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The Book of Revelation

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The Fifth Trumpet  (Revelation 9:1-12)

In Chapter 8 we saw God selectively using natural calamities and their resultant consequences to inflict His judgment on the enemies of righteousness.  The fifth woe is a little different.  The consequences here are applied directly to the unrighteous with the faithful Christians being excused from the torment.  This is a lot more selective and specific than using an earthquake to devastate an entire region where Christians almost certainly lived and had to be affected in some way. 

Looking at the figurative language it is easy to see that interpretations of the following chapter have been diverse and often times unsatisfactory when it involves literalizing such amazing creatures as we see depicted here.  As with the rest of the visions, we must look at the overall picture and try and pick out what the activities are and who is involved in order to properly understand it.   We must also keep in mind that the message of Revelation is "signified" as indicated in the first verse of the first chapter so we cannot expect these creatures to be real.  In fact, they are so incredibly unreal that one would almost certainly be aware of the fact that they are symbolic from the sheer degree of the abnormality in the characteristics they are described with.   We must focus on activities more than actors and on the characteristics more than the characters. In short, we have to look more at the forest and less at the trees.  Once we have discerned the forest, then we can go back and look at the individual trees and use them to compliment and complete the image of the forest. 

First of all, who are the ones being punished here.  Verse 4 reads, "but only such men as have not the seal of God on their foreheads." Those who have the seal of God on their foreheads is a figurative term for "the servants of our God" identified in Revelation 7:3.  Those who are not the servants of God are then going to be the only recipients of this divine punishment.   We have just effectively eliminated a whole host of millennial beliefs about this chapter that put these fantastic creatures at war with Christians.  The millennialists have it backwards.  Whatever these creatures represent, according to God's command, they are no threat whatsoever to the faithful servants of God.   Faithful Christians have nothing whatsoever to fear from this plague, it being directed solely on the unrighteous.  This is a key element in trying to figure out specifically what is being represented in this scene of the vision so let's keep that in mind as we move forward. 

The next key component is the realization that the plague of the fifth trumpet would not kill the enemies of righteousness.  This is not the case with the sixth but for now, we have a valuable clue to help us determine what the plague announced by the fifth trumpet represents.  This plague represented by some pretty fantastic looking locusts is not fatal to all the enemies of righteousness.  In fact, verse 6 says the afflicted will be so miserable they will desire to die but they can't.  So what we have so far is a plague represented by locusts, which is going to afflict only those who are not faithful Christians and will severely torment them but not be fatal. 

The next key component is seen in verse 10, "And they have tails like unto scorpions, and stings; and in their tails is their power to hurt men five months."  The number 5 is representative of human incompleteness or limited power.  This is not a literal period of 5 months rather is representative of an incomplete or relatively short period of time as opposed to a complete destruction or a permanent affliction.  In short, this was something the enemies of righteousness would recover from over time.  By now it is fairly apparent that the fifth woe was some sort of terrible non-fatal disease.  But what kind of disease would afflict only those who are unfaithful to God?

The next clue is that the power of the locusts to afflict the non-Christians is found in their tails.   The Roman Empire was known for its decadence and sexual immorality.  With sexual immorality come diseases of all sorts.  Diseases that a faithful Christian who lives righteously would never ever have to worry about because they would not be participating in the activities that promote the spread of such diseases.  Some of these diseases are painful in the extreme, especially in a society with no knowledge of antibiotics or other effective treatments for such maladies.  They would simply have to live with these diseases until they ran their course.  History records that sexually transmitted diseases were rampant in the Roman Empire.  With all of the pagan worship to manmade gods, many of which included wild orgiastic rituals, it is not at all surprising.  The practice of homosexuality was also extremely prevalent in this culture which further promotes the potential for disease.  With the announcement of the 5th woe we see the Roman Empire becoming the victims of the consequences of their own decadent sexually unrestrained society.    Now looking back at the locusts with the power to harm contained within their tails, we need to associate those tails with the part of the human anatomy involved in the carrying and transmission of a plague that affects only those who practice a decadent lifestyle. 

Now that we have a working idea of what the overall vision represents, we can now look at the specifics. 

