“And I saw another sign in heaven, great and marvellous, seven angels having the seven last plagues; for in them is filled up the wrath of God”.Revelation chapter 15:1
The Great Tribulation – The Seven Last Plagues (Revelation 15 & 16)
There are three sets of judgements described in Revelation,
Seven seals (Revelation 6-8v1)
Seven trumpets (Revelation 8v2-11)
Seven vials (bowls) (Revelation 15 – 16)
We outline these seven vials, which are described as “the seven last plagues” (15v1).
They certainly occur in the final three-and-a-half-year period before the Lord returns to earth, most likely in the later part of this period.
Verse 1: Another vision for John
- Nature of the sign – “great and marvellous”
- The substance of the vision – “seven angels having seven last plagues”
- The consequence – ‘in them is filled- up the wrath of God’- these plagues bring to a completion the wrath of God, which will not go on indefinitely.
Verses 2-4: The praise of the overcomer
- The state in heaven – “sea of glass mingled with fire”
- The overcomer – those who refused the beast, his image, his mark and the number of his name – possibly at the expense of their lives
- Their location – they stand on the sea of glass – in a state of peace
- Their possession – “having the harps of God” – accompaniment to praise
- Their song (v3-4) – note their appreciation of God, and confidence in Divine victory
Verses 5–8: The preparation for the plagues
- Seven angels emerge from the sanctuary
- Clothing of the angels – witness to God’s righteousness
- Golden vials – righteous judgements
- Temple filled – glory of God – the God who is denied and blasphemed on earth is glorified in heaven.
- Instructed when to commence their work and pour out these judgements
Verse 2: The first vial
- Physical sore (boil or abscess) on the men who had owned allegiance to the beast. They choose the mark of the beast, God gives them an unwanted sore noisome (injurious, baneful) and grievous (bad, malignant).
Verse 3: The second vial
- Environmental and Ecological – “the sea” (possibly the Mediterranean) becomes “as blood” – becomes completely polluted and toxic so that all sea life dies.
Verses 4-7: The third vial
- Upon the rivers and fountains of waters; and they became blood – pollution of the water supply
- Since the blood of saints and prophets have been shed – men shall drink blood
Verses 8–9: The fourth vial
- Cosmic – heat from the sun increased (cf 8v12) – men “scorched”
- Men blaspheme God
- Men do not repent to give God glory, even though they realise God has power over these plagues
Verses 10–11: The fifth vial
- Darkness over the kingdom of the beast
- They had chosen spiritual darkness, now they experience unremitting physical darkness.
- Beast followers blaspheme the God of heaven because of their pain and sores, rather than repent.
Verses 12-16: The sixth Vial
- Physical – River Euphrates dried up (see 9v13)
- Demonic – three demons, working miracles to deceive men
- Militarily – kings of the earth gathered to Armageddon (Mount of a great multitude or Mount of slaughter) –Satan gathers the armies of men in one last act of defiance against God
- The Lord’s comment – “I come as a thief, that is, unexpectedly
Verses 17-21: The seventh vial
- Atmospheric – weather events – thunder/lightening/hail
- Geological – earthquake of unparalleled intensity – cities fall, islands move, mountains vanish