CHAPTER 15

THE SEVEN CHALICES

Succession arrangements of the Covenant Treaty

"Yahweh said to Moses, 'You will be sleeping with your ancestors, and this people is about to play the harlot by following the gods of the foreigners of the country, among whom they are going to live. They will desert me and break my covenant, which I have made with them. That very day, my anger will blaze against them; I shall desert them and hide my face from them. A host of disasters and misfortunes will overtake them to devour them,....Now write down this song for you to use; teach it to the Israelites, put it into their mouths, for it to be a witness on my behalf against the Israelites....' To Joshua son of Nun, Yahweh gave this order, 'Be strong and stand firm, for you are to be the one to bring the Israelites into the country which I have promised them on oath, and I myself shall be with you.'" Deuteronomy 31:14-17c, 19, & 23

In contrast to the evil forces of Satan in and his followers who worship the Beast in chapter 13, chapter 14 revealed the hierarchy of heaven in the Father, the Son (Lamb), the angel/messengers, and the 144,000 sealed followers of the Lamb in whom no fault is found.

Revelation chapter 13

Revelation chapter 14

The Dragon (Satan)

God the Father

The Sea Beast (The Roman Kingdom)

The Lamb-Christ the King

The false prophet Land Beast (Israel) who serves the Sea Beast and Satan

Angel/messengers (true prophets who serve the Lamb)

Apostate followers of the Beast marked by the number of the Beast

Immaculate followers of Christ sealed with the names of the Father and the Son

In chapter 15 we reach the final section of Revelation. This section will introduce the 7 plagues poured out in 7 Chalices by 7 Angels. Since chapter 4 we have seen four divisions of Revelation ruled by one of each of the 4 Living Creature/cherubim who are before the Throne of God. The Cherubim with "the face of a man" will rule this section. You will remember in our discussion of the 4th angel cherubim (see notes from chapter 4) that the 4 Living Creatures correspond to the 4 pillars of the constellations of the Zodiac. This angel-cherubim corresponds to the constellation Aquarius, the Water-Pourer, who is the symbol of judgment. In this 5th section of Revelation, the symbol of judgment is that of the 7 angels pouring out God's wrath from their 7 chalices.

The cherub with a face like a Bull

Spring Taurus

Chapter 1 and the letters to the 7 churches in ch 2-3

The cherub with a face like a Lion

Summer Leo

Rev. chapters 4-7

The cherub with a face like an Eagle

Fall Scorpio /Eagle (ancient symbol was an eagle)

Rev. chapters 8-14

The cherub with a face like a man

Winter Aquarius the Water Pourer

Rev. chapters 15-22

 

This chapter also begins the 5th section of the Covenant Treaty: the Succession Arrangements. The Succession Arrangements address the continuity of the Covenant that is specified by Yahweh in Deuteronomy chapter 31-32: the disinheritance of illegitimate members and the inheritance of those who are faithful to God and faithful to their sworn obligations of the Covenant. Deuteronomy chapter 31-34 is Moses' last instructions from Yahweh and his last great homily to the children of Israel before they take possession of the Promised Land. He begins his homily with orders for the extension of the Covenant into the future. He charges the 3 groups who are responsible for faithfulness & obedience, maintenance & justice, and the instruction, sacrifice, & liturgy of the Covenant with the duties to this generation and the future generations:

1. the people: Deuteronomy 31:1-6 (faithfulness & obedience)

2. the civil leadership [Joshua who will succeed Moses]: Deuteronomy: 31:7-8 (maintenance & justice)

3. the priesthood: Deuteronomy 31:9-13 (instruction in the Law and rites of worship)

And then Yahweh appears in the Glory-Cloud at the doorway of the Tabernacle and He calls Moses and Joshua and instructs them to teach a "Song of Witness" to the children of Israel. Deuteronomy chapters 31-34 are central to the interpretation of the visions in this chapter.

