Revelation 15-16 – The Seven Vials of God’s Wrath
In chapter fifteen we have the prelude to the final last plagues and in chapter sixteen the last of God’s judgments are poured out on the earth and the inhabitants thereof. These are the most severe thus far and much worse than the seal and trumpet judgments. These are the seven vials or bowls of God’s wrath. They take place just prior to the return of Christ in Revelation 19. Chapters seventeen and eighteen are parenthetical chapters filling in details of the fall of ecclesiastical and economic Babylon.
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Another Sign in Heaven
Revelation 15:1 – “And I saw another sign in heaven, great and marvelous, seven angels having the seven last plagues; for in them is filled up the wrath of God.”
So a very great and marvelous sign appears in heaven. Seven angels which have the final vials or bowls of God’s judgment. In these final plagues will be completed the wrath of God upon a Christ rejecting world. The world had the truth and yet rejected it.
Knowing Jesus paid the penalty for their sins on Calvary’s cross but refused to accept Him as their Savior. They could have been forgiven and spared judgment. So now they will face His wrath.
Romans 1:18 – “For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who hold the truth in unrighteousness.”
A Sea of Glass Mingled With Fire
Revelation 15:2 – “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.”
John sees a sea of glass mingled with fire. What a sight this must have been to behold. “As it were” signifies this is what it looked like in appearance and not a literal sea of glass. It’s designed to reflect the glory of God. The fact that the saints stand upon it reflects the faithfulness of God in upholding His own.
Fire is probably indicative of the fiery judgment that is forthcoming. He also sees all those who had gotten victory over the beast and his image and his mark and the number of his name. These are those who were martyred for the faith and for refusing to take the mark of the beast. They are standing on the sea of glass and have the harps of God. No doubt used for worship as we shall see in the next two verses.
Singing the song of Moses and the Lamb
Revelation 15:3-4 – “And they sing the song of Moses the servant of God, and the song of the Lamb, saying, Great and marvelous are Thy works, Lord God Almighty; just and true are Thy ways, Thou King of saints. 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.”
They were singing the song of Moses and of the Lamb. In that they sing the song of Moses probably signifies they were Jews. And the song of the Lamb reveals they had accepted Christ. This was likely the result of the 144,000 evangelists preaching the gospel. They are praising God for His mighty and wonderful works and that His ways are true and just. He does all things well! Who would not fear, worship, and glorify such a God? And they also praise Him because His judgments are finally about to be manifest.
Some may ask, “If God is so loving and righteous why is He now so vengeful?” We are now in the dispensation of grace. God deals with us on the basis of His grace and mercy at this time. However, God promised judgment and at this time grace is passed and His wrath is being poured out. God is always just in what He does. None will be able to dispute this when His judgments come.
He provided a way of escape through the finished work of Christ on the cross but men refused it. The free gift of God provided for them by the sacrifice of Jesus and His shed blood on their behalf was rejected. Therefore they will face His wrath and God will be just in doing so. Remember when Abraham was interceding for Sodom and Gomorrah? He asked the question, “Shall not the Judge of all the earth do right” (Genesis 18:25)? Indeed God will be just in His judgment upon a Christ rejecting world.
Seven Angels Prepare Themselves
Revelation 15:5-7 – “And after that I looked, and, behold, the temple of the tabernacle of the testimony in heaven was opened: 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. 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.”
So these are seven angels coming out of the temple in heaven having the seven final plagues. Through them the judgment of God will be made complete. The word for wrath here is thymos, literally anger rather than orge, properly wrath. God’s anger is unleashed on a Christ rejecting and beast worshiping world.
The Temple Filled With the Glory of God
Revelation 15:8 – “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.”
There is a temple in heaven of which the temple on earth was a model. This is a place of God’s dwelling in the holy of hollies. None will be able or allowed to enter it until the seven plagues are completed. You remember no one could enter into the holy of hollies except the high priest and that only once a year. Nobody will be able to enter this temple until these final judgments are completed. Some fill it is because God is in the temple weeping over what is about to take place. Much like Jesus when He looked over Jerusalem and wept over the judgment He foresaw coming upon it. God has no pleasure in judgment but you can be sure it will come if men refuse to repent.
Luke 19:41-44 – “And when He was come near, He beheld the city, and wept over it, Saying, If thou hadst known, even thou, at least in this thy day, the things which belong unto thy peace! but now they are hid from thine eyes. For the days shall come upon thee, that thine enemies shall cast a trench about thee, and compass thee round, and keep thee in on every side, And shall lay thee even with the ground, and thy children within thee; and they shall not leave in thee one stone upon another; because thou knewest not the time of thy visitation.”
