Harry Whittaker
Revelation - A Biblical Approach

Chapter 30 - The Seven Thunders (14:6-20)

The first of the angels “with a loud voice” is entrusted with an “everlasting gospel”. It is proclaimed to “them that dwell in the Land”, that is, to the people of Israel, and also to “every nation, and kindred, and tongue, and people”. The Lamb is on mount Zion. His authority is to be acknowledged by all. But this is not a thing to be achieved in five minutes. The presence of Jesus in Jerusalem as King of the Jews will present a challenge not only to the people of Israel, in the Land and among the Dispersion, but also to every other nation on the face of the earth. It will be either a spiritual challenge, to accept his authority as God’s appointed King, ultimately to rule the whole world, or it will be a military challenge by a Power whose widening claims present a serious and mysterious political rivalry.

As with the Gibeonites (Joshua 9) some will come “yielding feigned obedience”: “Thou hast made me the head of the nations: a people whom I have not known shall serve me: the strangers shall yield feigned obedience unto me” (Psalm 18:43, 44 and 66:3; Deuteronomy 33:29). But with this Joshua-Jesus, now establishing the authority of God in His Holy Land, there will be no possibility of successful deceit, for here is one with power to “know their thoughts” and to counter with divine wisdom any devices of human guile.


The message proclaimed has a noble simplicity and force such as the world has needed these many generations: “Fear God, and give glory to him; for the hour of his judgement is come.” This message of present judgement is called the gospel - good news! No better description could be given to it. For men of good will to know that all human evil, which for so long has gone rampant and unchecked, must now accept divine discipline, this is good news indeed.

This command to honour the Almighty is accompanied by a neat reminder that it is He “that made the heaven, and the earth, and the sea, and the fountains of waters.” These four aspects of God’s creation are the locale of the judgements of the first four Trumpets (8:7-13) and the first four Vials (16:2-~). So the warning that “the hour of his judgement is come” is no empty threat. It is not the judgement of the Lord’s own servants which is alluded to here. Nor is it any specific outpouring of wrath on any one place or nation. Paraphrased, the message means: Divine power to cope with wickedness and rebellion is now openly in your midst, therefore recognize this undeniable fact, and acknowledge the authority of God’s Messiah.

Not all the nations of the world will see the reasonableness and good sense of such a policy - as the rest of the Thunders proceed to demonstrate.

The second thunder concerns the fall of “Babylon.” But there is only a portentious brief mention here, as though by anticipation of the detailed grim descriptions of chapters 17, 18. In the same way the Beast first makes his appearance in a brief, almost incidental, mention in ch. 11:7. This fall of Babylon will be discussed in greater detail in Chapter 34.


The Third Thunder begins and ends with ominous words for those who “worship the beast and his image, and whosoever receiveth the mark of his name”. This is not the same as being involved in the “fornication” of Babylon, the great whore. A distinction is clearly indicated in chapter 17:16: “the ten horns ... upon the beast, these shall hate the whore, an shall make her desolate and naked...”

Since the Beast appears to represent the great political opponent of Christ in the day of his coming, it follows that any loyalty to the Beast must mean hostility to Christ. “The same shall drink of the wine of the wrath of God, which is poured out without mixture into the cup of his indignation.” It is a vivid figure of speech, not uncommon in the Old Testament, used in Jeremiah’s powerful fashion concerning God’s fury against all the nations in the Last Days (25:15-17), beginning at Jerusalem and taking in all the nations round about, including ultimately “all the kingdoms of the world which are upon the face of the earth.” This wine cup of heaven’s wrath signifies the punishment of the nations by God turning them against each other in war. In Ezekiel 23:31-33 and Isaiah 51:17, it is the cup of retribution from God, again brought through the violence of neighbouring nations. In the latter prophecy the day is foretold (v. 22, 23) when Israel will taste it no more, but instead this will become the lot of those who have trampled them into the dust.

Most vivid of all is the very first use of this image. In Deuteronomy 32:32, 33 the inevitable wrath of the Lord against His people is summed up in the trenchant words: “Their wine is the poison of dragons, and the cruel venom of asps.” But coupled with this is another figure of judgement: “their vine is of the vine of Sodom, and of the fields of Gomorrah.” The words imply a fiery destruction from heaven. This also is included in the terrifying language of the Third Thunder: “he shall be tormented with fire and brimstone in the presence of the holy angels, and in the presence of the Lamb: and the smoke of their torment ascendeth up for ever and ever.”

