SUMMARY OF CHAPTER 15
Here we see the saints of the Great Tribulation praising and worshipping God. They are seen here to have endured until the end (see Matt. 24:13). Now the last judgments on earth are to be unleashed upon those who reject God and persecute His Church.
1 Then I saw another portent in heaven, great and wonderful, seven angels with seven plagues, which are the last, for with them the wrath of God is ended.
The seven plagues are designed to punish the wicked who are living on the earth during the Great Tribulation. This is not the final Judgment at the Resurrection, but these plagues are prior the that.
2 And I saw what appeared to be a sea of glass mingled with fire, and those who had conquered the beast and its image and the number of its name, standing beside the sea of glass with harps of God in their hands.
The sea of glass has the same meaning as the sea of glass in Rev. 4:6, and that is a great multitude of saints in Heaven, and the glass mingled with fire signifies purity. The Tribulation saints conquered the Antichrist in the sense that they endured his persecution without abandoning the Faith, and they are seen standing beside the Heavenly saints in the sense that they are united with them as the Body of Christ.
3 And they sing the song of Moses, the servant of God, and the song of the Lamb, saying, “Great and wonderful are your deeds, O Lord God the Almighty! Just and true are your ways, O King of the ages! 4 Who shall not fear and glorify your name, O Lord? For you alone are holy. All nations shall come and worship you, for your judgments have been revealed.”
Caesarius of Arles and many others understood this as both the OT and NT.
Oecumenius understood this literally as the song of Moses was the song that was sung when the Egyptian army was drowned in the Red Sea (Ex. 15), and they also sing the song of the Lamb, which is a victory song because of their victory over the Devil and the Antichrist. This passage shows that Jesus is God by calling it the song of the Lamb, and then referring to the Lamb as Lord God Almighty.
5 After this I looked, and the temple of the tent of witness in heaven was opened, 6 and out of the temple came the seven angels with the seven plagues, robed in pure bright linen, and their breasts girded with golden girdles. 7 And one of the four living creatures gave the seven angels seven golden bowls full of the wrath of God who lives for ever and ever; 8 and the temple was filled with smoke from the glory of God and from his power, and no one could enter the temple until the seven plagues of the seven angels were ended.
The temple of witness in Heaven is way of describing the area in Heaven around God’s throne. The angels are now sent out to bring the last stages of punishment that comes before Judgment Day to those who persecute the Church.
SUMMARY OF CHAPTER 16
Here we see God’s final judgment against those who reject Christ and persecute His Church. This is not the Judgment Day that takes place after the resurrection, but punishment that takes place prior to the resurrection. Because the saints received the seal of the Holy Spirit on their foreheads (7:2) they are protected from these punishments, it is only for those who are under the subjection of the Antichrist. All these bowls are actual punishments from God, not symbolic of some natural disasters or human doings. This punishment from God pushes the Devil to make one last desperate attack on the Church, which is called the battle fo Armageddon.
1 Then I heard a loud voice from the temple telling the seven angels, “Go and pour out on the earth the seven bowls of the wrath of God.” 2 So the first angel went and poured his bowl on the earth, and foul and evil sores came upon the men who bore the mark of the beast and worshiped its image.
This is similar to one of the plagues of Egypt Ex. 9:8 – 9:12
3 The second angel poured his bowl into the sea, and it became like the blood of a dead man, and every living thing died that was in the sea.4 The third angel poured his bowl into the rivers and the fountains of water, and they became blood. 5 And I heard the angel of water say, “Just are you in these judgments, you who are and was, O Holy One. 6 For men have shed the blood of saints and prophets, and you have given them blood to drink. It is their due!” 7 And I heard the altar cry, “Yea, Lord God the Almighty, true and just are your judgments!”
These next two bowls resemble a plague of Egypt Ex. 7:14 – 7:25
8 The fourth angel poured his bowl on the sun, and it was allowed to scorch men with fire; 9 men were scorched by the fierce heat, and they cursed the name of God who had power over these plagues, and they did not repent and give him glory.
This is not to be mistaken for the time when God completely cleanses the earth with fire as Peter tells us in 2 Peter 3:7,12 , but this is a punishment before the cleansing of the earth as a way of giving them an opportunity to repent so they will have no excuse.
10 The fifth angel poured his bowl on the throne of the beast, and its kingdom was in darkness; men gnawed their tongues in anguish 11 and cursed the God of heaven for their pain and sores, and did not repent of their deeds.
This is very similar to the plague in Egypt in Ex. 10:21 – 10:29 . The darkness was so intense that the Egyptians even felt it (v.21).
12 The sixth angel poured his bowl on the great river Euphrates, and its water was dried up, to prepare the way for the kings from the east.
Here we see the natural barrier dried up, which allows for armies from the East and West to assemble easier.
13 And I saw, issuing from the mouth of the dragon and from the mouth of the beast and from the mouth of the false prophet, three foul spirits like frogs; 14 for they are demonic spirits, performing signs, who go abroad to the kings of the whole world, to assemble them for battle on the great day of God the Almighty. 15 (“Lo, I am coming like a thief! Blessed is he who is awake, keeping his garments that he may not go naked and be seen exposed!”) 16 And they assembled them at the place which is called in Hebrew Armageddon.
All this punishment from God has pressed the Devil to wage war with all his power and forces that he has built upon the earth, combined with his fellow demons. As the Devil prepares to attack, God gives assurance to the saints that He is about to come and put an end to it, and He also warns them to stay steadfast up to the end. Armageddon means the “Mountain of Megiddo”, which is in Israel, and it is the place where many battles have been fought. But Armageddon is to be understood here symbolically of the places throughout the world that Satan’s armies are going to attack the Church since the Church is spread throughout the world.
17 The seventh angel poured his bowl into the air, and a loud voice came out of the temple, from the throne, saying, “It is done!” 18 And there were flashes of lightning, voices, peals of thunder, and a great earthquake such as had never been since men were on the earth, so great was that earthquake. 19 The great city was split into three parts, and the cities of the nations fell, and God remembered great Babylon, to make her drain the cup of the fury of his wrath. 20 And every island fled away, and no mountains were to be found; 21 and great hailstones, heavy as a hundred-weight, dropped on men from heaven, till men cursed God for the plague of the hail, so fearful was that plague.
These are details of the battle of Armageddon, which is also mentioned in Rev. 19:11-20; 20:7-9. I discussed the meaning of Babylon in the last 2 lessons. Babylon is symbolic of the nations that were pitted against one another and to bring about the New World Order one world government which was then brought under the full subjection of the Antichrist, and those that did not bow and worship the Antichrist was slaughtered, therefore here in this passage eit receives wrath from God as well as from the forces of the Antichrist.