And I saw another sign in heaven, great and marvellous, seven angels having the seven last plagues; for in them is filled up the wrath of God. [Revelation 15:1 KJV]

Some (see 'Revelation' by John Metcalfe) regard this section of the Apocalypse, chapters 15 and 16, as the fifth in a progression of recurring, historically 'parallel', accounts of the Church Age from Christ's ascension to Christ's return. Personally, I find that view wholly compelling. But others view it differently.

Whatever those views, I am still interested in what Trinitarian Protestantism understands by the 'filling up of the wrath of God'.

Seven plagues are cast forth and result in a grievous sore, a blood-filled sea, blood-filled springs of water, a fiery and scorching sun (global warming ?), tongue-gnawing pain, demonic powers working miracles and a finality of global judgment.

During this time, of increasing judgments, of increasing woe upon the earth, it is clear that the 'earth-dwellers' - humanity in general - 'repent not of their deeds', Revelation 16:11.

Before all this visionary warning was made, the churches were first (in the first section of the book, chapters one, two and three) warned to repent : repent of lukewarmness, repent of bad doctrine, repent of having left the first love, repent of evil associations.

So 'judgment begins at the house of God', 1 Peter 4:17. And penitence is expected.

Thereafter, judgment falls upon all the earth.

How does this 'fill up the wrath of God' ?

All references and quotes are from the TR/KJV.

  • Would a non trinitarian have a vastly different take on this question?
    – Kris
    Sep 5, 2021 at 13:08

2 Answers 2


Four mainstream groups within Trinitarian Protestantism are examined regarding their views of the Book of Revelation in the source I quote from below. Of course, there will be more than four ways of understanding Rev. 15:1, but this sample should serve to suffice for a short answer. (Note - all emphases in the quotes are mine.)

Albert Barnes of the 19th century is referred to as one who believes that the Revelation prophecies were/are fulfilled throughout the church age (the Historicist view). The concept of the destruction of anti-Christian forces that have harassed the saints throughout much of the church's history is mentioned, then it says:

"This latter concept is introduced by the appearance of the seven angels having the seven last plagues, whose role is depicted in chapter 16. That these are announced to be the 'last plagues' does not necessarily mean the closing of the affairs of the world, but those final judgments which will wind up the affairs respecting the beast and his image." (Revelation, Four Views, Ed. Steve Gregg, p344, Nelson 1997)

The Preterist view, that the prophecies were fulfilled in the ancient past, e.g. David Chilton circa 1987, takes these seven last plagues to bring about the final end of the once faithful city Jerusalem. The time frame is the end of the Jewish War (A.D. 70). As Chilton writes:

"There is no reason to assume that these must be the "last" plagues in an ultimate, absolute, and universal sense; rather, in terms of the specifically limited purpose and scope of the Book of Revelation, they comprise His great cosmic Judgment against Jerusalem, abolishing the Old Covenant world-order once and for all." (Ibid. p344)

Merrill C. Tenney, circa 1957, takes the Futurist stance (most prophecies are still to be fulfilled. Verse 1 is said to anticipate verse 7. Apparently they appear in the [literal?] temple, for in verse 6 they step forth out of the temple to execute their mission. Tenney writes:

"The final crisis to which these several parenthetical warning visions [in ch. 14] point is presented by the climactic judgments of the bowls..." John "Walvoord [circa 1966] presents one explanation: 'Here the sea mingled with fire speaks of divine judgment proceeding from God's holiness'." (Ibid. p345)

The Spiritual view (prophecies fulfilled recurrently throughout history) has three supporters quoted regarding verse 1:

"Many take this to indicate the last judgment acts in history, i.e., at the end of time. Alford writes:

'There can be no doubt here, not only that the series reaches on to the time of the end, but that the whole of it is to be placed very close to the same time. It belongs by its very conditions to the time of the end.'

"Wilson writes:

'The entire vision (chs. 15, 15) is a great and marvelous portent because the wrath of God reaches its goal in the end-time judgements which are symbolized by these last seven plagues.'

