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Bible Study: The Book of the Revelation – LESSON 8

Calvary Bible Church Bible Study

The Book of the Revelation

 

LESSON 8:

We now begin the series of three “woe” judgements spoken of at the end of the previous chapter.  These “woes” are far worse than anything that has been seen on earth before.

 

Fifth Trumpet Sounds. 9:1–12.

vrs     1                  The first of the woe judgments is directed against the ungodly (see verse 4).  The star falls from heaven, the seat of authority.   Some suggest it is the Antichrist himself, but to become that specific here without further specific information is unsupportable. Why is this not a literal star?  It refers to a living person, for the work performed is that of a human or living being.  On the basis of 12:12, A. C. Gaebelein (The Revelation, p. 63; so also Seiss, op. cit., pp. 202–203) maintains it was Satan himself. If it is a false teacher, then Satan works through him, as is clear from numerous other occasions in the history of mankind. The key of the bottomless pit (abyss, in the Greek) was entrusted to him.

 

vrs     2                  What is the bottomless pit of the abyss? Is it Hades (Sheol), Tartarus, or Gehenna? The full discussion of the phrase will be found in this commentary at chapter 20.  For the moment, let it be said that it is the detention place of the demons (cross reference with Luke 8:31; Revelation 20:3). When the abyss is opened, a smoke rises out of the pit, as the smoke of a great furnace issues from it. The blinding effect of smoke is well-known; here it could be referring to moral blinding, if it is not a literal smoke from a physical location. The reference could be to that strong delusion that leads to perdition (2nd Thessalonians 2:11–12). The whole spiritual horizon will be darkened by the false system let loose, obscuring the true light from God.  All the apostate, pagan systems (including ecumenism, the New Age Movement, the increase in occultism, and so on) are leading to this dire situation, culminating in the final period of conflict for the soul of man.

 

vrs     3–4              There came out of the smoke locusts, which have power, as the scorpions of the earth. It is immediately clear that these are not ordinary, earthly locusts. They are demonic, but real, beings, because they do not feed on the natural food of locusts, such as grass, greenery, trees; indeed, they do not seem to eat at all, but rather injure men. They do no harm to nature; but they torture men, especially the ungodly (most specifically, those who are not specifically marked by God).  They are demonic insects that direct all of their attention to those of humanity that are not under God’s direct protection.

 

vrs     5                  Their function is that they should not kill, but torment. Here, as in the book of Job 1:9–12, Satan must operate within the authority permitted of God. The torment is for five months, a limited time. This is the natural life of a literal locust, that is, from May to September. The pain from the torment (sting) of a scorpion, though not always fatal, is often so; it is perhaps the most intense that any animal can inflict on the human body.

 

vrs     6                  Men seek death, and shall not find it. So great will the torment of those with sin-laden and guilty consciences be (under the influence of the sting of these demonic creatures), that men will seek relief in self-destruction; but suicide will be impossible. There will be no rest of heart or peace of mind, or easing of the physical torment.  As to how this will work, we do not know.  Either those who attempt suicide will always fail (the gun won’t fire, or so forth), or their injuries will not be allowed by God to be fatal or incapacitating.

 

vrs     7–10           Now a detailed description of these supernatural locusts follows. In their strength and irresistible onslaught they are likened to horses prepared unto battle. Further, they will be victorious; for on their heads they wear crowns like gold. As to facial features, they resemble faces of men, indicating human intelligence. Another symbolic detail indicates their hair as the hair of women in attractiveness. Teeth of lions remind us that they are fierce and rapacious in their destructiveness. Nor are they to be halted in their designs, for they have the protection of breastplates of iron. Stubborn resistance and impenetrable qualities are indicated here. Locusts would be expected to have wings, so these locusts have them; but they are of such number and power that they sound like horses running to battle and chariots rushing on to combat.  The portrayal thus far, has been fearful enough, but more is yet to come. As in verse 5, they are compared to scorpions with stings in their tails capable of inflicting excruciating pain. No dimensions are given for them, but in view of the other details of the picture, they must be of extraordinary proportions (probably not regular locust sized). They have a certain degree and measure of intelligence; they do not hurt the ones with the seal of God, and they are able to understand and execute the commands given to them. They combine characteristics of horses, chariots, lions, men, and scorpions.