Revelation 9:1
"And the fifth angel sounded, and I saw a star from heaven fallen unto the earth: and there was given to him the key of the pit of the abyss."
First, this star represents an individual of some sort.  Notice the keys were "given to him" and then in verse 2 it says "He opened the pit".  Commentators are divided on who this star represents.  Many able scholars and commentators believe this star is representative of Satan while others contend that this is a divine messenger from heaven such as the angel depicted in Revelation 20:1 who bound satan and cast him into the bottomless pit.  There are difficulties associated with either view.  The former places Satan with a key or the ability to open a door out of the bottomless pit with the ability to inflict suffering on the non-Christians in this instance.  The image of Satan being pictured as a star in Revelation and in possession of a key to the bottomless pit he is ultimately going to be thrown into forever is difficult.  However Satan is pictured by Jesus as falling from heaven like lightning and in Revelation 12:7-9 Satan is said to have been cast out of heaven into the earth.  Noting the text of 9:1 which reads "fallen unto the earth"; this star whoever it may represent is a fallen individual whose destination was the earth.  It is difficult to picture Satan as a star in any form, even a fallen one in a series of visions where he is so often depicted as the devil, a serpent or the dragon. 

Other commentators associate the fallen star with the angel pictured in Revelation 20:1 who descended from heaven and bound Satan and cast him into the bottomless pit.  The immediate difficulty with this interpretation is that we cannot discount the fact that the star had fallen to the earth.  There is not one single account anywhere in scripture that I have ever seen that visualizes one of God's favored angels, carrying out their duties in His service as having fallen from heaven to the earth.  Satan having fallen to the earth is supported in scripture and as uncomfortable as I am with visualizing Satan with a key to the bottomless pit, I am forced to go where the preponderance of evidence leads. 

With this said, let's look to what Satan's authority was on earth at the time and associate it with this key.  In Revelation 13 we have the vision of the great beast rising up out of the sea.  In verse 4 we read, "And they worshipped the dragon which gave power unto the beast".  The dragon pictured in Revelation is always in reference to Satan so we see here that Satan was indeed given a considerable amount of power and authority and this could only come from God.  Satan is depicted elsewhere in scripture as the prince of this world in John 12:31; 14:30; 16:11, the god of this world in 2 Corinthians 4:4 and of significance to this vision, Satan is described as a "ruler of the darkness of this world" in Ephesians 6:12.  Since Satan is described as the ruler of this world and the darkness in it, he must be in possession of the ability to darken and rule it.  And the source of this darkness can be none other than the bottomless pit from whence he rules.  So in this way, Satan does indeed have a key to the bottomless pit from which he can release the influences of darkness and following in verse 2 we see that what was released from the bottomless pit was smoke and darkness that covered the earth.  The only thing that the key opened from the abyss was the ability to send smoke or deception forth which obscured the light and darkened the earth.  The key Satan possessed had limited capability. 

Revelation 9:2
"And he opened the pit of the abyss; and there went up 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."
The fallen star released smoke out of the bottomless pit.  Smoke obscures the path and dims the light.  And this smoke was so thick it darkened the air and the sun.  This language is figurative of the the evil influence and temptation that Satan releases on the earth.   Evil is always described as darkness and righteousness is always described as light.  The smoke which caused the darkness would be those things which are at Satan's disposal to tempt mankind with.  The darkness which overspread the sun and the sky would be then be representative of the success of Satan's temptation as the majority of mankind was led away from the light of righteousness thus allowing the darkness of sin to prevail on the earth. 

It is significant to note here that the key in possession of the fallen star from heaven released only temptation from the bowels of the bottomless pit.  Satan is not allowed to force mankind to sin.  Mankind either chooses the light of righteousness or the darkness of sin of his own free will.   God never forces man against his will, neither does He permit Satan to force man to sin against his will or to tempt man beyond what he is able to endure (1 Corinthians 10:13).

Revelation 9:3
"And out of the smoke came forth locusts upon the earth; and power was given them, as the scorpions of the earth have power."
Locusts were one of the well known plagues of Egypt as written in Exodus 10:4-20.  To God's own people He later said that if they would turn away from Him and commit sin, He would bring locusts upon them to destroy their land (Deuteronomy 28:38).  Locusts were used by God as written in Joel 1-2 to bring God's wayward people back to Himself.    The locusts in this vision are therefore certainly represent
ative of a plague.  1 Kings 8:35-37 teaches us that God sent natural pestilences and famine on the unrighteous in order to bring them to repentance,  "When heaven is shut up, and there is no rain, because they have sinned against thee; if they pray toward this place, and confess thy name, and turn from their sin, when thou dost afflict them: then hear thou in heaven, and forgive the sin of thy servants, and of thy people Israel, when thou teachest them the good way wherein they should walk; and send rain upon thy land, which thou hast given to thy people for an inheritance.  If there be in the land famine, if there be pestilence, if there be blasting (or) mildew, locust (or) caterpillar; if their enemy besiege them in the land of their cities; whatsoever plague, whatsoever sickness there be". 

