This chapter is the shortest chapter in Revelation and it is a prelude. A prelude is an introduction to events or occurrences about to take place. It’s an event or action that introduces or precedes something else, especially something longer and more important. In this case what is being introduced is the seven last plagues that will befall the earth before Jesus returns for the final time. This is the introduction to chapter 16 when the Bowls will be poured out. Do you believe that what we have seen of John’s vision so far was as bad as it gets?  It’s about to get far worse.

We have already seen the seven seals, the seven trumpets, and the seven personalities; now we see the seven angels who have been reserved to pour out the bowls, or vials, of God’s wrath. The divine wrath that pours from the bowls will be devastating to the people who are alive in that day. The wrath of God is fearsome; however, the church of this age will not have to partake of it. It will already have been taken out of the world.  That’s why the message now being preached implores Christians to keep themselves judged before God so that we will not have to be judged by God.

V. 1 – John is seeing another sign in heaven. It’s the seven angels standing there waiting to be given the judgment bowls of God’s wrath that will destroy the antichrist and the beast, and their works on this earth. God’s judgments are faithful and true and they must be delivered.  His longsuffering is about to see its end.

“…sign in heaven, great and marvelous…” would indicate John’s excitement about what he’s seeing. Great in this case means very significant or important, and marvelous means wonderful. We can conclude from these two adjectives that it’s important for God’s wrath to be poured out and that it will bring great joy when all the judgments are finished. One of the core messages of Christianity is found in Luke 13:3, “I tell you, Nay: but, except ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish.”

I wonder if the people on the earth will see a sign in heaven when the angels take their place. 

This is God’s final call to repentance.  Once His bowls are emptied there will be no more mercy shown to the people who follow the beast. We know from I John 4:8 that God is love.  But we know from the entire Bible that God is just and that the evil of this world will be punished. This chapter will lead us into the final judgments before the kingdom authority of Jesus Christ is set up on earth. Once the bowls are empty, the antichrist and beast, Babylon are destroyed, the Millennium can begin. For one thousand years, God will hold back the devil and His demons and love, peace, and joy will be on the earth.

V. 2-4 – The sea of glass is before the throne of God (Revelation 4:6). It seems red because of the blood of the Christians who will be martyred during the reign of the beast. The reason the martyrs are at this sea is that they were victorious in not worshipping the beast (Exodus 20:3-5; Revelation 13:15), they did not receive his mark (Revelation 13:16, 17), and they did not take the number of the beast, 666 (Revelation 13:18). Remember, it’s during this time that those who do not bear the mark of the beast will be murdered and starved to death. They will be tortured and tormented in an attempt to get them to denounce the Lord and accept the mark. These are the martyrs.

But they are victorious and now at the sea of glass before the throne, resting while they wait for God’s judgment to come.  Meanwhile, they are given harps which are symbols of worshipping the Lord with music as they sing happy songs of victory. They will sing the song of celebration Moses sang when he crossed the Red Sea (Exodus 15:1-21; Deuteronomy 32:1-43) which speaks of God’s deliverance, salvation, and faithfulness. This song expresses God’s sovereignty and the martyrs’ reverent fear of God. The song of Moses is the song of the Lamb which the martyrs are singing about Jesus. One day every nation, tongue, tribe, and people will bow before the Lord to worship Him (Isaiah 66:23; Romans 14:11; Philippians 2:10) because He alone is holy and righteous. Speaking of Jesus in Philippians 2:9-11, Paul writes, “Wherefore God also hath highly exalted him, and given him a name which is above every name: That at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth; And that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father."

V. 5-6 – The “temple of the tabernacle of testimony” literally means “the holy of holies.” The door of this temple was now opened. From this we can know that God’s judgment is coming from His most holy place, or from His very heart. It has to in order to accomplish God’s final judgment of all on the earth. The seven angels will be sent from the presence of God. They are dressed in the attire of a priest of the temple, pure white linen, the symbol of the holiness of heaven. Now God’s holiness, righteousness, and justice are to be brought forth to the world by these awesome angels. Though these angels are dressed as priests, and they are wearing golden bands that identify them with Jesus, they are not working in the ministry of mercy any longer.  Neither is Jesus. Now is the hour of final judgment. Now is the day of the pouring out of the bowls of God’s wrath.

V. 7, 8 – Now one of the four living creatures who are around the throne of God gives each of the angels a bowl, or vial. These bowls are not like Tupperware with tight fitting lids.  These are open bowls whose only purpose is to pour out the righteous wrath of God upon the earth.  No matter what anyone might try, nothing will stop this vengeance from being fulfilled. The time of the cup of salvation is now over (Psalm 116:13: I will take the cup of salvation, and call upon the name of the LORD). It’s now time for the cup of wrath (Psalm 79:6: How long, LORD? wilt thou be angry for ever? shall thy jealousy burn like fire? Pour out thy wrath upon the heathen that have not known thee, and upon the kingdoms that have not called upon thy name).

When the outpouring begins, God’s glory will fill the temple with smoke so that no one can enter into His rest.  No one will be able to receive mercy. No one will be able to receive salvation. The day of mercy is complete. Whoever isn’t saved, never will be. No matter how loud and long they might pray, their prayers will go unanswered. It will be too late. Those who have rejected the Blood of Jesus will now pay the eternal price for their foolishness. The meek Lamb is now the roaring Lion. “He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life: and he that believeth not the Son shall not see life; but the wrath of God abideth on him” (John 3:36).

“For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who hold the truth in unrighteousness…” (Romans 1:18).         

“Seeing it is a righteous thing with God to recompense tribulation to them that trouble you; And to you who are troubled rest with us, when the Lord Jesus shall be revealed from heaven with his mighty angels, In flaming fire taking vengeance on them that know not God, and that obey not the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ: Who shall be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord, and from the glory of his power…” (II Thesalonians 1:6-9).                                                                           

Lord God, I praise You for calling each one of us into the kingdom and for the wisdom to accept the call and receive Jesus into our hearts as Lord and Savior. Praise You that the church will not have to pass through this wrath. Help us to be zealous for the Lord and his kingdom, in Jesus’ name, amen and amen.