When the Plagues Fell at Calvary

How widespread today is anxiety about the so-called end-time events? Or have people just pushed them aside to replace them with more pressing concerns? A closer look at the roots of perhaps the most confronting of these predicted end events brings up some pleasant surprises. No wonder Jesus said, “Do not let your hearts be troubled” (John 14:1).

Climaxing the predicted “last-day events” are the seven last plagues. This series of unnatural disasters ushers in Jesus’ second coming and are the result of what John describes as the completion of God’s wrath (Rev 15:1)—presumably for what sin has done to the planet and its inhabitants. The seven last plagues are:

  1. painful sores (Rev 16:2),
  2. the sea looking like blood from a corpse (which is black, not red, v. 3),
  3. rivers and water sources become as blood (vv.4–7),
  4. scorching sun (vv. 8–9),
  5. darkness (vv. 10–11),
  6. evil spirits engaged in battle against God (vv. 12–16),
  7. lightning, thunder, earthquake and hail (vv.17–21).

When you look for the roots of these phenomena you find that they are based on the covenant blessings and curses. These were delivered by Moses on two occasions; as they gathered at Sinai soon after leaving Egypt (Lev. 26), and to the next generation on the plains of Moab just before they crossed the Jordan into the Promised Land (Deut. 28). It was on this latter occasion that Moses delivered his last public address. I can imagine the old man summoning all his strength to share with his people, for one last time, an address that would finally convince them to keep their faith in God. Then he went up to the top of a nearby mountain, had one fleeting look at the prize he was missing out on, and died.

What Moses outlined in that last speech has come to be known as the covenant blessings and curses. The covenant, in simple terms, was God’s guarantee to shepherd his people into the Promised Land, and to give them success in all that they did. In response, the people agreed to serve God only, and to live in harmony with him.

The covenant blessings were incredibly all-encompassing (Deut. 28:1–14). They were not just platitudes, but positively impacted the lives of the faithful—wherever they lived, whatever their occupation, with success in all that they attempted. Heaven’s storehouse was to be opened to ensure that God’s people would always be at the top of the pile, and never at the bottom (vv. 12, 13). So, in this context, a blessing is understood as flourishing in the presence of God, receiving all needs from his hand, being prospered by him at home and abroad, and succeeding in every venture.

However, if the people chose to disengage from God and go their own way, there would be consequences—curses. What exactly is a curse? It is the opposite of a blessing—being separated from God, enduring the consequences of surviving in a world without him, dwindling at home and abroad, and failing in every venture attempted.

The curses included:

  • boils, tumors, and scabs from head to foot (Deut 28:27, 35),
  • unquenchable thirst (v. 48),
  • sky as bronze, ground as iron, dust for rain (vv. 23–24),
  • darkness at noon (v. 29),
  • invasion and exile by distant foreigners (v. 49),
  • Sudden ruin (v. 20), harsh and prolonged disaster (v. 59).

It is significant that the curses outlined in the covenant speech of Moses parallel the seven last plagues. And it is interesting to note that when God freed his people from Egypt, a similar series of plagues fell to facilitate the release of his people. Therefore, curses and plagues are associated with deliverance.

It is even more significant that these “curses” also struck Jesus at Calvary, cementing their connection with the salvation process—because Jesus endured them, you and I don’t have to. So, it is at Calvary that both the curses and the plagues make sense. It is there that we can see their real significance, for it is at Calvary that Jesus suffered for human rebellion and experienced the curses of the covenant.

  • Jesus was scourged – his whole body became an open sore (Matt 27:26)
  • rotten wine was given to him to quench his thirst (v.34)
  • he was crucified naked in the hot sun (v.35)
  • darkness fell on the scene (v.45)
  • he endured the taunts of demonic opposition (vv.42–45)
  • there was a massive earthquake (v.51, 52)

When these different sources are compared, this is the result:

This means that when Jesus was crucified, he bore the covenant curses in himself. He met the consequences of the broken covenant. Therefore, at the end of time, there is absolutely no need for those who have placed their faith in him to suffer the plagues. However, those who refuse Him will need to bear the consequences of the broken covenant themselves. Jesus said as much when speaking to Nicodemus; “Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because he has not believed in the name of God's one and only Son” (John 3:18). If we are not prepared to accept what Jesus went through for us, we will need to endure it for ourselves. Conversely, if we have accepted Jesus and what he did for us at Calvary, then there is no purpose in us being hit by the plagues.

