Revelation: The Culmination of Scripture – 20 (“The 5th Trumpet – 1st Woe”)
The focus of today’s teaching is the 5th Trumpet Judgment and we find that in Rev.8:13-9:11.
In the previous trumpet judgment (the 4th trumpet judgment) we saw that it ended with the sun, moon, and stars darkened which is similar to the 9th Plague (Ex.10:21-23). The focus of the first four trumpet judgments was primarily focussed on creation. Now, however, there is a warning of three approaching woes (Afrikaans: “weeklaag”) and links them with the final three trumpet blasts. In the 5th and 6th trumpets, God judges unbelievers, who respond with a stubborn devotion to wickedness and refuse to repent ~ “The rest of mankind, who were not killed by these plagues, did not repent of the works of their hands nor give up worshiping demons and idols of gold and silver and bronze and stone and wood, which cannot see or hear or walk, 21 nor did they repent of their murders or their sorceries or their sexual immorality or their thefts” (Rev.9:20-21). The 7th and final trumpet comes after the 2nd interlude.
In our previous teaching we’ve seen four angels who were ready to release the winds of God’s destruction and judgment, but a fifth angel told them to hold back, because he first had to give all believers God’s seal of protection, but now the angel has completed his task and everything is ready for action.
2. SCRIPTURE READING:
Rev.8:13-9:11 ~ “13 Then I looked, and I heard an eagle crying with a loud voice as it flew directly overhead, “Woe, woe, woe to those who dwell on the earth, at the blasts of the other trumpets that the three angels are about to blow!”
9 And the fifth angel blew his trumpet, and I saw a star fallen from heaven to earth, and he was given the key to the shaft of the Bottomless Pit. 2 He opened the shaft of the Bottomless Pit, and from the shaft rose smoke like the smoke of a great furnace, and the sun and the air were darkened with the smoke from the shaft. 3 Then from the smoke came locusts on the earth, and they were given power like the power of scorpions of the earth. 4 They were told not to harm the grass of the earth or any green plant or any tree, but only those people who do not have the seal of God on their foreheads. 5 They were allowed to torment them for five months, but not to kill them, and their torment was like the torment of a scorpion when it stings someone. 6 And in those days, people will seek death and will not find it. They will long to die, but death will flee from them. 7 In appearance the locusts were like horses prepared for battle: on their heads were what looked like crowns of gold; their faces were like human faces, 8 their hair like women’s hair, and their teeth like lions’ teeth; 9 they had breastplates like breastplates of iron, and the noise of their wings was like the noise of many chariots with horses rushing into battle. 10 They have tails and stings like scorpions, and their power to hurt people for five months is in their tails. 11 They have as king over them the angel of the Bottomless Pit. His name in Hebrew is Abaddon, and in Greek he is called Apollyon.”
In our Scripture portion for today, John focuses our attention on the next trumpet by giving more than twice as much space to its description as it gives the previous four trumpets together – this will be the case with the sixth trumpet as well.
3. AN EAGLE (8:13):
We can assume the angel who had to seal God’s children is finished with his task because the other three angels are ready to blast their trumpets. But before the fifth angel blasts his trumpet, an Eagle was flying overhead and called out ~ “Woe, woe, woe to those who dwell on the earth (8:13). This eagle is announcing a coming judgement… ~ “…on those who dwell on the earth” (8:13). This reminds us of Jeremiah’s prophecy in Jer.48:40 ~ “For thus says the Lord: ‘Behold, one shall fly swiftly like an eagle and spread his wings against Moab; the cities shall be taken and the strongholds seized.’”
Trumpets or shofar trumpets (usually made of a ram’s horn) were used by the Jews as signalling instruments. They sounded alarms for war or danger, as well as signals for peace and the announcing of the new moon, the beginning of the Sabbath, or the death of a notable. Trumpets were also used to throw enemies into panic (Judges 7:19-20). Their use as eschatological signals of the Day of the Lord, or the return of Christ, is well-established in the Old and New Testaments ~ “Blow a trumpet in Zion; sound an alarm on my holy mountain! Let all the inhabitants of the land tremble, for the day of the Lord is coming; it is near…” (Joel 2:1) and Matt.24:31 ~ “And he will send out his angels with a loud trumpet call, and they will gather his elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other.”
The expression inhabitants on the earth is used ten times in Revelation and is used to describe the unbelievers on earth who rejected and opposed God and persecuted God’s people.
