Revelation 16:17-21 The Judgment on Satan’s System
Revelation 16:17-21 The Judgement on Satan’s System – is the seventh bowl is the final bowl judgment. It is the final set of events against Satan’s system. Everything about this bowl judgment asserts finality.
Commentator James Resseguie points to British literary critic Frank Kermode’s understanding of the importance of endings. Kermode, he points out, uses what is often called the tick tock of a clock to illustrate the influence of an ending:
Although the tick tock sounds of a clock are identical, we create the fiction that they are distinct sounds: tick tock instead of tick tick or tock tock. The tick is our word for a physical beginning, tock our word for an end. The tock enables us to fill the interval between the tick and the tock with meaningful activities so that the everyday, the ordinary is placed in proper perspective.1
Let’s first identify the city that is addressed here. Babylon has been referred to many different cities by scholars. Some think it is Rome, others think it is a future seat of power in modern Iraq. Still others believe that this city is Jerusalem. In this case, Babylon the Great is not just a city as much as it is a system of government. It is a future kingdom. The best to compare this is to compare it to recent empires and powers today.
The British Empire had London as the seat of it’s political and economic power. But it was never known as London the Great. It was known as Great Britain. The Soviet Union had Moscow as its seat of political and economic power. But the Soviet Union was never known as Moscow the Great. Instead, it was known as the Soviet Union. The United States has the center of government in Washington D.C. but the economic power has been seated in New York – Wall Street. It was never known as Washington the Great or New York the Great. Instead, it was known as the great power United States. So when Revelation refers to Babylon the Great, we could call it Great Babylon. Where is the seat of power? That depends on who you ask. We will see that some think it is Rome, others thing it will be a future Babylon, and still others believe it is Jerusalem. Because of consistency with the Old Testament, I think that Babylon’s spiritual system will be based in Jerusalem, but that the economic system will be based in a Babylon on the Euphrates River. The reason is because I believe that God will judge the apostasy that the Antichrist will bring in this chapter with the seventh bowl. The “kings of the Earth” will judge the Babylonian economic and political power in Revelation 18.
SEVEN EVENTS IN THE CALLING OF THE SEVENTH BOWL JUDGMENT
In any case, there are many things that happen within the seventh bowl:
1. Someone says: “It is done.”
“Then the seventh poured out his bowl into the air, and a loud voice came out of the sanctuary from the throne, saying, “It is done!”” (Revelation 16:17, HCSB)
This is similar to the words of Jesus – “It is finished.”
“When Jesus had received the sour wine, He said, “It is finished!” Then bowing His head, He gave up His spirit.” (John 19:30, HCSB)
Literally, the angel is announcing that the final judgment will come to pass. It’s a done deal. You can count on God finishing what He started.
Two mountains come to mind.…
Both deal with the wrath of God as He pours out His wrath on men at Megiddo and upon His Son at Calvary.
Both deal with the rebellion of man as they blaspheme God at Megiddo and His Son at Calvary.
Both are bloodbaths as blood flows to the horses’ manes at Megiddo and from the Son’s veins at Calvary.
Both are completions, as “It is done,” cries a voice from heaven at Mount Megiddo while “It is finished,” cries a voice from Mount Calvary.
Will you endure the final wrath of the Father at Megiddo—or will you embrace the finished work of the Son on Calvary? The choice is yours.2
2. Lightning and thunder from Heaven
“There were flashes of lightning and rumblings of thunder…” (Revelation 16:18, HCSB)
As before, lightning and thunder represents the presence of God in Heaven. The pronouncement itself is followed immediately with the fourth, and final, occurrence of the series.3
3. Earthquake tears Jerusalem
“…And a severe earthquake occurred like no other since man has been on the earth—so great was the quake.” (Revelation 16:18, HCSB)
This is a large earthquake. I think that the earthquake is so large (it is called a “mega” “seismic” event in the original language) that it destroys one city into three parts. But other cities fall. The effects of this earthquake is not limited to just one city. We know from experience that you can feel the effects of an earthquake hundreds of miles away. This earthquake will be so big that it will be felt around the world.
The “great city” almost certainly is a reference to Jerusalem. The text had observed a previous earthquake in that city, but this one splits it into three parts and is anticipated by the vision of Zechariah.
“A day of the Lord is coming when your plunder will be divided in your presence. I will gather all the nations against Jerusalem for battle. The city will be captured, the houses looted, and the women raped. Half the city will go into exile, but the rest of the people will not be removed from the city. Then the Lord will go out to fight against those nations as He fights on a day of battle. On that day His feet will stand on the Mount of Olives, which faces Jerusalem on the east. The Mount of Olives will be split in half from east to west, forming a huge valley, so that half the mountain will move to the north and half to the south. You will flee by My mountain valley, for the valley of the mountains will extend to Azal. You will flee as you fled from the earthquake in the days of Uzziah king of Judah. Then the Lord my God will come and all the holy ones with Him.” (Zechariah 14:1–5, HCSB)
Earthquakes are often caused by the movement of the earth’s tectonic plates but are usually limited to a fairly small region. Apparently here the many constantly adjusting tectonic plates of the earth are caused to move simultaneously, creating the worldwide earthquake and the devastating effects described.4The reason is because starting in Revelation 16 and ending in Revelation 18, the Bible is showing how the seventh bowl judgment will destroy the false system of the Antichrist based in Babylon. If the Antichrist bases his power in Jerusalem, then “great city” is Jerusalem being misused as the seat of the false system. God is clearly showing His people that He will judge the system by completely destroying the Antichrist’s headquarters.