Notice that the plague came out of the smoke and not directly from the fallen star.  Satan, the fallen star sends the smoky darkness of sin to cover the light and from this darkness is spawned all the ravages, ruin, sickness and destruction which afflicted the unrighteous.  Retribution does not come directly from Satan, rather it comes from God as a consequence of sin. 

Power was given to this plague represented by locusts similar to the power of a scorpion.  A scorpion's power is in his tail to sting and to cause pain and suffering.  We will see more of this power in the tail of scorpion in verse 5 and again in verse 10.

Revelation 9:4
"And it was said unto them that they should not hurt the grass of the earth, neither any green thing, neither any tree, but only such men as have not the seal of God on their foreheads.
This plague represented by locusts is said to cause no harm to grass or trees or anything with vegetation.  This is all the evidence we need to determine that these are not literal locusts in view here.  Literal locusts destroy nothing but vegetation as they sweep across a land eating the leaves off of nearly every plant in their wake.  These locusts are different from literal locusts and they are told to afflict only the people who "have not the seal of God on their foreheads".   As seen earlier those who bear the figurative seal of God on their foreheads are identified as servants of God in Revelation 7:3, so this plague is specifically targeted at the unrighteous. 

Revelation 9:5
"And it was given them 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 it striketh a man."
This plague was not completely fatal to all that were afflicted by it.  The number 5 is half of 10 and represented human incompleteness or limited power, therefore this plague was limited in its ability to kill.  People afflicted by this plague would be able to get over it and survive. 

The torment of this plague was said to be like being stung by a scorpion when it strikes.  Again we see a picture of the scorpion's tail.  So what we have here is a plague which is generally non-fatal and afflicts people for a limited period of time stretching into months and is associated with the stinging tail or the hinder parts of a scorpion. 

Revelation 9:6
"And in those days men shall seek death, and shall in no wise find it; and they shall desire to die, and death fleeth from them."
This plague is going to be so miserable that those who are afflicted with it are going to wish they were dead.  However, death is not going to be found.  The afflicted are going to be forced to bear the pain and torment as a consequence of their sin until they get over it. 

Revelation 9:7
"And the shapes of the locusts were like unto horses prepared for war; and upon their heads as it were crowns like unto gold, and their faces were as men's faces."
John is giving us a description of the plague.  With figurative language it is important to focus on the characteristics and not the characters.  These locusts are not literal locusts, rather they are representative of a plague.  The characters used to depict this plague are not any more literal than the locusts are.  This plague is not a horse prepared for war.  It is like a horse prepared for war.  Looking into the old testament we see the plagues of locusts as prophesied by Joel in chapters 1 and 2.  In chapter 2:4-6 we read: "The appearance of them is as the appearance of horses; and as horsemen, so do they run.  Like the noise of chariots on the tops of the mountains do they leap, like the noise of a flame of fire that devoureth the stubble, as a strong people set in battle array.  At their presence the peoples are in anguish; all faces are waxed pale."  Christians familiar with old testament teachings are not going to associate these horses prepared for war as anything good.  This plague is going to overrun the unrighteous with such force and power that it's going to be like an army of warhorses sweeping over them. 

The crowns of gold are the crowns of conquest.  This plague is going to conquer the unrighteous but from earlier text we know that this is not a permanent conquest and that the afflicted are going to survive. The men's faces indicate that this plague is associated with men or mankind in general.  The face or its features is a primary means of identification for people.  When the first readers looked at the characteristics of this plague, they saw in its face the faces of men. This plague is not associated with the earth by floods, earthquakes or other natural disasters.  It is associated and identified with mankind as a consequence of their own corrupt and immoral lifestyles. 
Revelation 9:8
"And they had hair as the hair of women, and their teeth were as (teeth) of lions."
With the face of mankind and hair of women.  This plague had an alluring tempting characteristic to it.  It was appealing and beautiful but with all its beauty it carried with it the characteristic of lions teeth rending and tearing.  This plague was deceptive giving out the appearance of beauty but having the rending savage bite of lion's teeth hidden within.  Such it is with all sin.  Satan successfully disguises sin from being the ugly dangerous thing it is, masking its true appearance in ways that are appealing to the senses.  James teaches us in chapter 1 starting in verse 14; "but each man is tempted, when he is drawn away by his own lust, and enticed. Then the lust, when it hath conceived, beareth sin: and the sin, when it is fullgrown, bringeth forth death".  The plague in Revelation which came from the darkness was no different than any sin which looks good on the surface but underneath is the way of death. 

