Revelation 9:12
One woe is past; and, behold, there come two woes more hereafter.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(12) One woe is passed . . .—Better, The one woe has passed; behold there cometh (the verb is in the ( singular) yet two woes after these things. Here is the patience and faith of the saints. The troubles which pass only yield place to more, the rest and the victory are not yet; the powers of evil have not exhausted themselves, the iniquity of the social and spiritual Amorites is not yet full,

(12) THE SIXTH TRUMPET—THE SECOND WOE TRUMPET.—The first point which will strike the reader is that the plague under this trumpet resembles the last, though it is one of much more aggravated nature. Again we have vast hosts, with the powers of the horse, the lion, and the viper, at command, but the destructive elements are increased, the multitudes are more numerous, the horses’ heads grow lion-like. With the mouth breathing forth threatening and slaughter, as well as with the tail armed with deadly fangs, they can deal forth, not torment only, as in the last vision, but death itself, to a vast proportion of the human race. To aid in this new desolation new forces are released: the four angels bound near the Euphrates are loosed. The next point to notice is that, even more directly than before, we are reminded that the moral and spiritual aspect of these visions should claim our thought. The aim of the plague is to exhibit the death-working power of false thoughts, false customs, false beliefs, and to rouse men to forsake the false worships, worldliness, and self-indulgence into which they had fallen (Revelation 9:20-21). The Psalmist has told us that great plagues remain for the ungodly. Here, whatever special interpretations we may adopt, is an illustration of the Psalmist’s words. The enemy against whom these foes are gathered is the great world lost in false thoughts, luxurious ways, dishonest customs; that world which in the very essential genius of its nature is hostile to goodness and the God of goodness. But the hosts which come against this sin-drowned world are not merely plagues, as famine and pestilence, they are plagues which are the results of the world-spirit, and are to a great extent, therefore, the creation of those who suffer. For there are evils which are loosed upon the world by the natural action of sin and sinful customs. As the evil spirit mingled for the first time in the plague of the fifth trumpet, so from all quarters (typified by the four angels) new powers of misery arise. Nor must another feature be overlooked: the historical basis of the Apocalypse is the past history of the chosen people; God’s dealings with men always follow the same lines. The Apocalypse shows us the same principles working in higher levels and in wider arena. The Israel of God, the Church of Christ, with its grand opportunities, takes the place of the national Israel. Its advance is against the world, and the trumpets of war are sounded. Its progress is, like Israel’s, at first a success; it gains its footing in the world, but the world-spirit which infects it is its worst and bitterest foe; it becomes timid, and seeks false alliances; it has its Hezekiahs, men of astonishing faith in hours of real peril, and of astonishing timidity in times of comparative safety, who can defy a real foe, but fall before a pretended ally, and who in mistaken friendliness lay the foundation of more terrible dangers (2Kings 20:12-19). The people who are victorious by faith at Jericho lay themselves open by their timid worldliness to the dangers of a Babylonish foe. The plague which falls on the spirit of worldliness does not spare the worldliness in the Church. he overthrow of corrupted systems bearing the Christian name is not a victory of the world over the Church, but of the Church over the world. He who mistakes the husk for the grain, and the shell for the kernel, will despair for Christianity when organisations disappear; but he who remembers that God is able to raise up even of the stones children to Abraham, will never be confounded; he knows the vision may linger, but it cannot come too late (Hebrews 2:3). With all this section the prophecy of Habakkuk should be compared, especially Revelation 1:6-11; Revelation 1:14-15; Revelation 2:1-14; Revelation 3:17-19. The history of Israel is in much the key to the history of the world.

