Revelation 15 is the introduction to Revelation 16, where the administration of the seven bowls plagues is carried out. These are the final judgments of the Tribulation period just before the return of Jesus Christ. The plagues of this judgment are affliction and calamity, not necessarily sickness or disease. These plagues will be held in bowls (vials) ready to be poured out on the evil unbelievers of the Tribulation who have rejected Jesus Christ in favor of the false messiah and his false religion.
John saw a sea of glass, which represented the majesty and splendor of the throne room of God, which sets Him apart from any other. The fire that is mixed with the sea of glass is an obvious reference to the judgment of God about to take place on earth. Also present will be the tribulational believers who had not denied their faith, worshipped the beast or taken his mark. Though they were most likely killed by the beast or his followers, they now enjoy perfect peace and happiness before the throne of God. The harps, which these believers will be holding, are symbolic of dedication to the service of God. (Revelation 14:2)
These tribulational believers will begin spontaneously singing to the Lord. Their songs will be the “Song of Moses,” as found in Exodus 15 and Deuteronomy 31 and the “Song of the Lamb,” as found throughout the book of Psalm (86:9, 111:1-10, 139:14) Both songs speak to the power and glory of God and His marvelous works.
After this, John saw the sanctuary of the temple in Heaven opened and seven angels came out from the sanctuary with the seven plagues. These angels were clothed in pure white linen and golden girdles around their breasts. Both of these descriptions are symbolic of the punishment that is about to come. The pure white linen speaks of purification and the golden girdle (same as Christ’s in Revelation 1:18) speaks of judgment.
These angels will each be given a bowl filled with the wrath of God. In Revelation 16, these bowls will be poured out upon the earth. Until these plagues are carried out, the temple in Heaven will be closed to all except God. The smoke is symbolic of God’s presence to emphasize that He is the One Who originated the judgments about to come. (Exodus 19:18, 40:34) God’s glory and power are so intense at this time that no one could enter the temple.
Revelation 16 continues with an explanation of the seven bowls plagues. These are the final plagues upon mankind, which are designed by God to bring these people to Christ without coercing their free will.
The first bowl was poured out and it resulted in the loss of health (foul and painful ulcers). The second bowl was poured out upon the sea and the sea became like the blood of a corpse (corrupt, ill-smelling) and all the things in the sea died (loss of food). The third bowl was poured out upon the rivers and the springs and they too became blood. This angel proclaimed the righteousness and justice of God in carrying out this judgment against those who had killed the tribulational believers.
The fourth angel poured out his bowl upon the sun and power was given to him to burn men with fire. The result was that these corrupt human beings refused to believe and blasphemed the name of God. The fifth angel poured out his bowl upon the Anti-Christ’s throne and plunged his kingdom into darkness. So severe was the pain for those who blasphemed God that they began gnawing at their tongue. Yet, they refused to believe or give God glory. The sixth angel poured out his bowl on the Euphrates River and it became dry in order to prepare a road for the coming of the kings from the east.
Revelation 16:13-16 is parenthetical describing the reason for the gathering of the nations in the land of Israel – the battle of Armageddon. Armageddon is a Hebrew word meaning “mount of slaughter.” This is the final battle of the Tribulation. Demons come from everywhere – the mouth of the dragon (Satan), the mouth of the beast (Anti-Christ) and the mouth of the false prophet (religious leader). Verse 14 tells us who these demons are – they are the ones who work miracles designed to deceive people and they go forth into the world to indwell those who will do battle against the Lord. Believers who are alive at this time of the Tribulation are told to be watchful and be ready for the Second Coming of Christ.
The seventh angel then poured out his bowl in the air and a voice came from Heaven saying, “it is done.” Revelation 16:18-21 describes the final days of the Tribulation where natural disasters will occur in much greater intensity than ever before in the history of man. Jerusalem will be split into three parts, Babylon is destroyed, islands are destroyed, mountains tumble and 120-pound hailstones fall upon men. Through all of this, the unbelievers will continue to blaspheme God. Regardless of how God chooses to reveal Himself and bring these unbelievers to faith in Jesus Christ, they will continue to reject Him and His plan of salvation. They will exhibit the true nature of heathenism.
