Most of us are familiar with the 21 wrath-filled judgments given within Revelation chapters 6-18; the seven seals, seven trumpets, and seven vials of wrath are much talked and written about. Yet few are also familiar with, nor do they even discuss the three woes foretold within Revelation. What are these three woes? And why are they essential for understanding the timing of events described within the book of Revelation?
Let’s look at them now and see what we can glean from the scripture. In Revelation chapter 8 we are introduced to the three woes. They are pronounced in verse 13.
“And I beheld, and heard an angel 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!”
In Revelation 9:12 we are told that this: “One woe is past; and, behold, there come two woes more hereafter.”
What will be the first woe? The first woe is described in Rev. 9:1-12. This first woe is also the fifth trumpet judgment. This first woe is timed within the trumpet judgments during the first half of the tribulation, nearing the midpoint.
The bottomless pit is opened, and hideous locust-type beings ascend from it. Their description is horrifying. Some have attempted to claim these things are helicopters or other military weaponry. But scripture is clear that these beings will come up out of the bottomless pit. They are clearly not man-made military apparatus.
These terrifying beings will torment the unsaved earth dwellers for five months. “And their torment was as the torment of a scorpion, when he striketh a man” (v.5). This will be so horribly painful that mankind will actually desire to kill themselves to escape the pain, but won’t be able to. (See v.6)
As if the stings of these beings weren’t bad enough, the appearance of them will be frightening as well. Among other features, they will have faces of men, long hair (“the hair of women”), teeth as lions, and other horrifying features.
That is the first woe. We are then told in Rev. 11:14 that the second woe is past. What will the second woe be?
(Rev. 11:1-14) The two witnesses will have been testifying in Jerusalem for the first half of the tribulation. They will be given special gifts of God (v.5-6) such as turning water to blood, stopping rain from falling, even the capability to issue fire from their mouths to destroy those who attempt to harm them.
After their 42 months of witnessing, they will be slain by the beast that arises out of the bottomless pit (v.7). Their dead bodies will lie in the street of Jerusalem for 3.5 days (v.8-11). The entire world (the people of “kindreds, tongues, and nations”) will see their dead bodies lying in the street and will not allow them to be buried.
During those three and a half days, the unsaved world will be celebrating their deaths! They will even send gifts to each other in rejoicing over their deaths (v.10). But the earth-dwellers’ rejoicing will be short-lived. After 3.5 days these two witnesses will be resurrected. They will hear a great voice from heaven telling the two witnesses to “come up hither,” and they will ascend up to heaven as their enemies behold them! (v.11-12). That same hour there will be a great earthquake. A tenth part of the city will fall! 7,000 men will be slain of the earthquake. (v.13)
The timing of the second woe is vital to understand as it comes at the midpoint of the tribulation – 42 months into the tribulation (3.5 years on Israel’s 360-day calendar). We can then understand that the two witnesses spoken of had been testifying in Jerusalem for the first half of the tribulation. During that time, the Jews will still be in the land of Israel where they will hear these witnesses proclaim the truth.
We already could have reasonably assumed that the two witnesses must be testifying in Jerusalem during the first half of the tribulation, as the Jews will have to flee at the mid-point and won’t be in Israel to hear them if they were to carry out their mission during the second half of the tribulation. But the timing of the second woe solidifies this timing as being the first half ending.
The third woe is also vital to understanding the timing of the previous woes (as well as the timing of the 21 wrath-filled judgments altogether). A series of events transpire at the exact midpoint. We are told of the third woe in Rev. 12:12.
“Therefore rejoice, ye heavens, and ye that dwell in them. Woe to the inhabiters of the earth and of the sea! for the devil is come down unto you, having great wrath, because he knoweth that he hath but a short time.”