Please read 15:1-4: The Song of Victory

Verses 1-4 "And I saw in heaven another sign, great and wonderful: seven angels were bringing the seven plagues that are the last of all, because they exhaust the anger of God. I seemed to be looking at a sea of crystal suffused with fire, and standing by the lake of glass, those who had fought against the beast and won, and against his statue and the number which is his name. They all had harps from God and they were singing the hymn of Moses, the servant of God, and the hymn of the Lamb:

How great and wonderful are all your works, Lord God almighty;

upright and true are all your ways, King of nations.

Who does not revere and glorify your name, O Lord?

For you alone are holy, and all nations will come and

adore you for the many acts of saving justice you have shown."

From the Sea Beast of Revelation 13:1 to the vision of these 7 angels and the crystal sea in 15:2, John has had 7 separate visions. However, only this sign (which is the 5th sign of the 7, and the 3rd sign in heaven) is described as both "great and wonderful."

1. 13:1

"Then I saw a beast emerge from the sea:"

2. 13:11

"Then I saw a second beast emerge from the ground"

3. 14:1

"Next in my vision I saw Mt. Zion, and standing on it the Lamb."

4. 14:6

"Then I saw another angel flying overhead, sent to announce the gospel

5. 14:14

"Now in my vision I saw a white cloud......one like a son of man.."

6 15:1

"And I saw in heaven another sign....7 angels were bringing 7 plagues.."

7. 15:2

"I seemed to be looking at a sea of crystal....those who had fought ..."

Question: What is the irony of the description of this 5th sign and what were the 2 other times John was shown a "great sign in heaven"? Answer: the other great sign was the Woman clothed with the sun in 12:1 and the great red Dragon in 12:3. The irony is that the angels with bowls of plagues are described as a "great and wonderful" sign. In a way this phrase announces the 3rd Act of this great drama of judgments (7 Seals, 7 Trumpets, 7 Chalices full of plagues). It initiates the climax of the book: the 7 plagues are the last. This "sign" is the third of the three signs that appear in heaven. The first (and the only positive sign of the 7 signs) was the "Woman clothed with the sun", the second was the great Red Dragon. There are 4 signs on earth: 13:13, 14; 16:14; and 19:20.

The 7 Signs of Revelation

1. The Woman clothed with the sun

Revelation 12:1 "a great sign"

2. The great red Dragon (Satan)

Revelation 12:3 "second sign"

3. The signs performed by the Land Beast with horns like a lamb

Revelation 13:13 "it worked great miracles (signs)"

4. The Land Beast whose power comes from the Sea Beast

Revelation 13:14 "Through the miracles (signs) which it was allowed to do.."

5. The 7 Angel/Ministers with 7 chalices full of plagues

Revelation 15:1 "I saw in heaven another sign, great and wonderful:"

6. The spirits of demons signs

Revelation 16:14 "demon spirits, able to work miracles (signs).."

7. The False Prophet's signs

Revelation 19:20 "the false prophet who had worked miracles (signs).."

Unfortunately, the New Jerusalem translators use the word "miracles" in place of the Greek word for sign(s) in verses that deal with the earthly signs: 13:13, 14; 16:14; & 19:20, and the New American translators use prodigies for the 4 earthly signs. The Greek word is semeion and this same word is used to identify these 7 signs in all seven passages (word #4956 NIV Exhaustive Concordance).

"bringing the 7 plagues that are the last of all" Do not think of these plagues in terms of diseases like smallpox or aides. The word is quite general. The Greek word is plege which can mean 'blow' or 'stroke' and is used of misfortunes generally. You may recall that in Revelation 9:18 John spoke of 3 'plagues' of fire, smoke and sulphur coming from the mouths of the horses of the heavenly army.

Question: Why does John say these are the last? Answer: John says in verse 1, "these are the last of all because they exhaust the anger of God." In Greek the words are etelesthe = 'filled up' and telos = 'reaches the end or the aim.' In other words, God's anger will be finished after these 7 plagues. These are the last in the scope of the Book of Revelation and the prophecy it fulfills which is the destruction of Old Covenant Israel and Jerusalem.

