Revelation 9

Revelation 9  •  12 min. read  •  grade level: 7
“AND the fifth angel sounded, and I saw a star fall [or fallen] from heaven unto the earth: and to him was given the key of the bottomless pit. And he opened the bottomless pit; and there arose a smoke out of the pit, as the smoke of a great furnace; and the sun and the air were darkened by reason of the smoke of the pit." (Verses 1, 2.) This first woe commences with the fall of a star. Set in an exalted position of rule and authority, and as a light for all within his influence, an individual of eminence is seen fallen (New Trans.) morally to the level of the earth. The key of the pit of the abyss is given unto him. There is judicial dealing of God in His government of men. It appears to correspond with the moment when God shall send strong delusion, that men should believe a lie: that they all might be damned who believed not the truth, but had pleasure in unrighteousness. (2 Thess. 2:11, 1211And for this cause God shall send them strong delusion, that they should believe a lie: 12That they all might be damned who believed not the truth, but had pleasure in unrighteousness. (2 Thessalonians 2:11‑12).)
(* In a note on page 74 we have remarked that many think there is a prolonged shadowy fulfillment of the central parts of the Revelation, before the definite fulfillment at the close of this age. Looked at from this point of view, we judge that the locusts under the fifth trumpet, and the host of horsemen under the sixth, set forth the invasions of the Saracenic and Turkish hosts.)
Having received the key, he opens the abyss. An enormous volume of smoke, like the smoke of an immense furnace, ascends from it, and darkens both the sun and the air. A widespread darkening, delusive, and blinding moral influence proceeds from the place where Satan later will be bound. Both the supreme ruling power and the whole moral atmosphere in the regions under judgment are affected by it. Darkness prevails where formerly light had been diffused.
“And there came out of the smoke locusts upon the earth: and unto them was given power, as the scorpions of the earth have power. And it was commanded them that they should not hurt the grass of the earth, neither any green thing, neither any tree; but only those men which have not the seal of God in their foreheads." (Vers. 3, 4.) It will help us to understand this, if we bear in mind that the center of God's ways and dealings is in the east. Locusts are far more familiar to Easterns than to Westerns. In many countries in the east and elsewhere there are seasons when enormous clouds of locusts appear, settling upon the land, and devouring every bit of green on earth, bush, or tree, and so turning a flourishing country into a desolate wilderness. Locusts are a familiar figure of a devastating army in the pages of the Old Testament. (Joel 1:44That which the palmerworm hath left hath the locust eaten; and that which the locust hath left hath the cankerworm eaten; and that which the cankerworm hath left hath the caterpiller eaten. (Joel 1:4).) In the vision these locusts emanate from the smoke of the pit. They originate in the moral darkness pervading the scene. As it was given to the one set forth by a star to open the pit, so now power is given to these locusts which come upon the earth as the scorpions of the earth have power. They have a deadly sting.
They are all under control. They receive a command not to hurt the grass of the earth, nor any green thing, nor any tree. That is to say, that wherever there is any sign of vitality or prosperity, it was to be spared. They were only to hurt those men who had not the seal of God in their foreheads. This clearly refers to the commencement of chapter 7. There, as we have seen, the angel from the east tells the four angels who hold the winds of the earth not to hurt the earth, sea, or trees till the servants of God were sealed. These sealed ones were of the twelve tribes of Israel. Here, the grass of the earth, green things and trees are spared, but those men who had not the seal are the sufferers at the righteous hand of God, who is just in judgment as in mercy.
“And to them it was given that they should not kill them, but that they should be tormented five months: and their torment was as the torment of a scorpion, when he striketh a man. And in those days shall men seek death, and shall not find it; and shall desire to die, and death shall flee from them." (Verses 5, 6.) Again it repeats it was given. Not that they should kill, but torment them. For many the judgment is worse than death. The sting of these moral locusts produces torment. Those affected by the delusive and devilish doctrine which prevails are so tormented in conscience that they would gladly escape their abject misery by the way of death. For five weary months they are tormented. In those days. Oh what mercy to know that we who now believe will never pass into them! In those days shall men seek death. Death from which so many now would gladly escape, and of which they speak as an enemy, will then be sought as a friend, but sought in vain. They shall not find it. They desire to die, but instead of welcome death coming to relieve them from this poisonous sting, it shall flee from them. The sting of a literal scorpion is painful in the extreme, but how dreadful the remorse of conscience when a man is stricken by one of these heartless moral instruments of judgment.
