The Seventh Plague culminates in the return of Christ.

SUMMARY OF THIS ARTICLE

After the seventh angel plague “poured out his bowl upon the air” (16:17), “there were flashes of lightning and sounds and peals of thunder; and there was a great earthquake.” The earthquake was to great that “every island fled away, and the mountains were not found” (16:20). Furthermore, 100-pound hailstones fall on the people (16:21).

NOT LITERAL

For the following reasons, these things should not be understood as literal:

      • This group of five manifestations appears several times in Revelation, where they are symbolic. The lightning, sounds and thunder represent the discussions, decisions and instructions emanating from heaven while the earthquake and hail symbolize the consequences on earth.
      • According to 17:16, Babylon is not destroyed by an earthquake, but by the ten kings.
      • A literal earthquake of this magnitude would destroy all human life but, at the end of the seventh plague, the people continue to blaspheme God (16:21).
      • The plagues use Old Testament events as symbols for end-time events.
      • Babylon is not a literal city but symbolizes false religion. Since Babylon is destroyed by a huge earthquake, the earthquake must also be a symbol.

One can take nearly any portion of Revelation and try to read it literally, and it would not make sense.  For example, in the second plague, all freshwater turns to blood (16:3), but in the sixth plague, there still is water, for the Euphrates dries up (16:12).

To say that these plagues are symbolic does not mean they have no meaning. They represent real devastations. To determine what they mean requires a careful study of the symbols.

THE SEVENTH PLAGUE DESTROYS THE BEAST.

The sixth plague ends with the kings of the earth gathered at Armageddon (16:16). Logically, the seventh plague must describe the events at Armageddon. But what happens at Armageddon is also described in 19:11-21, because that is where we see the gathered kings (19:19). Then the Beast and the False Prophet are thrown into the lake of fire (19:20). Therefore, when Babylon is destroyed in the seventh plague, the Beast and the False Prophet are also destroyed.

THE SEVENTH PLAGUE CONCLUDES WITH CHRIST’S RETURN.

The seventh plague ends with the people cursing God. After the interruption of Revelation 17 and 18, the seventh plague continues in chapter 19 (see 19:2). It is, therefore, proposed that the entire Revelation 19, including the killing of the people of the world (19:21), is part of the seventh plague.

– END OF SUMMARY – 

THE SEVENTH PLAGUE

16:17  Then the seventh angel poured out his bowl upon the air, and a loud voice came out of the temple from the throne, saying, “It is done.”

16:18 And there were flashes of lightning and sounds and peals of thunder; and there was a great earthquake, such as there had not been since man came to be upon the earth, so great an earthquake was it, and so mighty. 19 The great city was split into three parts, and the cities of the nations fell. Babylon the great was remembered before God, to give her the cup of the wine of His fierce wrath. 20 And every island fled away, and the mountains were not found.

16:21 And huge hailstones, about one hundred pounds each, came down from heaven upon men; and men blasphemed God because of the plague of the hail, because its plague was extremely severe.  (NASB)

The articles on the first six plagues and on the identity of Babylon should be read before this article.

That Babylon “was remembered before God” does not mean that God forgot and now remembers.  “Remember” means to act.  For instance, God “remembered” his covenant with Abraham when the Israelites were in slavery in Egypt (Ex. 2:24; cf. Gen 8:1 and 19:29).

The “cup” which God gives to Babylon is a common Biblical expression denoting suffering and judgments meted out (Psm 11:6; 75:8; Is. 51:17, 22, 23; Jer. 25:15-17, 28; 49:12; Matt. 26:39).

The seventh plague informs us explicitly that God’s throne is in the temple in heaven (16:17). The Greek word used for the temple in this verse (naou) describes the inner sanctuary. According to 11:19 (NASB), and also according to the KJV of 16:17, the temple is in heaven.

