Previous Section: Chapter Eight - Seventh Seal Events [Trumpet Judgments 1-4]


[Trumpet Judgments 5-6]

Revelation 9:1

And the fifth angel sounded, and I saw (1) a star from heaven (2) which had fallen to the earth; and (3) the key of the bottomless pit was given to him.

1. A star from heaven = is a supernatural being. To him indicates person-hood. In as much as this star is "from heaven," we can conclude that is an angelic being.

2. Which had fallen to the earth = describes the state of this angel. The tense of the verbal indicates that John did not see the angel falling, but saw it after it had already fallen. When the angel fell is not indicated. Who is this fallen angel? Theologically, fallen angels represent evil angelic beings. "Fallen angels" as a descriptive title has more extra-biblical support than biblical support. In Luke 10:18, Jesus does see Satan falling from heaven. However, here "fallen" is a part of the metaphor of "a fallen star." Therefore, no theological point is made. Rather, This is another angel that has come down to earth on a divine mission. John’s description is apocalyptic in nature and should not be taken to mean anything else.

3. The key of the bottomless pit = refers to a very important biblical concept. The term "bottomless," which is a transliteration of abussos (abyss), occurs nine times in the New Testament, seven of them in the Revelation. It refers to a place of confinement of supernatural beings. The first occurrence of this term in the New Testament relates to Jesus miraculous deliverance of a demon possessed man that lived in a local graveyard. Significantly, prior to their departure from the Gadarian demoniac, the demons requested of Christ that He not "command them to depart into the abyss (Luke 8:31)." Matthew’s account of this same incident adds the detail, "…Have You come here to torment us before the time (Matt 8:29)?" Clearly the abyss and the time of torment are connected. That the demons are aware of a future time when they will be assigned to the abyss is clear. Equally, the abyss will be a place of torment for demons. Revelation 20:3 locates the time of confinement of demons to coincide with the millennial reign of Christ. It also indicates that Satan will also occupy this place for 1000 years. The 1000-year imprisonment of Satan will not be a simple restriction of movement.

Revelation 11:7 and 17:8 indicate that the beast that kills God’s two prophetic witnesses and persecutes the people of God during the end times also "ascends from the bottomless pit." Revelation 9:1-11 describes a locust’s plague that is connected with the bottomless pit. Thus, in the NT the "abyss" is connected with supernatural beings.

Pit is the NASB’s translation of the Greek term phrear. This word is used three times outside the Revelation. Luke 14:5 and John 4:11-12 refers to a well from which water is drawn. The NIV uses the term shaft as a translation of phrear. Contextually, this makes better sense. A key to the shaft of the abyss is a literal translation here.

Revelation 9:2

And (1) he opened the bottomless pit; and smoke went up out of the pit, like the smoke of a great furnace; and (2) the sun and the air were darkened by the smoke of the pit.

1. He opened the bottomless pit = or more literally, he opened the shaft of the abyss. This is the purpose of the angel’s possession of the key. Since this pit is the imprisoning chamber of supernatural powers, earth is safe as long as the pit is locked.

2. The sun and the air were darkened by the smoke of the pit = this phrase serves to indicate that the opening of the pit results in a tremendous unleashing of smoke.

Revelation 9:3

And (1) out of the smoke came forth locusts upon the earth; and (2) power was given to them, (3) as the scorpions of the earth have power.

1. Out of the smoke came forth locusts = indicates the purpose of the smoke released from the pit. The onset of a locust’s plague usually involved a darkening of the sky by the locusts as they approached. The uniqueness and purpose of these locusts necessitates an answer concerning their origin. They will be unlike any locusts the world has ever seen. They are not natural to this earth. Therefore, they come from the smoke.

Locusts have a long and rich tradition in Scripture. However, Revelation 9:11 reports that these locusts have "as king over them, the angel of the abyss." This along with the description that follows supports the conclusion that these are not real locusts. Whether the locust-like creatures were actually in the pit cannot be dogmatically affirmed.

