Revelation 9:1-11 The Opening of the Abyss.

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1 Revelation 9:1-11 The Opening of the Abyss. In the 8th chapter of John s Revelation we are introduced to the opening of the seventh seal of the Scroll. With its contents written down, a scroll represents an unchangeable truth that is about to be progressively revealed. Sealed with seven seals, the scroll can only be opened by the one with the authority to do so, and the One with the authority is the LORD, Jesus Christ. It is He who is given all authority over heaven and earth and it is through Him the proclamations of the scroll are announced. Where the nature of the first six seals illustrate God s sovereignty as He is poised for the final judgment, the opening of the seventh seal illustrates the act of judgment through the heralding of seven trumpets, with the first four of these presented in Chapter 8. These four trumpets illustrate God s sovereignty over the heavens and the earth and the inadequacy of these to provide mankind with any true security as God has the authority and power to destroy them at any time. Because of the announcement of Revelation 8:13 the last three trumpets are referred to as woes. These three trumpets illustrate God s sovereignty over mankind and the power that unabated evil has to destroy it. This passage describes the first of these woes that comes with the sounding of the fifth trumpet, the opening of the Abyss by the angel of death, the king of Hades. Revelation 9:1. 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. We might recall that the metaphor of the trumpet is intended to represent a clear and distinct message. The messenger bringing this message is first described as a star falling from heaven. When we look at the context of this star we find that it is given authority over the Abyss, so this reference is not describing a literal star, but rather one who has personality and authority. In verse 11 this personage is referred to as the angel of the Abyss and his name is Apollyon, in the Greek or Abaddon in the Hebrew, a name meaning destroyer or exterminator. The prophecy of Isaiah identifies this as Satan, himself. 1 The ancients thought of the Abyss as the realm of the wicked dead, one of three sections of Hades, the place of rest for all of the dead. It was 1 Isaiah 14:12-14.

2 also given the name of Gehenna, a name shared with the perpetual fire-pit outside of the walls of Jerusalem where the bodies of unclaimed dead were burned, which itself was named after the valley of Hinnom (Ge- Hinnom) where Israelite and Canaanite children were once burned alive in the worship of the pagan god Molech. This formed the basis of the idea that the final resting place for the wicked is one of fire and torment. The use of the key metaphor of verse one implies that the place of the dead has been kept locked and secure until this time. The locked Abyss is also referred to in Chapters 11 and 17 as the place from where the beast arises. The Abyss is a metaphorical place that seems to be the antithesis of heaven, the abode of the evil dead, Satan, and his minions. Consequently, this star, this messenger is given the authority to open the entrance to the Abyss and release its evil upon mankind. John states that, though the heralding of the first four trumpets is met with tremendous death and destruction on this physical world, the opening of these last three are particularly woeful because they will impact mankind directly. Where the first four trumpets illustrate the futility of trusting in the physical forces of this world, the last three illustrate the tragic consequence of trusting in the spiritual forces of this world. Where the former has the power to destroy the body, the latter has the ultimate power to destroy the soul. Revelation 9:2. he opened the bottomless pit; and there arose a smoke out of the pit, as the smoke of a great furnace; and the sun and the air were darkened by reason of the smoke of the pit. As the messenger opens the entrance to the Abyss, its character is revealed as, like the destroyed Sodom, 2 a place of fire as its smoke rises in enough intensity and volume to block the sun and the light of the skies, consistent with John's reader's understanding of Gehenna. The ancients considered Gehenna, the Abyss, as that part of Hades that is particularly reserved for the evil dead. Enoch 88:1 3 specifically refers to the Abyss as a place of punishment for fallen angels and for the Beast. The punishment is referred to as a place of unending fire and torment, leading to the tradition of a Hell that is characterized as a place of fire and brimstone. Revelation 9:3-4. And there came out of the smoke locusts upon the earth: and unto them was given power, as the 2 Genesis 19:28. 3 Palestinian apocalyptic apocrypha.

3 scorpions of the earth have power. 4 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 which have not the seal of God in their foreheads. Locust plagues were not uncommon in ancient times, nor are they today. Certainly, John is reminding his readers of the locust plague that struck Egypt immediately prior to the exodus of Israel. 4 Locusts are harmless to people, but exact a devastating loss on crops and the livestock that feed on them. The cloud of locusts is unstoppable, moving in its own will and destroying everything in its path that it chooses to destroy. This is the metaphor that John uses when he describes the power that evil has over mankind when it is unleashed. There is something tragically different between the locusts of verse 9 and the insects that so vex those who raise crops: these locusts do not attack the crops, they attack mankind. However, God s power over evil is demonstrated by the inability of these beings to harm those who have placed their faith and trust in the LORD. 5 Because of the manner in which these beings attack only man, and attack only those who rejected God, it is evident that John is describing the relentless stinging power of the minions of Satan over those who have rejected God and placed their trust in the world. The first-century Christians to whom John writes have been discouraged as they experience persistent persecution at the hands of those who reject the LORD and seem to have such successful lives. However, John illustrates here that there is coming a time of judgment when those who have worked only to fulfill their own base desires in this world will pay a very high price for their rebellion against the LORD. With God's hand of protection and provision partially removed from them, Satan and his demons are unleashed, and those who have no defense against them will come under their authority and experience the consequence of their rebellious choices. The only defense against the attacks of Satan is the promise that God has given to the faithful to protect them, and John continually reminds the faithful that they are secure around the throne of the Lamb when these curses and woes take place. Revelation 9:5-6. And to them it was given that they should not kill them, but that they should be tormented five months: and their torment was as the torment of a scorpion, when he striketh a man. 6 And in those days shall men seek death, and 4 Exodus 10: Ezekiel 9:4.

