Chapter 17—The Seven Last Plagues and the Wicked (The Great Time of Trouble, Part 1)
The Vials of God's Wrath Will Be Poured Out
Solemn events before us are yet to transpire. Trumpet after trumpet is to be sounded; vial after vial poured out one after another upon the inhabitants of the earth.—Selected Messages 3:426 (1890).The world is soon to be left by the angel of mercy and the seven last plagues are to be poured out.... The bolts of God's wrath are soon to fall, and when He shall begin to punish the transgressors there will be no period of respite until the end.—Testimonies to Ministers and Gospel Workers, 182 (1894).
The Nations in Conflict
Four mighty angels hold back the powers of this earth till the servants of God are sealed in their foreheads. The nations of the world are eager for conflict, but they are held in check by the angels. When this restraining power is removed there will come a time of trouble and anguish. Deadly instruments of warfare will be invented. Vessels with their living cargo will be entombed in the great deep. All who have not the spirit of truth will unite under the leadership of Satanic agencies, but they are to be kept under control till the time shall come for the great battle of Armageddon.—The S.D.A. Bible Commentary 7:967 (1900).
The Whole World Will Be Involved in Ruin
Angels are now restraining the winds of strife that they may not blow until the world shall be warned of its coming doom, but a storm is gathering, ready to burst upon the earth, and when God shall bid His angels loose the winds there will be such a scene of strife as no pen can picture.—Education, 179, 180 (1903).
The Saviour's prophecy concerning the visitation of judgments upon Jerusalem is to have another fulfillment, of which that terrible desolation was but a faint shadow. In the fate of the chosen city we may behold the doom of a world that has rejected God's mercy and trampled upon His law.—The Great Controversy, 36 (1911).
Satan will then plunge the inhabitants of the earth into one great, final trouble. As the angels of God cease to hold in check the fierce winds of human passion, all the elements of strife will be let loose. The whole world will be involved in ruin more terrible than that which came upon Jerusalem of old.—The Great Controversy, 614 (1911).
God Is Just, as Well as Merciful
It is the glory of God to be merciful, full of forbearance, kindness, goodness, and truth. But the justice shown in punishing the sinner is as verily the glory of the Lord as is the manifestation of His mercy.—The Review and Herald, March 10, 1904.
The Lord God of Israel is to execute judgment upon the gods of this world as upon the gods of Egypt. With fire and flood, plagues and earthquakes, He will spoil the whole land. Then His redeemed people will exalt His name and make it glorious in the earth. Shall not those who are living in the last remnant of this earth's history become intelligent in regard to God's lessons?—Manuscript Releases 10:240, 241 (1899).
The One who has stood as our Intercessor; who hears all penitential prayers and confessions; who is represented with a rainbow, the symbol of grace and love, encircling His head, is soon to cease His work in the heavenly sanctuary. Grace and mercy will then descend from the throne, and justice will take their place. He for whom His people have looked will assume His right—the office of Supreme Judge.—The Review and Herald, January 1, 1889.
In all the Bible, God is presented not only as a Being of mercy and benevolence, but as a God of strict and impartial justice.—The Signs of the Times, March 24, 1881.
The Certainty of God's Judgments
God's love is represented in our day as being of such a character as would forbid His destroying the sinner. Men reason from their own low standard of right and justice. “Thou thoughtest that I was altogether such an one as thyself” (Psalm 50:21). They measure God by themselves. They reason as to how they would act under the circumstances and decide God would do as they imagine they would do....
In no kingdom or government is it left to the lawbreakers to say what punishment is to be executed against those who have broken the law. All we have, all the bounties of His grace which we possess, we owe to God. The aggravating character of sin against such a God cannot be estimated any more than the heavens can be measured with a span. God is a moral governor as well as a Father. He is the Lawgiver. He makes and executes His laws. Law that has no penalty is of no force.
The plea may be made that a loving Father would not see His children suffering the punishment of God by fire while He had the power to relieve them. But God would, for the good of His subjects and for their safety, punish the transgressor. God does not work on the plan of man. He can do infinite justice that man has no right to do before his fellow man. Noah would have displeased God to have drowned one of the scoffers and mockers that harassed him, but God drowned the vast world. Lot would have had no right to inflict punishment on his sons-in-law, but God would do it in strict justice.Who will say God will not do what He says He will do?—Manuscript Releases 12:207-209; Manuscript Releases 10:265 (1876).
