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  • Writer's pictureTim Hemingway

Moses and the Lamb

Revelation is a book that is wonderful, I think, for its ability to transport us from the earthy to heavenly. In it are revealed glories that no mind could possibly dream up. And yet, the glories are not dreams, they are realities, more concrete that anything this world can offer. Sometimes wonderful; sometimes terrifying, but all glorious. The magnitude of the God presented in Revelation is so huge, it serves to correct our misconceptions of the size and significance of God’s power and His purposes. The centrality of the Lord Jesus – the slain Lamb - is so intense, that if we have lost sight of it, it puts Him back in his rightful place; as the fulcrum of the history of the world.

The heavenly vistas that reveal themselves take our breath away, raising our gaze from the thinness of this world and fixing it on everlasting realities. And, the weightiness of what is stored up in the future for all of humanity, brings a soberness to our lives here on earth and directs us, what we must do with them. So, I think this book, even though it’s so hard to understand in many places, is so worthwhile grappling with and reading over and over. And, I hasten to add, there’s a blessing promised to the hearer of this prophecy right at the outset in chapter 1.

Our focus is on chapter 15 of John’s vision this morning. In it we see 7 angels each with a plague, verse 1 & 6. The angels are coming out of the temple of God, verse 6. The angels have clean clothes and golden sashes, verse 6. And, it seems like the plagues are in golden bowls, verse 7. But whatever these plagues are, they are not good news for the earth. Ch. 16:1 says, "I heard a loud voice from the temple saying to the seven angels, “Go pour out the seven bowls of wrath on the earth”. The plagues bring terrible suffering on the earth and the people of the earth. Festering sores; the sea turns to blood and every living thing in it dies; the rivers and springs of water turn to blood; the sun burns with intense heat and scorches people; people chew their tongues in pain; people curse God because of their pain; and from the throne of heaven there are flashes of lightening, peals of thunder and a terrible earthquake unlike anything ever experienced on earth before. Islands disappear and mountains shrink; huge hailstones rain down on the people of the earth and they curse God because of the plague. Whether we are meant to understand the details of the plagues as literal or symbolic, what we do know is that we are supposed to understand that there is severe suffering and torment decreed for this world. And I do mean the world. The scope of the description sounds global, it sounds like the whole world is subjected to the wrath of God. It sounds terrifying, and it signifies that God is very angry with the world and that his patience has at last run out. I think that it tells us that right now we are in the days of God’s patience like the world was before the flood of Noah. 1 Peter 3:20 says “God waited patiently in the days of Noah whilst the ark was being built. In it only a few were saved.” I think we’re in the days of God waiting patiently.

But remember to flood came suddenly and only 8 were saved. The plagues describe the moment of God’s judgement when his patience has come to a final and cataclysmic end, and it does not sound like you would want to be there when it happens.

In our verses, we also see a sea of glass, glowing with fire, verse 2. We see victorious people with harps, singing, verses 2 & 3. We hear, the words of their song, verses 3 & 4. And, at the end of the chapter we see the glory and power of God filling the temple, verse 8. The singing and the harping in the first four verses seem to be connected with what is about to happen – with the bowls being poured out. That might sound odd.

Singing and playing music are joyful things. We usually sing because we’re happy. And here, in the context of ch. 15 there’s not a lot to be happy about. The earth is about to experience the full and kindled strength of God’s pent up anger with it. People are about to suffer massively. Yet we find these people singing. So, I want to know why. First, we need to know a few things about what’s going on in the scene. Verse 1 says, the sign is in heaven. So, I think these victorious singing people are in heaven. And I think we can confirm that idea. Notice the victorious people are stood next to an unusual sea.

It’s a sea made out of glass and it glows like it’s on fire. Always in Revelation, we have to ask if we’ve seen the image before and then look to see if the use of the image elsewhere supplies more information. The sea of glass has appeared before, in ch. 4 verse 6: “Also in front of the throne there was what looked like a sea of glass, clear as crystal.” The throne in chapter 4 is in heaven. It’s God’s throne. And it has in front of it, this glassy sea. So, the victorious choir in our passage, is stood on the edge of this glassy sea, which in turn, is in front of the throne of God in heaven. We might also ask, why are they described as victorious? The answer is given in verse 2, they had been victorious over the beast, the image of the beast and over the number of its name.

Whilst we haven’t got time to talk about the details, it’s important to know that the beast appears in chapter 13 and represents the kingdoms of the world. The aim of the beast is to cause the people of the earth to worship it. The beast can perform signs in front of the people so that they are deceived into thinking that the world is God. He wants them to believe that nothing could be better than living out life in the earth. And, the beast marks its followers so that they all know they belong to the beast. Chapter 13 says the whole world is filled with wonder and follows the beast.

These are symbols, there isn’t a physical beast that appears in the earth. This is about people’s philosophy of life. People love the world. People are never ceasing to be drawn along by the latest developments or the most sensational stories, or the lives of celebrities, or the politics of governments, or the creativities of their favourite artists, or the sound bites of their idols. All of that and the rest is the beast. All of it is designed by the devil to get people to think that what is real; what is meaningful and lasting is on this earth; that it’s in our music; on our twitter feeds; that it’s with our friends; and comes out of our stuff. But it’s an illusion; designed to deceive. And by and large, it’s very successful. That’s why the devil doesn’t work so much with demon possession and witchcraft, this is much more subtle than that and therefore is much more effective. But, it’s not 100 per cent effective and we know that because there are these victorious ones in our text. They are victorious over the beast. These are the very ones who are receiving exhortation in the churches at the beginning of the book.

