Vs 10 -11: The third trumpet – A great star or meteor falls from heaven and contaminated the rivers and spring waters to making them bitter. The star is named wormwood after the bitter plant of the same name. In the OT wormwood was used as a symbol of bitterness and sorrow (Prov. 5:3 – 4, Lam. 3:19, Jer. 9:15) so we can agree that the waters became bitter like wormwood. Now, wormwood is not poisonous, but it does denote death. Thus, we can assume that a portion of the waters became contaminated as a direct result of God and people died from the contaminated water.
Vs 12: The fourth trumpet – The intensity of light is affected as a result of the sun, moon, and stars being darkened. A portion of the day will not have any light. This trumpet recalls the ninth plague of Egypt when darkness spread over the land for three days. According Mounce, “Constant allusion to the Egyptian plagues is a way of saying that in the last days God will bring punishment upon those hostile powers which oppress his people. They are a prelude to that great and final exodus in which the church is taken out of the world and enters the eternal presence of God.” (Mounce p. 188)
Darkness is symbolic of judgment. Jesus speaks in Mark 13:24- 25, “But in those days, after that tribulation, the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light, and the stars will be falling from heaven and the powers in the heavens will be shaken.” This fourth trumpet is a fulfillment of that prophecy.
Vs 13: We are told in this verse that things are about to get interesting. This is a transition in plagues of nature intended to lead men to repentance to the demonic woes where men will be subject to the greatest forms of evil (forces of the abyss). In translating Revelation, it is commonly held that the bird who cried out to be an eagle (strength and swiftness), but some translate it as a vulture (which would imply impending doom). Either way it is the predatory nature of the bird that is in view.
The three woes the bird cries out are intended to correspond with the three remaining trumpet blows. These trumpets are not intended for the church, but for the wicked world who rejects Christ.
Interestingly John spends six verses describing the first four trumpet plagues and now he spends a full chapter describing the first two woes that results from trumpets five and six. The attention to detail the seriousness of that which follows. They go from being angelic judgments on the earth to demonic torments that arise from the underworld.
Vs 1: In this passage we see another star fall from heaven, but this star is not actually a star, it is a person or being who was given key that opens the shaft to the abyss. In Jewish thought and writings living beings such as angels or celestial beings are symbolized as stars. Some believe it is a fallen angel or more simply and probable one of many divine agents who are pictured throughout Revelation as carrying out the will of God. If the star is represented as an angel, it would refer more to one who descends and not falls to earth.
Vs 2: The key is used to unlock the shaft of the bottomless pit and when it is opened smoke arises. Out of the smoke comes evil spirits or demons who have been imprisoned in the abyss. The rising smoke would probably come from the fires below. According to I Enoch 21:7 the final prison of the fallen angels was the abyss.
Vs 3 - 4: Emerging from the smoke are demonic creatures who are described as locusts. Throughout the OT locusts are a symbol of destruction. These locust-like creatures were given a scorpion like power or sting. They were told not to injure the vegetation or earth, but they can only harm those who do not have the symbol of God on their foreheads.
Vs 5 - 6: These demonic creatures had a sting that would not kill their victims but cause them to be tormented for five months. This judgment is not an act of cruelty by God but an indication that wickedness cannot continue without some sort of divine retribution. The sting of the demonic creatures will be so intense and painful that those affected will seek death, but death will not come.
Vs 7 - 8: Description of the Locust Creatures: They were like horses prepared for battle, with long hair with scorpion tails, golden crowns, human faces with lion’s teeth. John would have us know that the locusts are large creatures. Their faces were as men’s faces which tells us that they were not animals, but intelligent creatures. They were covered with long flowing hair and as a point of reference the hair was probably on the legs or bodies of the creatures. The teeth represent the fierceness of the creatures, but they were unable to tear apart their victims like a lion, instead their torment was in their tails.
Vs 9 – 10: They had breastplates indicating they were prepared for battle and their vulnerability was protected. The scorpion tails are where there power, and terror lies. These creatures were given the power to punish and torment all who are not sealed by God.
Vs 11 – 12: They have a king who is the angel of the abyss. Now, this angel is not the one who has the keys, and we are told both his Hebrew and Greek name. Hebrew name is Abaddon, and the Greek is Apollyon which means destroyer. What is interesting about this name is to name the king of the underworld Apollyon would be a cryptic way of saying that an emperor like Domitian (and other emperors) who liked to be regarded as the god Apollo (derived from Apollyon) incarnate was in reality a manifestation of the powers of the underworld. In other words, this was a way of calling emperors evil and demonic. It is also interesting to note that the locust was one of the symbols of the god Apollo.
Now, as we conclude the first woe or fifth trumpet, we can ask the question what is the symbolism in this plague of locusts? The answer is that all we can deduce is that in the period before the end the wicked will be subject ed to a time of demonic torment. Exactly how this takes place will remain unknown until history reveals the answer.
Jeff has been in ministry for well over two decades. He currently serves as Campus Pastor at West Bradenton Baptist Southside Campus in Bradenton, Florida.
Jeff Has authored an Advent Devotional (The Advent of Jesus) and a devotional on the book of James (James: Where Faith and Life Meet). Both are available on Amazon.
He is married to Carrie and they have four children, Micaiah, Gabe, Simon, and Berea.
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