2. Power was given to them = the term power is literally authority.

3. As the scorpions of the earth have power = As indicates that a comparison is intended here. The horrible locust-like creatures have authority just like the authority scorpions have. That said, however, we are challenged to understand what John means. Scorpions have the ability to sting, which results in extreme pain and possibly death. This type of ability is not normally referred to as authority. Yet, this is John’s meaning here. As the God given ability of the scorpion is to hurt, so will be the authority of the horrible locust-like creatures from the smoke.

Revelation 9:4

(1) And they were told (2) that they should not hurt the grass of the earth, nor any green thing, nor any tree, but (3) only the men who do not have the seal of God on their foreheads.

1. And they were told = indicates intelligence beyond that of mere locusts. Who tells the locust-like creatures what they are to do is not explicitly stated. Scholars are apt to opine that this is an example of a passive of divine activity. That is, the author has deliberately gone out of his way to avoid the direct mention of God’s name in the activity described. We shall speak to this issue a bit later. However, Revelation 9:11 states that the locusts have a king over them. Logically, their king commands them concerning who to hurt and who not to hurt. The angelic king receives instructions from God.

2. That they should not hurt the grass…green thing…nor any tree = defines a limitation placed on the locust-like-creatures. Locust’s plagues are notorious for destroying grass, green things and trees. However, the job of the locust-like-creatures is to hurt men. Since the first four trumpets focused on nature, the final three trumpets will focus on humanity directly.

3. Only the men who do not have the seal of God on their foreheads = additionally defines the limitations placed on the locust-like-creatures. This confirms that the purpose of the sealing of the 144,000 physical descendants of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob was one of protection. Thus, the rest of humanity (both Jews and Gentiles) will suffer the pain inflicted by the locust-like-creatures. This argues strongly against identifying the 144,000 as believers. That God would only protect some believers and not other believers does not seem to accord with the context here.

Revelation 9:5-6

And (1) they were not permitted to kill anyone, but (2) to torment for five months; and their torment was like the torment of a scorpion when it stings a man. And in those days (3) men will seek death and will not find it, and they will long to die and death flees from them.

1. They were not permitted to kill anyone = continues the limitations placed on the locust-like-creatures. Unlike a true scorpion’s sting, which can lead to death, the locust-like-creatures are only able to inflict pain.

2. To torment for five months = is the ultimate purpose of the locust-like-creatures. To torment literally means, "to punish by physical torment." Interestingly, this is the same word used by the legion of demons in Matthew 8:29 to Jesus. This is clearly divine judgment. Most scholars are of the opinion that "five months" should not be taken literally. However, the fact that not one of the seals or the bowls has such a limitation argues that this time limit should be taken literally. The severity of this particular trumpet judgment also argues for a literal interpretation.

3. Men will seek death = describes the response of those stung by the locust-like-creatures. This again is poetic justice. They killed others, but they themselves are denied death. The righteous died, but did not want to. The wicked want to die, but cannot. Note the irony!

This also argues against the notion that those stung are believers. Revelation 9:20-21 lists those who were stung. There is no indication that the unrepentant are true believers. Conversely, the list signals unbelief.

Revelation 9:7

And (1) the appearance of the locusts was like horses prepared for battle; and (2) on their heads, as it were, crowns like gold, and (3) their faces were like the faces of men.

1. The appearance of the locusts was like horses prepared for battle = is the first of ten characteristics John will give the reader. Unfortunately, we are at a loss to explain some of his references. We cannot be sure of what aspect of "horses prepared for battle" John is referring to here. Perhaps, the idea is that of horses lined up across the horizon just prior to the charge into battle.

2. On their heads, as it were, crowns like gold = is the second descriptive characteristic John gives of the locust-like-creatures. The crowns are not literal gold crowns, but give the appearance as gold. Perhaps, they shine like gold.

3. Their faces were like the faces of men = is the third in a series of ten descriptive characteristics. The locust-like-creatures have both the characteristics of animals and humans.

Revelation 9:8

And (1) they had hair like the hair of women, and (2) their teeth were like the teeth of lions.