Listen: “To the one who is victorious, I’ll give the right to eat from the tree of life.” (2:7) “Be faithful even to the point of death and I will give you the victor’s crown.” (2:10) “The one who is victorious will not be hurt at all by the second death.” (2:11) “To the one who is victorious, I will give some of the hidden manna.” (2:17) “To the one who is victorious and does my will to the end, I will give authority over the nations.” (2:26) The one who is victorious will be dressed in white (3:5); will be a pillar in God’s temple (3:12); will sit on God’s throne (3:21). Those who are victorious are those who don’t worship this world, but overcome the world.

And, then we read something else John wrote, and it all makes sense: “Everyone born of God overcomes the world. This is the victory that has overcome the world, even our faith.” (1 John 5:4). So, they’ve resisted, maybe even at the cost of their lives. They’ve counted this world as nothing in order that they may gain Christ. As many as received Jesus, who believed in his name, He gave the right to become children of God. By faith, they received Jesus as more valuable than all the treasures of Egypt, and so they took hold of everlasting life and did not receive the mark of the beast. They are the victorious few. And now they’re in heaven. They don’t have bodies. Yet.

We know that because the resurrection is still to come. Revelation 20:4 says “they had not worshipped the beast, its image or received its mark...they came to life and reigned with Christ”. So, they are waiting with poised anticipation. They want the final state of affairs to come to fruition. They want to enjoy their God with soul and body, not just soul. They want to see the vindication of their hope in Jesus. They want to see the glory of their God magnified. They want to see every knee bow before the throne of him who lives for ever and ever. And we know all this because in Revelation 6:10 they are heard saying, “How long, sovereign Lord, holy and true, until you judge the inhabitants of the earth and avenge our blood”. You see they’re impatient for it.

So, here they are in ch. 15. They see God’s wrath about to be poured out. They taste the resurrection on the tip of their tongues. They see the blood that they have shed for the testimony of Jesus about to be vindicated. They see God about to be exalted; with his glory and power filling the temple of heaven. And, they are so excited, they overflow. That’s where the song comes in.

The song has a title: “The song of God’s servant Moses and the Lamb.” Why harps? Because King David in the Old Testament is the main picture of Jesus as king. In 1 Chronicles 13, David went to retrieve the ark of the covenant and bring it back to the temple. As he went with the ark, he was so overjoyed to see it returning to the house of the Lord, he celebrated, overflowing with songs and the playing of harps. Why is the song of Moses and, of the Lamb? Exodus 15:1-8 records Moses’ song after God had delivered the Israelites from their enemies; drowning the Egyptians in the red sea. His song is therefore a song of deliverance. The Lamb is Jesus. Jesus died on the cross like a slain lamb to take away the sins of anybody who would trust in him to do that for them. People who would no longer rely on themselves, but wholly trust themselves to the deliverance of Jesus. When Jesus was speaking to his disciples about his death, he described it in terms of drinking a cup (Matt 20:22). They didn’t understand, but he was talking about drinking the cup of God wrath. Revelation 14 refers to God’s fury being like wine poured full strength into the cup. So, Jesus – the Lamb - went to the cross and what did he do there? He drunk down for his people, the cup of God’s wrath. The second deliverance and the better one! Moses sung about God’s deliverance of Israel from Egypt; Jesus is our deliverance from the wrath of God against our sin. That’s why the song is called the song of Moses and the Lamb.

My original question was, Why a song, when fury is about to be poured out on the earth?

Here are 3 answers: The dread fury of God has been quenched for the victorious who have trusted in the deliverance of Jesus. That is a joyous reality! Second, the end is in sight and they are eager to receive their everlasting inheritance with Jesus, fully clothed in heavenly bodies. And, third, God’s righteousness and justice are about to be vindicated. God’s people are always looking to see God appear more glorious. And, when his holiness and righteousness are displayed, that’s when his glory is revealed in its fulness. All of those truths are born out in the lyrics of the song. God’s deeds are great and they are marvellous. God’s ways are just and they are true. Jesus is king over the nations.

Every heart will fear him and exalt him with their lips. Every single one of them – believer or no. Why? Because Jesus alone is holy. All the nations are going to fall down and worship before him when they see the righteous acts that he has performed. It will be like a revelation to every single person on that day. These are the realities that are yet to come, but today is the day of God’s patience. Oh, thanks be to God for his long suffering. He’s so much more patient than I am! My prayer to God is that every one of us would be a victor over this world, by the blood of the lamb.

He has drunk the cup of God’s fury down to its dregs, so that that great and dreadful day might not come upon any of us. Do you believe it? What kind of people will chapter 15 make us? If the weight of it rests on us, then it will make us an earnest, sober, eager, joyous people. So much of the world is trite and silly. We need to be serious Christians, living in the light of future glory and future wrath. Eager to share the gospel and reach the lost. We need to be joyous Christians, living in the light of heavenly inheritances, bodily resurrections and glorious expectations of being with Jesus for ever. I think Revelation will help us all to these ends May it be so for all of us. Amen.


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