This fifth trumpet judgment is the first woe pronounced by the flying angel in Revelation 8:13. As we view this judgment in the next twelve verses, you will see why the angel was warning us. It is indeed something no man or woman would want to go through. We will approach this fifth trumpet in six parts, working our way through the verses.
Verses 1-2. Then the fifth angel sounded, and I saw a star from heaven which had fallen to the earth; and the key of the bottomless pit was given to him. 2 He opened the bottomless pit, and smoke went up out of the pit, like the smoke of a great furnace; and the sun and the air were darkened by the smoke of the pit.
There are two questions that need answering here. First of all, what is this “star?” Well, there is no doubt that it is Satan; for the Greek tense in verse one is not “fall”—present tense, but “fallen”—past tense. Isaiah, in chapter 14, verse 12 through 14 describes his fall: “How art thou fallen from heaven, O Lucifer…”
The second question is what is the bottomless pit and what will be released from it? This bottomless pit, or the Abyss, is likely the place that God made especially for certain angels who could not be trusted anywhere else (2 Pt. 2:4). But here it seems that they will be used by God for His purposes of judgment. Hence, Satan is given a key (probably from Christ) to open the pit to let them out. And black smoke like the smoke of a great furnace rushed out of the pit, preceding whatever would appear next.
Verse 3. Then out of the smoke came locusts upon the earth, and power was given them, as the scorpions of the earth have power.
As the black smoke billowed up into the sky, blocking out the sun, out of this blackness came what looked like locust, but as we will see in verses 7-10, these were no ordinary-looking locust. In fact, the Scriptures say that power was given to them as scorpions. Most scholars think that they are possessed by demons—the same demons that have been in prisoned since their fall with Satan. Hence, they are the worst of all the demons. And they by their power have deformed the natural look of locust into what is described in verses 7-10. The worst part of these is their scorpion powers—power to sting like a scorpion, but much worse.
Verses 4-6. They were told not to hurt the grass of the earth, nor any green thing, nor any tree, but only the men who do not have the seal of God on their foreheads. 5 And they were not permitted to kill anyone, but to torment for five months; and their torment was like the torment of a scorpion when it stings a man. 6 And in those days men will seek death and will not find it; they will long to die, and death flees from them.
Here we see that God has complete control over what these creatures do; they were told not to hurt the earth, but only to torment the people who do not have the seal of God on them (non-believers)—and they obey God! But note that they were not to kill them, only to torment them with their powerful scorpion-like stingers for five months. Think of it. People will be tormented with painful stings for five long months! And it is said that they will want to die rather than experience the pain. But God will not let them die.
Now why do you think God will inflict so much pain on the people—for five long months? Here are two answers: Tim LaHaye suggests that “God sends [this plague] on the followers of Antichrist to hinder them from proselytizing among the uncommitted of the world.”6 Yes, I can see how it would slow them down.
Hal Lindsey has an equally valid point. He states that “God is putting the pressure on man, a little more each time [in each of the three woes], to try to get him to repent and turn to Jesus for salvation.”7 I hope that this will be the case. We can pray that this will happen.
Verses 7-10. The appearance of the locusts was like horses prepared for battle; and on their heads appeared to be crowns like gold, and their faces were like the faces of men. 8 They had hair like the hair of women, and their teeth were like the teeth of lions. 9 They had breastplates like breastplates of iron; and the sound of their wings was like the sound of chariots, of many horses rushing to battle. 10 They have tails like scorpions, and stings; and in their tails is their power to hurt men for five months.
I took the time to look up a picture of a giant locust; I was trying to see if they looked anything like the description here in these verses. I confess, at first, I couldn’t see the similarities. But, if you can embellish a little, you may see some sameness. And since the Scriptures indicate that their appearance was “like” horses, and having crowns “like” gold, and their faces “like” the faces of men, etc., I can maybe see how one could make the comparisons, especially since they were demonically enhanced creatures. Moreover, we may see from these descriptions the following characteristics:
1. They are like horses prepared for battle. This speaks of their strength and speed.
2. They had on their heads what appeared to be crowns like gold. They looked to be as kings and conquerors.
3. Their faces looked like the faces of men. If you look closely at a locust, you can see the similarities. This denotes intelligence.
4. They have teeth like lion’s teeth, portraying cruelty and viciousness.
5. They have breastplates of iron, portraying invincibility and strength.
6. The sound of their wings was like the sound of chariots, of many horses rushing to battle. I think millions of locusts moving all together do have a sound to them. I think this sound would frighten anyone half to death.
7. Their tails were like scorpions. Yes, the common locust does have a tail something like a scorpion’s tail. But these creatures have stings in them probably more painful than a common scorpion, and will last for five months, which is the normal life cycle of locust. Well, if you weren’t frightened by the appearance or the sound of these locust creatures, you will be after you have been stung by them. I imagine that the pain will continue as long as the stinger is in you. And you will constantly be on guard for more of them to sting you, again and again—for five long months. Think of it.
Verse 11. They have as king over them, the angel of the abyss; his name in Hebrew is Abaddon, and in the Greek he has the name Apollyon.
I have previously said that the star that fell from heaven and opened the pit was Satan. But that doesn’t mean that the one here is this “angel of the abyss.” His name is Abaddon and Apollyon, which means destroyer, fitting Satan, but I think it could also fit any other powerful angel.
John MacArthur writes, “Although locusts normally have no king (Prov. 30:27), these demonic creatures do… There is a hierarchy of power among the demons, just as among the holy angels. Apparently, ‘the angel of the abyss is one of Satan’s most trusted leaders or possibly Satan himself.”8
Well, whoever this one is, we can be sure from this verse that these demon creatures will be well led and organized. It will be hard to avoid them.
Verse 12. The first woe is past; behold, two woes are still coming after these things.
As with most of the judgments, they will be continuous and overlap into the other judgments. But here it seems that this fifth trumpet judgment (or the first woe) has a time limit; it will last for only five months, which is the normal life cycle of locust—from May to September.
6 Tim LaHaye and Jerry Jenkins, Are We Living in the End Times? (Tyndale House Publishers, Inc.: Wheaton, Illinois) 1999, p. 189.
7 Hal Lindsey, There’s A New World Coming, p. 120.
8 John MacArthur, John MacArthur’s notes of Revelation 9:11.