“And the shapes of the locusts were like unto horses prepared unto battle; and on their heads were as it were crowns like gold, and their faces were as the faces of men. And they had hair as the hair of women, and their teeth were as the teeth of lions. And they had breastplates, as it were breast-plates of iron; and the sound of their wings was as the sound of chariots of many horses running to battle. And they had tails like unto scorpions, and there were stings in their tails: and their power was to hurt men five months." (Verses 7-10.) To understand this description we need to apprehend the moral force of the powerful imagery employed in the passage. In comparing this passage with Joel 2, we gather first of all that it is a question of a mighty army, composed chiefly of cavalry, and fully equipped for war. It is a religious and fanatical host professing righteousness. On their heads they have, as it were, crowns like gold. It is an imitation, contrasting strongly with the crowns borne by, the elders in chapter 4. They have faces as men. They are fearless and bold. But there is subjection to an evil power ruling over them, for they have hair as the hair of women. Teeth as those of lions would denote that they are a savage and devouring force. Breastplates as of iron that their consciences are sealed against all mercy and pity for their victims. The sound of their wings, as the sound of many horses running to war, implies that it is a swiftly moving host, impetuous and determined, ready and swift to shed blood in war. Stings are in their tails, which are like scorpions. Moreover, these marauders penetrate everywhere, leaving their terrible sting behind. They probably force their Satanic doctrine at the point of the sword. Their power is to hurt men five months, confirming what we have already remarked in verse 5.
“And they had a king over them, which is the angel of the bottomless pit, whose name in the Hebrew tongue is Abaddon, but in the Greek tongue hath his name Apollyon." In Prov. 30:2727The locusts have no king, yet go they forth all of them by bands; (Proverbs 30:27) it says that the locusts have no king. But here those represented by them have a king, and we are told who he is. It is the angel of the bottomless pit. This is not Satan himself, as some have hastily and erroneously concluded, for at the time covered by this vision he will be at the zenith of his power in the earth. He is cast out of heaven to earth before this (Rev. 12:7-127And there was war in heaven: Michael and his angels fought against the dragon; and the dragon fought and his angels, 8And prevailed not; neither was their place found any more in heaven. 9And the great dragon was cast out, that old serpent, called the Devil, and Satan, which deceiveth the whole world: he was cast out into the earth, and his angels were cast out with him. 10And I heard a loud voice saying in heaven, Now is come salvation, and strength, and the kingdom of our God, and the power of his Christ: for the accuser of our brethren is cast down, which accused them before our God day and night. 11And they overcame him by the blood of the Lamb, and by the word of their testimony; and they loved not their lives unto the death. 12Therefore rejoice, ye heavens, and ye that dwell in them. Woe to the inhabiters of the earth and of the sea! for the devil is come down unto you, having great wrath, because he knoweth that he hath but a short time. (Revelation 12:7‑12)), but is not chained in the abyss until it has passed, and then he is bound as a prisoner, and will have lost his princely power. This king, however, appears to be a direct instrument of Satan (God at the time dealing judicially as we have seen), and is probably alluded to in Isa. 14 The woe is Satanic in its origin and character, whoever may be the prime actor through whom he works. In the Hebrew tongue the name of this angel-king is Abaddon. (See also Job 26:6; 28:22; 31:126Hell is naked before him, and destruction hath no covering. (Job 26:6)
22Destruction and death say, We have heard the fame thereof with our ears. (Job 28:22)
12For it is a fire that consumeth to destruction, and would root out all mine increase. (Job 31:12)
.) It signifies "Destruction." In the Greek tongue the name is Apollyon, which signifies "Destroyer." The men who suffer under this awful destructive woe may speak one or both of these tongues.
“One woe is past; and, behold, there come, two woes more hereafter." (Ver. 12.) The three woes are evidently successive. One (or the first) woe has passed. The second and third come after these things. The original is more definite than is implied by the word "hereafter." The first is accomplished by Satanic delusions, the second more by human elements, and the third (chap. 11:14-19) by the Lord Himself.
