The Messianic Judgments, 6:1-16:21
2. The judgment of the seven trumpets, 8:6-11:18
ii] Sounding the fifth trumpetSynopsis
The day of judgment continues to unfold with the sounding of the fifth trumpet and the outpouring of the first woe. John sees a star fall down to earth and into the Abyss. From the Abyss clouds of smoke belch upward, darkening the sky. Out of the smoke comes a swam of locusts with the power of scorpions. Instead of decimating crops and grass, they attack humanity. These locusts are like cavalry in full regalia, vicious beyond measure. They are led by The Destroyer, and when faced with this horror, people would rather die than endure the pain, but death eludes them.
The kingdom is at hand, the Great Day of the Lord, the day of judgment, is upon us. Those without faith, or who have not remained firm in their faith ("who do not have the seal of God"), will find themselves overwhelmed by the powers of darkness.
i] Context: See 8:6-13.
ii] Background: See 1:1-8.
iii] Structure: Sounding the fifth trumpet:
The three woes, 8:13.
The first woe:
A star falls into the Abyss, v1;
A locust plague emerges from the smoke of the Abyss, v2-6;
The Satanic plague described, v7-10;
The demonic king of the swarm, v11;
Two more woes to go, v12.
The first four judgments of the trumpets were directed at nature, the next two at humanity, a humanity without "the seal of God on their foreheads." Many commentators see this judgment falling on "those who have rejected God and persecute his people", Osborne, but it is more likely focused on those church members who have set aside the apostolic gospel for heresy ("tolerated that woman Jezebel"), or who have assimilated to the shibboleths of the secular city, Babylon. In 8:13 we are told that these judgments amount to "Woe! Woe! Woe!"; three woes. In the day of judgment, social gospels and secular powers and authorities, so benign, so wise and worthy, so deserving of our allegiance, will display their real nature. In the face of their fury, with everything lost, people will cry out for death - better they cry out in repentance!
The Star and the Destroyer: John's imagery in this passage has prompted diverse interpretations for the Star. Two possibilities present themselves:
Either a demonic being, or Satan himself: Stars often serve as a symbol for angels, so is this star a fallen angel? Some commentators take a general line and opt for a demon angel, so Boring, Beale (an evil angel sent by God), ..., others for Satan himself, so Sweet, Hendriksen ..., - cast to earth, bound in the bottomless pit and then released to do his worst, cf., Isa14:12, Lk.10:18, Rev.12:7-9. John could be describing Satan's ongoing work of harrowing humanity, but the final day of judgement is surely in mind, a day that John is progressively unfolding before our eyes.
An angel / messenger of divine judgement: Osborne, along with Morris, Smalley and others, notes that "fallen" can mean "descend" and so we are simply witnessing another aspect of the judgment undertaken by an angelic messenger of divine wrath. The messenger enacts judgment by releasing The Destroyer with his army from the bottomless pit.
The day of judgment is ushered in with a time of tribulation, a time when the Antichrist leads a final Satanic rebellion against the coming kingdom of God. John may well want us to identify "the angel of the Abyss" with Satan or Antichrist, "the son of destruction", but at least the Destroyer presents as "a satanic angel-figure who, as the ruling prince of the underworld, leads his army of demonic creatures in a judgmental attack on unrighteousness", Smalley.
The time will be shortened: We note again that judgment is not without grace. The harm caused by the locusts is limited; they can't harm the environment and they are only given five months to do their worst, cf., "one hour", 17:12; "short time", 20:3. John seems to be reflecting the idea that the tribulation of the Great Day of the Lord will be shortened for the sake of the elect. Believers will be brought safe through this terrible day, but it will not be a picnic - safe but singed! We well remember Jesus' advice that "those in Judea must take to the hills."
