Summary: The Last Plagues - The Battle of Armageddon, & The End of Man’s Reign
A volcano can go for hundreds or thousands of years without erupting - then in one day unleash terrible destruction. That’s what happened in May of 1980 with the eruption of Mt St. Helens in southern Washington State. While we don’t see it - pressure builds up until the breaking point.
In a way, that’s what we see today. The pressure has been building on planet earth - pressure from sin rotting mankind to the core - pressure from Satan trying his best to wrest control from God (a fools errand at best), and pressure from God inoculating planet earth from that evil as He prepares to return and set up His kingdom.
In chapters 16 - 18 the volcano erupts - and the pot boils over. We see lots of turmoil and destruction as God sends His last plagues against the Beast, the last world system spits in the eye of God and ends up being destroyed by the very one who set it up - and finally the forces of evil try to destroy God, and are themselves destroyed. Fasten your seatbelts - it’s going to be a bumpy ride.
Verses 1- 2 Bowl 1 - Sores
The first bowl - and in fact, all these plagues, are poured out on those that belong to the Beast. God is becoming more selective in His judgments. All of us suffer because of the curse - but since Jesus removed the curse, those that refuse to believe in Jesus receive God’s wrath.
Verse 3 - Bowl 2 - Dead Sea
Whereas in the 2nd trumpet judgment of chapter 8 only a third of the sea creatures died - here every living thing in the ocean dies. The Tribulation cannot last much longer or the rest of man will simply die for lack of food.
Verses 4 - 7
The 3rd trumpet of chapter 8 saw 1/3 of the inland waters turned to blood - now it all turns to blood. The reason? Those that rebel against God also show that God’s people are their enemies - and so the Antichrist ruthlessly hunts down anyone who becomes a Christian - here they begin to get a taste for their eternal punishment.
But notice that God is just - no one will be able to argue with Him that He is unfair.
The fourth trumpet saw the sun diminished by a third. Now something has happened to the ozone layer that allows solar radiation to reach earth and torment those that have received the Mark of the Beast. Again - as we have seen over and over - they know it is judgment from God yet they refuse to repent - showing that indeed they are God’s enemies.
This is similar to when God plunged parts of Egypt into darkness. This plague is focused on the kingdom of the Beast and his subjects. The darkness is so intense that abject fear breaks out. Some suggest that after flaring up the sun it burns itself out, plunging the earth into darkness. Not sure if that’s the case - but it’s an interesting idea. Even after that, though - they will not repent. It’s a big taste of hell that they are getting - a place of "outer darkness where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth." Matthew 22:13
Verses 10 - 11
This reminds me of the plagues of Egypt, where God put the Egyptians into darkness - a darkness you can feel. Hell is also called: Outer Darkness. Again - a taste of hell to scare them out of it if possible, I think. Unfortunately, it doesn’t appear to work.
Verses 12 - 16
Here we see the direct connection between the unholy trinity of the dragon, the beast, and the false prophet - and the inspiration for the battle of Armageddon. Some suggest that chapter 9 also pictures the battle - with blood to the horses bridles throughout the land of Israel - but that’s debatable.
Armageddon is actually the Valley of Megiddo in central Israel - where the final series of battles of human history take place - and Jesus Christ intervenes personally by returning to the earth. (Armageddon in Hebrew means "mount of assembly" and though there is no mountain there, it may refer to the assembling of the kings for battle.)
Jesus told his followers to watch for Him - that He would come like a thief - that is, at an unexpected time. The people on earth will not expect Jesus to return - and without Him clothing us, we are indeed naked and exposed before God.
Verses 17 - 20
Once again reminiscent of the plagues of Egypt we have a hailstorm greater than any earth has ever seen - and an earthquake larger than any. It’s like earth is literally coming apart at the seams. 100 pound hailstones - a cubic foot of ice weighs 56 pounds - so each stone is approximately two cubic feet. Just to give you an idea of the damage they will inflict: even they were going only 30 miles an hour - the impact would be about 8 tons.