Fifth Trumpet - First Woe

OVERVIEW - The fifth trumpet unleashed the first of “three woes” - malevolent creatures began to ascend from the Abyss – Revelation 8:13-9:12

Scorpion - Photo by Leon Pauleikhoff on Unsplash
The first four trumpets have sounded, and now the last three are announced, the three “
woes,” severe judgments that afflict the “inhabitants of the earth.” Like the seven seals, this sevenfold series is grouped into segments of four and three things. Additionally, the seventh trumpet or “third woe” is separated by intervening events from the fifth and the sixth trumpets, when the “servants of God” are prepared for what is about to unfold - [Photo by Leon Pauleikhoff on Unsplash].
  • (Revelation 8:13) – “And I saw, and I heard one eagle flying in mid-heaven, saying with a loud voice, Woe, woe, woe to the inhabitants of the earth by reason of the remaining voices of the trumpet, of the three angels who are about to sound.”
The warning by the “eagle” identifies the target of the “three woes” - The “inhabitants of the earth,” the group that is hostile to these who follow the “Lamb.” The height of its flight is noted because the announcement was a warning to the whole inhabited earth - (Revelation 3:106:1011:10).
  • (Revelation 9:1-2) – “And the fifth angel sounded; and I saw a star out of heaven fallen unto the earth, and there was given to him the key of the shaft of the abyss. And he opened the shaft of the abyss; and there ascended smoke out of the shaft, as the smoke of a great furnace, and the sun and the air were darkened by reason of the smoke of the shaft.”
The “Abyss” features in several visions of Revelation. In each instance, it is the source of malevolent entities hostile to the “Lamb” that “ascend” to wreak havoc, sometimes on the “inhabitants of the earth,” other times, to persecute the “saints” - (Revelation 11:717:820:7-10).

John saw smoke “ascending” from the “Abyss” representing a horde of locust-like creatures. An “angel” associated with destruction ruled over them.  The “Abyss” corresponds to the “deep things of Satan” promoted by “Jezebel” at Thyatira, the “sea” from which the “beast ascended,” the “sea of glass” on which overcoming saints stood, and the pit in which Satan was imprisoned for a “thousand years” - (Revelation 2:24, 9:111:713:1, 15:1-5, 20:1-3).

A “star, having fallen from heaven,” unlocked the “Abyss.” Elsewhere, stars represent “angels”. Most likely, this “star” is identical to the “the angel of the Abyss” named ‘Abaddon’ and ‘Apollyon’ - (verse 11). “Having fallen” is in the Greek perfect tense, signifying an action completed in the past.

The angel was “given” a “key,” which points to control over events by the “Lamb,” including satanic forces.  Likewise, the army of “locusts” was unable to ascend from the “Abyss” until authorized to do so. The darkening of the “sun and the air” alludes to the plague of darkness over Egypt, the ninth plague that followed the plague of locusts:
  • Moses stretched forth his hand toward heaven, and there was a thick darkness in all the land of Egypt three days…but all the children of Israel had light in their dwellings” - (Exodus 10:21-23).
Behind this scene is Isaiah 14:4-15, a judgment pronouncement against Ancient Babylon - “Take up this parable against the king of Babylon, How has the oppressor ceased, the golden city ceased…You said in thy heart, I will ascend into heaven…I will ascend above the heights of the clouds; yet you will be brought down to Sheol, to the uttermost parts of the pit.”
  • (Revelation 9:3-10) – “And from the smoke came forth locusts upon the earth; and there was given unto them authority as the scorpions of the earth have authority. And it was bidden them that they should not injure the herbage of the earth, nor any green thing, nor any tree, but only the men who have not the seal of God upon their foreheads. And it was given to them that they should not slay them, but that they should be tormented five months; and the torture of them was as of a scorpion’s torture, whensoever it smites a man. And in those days shall men seek death and in nowise find it, and shall covet to die, and death flees from them. And the likenesses of the locusts were like horses prepared for battle; and upon their heads, as it were crowns like gold, and their faces were as the faces of men, and they had hair like the hair of women, and their teeth were like  lions, and they had breastplates as breastplates of iron, and the sound of their wings was as the sound of chariots of many horses running into battle; and they have tails like unto scorpions and stings, and in their tails is their authority to injure men five months.”
The first four trumpets brought destruction to things necessary for commerce. In contrast, the fifth plague harms men, not vegetation, the earth, or the sea.

