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Grant Osborne: There are three parts to this vision with an ABA pattern (each with the typical formula Καὶ εἶδον, Kai eidon, And I saw). At the outset, 15:1 introduces the angels with the last plagues, then 15:5–8 show how the heavenly tabernacle is opened and the angels are readied for their deadly mission. Sandwiched between this is the song of the victorious saints as they thank the omnipotent God for his wondrous deeds (15:2–4). As in Mark’s “sandwiching” episodes (Mark 3:19–35; 5:21–43; 11:12–25; 14:1–11), the two interpret one another. The joy of the victorious saints is the reason for and result of the angels’ mission of judgment. The bowl judgments will vindicate the saints for all they have suffered (16:5–7).

John MacArthur: Chapters 15 and 16 present the specific phenomena of the final outpouring of God’s wrath before Christ’s return. That wrath is expressed by the effects of the seventh trumpet (11:15), which are the seven bowl judgments described in chapter 16. Chapter 15, the shortest in Revelation, forms an introduction to those rapid-fire judgments, but this chapter is not written for the specific purpose of defending God’s wrath. Since “His work is perfect [and] all His ways are just” (Deut. 32:4), God’s actions need no defense.

Daniel Akin: Main Idea: God is directing history toward the day when He will finally pour out His wrath on His enemies, where His glory and majesty will be on full display.  Chapter 15 is easily structured around the phrase “I saw/looked” in verses 1, 2, and 5.

Kendell Easley: Main Idea: After he has harvested them, the victorious people of Christ will praise him with “The Song of the Lamb.” Then the seven last plagues of God’s wrath will be unleashed.

James Hamilton: Main Point: The display of God’s justice in saving his people and winning him praise is meant to make us want to be among the redeemed, not the condemned. . .  The mounting tension in chapter 15 increases the magnitude of the display of God’s wrath in chapter 16.

These are the last plagues. When they are poured out, the conflict will be over. The serpent’s head will be crushed. The seed of the woman will be triumphant. God’s justice will be fulfilled, and through that display of justice his people will be delivered to praise him, which is what we see in verses 2–4. The display of God’s justice saving his people and winning him praise is meant to make us want to be among the redeemed, not the condemned.

J. Hampton Keathley, III: Chapter 15 is introductory and prepares the reader for the execution of the judgments described in chapter 16. They are first described as the seven last plagues and then as seven bowls full of the wrath of God (vs. 7; 16:1). These seven plagues will chronologically bring to an end the ordered events of the Tribulation judgments in a dramatic crescendo. The plagues described here are extremely severe and occur in rapid succession, which adds greatly to their severity. The plagues are culminated by the return of the Lord Jesus Christ and the final phase of Armageddon. The purpose of chapter 15 is a vindication of God’s holiness. It shows these judgments stem from the holiness of God and the perfection of His plan. Under the three figures of God’s final judgment—the cup of wine (14:10), the harvesting of the earth (14:14-16), and the vintage (14:17-20), chapter 14 has anticipated what is now more thoroughly developed under the symbolism of the seven bowls.

Remember, the seven plagues and seven bowls used in this chapter refer to the same judgments. The use of different terms is designed to display the different aspects and character of these last judgments. They are plague-like calamities, and each is poured out suddenly, all at once as the contents of a bowl when it is turned over.

David Harrell: After reviewing a chronology of things to come, this exposition examines four themes that emerge from the text, namely, a sign great and marvelous, a sea of consuming fire, a song of triumphant deliverance, and a sanctuary of holy vengeance.


A.  Sign in Heaven

And I saw another sign in heaven, great and marvelous,

David Thompson: John begins by saying, “then I saw another sign in the heaven.” The conjunction “then” means there is a sequence to this. One thing happens and then another thing happens. One cannot see this and not realize that this book of Revelation is chronological and sequential.

Tony Garland: Another is ἄλλο [allo], another of a similar kind. This points back to the sign of the woman with the sun and moon, which was also said to be “great” (Rev. 12:1+). The fiery red dragon was also seen as a sign in the heaven (Rev. 12:3+).

Robert Mounce: John now sees another great and marvelous sign in heaven. Signs point beyond themselves and disclose the theological meaning of history. That there are seven angels having seven plagues speaks of the certainty and completeness of divine wrath against all unrighteousness.  They are great and marvelous in their awe-inspiring effect2 on all of nature, the human race, and the kingdom of Antichrist.