And the sixth angel . . . .—Translate, And the sixth angel sounded: and I heard a (single) voice out of the (four) horns of the golden altar, which is before God, saying to the sixth angel, him who had the trumpet (or, O thou, who hast the trumpet), Loose the four angels which are bound at the great river Euphrates. There are one or two verbal points worthy of notice. The Sinaitic MS. omits the words “single” and “out of the four horns,” and thus reads, “I heard a voice out of the golden altar.” It was the same altar from which the incense ascended mingled with the prayers of the saints. (See Revelation 8:3.) Where the prayers were, thence the voice comes. It reminds us that the prayers are not ineffectual, that still they are heard, though the way of answering may be in strange and painful judgments. The voice is heard as a single voice out of the midst of the horns of the altar. It is very doubtful whether the word “four” ought to be retained. The voice is represented as rising from the surface of the altar, at the corners of which were the four projections known as horns. The command is to loose the four angels bound at the Euphrates. What are these? Their number—four—represents powers influencing all quarters. They are angels (that is, messengers, or agencies) employed for the purpose. They are at or near the river Euphrates—that is, the spot whence the forces would arise. What is meant by the Euphrates? Are we to understand it literally? This can hardly be, unless we are prepared to take Babylon and Jerusalem literally also, and to deny all mystical meaning; but this is what only few will be disposed to do. The two cities, Babylon and Jerusalem, are the types of two radically different sets of ideas, two totally antagonistic views of life; and the meaning and mystical import of the River Euphrates must be determined by its relation to these two cities. It has been, indeed, argued that we are not bound to take the name Euphrates mystically because the remainder of the vision is mystical, since in Scripture we often find the literal and the allegorical intermingled. For example, there is an allegory in Psalm 80:8; Psalm 80:11, “Thou hast brought a vine out of Egypt,” &c. It is quite plain that the vine is used mystically to represent Israel; but the word Egypt is not mystical—it indicates the literal fact that out of Egypt Israel was brought. This is no doubt true, but if hardly meets the question here. No one will dispute that a distinct, literal fact or name may be introduced in a passage otherwise allegorical; but do we ever meet with a passage in which names of places are introduced, some of which were to be taken literally and some mystically? And such would be the case here. The whole tenor of the Apocalypse keeps before us Jerusalem, the temple, and its surroundings (Revelation 11:1; Revelation 11:8), and Babylon, with its might and opulence, as two opposing cities; and it is out of all scriptural analogy to interpret Jerusalem allegorically, and Babylon allegorically, and then to claim the privilege of understanding Euphrates literally. In fact, the inconsistency and arbitrariness of interpreters is tested by these three names, Babylon, Jerusalem, Euphrates. Some will have Jerusalem to be literal, and Babylon and Euphrates mystical; others will have Babylon mystical, and Jerusalem and Euphrates literal. Surely those who hold all three to be literal are more consistent. But if Babylon be mystical and Jerusalem mystical, it is hard to see why Euphrates should not be so also. I am far from denying that those who consistently hold all three to be literal may not be right. There are not wanting tokens that a revival of the East may change the whole political centre of gravity of the world; but no such literal fulfilment would annul the infinitely more important mystical aspect of the Apocalypse. The conflict between a literal Babylon and a literal Jerusalem either in the past or the future can never vie in interest with the prolonged and widespread conflict between the spirit of Christ and the spirit of Belial, between God and Mammon, which is waged along the whole line of history over the arena of the whole world, and plants its battle-ground in every human heart. In every man, and in the whole world, the war is waged, as the carnal and spiritual contend with one another. It is in this war between the mystical Jerusalem and the mystical Babylon that the great river Euphrates is to play an important part.

Twice (here and in Revelation 16:12) the river Euphrates appears, and each time in connection with some warlike demonstration or invasion. The basis of interpretation, as with Jerusalem and Babylon, must be sought in the history of Judah and Israel. Babylon is the great foe of Israel, and the Euphrates was the great river or flood which formed a natural boundary between them. “The other side of the flood” (i.e., Euphrates) was the phrase which pointed back to the early life of Abraham before he had entered upon the life of pilgrimage and faith; the Euphrates was the rubicon of his spiritual history. The Euphrates was the great military barrier also between the northern and southern nations; it occupied a place similar to the Rhine and the Danube in modern history. The advance of the Egyptian army to the banks of the Euphrates threatened the integrity of the Assyrian empire (2Kings 23:29). The battle of Carchemish established the supremacy of the Chaldean power to the west of the Euphrates (2Kings 24:7); such a preponderance of Babylonish influence threatened the safety of Jerusalem. The loosing of the four angels (or, powers) bound at the Euphrates can only signify changes analogous to disturbances on the great frontier line, as the drying up of the Euphrates signifies the annihilation of the protecting boundary. Such a frontier line between the spiritual city and the world city does in practice exist. There is a vast stretch of intervening territory which neither the Church nor the world really possesses, but over which each desires to possess power. There is a great neutral zone of public opinion, civilised habits, general morality, which is hardly Christian, hardly anti-Christian. When Christianised sentiments prevail in this, there is comparative peace, but when this becomes saturated with anti-Christian ideas, the Church suffers; and it is out of this that the worst aspects of trouble and danger arise; for out of it arise those forces which bring into acute form the great war between the world spirit and the spirit of Christ. The loosing of these four angels, then, seems to indicate that the issues at stake have become more distinct; that the conflict which has gone on under veiled forms begins to assume wider proportions and to be fought on clearer issues. The issues have been somewhat confused: the world spirit has crept into the Church, and against the world spirit, wherever found, the trumpet blast declares war.