Revelation 9:9
"And they had breastplates, as it were breastplates of iron; and the sound of their wings was as the sound of chariots, of many horses rushing to war."
This plague did not have literal breastplates of iron, rather this imagery illustrates the power and resistance of the plague.  It's resilient, strong and hard to overcome.  Again we see similar imagery to what was written in Joel regarding the plagues God sent during that time.  They were like a conquering army sweeping across the land like an army of horses would sweep across the landscape.  Unstoppable, powerful, relentless and without mercy, striking down all who are unrighteous and participate in the immoral and decadent activities which were prevalent in this society.  Keeping in mind that this plague was targeted specifically toward the unrighteous.   The righteous had nothing to fear from this plague but to the unrighteous, this plague was armor plated. 

Revelation 9:10
"And they have tails like unto scorpions, and stings; and in their tails is their power to hurt men five months."
This is almost a repeat of verse 5 except that in verse 5 we learned that this plague was non-lethal.  In verse 5 the tail of the scorpion as the source of the torment is alluded to in vague terms, however here it is specifically mentioned in this capacity.  The power of this plague is found in the tail and it torments for a limited period of time.  As mentioned earlier, diseases brought about by a sexually prolific society were rampant in the Roman Empire.   Their society was noted for unrestrained homosexuality, orgiastic behavior associated with worship to sexual pagan Gods and widespread prostitution especially towards the Roman soldiers.  The Roman soldiers carrying these various diseases and visiting the houses of prostitution in each town spread them all over the empire as they traveled from city to city.  History records that sexually transmitted diseases of all kinds were of epidemic proportions and caused all kinds of misery and torment for the ones afflicted. 

A faithful Christian, abiding faithfully under the rule of Christ would never ever have to worry this plague.  These locusts with the faces of men, hair of women, teeth of lions and tails like scorpions would have no effect on a faithful Christian.  Even today we know that the best defense against these kinds of diseases is to refrain totally from these kinds of activities.  With our technology today we have things like blood transfusions which can infect the innocent, but these kinds of things were not possible in the Roman Empire.  Faithful Christians living in the Roman Empire who practiced celibacy for the unmarried and monogamy for the married had nothing to fear from sexually transmitted diseases and with extremely rare exceptions this holds true today.  In the 21st century we have a plague worse than the Roman Empire ever faced.  We have one today that kills and can be transmitted from the pregnant mother to her unborn child.  This disease is a direct consequence of homosexual activity.  The Roman Empire never faced AIDS but we do today.  And sadly, the cure for the spread of this epidemic is the same as it was for the Romans.  The Christian life, faithfully lived would eventually end the spread of this and all such diseases associated with this immoral type of lifestyle. 

In the very first chapter of Paul's letter to the Romans, he alluded specifically to the consequences of this kind of immoral lifestyle.  It is obvious from the tone of Paul's language that this sort of thing was widespread among the Romans and in his letter he said that, "God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts unto uncleanness, that their bodies should be dishonored among themselves: for that they exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshipped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed for ever. Amen.  For this cause God gave them up unto vile passions: for their women changed the natural use into that which is against nature:  and likewise also the men, leaving the natural use of the woman, burned in their lust one toward another, men with men working unseemliness, and receiving in themselves that recompense of their error which was due" (Romans 1:24-27).

Revelation 9:11
"They have over them as king the angel of the abyss: his name in Hebrew is Abaddon, and in the Greek (tongue) he hath the name Apollyon."
We know who the angel of the abyss is.  This is none other than Satan himself, the deceiver, the Devil, the great red dragon.  Abaddon means "destroying angel", and Apollyon means a "destroyer".  Jesus is recorded as seeing Satan fall from heaven like lightning, (Luke 10:18).  Satan is pictured in Revelation 12:3 as the great red dragon having seven diadems with seven crowns as ruling over those who are at war with God and His purpose.  Satan is the source of all that is evil and from that comes the manifestation of all the consequences of evil, both on earth and in eternity hereafter. 

