Summary: When you think life is getting dark and you feel lonely, here is assurance from our Lord and Saviour.
Are you and your church members just a little anxious about the events leading up to the end of time? I am not. Let me tell you why.
All the predicted “last-day events” meet their climax in the seven last plagues. These are the final events that usher in Jesus’ second coming and they are a series of catastrophes that John describes as God’s wrath for what sin has done to the planet (Rev 15:1).
1. painful sores (Rev 16:2)
2. the sea become as blood from a corpse (v.3)
3. rivers and water sources become as blood (vv.4-7)
4. scorching sun (vv. 8-9)
5. darkness (vv.10-11)
6. evil spirits engaged in battle against God (vv.12-16)
7. lightning, thunder, earthquake and hail (vv.17-21).
When you look for the roots of these ordeals you find that they are based in the Old Testament blessings and curses. Just before the people of Israel crossed over the Jordon to enter the Promised Land, Moses delivered his last public address. I can imagine the old man summoning all his powers to deliver, for one last time, a pep talk to convince his people to keep their faith in God. It was to be the climax of all that he had said up to this point. Then he went up to the mountain, had one fleeting look at the prize he was missing out on, and died.
Moses outlined what has come to be known as the covenant blessings and curses (Deut 28 and Lev 26). The covenant, in simple terms, was God’s agreement to shepherd his people into the Promised Land, and to give them success in all they did. In response, the people agreed to serve God only, and to live according to the pattern he set for them.
The covenant blessings were incredibly all-encompassing (Deut 28:1–14). They were not just nice words, but they positively impacted the lives of the faithful wherever they lived, whatever their livelihood, giving them success in every venture. In fact Heaven’s storehouses were to be opened to ensure that financially, God’s people would always be at the top of the pile, and never at the bottom (v.12, 13). So in this context a blessing defined as enjoying the presence of God, receiving all needs from his hand, being prospered by him at home and away, and succeeding in every endeavor.
However, if the people chose to separate from God and go their own way, there would be consequences―curses. What exactly is a curse? Its the opposite of a blessing―being separated from God, suffering the consequences of surviving in a world without him, dwindling at home and away, and failing in every venture.
The curses included:
• boils, tumors, and scabs covering head to foot (Deut 28:27, 35)
• thirst (v.48)
• sky as bronze, ground as iron, dust for rain (v.23-24)
• darkness at noon (v.29)
• invasion and exile by distant foreigners (v.49).
It is obvious that the curses outlined in the covenant speech of Moses parallel the seven last plagues. And it is interesting to note that when God released his people from Egypt, a similar series of plagues fell on Egypt to enable that release. So, a generation later, as Moses prepared the people to enter the Promised Land, blessings and curses again feature for the generation at the border of their land of promise. Therefore the curses and the plagues are related to deliverance.
But these “curses” also struck Jesus at Calvary, so there is more to the plagues than just being inspiration for a bad movie. They are a part of the salvation process. And because Jesus endured them, you and I don’t have to. So it should come as no surprise that Jesus’ death by crucifixion was accompanied by plagues/curses. It is at Calvary that both the curses and the plagues make any sense. It is there that we can see their real significance. For it is at Calvary that Jesus endured both.
• Jesus was scourged – his whole body became an open sore (Matt 27:26)
• rotten wine was given to him to quench his thirst (v.34)
• he was crucified naked in the hot sun (v.35)
• there was darkness at noon (v.45)
• he endured the taunts of demonic opposition (vv.42–45)
• there was a massive earthquake (v.51, 52)
What does all this mean? Simply, that when Jesus was crucified he bore the covenant curses in Himself. He met the consequences of the broken covenant. Therefore, there is absolutely no need for those who accept Him to suffer through the plagues. However, those who refuse Him will need to bear the consequences of the broken covenant themselves. Jesus said as much when speaking to Nicodemus; “Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because he has not believed in the name of God's one and only Son” (John 3:18). If we are not prepared to accept what Jesus went through for us, we will need to go through it ourselves. Conversely, if we do accept Jesus and his efforts on our behalf, then there is no need for us to go through what he suffered on our behalf.