Ezekiel 18:23 – “Have I any pleasure at all that the wicked should die? saith the Lord God: and not that he should return from his ways, and live?”
Ezekiel 33:11 – “As I live, saith the Lord God, I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked; but that the wicked turn from his way and live: turn ye, turn ye from your evil ways; for why will ye die?”
The temple was filled with smoke from the glory of God. This is reminiscent of the tabernacle in the wilderness when the cloud was over it and Aaron nor his sons couldn’t enter because of the glory of God. We’re also reminded of Solomon’s dedication of the temple he built. At the end of him making sacrifices the cloud of the glory of God filled the house so that the priest could not stand to minister. Oh that God’s glory would so fill His houses of worship so we would not be able to minister. We need the glory of God in our midst like never before.
The Seven Vials of God’s Wrath
Revelation 16:1 – “And I heard a great voice out of the temple saying to the seven angels, Go your ways, and pour out the vials of the wrath of God upon the earth.”
So a voice comes out of the temple in heaven to dispatch the seven angels having the final plagues. The voice is likely the voice of God. They’re commanded to pour out the vials of God’s wrath upon the earth and the inhabitants thereof. This is done prior to the coming of God’s Son to take control and reign upon the earth. Apparently these judgments come in rapid succession.
1. The First Vial is Poured Out
Revelation 16:2 – “And the first went, and poured out his vial upon the earth; and there fell a noisome and grievous sore upon the men which had the mark of the beast, and upon them which worshiped his image.”
So the first vial is poured out on all those who have the mark of the Antichrist and who worship his image. A noisome and grievous sore is released upon them. This is reminiscent of the boils inflicted on the Egyptians (Exodus 9:9-11). This plague is literally a running sore that can’t be healed. This will be much like one gets from radiations burns. Most probably this will be over much of their body. This will be a horrible judgment and one to be shunned. The time is now to turn your life over to Jesus so you will be spared these judgments. Once these vials begin to be poured out it will be too late. Accept Christ as your Savior NOW!
2 Corinthians 6:2 – “For He saith, I have heard thee in a time accepted, and in the day of salvation have I succoured thee: behold, NOW is the accepted time; behold, NOW is the day of salvation.”
Romans 5:9 – “Much more then, being now justified by His blood, we shall be saved from wrath through Him.”
God makes a distinction between those who have taken the mark of the beast and worshiped him and those who serve and worship the Lord God. We remember when God poured out His judgment on the Egyptians He made a distinction between them and the children of Israel. The plagues that were unleashed on them did not affect Israel. God made provision to protect His people. Even so, those who are true to Jesus, have applied His blood to their lives, and refuse to worship the beast will be protected from these judgments.
Exodus 12:13 – “And the blood shall be to you for a token upon the houses where you are: and when I see the blood, I will pass over you, and the plague shall not be upon you to destroy you, when I smite the land.”
2. The Second Vial is Poured Out
Revelation 16:3 – “And the second angel poured out his vial upon the sea; and it became as the blood of a dead man: and every living soul died in the sea.”
Notice the first plague touches the earth and mankind. The second one touches the sea. The sea becomes as the blood of a dead man and every living thing in the sea dies. How God is going to do this is a matter of speculation. 1. Meteorite Shower. It could be a meteorite shower and as they enter the earth’s atmosphere they turn into an red dust coming upon the waters making it as blood and killing everything in it. 2. Large Asteroid. One of the concerns that scientists have is of a large asteroid getting caught in its orbit within the earth’s gravitational pull being drawn to the earth. The tremendous devastation that would come if it was five miles or more in diameter. By what means God is going to use to bring this to pass is left to speculation but you can be sure it will happen. My opinion is that God just does it through the vial of this judgment being filled with the wrath of God.
3. The Third Vial is Poured Out
Revelation 16:4-7 – “And the third angel poured out his vial upon the rivers and fountains of waters; and they became blood. And I heard the angel of the waters say, Thou art righteous, O Lord, which art, and wast, and shalt be, because Thou hast judged thus. For they have shed the blood of saints and prophets, and Thou hast given them blood to drink; for they are worthy. And I heard another out of the altar say, Even so, Lord God Almighty, true and righteous are Thy judgments.”
