A Sign the Astronauts Failed to See
THERE is a general effort today to discredit God and the Bible. A sad commentary on our times is that clergymen who claim to be representing God and his Word are taking the lead, saying: “God is dead!” Wildly absurd things not even worthy of a five-year-old child said by supposedly learned men. One such effort showing the desperateness of such attempts was the statement of the Russian astronauts who said they did not encounter God in their space flight. Have you considered how weak and meaningless such a statement is? Well, for your own benefit do so now, so that you will not unwittingly dignify the idea in any way regardless of whether you believe in God or not.
The orbit of the astronauts was less than 200 miles above the earth. Do you realize how far in universal space that is? Compared to the size of the earth it is about the distance from the earth that the depth of a peeling would be to an apple. They were hardly out in universal space at all. It takes light a hundred thousand years to cross our galaxy, yet that is only a tiny part of the visible universe. The Creator of all this, who says that he ‘stretches out the heavens just as a fine gauze,’ and who has “taken the proportions of the heavens themselves with a mere span and included in a measure the dust of the earth,” would he be found confining himself to such a comparatively infinitesimal space? or would he appear there just to please puny men who challenge his existence? It is a very foolish thing to which supposedly learned and scientific men have stooped in an attempt to exalt themselves. For God says that men could not find him even if they traveled throughout universal space, inasmuch as he is spirit and man is flesh. In fact, if the astronauts had seen him it would have been a sad thing for them, for they would not have survived the experience. —Isa. 40:22, 12; Ex. 33:20; 1 John 4:12.
Not that God does not reveal himself to men, that is, reveal his qualities, his ways and his purposes. But that is where the Russian astronauts and others of like stripe have failed. They have missed seeing what God has provided for them to see. One of the important things that they and everyone else can see if they so desire and that they should see, for they are involved in it, is the sign of Revelation 15:1, which the apostle John describes for us, saying: “And I saw in heaven another sign, great and wonderful, seven angels with seven plagues. These are the last ones, because by means of them the anger of God is brought to a finish.”
Why would this sign be important to observe? Because it has to do with God’s anger. If he is angry, men should want to know, About what? and Against whom? because they certainly do not desire to be among those toward whom his anger is directed at present and against whom his anger will be poured out at his chosen time. (Ps. 7:11) Revelation, chapter 15, gives a prelude to the pouring out of the plagues expressing God’s anger. But just as God’s anger is always accompanied by mercy and good news to those who fear him and seek him, so Revelation, chapter 15, first gives us good news, which we shall now consider.
The vision reveals that there will be persons who will praise God for righteously expressing his anger in his time of judgment. We know God has plenty of reason to be angry, not merely because scientists have rocketed through space and not only because of what opposers of God have said, but for many other things that are pointed out in Revelation’s description of the seven plagues. Instead of having to feel these outpourings of his anger personally and blaspheming him because of them, we can receive his favor by being in harmony with those doing the outpouring, because the plagues are poured out only upon those who fully merit them. Happy will we be if we take the side of those who uphold God.
In ancient Egypt God brought literal plagues upon the Egyptians in the controversy as to who was the sovereign God. But in our time the plagues on this world, poured out under the control of the seven angels, prove to be symbolical. There is nothing unrighteous about these plagues, for God brings them only as a result of his attributes of justice and wisdom and, as in the case of the ten plagues in Egypt, they result not only in bringing justice to his own name and sovereignty, to the benefit of all humankind; they also soften the hearts of many toward him. They make the enemies of God more and more set and determined against him and reveal the viciousness of these and the deservedness of his outpoured anger upon them.
WHAT THE SEVEN PLAGUES ARE
What are the seven plagues? They are God’s judicial expressions of anger and are revelations from his Word. These revelations (1) point out the various world conditions viewed from God’s standpoint. They show how these things appear in their true light, that is, just as the One with the greatest discernment of all sees them and (2) they portend what is to result to the world from his judicial opinion as to the peoples of the world. They show exactly what effect these expressions of God’s anger actually have upon those against whom his anger is expressed. Such revelations from God’s Word must be published and declared by his anointed, commissioned people on earth, pictured by John, who saw this wonderful sign and prophetic vision. These proclaimers have nothing to do with the hurtfulness of the plagues upon mankind; they merely declare them. To the contrary, they help all those paying attention to see how they can escape being hurt.
