“At thy right hand there are pleasures for evermore” (Ps. 16:11).
“And the fifth angel poured out his vial upon the seat of the beast; and the kingdom was full of darkness; and they gnawed their tongues for pain, and blasphemed the God of heaven because of their pains and their sores, and repented not of their deeds” (Rev. 16:10-11).
The way we are interpreting all these portents, the bulk of them are falling on Jerusalem. Jerusalem is the city devoted to utter destruction. But that does not mean that Rome was left unscathed. The center of attention is always Jerusalem, but the pagan nations are not out of view. Earlier in Revelation we read this: “Because thou hast kept the word of my patience, I also will keep thee from the hour of temptation, which shall come upon all the world, to try them that dwell upon the earth [land]” (Rev. 3:10). Jerusalem is ground zero, but the rest of the Roman world was not unaffected.
So when the fifth angel pours out his bowl of wrath, he pours it out on the throne of the beast. We have seen earlier that this beast is to be identified with Rome, and not with Jerusalem. When this bowl is poured out, the kingdom was filled with darkness. This echoes the judgment that centuries before had fallen upon Egypt, when the darkness was palpable (Ex. 10:21-22). We see that these bowls are cumulative in their effect because the people here are still affected by the sores delivered by the first bowl of wrath.
In what way was Rome affected during this time? Jerusalem fell in 70 A.D. but Rome was drastically affected during the same period as well. In fact, there is little doubt that the troubles in Rome provided the defenders of Jerusalem with some of their vain hope. In 69 A.D. Nero was forced to commit suicide, and the scramble that followed is called the “year of the four emperors.” Galba, Otho, and Vitellius each successively ruled for a handful of months, and then they were succeeded by Vespasian—who was the general besieging Jerusalem. He returned to Rome, leaving his son Titus to capture the city. These transitions were tumultuous, and in 69 A.D. the great Temple of Jupiter on the Capitoline Hill was burned to the ground—the same fate that would come to Herod’s Temple in Jerusalem a very short time later.
And what brings repentance is the grace of God. Affliction by itself will never accomplish it. If pain could bring repentance, then Hell would be filled with penitent. There is a true mystery to lawlessness. These men, afflicted by their sores, covered in darkness, refused to repent. They gnawed their tongues in pain, and yet used those same tongues to blaspheme God.