THE PLAGUE IS NOT LITERAL

In this plague, there are five manifestations, namely lightning and sounds (or voices), thunder, a great earthquake, and huge hailstones.  These are not literal, for the following reasons:

(A) The group of five manifestations appears several times in Revelation, where they are symbolic:

REVELATION 4; THE THRONE ROOM

The first time that we read about this group is in the context of the vision of the temple in heaven in Revelation 4. There we only read about the first three, namely “lightning, sounds and thunder”. They came “out from the throne” (4:5):

Sounds” are also be translated as “voices” (KJV) and, in Revelation, voices often sound like thunder (6:1; 10:3).

The lightning may reflect movement.  The four living beings are represented as “in the centre and around the throne” (4:6), run “to and fro like bolts of lightning” (Ezekiel 1:14), and their voices are like thunder (6:1).

For these reasons, it is proposed that the lightning, sounds and thunder represent the activities, discussions, decisions and instructions emanating from the throne in heaven.

REVELATION 8; TRUMPETS

This group is next mentioned in the introduction to the trumpets, where fire is thrown down from heaven on the earth, “followed peals of thunder and sounds and flashes of lightning and an earthquake” (8:5).  This, therefore, adds an earthquake to the previous three. The trumpets describe all manners of devastations on earth, and most of them involve fire (8:8; 9:17; 11:3-5), burning (8:7, 10), or smoke (9:2-5).  It is proposed that, while the lightning, sounds and thunder are the decisions and activities in heaven, the earthquake symbolizes the consequences on earth.

REVELATION 11:19

The next mention of this group is in the introduction to Revelation 12-14, where “the temple of God which is in heaven was opened, and the ark of His covenant appeared in His temple.” Since every main part of Revelation begins in the temple in heaven, 11:19 must be the introduction for the section of Revelation in chapters 12 to 14.

After “the ark of His covenant appeared” (11:19), all five manifestations follow. Hail, therefore, is added to the previous four in 8:5.

In the introduction to the trumpets, fire was thrown to the earth, resulting in fire everywhere in the trumpets.  Revelation 11:19 has a similar connection to the next three chapters: While the introduction to Revelation 12-14 reveals the ark of the covenant (a box which housed the ten commandments), Revelation 12-14 contains frequent veiled references to the 10 commandments (12:17; 14:12; 13:6, 15, 16; 14:1, 7; 15:5). For this reason, it is proposed that the earthquake and hail are symbols for the events of Revelation 12 to 14.

B. Babylon is not destroyed by an earthquake, but by the ten kings.

A second reason not to read the seventh plague literally is that Revelation 17 expands on the seventh plague, and according to 17:16 Babylon is destroyed by the gathered kings.  Both the seventh plague and chapters 17 and 18 describe the destruction of Babylon but using different sets of symbols.

C. A literal earthquake of this magnitude would destroy all human life and physical cities.

This earthquake is so large that “every island fled away, and the mountains were not found” (16:20).  A literal earthquake of this magnitude would exterminate all human life on earth, but according to 16:21, the people do not die.  They continue to blaspheme God (16:21), indicating that the earth is still populated.

Furthermore, according to 16:19, the earthquake split the great city into three parts. A literal earthquake of this magnitude would not do this. It would completely destroy all cities.

The three parts into which Babylon splits must be symbolic, implying that the “great city” is a symbol, and therefore also the earthquake.

D. This use of Old Testament events to describe end-time events confirms that these descriptions should be read symbolically.

For example, the first five plagues use literal events from the exodus from Egypt to describe future events. The two final plagues – the drying up of the great river Euphrates and the fall of Babylon (Rev 16:12, 19) – use actual events from the fall of ancient Babylon. This confirms that these are not literal events.

E. Babylon is not a literal city but symbolizes false religion.

The “great city” is Babylon (14:8) is a symbol of “false religion” (see Babylon; the mother of harlots). Babylon is also the main target of the earthquake in the seventh plague. If Babylon is not a literal city then the earthquake must also be a symbol.

