The Trumpets of Woe
July 15th, 1962 @ 10:50 AM
Dr. W. A. Criswell
7-15-62 10:50 a.m.
On the radio and on television, you are sharing the services of the First Baptist Church in Dallas. This is the pastor bringing the 11:00 o’clock morning message entitled The Trumpets of Woe. In our preaching through the Bible these many, many years, we have come to the last and the climactic book, the Revelation. And in our preaching through the Revelation, we have come to chapter 9. And if in your Bible you will turn to chapter 9 and keep it open at the place, you can easily follow the message of this morning’s hour. The last book, the Revelation, chapter 9:
And the fifth angel sounded, and I saw a star fall from the heaven unto 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 which 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 a man.
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 in the Hebrew tongue is Abaddon, but in the Greek tongue hath his name Apollyon – and in the English tongue, destroyer.
One woe is past; and, behold, there comes 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 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.
And the number of the army of the horsemen were twice ten thousand times ten 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 and brimstone.
By these there 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 the rest of the men which were not killed by these plagues yet repented not of the works of their hands, that they should not worship devils, 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 fornications, nor of their thefts.
Oh, what a horrible vision and what a devastating visitation! For we have come in the unfolding of this drama, we have come to the great final assault of Satan against God, and we have come to the final unfolding of the development of evil in this world. This ends the mystery of God’s creative workmanship and God’s elective purpose as He frames a new kingdom in which Christ shall reign and His subjects shall love and worship Him forever. These are the last and consummating days as God shall bring to pass in judgment His will in the earth.
In the unfolding of this final drama, we have come to the seventh and the last seal [Revelation 8:1]. And as that seal is broken, and the whole revelation is made of the counsel and purpose of God in the earth, the seventh seal becomes seven trumpets [Revelation 8:2] and those sounding trumpets are divided into two parts, into four and into three. The four first trumpets are sounded in the eighth chapter of the Revelation [Revelation 8:2-13], and were the sermon of last Lord’s Day morning. The last three trumpets [Revelation 9:1-11:19] are so terrible and so horrible that they are set apart by an eagle flying over the meridian of this earth crying: "Woe, woe, woe, to the inhabiters of the earth by reason of the voices of the three trumpets which are yet to sound!" [Revelation 8:13]. As tragic and as terrible as were the four trumpets that have already sounded, they are nothing to compare with the judgment and the visitation of these last three that God calls "the trumpets of woe" [Revelation 9:1-11:19].
The first trumpet of woe dissolves the demarcation, the wall of separation between earth and hell [Revelation 9:1-13]. The second trumpet of woe looses the four magnates of evil who are chained over the river Euphrates [Revelation 9:13-15]. And the last trumpet of woe is the seven bowls of the wrath of the final judgment of God that leads up to the great battle of the day of the Lord Almighty [Revelation 11:15, chapters 15-17]. So in this unfolding drama, we are approaching that great and final hour when God shall cast out evil forever; when the Lord shall take unto Himself His great power; and when the kingdoms of this earth become the kingdoms of our Lord, and of His Christ [Revelation 11:15]. And it pleased God in that vast consummation that evil be destroyed in these days of judgment as they are revealed here in the Word of God.
"And the fifth angel sounded, and I saw a star – and in the King James Version you have it translated, "and I saw a star fall from heaven unto the earth" [Revelation 9:1]. The Greek word there, peptokota, is a perfect. It is in the perfect tense. They translate it here as though John saw that star fall. No, John saw the star "fallen." It had already fallen – a past, perfect tense. Like the Lord Jesus said, "I saw Satan fall from heaven" [Luke 10:18]. We do not know who this angel is. It could be Satan. In any event, when John saw him, he had already fallen. It refers to some great spiritual enthroned creation of God who was set as a luminary in God’s heaven to uphold God’s glory and God’s moral government. And whoever this creature is – whether Satan or one of the archangels who serve him – when John saw him, he saw him fallen from heaven unto the earth.
"And there was given to him the key of the bottomless pit" [Revelation 9:1]. The Greek word there is abyss, and we have taken the Greek word bodily into our language. And there was given to this principality of darkness and evil, this fallen archangel, there was given to him the key of the abyss. Now, not only here, but in the Word of God, that abyss is looked upon as the darkness in which are imprisoned those fallen spirits who are reserved unto the day of judgment [Jude 1:6].