The Bible tells us that God has revealed Himself in several different ways, so that mankind is without excuse when it comes to knowing that God exists. As a matter of fact, in Romans Chapter 1 we are told that when they knew God they did not glorify Him as God, but changed Him into a creature made with hands (an idol). So how is God revealed?
God is revealed in nature according to Psalms 19:1-4 and Romans 1:20. An organized design indicates a designer. The universe with its stars, sun, and moon is evidence of an intelligent creator. The trees and plants, the changing seasons, the science involved in growth, etc. all point to an intelligent designer and creator, God.
God has also designed man with a conscience with which to reach God consciousness. There are several ways for mankind to reach God consciousness and everyone, except for infants and the mentally handicapped, will reach a point at which they are aware that there is a God. (John 1:9; 6:44-45; Romans 1:18-19)
Upon reaching God consciousness, what is the responsibility of man and what is the responsibility of God? We must always remember that God does not want anyone to perish. However, He will never violate man’s freewill. It is clear from Scripture that there is a certain group of people who will refuse the “light” they are given, regardless of which approach is used to bring them the “Light.” If, in fact, a person, after reaching God consciousness, does not desire further truth, God would no longer be obligated to get the truth to that person. This, however, does not mean that God gives up on that person, though that person may give up on God. (II Peter 3:9; I Timothy 2:4; Romans 1:18-32; Isaiah 40:17-22; John 1:3-5,9; 9:41)
When a person does reach God consciousness and makes a positive decision that he wants to know God, He (God) is then obligated to get truth to him. That person will be kept alive until truth can reach him. It may be weeks, months or years, but God is always faithful to bring them truth. (Deuteronomy 4:29; Psalms 9:10, 10:4; Jeremiah 29:13; John 7:17; Acts 17:22-31)
It is not the absence of the knowledge of God that makes a person a heathen, but rather the rejection of truth at either God consciousness or Gospel hearing. This means that heathenism can exist anywhere, even in the United States of America, when people reject truth. Heathenism is not confined to a specific geographical location. Heathenism is negative volition towards God and His Word, and can be found anywhere, even in churches!
Romans 1:18-19 tells us that a heathen is someone who suppresses truth and that God will pour out His wrath against that person (rejection of truth means a person has condemned himself). In verses 20 and 21 we are told that the heathen is a person who rejects truth at God consciousness, “For the invisible things of Him….are clearly seen..”. And some reject truth upon Gospel hearing, “Because when they knew God, they glorified Him not as God…” The result of this rejection of God’s truth is emptiness (vacuum) and darkness (blackout) in the soul.
We see the spirit of heathenism prevalent throughout our society today. We see it in the breakdown of the family unit, the disobedience of children, in the lack of respect for authority, in the rise of sexual sins, in the corruption of business, the arrogance and lack of character in the political realm, in the sins of the religious community, in the greed of pseudo-Christianity, in the rise of emotionalism in churches and in the lack of doctrinal content from the pulpit.
18. For God’s anger is unveiled against mankind thinking that is contrary to His character, His justice and His righteousness; who suppress the truth unjustly.
19. Because that which may be known concerning God is made clear to them, for God has made it clear so that man can reach God consciousness.
20. For the invisible things of God, such as His person, power and essence can be clearly discerned beginning with creation; being perceived by the things that God created, therefore, they are without excuse for not knowing God.
21. Because they rejected God at God consciousness, when they reached Gospel hearing, they did not glorify Him as God, neither were thankful for what God had done for them but became inwardly foolish without discernment and their soul was darkened.
22. Proclaiming themselves to be learned, they became morons.
23. And changed the glory of the incorruptible God into a statue made like corruptible man and animals.
24. Therefore, God delivered them over to immorality by the inward desires of their souls to disgrace their own bodies.
25. Who exchanged the truth of God into a lie and worshipped and did service to the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever.
26. For this cause, God delivered them over to passions of dishonor for their women exchanged the natural use into that which is against the regular law of nature.
27. Likewise the men left the natural use of women and were sexually inflamed toward other men and intensely desired other men and received the inevitable result of divine discipline and disease.
28. They did not like to have God’s knowledge in their soul so God delivered them over to distorted minds to do those things that are not fitting according to God’s norms and standards.