The Fifth Trumpet and First Woe
The next three trumpets are called “woes” and only solidify the cruelty and hardness of heart which is the ordinary state of natural man—man without the regenerating Spirit of God. The eagle (a bird of prey) flies overhead pronouncing the upcoming woes because these will not be directed at nature but at men, and not all men but only those who have not the seal of God on their minds and hearts; that is, unregenerate men, men without the Holy Spirit. So like the plagues that God sent upon the Egyptians, there comes a time when He will make a distinction between His people and the rest (Exodus 8:22; 9:4; 11:7). Believers could not help but be affected by the first four plagues; but with these, God will set apart His very own.
The first woe describes creatures coming up from “the bottomless pit” or “abyss” having been released by a “star fallen from heaven” who was given a key to that shaft. All agree that the “star” is an angel, though some say it was a good angel while others think one fallen, perhaps Satan himself (Luke 10:18). As Christ earned the keys to death and hades through his resurrection (1:18), I struggle to think that he would hand them back to Satan for a moment, even to do his own bidding. So I believe the star is an angel in Christ’s service. The creatures are the most hideous and frightful in the whole Book and almost defy imagination. Their mission is to torture unredeemed men for a limited period of time (“five months”), their stings being so painful that men will seek death but not find it. The Hebrew and Greek names for their king means “destroyer,” but we must understand that all of this is under the work of our Sovereign God.
It is hard for me to imagine that these are actual creatures, much less “Apache helicopters” as I heard someone say. I tend to believe that these creatures represent the pang of conscience that afflicts the wicked now and will be demonically-driven in that day. Even the ancient Greeks believed in hideous-looking creatures called, “Furies,” who tortured men with guilt for their crimes. And hell is described in Scripture as a place of “weeping and gnashing of teeth.” The torture of the wicked is the knowledge that godliness is better than wickedness, but their love for sin has so enslaved them that repentance is impossible. They are caught in the mystery of iniquity in that they cannot repent because they won’t and won’t repent because they can’t. They secretly hate themselves but love their sin. They wish to die but live to sin, so death flees from them as they sink deeper into the slough of despond. It’s a wretched existence, and one they hate to love.