When a passage starts with “after this” you need to look before and see what happened.
In Revelation 15:1-4, we see a victory dance where everyone is worshipping God because He is just and good. They’re celebrating because the beast that tried to stamp out Jesus didn’t get away with it.
Now we see some interesting imagery in verses 5-8. The sanctuary tent is open. There are seven angels who have seven plagues and are given seven bowls of God’s wrath by one of the four creatures from a previous chapter. There’s lots of smoke. Then there is the promise is that all this will come to an end.
The seven plagues of wrath are the execution of God’s justice. Everyone who gets affected by this clearly deserves it. In fact, if it weren’t for Jesus, we’d all be dead and suffering under God’s wrath now. God takes His law very seriously. That’s why Jesus had to die. It’s also why violators have to die too.
Then there’s the smoke.
The smoke is there because a lot of the time when God brings harsh things into our lives it blind-sides us. We think, “Where did that come from?” or “What did I do to deserve that?” It can take some time to make any sense at all of some of life’s tragedies. Then it’s possible we may never make one iota of sense of it. God is mysterious that way. But it could be that God is teaching you something totally different than you thought.
Take this example. Maybe a friend of yours is killed in an automobile accident at the age of twenty-six. It seems she had her whole life ahead of her. Was that punishment? No, maybe that’s as long as God wanted her to live for reasons I can’t begin to elaborate on. But He may be teaching you through that to cherish what life you have, learn lessons of grace from her life, and examine yourself when you were more ready not to.
God’s wrath is always just, sometimes unexplainable, and limited here on this earth. The only case in which the limits of God’s wrath disappear is when an unrepentant sinner dies.
The sanctuary calls us to pray for our friends who don’t know Jesus. It also calls us to live the Gospel. May God save some of them.