In conclusion, the physical manifestations of the seventh plague are not literal but symbolic of massive destruction.  As a literal earthquake leaves a literal city in ruins, so a figurative earthquake brings ruin and desolation to the symbolic “great Babylon” (16:19).

LITERAL VERSUS SYMBOLIC

One can take nearly any portion of Revelation and try to read it literally, and it would not make sense.  Consider the following examples from the plagues:

      • In the second plague, all freshwater turns to blood (16:3), but in the sixth plague, there still is water, for the Euphrates dries up (16:12).
      • In the sixth plague, why would a river be a barrier to kings, given modern technology (16:12)?
      • All people received malignant sores (16:2). The sea and all freshwaters have turned to blood (16:3-4). The sun scorches people with fire (16:8). Where would literal kings get the resources, including food and water and energy, to assemble and attack another kingdom (16:14, 16)?  Under such circumstances, people will die in their billions, and the rest would just be trying to survive, perhaps for another day.
      • How do spirits of demons, that look like frogs, come out of the mouth of the dragon, beast and false prophet, and why do the three only have one mouth (16:14)?
      • How could all the armies of all kings gather in a single place on earth (16:16)?  How do they get to this place if the oceans have turned to blood, on which no ship can travel?
      • Taken literally, why would God’s people be warned to watch their clothes, so that they do not walk about naked (16:15)?
      • After a world-wide earthquake that levels all mountains and results in tsunamis of blood that bury all islands, and therefore also all coastal regions, what people would then be left to blaspheme God (16:18-21)?

Given these insurmountable obstacles to a literal reading, literal interpretations consequently completely miss the mark.

To say that these plagues are symbolic does not mean they have no meaning. They represent real devastations. To determine what they mean requires a careful study of the symbols in their immediate and wider context.

THE SEVENTH PLAGUE DESTROYS ALSO THE BEAST.

The sixth plague ends with the kings of the earth gathered at Armageddon (16:16). Logically, the seventh plague must describe the events at Armageddon. But what happens at Armageddon is also described in 19:11-21, because that is where we see the gathered kings (19:19). Then the Beast and the False Prophet are thrown into the lake of fire (19:20). Therefore, when Babylon is destroyed in the seventh plague, the Beast and the False Prophet are also destroyed.

This conclusion is supported by the fact that Babylon is the driving force behind the beast.  Whenever the Beast-powers are mentioned, the involvement of Babylon is implied.  Whenever Babylon is mentioned, the Beast and its Image, and the False Prophet are the human organizations through which she acts. It, therefore, follows that, when Babylon is destroyed, the Beast-powers are destroyed as well.

The seventh plague, consequently, includes the destruction of both:

      • Babylon, as described in Revelation 17 and 18, and
      • The Beast-powers at the end of Revelation 19.

From Revelation 17:16, it seems as if Babylon will be destroyed BEFORE the return of Jesus because the political kingdoms of the world will destroy her (17:16). In other words, the world-wide religiopolitical anti-God coalition fights among themselves and destroy each other. This may seem to contradict the previous conclusion that the destruction of Babylon is also the destruction of the Beast and the False Prophet. However, although we think of the return of Christ as one, single and sudden event, it will be the culmination of a process that includes the destruction of Babylon by the kings.

THE SEVENTH PLAGUE CONCLUDES
WITH THE RETURN OF CHRIST.

The seventh plague ends with the people cursing God, while Revelation 19 ends with the people dead (19:21).  One, therefore, can conclude that the horrible killing of the people at the return of Christ, in which God and Christ find no pleasure, is not part of the seventh plague.  An alternative view is that, after the interruption of Revelation 17 and 18, the seventh plague continues in chapter 19 (see 19:2). It is, therefore, proposed that the entire Revelation 19, including the killing of the people of the world, is part of the seventh plague.

THE ROAD TO ARMAGEDDON

The seventh plague (Armageddon) can only be understood if one considers the situation on earth at the time.

