Why Plagues When No Repentance Will Result? (Bowl Plagues 3)

A very challenging question that people ask about Revelation 16: What is the purpose of the seven bowl/plagues if they are after the close of probation and therefore no repentance can be expected? I think there are a number of considerations to keep in mind.

First of all, Revelation makes clear that God is not the author of death, pain and destruction (Rev. 7:1-3). Satan is the destroyer (9:11). Because freedom is essential in order for genuine love and trust to exist, it is crucial to the peace and security of the universe. But if people are free to love, they are also free to hate, rebel and harm. Respecting freedom means not only allowing creatures the freedom to choose, but allowing them to experience the consequences of their choices. A God who constantly intervenes to prevent negative consequences is not a God of freedom. So God allows Satan a certain freedom of action in the course of history and at the End, after securing the righteous, God allows Satan to more fully demonstrate what his kind of government would look like. One purpose of the seven last plagues is to convince the universe that Satan’s alternative to love and trust in God leads to total disaster. This will help convince free beings in the universe to never choose that option again.

Second, even Satan’s worst actions can be used by God to fulfill His purposes (17:17). The deceptions and plagues of the final crisis expose the truth about Satan and those who follow him (2 Thess 10-12). It is not God’s fault that the wicked are unredeemed, neither the grace of God (Rom 2:4) nor the plagues of the End (Rev 16:9, 11, 21) bring about any repentence. They are hardened in the course they have chosen. Thus, even the destruction of the wicked glorifies the character of God in the end (Rev. 15:3-4). They have made themselves unsafe to save and God sadly lets them go (Hos 11:7-8). Even after the millennium and a clear perspective on God’s character, nothing in their character has changed (Rev. 20:7-10). The plagues expose their settled unfitness for eternity and vindicate God’s judgment in each case.

So even though probation has closed, the seven last plagues serve a purpose in preparing the universe for a free, loving, safe and secure eternity.

4 thoughts on “Why Plagues When No Repentance Will Result? (Bowl Plagues 3)

  1. Robert Whiteman

    I wonder if we could look at the plagues as self-inflicted curses, such as those pronounced in Eden, and heaven is only acknowledging this. God needs to do nothing, with exception of the 7th plague being the return of Jesus who is keeping His promise, and the effect it will have upon the wicked who remain alive to see Jesus come(yes, the hail symbolizes something very dreadful).

    What took place after sin in Eden was the result of Adam and Eve making choices which brought those curses upon them without God needing to do anything.

    Look at each plague with the Bible interpretation of the symbols and see how it works out.

    For example, the 1st plague almost seems like a description of leprosy, which symbolized the effects of sin upon the soul, and with their choice to spurn the commandments of God and the loud cry warning, the people are judged incurable with sin and it’s deformity of character.

    The 2nd plague reminds us that the wages of sin is death, and those still clinging to sin after probation’s close are “dead in trespasses and sins”. (We know what the sea represents in prophecy, right?) Continue with that line of interpretation for the remaining plagues. Maybe we can see these as a more detailed version of Rev 22:11?

    Does this seem reasonable? It appears consistent with the character of God, and is simply heaven acknowledging that the wicked have received the desire of their heart, and God must give them up to their choosing. They have what they want: sin instead of righteousness, death instead of life(Prov 8:36), darkness instead of light, etc. God is merely saying to the wicked: “as you wish”, having done all He could have done to save them.

    1. Jon Paulien Post author

      While I agree that God’s judgment in the plagues is more passive than active, I don’t want to arbitrarily rule out some activity on God’s part. After all, He is committed to protecting the sealed, and that would seem to imply some active intervention (positive judgment). In the example of Genesis 3, the curses seem both active (banish from garden) and passive (death, arguing).

      1. Robert Whiteman

        I understand that as well, yet my problem is when/how do we decide that the Revelation is a book full of symbolic language, vs being literal? Do Saints actually wash literal robes in literal blood? Are we to literally “buy of [Jesus]” gold, some sort of eye ointment, and a robe? Is the angel of Revelation 8:3 actually burning incense on an altar in heaven, then to cast a censer full of fire into the earth? To me, these being literal doesn’t make a lot of sense, and I’m seeing this concerning the plagues as well. For instance, the sea actually turning to blood would have little immediate effect on anyone nowhere near a sea, while the announcement of being fixed for eternal death with no possible escape effects every unrepentant sinner.

        The banishment from the garden was to place the tree of life out of reach, signifying the death that sin must bring to the soul that sins. Yes, God will bring this 2nd death to pass, out of mercy to all.
        The only reason they had to be banned from the tree was the fact that by God’s grace and Christ’s propitiation, they were still alive. The greater curse(2nd death required to satisfy the law’s demand for the sinner’s life) had been eliminated. What good news!

        1. Jon Paulien Post author

          I think we agree that Rev is mostly symbolic, if I gave a different impression, I am sorry. Adventists have tended to treat the sixth seal and parts of the plagues as literal and I do my best to support such positions when possible.

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