16:1-7 THE FIRST THREE PLAGUES
“Then I heard a loud voice out of the temple saying to the seven angels, ‘Go, and pour out the bowls of the wrath of God on the earth. And the first went, and poured out his bowl upon the earth; and a terrible and grievous sore came on the men who had the mark of the beast, and on those who worshiped his image. And the second angel poured out his bowl on the sea; and it became as the blood of a dead man, and every living creature in the sea died. And the third angel poured out his bowl on the rivers and springs of water; and they became blood” (Revelation 16:1-4).
In chapter 8 we saw the similarities between the trumpet plagues and the seven last plagues. However, although there are striking similarities, the obvious differences show that they are not the same events. Although the first trumpet and the first plague are both poured out on the earth, the second are both poured on the sea and the third are both poured on the rivers and springs of water, the nature of the trumpet plagues and the seven last plagues themselves are very different.
The first three trumpets had a lot in common—burning fire, either in the form of hail, a mountain, or a star, falling and contaminating (turning to blood) a third of the environment that they fell on. The first of the seven last plagues, however, has its affect on “men who had the mark of the beast and those who worshiped his image,” causing a “grievous sore” (Revelation 16:2). This points out one important difference: the first plague takes place after the image and mark of the beast are in place, whereas the first trumpet occurred after the sealing of the 144,000 (Revelation 7:1-8), but before the image and mark of the beast.
Moreover, there is no clear indication that the trumpet plagues cause direct damage to people<![if !supportFootnotes]><![endif]> until the fifth trumpet (the first “woe”). In contrast, the very first of the seven last plagues directly affects those with the mark of the beast, causing “a terrible and grievous sore.” These sores will apparently be so painful (causing those who have them to “gnaw their tongues because of the pain” v. 10) that they will effectively divert the attention of the beast followers away from their goal of persecuting the true worshipers of God. In 15: The Wrath of God we saw that one of the main purposes of God’s wrath is to protect God’s people from their enemies, and the progressive nature and increasing intensity of the seven last plagues seems designed to disrupt the plan of the Beast kingdom, which is to “cause as many as would not worship the image of the beast to be killed” (Revelation 13:15).
Another important difference is that the trumpet plagues are of limited scope: “A third of the sea became blood,…a third of the living creatures in the sea died,…a third of the waters became wormwood,… a third of the [sun, moon and stars] were darkened” and so on (Revelation 8:7-12). The seven last plagues, on the other hand, seem to be universal in scope. The whole sea “became as the blood of a dead man; and every living creature in the sea died” (Revelation 16:3) and all “the rivers and springs of water...became blood” (Revelation 16:4) and the whole “kingdom... of the beast... was full of darkness” (Revelation 16:10)
Moreover, the fact that “a third” is prominently emphasized in the trumpets is an indication that they are the activity of Satan, which God allows (See 8: The Trumpets). The angels sound the trumpets to warn of the trumpet plagues, whereas in chapter 16 the angels actually pour out the seven last plagues, showing that they are from God, and they constitute His wrath (See 15:1).
Continue to next section: THE PURPOSE OF THE PLAGUES
<![if !supportFootnotes]>  <![endif]> The fiery hail, burning mountain and poisonous star of the first three plagues damage trees, grass, water and ships. Many people died from drinking the poisonous water, but this was indirect rather than direct damage. There may have been people killed who were in the forests, fields or ships but it is not mentioned.