The Book of Revelation with commentary by Dr. Henry M. Morris and paintings by Ramona Lowe
The paintings are a work in progress and the finished pieces are highlighted in red on Page 2

Page 127

So Mighty an Earthquake

     While the demonic spirits were spreading their lies around the nations, and the multitudes were beginning their hasty trek to Armageddon, there was still one more bowl of wrath waiting to be spilled on the earth.  The angel of the seventh plague was waiting for the arrival of these multitudes in the valley of decision, and then would come pouring down on the earth the terrible potion in the final bowl.

Revelation 16:17.     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.

     Here is the last and greatest plague of the seven last plagues.  The bowls had been poured, respectively, on the land, on the sea, on the waterways, on the sun, on the throne of the beast and on the river Euphrates.  This bowl is poured upon the atmosphere, and thus its contents are spread to every portion of the globe.

     The climactic and terminal significance of this final strike of God against a rebellious world is certified by a great testimony from heaven, a voice proceeding from the temple and thence from the very throne of God.  John has heard many great voices in heaven, from many sources, but this is the first that is said to emanate directly from the throne in the temple in heaven.  It is none other than the voice of God, and the pronouncement issuing from His voice is of supreme significance.

     “It is done!” He says.  This is the final judgment that will have to be visited upon the earth before the coming of the Lord.  The earth will be fully prepared for His coming and His great millennial kingdom.  The word is the same as in Hebrews 4:3: “The works were finished from the foundation of the world.”  Just as God had absolutely completed His mighty work of creating and making all things in His first six days (Genesis 2:1-3), so now He has absolutely completed His work of purging and changing the earth and its physical systems, enabling it to fulfull its great purposes in the kingdom age which is about to begin.

     Yet once more will He make such an announcement.  Even the millennial world, as beautiful and perfectly designed as it will be, is still imperfect, because men who live therein are still sinners, and there must therefore be one more purgation at the end of the millennium.  Christ will make a new earth and a new heavens out of the purified elements of the old, and then He will make one more announcement, saying again, for the final time: “It is done!” (Revelation 21:6).

     But now we must learn how this final plague accomplishes such a mighty work of God.  Already there have been vast changes in the earth.  Lands and seas, marine life and plant life, atmosphere and even the sun and moon, have all been greatly affected, but one more grand transformation remains to be accomplished.

Revelation 16:18.     And there were voices, and thunders, and lightnings; and there was great earthquake, such as was not since men were upon the earth, so mighty an earthquake, and so great.

     Thrice before had John heard “voices and thunderings and lightnings” (Revelation 4:5; 8:5; 11:19) in heaven, just before the seal judgments, the trumpet judgments and the bowl judgments, respectively.  On the last two occasions there had also been an earthquake on the earth.  Thus are the three sets of seven judgments, each bounded, as it were, by a threefold turmoil at the heavenly throne – great voices, lightning, and thunder.  The three sets of judgments are then terminated, as it were, by a great earthquake on the earth.

     But this final earthquake is without precedent or parallel!  Through the ages there have been earthquakes “in divers places,” ever since the mighty tectonic movements that ended the great Flood (Psalm 104:5-9).  The earth has been in a state of stress and instability and, now and again, here and there, this unstable equilibrium yields to great earth movements, sometimes with devastation to man and his works.  The first Flood was a worldwide flood, followed through the centuries by a multiplicity of local floods.  Conversely a multiplicity of local earthquakes through the centuries is climaxed and terminated by a worldwide earthquake.  All of them, floods and earthquakes alike, are ultimately attributable to the first great Flood, with the topographical and atmospheric changes which it caused.

     The effect of all these deteriorative changes in the earth’s physical regimen must somehow be rectified in the tribulation, so that the beautiful antediluvian world can be revived in the millennium.  The mighty global earthquake of the seventh bowl is the final event which brings this about.

     The movements of the earth have already been great and convulsive during the seven years of the tribulation.  The sixth seal had unleashed a great earthquake which evidently caused a slipping of the very crust of the earth (Revelation 6:12-14).  After the earthquake at the beginning of the trumpet soundings (Revelation 8:5), the earth was bombarded with huge objects from space (Revelation 8:7-10).  At the tribulation’s midpoint was another great earthquake (Revelation 11:13, 19; 12:16).

     But none was like this earthquake.  The old prophets also had foreseen such a day.  “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; And I will shake all nations, and the desire of all nations shall come: and I will fill this house with glory, saith the Lord of hosts” (Haggai 2:6, 7).  “Fear, and the pit, and the snare, are upon thee, O inhabitant of the earth. . . . for the windows from on high are open, and the foundations of the earth do shake.  The earth is utterly broken down, the earth is clean dissolved, the earth is moved exceedingly.  The earth shall reel to and fro like a drunkard, and shall be removed like a cottage; and the transgression thereof shall be heavy upon it; and it shall fall, and not rise again.  And it shall come to pass in that day, that the Lord shall punish the host of the high ones that are on high, and the kings of the earth upon the earth” (Isaiah 24:17-21).  “The Lord also shall roar out of Zion, and utter his voice from Jerusalem; and the heavens and the earth shall shake” (Joel 3:16).