Question: As the vision begins to unfold John sees the sea of crystal. How is this vision connected to Old Testament visions of the heavenly throne room (we have already mentioned some in previous chapters). Answer:

    1. the "sapphire pavement" seen by Moses on Mt. Sinai in Exodus 24:10.
    2. the "blue crystal firmament" through which Ezekiel passed in his ascension in the Glory-Cloud in Ezekiel 1:26
    3. the bronze Sea or Laver made for the desert Tabernacle in Exodus 30:17-21, and then in the Temple in Jerusalem in 1 Kings 7:23-26 & 2 Chronicles 6:14-42.

Question: But what is different about the color of this Sea and why?

Answer: The Sea is no longer blue it is mixed with fire; it is red.

Question: What is the connection to the very last scene in Chapter 14:19-20?

Answer: This imagery ties this vision to the last scene in Chapter 14: the great river of blood running the whole length of Israel, a terrible Red Sea. And like the Red Sea experience of the Exodus, the righteous have been victorious and are standing on the edge of the Sea singing a victory song (Exodus 15).

Question: Looking at Rev 15 verse 2 what is the three-fold nature of the victory of those who were victorious in their conquest of the Beast? Answer: They have victory 1) from the Beast, 2) from his image, and 3) from the number of his name. 'Name' is more than the letters that make up a name; name is identity. When we bear the "name" of Christ we bear His identity. This is a three part victory; three is one of the "perfect numbers." In the Old Testament it signified fullness and completion and in the New Testament, Trinity.

St. Paul described the Red Sea deliverance as a "baptism" of God's people in 1 Corinthians 10:1-2. The first great persecution of the New Covenant believers was indeed the Church's baptism of fire and so it is fitting that the great crystal sea is seen filled with a fiery mixture.

There is also an interesting connection to the dedication of Solomon's Temple in 2 Chronicles 6:14-7:2. During the dedication of the Temple, Solomon stood by the "Sea" (the bronze Laver) on a platform before the Altar and prayed to God, thanking Him for His mighty works, invoking God's righteous judgments, and petitioning Him for the conversion of all nations. "When Solomon had finished his prayer, fire came down from heaven and consumed the burnt offering and the sacrifices; and the glory of Yahweh filled the Temple. The priests could not enter the Temple of Yahweh because the glory of Yahweh filled the Temple of Yahweh."(2 Chron. 7:1-2). Please remember this passage when we read Rev. 15:5-8.

Now we come to the awesome Song of Moses and the Song of the Lamb. Most commentators suggest this passage is a reference to Exodus 15:1-21 when Moses and the Israelites sang a song in Yahweh's honor because He saved them from their enemies in the miracle of the Red Sea. It seems to be an obvious connection because of the Red Sea symbolism and imagery in verse 2. But I don't think this song is our only link to the "Song of Moses and the Lamb" in Rev chapter 15. One important difference is that God did not give Israel this hymn; Israel and Moses composed this victory song. Please read Exodus 14:31-15:21.

Other commentators, however, point to the "Song of Witness" which God instructs Moses and Joshua to teach to the Children of Israel in Deuteronomy chapter 32. This song is composed by Yahweh. Both songs may be relevant but I think the link is stronger to the "Song of Witness" in Deuteronomy chapter 32. The connection will become clear as we continue to read and study the next several verses.

Please read 15: 5-8: The Sanctuary is Opened

Verses 5-8 "After this, in my vision, the sanctuary, the tent of the Testimony, opened in heaven, and out came the seven angels with the seven plagues, wearing pure white linen, fastened round their waists with belts of gold. One of the four living creatures gave the seven angels seven golden bowls filled with the anger of God who lives for ever and ever. The smoke from the glory and the power of God filled the Temple so that no one could go into it until the seven plagues of the seven angels were completed."

