Chapter 14, the previous chapter in the book of Revelation, ends with a contrasting view of the fate of the two groups of followers: those of the Lamb and those of the Beast. Followers of the Beast are said to be crushed in the winepress of God’s wrath, and their blood runs out very high for about 200 miles (a hyperbolic statement that means “you really don’t want to be one of them“).
At the beginning of Chapter 15, meanwhile, those “who had conquered the beast and its image” (a.k.a.: died witnessing to Jesus as Lord) are at the seashore (of the “sea of glass” (probably in the sky, overlooking the earth). They are playing harps (ancient guitars!) and singing two songs.
The first is called “the song of Moses.” This is a reference to Exodus 15, after the Israelites crossed the Red Sea, and following the destruction of the Egyptian military power (its economic power had already been destroyed by previous plagues.) This was the defining moment of Israel’s celebration of the freedom Yahweh had provided for them from Egyptian slavery. We had some discussion of the literary, rather than literal renderings of the event in the song. Poetry and song are able to say things that are true without being bound by logic or literal accuracy.
Win, a first-time visitor on Saturday, noted that God had deliberately hardened Pharaoh’s heart in order to show the world that He is God by taking Israel out of Egypt by power and mighty signs. This seems to be the same point that John is making in Ch. 15. God has redeemed His people in the midst of a hard-hearted world that is persecuting them. Both the means of persecution and the means of salvation have changed, but the basic message is the same: Trust God (Jesus), not Caesar (Egypt), for your salvation.
This isn’t about Moses, however. In addition to the Song of Moses is the Song of the Lamb, whose lyrics are included in v. 3 & 4. In this song, Jesus is once again worshipped in words that suggest that He is Yahweh, the God of Israel. Jesus performs the same role as Yahweh in Israel for His followers: Saviour, King and Judge.
In the background of the celebration, seven angels are making ready a toxic brew that those hostile to Jesus Christ will have to drink: the wine of God’s wrath. It will soon be served up by seven angels who stand at the ready with golden bowls. Remember that the incense of the prayers of the saints (for vengence) were offered in a similar golden bowl. They are about to be paid back “sevenfold” for their sins against God’s people. This is “payback” in the vein of all of Psalm 137, where we see who gets the last song. And now, ominously, nobody else can enter the heavenly Temple (just like on the Day of Atonement) until the plagues are finished on earth.
Again, this is not necessarily in logical time-sequence order. Chapters 14 & 15 are about the big picture of judgment on the elect and the disobedient. The intent is to encourage us to choose the winning side – Jesus’ side – no matter how tough the opposition looks. Choosing the Evil Empire and worshipping its Emperor are the fast-track to being on the wrong side of God’s reorganization of the world. And you really, really don’t want to be on the wrong side of God. Choose Life.