1. They had hair like the hair of women = continues the descriptive portrait. Perhaps, John’s point here is the length of hair on these creatures.

2. Their teeth were like the teeth of lions = focuses attention on the destructive capabilities of these creatures. It is the sting of these creatures that man will fear, however, their appearance is not encouraging. These creatures have the ability to kill, but they are not permitted to do so.

Revelation 9:9

And (1) they had breastplates like breastplates of iron; and (2) the sound of their wings was like the sound of chariots, of many horses rushing to battle.

1. They had breastplates like breastplates of iron = is perhaps a reference back to the animal-like characteristics. As horses prepared for battle, these creatures have a covering across their chest.

2. The sound of their wings was like the sound of chariots = continues John focus on the tremendous number of these creatures. Every intent is taken to terrorize mankind.

Revelation 9:10

And (1) they have tails like scorpions, and stings; and (2) in their tails is their power to hurt men for five months.

1. They have tails like scorpions = is probably a focus on the shape of the locusts’ tail.

2. In their tails is their power to hurt men = is again a focus on their authority.

Revelation 9:11

(1) They have as king over them, (2) the angel of the abyss; (3) his name in Hebrew is Abaddon, and (4) in the Greek he has the name Apollyon.

1. They have as king over them = suggests that these locusts have order and purpose. The appellation king is interesting. Scripture never accords such a title to Satan, himself. However, these creatures have a unique purpose and as such are required a strict discipline, which perhaps explains their need for a king. Proverbs 30:27 states "The locusts have no king…" However, no contradiction exists here because these horrible locusts-like creatures only appear as locusts.

2. The angel of the abyss = is identified as king over the horrible locust-like-creatures. The exact identity of this angel is not certain. The particular grammatical construction (Genitive of subordination) here indicates that this angel is over the bottomless pit. It does not say that the angel is from the bottomless pit.

3. His name in Hebrew is Abaddon = contains two important ideas. First, the phrase "in Hebrew" is a unique Johannine expression (Rev 16:16, John 5:2; 19:13, 17, 20; 20:6). That some of John’s readers are intended to be of Jewish background is clear. Abaddon has a rich tradition in the Old Testament Scriptures. It is used as the name of the place of the dead in Proverbs 15:11, Job 26:6, and Psalms 88:11. It is also used as a poetic parallel to Sheol in Job 15:11 and Proverbs 15:11; to death in Job 28:22; and to the grave in Psalms 88:11.

Interestingly, the LXX translates the Hebrew term abaddon with the Greek term apoleia (destruction). The apostle Paul in 2 Thessalonians 2:3 labels the Man of Lawlessness (Antichrist) as "the son of destruction (abaddon)." The Lord Jesus indicates that Judas, the son of Simon Iscariot, was "the son of predition (abaddon)" in fulfillment of Scripture.

It is altogether unclear who this angel is. Scripture does not explicitly state that the "angel" who fell from heaven and the "angel" over the abyss are the same. However, there is no contextual reason why they cannot be the same individuals.

The name of this angelic leader is Abaddon (Hebrew = Destruction) and Apollyon (Greek = Destroyer). There is no biblical basis for assigning this angelic being the same identification as Satan as some commentators attempt to do. The Hebrew term Abaddon is used to refer to the realm of the dead (Prov 15:11; Job 26:6; Ps 88:11). It is the place of destruction.

This is the only place in Scripture that a particular angel is explicitly identified by the name Destruction or Destroyer, but we discern his presence in Scripture. 1 Corinthians 10:8-10 states, "Nor let us tempt Christ, as some of them also tempted, and were destroyed by serpents; nor murmur, as some of them also murmured, and were destroyed by the destroyer" (italics added). The murmuring event Paul is referencing occurs in Numbers 14 in connection with the report of the twelve spies. The death of the ten "unbelievers" is credited to "the destroyer." Hebrews 11:28 also reports that "the destroyer" (Masculine participle) was responsible for the death of the first born in Egypt just prior to the Exodus (Ex 12:23). As in Numbers 14, where the plague led by the destroyer accomplished God’s punishment of the wicked so in Revelation 9 the locusts plague led by the destroyer will accomplish God’s punishment of the wicked.

