Prelude to Pouring Out the Seven Bowls of Wrath -- Part 3 (series; Lessons on Revelation)

by John Lowe
(Woodruff, S.C.)

7 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.

John describes what appears to be a solemn ceremony: “And one of the four beasts gave unto the seven angels seven golden vials{2] full of the wrath of God, who liveth for ever and ever.” These four living creatures, identified as angels, are mentioned several times in Revelation (4:6; 5:6; 6:1; 7:11; 14:3; 15:7; 19:4). One of them acts here for all of them. These living creatures are possibly the cherubim, always associated in Scripture with God’s creatorial and redemptive rights over the earth. Their faces are those of the lion, the calf, a man, and a flying eagle. Since the whole creation groans and travails, it is fitting that these representative beings supply the short, sharp pains which result in the final removal of the curse. We are not told which of the cherubim handed the ominous bowls to the angels of doom, but perhaps it was the one with the human face since man has been the chief cause of the curse and since creation’s redemption is intertwined with his (Romans 8:19-21).

“Vials” (also called bowls and basins) would be used in the temple for various purposes, such as collecting the blood of the sacrifices (Exodus 27:3; 1 Kings 7:50; 2 Kings 25:15). In this case, these bowls were filled with the “wrath of God” which would be poured out on the earth. When these bowls would be poured out, there would be no escape, and the judgment would be complete. This destruction is described in the bowl judgments beginning in 16:1. The smoke that filled the temple is the manifestation of God’s Glory and power (see also Exodus 19:18; 40:34-35; 1 Kings 8:10-11; Isaiah 6:4).

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.

Finally, a description is given of the manifestation of wrath. John says, “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.” The awesome Shekinah fire resided within the holy of holies in Israel’s temple. Once a year on the Day of Atonement, a priest was permitted to enter there carrying a bowl of blood in his hand. Since Calvary, the way into the holiest in heaven has been opened to all, because the blood of Christ has blazed a highway to the heart of God. But now, for a brief spell, that royal road is barred. God’s wrath, once poured out upon His Son on man’s behalf, is to be poured out again. The world which crucified the Lamb and which now has crowned its rebellions with the worship of the beast is to be judged to the full. So, bright Glory burns within the temple, filling it with smoke and standing guard at the door. The way into the holiest is barred again for a while.

When the tabernacle in the wilderness was completed, a cloud of Glory filled it (Exodus 40:35); likewise when the temple was completed (1 Kings 8:10-11). No smoke was seen in either instance because the erection of the tabernacle and the temple was not associated with judgment. However, when God gave the law to Moses, Mount Sinai was entirely enveloped in smoke because the law pronounced judgment upon all who failed to obey its demands (Exodus 19:18). When Isaiah saw the temple, “the house was filled with smoke” (Isaiah 6:4), for the prophet was sent by God to Israel with a message of judgment.

“God’s glory,” appearing like “smoke,” filled “the temple” and God set in motion the final phase of judgment. The fact that “no man was able to enter into the temple, till the seven plagues of the seven angels were fulfilled,” indicates that the time for intercession had passed. No one could come before God to stop or postpone His intentions until the bowls of wrath are emptied and the seven plagues have been completed. It seems that even the time of worship and praise was suspended as God brought about this final act of history. It was as if heaven was waiting.

Presently God is extending His grace to all men. But in the day of His judicial action, none need to try to seek Him, for He will not be found. Grace will be withdrawn and prayer will go unanswered. This is the way it will have to be because of the righteous requirements of God’s own nature. Heaven will be barricaded so that none can enter until justice has been satisfied.

I want to end by dispelling a popular notion around today, the idea that everyone will be saved because the Bible says, “God is love” and “God so loved the world, etc.” Well, God is love and He does love us, but God punishes evil and there will be nobody in heaven who has NOT accepted His Son as their Savior.
Remember, God killed everyone on earth except for eight people, Noah and his family; He killed thousands of Egyptians by drowning them in the Red Sea; He killed thousands of Assyrians outside the gates of Jerusalem. Does that sound like the lovable old man that liberal and modernist preachers portray on Sunday mornings? There are three distinct steps in this judgment of the seven angels that show that in addition to being a God of love, He is a jealous God who gets angry—“it is a terrible thing to fall into the hands of an angry God.”
1. The angels are commissioned and equipped in the temple—the sanctuary of Almighty God (15:6). That does not sound like the lovely “grandfather-God” the liberals and moderates talk about today, does it?
2. One of the living creatures gives to each of the angels a golden bowl . . . a vial . . . filled with the fury of the wrath of Almighty God. That does not sound like the God of modernists of today, does it?
3. The angels cannot act until God gives them the command to move and to pour out their viles (6:1). The eternal, ever-living God is the God of judgment. That does not sound like the tender, heavenly “Father of all men, all men are brothers, no one is bad, all men are good.” That does not sound like some of the Sunday morning essays of today, does it?
God is longsuffering. He is patient. He is good. He is kind, but He is also a consuming fire. Paul warns us in Romans 11: “Behold the goodness and the severity of God.” The Psalmist cries out, “God is angry with the wicked every day” (Psalm 7:11). Nahum warns, “God will not acquit the wicked” (Nahum 1:3). And Paul the Apostle thunders out, “God is a consuming fire” (Hebrews 12:29).

Scriptures and Notes
{1] “And before the throne there was a sea of glass like unto crystal: and in the midst of the throne, and round about the throne, were four beasts full of eyes before and behind” (Revelation 4:6).
{2] I prefer Bowls to viles, because viles makes me think of small test tubes

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