This can be illustrated by the story of an Australian family returning to their home after its destruction in a bushfire. After their disheartening and futile attempts to salvage any possible remnant of sentimental value, the little boy of the family went over to where the hen house had been. In kicking the charred remains of a hen, he was surprised to see living yellow balls of fluff emerging.

Jesus once used the metaphor of a hen when describing his anxious attempts to get his people to shelter under his “wings” (Matt 23:27). But they were not willing. However, the offer is still available. In addition, as any resident of the Australian bush will tell you, the safest place in a bushfire is where the fire has already burned. And if the seven last plagues, (or the curses of the covenant), have already “burned” at Calvary, then the safest place to be when the end-time plagues start falling, is at the foot of the cross.

David Tasker is currently senior lecturer at Avondale College of Higher Education in Australia. Prior to that he served as a church pastor in New Zealand, mission president in Solomon Islands, Dean of the School of Theology at Pacific Adventist University (PNG), Dean of the Seminary at AIIAS (Philippines) and Field/Ministerial Secretary for the SPD.

Photo courtesy of Pexels.

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This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at http://spectrummagazine.org/node/9478


Thank you for such an insightful thoughts and words of comfort.

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interesting the plaques poured out on Calvary upon Jesus connection with Moses declarations. I’ve never heard that before.

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Hi Robert
if you’d like to read more on ‘the plagues at the cross’, & a non-historicist interpretation of Revelation’s use of OT imagery, including the plagues etc. you could read Des Ford’s ‘The Final Rollercoaster; When Elijah & Jezebel Ride Again’.
Ford notes in Chapter 4 that “the whole book of Revelation sets forth the church’s experiences in terms parallel to the life & death of its Head.” Ford goes on to quote Austin Farrer “the substance of last things and the substance of the passion are one and the same”.
If the cross is the ‘Hinge of History’ why wouldn’t all rites, symbols & salvation imagery in the OT & the NT find their source & vigor in the passion of Christ crucified.
Time to stop supporting the unsupportable ‘dates & times’ that God only knows.

What an interesting perspective. As it pertains to the covenant curses of Deuteronomy, Mr. Tasker’s premise makes much more sense to me, than the notion that Revelation 6 should be interpreted as God whacking his NT church with covenant curses to get its members in line…which is what was conveyed in the SS quarterly.

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Thanks for a good brief representation of covenant theology. In Christ we receive the blessings and are reckoned righteous as individuals who make up the twice born covenant people. In Christ, He received “the curses” and became sin for us for Christ had no sin. (The great exchange)

Therefore if anyone (Gk.sing.) is in Christ he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come. 18 Now all these things are from God, who reconciled us to Himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation, 19 namely, that God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and He has committed to us the word of reconciliation.
20 Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were making an appeal through us; we beg you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. 21 He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him. 2 Cor.5: 18-21.

I find the triple notation of what Moses, Jesus and final times reference. Perhaps a double historical happening with a prophetic future fulfillment. (Who was that who talked about the Apostelismatic principle and got in trouble for it?)


Please cite the text which supports what you post regarding the SS lesson.

Accept means what? Is this just another substitutionary assent doctrine?

Now it shall come to pass, if you diligently obey the voice of the Lord your God, to observe carefully all His commandments which I command you today, that the Lord your God will set you high above all nations of the earth. Deut 28:1:

if you heed the commandments of the Lord your God, which I command you today, and are careful to observe them. So you shall not turn aside from any of the words which I command you this day, to the right or the left, to go after other gods to serve them. Deut 28:14

The antinomian trend keeps gaining ground.

Genuine Christians are like living salt cops.

The plagues demonstrate how reprobate and passed feeling Earthlings are at the end of time. They do not have the capability to repent because of their hardened Rom 8:7 attitude. Actually it counters the Calvinist notion/lie about irresistible grace. There is a clue in Kohlberg’s stages of morality which shows that the most immature motive for action is fear. People are so hardened that they stay fools.
"The beginning of wisdom is the fear of the Lord………"Prov 9:10

The first paragraph on Sunday, Jan. 27th (p.37) of the quarterly states, "The events of the seven seals must be understood in the context of the Old Testament covenant curses, specified in terms of sword, famine, pestilence and wild beasts, Lev. 26:21-26). Ezekiel calls them “God’s ‘four severe judgments’ Ezek. 14:21). They were the disciplinary judgments by which God, seeking to awaken His people to their spiritual condition, chastised them when they became unfaithful to the covenant. In a similar way, the four horsemen are the means that God uses to keep His people awake as they await Jesus’ return.”

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