The release of Satan / the powers of darkness in realized and inaugurated eschatology. As already noted, John's eschatology is primarily realized (the day of judgment is now) such that we witness Satan set loose from the abyss as an agent of the day of judgment. From the perspective of inaugurated eschatology (the day of judgment is not yet) there is a sense where in these "last days" Satan is already set loose. John's prophetic perspective (see introductory notes) presents us with an impossible conundrum with respect to time - assimilating the now with the not yet is impossible. So, when it comes to Satan's place in the affairs of this world we usually say that Satan is already set loose, and over the last 2,000 years has focused his attention on the Christian church, IPet.5:8. Yet, at the same time he is somehow restrained, waiting to break loose in that final day, the day of tribulation culminating in the battle of Armageddon.
Text - 9:1
Sounding the fifth trumpet - the first woe, 9:1-12: i] A star falls into the Abyss, v1. As noted above, different interpretations are offered for this star, but it seems more than likely that he is an angelic messenger enacting the judgment of the fifth trumpet, namely, the release of dark / evil / satanic powers from their confinement in the underworld. This image reflects a judgment that entails the staged withdrawal of God's providential care over creation. For the Jewish tradition that angels are stars, see Jud.5:20, Job.34:7.
"-" - and. Transitional. This conjunction is used instead of de to indicate a step in the narrative: "When the fifth angel blew his trumpet, I saw a star", CEV.
peptwkota (piptw) perf. part. "[a star] that had fallen]" - [the fifth angel had trumpeted, and i saw a star] having fallen. The perfect tense expresses a past action with stative results. The NIV has taken the participle as adjectival, attributive, limiting "star", but it may also serve as the accusative complement of the object "star". ESV, Barclay, Moffatt, Phillips, Berkeley, .... opt for adjectival. Aune draws out the perfect, giving it temporal weight ("he saw a star after it had fallen", cf., Mathewson); "I saw a star that hand come down on the earth from heaven", Berkeley. This approach ignores the fact that participles generally don't carry temporal weight. As Osborne notes, the context takes a past time sense and so John uses a perfect to fit the context. "I saw a star fall to earth from heaven."
ek + gen. "from [the sky]" - out of [heaven to the earth]. Here expressing source / origin.
autw/ dat. pro. "the star [was given the key]" - [and was given the key] to him (it). Dative of indirect object. This is not the key that unlocks the gate to death and Hades, a key held by Jesus, 1:18, but the key to the gate that confines the powers of evil. In the tribulation these evil satanic powers, led by The Destroyer, have all their restraints lifted, but only for a time before they are all locked away to face their end, 20:1-3.
tou freatoV (r toV) gen. "to the shaft" - of the shaft. The genitive is adjectival, idiomatic, limiting "the key"; "the key which opens the gate of the shaft (entrance)."
thV abussou (oV) gen. "of the Abyss" - The genitive is adjectival, probably idiomatic / local, limiting "shaft", "the shaft which is located in the Abyss", although Mathewson suggests epexegetic. John draws a distinction between the abyss, "the bottomless pit", NRSV, the dwelling place of evil spirits, and Hades, the place of the dead. John also distinguishes the lake of fire, the place of eternal punishment, 19:20, 20:10, from both the Abyss and Hades.
ii] The locus plague emerging from the smoke of the Abyss, v2-6. Providing us with another aspect of the day of judgment, the Great Day of the Lord, John tells us that a star / angel, under divine authority, will release a Satanic hoard upon humanity as part of a progressively unfolding day of judgment. Such a divine act is somewhat troubling, but it has Biblical precedence, eg., the authority given to Satan to test Job, cf., Job.2:6. This is all part of the one eschatological event which, in the terms of realized eschatology, is underway.
thV abussou (oV) "[he opened] the Abyss" - [and he opened the shaft] of the abyss. As in v1.
ek + gen. "[smoke rose] from [it]" - [and smoke rose] out of [the shaft]. Expressing source / origin. Throughout scripture the Abyss is described as the domain of water, the water in the sea and under the pillars of the earth; it is a deep place of darkness where evil powers dwell. It is interesting how John describes it as a place of smoke, cf., 1 Enoch - heavy smoke conveys the idea of darkness in judgment, cf., Joel.2:10, 31, 3:15.. Blount suggests an allusion to the smoke issuing from Mount Sinai, but the link is not obvious, cf., Ex.19:18.
wJV "like" - as. Comparative, with a touch of manner; "smoke poured out of the entrance as it does from a giant blast furnace."
