In Revelation, torments and thrashings crash down upon the earth in the form of seven plagues. Horrifically, these afflictions come in multiple sets of seven. Adding dread to fear, these retributive miseries intensify. These divine dudgeons appear in Revelation to teach us a valuable lesson about our sin and about our blessed savior.
SEALS, TRUMPETS, AND BOWLS
After seven horrendous seals have opened, pouring all kinds of wrath on the world, a final cosmic pain rolls out. Revelation 8:5 forebodingly describes heaven’s fury: “[T]here were peals of thunder, rumblings, flashes of lightning, and an earthquake” (8:5).
Heaven’s fury opens up seven trumpets of mind mending scourges upon the earth. Again, in its finale, John portrays heaven as the place where fury comes. He describes the cosmic escalation of pain thus: “Then God’s temple in heaven was opened, and the ark of his covenant was seen within his temple. There were flashes of lightning, rumblings, peals of thunder, an earthquake and great hail” (11:19). Marked by similarity and distinction, John adds “great hail” to this heavenly turbulence.
This last trumpet brings about the seven bowl judgment in Revelation. Here is the final savagery unleashed from heaven to earth. It ends with great escalation in the horror of divine judgment. When God’s heavenly throne declares, “It is done” (16:17), then comes “flashes of lightning, rumblings, peals of thunder, and a great earthquake such as there had never been since man was on earth, so great was that earthquake (so great!)” (16:18). This is not all. “And great hailstones, about one hundred pounds each, fell from heaven on people; and they cursed God for the plague of the hail, because the plague was so severe.
Two escalating elements appear: first, the great earthquake adds to the previous earthquakes, while great (100 pound!) hailstones adds to previous hailstones. It is an escalated and terrible judgment.
Running from God never works. He will not simply scold you for a while; then let you on your way. Judgment escalates and retribution increases for those who curse God and turn from him (16:21).
Better to listen to Jesus’ warning so as to receive his blessing: “Behold, I am coming like a thief! Blessed is the one who stays awake, keeping his garments on, that he may not go about naked and be seen exposed!” (Rev 16:15).