The Trumpets of Woe
July 15th, 1962 @ 8:15 AM
THE TRUMPETS OF WOE
Dr. W. A. Criswell
7-15-62 8:15 a.m.
On the radio you are sharing the early morning service of the First Baptist Church in Dallas. This is the pastor bringing the early morning message entitled, The Trumpets of Woe. In our preaching through the Bible, we have come to the Revelation. And in our preaching through the Revelation, we have come to chapter 9. And if you will turn to chapter 9 of the Revelation in your Bible, you can follow the message easily; Revelation, chapter 9:
And the fifth angel sounded, and I saw a star fall from
heaven unto the earth: and to him was given the key of
the bottomless pit.
And he opened the bottomless pit; and there arose a
smoke out of the pit, as the smoke of a great furnace;
and the sun and the air were darkened by reason of the
smoke of the pit.
And there came out of the smoke locusts upon the earth:
and unto them was given power, as the scorpions of the
earth have power.
And it was commanded them that they should not hurt the
grass of the earth, neither any green thing, neither any tree;
but only those men who have not the seal of God in their foreheads.
And to them it was given that they should not kill them,
but that they should be tormented five months: and their
torment was as the torment of a scorpion, when he striketh
And in those days shall men seek death, and shall not find it;
and shall desire to die, and death shall flee from them.
And the shapes of the locusts were like unto horses prepared
unto battle; and on their heads were as it were crowns like gold, and their faces were as the faces of men.
And they had hair as the hair of women, and their teeth were
as the teeth of lions.
And they had breastplates, as it were breastplates of iron;
and the sound of their wings was as the sound of chariots
of many horses running to battle.
And they had tails like unto scorpions, and there were stings
in their tails: and their power was to hurt men five months.
And they had a king over them, which is the angel of the
bottomless pit, whose name is in the Hebrew tongue Abaddon,
and in the Greek tongue, Apollyon.
One woe is past; and, behold, there come two woes more hereafter.
And the sixth angel sounded, and I heard a voice from the four horns of the golden altar which is before God,
Saying to the sixth angel which had the trumpet,
Loose the four angels which are bound in the great
And the four angels were loosed, which were prepared
for an hour, and a day, and a month, and a year, for to slay
the third part of men.
And the number of the army of the horsemen were
two hundred thousand thousand: and I heard the
number of them.
And thus I saw the horses in the vision, and them
that sat on them, having breastplates of fire, and of jacinth,
and brimstone: and the heads of the horses were as the
heads of lions; and out of their mouths issued fire and smoke
By these three was the third part of men killed, by the fire,
and by the smoke, and by the brimstone, which issued
out of their mouths.
And their power is in their mouth, and in their tails: for
their tails were like unto serpents, and had heads, and with
them they do hurt.
And yet the rest of the men who were not killed by these
plagues yet repented not of the works of their hands, that
they should not worship demons, and idols of gold, and silver,
and brass, and stone, and of wood: which neither can see, nor hear, nor walk:
Neither repented they of their murders, nor of their sorceries,
nor of their fornication, nor of their thefts.
Oh! What a chapter, what a chapter. In our following through the revelation of the drama of these last consummating days, we are following the full and the final development of evil. And we are witnessing the great, final assault of Satan against God. And we are beholding before our very eyes the last great battle and conflict of the Lord.
The eighth chapter of the Book of the Revelation describes the first four trumpets [Revelation 8:1-13]. Then at the beginning of the last verse of that chapter after the sounding of the fourth trumpet:
I beheld, and heard an eagle flying through the
midst of heaven, saying with a loud voice, Woe, woe, woe,
to the inhabiters of the earth by reason of the other voices
of the trumpet of the three angels, which are yet to sound!
And that’s why these last three trumpets I have called the trumpets of woe, or the woe trumpets [Revelation 8:13]. As terrible, and as indescribably awful as the first four trumpets have been [Revelation 8:2-13], these last three trumpets are just that much more indescribably horrible and terrible.