The description draws imagery from the prophet Joel’s vision of a voracious invading army that he compared to a plague of locusts. In Joel, the attack was against Israel. In Revelation, the “locusts” target the “inhabitants of the earth.” Note the verbal parallels:
  • A nationstrong and without number; his teeth are the teeth of a lionday of darkness and gloominess, a day of clouds and thick darknessAs horsemen, so do they run. Like the noise of chariots on the tops of the mountains do they leap; before them, the sun and the moon are darkened” - (Joel 1:16, 2:2-5).
In Joel, the invading army attacked Israel in the land of Canaan. The nation averted destruction only through repentance. In contrast, the locust-like force in Revelation attacks the “inhabitants of the earth” who were hostile to God and refused to repent - (Joel 2:14-20).

Photo by Jens Johnsson on Unsplash
Photo by Jens Johnsson on Unsplash

The 
book of Revelation weaves this imagery into its narrative along with language from other Old Testament passages. What lead Israel to repent, now causes the earth-dwellers to harden their hearts.

The vision from Joel is reminiscent of the dirge from the book of Jeremiah against Ancient Babylon, the prediction of her destruction by a northerly force
  • Behold, a people from the north…They lay hold on bow and spear; they are cruel and have no mercy; their voice roars like the sea; and they ride upon horses, everyone set in array, as a man to the battle, against you, O daughter of Babylon” - (Jeremiah 50:41-42).
At this point, the passage includes echoes of the plague of locusts that destroyed the crops of Egypt:
  • (Exodus 10:14-15) - “And the locusts went up over all the land of Egypt…they covered the face of the whole earth, so that the land was darkened, and there remained not any green thing in all the land of Egypt.”
As with the previous plagues, Pharaoh hardened his heart. But it was the intention of Yahweh to bring Israel out by means of judgment upon Egypt and its gods. As with the first four trumpet blasts, Revelation expects us to hear the echoes of the Exodus story and Yahweh’s judgments against Ancient Babylon - (Exodus 7:2-5, Jeremiah 51:24-2551:56).

The “inhabitants of the earth” were “tormented” (basanismos) for five months. The same Greek noun was used to describe how the two witnesses “tormented the inhabitants of the earth” by the words that issued from “their mouth,” singular. The torment causes men to seek death, but they do not find it. This is reminiscent of Jeremiah 8:3, a judgment against Judah for idolatry - “Death shall be chosen rather than life by all the residue that remain of this evil family.”

Similarly, when the sixth seal was opened, men “hid themselves in the caves and in the rocks of the mountains, and they say, Fall on us and hide us from the wrath of the Lamb.” Death provided no escape from the “wrath” - (Revelation 6:15-16).

Five months.” This figure does not occur elsewhere in Revelation, which makes it difficult to determine its significance. But the number five and the “five months” may be connected to the later description of the “seven mountains” on which Babylon sat:
  • The seven heads are seven mountains, on which the woman sits, and they are seven kings; five are fallen, one is, another is not yet come, and when it comes it must continue a little while” - (Revelation 17:8-10).
If this understanding is correct, the “five-months” provides a link to the “five fallen kings.”
  • (Revelation 9:11-12) – “They have over them, as king, the messenger of the abyss, whose name in Hebrew is Abaddon ["=Destroyer"], and in the Greek, he has for name Destroyer. The first woe has passed away, Behold, there comes yet two woes after these things.”
Yahweh had warned that Pharaoh would harden his heart regardless of any “signs and wonders.” The “hardening” highlighted His justice. The plagues were “to bring forth my people out of the land of Egypt by great judgments.” The allusion becomes apparent as the “inhabitants of the earth” refused to repent despite the “first woe” - (Exodus 7:2-5, Revelation 9:21).

The fifth trumpet concluded by alluding to the tenth plague of Egypt - The “destroyer” sent to slay the firstborn of the nation. Both “Abaddon” and “Apollyon” mean “destroyer,” a clear link to the final plague unleashed against Ancient Egypt:
  • For Yahweh will pass through to smite the Egyptians; and when he sees the blood upon the lintel, and on the two side-posts, Yahweh will pass over the door, and will not suffer the destroyer to come to your houses to smite you” - (Exodus 12:23).
The Israelites did not suffer this destruction if the blood from a “lamb” was applied to their doorposts. That past incident corresponds to the “saints” who are sealed with the “seal of God” that protects them from the destructive forces unleashed by the “winds of heaven” - (Revelation 7:1-3).

The figure “Abaddon” is probably the “fallen angel” that unleashed the horde of “locusts.” The name alludes also to a passage from Jeremiah applied in the first four trumpets:
  • I will render to Babylon and to all the inhabitants of Chaldea all their evil that they have done in Zion in your sight. I am against you, O destroying mountain, which destroyed all the earth” – (Jeremiah 51:24-26, 51:56).
The sixth trumpet will continue with imagery from the ten plagues of Egypt to portray the next judgment. But the trumpet plagues are not limited geographically. They target the “inhabitants of the earth,” not Egypt. It is the “inhabitants of the earth” who harden their hearts in response, not Pharaoh or the Egyptians - (Revelation 8:13).




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