These grim experiences, which have been Israel’s time and again throughout their rebellious history, and will be yet again before the Thunders are fulfilled, are to come in turn on those who are their great tormentors in the Last Days. Isaiah 34:10, whence some of this sombre language is quarried, emphasizes the truth of this interpretation, as it describes “the day of the Lord’s vengeance, the year of recompense for the controversy of Zion.” This is “the indignation of the Lord upon all nations, and his fury upon all their armies.” Especially it is to “come down upon Idumea (Edom, the Arabs), and upon the people of my curse” (v. 2, 5, 8).

That this judgement is to be meted out “in the presence of the angels and in the presence of the Lamb” plainly implies its fulfilment after the coming of the Lord to Zion (2 Thessalonians 1: 7-9). That “the smoke of their torment ascendeth up for ever and ever” will occasion no alarm or difficulty to those who appreciate Biblical idiom. Jude 7 describes Sodom and Gomorrah as “suffering the vengeance of eternal fire,” yet Lamentations 4:6 speaks of “the punishment of the sin of Sodom, that was overthrown as in a moment.”


“Here is the patience of the saints,” adds the angel (or is it John’s own comment?) This ultimate judgement of the powers of evil is what the saints must be patient for. And since “saints” in Holy Scripture may also be angels or the holy people of Israel, the definition is added here: “they that keep the commandments of God, and the faith of Jesus Christ.”

Before the fourth angel can make his loud prophetic cry, the sequence is interrupted (as the Vials also are at a similar point; 16:7) by another voice from heaven: “Write, Blessed are the dead which die in the Lord from henceforth.” It is important to understand that the last phrase does not mean the time of fulfilment of the Thunders, but the time when Revelation was given. The special blessing is presumably due to the fact that with the details of the Apocalypse available there is full and unshakable assurance available that the powers of evil, which might threaten the complete overthrow of the Ecclesia of Christ, will themselves be overthrown.

The three Thunders that now follow are so closely interwoven that it is difficult to give them separate consideration. This feature serves to emphasize what has been stressed already, that it is a mistake to seek chronological sequence in these various subdivisions of Revelation. Rather, they should be regarded as a collection of related snapshots of divine judgement in the two great epochs foretold.


Although the coming of the kingdom and the signal events associated with the coming of Christ are eloquently described in various parts of the Apocalypse, there is only one description of the actual coming of the Lord. This introduces the Fourth Thunder: “And I looked, and behold a white cloud, and upon the cloud one sat like unto the Son of man, having on his head a golden crown, and in his hand a golden sickle.” This is the Lord’s Olivet prophecy over again: “And then shall they see the Son of man coming in a cloud with power and great glory” (Luke 21:27).

The cloud is undoubtedly the Shekinah Glory, that pillar of cloud and fire which protected Israel in their exodus from Egypt (Exodus 14:19, 24), which filled both Tabernacle and Temple when they were dedicated (Exodus 40:34-38; 1 Kings 8:10, 11), which appeared to Ezekiel in captivity (1:4), which came to be closely associated with Jesus and his apostles at the Transfiguration, which received Jesus from mortal sight at his ascension (Acts 1:9), and in which he is to come again - “in the glory of his Father.” It is described here, in Revelation 14, as a white cloud, as a way of intimating its luminous character. In similar fashion the Ancient of Days (Daniel 7:9) is described as having “hair like pure wool.” The intention is not to describe old age but the aura of divine glory appropriate to the Being depicted.

Reference to a multitudinous Son of man is ruled out in this place by the details: “he had on his head a golden crown, and in his hand a sharp sickle.”


The fourth voice of thunder appeals to the Messiah, coming in glory and power, to “thrust in thy sickle, and reap: for the time is come for thee to reap; for the harvest of the earth is ripe.”

There is something almost unique and altogether astonishing about this exhortation addressed by an angel to the Son of man to proceed with his work of judgement without delay. The same appeal recurs in the Sixth Thunder. It lifts a veil for a brief moment on the intense eagerness of the angels of God to see the authority and righteousness of the Almighty vindicated through His Son. During epochs of unparalleled wickedness and pride such as the present generation exemplifies, the angels, it is to be understood, are in a fever of impatience for the day when all shall know and honour God from the least to the greatest.

This new figure of judgement, as represented by the irresistible cutting down of the sheaves before the keen blade of the harvester’s sickle, is really not new at all. Isaiah used it in his prophecy of the end of Babylon (Isaiah 21:10). It is strongly implied also in his picture of Messiah’s judgement (in 41:15, 16), and almost identical language was employed by John the Baptist when giving warning of the judgement powers of the Messiah whom he heralded. Micah 4:11-13 uses the same figure of God’s ultimate judgement on the long-standing adversaries of His chosen people. Perhaps most pointed of all is Joel 3:13: “Put ye in the sickle (LXX: sickles), for the harvest is ripe: come, get you down: for the winepress is full, the fats overflow.” This prophecy appears to combine the Fourth and Fifth Thunders, for besides the Son of Man in the Fifth, there is an angel similarly equipped with a sickle, to “gather the clusters of the vine of the earth.” It is probably a mistake to seek to separate out the respective fields of operation of the Son of man, cutting the harvest, and the angel who operates against “the vine of the earth.” These are relative figures of judgement intended, most probably, to emphasize the inevitability and drastic character of this final divine intervention.


