Chapter 17 THE SEVEN LAST PLAGUES
Let us now consider more of the details of the last days. Since we have all broken the law of God, we are all guilty of sin and deserving of death. We are all, therefore, on probation in this life. One day soon, however, probation will close, and those who have not responded to the message of truth at that time will be forever lost to suffer their own penalty for sin, which, of course, is death. From the time probation closes, the righteous will remain righteous, and the wicked will remain wicked. There will be no one converted to the truth once probation closes. Revelation 22:11,12 tells us that after probation closes, He that is unjust, let him be unjust still: and he which is filthy, let him be filthy still: and he that is righteous, let him be righteous still: and he that is holy, let him be holy still. And, behold, I come quickly; and my reward is with me, to give every man according as his work shall be.
Christ is waiting for His 144,000 perfect people, symbolized in the parable of the wheat and the tares by the ripened wheat. The wicked at this time are also ripening into perfect wickedness, so that the world will be completely polarized. When this polarization occurs, probation closes and the events of the final year of earths history are initiated.
What event marks the close of probation? None! The people of earth will not realize that probation has closed until the first of the seven last plagues occurs. Shortly after probation closes, the seven last plagues begin on the earth. This is the time of trouble, described in Daniel 12:1, such as was not since there was a nation. And at that time shall Michael stand up, the great prince which standeth for the children of thy people: and there shall be a time of trouble, such as never was since there was a nation even to that same time: and at that time thy people shall be delivered, every one that shall be found written in the book.
When severe trouble comes, people who never give the Lord a thought when times are good turn to God for help, but during this time of overwhelming trouble they will be unable to find the Word of the Lord, as Amos 8:11,12 says. Behold, the days come, saith the Lord God, that I will send a famine in the land, not a famine of bread, nor a thirst for water, but of hearing the words of the Lord: And they shall wander from sea to sea, and from the north even to the east, they shall run to and fro to seek the word of the Lord, and shall not find it.
Let us now investigate the seven last plagues, which begin shortly after probation closes. Revelation 15:1-8 gives a prelude to the plagues.
Verse 1. 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.
2. And I saw as it were a sea of glass mingled with fire: and them that had gotten the victory over the beast, and over his image, and over his mark, and over the number of his name, stand on the sea of glass, having the harps of God.
3. And they sing the song of Moses the servant of God, and the song of the Lamb, saying, Great and marvellous are thy works, Lord God Almighty; just and true are thy ways, thou King of saints.
4. Who shall not fear thee, O Lord, and glorify thy name? for thou only art holy: for all nations shall come and worship before thee; for thy judgments are made manifest.
5. And after that I looked, and, behold, the temple of the tabernacle of the testimony in heaven was opened:
6. 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.
7. 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.
8. 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.
Verses 1 through 4 describe the righteous praising God. The righteous make it plain that God is not to be held responsible for the calamity of the seven last plagues, for they emphasize in verse 3 that just and true are thy ways, thou King of saints. This shows that God is not directly responsible for the seven last plagues. He, of course, could prevent the plagues from happening, but He must allow the plagues to fall in order to finish this drama of earth.
Satan, you will remember, wants to be God. He has his own ideas as to how the universe should be run, and he has accused God of all kinds of injustice in an effort to discredit God. Up until probation closes, God overrules Satans operation, not permitting the full results of evil to become apparent. During the seven last plagues, however, God completely removes His influence and His Holy Spirit from the earth and allows Satan and the wicked complete freedom to do as they will. This is symbolized in Revelation 15:8 by the temples being filled with smoke so that no one could enter. God completely withdraws Himself during the seven last plagues and lets things happen as they will.
Satan wants to be God. Now he has his opportunity without any restriction from God at all. The results are total chaos. Satan cannot hold things together, and the seven last plagues are the result. Even he did not realize the mighty power of God to keep all nature under control. You will remember that Colossians 1:17 tells us that it is God who holds all things together. And he is before all things, and by him all things consist (hold together).
With the understanding that God does not cause the seven last plagues He only permits them to happen let us read the entire sixteenth chapter of Revelation, which describes these plagues. Revelation 16:1-21:
Verse 1. And I heard a great voice out of the temple saying to the seven angels, Go your ways, and pour out the vials of the wrath of God upon the earth.
