The Revealing of the Wrath of God

In Romans 1:18 Paul wrote,” For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and wickedness of men who by their wickedness suppress the truth.” This verse comes after the revelation of righteousness in verse 17. A similar paradigm seems to be present in the Apocalypse. As we get into chapter 15, John presents “another portent” in heaven, one that reveals the wrath of God that is about to come to an end. The earlier portent in heaven in chapter 12 was a revelation of the coming to birth of the divine son, the beginning of the righteousness of God as revealed in the gospel. Chapter 15 of the Apocalypse seems to present a liturgical drama in the church. We had earlier seen the beast standing on the edge of the sea. In the present drama we see instead those believers who has persevered and conquered standing on the edge of a sea of glass mingled with fire. The believers have harps and sing. The sea of glass, the transparency of chaos, of the beast, mingled with fire, allows the churches to see in the bright light of the divine just who the beast is. The burning sea representing the revelation and defeat of the beast leads to the joyful celebration in song. The song of Moses and of the Lamb, both figures associated with freedom and righteousness, is a celebration of the revelation of righteousness and wrath of God. The hymn is an affirmation that the mighty acts of the divine will deliver the faithful and will draw all nations to the worship of the divine, who alone is holy. From the most sacred place in the temple a procession begins, with seven angels being given the seven golden bowls of wrath. As they prepared to execute their commission, the temple becomes sealed off again, for it was opened in verse 5. The temple remained sealed until the ending of the plagues of wrath. This seems to communicate to the churches that the divine will continue to protect the faithful from the wrath to come, that the churches have already been sealed against this wrath. The implication of chapter 15 is that there are insiders and outsiders, the orthodox and the non-orthodox, and that the insiders are protected, while at the same time the outsiders are given the opportunity to repent and join in the worship as made clear by the song. Chapter 15 is another attempt to convince the non-orthodox to change their ways.

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