Revelation Chapter 15: Precursors to the Seven Bowls of Wrath - Events in Heaven Prior to the Outpouring of the "Final Plagues of the Wrath of Elohim" on Earth
Now that we have completed the parenthetical details of Chapters 10-14, the seventh trumpet has sounded prompting those in Heaven to praise the Lord for bringing the Final Seven Years to culmination in restoring the kingdom of this world to Himself and to His Messiah (11:15), and ominous warnings of the final plagues of Elohim’s (God's) wrath have occurred (11:19), we are back to the description of the events that initiate those “last plagues” of the “Wrath of [Elohim]” being poured out.
15:1-8 Then I saw another sign in heaven, great and marvelous: seven angels having (a) the seven last plagues, for in them the wrath of God is complete. And I saw something like (b) a sea of glass mingled with fire, and (c) those who have the victory over the beast, over his image and over his mark and over the number of his name, standing on the sea of glass, having harps of [Yahuah]. (d) They sing the song of Moses, the servant of [Yahuah], and the song of the Lamb, saying: "Great and marvelous are Your works, Lord [Yahuah] Almighty! Just and true are Your ways, O King of the saints! Who shall not fear You, O Lord, and glorify Your name? For You alone are holy. For (e) all nations shall come and worship before You, for Your judgments have been manifested." After these things I looked, and behold, the temple of the tabernacle of the testimony in heaven was opened. And out of the temple came (f) the seven angels having the seven plagues, clothed in pure bright linen, and having their chests girded with golden bands. Then one of the four living creatures gave to the seven angels seven golden bowls full of the wrath of [Yehovah] who lives forever and ever. (g) The temple was filled with smoke from the glory of [Yehovah] and from His power, and no one was able to enter the temple till the seven plagues of the seven angels were completed.
a. This section (15:1-8), following the
description of the trumpet judgments in chapters 8, 9 and 11, indicates that
the events of the bowl plagues follow those of the trumpet judgments and are the “seven last plagues.”
However, there are remarkable similarities between the plagues of the trumpet and bowl judgments, and they occur in the same sequence, leading some expositors to conclude that plagues of the trumpet judgments and bowls of wrath occur simultaneously: The first trumpet and bowl judgments impact the earth (8:7; 16:2); the second judgments impact the sea (8:8; 16:3); the third impact the sources of fresh water (8:10; 16:4); the fourth impact the sun (8:12; 16:8); the fifth cause humans to be physically tormented (9:1; 16:10); and the sixth impact the Euphrates River (9:14; 16:12).
Nevertheless, there is a clear break in the narrative and a complete change of circumstances on Earth and in Heaven between the events of the sixth and seventh trumpet judgments (the second and third "woes"). Before the seventh trumpet sounds, an angel declares that the “mystery of [Yehovah] would be finished” (10:7). Then, also before the seventh trumpet sounds, the two witnesses are killed, resurrected and ascend to Heaven (which occurs on the last day of the Final Seven Years), and there is an earthquake that collapses a tenth of Jerusalem killing seven thousand people (11:7-14). Then, when the seventh trumpet sounds, loud voices are heard from Heaven proclaiming the transformation of the “kingdoms of this world” into the Messianic Kingdom (11:15) (the same exultation as that of the multitude in Heaven following the destruction of Babylon after the final plague described in the Revelation is poured out on that kingdom [cf. 18:21; 19:1-6]). Finally (following the sounding of the seventh trumpet), there are “lightnings, noises, thundering, an earthquake and great hail” (11:19). Exactly the same types of events occur when the seventh angel pours out his bowl of Yahuah’s wrath: “noises and thunderings and lightnings . . . a great earthquake,” a much more extensive destruction of Jerusalem, the total destruction of Babylon . . . and “great hail” (16:17-21).
Also, the descriptions of the first, second, third, fourth and sixth trumpet judgments state that a third of the natural creation and humans are affected by the trumpet plagues, but the descriptions of the corresponding bowl plagues state that the entire natural creation and all inhabitants of Earth (except those protected by the Lord) are affected.
Another indication that the plagues of the trumpet judgments and the bowls of wrath are sequential rather than simultaneous is that, regardless of all the similarities between the events of the trumpet judgments and the bowls of wrath, these verses in Chapter 15, which follow the descriptions of the trumpet judgments back in chapters 8, 9 and 11, state that the bowl judgments, the descriptions of which follow in Chapter 16, are the “seven last plagues” in which “the wrath of God is complete.” Also, they occur only after the seventh trumpet sounds, so they cannot possibly occur simultaneously with the trumpet judgments. Nowhere does the text refer to the trumpet judgments as plagues of the Wrath of Elohim, much less the last plagues of His wrath. So obviously, although the plagues of the trumpet judgments are the same types of plagues affecting the same areas of the Creation as the bowl plagues, they are more limited in the extent of their devastation and precede the plagues of the Wrath of God.
Finally, other passages of Scripture (e.g., Daniel 12:11, 12) indicate that there will be a period of time following the seven years, before the establishment of the millennial kingdom of the Messiah, when other events occur. So, it would seem that the bowl plagues, compacted into a short period of time following the seventh and final trumpet blast, will follow the trumpet plagues and will be the “seven last plagues” - the plagues that are distinctly designated the plagues of “the Wrath of God,” (rather than the plagues of His trumpet judgments).
However, this is the important point: regardless of the exact sequence and timing of these events, it is clear that the final plagues, by which the surface features of the earth and all those remaining on Earth who have rejected the Gospel message and have taken the mark of the beast are destroyed, will literally occur. And, they will occur at the end of the Final Seven Years, following the blast of the seventh trumpet, the resurrection and ascension of the two witnesses, and the resurrection, transformation and catching up of the Redeemed of the Lord (see “Appendix 7—When is ‘The Rapture’”?).
b. Cf. 4:6
c. Cf. 13:15-17; 14:9
d. The praises of the Redeemed in Heaven (the raptured and glorified Followers of Yahushua - Jesus) (cf. 7:14; 19:1) singing the song of Moses and of the Lamb.
e. This must refer to the nations formed from the descendants of the tribes of Israel, including the descendants of Ephraim (cf. Genesis 48:19), who enter the millennial Messianic kingdom, plus the nations formed from Gentiles who will be permitted to inhabit the millennial Kingdom of Elohim (cf. Zechariah 14:16, 17), because all present-age earth dwellers will have been killed (cf. 19:18, 21).
f. These are executioners of the final Wrath of God. Notice the references to purity and value - pure linen, golden bands, golden bowls. The purpose of the final manifestations of the Lord’s Wrath is to cleanse Earth of all corruption, restoring its value and consecrating it as the pure, unpolluted creation of Elohim.
h. No one can approach Yahuah when His glory is manifested in His sovereign works of consecration (e.g., 2 Chronicles 7:1, 2).
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