9 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.
- Whereas the first four trumpets had a direct impact upon creation: land, water, and sky, the fifth trumpet (9.1-11) has a direct impact upon man.
- “star” – not literally, but most likely a reference to an angel. Earlier in Rev. 1.20, stars are specifically used in reference to angels.
- We should probably understand this angel, not as the angel mentioned in verse 11, but the same angel mentioned in 20.1 – where he locks the Devil in the abyss.
- “the shaft of the bottomless pit” – to understand John’s picture we must understand first century thinking revolving around the physical and spiritual universe. For example, earlier in 5.13 John refers to the created beings as “in heaven and on earth and under the earth” – a three-storied universe if you will. Thus meaning: angels, people, and demons.
- “In the “theological geography” of Revelation, holy angels come down to earth from heaven; evil angels come up to earth from the Pit or Abyss (Greek, abyssos). As the commentary noted, this follows the ancient perception of a “three-story universe.” Revelation 9 contains three of the nine New Testament instances of Abyss or Deep (also Luke 8:31; Rom. 10:7; Rev. 11:7; 17:8; 20:1, 3). In eight of these nine, this underground pit is either a present holding place or the temporary destination of the devil and the demons. The only instance in the Gospels illustrates: “And they [evil spirits] begged him [Jesus] repeatedly not to order them to go into the Abyss” (Luke 8:31). In Romans 10:7 paul uses abyss as a synonym for sheol (Hebrew) or hadés (Greek), the place where dead humans go, whether good or evil, for human remains are put down into the earth. In Revelation the final destination of both wicked humans and wicked spirit beings is the “lake of fire” (20:14), not the Abyss. – Kendell H. Easley, Revelation, vol. 12, Holman New Testament Commentary (Nashville, TN: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1998), 165.
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.
- “To follow John’s imagery, you must imagine the Abyss as something like a huge underground cavern, perhaps like an old California gold mine. Then imagine a narrow shaft going up to the surface, with a locked door at the top. Finally, picture the cavern filled with choking blue smoke created by a sulfurous, crude-oil burning furnace. What would be the first thing to happen when the angel opened the Abyss with his key? Obviously, smoke would belch up from the shaft, like the smoke from a gigantic furnace. In this instance, the sun and sky were darkened by the smoke, an ominous precursor of the real terrors that come from the pit.” – Kendell H. Easley, Revelation, vol. 12, Holman New Testament Commentary (Nashville, TN: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1998), 157.
3 Then from the smoke came locusts on the earth, and they were given power like the power of scorpions of the earth.
- “locusts” – one of the dreaded fears of John’s day. We should understand the two plagues mentioned below to be sourced in the demonic. We often either underplay or overplay the role of the demonic, but we must realize that spiritual forces of evil are active and mean to do the will of God and people of God harm.
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.
- “but only those people” – these ‘locusts’ were unique to say the least. In John’s day, the average locust never harmed people, only vegetation. Here, the locusts harm a select group of people – “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.
- “torment them for five months” – the average time natural locusts would cause damage.
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.
- “but not to kill them…people will seek death” – although death does not result in the work of these ‘locusts’ – people will long for it. The misery and suffering produced will be severe.
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.
- “like” – the locusts from the pit are probable best understood as some sort of demonic-caused plague or interaction upon people. John now zooms in for a more detailed look at these demons and describes them using several word pictures. These are probably best understood as a literary device and not literal, hence John’s use of the word “like” repeatedly in this description.
- “horses prepared for battle” – strong and well-prepared.
- “crowns of gold” – they will be successful; victorious.
- “resembled human faces” – intelligent.
- “women’s hair” – most likely a reference to their fierceness, many warriors grew long hair during this time.
- “lion’s teeth” – fierce and strong.
- “breastplates of iron” – strength; preparation. Most breastplates were leather at this time.
- “thundering of many horses” – intimidating and large.
- “tails and stings like scorpions” – inflict pain.
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.
- “Angel of the bottomless pit” – the leader of the pack, if you will. This is neither the angel mentioned in verse 1, not is it Satan, who is introduced in chapter 12. This angel is also mentioned in 11.7.
- “Abaddon…Apollyon” – meaning Destroyer.
12 The first woe has passed; behold, two woes are still to come.
- 8.13 mentions three woes, we are to understand 9.1-11 as the first of three.
13 Then the sixth angel blew his trumpet, and I heard a voice from the four horns of the golden altar before God,
- “four horns of the golden alter” – from Exodus 37.25; 38.2. representing strength.
14 saying to the sixth angel who had the trumpet, “Release the four angels who are bound at the great river Euphrates.”
- The 6th angel is told to release 4 angels who have been bound at the Euphrates River. We should understand these 4 to be evil in nature.
15 So the four angels, who had been prepared for the hour, the day, the month, and the year, were released to kill a third of mankind.
- that’s 30 people per angel.
16 The number of mounted troops was twice ten thousand times ten thousand; I heard their number.
- 2 million strong.
- We should understand this from the context to most likely be a spiritual army of some sort, not nec. a reference to the Chinese.
17 And this is how I saw the horses in my vision and those who rode them: they wore breastplates the color of fire and of sapphire and of sulfur, and the heads of the horses were like lions’ heads, and fire and smoke and sulfur came out of their mouths.
- Here John is more drawn to the colors, not the materials.
- The red, blue, and yellow described here match the plagues they deliver.
- “like lion’s heads” – strong and terrifying.
18 By these three plagues a third of mankind was killed, by the fire and smoke and sulfur coming out of their mouths.
19 For the power of the horses is in their mouths and in their tails, for their tails are like serpents with heads, and by means of them they wound.
- “power…in their mouths…and…tails” – a similar description of Leviathan is found in Job 41.19-20.
20 The rest of mankind, who were not killed by these plagues, did not repent of the works of their hands nor give up worshiping demons and idols of gold and silver and bronze and stone and wood, which cannot see or hear or walk, 21 nor did they repent of their murders or their sorceries or their sexual immorality or their thefts.
- The last two verses note the hardness of heart found upon the world at this time. Not even the severity found in this type of affliction can change the heart of man. Only divine intervention can do that.
- Notice the two-fold direction of sin. Vertical in verse 20. Horizontal in verse 21.