Revelation chapters 8 and 9

Hello and welcome to our sixth post in our study of Revelation chapters 8 and 9. In this post, we’re going to study the first of the last three trumpet judgments. Or as the Bible calls them, the “three woes.” The Bible calls the last three trumpet judgments the “three woes” because they literally bring hell to earth. In fact, the three woes are so terrible that the Lord sends three angels flying around in the heavens to warn those that inhabit the earth about them. Yikes! And, yes, they are that bad. Keep reading.

Revelation Chapters 8 and 9

Sixth in an Eight-Part Series
By Karen Thompson

Warning Issued for Last Three Trumpet Judgments

Rev. 8:13 And I beheld, and heard an angel flying through the midst of heaven, saying with a loud voice, Woe, woe, woe, to the inhabiters of the earth by reason of the other voices of the trumpet of the three angels, which are yet to sound!

After the fourth trumpet judgment ended, John saw three angels flying in the heavenlies declaring a warning to the inhabitants of earth saying, “Woe, woe, woe, to the inhabiters of the earth by reason of the other voices of the trumpet of the three angels, which are yet to sound!” This is the first time in Revelation we see God using angels to warn the inhabitants of earth about coming events. In later chapters, we see angels warning everyone against taking the mark of the beast. During this traumatic time on earth, God will use extraordinary signs and wonders to warn people from harm.

God is a just God and He is faithful to issue warnings to save people from harm. Unfortunately, His warnings are not always heeded. In fact, that’s what happened to the Jewish people before the Romans attacked and destroyed Jerusalem in 70 AD. When Rome was laying siege against Jerusalem, false prophets told the people not to flee the city because God was going to miraculously deliver them. The miraculous signs God sent years beforehand were ignored.

Several years before Rome’s attack on Jerusalem when the city was still at peace, God sent several miraculous signs to warn of the coming destruction. The ancient Jewish historian Josephus recorded these supernatural signs and wonders in his writings. In the book entitled, The Works of Josephus, we read about one of the first signs that came in the form of a star or comet resembling a sword standing over the city for an entire year.10

Another astonishing sign had to do with the eastern gate of the inner court of the temple. It was made of brass and was extremely heavy. Josephus said, “It rested upon a basis armed with iron, and had bolts fastened very deep into the firm floor, which was made of one entire stone.” It was so heavy that it took 20 men using great strength to shut the door. One night, the watchmen were astonished to see this massive door swing open on its own accord! In the natural, the door swinging open on its own wasn’t possible. This was a supernatural event. Many viewed the door opening as a sign that God was opening to them the “gate of happiness.” But the men of learning knew it was a sign telling them the city was no longer secure and that their enemies would be given advantage over them.10

Another sign took place in the clouds of the sky. One day, Jerusalem’s citizens were astonished to see chariots and troops of soldiers in their armor running about among the clouds. Also at the feast of Pentecost, when the priests were entering the inner court of the temple to perform their duties, they felt a quaking and heard the sound of a great multitude saying, “Let us remove hence.”10 

Sadly, the signs God sent were interpreted according to the desire of the citizens. They wanted them to mean something good was coming and everything was going to be all right. The desire to interpret the signs the way they wanted them to be interpreted is what caused them to be unprepared in the day of trouble. Hopefully, when God sends the angels to warn of the last three trumpet judgments, their messages will not be misinterpreted, nor will the people turn a deaf ear.

The Fifth Trumpet Judgment—the First Woe

Rev. 9:1 And the fifth angel sounded, and I saw a star fall from heaven unto the earth: and to him was given the key of the bottomless pit.

The first four trumpet judgments were about bringing destruction to earth, but the last three trumpet judgments are slightly different in nature. The last three trumpet judgments are different in that they literally bring hell to earth. That’s why the Bible calls the last three trumpet judgments the three “woes.”

Let’s look at the first woe. The fifth trumpet judgment results in darkness. John said, “I saw a star fall from heaven unto the earth: and to him was given the key of the bottomless pit” (v. 1). This star is not like the cosmic events that John described in the first four trumpet judgments. It is different. John said a key was given to “him.” The star is referred to by the pronoun “him,” indicating that it is something different than a meteorite. And this “him” is given a key to the bottomless pit. The star is actually an angel.

Revelation chapter 20 confirms that the star is an angel. In chapter 20, we read about another angel being given a key to the bottomless pit (v. 1). The angel was to chain up Satan and throw him into the bottomless pit for a thousand years. No doubt, the angel that opened up the bottomless pit is the same angel that closed it. I think it’s safe to conclude that the star in Revelation chapter nine is the angel that was given a key to the bottomless pit in Revelation chapter 20. More than likely, they are one and the same.

Why would John describe an angel as a star? One reason could be that, very often, you read descriptions of angelic beings as though they were on fire. Indeed, that’s how John described the angel in Revelation chapter 10. John described this angel’s face as being like the sun and his legs were like pillars of fire. I can imagine that if I saw an angel that looked like fire falling from heaven that I might describe him as a star as well.

The star-angel was given a key to the bottomless pit. So what is the bottomless pit? In a later chapter, we’re told Satan will be bound up with chains and thrown into the bottomless pit for a thousand years. Perhaps the bottomless pit is hell. It’s definitely a prison of sorts for unruly beings. So when the fifth trumpet is sounded, we see an angel is given a key to the bottomless pit.

Smoke Comes Out of the Pit

Rev. 9:2 And he opened the bottomless pit; and there arose a smoke out of the pit, as the smoke of a great furnace; and the sun and the air were darkened by reason of the smoke of the pit.