     This mighty earthquake will not only change the topography of every nation, of course, but will largely destroy all earth’s proud cities.  Especially will this be true of mighty Babylon, the most magnificent of all.    

Revelation 16:19.     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.    

     Under the shattering blows of the unprecedented global earthquake, all the chief cities plummet to the ground.  As previously discussed, many of the world’s great cities along the coasts of the continents may already have been inundated by the sea level rise accompanying the rapid melting of the ice caps under the scorching sun of the fourth bowl.  Now the cities at higher elevations also perish.  On every continent – Chicago and Mexico City, Caracas and Sao Paulo, Johannesburg and Cairo, Peking and New Delhi, Moscow, Berlin, and Paris – all go tumbling down.

     The earthquake even affects “the great city,” dividing it into three parts.  However, this city is not destroyed, as are all the cities of the nations (or “Gentiles”).  Since it also is distinguished from Babylon (and since Babylon, like the other cities of the Gentiles, is to be completely destroyed – note Revelation 18:21), the necessary conclusion is that the “great city” is none other than Jerusalem, the “holy city.”  Jerusalem is, in fact, called “the great city” in Revelation 11:8, and the new Jerusalem is called “the great city” in Revelation 21:10.

     Jerusalem alone, of all the great cities of the earth, is thus to be spared destruction by the earthquake at the end of the tribulation.  It is the one eternal city, and will survive as long as the earth endures in its present form, finally being replaced as the new Jerusalem, in the new earth.  “For David said, the Lord God of Israel hath given rest unto his people, that they may dwell in Jerusalem for ever” (1 Chronicles 23:25).  “They that trust in the Lord shall be as mount Zion which cannot be removed, but abideth for ever” (Psalm 125:1).  “And the Lord shall reign over them in mount Zion from henceforth, even for ever” (Micah 4:7).

     But even Jerusalem is to be significantly changed when the great earthquake strikes.  Immediately after the promise that the Lord will go forth and fight the nations which are gathered together against Jerusalem, Zechariah says: “And his feet shall stand in that day upon the mount of Olives, which is before Jerusalem on the east, and the mount of Olives shall cleave in the midst thereof toward the east and toward the west, and there shall be a very great valley, and half of the mountain shall remove toward the north, and half of it toward the south” (Zechariah 14:4).

     Thus, two of the three parts into which the great city will be divided by the earthquake will evidently be Mount of Olives (north) and Mount of Olives (south).  Perhaps the third is Mount Zion itself, which is now separated from the Mount of Olives by the Kidron Valley, with the Brook Kidron meandering its way down to the Dead Sea.  It seems likely that the cleavage of the Mount of Olives will stop at Kidron, since Zechariah does not imply that the new valley cleaves Mount Zion as well.  In fact, the Scriptures (note above) seem strongly to assert that Mount Zion (the complex of hills on which most of the old city of Jerusalem was constructed) will stand forever (that is, as long as the earth stands).

     But Zechariah goes on to record another intriguing prophecy: “And it shall be in that day, that living waters shall go out from Jerusalem; half of them toward the former sea, and half of them toward the hinder sea: in summer and in winter shall it be” (Zechariah 14:8).  Even though Mount Zion is left unscathed by the great earthquake, somehow a great artesian spring will open up in the mountain, generating a large river.  This will evidently be the source of the water that flows from the millennial temple (Ezekiel 47) down to the Dead Sea, healing the waters of that saline lake.

     The water from Jerusalem will flow both to “the former sea” and “the hinder sea.”  One of these is certainly the Dead Sea; the other must be either the Sea of Galilee or the Mediterranean Sea.   The latter is more probable since, with respect to the temple, the Mediterranean is due west and the Dead Sea due east.  “Former” seems clearly to imply the polar opposite of “hinder.”  Since Jerusalem is essentially on the divide between the Mediterranean and the Dead Sea, it would be quite reasonable for the mysterious new spring on Zion to drain off into both the eastern and western seas.

     The location of the marvelous artesian aquifer which the earthquake rift will pierce and whose pressurized waters will then be released in such copious supply to Jerusalem is unknown.  God knows where it is, however, and precisely what subterranean channel needs to be opened by the earthquake to convey the waters upward to Zion.

     Thus, while other cities are destroyed by the mighty earthquake, God’s holy city is rendered more beautiful and perfectly situated than ever.  “Beautiful for situation, the joy of the whole earth, is mount Zion, on the sides of the north, the city of the great King” (Psalm 48:2).

     The fate of great Babylon, however, is diametrically different.  All the other cities of the nations fell, evidently lying in ruins but potentially renewable and rebuildable during the millennium.  Babylon is not so.  She is the very special object of God’s wrath and must be made to serve as an object lesson to all mankind forever.  She must be made to drink the wine from the trampled grapes of the wrath of God (see the discussion on Revelation 14:18-20), and will be thrown down with violence and so dismembered as to leave no remains at all (Revelation 18:21).