The threefold “woes” is a proclamation of the certainty of God’s judgment on those who rebel against Him and it is also a prior sign, or prefiguration of the next three trumpet judgments which are at hand. It is almost like the Afrikaans saying which says, “moenie sê ek het jou nie gewaarsku nie” (directly translated: “Don’t say, I didn’t warn you”). The Lord Jesus Christ also wants to say to us today, “don’t say I did not warn you! God’s judgment is a certainty and is at hand!”
4. A STAR (9:1-2):
In verses 1 and 2 of chapter 9, we see that a fifth angel blew his trumpet. This angelic Messenger was sent from God as an agent of judgement. This angel opened the shaft of a bottomless pit and from this shaft roses smoke like the smoke of a great furnace. The smoke from this furnace was so dense that it darkened the sun and the air.
God stands in sovereign control over the entire universe, the underworld included,
and gives this angel the key to the opening of the Bottomless pit or the Abyss, a term used seven times in Revelation to refer to the abode or prison for the demon locusts (Luke 8:31); Apollyon, the king of the locusts (9:11); the beast (11:7); and Satan (20:1, 3) – names that we will still discuss.
But, we still don’t exactly know what the Bottomless Pit refers too? Before we can carry on looking at the rest of the 5th trumpet judgment, I want us to briefly look at this term, namely Bottomless Pit.
The different terms used in the Bible for Heaven and Hell are Sheol, Hades, Gehenna, the lake of fire, and Paradise.
· Paradise: The word Paradise is used as a synonym for Heaven (2 Cor.12:3-4; Rev.2:7). When Jesus was dying on the cross and one of the thieves being crucified with Him asked Him for mercy, Jesus replied, “I tell you the truth, today you will be with me in paradise” (Luke 23:34). Jesus knew that His death was imminent and that He would soon be in Heaven with His Father. Therefore, Jesus used Paradise as a synonym for Heaven, and the word has come to be associated with any place of ideal loveliness and delight.
· Sheol: In the Hebrew Scriptures, the word used to describe the realm of the dead is Sheol. It simply means “the place of the dead” or “the place of departed souls/spirits.” The New Testament Greek equivalent to Sheol is Hades, which is also a general reference to “the place of the dead.” The Greek word Gehenna is used in the New Testament for Hell and is derived from the Hebrew word Hinnom. Other Scriptures in the New Testament indicated that Sheol/Hades is a temporary place where souls are kept as they await the final resurrection. The souls of the righteous, at death, go directly into the presence of God – also called Heaven, Paradise, or Abraham’s bosom (Luke 23:43; 2 Cor.5:8; Phil.1:23).
· The Lake of Fire: The lake of fire, mentioned only in Rev.19:20 and 20:10, 14-15, is the final Hell, the place of eternal punishment for all unrepentant rebels, both angelic (Satan and his demons) and human (Matt.25:41). It is described as a place of burning sulphur, and those in it experience eternal, unspeakable agony of an unrelenting nature (Luke 16:24; Mark 9:45-46). Those who have rejected Christ and are in the temporary abode of the dead in Hades/Sheol have the lake of fire as their final destination.
But those whose names are written in the Lamb’s “Book of Life” should have no fear of this terrible fate. By faith in Christ and His blood shed on the cross for our sins, we are destined to live eternally in the presence of God.
· The Bottomless Pit: The Bottomless Pit or Abyss comes from the Greek term, “abyssou” (ἄβυσσος), which means a deep hole – so deep that it seems bottomless or immeasurable. In the Bible and in Jewish theology, the Abyss is often a metaphorical reference to the place of evil spirits. Sometimes the Abyss is pictured as a deep or bottomless hole in the earth. In Luke 8, Jesus cast the Legion of demons out of a man, “…and they begged Jesus repeatedly not to order them to go into the Abyss” (Luke 8:31). The Abyss is obviously a place that the demons fear and try to avoid.
In Revelation a number of times we see the Abyss as a place of confinement for evil spirits (Rev.9:1-3, 11).
In all of these instances, the Abyss is a place for the containment of evil spirits. Many Bible scholars believe that this is the same place referred to in 2 Pet.2:4 as Hell,” where some evil spirits are “in chains of darkness to be held for judgment.” The word Hell in 2 Pet.2:4 is a translation of the Greek “tartaroõ” (ταρταρόω), which can be thought of as the deepest pit or the lowest part of Hades.
It is clear from Scripture that God has ultimate power over all evil spirits. Some of the demons have been consigned to the Abyss and held captive there, while others seem to be able to move more freely upon the earth. Ultimately (on the Judgment Day), all evil spirits will be consigned to the lake of fire, along with all unbelievers (Rev.20:10-15).
