As we hit Revelation Nine we see two of the seven trumpets (five and six) but these are also called the two woes. There is a third woe in the final trumpet as well but this chapter only focuses on the first two. The effect of these woes is truly catastrophic. The angel that cried out over the earth on the last verses of chapter eight was speaking truly when he said that he wondered what people would do with the last three trumpets were sounded.
The fifth trumpet brings about the first woe which is the release of demonic forces under the command of the demon Abaddon or Apollyon in the Greek. They do not kill but cause great harm. They harm nothing but mankind and we see the first real protection for the 144000 Jews that are sealed as they are not allowed to be touched at all. The rest of humanity is tortured by these demons to a point where they will seek death but they will not be allowed to die.
The sealed Hebrew believers and the trumpets did cause me to think of the feast of trumpets and thus an ultimate Jewish connection. The message to the Jews of the seven churches would have been that there are times when following Christ as a Jew offered special protection. At the time Revelation was being written Jewish Christians were leaving the faith and going back into Judaism. The message that being sealed by the Lamb of God / Lion of Judah was the only protection for some during the first of the three woes would have not been lost on them,
Many go on and on about the appearance of these locust demons being like modern warfare equipment but I would point out that these demons harm and do not kill but only harm humans and I do not see this in modern warfare machines. They kill. To me this is a picture of spiritual forces at work in humanity in a negative way except for those sealed by Christ.
The sixth trumpet brings the second woe. In this case the trumpet starts a series of events that leads to the army of the east but before that four angels are released which had been bound at the river Euphrates. The river and the Kings of the east (note the plural) will come up again. The key thing here is that this force unlike the first woe does indeed kill but the reference is not to swords or bows but to plagues and brimstone. This to me indicates that this may not be a human one. They are lead by four angels and kill with effects that are not like normal warfare. We may be once again being allowed to see a Spiritual force at work and not a physical one.
This whole chapter brings up another issue. The issue of geography in relationship to the book of Revelation. Many modern interpreters look at these prophecies in relationship to Israel but my problem with this is that the book of Revelation is not addressed to Israel but to the seven churches so to me any geographical reference would relate more to them than to Israel.
The other issues is the meaning of the term or idea ‘whole earth’ or ‘whole world’. The question I ask at this point is ‘whole world’ in relationship to who? Is it our understanding of the globe of earth that is to be used or is it the seven churches understanding of ‘whole world’ that is to be sued in interpreting this book. That understanding would have only included the confines of the Roman Empire and the nations and empires that surrounded not the whole globe of earth. When one third of people dies in that case it is not for the whole world as we understand it but their understanding. The east to them was Persia or India or even the far reaches od the Far East but only in relationship to their understanding. This in some senses diminishes the catastrophic nature of the plagues that hit ‘the world’ but it would allow us to make more sense of the book of Revelation and also see that some of these trumpets may have already sounded.
The real kicker is at the end of the chapter where after all this has happened the people who are left do not repent of their idolatry or sorcery. Since Christ ahs already addressed these two problems in some of the churches the message would have been clear – Repent or else this will happen to you too.
Next: The Vision of the Seven Trumpets (Part Three – Interrupting Vision – Angel with the Little Book)