For example, in the eighth chapter of the Gospel of Luke, when Jesus met that Gadarene demoniac, the devils, the demons, the spirits in him – vile and unclean – cried out lest the Lord come to torment them before their time – before their day of final judgment. Then they cried unto the Lord saying: "Send us, we pray Thee, out, but do not command us to go into the" – and you have it translated here, "into the deep" – "into the abyss" [Luke 8:31-32]. Seven times in the Book of the Revelation is that abyss referred to. The last time it is mentioned is in the twentieth chapter of the book – where the great angel comes down from heaven and lays hand upon the devil, that dragon, that serpent, and binds him for a thousand years in that abyss [Revelation 20:1-3]. It is not the eternal home of the devil, for he will be cast into the lake of fire with all of the lost, all of his dupes who serve and worship him [Revelation 20:10, 14-15]. But in this abyss, in this darkness, there are these spirits of evil who are reserved unto that day of judgment.
And there was given to this fallen spirit the key to that abyss.
And he opened the bottomless pit; and there arose a smoke out of it, like the burning of a great furnace; and the sun and the air were darkened,And there came out of the smoke locusts upon the earth.
[Revelation 9:2, 3]
Infernal creatures upon the earth; they were vile in body, they were malignant in disposition, they were terrifying in form, and they were equipped to afflict and to torment mankind. Such a vision – such a vision where the pit is opened: a great blackness obscures the sun and covers the earth, and out of that blackness and out of that darkness come these infernal, unique, indescribable creatures to afflict and to torment mankind [Revelation 9:1-3].
When I read this passage, thinking upon it for this hour’s message, I remembered something that I heard as a boy. In my youthful days, Carlsbad Caverns was discovered. Carlsbad Caverns was discovered by a cowboy from Texas named Jim White. And when I went through the cavern, I did so with a lantern. It had just been opened. And after we had gone through that miraculous wonder, we gathered around Jim White and listened to him talk for hours. And he said he was riding along on his pony and he saw a smoke coming out of the ground. And when he guided his pony to the place where the smoke was issuing out of the ground, he looked and the smoke was uncounted millions of bats. And he said the next day the same thing happened. I saw that smoke pour out of the ground. And he guided his little pony to the place and there it was again, uncounted numbers of bats, flying up out of the heart of the earth. I thought of that when I read this vision.
When the pit was opened, there was a great smoke, a corrupting of social and moral life, and the very obscuring of the government and of authority and order. And out of the darkness and out of the smoke came these infernal creatures [Revelation 9:3]. Now, they are not actual locusts, for it says they did not eat grass, they did not eat any green thing, nor did they touch any tree [Revelation 9:4]. John is telling you here that they are not actual locusts, for locusts eat green things. Where there is a visitation of locusts, behind is nothing but dearth and devastation. Then the wisest man who ever lived, Solomon – who was a keen naturalist and observer – said in the thirtieth chapter of the Book of Proverbs that the locusts have no king over them [Proverbs 30:27]. But John is careful to tell you that these have a king over them, the angel of the bottomless pit whose name in the Hebrew tongue is Abaddon; in the Greek tongue it is Apollyon; in the English tongue it is "Destroyer" [Revelation 9:11]. That is the opposite of soter, "Savior" – Jesus our Lord. So, what he sees is coming out of the very pit of hell – the darkness, and the tragedy, and the corruption, and the obscuration of the very authority and the government of Almighty God. And society is corrupt, and life is corrupt, and the social order is corrupt, and government is corrupt and the whole earth is as it was before God destroyed it with the Flood [Genesis 7:17-24].
Out of the smoke came these unholy creatures [Revelation 9:2]. Then he describes them. The shapes of these creatures are like unto horses, prepared unto battle; caparisoned for war; panoplied for conflict. They look like – they were not horses – "like unto horses," that is, they were swift [Revelation 9:7]. And on their heads were, as it were, "crowns like gold"; that is, they did their work with power. They were successful. And their faces were "as the faces of men" [Revelation 9:7]; that is, intelligent. They obeyed commands and orders and they discerned between those who had the seal of God and those who didn’t. And they "had hair as the hair of women" [Revelation 9:8]; that is, they were seductive and attractive. And their teeth were as the teeth of lions, strength. "And they had breastplates, as it were breastplates of iron" [Revelation 9:9] – they were difficult to confront – "and the sound of their wings was as the sound of chariots of many horses running to battle"; that is, they were bold in their challenge of the entire earth – social, moral, governmental, traditional, religious, ecclesiastical, whatever. And they, "had tails like unto scorpions" [Revelation 9:10]. You are going to meet that again in the description of these under the sixth trumpet [Revelation 9:13-21]. Isaiah, in the ninth chapter, Isaiah said: "The false prophet, the lying prophet, the misleading teacher is a tail" [Isaiah 9:14, 15] that stings in them.
