The Fifth Trumpet :: by Don McGee

Mankind has been very successful in his quest for ease of living, and I am mostly very pleased about this success because I don’t like heat and humidity. In the “good ole days” virtually no one in rural America had air conditioning in their homes, and the drive to church three times a week was along dusty roads in a pick-up truck with no air conditioning. Church services were in stifling hot buildings with outdoor facilities, and the invitation song was almost a temptation to “get re-baptized” just for the opportunity to take a dip in the murky but cool waters of the Spillway Canal.

Obviously the “good” of those days had little to do with dust and sweat. It was mostly associated with family, church, community, and those other values that formed the strong framework of principled, godly families and a stable nation. Values that a growing majority of America’s current leaders have never known.

We understand there is nothing inherently good about having a difficult life. But, if there is any virtue in any of that at all it is in the fact that difficulty, when faced properly, can be used to mature strength and perseverance. But, there is a vast difference between difficulties and severe suffering, especially the kind of suffering that is soon to make a seven-year appearance upon this earth like never before. And to answer a question before it has been asked, the fact is there are no experiences in depravation that can even remotely prepare a person for what is coming. When this is understood all thoughts of “prepping” for what is coming are cast aside.

Some Christians will recognize this period by its commonly used name: the tribulation period. This refers to the final 7 years of the 490 years in which God has, and will, deal specifically with the Jewish people and their city of Jerusalem as seen in Daniel 9:24ff and other passages. This final 7 years takes up most of the book of Revelation with some of the horrors that will come upon this earth being described in detail, at least to a degree.

But, those passages have been given mostly a token glance even by those who claim to take them seriously. Since the church will not be on earth experiencing those horrors, some Christians just avoid any real study of them because they are very unpleasant, or maybe because they know they have loved ones who will be left behind, or maybe because they think they have made enough preparations to live through it, or maybe because they are hoping God is grossly exaggerating everything and it won’t happen after all.

Before looking at just one event that will occur during this time it is very important to understand that this tribulation period is really going to happen. You can be equally sure about two things. One, the sun came up this morning, and two, these things will happen in just the way you read about them. And not only that…they will happen very soon.

This time of Tribulation is described in the Old Testament, but Revelation is the go-to text for some of the details of what will be involved. Revelation describes a series of three events that will happen during this time. A seven-seal scroll will be opened, followed by the blowing of seven trumpets and ending with the pouring out of seven bowls of the wrath of God. Each of these events are distinct and each is associated with horrific events.

As the intensity of these judgments grows so will the hardness of men’s hearts. Said another way, instead of the desired effect of prompting repentance from people, these plagues will produce more obstinateness and hatred for God. Even during these unprecedented terrors God extends His forgiveness and grace, yet the overwhelming part of humanity thumbs its collective nose toward God.

After the sounding of the fourth trumpet there is an announcement from heaven regarding what will follow as seen in Revelation 8:13. The eagle will announce, “Woe, woe, woe…” upon those who will experience the remaining three trumpets and the seven bowls. The first woe is described in Revelation 9:1-12. The second woe is described in Revelation 9:13-11:14.

The third and final woe is described in Revelation 11:15 through chapter 19. Interspersed in these woes are what might be called parenthetical insertions where John (the recorder of Jesus’ Revelation) is taken off track by the Lord’s dictation in order to describe other, or side events. After Jesus has dictated those other events He brings John back to the original line of thought.

Christian writers have written about these things for centuries, and some of their conclusions are senseless. Some of those writers have tried to take the events, the creatures described and their associated horrors and bring them in line with interpretations they think are more in line with reality. For example, some have taken the horsemen of Revelation 9:16 to mean modern helicopters.

Folks, there are not 200 million aircraft of all kinds on earth, much less 200 million helicopters! We must simply allow the text to speak for itself, and let God handle what we can’t figure out and what we can’t even imagine.
For the purpose of this article only the events of the fifth trumpet will be considered, for that is the first woe.

The object seen is a star which had fallen to earth. This is unlike the inanimate object called a star in Revelation 8:10, which could be a large asteroid that burns brightly as it enters the earth’s atmosphere. This star is a personality with intelligence to whom is given the key to the bottomless pit. When the pit is opened smoke comes out and in the smoke are locusts with power as that of scorpions.