It is to be noted that this judgement is apparently committed to the Son of man and to his angels. The saints in Christ are not mentioned in the Thunders, but only in the introductory vision, when they rejoice with the Lamb on mount Zion. The angelic co-operation in this high work is stressed in the Joel prophecy: “thither cause thy mighty ones (thy Gabriels) to come down, O Lord ... come, get you down” (there is no justification as a translation for the R.V., R.S.V. reading here: “tread ye”).

At first sight this appears to be in contradiction to the familiar words of Isaiah 63:3: “I have trodden the winepress alone, and of the people there was none with me”. But, as is indicated in “The Time of the End”, Chapter 23, that prophecy does imply that Messiah is accompanied by a host of helpers. Revelation 14 suggests the conclusion that these are angels, though application to glorified saints in Christ is not to be ruled out.


Again, like the earlier metaphors of the wine cup and of torment by fire and brimstone, this figure of the treading of grapes in a winepress is familiar enough in the prophets. Lamentations 1:15 uses it of God’s great judgement on Israel in the time of Jeremiah. Here (14:19), in an attempt to convey something of the dire meaning of this element of his prophecy, John throws the rules of Greek grammar to the winds and has an adjective in masculine gender (“great”) describing a noun (“winepress”) which is feminine in Greek. Probably he intended a carry over of the meaning to the “wrath” of God, which is certainly masculine - a great winepress to represent intense wrath.

There is not only a mixture of syntax but also of metaphors, for when “the winepress is trodden without the city (of Jerusalem), the blood comes out of the winepress, even unto the horse bridles.” This treading of a winepress by warriors on horseback is no doubt intended to indicate a close connection with the vision of 19:13-15, which in turn is interwoven with the judgement of the Sixth Thunder (14:18; 19:17): “And he was clothed with a vesture dipped in blood: and his name is called The Word of God. And the armies which were in heaven followed him upon white horses, clothed in fine linen, white and clean ... and he treadeth the winepress of the fierceness and wrath of Almighty God.” This is the beginning of the assertion of the power and authority of Messiah. All things are now to be put under his feet (1 Corinthians 15:25, 27), and there can be only judgement for those who resist. It will be an infallible and altogether righteous judgement, for even the bells of these horses will be “Holy to the Lord” (Zechariah 14:20, 21).


The sombre picture of blood flowing in such depth and distance precludes, of course, any kind of literality of interpretation. This is a symbolic River of Death, designed no doubt as contrast to that remarkable River of Life described by Ezekiel (ch. 47).

Is the length of this stream of slaughter also symbolic? In judgement against a criminal, the penalty was not to exceed forty stripes (Deuteronomy 25:3). Then is this “thousand six hundred furlongs” (forty forties) intended to suggest both the intensification and finality of this mighty judgement against the enemies of God? Perhaps also there is point in this distance being the measure of the Holy Land, from Lebanon to Kadesh, which are mentioned in Psalm 29: 6, 8 as the geographical limits of the Seven Thunder judgements. Seven times that Psalm speaks of “the voice of the Lord,” when “the God of glory thundereth.” This localized reference suggested by Psalm 29 is supported by the mention of “the city” (v. 20) and of “the vine of the Land” (v. 18).

The Sixth Thunder, mentioned in Revelation 14 only by implication and expanded in 19:17, 18, adds it testimony. It it the voice of “another angel ... which had power over fire.” Since he comes forth from the altar (v. 18), there is perhaps identification with the angel of ch. 8: 3-5, who scatters fire from the altar upon the earth (the Land). There is implied mention of fire in the greater details of chapter 19: “And I saw an angel standing in the sun (which scorches men with fire; 16:8, 9); and he cried with a loud voice, saying to all the fowls that fly in the midst of heaven, Come and gather yourselves unto the supper of the great God.” This and the description, which follows, is undoubtedly the language of Ezekiel 39:17-20, a judgement that is to take place in the Land and by fire (Ezekiel 38:22).

Thus the purpose of the Seven Thunders is to assure the saints of God that, no matter how completely evil forces appear to assert themselves in the Last Days, the power of the Messiah will be more than adequate to cope with them. One lurid figure of speech after another is brought into play in order to emphasize that God is not mocked. Evil will be broken as with a rod of iron.
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