Preterism, A Commentary of Revelation 8:5: The Lightening and Earthquake of v. 5 are Signs of the Presence of God in the Glory Cloud. Psalm 18:6-14 shows that when God was said to come on the Clouds in Judgment on a Nation, He did so in the Glory Cloud.
In Revelation 8:5 the angel at the altar hurled the burning censor to the ground in v. 5 causing fire, smoke, thunder, rumblings, lightning and earthquake–all signs of the presence of God in the Glory Cloud. When God descended on Mt. Sinai there was also fire, smoke, thunder, rumblings, lightning and an earthquake according to Exodus 19:16, 18:
“On the morning of the third day there was thunder and lightning, with a thick cloud over the mountain, and a very loud trumpet blast. . . . Mount Sinai was covered with smoke, because the Lord descended on it in fire. The smoke billowed up from it like smoke from a furnace, and the whole mountain trembled violently.”
Notice that after the angel hurled the burning censor to the ground all the signs of the presence of God in the Glory Cloud immediately followed this act: fire, clouds of smoke, lightning, thunder and an earthquake. These same signs—fire, smoke, cloud, thunder, lightning, and earthquake–also accompany the presence of God when he comes on the clouds in judgment according to Psalm 18:6-14. This is because God is also present in the Glory Cloud when he comes on the clouds in judgment on a nation. Psalm 18:6-14 illustrates this point:
In my distress I called to the Lord; I cried to my God for help. From his temple he heard my voice; my cry came before him, into his ears. The earth trembled and quaked, and the foundations of the mountains shook; they trembled because he was angry. Smoke rose from his nostrils; consuming fire came from his mouth, burning coals blazed out of it. He parted the heavens and came down; dark clouds were under his feet. He mounted the cherubim and flew; he soared on the wings of the wind. He made darkness his covering, his canopy around him—the dark rain clouds of the sky. Out of the brightness of his presence clouds advanced, with hailstones and bolts of lightning. The Lord thundered from heaven; the voice of the Most High resounded. He shot his arrows and scattered the enemy, with great bolts of lightning he routed them.
According to Psalm 18:6-14, when God was said to come on the clouds in judgment on a nation he was said to ride on thick, dark storm clouds with bursts of thunder, lightning [fire from the sky] and rumblings of the earth as in an earthquake. When these dark rain clouds are accompanied by lightning and rumblings of the earth and sky, these signs imply that the Lord is present on the clouds in the Glory Cloud. In other words Psalm 18:6-14 shows that when God was said to come on the clouds in judgment on a nation, he was expected to do so in the midst of the Glory Cloud.
The Glory Cloud was also present in the miracle of the burning bush in Exodus 3.
Preterist scholar David Chilton rightly connects the fire, smoke, thunder, lightning and earthquake mentioned in Revelation 8:5 as signs of the presence of God in the Glory Cloud, but does not expound on the implications of this fact. Not only does the fire, smoke, thunder, lightning and earthquake mentioned in v. 5 imply God’s presence on the Glory Cloud, it also implies God’s presence in the clouds in judgment as shown in Psalm 18:6-14. The “thunder, rumblings, flashes of lightening and an earthquake” mentioned in Revelation 8:5 before the seven trumpet plagues are also mentioned in Revelation 11:19 and 16:18. Yet in both Revelation 11:19 and 16:18 these signs are said to occur at the seventh trumpet/bowl which was fulfilled at the siege of Jerusalem in A.D. 70. Therefore, when Revelation 8:5 mentions fire, smoke, thunder, rumblings, lightning and an earthquake before the sounding of the seven trumpets, this suggests that God—or more specifically Christ—was ALSO expected to come on the clouds in judgment before the sounding of the seven trumpet plagues. In other words, the divine Christ was expected to come on the clouds in the Glory Cloud at the start of the Jewish War as well in A.D. 70. Therefore, Revelation 8:5 implies that the parousia or second coming, when Christ was to come on the clouds in judgment, was expected to occur in A.D. 66 at the start of the Jewish War and not just in A.D. 70 as is commonly supposed. Confirmation of the fact that Christ was expected to come on the clouds in judgment before the sounding of the seven trumpets and bowls is found in Revelation 14:14-18:
I looked and there before me was a white cloud, and seated on the cloud was one like a son of man with a crown of gold on his head and a sharp sickle in his hand. Then another angel came out of the temple and called in a loud voice to him who was sitting on the cloud, “Take your sickle and reap, because the time to reap has come, for the harvest of the earth is ripe.” So he who was seated on the cloud swung his sickle over the earth, and the earth was harvested. Another angel came out of the temple in heaven, and he too had a sharp sickle. Still another angel, who had charge of the fire, came from the altar and called in a loud voice to him who had the sharp sickle, “Take your sharp sickle and gather the clusters of grapes from the earth’s vine, because its grapes are ripe.”
