The Fifth Trumpet Brings the First Terror (Rev 9:1-12)

March 13, 2017 — Leave a comment

I. INTRODUCTION

A. Review of Past Blog Posts

B. Text of Rev 9:1-12

“1The fifth angel blew his trumpet and I saw a star which had fallen from heaven to the earth. He was given the key to the shaft of the abyss. 2He opened the shaft to the Abyss and smoke ascended from the abyss like the smoke of a great furnace. Then the sun and wair were darkened from the smoke of the shaft. 3Locusts come out of the smoke into the earth. They were given power like scorpions of the earth. 4The locusts were told not to injure the grass of the earth, any green grass, or any tree, except the people who do not have the seal of God on their foreheads. 5The locusts were not allowed to kill them, but only to torture them for five months. Their torment was like the torture of a scorpion whenever it strikes a person. 6During that time people will want to die but they will not. They will want to die but death will escape them. 7The form of the locusts were like horses prepared for battle, and their heads had crowns like gold, and their faces were like human faces. 8They had hair like women’s hair and teeth like a lion. 9Their chests were like iron breastplates, and the noise of their wings was like the noise of many horse war chariots advancing toward battle. 10They had tails and stingers like scorpions. Their power was in their tails to injure people for the duration of five months. 11They had over them the king angel of the abyss. His name in Hebrew is Abaddon and in Greek is Apollyon. The first woe has come. Look! Two more woes are coming after this. (Rev 9:1-12) 1

The Fifth Trumpet Releases the First Terror in Rev 9.1 to 9.12

Photo Credit: Phillip Medhurst

C. General Remarks

The fifth trumpet is unique because John uses much more space to explain this trumpet. For the first four trumpets only seven verses are used while John uses twelve verses to describe the fifth trumpet.

“The stuff of horror movies, or nightmares, or both. We can only assume, when John wrote down this vision of the locusts, that he was intending to produce a similar effect. He lavishes more details description on these super-locusts than on any other creature in this vivid book” (Wright, Revelation for Everyone, 85).

II. THE FIFTH ANGEL AND AN OPEN BOTTOMLESS PIT (Rev 9:1-2)

A. A Fallen Star Opens the Bottomless Pit (v. 1)

“The fifth angel blew his trumpet and I saw a star which had fallen from heaven to the earth. He was given the key to the shaft of the abyss.” (Rev 9:1)

1. A Fallen Star

This star is some type of intelligent being because it was given the key to the abyss, later opens it (v. 2), and he is the king of the locusts (v. 11). This likely is some type of fallen angel as Satan or another unidentified evil angel (Thomas, Revelation 8-22, 27). Some scholars believe it is strickly Satan (Muholland, Revelation [2011], 489; Walvoord, Revelation, 157-158).

2. Fallen from Heaven or the Sky

Translations differ on whether this star fell from the place of “heaven” (NASB95, LEB, ESV, NRSV, KJV1900, NKJV, AV1973) or a location of the physical “sky” (NLT, NIV).

3. Brief Study of Hell

One of the more confusing parts of my Bible understand is the locations of the underworlds. In this brief section I hope to explain my biblical understanding of the underworld. (This material is adapted from Charting the End Times by Thomas Ice and Tim LaHaye, 130-134.

(a) Sheol

This is the Hebrew word used in the Old Testament for “the grave” “hell” and “death.” Both believers and unbelievers are and were in Sheol. Sheol is different than the Lake of Fire and abyss.

(b) Hades

If Sheol is the place of believers and unbelievers in the Old Testament, then Hades is the equivalent place described in the New Testament forty-two times. Hades is different than the Lake of Fire and abyss. Within Hades there appears to be three compartments outlined in Luke 16:19-31:

  • Abraham’s Bosom – This is a place of comfort where the souls of the righteous dead went in the Old Testament.
  • Great Gulf Fixed – While few details are given of this compartment, it appears to be a empty space where men can look and see people on the other side
  • Place of Torment – Jesus gave many details of this place. Unbelievers appear to immediately go here and experience pain and punishment.

(c) Tartarus

This word is only occurs once in the Bible (2 Peter 2:4) and likely is the deepest abyss of Hades. It is probably temporary.