kaminou (oV) gen. "[smoke] from a [gigantic] furnace" - [smoke] of a [giant] furnace. The genitive may be classified as adjectival, idiomatic, limiting "smoke", "smoke which pours out of a gigantic furnace", or ablative, source / origin, as NIV.
ek + gen. "[darkened] by [the smoke]" - [and the sun and the air was darkened] from [the smoke of the shaft]. Expressing either cause, "because of the smoke", or means (a means consisting of a source), "by the smoke."
tou freatoV gen. "from the Abyss" - of the abyss. The genitive may be classified as adjectival, idiomatic, limiting "smoke", "the smoke which gushed from the Abyss", or ablative, source / origin, as NIV.
ek + gen. "out of [the smoke]" - [and] out of [the smoke locusts came forth to / into the earth]. Expressing source / origin. These are not pesky grasshoppers, but an apocalyptic horde of locusts emerging from the smoke, prepared to devour everything in their path, cf., Exodus 10:5, 15, Joel 2:1, 15. Yet, rather than attacking vegetation, they are to attack humanity in like manner to the locusts of Wisdom 16:9 - insects that cause wounds that do not heal.
autaiV dat. pro. "[were given power / authority]" - [and authority was given] to them. Dative of indirect object.
wJV "like" - as, like [the scorpions have authority / power]. Comparative, with a touch of manner; "they were given the power to sting like a scorpion. "And they were given the powers of scorpions", REB.
thV ghV (h) gen. "of the earth" - The genitive is adjectival, idiomatic / local; "the scorpions which live on / found on the earth."
autaiV dat. pro. "they [were told]" - [it was told] them. Dative of indirect object.
iJna + fut. "-" - that [they will not harm the grass of the earth neither any greenery nor any tree]. Here introducing an object clause / dependent statement of indirect speech, expressing what they are told, namely, not to hurt ....... Again John uses the future tense with hina rather than a subjunctive.
mh ... oude .... oude "not [to harm]" - A negated coordinative construction, similar to oute ..... oute .....
thV ghV (h) gen. "[the grass] of the earth" - The genitive is adjectival, probably again idiomatic / local, "the grass which grows on the earth"; "they had orders to do no harm to any grass, green thing. or tree upon the earth", Phillips.
ei mh "but only [those people]" - except [the men]. Here introducing an exceptive clause, expressing a contrast by designating an exception; "They were to punish only those people who did not have God's mark on their forehead", CEV.
tou qeou (oV) gen. "[the seal] of God" - [whoever (only such men who, ie., here oiJtineV is qualitative) does not have the seal] of god [on the = their forehead]. The genitive is adjectival, probably best viewed as possessive. Instead of those with the mark of the beast, there are those with the seal of the Lamb and of God, the mark of the true believer, those who have persevered in faith, the victorious. They will be carried safely through the day of judgment, but only as through fire, ie., singed around the edges!
autoiV dat. pro. "they [were not allowed]" - [and it was given] to them. Dative of indirect object.
iJna + subj. / fut. "[to kill]" - that [they should not kill them but] that [they will be tormented]. The first hina takes a subjunctive, the second an irregular future. Both serve to introduce an object / content clause, and given that the verb "to give" in the context means "to grant / allow", we may classify it as a dependent statement of indirect speech expressing what they may and may not do; "they were allowed to torment, but not to kill."
mhnaV pente acc. "for five months" - five months. The accusative is adverbial, temporal, expressing time.
wJV "[the agony they suffered] was like that of [the sting]" - [and the torment of them] as, like [torment of a scorpion]. Comparative, with a touch of manner; "the pain was like a scorpion sting."
skorpiou (oV) gen. "of a scorpion" - The genitive is usually treated as verbal, subjective, "the sting inflicted by a scorpion."
oJtan + subj. "when [it strikes]" - when [it strikes a man]. Serving to introduce an indefinite temporal clause, although translated as definite.
en + dat. "during [those days]" - in [those days]. Temporal use of the preposition.
