Revealing Revelation – The Seventh Bowl


With this seventh and final Bowl of Judgment we find a conclusion to the part of Revelation dealing with judgmental acts of God against the enemies of His Church. And here again we will find a common thread of themes running throughout. The first is that there is no repentance (much like Egypt – a nation Israel is likened to in the book) and the second is the similarity to the trumpet judgment earlier in the apocalypse.

Rev. 16:17-21 The seventh angel poured out his bowl into the air, and a loud voice came out of the temple, from the throne, saying, “It is done!” [18] And there were flashes of lightning, rumblings, peals of thunder, and a great earthquake such as there had never been since man was on the earth, so great was that earthquake. [19] The great city was split into three parts, and the cities of the nations fell, and God remembered Babylon the great, to make her drain the cup of the wine of the fury of his wrath. [20] And every island fled away, and no mountains were to be found. [21] And great hailstones, about one hundred pounds each, fell from heaven on people; and they cursed God for the plague of the hail, because the plague was so severe.

Let’s now consider the similarities between this seventh bowl and the seventh trumpet judgment.

Rev 11:15 Then the seventh angel blew his trumpet, and there were loud voices in heaven, saying, “The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of his Christ, and he shall reign forever and ever.” … There were flashes of lightning, rumblings, peals of thunder, an earthquake, and heavy hail.

The similarities are virtually unmistakable. There is a proclamation of victory and completion followed by disruptions including lightning, thunder, an earthquake and even hail. This leads many to rightfully conclude that this judgment is best seen as being related to the final and utter destruction of Jerusalem.

Many that hold to the view that Rome is the recipient point to the use of the term “great city” and the description of that city as being Babylon. But as we have previously seen Jerusalem is called by many of her most hated enemies and evil cities of Biblical pasts. This includes clear descriptions of comparisons to Egypt and Sodom.

Also, since the book is Covenantal in nature, the reference to the city being great must not be necessarily related to the worldly system of a great city (though Jerusalem was, in fact, quite a great worldly city), but rather the greatness of the city is in relation to the promises, blessings and birthright associated with this city in Scripture from the Lord God.

Another clue historically that this may best be seen as Jerusalem is relating to how the city is divided into three parts. There is no historical data to support that Rome was divided up into three parts, but John, borrowing here from Ezekiel 5 and the prophecy relating to the coming Babylonian captivity, related similarly to the events of 70 AD.

Eze 5:1 “And you, O son of man, take a sharp sword. Use it as a barber’s razor and pass it over your head and your beard. Then take balances for weighing and divide the hair. 2 A third part you shall burn in the fire in the midst of the city, when the days of the siege are completed. And a third part you shall take and strike with the sword all around the city. And a third part you shall scatter to the wind, and I will unsheathe the sword after them.

The above relating to the Babylonian captivity was fulfilled when a third of Jerusalem’s citizens were burned during the siege, a third were killed by the Babylonian soldiers and a third were scatted or taken into captivity.

John here is relating those events to the events to unfold in 70AD. It is argued that these “thirds” may relate to two different possibilities. The first is that it related to a third who died during the siege, a third who dies during the actual assault and a third that were scattered throughout the Roman Empire after the battle.

The other view is that we do know that there were three waring factions within the city itself in the time leading up to the assault. In fact many believe that the Jews could have staved off or even been victorious against the onslaught by the Romans if they were not so completely consumed with a civil battle within it’s own walls. This division caused its ultimate defeat.

What is one to make of the physical disturbances. Things like lightning, thunder, earthquakes and even hail. First off, it should be noted that these images are quite familiar Old testament language relating to the presence of God. Even when the Covenant with Israel was made on Sinai we see God’s presence described with similar language.

Ex 19:16 On the morning of the third day there were thunders and lightnings and a thick cloud on the mountain and a very loud trumpet blast, so that all the people in the camp trembled.

These images relating to God’s presence are now present at the confirmation of the New Covenant He makes with His people. The proof of the new covenant is found in the destruction of the symbol of the Old Covenant, the Temple. This is underscored in the book of Hebrews as well. In fact, within the context of the Covenant confirmation we find the words from Hebrews helpful in dealing with an earthquake greater than one ever felt previously.