Judgments Come When God Removes His Protection
I was shown that the judgments of God would not come directly out from the Lord upon them, but in this way: They place themselves beyond His protection. He warns, corrects, reproves, and points out the only path of safety; then, if those who have been the objects of His special care will follow their own course, independent of the Spirit of God, after repeated warnings, if they choose their own way, then He does not commission His angels to prevent Satan's decided attacks upon them.
It is Satan's power that is at work at sea and on land, bringing calamity and distress and sweeping off multitudes to make sure of his prey.—Manuscript Releases 14:3 (1883).
God will use His enemies as instruments to punish those who have followed their own pernicious ways whereby the truth of God has been misrepresented, misjudged, and dishonored.—The Paulson Collection of Ellen G. White Letters, 136 (1894).
Already the Spirit of God, insulted, refused, abused, is being withdrawn from the earth. Just as fast as God's Spirit is taken away, Satan's cruel work will be done upon land and sea.—Manuscript 134, 1898.
The wicked have passed the boundary of their probation; the Spirit of God, persistently resisted, has been at last withdrawn. Unsheltered by divine grace, they have no protection from the wicked one.—The Great Controversy, 614 (1911).
At Times Holy Angels Exercise Destructive Power
[The sinner must himself bear full responsibility for the punishment that is meted out to him. Ellen White states, “God destroys no one. The sinner destroys himself by his own impenitence.” Testimonies for the Church 5:120. See further The Great Controversy, 25-37.] God's judgments were awakened against Jericho. It was a stronghold. But the Captain of the Lord's host Himself came from heaven to lead the armies of heaven in an attack upon the city. Angels of God laid hold of the massive walls and brought them to the ground.—Testimonies for the Church 3:264 (1873).
Under God the angels are all-powerful. On one occasion, in obedience to the command of Christ, they slew of the Assyrian army in one night one hundred and eighty-five thousand men.—The Desire of Ages, 700 (1898).
The same angel who had come from the royal courts to rescue Peter had been the messenger of wrath and judgment to Herod. The angel smote Peter to arouse him from slumber. It was with a different stroke that he smote the wicked king, laying low his pride and bringing upon him the punishment of the Almighty. Herod died in great agony of mind and body, under the retributive judgment of God.—The Acts of the Apostles, 152 (1911).
A single angel destroyed all the first-born of the Egyptians and filled the land with mourning. When David offended against God by numbering the people, one angel caused that terrible destruction by which his sin was punished. The same destructive power exercised by holy angels when God commands, will be exercised by evil angels when He permits. There are forces now ready, and only waiting the divine permission, to spread desolation everywhere.—The Great Controversy, 614 (1911).
The First Two Plagues
When Christ ceases His intercession in the sanctuary, the unmingled wrath threatened against those who worship the beast and his image and receive his mark (Revelation 14:9, 10), will be poured out. The plagues upon Egypt when God was about to deliver Israel, were similar in character to those more terrible and extensive judgments which are to fall upon the world just before the final deliverance of God's people. Says the revelator, in describing those terrific scourges: “There fell a noisome and grievous sore upon the men which had the mark of the beast, and upon them which worshiped his image.” The sea “became as the blood of a dead man: and every living soul died in the sea” [Revelation 16:2, 3].—The Great Controversy, 627, 628 (1911).
The plagues were falling upon the inhabitants of the earth. Some were denouncing God and cursing Him. Others rushed to the people of God and begged to be taught how they might escape His judgments. But the saints had nothing for them. The last tear for sinners had been shed, the last agonizing prayer offered, the last burden borne, the last warning given.—Early Writings, 281 (1858).
The Third Plague
I saw that the four angels would hold the four winds until Jesus’ work was done in the sanctuary, and then will come the seven last plagues. These plagues enraged the wicked against the righteous; they thought that we had brought the judgments of God upon them and that if they could rid the earth of us the plagues would then be stayed. A decree went forth to slay the saints, which caused them to cry day and night for deliverance.—Early Writings, 36, 37 (1851).And “the rivers and fountains of waters ... became blood.” Terrible as these inflictions are, God's justice stands fully vindicated. The angel of God declares: “Thou art righteous, O Lord, ... because Thou hast judged thus. For they have shed the blood of saints and prophets, and Thou hast given them blood to drink; for they are worthy” (Revelation 16:2-6). By condemning the people of God to death, they have as truly incurred the guilt of their blood as if it had been shed by their hands.—The Great Controversy, 628 (1911).
