Q. In Rev. 8:13, an eagle announces coming woe to the earth. I know the word can also be translated as angel, but Ray Stedman says that eagle is the preferred translation in that particular context. Why an eagle? If Stedman is corrrect, what is the significance of that particular beast to make that announcement? It seems “out of place” somehow.
A. The first thing to understand is the Greek word aggelos, translated angel in the King James Version of Rev. 8:13 literally means “a messenger”. Although it’s almost always translated angel, theoretically the messenger could be an eagle. Several other translations use the word eagle there deriving their authority from older Greek texts that show the word to be aetos, which means eagle.
If aetos is the correct word, an interesting possibility occurs. This word only appears 5 times in the New Testament. In Matt.24:28 and the parallel passage in Luke 17:37 it’s translated vulture. The three times it’s translated eagle are all in Revelation and this is where it gets interesting. In Rev. 4:7 one of the Cherubim is described as being like a flying eagle. Then there’s the reference you’ve cited in Rev. 8:13. The final one is in Rev. 12:14 where the woman, representing the remnant of Israel, will be given the wings of a great eagle to escape into the desert at the beginning of the Great Tribulation.
Put these together and you have a pretty good circumstantial case that the eagle in Rev. 8:13 could be the 4th Cherub sent from the throne of God to warn the world of the coming judgments, and also to help Israel make its supernatural escape from Satan later on. If this is the case it’s easier to justify the KJV use of angel instead of eagle, since the Cherubim are heavenly beings and could be considered to be part of the angelic ranks.