"Hendriksen, on the other hand, thinks that the finality of these plagues is not with reference to history in general, but to individual sinners who have not repented following the trumpet warnings that God has sent. Every unrepentant sinner eventually exhausts God's patience, bringing final judgement upon his life. Hendriksen writes:

'Throughout the history of the world God's final wrath again and again reveals itself: now it strikes this one, then another... Thus conceived, we notice that the vision of the bowls of wrath runs parallel with all the others and like them covers the entire dispensation'." (Ibid. pp 345 & 347)

Summary of the Above: Researching this matter, I was struck by the almost total lack of comment about the 'filling up of the wrath of God' to completion, apart from those taking the Spiritual view. Now, it may be that the others DO explain what they understand about this in other literature, but it seems logically impossible for all but the Spiritual view to have no problem with the seven last plagues showing God's wrath being completed - i.e. finished (though even within that camp, some contradict the idea of fully filled-up, completed wrath of God by saying it recurs again and again, only applying to individual sinners.) All who would try to shoe-horn Rev. 15:1 into their overall-interpretation end up having to leave that phrase about God's wrath now being 'filled up' out, because it just won't fit in. The Spiritual view alone seems to largely grasp Rev. 15:1 as the end of a series of plagues from the ascension of Christ - the culmination of many increasing plagues from God, all of which show his wrath against the ungodly, but which now reach a crescendo of deafening proportions - yet still the unspiritual stuff their fingers in their (spiritual) ears and refuse to hear!

A good exposition of Rev. 15:1 is in a tape recording of E Alexander, preaching through the entire Book of Revelation (in The Tron church, Glasgow, as a Reformed Presbyterian) http://tapesfromscotland.org/catalogue/index.php?speakerSelect=EAlexander This verse is in his Series 27 (Revelation). Scroll down to ch. 15 and click the link. Do listen to at least 12 mins. 30 seconds into the sermon.

The clearest embracing of verse 1 I have come across is from the Trinitarian Protestant source you mention. The seventh angel pours out the final plague from heaven on the world, with the final, last trump, heralding the wrapping up of all things at the terrifyingly glorious appearing of Christ to usher in the Day of Resurrection and Judgment. Because God's wrath has now been fully expressed, he is satisfied that now can be the cosmic removal of the universe, to be replaced with a new heaven and a new earth, in which righteousness will dwell (pp. 415 - 420).

  • 3
    Indeed, filled up, means to bring to a close, to finish, to end and to to perform, execute, complete, fulfil Sep 4, 2021 at 12:49

For thus saith the LORD God of Israel unto me; Take the wine cup of this fury at my hand, and cause all the nations, to whom I send thee, to drink it. And they shall drink, and be moved, and be mad, because of the sword that I will send among them. - Jeremiah 25:15-16

For the day of the LORD is near upon all the heathen: as thou hast done, it shall be done unto thee: thy reward shall return upon thine own head. For as ye have drunk upon my holy mountain, so shall all the heathen drink continually, yea, they shall drink, and they shall swallow down, and they shall be as though they had not been. But upon mount Zion shall be deliverance, and there shall be holiness; and the house of Jacob shall possess their possessions. - Obadiah 1:15-17

Therefore hear now this, thou afflicted, and drunken, but not with wine: Thus saith thy Lord the LORD, and thy God that pleadeth the cause of his people, Behold, I have taken out of thine hand the cup of trembling, even the dregs of the cup of my fury; thou shalt no more drink it again: But I will put it into the hand of them that afflict thee; which have said to thy soul, Bow down, that we may go over: and thou hast laid thy body as the ground, and as the street, to them that went over. - Isaiah 51:21-23

For in the hand of the LORD there is a cup, and the wine is red; it is full of mixture; and he poureth out of the same: but the dregs thereof, all the wicked of the earth shall wring them out, and drink them. - Psalm 75:8

There is a cup filled with the wrath of God, filled with righteous fury toward the wicked and the sinful. Judgement is poured out of this cup against and upon all peoples and all nations; yes even beloved Israel according to the flesh.

This cup will be completely poured out...the wrath of God completely expended and brought to an end (Revelation 15:1) and what flesh shall stand? Each and every wicked shall drink to the bottom of the cup, even wringing out the dregs. Is there anyone who could drink it for me?

O my Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me: nevertheless not as I will, but as thou wilt.

Ah, but someone has drained the cup in our place...has taken it out of our hands. For the cup must be drunk, either by the wicked or a substitute and a substitute we have.

"Behold, I have taken out of thine hand the cup of trembling, even the dregs of the cup of my fury; thou shalt no more drink it again"

Thank you, Lord.

  • Is any of this your own content? Please include the source for the quoted material
    – Kris
    Sep 5, 2021 at 13:10
  • 1
    @Kris Everything not from the scripture is my editorial comment. Sep 5, 2021 at 21:50

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