“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!” ~ Revelation 8:13
As has been noted many times before, the word “angel” in the original, stands for one responsible to deliver a message from God. Most often this messenger is actually a person, like you or me. The “heaven” he is in is the “heavenly places in Christ Jesus” wherever God’s people get together to worship God in Spirit and in truth. (See Ephesians 1:3, 2:6, 3:10)
There is no “three woes” pattern in the rest of the Bible that matches or provides insight into the reason for the order and presentation of the three woes spoken of in Revelation. But there is a clear one provided to us in the final history of the city of Jerusalem. And Jesus himself spoke very specifically concerning the great woe of the final destruction of Jerusalem, and the reasons why it would be destroyed. And his account is recorded three times in the gospels: once in Matt 24, once in Mark 13, and once in Luke 21.
But this pattern of a final three woes being pronounced against Jerusalem (similar to the pattern in Revelation) specifically took place in history roughly 20 to 30 years before the book of Revelation was written. It was documented by Josephus, the well known Jewish historian of the first century. He spoke at length concerning the final destruction of Jerusalem, which happened approximately 40 years after Jesus Christ resurrected, in the year AD 70.
In telling of the many foretelling events preceding Jerusalem’s destruction, Josephus documents the account of a particular messenger that for seven years and five months pronounced woes against the city.
The woes principally included three targets:
- the temple
- the people
- and the city
And in this account, there was also often a double woe pronounced against the city of Jerusalem. It is important to note this because of a similar pattern that is found in Revelation. Not only because of the three woes pronounced in Revelation 8:13, but also because of double woes pronounced against the spiritual city of Babylon noted in Revelation 14:8, and 18:2. (And also note that spiritual Babylon represents the fallen and unfaithful condition of people who once were the church. So prior to falling away, they were spiritual Jerusalem.)
Here is the account as recorded by Josephus:
Ref: Josephus – War 6.5.3 288-309
But, what is still more terrible, there was one Jesus, the son of Ananus, a plebeian and a husbandman, who, four years before the war began, and at a time when the city was in very great peace and prosperity, came to that feast whereon it is our custom for every one to make tabernacles to God in the temple [Sukkot, autumn, 62 CE], began on a sudden to cry aloud,
“A voice from the east,
a voice from the west,
a voice from the four winds,
a voice against Jerusalem and the Holy House,
a voice against the bridegrooms and the brides,
and a voice against this whole people!”
This was his cry, as he went about by day and by night, in all the lanes of the city.
However, certain of the most eminent among the populace had great indignation at this dire cry of his, and took up the man, and gave him a great number of severe stripes; yet did not he either say any thing for himself, or any thing peculiar to those that chastised him, but still went on with the same words which he cried before.
Here upon the magistrates, supposing, as the case proved to be, that this was a sort of divine fury in the man, brought him to the Roman procurator, where he was whipped till his bones were laid bare; yet he did not make any supplication for himself, nor shed any tears, but turning his voice to the most lamentable tone possible, at every stroke of the whip his answer was,
“Woe, woe to Jerusalem!”
And when Albinus (for he was then our procurator) asked him, Who he was? and whence he came? and why he uttered such words? he made no manner of reply to what he said, but still did not leave off his melancholy ditty, till Albinus took him to be a madman, and dismissed him.
Now, during all the time that passed before the war began, this man did not go near any of the citizens, nor was seen by them while he said so; but he every day uttered these lamentable words, as if it were his premeditated vow,
“Woe, woe to Jerusalem!”
Nor did he give ill words to any of those that beat him every day, nor good words to those that gave him food; but this was his reply to all men, and indeed no other than a melancholy presage of what was to come.
This cry of his was the loudest at the festivals; and he continued this ditty for seven years and five months, without growing hoarse, or being tired therewith, until the very time that he saw his presage in earnest fulfilled in our siege, when it ceased; for as he was going round upon the wall, he cried out with his utmost force,
“Woe, woe to the city again, and to the people, and to the Holy House!”
And just as he added at the last,
“Woe, woe to myself also!”
there came a stone out of one of the engines, and smote him, and killed him immediately; and as he was uttering the very same presages he gave up the ghost.
It is interesting to note that in Revelation the same “woe” targets are also addressed. But the city that is targeted is renamed to “Babylon” to reflect how corrupt she has become! (And as stated before, this city also has a double woe often pronounced upon her – see Rev 14:8 & 18:2)
It is also interesting that the three woes of Revelation are placed in a reverse order to when they were pronounced against historical Jerusalem. Note the order pronounced by the man who prophesied with a loud voice of “utmost force” against the city: “Woe, woe to the city again, and to the people, and to the Holy House!” But in Revelation, in the fifth trumpet, the first woe is against the people of the spiritual temple/house of God; specifically, the true people of God who are not fully sanctified yet. (This is done as a warning to them to fully consecrate.) Then the second woe is against the deceived people that are residents of the city, who are not aware that the true presence of God has departed from them. And then finally a double woe “Woe, woe to the city again” is pronounced, which reflects the double judgement against spiritual Babylon, the fallen spiritual Jerusalem: “Babylon is fallen, is fallen…” (see Revelation 14:8 & 18:2)
Note: Jesus told them before the destruction of Jerusalem to flee from the city when the signs of the end come. So Revelation also tells everyone to “flee out of Babylon!”
