It is Christmas season here in the United States. As such, we often sing songs like, “Joy to the World.” As it stands, this year feels different. When you add that to the content of the verse under discussion today, you get the title for this post: “Woe to the World.”
John writes as follows in Revelation 8:13,
I looked again and heard an eagle flying high overhead, crying out in a loud voice, “Woe! Woe! Woe to those who live on the earth, because of the remaining trumpet blasts that the three angels are about to sound!”
Last time we saw the results of the first four trumpets. This time, before we move into the final three trumpets, we see a warning. Potentially a divine warning. Potentially a final warning. But it is definitely a warning. There are three things to note as regards this warning: the announcer of the warning, the content of the warning, and the recipients of the warning.
The warning is given by:
an eagle flying high overhead, crying out.
There is a textual variant in this verse. Some manuscripts say, “angel,” instead of “eagle.”
However, this doesn’t need to be the case. A rule when trying to decide which reading is probably original explains that the harder reading is probably original. In this case, “angel” makes much more sense. “Eagle” occurs in better manuscripts. John saw an “eagle.”
But why an eagle?
A search of the Old Testament for the word “eagle” shows several emphases. First, eagles are often shown as flying high (cf. Job 39:27). They are shown as being fast (cf. 2 Samuel 1:23). They are shown as swooping upon their prey (cf. Deuteronomy 28:49). And in one case they are shown as caring for their young (cf. Deuteronomy 32:11).
In the New Testament, the word only occurs in Revelation. Prior to this, the occurrence was in Revelation 4:7 when we saw the four living creatures in the throne room of God. It is possible that this eagle is that “angel,” but it could just be using an eagle symbolically to describe the point Jesus is making through His servant John. Additionally, the creature in 4:7 was merely “like a flying eagle.”
The symbolism for the eagle in this passage is likely built on imagery found in the Old Testament, imagery likely birthed from observing the birds in nature. As such, this eagle flies high overhead–the higher it flies, the more people it can see who need to hear this message. The eagle is fast–the faster it flies, the more people it can reach with this message. Eagles swoop upon their prey–interestingly this eagle is offering life to people instead of bringing death. Eagles care for their young–this eagle cares for humanity.
Since this passage specifies that the eagle flies high, the only passage we really need to utilize for understanding it is Job 39:27,
Does the eagle soar at your command
and make its nest on high?
God commanded this eagle to fly. He commanded it to fly high. He commanded it to bring a warning to those living on earth. The warning is given to:
those who live on the earth.
This is technically part of the eagle’s statement. But it is important to pause on it for a moment. This message is for “those who live on the earth.” This applies to every human being on the planet. And in a time like this, when everything in society is screaming for our support and our allegiance, we must all consider the message that the eagle is bringing. But don’t let this escape you: You live on the earth, so you’re included in this message.
The warning consists of:
a loud voice, “Woe! Woe! Woe to those who live on the earth, because of the remaining trumpet blasts that the three angels are about to sound!”
There are three things in this proclamation. The volume of the proclamation, the content of the proclamation, and the reason for the proclamation.
The eagle cries out in a loud voice. It wants the world to hear. It wants everyone to know what awaits if they refuse to repent. It wants the citizens of the world to take responsibility for their sinfulness. No one will have an excuse because the eagle made sure they all heard the proclamation.
The proclamation is “Woe” three times. The repetition three times is for emphasis. It’s as if the eagle is bold, italic, underlining the importance of its statement. In other words, “Ignore this at your own peril!”
The reason for this proclamation is because of the last three trumpet blasts. These will take us from Revelation 9:1-11:19. The fifth and sixth get the most immediate focus–9:1-21–and then there is a lull until the seventh in 11:15-19. The eagle wants us to know that death awaits if we refuse to repent.
The proclamation is “Woe” three times. The repetition three times is for emphasis. It’s as if the eagle is bold, italic, underlining the importance of its statement. In other words, “Ignore this at your own peril!”Tweet
You don’t know when your end will be. But if you haven’t trusted Christ before that date, your end will be the beginning of an eternity similar to Revelation 9:1-21. I promise you that you don’t want that.
So i beg you, place your faith in Jesus Christ today! Turn from your sin. Turn from your self. Trust in Jesus Christ! He died in your place, taking eternal wrath, so you would never have to.
In this with you.
Soli Deo Gloria
Thanks for reading.
The next entry can be found here.
An extra note:
In Revelation, the concept of “living on the earth” is antithetical to those whose citizenship is in heaven. We saw this is the very first chapter:
I, John, your brother and partner in the tribulation, kingdom, and endurance that are in Jesus, was on the island called Patmos because of God’s word and the testimony about JesusRevelation 1:9
The kingdom is from above (cf. John 18:36, Colossians 1:13), and while believers still walk this planet, we experience tribulation because things aren’t here as they will be there. Those who contribute to our tribulation–those who are not part of the kingdom of God by faith in Christ–are “living on the earth.” So technically, the “Woe” in 8:13 is only aimed at nonbelievers.