Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Tribulation: The Seven Last Plagues

Don't be misled --you cannot mock the justice of God. You will always harvest what you plant. Galatians 6:7
Let the nations be called to arms. Let them march to the valley of Jehoshaphat. There I, the Lord, will sit to pronounce judgment on them all. Swing the sickle, for the harvest is ripe. Come, tread the grapes, for the winepress is full. The storage vats are overflowing with the wickedness of these people. Thousands upon thousands are waiting in the valley of decision. There the day of the Lord will soon arrive. Joel 3:12-14
Then another angel came from the Temple and shouted to the one sitting on the cloud, "Swing the sickle, for the time of harvest has come; the crop on earth is ripe." So the one sitting on the cloud swung his sickle over the earth, and the whole earth was harvested.
After that, another angel came from the Temple in heaven, and he also had a sharp sickle. Then another angel, who had power to destroy with fire, came from the altar. He shouted to the angel with the sharp sickle, "Swing your sickle now to gather the clusters of grapes from the vines of the earth, for they are ripe for judgment." So the angel swung his sickle over the earth and loaded the grapes into the great winepress of God's wrath. Revelation 14:15-19
The earth will have seen the turmoil of the seven seals, experienced the devastation of the seven trumpet judgments, and have been given every possible opportunity to repent and turn to God. And finally, God will say, enough is enough. He will draw the line in the sand. These last seven plagues are the fullness of God's wrath poured out in its entirety upon an unrepentant world. And amid them is the great battle of Armageddon...
Then I heard a mighty voice from the Temple say to the seven angels, "Go your ways and pour out on the earth the seven bowls containing God's wrath." Rev. 16:1
We see in chapter 16 of Revelation that:
  1. Anyone who has taken the mark of the beast is going to be afflicted with "horrible, malignant sores"(v.2). 
  2. Every drop of water in the oceans will be turned to blood and everything in them will die(v.3). 
  3. All fresh water in every river and every spring will be turned to blood(v.4). 
  4. The sun will "scorch everyone with its fire"(v.8). Sadly we see here that "Everyone was burned by this blast of heat, and they cursed the name of God, who had control over all these plagues. They did not repent of their sins and turn to God and give him glory."(v.9)
  5. The Antichrist's kingdom will be thrown into some kind of darkness, and those who work for him will grind their teeth in anguish, cursing God for their pains and sores. (v.10-11) And still, they will "not repent of their evil deeds and turn to God."(v.11)
The sixth judgment ushers in the battle of Armageddon:
Then the sixth angel poured out his bowl on the great Euphrates River, and it dried up so that the kings from the east could march their armies toward the west without hindrance. Rev. 16:12
A great army is about to march against Israel. Remember that Israel and the 144,000 Jewish witnesses have been supernaturally preserved and protected through all of this horror and destruction. I would imagine that at this point, the rest of the world will be pretty irate with the nation of Israel which has not only been protected from the pain and suffering that the rest of the world has had to endure, but has also been adamantly proclaiming the name of the God who has caused all of their suffering. The world is about to attempt to put an end to this thorn in their side. All those who join the effort will have been rallied by three evil spirits:
They are demonic spirits who work miracles and go out to all the rulers of the world to gather them for battle against the Lord on that great judgment day of God the Almighty... And the demonic spirits gathered all the rulers and their armies to a place with the Hebrew name Armageddon. Rev. 16:14,16
The seventh and final judgment of the Lord swiftly obliterates these armies' meager attempt at a "battle" and brings this world as we know it to an end:
Then the seventh angel poured out his bowl into the air. And a mighty shout came from the throne in the Temple, saying "It is finished!" Rev. 16:17
In the verses that follow, we see lightning, thunder, and a great earthquake, "the worst since people were placed on the earth."(v.18) We see the city of Babylon being split into three sections and many other cities throughout the earth being reduced to heaps of rubble(v.19). We see that the destruction from this earthquake is so severe that every island disappears and every mountain is leveled(v.20). Finally, there is a massive hailstorm with "hailstones weighing seventy-five pounds" falling from the sky onto the people below(v.21). The word used here for hailstones in the Greek does not refer to ice; these are actual stones, rocks that are falling from the sky.
It is so difficult for people, even Christians, to read these parts of Scripture and accept that the god depicted here could ever be described as loving. How can a god of love sentence people to such heinous destruction? As I've mentioned in a previous post, the holiness of God cannot coexist with evil. Sin MUST be eliminated. But how can God be righteous and just and loving at the same time? As one pastor put it, "His justice and love came crashing together in the person of Jesus Christ."

Every single one of these judgments that we have seen in the last few posts had to be poured out on someone to pay for the crime of humanity's sin against God. Each and every one of us deserves this fate. We deserve to go to hell. We deserve death and destruction. BUT GOD offered up his son Jesus Christ to take that punishment for us! As Christ, who was perfectly blameless, hung on the cross, the weight of every sin of every person who has ever lived on this earth was hurled upon him, and he took the full brunt of the judgments seen here. He took every last bit of that punishment for us. And when we reach out and take this gift of salvation that Christ has offered us, we become fully innocent and pure in God's eyes. But if we reject Jesus and the debt that he paid, we must then pay it ourselves.

Jesus is coming back! He is coming to rule and to reign. Soon, we are going to see what the Bible has to say about his return and what the future holds for all of us. The best is yet to come!
"Look, I will come as unexpectedly as a thief! Blessed are all who are watching for me, who keep their clothing ready so they will not have to walk around naked and ashamed." Rev. 16:15

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