This is very similar to what took place in Egypt when Moses stretched out his rod over the Nile river and the waters turned to blood and the waters became undrinkable (Exodus 7:20). The same will be taking place all over the globe with the pouring out of this third vial. Except then it was limited to the waters of Egypt and here it will take place over the entirety of the world. Drinking water will be virtually unattainable with the exception of what is already stored up. Imagine what this is going to do to man when all the fresh water systems are polluted.
Notice that it is said repeatedly in these verses that God is just and righteous in pouring out this judgment upon a Christ rejecting world “for they are worthy.” The primary reason that’s given here for this judgment is because “they have shed the blood of saints and prophets, and Thou hast given them blood to drink.” God is righteous and just in judging them thus. I recall visiting the man who discipled me when he was dying of cancer and in the midst of it he said to me, “God does all things right.” I was so impressed with his faith even at the end.
God poured out His judgment on His Son on the cross so men wouldn’t have to experience God’s judgment but because they have rejected Jesus they’ll be judged accordingly. This is why He is just in justifying all who trusted Christ as Lord and Savior. If you’ll turn your life over to Jesus you can be declared the righteousness of God in Him and be spared judgment.
Romans 3:25-26 – “Whom God hath set forth to be a propitiation through faith in His blood, to declare His righteousness for the remission of sins that are past, through the forbearance of God; To declare, I say, at this time His righteousness: that He might be just, and the justifier of him which believeth in Jesus.”
Romans 5:9-10 – “Much more then, being now justified by His blood, we shall be saved from wrath through Him. For if, when we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of Sis Son, much more, being reconciled, we shall be saved by His life. And not only so, but we also joy in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom we have now received the reconciliation.”
It’s interesting that there’s an “angel of the waters.” God has angels distributing these vial judgments and He has them over many things in the world. They are in a sense caregivers over the elements and much of the things in nature and creation. There are also angels assigned to us even as little children and then throughout our lives. They watch over us, protect us, and are there for us at times to deliver us. My wife has always said she was convinced God had a slew of angels watching over me primarily because I make their job so difficult for them that it took a lot of them.
Matthew 18:10 – “Take heed that ye despise not one of these little ones; for I say unto you, That in heaven their angels do always behold the face of My Father which is in heaven.”
Psalms 91:11-12 – “For He shall give His angels charge over thee, to keep thee in all thy ways. They shall bear thee up in their hands, lest thou dash thy foot against a stone.”
Psalms 34:7 – “The angel of the Lord encampeth round about them that fear Him, and delivereth them.”
Hebrews 1:14 – “Are they not all ministering spirits, sent forth to minister for them who shall be heirs of salvation?”
4. The Fourth Vial is Poured Out
Revelation 16:8-9 – “And the fourth angel poured out his vial upon the sun; and power was given unto him to scorch men with fire. And men were scorched with great heat, and blasphemed the name of God, which hath power over these plagues: and they repented not to give Him glory.”
In the midst of this judgment mankind instead of repenting they “blasphemed the name of God, which hath power over these plagues: and they repented not to give Him glory.” We often think that if men saw and were made aware of God’s judgments they would surely repent and plead for His mercy but this isn’t the case. Instead, as Pharaoh of old, their hearts are hardened all the more against the Lord to the point of blaspheming Him. On the contrary, the wicked seldom turn to God as a result of His judgment but the righteous do respond to His discipline and chastening proving they are His. It’s typically not judgment but the goodness of God that brings people to Himself. Both God’s discipline and His goodness brings those who are His to the path of righteousness.
Hebrews 12:5-8 – “And ye have forgotten the exhortation which speaketh unto you as unto children, My son, despise not thou the chastening of the Lord, nor faint when thou art rebuked of Him: For whom the Lord loveth He chasteneth, and scourgeth every son whom He receiveth. If ye endure chastening, God dealeth with you as with sons; for what son is he whom the father chasteneth not? But if ye be without chastisement, whereof all are partakers, then are ye bastards, and not sons.”
Romans 2:4-5 – “Or despisest thou the riches of His goodness and forbearance and longsuffering; not knowing that the goodness of God leadeth thee to repentance? But after thy hardness and impenitent heart treasurest up unto thyself wrath against the day of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgment of God.”
The sun is now scorching men upon the earth. There will be no air conditioning or any other form of relief from the scorching heat of the sun that God is intensifying. Again how this is accomplished is a matter of speculation. We know that with the fourth trumpet judgment “the third part of the sun was smitten, and the third part of the moon, and the third part of the stars; so as the third part of them was darkened, and the day shone not for a third part of it, and the night likewise” (Revelation 8:12). It could be at this time the sun goes into a super nova condition. This is a phenomenon we have observed in the universe. As stars go into this super nova condition they heat up for a few days and increase in their intensity and light and then seem to just die out. If the sun did this imagine what it would do to people on earth.
