The overthrow of the great city Babylon was seen in chapter 14:8-10, but in chapters 15 and 16, the seven last plagues result in the judgment and wrath of God on the false Roman church system, the great whore. The chapter 14 gave us a summary largely of future events. Chapters 15 through 19 present those same events, but in more detail. These chapters (15-19) are all connected with the fall of spiritual Babylon.
The opening of the seventh seal (chapter 8) resulted in the triumph of Christianity over Roman Paganism. This was followed by seven trumpets (chapters 8 to 11) which led to the overthrow of the western Roman Empire by the Goths, Vandals and Huns, and the ruin of the Eastern Empire by the Saracens and Turks. The seventh trumpet, the last trumpet, takes us to the close of secular history with the trump of the Archangel.
The seven vials (chapters 15,16) also give the history of an epoch, and, like each of the series of seven, bring us to the end of that epoch. They present the series of calamities that first weaken and then destroy the power of Papal Rome.
Chapter 15 opens with “And I saw another great sign in heaven, great and marvelous, seven angels having the seven last plagues” (v.1). That is 7 angels with 7 plagues which are to be poured on the earth by use of 7 vials, but they don’t come out until verse 6.
Each one of three series of seven leads to the completion of a very well-defined objective. The seven seals led us to the overthrow of Roman Paganism. The seven trumpets lead us to the overthrow of the Roman Empire. Then there comes the seven vials, and it is equally certain that the last vial will accomplish the utter overthrow of that blasphemous power, which is variously described as a city of fornication (v.14:8), the great city Babylon (v.16:19), the scarlet adulteress (v.17:4,5), and the seven-headed and ten-horned beast (v.13:1).
Chronologically we are taken to see a heavenly preview of the wrath of God, a period after the return of Christ and His taking up, into the heavenly realm, those who are His Bride, the true saved believers. This chapter deals with preparations in God’s throne room for the deliverance of the wrath of God on the wicked (accomplished in chapter 16).
While in the heavenly realm the saints (the saved believers) are seen standing on the “sea of glass” (v.2). In chapter 4:6 the “sea of glass like to crystal” was seen to be around the throne of God. The saints (v.3,4) are present there as ‘overcomers’ who in death overcame the power of the AntiChrist beast, by dying for their faith.
They sing praises to God (v.3). They sing the song of Moses. See Exodus 15:1. They sing the song of the Lamb (v.3,4) : “Great and marvellous are Your works, Lord God Almighty: just and true are Your ways, You king of saints. Who shall not fear You, O Lord, and glorify Your name? for You only are holy: for all nations shall come and worship before You; for Your judgments are made manifest.” Jeremiah 10:6,7.
In verse 5, “the temple of the tabernacle of the testimony in heaven was opened” is a reference to the temple in heaven which was foreshadowed by the earthly “tabernacle of testimony” (Numbers 1:50). This is God’s temple in heaven. Verse 6 mentions one of four beast which were seen in the throne room of God (chapters 4,5).
Finally, in verse 7, the 7 angels are given the 7 vials full of the 7 plagues of God’s wrath, which are to be poured upon the Earth. This is God’s doing not Satan’s and it is by the hands of His angels. The “temple was filled with smoke from the glory of God,” which is similarly described in Exodus 40:34,35.
The pouring out of the vials brings on the seven last plagues. Then chapter 16 outlines the devastating effects from the pouring out of these vials.