What are the three woes of Revelation?
We get an introduction to the three woes of Revelation in Revelation 8:13. The woes will be given by three different angels throughout the next few chapters. Four of the seven trumpets have been blown by the angels, and an eagle comes to warn everyone on earth that three more trumpets will be blown by angels with more judgment.
When the fifth angel blows the fifth trumpet, it opens the bottomless pit and the smoke fills the air (Revelation 9:1-2). Giant locusts come out of the bottomless pit, and God gives them the authority to sting like scorpions anyone who did not have the seal of God (Revelation 9:3-5).
The pain from the scorpions tormented evil human beings. They seek death but they’re not allowed to die (Revelation 9:6). The apostle John describes the locusts as large creatures, as horses, and having the faces of humans (Revelation 9:7-8).
He further describes them and then says that their leader is the angel from the bottomless pit (Revelation 9:11). I would imagine this is some kind of demon without further study. Then John lets us know that this is the first woe and it is completed here (Revelation 9:12).
Depending on the interpretation of Revelation that you choose from the four basic interpretations, or whatever hybrid you have, these locusts will be interpreted in different ways. The only thing that we need to remember for sure is that this is the judgment of God in the trumpets upon sinful and wicked humanity.
The second woe comes from Revelation 11:14 at the conclusion of the judgment from the two witnesses (Revelation 11:4-13). It is unclear if the second woe is about God’s judgment for the murder of his two witnesses or everything that happened in the sixth trumpet (Revelation 9:13-18).
In the sixth trumpet, four angels are released from the Euphrates River and they kill a third of humanity (Revelation 9:15). Two hundred thousand warriors attack humans on horses that seem supernatural (Revelation 9:17). Dangerous gases come out of the horses’ mouths and kill a third of humanity (Revelation 9:18). We don’t know if John is seeing the future and trying to interpret it by his own first century understanding or not.
John then describes the two witnesses after taking a break to explain the angel with the little scroll in Revelation 10. The two witnesses are unstoppable on the earth, showing God’s judgment, until the beast rises from the bottomless pit and kills them (Revelation 11:4-8).
The evil world treats them with contempt as they allow their bodies to lay in the streets (Revelation 11:8-10). But God raises them from the dead (Revelation 11:11-12). And there is a great earthquake as part of his judgment for how the world treated his two witnesses (Revelation 11:13).
So it is either everything that has happened from the sixth trumpet to the earthquake judgment for how the world treated the two witnesses that encompasses the second woe to the earth or it is just one of these parts. But once again, God’s judgment comes upon the wicked inhabitants on the earth.
The third woe to the earth is a bit harder to track down. The next time we hear the word “woe” used is in Revelation 12:12. But although the word “woe” is used, this use of the word happens in the middle of a break in the book (Revelation 12-13).
The final woe of revelation is encompassed in the seven bowls of judgment in Revelation 16:1-21. After these final judgments, Christ’s kingdom is brought to earth. These are the three woes of the book of Revelation.
These woes have everything to do with showing God’s judgment upon a wicked humanity. After the judgments of God flow, God will send his Anointed One, Jesus Christ, to the earth to show the world an entirely different kingdom with entirely different results. This will be the kingdom of peace and righteousness that rains until the Lord finishes all of human history.