Rev. 11:13 – At that moment a violent earthquake took place, a tenth of the city fell, and 7,000 people were killed in the earthquake. The survivors were terrified and gave glory to the God of heaven. 14The second woe has passed. Take note: the third woe is coming quickly! (HCSB)
The survivors gave glory to the God of heaven
John writes that the “survivors” of the earthquake are “terrified” and give “glory to the God of heaven” (v. 13). His use of the word “survivors” implies the death of some – perhaps people, human institutions or world systems. Those still alive see the hand of God in these events and are shaken to the bone with fear. Fear of the Lord can be a good thing, starting us on a journey of wisdom (Prov. 9:10). Or, it can move us further away from God, motivating us to hide from His presence (Rev. 6:15-17). Or, it can inspire awe, leading us to exclaim, “We have seen incredible things today” (Luke 5:26).
Commentators are divided as to whether the survivors’ fear in this passage drives them to repentance or merely elicits a response designed to appease an angry God. Elsewhere in Revelation, the wicked stubbornly refuse to turn to God despite the clear understanding that God is bringing His judgments to bear on the earth. After the sixth trumpet is sounded, “The rest of the people, who were not killed by these plagues, did not repent of the works of their hands to stop worshipping demons and idols of gold, silver, bronze, stone, and wood … And they did not repent of their murders, their sorceries, their sexual immorality, or their thefts” (Rev. 9:20-21). As the fourth bowl judgment is poured out, the wicked who are burned by fire “blasphemed the name of the God who had the power over these plagues, and they did not repent and give God the glory” (Rev. 16:9). And as the fifth bowl judgment follows, plunging people into darkness, they “gnawed their tongues from pain and blasphemed the God of heaven … yet they did not repent of their actions” (Rev. 16:11).
Rev. 11:13 — At that moment a violent earthquake took place, a tenth of the city fell, and 7,000 people were killed in the earthquake. The survivors were terrified and gave glory to the God of heaven. (HCSB)
A violent earthquake took place
Some commentators urge us to take this passage literally, as a geological event that claims 7,000 lives and causes destruction to one-tenth of Jerusalem. Other interpreters ask us to see this earthquake symbolically. For example, we may see it as the fall of Jerusalem in A.D. 70, where the Lord is taking His “tithe” of the great city and warning His people of further judgment to come in the last days. Or, we may see it as a reference to the political upheaval that shakes Europe after the Reformation; the one-tenth of the city means a fraction of Rome’s power has been lost, and the phrase “7,000 people” refers to seven provinces that break away from Rome. Or, we may view this as God’s righteous destruction of the impenitent (seven being the number of God and 1,000 implying a great number), or of the persecution of the saints. Or, we may understand it as a symbolic representation of alarming events that will occur on the eve of final judgment.