Understanding Revelation / Chapter 3 — Rich Kelsey

Half-moon photo taken by Rich Kelsey

Chapter Three Woe! Woe! 

“As I watched, I heard an eagle that was flying in midair call out in a loud voice: “Woe! Woe! Woe to the inhabitants of the earth, because of the trumpet blasts about to be sounded by the other three angels!” (Revelation 8:13)

The Trumpet Blast of the Fifth Angel:

“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)

The star is called destruction in the Hebrew language and destroyer in Greek; he is allowed to open up a pit containing hideous beasts called smoke locusts:

In the natural world, locusts are part of the curse that man suffers. As they swarm they look hideous, like a dark plague moving through the air, making a buzzing noise and leaving destruction in their wake. When locusts swarm into the farmland, they devour everything in their path.

Throughout Scripture there are illustrations in nature to teach us. Wheat[1] and corn in the natural fields of this earth depict people throughout their formative years as they develop spiritually. Locusts[2] are physical representations of a spiritual design[3] too, an evil design. Figuratively speaking, they devour men: this is exactly what we see the smoke locusts of Revelation do. We see them pushing through the spiritual veil into our physical realm to torment mankind:

“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. And out of the smoke locusts came down upon 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.” (Revelation 9:2-4)

As we have seen previously, God seals 144,000 children of Israel on their foreheads with His very name before any of Revelation’s trumpets sound, protecting all those who make up Israel (Christians) from this demon plague.

“They [The smoke locusts] were not allowed to kill them [men] 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. During those days people will seek death but will not find it; they will long to die, but death will elude them. (Revelation 9:5–6)

The torment from the smoke locusts will be so severe, many people would rather die than endure the suffering.

Their Faces Resembled Human Faces:

The twenty-four elders of Revelation chapter 4 cast their crowns before the Lord, and the living creatures of that same chapter have faces like men; they also have wings. The twenty-four elders and the living creatures are symbolic of the sons of God in their glorified state. These locusts are a symbolic illustration of angels in a fallen state.

“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.” (Revelation 9:7–9)

The saying,

“They had breastplates like breastplates of iron …,”

means that these creatures do not have literal breastplates of iron. This illustration of armor shows that these beings are geared for battle.

“They had tails and stings like scorpions, and in their tails they had power to torment people …” (Revelation 9:10)

The symbolism depicting locusts in Revelation is pointing to demonic activity. Millions of demonic spirits will be swarming after receiving permission from the courts of heaven to torment men.

“They are spirits of demons performing miraculous signs, and they go out to the kings of the whole world, to gather them for the battle on the great day of God Almighty.” (Revelation 16:14)

Christians will not be dodging missiles at the time of the first woe. Building hardened bunkers is not what will protect men from the woes in this prophecy. This plague has to do with a spiritual, invisible, battle involving an enemy rarely seen.

Woe No. 2:

The first woe is past; two other woes are yet to come.

“The sixth angel sounded his trumpet, and I heard a voice coming from the horns of the golden altar that is before God. It said to the sixth angel who had the trumpet, ‘Release the four angels who are bound at the great river Euphrates.’ And the four angels who had been kept ready for this very hour and day and month and year were released to kill a third of mankind. The number of the mounted troops was two hundred million. I heard their number.

The horses and riders I saw in my vision looked like this: Their breastplates were fiery red, dark blue, and yellow as sulfur. The heads of the horses resembled the heads of lions, and out of their mouths came fire, smoke and sulfur. A third of mankind was killed by the three plagues of fire, smoke and sulfur that came out of their mouths. The power of the horses was in their mouths and in their tails; for their tails were like snakes, having heads with which they inflict injury.” (Revelation 9:12–19)

This is highly figurative language. The sixth angel is blowing a trumpet, a voice is heard from the horns of the golden altar, four angels are loosed from the great river Euphrates, then we have a vivid description of an army of horsemen.

As the Apostle John saw the final bowls of God’s wrath being poured out,

“[John] heard the altar respond: ‘Yes, Lord God Almighty, true and just are your judgments.’” (Revelation 16:7)

A voice from the altar sets the destroying angels in motion, telling an angel to release four angels who are bound at the great river Euphrates. And the four angels were released to kill a third of mankind. The number four is most likely pointing to a worldwide application.

Two hundred million horsemen are involved in this plague. One popular teaching on this subject is that these horse­men represent the Chinese military because China can muster an army of this size. However, these horses are identical to the locusts that come from the bottomless pit and also the four horses that come from the presence of the Lord. So, it’s very likely the forces John spoke of here are Satanic influences behind human factions.

The Mystery of the Altar Explained:

The Temple in the Old Testament was a house where God dwelled. Obviously, that earthly temple was only an illustration of a spiritual design; even the heavenly temple is merely a facsimile that God is using to teach us. An altar with four horns is not unusual: when God commanded Moses to build the Tabernacle (which was a portable temple), he also told him to make several instruments that would be used within. Among these instruments were seven golden lampstands and an altar with four horns.

In the book of Revelation,[4] we discover that each of the lampstands represents a church, such as the church of Laodicea, consisting of multitudes of people. Because the temple’s seven-branched lampstand represents seven assemblies of God’s faithful, this heavenly altar no doubt represents multitudes of faithful men, women, and children as well.

Souls under the Altar:

What significance does an altar have? It implies sacrifice. In the book of Revelation it also implies martyrdom: the killing of the innocent.

“[The Apostle John] saw under the altar the souls of those who had been slain because of the word of God and the testimony they had maintained. They called out in a loud voice, ‘How long, Sovereign Lord, holy and true, until you judge the inhabitants of the earth and avenge our blood?’ Then each of them was given a white robe, and they were told to wait a little longer, until the number of their fellow servants and brothers who were to be killed as they had been was completed'” (Revelation 6:9–11)

What John saw was martyrs throughout history; these saints were unwilling to deny their faith at any cost, and they were calling out for vengeance. This huge crowd of martyrs is one facet of God’s Church.

A Typological Analogy of Sacrifice:

During the Old Testament dispensation, the bodies of goats and lambs were consumed by fire on the altar, and the smoke from the sacrifice would well up as a sweet savor to God. However, without people’s faith in the covenant, the ceremony would have meant nothing to God and He would not have been pleased.

What God desires and what these sacrifices represent has to do with heartfelt commitments from His faithful children. In one sense, our flesh is to be consumed by fire daily so that only the gold (deity) remains. It’s our lives that need to be laid upon the altar in an act of sacrifice to God every day, not the flesh of an animal! When our lower nature is burned away (figuratively speaking), what comes up from the ashes is a consecrated soul. In like manner during the resurrection, we will see that the same thing has occurred: our lower nature along with all of our imperfections will have been purged in death.

The Prayers of All the Saints:

“Another angel, who had a golden censer, came and stood at the altar. He was given much incense to offer, with the prayers of all the saints, on the golden altar before the throne. The smoke of the incense, together with the prayers of the saints, went up before God from the angel’s hand. Then the angel took the censer, filled it with fire from the altar, and hurled it on the earth.” (Revelation 8:3–5)

What is beautiful about this passage is that the altar is shown before the throne. This passage teaches us that God cares about His faithful children. He rejoices over the faith of those who would rather die than deny His name. They are in His presence day and night and He hearkens to their pleas.

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[1] Matthew 13:38

[2] Joel 2:25

[3] “Appoint a commander against her; send up horses like a swarm of locusts.” (Jeremiah 51:27)

[4] “The mystery of the seven stars that you saw in my right hand and of the seven golden lampstands is this: The seven stars are the angels of the seven churches, and the seven lampstands are the seven churches.” (Revelation 1:20)