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Revelation 15:5, 6 says,
5 After these things I looked, and the temple of the tabernacle of testimony in heaven was opened, 6 and the seven angels who had the seven plagues came out of the temple, clothed in linen, clean and bright, and girded around their breasts with golden girdles.
After seeing the overcomers standing on the sea of glass (i.e., the laver), John then sees the heavenly temple “opened” by an unseen hand, and he sees the angels of the seven churches stepping forth to pour out their bowls of wine. Since the seven churches are pictured in Rev. 1:20 as the “stars” or lamps on the lampstand in the temple, it follows that their angels would be in the temple until called upon to fulfill their prophetic responsibility.
The scene of the seven bowls gives us the meaning of the prophetic side of the feast of Tabernacles, particularly the seven drink offerings that were offered during that week. At the feast of Tabernacles, the priests set up four huge lampstands in the outer court, each 50 cubits high, bringing the light out from the temple to the people—and even to the entire city. So also John tells us that the temple was opened, and the seven angels (“stars” on the lampstand in Rev. 1:20) came out of the heavenly temple into the earth (i.e., the “outer court”).
The feast of Tabernacles was first of all a harvest festival at the end of the growing season. It was a time of rejoicing as the people thanked God for the rain necessary to bring in a harvest. The rain also signified the outpouring of the Holy Spirit, as the prophets had foretold. For this reason, they sent a priest daily during the feast with a silver pitcher of water to get water from the Pool of Siloam, which they poured out as a drink offering at the altar, along with wine.
Secondly, in the evening they set up four huge lampstands in the Court of the Women, each having four fires, for a total of sixteen lamps. Four is the biblical number of the earthly creation, and sixteen is the number of love. Therefore, this prophetically signified the love of God sending out light to the entire creation to fulfill the Abrahamic calling. The light from the lampstand that was normally hidden in the temple was brought out for the whole world to see and to enjoy.
Of course, Revelation 16 also correlates with the 16th Hebrew letter, ayin, which means “an eye,” and signifies seeing, looking for, or manifestation. This letter has a numeric value of 70, which means “restoration of all nations.” Hence, the fall of Babylon, while negative from the perspective of evil men, is meant to restore the nations out of God’s heart of love at the time of the manifestation of the sons of God.
Until now, we have been given no description of these seven angels, other than that they were identified with the seven stars. But here now we see them “clothed in linen, clean and bright” and having “golden girdles.” A footnote in The Emphatic Diaglott says that one manuscript reads lithon (“stone”) instead of linon (“linen”).
Since the texts differ, it is helpful to see that Panin’s Numeric English New Testament says the angels were “arrayed with precious stone pure, bright, and girt about their breasts with golden girdles.” Panin studied the numeric values of each word, sentence, paragraph, and book of the New Testament in order to discern which readings were “inspired” according to the internal numbering system. In using the word “stone” here, he says that this word preserves the inspired numbers built into the text.
Hence, we are to understand that these angels were described as being adorned with pure, bright precious stones, with “linen” garments only implied. In other words, these angels each wear an ephod, like the high priests wore in ancient times (Exodus 28:15-21). The ephod contained four rows of precious stones with three stones in each row signifying the twelve tribes of Israel.
Exodus 28:15 calls this ephod “a breastplate of judgment,” signifying that the one wearing it was called as a judge to administer justice to the twelve tribes. The high priest, of course, was to render God’s judgment, rather than his own opinions. Though many high priests in Israel’s history failed to administer justice properly, the seven angels administer perfect justice. They are pictured wearing ephods first to establish their spiritual authority and secondly to inform us that their justice is “pure” and in accord with the will and mind of God.
Revelation 15:7 says,
7 And one of the four living creatures gave to the seven angels seven golden bowls full of the wrath of God, who lives forever and ever.
We are not told which of the four living creatures supplied the golden bowls, but we do know that the four living creatures (lion, man, bull, eagle) represent the four leading tribes of Israel around the throne (Tabernacle) in particular, and all of creation in general. Hence, by their participation in this judicial process, the four living creatures approve of this divine judgment, for they are in agreement with the Lamb on the throne (Rev. 5:8, 14).
This correlates with the fact that the 15th chapter of Revelation manifests the 15th letter of the Hebrew alphabet, the samech, “a prop, or support,” or in this case, a double witness.
The picture emerges, then, of the seven angels stepping forth after the divine decree has been spoken. The four living creatures respond with their usual “Amen,” and equip the seven angels with each particular judgment that they are to decree in the earth. Each ministry supports the others in perfect harmony, ensuring that the word of God will be fulfilled.
The seven bowls are from the feast of Tabernacles, where seven bowls of wine were poured out as drink offerings, along with seven pitchers of water, into the two pipes, one on either side of the brazen altar. John mentions only “seven golden bowls, full of the wrath of God,” not distinguishing between the water and the wine. Perhaps this is because the offering of water was not specifically commanded by Moses in his instructions in Numbers 29. Perhaps it was understood in the plural term, “drink offerings” (Num. 29:21, 24, 27, etc.). Or this may have been a later revelation that was added when the prophets spoke about the outpouring of the Spirit (Isaiah 32:15; Joel 2:28; Ezekiel 36:25-28).
