Then I saw another sign in heaven, great and marvelous: seven angels having the seven last plagues, for in them the wrath of God is complete.
In the drama of the end of this age Chapter 15 serves as a solemn lull in the action, a final pause before the end comes. The scene shifts to heaven. Seven angels appear with seven plagues, which are the final seven judgments against a rebellious world (15:1). The faithful redeemed in heaven also appear singing the “song of Moses” and “of the Lamb.” And then the heavenly temple was opened and the seven angels emerge, one of the “four living creatures” (Rev. 4:6-9) gives the angels seven bowls “full of the wrath of God.” The temple is filled with smoke from the glory of God and no one could enter, meaning no one could make intercession for the world, until the final plagues are completed.
The scene reveals the sovereignty of God, His holiness and power. He is the One who decides when the end will come and what will be the form of it. That the angels, the redeemed saints, and the living creatures are all part of the judgment affirms the righteousness of His judgment against the world.
Today His heart is open to intercession, and as in times past, when God’s judgment was postponed due to intercession. Such as when God told Moses that He would destroy the nation of Israel, and Moses prayed for the people and God relented from His plans to destroy them (Exodus 32:9-14,30-35). Moses prayed that if God would not forgive the sin of Israel “blot me out of Your book which You have written” (Exodus 32:32). God’s judgment against Nineveh was postponed in Jonah’s day due to the people’s repentance (Jon 3:10). Paul also pleaded for Israel with the same passion as Moses, “For I could wish that I myself were accursed from Christ for my brethren, my countrymen according to the flesh” (Rom. 9:3).
Today, in fact, He often marvels that there is not more intercession. “He saw that there was no man, and wondered that there was no intercessor” (Isaiah 59:16). Christ commanded us to pray for “the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into His harvest” (Matt. 9:38). We are weak in prayer and forget that God listens to His people, that He wants us to be involved in the salvation of the world not only through going and telling, but also through praying and interceding. Evangelism is not only speaking to people about God, it is also speaking to God about people.
But in the final judgments against the world system, God’s ear will be closed to intercession. The time will come when His righteous wrath will be released, and the whole of the heavenly host will testify that He acts with justice.
General Douglas MacArthur in his farewell speech to the congress of the United States (April 19, 1951), made these salient points: “Once war is forced upon us, there is no other alternative than to apply every available means to bring it to a swift end. War’s very objective is victory, not prolonged indecision.” In the speech he also quoted himself in a speech he made in September, 1945, on the Battleship Missouri at the formal peace signing of World War II.
Men since the beginning of time have sought peace. Various methods through the ages have been attempted to devise an international process to prevent or settle disputes between nations. From the very start workable methods were found in so far as individual citizens were concerned, but the mechanics of an instrumentality of larger international scope have never been successful. Military alliances, balances of power, Leagues of Nations, all in turn failed, leaving the only path to be by way of the crucible of war. The utter destructiveness of war now blocks out this alternative. We have had our last chance. If we will not devise some greater and more equitable system, Armageddon will be at our door. The problem basically is theological and involves a spiritual recrudescence and improvement of human character that will synchronize with our almost matchless advances in science, art, literature, and all material and cultural developments of the past 2000 years. It must be of the spirit if we are to save the flesh.
His points were well made, and should be also well taken by the world. But an inevitability also hangs in the air. At the close of one bloody war, another one begins. After victory on the battlefield, the demoralization of the victors begins. No one should question God’s patience and His long standing offer of salvation to the world. This “prolonged indecision” that is life today on planet earth, will end one day, and it exists still out of God’s desire that none “should perish but that all should come to repentance” (2 Pet. 3:9). But the human race has largely rejected God’s grace and His moral precepts, and will continue to reject them until the inevitable end comes.
The solution of God to the problems of the world is ultimately to destroy the world through righteous judgment and to start again with a new and redeemed humanity. He will ultimately remove the tempter, and judge the unrepentant, and bring this world “to a swift end,” to quote MacArthur. His judgment, in that sense, is good news, in that it prepares for true life.
One cannot study this without some profound sense of solemnity. Today marks the birth of our fourth grandchild, a beautiful little girl, we received news last night, yet we must wonder what type of world are we leaving for her. There is still much hope and joy and goodness in the world. Yet there are also many social movements that will push us further into chaos and decline. Today 40% of American children are raised without fathers in the home. The first institution of human society was the home – husband and wife and children – and it has been proven repeatedly, “As goes marriage, so goes society.” Yet we are now foolish enough as to try and re-engineer this foundational institution, accepting homosexual marriage in many nations and states. There is no way that such an outcome will be positive – neither in the short run not in the long run.
We are reached the day when we act no differently than the inhabitants of Sodom who pleaded that angels would be given over to them as sex objects (Gen. 19:5). Our violence against one another constantly increases, and we are again acting in the spirit that brought the Great Flood, “the earth was filled with violence” (Gen. 6:11).
There is an unerring moral scale that comes from the heart of God. Justice is an integral element in His nature, and it is woven into the universe as an indispensable principle. It was God’s justice that demanded a sacrifice for our sin, and Christ paid that price. He died for us. And only through repentance and faith in Him is our sin atoned for, and we are forgiven. But none of us will ever escape having to deal with the moral recompense for our actions. We either repent now and trust in Christ, and later still answer to Him in His Judgment Seat (2 Cor. 5:10), or we stand before the judgment of Almighty God, defenseless and guilty. His judgment will be just, as it always is, and the very nature of justice should frighten us.
In His judgment He also must condemn and judge this immoral world. The pause of Revelation 15 prepares us for the final judgment. Judgment comes as a pathway to the new world and the new hope that He has created for us. We have hope in Christ, eternal life and eternal peace. The old and corrupt must go to make room for the new and beautiful and pure.
There is good news in this passage because it promises and end to the misery of fallen humanity’s world and even to the judgments of God against it. There will come a time when God says, “Enough.” Just as Christ cried from the cross, “It is finished!” so will one day God cry out that His judgments are completed. After the storm comes the peace and calm of a new beginning.