Revelation 8:1-6, Revelation 14:14-18 and Revelation 15:1-8 all present the same course of events, though each from a slightly different perspective. In these verses, an angel at the altar offers incense with the prayers of the saints and seven angels depart from the Temple to unleash seven plagues on Israel in answer to these prayers. As we have shown above and will continue to show below, Roman historians and eyewitnesses to the Jewish War testify to a few supernatural events in A.D. 66, at the start of the Jewish War, that seem to literally fulfill Revelation 8:1-6, Revelation 14:14-18 and Revelation 15:1-8. Notice that in Revelation 14:14 Jesus Christ is “seated on the cloud” “with a crown of gold on his head” while these angels leave the Temple as they are also said to do in Revelation 15:6. The fact that Jesus is seated on a cloud “with a crown of gold on his head” is a clear allusion to the Glory God mentioned in Revelation 8:5 and Ezekiel 1. It is also strongly suggestive of the fact that Jesus Christ was also expected to come on the clouds during the parousia at the start of the Jewish War—in other words before the seven plagues were released. Is there any historical evidence that Christ did, in fact, come on the clouds in judgment in A.D. 66 amidst the fulfillment of all the other verses of Revelation 8:1-6?
The presence of God also called the Shekinah or Glory Cloud was believed to be ever present in the Most Holy Place of the Temple above the Ark of the Covenant.
Revelation Fulfilled, An Exposition, Interpretation and Commentary of Revelation 8:5: According to the Rabbi Jonathan, an Eyewitness of the Jewish War, the Glory Cloud or Shekinah departed from the Temple at the Start of the Jewish Revolt in A.D. 66 and settled Atop the Mt. of Olives for Three and a Half Years until it Rose up to Heaven Just before the Arrival of Titus and His Army in A.D. 70. This Glory Cloud was the Visible Manifestation of Christ Coming on the Clouds of Heaven in an Ultimate Manifestation of Divine Glory.
The presence of God also called the Shekinah or Glory Cloud was believed to be ever present in the Most Holy Place of the Temple above the Ark of the Covenant. During the sixth century B.C., before the destruction of Solomon’s temple, Ezekiel saw the Glory Cloud depart from the Temple and travel east to the Mount of Olives according to Ezekiel 10:18-19; 11:22-23. Interestingly, the same thing may have been reported in A.D. 66 before the destruction of the second Temple in A.D. 70. In Wars of the Jews, Josephus records what appears to be the departure of the Shekinah or Glory Cloud from the Most Holy Place: “[A]t that feast which we call Pentecost [of A.D. 66], as the priests were going by night into the inner temple…they felt a quaking and heard a great noise, and after that they heard a sound as of a great multitude, saying, ‘Let us remove hence [emphasis mine].’” The fact that a supernatural voice was heard to declare that it was leaving the Temple points strongly to the departure of the Shekinah from the Temple before its destruction. Furthermore, in Ezekiel 1:24 the voice of the Almighty is said to sound like the voice of a multitude: “And when they went, I heard the noise of their wings, like the noise of great waters, as the voice of the Almighty, the voice of speech, as the noise of an host[.]” The departure of the Lord from the Temple is also described by the pagan historian Tacitus who writes, “A sudden lightening flash from the clouds lit up the Temple. The doors of the holy place abruptly opened, a superhuman voice was heard to declare that the gods were leaving it, and in the same instant came the rushing tumult of their departure” [emphasis mine]. While amidst the Glory Cloud, God was believed to be present in the company of angelic beings according to Deuteronomy 33:2 and Ezekiel 1. This rushing tumult appears to be the sound of the Lord Jesus Christ departing from the inner sanctuary of the Temple in the company of the heavenly host in the Glory Cloud.
The pillar of smoke by day and fire by night that guided the Hebrew slaves during the Exodus was another manifestation of the Glory Cloud.
According to the Midrash Rabbah, Lamentations Proems 25, a Jewish rabbi named Jonathan, who may have been an eyewitness to the destruction of Jerusalem, said that the “Shekinah” or Glory of the Lord departed from the Temple and for three and a half years
”abode on the Mount of Olives hoping that Israel would repent, but they did not; while a Bet Kol [the voice of God] issued forth announcing, ‘Return, O backsliding children [Jer. 3:14]. Return unto Me, and I will return unto you [Mal. 3:7],’ when they did not repent, it said, ‘I will return to my place [Hosea 5:15]’” For a discussion as to whether this event also occurred during the Jewish War see Did the Glory Cloud Leave the Temple and Settle Atop the Mt. of Olives for Three and a Half Years During the Jewish War?