The third woe is the devil being cast to earth; he will be filled with wrath when he realizes he has but a short time! To read more about how time may be shortened, see a previous article here:
The timing of when the devil is cast down to earth is also vital to placing the timing of all other events in the tribulation. This is the exact mid-point of the tribulation as well! Why is this so important? We see an orderly progression in scripture. God is not the author of confusion (1 Cor. 14:33). The seven seals and seven trumpet judgments happen during the first half of the tribulation as follows (you can study each of these individually yourself in scripture):
The first seal: Rev. 6:1-2
The second seal: Rev. 6:3-4
The third seal: Rev. 6:5-6
The fourth seal: Rev. 6:7-8
The fifth seal: Rev. 6:9-11
The sixth seal: Rev. 6:12-17
The seventh seal: Rev. 8:1-5
The first trumpet: Rev. 8:6-7
The second trumpet: Rev. 8:8-9
The third trumpet: Rev. 8:10-11
The fourth trumpet: Rev. 8:12-13
The fifth trumpet (also the first woe): Rev. 9:1-12
The sixth trumpet: Rev. 9:13-21
The seventh trumpet: Rev. 10:1-7
Then we see the mid-point, when a series of events transpire in rapid-fire succession:
The second woe: (Rev. 11:1-14)
The third woe: (Rev. 12:12)
The antichrist enters the temple and falsely proclaims himself to be “god.” (2 Thes. 2:4)
The antichrist breaks the covenant with Israel (Dan. 9:27).
The Jews must then flee (Matt. 24:15-22).
Here we see the midpoint, as numerous events play out in rapid-fire succession. The antichrist will break the covenant at the exact midpoint as foretold in Dan. 9:27 and Matt. 24:15. He will defile the altar of the temple and falsely proclaim himself to be “god” (2 Thes. 2:4).
We then see that the remnant Jews (an entire 1/3 of them according to Zech. 13:8-9) will flee Israel as described in both Matt. 24:15-20 and Rev. 12:6, 12:14. They will flee to a place prepared by God Himself, and will be nourished there. Many believe this place to be Petra, Jordan. It may well be Petra due to its proximity to the original location of Bozrah (see: Isaiah 63:1, Jer. 49:22, Micah 2:12-13 and others. Compare Isaiah 63:1 with Rev. 19:13). When Jesus returns at the end of the seven-year tribulation, He will save His elect from those who wish to do them harm in Bozrah.
This exact midpoint is also where Jesus Himself delineated between the tribulation and the “great tribulation.” (Matt. 24:21). I believe that this is when the actual “time of Jacob’s trouble” will commence (Jer. 30:7). Some Bible scholars may disagree and contend that the entire seven years are the “time of Jacob’s trouble.” Yet I would opine (from scriptural clues) that Israel (Jacob, i.e. the Jews) will truly see the trouble when they have to flee, as heretofore (during the first half of the tribulation), they are in Israel having believed the antichrist’s lies, deceit, and trickery pertaining to his false peace covenant.
We have another clue in Jer. 30:7 when God’s word proclaims: “Alas! for that day is great, so that none is like it…” We can compare that with Jesus’ words in Matt. 24:21 “For then shall be great tribulation, such as was not since the beginning of the world to this time, no, nor ever shall be.”
We see that, in both parts of scripture (Jer. 30:7 and Matt. 24:21), this specific time is foretold to be unprecedented in the amount of tribulation involved. The real trouble (for them) begins immediately following when they see the antichrist has broken the covenant and falsely proclaimed himself to be “god.” Then is when Jesus Himself said they must flee immediately.
The trouble will come upon Israel (Jacob – the Jews) so quickly and suddenly that those who are in Judea will flee into the mountains (Matt. 24:16); they won’t even go back to take any supplies or clothing from their homes (v.17-18). This quick flight happens when they realize the antichrist has duped them and has broken the covenant (Dan. 9:27), as was his intention all along. But as foretold, they will be saved out of it.
“Alas! for that day is great, so that none is like it: it is even the time of Jacob’s trouble, but he shall be saved out of it.”
God will prepare this place for them near Bozrah (possibly Petra, Jordan), as we see in Rev. 12:6 and 12:14. As a side note, there are some who would claim that the “great wings of an eagle” (in Rev. 12:14) have something to do with the US or another nation. This is not so. We need look only to scripture for the answers! It is the Lord Himself! Scripture interprets scripture.