And they hurt men and the intensity was five months [Revelation 9:10] – oh, these things! Now, I have two comments to make about them. The first is this: I want you to notice that in this dissolution of the moral, social life of the world, and in its corruption and in its destruction, I want you to notice that all of it happened under the permissive will of Almighty God.
Sometimes, I am inclined to think that evil is so rampant, and false doctrine is so dark, and the apostasy of these who lead astray in their teaching is so powerful, until I think, well, I think God is dead, or God cannot cope with this, or God’s gospel is emasculated and is lost forever in its power. The Lord must have turned His back and He does not know, or if He does know it, He does not care. You look at this. "Five months," God said, "five months" [Revelation 9:5]. There is a stated limitation. Another thing God says: "And you are not to kill; you can torment" [Revelation 9:5]. And these great principles that you find in the Word of God, because God does not change [Malachi 3:6], and this thing is alike whether it is now or yesterday or to come, the same great principles we see today. Wherever, wherever, wherever, wherever there is false teaching, and apostasy, and the defying of God, and the challenging of the spiritual realities of heaven, there you will find people in misery, tormented, beat down, ground into the dust of the earth. It does not change whether it is in our generation and we look upon it, or whether it is here and in the final consummating hour. And when you are afraid that God has turned loose of this world, why, just look upon it. It is still in His permissive will – five months, and you are not to kill, you can only torment [Revelation 9:5].
The same thing has happened to Job. "You can take him," said the Lord God to Satan, "you can take him. You can take everything he possesses, and you can afflict him with boils from the top of his head to the sole of his foot, but you are not to touch his life" [Job 2:6]. This is the sovereignty of the Lord God Almighty. And He never abdicates His throne. And in the days of grossest darkness, and in the days of the most vile challenge to the spiritual powers of heaven, God still reigns! It is in His permissive will that any dictator dictates or any apostate apostosizes, or any evil ever comes to pass.
All right, another thing – and what I have said just now leads up to the second observation. The mystery of evil was already at work in the days of the apostle Pau [2 Thessalonians 2:7]. That is why I had you read the passage. The mystery of evil doth already work. Then he describes these who give themselves to unclean spirits and to rejection and to blasphemy and to unbelief [2 Thessalonians 2:9-10]. Then finally, you watch it – then finally, God says in the passage you read, "For this cause, for this cause, God shall send them strong delusion, that they should believe a lie" [2 Thessalonians 2:11].
Now, I am just trying to get us to see that these great principles are forever and the same. In the first chapter of the Book of Romans, when God is writing through Paul His indictment of Roman civilization, in the days of the Roman Empire, it says, after God describes their sins in verse 24, it says, "Wherefore God gave them up," – then in verse 26 – "for this cause God gave them up," And then in verse 28 – "God gave them up," [Romans 1:24-28]. Oh, that sounds like the same three woes! When people persist in iniquity, and when people choose to be vile and blasphemous, God lets iniquity run its course. God lets it develop, God lets it continue. And if a man chooses the administration of Satan, God lets that man experience what it is to be a servant of the devil. And that is what is happened here in the Book of the Revelation. The spirit of iniquity works, and it continues and it goes on, and finally it ends in indescribable torment, and hurt, and agony, and pain. You can always remember this, that the man who lives in sin builds his house by the very pit of hell. He is next door. And this that we find under the fifth trumpet is nothing other than an outworking of evil when men choose to be servants of Satan and when they wear the livery of the devil. Then these things inevitably come and inevitably follow after [Revelation 9:1-12].
Now, hurriedly, "And the sixth angel sounded, and I heard a voice from the four horns of the golden altar which stands before God" [Revelation 9:13]. And that united voice of the four horns said to the sixth angel, "Loose the four angels which are bound over the great river Euphrates. And those four angels were loosed, which were prepared for a month, and a year, and a day, and an hour" [Revelation 9:14-15]. And then this terrible second woe which is the sixth trumpet [Revelation 9;14, 11:14]. Heretofore, there have been infernalities, those creatures diabolical, that darkness of corruption, that afflicted and tormented mankind, and now – and now follows this judgment of woe. Not only are men tormented, but one out of three now are slain [Revelation 9:18]. Out of the great population of the earth, there rises the cry and the wail of death and destruction.
