Judgment of the Beasts (Revelation 12-20) >Seven Plagues >The Prelude
This lesson is about the scenes in heaven, the vision recorded in Revelation 15:1-8 in which heavenly singers praise God, the sanctuary of the temple is opened, and the seven angels are given the bowls of wrath for the Last Judgment.
Sign John sees a "sign in heaven" (Revelation 15:1). He is not seeing something that will happen in the way he sees it, but the events John sees in vision signify or symbolize certain realities.
Suppose you come to a sign on the road that has a town’s name on it and some picturegrams indicating food, fuel, toilets, and parking. You don't believe the sign to be the actual town itself or any of its facilities.
Now you might go into the town and take a video of it. That movie would not be a sign, but a record of the real thing. In the same way, John regarded the visions given him as signs or symbols of real things, not movies of the real things.
Seven last plagues This vision sets the scene for the outpouring of the seven bowls of God’s wrath as described in the next chapter. The plagues are a sign of "the last, because in them the wrath of God is finished" (Revelation 15:1) So these bowls of wrath signify the last Judgment (cf Revelation 15:5,7).
Heaven John is seeing a vision of Heaven, like the scenes described in chapters 4 and 5. John sees heavenly singers standing on a fiery and glassy looking floor singing praise to God. He then saw the temple opened.
The beast The singers are "those who have victory over the beast..." There are three Beasts in Revelation —the Dragon, the Beast, the False prophet, and we have met them in Revelation 12-13.
The "beast and his image and the number of his name" (Revelation 15:2) refers to the third beast, the false prophet or antichrist (Revelation 13:11-18). He represents all who teach and try to enforce false religion. In particular the rulers of Rome tried to make Caesar to be God and persecuted to death those who would not worship him.
Number The "number of the beast and of his name" (Revelation 15:2, cf Revelation 13:16,18) is 666 which is the sum of the inferior Roman numerals in descending order: DCLXVI=666.
Song of Moses This song (Exodus 15:1-21) was sung as a victory song of praise to God, after the Israelites had survived the plagues God poured out upon Egypt, and after they had crossed the Red Sea.
Song of the Lamb This song (Revelation 5:9-14) was sung in the first vision of Heaven. It is sung again in this vision, to laud the power of Christ’s kingdom.
Judgments The song of the Lamb is followed by a song of praise about the holy and just judgments of God (Revelation 15:3-4).
Tabernacle John sees "the temple of the tabernacle opened in heaven" (Revelation 15:5). Probably John refers to the Holy of Holies or inner sanctuary where God dwelt in Moses’s time (Hebrews 9:1-5).
This inner sanctum was closed off with a curtain signifying some limitations to man’s fellowship with God in those times. However Jesus opened the way into that Most Holy Place (Hebrews 10:19-22).
In olden times, the tabernacle (and later the temple in Jerusalem) served to connect the people with God in a special way. God is present with us today in an even better way, and we have fellowship with him through Jesus (1John 1:3). In the new Jerusalem God himself will be the temple (Revelation 21:22). In other words, the presence of God will be utterly unveiled to us.
Seven angels Before anyone goes in to this temple of eternal fellowship with God, something must come out, namely the true and righteous judgments of God represented by the seven angels given each a bowl of wrath (Revelation 15:6-7).
Four living creatures We met these four creatures in the first vision of Heaven (Revelation 4:6-8). We saw that each creature characterizes Christ.
We are not told which creature gave the bowls to the angels.
Wrath We have to balance two beliefs. We believe in the joy of eternal fellowship with God through his grace. We believe in the wrath of God upon those who have not had their names preserved in the Lamb’s book of life (Revelation 3:5).
In the vision we have been studying, the last exercise of God’s wrath in righteous judgment must proceed out of Heaven, before the multitude of the saved enter in.
Smoke The smoke that John saw filling the temple did not come from the wrath of God, but "from the glory of God and from his power" (Revelation 15:8).
Whilst the wrath of God was to be "finished", his glory and power never end. The greatest manifestation of God’s power and glory is not his wrath, but the wondrous plan he brought to pass to save us from his wrath by his grace.