J. Hampton Keathley, III: The sign is called “great” because of the awesome implication of these judgments in both extent and degree. “Marvelous” means “wonderful, awe inspiring,” and shows the effect this sign had on the heart and soul of John. It should have the same effect on us the same way as we think on the results these plagues will have. Not only will they result in the return of the Lord, but they also will lead to the establishment of His righteous rule on earth when God’s will will be done on earth just as it is in heaven.

David Harrell: what is about to happen is great and marvelous because the unholy trinity of the dragon and of the beast and the false prophet, along with all who worship them are about to be judged.

B.  Seven Angels with Seven Plagues

seven angels who had seven plagues, which are the last,

G.K. Beale: A futurist perspective takes the bowls to be the last plagues which occur in history, after the woes of the seals and the trumpets have taken place. Some qualify this slightly by seeing the bowls as the content of the seventh trumpet or third woe, just as they believe that the trumpets are the content of the seventh seal.

Charles Swindoll: In Revelation 15:1 we discover two important facts.

  • First, the bowls represent seven plagues concentrated near the end of the future seven-year Tribulation period. The word translated “plague” (plēgē [4127]) in this verse literally means a “blow” or “wound.”  These judgments are not long, drawn-out epidemics like influenza or HIV. Rather, these plagues come with sudden impact —swift, severe, destructive, and fierce.
  • Second, the seven bowl judgments will be the final expression of God’s wrath toward the inhabitants of the earth. These judgments will climax at the Battle of Armageddon and the return of Christ.

John MacArthur: Plēgē (plagues) literally means “a blow,” or “a wound,” and is so used in such passages as Luke 12:48; Acts 16:23, 33; 2 Corinthians 6:5, and 11:23. In 13:3 and 12 it describes the beast’s fatal wound. Thus, the seven plagues are not really diseases or epidemics, but powerful, deadly blows (cf. 9:18–20; 11:6) that will strike the world with killing impact.

C.  Satisfaction of God’s Wrath

because in them the wrath of God is finished.”

Buist Fanning: The verb translated “will be completed” is an aorist indicative in Greek (ἐτελέσθη), used here as a summary of the events about to be described in 16:1–21—and yet to occur on the earth in events future to John’s time as well as our own.

J. Hampton Keathley, III: “Is filled up.” The combined force of the tense and the verb used here stress the concept of culmination, completion. The verb is telewand means “to complete, bring to an end” in amount, number, degree, effect or purpose. It is in these last plagues that God’s wrath finds its culmination and accomplishes His purposes.

Here we have the last and final judgments of the Tribulation, but they will also perfectly accomplish God’s righteous purposes through this seven-year period.

(1)  As the time of Jacob’s trouble. The Tribulation is first of all God’s discipline on the Jews for their willful rejection of Christ as their Messiah and for their stubbornness. It will purge out the rebels and cause the rest to turn to Christ (cf. Ezek. 20:33-44; Zech. 14:9-10).

(2)  The Tribulation will bring God’s judgment on the Gentiles for anti-Semitism. It will be a strong source of motivation for men to repent and turn to faith in Christ, and judge the rest for their unbelief and rebellion.

(3)  As to Satan the Tribulation is to demonstrate the true character and program of Satan as the source of sin, misery, war and murder.

(4)  It will demonstrate to mankind as a whole (Jew and Gentile) the true rebellion and spiritually corrupt nature of man and the depths to which he will go when given the chance. Remember, at this time the restraint of the Holy Spirit who is at work today through the church, the body of Christ, will have been completely removed. The Tribulation, without this special restraint, will be a time of unprecedented lawlessness and unrighteousness, which will demonstrate the failure of man and how desperately he needs the Lord Jesus Christ.

(5)  As to God and Christ it will demonstrate their absolute holiness, grace, faithfulness to their promises, and that God is still on the throne and He is just in his decisions against Satan and unbelieving man.

So these last seven plagues will complete these purposes as well as bring an end to the judgments (16:9-11, 13-14, 21).


Robert Mounce: Verses 2–4 form an interlude of victory and praise that stands in sharp contrast with the narrative that follows. The exultation of the heavenly chorus is as glorious as the visitation of wrath is somber. John sees those who have emerged from their final battle with the beast standing victorious upon the crystal surface before the throne. Carrying harps of God, they join their voices in an anthem of praise celebrating the holiness of God and the righteousness of his works.

A.  (:2) Description of the Choir

  1. Majestic Stage

And I saw, as it were, a sea of glass mixed with fire,

Robert Mounce: The “sea of glass” is mentioned twice in the Apocalypse. In 4:6 it was said to be as “clear as crystal,” while in the present passage it is “mixed with fire.” While several options are offered as to the intent of this image, most likely it is nothing more than a descriptive detail intended to heighten the splendor of the scene. While the larger context has much to say about wrath and judgment, the interlude itself (vv. 2–4) treats quite a different subject.

