Summary: What do we see when we move from the realm of the visible to the invisible, from the material to the spiritual - into the realm of dmons? Woe!
“The Great Unveiling: Woe!”
As chapter 8 ends we learn that there are some woes yet to come upon those “who dwell upon the earth.” The next three trumpets bring them to us. Keep in mind that we are moving from the realm in which we live into the realm of the spirits. We are dealing now with demons –with the invisible not the visible, with the spiritual not the material. So it may sound strange and different, even impossible.
Our task is not to ask, “How is this possible?”, but “Who is responsible” and “Why?” What’s really taking place? How does it fit into the picture of God’s history and plans? 8:13 sets it up for us as the eagle cries out the woes. That, in itself, is a warning that chapter 9 announces that death and doom is on the way. Let’s take a look at the first two woes – trumpets 5 & 6 – and see what we can learn.
The chapter paints a powerful PICTURE OF JUDGMENT. Certain elements in this picture stand out. First, we see (1) THE ABYSS. It’s a place completely inhabited by demonic mobs. Remember Jesus’ encounter with the man named Legion? The demons pleaded with Jesus not to send them into the abyss. It is not a place of punishment; it’s the place where Satan will eventually be temporarily incarcerated. And once it is opened and these hostile beings are set free, great smoke billows forth – smoke so intense that it clouds out the light so the darkness of evil presides. WHAT HAS HAPPENED TO HUMANS HAS NOW HAPPENED TO CREATION. Humans were created to reflect the image of God, but because of the Fall their hearts are full of sinful desires and motives. So the world was made to reflect God but, because of the Fall has been infected by sin and now harbors demonic forces of rebellion and destruction in its core. Woe!
From the smoke of the abyss we see next (3) THE LOCUSTS that swarm the earth. And the locusts “”…were given power like that of scorpions of the earth.” Notice their description. They have HUMAN FACES – SYMBOLIZING INTELLIGENCE; they use more than brute force. They have WOMEN’S HAIR, which may stand for antennae, meaning they are perceptive and hear and know about their surroundings. Their TEETH ARE LIKE LION’S TEETH – meaning they are cruel, even inhumane. The mention of BREASTPLATES points to the fact that humans cannot defeat them. And the SOUND OF THEIR WINGS means they have great, terrifying power.
Their task is to sting like scorpions, which is usually not fatal but is very painful and causes great suffering. In the Old Testament, locusts are always a symbol of destruction from God. But here, rather than attacking land and produce, the locusts sting like scorpions – THEY ATTACK PEOPLE! It would be devastating, destructive, horrible, terrifying! It’s a scene we really could only create in Hollywood. Woe!
Could it be that injuries from war and fighting, crippling affects of disease, dependency from drugs, or emotional damage from crimes and abuse are our locusts? Perhaps the best way to think about it is to throw together all your worst nightmares and try to imagine them all coming true without warning and at the same time. The angel has unleashed incredible, monstrous, demonic forces. Woe!
The scene of the locusts leads to the picture of PAIN AND SUFFERING (6). The effect of people being devastated is sheer torment and agony. Those who have not yet turned to God in repentance, who oppose Him, will suffer unbearably! Just notice the reaction of those who are tormented: “During those days men will seek death, but will not find it; they will long to die, but death will elude them.” Even DEATH IS PREFERABLE! The torment is so terrible, the suffering so great that people seek death – and cannot find it! Woe! What a contrast to Paul who said he couldn’t wait to die because of the glory ahead! For him it was the glory of heaven that made death seem great; for those opposed to God life is so terrible that death seems great! It all depends on a person’s relationship to Jesus Christ!
The next focal element in the picture is THE KING (11) who has great authority. His name Abaddon/Apollyon literally means destroyer. He is THE PERSONIFICATION OF DESTRUCTION. These demonic beings do not just run helter-skelter over the earth. They are not a disorganized mob; rather they are well-oiled and following a carefully planned strategy of tormenting those who “dwell upon the earth.” Abaddon/Apollyon is their king, the mafia boss who is in charge. Woe!
So just what does all of this symbolism point to? What will the tormenting and death look like? Who knows? Perhaps death will come through tanks and planes; maybe it will be through cancer, accidents, malnutrition, terrorist’s bombs, suicide bombers, murder. We don’t know for sure. All we know is THERE WILL BE MASS DEATH THROUGHOUT THE WORLD. These will be events of fantastic proportions. And it will not be secret. An army of 200 million denotes something visible and massive – something noticeable to be sure! It will be a time of widespread massacre that will be inconceivable, horrifying, and revolting. Woe!