Seven is a Bible number signifying perfection and so there is no need for more than seven of these symbolic plagues. They are enough to bring the expression of God’s anger to its finish. Angels perform their part in expressing them.
Note the fact that there is a reason for happiness on the part of all those who are faithful worshipers of God in connection with the seven last plagues. As if now before God’s throne, John says:
“And I saw what seemed to be a glassy sea mingled with fire, and those who come off victorious from the wild beast and from its image and from the number of its name standing by the glassy sea, having harps of God. And they are singing the song of Moses the slave of God and the song of the Lamb, saying:
“‘Great and wonderful are your works, Jehovah God, the Almighty. Righteous and true are your ways, King of eternity. Who will not really fear you, Jehovah, and glorify your name, because you alone are loyal? For all the nations will come and worship before you, because your righteous decrees have been made manifest.’”—Rev. 15:2-4.
In previous articles it has been shown that the wild beast represents or pictures the Devil’s visible, political organization on earth and the image of the beast stands for the League of Nations and its successor the United Nations, which attempts to stand in the place of God’s kingdom and claims to bring that which only God’s kingdom can actually bring. Now, of course, all those who want to see real lasting peace in the earth and who listen to what the Creator says about it want to get away from the selfish, oppressive man-made substitute for God’s kingdom, and they are doing so. They do not look for information from those who are captivated, held in spiritual bondage by the false religions of Babylon the Great and who give worship to the wild beast and its image. They listen to those who support God and who have a successful record, one of victory. The victorious ones keep themselves clean from any marks of agreement, cooperation and compromise with the symbolic wild beast and its image. They give no worship to such political institutions. They have acted upon the warning of the third angel given in Revelation 14:9-12. This they have not done without having anger expressed against them, not God’s anger, but anger and persecution and the bitterest opposition from the wild beast and its image and its supporters. The victorious ones recognize more than the fact that God exists; they acknowledge him as the rightful Sovereign. They discern that his anger is about to be expressed in full against this system of things that defies God and has brought so much suffering to the people.
These victorious ones are no others but the faithful, anointed spiritual brothers of Jesus Christ now on the earth. Having harps, they must be included with the 144,000 with harps spoken of in Revelation 14:1-3. There is today a small remnant of them yet on earth and they have heavenly hopes—hopes of reigning with Jesus Christ in the kingdom of the heavens. They are Christians and have followed Jesus’ example and command to keep themselves without spot from this world as no part of it. They have busied themselves with preaching the good news of the established kingdom in all the inhabited earth for a witness.—Jas. 1:27; Matt. 24:14; Mark 13:10; John 13:15-17.
What are the harps with which they are equipped? Well, a musical instrument is used to give pleasant-sounding accompaniment, support and harmonious background to singing. The harps are provided by God. What is more helpful in making what they say forceful, beautiful and harmonious than the written Word of God with all its teachings, prophecies, revelations and history of God’s works? Also, they have in addition the many printed Bible helps for understanding and explaining the Bible. These are produced and printed by workers who are fully dedicated and baptized witnesses of Jehovah.
THE GLASSY SEA
The sign that John saw goes on to show that while God is not visible to those who praise him as his earthly servants, yet he is approachable. They can get an understanding of him and can have a part in his purposes. They are shown standing before a glassy sea. (Rev. 15:2) In Solomon’s temple there was a tremendous basin of water that rested on the back of twelve metal bulls and it was called a “sea.” The sea before which the singers stand in the sign that John saw is a glassy sea like the one in Revelation 4:6, and therefore must have been of clear glass, transparent glass. This would denote that the singers are serving at the spiritual temple of Jehovah, the temple that was opened revealing the ark of God’s covenant, betokening God’s presence there.—1 Ki. 7:23-46; 2 Ki. 25:16; 2 Chron. 4:2-6, 15; Rev. 11:19.
In Solomon’s temple the sea was filled with water. It was drawn out into smaller basins resting on carriages and this water was used “for the priests to wash in it.” Thus, their activity and their sacrifices were represented as cleansed by being in harmony with the truth of God’s Word. The victorious singers are therefore shown to be spiritually of the priestly class, the “royal priesthood” that is under the Chief Priest, Jesus Christ. (1 Pet. 2:9; Heb. 3:1) The water in the “glassy sea like crystal” pictures the truth of God’s Word, for it both quenches spiritual thirst and has a cleansing effect upon the Christian’s life, heart, mind and works. But while God’s Word serves his people in this very beneficial way, it also contains judgments against those who oppose God. This is indicated by the fact that John could discern that the contents of the sea were mingled with fire. It would indicate that the priestly remnant of the 144,000 would have to proclaim these fiery judgments.