Revelation 9:12. One wo is past, &c. — This is added not only to distinguish the woes, and to mark more strongly each period, but also to suggest that some time will intervene between this first wo of the Arabian locusts and the next of the Euphratean horsemen. The similitude between the locusts and Arabians is indeed so great, that it cannot fail of striking every curious observer: and a further resemblance is noted by Mr. Daubuz, that “there had happened in the extent of this torment, a coincidence of the event with the nature of the locusts. The Saracens have made inroads into all those parts of Christendom where the natural locusts are wont to be seen, and known to do mischief, and nowhere else: and that, too, in the same proportion. Where the locusts are seldom seen, there the Saracens stayed little: where the natural locusts are often seen, there the Saracens abode most; and where they breed most, there the Saracens had their beginning and greatest power. This may be easily verified by history.”9:1-12 Upon sounding the fifth trumpet, a star fell from heaven to the earth. Having ceased to be a minister of Christ, he who is represented by this star becomes the minister of the devil; and lets loose the powers of hell against the churches of Christ. On the opening of the bottomless pit, there arose a great smoke. The devil carries on his designs by blinding the eyes of men, by putting out light and knowledge, and promoting ignorance and error. Out of this smoke there came a swarm of locusts, emblems of the devil's agents, who promote superstition, idolatry, error, and cruelty. The trees and the grass, the true believers, whether young or more advanced, should be untouched. But a secret poison and infection in the soul, should rob many others of purity, and afterwards of peace. The locusts had no power to hurt those who had the seal of God. God's all-powerful, distinguishing grace will keep his people from total and final apostacy. The power is limited to a short season; but it would be very sharp. In such events the faithful share the common calamity, but from the pestilence of error they might and would be safe. We collect from Scripture, that such errors were to try and prove the Christians, 1Co 11:19. And early writers plainly refer this to the first great host of corrupters who overspread the Christian church.One woe is past - The woe referred to in Revelation 9:1-11. In Revelation 8:13 three woes are mentioned which were to occur successively, and which were to embrace the whole of the period comprised in the seven seals and the seven trumpets. Under the last of the seals we have considered four successive periods, referring to events connected with the downfall of the Western empire; and then we have found one important event worthy of a place in noticing the things which would permanently affect the destiny of the world - the rise, the character, and the conquests of the Saracens. This was referred to by the first woe-trumpet. We enter now on the consideration of the second. This occupies the remainder of the chapter, and in illustrating it the same method will be pursued as heretofore: first, to explain the literal meaning of the words, phrases, and symbols; and then to inquire what events in history, if any, succeeding the former, occurred, which would correspond with the language used.

And, behold, there come two woes more hereafter - Two momentous and important events that will be attended with sorrow to mankind. It cannot be intended that there would be no other evils that would visit mankind; but the eye, in glancing along the future, rested on these as having a special pre-eminence in affecting the destiny of the church and the world.

12. Greek, "The one woe."

hereafter—Greek, "after these things." I agree with Alford and De Burgh, that these locusts from the abyss refer to judgments about to fall on the ungodly immediately before Christ's second advent. None of the interpretations which regard them as past, are satisfactory. Joe 1:2-7; 2:1-11, is strictly parallel and expressly refers (Joe 2:11) to THE DAY OF THE Lord great and very terrible: Joe 2:10 gives the portents accompanying the day of the Lord's coming, the earth quaking, the heavens trembling, the sun, moon, and stars, withdrawing their shining: Joe 2:18, 31, 32, also point to the immediately succeeding deliverance of Jerusalem: compare also, the previous last conflict in the valley of Jehoshaphat, and the dwelling of God thenceforth in Zion, blessing Judah. De Burgh confines the locust judgment to the Israelite land, even as the sealed in Re 7:1-8 are Israelites: not that there are not others sealed as elect in the earth; but that, the judgment being confined to Palestine, the sealed of Israel alone needed to be expressly excepted from the visitation. Therefore, he translates throughout, "the land" (that is, of Israel and Judah), instead of "the earth." I incline to agree with him.

One period of time is over, in which God hath plagued the world with a very great judgment; but there are two more to come, which will be equally, if not more, calamitous. One woe is past,.... One of the three woe trumpets, the first of them; that is, in the vision which John had of it, not the thing itself designed by it:

and behold there come two woes more hereafter; under the blowing of the sixth and seventh trumpets.

{9} One woe is past; and, behold, there come two woes more hereafter.