ou mh + fut. "[but will] not [find it]" - [men will seek the death and] not not [will they find it]. A subjunctive of emphatic negation, with the future tense used instead of a subjunctive; "people will seek death, but by no means will they find it." The conjunction kai, "and", is obviously adversative, "but", as NIV, and the use of the article with the abstract noun "death" is stylistic.
apoqanein (apoqnhskw) aor. inf. "[they will long] to die" - [and they will desire] to die [and death flees from them]. The infinitive introduces an object clause / dependent statement of perception, expressing what they desire, namely, "that they might die." Again the conjunction kai is adversative, "but death will flee from them", ESV. "People are going to prefer death to torture, look for ways to kill themselves, but they won't find a way - death will have gone into hiding", Peterson, cf., Job.3:20-22, Jer.8:3.
iii] The Satanic plague described, v7-10. The demonic torment of the first woe. Osborne calls it "one of the more bizarre descriptions of the book." John's graphic description of the locust plague develops Joel 1-2.
kai "-" - and. Here as in v1, used instead of de, a step in the narrative / paragraph marker..
akridwn (iV idoV) gen. "The locusts [looked]" - [the appearance, form] of the locusts. The genitive is adjectival, possessive, "the appearance which characterized them / which they possessed was like ...."; "In appearance the locusts looked like horses equipped for battle", NRSV.
oJmoia adj. "like" - [were] like. To express a comparison John tends to use wJV, but here he has used the comparative adjective oJmoiV, "like". This adjective takes a dative complement, here the dative iJppoiV, "horses".
hJtoimasmenoiV (eJtoimazw) dat. perf. mid./pas. part. "prepared" - having been prepared. The participle is adjectival, attributive, limiting "horses". The perfect expresses a stative state.
eiV + acc. "for [war]" - to [war]. Here the preposition expresses end-view / purpose; "for war", as NIV.
wJV ..... oJmoioi "[they wore something] like [crowns] of [gold]" - [and on the heads of them to be] as [crowns] like [gold]. A rather awkward use of these two comparatives together, with wJV also carrying a touch of manner and introduced by an assumed verb to-be; "on their heads to be as it were a crown like gold" = "on their heads they had what seemed to be crowns of gold", TEV. The adjective "like" takes a dative complement, here crusw/, "gold". "They had gold crowns and human faces."
wJV "[their faces] resembled [human faces]" - [and the faces of them] as, like [faces of men]. Comparative, with a touch of manner.
wJV "like [women's hair]" - and they had hair] as, like [hair of women and teeth were] as, like [teeth of lions]. Comparative. The genitives gunaikwn, "of women", and leontwn, "of lions" is adjectival, possessive, as NIV. "They had long hair and sharp teeth."
wJV "[breastplates] like [breastplates of iron]" - [and they had breastplates] as, like [iron breastplates]. Comparative, so also wJV fwnh, "like the sound"; "they had long hair, sharp teeth and iron breastplates."
aJpmatwn iJppwn gen. "[many] horses and chariots" - [and the sound of the wings of them was like the sound] of chariots of horses. The two genitives are probably best classified as adjectival, attributive / idiomatic, limiting "sound"; "the sound which is produced by chariots which are drawn by horses." Verbal, subjective, is another possible classification, or the first ablative, source origin, "the sound from chariots", and the second subjective, "drawn by horses." Aune suggests a genitive of association, "many war-chariots with horses", Smalley, so ESV; "many chariots drawn by horses", Osborne. The image is clear enough; "the sound of their wings was like the sound of horse-drawn chariots charging into battle."
trecontwn (trecw) gen. pres. part. "rushing [into battle]" - running [into battle]. The participle is adjectival, attributive, limiting "of horses of chariots." "The rattling noise of many horse-drawn chariots dashing into the battlefield", TH.
ecousin (ecw) pres. "they had" - they have. The NIV takes the present tense as a narrative present, but John's eschatology is realized; the locusts are heading our way now and "they have tails and stings like scorpions", ESV.
oJoiaV adj. + dat. "[stingers] like [scorpions]" - [tails] like [scorpions, and (with) stingers]. This comparative adjective usually takes a dative complement, as here with "scorpions". "They have stingers in their tails like the stingers of a scorpion."
