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28 - The Temple of Doom

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The Temple of Doom
(Revelation 15:1–8)

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.

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. 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!

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.”

After these things I looked, and the temple of the tabernacle of testimony in heaven was opened, 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. 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. 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. (15:1–8)

Intro: When they think about the future, people worry about many things.

  • The destruction of the environment, global warming, political unrest and instability, terrorism, crime, economic and financial collapse, and the continual decline in moral values that destroy all relationships are all causes for concern.
  • A further cause for anxiety is the sense of forlorn emptiness fostered by the anti-God philosophy of humanism.
  • For those who believe there is no personal God, there is no one home in the universe, so they have nowhere to turn for ultimate answers, help, or meaning.
  • But what is truly frightening about the future is not any of those things; what should stop the heart of sinners is what God will do. God’s judgmental anger and fury is a terrifying reality that looms just over the horizon of human history (cf. Pss. 96:13; 98:9; 110:6; Joel 3:2, 12; Acts 17:31; 2 Tim. 4:1).
  • Because they willfully ignore that reality, people do not fear what they should fear. Jesus exhorted people to “fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell” (Matt. 10:28), because “God is a just judge, and God is angry with the wicked every day” (Ps. 7:11 nkjv). The writer of Hebrews adds, “It is a terrifying thing to fall into the hands of the living God” (Heb. 10:31).
  • Throughout human history God has poured out His wrath in judgment on sinners.
    • Adam’s sin in Eden brought the entire human race under judgment (Rom. 5:12). By Noah’s day, people had become so wicked that God sent the cataclysmic judgment of the Flood to destroy the world (cf. Gen. 6:5–8).
    • Only Noah and those with him on the ark were spared.
    • Centuries of disobedience by the Jewish people ultimately led to their judgment, as first the northern kingdom of Israel and then the southern kingdom of Judah went into captivity.
    • God’s wrath and judgment were the constant themes of the Old Testament prophets. They frequently warned of the coming Day of the Lord, whether an imminent historical judgment, or the final eschatological Day of the Lord.
    • All the historical Day of the Lord judgments were previews of the last and most terrible Day of the Lord.

·         Isaiah warned of God’s coming judgment:

Wail, for the day of the Lord is near!

It will come as destruction from the Almighty.

Therefore all hands will fall limp,

And every man’s heart will melt.

They will be terrified,

Pains and anguish will take hold of them;

They will writhe like a woman in labor,

They will look at one another in astonishment,

Their faces aflame.

Behold, the day of the Lord is coming,

Cruel, with fury and burning anger,

To make the land a desolation;

And He will exterminate its sinners from it.  (Isa. 13:6–9)

·         Ezekiel described the Day of the Lord as “a time of doom for the nations” (Ezek. 30:3).

·         Joel exclaimed, “Alas for the day! For the day of the Lord is near, and it will come as destruction from the Almighty” (Joel 1:15).

·         Amos cried out to sinners in Israel, “Prepare to meet your God” (Amos 4:12).

·         The prophet Zephaniah gave the following frightening description of the Day of the Lord:

Near is the great day of the Lord,

Near and coming very quickly;

Listen, the day of the Lord!

In it the warrior cries out bitterly.

A day of wrath is that day,

A day of trouble and distress,

A day of destruction and desolation,

A day of darkness and gloom,

A day of clouds and thick darkness,

A day of trumpet and battle cry

Against the fortified cities

And the high corner towers.

I will bring distress on men

So that they will walk like the blind,

Because they have sinned against the Lord;

And their blood will be poured out like dust

And their flesh like dung.

Neither their silver nor their gold

Will be able to deliver them

On the day of the Lord’s wrath;

And all the earth will be devoured

In the fire of His jealousy,

For He will make a complete end,

Indeed a terrifying one,

Of all the inhabitants of the earth.

(Zeph. 1:14–18)

  • Job warned that “the wicked is reserved for the day of calamity; they will be led forth at the day of fury” (Job 21:30).
  • The historical outpourings of God’s wrath fall into several categories.

1.         First is what might be called “sowing and reaping” wrath. People sin and suffer the logical consequences of that sin; “Those who plow iniquity and those who sow trouble harvest it” (Job 4:8; cf. Gal. 6:7–8).

2.       A second kind of wrath is cataclysmic wrath, when God sends massive, destructive judgment.

a)       That judgment may engulf the entire world, as it did with the Flood (Gen. 6–8),

b)       or a smaller region, as when God destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah (Gen. 19:1–29).

c)       Romans chapter 1 reveals God’s wrath of abandonment when Paul three times used the phrase “God gave them over” to demonstrate God’s judicial abandonment of sinners, removing restraint to the deadly consequences of their sinful choices (vv. 24, 26, 28).

d)       Hosea 4:17 declares, “Ephraim is joined to idols; let him alone.”

