Exodus imagery in Revelation 15-16

OT images and allusions in the book of Revelation are everywhere. I had noticed the Exodus motif before, but was blown away by the heavy reliance on this imagery. John uses the Exodus motif and makes it his own to convey the tension and ultimate victory of God’s people in his day. Here’s what I found going back through Rev. 15 and 16:

The sea or a sea of glass (Exodus imagery), God’s people stood on the shore of the Red Sea with Pharoah’s army coming behind them, and the Red Sea before them. They would have to trust that God would act! He does, and delivers them. The next image of the sea in Rev. 15 is the ones who had been victorious/martyred. God had seen them through!

Fire, reminiscent of the pillar of cloud and fire by night that represented the presence of God in the wilderness. The victorious ones are pictured Singing the song of Moses and of the Lamb, again Exodus language.

Temple/tabernacle of the Testimony, the tent was the place where the Israelites met with God in the wilderness. Here in Rev. 15 is a visible reminder of the presence of God, and the place from which the judgments stem is from God. Smoke of God’s glory, his presence, also points back to Sinai!

John doesn’t stray to far from the Exodus imagery, “the eschatological woes are plagues (16:2 sores, Exod. 9:10-11; 16:3-4 sea and rivers become blood, Exod. 7:17-21; 16:10 darkness, Exod. 10:22; 16:12 drying up the waters, Exod. 14:21-22; 16:13 frogs, Exod. 8:3; 16:18, 21 thunder, fire and hail, Exod. 9:24)” (Boring, 173).

Armageddon/Mt. of Assembly or Mt. of Magedon? John is using military imagery to paint a picture, not so much concerned with geography in Palestine, but showing the defeat of the forces of evil.

I think John’s usage of the Exodus imagery is helpful for us not only as readers, but also as fellow sojourners. We see the continuing application and reapplication of God’s great rescue throughout history. We too are drawn into this story, because likewise we have at one time or another been stuck on the bank of the Red Sea and being pursued by the enemy, waiting for God’s intervention. We likewise have tasted victory and have shared in the singing of the chorus of the Song of Moses and the Lamb. And while we sing in victory now, we also know that we haven’t full arrived yet.

*Eugene Boring. Revelation. John Knox: Louisville, 1989.

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About Jason Retherford

The random musings of a youth minister.
This entry was posted in church, Revelation, Theology. Bookmark the permalink.

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