THE FLYING EAGLE IN MIDAIR (8:13) announces three woes that correspond to the three final trumpet judgments (9:12; 11:14; 10:1-16:21). This cry introduces the grievous nature of what is coming. Is the eagle to be taken literally as Balaam’s donkey that talked (Numbers 22:28-30) or an angel? The Textus Receptus and other manuscripts have angel instead of eagle. It seems more likely scribes would have changed eagle to angel than vice versa.
The eagle, the strongest of birds, appears as a symbol of God’s retribution in Jeremiah 48:40, where the LORD describes King Nebuchadnezzar as an eagle swooping down, spreading its wings over Moab.
Historicists believe the eagle is an angel announcing the end of the Western Roman Empire.
Preterists believe the three vows refer to the destruction of Jerusalem: the first woe is the seditions among the Jews themselves; the second, the besieging of the city by the Romans, and the third is the capture of the city and burning of the Temple.
Idealists make no separation since they see the judgments repeating throughout history.
Futurists see the announcement itself as more important than the one who announces.