Understanding The Apocalypse

Revelation 15:1-8
Chapter 26

In Revelation 11:15, we read, "And the seventh angel sounded." This begins John's testimony concerning the events to take place in heaven at the sounding of the seventh trumpet. However, he interrupted this narrative to "prophesy again" in Revelation 12 through 14 as he was directed to do in Revelation 10:11. This command to "prophesy again" is the key to understanding Revelation 11 through 14.

To refresh our memories and to reset the stage for the study of Revelation 15, we need to read Revelation 11:15-19.

"And the seventh angel sounded; and there were great voices in heaven, saying, the kingdom of this world is become the kingdom of our Lord, and of his Christ, and he shall reign forever and ever. And the four and twenty elders, who sat before God on their thrones, fell upon their faces, and worshiped God, saying, we give thee thanks, O Lord God Almighty, who art, and wast, and art to come, because thou hast taken to thee thy great power, and hast reigned. And the nations were angry, and thy wrath is come, and the time of the dead, that they should be judged, and that thou shouldest give reward unto thy servants, the prophets, and to the saints, and them that fear thy name, small and great, and shouldest destroy them who destroy the earth. And the temple of God was opened in heaven, and there was seen in his temple the ark of his covenant; and there were lightnings, and voices, and thunderclaps, and an earthquake, and great hail."
Some of the highlights following the sounding of the seventh trumpet, recorded in this passage are:
(1) "The kingdom of this world is become the kingdom of our Lord."

We know, "The earth is the Lord's and the fullness thereof" (1 Corinthians 10:26). But the kingdoms of this world are at present, the domains of Satan. This is also true of the one world kingdom that will exist during the Tribulation. This kingdom will be established by the Antichrist through the power of Satan and will therefore be the domain of the old dragon, himself. However, the sounding of the seventh trumpet will mark the end of Satan's reign as the "god of this world."

(2) The heavenly hosts will worship and praise the Almighty God because He is going to exercise His power and reign supreme.

(3) The nations will become angry, that is, they will demonstrate an attitude of wrath and rebellion against God.

(4) The dead (unrighteous) will be judged and purged from the earth.

(5) Satan and his demons seek to destroy the earth, but when the seventh trumpet sounds their doom is sealed and they will be destroyed.

(6) The saints from all the ages will be rewarded for their faithful service.

(7) The temple of God is opened in heaven and the ark of His covenant is seen. This demonstrates God's intention to revisit His chosen people, Israel, and fulfill His covenant promises to them.

(8) To show the majesty of God and the puniness of man, the forces of nature will break out in a display over which man has no control.

We now pick up, in Revelation 15, John's continuation of the events in heaven following the sounding of the seventh trumpet.

I. Seven Angels With Seven Plagues

"And I saw another sign in heaven, great and marvelous, seven angels having the seven last plagues; for in them is filled up the wrath of God" (Revelation 15:1).

Beginning in Revelation 6, a succession of events on the earth, ushered in by Divine signal is recorded. These events will occur during the Great Tribulation and each one will be progressively worse than the one preceding. The Divine signals starting these events on the earth are divided into three categories of seven each:

(1) The opening of the seals of the seven-sealed scroll.

As each of the first six seals is opened, we see a glimpse of the Antichrist's rise to power and the establishment of his world kingdom. Each seal reveals the conditions existing at each stage of his reign and taken together they are an overview and outline of the entire Tribulation.

(2) The sounding of trumpets.

The opening of the seventh seal in Revelation 8, reveals seven angels standing before God with seven trumpets, and as with the opening of the seals when each of the trumpets is sounded, something happens on the earth. The difference being: The seal judgments are the results of God removing His restraints from the earth, and the trumpet judgments are the outpouring of God's wrath upon the earth.

The trumpet judgments will occur after the Antichrist has risen to full power, in total control of the government and is worshipped as god. These judgments will come in part, because of Satan's persecution of the believing remnant of Israel left on the earth. The Lord will use Satan and the fallen angels as instruments of His wrath during the trumpet judgments.

(3) The pouring out of bowls.

The sounding of the seventh trumpet reveals in Revelation 15:1, "Seven angels having the last seven plagues; for in them is filled up the wrath of God." In Revelation 15:7, these seven angels are given seven bowls full of the wrath of God. The outpouring of these bowls occurs in Revelation 16, known as the seven bowl judgments. These are the final judgments God will pour upon the earth, before the second coming of our Lord Jesus Christ in Glory.

