The Beginning of the Last Plagues

THE TABERNACLE, THE SEVEN ANGELS AND THE SEVEN LAST PLAGUESAfter this I looked and in heaven the temple, that is, the tabernacle of the Testimony, was opened. Out of the temple came the seven angels with the seven plagues. They were dressed in clean, shining linen and wore golden sashes around their chests. Then one of the four living creatures gave to the seven angels seven golden bowls filled with the wrath of God, who lives for ever and ever. And the temple was filled with smoke from the glory of God and from his power, and no one could enter the temple until the seven plagues of the seven angels were completed. Then I heard a loud voice from the temple saying to the seven angels, “Go, pour out the seven bowls of God’s wrath on the earth.” (Revelation 15:5 – 16:1)

The Tabernacle is Opened – This is a reference to the holiest part the tabernacle and temple (usually behind a curtain or veil), where the mercy-seat covering the ark of the testimony was. It was where the
high priest made intercession, and where God communed with his people and heard their prayers. Now God prepares to execute His judgment upon the un-Godly in fulfilment of the prophecies and promises of His Word and covenant. These judgements issue forth from this most Holy place,(1) the location of the mercy-seat. The opening of the temple doors or gates is the signal of judgment (3 Maccabees 6:16–21).(2)

The Seven Angels – Seven angels come out of the temple. As noted numerous times before, seven is the number of completion. When the seven angels deliver the bowls of God’s wrath, His judgments on the earth will be completed.(3) Ancient Jewish literature often viewed angels as wearing white linen, and this imagery continues to this day. But such texts also described priests in this manner, and John portrays these angels as servants of the heavenly temple.(4) The clean, shining linen of the angels indicates their purity, and the golden sashes around their chests point to the glory of God.(5) Only at the command of a “great voice” from the smoke-filled Temple (at the bidding of God) do the Angels begin their work.(6) While a great voice is generally anonymous in Revelation, this likely refers to God’s voice, since no one could enter the temple because His presence was there (Revelation 15:8).(7)

The Seven Last Plagues – In these seven last judgments, God completes the outpouring of His wrath on His unrepentant rebellious creatures. Satan has been pouring out his wrath upon believers, especially the Jews (Revelation 12:12). But God will have the last word,(8) as He pours out His wrath on those who stubbornly refused His offer of redemption through His Son Jesus Christ.

The mention of golden bowls containing the final judgements links the pouring out of God’s wrath to the answering of the prayers of the saints, which were also in gold bowls (Revelation 5:8), especially the prayer of the martyrs to avenge their blood on the earth dwellers (Revelation 6:10).(9)

Students of Bible prophecy have been unable to agree on the chronological arrangement of the seals, trumpets, and bowls. Many believe that these three sets of judgments follow consecutively after each other. Thus, the seventh seal leads into the trumpets, and the seventh trumpet leads into the bowls.(10) Since the seventh bowl fulfills exactly what appears about to take place in Revelation 11:19, the bowls-of-wrath seem to unfold from the end of the trumpet sequence and telescopes all the way to the second coming.(11) If so, then the seven trumpets and seven bowls are actually contained in the seventh seal. This might suggest that the seven seals are opened throughout the entire seven years of Tribulation, with the trumpets and bowls coming in rapid succession at the end. Others contend that the first six seals will be broken during the first three and one-half years, and that the seventh seal (which includes the trumpets and bowls) covers the last three and one-half years.(12) There does, however, appear to be general agreement that the pouring of the bowls do occur chronologically at the end.

The trumpet judgments generally affect only a third of the earth or heaven, whereas the bowl judgments affect the entire earth. In addition, the judgments are much more severe and final in their character. Accordingly, the seven bowls may very well be an expansion of the seventh trumpet, just as the seven trumpets are an expansion of the breaking of the seventh seal. Thus, the ordering builds to the climax with the judgments becoming more intensive and extensive (the conclusion of birth pains?) as the time of the second coming of Christ draws near. It appears that once the bowl judgments begin they will fall rapidly on a world that is already reeling under previous judgments and a gigantic world war. Some bowl judgments are selective and extend only to the wicked (Revelation 16:2, 8–11), while others are not selective, affecting nature (sea, rivers, sun, etc.).(13)

The Temple is Closed – For those who persist in rejecting God’s grace, this is an ominous sign. John states that nobody in Heaven was allowed into the temple until the bowls of wrath had been poured out. No saint or angel, nor apparently, Christ Himself could go into the temple to intercede. The nations were beyond further intercession. God’s long-suffering has finally reached its limit, and His judgments are about to fall.(14) The moment of God’s full wrath has come, and He cannot be approached (See Exodus 19:21).(15) He who had to turn His back as His Son became sin for us on the cross, now closes the door on those who persisted in rejecting that sacrifice.

Up Next – The first bowl.

____________________

References

  1. Henry, M. (1994). Matthew Henry’s commentary on the whole Bible: complete and unabridged in one volume (p. 2480). Peabody: Hendrickson.
  2. Barry, J. D., Heiser, M. S., Custis, M., Mangum, D., & Whitehead, M. M. (2012). Faithlife Study Bible (Re 15:5). Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software.
  3. Wiersbe, W. W. (1992). Wiersbe’s expository outlines on the New Testament (p. 840). Wheaton, IL: Victor Books.
  4. Keener, C. S. (1993). The IVP Bible background commentary: New Testament (Re 15:6–8). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.
  5. Walvoord, John F. (1985). Revelation. In J. F. Walvoord & R. B. Zuck (Eds.), The Bible Knowledge Commentary: An Exposition of the Scriptures (Vol. 2, p. 966). Wheaton, IL: Victor Books.
  6. Lange, J. P., Schaff, P., Moore, E., Craven, E. R., & Woods, J. H. (2008). A commentary on the Holy Scriptures: Revelation (p. 293). Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software.
  7. Barry, J. D., Heiser, M. S., Custis, M., Mangum, D., & Whitehead, M. M. (2012). Faithlife Study Bible (Re 16:1). Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software.
  8. Wiersbe, W. W. (1992). Wiersbe’s expository outlines on the New Testament (p. 840). Wheaton, IL: Victor Books.
  9. Cabal, T., Brand, C. O., Clendenen, E. R., Copan, P., Moreland, J. P., & Powell, D. (2007). The Apologetics Study Bible: Real Questions, Straight Answers, Stronger Faith (p. 1907). Nashville, TN: Holman Bible Publishers.
  10. Wiersbe, W. W. (1992). Wiersbe’s expository outlines on the New Testament (p. 841). Wheaton, IL: Victor Books.
  11. Wiersbe, W. W. (1992). Wiersbe’s expository outlines on the New Testament (p. 840). Wheaton, IL: Victor Books.
  12. Wiersbe, W. W. (1992). Wiersbe’s expository outlines on the New Testament (p. 841). Wheaton, IL: Victor Books.
  13. Walvoord, John F. (1985). Revelation. In J. F. Walvoord & R. B. Zuck (Eds.), The Bible Knowledge Commentary: An Exposition of the Scriptures (Vol. 2, p. 967). Wheaton, IL: Victor Books.
  14. Wiersbe, W. W. (1992). Wiersbe’s expository outlines on the New Testament (p. 841). Wheaton, IL: Victor Books.
  15. Vincent, M. R. (1887). Word studies in the New Testament (Vol. 2, p. 539). New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons.

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