INTRODUCTION:

 

1.   For so many weeks we have been studying the events and the judgments that will take place during the Tribulation period, and tonight we will begin studying that portion of Scripture which tells of the last and greatest of the judgments to be poured out.

 

2.   There are basically three sets of judgments found in the Revelation, each of increasing intensity and horror.

 

3.   First, we studied the seal judgments and the opening of the seven seals. Then, we studied the seven trumpet judgments. And now, we move on to the seven vial judgments, or the seven vials (or bowls) of wrath. The ushers are now handing out a diagram showing the seven vial/bowl judgments in the second half of the Tribulation.

 

4.   Turn in your Bible to Revelation chapter 15, as we begin.

 

(15.1)         And I saw another sign in heaven, great and marvellous, seven angels having the seven last plagues; for in them is filled up the wrath of God.

 

1.   When John mentions that he saw another sign in heaven he reminds his readers that he has already written concerning two signs, namely, the woman which is Israel, in Revelation 12.1, and the great red dragon of Revelation 12.3.

 

2.   So, the three visions or signs have to do with Godís people, #1, Godís enemy, #2, and Godís wrath, #3, which we will see in chapters 15 and 16.

 

3.   But this last sign is somewhat different than the preceding two, even though John describes it as ďanother signĒ using the Greek word for another of the same kind.

 

4.   This third sign is described as ďgreat and marvelous.Ē No matter what you are comparing, when you compare anything that is Godís to anything that has to do with man, Godís will be great and marvelous in comparison . . . even if it is Godís wrath compared to men, or even Satan.

 

5.   These seven vials that these angels had, which would resemble our ordinary bowls except for the material they were made of, are the kind of vessels that were commonly used in the Temple worship under the Mosaic Law, or the Law of Moses.

 

6.   Under the Law of Moses, as animals were sacrificed in obedience to Godís command, the vials would commonly be filled with the blood of the sacrificed animals, so that it could then be taken and sprinkled on the altar as an atonement or covering for sin.

 

7.   At this time, though, the grace of God is not in evidence at all. Instead of shed blood being in the vials, ready to deal with sin in a gracious way, the bowls contain a full measure of Godís wrath, ready to deal with sin in a punitive way.

 

(15.2)         And I saw as it were a sea of glass mingled with fire: and them that had gotten the victory over the beast, and over his image, and over his mark, and over the number of his name, stand on the sea of glass, having the harps of God.

 

1.   In Johnís same vision he sees this sea of glass mingled with fire. The phrase ďas it wereĒ lets us know that John is using figurative language and that what he sees is not a literal glass sea. But the fire that he describes speaks of the trials and tribulations that those believers will have by then gone through.

 

2.   Apparently, on the glass John sees that Tribulation believers experienced great victory during their time on the earth. Now they stand in heaven, having been martyred for the cause of Christ. Though slain, they are victorious nevertheless.

 

3.   And they have harps, or lyres. In case you wondered, the only other musical instrument mentioned in Revelation are the trumpets blown by the seven angels in earlier chapters.

 

(15.3)         And they sing the song of Moses the servant of God, and the song of the Lamb, saying, Great and marvellous are thy works, Lord God Almighty; just and true are thy ways, thou King of saints.

 

1.   There are two songs that Moses is recorded to have sung. One is in Exodus chapter 15 and the other begins in Deuteronomy 31. In both of the songs Moses praises God for the physical and spiritual deliverance of His children.

 

2.   Notice these words: ďJust and true are thy ways.Ē How many people will try to accuse God of being unfair or unjust when He begins to pour out His wrath? Many, I suspect, but without grounds.

 

3.   Is it not wonderful to note that the personality most associated with the Law, Moses, and the One most associated with the grace of God, the Lord Jesus Christ, the Lamb, are both connected to this song? This expresses the complete harmony of the Law and of grace in Godís plan and economy.

 

(15.4)         Who shall not fear thee, O Lord, and glorify thy name? for thou only art holy: for all nations shall come and worship before thee; for thy judgments are made manifest.

