Chapter 15 is about continuation, connection and culmination…
First we simply continue from the last chapter of what is now mostly history. The power of the Roman beast has begun to be broken, the Gospel is spreading like never before and it had been announced that Babylon has fallen – and it will continue to fall until its complete and final end (still yet to come). The saints sing the song of Moses – which is a song of deliverance.
The chapter also connects us back to the story in 11:15 – the seventh angel was sounding his trumpet if you can recall, and just like the seventh seal that lead to seven trumpets, now the seventh trumpet leads us into the seven last plagues, or, judgements, upon the kingdom of the beast.
And finally, whilst not taking us all the way there yet, the usage of the word ‘last’ (plagues) informs us that we are heading into the final lap. When the seventh plague if poured forth it will all be over for bestial Babylon – soon also to be revealed as the great whore of Babylon.
It is quite understandable at this stage that even if you have been tracking quite well with the overall plot that you may have long since forgotten where we are in terms of trumpets and the like. Following the completion of the fourth trumpet (fall of West Rome) we were told of three “woes” that were coming (8:13). Sometime later, after the fifth and sixth trumpets (fall of East Rome) we were told that two woes were past and one more woe is remaining (11:14,15). So, here we are. Just as the opening of the seventh seal lead to seven trumpets, so the seventh trumpet (aka the third woe) now leads to the seven “last plagues” (contained in bowls/vials in varying translations).
The song of Moses is all about deliverance, salvation, victory and heading home. This final trumpet, leading to the seven “last plagues” puts us on the home straight.
Do you remember the Babylon story of old? God sent many prophets to warn the house of Judah not to be like her sinful sister, the house of Israel, and to turn from her sins. The inevitable warnings were given about what would happen if they didn’t turn from their sins but they did not repent. So, eventually a point of no return was reached and Jeremiah had to tell the people that even if they did repent at this stage it was too late. Judgement had now been irreversibly fixed and heaven was now effectively “closed.” What a terrible condition for any individual to reach and clearly a whole nation, or in the New Testament era, religious organisation, can reach the same point of no return. This is definitely it. In the next three chapters we shall read of the final phases of papal Rome (and all who walk in the spirit of it*) as its fall continues until all that is left is the smoke of its destruction.
*In presenting this simplified overview you may, not unreasonably, get the impression that papal Rome is confined to just that – the religious institution known as the Catholic Church. Whilst the actual papacy is indeed the focus of these chapters, when seen from a historicists’ perspective, it must be absolutely noted that the ‘spirit’ of Rome pervades many hearts and institutions. It is deeply rooted in and connected in many cases with politics, business, education and not least of all, it is to be found in many so called Protestant churches too. The ‘mark’ of the beast is upon many but only God sees this mark with absolute clarity and hence all final harvest and judgement will be His work.