John Walvoord: Unlike the previous occurrence, here is the sea is mixed with fire, which speaks of divine judgment proceeding from God’s holiness. Thomas calls this mixed sea “a mighty reservoir of just judgments about to become realities.”

Tony Garland: The sea is clear like glass, but also sparkles or radiates brilliant light.  Fire is πυρὶ [pyri]. A similar word elsewhere denotes “fiery red,” πυρρός [pyrros] (Rev. 6:3+; 12:3+). If red, it could reflect the purging and redemptive power of Christ’s blood. Or, like the purity of the glass, the fire may speak of purity. Having come through the flames of adversity, those standing upon the sea of glass have been refined (1Pe. 1:7; 4:12). A more ominous possibility is that the fire denotes the redness, not of Christ’s blood, but of the martyrs themselves, shed as part of their testimony. . .

Perhaps mingled with fire does not speak of red, but of God’s judgment—the “baptism with fire” (Mat. 4:11-12), about to be poured out upon the earth.

  1. Martyred Singers — Victorious over the Beast

a.  Faithful unto Death

and those who had come off victorious

Charles Swindoll: Who are these people? John identifies them as those who were victorious over three horrendous pressures to reject Christ during the Tribulation:

  • political pressure through the first beast’s compelling charismatic military prowess;
  • religious pressure through the second beast’s deceptively miraculous image;
  • and economic pressure through the requirement of the number of the Beast in order to buy and sell.

These pressures, described earlier in Revelation 13, pushed all people to the edge of a life-and-death decision. They could either worship the Beast and save their lives or resist his regime and lose them. The redeemed standing on the sea of glass chose faithfulness to Christ, which looked like a foolish decision in the midst of unparalleled persecution. But to quote the famous line of missionary and martyr Jim Elliot: “He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain that which he cannot lose.”

J. Hampton Keathley, III: Because of the reference to the beast and his work which sets the context, these are clearly the martyred dead of the Tribulation.

b.  Freed from All Opposition

from the beast and from his image and from the number of his name,

John MacArthur: The beast’s crony, the false prophet, will perform many lying wonders to deceive people. One of them will be to set up an image of the beast, which he will order everyone to worship on pain of death. The false prophet will also require everyone to receive a mark representing either the beast’s name, or the number of his name. Those without that mark will face execution and will be unable to buy or sell. But the Tribulation believers will, by God’s power, eternally triumph over the whole enterprise of Satan, the beast, and the false prophet.

c.  Fixed on a Firm Foundation

standing on the sea of glass,

d.  Favored with Heavenly Instruments

holding harps of God.

Buist Fanning: This group of “conquerors” would certainly include Christian martyrs now present in heaven who had resisted the beast on earth and been killed as a result (13:10, 15). But the essence of their victory was enduring faith in Christ in the face of idolatry and persecution (1 John 4:4; 5:4–5; Rev 13:10; 14:12; 21:5–7), so the group could include many who had passed on in death from other causes and were now rejoicing in heaven as well. The final phrase in v. 2,

holding kitharas of God,” reinforces the heavenly character of the scene (cf. 5:8; 14:2), but it also leads into the worship song presented in vv. 3–4.

Kendell Easley: Far from being a pie-in-the-sky, floating-on-clouds, playing-harps-after-we-die chapter, this passage can encourage us to be people of worship and singing today. When we look back on ancient Israel and ahead to the victorious saints in heaven, we realize that we have the privilege of standing in the unbroken line of people who worship God with their music and singing.

B.  (:3a-4) Doctrine of the Song

Joe Beard:   The song recorded here sung by the redeemed, tribulation saints exalts God’s character as the omnipotent, unchangeable, sovereign, perfect and righteous Creator and Judge.  Because God is all these things just mentioned, He must and He will judge sinners; if God ignored the sin of sinners, then He would not be holy, righteous and true to His nature.  All will come to fear the Lord and worship Him, because He alone is holy.  The song closes anticipating the millennial reign of Christ on the earth when all the nations will come and worship before Him and will exalt Him for all His righteous acts.  As God delivered the Israelites from Pharaoh and his army back in Exodus, so God had delivered these Tribulation saints from the Antichrist forever.  This song of praise is in anticipation of the judgment that is about to be introduced, the prayers of the saints are about to be answered, the vengeance of God is about to fall on those who persecuted the saints.

