“The seven angels who were holding the seven plagues came out of the Temple. They were clothed in spotless white linen with gold sashes across their chests. Then one of the four living beings handed each of the seven angels a gold bowl filled with the wrath of God, who lives forever and ever. The Temple was filled with smoke from God’s glory and power. No one could enter the Temple until the seven angels had completed pouring out the seven plagues.”
Revelation 15:6-8 NLT
As John’s eyes remained fixed on the Temple vision, he noticed seven angels appear. They were holding the seven plagues. He didn’t elaborate on how this would be possible. How do you hold a plague? But the origins of plagues aren’t visible to human eyes without optical or similar assistance. Viruses and bacteria are incredibly small living organisms, so John, perhaps through his spirit, knew the angels had something terrible to unleash on the earth. As we know, a small glass phial would have been sufficient.
The seven angels “were clothed in spotless white linen with gold sashes across their chests”. In other translations, there is a hint that these angels were clothed in a precious stone, but we get the picture that the clothes represent purity and righteousness. Back in Revelation 1:13, John recorded, “And standing in the middle of the lampstands was someone like the Son of Man. He was wearing a long robe with a gold sash across his chest.” Perhaps the gold sashes were a badge of honour for those belonging to Christ.
In John’s vision, one of the “living beings” enters his field of view. This time he appears to be a messenger, carrying seven bowls, one for each of the angels. These bowls contained God’s anger, ready to be poured out on the earth and all those remaining in it. And the scene finishes with the picture of the seven beautifully dressed angels, carrying golden bowls and glass phials containing the plagues, and the Temple full of smoke from God’s glory and power.
Back in Isaiah 6, the earthly Temple was filled with the smoke of God’s presence. Isaiah wrote, referring to the seraphim flying around in God’s presence, “They were calling out to each other, “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of Heaven’s Armies! The whole earth is filled with his glory!” Their voices shook the Temple to its foundations, and the entire building was filled with smoke.” (Isaiah 6:3-4 NLT). This wasn’t your ordinary smoke, pouring out of a chimney or from a burning trash can. This was the glory and power of God, so tangible that it appeared to natural eyes as smoke. But surely the original “Holy Smoke”?
The seven bowls contained “the wrath of God“. An angry amalgam of God’s anger, that had been building up for ages, anger with the stubbornness of mankind, who were still unrepentant until, literally, the last minute of time. And before them was the stubbornness of previous generations, who had died in their sins. There was no more opportunity to repent now. The Gospel had been declared. God’s grace and patience had finally ended. The seven plagues were the final judgement, completing the End Times and allowing new beginnings to be established.
To us pilgrims, it is inexplicable that so many people in our families and communities have stubbornly resisted all contact with God. But we keep trying anyhow, with our appeals, our sharing, our love and grace. We never give up sharing the Good News about God, making opportunity of every moment. But just to let these people face the consequences of their reluctance to embrace the One who created them is not in God’s plan. Not yet anyway. As long as we have breath we will share our faith in the One who deserves all the glory, all the honour, all the praise, all the worship.
Dear Father God. We don’t know when the clock will finally click over into the ultimate End of Time. But we do know the Clockmaker. And we praise and worship You today. Amen.