     The theme of great Babylon is so important, however, that John was led to devote two entire chapters of his Book of Revelation to its full story.  We shall return to this theme in Chapter 17.

Revelation 16:20.     And every island fled away, and the mountains were not found.

     Under the judgment of the sixth seal (Revelation 6:12-14), the earthquakes were so great that “every mountain and island were moved out of their places.”  The earth’s crust became so unstable that, for a time at least, it was slipping across the deep mantle.  The relative motion involved was such that, to people at certain points on the earth, “the heaven departed as a scroll when it is rolled together.”  The worldwide devastation was terrible.

     Nevertheless, the mountains and islands (which are undersea mountains) were still in existence when the earth movements ceased.  The topography was vastly changed, and many of the highest mountains had been broken up.  The accelerated desiccation of lakes and rivers, and even ocean bodies with the prolonged drought of the tribulation years, had contributed further to subsurface landsliding, so that submarine sediment deposition was occurring at the highest rate for thousands of years.  The topography was rapidly being smoothed out, with the high elevations cut down and the deep basins filled up.

     But what had been only a rapid change, now, under this last great plague, will become cataclysmic.  Before, the mountains and islands had only moved out of their places.  Now, “every island fled away, and the mountains were not found!”  The great mountains and islands of the world will vanish, with all their great masses of granite and limestone and sandstone broken up and transported to the bottom of the sea.  The deep ocean basins, conversely, will be built up, thus restoring sea levels to their former higher elevations, but with much of their previous waters now elevated above the troposphere, spread out in a great canopy of water vapor as it had been back at the time of creation (Genesis 1:7).

     These, indeed, were traumatic changes for those on the earth, both for the tremendous armies arrayed against Jerusalem in the great phalanx from Armageddon to Idumea, and also for the multitudes still scattered around all the continents.  Nevertheless, the new effect of all these changes on the earth’s surface was ameliorative, preparing it for the beautiful environment of the millennial age soon to come.

     The great prophecy of Isaiah was being fulfilled.  “Every valley shall be exalted, and every mountain and hill shall be made low: and the crooked shall be made straight, and the rough places plain: And the glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together: for the mouth of the Lord hath spoken it” (Isaiah 40:4, 5).

     The gentle rolling topography of the world as originally created will be restored.  No more will there be great inaccessible, uninhabitable mountain ranges or deserts or ice caps.  The physical environment of the millennium will be, in large measure, a restoration of the antediluvian environment.  This is discussed more fully in Chapter 20.  Though it will be of great benefit to the world’s future inhabitants, these terrestrial convulsions will be incredibly fearful to its present inhabitants.

Revelation 16:21.     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.

     The most grievous aspect of the unprecedented earthquake, evoking again a torrent of blasphemy from the men experiencing it, will be a great hail of stones falling from the sky.  This hail will not be the usual form of hail – that is, ice produced by violent updrafts in atmospheric storm cells.  The Greek word (chalaza) means simply something which falls.  It is used in the New Testament only in Revelation (8:7; 11:19), and can apply to any objects falling from the sky.  The nature of this particular hail is specified by use of the term “stone” (Gr. lithinos), always used elsewhere only for true rock materials.

     The awful scene, therefore, is one of incredible horror and carnage.  The violent earth movements necessarily will be accompanied by tremendous volcanic explosions scattering not just ash but large rock fragments over great areas.  The only apt description will be that of a hail of great rocks falling on men from the sky.

     These rocks are not mere pebbles, but boulders.  Each one on the average weighs a “talent,” which is an ancient, and somewhat variable, unit of weight, always on the order of 100 pounds or more.  We are to visualize, therefore, a rain of 100-pound boulders pelting down from the sky, along with the greatest earthquake of all time – mountains falling, great fissures opening, structures crumbling, tsunamis attacking the coasts, devastations everywhere.  This plague, indeed, is “exceeding great!”

     The probability is, of course, that the hail of stones rains with particular intensity on the massed millions ready for the battle with Christ and His returning saints.  For these, there is no escape – only bitter cries of invective and blasphemy.  Aligned in the complex of valleys and plains from Armageddon to Edom, encamped together in great density, they are utterly helpless against the heavenly bombardment.

     It may be that this is the meaning of the graphic figure in Revelation 14:19, 20, where these masses are said to be cast into God’s great winepress of wrath, there to be trodden without the city until blood flows even to the horse bridles.  Perhaps the men and their mounts are the grapes, and the boulders the treading feet.  Possibly intense cyclic waves of atmospheric high and low pressures resulting from the earth shocks also contribute to the bursting of blood vessels and spilling of blood. Whatever the details may be, the utter horror of the scene is beyond imagination. God is long-suffering, but the day of the Lord will come.  “Thou shalt break them with a rod of iron; thou shalt dash them in pieces like a potter’s vessel” (Psalm 2:9).

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