Chapter 9

Introduction

Chapter 9 continues the John’s vision of the trumpet events which started in chapter 8. Specifically, it marks the beginning of the last three trumpet events which have just been labeled as the “Three Woes”, in the previous verse (Rev 8:13).

Commentary

Trumpet #5 – Temporary Torment

1Then the fifth angel sounded, and I saw a star from heaven which had fallen to the earth; and the key of the bottomless pit was given to him. 2He opened the bottomless pit, and smoke went up out of the pit, like the smoke of a great furnace; and the sun and the air were darkened by the smoke of the pit. 3Then out of the smoke came locusts upon the earth, and power was given them, as the scorpions of the earth have power. 4They were told not to hurt the grass of the earth, nor any green thing, nor any tree, but only the men who do not have the seal of God on their foreheads. 5And they were not permitted to kill anyone, but to torment for five months; and their torment was like the torment of a scorpion when it stings a man. 6And in those days men will seek death and will not find it; they will long to die, and death flees from them.

      7The appearance of the locusts was like horses prepared for battle; and on their heads appeared to be crowns like gold, and their faces were like the faces of men. 8They had hair like the hair of women, and their teeth were like the teeth of lions. 9They had breastplates like breastplates of iron; and the sound of their wings was like the sound of chariots, of many horses rushing to battle. 10They have tails like scorpions, and stings; and in their tails is their power to hurt men for five months. 11They have as king over them, the angel of the abyss; his name in Hebrew is Abaddon, and in the Greek he has the name Apollyon.

General comments about fifth trumpet: This is a difficult passage, and I cannot confidently state what all of it means, except that it’s clear that people will be afflicted directly. Even so, there are several observations to make:

  • It begins with a star, which probably refers to some sort of angel (recall that in chapter 1, the “seven stars” were identified as the seven angels of the churches). I believe this star represents Satan, for reasons stated in Demonic Activity in the End Times.
  • This star (or angel) was given a key to unlock a place called “the abyss”, and a swarm of creatures came out of there. This abyss seems to be a prison for demons. Recall the account where Jesus encountered a demon possessed man in Luke 8:30-31: 30 And Jesus asked him, “What is your name?” And he said, “Legion”; for many demons had entered him. 31They were imploring Him not to command them to go away into the abyss.
  • It likens these creatures to both locusts and scorpions. Locusts are known for being voracious and destructive, and scorpions are known for having a fast and painful sting. They are described as coming like a cloud of smoke, much like the way an attack of locusts is described.
  • They were told not to harm vegetation. This shows that these creatures are not to be confused with actual locusts. The vegetation was already sufficiently harmed with the first trumpet event.
  • This fifth trumpet is directed at humanity, except those who had the seal of God on their foreheads, which refers back to the 144,000 Jews sealed in chapter 7. This selectivity may create the impression that the 144,000 Jews are allied with these locust/scorpion creatures.
  • They are told not to kill people, but torture them; and only temporarily. It appears that this limitation is placed upon them by God, in similar fashion to the limits God placed upon Satan when he sought to persecute righteous Job (Job 1:12 and Job 2:6). Possibly, Satan’s intention in releasing these demons was to kill as many people as possible, but God forbade this tactic. Also, the limitations (on both severity and duration) reinforce the idea that the trumpets are primarily a time of warning.
  • The torment occurs for five months (150 days). This could mean that the pain will last five months or (more likely) that this is the amount of time given to the demons do do their work. That is, the great tribulation lasts for 42 months, and this fifth trumpet will occur during five of those months.
  • Men will seek death but death will elude them. It’s hard to imagine that people who intend to commit suicide can never succeed. The intended meaning is that this torment is so severe that the afflicted people will not only expect it to be fatal, they will actually long for the hastening of death as relief from their torment. But since the torment is not fatal, even that relief eludes them. This understanding agrees with the similar to the similar expression of anguish spoken by Job in Job 3:21.
  • The description becomes more bizarre: We see horse-like things wearing a crown, with a face like a human, hair like a woman, teeth like a lion, wearing iron armor and prepared for battle. Be reminded that this is what John is seeing in the vision that was given to him. Very likely, it is a figurative description of their character, and not necessarily what the world will actually see when this event occurs. Perhaps nothing will be seen, except people afflicted with some painful and mysterious disease.
  • They have a king named Abbadon or Apollyon. These are (respectively) the Hebrew and Greek words for “Destroyer”. There must be some reason why Revelation should draw attention to this particular demon.

Please see Demonic Activity in the End Times for further discussion and explanation of these things.

Trumpet #6 – One Third of Mankind Killed

12The first woe is past; behold, two woes are still coming after these things.