en + dat. "in [their tails]" - [and they have the authority / power of them] in [the tails of them]. Local, expressing space, or possibly instrumental, means, "and with their tails." The two genitives, autwn .... autwn, "the authority of them in the tails of them", are best viewed as adjectival possessive, although "authority of them" could be treated as verbal, subjective, "the power / authority exercised by them."
adikhsai (adikew) aor. inf. "[they had power] to torment [people]" - to torment [men]. Technically the infinitive is epexegetic specifying the authority / power possessed by the locusts, although it virtually serves as a complementary infinitive, completing the verbal sense of "they have power / authority" = "they are able." "They are not able to kill anyone, but they certainly are able to inflict pain for up to five months."
mhnaV pente acc. "for five months" - five months. Adverbial accusative of time. The reference to "five months" has prompted a range of comments. It seems likely that the figure is used to express divine restraint on the day of judgment, particularly as it relates to believers caught up in the holocaust. It may though be simply illustrating the power of the locusts sting - this is not a momentary sting; it can last up to five months.
iv] The demonic king of the swarm, v11. As already noted, the identity of this angel is disputed. Satan, the prince of the demons, seems the obvious suspect, although in Revelation, Satan is not called an angel. This has prompted some commentators to opt for a subordinate of Satan, some demon angel serving as king over the Abyss. On the Great Day of the Lord, the day of judgment, one of the agents of that judgment will be "The Destroyer", the king of the underworld. Just as the Babylonians served as an agent of divine judgment upon Judah, but then found themselves judged at the hand the Persians, so The Destroyer will inevitably face judgment himself.
basilea (ouV ewV) acc. "[they had] as a king" - [they have over them] a king. "King", taken as a direct object, "they had a king over them, the angel of the Abyss", Moffatt, or as a predicate, "they have the angel of the Abyss set over them as king", Cassirer, as NIV.
ep (epi) + gen. "over [them]" - John's favorite spacial preposition, although obviously with the sense "over" rather than "on, upon."
ton aggelon (oV) acc. "the angel" - Standing in apposition to "a king."
thV abussou (oV) "of the Abyss" - The genitive is adjectival, idiomatic, possibly local, "the angel located in the Abyss", or subordination, "the angel set over the Abyss."
autw/ dat. pro. "whose [name]" - [name] to him. The dative may be treated as possessive, as NIV, or reference / respect, "the name, with respect to him in Hebrew / Aramaic is Abaddon", or even interest, advantage, "the name for him ...."
Ebraisti dat. proper. "in Hebrew [is Abaddon]" - As for "in the Greek", the dative proper is adverbial, reference / respect; "whose name, with respect to the Hebrew tongue, is Abaddon." As with Apolluwn, the word means destruction and is sometimes used to refer to the place of the dead, Sheol.
v] Two more woes to go, v12. Depending on the syntax, as noted below, it may be only one more woe to go, namely, the sounding of the sixth trumpet, but see 11:14.
hJ mia adj. "The first [woe is past]" - [the woe] the one [has passed]. Used for an ordinal number, "the first"; "the first woe has passed."
idou "-" - behold; "Look out, there are two more / there is one more to come."
duo ouai "two other woes" - [there comes yet] two woes / a second woe. Usually taken to mean "two more woes", although the verb ercetai, "to come", is singular. Is John treating "two other woes" as neuter (a neuter plural subject often takes a singular verb)? It is possible that John has in mind an ordinal number, giving the sense "a second woe", although the expected article is missing. The sixth trumpet introduces the second woe, and as already noted, a third woe is difficult to identify. Still, it is "Woe! Woe! Woe" in 8:13, with the second Woe concluding after the interlude, 11:14, and the third woe yet to come. See Mathewson for other options.
eti adv. "yet" - [there comes] yet [two woes / a second woe]. Temporal adverb.
meta + acc. "-" - after [these things]. Temporal use of the preposition. The phrase, "after these things" usually begins a sentence and so the NIV, as with many translations, links it with the following verse. Some translations leave it out altogether. It seems best to include the phrase with this verse; "the second Woe is yet to come after these things."