And the second angel poured out his bowl on the sea, and it became like the blood of a dead man. And every living thing which is in the sea died. Rev 16:3.
This text portrays a world-wide, devastating, environmental disaster. The waters in the oceans, bays and inlets of the world are transformed into a blood-like substance that kills the creatures of the sea. The plagues of Revelation 16 carry out the promise of Rev 11:18 that God will “destroy those who are destroying the earth.”
The earth is the Lord’s (Ps 24:1), so those who abuse the earth challenge God’s rule whether they realize it or not. God has placed us on a planet finely tuned to our comfort and support. When we abuse God’s creation, we heap judgment on ourselves. An example of this is the current situation of the earth’s oceans.
The human race is devastating the oceans. In the 19th Century codfish were so numerous off the coast of the Northeast United States that European visitors reported catching them simply by lowering baskets into the water. “In relation to our present modes of fishing,” the eminent biologist T. H. Huxley said in 1883, “a number of the most important sea fisheries, such as the cod fishery are inexhaustible.” Today the abundance Huxley extolled is on the verge of disappearing. Unless something changes soon, biologist Daniel Pauly recently warned in The New York Times, there will be nothing left for the next generation but “plankton stew.”
Twenty-eight percent of fish stocks worldwide are either overfished or nearing extinction, another 47 percent are near the limits of sustainability. The waters off New England and Newfoundland are by some measures the worst in the world. A University of British Columbia team led by Pauly predicted last year that many large species “will be all but gone from the North Atlantic region within a few decades.” Humanity is setting off the aquatic equivalent of a neutron bomb, leaving the marine environment intact but killing off all its inhabitants.
Meanwhile, the demand for fish continues to rise. Populations continues to grow and rising standards of living lead more people to seek meat in their diets. Fish consumption doubled between 1973 and 1997. By 2020, the catch will have to increase again by nearly half just to keep up with demand. The greatest demand comes from developing nations in Asia, whose citizens can hardly be told to eat less protein than their counterparts in the West.
In His mercy, God has created the earth to be self-cleansing and self-renewing. It has taken much abuse and continues to treat us well on the whole. But there is no free lunch in this life. What we sow we will eventually reap.