Reading Revelation one finds many descriptions of the same (or nearly the same) great tempest or display of more-than-inclement weather, shall we say, in heaven (i.e., in St. John's vision).

This appears throughout Revelation:

Revelation 8:5

And the angel took the censer, and filled it from the fire of the altar, and cast it to the earth, and there came voices, and thunders, and lightnings, and an earthquake.

And again (note the slight variations):

Revelation 11:19

And the temple of God was opened in the heaven, and there was seen the ark of His covenant in His sanctuary, and there came lightnings, and voices, and thunders, and an earthquake, and great hail.

And again (note the slight variations):

Revelation 16:18

And there came voices, and thunders, and lightnings; and a great earthquake came, such as had not came since men were upon the earth, so mighty an earthquake—so [very] great!

Et cetera.

It's difficult to believe St. John is not harkening back to some prophecy or distinctive Scriptural text, or even an Old Testament event; giving it more weight or importance, brining it to light, marking its fulfillment.

It could be an intensifier of the message, that it was important. But it seems too repetitive, superfluous, and more or less consistent for that. More of an allusion to something with which his readers might or ought to be familiar.


Are there any Old Testament (or New Testament) allusions or connections being made here? If not, what could it signify at least to the readership of Revelation? Could the order of the mentioned weather elements be significant?


4 Answers 4


G.K. Beale, The Book of Revelation, page 326, comments on Revelation 4.5:

The first phrase, "lightnings and sounds and thunders," is repeated virtually verbatim in 8:5; 11:19; and 16:18, which all appear at the conclusion of each series of seven judgments. Therefore, the phrase in 4:5 implicitly identifies God as the source of these later judgments (note that here the heavenly convulsions "proceed from the throne"). This then may serve as assurance to Christians who suffer that their God is sovereign and has not forgotten them because he has not forgotten their persecutors, whom he will surely judge by fire (e.g., 19:20; 20:9-10; 21:8).

Later in his commentary on Revelation 8.5, Beale notes (458):

This fourfold chain of cosmic disturbance has a precedent in the OT, where it also refers to divine judgment (e.g. esp. Exod. 19:16, as well as v 18; Ps. 77:18-19; Isa. 29:6; Esth. 1:1d LXX; cf. Ps. 18:7-13).

Beale also determines that parallels with the binding of the covenant at Sinai, in particular, are deliberate:

The Sinai theophany of Exod. 19:16-18 is partly in mind in 8:5, since it was part of the allusion, if not the primary one, in 4:5 [...] Early Jewish and Christian writings utilized the earthquake imagery associated with the Sinai theophany and the exodus to portray the end of the cosmos.

He also points out (459) each reference to these 'cosmic disturbances' become more elaborate across the book:

  • 4.5: lightnings, rumblings, thunders
  • 8.5: lightnings, rumblings, thunders, earthquake
  • 11.19: lightnings, rumblings, thunders, earthquake, hail
  • 16.18-21: lightnings, rumblings, thunders, great earthquake, great hail

The reason for this, Beale cites Richard Bauckham, 'The Eschatological Earthquake in the Apocalypse of John', NovT 19, page 228:

The progressive expansion of the formula accords with the increasing severity of each series of judgements, as the visions focus more closely on the End itself and the limited warning judgements of the trumpets give place to the seven last plagues of God's wrath on the finally unrepentant.

That is, the seven seals which are presented as judgments of 'one-fourth', the seven trumpets as judgments of 'one-third', and the seven bowls as judgments of 'one-whole'.

With 4.5 being introductory to the setting of divine judgment, the increasingly severe scenes of judgments — from one-fourths to one-thirds to one-wholes — are each punctuated by increasingly severe 'cosmic disturbances'.

  • Tiny correction: Rev 11:19 says "great hail," too. He seems to be on to something with the Psalm 77:18 reference. cf. Psalm 18:12-14; Psalm 68:8; Psalm 97:4. They are all 'His' lightenings etc. It seems to simply denote the direct or immediate presence of God (Ex 9:23; Exodus 19:16-**17**—Rev 11:15); its fearsomeness and awesomeness. If this is the case, perhaps the development of the description, its increasing elaborateness, denote His "coming soon"? It's still somewhat unclear. But this answers the question to a sufficient degree. Thanks! Jul 5, 2017 at 17:10

“Behold there were voices, and tumults, and thunders, and earthquakes...”

The only thing closely resembling this language is found in Esther 11:4-12 (part of the so-called additions of Esther, or 'Greek' Esther)—even in the same context, even a vision or revelation:

Now he [Mordecai] was of the number of the captives, whom Nabuchodonosor king of Babylon had carried away from Jerusalem with Jechonias king of Juda: And this was his dream: Behold there were voices, and tumults, and thunders, and earthquakes, and a disturbance upon the earth. And behold two great dragons came forth ready to fight one against another. And at their cry all nations were stirred up to fight against the nation of the just. And that was a day of darkness and danger, of tribulation and distress, and great fear upon the earth. And the nation of the just was troubled fearing their own evils, and was prepared for death. And they cried to God: and as they were crying, a little fountain grew into a very great river, and abounded into many waters. The light and the sun rose up, and the humble were exalted, and they devoured the glorious. And when Mardochai had seen this, and arose out of his bed, he was thinking what God would do: and he kept it fixed in his mind, desirous to know what the dream should signify.