 

1.   Here we read about the fulfillment of many Old Testament prophecies which look forward to a day when all of the nations and peoples of the world will fear and reverence Jehovah.

 

2.   There is going to come a day when all will bend their knees and bow their heads and confess that Jesus Christ is Lord.

 

3.   You can do this now or you can do this later, but you will do it eventually. Bend your knee now, bow your head now, confess Jesus to be Lord now and you will be saved. But those who will not do it during this lifetime will do it in the hereafter. Only then it will not result in eternal salvation, but will occur as the final act of a lost man before he is cast into the lake of fire for ever and ever.

 

(15.5)         And after that I looked, and, behold, the temple of the tabernacle of the testimony in heaven was opened:

 

1.   ďOur attention is arrested by the phrase ĎI looked, and, behold.í This expression always introduces something dramatically new. As John observes, the Holy of Holies in the heavenly Tabernacle is opened. The expression ďthe templeĒ (Gr., naos) refers to the inner holy place of the Tabernacle, the design of which God gave to Israel during the wilderness wandering.Ē[1] The opening of the Temple probably means that the veil is parted, or the curtain is opened.

 

2.   This is one of the verses of Johnís Revelation which ought to end any discussion, once and for all, about the existence of a temple in heaven. Specifically, the tabernacle of the testimony refers to the holy of holies. This place is now being opened.

 

3.   To review, for some of you who may not be familiar with this subject, turn to Hebrews 8.1-5; 9.1-11 and read:

 

1      Now of the things which we have spoken this is the sum: We have such an high priest, who is set on the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in the heavens;

2      A minister of the sanctuary, and of the true tabernacle, which the Lord pitched, and not man.

3      For every high priest is ordained to offer gifts and sacrifices: wherefore it is of necessity that this man have somewhat also to offer.

4      For if he were on earth, he should not be a priest, seeing that there are priests that offer gifts according to the law:

5      Who serve unto the example and shadow of heavenly things, as Moses was admonished of God when he was about to make the tabernacle: for, See, saith he, that thou make all things according to the pattern shewed to thee in the mount.

 

1      Then verily the first covenant had also ordinances of divine service, and a worldly sanctuary.

2      For there was a tabernacle made; the first, wherein was the candlestick, and the table, and the shewbread; which is called the sanctuary.

3      And after the second veil, the tabernacle which is called the Holiest of all;

4      Which had the golden censer, and the ark of the covenant overlaid round about with gold, wherein was the golden pot that had manna, and Aaronís rod that budded, and the tables of the covenant;

5      And over it the cherubims of glory shadowing the mercyseat; of which we cannot now speak particularly.

6      Now when these things were thus ordained, the priests went always into the first tabernacle, accomplishing the service of God.

7      But into the second went the high priest alone once every year, not without blood, which he offered for himself, and for the errors of the people:

8      The Holy Ghost this signifying, that the way into the holiest of all was not yet made manifest, while as the first tabernacle was yet standing:

9      Which was a figure for the time then present, in which were offered both gifts and sacrifices, that could not make him that did the service perfect, as pertaining to the conscience;

10    Which stood only in meats and drinks, and divers washings, and carnal ordinances, imposed on them until the time of reformation.

11    But Christ being come an high priest of good things to come, by a greater and more perfect tabernacle, not made with hands, that is to say, not of this building;

 

4.   From this passage, as well as from the book of Exodus, we see that Moses was called to the peak of Mount Sinai after the children of Israel had been delivered from Egyptian slavery. While he was on the mount for forty days and forty nights communing with God, he was given instructions for the building of a tabernacle.

 

5.   These pictures are artistís renditions of what the tabernacle and the tabernacle furniture looked like, using the writings of Moses as a guide. Although the priests would enter into the holy place daily, the holy of holies, which is sometimes called the holiest, was only entered once a year on the Day of Atonement.

