SYNOPSIS – The destructive force of the seven “last plagues” corresponds to the destruction of the Egyptian army in the Red Sea after Israel passed through the sea – Revelation 15:5-8.
Having seen the saints standing victorious on the Sea of Glass mixed with fire, John next sees the “Sanctuary” and the “Tent of Witness” located in “heaven.” It is from the “Sanctuary” that the seven angels are dispatched to empty the contents of the “seven bowls of wrath” upon the earth.
(Revelation 15:5-8) – “And after these things I saw, and the sanctuary of The Tent of Witness in heaven was opened; And the seven messengers who had the seven plagues came forth out of the sanctuary clothed with a [precious] stone, pure, bright, and girt about the breasts with girdles of gold. And one of the four living creatures gave unto the seven messengers seven golden bowls, full of the wrath of God who liveth unto the ages of ages. And the sanctuary was filled with smoke by reason of the glory of God, and by reason of his power; and no one was able to enter into the sanctuary, until the seven plagues of the seven messengers should be ended.” – (The Emphasized Bible).
The “Sanctuary” or naos and the “seven bowls of wrath” are connected to the fifth seal opening when John saw the “souls” of martyrs kept underneath the “altar.” The martyrs pleaded for vindication against their persecutors, the “inhabitants of the earth.” A heavenly voice told them that they must wait for the assembling of the full number of their “fellow servants and brethren who should be killed even as they.” The completion of the “wrath of God” is about to unfold in response to their plea – (Revelation 6:9-11).
The ancient “Tabernacle in the wilderness” contained the altars of incense and of the whole burnt offering. The functions of both original altars are now combined. The “souls under the altar” in the fifth seal corresponded to the blood of sacrificial animals poured out at the base of the “altar of burnt offering” in the Mosaic Tabernacle.
Similarly, in the prelude to the “seven trumpets,” the “prayers of the saints” ascended like “incense” on the altar. An angel threw coals from the altar fire onto the earth to release the seven angels that began to sound their trumpets – (Leviticus 4:7, Revelation 8:3-5, 17:11).
Previously, when the seventh trumpet sounded, the “Sanctuary” was seen in heaven “opened” with the “Ark of the Covenant” within it. Now, the “Sanctuary” is opened once again, however, what is seen is the “testimony.” Considering the Exodus typology, this alludes to the original table with the Ten Commandments that was kept inside the Ark of the Covenant – Thus, the “testimony” of God is His law and it is about to be enforced as the “seven bowls of wrath” are emptied on the earth – (Exodus 16:34, 25:21, 31:18, Revelation 11:15-19).
The image of seven angels arrayed in “linen” alludes to the priestly garb worn by Aaron and his sons when they performed their priestly duties in the Tabernacle in the wilderness, as well as their “golden girdles.” Likewise, the “seven angels” perform priestly functions in the heavenly “Sanctuary” – (Exodus 28:5,28:40-43).
Under the Levitical system, “linen” was a ritually clean material, unlike wool and other fabrics produced from animal products. According to the regulations of the burnt offering, the priests were required to wear “linen garments” before removing the ashes from the altar of burnt offering and placing them along its east-facing side – (Leviticus 6:9-11).
Later, the priest would change into another set of “linen” garments to carry the ashes outside of the camp where he would “pour out” the ashes from the altar; likewise, any remaining blood from an animal sacrifice was poured out at the base of the altar of burnt offerings – (Exodus 29:12, Leviticus 4:7-12).
The “seven bowls of wrath” correspond to the basins used by the priests in the Tabernacle to remove and dispose of the ashes from sacrificial animals. Ashes symbolized the complete offering of an animal to God; nothing remained of the body except the ashes, which demonstrated its complete consumption – (Exodus 27:3).
The picture this passage presents is as follows – The lives of the martyrs have been fully consumed (“slain”) by the persecution of the “Beast from the sea.” The martyred saints have become “whole burn offerings,” so to speak, on the heavenly altar. The seven angels will now carry out what remains – The “ashes” – And empty the contents on the persecutors of the saints – The “inhabitants of the earth,” the “Beast,” and “Babylon” – Nothing less than the full “wrath” of God.The enemies of the Lamb are about to drink the “wine of the wrath of God prepared unmixed in the cup of his fury” – (Revelation 14:10).
Also, in Isaiah 51:17-23, Yahweh promised that the “bowl of the cup of His wrath” (thumos) that sinful Israel had been compelled to drink would be given to (ancient) Babylon for afflicting His people. This picture is fitting – End-time “Babylon” is the chief target of these “last plagues” about to be poured out on the earth – (Revelation 16:17-21).
The image of “the Sanctuary filled with smoke” echoes the incident when the original Tabernacle was consecrated and filled with the presence of Yahweh. At that time, not even Moses could stand before the Sanctuary. Likewise, when Solomon’s Temple was consecrated, the “priests could not stand to minister because of the cloud” – (Exodus 40:34-35, 1 Kings 8:10-11).
Above all, verse 8 in Chapter 15 alludes to a vision from the book of Ezekiel where a man arrayed in “linen” was commanded to take live coals from between the cherubim and cast them into the city in preparation for judgment. This same passage was alluded to previously when the “prayers of the saints” ascending to God caused the angel to cast live coals onto the earth. Note the following verbal parallels:
(Ezekiel 10:2-4) – “Then said he unto the man clothed in linen—then said he, Go in between the whirling wheels, even under the cherub, and fill both thy hands with live coals of fire from between the cherubim, and throw over the city. So, he went in before mine eyes. Now the cherubim were standing on the right side of the house when the man went in—and the cloud filled the inner court, Then arose the glory of Yahweh from off the cherub unto the threshold of the house—and the house was filled with the cloud, and the court was filled with the brightness of the glory of Yahweh.” – (The Emphasized Bible).
(Revelation 8:3-5) – “And another messenger came and took his stand at the altar, having a censer of gold: and there was given unto him much incense, that he might give [it] unto the prayers of all the saints upon the altar of gold that is before the throne. And the smoke of the incense went up with the prayers of the saints out of the hand of the messenger before God. And the messenger at once took the censer and FILLED IT FROM THE FIRE OF THE ALTAR, AND CAST UNTO THE EARTH; and there came to be thunderings, and voices, and lightnings, and an earthquake.” – (The Emphasized Bible).
(Revelation 15:8-16:1) – “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. And I heard a great voice out of the temple saying to the seven angels, Go your ways, and POUR OUT THE VIALS OF THE WRATH OF GOD UPON THE EARTH.”
Thus, no one can enter the “Sanctuary” until the “seven last plagues” have been poured out upon the earth. The time of the final judgment has arrived, and no one can approach the Throne until the judgments are completed. The plea of the martyrs for vindication is at an end – Their prayers for justice are about to be answered.
The destructive effects of the “seven trumpets” were partial – “A third of the earth” – But those of the “seven bowls” are universal. The “seven bowls of wrath” represent the final wrath of God unleashed on the “Beast” and its allies.
Like the ten plagues of Egypt, the “seven trumpets” prepared the way for the new exodus of the people of God. In comparison, the seven “last plagues” occur AFTER the exodus of the saints from end-time “Egypt.” Already the “saints” have stood victorious on the “sea of glass.” The combined destructive force of the seven “last plagues” corresponds to the destruction of the Egyptian army in the Red Sea following the passage of Israel through the sea.