Comfort in the midst of conflict: Revelation 15 & 16
Timothy J. Westendorf
Often in Revelation the seventh in a series serves as a springboard into a new series. After the seven seals, we read about the angels with seven trumpets (8:1,2) and the seven trumpets bring us to the seven last plagues (15:1).
Seven angels in heaven
Chapter 15 brings John and his readers to a familiar place. It is God’s throne room While the place is the same as we saw in chapters 4 and 5, the mood is decidedly different. The Lord still reigns. The sea is still glassy. The faithful believers are still victorious. The redeemed are still singing praises. But seven of God’s pure and holy angels are carrying the “last plagues.” They are then given “seven golden bowls filled with the wrath of God” (15:7) by one of the four living creatures—a high-ranking angel.
God’s judgment is not an easy topic to talk about, even for believers. But God speaks about it plainly and often as a reminder and a warning. All those who cling by faith to Christ and his righteousness are spared from the wrath of God. By faith we hold on to God’s amazing gospel truth, that his justice was already satisfied by this world’s perfect Savior from sin! Those who fall under God’s judgment have only themselves to blame for stubbornly refusing the saving truth of the gospel. By faith, we are free from God’s wrath, but we also trust that his judgments are just and true for those who reject him.
Seven bowls on the earth
A loud and commanding voice introduces chapter 16 with instructions to the seven angels to pour out their bowls on the earth. There is a striking similarity between the vision of the seven bowls and the seven trumpets (chapters 8 to 11). If you lay them alongside each other it is difficult to miss the parallel thoughts and themes. The latter seems to be a repetition and intensification of the earlier vision’s message.
Recall that the trumpets point to the damage done to human hearts by the presence and preaching of false doctrine. Holding to such false teachings results in the further darkening of minds and obscuring of God’s truth, his law and gospel. Satan and his allies work tirelessly to darken the counsel of God, depriving mankind of the one thing needful. Finally, God, in judgment, allows people to have more and more of what they show they want—something other than the gospel.
As this world draws to a close, we’ll expect to see God’s truth neglected and rejected. It will seem like the dragon and the two beasts are in total control. They’ll be allowed to inspire and orchestrate the gathering of evil forces to attempt a complete obliteration of God’s church. But the day of their choosing turns out to be the Lord’s day. And then the end comes, and the world is judged.
Let fearful and anxious hearts find true comfort and calm in none other than Christ Jesus, who redeemed us and rules over all things for the good of his church!
Reflect on Revelation chapters 15-16
1. Read Matthew 24:22-25 and 2 Thessalonians 2:10-12. To whom does God send delusions? Explain why.
2. Read 2 Timothy 4:1-4.
a. Create a list of things you can do to carry out Paul’s charge in verse 2.
b. What kinds of false doctrine appeal to “itching ears”? List three.
Contributing editor Timothy Westendorf is pastor at Abiding Word, Highlands Ranch, Colorado.
This is the eighth article in as 12-part series on the book of Revelation. Find the article and answers online after July 5.
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Author: Timothy Westendorf
Volume 106, Number 7
Issue: July 2019
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