THE SONG OF MOSES AND THE LAMB
The singers gathered at the spiritual temple are shown to be singing the song of Moses and the Lamb. Of what benefit would it be to mankind advanced in science and looking toward the space age for peace and blessings to go away back to what Moses said centuries ago? Because the Word of God has greater depth to it than all the scientific researches of the men of this space age, and the message is of far greater importance for them to give attention to today. For Moses, as a prophet, prefigured a still greater Jewish prophet, Jesus Christ, “the Lamb of God that takes away the sin of the world.” (Deut. 18:15-18; Acts 3:22, 23; John 1:29) The song that Moses sang at the Red Sea when the Egyptian chariots were stopped in their pursuit of the fleeing Israelites is the first song recorded in the Bible. Moses sang another song of praise to Jehovah forty years later, before saying his farewell to the Israelites at the borders of the Promised Land.—Ex. 15:1-19; Deut. 32:1-43.
Jesus Christ, by referring in Revelation to the songs of Moses, shows that he is fully in agreement with Moses’ songs and that they have a connection with the sign of Revelation, which is having its fulfillment in our present day. Both songs of Moses bespoke the vengeance of Jehovah God against his enemies and those of his dedicated people. Moses sang at the Red Sea that Jehovah ruled as King to time indefinite, even forever. So the song of Moses included praise to Jehovah as well as an expression of blessing upon God’s people and vengeance to his enemies. When Jesus was on earth he sang Jehovah’s praises and declared his vengeance. (Matt. 26:30; Luke 19:41-44; 21:20-22) The great and final fulfillment of these songs is at hand. That is why the remnant of the 144,000 are shown as singing them so vigorously.
The song the anointed remnant sing is that the ways of Jehovah are righteous and true, even when he deals with his enemies. It makes known his name Jehovah and glorifies it. Scoffers at God should stop and pay attention when the song asks who there is that will not fear this God and glorify his name. Why? Because, as the song says (Rev. 15:4), he alone is the loyal God and his worshipers can depend upon him. The scoffers should realize that the Creator of the universe would have unfathomable power. They should know that he would not undignify himself by yielding to their haughty demands. But he does delight in revealing his qualities and his ways and purposes to those who take him at his word. He will come to their assistance. At Deuteronomy 32:43 Moses sang out: “Be glad, you nations, with his people, for he will avenge the blood of his servants, and he will pay back vengeance to his adversaries.”
Since God does exist and is the true and living God his Word is true from the beginning and is applicable at all times, particularly in this time of the end when the prophecies are having their fulfillment. So the victorious singers, the anointed remnant of Christ’s spiritual brothers on earth, quote Bible prophecies and show that there are many thousands of earth’s inhabitants who will come out of all nations and will be glad to take the name of Jehovah and be his witnesses and stand before him. Many who in previous times scoffed have awakened because of the conditions and circumstances that have come about in this time of the end, and see that there is no hope in the efforts of men. They have heard the song and have found it to be absolutely true. The song speaks good for all those who will hear and come to love God and his righteousness; it also tells of the execution of judgment against those who harden their hearts. Hundreds of thousands, formerly unbelievers, are now in full agreement with the justice of Jehovah in clearing the hardhearted, haughty, irreformable enemies of Jehovah off the earth so that the inhabitants of the earth may enjoy righteousness under his kingdom rule.
It is righteous, therefore, for God to be angry with those who deny him and fly in the face of all the evidence of his existence, power and majesty and who fail to appreciate his loving-kindness to his creatures and the many things he has arranged for their welfare and enjoyment. Even now he is so kind as to give warning concerning the plagues he is bringing upon his enemies. Therefore, take notice and avoid the outpouring of his wrath. As we go farther in the book of Revelation, we find that these plagues are poured out by angels who are also invisible to men and far mightier. We will look forward to succeeding articles for a discussion of the part that the angels play in pouring out the plagues and what is accomplished thereby.