Following the sounding of the seventh trumpet, Revelation 15:1, says John, "Saw another sign in heaven, great and marvelous." The sign he saw was seven angels being staged to pour their vials or bowls of God's wrath upon the earth. This is "great and marvelous" because these are the last plagues to be poured out and John knows as soon as these are finished, the Lord will return in Glory, to establish His Millennial Kingdom on earth.

Next, John sees,

II. The Martyred Tribulation Saints

"And I saw, as it were, a sea of glass mingled with fire, and them that had gotten victory over the beast, and over his image, and over his mark, and over the number of his name, standing on the sea of glass, having the harps of God. And they sing the song of Moses, the servant of God, and the song of the Lamb, saying, Great and marvelous are thy works, Lord God Almighty; just and true are thy ways, thou King of saints. Who shall not fear thee, O Lord, and glorify thy name? For thou only art holy; for all nations shall come and worship before thee; for thy judgments are made manifest" (Revelation 15:2-4).
Perhaps, the mention of fire mingled with the sea is a reference to the wrath of God about to be poured on the earth in the form of the bowl judgments.

We know from Revelation 4:6, the sea of glass is before the throne of God, so it follows those who are standing on the sea of glass are also before the throne of God. The text says those standing on the sea of glass have victory over the beast. Because this is a scene in heaven, not a scene on earth, these before the throne who have victory over the beast are those who refused to take his mark and were martyred. True, they lost their lives on earth, but they are victorious in that they will not suffer God's judgments of the earth, and they are in heaven, in the presence of Lord.

John says the tribulation saints who stand in the presence of the throne of God will sing the song of Moses and the song of the Lamb. Some have said the song of Moses is the song he wrote and spoke to the children of Israel in Deuteronomy 32 and the song of the Lamb is the song recorded in our passage. But we might prefer to believe the song of Moses is a song of deliverance and the song of the Lamb is a song of redemption. This because Moses was sent from God as the Deliverer, and the Lamb was sent as the Redeemer.

Therefore, the song the tribulation saints will sing before the throne of God may be a song of thanksgiving and praise for deliverance and redemption. Surely, they will also sing of the Lord's majesty, justice, truthfulness, power, glory, holiness and coming judgment against which no one can stand.

After his vision of the martyred saints before the throne of God, John sees,

III. The Tabernacle of Testimony

"And after that I looked and, behold, the temple of the tabernacle of the testimony in heaven was opened. And the seven angels came out of the temple, having the seven plagues, clothed in pure and white linen, and having their breasts girded with golden girdles. And one of the four living creatures gave unto the seven angels seven golden bowls full of the wrath of God, who liveth forever and ever. And the temple was filled with smoke from the glory of God, and from his power; and no man was able to enter into the temple till the seven plagues of the seven angels were fulfilled" (Revelation 15:5-8).
The temple, which is the tabernacle of testimony, is so called by John because of the presence of the tables of stone placed in the ark of the covenant (or testimony), inside the temple. Because no one with uncleansed sin could enter into the presence of the ark, we understand this temple to represent the absolute righteousness of God.

Therefore, we know the angels coming out of the temple with the seven plagues are holy. These are righteous messengers being prepared to bring plagues upon the earth. These plagues are described as, "Seven golden bowls full of the wrath of God," and they are given to the angels, by one of the four living creatures.

We know from our study of Revelation 4, these living creatures are an order of angelic beings whose purpose is to guard the glory and holiness of God and carry out His directives. This living creature's handling of the golden bowls indicates the holiness of their contents and that they will be used to glorify God.

The wrath of God contained in the seven golden bowls is righteous, just, holy and will glorify Him, "Who liveth forever and ever."

As the angels depart from the sanctuary the temple will be "filled with smoke from the glory of God, and from his power." Perhaps, this is a repeat of the cloud that filled the tabernacle in Exodus 40:34-35, and kept Moses from entering. It is clear the result is the same: The temple will be "off limits" to men until after the seven plagues are poured on the earth. This probably means there will be no forgiveness of sins during this final outpouring of God's wrath. Those who refused His Grace and His salvation must now reap what they have sown.

The Antichrist they worship will not be able to protect them from the wrath of God poured out in the bowl judgments. Until the earth is purged of those who worship the Antichrist and the Millennial Kingdom is established, people on earth will not be allowed the opportunity to worship in the temple of God.

From "Understanding The Apocalypse"
A book of sermons by Pastor Jim McColloch, Th.M., Th.D.
© Copyright 1994, 1999