Now, this sheds some light on what is being signified in Revelation 11/12. Even before this was connected with Revelation 12, people connected Revelation 12 with the woman as a symbol of the persecuted Church—consider the similaritiesof the visions:

Revelation 11:19-12:1-17

And the temple of God was opened in heaven: and the ark of his testament was seen in his temple, and there were lightnings, and voices, and an earthquake, and great hail. And a great sign appeared in heaven: A woman clothed with the sun, and the moon under her feet, and on her head a crown of twelve stars: And being with child, she cried travailing in birth, and was in pain to be delivered. And there was seen another sign in heaven: and behold a great red dragon, having seven heads, and ten horns: and on his head seven diadems: And his tail drew the third part of the stars of heaven, and cast them to the earth: and the dragon stood before the woman who was ready to be delivered; that, when she should be delivered, he might devour her son. And she brought forth a man child, who was to rule all nations with an iron rod: and her son was taken up to God, and to his throne. And the woman fled into the wilderness, where she had a place prepared by God, that there they should feed her a thousand two hundred sixty days.

And there was a great battle in heaven, Michael and his angels fought with the dragon, [Est 10:7] and the dragon fought and his angels: And they prevailed not, neither was their place found any more in heaven. And that great dragon was cast out, that old serpent, who is called the devil and Satan, who seduceth the whole world; and he was cast unto the earth, and his angels were thrown down with him. And I heard a loud voice in heaven, saying: Now is come salvation, and strength, and the kingdom of our God, and the power of his Christ: because the accuser of our brethren is cast forth, who accused them before our God day and night. And they overcame him by the blood of the Lamb, and by the word of the testimony, and they loved not their lives unto death. Therefore rejoice, O heavens, and you that dwell therein. Woe to the earth, and to the sea, because the devil is come down unto you, having great wrath, knowing that he hath but a short time.

And when the dragon saw that he was cast unto the earth, he persecuted the woman, who brought forth the man child: And there were given to the woman two wings of a great eagle, that she might fly into the desert unto her place, where she is nourished for a time and times, and half a time, from the face of the serpent. And the serpent cast out of his mouth after the woman, water as it were a river; that he might cause her to be carried away by the river. And the earth helped the woman, and the earth opened her mouth, and swallowed up the river, which the dragon cast out of his mouth. And the dragon was angry against the woman [Gen 3:15]: and went to make war with the rest of her seed, who keep the commandments of God, and have the testimony of Jesus Christ.

In both cases, the tumult introduces the vision, and seems to signify a transition into the beholding a revelation of God, and a kind of abstraction from time as we might expect a vision to entail.


Lightining thundering earthqueakes hail, fire most often are metaphoric is signifies trouble in the heavenly abode, which splashes over into the physical realm. It is not literal

  • This does not provide an answer to the question. Once you have sufficient reputation you will be able to comment on any post; instead, provide answers that don't require clarification from the asker. - From Review
    – agarza
    Dec 25, 2023 at 4:30
  • That would be like saying none of the prophecies in the Old Testament were anything but metaphor as well. You have to start somewhere in believing the Bible. If you don't believe the Gospel of John you won't believe his later work on Revelation. What do you believe about the Word?
    – RHPclass79
    Dec 31, 2023 at 0:39
  • @144,000 since you appear to have already taken the Biblical Hermeneutics Tour, then you must know that we don't seek personal opinions. Can you provide a hermeneutical answer to the question, please?
    – Lesley
    Jan 7 at 16:40

Yes. The language of prophesy is a standard that is defined in the Old Testament. The OT is the code for all prophetic statements found in the NT as well as in Revelation. Everything in Revelation is straight out of the OT.

The thunders and lightning represent the voice of God.

Psa. 29:3-5,

“The voice of the Lord is upon the waters: the God of glory thundereth: the Lord is upon many waters. 4 The voice of the Lord is powerful; the voice of the Lord is full of majesty. 5 The voice of the Lord breaketh the cedars; yea, the Lord breaketh the cedars of Lebanon.” (KJV)

1 Sam. 2:10,

“The adversaries of the Lord shall be broken to pieces; out of heaven shall he thunder upon them:…” (KJV)

2 Sam. 22:14,

The Lord thundered from heaven, and the most High uttered his voice.”

See also Job 37:4-5; 40:9; Psa. 18:13; 77:18; 104:7; Is. 29:6; Rev. 14:2; 16:18; 19:6.

God's voice is the thunder. But, we also have the trumpets sounding, and the other voices which may very well correspond to a court room scenario where the bailiff announces the entrance of the judge. As the Israelites stood at the base of Mt. Sinai in Exodus 19:16,

"And it cometh to pass, on the third day, while it is morning, that there are voices, and lightnings, and a heavy cloud, on the mount, and the sound of a trumpet very strong; and all the people who [are] in the camp do tremble.” (YLT)

So, the voices of the throne scene in Rev. chap. 4 & 5 may be the angelic announcement of the entrance of the Most High.

The language of prophesy repeats, and we can find the source for it in the Old Testament. I have sourced many of the signs of Revelation from the Old Testament prophesies at my blog ShreddingTheVeil. Parts II - VIII of the Signs of Revelation identify many of the nature symbols, the colors and numbers, the animals, the throne scene, the judgment day, the plagues of Egypt, and the new heavens and new earth.

It is the metaphorical language that God used in prophesy, and it repeats from prophesy to prophesy. That makes it very easy to recognize once we learn it.

  • Thank you kindly for your answer. However, this does not seem to be that which St. John is making reference to, inasmuch as he mentions more than just the thunder. And so repeatitively as to make it seem he were conveying some specific point each time, Hebraistic, Old Testament, or otherwise. Or connecting the events wherein this thundering, lightening, hail etc takes place. Jul 5, 2017 at 15:43
  • The prophesies all have certain elements that repeat, and can be identified from the prophesies of the OT. If we try to understand the prophesy without first identifying the metaphorical elements (signs and symbols) we will have a hard time identifying the subjects, and the judgments poured out.
    – Gina
    Jul 5, 2017 at 21:48

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