The atmosphere is not limited, like a river, or portion of the earth, to a given locality, but encircles the globe. Consequently the effect of the vial poured out on the air, would be universal, and not local like the effects of the previous vials. The air is the region of storms. These symbolize the expression of conflicting opinions, and violent outbursts of passion; which may be the commencement of that "great battle," for the preparation of which the unclean spirits went forth under the sixth vial, to gather the people, and which terminates by the slaying of the remnant with the sword of the Lord, 19:21.
An earthquake is a symbol of a political revolution. As this is to be greater than all preceding ones, it must extend to all nations. It is during the earthquake, that the cities fall and the mountains and islands flee away. This commotion evidently synchronizes with the "time of trouble, such as never was since there was a nation even to that same time," when God's "people shall be delivered, every one that shall be found written in the book," Dan.12:1.
"It is done," is a declaration indicating the completion of the work symbolized. It marks the termination of the events of the seventh vial, which are described in the verses following:
"The great city" is "Babylon," (14:8); which "reigneth over the kings of the earth," (17:8); and which John had seen sitting "upon many waters," 17:1. This was doubtless seen when he saw the waters of the symbolic Euphrates being dried up, 16:12. Babylon, being a symbol of the Roman hierarchy, its triple division indicates a like division of the church of Rome, not geographical, but under different leaders, previous to its destruction.
"The cities of the nations," must symbolize other hierarchies, analogous to that of Rome, of which there are the Greek church, in Russia and Greece, the Arminian and Syrian churches, and other corrupt nationalized establishments. All such will become disconnected, like Babylon, with the governments by which they are sustained.
"Great Babylon" then comes into remembrance to drink the cup of the wine of the fierceness of God's wrath. Because her sins have reached unto heaven, "God hath remembered her iniquities," 18:5. This synchronizes with her destruction, symbolized in Rev.18:8-23. As the Papacy continues till Christ's coming (Dan.7:21, and 2 Thess.2:3-8), this epoch must synchronize with that event, when he comes to receive his chosen ones.
With the destruction of Babylon, occurs the subversion of all national authority. As ecclesiastical hierarchies are symbolized by cities, the "mountains" and "islands" on which they are situated must symbolize the larger and smaller governments; and their removal from their places, their subversion in the great moral "earthquake" which is to overwhelm them. This synchronizes with the sixth seal, when they are all "removed out of their places," (6:14); and it leaves the inhabitants of earth in a state of anarchy. It is at this time that the kings and great men of the earth become aware that the great day of God's wrath is come, 6:15-17. With this time of trouble, comes the deliverance of God's people, (Dan.12:1); who shall be caught up together "to meet the Lord in the air," 1 Thess.4:17. To them the Lord has said, "Thou shalt not be afraid for the terror by night; nor for the arrow that flieth by day; nor for the pestilence that walketh in darkness; nor for the destruction that wasteth at noon-day. A thousand shall fall at thy side, and ten thousand at thy right hand; but it shall not come nigh thee. Only with thine eyes shalt thou behold and see the reward of the wicked. Because thou hast made the Lord which is my refuge, even the Most High, thy habitation," Ps.91:5-9.
The removal of the saints leaves the wicked exposed to the vengeance of God's wrath, of which a terrific hail-storm on their defenceless heads, is an expressive symbol. The Lord said, by Isaiah: "Judgment also will I lay to the line, and righteousness to the plummet: and the hail shall sweep away the refuge of lies, and the waters shall overflow the hiding-place. And your covenant with death shall be disannulled, and your agreement with hell shall not stand; when the overflowing scourge shall pass through, then ye shall be trodden down by it. From the time that it goeth forth it shall take you: for morning by morning shall it pass over, by day and by night: and it shall be a vexation only to understand the report. For the bed is shorter than that a man can stretch himself on it: and the covering narrower than that he can wrap himself in it. For the Lord shall rise up as in Mount Perazim, he shall be wroth as in the valley of Gibeon, that he may do his work, his strange work; and bring to pass his act, his strange act. Now therefore be ye not mockers, lest your bands be made strong: for I have heard from the Lord God of hosts a consumption even determined upon the whole earth," Isa.28:17-22.
This must synchronize with the final conflict, (symbolized in Rev.19:19-21): also with the casting of the vine of the earth into the wine-press of God's wrath (14:19), and terminates the battle of "Armageddon," -- the "battle of that great day of God Almighty," 16:14.