Darkness – the Fifth Plague

“Then the fifth angel poured out his bowl on the throne of the beast, and his kingdom was plunged into darkness. His subjects ground their teeth in anguish, and they cursed the God of heaven for their pains and sores. But they did not repent of their evil deeds and turn to God.”

Revelation‬ ‭16:10-11‬ ‭NLT

With the fifth plague, the contents of the bowl in John’s vision are poured out on the beast. The emphasis shifts away from earth’s inhabitants to the source of their misery, the beast himself. Impacting his very throne. With this plague of darkness, the people on earth get a glimpse of what life might be like in hell. A total blackout. No light at all, either physically or spiritually. We read in our verses today that the beast’s “subjects ground their teeth in anguish”. The King James version is even more graphic – it says “…. and they gnawed their tongues for pain”. This is surely what will happen with people in hell. Jesus said in Matthew 25:30, describing what will happen there, “Now throw this useless servant into outer darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth“. Perhaps God, even while dispensing judgement on the wickedness prevailing on earth, was still giving every opportunity for people to repent. Dangling them over hell itself must surely bring about a change of hearts and minds.

But, sadly, it was not to be. We read in today’s verses, ” … they cursed the God of heaven for their pains and sores. But they did not repent of their evil deeds and turn to God”. Anger, defiance and curses are the dominant emotions, not a grateful acceptance of God’s patience and mercy. Why? Well, we read in 2 Corinthians 4:4, “Satan, who is the god of this world, has blinded the minds of those who don’t believe. They are unable to see the glorious light of the Good News. They don’t understand this message about the glory of Christ, who is the exact likeness of God“.

We pilgrims can only be eternally grateful, that in our lives a glimmer of God’s light penetrated our blinded minds. And who knows? Through our willingness to share the Gospel with those around us – our families, friends, communities – they too might just come to see the light of God. Through our faithful and persistent prayers, God will push back the darkness and expose those we pray for with His wonderful light. Perhaps the faithful prayers of someone we know, or knew, were instrumental in bringing us out of the devil’s darkness. I can remember some faithful men and women who ran a Mission Sunday School, which I attended in my primary years. Their faithfulness in prayer, for all I know, enabled the light of the Gospel to penetrate my life of darkness. 

So we share the Gospel and pray. Share the Gospel and pray. Never giving up. Always looking out for an opportunity to illuminate a dark and troubled soul as we trudge our ways through this life, heading towards our ultimate home with God Himself.

Dear Father God. Thank You for Your persistent grace, mercy and loving kindness. Without You where would we be, but in a dark and hopeless place. We are so grateful. Amen.

The First Plague

“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.” So the first angel left the Temple and poured out his bowl on the earth, and horrible, malignant sores broke out on everyone who had the mark of the beast and who worshiped his statue.”
Revelation‬ ‭16:1-2‬ ‭NLT

The next few chapters in Revelation are difficult to read and understand; the only way to describe them is to say that they are apocalyptic. The world, its inhabitants and evil influences end up being annihilated. But before we get to the new beginnings, there is much to work through. The seven plagues mark the start of the real End Times. Up until now it seems that there has been a number of battles, skirmishes perhaps, between God and the devil, with God’s patience and grace still there to be grasped, but the devil doing his utmost to prevent any more people from joining the ranks of “God’s holy people”. Have the earth’s inhabitants been nothing more than pawns in a cosmic, supernatural battle between God and His opponent? If so, mankind has a final opportunity to be on the winning side, with the last of the seven plagues marking the end of God’s grace.

John, in his vision, “heard a mighty voice from the Temple”. The message to pour out God’s wrath was like the firing of a starting pistol. The first angel headed off, releasing God’s wrath in the form of “horrible, malignant sores”. Skin diseases were much feared in Biblical days. Leprosy was one of the most devastating of them and this might have been the affliction released by the angel. But this plague was selective in who it attacked. Only those who “had the mark of the beast and who worshiped his statue” suffered from it.

Modern medicine has made huge strides in recent decades, and as the first plague worked its way through the population, there may have been extraordinary attempts to counter it, as we have seen with the recent Covid pandemic. And there have been other diseases where pharmaceutical companies have developed anti-viral medication and vaccines. The plague released by the angel was a judgement from God, demonstrating His anger with the sins and wickedness of mankind. But was anyone listening? Did anyone present on earth makes the connection between their sin and God’s judgement? Sadly, I haven’t heard of anyone who repented because of the recent Covid pandemic. 

As I have said before, we are in a season of God’s grace. It is not as though He is turning a blind eye to  man’s wickedness; instead He, through the sacrificial death of His Son, Jesus, has opened a door of opportunity, for mankind to become righteous in God’s eyes. God knows the human difficulties – Jesus suffered them too – but through His compassion and love for His creation, He has deferred the dark days of His judgement for a season. Those alive in these terrible Times of the End, had an opportunity to turn their backs on the god of the world, but time was running out.

Dear Father God. Your grace and love for mankind is unlimited. We pray for our neighbours and family, that they will embrace Your Son Jesus and transfer their allegiance to the God of the Universe. And we keep praying, as we know You are listening. Amen.