Understanding The Apocalypse

Revelation 9:1-11
Chapter 15

Like the rising crescendo of an operatic aria, the intensity of the judgments God will visit upon the inhabitants of the earth during the Great Tribulation will increase. We have read about multitudes who will perish in these judgments simply because they refuse to repent of their wickedness and come to Christ in faith.

Sadly, beginning in Revelation 8:1, with the opening of the seventh seal, the window of opportunity closes for all humanity. After thousands of years of reconciling men unto Himself; after providing every opportunity for mankind to believe in the perfect sacrifice that God provided for them; He will cease to strive with humanity. Except for the 144,000 Jews sealed and preserved to receive their Messiah when He returns in Glory, all people on the earth will suffer in and because of their unbelief, as the Trumpet Judgments are cast upon the earth.

In Revelation 8:7-13, we read and studied the effects of the first four Trumpet Judgments on the world, but nothing that will happen during the first four Trumpet Judgments can compare to the misery beginning with the sounding of the Fifth Trumpet. Truly, this is a time of woe, upon the inhabitants of the earth.

I. The Fifth Trumpet - The First Woe

"And the fifth angel sounded, and I saw a star fall from heaven unto the earth; and to him was given the key of the bottomless pit" (Revelation 9:1).

The first thing we want to establish is the star referenced in v:1, is a being. This is not the star in Revelation 8:10. In that text, there is no evidence the star is anything other than an astronomical body falling to the earth. However, there are evidences in the text that the star in Revelation 9:1, is a being. These evidences are:

(1) The pronouns, "him" and "he" are used to reference this star.
(2) A key is given to the star, clearly in the sense of a possession.
(3) The star uses the key to open the bottomless pit.
The uses of personal pronouns, ownership or custodial rights to the key, and the intelligence to use the key are all indicators of the star's personage. So, the question is, "Who is this star?"

Many commentators believe this star is an angel given the authority to open the bottomless pit or the abyss, not just an ordinary angel among God's innumerable messengers, but a very special angel and the clues to his identity are revealed in what John saw.

John says, "I saw a star fall from heaven." The word "fall" used in the King James Version is from a Greek word in the perfect tense, which signifies completed action. The fall has already taken place. It had fallen. Therefore, if this star is an angel, it is a fallen angel.

The second clue is this angel "was given the key of the bottomless pit." Truly, this key represents authority over the pit, but having it does not demand its use. Though the angel is given the key, he is not commanded to use it. Apparently, he is free to use it or not use it of his own volition.

The third clue is in Revelation 9:2. "And he opened the bottomless pit." The term "bottomless pit" is from a Greek word transliterated "abyss" and means deep or bottomless. In Luke 8:31, the demons asked Jesus not to send them to the abyss. This agreed with their request that He not torment them, in Luke 8:28.

From this information we can glean that the bottomless pit or abyss is the place of torment where the demons or fallen angels are secured. It is the holding tank for the angels who followed Satan in his rebellion against God. This is the place commonly known as "Hell."

Jude 6, describes this place, the inhabitants, and their destiny. "And the angels who kept not their first estate, but left their own habitation, he had reserved in everlasting chains under darkness unto the judgment of the great day."

Surely, one of the Lord's holy angels would not want to open such a terrible place and release its inhabitants on the earth. But a fallen angel would. A fallen angel, who has desired from time immemorial to lead the legions of that unholy realm in open rebellion against God and His creation, would gladly open it.

There can be little reasonable doubting that this fallen star, who seizes the opportunity to release the forces of Hell upon the earth, is Satan. Satan is the willing agent through which the woes will come upon the remaining inhabitants of the earth.

II. The Opening of the Abyss

"And he opened the bottomless pit, and there arose a smoke out of the pit, like the smoke of a great furnace; and the sun and the air were darkened by reason of the smoke of the pit" (Revelation 9:2)

A couple of months after Iraq withdrew from Kuwait I had an opportunity to talk to a man who had been there. He was a contractor helping put out the oil well fires and rebuild the city.

This man said the smoke from the oil well fires was so thick that at midday the sun was no brighter than the moon. Darkness covered the land twenty-four hours a day. He also said that it was very difficult to breathe and a person could only stand to be outside for a short period without protection from the smoke and fumes.

Perhaps, this man had a glimpse of the conditions that will exist when Satan opens the bottomless pit and the smoke begins to belch out, as if from a great furnace. A black cloud of smoke will cover the land, leaving people to grope in the darkness. The acrid smoke will burn the lungs and make breathing difficult. Certainly, one would not want to run or exert himself, creating the need to breathe in more of the irritating pollutant.

Understand, that staggering in the darkness, unable to breathe, is just the beginning of the torment that comes out of the bowels of Hell, opened by Satan. Look at Revelation 9:3, "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."

With the smoke from the pit come locusts. However, these are not everyday, garden variety, locusts. Perhaps, they are so named to indicate both the great numbers involved and their function as a plague upon humanity.

