterbury, in London, in Westminster? No, no more than there are angels. None are Christians but they that have the mind that was in Christ, and walk as He walked. Why, if these only are Christians, said an eminent wit, I never saw a Christian yet. I believe it; you never did… Though they are called Christians, the name does not imply the thing. They are as far from this as hell from heaven. (Mystery of Iniquity.)
Regard the condition of the nations of Christendom now–with civilized life brilliant beyond all former example, but armed to the teeth. Attractive with delicacies and elegancies, glittering with the splendors of fashion and art, smooth as the idle leopards paw, but with millions of armed men ready to spring forth as the claws of the leopard, and inflict desolation and ruin. Is not this the mark of the beast, that says believing that everything has been done for you is the only requirement–not practice, nor self-subjugation?
Overcome this mark, and let the mark you make in the world be the mark of a just and heavenly life; let the atmosphere of your home be that of love and peace. Then you will have overcome the mark and the whole number of the beast, false in affection, false in thought, and false in life. You will then get a harp of God–that is, a mind thrilling with praise.
The harps of God suggest music in heaven, and doubtless there will be music there, for it is the land of harmony. Music is an universal gift; it is the language of the affections. Sweet music is responded to by good and loving feelings. Exquisitely tender music awakens the deepest enjoyment of rapturous delight; hence we find in Scripture so often such expressions as I will praise Thee upon the harp. Sing aloud unto God our strength; make a joyful noise unto the God of Jacob. Take a psalm, and bring hither the timbrel, the pleasant harp with the psaltery.
Praise Him with every tuneful string,
Praise Him with musics heavenly art,
And with the power of music bring
The music of the heart.
The music of the heart is the true and universal harp of God. Every angel has it. Why should not we have it?
Its golden frame is the holy affection of grateful love, desiring to confess and to adore the goodness of the Lord.
The confession of His loving-kindness in creation is the first string, the rapturous exclamation when we survey the world around, the firmament above, the innumerable mercies of this outer temporal life, My Father made them all. The Lord is good to all, and His tender mercies are over all His works. The second string is the grateful acknowledgment of our redemption. While surveying mans degradation, helplessness, and ruin, and the Divine mercy which led our Heavenly Father in his love and in His pity to redeem us, the grateful heart exclaims
O for a seraphs golden lyre,
With chords of light and tones of fire,
To sing Jehovah’s love;
To tell Redemptions wondrous plan,
How God descended down to man,
That man might rise above.
And so with the other great themes of praise, the wonders of Divine Providence, the work of regeneration, the glories of heaven, the unfoldings of Divine Wisdom in the Holy Word. These all form themes of thanksgiving, of gratitude, and love. The mind, as a harp of God, strung with the truths of heaven, is alluded to, when it is said, I will also praise Thee with the psaltery, even Thy truth, O my God; unto Thee will I sing with the harp, O Thou Holy One of Israel (Ps. lxxi. 22).
We should oftener make use of this harp than we do. If we praised more, and complained less, we should enjoy more both of peace and blessing.
Did we the sighs we vainly spend
To heaven in supplication send,
Our cheerful song would oftener be,
Hear what the Lord. has done for me.
Remember the episode of Saul’s moody melancholy when the evil spirit was upon him. He was miserable to himself and dangerous to others. But David was brought in and played upon his harp, and as the sweet strains melted the king, the evil spirit left him, and he was refreshed and was well.
Let the harps of God, the confessions of Divine goodness from grateful and glad hearts, be often active with us, and we shall taste some of the raptures of the angels that stood upon the sex as it were of glass.
But it is written: They sang the song of Moses, the servant of God, and the song of the Lamb.
They delight in the Divine commandments, and sing of them. Moses means the law, and the essence of the law is the Ten Commandments, the essence of these being supreme LOVE TO GOD and LOVE TO MAN.
The longest Psalm in the Bible, the 119th, an eight-fold alphabetic psalm, is entirely taken up with the praises of the Commandments. Blessed ARE the undefiled in the way, who walk in the law of the Lord. Blessed are they that keep His testimonies, and that seek Him with the whole heart (v. 1, 2). The law of Thy mouth is better unto me than thousands of gold and silver (v. 72). O how love I Thy law: it is my meditation all the day. Thou through Thy commandments hast made me wiser than mine enemies (v. 97). I have more understanding than all my teachers; for Thy testimonies are my meditation. I understand more than the ancients, because I keep Thy precepts (v. 98, 99).
The psalmist sung the song of Moses; but the law is our school-master to bring us to Christ. When from weakness we totter, we go to Him and find help, strength, and blessing, and then, like the angels, we sing the song of the Lamb. How happy they are now! They behold now, from first to last, the wonders of Eternal Goodness, and they exclaim, Great and marvelous are Thy works, Lord God Almighty.
