13] And I looked, and I heard an angel flying though the midst of heaven, saying with a loud voice, “Woe, woe, woe to the inhabitants of the earth, because of the remaining blasts of the trumpet of the three angels who are about to sound!”
9:1] Then the fifth angel sounded: And I saw a star fallen from heaven to the earth. To him was given the key to the bottomless pit. 2] And he opened the bottomless pit, and smoke arose out of the pit like the smoke of a great furnace. So the sun and the air were darkened because of the smoke of the pit. 3] Then out of the smoke locusts came upon the earth. And to them was given power, as the scorpions of the earth have power. 4] They were commanded not to harm the grass of the earth, or any green things, or any tree, but only those men who do not have the seal of God on their foreheads. 5] And they were not given authority to kill them, but to torment them for five months. Their torment was like the torment of a scorpion when it strikes a man. 6] In those days men will seek death and will not find it; they will desire to die, and death will flee from them.
7] The shapes of the locusts was like horses prepared for battle. On their heads were crown of something like gold, and their faces were like lions’ teeth. 9] And they had breastplates like breastplates of iron, and the sound of their wings was like the sound of chariots with many horses running into battle. 10] They had tails like scorpions, and there were stings in their tails. Their power was to hurt men five months. 11] And they had as king over them the angel of the bottomless pit, whose name in Hebrew is Abaddon, but in Greek he has the name Apollyon.
12] One woe is past. Behold, still two more woes are coming after these things.
13] Then the sixth angel sounded: And I heard a voice from the four horns of the golden altar which is before God, 14] saying to the sixth angel who had the trumpet, “Release the four angels who are bound at the great river Euphrates.” 15] So the four angels, who had been prepared for the hour and day and month and year, were released to kill a third of mankind. 16] Now the number of the army of the horsemen was two hundred million; I heard the number of them. 17] And thus I saw the horses in the vision: those who sat on them had breastplates of fiery red, hyacinth blue, and sulfur yellow; and the heads of the horses were like the heads of lions; and out of their mouths came fire, smoke, and brimstone. 18] By these three plagues a third of mankind was killed – by the fire and the smoke and the brimstone which came out of their mouths. 19] For their power is in their mouth and in their tails; for their tails are like serpents, having heads; and with them they do harm.
20] But the rest of mankind, who were not killed by these plagues, did not repent of the works of their hands, that they should not worship demons, and idols of gold, silver, brass, stone, and wood, which can neither see nor hear nor walk. 21] And they did not repent of their murders or their sorceries or their sexual immorality or their thefts. (NKJV)
Chapter 8 gives us the sounding of the first four trumpets, which themselves are part of the judgment of the seventh seal, 8:1, 2. These trumpets herald what might be called “natural” catastrophes, as they deal with physical things happening to the earth and in some way we can’t understand, things also happen to heavenly bodies: sun, moon and stars.
8:13 introduces a new perspective, things which aren’t “natural” at all, at least as we understand it, but which come from the spirit world. Science tells us there is no such thing; everything is natural and material, “spirit” doesn’t exist. Now it’s true that the angel doesn’t specifically say “spirit world,” only that there are some things coming which will bring “woe” to humanity. Chapter 9 gives us the first two “woes”.
1. Fifth Trumpet: Locusts from the bottomless pit, 9:1-12.
The chapter starts out with a “star” having fallen from heaven to earth. Unlike the “star” mentioned in 8:10, this one is an angelic being, whose only activity in the book seems to be the opening of “the bottomless pit.” This pit is also mentioned in Revelation 20:1, 3 as the place where Satan will be imprisoned for the 1000-year reign of Christ and the saints. We’ll have more to say about it when we get to that chapter. One thing: how can it be “bottomless”? May I suggest that it doesn’t go straight down, like a well, but follows the curvature of the earth. In this way, it could truly be “bottomless.”