The order of the three woes is reversed because of where the judgement is executed from. When physical Jerusalem was judged, the judgement force was physical and came from the outside: by the Roman army. First the city fell, then the people were largely destroyed, and then lastly the temple.
In Revelation there is a restoration of the true spiritual city of God, the heavenly Jerusalem. So the judgement is a spiritual one (not a physical, carnal one), starting from the spiritual throne of God, the temple, the hearts of those collectively gathered together in worship and adoration of God. Then next the judgment is directed at the general body of people outside, at the court that is outside the temple. Then finally the whole religious city (now become Babylon) is judged so that the true heavenly Jerusalem can be seen and restored within the hearts of the faithful.
“For the time is come that judgment must begin at the house of God: and if it first begin at us, what shall the end be of them that obey not the gospel of God?” ~ 1 Peter 4:17
And so we see ultimately the same three woes reflected in the remaining three trumpets to be sounded:
Woe to the temple – 5th Trumpet – the ones suffering under this woe are some of the worshipers, who spiritually and collectively with all worshipers, represent the temple. But they were worshipers without the seal of the Holy Spirit, hence they were unable to fully die out to the will of the Spirit of God. This made them vulnerable to being painfully tormented by the messengers of the Destroyer. They desired to die, but could not because the truth on sanctification was obscured from them by an incomplete gospel message. (See the previous scripture and post about about the gospel being partly darkened.) But God’s grace and mercy is still sufficient to help these who desire to die, until the time they have the opportunity to hear the full truth.
Woe to the people – 6th Trumpet – the ones dying from this woe are spiritually being killed (not physically) under the preaching of a ministry that knows how to articulate some of the judgments and teachings in the scriptures. But they manipulate these scriptures to impress and spiritually control people for influence, money, and power. They also posses evil religious spirits that help them to deceive. The end of their fruits is as spiritually deadly as the poison of a serpent.
But a mighty revelation messenger, Jesus Christ himself, comes down from heaven and commissions John with the responsibility to complete the rest of the Revelation message. And this commission starts with measuring the spiritual temple of God: to prepare the true people of God for the final spiritual battle.
Woe to the city – 7th Trumpet – included in this final woe message is the exposing of the religious beasts, the pouring out of the vials of God’s wrathful judgments upon all hypocrisy, and then the final and complete exposure and destruction of the unfaithful city, the one that has now become the spiritual harlot city of Babylon. And note again: it is a double pronouncement against the city, for twice she is judged: by a revelation ministry in the sixth seal, and then again by a seventh seal ministry.
Ultimately spiritual woes come because of ministers who leave their humble position of a fellow servant. Hence they start to abuse their authority in the gospel! The Apostle Paul was careful to not abuse his authority and power in the gospel.
“For though I preach the gospel, I have nothing to glory of: for necessity is laid upon me; yea, woe is unto me, if I preach not the gospel! For if I do this thing willingly, I have a reward: but if against my will, a dispensation of the gospel is committed unto me. What is my reward then? Verily that, when I preach the gospel, I may make the gospel of Christ without charge, that I abuse not my power in the gospel. For though I be free from all men , yet have I made myself servant unto all, that I might gain the more.” ~ 1 Corinthians 9:16-19
But many have ignored Paul’s warning and have abused their gospel authority. Therefore there are many scriptural woes that address their abuse:
“Thus saith the Lord God ; Woe unto the foolish prophets, that follow their own spirit, and have seen nothing! O Israel, thy prophets are like the foxes in the deserts. Ye have not gone up into the gaps, neither made up the hedge for the house of Israel to stand in the battle in the day of the Lord.” ~ Ezekiel 13:3-5
“Son of man, prophesy against the shepherds of Israel, prophesy, and say unto them, Thus saith the Lord God unto the shepherds; Woe be to the shepherds of Israel that do feed themselves! should not the shepherds feed the flocks? Ye eat the fat, and ye clothe you with the wool, ye kill them that are fed: but ye feed not the flock. The diseased have ye not strengthened, neither have ye healed that which was sick, neither have ye bound up that which was broken, neither have ye brought again that which was driven away, neither have ye sought that which was lost; but with force and with cruelty have ye ruled them. And they were scattered, because there is no shepherd: and they became meat to all the beasts of the field, when they were scattered. My sheep wandered through all the mountains, and upon every high hill: yea, my flock was scattered upon all the face of the earth, and none did search or seek after them.” ~ Ezekiel 34:2-6
“Woe unto the world because of offences! for it must needs be that offences come; but woe to that man by whom the offence cometh!” ~ Matthew 18:7
Finally, Jesus pronounced a multitude of woes against ministers who abuse their power in Matthew the 23rd chapter.
And so here we are today. The year is 2016 as this post is being published. God is sounding out the final “woe” trumpet warnings to those who have a heart and spiritual ear that will listen and respond. Flee out of the conditions of lukewarm fallen Christianity!
“The voice of them that flee and escape out of the land of Babylon, to declare in Zion the vengeance of the Lord our God, the vengeance of his temple.” ~ Jeremiah 50:28
“Flee out of the midst of Babylon, and deliver every man his soul: be not cut off in her iniquity; for this is the time of the Lord’s vengeance; he will render unto her a recompence.” ~ Jeremiah 51:6