Let us first hear the grand song of the victors that makes of this sign. Before we can speak expressly of the song we must first consider the victors that sing the song. “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.” First, consider the standing of the victors. John saw a sea of glass mingled with fire and in the latter part of the verse they are standing on that sea of glass. In our study of chapter 4 of this book (4:6) we saw the sea of glass which appeared as crystal and it was connected with the four beasts who worshipped the God that sat upon the throne. We learned there that the sea answered to the molten sea in the temple which was the place of cleansing as one entered into the tabernacle or temple. We discussed the debate that exists among Christians about what it signified. Some see it as a picture of the blood of Christ which cleanses away all sin. Others believe that it is a picture of the body of believers who are at rest before the throne. The sea of glass definitely answers to firmament that was seen in the vision of Ezekiel upon the heads of the cherubim which answered to the four beasts in chapter 4 (Ezek. 1:22). The idea is given that God in His omniscience sees all things through the prism of heaven or as Gill would say, “… all things in [the earth] are open and manifest to the omniscient eye of God….” It is possible that those who have passed into the heavens being cleansed forever from sin will indeed look back down from heaven as witnesses to the judgment of this earth. So when it says that the victors are standing upon the sea of glass it could be speaking of their closeness to God as those that are cleansed through washing. Or it could be speaking of them peering through the eye of God’s omniscience onto the judgment of this earth and singing because they see that the time of the harvest has come. At the first description of this sea it appeared as crystal. Here it is mingled with fire. The crystal was a symbol of purity and was fitting for the place of the angels and the saints that were seen in chapter 4. The fire is a symbol of judgment. The saints here stand above the judgment of God; they are on it and it is under them. The world is getting ready to be baptized with fire who refused to be baptized by the Spirit through repentance. Through the cleansing of the temple they stand safe in the temple of our God. The sea of glass mingled with fire is also indicative of that which separates the true saints of God from the lost world. It is fitting that the song of Moses is getting ready to be sung. Between the Egyptian armies and the children of Israel there was a cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night (Exo. 13:21). The sea of glass mingled with fire represents the standing the victors have with God as opposed to the judgment from God that will overwhelm the world. Its connection with the Song of Moses paints an exciting picture of those who do not just pass through the Red Sea but stand upon the sea with the one that can walk upon the waves.
Next we see the state of the victors. Their state is one of worship. They have harps in their hands. We have seen the term harps has appeared twice in this book thus far (5:8, 14:2) and each time it was connected with worship and each time we have rightly connected it to the worship of the temple. Here it is connected with the song of Moses which followed the passage through the Red Sea. It is the song of praise over a vanquished foe and the full deliverance of God from their enemies. As Moses’ sister and the women of Israel brought out their timbrels so those were found in the state of worship that led to the state of singing.
We then see the status of the victors. They are first of all called victors. They were not defeated. The sing because they are victors through the work of God: “O sing unto the Lord a new song; for he hath done marvellous things: his right hand, and his holy arm, hath gotten him the victory” (Ps. 98:1). We have already studied how believers through the ages overcome (12:11). It is through the blood of the Lamb, the word of their testimonies, and loving not their lives unto death. We remember that the martyrs of the fifth seal were told to rest until others who should die would join them. The idea was that when that occurred God would judge the world that persecuted them. In the thirteenth chapter we were introduced to the world system yet to come, in which the beast was worshipped, his image was worshipped, and received his mark. Those who would not follow the coming system would be persecuted and killed. Later in this book we are told this: “And I saw thrones, and they sat upon them, and judgment was given unto them: and I saw the souls of them that were beheaded for the witness of Jesus, and for the word of God, and which had not worshipped the beast, neither his image, neither had received his mark upon their foreheads, or in their hands; and they lived and reigned with Christ a thousand years” (20:4). Therefore these victors are the coming martyrs who would not bow to the coming false god and met their death. No number is given in our text for this company. But they are victors. This is that better resurrection. Their song was first and foremost found in the victory of their faith (I John 4:4, 5). Therefore they sing, “Death is swallowed up in victory. O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory” (I Cor. 15:54, 55)?