Heb 12:26 At that time his voice shook the earth, but now he has promised, “Yet once more I will shake not only the earth but also the heavens.” 27This phrase, “Yet once more,” indicates the removal of things that are shaken-that is, things that have been made-in order that the things that cannot be shaken may remain. 28Therefore let us be grateful for receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, and thus let us offer to God acceptable worship, with reverence and awe, 29for our God is a consuming fire.

The Old Covenant was “shakable” as it rested on things that could not and did not last. But with the New covenant and the finished work of Jesus Christ we now have a kingdom that simply cannot be shaken. This is within the same context of Hebrews where we are told that the Old Covenant was “vanishing away.” God declares through the author of Hebrews that He would “shake” things so violently that only those things that cannot be shaken would remain. This is that same Covenantal earthquake of shaking. The Temple could be and was “shaken” so that not one stone was left upon another. This symbolism should not be missed.

The last image is that of the horrific hailstones. The hailstones as described in the trumpets are referred to as “great” while a more definitive picture of hailstones weighing some 100 pounds is described with this bowl judgment. What, though, should the writer make of this image.

The first point relates to actual historical data. Josephus describes that the assault began with a great attack of catapults against the city walls. One interesting fact amongst the description by Josephus is the size of the stones that rained down on the city.

“Now, the stones that were cast were the weight of a talent (100 pounds) … ” (Wars – Josephus)

The second point to note is that this is also a plague which impacted Egypt. There it is called heavy hail and described as hail that had never been seen before up to that time. And the reader should remember that God promised that Covenantal Unfaithfulness would demand a punishment like that which Egypt received, but at a rate seven times those plagues. This may be what is pictured here.

The third may refer to the presence of God in judgment. In Joshua we read of God protecting Israel by sending large stones from heaven against Israel’s enemy. destroying them. Here, as a result of their unfaithfulness, God turns the same judgment against them.Or note the uses below in relation to the presence and judgment of God.

Psa 18:11 He made darkness his covering, his canopy around him, thick clouds dark with water. 12Out of the brightness before him hailstones and coals of fire broke through his clouds.13The LORD also thundered in the heavens… hailstones and coals of fire.

Psa 78:47 He destroyed their vines with hail and their sycamores with frost. 48He gave over their cattle to the hail and their flocks to thunderbolts.

Psa 105:32 He gave them hail for rain, and fiery lightning bolts through their land.

Isa 28:2 Behold, the Lord has one who is mighty and strong; like a storm of hail, a destroying tempest, like a storm of mighty, overflowing waters, he casts down to the earth with his hand.

Isa 28:17 And I will make justice the line, and righteousness the plumb line; and hail will sweep away the refuge of lies, and waters will overwhelm the shelter.”

And note below how the imagery is used to describe the coming assault of the Babylonians.

Isa 30:30 And the LORD will cause his majestic voice to be heard and the descending blow of his arm to be seen, in furious anger and a flame of devouring fire, with a cloudburst and storm and hailstones

Isa 32:19 And it will hail when the forest falls down, and the city will be utterly laid low.

Eze 13:11 say to those who smear it with whitewash that it shall fall! There will be a deluge of rain, and you, O great hailstones, will fall, and a stormy wind break out…13 Therefore thus says the Lord GOD: I will make a stormy wind break out in my wrath, and there shall be a deluge of rain in my anger, and great hailstones in wrath to make a full end.

Ezekiel 38:22 With pestilence and bloodshed I will enter into judgment with him, and I will rain upon him and his hordes and the many peoples who are with him torrential rains and hailstones, fire and sulfur.

Finally note how the Old Testament even uses hail as a judgment to cause repentance…

Haggai 2:17 I struck you and all the products of your toil with blight and with mildew and with hail, yet you did not turn to me, declares the LORD.

And like the Israelites of old, those in Jerusalem did not repent in 70 AD either. In fact their response was to curse God.

Rev 16:21 And great hailstones, about one hundred pounds each, fell from heaven on people; and they cursed God for the plague of the hail, because the plague was so severe.

This concludes the discussion of the seven bowl judgments. We will next turn our attention to Chapter 17 and the discussion related to the Harlot.


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