2. And the first went, and poured out his vial upon the earth; and there fell a noisome and grievous sore upon the men which had the mark of the beast, and upon them which worshipped his image.
3. And the second angel poured out his vial upon the sea; and it became as the blood of a dead man: and every living soul died in the sea.
4. And the third angel poured out his vial upon the rivers and fountains of waters: and they became blood.
5. And I heard the angel of the waters say, Thou art righteous, O Lord, which art, and wast, and shalt be, because thou hast judged thus.
6. For they have shed the blood of saints and prophets, and thou hast given them blood to drink; for they are worthy.
7. And I heard another out of the altar say, Even so, Lord God Almighty, true and righteous are thy judgments.
8. And the fourth angel poured out his vial upon the sun; and power was given unto him to scorch men with fire.
9. And men were scorched with great heat, and blasphemed the name of God, which hath power over these plagues: and they repented not to give him glory.
10. And the fifth angel poured out his vial upon the seat of the beast; and his kingdom was full of darkness; and they gnawed their tongues for pain,
11. And blasphemed the God of heaven because of their pains and their sores, and repented not of their deeds.
12. And the sixth angel poured out his vial upon the great river Euphrates; and the water thereof was dried up, that the way of the kings of the east might be prepared.
13. And I saw three unclean spirits like frogs come out of the mouth of the dragon, and out of the mouth of the beast, and out of the mouth of the false prophet.
14. For they are the spirits of devils, working miracles, which go forth unto the kings of the earth and of the whole world, to gather them to the battle of that great day of God Almighty.
15. Behold, I come as a thief. Blessed is he that watcheth, and keepeth his garments, lest he walk naked, and they see his shame.
16. And he gathered them together into a place called in the Hebrew tongue Armageddon.
17. And the seventh angel poured out his vial into the air; and there came a great voice out of the temple of heaven, from the throne, saying, It is done.
18. And there were voices, and thunders, and lightnings; and there was a great earthquake, such as was not since men were upon the earth, so mighty an earthquake, and so great.
19. And the great city was divided into three parts, and the cities of the nations fell: and great Babylon came in remembrance before God, to give unto her the cup of the wine of the fierceness of his wrath.
20. And every island fled away, and the mountains were not found.
21. And there fell upon men a great hail out of heaven, every stone about the weight of a talent: and men blasphemed God because of the plague of the hail; for the plague thereof was exceeding great.
The first plague, described in verse 2, is ulcerous, cancerous sores all over the bodies of the wicked. The New International translation says ugly and painful sores broke out on the people who had the mark of the beast and worshiped his image. Notice how this verse emphasizes the fact that those who have the mark of the beast will be afflicted with these sores. Gods true people, the 144,000, do not, of course, receive the sores.
The second plague, described in verse three, is a sea of blood, which kills every living thing in the sea. The wicked are enraged at this time because of the sores and because of the bloody sea. They blame the righteous for these plagues, saying that if they could rid the earth of the Sabbath-keepers, these plagues would be abated. There is, therefore, a death decree, mentioned in Revelation 13:15, issued for the extermination of all those who will not fall into line and observe Sunday instead of Gods Sabbath day. This action on the part of the wicked is reminiscent of the time nearly two thousand years ago when the rulers proclaimed that one man, Christ, should perish rather than the whole nation.
The third plague is that all the fresh water is turned into blood. Imagine having the discomfort of the sores and having to drink blood to quench your thirst. This plague further enrages the wicked against the righteous.
The fourth plague, found in verse 8, is that the sun increases its energy output, and the temperature of the earth drastically increases, thus aggravating the pain and misery which the wicked suffer at this time when they are covered with boils and have no water to drink. This intense heat, of course, will cause a severe drought and famine, and the water which is blood will by this time undoubtedly emit an unbearable stench. Still the wicked blaspheme God and blame His people for their predicament.
The fifth plague is a darkening of the earth in rapid succession after the burning heat of the sun. The sun now decreases its energy output. Darkness, bitter cold, and misery follow. And they gnawed their tongues for pain. And blasphemed the God of heaven. . . .