During the final events of earth history, a powerful anti-God power (the Beast), that previously was practically dead, comes back to life(13:3, 4). It persecutes God’s people through the False Prophet and the Image of the Beast (13:15, 17). The final political-religious power will command all to bow to the Image (accept its authority), or die (13:15). The right to buy and sell and every earthly support will be taken away from believers (13:17). Simultaneously, God’s message is powerfully proclaimed all over the world (14:6-11), compelling everybody on earth to choose; either for God (and receive the seal of God—14:1) or against God (and receive the mark of the beast—13:17).

Chapter 15 represents the point in time when everybody has made their eternal choices. From this point forward, nobody else will be saved, as indicated by the symbol of nobody being allowed inside the temple (15:8), and by the frequent references during the plagues of people not repenting (16:9, 11, 21).

After that point in time, God unleashes the plagues.  God’s people are being persecuted, but the plagues selectively target the persecutors of God’s people (16:2, 6, 10). However, the people of the world are so hardened that they are unable to repent.  It is not that God does not want to save them:

‘As I live!’ declares the Lord GOD, ‘I take no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but rather that the wicked turn from his way and live. Turn back, turn back from your evil ways! (Ezek. 33:11).

However, the wicked are beyond the point of return and continue to blaspheme God (16:9, 11, 21) and to persecute His people. But support for their religion wanes, depicted by the symbol of the Euphrates drying up, because they now realize that it is false.

But then Satan strikes back with a renewed attack, using his supernatural forces to unite the kings of the earth behind him. False religion is replaced by outright Satanism.  Previously, Satan created false religion by corrupting true religion. Consequently, the people did not know that they were really following Satan. But now they know. Knowingly, they join forces against God, determined to exterminate all His followers on earth.

It is in this context that the seventh plague (Armageddon) brings an end to Babylon (Satanism at this stage), the Beast and the False Prophet.

FINAL CONCLUSIONS

      • This plague, and the plagues in general, are symbols and must not be interpreted literally.
      • When Babylon is destroyed in the seventh plague, the Beast and the False Prophet are also destroyed.
      • The entire Revelation 19, including the killing of the people of the world (19:21), is part of the seventh plague.

Next: Purpose of the Plagues

AVAILABLE ARTICLES ON REVELATION

INTRODUCTORY

Why is the title of this website Revelation BY Jesus Christ?
Every main part of Revelation begins in the temple in heaven.
Are events described in chronological sequence?
Is a consistently literal interpretation appropriate?
Does Revelation present Jesus as God?
God’s throne – the center of the universe.

SEVEN SEALS

Revelation 4
Revelation 4:1-8 – Verse-by-verse

The 24 elders are human beings that rule under God.
Revelation 4:8-11 – Worship in God’s presence
Revelation 5
Revelation 5 is Christ’s enthronement after His ascension.
The sealed book is the Lamb’s Book of Life.
Why can God not explain His judgments?
Revelation 5 verse by verse
The Sixth Seal concludes with Christ’s Return.
Does the seventh seal include the seven trumpets?
Seven seals explained
Introduction to the Seven Seals – What book is this?

BABYLON

Babylon; the mother of harlots – main article
Babylon’s merchants are her false prophets.
Babylon is not the reconstructed ancient city of Babylon.
Babylon is the driving force behind the beast.

SEVEN-HEADED BEASTS

The Seven-Headed Beasts of Revelation identified
The three beasts are three of the seven heads.
The Seven Heads identified

REVELATION 13

13:1-2 – The Beast relates to Daniel 7.
13:3-4 – The fatal wound
The beast of Revelation is the Mainstream Church of Christendom.

SEVEN PLAGUES

The Plagues of Revelation – 16 articles

For further reading, Jon Paulien’s commentary is recommended. For general discussions of theology, I recommend Graham Maxwell, who you will find on the Pineknoll website.

 

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