In Deuteronomy 31:14-15 God appears in the Glory-Cloud at the doorway of the Tabernacle. He calls Moses and Joshua and instructs them to teach a "Song of Witness" to the children of Israel. This is the second reason why I think this passage refers more to the "Song of Witness" found in Deuteronomy 32 than to Moses' "Song of Victory" in Exodus 15 (the first reason is that Yahweh Himself, not Moses, composed the "Song of Witness"). "Yahweh said to Moses, 'And now the time is near when you must die. Summon Joshua and take your places at the Tent of Meeting, so that I can give him his orders. Moses and Joshua went and took their places at the Tent of Meeting and Yahweh showed himself at the Tent in a pillar of cloud; the pillar of cloud stood at the door of the Tent." Deut 31:14-15

Did you notice how the scene changes from those who could claim victory over the Beast (Rev. 15:1-5) to the Temple or rather to the sanctuary, the tent of the Testimony in Heaven (Rev. 15:5-8). This is the true Tabernacle whereas the Tabernacle on earth was only a model: Hebrews 8:5 "..these maintain the service only of a model or reflection of the heavenly realities; just as Moses, when he had the Tent to build, was warned by God who said: 'See that you work to the design that was shown you on the mountain.'" Also see Heb. 9:11-2, 23-24; 10:1; Ex, 25:9, 40; 26:30 Num. 8:4; Acts 7:44.

John is very careful in his terminology in this passage. The correct technical expressions for his imagery are based on the Old Covenant order.

Question: What was the basic treaty document of the Sinai Covenant and what was it called (as well as where was it kept)? See Exodus 16:34; 25:16, 21-22; 26:33,34; etc; Lev 16:13; 24:3; Num 1:50, etc; Josh 4:16; 2Chr 24:6; Acts 7:44? Answer: The 10 Commandments. It was often called "the Testimony." This title emphasized its legal character as the record of the Covenant oath. The word "Tabernacle" in Hebrew means "dwelling"= mishkan; also used in association with the Tabernacle or as a synonym for Tabernacle, is the Hebrew word ohel = tent (as in the "tent of meeting") to signify the Holy Place (where the golden lampstand and the table of the bread of the presence stood), and the Holy of Holies (behind the veil where the Ark of the Covenant held the 10 Commandments) which was housed in the desert sanctuary under one tent. Therefore, the Tabernacle, in which the Testimony was kept, was therefore called the "Tabernacle of the Testimony." In Revelation the Temple (Greek word used is naos) is the inner Sanctuary or Holy of Holies from which the earthly Sanctuary was patterned. In the New Covenant the Church of the Living Christ is the naos, the Temple. The writer of the Book of Hebrews explains in 8:5 and in 10:1 that the Siani Covenant Tabernacle was both a copy of the heavenly original and a foreshadowing of the Church in the New covenant. The Church of the New Covenant "Tabernacles" in Heaven and if the Temple is the Church, the Testimony is the New Covenant, the Testimony of Jesus Christ (Rev 1:2: ..and John has borne witness (testimony) to the Word of God and to the witness (testimony) of Jesus Christ..." Also see Rev. 1:9; 6:9; 12:11, 17; 19:10; 20:4.

Question: Read Exodus 40:34-35; Deuteronomy 31:14-15; 2Chronicles 7:1-2. What is the connection between these passages, and to Revelation 15:5-8? Answer: the same action is taking place; God's Glory-Cloud fills the sanctuary and no one can enter.

Question: Deuteronomy 31:23 is called the commissioning of Joshua: "To Joshua son of Nun, Yahweh gave this order, 'Be strong and stand firm, for you are to be the one to bring the Israelites into the country which I have promised them on oath, and I myself shall be with you.'" What is the connection between Joshua and Christ? Answer: Joshua will be the new Moses and will lead the people of the Covenant into the Promised Land and Jesus (Jesus is the Greek [Iesous] version of the Hebrew name Joshua [Yeshua]), the new Joshua, will lead the New Covenant people of God into heaven. In the stories of Joshua, son of Nun in the Old Testament no single incident of misbehavior is ever recorded. He is always perfectly faithful and obedient to God. His name means "Yahweh saves" or "I save" and he is a "type"(prefigures) of Christ.