(9) A passage to the next point and the history of the time following.

EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
Revelation 9:12. These words,[2594] serving as well to conclude Revelation 9:1-11 (Ἡ ΟὐΑῚ Ἡ ΜΊΑ ἈΠῆΛΘΕΝ), as to point to what follows (ἸΔΟῪ ἝΡΧΕΤΑΙ, Κ.Τ.Λ.) belong to John’s report, and are not to be taken as the words of the eagle,[2595] or any other heavenly messenger. After the vision just described, John makes prominent that now the one woe of the threefold cry is fulfilled, and accordingly past.

Ἡ ΜΊΑ, cardinal number, that one of the three, as immediately afterwards ἝΤΙ ΔΎΟ. Cf. Revelation 6:1.

Ἡ ΟὐΑῚ. The striking feminine form is explained by the fact that the conception of a ΘΛῖΨς is involuntarily substituted for this announced woe.[2596]

ἸΔΟῪ, ἜΡΧΕΤΑΙ ἜΤΙ ΔΎΟ ΟὐΑῚ Μ. Τ. The sing. ἜΡΧΕΤΑΙ contains an hypallage, which is inoffensive since the verb precedes.[2597]

[2594] Cf. Revelation 11:14.

[2595] Cf. Revelation 8:13.

[2596] Cf. Winer, p. 169.

[2597] Cf. Winer, p. 481.

The allegorical mode of interpretation applies to Revelation 9:1 sqq., as everywhere, the most arbitrary expedients, and does the greatest violence to the context, and that, too, alike in the expositors who make their explanations from an overstrained conception of biblical prophecy, no less than in those who in a more or less rationalistic way consider the prophetic visions of John as vaticinia post eventum, and transform them into allegorical outlines of the events of the Romano-Judaic war. The plague of locusts is regarded as heresy only by interpreters of the first class;[2598] as calamities of war, and similar afflictions, by interpreters of both classes.[2599] N. de Lyra, like many others proposing the Arians, interprets the individual chief features thus: the star, Revelation 9:1, is the Emperor Valens, “who from the height of Catholic faith fell into the Arian heresy;” the key is the power of exalting this heresy; the locusts are the Vandals whom this heresy infected; the verdure, Revelation 9:4, represents the Christians in Africa spared by the Vandals; the five months designate the period of the five Vandal rulers. Stern understands by the locusts all imaginable heretics, down even to the Pantheists and German Catholics of our times. The scorpion-tails indicate that “false doctrine bears its sting in its consequences;” the hair of women admonishes that “many false doctrines, occasioned by inordinate love to women, have almost all been diffused by women, to begin with Helena the associate of Simon Magus, down to the bacchantes of modern times, who, with Ronge and his followers, drank the cup of the Devil, and won admirers for the prophet of Laurahütte.”

[2598] Beda, Andr., Areth., N. de Lyra, Luth., Calov., Boss., Stern, etc.

[2599] Vitr., Beng., Hengstenb., Grot., Wetst., Herd., Eichh.

Many older Protestants understand by the star the Pope; by the locusts the degenerate clergy, viz., the monks of the Catholic Church.[2600] This was, as C. a Lap. says, a retaliation for the interpretation of Bellarmin and other Catholics, that it refers to Luther, Calvin, and the Evangelical Church.

