(Rev. 16:21) Could the 100 pound hailstones actually be fulfilled in the destruction of Jerusalem in AD 70?

CLAIM: Preterist interpreters argue that the “huge hailstones, about one hundred pounds each” (Rev. 16:21) were actually the rocks were catapulted over the walls of Jerusalem in AD 70. Preterist Kenneth Gentry writes,

John is presenting the dramatic covenant lawsuit against Israel for her adultery. The punishment in God’s law for adultery is death (Lev. 20:10), which in biblical law is by stoning. Thus, we witness enormous hailstones raining down on Jerusalem in Revelation 16:21: ‘From the sky huge hailstones of about a hundred pounds [Gk. talantiaia, talent, kjv] each fell upon men. And they cursed God on account of the plague of hail, because the plague was so terrible.’ Josephus records its historical fulfillment in the Roman catapulting of Jerusalem.[1]

Gentry goes on to cite Josephus Jewish Wars, which states:

Now the stones that were cast were of the weight of a talent, and were carried two furlongs and further. 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. As for the Jews, they at first watched the coming of the stone, for it was of a white color. (Jewish Wars 5.6.3)

Does this citation from Josephus support a Preterist reading of Revelation?

RESPONSE: We have already considered the hermeneutical problems with Preterism as a system (see “A Critique of Preterism”). Here we will consider two problems with a Preterist reading of Revelation 16:21.

First, the Preterist reading doesn’t fit with the context in Josephus. When we read the context of Gentry’s citation from Josephus, we see that he should have kept quoting. The passage goes on to state that the Romans colored the stones black, because the Jews could see the white stones coming. Josephus writes,

[The white stone] could therefore not only be perceived by the great noise it made, but could be seen also before it came by its brightness; accordingly the watchmen that sat upon the towers gave them notice when the engine was let go, and the stone came from it, and cried out aloud, in their own country language, The Stone Cometh so those that were in its way stood off, and threw themselves down upon the ground; by which means, and by their thus guarding themselves, the stone fell down and did them no harm.

Because the Jews could visibly see these stones and dodge them, the Romans began to blacken these stones, so that they would invisible. Josephus continues,

But the Romans contrived how to prevent that by blacking the stone, who then could aim at them with success, when the stone was not discerned beforehand, as it had been till then; and so they destroyed many of them at one blow. Yet did not the Jews, under all this distress, permit the Romans to raise their banks in quiet; but they shrewdly and boldly exerted themselves, and repelled them both by night and by day.”

Remember, Revelation 16:21 states, “Men blasphemed God because of the plague of the hail, because its plague was extremely severe.” But according to Josephus, when the rocks were white, the people avoided them deftly. It wasn’t until the rocks were turned to black that they were successful in destroying the city. Therefore, this doesn’t fit with a Preterist reading.

Second, the Preterist reading doesn’t fit with the context of Revelation 16. When we read the context of Revelation 16, we read, “There was a great earthquake, such as there had not been since man came to be upon the earth, so great an earthquake was it, and so mighty” (Rev. 16:18). When did this massive earthquake occur? Before you answer, remember that this earthquake was so miserable that “the great city split into three parts” (v.19) and the islands and mountains of the Earth were leveled (v.20). Even if verse 21 fits with a Preterist reading, how does the rest of the context fit with it?

[1] Gentry, Kenneth. A Preterist View of Revelation. In S. N. Gundry & C. M. Pate (Eds.), Four Views on the Book of Revelation. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan. 1998. 73.