4. In the Greek he has the name Apollyon = attests to the fact that John also intends a Greek audience among his readers. Apollyon comes from a Greek verb (apollunai), which mean, "to destroy." This is the destroyer. Not Satan, but an angelic lieutenant committed to the task of destruction of God’s enemies.

Given the description of the locusts that occurs in Revelation 9:7-10:

And the shape of the locusts was like horses prepared for battle; and on their heads were crowns of something like gold, and their faces were like the faces of men. They had hair like women’s hair, and their teeth were like lions’ teeth. And they had breastplates like breastplates or iron, and the sound of their wings was like the sound of chariots with many horses running into battle. They had tails like scorpions, and there were stings in their tails. And their power was to hurt men five months.

and the fact that an angel leads them (Rev 9:11), some interpreters are inclined to see demonic figures represented here. However, this is highly unlikely. Revelation 9:20 declares, "But the rest of mankind, who were not killed by these plagues, did not repent of the works of their hands, that they should not worship demons…." It is inconceivable that people would be continuing to worship demons if demons are in fact the perpetrators of trumpets 5 and 6 given the horrible nature of the torment.

Equally, since trumpet five is the wrath of God it is difficult to see God using demonic forces to accomplish His punishment of the wicked. Many commentators associate the horrible locust-like-creatures with demons because of their appearance. However, this is unjustified.

Revelation 9:12

(1) The first woe is past; behold, two woes are still coming (2) after these things.

1. The first woe is past = designates an essential structural indicator for the whole book of Revelation. See the Introduction for a detailed discussion of this point.

2. After these things = that John places this structural indicator at this point and introduces what follows as the result of the sixth trumpet should settle any debate that the fifth and sixth trumpets are two different events.

This critical structural mark should settle the debate about the structure of the book of Revelation. Chronology and sequence is mandated.

Revelation 9:13-14

And the sixth angel sounded, and (1) I heard a voice from the four horns of the golden altar which is before God one saying to the sixth angel who had the trumpet, (2) "release the four angels who are bound at the great river Euphrates."

1. I heard a voice from the four horns of the golden alter which is before God = is limiting in its focus. It does not refer to God since the voice is "before God." Who or what speaks is not clearly indicated.

2. Release the four angels who are bound at the great river Euphrates = is a difficult phrase. Just who "the four angels" are is not certain. Four angels were identified in Revelation 7:1. However, these four angels are bound, which indicate a different set of angels.

Revelation 9:15

And the four angels, (1) who had been prepared for the hour and day and month and year, were released, (2) so that they might kill a third of mankind.

1. Who had been prepared for the hour… day… month… and year = clearly emphasizes the predetermined will of God. God placed these angels in confinement for a specific purpose, which has come due.

This powerful verse clearly and unmistakably argues against the pretribulational doctrine of imminency. Since the events of the Revelation have not occurred (in contradistinction to preterists), it is clear that the hour, day, month, and year is still future.

2. So that they might kill a third of mankind = is both frightening and enlightening. This is the stated purpose of the predetermined will of God.

Revelation 9:16

And (1) the number of the armies of the horsemen was two hundred million; (2) I heard the number of them.

1. The number of the armies of the horsemen was two hundred million = is a staggering number. However, the abrupt transition has led some to conclude that the four angels were merely necessary to excite the armies for war. That is, what follows in verses 17-19 is a resumption of the fifth trumpet judgment described above! However, the fact that the sixth trumpet’s clearly identified purpose is to kill and the fifth trumpet’s purpose is to torment (without death as a result) should dispel such notions.

John specifically and clearly states that "the four angels" will "kill a third of mankind." In verse 18, he indicates the "three plagues" killed "a third of mankind." How are these details harmonized? We shall see shortly.