“Ye have seen what I did unto the Egyptians, and how I bare you on eagles’ wings, and brought you unto myself” (Exodus 19:4).
“As an eagle stirreth up her nest, fluttereth over her young, spreadeth abroad her wings, taketh them, beareth them on her wings: So the Lord alone did lead him, and there was no strange god with him” (Deut. 32:11-12).
We also see the direct connection to the term “eagle’s wings” and the area of Bozrah (Jordan, near Petra) in Jeremiah 49:22 as well. These “eagle’s wings” (God Himself) are the same who will lead/carry the remnant Jews (1/3) to Jordan to keep her safe during the second half of the tribulation – the “great tribulation” (Matt. 24:21) – the “time of Jacob’s trouble” (Jer. 30:7).
After the 3 woes, during the second half of the tribulation, we continue to see an orderly progression of horrific events foretold in scripture. The antichrist beast government comes to full power (Rev. 13:1). The antichrist will receive what appears to be a deadly head wound. Whether or not he actually dies is suspect, since the terminology used is “as it were” (appearing to be), as shown in Rev. 13:3. It could be an attempt of the devil to make a mockery of Jesus’ actual resurrection.
Many Bible scholars believe that when the devil is cast down (Rev. 12:12) he will indwell (possess) the antichrist during the second half of the tribulation. I believe this to be the case also. Just as Satan indwelled Judas physically (Luke 22:3) prior, so too do I believe the devil will enter the antichrist (a mere man) and possess him, using his body for his evil ambitions.
It is clear that the devil (dragon) and the antichrist (beast) are two separate entities as per Rev. 20:10 where God’s word delineates between them. However, it is very likely that the devil will inhabit (possess/enter) the antichrist when he is cast down to earth, and will continue to do so until near the very end of the tribulation. Then, just as he discarded Judas prior, he will discard the antichrist’s physical body as well.
We see then that the antichrist not only makes war with the tribulation saints on earth, but that he overcomes them! (Rev. 13:7). He will have power over the entire world (“all kindreds, and tongues, and nations” – again v.7).
Everyone who rejects Christ will worship the beast (v.8). Another beast (the false prophet) also arises to the scene during this time (v.11). The false prophet will perform lying signs and wonders.
Following the midpoint, we see that the mark of the beast is rolled out, and mandated worship of the image of the beast commences (Rev. 13:15-18). It is possible that when the antichrist beast receives what appears to be a deadly head wound that this is when the devil may possess/inhabit the antichrist’s physical body.
While I cannot say definitively, my own thought is that the image of the beast (spoken of in Rev. 13:15) may be an AI. It is never given human status, nor is it called “he,” but it will be able to speak and put to death anyone who won’t worship it. For more details about this, see a prior article here:
Following the midpoint, we read that the “great tribulation” will commence. During the second half of the tribulation, we read of the vial judgments commencing (Rev. 15:7).
The first vial (Rev. 16:2)
The second vial (Rev. 16:3)
The third vial (Rev. 16:4)
The fourth vial (Rev. 16:8)
The fifth vial (Rev. 16:10)
The sixth vial (Rev. 16:12)
The seventh vial (Rev. 16:17)
There are further judgments of wrath following those: the great judgment of the whore (Rev. 17:1); the judgment of Mystery Babylon (Rev. 18). Sometimes I am amazed at those who neglect the scripture showing the delineation between the harlot religious faction and the antichrist beast government. Let’s look very quickly at Rev. 17:10.
“And the ten horns which thou sawest upon the beast, these shall hate the whore, and shall make her desolate and naked, and shall eat her flesh, and burn her with fire.”
Not only will many of the peoples of the world (who have accepted Christ and rejected the mark of the beast during the tribulation) be slaughtered and beheaded; but after using the harlot false religion to do it’s bidding, the antichrist beast global government will eventually also burn her down and, according to the wording of Rev. 17:16, they will “eat her flesh.”
It’s a no-win situation for the earth-dwellers who attempt to appease the antichrist. And it’s no wonder; he will be evil incarnate. The even more stunning (and wonderfully just and righteous) truth is that the devil who uses both the false prophet and the antichrist beast will also be cast into the lake of fire at the end of the millennial kingdom, where the antichrist and false prophet were previously sent (Rev. 20:10).
