Hitherto, according to the judgment of very eminent expositors, God had
represented to his servant, John,
I. The state of the church under the pagan powers, in the six seals
opened; and then,
II. The state of the church under the papal powers, in the vision of
the six trumpets that began to sound upon the opening of the seventh
seal: and then is inserted.
III. A more general and brief account of the past, present, and future
state of the church, in the little book, &c. He now proceeds,
IV. To show him how antichrist should be destroyed, by what steps that
destruction should be accomplished, in the vision of the seven vials.
This chapter contains an awful introduction or preparation for the
pouring out of the vials, in which we have,
1. A sight of those angels in heaven who were to have the execution of
this great work, and with what acclamations of joy the heavenly hosts
applauded the great design,
2. A sight of these angels coming out of heaven to receive those vials
which they were to pour out, and the great commotions this caused in
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1 And I saw another sign in heaven, great and marvellous, seven
angels having the seven last plagues; for in them is filled up
the wrath of God.
2 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 mark, and over the number of his name,
stand on the sea of glass, having the harps of God.
3 And they sing the song of Moses the servant of God, and the
song of the Lamb, saying, Great and marvellous are thy works,
Lord God Almighty; just and true are thy ways, thou King of
4 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.
Here we have the preparation of matters for the pouring out of the
seven vials, which was committed to seven angels; and observe how these
angels appeared to the apostle--in heaven; it was in a wonderful
manner, and that upon account,
1. Of the work they had to do, which was to finish the destruction of
antichrist. God was now about to pour out his seven last plagues upon
that interest; and, as the measure of Babylon's sins was filled up,
they should now find the full measure of his vindictive wrath.
2. The spectators and witnesses of this their commission: all that
had gotten the victory over the beast, &c. These stood on a sea
of glass, representing this world, as some think, a brittle thing,
that shall be broken to pieces; or, as others, the gospel covenant,
alluding to the brazen sea in the temple, in which the priests were to
wash (the faithful servants of God stand upon the foundation of the
righteousness of Christ); or, as others, the Red Sea, that stood
as it were congealed while the Israelites went through; and, the pillar
of fire reflecting light upon the waters, they would seem to have fire
mingled with them; and this to show that the fire of God's wrath
against Pharaoh and his horses should dissolve the congealed waters,
and destroy them thereby, to which there seems to be an allusion by
their singing the song of Moses, in which,
(1.) They extol the greatness of God's works, and the justice and truth
of his ways, both in delivering his people and destroying their
enemies. They rejoiced in hope, and the near prospect they had of
this, though it was not yet accomplished.
(2.) They call upon all nations to render unto God the fear, glory, and
worship, due to such a discovery of his truth and justice: Who shall
not fear thee?
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5 And after that I looked, and, behold, the temple of the
tabernacle of the testimony in heaven was opened:
6 And the seven angels came out of the temple, having the seven
plagues, clothed in pure and white linen, and having their
breasts girded with golden girdles.
7 And one of the four beasts gave unto the seven angels seven
golden vials full of the wrath of God, who liveth for ever and
8 And the temple was filled with smoke from the glory of God,
and from his power; and no man was able to enter into the temple,
till the seven plagues of the seven angels were fulfilled.
Observe, I. How these angels appeared--coming out of heaven to execute
their commission: The temple of the tabernacle of the testimony in
heaven was opened,
Here is an allusion to the holiest of all the tabernacle and temple,
where was the mercy-seat, covering the ark of the testimony,
where the high priest made intercession, and God communed with his
people, and heard their prayers. Now by this, as it is here mentioned,
we may understand,
1. That, in the judgments God was now about to execute upon the
antichristian interest, he was fulfilling the prophecies and promises
of his word and covenant, which were there always before him, and of
which he was ever mindful.
2. That in this work he was answering the prayers of the people, which
were offered to him by their great high priest.
3. That he was herein avenging the quarrel of his own Son, and our
Saviour Jesus Christ, whose offices and authority had been usurped, his
name dishonoured, and the great designs of his death opposed, by
antichrist and his adherents.
4. That he was opening a wider door of liberty for his people to
worship him in numerous solemn assemblies, without the fear of their
II. How they were equipped and prepared for their work. Observe,
1. Their array: They were clothed with pure and white linen,
and had their breasts girded with golden girdles,
This was the habit of the high priests when they went in to enquire of
God, and came out with an answer from him. This showed that these
angels were acting in all things under the divine appointment and
direction, and that they were going to prepare a sacrifice to the Lord,
called the supper of the great God,
The angels are the ministers of divine justice, and they do every thing
in a pure and holy manner.
2. Their artillery, what it was, and whence they received it; their
artillery, by which they were to do this great execution, was seven
vials filled with the wrath of God; they were armed with the wrath
of God against his enemies. The meanest creature, when it comes armed
with the anger of God, will be too hard for any man in the world; but
much more an angel of God. This wrath of God was not to be poured out
all at once, but was divided into seven parts, which should
successively fall upon the antichristian party. Now from whom did they
receive these vials? From one of the four living creatures, one of the
ministers of the true church, that is, in answer to the prayers of the
ministers and people of God, and to avenge their cause, in which the
angels are willingly employed.
III. The impressions these things made upon all who stood near the
temple: they were all, as it were, wrapt up in clouds of smoke, which
filled the temple, from the glorious and powerful presence of God; so
that no man was able to enter into the temple, till the work was
finished. The interests of antichrist were so interwoven with the civil
interests of the nations that he could not be destroyed without giving
a great shock to all the world; and the people of God would have but
little rest and leisure to assemble themselves before him, while this
great work was a doing. For the present, their sabbaths would be
interrupted, ordinances of public worship intermitted, and all thrown
into a general confusion. God himself was now preaching to the church
and to all the world, by terrible things in righteousness; but, when
this work was done, then the churches would have rest, the temple would
be opened, and the solemn assemblies gathered, edified, and multiplied.
The greatest deliverances of the church are brought about by awful and
astonishing steps of Providence.