Once opened, this pit emits a huge billow of smoke, and out of the smoke, a horde of what John calls, “locusts,” though they’re unlike any locusts this earth will have seen before. John specifically says that these locusts were commanded not to harm the grass, or any green thing, or any tree, but only certain men, Revelation 8:4. This is in stark contrast to the locust plague described in Exodus 10:15, which decimated the land of Egypt: For they covered the face of the whole earth, so that the land was darkened; and they did eat every herb of the land, and all the fruit of the trees which the hail had left: and there remained not any green thing in the trees, or in the herbs of the field, through all the land of Egypt. Perhaps Joel refers to them in Joel 2:1-11, where their destruction is described like this: The land is like the Garden of Eden before them, and behind them a desolate wilderness, v. 3b.
Further, their ability to harm men will be limited to torment like the torment of a scorpion, and that only for five months, vs. 5, 10. This torment will be so severe that those afflicted will want to die, but will not be able to, vs. 5, 6. John describes them as fearsome creatures, with stings in their tails like scorpions, and with an angelic leader with a Greek name of Apollyon and a Hebrew name of Abaddon. Both names mean “destruction.”
2. Sixth Trumpet: The Angels from the Euphrates, 9:13-21.
This trumpet heralds the release of four angels, who had been prepared for the hour and day and month and year, to kill a third of mankind. Note, these angels were prepared for this specific time and activity. As difficult as it might be for us to accept the idea, all the things Revelation describes don’t catch God by surprise, but are part of the outworking of His eternal purpose. He will demonstrate once and for all that sin brings His judgment. And apparently these angels will be accompanied by an “army” of fearsome horsemen numbering 200 million.
The interesting thing is that the rest of mankind, those who are left, refuse to repent of their attitudes, but willfully continue in their wickedness and rebellion, vs. 20, 21. According to John, the root of all this is the fact that they are idolaters and, in fact, are worshiping demons.
Daniel 5:23 has something to say about this as well. Confronting Belshazzar after the appearance of a hand writing on the wall stopped a drunken orgy in its tracks, Daniel said to this wicked king, “And you have lifted yourself up against the Lord of heaven. They have brought the vessels of His house before you, and you and your lords, your wives and your concubines, have drunk wine from them. And you have praised the gods of silver and gold, bronze and iron, wood and stone, which do not see or hear or know; and the God who holds your breath in His hand and owns all your ways, you have not glorified.”
Daniel told Belshazzar that his actions were a great insult to the very God who held his life and all its activities in His hand. The word “owns” doesn’t mean that God approved of these things, but rather that the breath which enabled Belshazzar to do them came from the God he was insulting. That’s true of every single person alive today, regardless of what they do or why. The breath that gives them the life to do things comes from God – every single breath.
Not every idol men worship is stone or wood. Whatever keeps them from worshiping and serving God is an idol. Position, possessions, family, things in general: if these get in the way between us and God, they are idols. Our Lord put it like this: “Do not think that I came to bring peace on earth. I did not come to bring peace, but a sword. For I have come to ‘set a man against his father, a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law’; and a man’s enemies will be those of his own household.’ He who loves father or mother more than Me is not worthy of me. And he who loves son or daughter more than Me is not worthy of Me. And he who does not take his cross and follow after Me is not worthy of Me. He who finds his life will lose it, and he who loses his life for Me sake will find it,” Matthew 10:34-39. We can’t serve God and something else at the same time.
There are some today who believe that all that is needed to convince men and women to turn to Christ is enough “evidence.” This is not to say that there isn’t “evidence;” the Lord Jesus and the early church didn’t happen in a vacuum, but may I suggest that the sixth trumpet demonstrates this idea to be untrue. These men see the hand of God against their wickedness, but refuse to let go of it.
For that matter, who had more “evidence” than those who saw the Lord Jesus and witnessed what He did and what He said? True, many did follow Him as long as He fed them, but when He began to impress spiritual truth on them, most deserted Him, John 6. Even the leaders of the nation, who should have been first to receive Him, for the most part rejected Him and demanded His crucifixion, because He didn’t fit their ideas of the Messiah. More is needed than mere “evidence.” Our Lord is not on trial. We are. Actually, the verdict is already in and, apart from saving faith in the Lord Jesus, just like these men we all stand condemned in His sight.