So we now see why the timing of the three woes is vital to the comprehension of the timing of tribulation events. While some Bible scholars claim that the seal judgments are an overview and/or continue simultaneously along with the seven trumpet and vial judgments, I would respectfully disagree. I believe God’s word shows an orderly progression of events (as detailed above).
I am not dogmatic over this issue, but do believe there to be a possible misunderstanding of the wording in Revelation chapter 6 as compared with the wording in chapter 16. The one argument that has come forth for their position (of simultaneous action) would be the wording of Revelation 6:14 compared to Rev. 16:20.
This is in regard to the parts mentioning “the mountains and islands,” specifically. Some would contend both passages of scripture to be synonymous. I do not. Let’s look at the wording pertaining specifically to the mountains and islands:
“…every mountain and island were moved out of their places” (Rev.6:14).
“And every island fled away, and the mountains were not found” (Rev. 16:20).
To some, this seems to be the same event. But is it? If something is moved, it would not mean the same thing as being removed. In Rev. 6 we see that the mountains and islands are moved out of their places, but in Rev. 16 we see that the mountains and islands are entirely removed altogether, as they “fled away” and “were not found” any longer!
We can also delve deep into Greek lexicons for the word meanings to see the differences. In Rev. 6:14 the word for “were moved” is the Greek word “κινέω.” And the rest of the phrase is “out of their places” which are three Greek words: “ἐκ,” “αὐτός” and “τόπος.” This would mean the mountains and islands are moved from one location (or “τόπος”) to another.
Whereas in Rev. 16:20 the mountains and islands “fled away,” the Greek word “φεύγω” and the phrase “were not found” are the Greek words “εὑρίσκω,” “οὐ” and “εὑρίσκω.” This would mean that the mountains and islands vanish out of sight completely.
I do believe this to show two different events pertaining to the mountains and islands. The first of which is when the mountains and islands are moved from one location (or “τόπος”) to another. And lest we forget, there will be people attempting to hide themselves in the dens and the rocks of the mountains at that first event, as per Rev. 6:15). While the second event is a separate and extremely more severe event, where the mountains and islands are not just moved, but removed completely! Mankind can attempt to hide in dens and caves of mountains when they are moved, but not when they are removed altogether.
As we read on, there are even more judgments to be meted out in the second half of the tribulation. Yet we see that not only were the seals and trumpet judgments of the first half horrific, but that the three woes herald the midpoint of the tribulation’s arrival, along with the dragon – the devil, being cast to earth. The three woes are likely the worst of the judgments in the tribulation up to that point, but the end judgment, when Jesus returns to tread “the winepress of the fierceness and wrath of Almighty God” (Rev. 19:15), will be the righteous and final blow to the evil nations on this earth.
There will be a vast amount of blood shed then… blood up to the horse bridles (the depth of it) as well as blood that is (wide) 1,600 furlongs in width. (Rev. 14:20). That is approximately 200 miles in width. You do NOT want your blood to be shed there, nor do you want to enter the tribulation whatsoever. The good news is that you don’t have to. Come to Christ NOW for salvation!
I do hope the above study pertaining to the “three woes of Revelation” was helpful. I think it’s important to understand. But there is something even more important to bring forth, and that is the issue of salvation. Are you saved? Have you come to Christ Jesus for salvation? If not, why not? And if so, I’d like to ask you believers if you are sharing the gospel with the unsaved world?
The entire tribulation will be no cake walk. While it’s true that the second half (after the seven seals and seven trumpets, and the events of the midpoint) will be far worse than the first, we certainly cannot overlook the fact that the first half of the tribulation will be horrific as well. We see that OVER HALF of the world’s population will be dead by the midpoint of the tribulation. An entire 1/4 of the world’s population will die in Rev. 6:8, and another 1/3 will perish in Rev. 9:15.
