INTRODUCTION TO THE SEVEN VIALS OF WRATH
Rev 15:5-8 And after that I looked, and, behold, the temple of the tabernacle of the testimony in heaven was opened: and the seven angels came out of the temple, having the seven plagues, clothed in pure and white linen, and having their breasts girded with golden girdles. And one of the four beasts gave unto the seven angels seven golden vials full of the wrath of God, who liveth for ever and ever. And the temple was filled with smoke from the glory of God, and from His power; and no man was able to enter into the temple, till the seven plagues of the seven angels were fulfilled.
John had just witnessed another sign in heaven, great and marvelous, which symbolically told of the victory soon to take place over the Roman civil governors, and the sacrilegious leaders that had persecuted the church of Christ for over a century. After this wondrous news, John looked and beheld the temple of tabernacle of the testimony in heaven was opened. Here the terms "temple" and " tabernacle" are used interchangeably. Both were the dwelling place of God among His people, Israel, at different times in their history. The part of these Jewish worship structures referred to here, when the phrase "of the testimony in heaven" is added, means the Holy of Holies. This portion of the building of worship was considered "heaven" because it was where God dwelt among the Jewish nation. It was also the place within the sanctuary that only the High Priest was allowed, once a year, to enter, and then only on the Day of Atonement, in order to make a yearly intercession for the sins of the nation of Israel. In this vision, the veils that kept the Holy of Holies hidden were opened, allowing John to view this dwelling place of God.
From within the temple, and from the presence of God, the seven angels emerged. They were clothed in pure and white linen, which signifies their innocent and holy nature as inhabitants of heaven. The Revised KJV translates this phrase saying these angels were arrayed with precious stone, pure and bright, which carries the same symbolic significance. They also had their breasts girded with golden girdles, similar to those worn by the High Priest when he entered the Holy of Holies. These angels, thus attired, had with them the seven plagues, and are the same seven angels having the seven last plagues, as noted in Verse 1. Note, however, in the previous passage, they were referred to as the "seven last plagues." They were the last plagues because these were the final series of judgments of retribution against the Roman forces of evil, that were determined to stamp out the truths being taught, and the soul-saving affects of the church of Christ on the world. It seems, from the lesson text, that each angel was entrusted with one plague to be executed against the Roman enemies of Christ
And one of the four beasts gave unto the seven angels seven golden vials full of the wrath of God, who liveth for ever and ever. Exactly which of these four beasts,is not identified, but it was one of the four that were mentioned, and described, in Revelation 4:6-7. The seven plagues, spoken of in this chapter, are in verse 7, referred to as golden vials full of the wrath of God. In current terminology, a vial usually means a small, slender glass container, generally used for mixing, and storing, various liquids in laboratories or apothecaries. The word translated as "vials," in this text, is better translated in the Revised NKJ as "bowls," or shallow dishes such as those often referred to as used in temple worship. The symbolic lesson here is that seven plagues, that is, bowls filled with God's full, vengeful wrath, were to be poured out upon, and inflict severe punishment to, the earthly enemies of God and His Son, Christ Jesus. These enemies were symbolically identified previously as the civil and apostate religious leaders of Rome. Indeed, God liveth for ever and ever - He is eternal.
To the human mind, there seemed to be a long delay in His retribution and punishment of the persecutors of the church of Christ. But rest assured, in the time chosen, and known only to Him, the evils of this world will be recognized, remembered by Him, and due justice will be meted out on those that walk in the evil ways of Satan. Just as the divine presence of God was identified with a smoke-filled sanctuary, in the times of Isaiah the prophet (See Isa. 4:5, 6:4), so it was in this symbolic vision of heaven, seen and recorded by the apostle John, and no man was able to enter into the temple, till the seven plagues of the seven angels were fulfilled. Nothing was to delay, or prevent, God's wrath from being carried out against those that violently opposed His New Testament doctrine.