We have come to the breaking of that last seal, the seventh seal, which ends the mystery of the work of God in this earth [Revelation 8:1]. In those days of the seventh seal, the mystery of God is fulfilled [Revelation 10:7]. This thing God hath planned to bring to an end, the reign of sin and death, shall have been fulfilled in this breaking of this seventh and last seal [Revelation 8:1]. And as the seal is broken, then there are seven angels, the seven angels to whom are given the seven trumpets [Revelation 8:2]. And as they sound the seven trumpeters are divided into four and into three. And the first four are described in chapter 8 [Revelation 8:7-12].
And now we come to the last three, called the woe trumpets, who are introduced by this eagle flying through the heavens, saying, Woe, woe, woe [Revelation 8:13]; the three indescribably horrible and terrible visitations of the judgment of Almighty God. And the first woe separates the wall between earth and hell [Revelation 9:1-12]. And the second woe, which would be the sixth trumpet, the second woe looses the four malignant magnates of evil, who are bound over the river Euphrates [Revelation 9:13-15]. And the last trumpet and the last woe is the pouring out of the seven vials, bowls of the wrath and judgment of God upon the earth [Revelation 16:1-21], that leads up to the last great battle of God Almighty [Revelation 1+61:13-16]. Ah! These things make your soul tremble in the presence of the living God.
“And the fifth angel sounded,” the first trumpet of woe, “and I saw a star,” and then in the King James Version it is translated, “and I saw a star fall from heaven unto the earth” [Revelation 9:1]. Peptōkota; piptō is the Greek word for “fall,” and this form of it is the participle—the perfect participle. So, “I saw a star fallen”; it had already fallen when John looked upon him.
Who he was, we do not know. The Lord said, “I beheld Satan fall from heaven” [Luke 10:18]. We do not know—this fallen angel, maybe it is Satan. He is some great luminary that God placed in His moral universe to reflect and to uphold the glory and the dignity and the government of Almighty God; some great spiritual power created by God, some marvelous, glorious personality set in the moral universe of God to uphold God’s authority and God’s government. But when John sees him here, he has already fallen. “I saw a star fallen from heaven unto the earth: and to him was given the key to the bottomless pit” [Revelation 9:1]. The Greek word for bottomless is “abyss”, phrear. The bottomless, the abyss, the hole, the vast darkness below, and below, and below is conceived of as coming up like a phrear, the Greek word for a well or a cistern. And it has an orifice. And the mouth of it, the orifice is covered with a door. And there is a key to the door and into the hand of this fallen angel there is delivered the key to that dark, infinitely black abyss [Revelation 9:1].
Now we read in the Book, for example, in the eighth chapter of the Book of Luke and the [thirty]-first verse, we read, you have it there translated, “the deep” [Luke 8:31]; same word, the abyss; the Greek word abyss which we’ve taken over into English. We read there that these demons—who said they were legion in this Gadarene demoniac on the other side of the Lake of Galilee [Luke 8:30]—that when they saw the Lord they said, “Have you come to torment us before our time?” [Matthew 8:29]. And they besought Jesus that He would not command them to go into the abyss [Luke 8:31]. Evidently, therefore, and from other passages in the Bible, this is the prison of the fallen world, the spirit world [1 Peter 3:19]. This is the prison house of those demons who are chained in darkness, reserved unto the great final day of judgment [2 Peter 2:4]. And that thing—this abyss, this horrible, indescribable thing—is mentioned seven times in the Book of the Revelation.
The last time it is mentioned is when an angel, strong and mighty, comes down from God out of heaven and lays hands upon that old dragon—upon Satan, upon Lucifer, upon the Devil—and chains him in that abyss—that bottomless pit—for a thousand years [Revelation 20:1-3]. And it is interesting to note, as we pass by that, that is not the eternal home of Satan, for his eternal damnation lies in the lake of fire where the lost and the damned are forever consigned [Revelation 20:10, 14-15].
This then is a present prison house of darkness for the fallen demons of this world. And that angel, that fallen star to whom God gives the key to this darkness, to this bottomless abyss [Revelation 9:1], he opens the bottomless pit; he opens the abyss. And when he opens it, there pours out of its depths a darkness, a darkness that looked like smoke [Revelation 9:2]. Then as John watches it, that darkness pouring out of the impenetrable depths—as he watches it, there comes out of the smoke and the blackness, there comes out infernal creatures that are horrible in shape, malignant in disposition, and violent in their attacks upon men [Revelation 9:3-6, 10]. What an image and what a judgment!