3.        As previously noted, God’s temporal judgment is poured out in historical Day of the Lord judgments.

4.       Finally, there is eternal wrath, God’s eschatological wrath that will in the future be poured out on the whole world (1 Thess. 1:10; 5:9). The ultimate result of eternal wrath will be the sentencing of all unrepentant sinners to hell forever.

5.        But throughout the entire historical outpouring of God’s wrath, from Eden to the final explosion of His eschatological wrath, a strange paradox exists: God is busily working to save sinners from His own wrath.

a)       God’s nature encompasses not only righteousness and holiness, but also grace and mercy.

b)       Even during the devastating judgments of the Tribulation, God will call sinners to salvation. He will do so using the 144,000 Jewish evangelists (7:2–8; 14:1–5), the two witnesses (11:3–13), a host of redeemed Gentiles and Jews (7:9–17), even an angel flying in the sky (14:6–7).

c)       As the outpouring of divine wrath escalates, God’s evangelistic efforts will escalate as well. The result will be the greatest harvest of souls in human history (cf. 7:9). A redeemed Israel and souls from all the nations will be saved, many to survive the Tribulation and enter the millennial kingdom.

6.       Chapters 15 and 16 present the specific phenomena of the final outpouring of God’s wrath before Christ’s return.

a)       That wrath is expressed by the effects of the seventh trumpet (11:15), which are the seven bowl judgments described in chapter 16.

b)       Chapter 15, the shortest in Revelation, forms an introduction to those rapid-fire judgments, but this chapter is not written for the specific purpose of defending God’s wrath.

c)       Since “His work is perfect [and] all His ways are just” (Deut. 32:4), God’s actions need no defense. Nevertheless, several reasons for the outpouring of God’s wrath can be discerned in this text.

7.        A scene in heaven anticipates the bowl judgments, as it did in the case of the seal (chaps. 4–5) and trumpet (8:2–6) judgments.

a)       This is the third heavenly sign that John has seen in Revelation.

§         In 12:1 he saw the sign of “a woman clothed with the sun, and the moon under her feet, and on her head a crown of twelve stars,”

§         while in 12:3 he saw the sign of “a great red dragon having seven heads and ten horns, and on his heads were seven diadems.” The terms great and marvelous express the enormous importance of this sign as it contains the final outpouring of God’s wrath on the wicked, unrepentant sinners of the earth.

§         The sign itself consists of seven angels who had seven plagues. The same beings who care for and minister to God’s people (cf. Heb. 1:14) will bring God’s wrath to the sinful world (cf. Matt. 13:37–42).

§         Plēgē (plague) literally means “a blow,” or “a wound,” and is so used in such passages as Luke 12:48; Acts 16:23, 33; 2 Corinthians 6:5, and 11:23. In 13:3 and 12 it describes the beast’s fatal wound.

§         Thus, the seven plagues are not really diseases or epidemics, but powerful, deadly blows (cf. 9:18–20; 11:6) that will strike the world with killing impact.

b)       These seven plagues (the seven bowl judgments) are the last (and worst) plagues, because in them the wrath of God is finished.

8.       It is important to note that the fact that they are called the last implies that the preceding trumpet and seal judgments were also plagues expressing the wrath of God.

a.        God’s wrath extends throughout the Tribulation and is not confined to a brief period at the very end, as some argue. That they are the last also indicates that the bowls come after the seals and trumpets in chronological sequence.

b.       This tremendous outpouring of God’s final judgmental fury was actually anticipated earlier in Revelation.

c.        It is the culmination of the “great day of [God the Father’s and Jesus Christ’s] wrath” (6:17).

d.       It is the “third woe” predicted in 11:14; the time of destruction (11:18); the unmixed wine of God’s wrath (14:10); the final reaping of the earth (14:14–16); the final trampling of the grapes of God’s wrath (14:17–20).

e.        Thumos (wrath) is a strong word, describing rage, or a passionate outburst of anger. God’s anger must be expressed against all unforgiven sin (cf. 14:8, 10).

f.         In 16:19 and 19:15 God’s final wrath is called His “fierce wrath.”

g.       The prophet Zephaniah wrote of this final outpouring of God’s wrath in Zephaniah 3:8:

“Therefore wait for Me,” declares the Lord,

“For the day when I rise up as a witness.

Indeed, My decision is to gather nations,

To assemble kingdoms,

To pour out on them My indignation,

All My burning anger;

For all the earth will be devoured

By the fire of My zeal.”

h.       It is true that, as Peter wrote, “The Lord … is patient toward you, not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance” (2 Pet. 3:9). Yet those who refuse God’s love, reject His grace, and scorn His mercy will inevitably face His wrath.

i.         As this chapter unfolds, three motives for the final outpouring of God’s wrath will become evident: the vengeance of God, the character of God, and the plan of God.


cf. confer (Lat.), compare

nkjv New King James Version

vv. verses

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