After John takes in the glad and victorious vision of the saints in heaven, rejoicing in their victory over the beast (Rev. 15:1-4), he then looked and saw the heavenly temple—where God dwells. And the door to the temple was open, so he could see inside, even into the Holy of Holies. And he saw the seven angels (referred to in verse 1). They came out of the temple clothed in clean linen, and they were girded around their chest with golden sashes. The clean and bright linen represents their holiness and purity, and the golden sashes denotes their royalty.
Then one of the four living creatures (God’s cherubim) gave to each of the seven angels, golden bowls full of the wrath of God. Take note that it is not the wrath of the Antichrist, but the wrath of God. Hence, all the terrible tribulation during the next period of time (approximately three- and one-half years) will come from the wrath of God as He pours out His anger on the sins of the world.
Suddenly, after the angels were out of the temple and had received the bowls of wrath, there came into the temple a cloud of smoke. It was not any ordinary smoke; it was smoke from the glory and power of God. And it was impenetrable, so that no one was able to pass through it to enter the temple until after the seven plagues were finished.
Now we don’t know exactly what this cloud of smoke was like, but I imagine that it was the same smoke as in the Old Testament, the smoke of God’s presence preventing Moses or the priests from entering the temple. Now I don’t think that its impenetrability had anything to do with its physical make-up. I think it has more to do with its spiritual make-up, with the holiness of God, mainly His wrath and judgment.
I dare not say too much—more that I am sure of, but I need to say something about this situation of not being able to enter the temple. The temple here is not the physical, Tribulation temple. Verse five tells us that it is the temple in heaven. So, I take it that it is the place of God’s presence, the place where we now go to draw near God when we pray. It is the throne of grace where we go to receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need (Heb. 4:16). Hence, during this Great Tribulation, I take it that the time of grace is over, that for unbelievers as well as believers, it is too late to call out to Him. For believers during that time, I believe that God will take care of them. But for unbelievers that suddenly want God’s help, I think it may be too late for them.
Suddenly, John was disturbed by a loud voice from inside the temple, saying to the seven angels, “Go and pour on the earth the seven bowls of the wrath of God.”