“Hell Loosed on Earth” – Revelation 9:1-12
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The fifth plague is an army of demonic "locusts" who attack men, but cannot kill them.
The Old Testament background for this plague of locusts was written by the prophet Joel, which is the prelude to the coming of "the day of the Lord." (Isa. 13:6-13)
The locusts in the Book of Joel were likened to horses, chariots, men of war, who darken the sky with their presence.
In Joel's book, he speaks of an actual plague of locusts. Often in the Old Testament when God wanted to judge His people, He would bring a plague of locusts devouring all before them, leaving only desolation in their wake. (Deut. 28:38, 42, 2 Chron. 7:13, Joel 2)
But in the Revelation, the locusts are symbolic of demonic hosts, much more powerful and terrible in their action.
Remember, the first four of the "trumpet judgments" are natural, the final three are spiritual. With this in mind, let us study the next part of the Apostle John's prophetic vision.
Then the fifth angel sounded: And I saw a star fallen from heaven to the earth. To him was given the key to the bottomless pit.
"Then the fifth angel sounded..."
* This is the fifth of seven judgments.
* The first of the three "woes." (Vs. 8:13)
"...I saw a star fallen from heaven to earth."
* This may well be Satan, Lucifer - Which means "brightness." He is also compared to the "morning star."
How you have fallen from heaven, morning star, son of the dawn! You have been cast down to the earth, you who once laid low the nations!
(Isa. 14:12 NIV)
The Lord Jesus also spoke of Satan's fall:
And He said to them, "I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven.
As John saw later in his prophecy:
But a simpler understanding is that there is no Scripture that identifies the "star" with Satan or any evil power.
The "star" could be an angel simply sent by God to open the "bottomless pit" (abyss), and allow its prisoners free upon the earth.
"...to him was given the key to the bottomless pit..."
* "Him" - Denotes an angel, not a star.
* "Bottomless pit" - Literally, "the shaft of the abyss." A place of damnation and imprisonment for demons.
Jesus asked him, saying, "What is your name?" And he said, "Legion," because many demons had entered him. And they begged Him that He would not command them to go out into the abyss.
* The prison of the fallen angels “who did not keep their proper domain.” (Jude 6, Gen. 6:1-7, 2 Pet. 2:4)
* The abode of the Antichrist/Beast until freed. (Rev. 11:7)
* The temporary prison of Satan during the millennial reign of Christ. (Rev. 20:3)
"The key" reflects God's sovereignty, the abyss cannot be opened until God allows it for His purpose - judgment on "those who dwell on the earth."
And he opened the bottomless pit, and smoke arose out of the pit like the smoke of a great furnace. So the sun and the air were darkened because of the smoke of the pit.
* Either Satan allowed by God, or an angel commissioned by God.
* Both in God's will.
"...smoke arose out of the pit like the smoke of a great furnace..."
* Symbolic or figurative language of hell in the New Testament. (Lk. 16:23-24)
Although in the Old Testament "Sheol" or "Hades" is a dark and gloomy place.
The final place of punishment, "Hell" or "Gehenna" is the "lake of fire."(Rev. 20:10, 14-15)
But no location is given in the Bible, certainly not underground. Both the "pit" and the "lake" are real, in the spiritual realm.
"...so the sun and the air were darkened..."
* Could this be by the clouds of locusts (demons) written of in the next verse?
* Or the fires of hell?
Then out of the smoke locusts came upon the earth. And to them was given power, as the scorpions of the earth have power.
"...out of the smoke locusts came upon the earth."
* "Locusts" are symbolic of the hordes of demons released on earth, like an invading army. (Joel 1:4, 6-7, 2:4-5)
* Locusts also recall the plague upon Egypt that God sent to judge the Egyptians for not freeing the Israelites. (Ex. 10:13-15)
* God often used literal locusts to judge His people also. (Deut. 28:38, 42)
"...to them was given power, as the scorpions...have power."
* Again, these are not literal locusts, no locust can sting like a scorpion.
They were commanded not to harm the grass of the earth, or any green thing, or any tree, but only those men who do not have the seal of God on their foreheads.
"They were commanded not to harm the grass...any green thing, or any tree..."
* What do locusts do? Devour! Any green thing! (Ex. 10:15)
"...but only those men who do not have the seal of God..."
* These "locusts" (demons) are commanded to harm men, and only men without God's seal of ownership and protection. (Rev. 7:3-4, 9)
Now He who establishes us with you in Christ and has anointed us is God, who also has sealed us and given us the Spirit in our hearts as a guarantee.
(2 Cor. 1:21-22)
This verse gives the purpose of the "sealing."
The tribulation period will be the beginning of God's wrath upon rebellious mankind.
A time of persecution for the church by the Beast and his demons.
It was granted to him to make war with the saints and to overcome them. And authority was given him over every tribe, tongue, and nation.
As it has been throughout church history. (Jn. 15:17, 2 Tim. 3:12)
God's wrath will fall only on the worshippers of the Beast (Rev. 13:8, 14:9-11) but God's people will be sheltered by divine protection from demonic activity.
