A Study of Revelation

Chapter 15

Chapter 15 is an introduction to the visions of the seven golden bowls containing the seven plagues, which are bowls full of the wrath of God. Chapter 16 describes in details these plagues which those who refuse to obey God will suffer during the Christian age.

Let me remind you that we are in the book of Revelation. John is revealing visions which symbolically represent spiritual events. In the vision we are going to see in chapter 15 John sees seven angels holding seven golden bowls containing the wrath of God (vs. 7). God instructs these angels to pour out their bowls of wrath upon seven different items which symbolically represent those forces which oppose God.

In Chapter 11:6 we were introduced to “two witnesses”:
Revelation 11:6
6* These have the power to shut up the sky, so that rain will not fall during the days of their prophesying; and they have power over the waters to turn them into blood, and to strike the earth with every plague, as often as they desire.

These “two witnesses” represent the church of Christ. When Christians preach the gospel today they are “striking” the “earth” (sinners) with these plagues. Verse 6 in chapter 15 helps us to see this clearly. When God made righteousness and the truth of the gospel available to mankind, represented by the “linen, clean and bright” and the “golden sashes” the effects of these plagues were set in order by God as he commanded the angels to pour them out upon the earth.

15:1* ¶ Then I saw another sign in heaven, great and marvelous, seven angels who had seven plagues, which are the last, because in them the wrath of God is finished.

Art used by permission by Pat Marvenko Smith, copyright 1992.
To order prints visit:
“Revelation Illustrated”

Art used by permission by Pat Marvenko Smith, copyright 1992.
To order prints visit:
“Revelation Illustrated”

These are the “last” plagues because we live in the “last” days today. The Christian dispensation will bring to a close all of man’s activities on this earth. There will be no future laws or “times” set up by Christ. There will be no thousand-year period of time on this earth after Christ’s second coming when he will establish another law for his people to follow. We are serving Christ under the final law that will be given. This Christian age is the “last time,” and these “last plagues” take place during this Christian dispensation. They affect those people who oppose God or are unfaithful to him during this time.

2* And I saw something like a sea of glass mixed with fire, and those who had been victorious over the beast and his image and the number of his name, standing on the sea of glass, holding harps of God.

The “sea of glass mixed with fire” represents those who had been victorious over the beast. This is a reference to the symbols used in chapters 4 and 14. The “sea of glass” represents Christians, the “beast” represents the powers and forces opposed to God’s church.

Art used by permission by Pat Marvenko Smith, copyright 1992.
To order prints visit:
“Revelation Illustrated”

It is a “sea of glass mixed with fire” because it symbolically represents the many trials and tribulations a Christian must suffer as he strives to live a Christian life. The lesson here is that it is not easy to be a Christian, which is what Acts. 14:22 also tells us: “Through many tribulations we must enter the kingdom of God.”

These people are victorious over the beast, and according to 13:8 that is because they do not worship the beast or his image.

These Christians are holding “harps of God” and don’t miss what is said about them in verse 3, “they sang the song of Moses….and the song of the Lamb.” This is the same interpretation we have in 14:1,2 which pictures the 144,000 standing on Mt. Zion where “harpists (are) playing on their harps.” The “harps” represent their voices as they sing to God.

3* And they *sang the song of Moses, the bond-servant of God, and the song of the Lamb, saying, “Great and marvelous are Your works, O Lord God, the Almighty; Righteous and true are Your ways, King of the nations!

Art used by permission by Pat Marvenko Smith, copyright 1992.
To order prints visit:
“Revelation Illustrated”

These Christians are singing praises to him because he has provided a way in which man may receive forgiveness of his sins. Man obtains forgiveness by being obedient to the law which God has given him to follow. Before Christ came the first time, the law of Moses was in effect for the Jewish nation. When Christ died on the cross, those who had lived under that law and had been obedient to it had their sins forgiven (Heb. 9:15). We now live under the law of Christ, and we now have immediate forgiveness of our sins when we are obedient to God. This is why the people of God are singing the song of Moses and the Lamb. These laws provide forgiveness for man’s sins and make it possible for us to live with God in eternity. The law of Christ now provides a way for us to have victory over the beast, his mark, and the number of his name and we must give God praise for this.

4* “Who will not fear, O Lord, and glorify Your name? For You alone are holy; For ALL THE NATIONS WILL COME AND WORSHIP BEFORE YOU, FOR YOUR RIGHTEOUS ACTS HAVE BEEN REVEALED.”

Art used by permission by Pat Marvenko Smith, copyright 1992.
To order prints visit:
“Revelation Illustrated”

God only is holy and all people should worship him and him alone. God’s righteous acts have been revealed through Jesus and his Word. “The Nations” can now come before him acceptably when “the Nations” obey his word. Previously only the Jewish nation was acceptable to God, but today all nations (all people) who obey the teachings of the New Testament are acceptable to him.

The purpose of this song that Christians sing is to show that in order to be obedient to God, we must follow the instructions he has given in his Word. God’s followers between the time of Moses and Christ were under the law of Moses. They sang the song of Moses. When Christ came, all nations were put under the law, the gospel. Today, we sing the song of the Lamb. All people of all nations must obey the gospel because it is the judgment of God.

