The First Woe
The Book of Revelation was clearly written by John, who speaks in the first person much of the time. Though the book is written through a vision that John receives from Jesus, it is initially directed to the early churches of Asia. It is a book that reveals future happenings like no other. Nostradamus was an amateur when it comes to biblical prophets. Revelation is all about prophecy that has yet to be fulfilled but soon will. There are many footnotes, and they are there for a reason.
The Book of Revelation is written by John the Apostle, also known as John of Patmos. Modern theologians have theorized that the writer was really not John the Apostle, but I am not sure why. A study of the history of how John ended up on the island of Patmos clearly indicates that he was John the Apostle. John was the only apostle who was not martyred and the only apostle who attended the crucifixion of Jesus.
Revelation starts with a message from Jesus to the seven fledgling churches of Asia. Except for two of the churches, the others were pretty disappointing. That was a sign from the beginning as to how difficult it would be for the new believers in Jesus to convince others, especially other Jews, that Jesus was the Christ who the prophets had foretold. Defiant churches did not help the persuasion. Falling away started a long time ago.
Often I am told that Revelation is so morbid. I suppose it is in many ways; because what the book describes, for those unfortunate enough to live through the experience, will be a dark time. The darkest time in written history. Fortunately, it has a happy ending for some.
I do wonder about my obsession with the Book of Revelation, and it goes back a long time. It was 1957 that I first remember reading Revelation, age 10, with Cousin Danny. I didn’t know what I was reading but thought it was plenty scary and plenty cool. I have read it many times since, and I have changed my mind many times. One of the strange things about Revelation is that every time you read it, you learn something new or rethink something you thought you knew. It is very thought-provoking.
Revelation describes a time in the future when God will feel toward mankind much the way the Bible states that He felt toward mankind in the days of Noah, disgusted and fed up. Every man was for himself, there was no god or garden of Eden, no rules, and lots of orgies. The decadent behavior made God so angry, He decided to end it all and start all over, maybe. Turned out that Noah and his family did believe in God; and because of them, God gave us a second chance. It was no time, however, until we made it to Sodom and Gomorrah.
This is why there really will be an end of things as we know it, and we should be thankful that God gave us the road map of how to avoid certain doom. Morbid? Dark? Like the people living in the time of Noah and the time of Sodom? It is not God who is dark but man and the wannabe god, our constant adversary. The entire Bible is a book of second chances for mankind. It is also about the final judgment against man and the final discipline, a story of good versus evil and evil’s defeat.
“Oh, God does not discipline us, He loves us.” I hear it all the time.
Yes, He does. And as He states in Proverbs, discipline is love. It is undiscipline that is not. This is why I write what I write.
There are many stages of discipline and judgment described in Revelation, but there are only three woes. Woe is defined as intense grief or misery. Once Revelation gets to the third woe, that woe is the final series of punishments from God. This final judgment and discipline measures it entails begins with the sound of the 7th and final trumpet and is heard by mankind. How frightening will that be for whoever is around at the time?
The first woe begins with the sounding of the 5th trumpet:
The fifth angel sounded his trumpet, and I saw a star that had fallen from the sky to the earth. The star was given the key to the shaft of the Abyss.
Revelation 9:1 NIV
In this case, it is believed not to be a star that falls to Earth but an angel. The angel is given the ability to open an abyss that apparently goes deep into Earth.
When he opened the Abyss, smoke rose from it like the smoke from a gigantic furnace. The sun and sky were darkened by the smoke from the Abyss.
Revelation 9:2 NIV
So what is the abyss that has tremendous smoke pouring from the earth? There are not many known possibilities other than a volcano, or possibly a series of volcanos. Or a supervolcano. Since there is no mention of a mountain yet there is a hole in the earth spewing tremendous amounts of smoke, my guess would be a supervolcano like Yellowstone. Their explosive cauldron is flat on the earth or sunken. Yellowstone or another supervolcano would certainly fit the bill for tremendous smoke; so much, in fact, all the soot could make a day, night.
And out of the smoke locusts came down on the earth and were given power like that of scorpions of the earth. They were told not to harm the grass of the earth or any plant or tree, but only those people who did not have the seal of God on their foreheads. They were not allowed to kill them but only to torture them for five months. And the agony they suffered was like that of the sting of a scorpion when it strikes. Revelation 9:3-5 NIV
This is open to a little more interpretation, though all of Revelation is open to interpretation. Whatever emerges from the tremendous smoke spewing from Earth looks like locusts but stings like scorpions. Instead of doing what locusts do, eat the grass, plants, and trees, these particular creatures only harm people but do not kill them. Only certain folk will be harmed though, probably those who have the mark of the beast already or will have. The torture, described as the sting of a scorpion, is to last for a period of five months.
During those days people will seek death but will not find it; they will long to die, but death will elude them.
Revelation 9:6 NIV
Apparently, the pain inflicted is never-ending for five months.
The locusts looked like horses prepared for battle. On their heads, they wore something like crowns of gold, and their faces resembled human faces. Their hair was like women’s hair, and their teeth were like lions’ teeth. They had breastplates like breastplates of iron, and the sound of their wings was like the thundering of many horses and chariots rushing into battle. They had tails with stingers, like scorpions, and in their tails, they had the power to torment people for five months. They had as king over them the angel of the Abyss, whose name in Hebrew is Abaddon and in Greek is Apollyon (that is, Destroyer). Revelation 9:7-11 NIV
When trying to interpret what this scripture means, I think back to a book by Hal Lindsey, The Late Great Planet Earth, in which Lindsey describes these locusts as modern-day jet warplanes. They would not have been recognized as warplanes by John, but there are many similarities in the above description: armored skin, often painted in front with teeth or sometimes, a beautiful woman; and they certainly pack a sting.
Now, forty-five years after that book, we have “drone swarms” of tiny aircraft that also pack a wallop. Whatever it is, it will be morbid and dark.
The controller of this phenomenon is the devil himself, Satan. He is the destroyer of all things God. He is the ultimate evildoer. In spite of the ongoing torment, people will not worship God but will curse Him.
Once this is accomplished, after five months, the 1st woe ends and the 2nd woe begins. It won’t be pretty.
The first woe is past; two other woes are yet to come.
Revelation 9:12 NIV
Check out my series that covers a lot of what is spoken about in The End of Times! Click here to read a sample 3 chapters in The End: The Book: Part One