Rev. 15:8 – Then the sanctuary was filled with smoke from God’s glory and from His power, and no one could enter the sanctuary until the seven plagues of the seven angels were completed. (HCSB)
The sanctuary was filled with smoke
Finally in this chapter John writes, “Then the sanctuary was filled with smoke from God’s glory and from His power, and no one could enter the sanctuary until the seven plagues of the seven angels were completed” (Rev. 15:8). Smoke and clouds are manifestations of God’s presence. At Sinai, the Lord comes to Moses in a “dense cloud” so the people will hear God speak with Moses and believe him (Ex. 19:9). After the tabernacle is assembled in the wilderness, Moses cannot enter the tent of meeting as long as the cloud rests on it and the glory of the Lord fills the tabernacle (Ex. 40:34-35). God instructs Moses in the way that Aaron must enter the holy of holies on the Day of Atonement so that he, unlike his two sons, will live. God’s reason: “I appear in the cloud above the mercy seat” (Lev. 16:2).
While this awesome divine presence no doubt strikes terror in the hearts of some Israelites, there is a strong element of comfort to be found. As promised, God reveals Himself to His redeemed people at a place of meeting. Much later, when Solomon finishes a prayer of dedication for the newly built temple, fire descends from heaven and the glory of the Lord fills it. The priests are not able to continue ministering for this same cloud Moses once encountered now inhabits the place where holy God has condescended to meet sinful people (1 Kings 8:10-11; 2 Chron. 7:1-2). Later, in Isaiah’s vision of the Lord, he sees the temple filled with smoke (Isa. 6:4).
Rev. 15:5 – After this I looked, and the heavenly sanctuary – the tabernacle of testimony – was opened. 6 Out of the sanctuary came the seven angels with the seven plagues, dressed in clean, bright linen, with gold sashes wrapped around their chests.
The heavenly sanctuary was opened
In verse 5 John writes, “After this I looked, and the heavenly sanctuary – the tabernacle of testimony – was opened.” We last read about the heavenly sanctuary in Rev. 11:19 in connection with the sounding of the last trumpet. The previous uses of the word “tabernacle” – in Greek, skeyney – are revealing. In Rev. 7:15, the One seated on the throne will “shelter” the ones coming out of the great tribulation; that is, He will tabernacle (skeyney) with them – pitch His tent with them and spread His tent over them, providing His presence as comfort and security. In Rev. 13:6, the beast from the sea begins to blaspheme God’s name and His “dwelling – those who dwell in heaven.” Again, the word is skeyney, and here it refers to believers around the throne in heaven.
What a marvelous picture of God’s grace. He pitches His tent with us, and in redemption we are His temple. John writes of Jesus, “The Word became flesh and took up residence among us” (John 1:14). Literally, Jesus “tabernacled” with us, a reference not only to His incarnation but also to His presence in the ancient tabernacle and at the joyous Feast of Tabernacles (see Ex. 40:34-38; John 7:2). But equally amazing, He makes believers His dwelling place, abiding in us by way of the Holy Spirit (see John 14:16-18). The apostle Paul exhorts us to be ever mindful of our role as God’s sanctuary: “Don’t you yourselves know that you are God’s sanctuary and that the Spirit of God lives in you? If anyone destroys God’s sanctuary, God will destroy him; for God’s sanctuary is holy, and that is what you are” (1 Cor. 3:16-17).