It could be that there is a major nuclear holocaust on the earth. Russia, the United Sates, China, North Korea, etc. set off their nuclear weapons at one another. We know that one of the affects of nuclear weapons set off in the atmosphere is a destruction of the ozone blanket. The ozone blanket shields us from much of the ultra violet rays from the sun. It seems it was the purpose of God to put the ozone layer there to protect us from the ultra violet rays. If it was depleted the sun would literally scorch the inhabitants of the earth. The exposure to these rays causes running sores, creates burns, skin cancer and so forth. So this would be at least some of the affects of a nuclear holocaust. Either of these could possible have this affect, however, God likely just does it through this vial judgment.
5. The Fifth Vial is Poured Out
Revelation 16:10-11 – “And the fifth angel poured out his vial upon the seat of the beast; and his kingdom was full of darkness; and they gnawed their tongues for pain, And blasphemed the God of heaven because of their pains and their sores, and repented not of their deeds.”
Even as God brought darkness upon Egypt (Exodus 10:21-23) He brings darkness on the kingdom of the beast. In Egypt it was “darkness which may be felt.” This I’m sure will be much worse than that. Again this could be a super nova condition of the sun where it becomes extremely bright and hot for a short time and then dark. “And blasphemed the God of heaven because of their pains and their sores, and repented not of their deeds.” Man continuing to blaspheme God because of their pain.
2. The Sixth Vial is Poured Out
Revelation 16:12-16 – “And the sixth angel poured out his vial upon the great river Euphrates; and the water thereof was dried up, that the way of the kings of the east might be prepared. And I saw three unclean spirits like frogs come out of the mouth of the dragon, and out of the mouth of the beast, and out of the mouth of the false prophet. For they are the spirits of devils, working miracles, which go forth unto the kings of the earth and of the whole world, to gather them to the battle of that great day of God Almighty. Behold, I come as a thief. Blessed is he that watcheth, and keepeth his garments, lest he walk naked, and they see his shame. And he gathered them together into a place called in the Hebrew tongue Armageddon.
So “the sixth angel pours out his vial upon the great river Euphrates; and the water thereof was dried up, that the way of the kings of the east might be prepared.” The Euphrates river from the mountains to the Persian gulf is some 1,800 miles and is too deep to cross and too long to go around so it is dried up for the crossing. They’ll be gathered together from the nations of the East, China, India, Japan, and so forth for the last great battle.
Not only them but all “the kings of the earth and of the whole world, to gather them to the battle of that great day of God Almighty.” This will include Gog and Magog (Ezekiel 38) which is probably a reference to Russia (the army of the north). Persia is also mentioned in this chapter which refers to modern day Iran. When the nations of the world are gathered to come against Israel and God Himself at the Valley of Megiddo or Armageddon they will all be conquered by the second coming of our Lord. As we shall see in verses that follow God will use the elements, in part, to defeat them.
Zechariah 14:1-3 – “Behold, the day of the Lord cometh, and thy spoil shall be divided in the midst of thee. For I will gather all nations against Jerusalem to battle; and the city shall be taken, and the houses ransacked, and the women ravished; and half of the city shall go forth into captivity, and the residue of the people shall not be cut off from the city. Then shall the Lord go forth, and fight against those nations, as when He fought in the day of battle.”
The means by which the nations are gathered together are demonic spirits. There are “three unclean spirits like frogs come out of the mouth of the dragon, and out of the mouth of the beast, and out of the mouth of the false prophet. For they are the spirits of devils, working miracles, which go forth unto the kings of the earth and of the whole world, to gather them to the battle of that great day of God Almighty.” The deception brought forth to the nations of the world actually thinking they can overthrow God is astounding. These demons spirits coming out of the mouths of the dragon, beast, and false prophet working miracles are spirits of deception. There is already a deception over our world today like never before but it pales in comparison to what it will be like at this time.
Many in positions of authority are controlled by demon spirits. The atrocities committed by those in authority and by ones who commit acts of extreme violence around the world are surely possessed by demons. Many hearing voices telling them to do the things they do or that God is directing them to do so. They are without a doubt influenced and controlled by spirits of devils. The attack on Israel on October 7, 2023 by Hamas was clearly demonically motivated. To do what they did to innocent civilians was horrible and can only be explained as the work of devils. The gang rape of women, kidnapping the elderly, burning people alive, kill and behead babies and children can be explained no other way. Such acts come from nothing but pure evil. They are clearly demon possessed along with all who support them.
