SEVENTH BOWL: TREMENDOUS EARTHQUAKE (16:17-21). “It is done!” is one of three Divine markers spoken by God in history:
Creation: “It was very good” (Genesis 1:31) Divides creation and history
Crucifixion: “It is finished” (John 19:30) Divides Promised Redemption and Provided Redemption
Consummation: “It is done” (Revelation 16:17-21:6). Divides History and Eternity
Again, flashes of lightning, rumblings, peals of thunder and a severe earthquake denote God’s wrath being poured out. Yet, this language also suggests the appearance of a theophany such as at Mt. Sinai. Christ is coming!
This is the greatest earthquake in history. The great city is rebuilt Babylon, Rome or Jerusalem. Jerusalem’s topography of three valleys, Kidron, Hinnom and Tyropoeon, harmonizes with the threefold division. When Christ returns to earth, the topography of Jerusalem will undergo a threefold change:
On that day his feet will stand on the Mount of Olives, east of Jerusalem, and the Mount of Olives will be split in two from east to west, forming a great valley, with half of the mountain moving north and half moving south (Zechariah 14:4).
On the other hand, “God remembered Babylon the Great and gave her the cup filled with the wine of the fury of his wrath” so rebuilt Babylon or Rome could be the great city. The magnitude of this earthquake will be so great it will cause worldwide collapse of the cities of the nations. The whole world stands guilty before God. “Every island fled away and the mountains could not be found” points to a leveling of the surface of the earth; the very opposite effect of the Flood of Noah’s day. The earth is being prepared for the Millennial Kingdom.
Every valley shall be raised up, every mountain and hill made low; the rough ground shall become level, the rugged places a plain. And the glory of the LORD will be revealed, and all mankind together will see it. For the mouth of the LORD has spoken” (Isaiah 40:4-5; cf. Jeremiah 4:23-27).
HUGE HAILSTONES. From the sky huge hailstones of about a hundred pounds, each fell upon men. Hailstones of this size will cause unimaginable devastation and death. This is reminiscent of the seventh plague in Egypt (Exodus 9:13-26). The only place the hail did not fall in Egypt was in Goshen, where the Israelites dwelled. By inference, God’s people will be protected again.
There is an OT account (Joshua 10) that foreshadows the fourth and seventh bowl plagues. Five kings fled from Joshua, who typifies Christ.
As they fled before Israel on the road down from Beth Horon to Azekah, the LORD hurled large hailstones down on them from the sky, and more of them died from the hailstones than were killed by the swords of the Israelites (Joshua 10:11).
There was no escape for the five kings and none will withstand Christ when He comes and takes them by surprise as Joshua did his enemies. The sun stood still over Gibeon and the moon over the Valley of Aijalon until Israel avenged itself on its enemies.
The hardhearted response of God’s enemies does not change: “And they cursed God on account of the plague of hail, because the plague was so terrible.”
Unlike the opening of the seventh seal and the blowing of the seventh trumpet, there is nothing to come after the seventh bowl is poured out, except for Christ!
Historicists view the seven last plagues as judgments on the Latin kingdom or France in the year 1793, counting 1,260 years from the decree of Justinian that made the bishop of Rome supreme over all bishops in A.D. 533. The majority view is the bowls portray the French Revolution. Fulfillment of the second bowl comes in a series of eight great naval disasters that swept away the fleets of France from 1793 to 1805. The rivers and streams turned to blood were fulfilled in the invasion of Attila and the Huns. The darkening of the sun represents the diminishing of the power of the rulers of papal kingdoms, and especially the power of the German emperor. Others see the sun as Napoleon Bonaparte or the confusion and disorder that fell on Rome. The drying up of the Euphrates points to Turkish power.
The three frogs signify the spirit of infidelity coming from the mouth of the Dragon; the spirit of popery proceeding from the mouth of the Beast; and the spirit of priest-craft coming from the mouth of the False Prophet. Some identify the three frogs as paganism, the papacy, and Islam.
The seventh bowl is viewed as storms of hail involving judgments from Russia, France or northern papal kingdoms. Others see some supernatural or metaphorical curse and devastation wrought by aerial bombardments. It is the ultimate overthrow of the Papacy.
Preterists for the most part view Jerusalem in A.D. 70 as the object of the bowls, while others shift them to the fall of Rome. The mark of the Beast indicates either the loyal citizens of Rome or the Palestinian Jews who rejected Christ. The boils are an epidemic of lost sanitation during the siege of the city. The sea and waters turned to blood comes from the dead Jews and is a result of the shed blood of the saints and prophets. The scorched are either citizens of besieged Jerusalem or Rome.
The LORD will strike you with wasting disease, with fever and inflammation, with scorching heat and drought, with blight and mildew, which will plague you until you perish (Deuteronomy 28:22).
The darkness over the Beast and his kingdom is the turmoil that came following Nero’s suicide in A.D. 68, or the invasions that led to the ultimate fall of Rome in the fifth century. The drying up of the Euphrates is suggestive of Cyrus the Persian diverting its flow in 536 B.C. to conqueror Babylon and equates to the fall of Rome. Natural Egypt was inflicted by natural frogs and spiritual Egypt (Rome) is inflicted by spiritual frogs. None of these prophecies relate to literal Armageddon according to the Preterist view. The final bowl spells the doom of the two cities of Jerusalem and Rome.
Idealists hold that since the bowls resemble the plagues of Egypt, the reader is to see the deliverance of God’s people from Satan’s reign as Israel was delivered from Pharaoh’s reign. Thus, the seven bowls are to be understood as follows:
1. The sores are to be taken as the corruption of the world breaking out
2. The seal turned to blood is the utter putrefaction of a dead society
3. The rivers and springs turned to blood shows God’s ability to punish sinners
4. The effects of the sun shows the ultimate death of unrepentant man
5. The Beast and his kingdom plunged into darkness apply to the punishment of pagan Rome
6. The battle on that great day relates to a myth of John’s day where Nero would be resurrected and that forces from the East, fighting for God, come against Nero
7. The great earthquake, leveling of the earth and hailstones signify the sinful civilization broken into pieces
In summary, the seven bowl plagues are future and literal. They were not fulfilled in the French Revolution, the Fall of Jerusalem, by Napoleon, the pressures of the papacy or the evil, unlawful acts of Hitler and his slaughter of six million Jews. These events in history, and others like them, were mere rehearsals for the final drama of the last judgments on earth.