2. I heard the number of them = indicates the source of John’s knowledge. Those who doubt John and what is written in the Revelation as to its truthfulness do so out of sheer unbelief, not for lack of information.

Revelation 9:17-19

And this is how I saw in the vision (1) the horses and those who sat on them: (2) the riders had breastplates the color of fire and of hyacinth and of brimstone; and (3) the heads of the horses are like the heads of lions; and (4) out of their mouths proceed fire and smoke and brimstone. A third of mankind was killed by these three plagues, by (5) the fire and the smoke and the brimstone, which proceeded out of their mouths. For the power of the horses is in their mouths and in their tails; for their tails are like serpents and have heads; and with them they do harm.

1. The horses and those who sat on them = clearly points to a very different group than those identified in Revelation 9:1-11. This vision includes both horse and rider.

2. The riders = are described, but not specifically identified.

3. The heads of the horses are like the heads of lions =

4. Out of their mouths proceed fire and smoke and brimstone =

5. The fire and the smoke and the brimstone = are stated to be the expressed cause of the death of a third of mankind. John says that these are plagues.

An important question concerns the relationship between "the four angels," and "the horses and those who sat on them." The easiest solution is to recognize the four angels are leaders of the horses and riders as the horrible locust-like-creatures had an angelic leader.

Revelation 9:20-21

(1) The rest of mankind, (2) who were not killed by these plagues, (3) did not repent of the works of their hands, (4) so as not to worship demons, and the idols of gold and of silver and of brass and of stone and of wood, (5) which can neither see nor hear nor walk; and (6) they did not repent of their murders not of their sorceries not of their immorality nor of their thefts.

1. The rest of mankind = confirms that only a third of mankind was killed. The term mankind is a translation of the Greek word anthropos. This is a general term. This group is composed of those who do not have the seal of God on their foreheads.

2. Who were not killed by these plagues =

3. Did not repent of the works of their hands = is the first of two concluding statements about repentance to follow the judgments of God (9:20-21 and 16:9, 11). There are no explicit statements that the purpose of God’s judgment is to elicit repentance from the wicked. Contrarily, Revelation 2-3 is marked by a continual call for repentance on the part of the righteous. The righteous are called upon to repent, but no word is given as to whether they did or did not. On the other hand, the wicked are not explicitly called upon to repent, but they are repeatedly stated to be unrepentant. The works of their hands is a recurring theme in Scripture that refers to either idols (Deut 31:29) or man’s deeds (Ps 28:4).

4. So as not to worship demons = clarifies John’s intent. Here, the phrase, the works of man’s hands refers to idols. Scripture indicates that idols are nothing more than demons. Specifically, 1 Corinthians 10:19-20 states, "What do I mean then? That a thing sacrificed to idols is anything, or that an idol is anything? No, but I say that the things which the Gentiles sacrifice, they sacrifice to demons and not to God; and I do not want you to become sharers in demons."

Therefore, a better translation of this section would be, "with the result that they did not stop worshipping the demons, or idols, made etc…" In other words, demons and idols are the same thing. John lists the material from which demons were made: gold, silver, brass, stone and wood. John moves from the most expensive to the least expensive.

5. Which can neither see nor hear nor walk = adds insult to injury. That people worship such things is ridiculous. However, demonic involvement explains why people worship idols. The supernatural component is achieved through demons.

6. They did not repent of their murders… sorceries… immorality… thefts = concludes John’s list of vices uncorrected by trumpet judgments one through six. These vices are listed on several occasions throughout the NT in connection with wickedness (Rom 13:9, Mark 7:21-22). Sorceries can refer to either poison or magical spells. In biblical times, the term referred mostly to magical spells. However, sorcery (pharmakon) can mean medicine or drug. One needs to exercise caution at this point and not read modern history back into Scripture, but it may be possible to see wide spread drug abuse during this period. Particularly, given the wide- spread unveiled manifestations of Satan and demons during the same period. Magic in the traditional sense would be passé.


Next Section: Chapter Ten - The Little Scroll
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