A Study in the Word: Revelation 15:1-8


Chapter 15 is a transition from deliverance of the saints and judgment upon unbelievers announced by the seventh trumpet to introduce events announced by the seven bowls in chapter 16. John sees another “sign,” a vision that unfolds more events connected with establishing the Kingdom (15:1). This sign deals with the completion of God’s wrath upon sinful humankind. God’s wrath will be fully and finally “finished” when the purpose of the seven bowls is completed.

The Exodus victory at the Red Sea provides background (15:2-4; Exo. 14:31). When the kingdom is established, it follows that God’s reign will be supreme over all that opposed Him: the beast, his image, and his number (Rev. 13:14-18). The faithful are included in the kingdom and sing a song of victory just as the Israelites did (Exodus 15:1-21). The song of Moses pointedly magnified the Lord God and concluded with “The LORD shall reign forever and ever” (Exodus 15:18). The song in John’s vision rings of justice served, based upon the holy nature of God and the Lamb (See Revelation 6:9-10). Revelation 15:4 quotes Psalm 86, a psalm of trust in the God whose covenant shows Him faithful and worthy of all trust.

The remainder of the chapter is a heavenly vision of the temple (15:5-8). “Testimony” is a reference to God’s covenant with His people (15:5). The seven angels wear the garments of royal priests and wear items reflective of holiness (15:6). These seven angels are handed seven bowls filled with the wrath of God (15:7). Verse 8 tells of smoke, a visual manifestation of the glory of God, as at Mount Sinai (Exodus 19:18), as with Isaiah in the Jerusalem temple (Isaiah 6:4), and in the temple vision of Ezekiel 43. No interference is allowed to impede or prevent the fall of final judgment on those who violate the holiness of God (15:8).

Scholars differ regarding whether the seal, trumpet, and bowl judgments depict the same judgment in parallel fashion (my view) or that they are chronologically consecutive, unfolding one after the other. None doubt, however, that the bowl judgments represent God’s final actions to uphold His holiness. Just as the song of Moses in Exodus 15 praised God for the victory He accomplished, so John’s vision in Revelation 15 praises God, who is almighty and whatever He says is true and right. He is worthy of all trust by the saints.

Dr. David Moore is a university online instructor in Bible and theology. Email: dm5867se@outlook.com