The sixth plague is the drying up of the waters of the Euphrates River in preparation for the kings of the east. In order to understand this symbol we need to review the historical account of the drying up of the Euphrates River, which the Medo-Persian army used as a means to defeat the ancient city of Babylon. The river Euphrates flowed through the center of ancient Babylon. Before their attack on Babylon, the army of Medo-Persia diverted the river. They marched into the city over the empty river bottom, and Babylon was defeated. This sixth plague is a reference to the fall of ancient Babylon. The drying up of the waters symbolizes the preparation for the defeat of modern Babylon and the return of the Lord.
In ancient Babylon the people were having a drunken orgy, as described in Daniel chapter five, when the city fell to the Medes and Persians. The people of Babylon were unaware of what was happening. In fact, they were even so careless as to leave the gates across the river open, and the city fell quite easily to the invading army. Likewise modern Babylon, the vast collection of false churches and religions, is totally unaware of its impending doom. In its stupor, drunken on the wine of Babylon, it persecutes Gods true people mercilessly. The kings of the east mentioned in this verse represent Christ and those who accompany Him on His return to earth. Christ and all the holy angels will first appear as a small cloud in the east upon their arrival at earth.
Satan knows that his time is getting very short and that things are out of control. He must do something to try to turn the tide of his defeat. He sees the 144,000 whom he has not been able to swerve from their perfect allegiance to God. He must force these people to break Gods law, for his life depends on it. It is time for his most overpowering deception: his masquerading again as Christ. He first appeared as Christ to put his counterfeit power and authority behind the Sunday law before probation closed. In all his glory, he will again appear to the inhabitants of earth in his last-ditch effort to make the 144,000 believe that he is Christ and thereby cause them to sin. He must appear at this time in order to be a credible counterfeit, for this is the time the 144,000 are expecting the Lord to return. Because Gods true people know that Satan will masquerade as Christ, Satans appearance before probation closes satisfies their expectation that he will do this and tends to make them more susceptible to his overpowering deception in these final hours.
Have you any idea of the tremendous power these events will have to cause the 144,000 to believe that Satan is Christ? This is the reason for Revelation 16:15, Blessed is he that watcheth, and keepeth his garments, lest he walk naked, and they see his shame. In this verse Jesus gives His righteous people a gentle warning against Satans overpowering deception when he masquerades as Christ. It is also a word of encouragement to Gods people. The deception will be almost overwhelming; but Gods people trust in Him and believe His Word, and by His grace they are able to remain steadfast.
Satan will also be the major instigator of the battle of the great day of God Almighty. And I saw three unclean spirits like frogs come out of the mouth of the dragon, and out of the mouth of the beast, and out of the mouth of the false prophet. For they are the spirits of devils, working miracles, which go forth unto the kings of the earth and of the whole world, to gather them to the battle of that great day of God Almighty. (Verses 13 and 14) The three frogs symbolize lying propaganda which comes from Satan, the papacy, and the great Protestant ecumenical alliance, which had caused the United States to pass the national Sunday law. All three of these proclaim with a loud voice the lying propaganda which goes forth to the nations of earth to prepare them for the battle of that great day of God Almighty, when the entire earth, with the exception of the 144,000, will be arrayed against the returning Lord.
Let us review some of the details of this battle of the great day of God Almighty. We saw in chapter 5 that this is NOT the battle of Armageddon. What is this propaganda that these three put out, and how does it prepare the wicked for Christs return? Let us review what we learned in chapter 5.
For some time now publications and the news media have been talking about a large asteroid hitting the earth and the catastrophic damage it will cause. Thousands of articles have been written and movies have been made on this subject. Asteroids are millions of rocks in orbit around the Sun generally between the orbits of the planets Mars and Jupiter. They range in size from small boulders to hundreds of miles in diameter. The largest asteroid is about 600 miles in diameter. The impact speed of an asteroid as it hits the earth could be more than 30 thousand miles per hour. If a large asteroid hit the earth it would cause catastrophic damage. The cover of the April, 1997 issue of Popular Science magazine has a dramatic, full-color picture of a large asteroid heading straight for the earth. The headlines say, Asteroid Hit, Planet Earth Will Be Hit by an Asteroid or Comet. The dinosaurs were destroyed during Noahs flood, but scientists are claiming that a large asteroid that hit the earth was responsible for the extinction of the dinosaurs.
