Then, the seventh poured out his ceremonial bowl upon the atmosphere, and a might voice came out of the innermost part of the temple, from the throne saying, “It has come to be!”
Then a lightning bolt appeared and voices and thunders, and there came massive seismic activity the like which had never before occurred since humanity came to be upon the earth, seismic activity with such magnitude, so vast.
And the great city came to be into three parts, and the cities of the nations fell down, and Babylon the Great was called to mind in the presence of God, to give to her the cup of the wine of the passion of the wrath of [God].
Then every island fled, and mountains were not found.
And enormous hail, the weight of a talent, fell out of the sky upon the people, and the people blasphemed God because of the plague of the hail, because the plague of it was exceedingly enormous.Revelation 16:17-21
The cry “It has come to be!” indicates this is the culmination of all the warnings and calamities. The question is, for whom? For Jerusalem? Or for Rome?
If Revelation 4–11 concerns the downfall of Jerusalem, then Revelation 13–19 concerns the overthrow of Rome in 476 CE.
Metaphorically, John was alluding to several passages in the Hebrew Bible that show the passing away of Jerusalem.
When God covenanted with the Hebrew people at Mount Sinai, there was an earthquake, lightning and thunder. The writer of Hebrews indicated this covenant had been rendered obsolete in light of the covenant Jesus cut in his own blood.
“In speaking of a new covenant, he has made the first one obsolete, and what is obsolete and growing old will soon disappear.”
“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 heaven.’
“This phrase, ‘Yet once more,’ indicates the removal of what is shaken—that is, created things—so that what cannot be shaken may remain. Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, let us show gratitude, by which we may offer to God an acceptable worship with reverence and awe …”Hebrews 8:13, 12:26-28 (NRSVUE, emphases added)
Divided Into Three Parts
God’s revelation to Ezekiel of judgment on Jerusalem would involve three parts which Ezekiel was to characterize by shaving his head and beard and dividing his hair into three parts.
“One third of the hair you shall burn in the fire inside the city when the days of the siege are completed;
“one third you shall take and strike with the sword all around the city; and
“one third you shall scatter to the wind, and I will unsheathe the sword after them.”Ezekiel 5:1-12 (NRSVUE)
God fulfilled this prophecy in 586 BC. Now, God would once again judge Jerusalem in the same manner.
During the Roman siege of Jerusalem, three main factions also emerged and warred with each other within the holy city’s walls, weakening the Jewish rebellion which ultimately ended in complete defeat.
Hail Weighing 130 Pounds
At first read, this seems like hyperbole. However, Josephus sheds fascinating light on literal boulders weighing about a talent, that flew through the air to pulverize human and building alike.
“The engines [catapults], that all the [Roman] legions had ready prepared for them, were admirably contrived; but still more extraordinary ones belonged to the tenth legion: those that threw darts and those that threw stones were more forcible and larger than the rest, by which they not only repelled the excursions of the Jews, but drove those away that were upon the walls also.
“Now the stones that were cast were of the weight of a talent, and were carried two furlongs and further. The blow they gave was no way to be sustained, not only by those that stood first in the way, but by those that were beyond them for a great space.
“As for the Jews, they at first watched the coming of the stone, for it was of a white color, and could therefore not only be perceived by the great noise it made, but could be seen also before it came by its brightness; accordingly the watchmen that sat upon the towers gave them notice when the engine was let go, and the stone came from it, and cried out aloud, in their own country language, THE STONE COMETH* so those that were in its way stood off, and threw themselves down upon the ground; by which means, and by their thus guarding themselves, the stone fell down and did them no harm.
“But the Romans contrived how to prevent that by blacking the stone, who then could aim at them with success, when the stone was not discerned beforehand, as it had been till then; and so they destroyed many of them at one blow.”Flavius Josephus (37 – a. 100 CE), The Wars Of The Jews: Or The History Of The Destruction Of Jerusalem, Book V, 6:3 (Translated by William Whiston, 1737; emphases added)
*There is a scholarly debate as to whether the word Josephus wrote was “ben,” meaning “son,” or “eben,” meaning “stone.” Preterist scholars lean towards the saying “The Son Cometh,” as ironic derision of Jesus’ claim that he would return in judgment.
Commentators who lean towards a more spiritual interpretation key in on the secondary meaning for ἀήρ | aēr as pertaining to the realm of demons, the spiritual powers of darkness. When the passion of God’s cleansing wrath is poured from the seventh ceremonial bowl, completing the three sets of sevens, all the powers of evil are shaken.
It Has Come To Be!
Γίνομαι | ginomai, for things and for people, it means “come into being,” to “be born,” or to “arise,” or to “appear” for the very first time.
For events, it means to “come to pass,” or to “take place,” or “happen.” It can also mean something has been “made” or “done,” or “performed.” It is an event or an action that takes place, that is observed or enacted. There can even be a sense of fate, that it happens as ordained.
When the voice from the Holy of Holies before the throne of heaven announces Γέγονεν! It is this last meaning that best translates. All has happened as it was ordained. All three sets of seven warnings and judgments is now completed, and now the final aspects of God’s final judgment have been demonstrated.
Noise, Thunder, and Lightning
At the very beginning of John’s expanded vision of God’s glorious throne room, there were these three same manifestations of God’s presence.
“And from the throne is coming bright shining lightnings and sounds and thunders—and seven torches, flames burning before the throne, which are the seven spirits of God.”Revelation 4:5
John experienced these same phenomena again a few chapters later,
“Then the angel has taken hold of the censor, and he filled it out of the fire of the altar of incense, and cast [the incense] into the earth: and there came thundering, then voices, then lightning, then shaking.”Revelation 8:5
And again, this time with hail!
“And God’s Holy of Holies which is in heaven was opened and the ark of His covenant in the Holy of Holies was seen, and there came lightnings and voices and thunderings and an earthquake and huge hail.”Revelation 11:19
Now, the same thunder and lighting, the same crashing noise accompanied by an earthquake so epic none like it had ever occurred during the human epoch, and preternaturally massive hail, closes this time period. If the sixth bowl brought complete destruction to the entire planet, this seventh bowl erases what remnants might be left. All the islands, all the mountains, and all the cities are flattened to the point of invisibility.
As with preterist expositors, scholars who take the spiritual view point to the prophecy in Hebrews of God’s great shaking of earth to come. The writer of Hebrews was quoting the prophet Haggai, who had written of this event when the Jewish people had returned from exile and were rebuilding their cities.
Babylon is Remembered
God will bring to an end everything that is erected against Christ, and will not forget the wrongs and suffering rendered by “Babylon,” the symbol of all that is antiGod. Instead,
“… hail will sweep away the refuge of lies …”Isaiah 28:17 (NRSVUE)
The four perspectives taken from Revelation: Four Views A Parallel Commentary, edited by Steve Gregg