These creatures will have free reign with people, but they cannot harm the 144,000 Jews who had been sealed with the name of the Father written on their foreheads (Revelation 7:4; 14:1). We are not told how God’s name will be affixed to their foreheads, but it seems possible it will be tattooed or something similar. Some believe the seal will be invisible to the unsaved, but that really does not matter.

The size of these creatures is not given, but their purpose is not to kill people but to torment them and to do so for five months. Their torment will be like the torment of a scorpion when it stings a person. There are almost 2000 species of scorpions on earth, but these creatures do not belong to the realm of this earth. Their sting is “like” the torment of a scorpion which simply means it will be excruciatingly painful. Additionally, it seems from the text that the torment will not be limited to a single sting, or even limited to an occasional sting. It seems that there is no escape from continual stings. Now look at this from the perspective of reality.

We are not told what time of day this will begin, but we know that when it does begin some people will be going to bed, others will be getting up and still others will be at work. Imagine slipping between the sheets in the dark and being stung. The person howls in pain and tries to turn on a light and is stung again. Another person steps into a shower and is stung. Still another reaches for a cooking pot, or walks through the yard, or puts on a shoe and is stung. You are probably beginning to get an idea of how this will be. But there is more.

These creatures come out of the smoke of the abyss and the stings are continual with each sting bringing fresh, full-blown pain. The torment cannot reach a threshold where the pain becomes mitigated. The pain is so agonizing that people will be on the verge of insanity and will attempt suicide… but they will be unable to do so. We are not told how death will flee from them, but it will. There is no medical remediation. There is no insecticide or repellant, no pain killers, and no cure. There will be no help from physicians; they will be tormented like everyone else. This will go on, day and night, for five months. This is incomprehensible, yet true.

Meditating on just this one text causes a person to ask a couple of questions. Why is this happening? Is God a sadist? First, this is happening because mankind has chosen, by exercising his free will, to not only dismiss God from everything, but to express the most vile hatred and blasphemy toward Him that his warped mind can produce.

By dismissing God from his conscience man has de-facto invited satanic hatred and blasphemy to take His place. The most depraved sins of both body and mind are welcomed into the regular custom and practice of human life, and this invitation is accompanied by utter disregard for the consequences. That is what sin does to the human heart and soul; it reduces mankind to the point of absolute wretchedness and degradation.

Still, it is that same malicious human soul for whom Jesus died to save from not only these earthly plagues, but from something even worse – eternal damnation in the lake of fire. Love for mankind is our Lord’s motive. In the middle of all this judgment Jesus continues to offer salvation to whomever would repent and cast themselves upon His great mercy and grace (Revelation 7:9ff). Though the number of those saved during this time is great, relatively few will avail themselves of His invitation, and those who do will suffer incomprehensibly and finally be killed by Antichrist for their choice (Revelation 20:4).

Second, God is not a sadist. The God-hating world is getting just what it deserves (Revelation 16:4-7). The world will be without excuse, for it has been warned for 2000 years that these things are coming. As late as the beginning of the post-rapture tribulation the world will be warned by the two witnesses, the 144,000 Jews and later by the gospel angel. Today people are being warned, but the majority of mankind pays no heed. No, the human heart is not innocent of guilt, nor is it ignorant of these coming judgments.

In Revelation 9:20-21 we are given the response of humanity to these judgments. People then, like today, will refuse to repent of their idolatry, murders, sorceries, immorality and thefts. A logical question might be, “Why won’t people respond after experiencing all these horrific judgments?” This situation in Revelation is similar to the event in Mark 6:5 when Jesus could do only a few miracles in His hometown.

The key factor is faith. You see, miracles in the absence of faith only hardens the human heart against God. People in those days will see these judgments as real and painful, but like most today, they will have no faith in God and in what He is saying about them. Faith, you will recall, comes by hearing the word of God (Romans 10:17).

Be warned. Your past experiences of hard times and depravation will not prepare you for what is coming. Certainly you can prepare, at least to a degree, for certain disasters like an economic collapse or a hurricane, but nothing can prepare anybody for what the post-rapture world is going to bring.

It is nothing less than amazing how most people ignore these things. That, however, will soon change.