Often, in life, they were puzzled, baffled, and perplexed at apparent unnecessary trials and hardships; but now hear them: Just and true are Thy ways, O King of Saints. He had led them by the right way. Their troubles had been blessings in disguise–trainings for richer triumphs and everlasting victories. Just and true are Thy ways, O 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 (Rev. xv. 4).
And now another marvelous scene was beheld, a final testing of the condition of those who unhappily had the mark of the beast, an evil life, from the persuasion that faith only in their own dogma was necessary, and had worshiped that doctrine as the all in all of religion.
Seven angels make their appearance, the representatives of all heaven. They were clothed in pure white linen, the bright raiment of pure and heavenly sentiments, having their breasts girdled with love, the fine gold of heaven.
But how strange that they should hive plagues–the seven last plagues–with them. These plagues are said to be poured out of vials. Yet truth and goodness always plague those who hate them. When the prophet Elijah met the wicked king Ahab, the latter said, Hast thou found me, O my enemy? The prophet was not his enemy, but his best friend.
We have known men so depraved that they could not bear a baby, not even their own, but have repelled it with horror, as a little fiend. So light plagues the owl, so purity plagues the polluted. The Lord Himself plagued the Pharisees, until they smote, scourged, and crucified Him.
By the pouring out of the vials is meant the influence of heaven on a thoroughly corrupt state of the world. Every attempt of heaven produces the opposite.
The wrath of God means the pain felt by the obstinately depraved, when heavenly influences are brought to bear upon them. Sweet they call bitter; good they call bad; light they call darkness; falsity they call truth. The pain they experience they call the wrath of God, although there is no wrath in God, Who is love itself, and Who says Himself: Fury is not in Me (Isa. xxvii. 4).
The eye inflamed with disease cannot bear the light of the sun, and the person exclaims that the sun hurts him.
So influx after influx is poured out upon the hardened wicked, and the effect is to induce painful opposition, like ulcered sores (Rev. xvi. 2); polluted views, like blood instead of water (v. 3, 4); heated passions scorching the mind, and resisting to the utmost (v. 9); false reasoning, like the croaking of frogs (v. 13); and such astounding falsities at last, that they are like great hailstones (v. 21). But thus does the Heavenly Judge make such a system condemn itself.
In the meantime the heavenly work of good goes on quietly, unobserved almost. The Lord comes as a thief, in secret ways, not, however, to take away anything good, but to remove sin, sorrow, shame, and misery, false old opinions, rags and tatters. Whoever is attentive to a heavenly life will hear Him saying: Blessed is he that watcheth, and keepeth his garments (v. 15).
Oh that men would enter upon the work of genuine repentance; and then, when the first heavenly vial is poured out, the only thought would be, Lord, help me to come to Thee. The ulcered heart would begin to heal, and the blessed result would be, My son who was dead is alive again, and who was lost is found. When the second vial is poured out, it would be felt as the spirit of the Lord Jesus giving the blood of a living man, circulating, quickening, healing, and cleansing from all sin.
When the third vial is poured out, it would open up new fountains of living water, from which the soul could draw new comforts and consolations, and new rivers of righteousness would enrich and fertilize the mind, so that the desert would become like Eden, and the wilderness like the garden of God. When the fourth vial is poured out, the light of the moon would become as the light of the sun, and the light of the sun of Gods love, as seen in the glorified Jesus, as the light of seven days. When the fifth vial is poured out, more light will be diffused, and peace will spread like a river, the peace that passes all understanding. When the angel pours out his vial, there shall be no croaking or false reasoning from mental frogs, but a sweet assent of the whole mind that all the Divine ways are wisdom, and all His works are done in truth. And when the seventh vial is poured out, a sacred fullness of state will be experienced, even to the perfect day. No heavy hailstones of cold and withering atheism will fall then, but there will be showers of blessing.
Let us take, then, our mental harp, and looking back over past mercies from the Divine patience and long suffering, looking forward with faith and hope, let love strike the sacred strings, and say, O give thanks unto the God of Heaven, for His mercy endureth for ever.
High over all, the blessed ones, combining with their Lord, may be seen on the bright sea which is clear as crystal, rejoicing over His merciful operations, while the old is giving place to the new, having the harps of God, and still singing the song of Moses and the Lamb: Great and marvelous are Thy works, Lord God Almighty: just and true are Thy ways, Thou King of Saints.
Author: JONATHAN BAYLEY—– THE MAGNIFICENT SCENES IN THE BOOK OF REVELATION (1878)