So having seen the state, status, and standing of these victors, we turn to their song. The song has a title and the song has subject. First, the title: the song they sang was the song of Moses who is rightly called a servant of God and the song of the Lamb. Moses is often called in the Old Testament the servant of God (Exo. 14:31, Num. 12:7, 8, Deut. 34:5, Josh. 1:1, 2, 8:31, I Kings 8:53, Neh. 9:14, Ps. 105:26, Dan. 9:11, Mal. 4:4). Moses was the judge and lawgiver for the nation of Israel so that immediately tells that the martyrs here are part of the nation of Israel. At the fall of Babylon where the fall of Satan is also recorded, Isaiah spoke of the victory of Israel and the “strangers [that] shall be joined with them, and… shall cleave to the house of Jacob” (Isa. 14:1). Satan made war with the remnant of Israel in chapter 12 and in the 13th chapter it tells us that he made war with the saints and overcame them. Many will lose their lives due to being Israelites or by standing with the nation of Israel in the last days. I believe that it will be synonymous standing for Christ (Rev. 20:4). As we already saw in the 14th chapter, blessed are the dead which die in the Lord. That which could be called the Song of Moses could be found in two separate places. It could first be found in the book of Exodus which was sung in worship that followed the deliverance of the Red Sea (Exo. 15:1-21). It celebrated the defeat of Egypt and looked forward to the Lord bringing Israel into their Promise Land. Thus it would be fitting here of the Israel to be singing as they have found deliverance through death and look forward to going into the Promised Land. The other song of Moses was taught to Israel before his death in the book of Deuteronomy (Deut. 31:30-32:44). That song, as the one here, praises the Lord God of the armies of Israel over the false gods of Egypt and the people inhabiting the Promised Land. That song ended with this declaration which is again appropriate to our text in the pouring out of the wrath of God: “If I whet my glittering sword, and mine hand take hold on judgment; I will render vengeance to mine enemies, and will reward them that hate me. I will make mine arrows drunk with blood, and my sword shall devour flesh; and that with the blood of the slain and of the captives, from the beginning of revenges upon the enemy. Rejoice, O ye nations, with his people: for he will avenge the blood of his servants, and will render vengeance to his adversaries, and will be merciful unto his land, and to his people.” As it was cried by those martyrs in the fifth seal who were told by God to rest and wait: “How long, O Lord, holy and true, dost thou not judge and avenge our blood on them that dwell on the earth?” Here we have their answer.
But, it is not just the song of Moses but the song of the Lamb. There is a difference between the servant and the Son. Moses was a servant in the house but Christ is the Son over his own house (Heb. 3:1-6). There were limits to Moses. He was able to lead Israel out of bondage but he was not able to lead them into the blessing of the Promised Land. It took Joshua who answers to Jesus in type to lead them over Jordan to their inheritance. The law could make nothing perfect but the bringing in of a better hope in Christ did. If all Israel could sing was the song of Moses then they would still only be servants. They sing the song of the Lamb now. It is that fact that brings them to God in the words of the song that follows. Only Christ brings us to God (I Pet. 3:18). They sing this song because they are no longer just servants but they are sons. This is the new song that they sang in chapter 14. When you are cleansed from your sin through the blood of the Lamb you have a new song in your heart (Ps. 40:1-3).
That brings as to the song itself. This is the summary of the song but by no means is it the entirety of its content. It is what the song has led them to say. “Great and marvellous are thy works, Lord God Almighty; just and true are thy ways, thou King of saints. 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.” This is about the greatness of God. In the prophecy of Isaiah in the midst of talking about the destruction of Babylon (which answers again to our text) a song was sung and the meat of that song was the glory of the Lord who comes to reign upon the earth. “In that day shall this song be sung in the land of Judah; We have a strong city; salvation will God appoint for walls and bulwarks. Open ye the gates, that the righteous nation which keepeth the truth may enter in. Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on thee: because he trusteth in thee. Trust ye in the Lord for ever: for in the Lord Jehovah is everlasting strength: For he bringeth down them that dwell on high; the lofty city, he layeth it low; he layeth it low, even to the ground; he bringeth it even to the dust…. Come, my people, enter thou into thy chambers, and shut thy doors about thee: hide thyself as it were for a little moment, until the indignation be overpast. For, behold, the Lord cometh out of his place to punish the inhabitants of the earth for their iniquity: the earth also shall disclose her blood, and shall no more cover her slain” (Isa. 26:1-5, 20, 21). This matches the thrust of the song of our text. It is all about the glory of our God. This song contains three specific praises and three specific causes for the praise. Let us consider each.
First, consider the three praises of God. The first praise is the praise of His works. “Great and marvellous are thy works, Lord God Almighty….” Our praise of God always begins at the point in which we know God. We know God through His works. We often sing, “All thy works shall praise thy name….” From the telescope to the microscope the works of God are clearly seen in the things that are made. They testify to the fullness of the existence of God. They reveal the existence of the God that is seen by the name Lord or Jehovah that is attached to this praise. He is the great I am that created all space and time and matter and stands outside of it all in His eternal glory. They testify to the name God or Elohim as the first cause of all things, the triune God of the Trinity. They testify to power of God in the name Almighty. He created all and set all things in motion and holds all of them by His power. He has all power. The works of God are great. They are great in their scope. The universe is massive in its size and it is the product of the creative power of God. The sun which radiates our planets is a drop in the bucket compared to the massive star systems beyond our solar system. They are great in their order. All things exist in perfect relationship with all other things. Even the most rabid of agnostics agree that all things are in tune. From the electrons spinning around the nucleus of the atom to the stars in the spheres. All the works of God praise His name. They are great in their power. How great is a God that contained such dynamic power in the smallest of atoms. There are great in their beauty and thus they are said not only to be great but to be marvelous. We gasp at the divine imprint on all created things. We consider the complexities of life we are made to exclaim with the psalmist “we are fearfully and wonderfully made.” One cannot speak about the great and marvelous works of God without speaking of the His work in time and space, history; the work of redemption through Christ and the work of His righteous judgment as described in our text.
