(Rev. 16:21) How could hailstones be this big?

CLAIM: Revelation 16:21 states, “And huge hailstones, about one hundred pounds each, came down from heaven upon men.” Preterist interpreter Kenneth Gentry writes, “It is quite impossible that such gargantuan hailstones can be accounted for under the most aggravated of meteorological conditions.”[1] Gentry is right. In July 23, 2010, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) wrote about the largest hailstone ever found:

On July 23, 2010, a severe thunderstorm struck Vivian, S.D. — a quiet rural community of less than 200. While there was nothing unusual about a violent summer storm, the softball (and larger)-sized hail that accompanied it was extraordinary. In fact, it led to the discovery of the largest hailstone ever recorded in the United States… Even after melting, the stone still measured 8.0 inches in diameter and weighed nearly 2 pounds (1 pound, 15 ounces) with a circumference of 18.62 inches.

These hailstones in Revelation are fifty times heavier than the heaviest hailstone ever recovered. Could these hailstones actually be 100 pounds?

RESPONSE: Two options are plausible in our view:

OPTION #1: God is perfectly able to create 100 pound hailstones.

It may be true that it is physically or naturally impossible for hail to be this big. That is, natural forces are unable to make hail this big, but what about supernatural forces? Is it any more difficult for an omnipotent being to create a two pound ice cube, rather than a 100 pound one? We think not.

Moreover, we see that God has literally done this in the OT over and over. God used hail in the seventh plague in Egypt (Ex. 9:22ff). There we read similar language of “there was hail, and fire flashing continually in the midst of the hail, very severe, such as had not been in all the land of Egypt since it became a nation” (Ex. 9:24). This was no normal hail! Instead, we see that this is a fire and hail cocktail, created directly by God for the judgment of the Egyptians. Later, during the conquest of Canaan, “the Lord threw large stones” against Israel’s enemies (Josh. 10:11). In Job, God says that he has “hail, which [he] has reserved for the time of distress, for the day of war and battle” (Job 38:22-23). Ezekiel records this same thing: “With pestilence and with blood I will enter into judgment with him; and I will rain on him and on his troops, and on the many peoples who are with him, a torrential rain, with hailstones, fire and brimstone” (Ezek. 38:22).

Therefore, if God could perform incredible signs like this in the past, then what is to stop him from doing this in the future?

OPTION #2: This is perspectival language of something John is trying to describe in the future.

As we have been arguing throughout this book, John’s inspired book mostly came to him by way of visions—not words. Thus if John was seeing pictures of modern warfare, how else would he describe massive objects descending from the sky? From the rest of the prophetic literature on the subject, it is clear that this will be a time of intense, human warfare.

(Zech.12:2-3) Behold, I am going to make Jerusalem a cup that causes reeling to all the peoples around; and when the siege is against Jerusalem, it will also be against Judah. It will come about in that day that I will make Jerusalem a heavy stone for all the peoples… And all the nations of the earth will be gathered against it.

(Zech. 14:2) For I will gather all the nations against Jerusalem to battle… Then the Lord will go forth and fight against those nations, as when He fights on a day of battle. 4 In that day His feet will stand on the Mount of Olives…

(Dan. 11:40) At the time of the end the king of the South will engage him in battle, and the king of the North will storm out against him with chariots and cavalry and a great fleet of ships. He will invade many countries and sweep through them like a flood.

(Dan. 12:1) And there will be a time of distress such as never occurred since there was a nation until that time…

(Isa. 13:4) A sound of tumult on the mountains, like that of many people! A sound of the uproar of kingdoms, of nations gathered together! The Lord of hosts is mustering the army for battle.

Daniel was told that his visions of the end of human history might be difficult for him to understand, but “knowledge would increase” toward the end of history (Dan. 12:4). Daniel writes “As for me, I heard but could not understand; so I said, ‘My lord, what will be the outcome of these events?’ 9 He said, ‘Go your way, Daniel, for these words are concealed and sealed up until the end time’” (Dan. 12:8-9). Therefore, it could be that John is seeing future warfare, but has no other way to describe large objects falling from the sky, than to call them massive “hailstones.”

[1] Gentry, Kenneth. Before Jerusalem Fell: Dating the Book of Revelation. Atlanta: American Vision, 1998. 246.