  1. (:3a)  Title of the Song

a.  Song of Moses

And they sang the song of Moses the bond-servant of God

G.K. Beale: Just as the Israelites praised God by the sea after He had delivered them from Pharaoh, so the church praises God for defeating the beast on its behalf. Like God’s people of old, so God’s new covenant people praise Him by singing the song of Moses the bond-servant of God. Moses is called God’s servant in Exod. 14:31, immediately before his singing in ch. 15. However, the song now is about the much greater deliverance accomplished through the work of the Lamb. The saints praise the Lamb’s victory as the typological fulfillment of that to which the Red Sea victory pointed.

John Phillips: The song of Moses was sung at the Red Sea, the song of the Lamb is sung at the crystal sea; the song of Moses was a song of triumph over Egypt, the song of the Lamb is a song of triumph over Babylon; the song of Moses told how God brought His people out, the song of the lamb tells how God brings His people in; the song of Moses was the first song in Scripture, the song of the Lamb is the last. The song of Moses commemorated the execution of the foe, the expectation of the saints, and the exaltation of the Lord; the song of the Lamb deals with the same three themes. (Exploring Revelation, rev. ed. [Chicago: Moody, 1987; reprint, Neptune, N.J.: Loizeaux, 1991])

Albert Mohler: The reference to the Song of Moses represents the climax of the exodus theme that runs throughout the Bible.  God has fully liberated all his people from all their earthly oppressors.  God’s people ascribe both truth and justice to him, thus affirming the appropriateness of his ways and judgments (15:3; 16:7; 19:2).

b.  Song of the Lamb

and the song of the Lamb, saying,

William Barclay: Heaven is a place where people forget themselves and remember only God. As R. H. Charles aptly puts it: ‘In the perfect vision of God self is wholly forgotten.’ H. B. Swete puts it this way: ‘In the presence of God the martyrs forget themselves; their thoughts are absorbed by the new wonders that surround them; the glory of God and the mighty scheme of things in which their own sufferings form an infinitesimal part are opening before them; they begin to see the great issue of the world-drama, and we hear the doxology with which they greet their first unclouded vision of God and his works.’

J. Hampton Keathley, III: These are two distinct songs. Note that “song” is mentioned two times and in both cases it has the article which specifies two distinct songs. However, they do seem to be harmonized into one.


  1. (:3b-4) Theology of the Song

a.  (:3b)  Extolling the Works and Ways of the Sovereign God

1)  The Works of God – Great and Marvelous

Great and marvelous are Thy works, O Lord God, the Almighty;

Grant Osborne: These acts of judgment are the work of the “Lord God Almighty,” the primary title of God in the book, occurring in 4:8; 11:17; 15:3; 16:7; 19:6; 21:22, with ὁ παντοκράτωρ (ho pantokratōr, Almighty) also found in 1:8; 16:14; 19:15. Everywhere it appears it speaks of his omnipotence and sovereign control over all things in earth and heaven.

Tony Garland: Job wrote that God “does great things, and unsearchable, marvelous things without number” (Job 5:9), “God thunders marvelously with His voice; He does great things which we cannot comprehend” (Job 37:5). One of the marvelous things that God did was his division of the seas in the Exodus from Egypt (Ps. 78:12-13). Another is His creative work as manifest in marvels of the human body (Ps. 139:14-15). God told Israel, “Behold, I make a covenant. Before all your people I will do marvels such as have not been done in all the earth, nor in any nation; and all the people among whom you are shall see the work of the Lord” (Ex. 34:10). These marvel especially at their preservation through death from the midst of horrendous persecution of the saints upon the earth.

2)  The Ways of God – Righteous and True

Righteous and true are Thy ways, Thou King of the nations.

G.K. Beale: This emphasizes that God’s sovereign acts are not demonstrations of raw power but moral expressions of His just character. His redemption through Christ has brought to supreme expression how He demonstrates His justice.

Kendell Easley: The first line is similar to Psalm 111:2–3; the second like Psalm 145:17. Similar ideas abound in the original Song of Moses (Exod. 15:6–8). Although these saints have come through the fiery persecution of the beast, they celebrate God’s ways as altogether right. In both his attributes and actions, God’s perfections will be praised by his people forever.

Robert Mounce: The hymn begins by extolling God’s “deeds” and his “ways.” The first are cause for wonder and praise. The second emphasizes God’s justice and faithfulness. We need not limit this ascription of praise to any particular event. All God’s redemptive works are great and marvelous. They are met with awe, not simply because of their magnitude, but also because of their intrinsic righteousness. In keeping with the OT, God’s righteousness is most often seen in his saving acts on behalf of his people.

b.  (:4)  Expecting God to be Given the Glory He is Due

1)  Rhetorical Question Regarding Who is Worthy of Worship

Who will not fear, O Lord, and glorify Thy name?

