Having seen the saints standing victorious on the “Sea of Glass mingled with fire” while singing the “song of Moses,” John then saw the “sanctuary” and the “Tent of Witness” opened and sitting in “heaven.” From the “sanctuary,” the seven angels with the “bowls of wrath” were dispatched to empty the deadly contents of their bowls upon the “inhabitants of the earth,” the “kingdom of the beast,” and “Babylon, the Great Whore.”
(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 angels who had the seven plagues came 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 to the seven angels seven golden bowls full of the wrath of God, who lives to the ages of ages. And the sanctuary was filled with smoke by the glory of God, and by his power; and no one was able to enter the sanctuary, until the seven plagues of the seven angels should be ended.”
The “sanctuary” and the “seven bowls of wrath” are connected to the “fifth seal” when John saw the “souls” of martyrs underneath the “altar.” They pleaded for vindication against the “inhabitants of the earth.” A heavenly voice told them to wait until the full number of their “fellow servants and brethren who should be killed even as they” had been gathered. Now, the completion of the “wrath of God” is about to unfold in response to that plea – (Revelation 6:9-11).
The ancient “tent in the wilderness” contained the altars of incense and of the whole burnt offerings. The functions of both altars are now combined. The “souls under the altar” corresponded to the blood of sacrificial animals that was poured out at the base of the “altar of burnt offering” in the Tabernacle. Similarly, in the prelude to the “seven trumpets,” the “prayers of the saints” ascended like “incense” from the “golden altar,” then an angel threw coals from the altar onto the earth to release the seven angels with the “seven 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” in it. Now, the “sanctuary” is opened once again, however, what is seen is the “testimony.” Considering the Exodus typology, this alludes to the original stone tablet inscribed 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 – (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 as they performed their priestly duties in the Tabernacle, as well as to 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. The priests were required to wear “linen garments” before removing the ashes from the altar of burnt offering – (Leviticus 6:9-11).
Later, the priest would change into another set of “linen” garments to then carry the ashes outside the camp, where he would “pour them out.” 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 to remove the ashes from the altar. Ashes symbolized the complete offering of an animal to God; nothing remained of the body except ash, which demonstrated its complete consumption – (Exodus 27:3).
The picture painted 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 burnt offerings” on the heavenly altar. The seven angels carry out what remains – “ashes” – and empty the contents of the bowls on the persecutors of the saints, the “inhabitants of the earth,” the “Beast,” and “Babylon.”
Thus, the enemies of Jesus are about to drink the “wine of the wrath of God prepared unmixed in the cup of his fury.”
Also, God promised Israel that the “bowl of the cup of His wrath” 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 the “last plagues” about to be poured out on the earth – (Isaiah 51:17-23, Revelation 16:17-21).
The image of “the sanctuary filled with smoke” echoes the incident when the 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).
The picture also echoes the vision from the book of Ezekiel when 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. Previously, the same passage was alluded to when the “prayers of the saints” ascended to God “like incense” and caused the angel to cast live coals onto the earth:
(Ezekiel 10:2-4) – “Then said he unto the man clothed in linen, Go in between the whirling wheels, even under the cherub, and fill both your hands with live coals of fire from between the cherubim, and throw over the city. So, he went in before my 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 to 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.”
(Revelation 8:3-5) – “And another angel came and took his stand at the altar, having a censer of gold: and there was given to him much incense, that he might give it for 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 angel before God. And the angel at once took the censer and FILLED IT FROM THE FIRE OF THE ALTAR, AND CAST UNTO THE EARTH; and there came to be claps of thunder and voices and flashes of lightning and an earthquake.”
(Revelation 15:8-16:1) – “And the SANCTUARY 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 could enter the heavenly “sanctuary” until the “seven last plagues” had been unleashed. The time of the final judgment has arrived, and no one can approach the Throne until it is completed.
The “seven bowls of wrath” represent the final wrath of God poured out on the “beast” and its allies. The seven “last plagues” correspond to the destruction of the Egyptian army in the Red Sea following the passage of Israel through its waters. That is why the saints were seen “standing on the sea of glass” and singing the “song of Moses and of the Lamb” in anticipation of the impending destruction of end-time “Babylon.”