The angel used the key to open up the bottomless pit, which essentially is a portal to hell. Verse two tells us the fifth trumpet brings darkness to the sun and air. When the pit was opened, smoke billowed out of it, darkening the atmosphere and the sun by blocking its light. But something else came out of the smoke as well.

Locusts That Sting Like Scorpions

Rev. 9:3 And there came out of the smoke locusts upon the earth: and unto them was given power, as the scorpions of the earth have power. 4 And it was commanded them that they should not hurt the grass of the earth, neither any green thing, neither any tree; but only those men which have not the seal of God in their foreheads. 5 And to them it was given that they should not kill them, but that they should be tormented five months: and their torment was as the torment of a scorpion, when he striketh a man. 6 And in those days shall men seek death, and shall not find it; and shall desire to die, and death shall flee from them.

Out of the billowing smoke came what John referred to as locusts, unleashed upon the earth. We’ve all heard the expression “like bats out of hell.” Well here, we’re reading about locusts out of hell. Since John called them locusts, we can assume they are of a smaller size, perhaps like an insect.

These locust-like insects have been given power: “and unto them was given power, as the scorpions of the earth have power” (v. 3). These locust-like insects have power similar to that of an earthly scorpion. Verse four tells us they were given a limitation on what they could do: “And it was commanded them that they should not hurt the grass of the earth, neither any green thing, neither any tree….” How interesting! They were given specific instructions not to hurt the grass, the trees, or any green thing. Normally, that’s what locusts do—they strip the land of every sort of green vegetation in their paths! But here they are commanded not to touch any green thing.

The last part of verse four tells us exactly who their target will be: “only those men which have not the seal of God in their foreheads.” Anyone that does not have the seal of God on his forehead will be subject to these locusts that have the power to sting like a scorpion. Vice versa, anyone that has the seal of God in their foreheads will not be harmed by these locusts. That means the sealed 144,000 from the 12 tribes of Israel will not be harmed. That also indicates they will still be on earth when the trumpet judgments are administered. Later, we will see they will be caught up to God after the trumpet judgments.

Verse five gives us the specifics of their assignment: “And to them it was given that they should not kill them, but that they should be tormented five months: and their torment was as the torment of a scorpion, when he striketh a man.” Their power is to sting like a scorpion anyone that does not have the seal of God on his forehead. And what is interesting, they have a time limit on their assignment. Their torment will be limited to a period of five months.

Their sting doesn’t bring death, only pain. Verse six says, “And in those days shall men seek death, and shall not find it; and shall desire to die, and death shall flee from them.” The level of torment these locusts will bring with their stings will be so intense that their victims will want to die but death will escape them.

The King of the Locusts

Rev. 9:7 And the shapes of the locusts were like unto horses prepared unto battle; and on their heads were as it were crowns like gold, and their faces were as the faces of men. 8 And they had hair as the hair of women, and their teeth were as the teeth of lions. 9 And they had breastplates, as it were breastplates of iron; and the sound of their wings was as the sound of chariots of many horses running to battle. 10 And they had tails like unto scorpions, and there were stings in their tails: and their power was to hurt men five months. 11 And they had a king over them, which is the angel of the bottomless pit, whose name in the Hebrew tongue is Abaddon, but in the Greek tongue hath his name Apollyon. 12 One woe is past; and, behold, there come two woes more hereafter.

John gives us a description of these locusts, and they look bizarre, to say the least. It’s not how you would describe any earthly locust. But then again, these are locusts that have been let out of hell. John described them: “the shapes of the locusts were like unto horses prepared unto battle” (v. 7). The bodies of the locusts looked like a horse prepared for battle, and verse nine says they had “breastplates of iron.” Verse seven says they have a face like a man, and they have gold crowns on their heads. They have teeth like a lion and hair like a woman (v. 8). They have wings like an insect, and the sound of their wings was like “the sound of chariots of many horses running to battle” (v. 9). And in their tails, they had stingers like scorpions (v. 10). The description of their appearance is an amalgamation of human, animal, and insect parts.

Again, Are the Locusts Real or Symbolic?

Again, we have to discuss whether these horse-like locusts are real or are they merely symbolic? Their appearance is so strange that many have a hard time believing they could be real and genuine creatures. However, it doesn’t make sense to assert that the first four trumpet judgments are real cosmic events but the last three trumpet judgments are symbolic. Either they’re all real or they’re all symbolic. If the first four trumpet judgments are real, then the last three trumpet judgments have to be real as well. Obviously, John was not seeing earthly beings. They came out of the bottomless pit, some kind of prison, which means these creatures belong to the unseen realm. These beings will be given power to interact with beings in the seen realm, to bring them pain and anguish.

King of the Locusts

Now let’s look at verse 11: “And they had a king over them, which is the angel of the bottomless pit, whose name in the Hebrew tongue is Abaddon, but in the Greek tongue hath his name Apollyon.”Here John is telling us that these horse-like locusts have a king over them. He is the angel of the bottomless pit. What is unusual is that we are told his name in two languages. His name in Hebrew is Abaddon, which means “ruin or destruction,” and His name in Greek is Apollyon, which means “destroyer.”11

At first, it seems insignificant that we are told the locust king’s name in two languages. After all, the apostle John spoke both Hebrew and Greek, so it stands to reason he would give the king’s name in both Hebrew and Greek. However, when studying prophetic books, one learns that no detail is without significance. In a later chapter, we find out why the locust king’s name is given to us in two languages—particularly the Greek name.

Kings have authority and give commands. Apollyon will also have authority and give commands, and as you will see in later chapters, he plays a very large role in end time events.

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