We have established some of the connections between Revelation chapter 15 and Deuteronomy chapters 31 & 32. But to have a better understanding, please turn to Deuteronomy 30. First, please read chapter 30:15-31:30.

In Deut 31:14-21 God tells Moses what will happen in the future. He tells Moses that the people will forsake Him and will break His holy Covenant. Then His anger and judgment will come against Israel.

(Deut 31:14-17) "Yahweh said to Moses, 'You will be sleeping with your ancestors, and this people is about to play the harlot by following the gods of the foreigners of the country, among whom they are going to live. They will desert me and break my covenant, which I have made with them. That very day, my anger will blaze against them; I shall desert them and hide my face from them. A host of disasters and misfortunes will overtake them to devour them."

Then Yahweh instructs Moses and Joshua: (v. 19) "Now write down this song for you to use; teach it to the Israelites, put it into their mouths, for it to be a witness on my behalf against the Israelites: against Israel, whom I am bringing into the country which I swore to his ancestors that I would give him, a country flowing with milk and honey: against Israel, who will eat to his heart's content and grow fat, and will then turn to other gods and serve them, despising me and breaking my covenant. When a host of disasters and misfortunes overtakes him, this song, like a witness, will give evidence against him, since his descendants will not have forgotten it. Yes, even today, before I have brought him to the country which I have promised him on oath, I know what plans he has in mind. So that day, Moses wrote out this song and taught it to the Israelites."

The Song of Witness and the passages that follow it in Deut. Chapter 32-34 are Yahweh's Covenant Lawsuit against unfaithful Israel delivered to them through Moses, and it is structured according to the standard form of the 5 part Covenant Treaty:

  1. Preamble Deut. 32:1-4: the identity of the King
  2. Historical Prologue Deut 32:5-14: history of the relationship
  3. Covenant Stipulations Deut 32:15-18: the record of rebellion
  4. Sanctions:
    1. Curses against Covenant breakers Deut 32:19-25
    2. Blessings on the holy Remnant through redemptive judgment Deut 32:26-43
  5. Succession Arrangements Deut 32:44- 34:12: future of the Covenant for the next generations
(this is scholar David Chilton's outline)

As you read the Song in chapter 32 notice the references to "the Rock", "their Rock" and "our Rock". There are 5 references to this individual who carries the title Rock (do not count v. 37 which is not a reference to an individual but instead refers to the practice of offering sacrifices on a rock as an altar). To discover the identity of "The Rock" please read 1Corinthians 10:1-5. Some modern translations do not accurately translate this Song of Moses and lose the meaning of the title "ROCK". The New Jerusalem Bible and the St. Ignatius Bible both provide a good translation but the New American completely looses the significance of the text. If you are using the New American translation proceed to the end of this chapter where you can find the document entitled "The Rock is Christ". This document will identify the important passages concerning "The Rock". Please read chapter 32.

Please look at 32:4 "He is the Rock, his work is perfect for all his ways are equitable. A trustworthy God who does no wrong, he is the Honest, the Upright One!"

Question: Do you see a connection to the Song of Moses and the Lamb in the phrase "upright and true are all your ways" in Revelation 15:3b?

Question: Who is the Rock in the "Song of Witness"? Hint: see 1 Corinthians 10:1-4: "I want you to be quite certain, brothers, that our ancestors all had the Cloud over them and all passed through the sea. In the Cloud and in the sea they were all baptized into Moses; all ate the same spiritual food and all drank the same spiritual drink, since they drank from the same spiritual Rock which followed them, and that rock was Christ." Answer: the Rock is Christ. St Paul is referring to the manna from heaven that sustained the Children of Israel in the wilderness (Ex. 16 & Deut 8) and the rock which gave them water (Ex. 17 & Num. 20:7-11). Both miracles foreshadowing Christ and the Eucharist. He is the "Living bread come down from heaven" and who will give us "the water of eternal life."

