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.
This is the heavenly preparation for the seven bowl judgements upon the earth. These last seven judgements come at the end of the “wrath of God” period, which is just prior to the Millennial Reign of Christ. These events are described as being “great and marvellous”, that is, awesome and amazing, since they are the final part of God’s wrath upon the Antichrist and those who follow him.
The seven angels each have a bowl filled to the brim with God’s righteous anger against the rebellion of mankind. These last judgements bring to completion the wrath of God. They will be poured out in rapid succession, almost like a crescendo, and each one worse than the previous one. Notice that they are the “last” of the judgements, therefore they are not the same as, or a restating of, the previous seal and trumpet judgements.
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.
Here is revealed the viewpoint of Heaven regarding God’s judgement of the world. On the sea of glass (see Revelation 4:6; Exodus 24:10) stand multitudes of martyrs who died during the Antichrist years. This holocaust deserves the full weight of the wrath of God.
They might have died under Antichrist’s hand, but they are the ones who are victorious in the end. Why? Because they did not conform, compromise, or submit to the Beast. The words “gotten victory over the beast” can be translated as “had conquered the beast” (compare Revelation 12:11).
These have something special to praise God for. God kept them throughout those terrible years, and He gave them strength to endure even to the death. In the face of death they were strong in the faith.
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.
They had a two-fold song of praise to sing. The song of Moses and the song of the Lamb. The song of Moses (see Exodus 15:1-19) worships God for giving deliverance from Pharaoh and the crossing of the Red Sea. These saints are now free from the last tyrant of this world. The song of the Lamb is the victory song that only those who are washed in His precious blood can sing. There may be an indication here that these martyred saints come from both the Jewish and Gentile lines. Note that the Lamb is called “God Almighty”, thus affirming His deity.
It is a song of victory because they are the crowned ones … “Blessed is the man that endureth temptation: for when he is tried, he shall receive the crown of life, which the Lord hath promised to them that love Him” (James 1:12). They praise God for being the Almighty King of the saints. The saints mentioned here are likely to be all believers from before the Flood, all Jews who had faith, the Church, and those from the Great Tribulation. We must remember that God is always true and just in everything that He does. The saved will see very clearly that nothing less than full judgement fits the crimes against God.
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.
In the midst of so many religions, with their so-called gods, the true believer has found the only true God. He alone deserves worship, praise and adoration (Exodus 15:11). Only He is holy (Luke 1:35).
This verse directs our attention to the Millennial Reign of Christ on the earth. All the nations, with their kings, prime ministers and presidents will have to bow the knee to Christ. During the 1,000 year reign of the Lord, all will worship Him as the true God. The “all” here can only refer to those who have not submitted to the Antichrist, yet have survived the seven year tribulation / wrath. We must remember that there are a huge number of Jews living under God’s protection in Petra until this time. There will also be nations who never came under the beast’s government (European Union), possibly America, Australia, New Zealand and others.
5 And after that I looked, and, behold, the temple of the tabernacle of the testimony in heaven was opened:
John sees the door of the Heavenly Temple being opened. This indicates that even until this time the door of salvation is still open. Notice the text says “the temple of the tabernacle”, meaning the Holy of Holies – the very presence of God. Both salvation and judgement come from the same source. In the Holy of Holies was the Mercy Seat, therefore there is no more mercy available to the world.
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.
Seven angels come from His presence with the final part of God’s wrath. The white garments represent absolute holiness, and the golden sash reveals divine authority to punish the world. Coming from the Holy of Holies, they may be dressed in priestly robes (see Leviticus 16:4). In their hands are the seven last plagues.
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.
One of the four cherubim (Revelation 4:6) gave each angel a bowl to place the plagues in. The word “vial” can mean any container like a bowl, censer or urn. Each angel’s bowl is filled with the fulness of the merciless wrath of God. It all depends on which bowl we have drunk from in our lives. The cup of salvation or the cup of judgement … “I will take the cup of salvation, and call upon the name of the LORD” (Psalm 116:13) or “For in the hand of the LORD there is a cup, and the wine is red; it is full of mixture; and he poureth out of the same: but the dregs thereof, all the wicked of the earth shall wring them out, and drink them” (Psalm 75:8).
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.
The “smoke” [shekinah glory] is representative of God’s presence (Exodus 19:18; 40:34; 2 Chronicles 5:13-14; 1 Kings 8:10-11; Isaiah 6:4). No one can enter into the presence of God while His wrath is being outpoured on the earth. This means that no one else can get saved. We see here that the wrath of God means that His grace and mercy are withdrawn. No day since Creation has the entire human race experienced God’s wrath on this level, for even during the Flood eight souls were mercifully saved, but here no such mercy is shown.
Why is this happening? Simply because the world rejected Jesus Christ as Lord … “He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life: and he that believeth not the Son shall not see life; but the wrath of God abideth on him” (John 3:36). It is too late now to plead for salvation – it is over – the way in is blocked. There is no getting passed God’s wrath … “Thou hast covered with anger, and persecuted us: thou hast slain, thou hast not pitied. Thou hast covered thyself with a cloud, that our prayer should not pass through” (Lamentations 3:43-44).