they were singing the song of Moses the servant of God, and the song of the Lamb. ~REVELATION 15:3
Verses 2-4 comprise our tenth and final “interlude” found in Revelation. (We have not drawn attention to all ten so as not to muddy the Book of Revelation waters which are already quite challenging to navigate.) This chapter starts out with a magnificent vision of seven angels who were bringing the seven last plagues, but it is quickly interrupted by another sight: the ones who were victorious over the beast, holding harps, standing by a glassy sea mixed with fire, and singing the song of Moses and of the Lamb.
This is a new tune inspired by the song of victory found in Exodus 15 which was sung after the crossing of the Red Sea. It is not those lyrics exactly, but rather a sort of “greatest hits” of Psalms which extol the character of God. And, unlike the song of Exodus 15, this one is not about triumph over the enemy, but rather is solely praise of God. This shows us that God and Revelation are not simply about revenge and punishment, but always for the hope of the salvation and restoration of all people (see verse 4). “Our God, even in judgment, is always in the business of salvation, bent on the salvation of humankind”, says commentator Wilfrid Harrington.
Another striking observation about this song sung by these monster-conquerors is that there is not one single word about their own achievement. From beginning to end it is all about the greatness of God. Not only are they not focused on their achievement, but they’re not even focused on their suffering. If they did sing about their suffering, it would be understandable, for they suffered greatly. But they sing only praise. This grand praise and attention on Yahweh is refreshing to me. In our culture today, it feels as though we are absolutely obsessed with ourselves. And obsession with self, or other people, is not a recipe for God’s peace. When I look back on the most internally peaceful times of my life, it has been when I am focused on Christ more than anyone or anything else. It is when I am talking with Jesus more than anybody else; when I’m thinking about Yahweh more than anyone or anything; when I’m listening for and to Ruach more than I’m giving ear to anyone else in the world.
There is divine power in praising God, for it is what we were made to do. When our attention is drawn and harnessed toward our Maker, we are at our best, and can be in a state of shalom no matter the circumstances.
Then one of the four living creatures gave the seven angels seven golden bowls filled with the anger of God who lives forever and ever. ~REVELATION 15:7
So these bowls…we’re not talking about cereal bowls here. The Greek word used and the OT context tell us that these are bowls used for priestly ritual duties. These are “cultic utensils” as some scholars refer to them, and could be more fully translated “bowls used in offerings”. There are several interesting layers of meaning going on here.
One thing these bowls would hold is wine, as a libation bowl. With this picture in mind, Craig Koester says that “The bowl visions extend the wine motif of the previous chapter, in which Babylon the whore made the world drunk on the wine of her immorality until God gave her the wine of wrath and the ungodly were trampled in the winepress (Rev 14:8, 10, 19-20).”
These ritual service bowls might also hold incense. This takes us back to the incense of prayers back in Rev 5:8, 6:9-11, and 8:3-5, especially since John uses the exact same word and description for these golden bowls here as he did back in chapter 5. It does seem that we are to make this connection that the bowls which contained the prayers of the saints now hold God’s wrath to be poured out. Those prayers are a real part of this apocalyptic unfolding. May we take prayer ever so seriously!
Ritual bowls were also probably used to carry out the ashes and fat of sacrifices. This is interesting indeed, as this symbolism shows that the earth is about to be purified by removing defilement, and sanctified so as to be made ready for the re-occupation by the Messiah. Even though Yahweh is for the salvation of all, in the end true life cannot coexist with destroyers of life. For life to flourish, the environment must be conducive to it.