G.K. Beale: recall Jer. 10:7: “Who would not fear Thee, O King of the nations?” Surely they will fear Him, both texts suggest, because they have witnessed His great and righteous acts. Jer. 10:1-16 contrasts God with humans and idols, affirming that God alone is due worship. The singing saints here likewise know worship is due God and the Lamb only, in contrast to the beast and his image. God is worshiped because He is holy: For Thou alone art holy, which again gives the basis or reason (“for” = hoti) for the saints’ worship in v. 4a: God is worshiped because He is holy. The holiness of God refers not simply to a set of moral attributes but to the fact that God is completely set apart in those attributes from His creation.

John Walvoord: The futuristic view of the passage is indicated by the question of verse 4, “Who will not fear, O Lord, and glorify your name?” Though the nations neither fear God nor glorify Him in their mad unbelief during the great tribulation, the day is to come soon when they will both fear Him and be forced to acknowledge Him as God. A similar question is found in Jeremiah 10:7: “Who would not fear you, O King of the nations?” (cf. also Rev. 14:7). The prospect of all nations worshiping the Lord, a familiar theme of the prophets, is brought out in the statement: “For you alone are holy. All nations will come and worship you, for your righteous acts have been revealed” (cf. Ps. 2:8–9;24:1–10; 66:1–4; 72:8–11; 86:9; Isa. 2:2–4; 9:6–7; 66:18–23; Dan. 7:14; Zeph. 2:11; Zech. 14:9).

2)  3 Reasons Supporting the Worship of God Alone

a)  Holiness of God (His Uniqueness)

For Thou alone art holy;

Tony Garland: Holy is ὅσιος [hosios], a term which speaks “of the inherent nature of God and Christ holy (Heb. 7.26).”  Thus, Isaiah’s seraphim cry with John’s cherubim, “Holy, holy, holy” (Isa. 6:3 cf. Rev. 4:8+). He is “the High and Lofty One Who inhabits eternity, whose name is Holy” (Isa. 57:15).  Although the term holy denotes purity, it also speaks of uniqueness. Holiness is that which is uniquely God’s, which sets Him apart. It is an attribute which only the Creator truly has. All other creatures which are said to be holy, derived their holiness from their association with God and His righteousness. It is a reflected, secondary holiness, but not essential to their nature apart from God. Another way to express this phrase might be, “You are matchless, incomparable, peerless, unequalled, unparalleled, unrivaled!” There is no other like God because He alone is Creator, all else is creature. “So Jesus said to him, ‘Why do you call Me good? No one is good but One, that is, God’ ” (Luke 18:19).What would this world be like if God had been a capricious and evil personage who took pleasure in wickedness and loved iniquity? We are immensely blessed that He is otherwise (Ps. 5:4)!

b)  Universality of Worship

For all the nations will come and worship before Thee,

G. K. Beale: The effect of God’s unique holiness is that people from all nations will recognize it and stream to worship God, which repeats the primary thought of v. 4a that God is to be feared and glorified. The phrase all the nations is a figure of speech called metonymy (or, more specifically, synecdoche), where the whole is substituted for the part in order to emphasize that many will worship. It does not mean that every person in every nation (the whole) will worship the Lord, but that people from every nation (the part) will do so.

Grant Osborne: The message of the book is that by their reaction to the call to repentance (which is one of the primary purposes of the seals, trumpets, and bowls), the nations will face either judgment or salvation, either the wrath of God or his mercy.

c)  Revelation of God’s Righteous Acts

For Thy righteous acts have been revealed.

Kendell Easley: as opposed to Antichrist’s wickedness.

Buist Fanning: These obligations to give the Lord reverence and glory are grounded in three causal clauses that follow (v. 4b–d). Having three such clauses in a row is somewhat repetitive but understandable in such a context.

  • The first ground is that the Lord “alone [is] holy” (v. 4b; cf. Deut 32:4; Ps 144:17 LXX), highlighting his uniqueness and perfection above all other creatures or supposed gods.  He alone deserves the ultimate devotion and reverence of all humanity.
  • The second reason is the prophetic anticipation that one day “all the nations will come and worship” the Lord (v. 4c; Ps 86:9; Isa 2:2; 60:3–5; 66:23; Jer 16:19; cf. Rev 21:24). This turning of the nations to the true God will be the positive outcome of the Lord’s defeat of evil and its domination over the world of humanity.
  • Finally, as a third reason, the song proclaims that the Lord’s “righteous acts have been made evident” (v. 4d; Ps 98:2).  What heaven knows of God’s just and faithful character will soon be displayed on earth for all to see.