13Then the sixth angel sounded, and I heard a voice from the four horns of the golden altar which is before God, 14one saying to the sixth angel who had the trumpet, “Release the four angels who are bound at the great river Euphrates.” 15And the four angels, who had been prepared for the hour and day and month and year, were released, so that they would kill a third of mankind. 16The number of the armies of the horsemen was two hundred million; I heard the number of them. 17And this is how I saw in the vision the horses and those who sat on them: the riders had breastplates the color of fire and of hyacinth and of brimstone; and the heads of the horses are like the heads of lions; and out of their mouths proceed fire and smoke and brimstone. 18A third of mankind was killed by these three plagues, by the fire and the smoke and the brimstone which proceeded out of their mouths. 19For the power of the horses is in their mouths and in their tails; for their tails are like serpents and have heads, and with them they do harm.

General comments about the sixth trumpetThe sixth trumpet event isn’t any easier to explain than the fifth trumpet. A few observations:

  • Apparently, there are four more angels to be released who are even more dangerous to humanity than those released in the fifth trumpet. The fact that they’ve been bound until this time indicates that these are also demons. The emphasis on how they have been prepared for this very moment attaches a sense of special significance to these demons.
  • Verse 15 associates a time with the release of these demons, as “the hour and day and month and year“. This is best understood as a specific time in which the sixth trumpet event begins.

Side note: Some argue that this timing information is expressing the duration of the sixth trumpet event (rather than a starting point). If the duration is meant, then it would mean a year (360 days) plus a month (30 days) plus a day (1 day) plus an hour, which adds up about 391.042 days, or just over 13 of the 42 great tribulation months.

I prefer to understand it as a specific moment in time because if a duration had been intended, the writer should have omitted the article “the“, which would have rendered the text as “an hour” instead of “the hour” (e.g. Luke 22:59, Gal 2:5). Also, it’s odd to measure a duration so precisely (down to the hour) when the duration is so long (more than a year).

  • The mention of the Euphrates is interesting, although the connection between these angels and the Euphrates is unclear. One consideration is that Babylon was located on the Euphrates (about 55 miles south of modern Baghdad in Iraq), and we know that in Revelation, Babylon is emblematic of Satan’s final kingdom of Antichrist. This suggests that the release of these four demons is instigated by Satan (lending support to the idea that the “star” in Rev 9:1 is Satan). Another consideration is that the Garden of Eden was located along the Euphrates (Gen 2:14), and so this location marks the fall of man into sin. Perhaps these demons were bound there at that time.
  • Their release will coincide with the assembling of some kind of vast army, but it’s not clear whether human or demonic. Regarding their number, some translations “do the math” and mention 200 million, but it’s preferable to keep the original expression, which would be translated as “two myriads of myriads” (as given by the ESV). While a myriad technically means 10,000, it’s also the largest number known at the time, and it may be just mean some very large, but unspecific, number. The same “myriad of myriads” term is used in Rev 5:11, except there the expression is not doubled, and it is followed by a phrase meaning “thousand of thousands“.

Again, please see Demonic Activity in the End Times for proposed explanations.

Reaction of Unbelievers on Earth

20The rest of mankind, who were not killed by these plagues, did not repent of the works of their hands, so as not to worship demons, and the idols of gold and of silver and of brass and of stone and of wood, which can neither see nor hear nor walk; 21and they did not repent of their murders nor of their sorceries nor of their immorality nor of their thefts.

v20 The rest of mankind, who were not killed by these plagues, did not repent of the works of their hands – We know that there will be Christians on earth during the trumpet events (plagues) since the great tribulation is a time in which Christians are being persecuted and martyred. Therefore, this “rest of mankind” that did “not repent” must refer to unbelievers. The KJV expresses this point more clearly: “And the rest of the men which were not killed by these plagues yet repented not of the works of their hands, that they should not worship devils” – KJV.

That is, the meaning varies slightly between translations:

  • Some translations make it sound like “the rest of mankind which survived — they did not repent nor did they stop worshiping demons…”.
  • Other translations sound like “the rest of mankind which survived and yet did not repent — they did not stop worshiping demons…”.

Evidently, the text could be translated either way, but I believe the latter translation is more consistent with what we know about the end times.

v20 idols of gold and of silver and of brass and of stone and of wood, which can neither see nor hear nor walk – As the trumpet events become increasingly severe and supernatural, it becomes increasingly clear that they are the work of God. Correspondingly, the continued refusal to repent and the continued reliance on false gods becomes more and more damning.

v21 and they did not repent of their murders nor of their sorceries nor of their immorality nor of their thefts – This also helps identify the “rest of mankind” referred to in verse 20. These are the people who support the ongoing killing of Christians (murders), who adhere to Satanic religions (sorceries), and who love their sin (immorality and thefts). The word thefts may refer to looting the property of murdered Christians.

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