5* ¶ After these things I looked, and the temple of the tabernacle of testimony in heaven was opened,

Art used by permission by Pat Marvenko Smith, copyright 1992.
To order prints visit:
“Revelation Illustrated”

John now sees the temple opened. The temple of the tabernacle is a reference to the ancient tabernacle which the children of Israel carried with them in the wilderness. According to Ex. 25:8,9, this was where God dwelt among his people. This tabernacle of testimony in heaven is the dwelling place of God in heaven. This is designed to show that these plagues which we are about to see come directly from God.

We know that this “tabernacle of testimony” refers to God’s dwelling place in heaven because in 11:19 the temple of God was opened in heaven and the “ark of his covenant” was seen. This took place in the time of the seventh trumpet, which is the time of judgment. According to 15:8, no man will be able to enter this temple until the seven plagues of God are fulfilled. This again shows that these seven last plagues take place during this Christian dispensation because this is the last time before judgment.

6* and the seven angels who had the seven plagues came out of the temple, clothed in linen, clean and bright, and girded around their chests with golden sashes.

The angels now come out of the temple of God. This indicates that these seven plagues came directly from God and are under his control. These angels were clothed in linen, clean and bright which reminds “the fine linen is the righteous acts of the saints” (Rev. 19:8). According to Rev. 11:6 the witnesses of God have the power to “strike the earth with every plague.” These angels bring the plagues from God which give Christians the authority and the ability to use them to “strike the earth.” The only thing Christians possess today which they can use to smite the earth is the Word of God. That is what comes directly from God out of the tabernacle of the testimony. The Word of God is a plague to those who disregard its teachings and who refuse to hear it. If one is living in the pleasures of sin, with no intention or desire to turn from that type of life, he will not want to hear a message which says his end will be eternal destruction. It becomes a plague to him. Therefore, as Christians go through out the world today preaching the Word of God, they are smiting those who are unwilling to obey the gospel with all types of plagues.

These angels also are girded around their chests with a golden sash. In 1:13 Jesus wears a golden sash. The golden sash stands for the Truth. The Truth comes from God and Christians must be girded with that truth at all times (Eph. 6:14) . This is how the seven plagues of God are poured out upon the earth–by Christians who teach God’s Word.

7* Then one of the four living creatures gave to the seven angels seven golden bowls full of the wrath of God, who lives forever and ever.

Art used by permission by Pat Marvenko Smith, copyright 1992.
To order prints visit:
“Revelation Illustrated”

The golden bowls are given to the seven angels by one of the four living creatures who were responsible for introducing each of the first four seals of chapter 6. The four living creatures introduced the first four seals which represent physical events that take place on this earth. The vision of the seven bows of wrath deals with spiritual matters which affect man, but these spiritual matters also have an effect on the physical lives of those who oppose God Since they deal with physical matter, the four living creatures hand them to the angels.

One thing is very clear. These bowls contain the wrath of God. For anyone to teach that God will not punish those who are unrighteous is absurd. Those who do not obey the gospel will be punished with “eternal destruction.”

2 Thess. 1:8, 9
8 dealing out retribution to those who do not know God and to those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus.
9* These will pay the penalty of eternal destruction, away from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of His power,
10* when He comes to be glorified in His saints on that day, and to be marveled at among all who have believed–for our testimony to you was believed.

Listen to the thunder.

8* And the temple was filled with smoke from the glory of God and from His power; and no one was able to enter the temple until the seven plagues of the seven angels were finished.

The temple is filled with smoke to show the complete glory and power of God. If smoke enters a room it completely fills that room, there is no place to stand without being surrounded by it. The same is true with the glory and power of God. It is complete. No place exists outside the power and glory of God.

No one will enter the final dwelling place of God until all the plagues have been fulfilled or all things of this earth have ended. Verse 8 identifies the time frame of the seven last plagues. They are to take place before God will allow anyone into that heavenly abode. This places these plagues during the Christian age. They will affect man until the time of judgment when God will take his children home to live with him eternally.

Chapter 16

As we begin to study chapter 16 it is important to notice that there is a distinct 4-3 division of these plagues just as there was in the vision of the seals and the trumpets. The first four deal with the effects these spiritual plagues have directly on men as the gospel is proclaimed today. The last three show how God will deal with the unrighteous. The last of these, the seventh plague, specifically describes the sinner’s eternal destruction in hell.

Let me remind you one more time. We are studying the book of Revelation. Revelation is written in figurative language. The plagues here must not be interpreted as literal, physical plagues, as was true in the time of Moses. These plagues have symbolic meanings. The meanings of these symbols are found in other places in Revelation and applied to the symbols found in this chapter.