I do not know of a more powerful piece of imagery in the Word of God than this one I have just now read. And I want you to see it. There are two altars – two altars in the tabernacle, in the temple of Solomon, and in heaven. Moses said a pattern was given to him, so he did here in the earth in building the tabernacle, he wrought after the pattern that was shown to him in heaven. God showed him the pattern there and Moses copied it [Hebrews 8:5; Exodus 25:9, 26:30]. So in the Revelation, we are in heaven and there are those two altars. The first altar is mentioned six times [Revelation 6:9, 8:3, 9:13, 11:1, 14:18, 16:7] . It is the great altar – the brazen altar, the altar of burnt sacrifice, and it was outside in the court. And the other altar was small, made out of gold, and it stood before the veil of the Holy Place [Exodus 30:1-6]. This was the altar of worship – of prayer, of mediation, and of intercession, of reaching up to God. This [first altar of sacrifice] was the altar of judgment upon sin – of sacrifice, of the pouring out of blood, of the slaying of the victim. Now, in the golden censer, fire was taken from the altar of sacrifice, and on the golden altar incense was burned unto God. And blood was taken, shed on the north side of the altar of sacrifice – blood was taken and on the day of atonement it was sprinkled on the four golden horns of the altar of prayer and intercession and worship [Leviticus 16:12] – all of which was to teach that prayer, and intercession, and worship, and the coming of the presence of God is founded upon, grounded upon, based upon sacrifice; the shedding of blood without which there is no forgiveness of sin and without which a man cannot come into the presence of God [Leviticus 17:11; Matthew 26:28; Hebrews 9:22]. Now, it is from the four horns – the combined voice of that golden altar – that the awful cry comes to loose those four terrible angels bound over the river Euphrates [Revelation 9;13-14]. What an amazing thing! When the blood of the sacrifice and the prayers of intercession have always been for mercy – that God would forgive us, that God would save us, but now – but now the blood that cries and the voice that is raised is no longer for forgiveness and for salvation and for God’s mercy, but the voice is for judgment and perdition and damnation!
Oh, the horror of it! Now why? For a very plain and simple reason. For you see, this is God’s way for a man to be saved – in the blood [1 Peter 1:18-19]. This is the way for a man to meet God – through the great mediation of the High Priest, Jesus Christ [Hebrews 7:25]. This is God’s propitiation for our sins. This is the only way a man can ever see God’s face, and live [John 14:7, 9]. And when a man turns it down, when a man treads underfoot the blood of the covenant wherewith he was sanctified as a being an unholy thing [Hebrews 10:29], and when a man spurns and rejects that one only propitiation for sin [1 John 2:2] and the one and only way of salvation [Acts 4:12], when a man turns it down, then the very altar cries out against the blasphemy and the unbelief and the rejection of that man. The cry is from the four horns of the golden altar of intercession and propitiation and mediation. The Book says again and again, "It is a terrible thing to fall into the hands of the living God" [Hebrews 10:31], "For our God is a consuming fire" [Hebrews 12:29]. When a man turns it down and spurns it and passes it by, then the very voice that wouldn’t cry out for mercy and forgiveness, cries out for judgment and perdition. Oh, these things in the Book – in the Book.
And the voice said, "Loose the four angels which are bound over the great river Euphrates" [Revelation 9:14]. Twice in the Book of the Revelation that Euphrates is referred to in the same language – the identical language [Revelation 9:14; Revelation 16:12]. The river Euphrates begins in the Armenian mountains, some of the highest in the earth. Flooded in the springtime with the melting snows – kind of like the River Nile – and it goes through the Taurus Range, and through the Mesopotamian Valley, down to the Persian Gulf. The Euphrates River, the greatest river, the most important, the longest, the biggest in all western Asia, the Euphrates river, was the place where sin was first known, where transgression was first committed [Genesis 3:1-6], where misery first began [Genesis 3:16-22], where the first lie was told [Genesis 3:4], where the first murder was enacted [Genesis 4:8], where the first grave was dug [Genesis 4:10]. The Euphrates River was the scene of the two great apostasies before and after the Flood [Genesis 6:5, 11:6]. And the Euphrates River was the scene of the rise of Israel’s greatest and of most oppressive enemies. The Euphrates River was the scene of the long years in which they dragged out the wearisome days of their captivity. And the Euphrates River was the scene of the rise of those great world empires that oppressed civilization in the ancient day – like Assyria, like Babylonia, like the Persians and the Medes. And there in that place these four angels – they are magnates of evil, they have in their hands power of awful destruction Satanic evil. And they are given command: "Prepare for an hour, and a day, and a month, and a year" [Revelation 9:15] – to the exact second, to the exact spot, to the exact moment in that calendar, God had placed that thing there.
