Revelation 15:8

Monday, 26 April 2021

The temple was filled with smoke from the glory of God and from His power, and no one was able to enter the temple till the seven plagues of the seven angels were completed. Revelation 15:8

The seven angels were just given the seven golden bowls full of the wrath of God. With that done, it next says, “The temple was filled with smoke from the glory of God and from His power.” It is almost universal that commentaries equate this event with the glory of the Lord filling the tabernacle/temple in passages such as Exodus 40:34, 1 Kings 8:10, and so on.

However, there is a difference. Here it is smoke, not a cloud. At times, smoke is associated with the Lord in the Old Testament –

“Smoke went up from His nostrils,
And devouring fire from His mouth;
Coals were kindled by it.” Psalm 18:8

A closer parallel is found in Isaiah 6:4 –

“And the posts of the door were shaken by the voice of him who cried out, and the house was filled with smoke.”

Isaiah 1-5, again and again, referred to the waywardness of the people. Mixed into those passages are notes of restoration, but the thought of Isaiah 6 is based on a need for judgment before any restoration is possible. The scene of Isaiah 6 is one of terror and fear for the prophet.

In the New Testament, the word kapnos, or smoke, is used thirteen times. It is always used in one of two contexts – 1) the prayers of the saints (Revelation 8:4), or 2) smoke in connection with wrath and impending or executed judgment. In this case, it is said to be in connection with “the glory of God,” but it is not in a harmonious and propitious way as it is with the cloud. Instead, the glory here is that of the awesome, avenging power of God.

It is as if the smoke of the incense (the prayers of the saints of those martyred) filled the temple, God breathed it in acknowledging the wrong done to them, and the smoke is converted into His fury. As these are bowls of wrath, what will occur is not a harmonious fellowship between God and His people as with the cloud, but an outpouring of great and severe judgment. With that thought in mind, John next says, “and no one was able to enter the temple.”

This is what happened in both Exodus at the consecration of the tabernacle, and again in 1 Kings at the consecration of the temple –

“Then the cloud covered the tabernacle of meeting, and the glory of the Lord filled the tabernacle. 35 And Moses was not able to enter the tabernacle of meeting, because the cloud rested above it, and the glory of the Lord filled the tabernacle.” Exodus 40:34, 35

“And it came to pass, when the priests came out of the holy place, that the cloud filled the house of the Lord, 11 so that the priests could not continue ministering because of the cloud; for the glory of the Lord filled the house of the Lord.” 1 Kings 8:10, 11

These events were not of wrath and judgment, but of pure holiness communing with the subjects of His affection. Despite the Lord’s willingness to dwell among His people, it was a sign that there was still a barrier between the two because of His holiness and glory. On the other hand, what is occurring in Revelation is that of the welling up of fury over the heaped-up sins of the people of the world. Of this, Milligan rightly says, “God cannot be approached at the moment when He is revealing Himself in all the terrors of His indignation.” This state of wrath will continue, as John says, “till the seven plagues of the seven angels were completed.”

The fury of the Lord will continue until it is spent. It will not abate at all until that time. The pouring out of the bowls reflects this pouring out of His wrath. Until the full measure of that has been brought to bear upon the world, the temple will remain inaccessible to all. If this is so in the temple of the Lord, what will it be like for those on the earth? Amos gives insight into that day –

“Woe to you who desire the day of the Lord!
For what good is the day of the Lord to you?
It will be darkness, and not light.
19 It will be as though a man fled from a lion,
And a bear met him!
Or as though he went into the house,
Leaned his hand on the wall,
And a serpent bit him!
20 Is not the day of the Lord darkness, and not light?
Is it not very dark, with no brightness in it?” Amos 5:18-20

Life application: The horrifying meaning of there being no access to the temple is that no intercession will be possible. The people of the earth will receive judgment without mercy.

God’s anger will have reached its full measure. The cross of His Son, and the wrath that was poured out there, has been rejected. Because of this, those left on the earth will receive in full strength the very punishment and anger that could have been satisfied for them in the death of Jesus. When it comes, they will of course blame God for their woes. But what is coming is a self-inflicted judgment.

Any and all are welcome at the cross, but people would rather ignore God’s great offer of peace to work out their own wickedness. God is one hundred percent just in the pouring out of His anger during this period, and no one will have a legitimate claim against Him. Now is the time to be reconciled to God. Now is the time to call on JESUS.

Lord, when bad things happen in our lives, we find it ever so easy to blame You. But when things are going well and all is fine, we ignore You, hide from You, and even run from You. Help us to think clearly, and to rationally see that every good thing we have comes from You. Help us to accept the trials without complaint and to give thanks and praise for the blessings. Amen.