Prelude to the Seven Bowls of Wrath
We are introduced to seven angels, each with the last seven plagues from God. Thus, we continue the series:
- Seven letters to give instruction
- Seven seals to reveal
- Seven trumpets to warn
- Seven personages to act
And now seven bowls of wrath to execute judgment. There were judgments before, but they were partial judgments, such as during the seven trumpets a third of the world suffered various plights. However, the bowls are complete judgments, finishing what was started earlier.
Once again we begin with a scene in heaven. As in Revelation 4:6, we see the crystal sea. In the earlier scene, we saw those in heaven standing around the sea. Now we see those who withstood the emperor worship standing on the sea; thus, they are approaching God on His throne. The sea itself has changed. It is now mingled with, or redden by, fire. The meaning of the fire is uncertain, but some reasonable ideas are that it represents the fire of judgment that is about to fall or the fiery trials these people just passed through.
Each person is carrying a harp, which symbolizes their praise of God (Psalms 33:2; 43:4). The songs they sing also show their praise. The song of Moses was praise for the deliverance of Israel from bondage in Egypt (Exodus 15). Similarly, the song of the Lamb (Christ) is also a song of deliverance, its words being given in verses 3 and 4. The praise is for God who gives us victory (I Corinthians 15:57). The words of the song echo the praise found in Psalms.
- “Great and marvelous are your works” (Psalms 40:5).
- “Righteous and true are your ways (Psalms 145:17-21).
- “King of the nations” (Jeremiah 10:6-7; Psalms 86:8-9).
- “His righteous acts are known” (Psalms 98:1-2).
John’s attention then moves to the temple of the tabernacle of testimony where he sees into the holy of holies. “Testimony” is another word for God’s laws (Exodus 25:21-22).
The seven angels come from the holy of holies. This tells us that the coming judgment is from the holiness of God (Psalms 76:1-6). The angels are clothed in white linen, a common description of angels (Matthew 38:3; Mark 16:5; John 20:12; and Acts 1:10). They are girded in gold about the breast. As we mentioned before, the higher the belt and the better the quality of the material indicates the importance of the person. Each angel is given a bowl filled with God’s wrath by one of the four living creatures.
The temple itself is filled with smoke from the glory of God. This is a symbol of God’s presence (Exodus 19:18), as well as God’s anger (Psalms 18:4-8). When God is present, no one can enter the temple (Exodus 40:34-35). “The Divine judgment are impenetrable until they are past; when the last plague has fulfilled its course, the smoke will vanish and the Vision of God be seen.” [Swete]. “No intercessions can change the determinate counsel of God; but when it is fulfilled, we can then see clearly that which is now obscured.” [Homer Hailey].