There is a connection between this incident and what happened when the children of Israel were delivered from Egypt. Two obvious links are the song of Moses and the plagues. We are told the meaning of these seven plagues – they are a sign signifying that the outpouring of the wrath of God in human history is coming to a completion. This is a reminder that displays of God’s wrath are happening in different ways before the end, but they also remind us that all such displays are never out of control.
Paul tells us that the wrath of God is revealed from heaven by giving people up to their sinful choices (Rom. 1:18ff.). Moreover, he says that believers were once children of wrath, even as others, which is a reminder that all of us by nature are children of wrath (Eph. 2:3). The psalmist says that God is angry with the wicked every day. His wrath is his attitude towards those who sin against him.
To see the point of the seven plagues, we need to ask about the function of the plagues that were sent on Egypt. First, the plagues were expressions of divine judgement on the enemies of God’s kingdom. Second, the plagues were signs to God’s people that divine deliverance was about to happen for them, although the deliverance did not come until the final plague was sent (the death of the firstborn).
Those two features are repeated in the seven plagues. They describe different ways in which God punishes people. At the same time, they are signs to God’s people that he is active and working towards the time when he will give redemption to them. What is the final plague that will bring in the time of deliverance? It is the destruction of Babylon, described in chapters 17 and 18, and they detail the dismantling and disappearance of the city of man.
Once again in this book, when a major moment occurs in which many serious expressions of divine judgement are described, we are taken first to heaven and asked to observe what is going on there. Heaven is described as a palace of great beauty and splendour, where dignified servants of God are engaged constantly in his business, and attendants surround his throne. Its business is the will of God and in the vision different aspects of his will are mentioned. His will is concerned with blessing his people and punishing his enemies. Standing beside the sea, as it were, is the best viewpoint.