Even God’s Wrath Serves God’s Glory
Chapter fifteen is the shortest of the whole Book, but with its own terrifying beauty. Yes, terrifying beauty. In this chapter, seven angels are given seven bowls “full of the wrath of God who lives forever and ever.” That’s the terrifying part. On the other hand, it is justice served and as such, the beginning of the cleansing of the universe. Our God is glorified in everything He does—be it salvation or damnation. Of course, those condemned condemn themselves by their rejection of God’s grace offered through the blood of Christ. But even hell serves God’s glory—the glory of His infinite justice and righteousness, for God will not be mocked (Galatians 6:7). And with the pouring of these bowls, “The wrath of God is finished.” Thus, I see these coming at the very end of time. And we shall see that unlike the trumpets, the destruction of the bowls is not partial but complete.
And as terrifying as the scene is, note that the saints play on harps and sing the song of Moses. They are not afraid; they have heard the words, “Fear not.” Through God’s grace, they have conquered. Before the throne is the sea of glass mingled with fire (4:6), which I think is symbolic of our God’s great holiness. That they may stand beside the sea speaks to God’s sanctifying work within them; that is, they have been glorified.
Moses’ song is a song of triumph over the Egyptians who had enslaved the Israelites for over four-hundred years. Now they lay dead on the shore by God’s own hand. The Egyptians said, “I will pursue, I will overtake, I will divide the spoil, my desire shall have its fill of them. I will draw my sword; my hand shall destroy them.” Instead, Miriam leads the women in dance and sings, “Sing to the Lord, for He has triumphed gloriously; the horse and his rider he has thrown into the sea” (Exodus 15).
Moses’ song is a song of praise for God’s deliverance; it sheds no tears for dead Egyptians. The song of the saints in this chapter sheds no tears either. Instead, the saints sing of God’s justice and faithfulness, glory and holiness. And now all the nations will come and worship, just as the Apostle Paul said, “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). That’s right—even the heathen shall confess. And God shall be glorified. It sounds ugly to the world, but that is because they desire not God’s glorious reign but a hedonistic paradise. God’s glory demands judgments; God’s judgments are glorious.