You know when I read this; I remembered a thing I listened to as a boy. When Carlsbad Cavern was discovered in New Mexico, it was brought to the attention of the world by a cowboy from Texas named Jim White. And when I went to Carlsbad Cavern—that was before they had lights in it—I went through the thing with a lantern soon after it was discovered. Some of us sat around that cowboy, Jim White, and listened to him as he described how he happened to discover Carlsbad Cavern.
And he said riding along on his pony in the evening he saw a smoke coming out of the ground. And he turned his pony to where that smoke was pouring out of the ground. And when he got close enough to see, he looked and that smoke was uncounted millions of bats. Then the next evening he said—at the same time—that same smoke poured out of the ground. And when he rode his pony over there to look upon it [he saw] those millions of bats.
That came to my mind when John saw this. When that bottomless pit was opened, there came out of it smoke, darkness, blackness [Revelation 9:2]. And as John looked upon the blackness and the darkness, out of it came these infernal, indescribable, unnamable creatures to afflict and to torment men [Revelation 9:3]. Out of the blackness of that damnation and out of the blackness of that hell, the whole moral, social world is darkened! And so much so that it blacks out the very sun of authority and government. The whole earth is corrupt and darkened by these vile and vicious and unnamable creatures that pour out of the very pit of hell. Ah! What a thing.
Now John looks at those creatures and he calls them locusts [Revelation 9:3]. They are not locusts actually for locusts eat green things. You never heard of a presence of locusts that didn’t devour the earth. There will be a beautiful field before them, and after they pass there is nothing but seared, burnt want and emptiness, depravation, destruction. These don’t attack any green grass in the earth. They don’t attack any green thing, and they don’t attack any trees. They don’t bother the leaves. They don’t eat anything that locusts eat [Revelation 9:4].
Another thing about them; in the thirtieth chapter of the Book of Proverbs, that wise naturalist Solomon observed that they have no king over them. There is no king over them [Proverbs 30:27]. These have a king over them, which is the angel of that bottomless pit, whose name in the Hebrew is Abaddon and whose name in the Greek translation is Apollyon [Revelation 9:11] whose name in our language would be, “the destroyer”; that is the opposite of Soter, “Savior,” Jesus.
So these infernalities—and by the way will somebody remind me to look that up in the dictionary? Is there such a word as that? These infernalities, these infernal creatures coming out of the darkness of damnation, he looks at them, and he says, “They are like unto horses caparisoned for battle.” No they’re not horses. They are likened unto horses, panoplied, panoplied for war [Revelation 9:9]. That refers to their, their swiftness. Then he says, “On their heads were as it were crowns like gold” [Revelation 9:7]. That refers to their power, their authority. “And their faces were as the faces of men” [Revelation 9:7]. That refers to their intelligence. They are; they obey orders, and they observe the distinction between those that are sealed for God and those who are not sealed for God [Revelation 9:4]. “And they had hair as the hair of women” [Revelation 9:8]. That refers to their seductiveness.
You know whenever you get a persuasion that the devil is unattractive and that sin is unattractive, what you need to do is to sit down and to reevaluate the actualities of how Lucifer works in this earth. Sin will always be made the most attractive thing in this life—always, always. And the devil himself, he never appears as a horned-tailed pitchforks, red, repulsive creature. He comes as an angel of light [2 Corinthians 11:14]. Always remember that! Sin is always presented as attractive and as alluring. Why, I could speak of that in a thousand million instances. It’s just that way everywhere. It is only the judgment of sin that is putrid, and corrupt, and terrible. I never saw a liquor advertisement in my life that was not attractive. It’s only the judgment of God upon it, the man puking in the gutter that stinks, and smells, and is vile, but always presented attractively. Why, I never saw people speak for gambling that didn’t do it persuasively. It is only when you go into the home of a working man and look at his hungry children, and at their naked feet, and at their mortgaged home, and finally no house at all that you see the judgment of God upon it, but it’s always presented attractively.
They had hair as the hair of women; seductive [Revelation 9:8]. That’s why I can’t get through these sermons. I get off on things like that and, and then my time is gone. But that’s the truth. That’s God’s truth. And they had teeth as it were the teeth of lions [Revelation 9:8]. That’s strength. “And they had breastplates, as it were breastplates of iron” [Revelation 9:9]. They’re hard to confront! “And the sound of their wings is as the sound of chariots pulled by many horses rushing to battle” [Revelation 9:9]. That is, they are bold!