A.  (:5-6) Judgment Proceeds from the Heavenly Temple

  1. (:5)  Opening of the Heavenly Temple

After these things I looked,

and the temple of the tabernacle of testimony in heaven was opened,

Buist Fanning: This opening of the heavenly temple itself (v. 5) repeats an image from 11:19, and in both places it represents the ominous appearance of God himself, ready to exact his judgment on rebellious humanity (cf. 3 Macc 6:18–19). Because the heavenly temple is a prototype of the earthly tabernacle and its later counterpart in Jerusalem’s temple (cf. Exod 25:9, 40; Heb 8:5), it can be described as “the tabernacle of testimony” (τῆς σκηνῆς τοῦ μαρτυρίου; cf. Exod 29:42; 40:34; Acts 7:44).  It bears witness to the Lord’s presence in heaven, just as he was among his people Israel in the wilderness or in Jerusalem.

Kendell Easley: This time John draws attention to the heavenly temple by giving it a title he uses only here: the tabernacle of the Testimony. This was one of the names of the sacred tent the Israelites used in the wilderness. It was a “tabernacle” because it was portable, an elaborate tent. The term Testimony refers to the tablets of the covenant Moses brought down from Mount Sinai, the Ten Commandments (Exod. 32:15). They were deposited in the ark of the covenant. As we will soon see, what John saw in heaven was similar to what the Israelites saw when they dedicated their tabernacle in the wilderness.

William Barclay: It is from within the tabernacle that the seven avenging angels come forth. In the centre of the Holy Place within the tabernacle lay the ark of the covenant, the chest in which were contained the tablets of the ten commandments, the essence of the law. That is to say, these angels come out from the place where the law of God rests and come to show that no individual or nation can defy the law of God without having to suffer the consequences.\

J. Hampton Keathley, III: This opening of the naos in Revelation 15symbolizes the parting of the veil, but in reverse order. Here, rather than access to God, it symbolizes the outpouring of God’s perfect justice and wrath for rejection of Christ. Here the veil is pulled back, not to let man in, but to pour out God’s justice.

And the seven angels … came out of the temple.” As the ministers and agents of God’s holy justice, these angels proceed from the presence of God acting on behalf of God’s holiness, righteousness, and justice.

Joe Anady: Remember that the tabernacle that Israel constructed in the wilderness under the leadership of Moses and after the exodus was constructed according to the heavenly realities shown to him on the mountain. Exodus 25:40 says so. Acts 7:44 and Hebrews 8:5 emphasize this. So the earthly tabernacle and temple were not the originals but were earthy copies which represented heavenly realities. Here John is seeing the heavenly reality.

  1. (:6)  Outgoing from the Heavenly Temple

a.  Angels on a Mission

and the seven angels who had the seven plagues came out of the temple,

Robert Mounce: That they come out of the temple points to the divine origin of their commission.  Their robes of linen, clean and shining, denote the noble and sacred nature of their office (cf. Ezek 9:2; Dan 10:5). Golden girdles are symbolic of royal and priestly functions. John repeatedly pictures these moments in OT images. Here the angels (1) come from the presence of God, (2) are arrayed as priests, and (3) will now receive their “censers.”

b.  Angels in Impressive Array

1)  Garments of Pure Bright Linen

clothed in linen, clean and bright,

Buist Fanning: They are wearing garments of “pure bright linen,” a reflection of their heavenly glory influenced by the Old Testament accounts of angelic appearances (e.g., Dan 10:5; 12:6–7; Ezek 9:3–4, 11; 10:2, 6–7). The word “bright” (λαμπρός) denotes a shining appearance (Acts 10:30; Rev 22:1, 16), but also suggests impressive, resplendent robes indicating high position (Luke 23:11; Jas 2:2–3; Rev 18:14; 19:8). Likewise, their “gold sashes” mark them out as important figures and emissaries of a powerful Lord (e.g., 1:13).

2)  Girded with Golden Girdles

and girded around their breasts with golden girdles.

G.K. Beale: This description is almost identical to that of the Son of man in 1:13, which may imply that they are identified with Him in order to act as His representatives in carrying out judgment.

B.  (:7) Judgment Distributed in Golden Bowls – Full of the Wrath of the Eternal God

And one of the four living creatures gave to the seven angels

seven golden bowls full of the wrath of God, who lives forever and ever.