During the Exodus, God descended on Mt. Sinai in the Glory Cloud. Did the Shekinah or Glory of the Lord also descend on the Mt. of Olives east of Jerusalem during the Jewish War?
Preterism Explained and Interpreted, A Commentary of Revelation 8:5: Josephus and Tacitus record what appears to be Christ coming on the Clouds in Judgment in A.D. 66 in the Midst of the Fulfillment of the Rest of Revelation 8:1-6.
As stated above, Revelation 8:5 and Revelation 14:14-18 imply that the parousia or second coming was also expected to occur before the start of the seven trumpets and bowls. In A.D. 66, at the start of the Jewish War and the subsequent release of the seven plagues of Revelation, Jesus Christ led an angelic army in the clouds over Israel in an appearance that seems to LITERALLY fulfill Revelation 19 and 2 Thessalonians 1:7. In Revelation 19, Jesus leads an army of angels on horseback in the sky. One month after the mysterious light shone from the Temple altar on the 8th of Nisan of A.D. 66 which fulfilled Revelation 8:1-5 and the month before the departure of the Shekinah from the Temple, an army of angels like those Jesus leads in Revelation 19 appeared on the clouds. For a detailed explanation of this amazing event see Jesus, the Son of Man, was LITERALLY Seen in the Clouds in A.D. 66. For a discussion of the other appearances of Christ during and shortly after the Jewish War which literally fulfilled every detail of every prophecy concerning the parousia or second coming see Historical Evidence that Jesus was LITERALLY SEEN in the Clouds in the First Century. One month after this army was seen in the sky, the lightning and earthquake aspect of the Glory Cloud mentioned in v. 5 indicative of the coming of Christ on the clouds of heaven in the Glory Cloud were recorded by Tacitus and Josephus.
Revelation 8:5 Commentary: Josephus and Tacitus record what appears to be Christ coming on the Clouds in Judgment in the Glory Cloud in A.D. 66 in the Midst of the Fulfillment of the Rest of Revelation 8:1-6.
During Pentecost, three months after the miraculous light from the altar and one month after the mass vision of the army of angels was seen on the clouds, the earthly reflection of verse 5 appears to have unfolded. This event is described by two first century historians. Tacitus writes, “A sudden lightening flash from the clouds lit up the Temple. The doors of the holy place abruptly opened, a superhuman voice was heard to declare that the gods were leaving it, and in the same instant came the rushing tumult of their departure” [emphasis mine]. Here one can see the flash of lightening mentioned in v. 5. Notice that Tacitus explicitly indicates that the lightning flash that struck the Temple came from the clouds. These clouds are the Glory Cloud indicative of the presence of God coming on the clouds in judgment. When the Lord came on the clouds in judgment on a nation he typically came in the midst of cloud and fire or lightning–fire from heaven–according to Exodus 3:2, Exodus 13:21, Exodus 19:16-19, Deuteronomy 4:11-14, 1 Kings 19:11-13 and Psalm 50:3. This lightning is a sign of the divine presence in the Glory Cloud.
When there is lightning, there is generally thunder which is, of course, another sign of the presence of God on the Glory Cloud. The other sign of the presence of God is an earthquake. According to Isaiah 29:6, thunder, lightning and earthquake are physical signs of the coming of the Lord in judgment: “[T]he Lord Almighty will come with thunder and earthquake and great noise, with windstorm and tempest and flames of a devouring fire [lightning].” The earthquake of v. 5 is mentioned in the writings of Josephus, who in describing this same event writes, “[A]t that feast which we call Pentecost, as the priests were going by night into the inner temple…they felt a quaking and heard a great noise, and after that they heard a sound as of a great multitude, saying, ‘Let us remove hence [emphasis mine].’”
The fact that lightning, earthquake and probably thunder were noted on Pentecost of A.D. 66 suggests that God–or more specifically Jesus Christ–had come on the clouds in judgment in A.D. 66 in the presence of the Glory Cloud as implied in Revelation 8:5. This fact seems especially probable in light of the supernatural voice recorded by both Josephus and Tacitus which was heard in the midst of all these signs. Recall that Josephus says that the supernatural voice heard from the temple sounded like the voice of a multitude which is how the voice of the Lord Almighty is described in Ezekiel 1:24.