Revelation 9:12
"The first Woe is past: behold, there come yet two Woes hereafter."
This again tells us that this woe is temporary and it isn't over yet.  There is more heartache in store for the evil Roman Empire. 

Summary Paraphrase:

Then the fifth angel blew his trumpet, and I saw one who was once a great power in heaven but had fallen from the sky to the earth; and to him was given a key to the bottomless pit.  Then he opened the abyss and darkness like the smoke of a huge furnace came out of the opening and was so great that it darkened the sun and the sky. 

Then out of the darkness came forth a great plague like swarms of locusts on the earth, and power was granted to it as the power the earth's scorpions have. They were told not to eat the vegetation of the earth nor any green thing nor any tree, but only to attack the people who are not living faithfully before God. They were not permitted to kill the unrighteous, but only to torment them for a period of time.  And this torment was like the pain caused by a scorpion's sting.  And when this plague strikes, the afflicted will crave death but it will flee from them.

This plague in the vision was like a thundering stampede of horses trampling everything in its path.  It was identified with the faces of men wearing golden crowns.  Long beautiful women's hair make it look appealing but the outward beauty only concealed the ravaging teeth of lions behind it.   This plague is so hard to get over it seemed to be plated with armor and swiftly overtook the unrighteous like a vast number of horse drawn chariots going to war.  This plague tormented the unrighteous for months at a time and it came from within the tail of the locusts and its affliction was like the sting of scorpions.  And Satan, the angel of the abyss, also known as the destroyer of righteousness rules over the plague like a king.  

This plague when it is finished is not the end of things for there are two more woes yet to come upon the enemies of righteousness. 


Church of Christ Lessons on the Revelation of Jesus Christ

1.  Understanding Revelation
2.  Symbolic Objects in Revelation
3.  Understanding the Numerical Symbolism in Revelation
4.  Identifying the Opposition Characters in Revelation
John's Introduction to the Churches of Asia

6.  John's Vision of Jesus Christ
7. The Church who Left Her First Love, Ephesus
8.  Smyrna, the Suffering Church
9.  Pergamum, the church in Hell's Headquarter
10.  Thyatira, the church that Condoned Sin
11. Sardis (The Dead Church)
12. Philadelphia (The Church With Opportunity)
13.  Laodicea (The Lukewarm Church)

14.  Letter to Your Church
15.  John's Throne Vision (chapter 4)
16.  God the Redeemer Revealed  (chapter 5)
17.  God the Avenger of His Children (Chapter 6)
18.  Who Will Be Able To Stand  (Chapter 7)
19.  The First Four Trumpets
(Chapter 8)
20.  The Fifth Trumpet (Chapter 9:1-12)
21.  The Sixth Trumpet Announcement (Chapter 9:13-21)
22. The Little Book and the Unutterable Thunders (Rev 10)
23.  The Seventh Trumpet Announcement (Rev 11)
24. The Conflict (Revelation 12)
25.  Revelation 13 (Identification of the First Beast)

26.  Revelation 13 (Identification of the Second Beast)

27.  Chapter 14 (The Victorious Lamb and the Redeemed)
28.  Revelation 14 (The Turning Point)
29.  Revelation 14 (The Sickle and the Winepress)
30.  Chapter 15 (Comfort for the Saints)
31.  Chapter 16 (Bowls of Wrath)
32.  Chapter 16 (The Battle of Armageddon)
33.  Chapter 17 (The Scarlet Woman)
34.  Chapter 18 (Fallen  is Babylon)

35.  King of Kings and Lord of Lords (Chapter 19)
36.  The Fall of Satan  (Chapter 20)
37.  Heaven, the Home of the Soul  (Chapter 21)
38.  The Spirit and the Bride Say Come  (Chapter 22)
39.  The Dating of the Revelation

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Revelation 21:5-7

And he that sat upon the throne said, Behold, I make all things new. And he said unto me, Write: for these words are true and faithful.  And he said unto me, It is done. I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end. I will give unto him that is athirst of the fountain of the water of life freely.  He that overcometh shall inherit all things; and I will be his God, and he shall be my son.