“And the sixth angel sounded, and I heard a voice from the four horns of the golden altar which is before God, saying to the sixth angel which had the trumpet, Loose the four angels which are bound in the great river Euphrates." This voice comes from the four horns of the golden altar referred to in chapter 8: 3. It is before God. The same faithful God who gladly listens to the prayers offered with incense of His suffering saints of that day, calls for judgment on the men who try and persecute them. The Euphrates is the eastern boundary of the land promised to Israel, but which they failed to possess. (Josh. 1:1-41Now after the death of Moses the servant of the Lord it came to pass, that the Lord spake unto Joshua the son of Nun, Moses' minister, saying, 2Moses my servant is dead; now therefore arise, go over this Jordan, thou, and all this people, unto the land which I do give to them, even to the children of Israel. 3Every place that the sole of your foot shall tread upon, that have I given unto you, as I said unto Moses. 4From the wilderness and this Lebanon even unto the great river, the river Euphrates, all the land of the Hittites, and unto the great sea toward the going down of the sun, shall be your coast. (Joshua 1:1‑4).) Four angels are bound in (or rather "at") that river, and an enormous host of warriors are let loose upon territory comprised within the confines of the old Roman Empire.
“And the four angels were loosed, which were prepared for an hour, and a day, and a month, and a year, for to slay the third part of men. And the number of the army of horsemen were two hundred thousand thousand: and I heard the number of them." (Verses 15, 16.) At a defined moment the bound angels are loosed for the execution of this dreadful judgment of God. "The third" is again mentioned, as under the first four trumpets. There is widespread slaughter. In the first woe it was moral destruction, but here it is both moral and physical. In the former men were not to be killed. But in this latter one third of the men within the invaded sphere is slaughtered. An enormous host of cavalry, twice ten thousand times ten thousand, as it should read, is employed to carry it out. John heard the number of them.
“And thus I saw the horses in the vision, and them that sat on them, having breastplates of fire, and of jacinth, and brimstone: and the heads of the horses were as the heads of lions; and out of their mouths issued fire and smoke and brimstone. By these three was the third part of men killed, by the fire, and by the smoke, and by the brimstone, which issued out of their mouths. For their power is in their mouth, and in their tails: for their tails were like unto serpents, and had heads, and with them they, do hurt." (Verses 17-19.)
The prophet sees both horses and horsemen in the vision. The latter wear breastplates of fire and jacinth and brimstone. A powerful and numerous army goes forth upon its deadly mission, carrying everything before it. With consciences steeled against mercy, they are the instruments of the judgment of God. The heads of the horses were as the heads of lions, showing the savage and destructive character of this awful onslaught. Fire, smoke and brimstone issue from their mouths. By these three plagues, for this is what they denote, according to the original, the third part of the men are killed. "For their power [that is, of the horses] is in their mouth, and in their tails: for their tails were like unto serpents, and had heads, and with them they do hurt." Not only does this vast marauding host of Euphratean horsemen cause wholesale destruction of life, but they leave the poisonous, deadly and devilish doctrines behind them, like the trail of the serpent. The serpent tails in the vision having heads would seem to show that these doctrines, which have such awful power over men, are a studied system of evil formed in the minds of men under the influence of the serpent. "With them they do hurt." The victims suffer from this deadly moral poison. Yet, awful as is this chastisement of God, and notwithstanding that death, physical and moral, surrounds them on all sides, those who escape being killed persist in their wickedness. The chapter closes with the description of their evil practices.
“And the rest of the men which were not killed by these plagues yet repented not of the works of their hands, that they should not worship devils, and idols of gold, and silver, and brass, and stone, and of wood: which neither can see, nor hear, nor walk: neither repented they of their murders, nor of their sorceries, nor of their fornication, nor of their thefts." (Verses 20, 21.) One third of the men in the sphere in question perish, and yet the remainder repent not. Two things continue to characterize them. Flagrant idolatry, which witnesses to the righteousness of God in causing this judgment by the horsemen to be executed. They worship the works of their own hands instead of worshipping God. They make idols of the metals which God has created for the use and comfort of His creatures, and bow down before them, although they can neither see, nor hear, nor walk! And they repent not of their murders, witchcraft, fornication, or thefts. They are characterized by the shedding of their neighbors' blood, by dabbling in spiritual wickedness, by, breaches against the sanctity of marriage, and by the appropriations of their neighbors' goods. Speaking broadly, they are guilty of many open breaches of their responsibility towards God and towards their neighbor, as set forth in the ten commandments. The hour of God's righteous retribution had arrived. Strong is He who executeth His word.