(d) Gehenna

This is the word used by Jesus to describe the permanent place of the dead. Jesus uses this word eleven times as well as James (3:6). There is some cultural background to this word. It refers to the Valley of Hinnom just outside of Jerusalem where garbage was dumped. A fire continually burned there. When reading of the “Lake of Fire” in Rev 20:14, it is likely the same place as Gehenna.

(e) Abyss

This word is used nine times in the New Testament. Seven of those nine times are in the book of Revelation (Luke 8:31; Rom 10:7). BDAG (p. 2) describes it as a “transcendent place associate with the dead and hostile powers” often translated as netherworld, abyss. It describes the abode of the dead (Rom 10:7) and of demons (Luke 8:31). It also seems to be the place where the devil is dept (Rev 20:3). The Antichrist (θηριον) is from there (Rev 11:7; 17:8). In Rev 9 it seems that the angel of the underworld is from the abyss (Rev 9:11). Other mentions (9:1; 20:1, 3).
N. T. Wright describes this aybys as a place of “anti-creation, anti-matter, of destruction and chaos” (Wright, Revelation for Everyone, 86).

(f) Hell

This is the ultimate destiny of the Devil and his angels (Matt 25:41; Rev 19:20; 20:10).

B. The Bottomless Pit Opened (v. 2)

“He opened the shaft to the Abyss and smoke ascended from the abyss like the smoke of a great furnace. Then the sun and wair were darkened from the smoke of the shaft.” (Rev 9:2)

Smoke in the book of Revelation seems to pertain to judgment, doom, and torment (9:17, 18; 18:9, 18; 19:3).

III. THE WORK OF THE LOCUSTS (Rev 9:3-6)

A. Locusts Descend on the Earth (v. 3)

“Locusts come out of the smoke into the earth. They were given power like scorpions of the earth.” (Rev 9:3)

Locusts by Michele Martinelli at Nat Geo

Locusts by Michele Martinelli at Nat Geo

Locusts are used by God throughout the Bible

  • for a plague upon Egypt (Exod 10:4-15)
  • a consequence for disobedience of Israel (Deut 28:38)
  • in the prophecy of Jeremiah about God’s judgment of Babylon (Jer 51:14, 27)
  • in the prophecy of Joel for God’s judgment on the ungodly (Joel 1:4)
  • as a consequence for Israel’s failure to learn (Amos 4:9)

B. Yet, No Harm to the Sealed (v. 4)

“The locusts were told not to injure the grass of the earth, any green grass, or any tree, except the people who do not have the seal of God on their foreheads.” (Rev 9:4)

1. Diving Passives

God’s sovereign control is seen here. The star fallen from the sky is given the key to the shaft to the abyss (9:1), the locusts are given power (9:3), and now they are told only to injure the people who do not have the seal of God on their foreheads (9:4).

2. The Rebellious Receive Rebellion

The rebellious men and women of the earth who refuse to follow God and worship him are tormented by the rebellious demons. Those who have been sealed with the seal of God (Rev 7:4-8) are protected from the destruction of the Locusts.

C. Not Death, but Torture (v. 5)

“The locusts were not allowed to kill them, but only to torture them for five months. Their torment was like the torture of a scorpion whenever it strikes a person.” (Rev 9:5)

1. Torture

The torture here could be one of three options. It could be acute physical pain (Matt 8:6; Rev 12:12), mental pain (Matt 8:29; 2 Peter 2:8), or metaphorical (Matt 14:24; Mark 6:48).

2. Five Months

The five months mentioned here is the length of time an actual locusts lives.

D. Death Desired (v. 6)

“During that time people will want to die but they will not. They will want to die but death will escape them.” (Rev 9:6)

The “time” that is referenced here is the five months of torment described in 9:5. During the five months of the locusts harming those who do not have the seal of God is when people will want to die, but they do not.

IV. THE DESCRIPTION OF THE LOCUSTS (Rev 9:7-11)

A. Their Head and Face (v. 7)

“The form of the locusts were like horses prepared for battle, and their heads had crowns like gold, and their faces were like human faces.” (Rev 9:7)

B. Their Hair and Teeth (v. 8)

“They had hair like women’s hair and teeth like a lion.” (Rev 9:8)

C. Their Chest and Wings (v. 9)

“Their chests were like iron breastplates, and the noise of their wings was like the noise of many horse war chariots advancing toward battle.” (Rev 9:9)

D. Their Tails (v. 10)

“They had tails and stingers like scorpions. Their power was in their tails to injure people for the duration of five months.” (Rev 9:10)

Five months was the normal life span of locusts. See National Geographic article above.