4 shall not find it; and shall desire to die, and death shall flee from them. God s mercy and sovereignty are still evident as the power of the locusts is limited by His command. Five months is the common life-span for a locust, and is the typical length of a locust plague. The power of the locust over man is not deadly, but produces a torment that is not unlike the sting of a scorpion. When those who have reject the LORD experience the true fruit of their rebellion they will not find it as sweet as they had assumed, but instead will find in it a bitter and painful torment as Satan demands from them what is necessary for Him to establish his sovereignty over them. Having sold their soul to the devil, it is time to pay their debt to Satan. The life experience of the wicked will dramatically change during this period when Satan is loosed. While they now exercise their own desires on this earth they think they are the master of their own destiny, the captain of their own soul, 6 profiting for themselves at the expense of those whom they persecute for their own personal gain. However, when Satan comes to exercise his sovereignty over the wicked and seek payback for those years of rebellion, the cost to the wicked will be great. They will seek death in an attempt to escape from Satan s torment, but will not find it 7 as their torment continues like the continual sting from an immense and relentless cloud of scorpions. Revelation 9:7. the shapes of the locusts were like unto horses prepared unto battle; and on their heads were as it were crowns like gold, and their faces were as the faces of men. John describes some of the characteristics of these stinging demons in a series of similes. First, they were like horses prepared for battle. The horse was the most powerful of weapons on the ancient battlefield. One who wielded a sword from an armored horse had a tremendous advantage over the foot-soldier. There was little or nothing a foot-soldier could do to stop the advance of the charging horse, hence there is little or nothing that the tormented can do to stop the advance of Satan s charging minions. Furthermore, they had something like a crown of gold on their heads. That is, they had the power to exercise some form of authority, but an authority that was not actually their own: the authority of Satan. This 6 Hensley, William Earnest (1888). Invictus. 7 Job 3:21.

5 gave them authority over those whom they tormented. Those who rejected the LORD and His authority thought they were completely self-sufficient, not submitting themselves to another, but in their blind pride did not see that they are submitting themselves to the authority of Satan and his demons. That tragic error is now evident. The demonic force had faces had the appearance of man. This may be an allusion to Satan s use of people to actually carry out the act of torment that is described here, much like the manner in which God uses faithful people to carry out His acts of love and mercy. When the tormented see who it is that is vexing them, they see the face of people. Revelation 9:8. And they had hair as the hair of women, and their teeth were as the teeth of lions. John continues to describe some of the attributes of those who have been unleashed upon the wicked. Their hair was like that of a woman, yet they had the teeth of a lion. We see herein a bit of an oxymoron, where the locust has the appearance of a form of attraction, but has teeth that tear its prey to shreds. 8 The wicked think that their wicked ways are attractive and to be desired, yet those ways will tear them to shreds. The things of this world that have the power to destroy often have the appearance of that which will bring personal pleasure and gain. Drawn to them against the leadership of God s word and the power of the Holy Spirit, people find themselves ensnared and ultimately grievously injured. Revelation 9:9. they had breastplates, as it were breastplates of iron; and the sound of their wings was as the sound of chariots of many horses running to battle. If one is to envision themselves standing on the ground with no defenses against an army of charging, armored, horses, one may begin to understand the futility of standing against the charge of Satan and his minions when he comes to exercise his authority and exact payment from the wicked that he thinks he deserves. The sights and sounds of the charge are overwhelming, and the only reasonable response would be that of fear and dread. 9 At this point the wicked are aware of their own powerlessness and the futility of any attempt to escape. It may be useful to be reminded that those who are coming under Satan s attack are those who are not protected by the seal of the Holy Spirit, those who have rejected the authority of God in their lives. Those 8 Joel 1:6. 9 Joel 2:5.

6 who love the LORD are not part of this scenario, but rather are protected by the blood of the Lamb. 10 Revelation 9: And they had tails like unto scorpions, and there were stings in their tails: and their power was to hurt men five months. 11 And they had a king over them, which is the angel of the bottomless pit, whose name in the Hebrew tongue is Abaddon, but in the Greek tongue hath his name Apollyon. We are reminded that Satan and his demons may have the power to torment, but they do not have the power to kill. Furthermore, it is God who is sovereign, not Satan, so the period of torment is limited. With God as the One who is sovereign, it is still His plan that is being revealed, it is still His purpose that is being executed as the wicked are finding repayment for their rebellion. The wicked may think that there is no God because of their tormented state, but God simply allows Satan to serve as the vehicle of his judgment much like God used his servant Nebuchadnezzar to destroy Jerusalem. 11 In verse 11 we see another reference to the star that fell from heaven, like the traditional Lucifer who was an angel who fell from the grace of heaven, due to his own wickedness, to the depths of the Abyss. It is this fallen angel who has been given the authority over the Abyss, and this angel is death and destruction, a character given by his name that means "destroyer." 12 Those who have chosen to reject God in favor of the authorities if this world have chosen for themselves only torment, death, and destruction. This world is an abyss of sin. This end for the wicked is certain as their own choices will stand as a testimony against them, and they become subject to the consequences of their own sin and rebellion. This is the simple message of the fifth trumpet, the first woe. 10 Revelation 9:4. 11 Jeremiah 17:6. 12 Job 26:6, 28:22, 31:12; Psalm 88:11; Proverbs 15:11.

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