Thus the devil is trying to convince people that the earth is in danger of being destroyed by an asteroid. Why do you suppose he is doing this? We saw earlier that when Christ returns the people will see a small cloud in the east. As Christ gets closer to the earth, the cloud will appear larger and larger. Satan will convince people that this cloud is an asteroid that is headed for the earth, and in order to save the earth we will have to fire nuclear missiles at it in an attempt to break it up into smaller fragments before it gets too close. This is the battle of the great day of God Almighty. Christ will be welcomed with a barrage of nuclear missiles.
Let us review what we learned about Armageddon in chapter 5. Armageddon is generally thought to be this great final battle on earth. It is also generally thought to be a conflict between armies on the earth, between east and west. Verse 16 says, He gathered them together into a place called . . . Armageddon. The word Armageddon is thought to mean Mount Meggido, but there was never a mountain called by this name. No geographical location was ever known by the name Armageddon. This place called Armageddon, therefore, must be symbolic. A careful study of verses 14 through 16 will show the meaning of this term clearly. Verse 14 mentions the battle of the great day of God Almighty. Verse 15 next refers to the righteous. In verse 15 Christ personally gives His people a gentle warning to be on their guard when Satan masquerades as Christ. Verse 16, then, which mentions Armageddon, refers not to the battle of verse 14 but to Christ and the righteous of verse 15. The meaning of verse 16 becomes clear when one realizes who the personal pronouns refer to in this verse. Let us read verse 16 and indicate the proper meaning of these pronouns: And he (Christ, who spoke in the previous verse) gathered them (the righteous of the previous verse) together into a place called in the Hebrew tongue Armageddon.
Armageddon, therefore, are the places all over the world where the righteous are gathered to escape the wrath of the wicked and to wait for the return of the Lord. As the persecution over Sunday observance versus Sabbath keeping increases to fearful intensity, the righteous escape to the hills and to the mountains, where they find refuge among the munitions of rocks, as Isaiah 33:15-17 says. He that walketh righteously, and speaketh uprightly; he that despiseth the gain of oppressions, that shaketh his hands from holding of bribes, that stoppeth his ears from hearing of blood, and shutteth his eyes from seeing evil; He shall dwell on high: his place of defence shall be the munitions of rocks: bread shall be given him; his waters shall be sure. Thine eyes shall see the king in his beauty: they shall behold the land that is very far off. The land that is very far off is, of course, heaven.
Armageddon does not refer to a specific place, but to the hills and mountains and other secluded places all over the world where the righteous gather in small companies to escape the wrath of the wicked and to wait for the return of the Lord. This is why, search as they will, scholars cannot find the specific place called Armageddon.
During the seven last plagues the righteous are cared for in a very special way, as Isaiah 33:16 shows. The wicked have blood to drink, but the righteous will have both bread and water. Just as God fed the Israelites of old with manna and supplied them with water as they wandered in the wilderness of Sinai for forty years, so He will supply manna and water for His 144,000 during the time of the plagues.
Christ, with all His holy angels, returns to the earth immediately before the seventh plague to gather the righteous, both living and dead, and takes them off the earth before the destruction of the wicked at the seventh plague. During the seventh plague the wicked are all slain and the entire surface of the earth and all the works in the earth are completely broken up by the world-wide earthquake and the huge hailstones. This was described in detail in Chapter Five, The Grand Finale. Notice verse 19: And the great city was divided into three parts, and the cities of the nations fell: and great Babylon came in remembrance before God, to give unto her the cup of the wine of the fierceness of his wrath. Babylon is divided into three parts. These are the same three parts mentioned in Revelation 16:13 as the dragon, the beast, and the false prophet. These three parts are (1) Spiritualism (devil worship through the occult), (2) Catholicism, and (3) the great Protestant ecumenical alliance.
Ezekiel 33:11 says: As I live, saith the Lord God, I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked; but that the wicked turn from his way and live: turn ye, turn ye from your evil ways; for why will ye die? Probation could close any day. For those who have died, probation closed at the time of death. None of us knows how long his life will last.
For us to miss eternity in Gods new earth would be tragic. Nothing in this world is worth it. To be ready when the Lord returns is worth any sacrifice we might have to make.
And he said unto me, These sayings are faithful and true: and the Lord God of the holy prophets sent his angel to shew unto his servants the things which must shortly be done. Behold, I come quickly: blessed is he that keepeth the sayings of the prophecy of this book. (Revelation 22:6,7).
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