E. Their King (v. 11)

“They had over them the king angel of the abyss. His name in Hebrew is Abaddon and in Greek is Apollyon.” (Rev 9:11)

1. The Angel from the Bottomless Pit

This angel is likely a fallen angel, but not Satan himself.

2. Abaddon and Apollyon

The Hebrew name of this angel king is Abaddon which is Hebrew for “Destroyer.” The Hebrew form word, אֲבַדּוֹן in the following passages:

  • “Sheol and Abaddon lie open before the LORD; how much more the hearts of the children of man!” (Prov 15:11, ESV)
  • “Sheol and Abaddon are never satisfied, and never satisfied are the eyes of man.” (Prov 27:20, ESV)
  • “Is your steadfast love declared in the grave, or your faithfulness in Abaddon?” (Pss 88:11, ESV)
  • “Abaddon and Death say, ‘We have heard a rumor of it with our ears.’” (Job 28:22, ESV)
  • “for that would be a fire that consumes as far as Abaddon, and it would burn to the root all my increase.” (Job 31:12, ESV)

The Greek name of this angel king is Apollyon for “the Destroyer.” Some say that Ἀπολλυων has a connection with the deity Apollo. Yet, this is questionable because Apollo was the god of purity and recognized for civilizing influence.

V. IDENTITY OF THE LOCUSTS

Demonized Locusts

The view that I hold is that these locusts are demons or fallen angels. They are locusts that demons inhabit and/or control. Jesus’ testimony in the Gospels seems to indicate that demons can take the form of animals:

  • “There happened to be a large herd of pigs feeding in the distance. So the demons begged, ‘If you cast us out, send us into that herd of pigs.’ ‘All right, go!’ Jesus commanded them. So the demons came out of the men and entered the pigs, and the whole herd plunged down the steep hillside into the lake and drowned in the water.” (Matt 8:30–32, NLT)
  • “There happened to be a large herd of pigs feeding on the hillside nearby. ‘Send us into those pigs,’ the spirits begged. ‘Let us enter them.’ So Jesus gave them permission. The evil spirits came out of the man and entered the pigs, and the entire herd of about 2,000 pigs plunged down the steep hillside into the lake and drowned in the water.” (Mark 5:11–13, NLT)
  • “There happened to be a large herd of pigs feeding on the hillside nearby, and the demons begged him to let them enter into the pigs. So Jesus gave them permission.

Then the demons came out of the man and entered the pigs, and the entire herd plunged down the steep hillside into the lake and drowned.” (Luke 8:32–33, NLT)

These locusts are “man-eating, or rather man-torturing, locusts, with heavy equipment and armour to make them impregnable and irresistible – the monster are to act under a strict and limiting instruction” (Wright, Revelation for Everyone, 86).

The best view is that these locusts are demons or fallen angels who assume a locust-like form (Thomas, Revelation 8-22, 30). Support for this view is that the locusts have an angel for a leader (9:11), they come from the abyss which is were the evil spirits are imprisoned, and evil spirits take the form of an a similar way in Rev 16:13.

This is also the view held by Thomas, Revelation 8-22, 30; Wright, Revelation for Everyone, 86; Metzger, Breaking the Code, 65; Walvoord, Revelation, 159.

V. THE FIRST TERROR (Rev 9:12)

“The first woe has come. Look! Two more woes are coming after this.” (Rev 9:12)

The word “woe” carries the area of a great calamity in Scripture. It usually describes a judgment from God on those who do not follow him as well as a desperate situation by those who have turned their backs to God (Walvoord, Revelation, 162).

VI. CONCLUSION AND APPLICATION

A literal hell should compel me to share the Gospel.

As humans, sometimes we are more motivated by negative things than positive ones. The threat of loss is sometimes greater motivation than the possibility of gain. The description here of the place of the dead (the abyss) should give us motivation to share the Gospel and do our best to work in cooperation with the Holy Spirit.

Notes:

  1. Unless otherwise noted, all translations are my own.

Christopher L. Scott

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Christopher Scott is Small Groups Pastor at Rocky Hilly Community Church in Exeter, CA. He has more than ten years of experience leading volunteers, running nonprofit programs, and teaching the Bible in small group settings. He holds a bachelor's degree from Fresno Pacific University and master's degree from Dallas Theological Seminary.

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