And the third angel poured out his bowl on the rivers and springs of water, and they became blood. And I heard the angel of the waters, saying, “You are righteous, who is and who was, the Holy One, because you have judged in these ways. For they have poured out the blood of saints and prophets, so you have given them blood to drink, for they are worthy.” Rev 16:4-6.
We have seen that before the plagues are poured out onto the earth, the temple of heaven ceases to function (Rev 15:5-8). The glory of God is so intense that the seven bowl angels leave the temple, never to return. The closing up of the temple in heaven suggests the close of human probation. From this time on there will be no more conversions. Sinners will no longer come to Christ, and saints will no longer fall away from God. So the sufferings experienced in the seven last plagues are not designed to bring anyone to repentance.
What is the point of the plagues then? If they come after the close of probation, why add to the world’s suffering then? If people can no longer repent it seems vengeful and capricious to torment them further. But the answer may lie in the major underlying theme. God is just when He executes judgment on the wicked because they are receiving in kind what they have done to others (Revelation 16:5-7). In other words, the punishment is appropriate to the crime.
The question is easy to ask in the face of eternal loss. Is God’s judgment always perfectly accurate? Wouldn’t the wicked change if they knew God better or had the opportunities that the righteous had? The plagues are designed to answer this question. They show that the wicked are people who will continue to oppose God no matter the circumstances. The worse things get, the more they oppose God. Earlier plagues had brought people to repentance but now the wicked refuse to return, no matter what God puts in their path (Rev 16:9, 11, 21).
The righteous also suffer many things in the last days (Rev 13:9-10; 17:14). But these sufferings do not turn them away from their course either. The righteous remain righteous and the wicked remain wicked (Rev 22:11). The close of probation is not an arbitrary decree on the part of God. It is simply a time when world affairs are so arranged that everyone makes a settled decision for or against God at the very same time.
The plagues also are not arbitrary, even though they come after the close of probation, because they also serve God’s purposes. The turning of the rivers and springs to blood corresponds in a natural way to the crime that is in view. Those who have shed the blood of saints and prophets receive blood to drink as a just reward.