Summary: Revelation reveals the wrath of God poured out in seven bowls. Everyone suffers, but will you suffer temporal trials as a saint or eternal punishment as a sinner?
Seven Angels with Seven Plagues
1I saw in heaven another great and marvelous sign: seven angels with the seven last plagues—last, because with them God's wrath is completed. 2And I saw what looked like a sea of glass mixed with fire and, standing beside the sea, those who had been victorious over the beast and his image and over the number of his name. They held harps given them by God 3and sang the song of Moses the servant of God and the song of the Lamb:
"Great and marvelous are your deeds,
Lord God Almighty.
Just and true are your ways,
King of the ages.
4Who will not fear you, O Lord,
and bring glory to your name?
For you alone are holy.
All nations will come
and worship before you,
for your righteous acts have been revealed."
5After this I looked and in heaven the temple, that is, the tabernacle of the Testimony, was opened. 6Out of the temple came the seven angels with the seven plagues. They were dressed in clean, shining linen and wore golden sashes around their chests. 7Then one of the four living creatures gave to the seven angels seven golden bowls filled with the wrath of God, who lives for ever and ever. 8And 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 completed.
Fast and furious! These words describe the seven bowls of wrath well. Once they begin, no one can interfere or enter the presence of God in the temple. There is no coming to the mercy seat, no offering of any sacrifice for forgiveness, and no repentance. It is too late.
John tells us that this is another sign in Revelation. The word for sign here in verse 1 is saymeion, a sign:-- distinguishing mark(1), miracle(m)(2), sign(35), signs(39). This word occurs seven times, (are you surprised?), in the book of Revelation. Those places are: 12:1,3; 13:13,14; 15:1; 16:14; 19:20.
Seven signs follow the seven trumpets and include the seven bowls of wrath. Not that knowing this helps understand the details, but it reminds us that this book is filled with symbolism even in the patterns of its structure. This is verbal art.
Another word that is very important in Revelation is translated “I saw.” This word occurs 62 times in this book. John is telling us over and over and over what he “saw.” The images are described and sometimes they are explained, but often we are left to discover the meaning as best we can.
Here in Revelation 15 we see that those who have been victorious over the beast and his image and the number of his name are standing together celebrating and singing in the presence of God. Then, when the saints are there together before the temple of God, chapter 16 tells us how the bowls of wrath are poured out on the earth, that is, on those who follow the beast. This initiates a great day of battle and the fall of Babylon (which seems to represent a cosmic spiritual center of evil power in chapter 17 and 18, and has been interpreted to be Jerusalem, Rome, or some other political power). The center of Satanic control begins to crumble as his brief period of power comes to an end. But the enemy will not give up without a last burst of struggle that ends in his being thrown into the lake of fire forever.