While we study these things out, and read about all the horrific events to occur in the tribulation, it should cause us believers to share the gospel more fervently with the unsaved world. You truly wouldn’t want your worst enemy to go through the events foretold to transpire, much less a friend or loved one! Considering the lateness of the hour, and how we are in the last few moments of the age of grace/ church age, why not dedicate more time to sharing the gospel in these final hours?
I also pray that any who are reading this article have already come to Christ. If not, I plead with you to do so immediately. God’s prophetic word is converging and coming to fruition very rapidly. There is no time to waste on worldly pleasures that pass away. The sin that this world offers is definitely not worth your eternal soul!
“For what is a man profited, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul? or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul?” (Matt. 16:26).
How sad would it be if you rejected the offered pardon for all of your sins, as well as eternal life with Christ Jesus? Not only that, but we are promised bodies just like His own glorified body (1 John 3:2, Phil. 3:20-21, et al). We are also promised to be joint-heirs with Christ (Rom. 8:17).
There are many more promises we are given, and one beloved promise is to be delivered from the wrath to come (1 Thes. 1:10, Rom.5:9, 1 Thes.5:9). We are even told how we will be delivered from the wrath to come (1 Cor. 15:49-53, 1 Thes. 4:13-18)… the rapture! Yes, we church/grace-age believers are promised this and much more! We will not enter the tribulation. Yet those who put this decision off and do not believe on Christ for salvation will enter the tribulation! You don’t want to go there!
You can come to Christ after the tribulation commences, but it will very likely cost your head (Rev. 20:4, 6:9-11, 13:7, and Dan.7:21, among others). Why not consider Jesus’ free offer of salvation now?
The gospel is simple to comprehend. Jesus died for our sins, was buried, and rose the third day (the gospel as declared in 1 Cor. 15:1-4). BELIEF is the requirement (Rom. 10:9-10, John 3:15-18). Of course, in order to believe that Jesus died for your sins, you must acknowledge that you are a sinner, else how could you accept a full payment and pardon for your sins if you don’t claim to be a sinner? The truth is we are ALL sinners! (Rom. 3:23, 6:23, 1 John 1:7-9, et al).
Jesus washes away ALL of our sins when we believe on Him for salvation (Rev. 1:5, 1 John 1:7, Matt. 26:28, Acts 20:28, Col. 1:14). There is no sin too great or too small; they are all washed away through Christ’s finished work. He has done all the work for us, and we cannot “earn” heaven. Our own works are as filthy rags (Isaiah 64:6), and we see this truth reiterated in Ephesians 2:8-9.
“For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast.”
While some do not come to Christ because they are unwilling to admit they are sinners in need of salvation, others do not come to Christ because they believe they have sinned too much to be forgiven. But this is a lie from the devil! Paul called himself the chief sinner (1 Tim. 1:15), and he sinned grievously; even killing Christians before he came to Christ. Yet he admitted his sins and believed on Jesus’ finished work alone for salvation. Then God used Paul mightily to share His word, to teach others, and to write numerous New Testament epistles.
This is but one example of many. The only “unforgivable sin” is not believing on Jesus for salvation!
We cannot “clean up our act” prior to coming to Christ for salvation. We are in corruptible flesh, filled with sin. Without the Holy Spirit we are not capable of “cleaning up our act.” But thankfully, God gives us His Holy Spirit when we believe on Jesus for salvation! We are then sealed with the Holy Spirit unto the day of redemption (2 Cor. 1:22, Eph. 1:13-13, 4:30). There is nothing we can do to “unseal” ourselves; once we are saved we are eternally saved! He promises and gives to us eternal life, and no one (not even ourselves) can pluck us out of the Father’s hands, or out of Christ’s hands! (John 10:28-29).
This is also why the unsaved world cannot comprehend scripture. God’s word is spiritually discerned (1 Cor. 2:14). This is why there are zero Hollywood depictions which accurately portray the end times as written in scripture. They do not have the indwelling Holy Spirit to lead and guide, and so they pick a verse here and there and try to figure it out, twisting it grotesquely into some fantastical nonsense that has nothing to do with scripture whatsoever!