Question: If Christ is the "Rock" to whom is the "Song of Witness" directed and is there a connection to the "Song of Moses and the Lamb in Revelation? Answer: Both songs glorify Christ.

Also notice the references to the "perverse generation" in Deuteronomy 32:5 and v. 20 (some translations have rendered the Hebrew as "deceitful brood" but the Hebrew reference is to generation= dor in Hebrew and genea in Greek).

"Yahweh saw it and in anger he spurned his sons and daughters, 'I shall hide my face from them,' he said, 'and see what will become of them. For they are a deceitful brood (perverse generation), children with no loyalty in them." (Deut 32:19-20)

Question: Do you recall this pronouncement against another generation of Old Covenant Israel? Please read Matthew 17:17 and Acts 2:40. The first and the last generation of the Old Covenant have been given this title. Answer: What will happen to the last generation of the Old Covenant will be a reversal of the rescue the first generation experienced in the Exodus when judgment fell on Egypt, but both generations were condemned for their unfaithfulness.

Then too, please notice the imagery in 32:31-33 and the connection to Rev. 14 and the "fire and brimstone" that will fall on the followers of the Beast that is Sodom and Gomorrah imagery (Rev. 14:10) as well as the poisonous grapes/wine (Rev. 14:8&10), their bitter clusters (Rev.14:18) and poison wine that repeat passages in Rev. chapter 14.

Deut 32:32 "For their vine springs from the stock of Sodom and from the groves of Gomorrah: their grapes are poisonous grapes, their clusters are bitter; their wine is snakes' poison."

Compare this passage with the pervious chapter in Rev. 14:9-10 & 18b-19 "all those who worship the beast and his statue or have had themselves branded on the hand or forehead, will be made to drink the wine of God's fury (wrath) which is ready, undiluted, in his cup of retribution, in fire and brimstone whey will be tortured in the presence of the holy angels and the Lamb and the smoke of their torture rise for ever and ever." (18b-19) " 'Put your sickle in and harvest the bunches from the vine of the earth(the Land); all its grapes are ripe.' So the angel set his sickle to work on the earth (the Land) and put it into a huge winepress, the winepress of God's anger (wrath)...." The Hebrew word for anger or wrath is can also be used for poison. This connection is important because in this case the contents of the cup, wrath or anger may be associated with poison as it is used in the Deuteronomy 32 passage. One Hebrew equivalent for the word "poison" is hemah, which also means 'heat' or 'wrath.' Although John is writing in Greek, as it has previously been mentioned, John often seems to be thinking in Hebrew.

Both Moses' "Song of Victory" in Exodus 15 and the "Song of Witness" in Deuteronomy 32 were used in the Old Covenant Liturgical Sabbath services. The "Song of Victory" was sung at the beginning of the liturgy but the "Song of Witness" was sung at the end. It is very fitting that this connection should be emphasized now because this is the end of Old Covenant liturgy!

Question: Returning to Revelation chapter 15 look at verses 6-7. From where do the angel/messengers emerge? Answer: From the Temple (naos).

Question: How are they dressed and what is the significance of their dress? Hint see Rev. 1:13. Answer: in white linen with a belt of gold. These are not just angel/messengers but as priests of the New covenant these angel-ministers are dresses in the image and likeness of Christ. (Also see Ex 28:26-29, 39-43; Lev 16:4).

Question: Who gives the 7 angel-ministers the 7 golden Chalices? Answer: One of the 4 Living Creatures. Question: Can you speculate which of the 4 gives them the Chalices? Answer: probably the one with the man's face (Rev. 4:7) since the other 3 have already played a role in this drama of judgment and since John seems to be proceeding systematically through the quarters of the constellations of the Zodiac.

