The Book of  REVELATION
James J. Barker


Lesson 26
THE VISION OF THE SEVEN LAST PLAGUES

Text: REVELATION 15:1-8


INTRODUCTION


  1. The narrative advances again here in chapter 15. Chapters 15 and 16 bring to consummation the events leading up to the second coming of Christ described in chapter 19.
  2. These prophecies in this chapter are referred to as “the seven last plagues” (15:1).
  3. The chronological order of events in the book of Revelation is, the seven seals, the seven trumpets, and the seven vials.
  4. The seventh seal includes all of the seven trumpets.
  5. The seven vials (or bowls) are included in the seventh trumpet.
  6. John Walvoord says, "From this it can be seen that the order of events is one of dramatic crescendo, the seventh seal being all-inclusive of the end-time events including the seven trumpets, and the seventh trumpet including the events described in the seven vials. The second coming of Christ follows this order of events immediately after the seventh vial. The intervening sections such as 10:1-11:14; 13-14; 17-19 do not advance the narrative chronologically. Chapter 19 of Revelation follows immediately after chapter 16 in the chronological development" (The Revelation of Jesus Christ).
  7. The reason chapter 19 of Revelation follows immediately after chapter 16 chronologically is because Revelation chapters 17 and 18 are parenthetical, and deal with the devil's apostate ecumenical church, called, "MYSTERY, BABYLON THE GREAT, THE MOTHER OF HARLOTS AND ABOMINATIONS OF THE EARTH" (Rev. 17:5).
  8. In Revelation 15:1, John sees “another sign in heaven.”  The word "another" directs us back to the two preceding signs of chapter 12.  In Revelation 12:1, there appeared "a great wonder (literally "sign") in heaven."
  9. Revelation 12:3 says, "And there appeared another wonder ("sign") in heaven; and behold a great red dragon, having seven heads and ten horns, and seven crowns upon his heads."
  10. These three signs taken together represent three very important elements in Bible prophecy: (1) the woman in 12:1 represents the nation of Israel; (2) the second sign represents the final one-world government under the control of Satan and the antichrist, and (3) the seven angels having the seven last plagues, that is, God's judgment upon the satanic system and political power of the antichrist.
  11. The sign in heaven referred to in Revelation 15:1 is described as “great and marvellous" (cf. 15:3).
  12. The number seven, which symbolizes perfection and completion, is very prominent in the book of Revelation. There are seven letters to seven churches; seven Spirits of God; seven lamps of fire; seven golden candlesticks; seven stars; seven angels; seven horns and seven eyes; seven seals; seven trumpets; seven vials; seven thunders; seven thousand men slain in the earthquake in Revelation 11:13; seven crowns upon the dragon's head; seven heads on the beast that rises up out of the sea; seven last plagues; seven mountains, on which the woman sitteth; and seven kings.
  13. Furthermore, the tribulation period will last for seven years.
  14. Here in Revelation 15:1 we see "seven angels having the seven last plagues; for in them is filled up the wrath of God."
  15. The word "last" (15:1) implies that the previous seal judgments and trumpet judgments were also plagues -- that is, divine judgments of God poured out upon a wicked, sin-loving world.
  16. When I heard the president of the USA endorse so-called "gay marriage" I trembled and wondered how much time does America have before God pours out His wrath upon this country.
  17. A woman reporter named Robin Roberts was assigned for the interview with the president.  This is what she said afterwards, "I'm getting chills again. When you’re sitting in that room and you hear him say those historic words, it was not lost on anyone that was in the room.”
  18. "Chills?"  "Historic words?"   God help America!
  19. Here is a true historic quote -- "I tremble for my country when I reflect that God is just; that his justice cannot sleep forever" -- Thomas Jefferson.
  20. "In regard to this Great Book, I have but to say, it is the best gift God has given to man. All the good the Savior gave to the world was communicated through this book. But for it we could not know right from wrong. All things most desirable for man's welfare, here and hereafter, are to be found portrayed in it" -- Abraham Lincoln.
  21. The judgment of God will surely come down hard on America, because America has defied God. These judgments prophesied in Revelation 15 are described as the last plagues because they are the final judgments preceding the second coming of Christ.
  22. The seven plagues are described as acts of judgment which “filled up the wrath of God.”

