MUCH TURMOIL, DEVASTATION, AND destruction have already occurred in what has been revealed so far in this study. How could things possibly get any worse? Well, there are those giant demonic locusts revealed to John, the size of an average man, with menacing faces, giant wings, and huge scorpion-like stingers. Particularly disturbing! I watched several “last days” movies in preparation for this series on Revelation, including Six: The Mark Unleashed (2004). This film has a fairly high production value and features some scary special effects. The demonic locusts featured in the movie Six are quite similar to those described in Scripture. They are only one of three devastating woes that will befall all mankind beginning with the fifth trumpet.
The Three Woes
Each of the first four trumpets called forth physical judgments on the earth and the universe. God now focuses His attention on punishments that directly impact mankind. Revelation 8:13 states, “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!'” The fifth trumpet is the first of the three woes. They usher in the second half of the seven-year tribulation period, known as the Great Tribulation, which Jesus speaks of in Matthew 24:21. Jesus told His disciples that the torment of this period will be greater than anything before. Astonishingly, torment will be so great during this period that unless the time is shortened, no flesh would survive (Matt. 24:22).
“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” (Rev. 9:1).
John heard the piercing of the fifth trumpet, and a star fell from the sky. He identifies this falling star as an angel or “being,” rather than a celestial body. The keys to the shaft of the bottomless pit are given to this fallen angel—a high-ranking demon in Satan’s hierarchy. His name is Abaddon (Apollyon in Greek), which means “destroyer.” Abaddon uses the keys to open the shaft to the bottomless pit, referred to as the “abyss” in verse 11 and elsewhere. “Abyss” is from the Greek word abyssou (ἀβύσσου) meaning “of unfathomable depth,” a Jewish concept referring to the home of the dead and of evil spirits.
When Abaddon opens the shaft to the abyss, billows of smoke come out of the shaft and darken the sun. Immediately, from among the billowing smoke, giant locusts appear, with crowns of gold and faces like a person, their hair like women’s hair, and their teeth like those of a lion. They have tails with stingers like scorpions, and in their tails, they have the power to torment all people for five months. (The life cycle of a locust is typically five months long.) A large-scale locust attack in Scripture signifies God’s power manifest in nature. These giant locusts of the Great Tribulation are far more menacing than the locusts that God released on Pharoah. The first woe has passed; two woes are still to come.
“Then the sixth angel blew his trumpet, and I heard a voice from the four horns of the golden altar before God, saying to the sixth angel who had the trumpet, “Release the four angels who are bound at the great river Euphrates” (Rev. 9:13-14).
At the sounding of the sixth trumpet, the second of three woes is released. The sound resonates from the surface between the four corners of the golden altar, the same altar John had seen in the temple and the tabernacle, only now, it is an altar of intercession for the martyred saints (Rev. 6:9-11). The four angels are demons bound by God to await the exact hour, day, month, and year ordained for them to be loosed. John MacArthur believes they might be the demons that controlled the four major world empires of Babylon, Medo-Persia, Greece, and Rome.1 The angels release 200 million mounted troops, who have breastplates the color of fire and of sapphire and of sulfur, and the heads of their horses were like lions’ heads, and fire and smoke and sulfur came out of their mouths.
The power of these horses is in their mouths and in their tails, for their tails are like snakes, and with their bites, they wound without mercy toward man, woman, or child. One-third of the world’s population will be killed by the 200 million troops, which is just over two and a half billion people. The judgment of the fourth seal in Revelation 6:8 killed one-quarter of the earth’s population. Together, this represents the death of over half of all mankind: four billion people! MacArthur suggests that death of this magnitude will completely disrupt society. Disposing of the corpses alone will be impossible, and all the earth will smell of decaying bodies. Hopelessness will set in like the world has never seen.
The Angel and the Little Scroll
There is an interlude between the sixth and seventh seals in Revelation 7. The structure of the book revolves around three distinct groupings of plagues: the seals, the trumpets, and the bowls. Revelation does not proceed through all of the plagues; rather, there are two interludes. The first interlude follows the sixth seal and features the sealing of God’s people and a vision of the New Jerusalem (7:1-17). The second interlude features John’s call to prophesy and the two prophetic witnesses (10:1-11:13). They are considered interludes because rather than further the timeline they provide detailed information about other events taking place in relation to the seal, trumpet, and bowl judgments.
John sees “another mighty angel come down from heaven” (10:1) clothed in a cloud with a rainbow upon his head and his face as though it were the sun. Angels reflect the glory of God when they appear. The rainbow symbolizes God’s mercy, grace, and covenant promises in the midst of divine judgment (see Gen. 9:13). One reason for these interludes is to allow John to absorb what has been revealed to him before Jesus continues with the Revelation. John MacArthur believes these interludes are also meant to encourage God’s people in the midst of unbelievable torment. He writes, “That is especially true in the longest of the three interludes. this one between the sixth and seventh trupets. Believers alive during that time will endure the unimaginable horrors of a sin-infected world.”2
That which John wrote about concerning this second interlude is rather detailed and significant. I have decided to use the next installment in this series to explore these nuances in greater detail. After that, we will move on to the sounding of the seventh trumpet and the seven bowls of wrath.
Steven Barto, B.S. Psy., M.A.Theo.
Unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture contained herein is taken from the English Standard Version (ESV).
1 John MacArthur, Because the Time is Near (Chicago, IL: Moody Publishers, 2007), 165.
2 Ibid., 171.