Interpreting Revelation: The Great Hail Storm

In the book of Revelation, John describes a great and terrible hail storm. Is this some future world wide event or was it already fulfilled? As you will see, yes, it was fulfilled in the past. (For more about how to interpret the book of Revelation click here.)

Ezekiel's prophecy to Jerusalem before its judgment by Babylon is also the same structure that John uses in his Revelation to describe the soon coming destruction of Jerusalem in his day. It isn't about the world. It is about Jerusalem's fall to Rome in AD 70. Notice how  the structure compares:

Welton, Jonathan (2013-11-01). Raptureless: An Optimistic Guide to the End of the World - Revised Edition Including The Art of Revelation (Kindle Locations 4554-4576). BookBaby. Kindle Edition. 

Welton, Jonathan (2013-11-01). Raptureless: An Optimistic Guide to the End of the World - Revised Edition Including The Art of Revelation (Kindle Locations 4554-4576). BookBaby. Kindle Edition. 

Clearly this is about the Law! One of the prophetic words for Jerusalem by Ezekiel was about the judgment of the Law bringing hailstones tearing down the city. Ezekiel 13:13-14, 

13 Therefore thus says the Lord God: “I will cause a stormy wind to break forth in My fury; and there shall be a flooding rain in My anger, and great HAILSTONES in fury to consume it. 14 So I will break down the wall you have plastered with untempered mortar, and bring it down to the ground, so that its foundation will be uncovered; it will fall, and you shall be consumed in the midst of it. Then you shall know that I am the Lord.

Now John borrows that kind of prophetic language:

“And GREAT HAIL, about the weight of a talent [100 lbs], comes down from heaven upon the men; and the men blasphemed God because of the plague of hail, because its plague was exceedingly great.” (Rev. 16:21)

The Great Divorce:

The terminal point of the Law was in AD 70 and one of the main purposes of Revelation is the description of the Harlot (unfaithful, apostate, unbelieving, Judah) who was being divorced. As Jesus said in another place, the kingdom was going to be taken away from them and given to another (the body of Christ comprised of both Jew and Gentile, one New Man). Israel, the northern kingdom had been divorced many years before when they were sent into exile (Jeremiah 3:8).

This is so a wedding could take place. The New Covenant was a betrothal until the Old was gone. Or to say it another way, though the work of the cross made the old obsolete, the New wasn't completely finished until the divorce was finalized. (No I'm not saying people were not saved until AD 70, only that the old had not reached its end until all things were fulfilled. See this article for a fuller explanation). 

The divorce decree is found in Revelation 5:

 And I saw in the right hand of Him who sat on the throne a scroll written inside and on the back, sealed with seven seals. 2 Then I saw a strong angel proclaiming with a loud voice, “Who is worthy to open the scroll and to loose its seals?” 3 And no one in heaven or on the earth or under the earth was able to open the scroll, or to look at it.
4 So I wept much, because no one was found worthy to open and read[a] the scroll, or to look at it. 5 But one of the elders said to me, “Do not weep. Behold, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has prevailed to open the scroll and to loose its seven seals.”

What is this scroll with 7 seals that is about to be opened? Remember it is symbolic and carries meaning. In their day, those churches of Asia understood that a scroll that had seven seals was a will and testament. When the testator dies, the testament is brought forward and unsealed, read aloud, and executed. So it could represent the new BUT... probably represents the Old Testament of Law. Do you know why? Because it says it was written on the front and on the back. I know many of us have images of Moses coming down with tablets of stone with 5 commandments on the left and 5 on the right. But the Bible and other similar historical artifacts tell us that the Law, written on tablets of stone, were written on the front and back. That means that he is about the execute the judgments of the Law on natural Israel.

Just as they were spared from the judgments in Egypt, now they are inheriting them according to the book of the covenant. They have become like Egypt according to John (Rev. 11:8). Like the plagues were released on Egypt, Jerusalem has been experiencing judgment so that the Jerusalem-priesthood system would let the believers go for this Second Exodus! But because Judah was still in covenant and all had not been fulfilled in the Law as he promised, the curses of the law were being experienced by Judah. 

Not only were they guilty of covenant unfaithfulness, they were also killing the saints. Jesus said in Matthew 23:

"34 Therefore, indeed, I send you prophets, wise men, and scribes: some of them YOU WILL KILL and crucify, and some of them you will scourge in your synagogues and persecute from city to city, 35 that on you may come all the righteous blood shed on the earth, from the blood of righteous Abel to the blood of Zechariah, son of Berechiah, whom you murdered between the temple and the altar. 36 Assuredly, I say to you, all these things will come upon THIS generation."

What was the punishment for ADULTERY and MURDER under the Law? It was stoning! That is exactly what is happening here!!!! They chose judgment over mercy, instead of the other way around, despite his revelation of the Father, and despite the witness of the saints. So according to the Law, Leviticus 20:10, "The man who commits adultery with another man’s wife, he who commits adultery with his neighbor’s wife, the adulterer and the adulteress, shall surely be put to death." If it was Law they wanted, then Harlot Jerusalem was being put to death in terms of covenant. 

But What were the Hail-Stones?

“And great hail, about the weight of a TALENT [100 lbs], comes down from heaven upon the men; and the men blasphemed God because of the plague of hail, because its plague was exceedingly great.” (16:21)

Here is what Jewish eyewitness and historian Josephus says about the Roman siege as they catapulted stones at the city:

“The stone missiles weighed a TALENT [100 pounds] and traveled two furlongs or more, and their impact not only on those who were hit first, but also on those behind them, was enormous. At first the Jews kept watch for the stone- for it was white- and its approach was intimated to the eye by its shining surface as well as to their ear by its whizzing sound. Watchmen posted on the towers gave the warnings whenever the engine was fired and the stone came hurtling toward them, shouting in their native tongue: “The Son is coming.” Those in the line of fire made way and fell prone, a precaution that resulted in the stone’s passing harmlessly through and falling in their rear. To frustrate this, it occurred to the Romans to blacken the stones so that they could not be seen so easily before hand; then they hit their target and destroyed many with a single shot.”

This is fascinating history… Stuart Russell records additional information saying,

“It could not but be well known to the Jews that the great hope and faith for the Christians was the speedy coming of the Son. It was about this very time, according to Hegesippus, that St James, the brother of our Lord, publicly testified in the temple that ‘the Son of Man was about to come in the clouds of heaven,’ and then sealed his testimony with his blood.[i.e. they killed him]. It seems highly probable that the Jews, in their defiant and desperate blasphemy, when they saw the white mass hurtling through the air, raised the ribald cry, ‘The Son is coming,’ in mockery of the Christian hope of the Parousia, to which they might trace a ludicrous resemblance in the strange appearance of the missile.” (Chilton, 417-18)

Do you see, according to Revelation 1, the book was to be filled with apocalyptic language and sign language that pointed to the past as a clue about what was to happen in the near future. There is no world-wide hail storm of judgment coming on the world. Just as hail fell on Jerusalem in the past as covenant judgment, it was a symbol of what would happen to Jerusalem in AD 70. 

Do not fear the future. Of course difficult times can happen, but we have a promise that "of the increase of his government-kingdom and PEACE, there will be no end." (Is. 9:7)

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