Furthermore, as stated above the Glory Cloud of v. 5 is also mentioned in Revelation 14:14. Here Christ is seated on a cloud while the angels with the seven plagues depart from the Temple and prepare to release their plagues as described in Revelation 14:15-18, Revelation 8:1-6 and Revelation 15:1-8. In the presence of the above evidence, not only can the reader appreciate the literal, earthly fulfillment of the lightning and earthquake mentioned in v. 5 but the reader may also appreciate their significance as signs of the presence of Christ on the clouds during the initial aspect of the parousia in midst of the Glory Cloud in A.D. 66.
Preterist Eschatology and Commentary of Revelation 8:1-6 and Revelation 16:1: The Supernatural Voice from the Temple Recorded by Josephus and Tacitus in A.D. 66 Literally Fulfills Revelation 16:1.
Having discussed the historical fulfillment of the lightning and earthquake of v. 5, let’s move on to the Biblical significance of the supernatural voice heard amidst these phenomena as mentioned above by Tacitus and Josephus in greater detail. Before expounding on this topic, it is important to note that the events of Revelation 8:1-6 are repeated in Revelation 14:14-16:1 in greater detail. This spectral voice recorded by both Tacitus and Josephus is, I believe, a miraculous earthly echo of the heavenly voice recorded in Revelation 16:1: “Then I heard a loud voice from the temple saying to the seven angels, ‘Go, pour out the seven bowls of God’s wrath on the earth.’”
Did Josephus and Tacitus unknowingly record the fulfillment of the heavenly voice of Revelation 16:1 commanding the angels of the seven trumpets and bowls to leave the Temple? It is interesting to note that the pouring out of the seven bowls causing the seven plagues of Revelation 16 is a heavenly reflection of the pouring out of the drink offerings performed by Jewish priests during the celebration of Pentecost—the very same holiday in which this miracle is said to have occurred. Seeming confirmation of the departure of the seven angels with the seven bowls from the Temple in Revelation 16 is found in Histories. Here Tacitus states that “the doors of the holy place abruptly opened.” Notice that in the next verse, the angels “prepared” to sound the trumpets. They did not actually blow the trumpets until the Feast of Trumpets, three and a half months later, as stated earlier.
If the supernatural voice mentioned by Josephus and Tacitus is an indication of the departure of the seven angels of the seven trumpets and bowls, how could it also point to the flight of the Glory Cloud from the Temple as well? Recall that according to Revelation 8:2 the angels of the seven plagues are angels of the presence of God: “And I saw the seven angels who stand before God, and to them were given seven trumpets.” These seven angels were seemingly chosen from among the angels that accompany God—i.e. Christ—in the Glory Cloud. The fact that God is accompanied by angels in the Glory Cloud is indicated in Deuteronomy 33:2 and Ezekiel 1. Josephus says that the voice declaring its departure heard by the Temple priests sounded like that of a multitude. Furthermore, both Tacitus and Josephus state that the sound of the fleeing occupants sounded like that of a great number. Thus this miracle seems to point to the exit of Christ from the Holy of Holies quickly followed by the angels of his presence, the angels of the seven plagues.
The dark storm clouds that obscure the brightness of God’s image also darken the sun, moon and stars in Joel 2:10.
In Revelation 14:14, Jesus is shown sitting on the clouds during his second coming. Though Jesus was visible in visionary form one month earlier amidst the fiery angelic army in the sky during the initial aspect of the parousia described in detail in Revelation 19 and 2 Thessalonians 1:7, Jesus would not have likely been visible in a vision or otherwise at this time. Just as God was invisible amidst the Glory Cloud that guided the Israelites to the Promised Land as a pillar of cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night in Exodus, Jesus once again pictured in the Glory Cloud in Revelation 14:14 would have also likely been invisible as God generally was while in the Glory Cloud.
God had come on the clouds in judgment several times in Old Testament history and each time God was seemingly invisible. This point is stated clearest in Psalm 18:9-14 cited above. In Psalm 18, God parts the heavens and rides clouds so dark that they block out the light of his presence. Seemingly obscured by these clouds, God fires down lightning in anger from his opaque chariot in the sky. In this preliminary aspect of His second coming, Jesus does the same causing the lightning flash that marked the departure of the angels within the Temple according to Tacitus: “A sudden lightening flash from the clouds lit up the Temple. The doors of the holy place abruptly opened, a superhuman voice was heard to declare that the gods were leaving it, and in the same instant came the rushing tumult of their departure.”