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4 They were told not to injure the herbage of the earth nor any green thing nor any tree, but only [to attack] such human beings as do not have the seal (mark) of God on their foreheads. [Ezekiel 9:4.]
5 They were not permitted to kill them, but to torment (distress, vex) them for five months; and the pain caused them was like the torture of a scorpion when it stings a person.
6 And in those days people will seek death and will not find it; and they will yearn to die, but death evades and flees from them. [Job 3:21.]
7 The locusts resembled horses equipped for battle. On their heads was something like golden crowns. Their faces resembled the faces of people. [Joel 2:4.]
8 They had hair like the hair of women, and their teeth were like lions' teeth. [Joel 1:6.]
9 Their breastplates (scales) resembled breastplates made of iron, and the [whirring] noise made by their wings was like the roar of a vast number of horse-drawn chariots going at full speed into battle. [Joel 2:5.]
10 They have tails like scorpions, and they have stings, and in their tails lies their ability to hurt men for [the] five months.
11 Over them as king they have the angel of the Abyss (of the bottomless pit). In Hebrew his name is Abaddon [destruction], but in Greek he is called Apollyon [destroyer].
12 The first woe (calamity) has passed; behold, two others are yet to follow. AMP
Like arrows from a bow, the locusts of this first woe judgment will be discharged on the earth. They originate from the bottomless pit - literally, from the "shaft of the abyss." This pit, entered by a shaft, is under lock and key. Incidentally, chapter 9 contains more occurrences of the words "as" and "like" than any other chapter in the Bible. It was difficult for John to describe what he saw in the vision. Nevertheless, the horror of the judgment is clear.
From the shaft will come "locusts" (Revelation 9:3-11) that are no ordinary insects.
They will come straight from Satan's domain. They seem to be animal creatures like locusts, but they are demonic in nature. Perhaps they are demons who take on the form of these unique locusts and who are directed by the king of the shaft of the abyss (v. 11).
These locusts inflict a sting like a scorpion's. "The pain from the sting of a scorpion, though not generally fatal, is perhaps, the most intense that any animal can inflict upon the human body. The insect itself is the most irascible and malignant that lives, and its poison is like itself. . . . It is also difficult to guard against them [the locusts], if they can be warded off at all, because they fly where they please, dart through the air, and dwell in darkness." Unlike ordinary locusts, these creatures will not attack vegetation, but only men. They will be released for five months, during which time men will be unable to commit suicide. This seems impossible, but somehow it will be so.
It is difficult for us to imagine such creatures, but this is no reason for thinking they are mere symbols. Remember that the power of Satan and his demons is great - and these ferocious locusts are demonic. Little wonder that this is called the first woe. Since men do not believe in or accept the existence and activity of demons, people then alive will probably try to give some natural explanation for these creatures and will try to destroy them with a hastily concocted pesticide. But they will find no explanation, and their antidotes will not work.
6. The second woe - the sixth trumpet judgment (Revelation 9:13-21).
13 Then the sixth angel blew [his] trumpet, and from the four horns of the golden altar which stands before God I heard a solitary voice,
14 Saying to the sixth angel who had the trumpet, Liberate the four angels who are bound at the great river Euphrates.
15 So the four angels who had been in readiness for that hour in the appointed day, month, and year were liberated to destroy a third of mankind.
16 The number of their troops of cavalry was twice ten thousand times ten thousand (200,000,000); I heard what their number was.
17 And in [my] vision the horses and their riders appeared to me like this: the riders wore breastplates the color of fiery red and sapphire blue and sulphur (brimstone) yellow. The heads of the horses looked like lions' heads, and from their mouths there poured fire and smoke and sulphur (brimstone).
18 A third of mankind was killed by these three plagues — by the fire and the smoke and the sulphur (brimstone) that poured from the mouths of the horses.
19 For the power of the horses to do harm is in their mouths and also in their tails. Their tails are like serpents, for they have heads, and it is by means of them that they wound people.
20 And the rest of humanity who were not killed by these plagues even then did not repent of [the worship of] the works of their [own] hands, so as to cease paying homage to the demons and idols of gold and silver and bronze and stone and wood, which can neither see nor hear nor move. [Psalms 115:4-7; 135:15-17; Isaiah 17:8.]