The Fourth Plague
In the plague that follows, power is given to the sun “to scorch men with fire. And men were scorched with great heat” (Revelation 16:8, 9). The prophets thus describe the condition of the earth at this fearful time: “The land mourneth; ... because the harvest of the field is perished.... All the trees of the field are withered: because joy is withered away from the sons of men.” “The seed is rotten under their clods, the garners are laid desolate.... How do the beasts groan! the herds of cattle are perplexed, because they have no pasture.... The rivers of water are dried up, and the fire hath devoured the pastures of the wilderness.” “The songs of the temple shall be howlings in that day, saith the Lord God: there shall be many dead bodies in every place; they shall cast them forth with silence” (Joel 1:10-12, 17-20; Amos 8:3).These plagues are not universal, or the inhabitants of the earth would be wholly cut off. Yet they will be the most awful scourges that have ever been known to mortals.—The Great Controversy, 628, 629 (1911).
The Fifth Plague
With shouts of triumph, jeering, and imprecation, throngs of evil men are about to rush upon their prey, when, lo, a dense blackness, deeper than the darkness of the night, falls upon the earth. Then a rainbow, shining with the glory from the throne of God, spans the heavens, and seems to encircle each praying company. The angry multitudes are suddenly arrested. Their mocking cries die away. The objects of their murderous rage are forgotten. With fearful forebodings they gaze upon the symbol of God's covenant, and long to be shielded from its overpowering brightness....It is at midnight that God manifests His power for the deliverance of His people. The sun appears, shining in its strength. Signs and wonders follow in quick succession. The wicked look with terror and amazement on the scene, while the righteous behold with solemn joy the tokens of their deliverance.—The Great Controversy, 635, 636 (1911).
God's Law Appears in the Sky
There appears against the sky a hand holding two tables of stone folded together. Says the prophet, “The heavens shall declare His righteousness: for God is judge Himself” (Psalm 50:6). That holy law, God's righteousness, that amid thunder and flame was proclaimed from Sinai as the guide of life, is now revealed to men as the rule of judgment. The hand opens the tables, and there are seen the precepts of the Decalogue, traced as with a pen of fire. The words are so plain that all can read them. Memory is aroused, the darkness of superstition and heresy is swept from every mind, and God's ten words, brief, comprehensive, and authoritative, are presented to the view of all the inhabitants of the earth.—The Great Controversy, 639 (1911).
The Lost Condemn Their False Shepherds
Church members who have seen the light and been convicted, but who have trusted the salvation of their souls to the minister, will learn in the day of God that no other soul can pay the ransom for their transgression. A terrible cry will be raised, “I am lost, eternally lost.” Men will feel as though they could rend in pieces the ministers who have preached falsehoods and condemned the truth.—The S.D.A. Bible Commentary 4:1157 (1900).
All unite in heaping their bitterest condemnation upon the ministers. Unfaithful pastors have prophesied smooth things; they have led their hearers to make void the law of God and to persecute those who would keep it holy. Now, in their despair, these teachers confess before the world their work of deception. The multitudes are filled with fury. “We are lost!” they cry, “and you are the cause of our ruin”; and they turn upon the false shepherds. The very ones that once admired them most, will pronounce the most dreadful curses upon them. The very hands that once crowned them with laurels, will be raised for their destruction. The swords which were to slay God's people, are now employed to destroy their enemies.—The Great Controversy, 655, 656 (1911).
Here we see that the church—the Lord's sanctuary—was the first to feel the stroke of the wrath of God. The ancient men [Ezekiel 9:6], those to whom God had given great light and who had stood as guardians of the spiritual interests of the people, had betrayed their trust.—Testimonies for the Church 5:211 (1882).
God's Word is made of none effect by false shepherds.... Their work will soon react upon themselves. Then will be witnessed the scenes described in Revelation 18 when the judgments of God shall fall upon mystical Babylon.—Manuscript 60, 1900.
