Rev. 15:7 – One of the four living creatures gave the seven angels seven gold bowls filled with the wrath of God who lives forever and ever. (HCSB)
Seven gold bowls
In verse 7 John writes, “One of the four living creatures gave the seven angels seven gold bowls filled with the wrath of God who lives forever and ever.” The King James Version uses the term “vials” instead of “bowls,” as though they are bottles. The Greek word is phiale, which denotes a shallow pan or broad-rimmed chalice. Some commentators call them censers, the receptacles into which coals from the altar are placed and mingled with incense to burn unto God. “The breadth of the vials in their upper part would tend to cause their contents to pour out all at once, implying the overwhelming suddenness of the woes” (A Commentary, Critical and Explanatory, on the Old and New Testaments, Rev. 15:7).
Note that one of the four living creatures gives these bowls to the angels. In Revelation 6 the four living creatures announce the first four seal judgments. The first living creature thunders, “Come!” and the white horse and its rider emerge. The second creature says “Come!” and the rider on the red horse bursts onto the scene. The third creature shouts “Come!” and the horseman on a black horse appears. Finally, the fourth creature says “Come!” and Death comes riding a pale green horse with Hades in hot pursuit. While the living creatures reside closely to the throne of God and lead angels and people in worship, they also are the standard bearers of God’s holiness as revealed in His wrath.
The gold bowls call to mind the prayers of the saints, which are in gold bowls and brought before the throne by the four living creatures and the 24 elders in Rev. 5:8. This is followed immediately by a new song that declares the Lamb worthy to take the scroll and open its seals because of His redeeming blood. In Rev. 6:10 the martyrs in heaven cry out to the Lord for vengeance against those on earth who disregard God and persecute His people. The saints are given white robes and told to rest a little while longer until the rest of their “fellow slaves” on earth have been killed.
Now it appears their wait is over. The prayers of the saints, offered up to God with incense in golden bowls, have been received and answered. The sweet aroma of the martyrs’ petitions are condensed into the bitter gall of God’s wrath as the angels turn over the golden bowls and pour out grievous judgments. There is a connection between the prayers of the saints and the fury of God. As we have noted before, it is no sin to ask God for vengeance when we seek to vindicate His holiness.
R.B. Sloan makes the following observation in the Holman Concise Bible Commentary:
The notion of God’s wrath is not always a welcome subject to the Bible reader, but its reality as a clear-cut teaching of both Old and New Testaments is inescapable…. God has mercifully acted by all possible means – even to the extent of taking to Himself, through His Only Begotten Son, the very penalty that He has prescribed for sin – to bring His wayward children home. Wrath brings grief even to the heart of God, but God will not coerce our love of Him…. Incredibly enough, in spite of the overwhelming mercies of God revealed through Jesus Christ, there will be those who refuse His mercies. In such cases the faithful God of creation and redemption will faithfully respond in keeping with His own nature and word by giving His rebellious sons and daughters what they have stubbornly insisted upon, namely, everlasting separation from Him…. Our God evidently loves righteousness, justice, and mercy to such an extent that He will not brook our cowardly tolerance of evil. We may not lightly dismiss the fact that heaven is neither silent nor embarrassed when evil is punished. Heaven rejoices at the justice and judgment of God (pp. 677-78).
Next: The sanctuary was filled with smoke – Revelation 15:8