Notes & Commentary:
Ver. 1. I saw….seven Angels, having the seven last plagues. Many by these understand chastisements that will fall upon the wicked a little before the end of the world, and so take these plagues and vials that are poured out, in the next chapter, mostly in a literal sense. Others apply them to different calamities that happened to heathen Rome; but the applications are so different, that they serve to convince us how uncertain they are. In the mean time St. John seems to repeat the same things in a different manner, and some times by way of anticipation, as here the saints are introduced rejoicing, in view of that happiness in heaven which is prepared for them. (Witham) — Here is a new vision, great and wonderful, seven Angels holding the figurative symbols of seven plagues. They are called the last, because in them is completed the wrath of God, being inflicted on mankind in the last period of the world, the period of Christianity. The first of these scourges takes place shortly after the commencement of the Christian era, and the seventh puts an end to the world. (Pastorini)
Ver. 2. I saw….a sea of glass, mingled with fire: by which are signified the storms and dangers which they had happily passed: now they are said to be singing the canticle of Moses after he had passed the Red Sea, Cantemus Domino, “Let us sing to the Lord,” &c. [Exodus xv.] As Moses was a figure of Christ, and the Israelites of the Christians, so it is now called the canticle of the Lamb. (Witham) — By the sea of glass is meant the firmament that makes the floor of heaven, which is here said to be mingled with fire, in allusion to the troubles and persecutions which the faithful, who are standing on this sea, have sustained. The beast that is here mentioned is an allusion to idolatry or heresy (Pastorini)
Ver. 3. And singing. This sea of glass and fire may also represent the sea which Moses passed in leaving Egypt; and the memory of this famous event, in every respect so similar to the deliverance of the saints from the persecutions to which they had been exposed during their lives, affords them the opportunity of singing the canticle of Moses, at the conclusion of which, they join in the praises of the Almighty for their own particular deliverance. (Calmet) — O King of ages. In the common Greek is now read, O king of saints. (Witham)
Ver. 5. And after these things. Here the scene changes, and is carried back to the period of time that immediately precedes the seven plagues. This removal of the scene St. John insinuates by the unusual circumlocution, “after these things I beheld,” and looked on the commencement of this scene. The temple opens, and the seven Angels with the seven plagues proceed from the sanctuary to execute the work they are charged with. (Pastorini) — One ought not to be surprised to see the good Angels employed in these kinds of offices, as justice is no less an attribute of the Deity than mercy, and therefore equally the object of the ministry of the Angels. (Calmet) — Behold, the temple of the tabernacle….in heaven, was opened. We have before observed, that these visions were shewn to St. John as it were in a temple in heaven, and with an allusion to the sanctuary and its parts under Moses. The Angels are seen coming out with clean and white linen, and with golden girdles, being an allusion to the habits of the priests in the ancient law. (Witham)
Ver. 8. The temple was filled with smoke, &c., as in the time of Solomon. (2 Paralipomenon vii.) (Witham) — The vials are given to the Angels by one of the four living creatures, that is, by a prophet, because at that time the effects had not happened, but were to happen in time to come, and are therefore announced by way of prophecy; and the temple was filled with smoke, manifesting first the majesty of God, and secondly his power. (Pastorini)
Bible Text & Cross-references:
They that have overcome the beast, glorify God. Of the seven Angels with the seven vials.
1 And I saw another sign in heaven great and wonderful, 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 overcome the beast, and his image, and the number of his name, standing on the sea of glass having the harps of God:
3 And singing the canticle of Moses, the servant of God, and the canticle of the Lamb, saying: Great and wonderful are thy works, O Lord God Almighty: just and true are thy ways, O King of ages.
4 *Who shall not fear thee, O Lord, and magnify thy name? For thou only art holy: for all nations shall come, and shall adore in thy sight, because thy judgments are manifest.
5 And after these things I saw, 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 with clean and white linen, and girded about the breast with golden girdles.
7 And one of the four animals gave to the seven Angels seven golden vials, full of the wrath of God, who liveth for ever and ever.
8 And the temple was filled with smoke from the majesty 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.
4: Jeremias x. 7.