“At thy right hand there are pleasures for evermore” (Ps. 16:11).
“And the seventh angel poured out his vial into the air; and there came a great voice out of the temple of heaven, from the throne, saying, It is done. And there were voices, and thunders, and lightnings; and there was a great earthquake, such as was not since men were upon the earth, so mighty an earthquake, and so great. And the great city was divided into three parts, and the cities of the nations fell: and great Babylon came in remembrance before God, to give unto her the cup of the wine of the fierceness of his wrath. And every island fled away, and the mountains were not found. And there fell upon men a great hail out of heaven, every stone about the weight of a talent: and men blasphemed God because of the plague of the hail; for the plague thereof was exceeding great“ (Rev. 16:17-21)
The last of the bowls of wrath is poured into the atmosphere. It is perhaps suggestive that this is described as the realm of the devil (Eph. 2:2). When this happens, a great voice comes out from the heavenly temple, crying out that the judgment is finally complete. As a result there is a stir and a commotion—voice, thundering, lightning, culminating in a massive earthquake. There was a great earthquake, such as had never happened on earth before.
Continuing with our view that these cascading judgments were washing over the city of Jerusalem, we can see that the cup of wrath she was given to drink corresponds to the cup of her persecuting sins that is described in the next chapter. And so given this, it would seem that this earthquake is the one that was predicted by the prophet Haggai.
“For thus saith the Lord of hosts; Yet once, it is a little while, And I will shake the heavens, and the earth, and the sea, and the dry land” (Hagg. 2:6).
The apostle Paul (as I take the author of Hebrews to be) describes Haggai’s prophecy as fulfilled in the destruction of Jerusalem.
“Whose voice then shook the earth: but now he hath promised, saying, Yet once more I shake not the earth only, but also heaven. And this word, Yet once more, signifieth the removing of those things that are shaken, as of things that are made, that those things which cannot be shaken may remain” (Heb. 12:26–27).
As he says in the next verse, we as Christians are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken in this way (Heb. 12:28), and the kingdom in its previous form was being taken from the Jews in order to be given to a people who would bear the fruit of it (Matt. 21:43). As John Owen observed, the heavens of their Mosaic worship were being thrown down, and the earth of their political arrangements were being toppled. All was complete, and the stage was set for the transition.
The city was divided into three pieces, which likely was foreshadowed by Ezekiel, and fulfilled in the internecine conflicts between the three factions of the Jewish rebels. The prophet Ezekiel had been told to cut off his hair and to divide it into three portions (Eze. 5:1-12). This was to represent Jerusalem—“this is Jerusalem” (Eze. 5:5). A third of the hair was to be burned up, another third was to be slashed with a sword, and the final third was to be thrown to the winds. Ezekiel’s dramatic enacted action referred to the disposal of the inhabitants of Jerusalem in 586 B.C., but it was also a harbinger of the great and final destruction of the city in 70 A.D. And during the siege of Jerusalem (a virtually unconquerable city), the rebels fought against their own interests by fighting with one another—three fierce factions making it possible for the Romans to take the city.
When it comes to the great hailstones, an interesting and suggestive detail is found in Josephus’ Wars (5.6.3). These hailstones are described as weighing about a talent, which translates into our units of measurement at about a hundred pounds. The Tenth Legion had catapults that could throw these massive stones, which were white. They could throw these things two furlongs or more, which is about a quarter of a mile. Josephus says, “Now, the stones that were cast were the weight of a talent . . . of a white color.” Hailstones indeed.