Fifth Trumpet - First Woe

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

Scorpion - Photo by Leon Pauleikhoff on Unsplash
When the fifth angel sounded his trumpet, John saw smoke “
ascending” from the “Abyss,” a place ruled by an “angel” associated with “destruction.” The “Abyss” is prominent in several of the book’s visions. It is the source of malevolent entities hostile to the “Lamb” and his people that “ascend” from it to wreak havoc, sometimes on the “inhabitants of the earth,” but more often on the “saints.” - [Photo by Leon Pauleikhoff on Unsplash].

The “Abyss” corresponds to the “deep things of Satan” promoted by “Jezebel,” to the “sea” from which the “beast ascends,” to the “sea of glass” on which overcoming saints stand, and to the pit in which Satan is imprisoned for the “thousand years” - (Revelation 2:24, 9:111:713:1, 15:1-5, 20:1-3).
  • (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,” unlocked the “Abyss.” Elsewhere, stars represent “angels,” and quite likely here, the “star” is identical to the “the angel of the Abyss” named ‘Abaddon’ and ‘Apollyon’ - (verse 11). He was “given” the “key,” which points to the control over events by a higher power. Likewise, the army of “locusts” was unable to ascend from the “Abyss” 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 and 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 from Isaiah lies behind this scene, with its 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 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 trumpets brought destruction to the things necessary for commerce. In contrast, the fifth plague will now harm men, not vegetation, the earth, or the sea.
  • (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 like 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 this “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” will refuse to repent - (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 locust-like “
army” echoes the plague of locusts that destroyed the crops of Egypt at the command of Moses. And as before, Pharaoh hardened his heart. But it was the intention of Yahweh to deliver Israel by judging Egypt and its gods.:
  • (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.”
The “inhabitants of the earth” were “tormented” (basanismos) for five months, which caused them to seek death, though they do not find it. Likewise, when the sixth seal was opened, men “hid 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).
  • (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, “Abaddon” is the “angel” that unleashed the horde of “locusts” upon the “inhabitants of the earth,” and he corresponds to the “destroying angel” sent against the firstborn of Ancient Egypt.

As before, the description of the fifth trumpet continues to use 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 was 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.

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