I have called these 7 vessels Chalices, instead of bowls as the New Jerusalem Bible and the New American Bible translators call them, because I think it is very important to make the liturgical connection as a "negative" sacrament. Some commentators see these vessels as incense bowls. We have already had two references to incense in Rev. 5:8 and 8:3-5 and the Greek word is the same in all these passages (phiale), but I think the Chalices are connected to the cup of God's wrath as we saw in chapter 15 and this connection becomes clearer in Rev 16:6 and 16:19. The contrast here is that from the Chalice of Sacrament of Holy Eucharist flows God's grace, from the Chalice of God's Wrath flows judgment. There is also a connection to the sacrificial system of the Old Covenant, which is now null and void with the sacrifice of the Lamb of God. What is being modeled for us in heaven as the instruction for the New Covenant Church on earth is that this is the final casting out, "ekballo", excommunication of apostate, false prophet Israel when she has once and for all refused the Communion of the Body and Blood of Christ. The heavenly ministers of the New Covenant are sent from the heavenly Tabernacle itself and from the Throne of God to pour out upon her the Blood of the Covenant! Remember what Jesus said to the scribes and Pharisees of Jerusalem in Matthew 23:35-36: "so you will draw down on yourselves the blood of every upright person that has been shed on earth, from the blood of Abel the holy to the blood of Zechariah son of Barachiah whom you murdered between the sanctuary and the altar. In truth I tell you, it will all recoil on this generation." Therefore, drinking blood is inescapable. The ministers of the New Covenant will either serve us the Blood of the New Covenant, the Most Holy Eucharist or it will be poured out of their Chalices on to our heads.

The question which remains is this: are there really 7 heavenly messenger/angel-ministers or is the number 7 only symbolic of the spiritual perfection of the angel-ministers. Are these ministers the Apostles, now in the heavenly sanctuary, who were promised by Christ that they would judge Israel? See Luke 22:30 "You will eat and drink at my table in my kingdom, and you will sit on thrones to judge the twelve tribes of Israel.".

THE ROCK IS CHRIST

"I want you to be quite certain, brothers, that our ancestors all had the cloud over them and all passed through the sea. In the cloud and in the sea they were all baptized into Moses; all ate the same spiritual food and all drank the same spiritual drink, since they drank from the spiritual rock which followed them, and that rock was Christ." Corinthians 10:1-5

In his letter to the Corinthian church, St. Paul is identifying "The Rock" of Exodus 17:1-7 and Numbers 20:7-11 as Jesus the Messiah. In verse 1 of Corinthians chapter 10 St. Paul begins by recalling the Glory-Cloud leading the Children of Israel as the passed through the Sea of Reeds (Red Sea) which Paul identifies in images of Baptism. He also recalls the miracles of the manna from heaven and the water from the "rock" as images of Eucharist. According to Jewish tradition, the "Rock" of Exodus chapter 17 and Numbers 20 is the same "Rock" which followed the Children of Israel during their entire wilderness experience. Paul identifies "The Rock" as the pre-existent Christ already active in the history of God's covenant people. "The Rock" is central to the "Song of Witness" (also called Moses' Song) that Moses and Joshua are instructed to teach Israel in Deuteronomy chapter 32. From the time that Moses and Joshua taught this song to the people it was sung at every Sabbath liturgy up to the day the Temple in Jerusalem was destroyed on the 9th of Ab in 70AD!

If you have a poor translation of Deuteronomy chapter 32 and the "Song of Witness" here are the passages that identify "The Rock" as God. "The Rock" as Yahweh is mentioned 5 times in the "Song of Witness". As you may recall, 5 is the number of grace.

#1 verse 4: "He is the Rock, His work is perfect..."

#2 verse 15: "Jacob has eaten to his heart's content, Jeshurun, grown fat, has now lashed out. You have grown fat, gross, bloated. He has disowned the God who made him and dishonored the Rock, his salvation."

#3 verse 18: "You forget the Rock who fathered you, the God who made you, you no longer remember..."

#4 verse 30: "How else could one man rout a thousand, how could two put ten thousand to flight, were it not that their Rock has sold them, that Yahweh has delivered them up?"

