This recalls the plague of hail which struck Egypt prior to the Exodus:
And the LORD rained hail on the land of Egypt. So there was hail, and fire mingled with the hail, so very heavy that there was none like it in all the land of Egypt since it became a nation. And the hail struck throughout the whole land of Egypt, all that was in the field, both man and beast; and the hail struck every herb of the field and broke every tree of the field. (Ex. Ex. 9:23b-25).In Joshuas long day, God stoned the Amorites with huge hailstones. There were more who died from the hailstones than the children of Israel killed with the sword (Jos. Jos. 10:11). This is the treasury of hail which I have reserved for the time of trouble, for the day of battle and war (Job Job 38:22). In his time, Gog is to suffer a similar fate upon the mountains of Israel (Eze. Eze. 38:22).1
Bullinger mentions an interesting historical record which shows that large hail occurs even in the absence of Gods supernatural hand as in this time of the end:
Hail is of frequent occurrence in these unhappy districts, and the dimensions of the hailstones are generally enormous. We have seen some that weighted twelve pounds. One moment sometimes suffices to exterminate whole flocks. In 1843, during one of these storms, there was heard in the air a sound as of a rushing wind, and therewith fell in a field near a house, a mass of ice larger than an ordinary millstone. It was broken to pieces with hatchets; yet though the sun burned fiercely, three days elapsed before these pieces entirely melted. [Travels in Tartary, by M. Huc, vol. i., p. 12. National Illustrated Library]2The earth dwellers are being stoned for blasphemy and rebellion against the righteous commands of God, the testimony in the tabernacle of the testimony, from which the angels having the last seven plagues came forth (Rev. Rev. 15:6+). The testimony which witnesses against them is the tablets of stone stored within the ark of the covenant upon which God wrote the Ten Commandments in his own hand. Similar manifestations of judgment as these attended Johns vision of the ark following the sounding of the seventh trumpet prior to the pouring forth of the seven bowls of Gods wrath (Rev. Rev. 11:19+). These manifestations included lightnings, noises, thunderings, an earthquake, and great hailall of which have now been delivered to the blasphemers in the pouring of the last bowl. See commentary on Revelation 11:19. See The Plagues of Egypt and the Tribulation.
Just as there are long and short tons of differing weights, so there are various talents. That with which the Jews weighed silver was about 120 pounds Troy, or 96 pounds avoirdupois. That for weighing other materials was about 135 pounds. The Babylonian talent was even heavier while the Greek talent was about 86 pounds. The lightest of all was the Attic talent which weighted 57.7 pounds. In biblical usage, it would be the silver talent of 96 pounds that would almost certainly be designated. However, even if we take the smaller Attic talent, we have a weight that is considerable.4These are no ordinary hailstones, but the supernatural work of God. A point of similarity between Joshua Jos. 10:11 and Revelation Rev. 16:21+ is found in the fact that both passages describe the hailstones as large in size. . . . Clearly Joshua Jos. 10:11 describes a supernatural event.5
True to form, the preterist interpreters attempt to find fulfillment of this obviously supernatural drama in the relatively puny machinations of Romes siege of Jerusalem (remember that for many preterists, Babylon = Jerusalem). They make much ado about a passage in Josephus which mentions the weight and color of the stones thrown by the Roman engines [catapults] in the siege of Jerusalem:
The engines, that all the legions had ready prepared for them, were admirably contrived; but still more extraordinary ones belonged to the tenth legion: those that threw darts and those that threw stones, were more forcible and larger than the rest, by which they not only repelled the excursions of the Jews, but drove those away that were upon the walls also. (270) Now, the stones that were cast were of the weight of a talent, and were carried two furlongs and farther. The blow they gave was no way to be sustained, not only by those that stood first in the way, but by those that were beyond them for a great space. (271) As for the Jews, they at first watched the coming of the stone, for it was of a white color, and could therefore not only be perceived by the great noise it made, but could be seen also before it came by its brightness. [emphasis added]6Notice the priority inversion typical of preterist interpretation.7 They attach great importance to small details which happen to match the text (e.g., the stones were white, they weighed a talent), but then ignore the many details from the wider context which completely preclude their conclusion. In the A.D. 70 destruction of Jerusalem:
How puzzling that major inconsistencies like these dont seem to impede the dedicated preterist who is committed to finding fulfillment in the newspapers of the past.