Now there is no man in the earth that has any idea what actually that judgment is. It just sounds to me, it sounds to me like all of the rest of what sin is like, whether it’s there under the fifth trumpet [Revelation 9:1-11], or whether it’s here in our day, or whether it’s any other time. It sounds to me like all sin. It’s, it’s caparisoned. It’s panoplied. It is prepared just like that! And it afflicts men, and it torments men!
There never was a nation in this earth that gave itself to debauchery that didn’t reel under it! And there never was a man in this earth that gave himself to vile sin that didn’t stagger under it! There never was a family in this earth that shared in it that wasn’t cursed by it. Only here in the Revelation, it is heightened ten thousand times ten thousand times, as the earth is corrupt and the whole fabric of social and moral life is clouded by the darkness and the smoke of that tragic day.
Well, hastily now, we go on to the sounding of the sixth angel:
And the sixth angel sounded, and I heard a voice from the four horns of the golden altar which is before God,
Saying to the sixth angel which had that trumpet,
Loose the four angels which are bound over the great river Euphrates.
And the four angels were loosed, which were prepared for an hour, and a day, and a month, and a year, for to slay the third part of men.
Now as terrible and as horrible as the fifth trumpet is [Revelation 9:1-12], this one is even more so. For under the fifth trumpet, men are afflicted and tormented [Revelation 9:1, 5]. Under the sixth trumpet, a third of the earth is slain [Revelation 9:15]. Oh! Oh! Oh!
I heard a voice from the four horns of the golden altar saying,
Loose those four evil magnates of iniquity that are restless and bound upon the great river Euphrates.
What a staggering, what an indescribable, what an unbelievable presentation!
You see that golden altar? [Revelation 9:13]. Remember the two altars in the Bible; one is the brazen altar in the court, the altar of sacrifice [Exodus 27:1-5], and the other is the golden altar of prayer and incense before the veil [Exodus 30:1-10]. And that golden altar of prayer and incense had four golden horns, one in each corner [Exodus 30:2-3]. It’s mentioned twice here in the Revelation. The big brazen altar out there is mentioned six times. You see all of prayer was directed to that golden altar, and it was from that altar—where our prayers ascend up to God—that this cry comes, “Loose those terrible angels!” [Revelation 9:14].
Whenever the golden censer was filled with fire, it was from that brazen altar and carried their incense and the prayers of God’s people going up to heaven [Revelation 8:3-4]. And when the blood was sprinkled on those four horns of the golden altar of prayer, the blood was shed on the north side of the brazen altar [Leviticus 1:11]. The meaning of that is the worship of God’s saints is grounded, is based, is founded upon sacrifice, the shedding of blood [Hebrews 9:22]; first, the shedding of blood, first its altar and then the worship of God and our appearance before the Lord.
Now, now this voice, this voice to loose these terrible angels of judgment, these powers and principalities that govern the uncounted millions and millions of demons in darkness, “Loose them!” [Revelation 9:13-14]. And the cry comes from the united voice of the four horns, the universality of that cry [Revelation 9:13]. How could such a thing be?
Ah! It staggers you when you think upon it. For you see, for you see that altar has cried for forgiveness, cried for mercy, cried for the intervention of God on the basis of blood, on the basis of propitiation, on the basis of sacrifice, on the basis of atonement. The golden altar cries to God for forgiveness, and mercy, and salvation to these who have accepted the sacrifice, the way of salvation, the atonement of the living God! [Romans 5:11].
But now, but now men have spurned God’s propitiation! Men have counted the blood of the covenant wherewith He was despised an unholy thing [Hebrews 10:29]. Men have refused and they have rejected God’s law, and great Mediator, and High Priest, the Lord Jesus Christ, and men have forever despised, and spurned, and repudiated God’s one way of salvation! [Hebrews 10:29]. And now the horns of the altar—instead of pleading for mercy and for forgiveness, now the very altar itself cries out for judgment upon these men who reject God’s blood sacrifice on the cross [Revelation 9:13]. My! It is a terrible thing when sin cries out for judgment, but oh, how thrice terrible when the very altar of God cries out for judgment! “It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God [Hebrews 10:31], for our God is a consuming fire” [Hebrews 12:29].
