Revelation 15:1

Revelation Rev. 12:1+, Rev. 13:1+, and Rev. 14:1+ formed an interlude during which the scenes depicting the series of judgments being poured out by God upon the earth are interrupted to illustrate other important events associated with the Tribulation. Now at Revelation Rev. 15:1+, the scene shifts back to the judgments—specifically the preparations for the final set of seven judgments to be poured out upon the earth dwellers and the kingdom of the Beast. This chapter describes the scene in heaven which initiates the final seven bowls of God’s wrath, to be poured forth in the next chapter (Rev. Rev. 16:1+). The event which led to the scene before us now was the sounding of the seventh trumpet (Rev. Rev. 11:15+). The sounding of the seventh trumpet was met with the announcement that the Lord’s kingdom would be underway as a result of the judgments under that trumpet. The bowl judgments introduced here are the final plagues from God which bring about the establishment of His kingdom on earth. See Literary Structure.

The accomplishment of the Harvest and the Vintage [Rev. Rev. 14:14-20+] brings to the end of this present world. The next in succession would be the setting up of the eternal Kingdom, and the evolution of the new heavens and earth. But the Harvest and the Vintage do not adequately set forth all that we need to know about these closing scenes. Further particulars included in this momentous period require to be shown in order to complete the picture. The fate of the internal Trinity,—the Dragon, the Beast, and the False Prophet,—and what pertains to them, is to be more fully described before we come to the Millennium, the descent of the new Jerusalem, and the planting of God’s Tabernacle with men.1

another sign in heaven, great
Another is ἄλλο [allo] , another of a similar kind. This points back to the sign of the woman with the sun and moon, which was also said to be “great” (Rev. Rev. 12:1+). The fiery red dragon was also seen as a sign in the heaven (Rev. Rev. 12:3+). marvelous
Θαυμαστόν [Thaumaston] , “beyond human comprehension, wonderful, marvelous, remarkable.”2 Not in the sense that the seven plagues are wonderful, but that the scene is one that inspires wonder. seven angels having the seven last plagues
These are the seven angels which come out of the Temple and are given the seven bowls of wrath by the living creature (Rev. Rev. 15:6-7+). These seven will pour forth their bowls in the next chapter (Rev. Rev. 16:1-17+). Seven angels also initiated the seven trumpet judgments (Rev. Rev. 8:2+, Rev. 8:6+). The responsibility given to these angels reflects their great authority and intimate access to the throne. One of these seven angels subsequently shows John two women: the harlot (Rev. Rev. 17:1+) and the bride, the Lamb’s wife (Rev. Rev. 21:9+). “That these are the last plagues proves again that they are not mere reiterations of former plagues. The seals and trumpets and bowls are sequential, not parallel.”3 in them the wrath of God is complete
In these seven plagues under the sounding of the seventh trumpet, itself part of the opening of the seventh seal, the last of the three woes—the three last trumpets—will be completed (Rev. Rev. 8:13+). “No announcement that the third woe has passed is in the offing, because by the time it has passed, human history will have reached its culmination.”4 At the pouring forth of the last of these seven bowls, a voice from the Temple announces, “It is done!” (Rev. Rev. 16:17+). Then “the indignation is past” (Isa. Isa. 26:20) and the woman who fled to the wilderness will be free to leave her hiding place (Rev. Rev. 12:6+) for her great persecutor, the Beast, will have been vanquished and her Shepherd will be in her midst. This period of God’s wrath was already underway by the sixth seal judgment (Rev. Rev. 6:16-17+). See commentary on Revelation 6:17 . The church, which will not see the wrath of God (Rev. Rev. 3:10+), has long before been taken in the Rapture. As the judgments progressed from the seals, to the trumpets, and now to the bowls, their level of intensity has steadily increased. These are the final set of judgments which conclude with the Second Coming of Christ, when the “great winepress of the wrath of God” is “trampled outside the city” (Rev. Rev. 14:19-20+). “He Himself treads the winepress of the fierceness and wrath of Almighty God” (Rev. Rev. 19:15+).

On the conclusion of the Vials, the wrath of the Lamb, even more terrible than the wrath of God, is openly expressed on the subjects of vengeance. “Commission to act is given to Christ as soon as the ministration of the Vials ends.” The secret, providential dealings of God are brought to an end with the Vials or Bowls of wrath, after which the Lamb in Person publicly assumes the government of the world. But as the nations at His Coming are in armed rebellion—apostate and wicked, moreover, beyond all human conception—the wrath of the Lamb burns in its fierceness. The wrath of God is finished in the Vials, to be succeeded by the wrath of the Lamb.5

Many years previously, an angel replied to the question of how long the final period would be: “It shall be for a time, times, and half a time; and when the power of the holy people [Israel] is completely shattered, all these things shall be finished” (Dan. Dan. 12:6). These plagues will complete the last half of the Tribulation. See Events of the 70th Week of Daniel. Preterist interpreters deny the finality of these judgments because they must find their fulfillment in the events of the destruction of Jerusalem in A.D. 70:

There is no reason to assume that these must be the “last” plagues in an ultimate, absolute, and universal sense; rather, in terms of the specifically limited purpose and scope of the Book of Revelation, they comprise the final outpouring of God’s wrath, His great cosmic Judgment against Jerusalem, abolishing the Old Covenant world-order once and for all.6

How the final pouring forth of His wrath to the point of completion can be said to be obtained in a “great cosmic Judgment against Jerusalem,” which in fact was a relatively minor battle on the scale of global history is impossible to see. Much of the world had no notion of the overthrow of Jerusalem in A.D. 70. As significant an event as it was from the perspective of the Jews then living in Jerusalem, we dare not venture with Chilton in a vain attempt to find the events described here, the final outpouring of God’s wrath upon the earth dwellers, in such a relatively minor historical event! This is the same error as is made by the historicist interpreters:

Yet some gravely tell us that the first bowl is the French Revolution; the second bowl, the naval wars of that Revolution; the third bowl, the battles of Napoleon in Italy; the fourth bowl, the tyranny and military oppression of Napoleon; the fifth bowl, the calamities which befell the city of Rome and the Pope in consequence of the French Revolution; the sixth bowl, the wane of the Turkish power, the return of the Jews to Palestine, and the subtle influences of infidelity, Popery and Puseyism; and the seventh, some further war with Romanism and disaster to the city of Rome. But can it be possible that God Almighty from His everlasting seat, the temple in heaven, all angels and holy ones on high, should thus be in new and unexampled commotion, with the mightiest of all celestial demonstrations, over nothing but a few occurrences far less in meaning or moment than many others in other ages! According to such interpretation mankind have been living for the last 100 years amid the extreme terrors of “the great and terrible day of the Lord” without ever knowing it! yea, dreaming the while that we are happily gliding into the era of universal liberty and peace!7


1 J. A. Seiss, The Apocalypse: Lectures on the Book of Revelation (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 1966), 367.

2 Timothy Friberg, Barbara Friberg, and Neva F. Miller, Analytical Lexicon of the Greek New Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 2000), 195.

3 Henry Morris, The Revelation Record (Wheaton, IL: Tyndale House Publishers, 1983), Rev. 15:1.

4 Robert L. Thomas, Revelation 8-22 (Chicago, IL: Moody Press, 1995), Rev. 15:1.

5 Walter Scott, Exposition of The Revelation (London, England: Pickering & Inglis, n.d.), Rev. 15:1.

6 David Chilton, The Days of Vengeance (Tyler, TX: Dominion Press, 1987), Rev. 15:1.

7 Seiss, The Apocalypse: Lectures on the Book of Revelation, 370-371.