This last bowl, interestingly, is poured out into the air. What does that mean? We will get to that in a minute. But first we read here that a loud voice from heaven, the voice of God, says, “It is done.” This could only mean one thing: that this plague is the last one. And when it is done, that will be the end of the Tribulation.
The second thing I want to mention is that when this bowl begins, and all during its devastation, the great battle of Armageddon is raging. The event that sets this plague off is, presumably, a great earthquake. However, there is one scholar, Hal Lindsey who seems to think that it is not really an earthquake, that it is a nuclear exchange. In his book, There’s a New World Coming, he writes,
The [Greek word for earthquake] simply means ‘a great shaking of the earth.’ The earth could be shaken either by a literal earthquake or by a full-scale nuclear exchange of all remaining missiles. I lean toward the nuclear conflict; I believe that when these powers lock forces here, there will be a full-scale exchange of nuclear weapons, and it’s at this time that ‘the cities of the nations fall.’8
I want to return now to my “interesting” comment about this bowl being poured out into the air. If you side with the nuclear exchange idea this makes sense, because nuclear bombs always affect the air. According to an article I read, “Basic Effects of Nuclear Weapons,” the writer said,
Most damage comes from the explosive blast. The shock wave of air radiates outward, producing sudden changes in air pressure that can crush objects, and high winds that can knock objects down. In general, large buildings are destroyed by the change in air pressure, while people and objects such as trees and utility poles are destroyed by the wind.9
This nuclear description goes along well with what is written in verse 19—that “the cities of the nations fell.” That certainly makes sense—that if a full nuclear exchange occurs, the tall buildings in all of the world’s cities (all buildings really) will crumble to the ground. Of course, a very large world-wide earthquake could do this too. Or perhaps both will occur together, the nuclear exchange causing the other.
Now whatever this “great shaking of the earth” will be, there will be six results.
1. Lightning and thunder. To be fair, we don’t know that the cause of this will be due to the great shaking; nonetheless, it will occur. And I’m guessing that it will be dark, except for the lightning flashes, accompanied by loud, terrible thunder.
2. The great city will be split into three parts. Some suggest that the great city is the rebuilt Babylon. Others say that it is Jerusalem—which I happen to agree with. John MacArthur suggests that the splitting of Jerusalem is written about in Zechariah 14:1-8, and that it is not a judgment, but an improvement, preparing the city for its millennial kingdom.10
I agree with that comment. The only uncertainty I have is that in the Zachariah passage the city will be split through the Mount of Olives dividing the city into a northern section and a southern section. Hence that is two parts, not three, as Revelation indicates.
3. The cities of the nations fall. Here is what I talked about earlier. A great earthquake, or possibly a full-scale nuclear exchange will level the great cities of the world. London, Rome, Paris, Berlin, New York, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Tokyo, and all the others will crumble to the ground. In just a few minutes we will see a great judgment of God on the world.
4. Babylon the great falls. We will look at this in detail in the next chapter, so we won’t say much here; except that it will be God’s wrath on the Antichrist’s evil empire.
5. The islands and mountains disappear. Along with the crumbling of the cities, the earth will shift so much that the islands as well as the mountains disappear. Revelation 6:14 seems to describe this same occurrence, except in the sixth chapter the mountains and island only move out of their places. But here they disappear completely. Hence what began in the sixth seal is completed in this seventh bowl. I presume that they will plunge into the earth, as if they are plowed under by God’s great plow when He levels the earth. This again will be God’s preparation for His millennial kingdom.
I invite you to read Isaiah 40:3-5 and Jeremiah 4:23-27. Could this be a prophetical description of what will happen in Revelation 16:19-20?
6. One-hundred-pound hail stones! It is hard to imagine hail this big. As far as we know, the largest hailstone on record fell in South Dakota in 2010, weighing nearly two pounds and measured eight inches in diameter.11 If we calculate how large a 100-pound hailstone would be compared to this one in South Dakota, I come up with one about three or four feet in diameter. That’s pretty big. And I’m sure one stone will kill any human or animal if it falls directly on his head. If you can picture what it will be like when all the city buildings fall and all the islands and mountains disappear into the earth, I imagine that this barrage of hail will level anything that is left.
But since we know that there will be survivors, apparently the hail will be far enough apart that it will miss some people, or perhaps some will be hiding underground.
But will they be thankful to God for their safety? No. Verse twenty-one tells us that they will blaspheme God because of the hail. This tells us that they will know that it was meant for them—to punish them for their wickedness. Hence they will remain unrepentant until the end.
8 Hal Lindsey, p. 214.
9 Basic Effects of Nuclear Weapons, at https://www.atomicarchive.com/science/effects/basic-effects.html#:~:text=Blast%20Effects&text=The%20shock%20wave%20of%20air,are%20destroyed%20by%20the%20wind.
10 John MacArthur, John MacArthur’s notes on Revelation 16:19.
11 Kyle Mounce, at https://www.wrtv.com/weather/how-is-hail-formed-and-why-do-hailstones-sometimes-get-so-big-heres-the-science.