The seven plagues correspond very closely to the series of the seven trumpets (8:6-11:19). The same basic symbols are used in both visions and they follow the same order. Because this is true their meanings must be similar. It is also true that there must be differences or there would have been no need for two separate visions. The connection between the two visions, and the differences also, can be determined by comparing the meaning of the two main symbols of each vision which are the trumpet and plagues. The trumpets sound a warning. They warn people of events which are to take place here on earth and, for the most part, affect the spiritual part of their being. The plagues generally describe the problems and torments which those people will suffer who do not submit their lives to God. In both cases, they are describing events throughout the Christian age and into the time of judgment. The trumpets warn people about being disobedient to God while the plagues describe the problems and torments those same wicked people will face here on earth and in judgment.

16:1* ¶ Then I heard a loud voice from the temple, saying to the seven angels, “Go and pour out on the earth the seven bowls of the wrath of God.”

Art used by permission by Pat Marvenko Smith, copyright 1992.
To order prints visit:
“Revelation Illustrated”

The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven. Instruction is given to the angels from God himself to put out the seven bowls on the “earth.” In the book of Revelation “earth” refers to people. Sometimes it means the whole world, sometimes it refers to a specific land portion, but always it is used to refer to people or forces which oppose God.

2* So the first angel went and poured out his bowl on the earth; and it became a loathsome and malignant sore on the people who had the mark of the beast and who worshiped his image.

Art used by permission by Pat Marvenko Smith, copyright 1992.
To order prints visit:
“Revelation Illustrated”

In our study of Revelation to this point we have learned that those who have the mark of the beast and who worship his image are non-Christians. The loathsome and malignant sores are symbolic of the pains and anguish which sin will cause man to suffer while on earth. Exodus 9:8-11 gives the account of the boils which was one of the ten plagues God sent against the people of Egypt. Egypt opposed God and persecuted his people.

Here in Revelation this plague is poured out on those people who are not Christians. They are the ones who will be affected by these sores. Their sins will cause all types of mental and physical anguish which could be avoided by following the ways of the Lord.

3* The second angel poured out his bowl into the sea, and it became blood like that of a dead man; and every living thing in the sea died.

In the book of Revelation the “sea” is used to represent the masses of people who live on earth. The “earth” in the first plague represents the people of the world, non-Christians. This plague affects the same people. Both these plagues are directed toward people who live on earth and engage themselves in the continual practice of sin. In some parts of Revelation “earth” seems to refer to those people who are spiritually-minded or who seek to worship someone or something other than the true God. The “sea” seems to represent those who have no desire to worship or believe in a higher being other than man himself.

The “sea” here is symbolically representing the masses of people who do not believe in God. Those who do not believe in God become dead spiritually. To be without God in this life is to be dead spiritually and without hope of life eternal. There is no life in them.

4* Then the third angel poured out his bowl into the rivers and the springs of waters; and they became blood.

These rivers and springs represent the abundant teachings of those who attempt to direct the spiritual lives of people upon the earth. As was the case with wormwood in the water in Rev. 8:11, and the water that flowed from the dragon that the earth drank in Rev. 12:16, these waters represent the false teachings that come from false religions who demand that people worship and serve God according to their dictates. This water is like “blood” because these people are spiritually dead. Because these people practice false teaching and persecute Christians God has judged them to be spiritually dead, or “they became blood” which signifies death.

Art used by permission by Pat Marvenko Smith, copyright 1992.
To order prints visit:
“Revelation Illustrated”

5* And I heard the angel of the waters saying, “Righteous are You, who are and who were, O Holy One, because You judged these things;

God has already judged that these things must happen. The judgment of God has been made known to man through the gospel.

James 2:12
12* So speak and so act as those who are to be judged by the law of liberty.

God’s judgment has been given to us in his Word.

6* for they poured out the blood of saints and prophets, and You have given them blood to drink. They deserve it.”

The leaders of false religions have been responsible for the persecution and killing of many Christians throughout the ages and God has given them blood to drink. Since they have shed the blood of Christians they will give up their own spiritual lives for all eternity.

7* And I heard the altar saying, “Yes, O Lord God, the Almighty, true and righteous are Your judgments.”

All of the judgments of God pronounced in his Word are true and righteous.

8* ¶ The fourth angel poured out his bowl upon the sun, and it was given to it to scorch men with fire.

This bowl of wrath indicates that the preaching and teaching of the gospel of Christ will torment those who refuse to accept it. Notice a slight difference here. This bowl is poured out on the sun which in turn is given the power to scorch men with fire. The “sun” is a reference to spiritual light. In 2 Cor. 4:4 the gospel is referred to as “the light.” Christians walk “in the light” (1 Jn. 1:7). Just as the sun is the physical light of this world, the gospel is the spiritual light of the world.

When we say that the “heat” is on someone, or that they may have gotten themselves in a “hot” spot, we use the same kind of imagery. The preaching of God’s Word is not an easy thing for sinners to hear. Because they will not accept it, it “scorches” them.

9* Men were scorched with fierce heat; and they blasphemed the name of God who has the power over these plagues, and they did not repent so as to give Him glory.

Men will blaspheme God because of these plagues but they refuse to repent, therefore these plagues continue to scorch them every time they hear the gospel preached.

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