Mmm, mmm, mmm! What did you think about last week’s lesson where we began our look at the events precipitated by the sounding of the 5th trumpet? Mind-blowing, isn’t it? Today, we will plant our feet solidly in the same passage, so let’s remind ourselves what it says.
Revelation 9:1-12 (ESV)
1 And the fifth angel blew his trumpet, and I saw a star fallen from heaven to earth, and he was given the key to the shaft of the bottomless pit.
2 He opened the shaft of the bottomless pit, and from the shaft rose smoke like the smoke of a great furnace, and the sun and the air were darkened with the smoke from the shaft.
3 Then from the smoke came locusts on the earth, and they were given power like the power of scorpions of the earth.
4 They were told not to harm the grass of the earth or any green plant or any tree, but only those people who do not have the seal of God on their foreheads.
5 They were allowed to torment them for five months, but not to kill them, and their torment was like the torment of a scorpion when it stings someone.
6 And in those days people will seek death and will not find it. They will long to die, but death will flee from them.
7 In appearance the locusts were like horses prepared for battle: on their heads were what looked like crowns of gold; their faces were like human faces,
8 their hair like women’s hair, and their teeth like lions’ teeth;
9 they had breastplates like breastplates of iron, and the noise of their wings was like the noise of many chariots with horses rushing into battle.
10 They have tails and stings like scorpions, and their power to hurt people for five months is in their tails.
11 They have as king over them the angel of the bottomless pit. His name in Hebrew is Abaddon, and in Greek he is called Apollyon.
12 The first woe has passed; behold, two woes are still to come.
There are three portions of this passage that I would like to highlight today.
The time period involved
First, let’s consider the star. Here is what we know about him:
- He is fallen from heaven to earth
- He is given the key to the shaft of the bottomless pit
Commentators generally identify this ‘star’ as Satan. Satan was known as “Lucifer” prior to his rebellion against God. The name ‘Lucifer’ means ‘brightness’. In the account of his rebellion in Isaiah 14:12-15, Satan is referred to as having fallen from heaven. He is also called the ‘star of the morning’. Makes sense to me.
This star is given the key to shaft of the bottomless pit, or the Abyss. This tells us that he is not operating autonomously, but rather he remains under God’s control. Whatever happens as a result of this star having the key is all part of the plan of God for the world, we can be sure.
As we shift to verse 11, we are told that the demons/locusts who torment mankind have as their king the angel of the abyss, or bottomless pit. This angel’s name is Abaddon in Hebrew and Apollyon in Greek, both names carrying the meaning of ‘destroyer’. Is this angel the same being as the star in verse 1?
The jury is divided on this. Some think Abaddon/Apollyon is Satan, while others believe he is a high ranking angel in Satan’s army of demons. My personal thought is that this refers to Satan, who is clearly the destroyer of the souls of mankind. This is not one of those foundational concepts that we need to have a hissy fit over, though.
Now, let’s move to the locusts, or demons. The description of these beings is odd, to say the least, but we must remember that John continually described them as ‘like’ something else. Here is what we are told about them:
- Came out of the abyss
- Given power like the power of a scorpion sting to torment, but not to kill
- They had specific orders to only torment those who do NOT have the seal of God on their foreheads
- They were like horses prepared for battle
- Crowns on their heads (the stephanos, or victor’s, crown, rather than the diadema, which Jesus wears)
- Faces like human faces
- Hair like a woman
- Teeth like a lion
- Breastplates like iron
- Noise they made was like the noise of many chariots and horses rushing to battle
- Tails that sting like scorpions
Whew! Impressive, huh? I believe John was completely undone over what he saw and simply did the best he could with the description.
While many commentators believe that the torment these locusts/demons inflict is a physical torment, there are some who believe the torment is spiritual in nature. Given that part of the restrictions for the torment include the physical, earthly realm of nature, I believe the torment of humans is both physical and spiritual. As many of us know, when our physical bodies are in pain or distress, spiritual attacks often follow. Physical pain has driven many people to commit suicide in order to escape, but spiritual torment has also moved people to take their own lives. It is reasonable to believe that the ‘destroyer’ would use both avenues to attempt to destroy humans as part of the fifth trumpet and first woe.
Let’s finish by considering the time period of the torment. Is there a significance for the five month stated period? We do not know, but for all we do not know about this reference, we can take comfort in the fact that there will be an end to this particular torment. It has a stated timeframe that reminds us that God is sovereign over the good and the evil.
This completes our look at the first woe. Next week we will take a look at the events surrounding the sounding of the sixth trumpet. Until then, keep your eyes on Jesus, friends.