#5 verse 31: "But their rock is not like our Rock; our enemies cannot pray for us! For their vine springs from the stock of Sodom and from the groves of Gomorrah..."

Please note the word "rock" is used separately in vs. 31 ["But their rock is not like.."] and 37 ["where are their gods, the rock in which they took refuge.."] as false gods but "Rock" in reference to Yahweh God is used 5 times.

There are 2 Old Testament passages which St. Paul identifies in 1Corthians 10:1-5 as "Christ the Rock":

#1 Exodus 17:1-7: [beginning with verse 3] "But, tormented by thirst, the people complained to Moses. 'Why did you bring us out of Egypt,' they said, 'only to make us, our children and our livestock, die of thirst?' Moses appealed to Yahweh for help. 'How am I to deal with this people?' he said.... [continuing with verses 5-6] "Yahweh then said to Moses, 'Go on ahead of the people, taking some of the elders of Israel with you; in your hand take the staff with which you struck the River, and go. I shall be waiting for you there on the rock at Horeb. Strike the rock, and water will come out for the people to drink."

#2 Numbers 20:1-13 [beginning at verse 7] "Take the branch and call the community together, you and your brother Aaron. Then, in full view of them, order this rock to release its water..." [continuing with verse 11] "Then Moses raised his hand and struck the rock twice with the branch; water gushed out in abundance..." [continuing with verse12] "Yahweh then said to Moses and Aaron, 'Because you did not believe that I could assert my holiness before the Israelites' eyes, you will not lead this assembly into the country which I am giving them.'"

Question: Why was the act of not fulfilling God's instructions to call on the rock instead of striking the rock [Numbers 20:1-13] so serious? It is true that Moses was disobedient and God said he did not believe, but what didn't Moses believe? Surely he believed that God could give water from the rock because He had performed that miracle before (Exodus chapter 17). What didn't Moses believe? Was it that Moses doubted that simply "calling" on the rock could be enough to produce the miracle? How could this one act of striking the rock twice cost Moses and Aaron the right to cross over into the Promised Land? The answer is found in St. Paul's statement in 1 Corinthians 10: 4. The answer is that Christ is The Rock. How many times was Christ struck for our sins? Answer: ONCE. He suffered and died on the cross once and for all time as the sacrifice for our sins. In John's Gospel chapter 7 Jesus speaks out at the last day of the Feast of Tabernacles. Both of these Old Testament passages from Exodus and Numbers concerning the miracle of water from THE ROCK are read during the liturgy of that feast. John 7:37 "On the last day, the great day of the festival, Jesus stood and cried out: "'Let anyone who is thirsty come to me! Let anyone who believes in me come and drink!'" What does the powerful imagery of Jesus' statement that proclaims the promise of the sacrament of Eucharist have to do with the Old Testament passages about water from the Rock and Moses' punishment? After Christ's resurrection and ascension how do we get the "water of eternal life" that Jesus promised? Do we strike "the Rock" again? No, we call on "The Rock" in the sacrifice of the Mass when the priest calls out the words of consecration and the blood from the side of Christ flows for us with the promise of eternal life! Christ, the Rock, was struck down once for our sins, but the sacrifice is on-going and at every Mass we call on "the Rock" and He provides for His Church and nourishes us with His body and blood to sustain us on our wilderness journey through this life as we struggle to reach heaven just as he provided the water that sustained the lives of the Children of Israel in their wilderness journey to the Promise Land.

Question: What two men in Sacred Scripture where called "rock" by God? Answer: Peter (Matthew 16:16-18) and Abraham (Isaiah 51:1-2). Both Simon whose name was changed to Peter and Abram whose name was changed to Abraham were God's representatives who were fathers of a Covenant people. In Abraham's case he became a physical father and in Peter's case he became the spiritual father of the Catholic, universal Church and his successors continues to "father" the Church as God's representative.

Copyright © Agape Bible Study. Permissions All Rights Reserved.