If you really want to understand Biblical eschatology, you first must be saved; and secondly, you must spend time in God’s word yourself. Yes, articles, videos, and sermons can be very helpful (when they are scripturally sound), but if you do not spend time in His word yourself, you can easily be deceived by not knowing whether they align with scripture!
There is really no substitute for studying God’s word yourself. The key factor to His prophetic word is to recognize that scripture itself interprets scripture! The answers are all there, but one cannot understand without first coming to Christ for salvation, and next studying God’s word oneself.
These end-time Bible studies can be interesting to delve into, and the book of Revelation itself is the only book that promises a specific blessing for studying it (Rev. 1:3). But it’s even more important to share the gospel with the lost, because we (grace/church-age believers) won’t be here to do so once the rapture happens. Time is short! God’s word proves this.
Yes, there will be 144,000 male Jewish virgins testifying during the tribulation (Rev. 7:4-8, 14:1-5), as well as the two witnesses in Jerusalem and an angel from heaven proclaiming the everlasting gospel (Rev. 14:6-7). But most of the people who come to Christ during the tribulation (often called the tribulation saints) will suffer horrific physical deaths (Rev. 20:4, 6:9-11, 13:7, and Dan.7:21, among others). There will be a huge number of them, so vast a number from every nation, kindred, people, and tongue! Yet their death of martyrdom will not be a pleasant event.
This is why it’s more urgent than ever to share the gospel NOW with any who will hear. While it’s been my experience of late that fewer people here in the US are coming to Christ than in decades prior, it could well be that we are sharing the gospel with those who will soon be entering the tribulation.
Once the rapture occurs, these could very well make up a large segment of the folks spoken of in Rev. 6:9-11, those who are slain for the word of God who come to Christ for salvation after the rapture. No, it won’t be an easy thing for them to be martyred, but they will have recognized what has happened (what we have been warning them about for decades), that the rapture has happened, and that they (unbelievers) have been left behind. You may well be one to witness to them prior to the tribulation of the soon coming rapture! Please consider this thought as you share the gospel now.
And for any unbelievers: I hope you will come to Christ NOW before the foretold wrath comes. It’s so near; we can see how ripe the world is, already champing at the bit to slay Christians. While this does happen in many other nations in the world already, God is withholding and restraining much of this until after the church has been taken up (2 Thes. 2:6-7).
Right now the presence of the Holy Spirit indwelling believers is holding so much evil back. But the unsaved world is ripe and ready to martyr Christians globally. The hatred of Christians is coming to the surface as never before. We can already see it in news media and social media. There are many laws being passed and attempted to be passed right now which try to limit Christian speech and scripture. Biblical truth is labeled erroneously as “hate speech.”
“Am I therefore become your enemy, because I tell you the truth?” (Gal.4:16).
Once the rapture occurs and the indwelling Holy Spirit is taken up out of the way along with us, then the slaughter of Christians will be commonplace and worldwide. The indwelling Holy Spirit will not be here (nor will we grace/church-age believers) to withhold or restrain evil. The unsaved world only thinks they want Christians gone. They only think they will have utopia. It won’t be what they imagined at all; it will truly be horrific, as Revelation chapters 6-18 foretell.
It would be much more blessed an event – the blessed hope of the rapture – than to be martyred in the tribulation. If you come to Christ prior to the rapture, you will not enter the tribulation, but instead be taken up out of the way, delivered from the wrath to come! (1 Thes. 1:10, Rom. 5:9, 1 Thes. 5:9, 1 Cor. 15:49-53, 1 Thes. 4:13-18). Yet those who come to Christ in the tribulation will find that even then it would be far preferable to be martyred in the tribulation than to spend eternity in hell. Jesus is the only way (John 14:6, Acts 4:12, 1 John 4:10, 1 Tim. 2:5, et al).
For us believers today, we are eagerly anticipating the rapture! We are joyous in the knowledge that He has promised so many wonderful things that none of us (of our own merit) deserve; and yet because we believe on Him, in Christ Jesus’ finished work, we can rest assured that the promises made in scripture to us are sure and true! We praise Him, the author and finisher of our faith! (Heb. 12:2).
“Looking for that blessed hope, and the glorious appearing of the great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ” (Titus 2:13).