 

I. SEA OF GLASS MINGLED WITH FIRE (15:2)

  1. Back in Revelation 4:6, John saw up in heaven, before the throne of God "a sea of glass like unto crystal," which speaks of the holiness of God.
  2. Here the sea of glass is said to be “mingled with fire,” which speaks of divine judgment proceeding from God’s holiness.
  3. This is not an ordinary sea.  Revelation 15:2 says, "And I saw as it were a sea of glass."
  4. Furthermore, this is not an ordinary sea because people are standing upon it (15:2).  These are those who “had gotten the victory over the beast, and over his image, and over his mark, and over the number of his name.”
  5. Daniel 7:25 says the antichrist "shall speak great words against the most High, and shall wear out the saints of the most High."
  6. Revelation 15:2 emphasizes how the antichrist will wear out the saints during the tribulation.  He will wear them out by trying to force them to worship his image; and he will wear them out by trying to force them to take his mark; and he will wear them out by trying to force them to receive the number of his name, 666.
  7. Another wonderful thing about this prophecy is that although these persecuted saints will be martyred, they are described as "them that had gotten the victory over the beast" (15:2; cf. 14:13).
  8. John Walvoord says, "Their triumph consists in the fact that they remained faithful to death instead of yielding to the blasphemous demand of the beast" (The Revelation of Jesus Christ).
  9. These martyrs are said to have “the harps of God” (15:2; cf. 5:8; 14:2).  The harp and the trumpet are the only musical instruments mentioned in the book of Revelation.
  10. The hymn of praise sung by the martyred saints in glory is described in verse 3 as “the song of Moses the servant of God, and the song of the Lamb.”
  11. The traditional interpretation of “the song of Moses" is that it refers to the song that was sung by Moses and the children of Israel after they crossed the Red Sea (Exodus 15).
  12. Another possible explanation is they will sing the song of Moses, recorded in Deuteronomy 32.
  13. Praise ascribed to God begins with the statement “Great and marvellous are thy works, Lord God Almighty” (cf. 15:1).
  14. God is also described as “just and true” in His ways. He is just, in that He is perfectly righteous. He is true, in that He keeps His promises.
  15. “King of saints" (15:3) signifies that God is the sovereign ruler of this world and He will soon manifest this sovereignty and judge this wicked world -- "for thy judgments are made manifest" (15:4b).

 

II. THE FEAR OF GOD (15:4)

  1. The fear of God is one of the great themes of the Bible.
  2. The first time we see this expression is back in Genesis 20:11, when Abraham said to Abimelech, "Because I thought, Surely the fear of God is not in this place."
  3. We see the expression again in Genesis 42:18, when Joseph said to his brothers, "This do, and live; for I fear God."
  4. In Exodus 1:15 and 1:16, we read that the king of Egypt spake to the Hebrew midwives, and said, "When ye do the office of a midwife to the Hebrew women, and see them upon the stools; if it be a son, then ye shall kill him: but if it be a daughter, then she shall live."   Pharaoh was "pro-choice."
  5. Then we read in Exodus 1:17, "But the midwives feared God, and did not as the king of Egypt commanded them, but saved the men children alive."
  6. This great theme -- the fear of God -- is taught all throughout Scripture. Psalm 111:10 and Proverbs 1:9 says, "The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom."
  7. The repentant thief rebuked the impenitent thief, and said, "Dost not thou fear God, seeing thou art in the same condemnation?" (Luke 23:40).
  8. The apostle Paul describes the total depravity of man in Romans 3, and sums it all in verse 18 (quoting Psalm 36:1), "There is no fear of God before their eyes."
  9. Hundreds of other Scriptures could be cited, but time will not allow that tonight.  And we come to Revelation 15, to the seven last plagues; to the seven golden vials full of the wrath of God, and Revelation 15:4 says, "Who shall not fear thee, O Lord, and glorify thy name?"
  10. We have been studying the book of Jeremiah on Wednesday nights.  In Jeremiah 7:16, the LORD told Jeremiah, "Pray not thou for this people, neither lift up cry nor prayer for them, neither make intercession to me: for I will not hear thee."
  11. They were so backslidden God said not to pray for them any more!
  12. They were so backslidden Jeremiah the prophet cried his heart out (Jer. 9:1).
  13. And then in Jeremiah 10:7 we read these words, "Who would not fear thee, O King of nations?”
  14. There is very little fear of God in America today. We have seen over and over again that God judges sin, and we have seen from our series here in the book of Revelation that time is quickly running out.
  15. Our message is found in Revelation 14:7, "Fear God, and give glory to him; for the hour of his judgment is come."
  16. Though the nations neither fear God nor glorify Him, the day is to come soon when they will both fear Him and be forced to acknowledge Him as God.
  17. “For thou only art holy: for all nations shall come and worship before thee; for thy judgments are made manifest” (Rev. 15:4b).
  18. Psalm 66:4 says, "All the earth shall worship thee, and shall sing unto thee; they shall sing to thy name. Selah."
  19. Psalm 72:11 says, "Yea, all kings shall fall down before him: all nations shall serve him."
  20. Psalm 86:9 says, "All nations whom thou hast made shall come and worship before thee, O Lord; and shall glorify thy name."
  21. I was driving down the Interstate late Sunday evening, and early Monday morning, and I put the radio on to stay awake.  They were talking about the elections in France and Greece.  I was reminded again of the socialism and ungodly secularism that prevails in Europe.  It looks like there is no fear of God in Europe.
  22. Psalm 10:4 says, "The wicked, through the pride of his countenance, will not seek after God: God is not in all his thoughts."
  23. But things will be vastly different when the Lord Jesus Christ returns (cf. Isa. 2:2-4; Zech. 14:9).