In order to summarise: The saved ones are going to Paradise, whilst the lost, first go to Sheol or Hades and then after the judgment, they go to the Lake of Fire or the Bottomless Pit. Back to our text.
We see then, that some demons are already confined to Sheol, but others are still busy with specific earthly assignments, as we see in Luke 8:31, where Jesus commanded the unclean spirit to come out of the demon possessed man and then we read ~ “And they begged him not to command them to depart into the Abyss.” Some demons are still busy amongst us and definitely don’t want to go to Sheol.
5. LOCUSTS (9:3-6):
After the star that fell from heaven to earth, opened the shaft of the Bottomless Pit, smoke rose from it, like the smoke of a great furnace, it was so dense that the sun and the air were darkened, but together with this smoke, powerful locusts came out. The imagery of locusts, appearing like armies, advancing like a cloud and darkening the heavens, goes back to Joel’s vision of the locust army that came on as Israel as a judgement like that of scorpion stings (Joel 1:6; 2:4-10). This, together with the fact that they do not eat grass, shows that these locusts are something other than ordinary earthly insects. Indeed, they have the special task of inflicting a non-fatal injury on the beast worshippers, who do not have the seal of God on their foreheads. This may imply that these locust-like creatures are not simply instruments of a physical plague, such as those in Moses’ day or under the first four trumpets, but are demonic forces from whom the true people of God are protected. These demons were allowed to torment those who do not have the seal of God for “five months.”
The five months of agony may refer to the lifespan of the locust – a limited period of time. So severe is the torment they inflict that their victims will seek death ~ “Death shall be preferred to life by all the remnant that remains of this evil family in all the places where I have driven them, declares the Lord of hosts” (Jer.8:3). The problem with these people is that they will not be killed and therefore they will experience this torment.
This scene is another indication of God, sometimes permitting demons or evil agents to bring judgement on evil human beings, but their powers are limited and always serve God’s sovereign purposes.
6. SCORPION-LOCUSTS (9:7-10):
In vss.7-10, John sees locusts that looks like horses preparing for battle. Again, this must have been a terrible and indescribable scene to John, therefore he once again tries to describe the scene by using the expression, “…they were like.”
The complete picture that John was seeing, suggests something unnatural, hence demonic. It is also clear that John uses the Joel 1 and 2 background to combine human and animal-like features to describe these diabolical monsters. The details of the description are not as important as the terrifying effect upon those who hear the description. These cunning and cruel creatures are being permitted to bring judgment upon those who oppose God and persecute His people.
7. THE ANGEL (9:11):
These horrific creatures have a king and he is called the angel of the Bottomless Pit – in Hebrew it is Abaddon (Ἀβαδδών), meaning the place of death and destruction and in Greek he’s called Apollyon (Ἀπολλύων), meaning destroyer. According to 2 Pet.2:1, this king from the Bottomless Pit is the destroyer of souls by means of heresies, deceit and temptation ~ “But false prophets also arose among the people, just as there will be false teachers among you, who will secretly bring in destructive heresies, even denying the Master who bought them, bringing upon themselves swift destruction.”
Clearly, these cannot be literal locusts. Besides, according to Prov.30:27, locusts do not have kings ~ “the locusts have no king, yet all of them march in rank.” All this speaks of complex beings waging complex warfare. These are beings with multifaceted capacities for destruction. They can only be spirits of evil and their king is therefore, none other than Satan himself ~ “…you are to deliver this man to Satan for the destruction of the flesh” (1 Cor.5:5).
We therefore see, that Satan leads his demon army to carry out judgments permitted by God against the unrighteous.
8. CONCLUSION AND APPLICATION:
Indeed, our battle is not against flesh and blood, but real principalities and powers. But woe unto the unbelieving world! For it is not shielded from the attacks of the horrible locusts. They have neither the shield of faith nor the helmet of salvation. The breastplate of righteousness, like the belt of truth, they can never acquire even by the most peerless deeds. Such is the exposure of the unconverted.
Many people in our day asked the question, “is God really still in control?” In several passages in revelation, we have already seen that God’s sovereignty in judgement extends to His ability to pull back His restraint and allow evil to destroy itself, thus accomplishing His sovereign purposes. Revelation 17:16–17 is a good example of this ~ “And the ten horns that you saw, they and the beast will hate the prostitute. They will make her desolate and naked, and devour her flesh and burn her up with fire, 17 for God has put it into their hearts to carry out his purpose by being of one mind and handing over their royal power to the beast, until the words of God are fulfilled” (Rev.17:16-17).
One thing is certain, God will judge evil and God desires that the wicked will repent, but we as believers also need to remember the God protects us against demonic attacks.