Oh, how we need a Savior! These things written here in this book, “And he said to the four angels, the four angels bound over the great river Euphrates,” twice that’s mentioned in the Revelation and in the exact words, “the great river Euphrates” [Revelation 9:14; Revelation 16:12]. A thousand eight-hundred miles it flows, from the mountains of Armenia to the Taurus range, through the Mesopotamian Valley, down to the Persian Gulf; by far the greatest, largest, most important river in all western Asia, the river Euphrates; “bound over the river Euphrates.”
You think about that for a minute. That river Euphrates is where sin entered the world [Genesis 2:10-14]. Deception, dissimulation, transgression first was there. There at that river Euphrates was where the first lie was told [Genesis 3:4], and the first murder was committed [Genesis 4:8], and the first grave was dug at the river Euphrates [Genesis 4:10]. It was there that the great apostasies before and after the Flood occurred [Genesis 6:5-7, 7:17-24]. It was there that the great enemies of Israel arose, and it was there that Israel in the long weary years of their captivity waited for the intervention of God [Psalm 137:1]. And it was there that the great empires that oppressed the ancient world arose; Assyria, and Babylonia, and Persia, over the river Euphrates, and those four angels were prepared for an hour, and a day, and a month, and a year to slay the third part of men [Revelation 9:15]. Isn’t that something now? The elective choice and purpose of God for that moment, for that hour were the priests and giving this great judging visitation from heaven. Oh! There’s a thousand things here to say as we go by.
“And the number of the armies,” strateumaton, plural, “and the number of the armies,” not army, the number of the armies of these infernal horsemen, we’ve had infernal locusts; now infernal horsemen; was twice ten thousand times ten thousand, two hundred million! [Revelation 9:16]. They were so great, John couldn’t count them. They were so vast, no spectator could count them. And John says, “I heard the number of them” [Revelation 9:16]. Do you know what that would be? That would be a cavalry a mile wide and eighty-seven miles long; two hundred million. The largest army that the ancient world ever, ever heard of—the largest army ever fielded in ancient history was by Xerxes when he crossed the Hellespont to invade Greece. Herodotus, the Greek historian, Herodotus said he had two and half million men in it. These are two hundred million!
Now they’re not actual horses. They have heads like lions and out of their mouths fire, and smoke, and brimstone! And their tails were like serpents that stuck [Revelation 9:17-19]. And you know in the ninth chapter of Isaiah, he calls a lying prophet, “a tail—a tail” [Isaiah 9:15]. And out of the fury, and the damnation, and the horror of these creatures there comes the elements of hell. The reason that he calls the breastplates of those horses, “fire, and jacinth, jacinth and brimstone” [Revelation 9:17]—jacinth, there, jacinth there refers to the blueness of the flame, as it burns at its hottest—and yet with all of the horror of these visitations and with all of the judgments that lies in them [Revelation 9:18-19]; and yet man didn’t repent of these plagues. “Neither repented they.” John says it twice [Revelation 9:20-21].
Isn’t that the most astonishing thing in this earth? You don’t change a man by coercion. You don’t change him by putting him in jail. You don’t change him by electrocuting him. You don’t change him by any kind of punishment. The only thing that can change a man actually is something God does in the heart.
You may scare him by the threat of punishment, and he may live a righteous life somehow because he is afraid of the law. But you don’t change the man himself. That is something that God does in a work of grace. And that’s something we do as emissaries and preachers of the unsearchable riches of the gospel of the Son of God [Romans 10:14-15].
Oh! the Lord bless and help us as we deliver our souls to turn men to Christ. Open your heart to Jesus, loving the Lord Jesus, asking Jesus to save us; God, in mercy, remember us.
Now as we sing this song of appeal, on the first note of the first stanza, on the first note of the first stanza, somebody you to give his heart in trust to Jesus; somebody you to put your life into the fellowship of the church, as we make this appeal, you come and give the preacher your hand. “Preacher, here I am and here I come.” On the first note of this first stanza, you come and stand by me, while all of us stand and sing together.