Fifth Trumpet - First Woe

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

Locust swarm Photo by James Wainscoat on Unsplash
When the fifth angel blows his trumpet, John sees smoke “
ascending” from the “Abyss,” a place ruled by an “angel” associated with “destruction,” and the “Abyss” becomes prominent in several of subsequent visions. It is the source of entities hostile to the “Lamb” and his people, creatures that “ascend” to wreak havoc, sometimes on the “inhabitants of the earth,” but more often on the “saints” - [Locust swarm Photo by James Wainscoat on Unsplash].

The “Abyss” corresponds to the several realities in Revelation, beginning with the “deep things of Satan” promoted by “Jezebel” among the members of the church at Thyatira.

But it also corresponds to the “sea” from which the “Beast” with ten horns ascends, the “sea of glass” on which overcoming saints stand and sing the “song of the Lamb,” and the pit into which Satan is cast and imprisoned for the “thousand years” - (Revelation 2:24, 9:1, 11:7, 13:1, 15:1-5, 20:1-3).

ABYSS

  • (Revelation 9:1-2) – “And the fifth angel sounded, and I saw a star out of heaven fallen to 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 “star, having fallen from heaven,” unlocks the “Abyss.” Elsewhere in the book, stars represent “angels,” and quite likely, this “star” is identical to the “angel of the Abyss” named ‘Abaddon’ and ‘Apollyon’ in verse 11.

He is “given” the “key” to the “Abyss,” which points to control over events by a higher power. Likewise, the army of “locusts” released from it is unable to ascend until it was authorized to do so.

The darkening of the “sun and the air” by the “smoke” echoes the plague of darkness over Egypt, the ninth plague, as well as the one 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).

A passage in the book of Isaiah lies behind this scene, one that pronounced judgment on Ancient Babylon:
  • Take up this parable against the king of Babylon: How has the oppressor ceased; the golden city ceased… You said in your 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” - (Isiah 14:12-23).

The first four trumpet blasts brought destruction to the things necessary for commerce. In contrast, the fifth plague harms men, not vegetation, the earth, the sea, or celestial bodies.

ARMY OF LOCUSTS

  • (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 harm 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 description of the “army” draws imagery from the prophet Joel’s vision of a voracious invading horde that he compared to a plague of locusts. That attack was against Israel.

Here, the “locusts” target the “inhabitants of the earth.” In Joel, Israel averted destruction only through repentance. In contrast, the “inhabitants of the earth” refuse to repent despite this “plague” of locust-like beings - (Joel 1:16, 2:2-5, 2:14-20).

Abyss Photo by Jens Johnsson on Unsplash
[Photo by Jens Johnsson on Unsplash]


The invasion by this “army” also echoes the plague of locusts that destroyed the crops of Egypt at the command of Moses. And as before, Pharaoh hardened his heart and refused to let Israel go.

But all along, it was the intention of Yahweh to deliver Israel by judging Egypt and its gods - “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” - (Exodus 10:14-15).

The “inhabitants of the earth” are “tormented” (basanismos) for five months, which causes them to seek death though they do not find it. Likewise, when the sixth seal was opened in chapter 6, men “hid themselves in the caves and in the rocks of the mountains” in a futile attempt to escape the “wrath of the Lamb” - (Revelation 6:15-16).

THE DESTROYER

(Revelation 9:11-12) – “They have over them, as king, the angel of the abyss, whose name in Hebrew is Abaddon, and in the Greek, he has for name Destroyer. The first woe has passed away, Behold, there comes yet two woes after these things.”

The fifth trumpet concludes by alluding to the tenth plague of Egypt - The “destroyer” sent to slay the firstborn of Egypt. 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 firstborn sons of Israel were not destroyed if Lamb’s blood was applied to their doorposts. That incident corresponds to the “saints” who are sealed with the “seal of God” that protects them from the destructive forces unleashed by seven trumpets.

Possibly, the creature named “Abaddon” is the “angel” that unleashed the horde of “locusts” upon the “inhabitants of the earth” in the first place, and he, therefore, corresponds to the “destroying angel” sent against the firstborn of Ancient Egypt in the book of Exodus.

As before, the description of the fifth trumpet uses imagery from the ten plagues of Egypt. But the trumpet plagues are not limited geographically. They target the “inhabitants of the earth,” not Egypt. And it is the “inhabitants of the earth” who harden their hearts in response, not Pharaoh or the Egyptians - (Revelation 8:13).

Behold, there comes yet two woes after these things.” The next “woe” cannot begin until the first one has run its full course. Its purpose is not to slay the human opponents of the “Lamb,” but to drive them to repentance.

But as the “sixth trumpet” will show, rather than repent, the “inhabitants of the earth” will only further harden their hearts to the message of the “everlasting gospel” – they will refuse to repent, “fear God and give Him glory,” even though the “hour of judgment” is imminent.



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