What are the Three Woes in Revelation 8:13?

In Revelation 8:13 John sees an eagle flying above the earth who announces these woes. It is possible to translate the Greek word ἀετός as either eagle or vulture. This sounds odd to Americans who associate eagles with freedom and strength but vultures with death.

In several cases in the Hebrew Bible and eagle/vulture is a symbol of an enemy. In Deuteronomy 28:49 the enemies of Israel will swoop down in them like eagles to carry them into exile (Jer 4:13, 48:4; Lam 4:19). In Hosea 8:1 a vulture is over the house of the Lord, suggesting the impending judgment on Israel. In Luke 17:37 Jesus clearly means vultures, “Where the corpse is, there the vultures will gather.” Some suggest Jesus is referring to the eagle imagery carried by a Roman legion, meaning something like, “where there are dead bodies, the Roman army is close by.” Zeus used an eagle as a messenger. The Ptolemaic tetradrachm (285-246 B.C.) pictures the Eagle of Zeus standing on a thunderbolt. Although Roman legions used an eagle and lightning bolt as a standard, it seems unlikely Revelation 8:13 is an allusion to the Roman military.

An eagle is also a symbol of strength and swiftness in the Hebrew Bible and Apocalyptic literature. Eagles are heavenly messengers in a number of apocalyptic texts. In 2 Baruch, Baruch writes letters to the exiles and sends them by means of eagles.

4 Ezra 11.7–9 And I looked, and behold, the eagle rose upon his talons, and uttered a cry to his wings, saying, 8 “Do not all watch at the same time; let each sleep in his own place, and watch in his turn; 9 but let the heads be reserved for the last.”

2 Baruch 77.19–20 And I wrote two letters. One I sent by means of an eagle to the nine and a half tribes, and the other I sent by means of three men to those who were in Babylon. 20 And I called an eagle and said to him these words:

4 Baruch (Paraleipomena Jeremiou) 7:15-16 And as they were going out with the dead man and weeping, they passed by the eagle. 16 And the eagle cried in a loud voice, saying, “I say to you, Jeremiah, chosen one of God, go! Gather the people and come here that they may hear a letter which I have brought you from Baruch and Abimelech.”

On the other hand, this reference to an eagle in the air could be a reference to an angel. In 3 Enoch 26:3, the supreme angel Metatron is described as “His face is like the face of angels, and his body is like the body of eagles.”

The eagle is in “mid-heaven” a word occurring several times in Revelation (8:13; 14:6; 19:17).  In each case an angel stands in the sky (in the sun) along with the birds of heaven.

This eagle cries out in a great voice, “Woe!” All the world hears this pronouncement of woe.  Those that hear it are the inhabitants of the earth, the ones under God’s judgement. Woe (οὐαὶ) was used by the prophets to announce impending doom, such as Isaiah when he said, “woe is me!” The Hebrew (הוֹי, אוֹי, ‘oy) calls attention to what was being said, something like “hey” (Aune 2:524). Isaiah knew he was doomed since he was “a man of unclean lips” in the presence of God.

By calling these last three trumpets “woes” we are being told that they end is near, judgement is coming.  If fourth trumpet had a hint of demonic activity, the fifth and sixth will be entirely demonic.

While the first and second woe are identified as the fifth and sixth trumpets the identity of the third woe is a matter of debate. Some take it as the seventh trumpet, although the seventh trumpet is a scene of praise in heaven connected to the return of Christ. Others take it as the fall of Satan in chapter 12, since in 12:12 a great voice says, “woe to you, o earth and sea, for the devil has come down….” Finally, it is possible the third woe is simply the last set of judgments in Revelation 16.


5 thoughts on “What are the Three Woes in Revelation 8:13?

  1. THE WOES :- We have 1/2 hour [21 months] of silence in heaven [Israel- the Scarlet Beast] before they hit which take place during the world lockdown-NOW – so I believe they will start 2nd half 2021. During this time I believe we will see the removal of the anti Christ as his time ,times & a half a time = 14 years will be up -May 2020-Netanyahu’s fall- the building of the new Temple in Jerusalem[the Great Harlot]- the arrival of the two last prophets that come measuring – then the WOES start…………Maranatha

  2. I’m studying rev now. And I asked myself, where’s the third woe. I wrote down, that it seems like there’s some mystery here telling John to not write anything that was heard. But then asked him to eat a book that would make him feel sick. The only thing I can think of is that that book was a “thinner” book of life, with those saved, but with the now clear reality that, a lot of people are going to suffer. I’m not sure but I’m speculating.

  3. The three woes of Revelation are the final judgment God pronounces on the evil inhabitants of the earth in order to spur them to repentance (Rev 9:20). The three woes are, indeed, a time of great anguish and affliction for those who have pledged their allegiance to the Antichrist during the end times.

    The three owes will come toward the end of the seventh-year tribulation period right before the second coming of Christ. God’s judgments during the tribulation are pictured as seven seals, opened one at a time. The seventh seal reveals the seven trumpet judgments. The fifth, sixth, and seventh trumpets are called the three woes (Rev 8:13).

    The first woe is revealed after the fifth trumpet judgment. This woe involves something like locust that have the ability to sting like a scorpion (Rev. 9:3). The second woe is revealed after the sixth trumpet judgment. This woe begins when a voice commands, “Release the four angels who are bound at the great river Euphrates” (Rev 9:14). The third woe is revealed after the seventh trumpet judgment. This third woe marks the finishing of God’s judgment on sin.

    When human beings rebelled and sin entered the world, God is still in control the universe. Revelation regularly reaffirms that God’s sovereignty control over his creation extends to his judgment of evil. This series of judgments is the greatest horror the citizens of earth have ever seen. While God displays his sovereign power over the forces of evil, he also desires that rebellious people will return to him before it is too late.

  4. Revelation 8:13 gives the reader the image of an eagle–or vulture depending on the translation–flying above the earth. The fact that eagles are associated with freedom and vultures are associated with death is contradictory. However, in Hebrew culture the eagle or culture often represent an enemy. This examples is clear in Deuteronomy 28:49, where the enemy swooped down like an eagle. An example of the vulture being represented as an enemy is clearly stated in Luke 17:37 where Jesus refers to vultures surrounding a corpse. Despite the eagle being represented as the enemy, it is also represented as strength and swiftness in the Hebrew culture. According to apocalyptic text, eagle’s are messengers for Heaven. There is also the idea that an eagle being in the sky could represent an angel. The word “mid-Heaven” is used several times throughout Revelation to describe where the eagle is located. The importance and significance of this eagle is that the eagle announces three woes. As the eagle is in the sky it cries out in a great voice “woe!” Woe is referring to the idea of “woe is me” because of how the prophets used it to make a dooming announcement. These woes from the eagle were to inform that the end is near. The first two woes are connected the the trumpets, but there is debate about the third woe.

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