The Seventh Bowl: It is Done! Revelation 16:17-21

With the pouring of the bowl a loud voice came out from the temple, from the throne announcing, “it is done!” This is immediately followed by lightning, thunder and a great earthquake.

Fiery Hailstines Revelation

Unlike the seventh seal (silence) or the seventh trumpet (jubilant worship), when the seventh angel pours out the final bowl of God’s wrath, John hears a loud voice from the temple and throne. “It is done” translates a single word, a perfect active indicative of γίνομαι. Although this sounds like Jesus’s final words from the cross, the John 19:30 has τετέλεσται, a perfect passive indicative from τελέω, “it is finished.” Like John 19:30, the word means something like, “it has been accomplished.” The same word in Revelation 21:6 when the one seated on the throne announces he is making all things new.

Verse 19 is another interpretive problem. John says the earthquake was so powerful “the great city splits into three parts.” As with other unidentified cities in Revelation, some scholars suggest this refers to Jerusalem, others suggest Babylon. But depending on the interpreter, Babylon is a metaphor for Jerusalem or Rome. If this great city is the same as Revelation 11:8, then it is Jerusalem. However, the key is “God remembered Babylon the Great and gave her the cup filled with the wine of the fury of his wrath.” In Revelation 17:18 (and many times in chapter 18) the great city of Babylon refers to Rome.

That God “remembers” Babylon is significant. First, the verb is another example of the divine passive in Revelation (ἐμνήσθη is aorist passive of μιμνῄσκομαι). Most modern translations change the verb to active. Second, when God remembers in the Old Testament, it is often for salvation. God remembers his promises in his covenants and keeps them (Exod 2:24). In Jeremiah 31:20 God remembers his “darling child” Ephraim and will have mercy on him.

However, there are examples of God’s “punitive remembrance” (Aune 2:901). In Hosea 7:1 God remembers Israel’s sin and will punish them nation. In 1 Maccabees 7:38, the army of Judas prays “Take vengeance on this man [Nicanor] and on his army and let them fall by the sword; remember their blasphemies and let them live no longer.” In a similar context in 2 Maccabees 8:4, Judas and his army call on God “to remember also the lawless destruction of the innocent babies and the blasphemies committed against his name.” Notice God is to remember the blasphemies of the Seleucids. In Revelation 16:19 he remembers the blasphemies of the kingdom of the beast and the great whore of Babylon (Rev 17).

The chapter ends with an allusion to the seventh plague (Exod 9:13-35), apocalyptic hailstones weighing hundred pounds. Massive hailstones appear in several Old Testament contexts (Josh 10:11; Isa 28:17; Hag 2:17). David Aune has several references to unusual hail in the Roman word as a sign of “a disruption in relations with the gods requiring diagnosis and reparation” (2:902). Massive hailstones and earthquakes are common in Jewish apocalyptic as well:

Sib. Or. 3.689–699 God will judge all men by war and sword and fire and torrential rain. There will also be brimstone from heaven and stone and much grievous hail. Death will come upon four-footed creatures. Then they will recognize the immortal God who judges these things. Wailing and tumult will spread throughout the boundless earth at the death of men. All the impious will bathe in blood. The earth itself will also drink of the blood of the dying; wild beasts will be sated with flesh. God himself, the great eternal one, told me to prophesy all these things. These things will not go unfilfilled.

In the fifth Sibylline Oracle, the return of Nero is accompanied by hail and bloody violence:

Sib. Or. 5.93–96 For the Persian will come onto your soil like hail, and he will destroy your land and evil-devising men with blood and corpses, by terrible altars, a savage-minded mighty man, much-bloodied, raving nonsense…

The Apocalypse of Abraham lists ten plagues on the earth, including increased snow and hail, thunder and earthquakes.

Apoc. Abraham 30.4–8 The first: sorrow from much need. The second: fiery conflagrations for the cities. The third: destruction by pestilence among the cattle. The fourth: famine of the world, of their generation The fifth: among the rulers, destruction by earthquake and the sword. The sixth: increase of hail and snow. The seventh: wild beasts will be their grave. The eighth: pestilence and hunger will change their destruction. The ninth: execution by the sword and flight in distress. The tenth: thunder, voices, and destroying earthquakes.

The section ends with the people of the earth cursing God “because the plague was so terrible.” The verb curse here is often translated “blaspheme” (βλασφημέω), anticipating the blasphemy of the great whore in Revelation 17. Humanity’s response to God’s plagues is not repentance, but continued reject of God.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.