In the last verse of chapter 8 (13) we see an eagle flying through heaven announcing the coming of the last three trumpets. This has a striking resemblance to Hosea 8:1—judgement over Israel—and sets the stage for the next chapter.
The Fifth Trumpet
So now we move to Chapter 9 and trumpet number five which can have a rather vexing meaning unless we start by taking it at face value and compare it with other scriptures. The first verse states the sight of a star that had fallen, representative of a fallen angel, who is given the key to the abyss. He then opens the pit of the abyss to unleash “locust” that can torment (v3), but only for five months. These “locusts” though are specifically forbidden to harm the earth like actual locust would, in this case specifying the actual physical creation. Neither are they allowed to harm those with God’s seal (v4). They would torment without killing (v5). The rest of the verses go into a more detailed description as John seems to be struggling to describe their appearance culminating in the fact that their king is the angel of the abyss (v11). From all the inferences, we may be able to draw some basic conclusions.
These locust, in most straightforward consideration, would appear to be demons unleashed onto unrepentant Israel. An invading army might capture and torture, but we don’t see this in this particular war. We see a “kill or be killed” mentality with the Jewish fighters vehemently battling to the death. Demons, however, would possess and torment like they often did in the occasions where Jesus comes across them in the gospels. In fact, Jesus makes a specific reference to this, in regards to Israel, that might greatly clear up confusion in both passages.
In Matt 12:43-45, as well as several other surrounding passages, we see a more clear picture of what was being related in both instances. The “waterless places” seems be referencing the fiery abyss, the same place Legion begged Jesus not to send him to. It would seem that Jesus’ ministry that was only for the lost sheep of Israel, had temporarily placed that “house” back in order. However, the final state of Israel was now worse because of their unrepentant state which allowed for tormenting by these demons. Jesus states himself in Matt 12:45, “Even so will it be also to this evil generation.” This would seem to specifically align with the fifth trumpet’s woe. There’s further supporting conclusions of this degradation in Josephus’ historical writings.
In the last verse relating to the fifth trumpet (v12), we see what would seem to be a jump to the end of the five month period in stating that, “The first woe is past.”
Expanding the Prophecies
However, there is one more interesting note to mention here. Paul states how the dead in Christ would rise first and then those still living would be called up (1 Thes 4:16-17). We see those who were dead that are now with Jesus in heaven during the interlude between the sixth and seventh seals, but no trumpet blown yet. We now see in Rev 8:4, those sealed by God still on earth. This is where we start to see more implicit hints of a cycle. It would seem that all the cycles happened within the same time period but were expanded out into their separate iterations for explanation. This goes a long ways to explain some of the incongruity in the passages as they likely weren’t meant to be taken as chronological but rather more contemporaneous. That being, all the separate “sets of 7” in Revelation seemed to be happening at the same time but contained individual judgments that were written down based on their “set” and not based on an order of events respective to each other.
An example to clear this up (hopefully :p). A wife and husband go to work, and their kids go to school. Later that evening, they all list out their day individually, first the kids, then the wife, then the husband. Though they listed out the day individually, one after the other, this doesn’t mean the day occurred as they spoke of it (his day happening after hers). Their day actually happened at the same time but was recounted individually as pertinent. As well, there might be some cross mingling of events, such as if the wife and husband have lunch together or as the kids see each other at school.
So, hopefully that clears up the layout a little as we start to see it occurring more throughout the rest of the book. In addition, we may see judgments that were more pertinent to Jerusalem and others that were spread throughout Palestine.
The Sixth Trumpet
With this trumpet, we see four angels at the Euphrates being released (v13-14). It would seem that these angels were holding back something that was being released for a specific hour/day/month/year and this would cause the death of 1/3 of “mankind” as relevant to those in Palestine (v15). These horsemen would seem to be a great army that would come from beyond the Euphrates river, possibly the Roman legions stationed there as well as the conscripted armies of the formerly subjugated kingdoms. These seemed to use fire in destroying much of Palestine (v18). This type of marshaling of armies is also seen in Old Testament passages such as Isaiah 13:4-5. Yet, after all of this, we still see the unrepentant “mankind,” still refusing to turn from their ways (v20-21).
This concludes my basic understanding of chapter 9 so far. Again, I didn’t cover everything for brevity’s sake. Instead, I tried to hit most of the major points as well as reaffirming the general themes throughout the book so far. I believe the rest to be ascertainable to most. While we see some time shifting or even repeating within its’ own context, there’s still no evidence of these punishments falling outside of Palestine or outside of the time frame mentioned up until this point (soon, this generation, those standing here, quickly).
Note – The rest of this series can be found here.