G.K. Beale: The image of “bowls” is also derived in part from Isa. 51:17, 22. Isaiah spoke of the “bowl of the cup of reeling; the chalice of My anger,” drunk first by Jerusalem but soon to be poured out on Israel’s tormentors, that is, Babylon (Isa. 51:22; cf. vv. 17-23). Now the same cup will be given to spiritual Babylon, as 16:19 reveals. The bowls here symbolize the wrath of God which comes to punish sinful people.

Charles Swindoll: The word translated “bowl” refers to a shallow, saucer-like dish used for boiling liquids as well as for “drinking or pouring libations.”  One dictionary adds that the use of this term in Revelation is “suggestive of rapidity in the emptying of the contents.”

James Hamilton: These seven angels are commissioned by God, who commissioned the four living creatures to summon the events of history in chapter 6 (see vv. 1, 3, 5, 7). Now we read in 15:7, “And one of the four living creatures gave to the seven angels seven golden bowls full of the wrath of God who lives forever and ever.” It seems that in the flow of events in Revelation, these bowls of wrath are full of “the wine of God’s wrath” (14:10), which was made from the grapes of wrath trodden in “the great winepress of the wrath of God” after the “harvest of the earth” (14:19, 20). These seven angels are given seven bowls, and the use of the number seven points to completion. This will be a full outpouring of wrath.

C.  (:8) Judgment Associated with the Fearsome Presence of God

  1. Smoke Speaks of God’s Glorious Presence and Power

And the temple was filled with smoke from the glory of God

and from His power;

Daniel Akin: This imagery is familiar to students of the Old Testament. When God made a covenant with Abraham, He passed through the divided pieces of the sacrifice in the smoking fire pot and burning torch (Gen 15:17). When Moses received God’s law on Mount Sinai, God revealed His holiness with fire and smoke (Exod 19:18). After Israel placed the ark of the covenant in the tabernacle, God’s presence was symbolized with smoke and fire (Exod 40:34-35). In Solomon’s temple the glory of the Lord filled the holy place in the form of a cloud (1 Kgs 8:10-11). This is an ongoing reminder of God’s holiness. God’s glory is always manifest during the time of His judgment. Smoke from God’s glory made entering the temple impossible until His seething indignation was poured out. What a sign to the ungodly people on the earth who chose to shun the worship of a holy God and to follow the beast.

Grant Osborne: As the angels are commissioned for their mission of judgment and their bowls are “filled with God’s wrath,” ἐγεμίσθη ὁ ναὸς καπνοῦ (egemisthē ho naos kapnou, the temple was filled with smoke) in 15:8. The parallel with 15:7 is obvious: the bowl is “filled with wrath,” and the temple is “filled with smoke.” This smoke comes “from the glory of God and from his power,” signifying his majesty and sovereign omnipotence. Throughout the OT, smoke symbolizes the awesome presence of God, as in the cloud of smoke at Sinai (Exod. 24:15–16, where the cloud is also linked with “the glory of Yahweh”) and the cloud that became the Shekinah presence of God at the exodus (Exod. 13:21; 14:19, 24). Four OT passages are especially fruitful here:

(1)  When the tabernacle is set up in Exod. 40:34–35, “The cloud covered the Tent of Meeting, and the glory of the LORD filled the tabernacle.”

(2)  When the ark is brought to the temple in 1 Kings 8:10–12, the “dark cloud” that symbolizes the presence of the Lord fills the temple with his glory. The last two are especially apropos in the context of judgment in Rev. 15:7.

(3)  In the great vision of the enthroned God in Isa. 6:1–4, the seraphim acclaim the holiness of God and state, “The whole earth is full of his glory,” and at that time “the temple is filled with smoke” (6:3–4), signifying the glorious presence of God as he tells Isaiah to proclaim his message of judgment.

(4)  Similarly, in the judgment of Israel as God’s glory departs from the temple in Ezek. 10:2–4, the cloud fills the inner court and temple with the glory of the Lord.

These three images—smoke, glory, and power—combine to make the outpouring of judgment in Rev. 16 an act of worship. The name of God is vindicated, and his glory is demonstrated in these bowls of wrath.

J. Hampton Keathley, III: Note that this smoke continues until the plagues are finished, until God’s holy character is satisfied and God deals with sin. This teaches us that God will so completely turn to anger and justice in these final moments that all else seems to cease. Absolute and undiluted wrath will be the business of these final days. It will be as the Psalmist says in Psalm 76:7, “You, even You are to be feared; and who may stand in Your presence when once You are angry.”

  1. Sealing the Doors of the Temple until Judgment Was Finished

and no one was able to enter the temple

until the seven plagues of the seven angels were finished.

