As I write this, the BP Gulf Oil Spill catastrophe has passed 60 days and counting. It has been described as the worst one in history and it is still growing. Recently P. J. Hahn, Director of coastal zone management for Louisiana’s Plaquemines Parish commented, “In Revelation it says the water will turn to blood. That’s what it looks like out here—like the Gulf is bleeding. This is going to choke the life out of everything.” Someone else flying over the Gulf commented that looking down it appeared reddish. Some have indeed wondered, is this the second plague mentioned in Revelation 16?

While it may seem like a plague of sorts—it certainly seems nightmarish in some respects—it is likely not the one referred to in Revelation 16 for several reasons, though it may be a foretaste of things to come. The context of this passage suggests the “7 last plagues” are events immediately preceding and leading up to the 2nd coming of Jesus. Chapter 14 concludes with that event after its sequence, and chapters 18/19 do likewise. Also, we don’t seem to have seen the first plague taking place yet, in spite of notable widespread illnesses at times in the past. Another thought to ponder is that since these judgments of God don’t produce any repentance (chapter 16 says “they repented not”), it is likely that these occur after probation for mankind (time allotted for man to repent and turn to Christ before He finishes His work and returns to get His children living and resurrect His children who have previously died) (see also Revelation 22:11). In other words, everyone would then have made their final decision for or against God, so the plagues result in no changed hearts. At this point we believe the doors of grace are still open and inviting.

Are these plagues real or symbolic, some may ask. Since Revelation borrows heavily from the Old Testament, the original story of plagues devastating a nation is found in Exodus 7-12. While there may have been symbolic meaning involved in these plagues (such as making a mockery of Egyptian gods supposed to prosper and protect them) they were also very real and disastrous in nature. It is probable that these 7 last plagues outlined in Revelation will be similar in nature. While they are apparently the awfulest scourges known to man, they won’t be totally global in scope or mankind would be exterminated and no one would be alive to see Jesus come.

Many of the problems we see today we bring on ourselves via our own mistakes or pollution or mismanagement, etc. (note the Gulf oil spill as an example). The plagues of Egypt were a direct intervention by God. It seems we should expect no less in the end time. But whether you believe them to be simply man-made or God ordained, or some combination of both, the real concern is in verse 15 of Revelation 16—are we taking care of our “protective clothing”, the spiritual covering of Christ’s righteousness, the gift of His perfect character. Are we walking with Him and learning to depend on Him and submit to His will. If we are right with God, then on a personal basis it matters not what happens—our destiny is secure.

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