4. Many governments fall
“The great city split into three parts, and the cities of the nations fell…” (Revelation 16:19, HCSB)
The earthquake will cause governmental chaos. Perhaps the cities that fall are the seats of government. If that is the case, then God’s earthquake is directed at governments who support the system of the Antichrist. This earthquake will be one of the reasons why the “kings” or governments will come together to fight Jesus.
Remember that the “great city” (Revelation 16:19) is probably Jerusalem (see Revelation 11:8). The prophet Zechariah prophesied an earthquake that would change the topography of Jerusalem (Zechariah 14:4). But the key idea here is that Babylon would fall (see Jer. 50–51). “The beast’s” great economic system, which subjugated the people of the world, would be completely destroyed by God.5
5. God reminds Great Babylon that He will judge its system completely
“…Babylon the Great was remembered in God’s presence; He gave her the cup filled with the wine of His fierce anger.” (Revelation 16:19, HCSB)
God is remembering Babylon the Great and it isn’t for a great reason. Babylon will be the seat of a world-wide government which will completely oppose God. The fact that the Antichrist decided to seat his spiritual seat of power in Jerusalem makes it more an affront to God and His kingdom. The Antichrist will try to establish a spiritual system that would last forever. Instead, it will last for at most seven years.
6. Islands leave and the mountains are flattened
“Every island fled, and the mountains disappeared.” (Revelation 16:20, HCSB)
The references are probably general in nature and represent the devastating effects of the tremendously violent earthquake.6 At the same time, I personally believe that God is preparing the world for the thousand year reign of Jesus Christ. Just this week, scientists have realized the tilt of the Earth has turned. It is not clear whether the earth’s tilt is causing climate change or if climate change is causing the earth’s tilt. As a result, astrological signs have changed. I think that what we are seeing here in Revelation is a continual change of the Earth to the way God wants it before eternity.
7. Hailstones fall
“Enormous hailstones, each weighing about 100 pounds, fell from the sky on people, and they blasphemed God for the plague of hail because that plague was extremely severe.” (Revelation 16:21, HCSB)
Jon Courson states the following observation:
“One of the surprising results of the 1950s nuclear testing on the Bikini Islands were the hailstones that formed when the surrounding water shot so high into the atmosphere that it froze before returning to earth. The bombs detonated at Nagasaki and Hiroshima are BB guns in comparison to the power of the bombs presently in the arsenals of numerous nations, so one talent—or one-hundred-pound—hailstones are certainly possible.”7
I am not sure we can completely identify the source of these hailstones. But it’s purpose is very clear. When a person blasphemed God, the punishment was stoning to death in the Old Testament. What’s happening here? Stoning by hundred-pound hailstones. Again, we are reminded that even though God will use supernatural methods to try to get people to repent, it won’t work. Instead of turning to God, they curse God and refuse to give Him glory. This is an astute reminder that as we get closer to the end of time, it will be harder for people to hear the Gospel.
To conclude, I agree with Warren Wiersbe. He noted that “every generation of Christians has been able to identify with the events in Revelation 14–16. There has always been a “beast” to oppress God’s people and a false prophet to try to lead them astray. We have always been on the verge of an “Armageddon” as the nations wage war. But in the last days, these events will accelerate and the Bible’s prophecies will be ultimately fulfilled.”8
1 J. Scott Duvall, Revelation, ed. Mark L. Strauss and John H. Walton, Teach the Text Commentary Series (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 2014), 219.
2 Jon Courson, Jon Courson’s Application Commentary (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, 2003), 1760.
3 Gordon D. Fee, Revelation, New Covenant Commentary Series (Eugene, OR: Cascade Books, 2011), 226.
4 Paige Patterson, Revelation, ed. E. Ray Clendenen, vol. 39, The New American Commentary (Nashville, TN: B&H, 2012), 315.
5 Warren W. Wiersbe, The Bible Exposition Commentary, vol. 2 (Wheaton, IL: Victor Books, 1996), 611.
6 Robert H. Mounce, The Book of Revelation, The New International Commentary on the New Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1997), 304.
7 Jon Courson, Jon Courson’s Application Commentary (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, 2003), 1761.
8 Warren W. Wiersbe, The Bible Exposition Commentary, vol. 2 (Wheaton, IL: Victor Books, 1996), 611.