 

6.   What I want you to grasp is the truth that the tabernacle that Moses constructed served only as an example and a shadow of heavenly things.

 

7.   There is a most holy place in heaven, a sacred shrine which the tabernacle in the wilderness was only a representation of, which will someday be opened.

 

(15.6)         And the seven angels came out of the temple, having the seven plagues, clothed in pure and white linen, and having their breasts girded with golden girdles.

 

1.   ďJohn does not see the Jewish high priest ministering in the holy of holies, but rather seven angels, or messengers, emerging. And yet they are clothed with the garments of the priest. These angel-priests are about to vindicate the offended holiness and Justice of God. A great sacrifice is about to be offered. The servants of God are going to rid the earth of all that has caused creation to groan. God is now going to fulfill His covenant with Israel. Through His servants, who come out from the place where the Law of God rests, God will demonstrate that all men and nations who defy His law must suffer for their sins. The angels, being seven in number, suggest the completeness or perfection of that judgment they are sent to execute. Their solemn task is to carry out the severest of Godís judgments upon this earth.Ē[2]

 

2.   Do you remember those places in the Revelation where we saw the altar of God, the place where mercy and grace had once come from, and which will be turned into a source from which Godís wrath will come forth? In this verse we see the consummation of Godís righteous indignation and hatred of sin. Here God is about to pour out His wrath to the maximum.

 

3.   The only thing that will exceed the fury of these seven vial judgments is when the Lord Jesus, Himself, comes and treads the wine press alone.

 

(15.7)         And one of the four beasts gave unto the seven angels seven golden vials full of the wrath of God, who liveth for ever and ever.

 

1.   Apparently, these seven angels came out of the holy of holies already prepared to do the work that God had sent them to do on the earth.

 

2.   But the vials of wrath seem to be their authorization to proceed. ďThese are shallow saucers, familiar items often associated with various functions of the temple worship (1 Kin. 7:50; 2 Kin. 12:13; 2S:15), such as wine (Amos 6:6) and blood sacrifice (Ex.27:3). Their flat shallowness pictures how the divine judgments will be emptied instantly rather than slowly poured, drowning those who refused to drink the cup of salvation.Ē[3]

 

(15.8)         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.

 

1.   This is a dreadful verse to read because it shows forth something never before seen of God. Several times Scripture records that Godís glory filled the tabernacle or the Temple. Whenever that happened it was Godís grace which was in view as He condescended to dwell among men.

 

2.   But whenever Godís glory is accompanied by smoke judgment is in view. It was Godís judgment that was in view on Mount Sinai, when smoke covered the mountain peak. It was judgment that was in view when Isaiah saw the LORD high and lifted up and smoke filled the throne room of God, and Isaiahís commission to preach the coming judgment of God on the nation of Israel followed.

 

3.   So, when we see the Temple filled with smoke we know that judgment is in store. But the awesome realization here is that the wrath and anger of God is so severe, the pent up reaction for sin is coming out so strongly, that no man can enter that place.

 

4.   For the first time in Scripture, God is shown here to be so occupied with venting His wrath that no man can enter and approach Him.

 

CONCLUSION:

 

1.   Reading this makes me glad that the things which will happen in chapters 15 and 16 will occur over a short period of time at the very end of Danielís 70th week.

 

2.   Reading this also makes me very glad that such an outpouring will happen only once throughout the entire course of human history.

 

3.   Finally, reading this makes me glad that such a response as this is Godís strange work and that He desires so much more to be merciful and gracious. Lamentations 3.33 reads, ďFor he doth not afflict willingly nor grieve the children of men


[1] John Walvoord, The Revelation Of Jesus Christ, (Chicago, Illinois: Moody Press, 1966), page 229.

[2] Lehman Strauss, The Book Of The Revelation, (Neptune, New Jersey: Loizeaux Brothers, 1963), pages 280-281.

[3] See footnote for Revelation 15.7 from John MacArthur, The MacArthur Study Bible, (Nashville: Word Publishing, 1997), page 2013.

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