And now let’s pause and say another word. You know, it is an amazing thing how God chooses in His elective purpose to run this universe. Evil will continue, sin will continue, and God seemingly overlooks it. But at a certain place, at a certain time, at a certain day, and at a certain month, in a certain moment, in a certain second, God has ordained a judgment upon it. For example, if you will turn sometime and read the fifteenth chapter of the Book of Genesis, the Lord says to Abraham in that vision – the Lord says to Abraham, "Abraham, I give you all this land. It is yours [Genesis 15:18-21]. But for four hundred years, your descendants, your children are going to be captives in a strange land [Genesis 15:13] because" – God saith, "because the iniquity of the Amorites is not yet full" [Genesis 15:16]. That vile Canaanite worship, that vile social life of the Canaanites, that indescribable wicked villainy and wickedness and every unnameable depravity that mind could imagine – the Canaanites for years and for years and for generations and for centuries thought, "A righteous God does not see, He does not know, He does not look upon this." But God said to Abraham, "Four hundred years – four hundred years, and the iniquity of those Amorites will be filled and then the great avenging sword of the Lord God Almighty will be placed in your hands." That is the identical and same thing here. Iniquity runs its course. And the Lord lets it develop and let it continue, but there is an hour and there is a day, and there is a month, and there is a year when God shall judge it [Revelation 9:14-15]. These angels of justice and of judgment and of visitation were prepared for that awful day.
Then he describes what he saw. Those angels were loosed – those angels of torment and destruction and visitation and judgment. And the number of the army – strateumaton, plural, armies; you have an army here. "And the number of the armies of those horsemen were twice ten thousand times ten thousand" [Revelation 9:16] – two hundred million. You have a cavalry a mile wide; eighty-seven miles long. That is how the size will be. John could not count them. No spectator could count them. John says: "I heard the number of them" [Revelation 9:16]. The greatest army that was ever fielded in the ancient empires was that by Artaxerxes when he invaded Greece. And Herodotus, the Greek historian, says they numbered two-and-one-half million men. "Two hundred million" – and then he described those horses [Revelation 9:17]. And they are not actual horses. Their heads are like lions, and out of their mouth issued fire and smoke and brimstone – the elements of hell and damnation. And they have breastplates of fire and jacinth. He says jacinth because jacinth to them was blue, the color of a livid, burning flame and brimstone. And then their tails like serpents to hurt, to destroy. And by these, a third part of men were slain [Revelation 9:18]. Oh, the judgment and the visitation of God!
And you would think, and in this sentence or paragraph – I hope I can close before we go off the air – you would think, you would think that after you read these judgments and after men had seen the development of iniquity and evil, and after men had looked upon the cost that they paid in serving evil – you would think that the next verse would be: "And there was a great turning to God. And there was a great repentance and there was a great believing in Jesus." No, and the last two verses are: "But the rest of the men who were not killed, repented not. Repented not. Neither ceased to worship these demons and idols of gold and silver" [Revelation 9:20]. And then the last verse: "Neither repented they of their iniquities" [Revelation 9:21].
One of the strange things about human nature – you don’t change a man because of punishment. And you don’t change a man because of incarceration or imprisonment. He may desist from evil because he is afraid, but his heart is still evil. He would do it if he could, or if he could get by with it. You only change a man by the gospel of the grace of the Son of God. You only change a man in a new birth in a creation of a new love, a new devotion, a new commitment, a new vision, a new dream, a new life. That is why it is so everlastingly important for us not to build bigger jails. We are forced to do it sometimes, but that is no answer. We are forced to have juvenile homes for the delinquents, but that is no answer. The great answer for the changing of men lies in the power of the gospel of the grace of the Son of God. It lies in a new birth. It lies in a new home. It lies in a new commitment. It lies in a new dedication. It lies in a new love. It lies in a new faith. It lies in the new man. And that’s the reason we preach, and pray, and come and assemble ourselves together and join our souls, that in us maybe God will mediate the love and mercy that shall save our people from death.
And that is our appeal to your heart this morning, while we sing this song of invitation. In the balcony round, somebody you, coming down one of these stairways and into the fellowship of the church; somebody you on this lower floor, "Preacher, here I come and here I am. I give you my hand. I give my heart to God." A family you, coming into the fellowship of the church; as God shall say the word, as the Lord shall lead in the way, make it now. Make it now; a family, a couple, one somebody you. On the first note of this first stanza, come, come, come, while we stand and while we sing.