G.K. Beale: God’s presence is so awesome in expressing wrath that not even heavenly beings (the angels and four living creatures were outside the temple, according to vv. 6-7) can stand in His midst: no one was able to enter the temple until the seven plagues of the seven angels were finished. The unapproachability of God in both the OT and Revelation texts could be due to the awfulness of His revealed presence. The priestly nature of the seven angels is suggested, not only by their attire (see on 1:13; 15:6), but also because 1 Kgs. 8:10-11 and 2 Chron. 5:13-14 mention priests who cannot stand in the midst of the divine glory. No one, not even heavenly intercessory priests, is able to hold back the hand of God when He decides to execute judgments (cf. Dan. 4:35).

Robert Mounce: The smoke that fills the heavenly temple in Revelation indicates the presence of God in all his glory and power actively to carry out his judgment upon wickedness. Until the seven plagues are finished, no one is able to enter the temple. Once the time of final judgment has come, none can stay the hand of God. The time for intercession is past. God in his unapproachable majesty and power has declared that the end has come. No longer does he stand knocking: he enters to act in sovereign judgment.

Thus the stage is set. Because these are the “final” plagues, John has prepared his readers by stressing the awesome nature of the occasion. They have been reminded that the redemptive deeds of the Almighty God are great and marvelous. As King, his ways are just and true. Judgment comes from the temple in heaven that is his eternal abode. When the bowls of wrath are delivered to his angels of judgment, the temple is filled with the smoke of his glory. By such a breathtaking scenario John prepares his listeners for the actual outpouring of divine wrath.

Tony Garland: Here we have perhaps one of the most mysterious and wondrous verses in all of Scripture. It surely must indicate a period of great privacy and intensity in the mind of God attending the final outpouring of His wrath. It probably indicates an unwillingness to allow for even the possibility of distraction until what has been initiated finds its completion and likely signifies the holiness of the moment, as when Moses could not enter the tabernacle when the glory fell upon it (Ex. 40:35) and the priests could not minister in Solomon’s Temple (1K. 8:11). Perhaps the idea is that of the finality of the action: “Even if Moses and Samuel stood before Me, My mind would not be favorable toward this people. Cast them out of My sight . . . Such as are for death, to death” (Jer. 15:1-2).

It may suggest that God will, at this point in history, seal the doors of Heaven, making it impossible for any who have not hitherto accepted Jesus as Savior to do so. In other words, from this time forth until God has executed the human race, no additional souls will be saved. This is reminiscent of the previous great judgment, for, in the age before the flood, God said, “My Spirit will not strive with man forever” (Gen. 6:3). What a fearsome prospect: God closeted in His sanctuary until His wrath is satisfied, and no one able to approach Him. Sin will cause this; sin is never a light matter. [Monty S. Mills]

Perhaps there is also great sadness in knowing that nothing further can be done, no more will turn (2Pe. 3:9). All that remains is the hand of judgment. Perhaps there is anguish on the part of the Father like that of the Son on the cross (Mat. 27:46; Mark 15:34)?

What insight we should have here of the holiness of God, and may we not be allowed to think that behind this hiding smoke the heart of God is weeping, even as the Lord Jesus wept over Jerusalem, as He acknowledged that all the efforts of His mercy has been in vain, and that the city refused all of His offers of pardon and love? And as we shall be in Heaven at that moment, yet outside of the presence of God, shall we not know that he suffers alone for the horror of the sin that separates men forever from Himself and forces Him to send them away to outer darkness forever? [Donald Barnhouse]

To speculate further is to go where angels fear to tread. God has covered Himself with a cloud of darkness and we do well to respect His privacy in this matter (Lam. 3:44; Rom. 11:33). Such intense judgment to come! Such grief on the part of the Creator for the creature which refuses to acknowledge Him. Yet He must judge for His very holiness and justice require it! Every person born will drink from one or the other of two cups. Either they will drink the cup of salvation:

Then He [Jesus] took the cup, and gave thanks, and said, “Take this and divide it among yourselves; for I say to you, I will not drink of the fruit of the vine until the kingdom of God comes.” And He took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to them, saying, “This is My body which is given for you; do this in remembrance of Me.” Likewise He also took the cup after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in My blood, which is shed for you.” (Luke 22:17-20)

Or they will drink the cup of the wrath of God (Rev. 14:10+):

He who believes in the Son has everlasting life; and he who does not believe the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God abides on him. (John 3:36)

Today, if you will hear His voice, do not harden your heart (Heb. 3:15), for now is the day of salvation (2Cor. 6:2).