Listen to their description in Revelation 9:7-10:

"And the shape of the locusts were like horses prepared unto battle; and on their heads were, as it were, crowns like gold, and their faces were like the faces of men. And they had hair like the hair of women, and their teeth were like the teeth of lions. And they had breastplates, as it were breastplates of iron; and the sound of their wings was like the sound of chariots of many horses running to battle. And they had tails like scorpions, and there were stings in their tails; and their power was to hurt men five months."
Because some find the fearsome description of the locusts hard to believe, they have resorted to explaining the results of the fifth trumpet as figurative speech. However, there is no reason to think these are not real creatures, released upon the earth. Their awesome and unbelievable appearance indicates their powers.

They are "like horses prepared unto battle." To a foot soldier, a charging stallion, dressed out in battle armor was a formidable sight. A man on foot did not have the strength to stand against a war-horse and certainly he could not outrun the animal.

The crowns of gold on their heads are the crowns of victory not majesty, indicating that they win their battles.

Their faces like men, hair like women and teeth like the lion, testify of their intelligence, intuition, and courage, all requirements for the victorious.

They have breastplates of iron; implying they are immune to destruction.

They have wings. Their coming is the sound of chariots and horses running to battle. This indicates their swift and swarming attack that is impossible to evade.

Their weapons of attack are their tails able to sting like scorpions.

Certainly, these are not locusts with which we are familiar. Rather, they are demons released to hurt humanity and since demons do not usually have physical shape, these are the bodies they are given to carry out their mission.

Notice, their marching orders in Revelation 9:4-5.

"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 who have not the seal of God in their foreheads. And to them it was given that they should not kill them, but that they should be tormented five months; and their torment was like the torment of a scorpion, when he striketh a man."
It is interesting these locusts are commanded not to hurt the grass, the vegetation, or the trees. This indicates they have natural locust tendencies to eat everything in sight and if not restrained would do so.

Several people who lived through the dust bowl days in Oklahoma have told me the locusts came in swarms, darkening the sun, eating everything in sight, including shovel and hoe handles.

Personally, I do not know if the dustbowl locusts ate shovel handles, but based on the description of the locusts we've been discussing, I imagine they could eat whatever they want, whenever they want, if not restrained.

Clearly, their mission is not to harm the earth, but to inflict misery on human inhabitants. Notice carefully, Revelation 9:5, says they are to hurt "only those men who have not the seal of God in their foreheads."

We know from Revelation 7:4, only 144,000 from the Tribes of Israel will be sealed. This means all humanity on earth, save for this remnant of Israel will be tormented by these demon locusts from Hell. Also, from Revelation 9:5, we know these locusts do not have the power to kill men, only to sting them.

For five long, months people will be tormented by these demons who will sting them over and over again. We can understand their torment by reading Revelation 9:6. "And in those days shall men seek death, and shall not find it; and shall desire to die, and death shall flee from them."

Mankind's oldest enemy is death. Death is the thing feared most by humans in all ages and all societies. Also, death has a sting according to the Apostle Paul, in 1 Corinthians 15:55. Though humanity fears death, the stings of the demon locusts are worse than death. Therefore, people will seek to die but cannot. They will desire or plan death, but it will flee from them.

People will grope in darkness. They will be unable to run because of the acrid, smothering smoke. They cannot fight off the stinging tails of the demon locusts and death that would release them from their torments will not come.

From this we can see death is not always to be dreaded but is sometimes a release from the torments of life. However, during this five month period of great torment and woe, there is no release, or relief from the stings of judgment.

There is something else to see in this judgment. Notice, in Revelation 9:11: "And they had a king over them, who is the angel of the bottomless pit, whose name in the Hebrew tongue is Abaddon, but in the Greek tongue hath his name Apollyon."

These two names, in their respective languages, literally mean destroyer. This is the true nature or character of Satan and his followers. They are destroyers. Incidentally, this is more proof that Satan is the one who unlocked the abyss, for he is the leader.

Often, Satan appears as an "angel of light" (2 Corinthians 11:14), and people who follow him think he will reward them for their service. But here the veneer is stripped away. When divine restraint is removed and Satan is given free reign to do his work, it is immediately revealed that he is the destroyer of men and his motives as well as his methods are evil.

However, in spite of this, Satan's influence permeates nearly every facet of human existence today. He has convinced many in our society that he is the "giver" of pleasures and the Lord God is the "taker" of pleasures.

If only people today would realize these very simple facts about Satan: His only motive is to destroy and he hates humanity as much as he hates God.

III. Conclusion

Jesus said the Great Tribulation would be a time of torments, never before or after equaled on the earth (Matthew 24:15-22), but great as these torments are, they will end. However, the torments of eternity in the Lake of Fire that are pictured in the descriptions of the Great Tribulation on earth, will never end.

If one can imagine the pain and suffering of being stung by scorpions until one begs for death, then it is possible to get a glimpse of the torments in the Lake of Fire. Just as there is predicted in Revelation, a succession of torments for unrepentant humanity during the Great Tribulation, there is also foretold in the Bible, everlasting torments in the Lake of Fire, for those who refuse to repent and come to faith in Christ.

It is only by believing Christ died for your sins and rose from the grave that it is possible to escape the everlasting torments, in the Lake of Fire.

From "Understanding The Apocalypse"
A book of sermons by Pastor Jim McColloch, Th.M., Th.D.
© Copyright 1994, 1999, 2006