Revelation 15: God’s Final Plagues

Revelation 15:5-8

Image above from Pinterest at:

As we saw in previous blog posts, the application of chapter 15 to our lives is —

We look back at our suffering in the past as permitted by the loving providence of our all-wise God; and we also look forward in hope to the time when all things unjust will be set to right by that same all-wise God.

Verses 5-8 show God sending His righteous wrath from His heavenly throne to fall on the wicked.


John Calvin (pictured left preaching) says this —

“Preaching is the public exposition of Scripture by the man sent from God, in which God Himself is present in judgment and in grace.”

The preaching of divine wrath serves as a black velvet backdrop that causes the diamond of God’s mercy to shine brighter than ten thousand suns. Faithful pulpit ministry requires the declaration of both judgment and grace. The Word of God is a sharp, two-edged sword that softens and hardens, comforts and afflicts, saves and damns. (see Lawson, below.)


What a difference one omitted detail from a story can make!

I heard a story told about a man relating a personal story from his life. He began by saying, “I got out of my truck and went straight to the house. I knocked the front-door down, ran in, snatched a child from its bed, and brought it outside.”

He asked his friends, “Wasn’t that a great thing to do?”

They replied, “No! You are a kidnapper and should be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.”

He slapped his forehead and amended his earlier account, “Oh! I forgot to tell you the house was on fire!!!”

The Gospel preached without judgment will result in many perishing without Christ. We cannot omit the “bad news” from our Gospel presentation and see people converted. 


God’s final response to persecutors is put forth in 15:5-8. How will that affect us as believers? 

I. God’s righteous indignation will be visited upon the unrepentant persecutors of His people. vs. 5.

vs. 5 After this I looked, and the sanctuary of the tent of witness in heaven was opened…

“After these things” (meta tauta) once again announces that a new series of visions are about to appear. In this new vision the sanctuary (naos) of the tabernacle (skēnē) of testimony is opened in heaven. This is the heavenly pattern for the earthly tabernacle of Moses’ day. It is the throne room of God. 

Verse 15:5 is an expansion of the vision of the seven angels which John began to view in v. 1. However, now the tabernacle witnesses no longer to divine mercy but to judgment, since it is introduced in v. 5 to show that it is the source of the following bowl plagues. (see Beale, G. K., p. 322, below).

What was throughout the Seals, Trumpets, (and Thunders) is now changed from an offer of forgiveness to a series of plagues containing the wrath of God against the unrepentant.

C. S. Lewis on reversed roles in modern times CS-Lewis

The greatest barrier I have met is the almost total absence from the minds of my audience of any sense of sin. The early Christian preachers could assume in their hearers, whether Jews or Pagans, a sense of guilt. Thus the Christian message was in those days unmistakably the Good News. It promised healing to those who knew they were sick. We have to convince our hearers of the unwelcome diagnosis before we can expect them to welcome the news of the remedy.

The ancient man approached God (or even the gods) as the accused person approaches his judge. For the modern man, the roles are quite reversed. [Man] is the judge: God is in the dock [on trial]. He is quite a kindly judge; if God should have a reasonable defense for being the god who permits war, poverty, and disease, he is ready to listen to it. The trial may even end in God’s acquittal. But the important thing is that man is [is judge]  and God is [on trial].”

― C.S. Lewis, God in the Dock: Essays on Theology and Ethics,


Image “Last Judgement, by Lucas van Leyden” (1494-1533);
from Wikimedia Commons; public domain.

II. God will have the last say in judgment at the end. vs. 6

vs. 6 and out of the sanctuary came the seven angels with the seven plagues, clothed in pure, bright linen, with golden sashes around their chests. 

The judgments of God on unrepentant humanity come out of the very Holy of Holies in heaven. The last seven judgments are called “plagues” (plēgas). They are the final “blows, wounds, bruises” that God will inflict on humanity. The angels perform priestly functions as indicated by their clothing which is similar in appearance to Jesus’ clothing in Rev. 1.

III. The mercy seat in heaven will become the place from which God answers the prayers of His people for righteous judgment. vs. 7 

vs. 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…


The high priest before the Mercy Seat in the Most Holy Place
on the Day of Atonement. 
(public domain via Wikimedia Commons)

The four living creatures are an angelic order that watches over and exercises providential care for the people of God while they are on their earthly sojourn.