 

III. THE SEVEN GOLDEN VIALS FULL OF THE WRATH OF GOD

  1. The phrase “I looked, and, behold" (15:5) always introduces something dramatically new (cf. 4:1; 5:6, 11; 6:5, 8, 12; 7:9; 8:13; 13:11; 14:1, 14).
  2. As John looks, "the temple of the tabernacle of the testimony in heaven was opened" (15:5).
  3. The expression “the temple” refers to the inner holy place of the tabernacle, and the expression “the tabernacle of the testimony” is a reference to the whole tent-like structure, a portion of which contained the Holy of Holies.
  4. It is called “the tabernacle of the testimony” because of the presence of the tables of stone containing the ten commandments which were placed in the ark of the testimony in the Holy of Holies (cf. Exodus 32:15; Acts 7:44) and is mentioned frequently in the Old Testament (Exodus 38:21; Num. 1:50, 53; 10:11; 17:7-8; 18:2).
  5. As John looks intently on the scene, the sanctuary is opened, that is, the curtain is parted, and seven angels are seen coming out of the sanctuary (15:5, 6).
  6. Each one of the seven angels is carrying one of the vials containing the seven plagues and is described as being clothed in pure and white linen and girded with a golden girdle (15:6).
  7. There is much symbolism in the book of Revelation, and the symbols are usually interpreted for us. For example, the "pure and white linen" (15:6) represents righteousness.
  8. Revelation 19:8 says, "And to her (the Lamb's wife) was granted that she should be arrayed in fine linen, clean and white: for the fine linen is the righteousness of saints."
  9. This can be traced all through the book of Revelation. Revelation 1:14 says our Lord's "head and his hairs were white like wool, as white as snow."
  10. In Revelation 3:4, our Lord says of the saints in Sardis which have not defiled their garments, "They shall walk with me in white: for they are worthy."
  11. The whole scene is most symbolic of what is about to happen. The angels coming out of the sanctuary indicate that the judgments to be poured out stem from the holiness of God and are properly required of God who must do all things right.
  12. The seven angels are "girded with golden girdles" (Rev. 15:6).  Gold reflects the glory of God.  Therefore these angels who will pour out the wrath of God upon this sin-loving world will bring glory to God by executing His righteous judgment.
  13. The extent of the divine judgment is indicated by the word "full" (15:7). The solemn reminder that God lives "for ever and ever" also reminds us that God's wrath will be inflicted for ever and ever upon those who reject the Gospel (cf. 14:9-11).
  14. As the angels emerge from the temple, it is filled with smoke proceeding from the glory of God and His power (15:8), another reminder of the ineffable holiness of God.
  15. The scene in this prophecy is similar to that when the cloud filled the tabernacle in Exodus 40:34, 35.
  16. "Then a cloud covered the tent of the congregation, and the glory of the LORD filled the tabernacle.  And Moses was not able to enter into the tent of the congregation, because the cloud abode thereon, and the glory of the LORD filled the tabernacle" (Exodus 40:34, 35).
  17. Access into the sanctuary will not be possible until the judgments contained in the seven plagues are fulfilled (Rev. 15:8).
  18. John Walvoord says, "It is an ominous sign of impending doom for those who persist in their blasphemous disregard of the sovereignty and holiness of God" (The Revelation of Jesus Christ).

 

CONCLUSION:

Ray Stedman says this about the vial judgments introduced in Revelation 15 and 16, "The book of Revelation surveys God's solution to the crisis of history; how he will bring about the long promised world of peace and blessing. After centuries of patiently waiting and putting up with might-is-right arrogance, hate, greed and the bloodshed that has characterized our earth so long, God says there comes a time when he will call a halt to the whole rotten business!" (Earth's Last Trial).



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