So Jesus comes “as a thief” at His second coming. Blessed is he that watcheth, and keepeth his garments, lest he walk naked, and they see his shame.” We’re exhorted us is scripture that Jesus would come as a thief in the night. Therefore we should always watch and be alert for we know not the hour of His return. We must be prepared for Him at all times. Keeping our garments refers to the garments of salvation and being clothed with the righteousness of Christ without which we will be ashamed before Him at His coming.
1 Thessalonians 5:2 – “For yourselves know perfectly that the day of the Lord so cometh as a thief in the night.”
2 Peter 3:10 – “The day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night; in the which the heavens shall pass away with a great noise, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat, the earth also and the works that are therein shall be burned up.”
1 John 2:28 – “And now, little children, abide in Him; that, when He shall appear, we may have confidence, and not be ashamed before Him at His coming.”
Isaiah 61:10 – “I will greatly rejoice in the Lord, my soul shall be joyful in my God; for He hath clothed me with the garments of salvation, He hath covered me with the robe of His righteousness.”
2 Corinthians 5:21 – “For He hath made Him to be sin for us, wWo knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in Him.”
2. The Seventh Vial is Poured Out
This vial is a three-fold:
- Poured out into the air.
Revelation 16:17 – “And the seventh angel poured out his vial into the air; and there came a great voice out of the temple of heaven, from the throne, saying, It is done.”
This is it! The final plague of the great tribulation period is now being poured out on the earth. The final judgment of God’s wrath is here. Now the time has come for Jesus’ return to set up His kingdom on the earth. We’re finally here and what a glorious day it will be.
- A Great Earth Quake.
Revelation 16:18-20 – “And there were voices, and thunders, and lightnings; and there was a great earthquake, such as was not since men were upon the earth, so mighty an earthquake, and so great. And the great city was divided into three parts, and the cities of the nations fell: and great Babylon came in remembrance before God, to give unto her the cup of the wine of the fierceness of His wrath. And every island fled away, and the mountains were not found.”
This describes a cataclysmic upheaval upon the earth. Very probably a polar axis flip, geologically rapid shifts in the axis of rotation of Earth, causing calamities such as floods and tectonic events or relatively rapid climate changes and earthquakes. A collision with an asteroid could be a possible culprit. There will be such “a great earthquake, such as was not since men were upon the earth.” This isn’t a localized quake but very probably will be felt worldwide. There will be a major geographical shift. Jerusalem is divided into three parts and entire cities fall. Isaiah describe this ever so vividly.
Isaiah 24:17-22 – “Fear, and the pit, and the snare, are upon thee, O inhabitant of the earth. And it shall come to pass, that he who fleeth from the noise of the fear shall fall into the pit; and he that cometh up out of the midst of the pit shall be taken in the snare: for the windows from on high are open, and the foundations of the earth do shake. The earth is utterly broken down, the earth is clean dissolved, the earth is moved exceedingly. The earth shall reel to and fro like a drunkard, and shall be removed like a cottage; and the transgression thereof shall be heavy upon it; and it shall fall, and not rise again. And it shall come to pass in that day, that the Lord shall punish the host of the high ones that are on high, and the kings of the earth upon the earth. And they shall be gathered together, as prisoners are gathered in the pit, and shall be shut up in the prison, and after many days shall they be visited.”
- Great hail falls out of heaven.
Revelation 16:21 – “And there fell upon men a great hail out of heaven, every stone about the weight of a talent: and men blasphemed God because of the plague of the hail; for the plague thereof was exceeding great.”
The Roman talent consisted of one hundred libra or pounds. These great hail stones will fall upon mankind. Can you imagine the devastation this will cause? We talk of seeing hail the size of golf balls but these will be around a hundred pounds each. There will be virtually no place that is safe. Houses and strong buildings will be crushed under the weight of this hail storm. None will be spared. This is like the plague of hail over Egypt but much worse considering their weight (Exodus 9:22-23). It’s unclear if this is worldwide or if it’s localized to where the kings of the earth gather together at the Battle of Armageddon. We do know that at this time these great hail stones will strike down those who have come together for this final battle. The next event to follow is the return of our Lord Who will strike down His enemies and establish His kingdom upon the earth.
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