Whatever happened, the combination of water and wine served to show that the coming judgment upon the nations was to be accompanied by the outpouring of the Holy Spirit. The combination of these two factors are necessary to fulfill the divine plan to establish the Kingdom of God upon the earth.
On each day of the feast of Tabernacles, the priests marched in procession around the altar of sacrifice, singing (from Psalm 118:25), “O then, now work salvation, Jehovah! O Jehovah, give prosperity!” But on the seventh day of Tabernacles, they marched around the altar seven times. These circuits were done to remember how Jericho had fallen when Israel first came into the land of Canaan. Joshua 6:3, 4 gives those instructions, saying,
3 And you shall march around the city, all the men of war circling the city once. You shall do so for six days. 4 … then on the seventh day you shall march around the city seven times…
The fall of Jericho prefigured the fall of Babylon, so we must read Revelation 16 in the light of Joshua’s account. Both must be understood in the light of the common temple practice in Jesus’ day, with which John was so familiar. As we will see, the fall of Babylon comes at the end of the seventh bowl poured out in Rev. 16:17-19. In fact, the metaphorical “earthquake” that destroys Babylon suggests that an actual physical quake may have shook Jericho, collapsing its walls.
While the priests were pouring out the seven drink offerings (water and wine) at the feast of Tabernacles, they sang prophetic psalms. Each day they sang a different psalm. These are given to us by Alfred Edersheim in his book, The Temple, toward the end of chapter 14.
Day 1. Psalm 105
Day 2. Psalm 29
Day 3. Psalm 50:16 on
Day 4. Psalm 94:16 on
Day 5. Psalm 94:8-15
Day 6. Psalm 81:6 on
Day 7. Psalm 82:5 on
These psalms are the basis of John’s revelation of the events in each of the seven bowls poured out upon Babylon in Revelation 16. We will study each of them in turn in our study of chapter 16.
Revelation 15:8 says,
8 And the temple was filled with smoke from the glory of God and from His power; and no one was able to enter the temple until the seven plagues of the seven angels were finished.
When the glory of God filled Solomon’s temple, a similar event occurred. 2 Chron. 5:11-14 says,
11 And when the priests came forth from the holy place… 12 and all the Levitical singers… and with them one hundred and twenty priests blowing trumpets 13 in unison when the trumpeters and the singers were to make themselves heard with one voice to praise and to glorify the Lord… and when they praised the Lord saying, “He indeed is good for His lovingkindness is everlasting,” then the house, the house of the Lord, was filled with a cloud, 14 so that the priests could not stand to minister because of the cloud, for the glory of the Lord filled the house of God.
The glorification of the temple involved 120 priests coming into harmony with the singers at the feast of Tabernacles. Years later, on the day of Pentecost in Acts 2, the Spirit filled a gathering of 120 disciples (Acts 1:15), who formed the beginning of a new temple made of living stones. They too had a hard time standing on their feet, and some thought they were drunk (Acts 2:13-15).
Solomon’s temple, of course, was destroyed by the Babylonians on account of the sins of Judah and the priests of Jerusalem. The glory had departed just before this destruction (Ezekiel 11:23), moving to the Mount of Olives. When the Judahites returned from Babylon and built the second temple, the glory did not fill that place, for it had been forsaken “as Shiloh,” where the name Ichabod was written.
Jesus took that glory to heaven when He ascended from the Mount of Olives (Acts 1:10-12). Ten days later, the glory returned and filled His new Pentecostal temple. But Pentecost, being a leavened feast, could not endure, nor could it bring in perfection, so we see the Holy Spirit come and go many times in the various “Holy Spirit revivals” during the Pentecostal Age. Each had a good start, but soon ended.
It is not until Rev. 15:8 that the temple of God is filled again. This comes in the context of the feast of Tabernacles and the manifestation of the sons of God, who are the overcomers.
We read that “no one was able to enter the temple until the seven plagues of the seven angels were finished.” What does it mean to enter the temple? Why are the priests unable to perform their duties while the smoke remains in the temple? How does this situation prophesy of the present time?
These are questions that the Scriptures do not address directly, but if we correlate the seven “plagues” (bowls) with the seven days of Tabernacles, it appears that even though the temple was opened on the first day of Tabernacles, the overcomers will have to wait until the eighth day of the feast to be presented to God in the temple in heaven.
This, of course, is in accordance with the law of Sonship found in Exodus 22:29, 30,
29 You shall not delay the offering from your harvest and your vintage. The first-born of your sons you shall give to Me. 30 You shall do the same with your oxen and with your sheep. It shall be with its mother seven days; on the eighth day you shall give it to Me.
Whereas the overcomers (“first-born”) are brought to birth on the first day of Tabernacles, they must wait for an entire week, because they cannot be presented to God until the eighth day.