And they were not given authority to kill them, but to torment them for five months. Their torment was like the torment of a scorpion when it strikes a man.
"...they were not given authority to kill them..."
* Satan and his demons can do nothing more than God allows. (Job 1:12, 2:6-7)
* If they are killed, how can they repent? Which is God's desire for all. (2 Pet. 3:9)
"...but to torture them for five months."
* The "five months" time frame may have multiple meanings:
- Symbolic of God's judging "locusts," real locusts only live five months, but do tremendous damage.
- It may be that God is merciful towards men and limits this torture to a short period of time. (Ex. 34:6)
God in His sovereignty sets limits on their destructiveness both in intensity (Vs. 6) and duration (Vs. 5, 10) showing His mercy and desire for all men to repent (Vs. 20-21) and avoid eternal torment and destruction.
"The Lord is...longsuffering (patient) towards us, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance."
(2 Pet. 3:9)
"...their torment was like...a scorpion when it strikes..."
* Again, locusts don't sting ("strike") but a scorpion sting is one of the most painful experiences a man can suffer.
In those days men will seek death and will not find it; they will desire to die, and death will flee from them.
"...they will desire to die, and death will flee from them."
* 5 months of scorpion stings, or demonic attacks, will lead men to desire death as an escape.
*"Death will flee from them." Apparently, suicide will be ineffective.
The next part of the passage is clearly symbolic, with many different interpretations.
I believe John wants us to understand the horrible and powerful effect these demons will have on the unrepentant sinner still alive on earth, and symbolic metaphors are the only way he can convey it.
The shape of the locusts was like horses prepared for battle. On their heads were crowns of something like gold, and their faces were like the faces of men.
"The shape of the locusts was like horses prepared for battle."
* This description is taken directly from Joel of an invasion of locusts.
Their appearance is like the appearance of horses; and like swift steeds, so they run.
There's an old Arab proverb that describes locusts:
"The locust has a head like a horse, a breast like a lion, feet like a camel, the body of a serpent, and antennae like the hair of a maiden."
(A commentary on the Revelation of John. Pg. 132 - Dr. George Eldon Ladd)
"...something like gold..."
* Not actual gold, a symbol of kingly authority. These demons are imposters.
"...their faces were like...men..."
* The ancients often envisioned composite creatures as supernatural, super human. Ex: - Griffin's, sphinxes, centaurs.
They had hair like women's hair, and their teeth were like lions' teeth.
"...teeth...like lions' teeth."
* Again, an illusion to Joel:
For a nation has come up against My land, strong, and without number; His teeth are the teeth of a lion, and he has the fangs of a fierce lion.
And they had breastplates like breastplates of iron, and the sound of their wings was like the sound of chariots with many horses running into battle.
"...the sound of their wings was like...chariots...horses running into battle."
* More Joel:
With a noise like chariots over mountaintops they leap, like the noise of a flaming fire that devours the stubble, like a strong people set in battle array.
They had tails like scorpions, and there were stings in their tails. Their power was to hurt men five months.
This describes the way the "torment" was inflicted.
These monsters are part locust, destroying everything in their path, part scorpion inflicting incredible pain on their victims.
And entirely demonic, led by a general who can only "steal, kill and destroy." (Jn. 10:10)
The next verse will elaborate on this truth.
And they had as king over them the angel of the bottomless pit, whose name in Hebrew is Abaddon, but in Greek he has the name Apollyon.
"And they had as king over them..."
* Literal locusts have no king:
The locusts have no king, yet they all advance in ranks;
And yet these locusts (demons) have an authority figure over them, their acts are directed, not random.
It would seem to be ultimately Satan, the prince of darkness, but he has powerful lieutenants.
"...the angel of the bottomless pit (abyss)..."
* This figure is nowhere else found in Scripture, or Jewish literature.
* He is locked away in the abyss until God has him freed to use him to His purpose.
He is one BAD DUDE!
His name is "Abaddon" - Destruction (Hb.) and "Apollyon" - Destroyer (Gk.)
He is what he does.
One woe is past. Behold, still two more woes are coming after these things.
More to come, more misery, pain and destruction brought by the "wicked one" and his minions.
Woe to those on the earth at this time.
Hell has been loosed on earth.
This trumpet judgment (the fifth) brings hell on earth for a limited time, five months only.
But the final hell is eternal.
But God is merciful, up until the very end of the tribulation, when Christ Jesus returns, salvation is still available.
A freely given gift to all who will receive, to be washed in the blood of the Lamb, to be sealed in God's love and protection, and ultimately to live in glory with the King forever!
Introduction to Part II Chapter thirteen continues the interlude between the sounding of the seven trumpets and the outpouring of the seven bowl judgments of God's wrath on unrepentant mankind. In chapter fourteen John's vision will show us the time of the end, where...
Introduction Chapter thirteen continues the interlude between the sounding of the seven trumpets and the outpouring of the seven bowl judgments of God's wrath on unrepentant mankind. In chapter fourteen John's vision will show us the time of the end, where God pours...