Take outside the camp him who has cursed; then let all who heard him lay their hands on his head, and let all the congregation stone him. Then you shall speak to the children of Israel, saying: Whoever curses his God shall bear his sin. And whoever blasphemes the name of the LORD shall surely be put to death. All the congregation shall certainly stone him, the stranger as well as him who is born in the land. When he blasphemes the name of the LORD, he shall be put to death. (Lev. Lev. 24:14-16)
Since the law of God provided that blasphemers should be stoned with stones until they died, so we see in the last moments of earths civilization, God Himself upholds His law and stones blasphemers with hailstones.8By now there is no possibility of repentance, their doom is sealed: those that remain alive continue in their blasphemous cursing.
that plague was exceedingly great
Μεγάλη ἐστὶν ἡ πληγὴ αὐτῆς σφόδρα [Megalē estin hē plēgē autēs sphodra] , great it is the plague of it extremely. In case the reader is tempted to take the passage as hyperbole, the Spirit reemphasizes the supernatural aspect of the judgment of hail. Consider the devastation wrought, not only by the huge earthquake, but by such large hailstones striking the earth at one hundred and eighty miles an hour.9 Exceedingly great may be an understatement!
When Gods word guarantees such a stark day of doom, why do many continue in their rejection of Him? Indeed, looking back, why did I myself reject God for some 34 years? Oh that their eyes would be opened to the truth of His abundant mercy and great patience while there is yet the possibility of turning to Him! A time is coming upon the earth when it will no longer be possible to repent. Then, their fate will be sealed. But today, there is still time to reconsider and come into the saving faith of Jesus Christ.
Gods eschatological and eternal wrath is inevitable; no one can prevent or hinder it from coming (Isa. Isa. 43:13). But there is a way to escape it, because there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus (Rom. Rom. 8:1). Those who by faith trust in Christ alone for salvation will escape both Gods eschatological wrath (Rev. Rev. 3:10+) and His eternal wrath (1Th. 1Th. 1:10). They will not face judgment, because their sins were judged when Jesus died in their place on the cross (2Cor. 2Cor. 5:21; 1Pe. 1Pe. 2:24). In light of the inevitable judgment to come, the warning to all unrepentant sinners is Today if you hear His voice, do not harden your hearts (Heb. Heb. 4:7).10
Has your conscience never smitten you, and made your sleep uneasy, and tinged your thinking with bitterness, for the sort of life you have been leading? Is there not some conscious shame and sense of wretchedness going along with the indulgence even of those darling lusts and dislike of sacred things which you allow to have place in your heart? And what is all this but the premonitory drops of that wrath of God which must presently come in great deluging showers? O child of man, give heed, and turn, and fly, before the threatening avalanche of the Almightys judgments comes!11
1 Concerning hailstones from God: Ex. Ex. 9:23-25; Jos. Jos. 10:11; Job Job 38:22; Ps. Ps. 18:12; Ps. 78:47; Ps. 105:32; Ps. 147:17; Ps. 148:8; Isa. Isa. 28:2, Isa. 28:17; Isa. 30:30; Isa. 32:19; Eze. Eze. 13:11; Eze. 38:22; Hag. Hag. 2:17; Rev. Rev. 8:7+; Rev. 11:19+; Rev. 16:21+.
3 Frederick William Danker and Walter Bauer, A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature (Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press, 2000), 803.
5 Larry Spargimino, How Preterists Misuse History to Advance their View of Prophecy, in Tim LaHaye and Thomas Ice, eds., The End Times Controversy (Eugene, OR: Harvest House Publishers, 2003), 217.
9 The terminal velocity of ice. [Monty S. Mills, Revelations: An Exegetical Study of the Revelation to John (Dallas, TX: 3E Ministries, 1987), Rev. 16:18]
10 John MacArthur, Revelation 12-22 : The MacArthur New Testament Commentary (Chicago, IL: Moody Press, 2000), Rev. 16:21.
11 J. A. Seiss, The Apocalypse: Lectures on the Book of Revelation (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 1966), 375.