21 And they did not repent of their murders or their practice of magic (sorceries) or their sexual vice or their thefts. AMP
Under the fourth seal judgment, one fourth of the earth's population will be killed; under the sixth trumpet judgment, an additional one third will die. This means that these two judgments alone will reduce the population of the earth by one half. Add to this all those who will be killed through war, famine, and disease, and it is not difficult to see how common death will be during this awful time.
The means of this judgment will be an army of horsemen numbering 200 million. Many understand these troops to be the armies of the Orient as they march to invade Palestine. Others see them as a horde of demons, for Scriptures give other examples of supernatural armies
2 Kings 2:11
11 As they still went on and talked, behold, a chariot of fire and horses of fire parted the two of them, and Elijah went up by a whirlwind into heaven. AMP
2 Kings 6:13-17
13 He said, Go and see where he is, that I may send and seize him. And it was told him, He is in Dothan.
14 So [the Syrian king] sent there horses, chariots, and a great army. They came by night and surrounded the city.
15 When the servant of the man of God rose early and went out, behold, an army with horses and chariots was around the city. Elisha's servant said to him, Alas, my master! What shall we do?
16[Elisha] answered, Fear not; for those with us are more than those with them.
17 Then Elisha prayed, Lord, I pray You, open his eyes that he may see. And the Lord opened the young man's eyes, and he saw, and behold, the mountain was full of horses and chariots of fire round about Elisha.
14 And the troops of heaven, clothed in fine linen, dazzling and clean, followed Him on white horses.
The weapons of destruction here will be fire, smoke, and brimstone (Revelation 9:17).
17 And in [my] vision the horses and their riders appeared to me like this: the riders wore breastplates the color of fiery red and sapphire blue and sulphur (brimstone) yellow. The heads of the horses looked like lions' heads, and from their mouths there poured fire and smoke and sulphur (brimstone). AMP
Since these are weapons of hell, they perhaps indicate that this army is made up of demons, the inhabitants of hell.
One would think that the long obituary columns in the newspapers would startle men into facing their responsibility toward God. Instead of repenting and turning to Him for mercy, however, those who are not killed by this army will harden their hearts. The religion of unsaved men during the Tribulation will be the worship of demons and idols, and murder, sorcery, fornication, and stealing will be common (vv. 20-21). Sorcery may include the misuse of drugs, for we derive the word pharmacy from the Greek term. It is interesting to notice that three of these four practices are direct violations of the Ten Commandments. Man's ethics will be a reflection of his religion, and during those days vice, rather than virtue, will reign triumphant.
7. The third woe - the seventh trumpet judgment (Revelation 11:15-19).
15 The seventh angel then blew [his] trumpet, and there were mighty voices in heaven, shouting, The dominion (kingdom, sovereignty, rule) of the world has now come into the possession and become the kingdom of our Lord and of His Christ (the Messiah), and He shall reign forever and ever (for the eternities of the eternities)! [Psalms 22:28; Daniel 7:13,14,27.]
16 Then the twenty-four elders [of the heavenly Sanhedrin], who sit on their thrones before God, prostrated themselves before Him and worshiped,
17 Exclaiming, To You we give thanks, Lord God Omnipotent, [the One] Who is and [ever] was, for assuming the high sovereignty and the great power that are Yours and for beginning to reign.
18 And the heathen (the nations) raged, but Your wrath (retribution, indignation) came, the time when the dead will be judged and Your servants the prophets and saints rewarded — and those who revere (fear) Your name, both low and high and small and great — and [the time] for destroying the corrupters of the earth. [Psalms 2:1.]
19 Then the sanctuary of God in heaven was thrown open, and the ark of His covenant was seen standing inside in His sanctuary; and there were flashes of lightning, loud rumblings (blasts, mutterings), peals of thunder, an earthquake, and a terrific hailstorm. [1 Kings 8:1-6.] AMP
With the sounding of the seventh trumpet will come the announcement that the end is at hand, though seven other judgments must be poured on the earth before all will be finished. These judgments will be the bowls of the wrath of God (16). These last plagues will come in the closing months, or possibly even weeks, of the last year of the Tribulation, without interruption or pause. The seven angels that have to do with these last judgments will all be told to pour out their judgments at one time. All this will be happening at the same time that Antichrist demands that men worship him. Men will be pressured from every side. Most will decide to cast their lot with Antichrist.