If by the locusts warriors are understood (and even Klief. forces from the passage the ideas of military power and its oppression), expositors like Grot., Wetst., Herd., Eichh., Heinr., find a more minute determination derived from the fundamental view of the entire Apoc. The locusts are the Zealots.[2601] The star is, according to Grot., Eleasar, the son of Ananias; according to Herd., Manaim. The abyss opened by him is, according to Grot., “the seditious doctrine that obedience must not be rendered the Romans,” for (ΚΑῚ, Revelation 9:3 = nam) from this the party of the Zealots arose to the injury of the Jews; according to Herd., “the fortress Masada.” Abaddon is, according to Grot., “the spirit which animated those Zealots;” according to Herder, Simon, the son of Gorion. To Vitr. and Beng., chronology suggests a more minute determination; in the time succeeding the fourth events of the trumpet-vision, something must be found to which the fifth trumpet-vision could be referred. Hence Vitr. conjectured the incursions of the Goths into the Western Roman Empire in the beginning of the fifth century; Beng. understood the persecution of the Jews in Persia in the sixth century. Volkm. understands the army of Parthians to be led by Nero against Rome.[2602] Without any more minute determination, Hengstenb. interprets the fifth trumpet as referring to the distresses of war, and the locusts to soldiers. “One of the many incarnations of Apollyon” was Napoleon, whose name has a “noteworthy similarity” to the name of the king of the locusts.[2603] A special indication will be found in the text, that the locusts are to be understood allegorically. Beda, already, said that such locusts as, according to Revelation 9:4, are to eat neither grass nor leaves, could not be actual locusts, but must be men. But Revelation 9:4 is with more justice understood by other allegorists as a “figurative” mode of expression; as, e.g., by Bengel, who suggests “a lower, middle, and higher class of the sealed.” Otherwise N. de Lyra, Vitr., etc. If there be an allegory anywhere, every individual feature must be allegorically interpreted. But for this the text itself nowhere gives the least occasion. It cannot even be said, with De Wette, that what is demoniacal in the plague of locusts here portrayed is only to be conceived of as a symbol of their extreme destructiveness; for however seriously and literally the demoniacal nature of these locusts be intended, it follows that they have no power,[2604] even as demoniacal, over the sealed, who remain absolutely untouched[2605] by all the other plagues of the trumpet-visions. The plagues of the one vision are just as literally meant as those of the other, the infernal locusts with the tails of scorpions no less than war, famine, the commotion and darkening of the heavenly bodies. For John beholds a long series of various, and, as a whole, definitely shaped plagues, as foretokens and preparations of the proper parousia. Whoever, then, as Hebart,[2606] expects the literal fulfilment of all these visions, and, consequently, e.g., the actual appearance of the locusts described in Revelation 9:1 sqq., it is true, does more justice to the text than any allegorist; but, because of a mechanical conception of inspiration and prophecy, he ignores the distinction between the actual contents of prophecy, and the poetical form with which the same is invested in the enlightened spirit of the prophet, and not without a beautiful play of his holy fantasy.

[2600] Aret., Bull., Laun., etc.

[2601] According to Wetst., the army of Cestius.

[2602] Cf. Revelation 9:14.

[2603] Gerken also, who, through an entire series of trifling expedients, puts a forced construction on the name Napoleon, thinks (p. 26) that we may venture to derive it from ἀπόλλυμι, and therefore writes it Napolleon.

[2604] Revelation 9:4.

[2605] Cf. Revelation 7:1 sqq.

[2606] Die Zweite Sichtbare Zukunft Christi, Erl., 1850.Revelation 9:12. A parenthetical remark of the author. ἔρχεται with plur. subj. following is not an irregularity due to Greek neut. as equiv. to Heb. fern. (Viteau, ii. 98–100), but an instance of the so-called “Pindaric” anacoluthon (cf. Moult, i. 58).12. One woe] Of the three denounced by the eagle, Revelation 8:13. A decided majority of orthodox commentators understand this vision as foretelling the Mahometan conquests—some taking the fallen star of Revelation 9:1 of Mahomet himself. The last is scarcely credible—unless one should adopt the view,—not perhaps inconsistent with the facts of Mahomet’s career, but hardly in harmony with the general order of Revelation—that he really had a divine commission, but perverted it to serve his selfish ambition. It seems almost certain that the “star” is an angel, strictly speaking: but the interpretation as a whole seems worthy of respect. Perhaps the Mahometan conquest is to be regarded as at least a partial fulfilment of this prophecy: but the attempts to shew that it is in detail an exact fulfilment have not been very successful.Revelation 9:12. Ἡ οὐαὶ ἡ μία) The feminine, as was just before noticed. We shall express the woe sometimes in the neuter gender, with the Latin translators, sometimes in the feminine; just as it shall tend to the perspicuity of my discourse. One woe, that is, the first.Verse 12. - One woe is past; the one woe, or the first woe. "Woe" (ἡ οὐαί) is feminine; perhaps because expressing the idea of tribulation, such words being generally feminine in the Greek. Some have thought that these words are a further announcement by the eagle of Revelation 8:13; but there is nothing to lead us to suppose that they are not the words of the writer. And, behold, there come two woes more hereafter. Omit "and:" behold, there cometh yet two woes hereafter. The verb is singular in א, A, and others; the plural is found in א, B, P, and others. Alford says, "singular, the verb applying simply to that which is future, without reference as yet to its plurality." But probably οὐαί, although written as a feminine in the preceding clause, being really indeclinable, is treated as a neuter; and thus the singular verb is made to agree with the neuter plural, in conformity with the rules of Greek grammar. The second woe extends from this place to Revelation 11:14, and the third woe is contained in Revelation 11:14-19, especially in Revelation 11:18. The first woe (ἡ οὐαὶ ἡ μία)

Lit., the one woe.

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