 

vrs     11                A king over them.  Although regular locusts have no king (Proverbs 30:27), these revelatory locusts have one who is identified as the angel of the bottomless pit.  Moreover, this king’s name is given in both Hebrew (Abaddon) and Greek (Apollyon). Some interpreters believe the angel of the abyss is someone other than Satan, whereas others hold that they are one and the same being.  The names of this creature mean Destruction or Destroyer.  Abaddon (the Hebrew name) is first because his  influence falls on Israel first.  Apollyon (the Greek name) signifies that his judgment will next light on the gentile world. The first title connects him with unbelieving Jews; the second, with apostate Christendom.

 

vrs     12                One woe is past … two woes more hereafter. The Spirit states that only one of the woe judgments have been fulfilled; two others will be also.

 

Sixth Trumpet Sounded. 9:13–21.

vrs     13                The golden altar of incense in the Temple, and in the tabernacle as well, was placed directly before the veil, which hid the Holiest of all from human gaze. This verse is the answer to the prayers of 8:3–4. The voice is that of God or one of His delegated messengers. The four horns indicate the whole strength of the altar of intercession exerted to answer the prayers of the persecuted saints.

 

vrs     14                The four angels here are not those of 7:1–3. The first (7:1–3) are at the ends of the earth; these of chapter 9 are in the limited region of the Euphrates. Those of chapter 7 restrain; these do the opposite: they release. The Euphrates is usually spoken of as the great river; it is 1780 miles long. It will be referred to in 16:12. It is the longest and most important river of western Asia. It will be remembered that the River of Egypt (the Wadi el Arish) and the Euphrates are the bounds of the Promised Land (cf. Genesis 15:18). The Euphrates was the boundary of the eastern powers and of the old Roman Empire.

 

vrs     15                The fifth trumpet brought suffering, but not death.  The sixth trumpet brings death.  Four angels were loosed … to slay the third part of men. A specific time had arrived in the counsels of God; all proceeds on proper schedule with Him. The mission on which the four angels are sent is to accomplish a vast carnage, as 1/3 of humanity dies.  At the current population level (of over 6 billion) this would mean that up to 2 billion people could be killed in this woe.

 

vrs     16–17                   The number of the army is 200,000,000.  It is an immense army, far beyond calculation.  John did not count them, but he was told their number. The armies will be involved in waves of invasions. The horses evidently have riders upon them, but the horsemen are not of primary importance. They only serve to state the protection for their bodies. The heads of the horses were as the heads of lions, and from their mouths fire and smoke and brimstone issue. The fire will burn, and the smoke and brimstone (sulfur) will choke and stifle to death. The combination here has been called the “defensive armor of hell.” Jacinth (hyacinth) is a deep blue like that of a flame, but it is the blue of the pit and not the blue of heaven (Genesis 19:24 for fire and brimstone in judgment).

 

vrs     18–19                   The fire, … smoke, and … brimstone are so deadly that they are now called plagues (vs. 20). But the physical havoc is not all; symbolically, the smoke can indicate the moral, blighting delusion of the pit. The teachings and lies of Satan will be manifold. The tails like unto serpents speak of deceit and falsehood. The tails are described as possessing heads; that is, they are intelligently guided.

 

vrs     20–21                   Men which were not killed by these plagues “yet repented not”. If ever human pride, stubbornness, and perversity were pictured, it is here. Those who are spared the visitations just set forth will neither repent of their wickedness nor their worthless idolatries, which are totally useless.  Verse 20 tells of their worship; verse 21, of their works. Is it possible that our “advanced” civilization will revert to basest idolatry? It is unmistakably stated that it will.  The second woe is far worse than the first, but there is no repentance. The ungodly are incorrigible in their murders, sorceries, and immorality. Punishment does not soften wicked hearts; only the love of God can.  Notice that it also states that they will not repent of their sorceries (literal Greek is pharmakeia, from which we derive Pharmacy and Pharmaceuticals, indicating drug-related behavior and occultism).  As you look around the world at our increasingly drug-using and abusing cultures, you can see the groundwork for the literal fulfillment of this verse in the making.