Seven Bowls

Image “Seven golden vials full of the wrath of God are distributed”; published under Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International license; found at

The Greek word for bowl is phialē—from which we derive the English word “vial.” It is a bowl which was used for offerings in the tabernacle worship. The contents of the bowls is the wrath of God. The Greek word is thymos—God’s settled disposition of anger against sin. God does not always pour out his judgment immediately upon deserving sinners. He stores it up until the right moment. 

He is identified as the one who lives unto the ages of  ages. So often, liberals claim that the Bible does not have a word for “eternity.” The Jews spoke of this age and the age to come. Eternity is “the ages of ages” since the age to come will know no end.

I heard an old preacher say the Bible doesn’t have a word meaning “eternity.” I am content to say along with the old preacher—”Isaiah says in 57:15—

For thus saith the High and Lofty One who inhabits eternity, whose name is Holy; I dwell in the high and holy place, with him also that is of a contrite and humble spirit, to revive the spirit of the humble, and to revive the heart of the contrite ones.”

The old preacher concluded, We’ll live as long as God does and that’s good enough!” [KJV]

Our Lord decisively set the element of time in [suspension], and took His stand upon the fact and quality of life—life endless by its own nature. Of that eternal life He is Himself the guarantee—”Because I live, ye shall live also” (John 14:19). Therefore said St. Augustine, “Join thyself to the eternal God, and thou wilt be eternal.” (see ISBE, below.)

IV. God’s time for hearing prayers will end with His dispensing judgment on the unrepentant. vs. 8

vs. 8 …and the sanctuary was filled with smoke from the glory of God and from his power, and no one could enter the sanctuary until the seven plagues of the seven angels were finished.

Smoke is often used in the Old Testament in scenes where God appears in the form of a theophany. We do not really see the divine essence. We see a likeness which is suited for us as humans. It both reveals the divine character and conceals the divine essence. Exodus 33:19-23 states that concealment of the divine essence is necessary if we as humans are to be spared from destruction—

19 And [God] said, “I will make all my goodness pass before you and will proclaim before you my name ‘The Lord.’  [YHWH] And I will be gracious to whom I will be gracious, and will show mercy on whom I will show mercy. 20 But,” he said, “you cannot see my face, for man shall not see me and live.” 

21 And the Lord said, “Behold, there is a place by me where you shall stand on the rock, 22 and while my glory passes by I will put you in a cleft of the rock, and I will cover you with my hand until I have passed by. 23 Then I will take away my hand, and you shall see my back, but my face shall not be seen.”


Image from Blog by Ben

The glory of the Lord and the power of the Lord are said to cause the smoke to fill the temple. It seems to be symbolic of the anger of the Lord that burns against sin. The burning anger keeps anyone from entering the sanctuary until the seven final plagues are poured out on unrepentant humanity.

Next time we will move to Chapter 16.

(Commentaries and articles on which I rely without direct quotation) 

Beale, G. K. (2015). Revelation: a Shorter Commentary. Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co. Kindle Edition.

ESV. (2001). Accessed 24 June 2020 from

Hendriksen, William. More Than Conquerors: An Interpretation of the Book of Revelation. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Publishing Group. Kindle Edition. (p. 125).

ISBE. (1915). “Eternal.” Accessed 16 January 2021 from

Johnson, A. F. (1982). Revelation in Expositor’s Bible Commentary, ed. Gaebelein. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.

Johnson, D. E. (2001). Triumph of the Lamb: A Commentary on Revelation. Phillipsburg, NJ: P&R Publishers. Kindle Edition.

Kenner, C. (2000). The NIV Application Commentary: Revelation. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Academic.

KJV. accessed 16 January 2021 from

Lawson, S. J. (2014). “Preaching the Wrath of God.” from TableTalk magazine. Accessed 12 January 2021 from

Morris, Leon. (1987). Revelation in Tyndale New Testament Commentary on the New Testament. Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.

WikiMedia Commons for Images

© 2021 C. Richard Barbare All Rights Reserved

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