There is also praise for the ways of the Lord: “just and true are thy ways, thou King of saints.” The ways of the Lord are known on a higher level of consciousness than the works of the Lord. “He made known his ways unto Moses, his acts unto the children of Israel” (Ps. 103:7). Israel was able to see the acts of God from afar but Moses was able to know the ways of God from a close relationship which caused his face to shine with the presence of God. The works or the Lord are known and seen of all men (though repressed by the ungodly). They declare “the Lord God Almighty” to the consciences of all men in the same way in which the thundering of Mt. Sinai made known the acts of God to the children of Israel. The ways of the Lord are connected relationally with the people of God as “the King of saints” in the same way that Moses spoke to God face to face on the Mount and made known to Moses the ways of God. “If thou shalt keep all these commandments to do them, which I command thee this day, to love the Lord thy God, and to walk ever in his ways” (Deut. 19:9). Some modern translations say that the title connected should say “King of nations.” But the ways of God are only known by those who have entered into a covenant relationship with God; those who are born in His kingdom (John 3:3,5) and have owned Him as their King. It was intimated by Simon the father of John the Baptist that the ways of God are works of redemption (Luke 1:76). They belong exactly to those who have been made “saints” through the saving power of Christ (saint being the term meaning ‘those who are sanctified’ and is synonymous with those who are saved).There is a sense in which all of the world will know the Lord one day and in that sense alone the context would fit the title of King of nations and it may be in anticipation of that to which the song points. Those who aresaints know the ways of God. They know that they are just and true. They praise His ways in all things to be right. Show me a person that questions the justice of God and I will show someone that does not know God. Show me a person that questions the truth of God and I will show a person that dwells in darkness. Those that sing this song will hearken back to the song of Moses in Deuteronomy where he said, “He is the Rock, his work is perfect: for all his ways are judgment: a God of truth and without iniquity, just and right is he” (Deut. 32:4).
The third praise of the song is the praise of His name: “Who shall not fear thee, O Lord, and glorify thy name?” This is a rhetorical question that contains its own answer. In a generation that prides itself of being without fear, everyone shall fear the Lord and give glory. They may not have a fear of God before their eyes now but they shall. They may refuse to glorify His great name now, they may choose to blaspheme the name of the Lord (those names we have already discussed) but there will come a time where they will. “The Lord reigneth; let the people tremble: he sitteth between the cherubims; let the earth be moved” (Ps. 99:1). The psalmist again said, “So the heathen shall fear the name of the Lord, and all the kings of the earth thy glory” (Ps. 102:15). And Isaiah brought the truth back into context: “So shall they fear the name of the Lord from the west, and his glory from the rising of the sun” (Isa. 59:19). Who would be found in earth that would dare stand against the one that can not only kill the body but can destroy both body and soul in Hell (Matt. 10:28). The name of God will be held in reverence one day.
So that is the three praises of the song and then we have the three causes of the song. First, they sing because God is holy: “for thou only art holy….” Only God can truly be called Holy. He is perfection of moral beauty. It is He that is the light to which no man can approach. It is that holiness that causes us to love God. How could we sing of an unholy God? The ancient Greeks strained to glorify their gods knowing that their gods were just as evil as they were. When we approach the one true God we know that we approach one who is all goodness. God is light and in Him is no darkness at all (I John 1:5). No other being deserves such praise and thus we sing.
They sing also because God is the final cause: “for all nations shall come and worship before thee.” The earth may think that antichrist may lead them to victory against God but the end of all things will lead men to bow before God and His Christ (Ps. 2:1-3). This is the final cause of all creation! Paul reminded the Romans, “For it is written, As I live, saith the Lord, every knee shall bow to me, and every tongue shall confess to God” (Rom. 14:11). Paul also preached to the Philippians when speaking of Christ who is very God of very God: “Wherefore God also hath highly exalted him, and given him a name which is above every name: That at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth; And that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father” (Phil. 2:9-11). This is where all men and women will end up no matter how often they declare themselves masters of their own fate and captains of their owns souls.
They finally sing because God is finally and manifestly revealed: “for thy judgments are made manifest.” God is clearly seen in the things that He has made but man refuses to look. God is clearly revealed in His Word and acts throughout history but man plugs his ears and will not hear. God is clearly revealed in Christ but men refuse to believe. But these sing because God will once more shake the earth and heavens. No person will be able in that day to say that God is not true and His Christ does not reign. His judgements will one day be made undeniably manifest.