The Sixth Plague
The spirits of devils will go forth to the kings of the earth and to the whole world, to fasten them in deception, and urge them on to unite with Satan in his last struggle against the government of heaven.—The Great Controversy, 624 (1911).
The Spirit of God is gradually withdrawing from the world. Satan is also mustering his forces of evil, going forth “unto the kings of the earth and of the whole world,” to gather them under his banner, to be trained for “the battle of that great day of God Almighty” [Revelation 16:14].—The S.D.A. Bible Commentary 7:983 (1890).
After John's description in Revelation 16 of that miracle-working power which was to gather the world to the last great conflict, the symbols are dropped and the trumpet voice once more gives a certain sound: “Behold, I come as a thief. Blessed is he that watcheth, and keepeth his garments, lest he walk naked, and they see his shame” [Revelation 16:15]. After the transgression of Adam and Eve they were naked, for the garment of light and security had departed from them.The world will have forgotten the admonition and warnings of God as did the inhabitants of the Noatic world, as did also the dwellers in Sodom. They awoke with all their plans and inventions of iniquity, but suddenly the shower of fire came from heaven and consumed the godless inhabitants. “Thus shall it be in the day when the Son of man is revealed” [Luke 17:30].—Manuscript Releases 14:96, 97 (1896).
The Last Great Battle Between Good and Evil
Two great opposing powers are revealed in the last great battle. On one side stands the Creator of heaven and earth. All on His side bear His signet. They are obedient to His commands. On the other side stands the prince of darkness, with those who have chosen apostasy and rebellion.—The S.D.A. Bible Commentary 7:982, 983 (1901)
.A terrible conflict is before us. We are nearing the battle of the great day of God Almighty. That which has been held in control is to be let loose. The angel of mercy is folding her wings, preparing to step down from the throne and leave the world to the control of Satan. The principalities and powers of earth are in bitter revolt against the God of heaven. They are filled with hatred against those who serve Him, and soon, very soon, will be fought the last great battle between good and evil. The earth is to be the battle field—the scene of the final contest and the final victory. Here, where for so long Satan has led men against God, rebellion is to be forever suppressed.—The Review and Herald, May 13, 1902.
The battles waging between the two armies are as real as those fought by the armies of this world, and on the issue of the spiritual conflict eternal destinies depend.—Prophets and Kings, 176 (c. 1914).
All the World Will Be Gathered on One Side or the Other
All the world will be on one side or the other of the question. The battle of Armageddon will be fought. And that day must find none of us sleeping. Wide awake we must be, as wise virgins having oil in our vessels with our lamps. The power of the Holy Ghost must be upon us and the Captain of the Lord's host will stand at the head of the angels of heaven to direct the battle.—Selected Messages 3:426 (1890).
The enmity of Satan against good will be manifested more and more as he brings his forces into activity in his last work of rebellion, and every soul that is not fully surrendered to God and kept by divine power will form an alliance with Satan against heaven and join in battle against the Ruler of the universe.—Testimonies to Ministers and Gospel Workers, 465 (1892).
Soon all the inhabitants of the earth will have taken sides, either for or against the government of heaven.—Testimonies for the Church 7:141 (1902).
The Seventh Plague
We need to study the pouring out of the seventh vial [Revelation 16:17-21]. The powers of evil will not yield up the conflict without a struggle. But Providence has a part to act in the battle of Armageddon. When the earth is lighted with the glory of the angel of Revelation eighteen, the religious elements, good and evil, will awake from slumber, and the armies of the living God will take the field.—The S.D.A. Bible Commentary 7:983 (1899).
The battle of Armageddon is soon to be fought. He on whose vesture is written the name, King of kings and Lord of lords, leads forth the armies of heaven on white horses, clothed in fine linen, clean and white [Revelation 19:11-16].—The S.D.A. Bible Commentary 7:982 (1899).
The whole earth heaves and swells like the waves of the sea. Its surface is breaking up. Its very foundations seem to be giving way. Mountain chains are sinking. Inhabited islands disappear. The seaports that have become like Sodom for wickedness, are swallowed up by the angry waters.... The proudest cities of the earth are laid low. The lordly palaces, upon which the world's great men have lavished their wealth in order to glorify themselves, are crumbling to ruin before their eyes. Prison walls are rent asunder, and God's people, who have been held in bondage for their faith, are set free.—The Great Controversy, 637 (1911).
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