Revelation 9 Devotional
by Pastor Lawrence Bowlin
A good title for this section of passages in the book of Revelation might be “An Alarm to the Unconverted,” which was also the title of a book by the Puritan author Joseph Alleine. As was discussed yesterday, there are seven trumpets that are sounded in this section, and each trumpet is meant to warn or sound the alarm for the judgment that is coming upon all unbelievers. Today we’ll be looking at the fifth and the sixth trumpets which are much worse than the previous four since these announce a direct attack upon the bodies of unbelievers. We’ll have to wait two more days till Revelation 11 to hear the seventh trumpet sounded announcing the final day of Judgment.
If you remember from yesterday’s reading, chapter eight ended with the vision of an eagle in flight crying out with a loud voice saying, “Woe, woe, woe to those who dwell on the earth, at the blasts of the other trumpets that the three angels are about to blow!” Of course, woes are the opposite of beatitudes or blessings (see Luke 6:20-26 for a comparison). The fact that the eagle pronounces this woe not just twice but thrice signifies misery and agony beyond compare.
Just as in the plagues of Egypt, when Israel originally suffered alongside of their captors in the initial judgments, the latter plagues only pertained to the enemies of God, so, here, these judgment are only brought upon unbelievers, for those who do not have the seal of God on their foreheads (v.4; see also Rev. 7).
When the fifth angel blew his trumpet, John saw a star that had fallen from heaven to earth. This fallen star is clearly meant to represent either the Devil or one of his minions (see Isa. 14:12-15; Lk 10:18; and Rev. 12:8-12). John says that this fallen angel was given the key to the shaft of the bottomless pit. This is not the pit of hell, for it is not finished yet (see Rev. 20:10), but, rather, the abyss that one of the demons refers to in Luke 8:31, pleading with Jesus not to send him back there but instead to cast him into the pigs. It is envisioned as a fathomless well from which arises every force of evil on the earth (see also Rev 11:7 and 17:8). And this arch-demon is temporarily given the key to the abyss to allow other evil figures to arise and wreak havoc upon the earth. But we must know that this is all part of God’s sovereign plan and that he restrains these evil beings from going too far. Notice the language throughout: “they were given,” “they were told,” and “they were allowed.” Even the arch-demon himself will at some point have the keys taken away from him and chained again himself (see Rev. 20:1-3). This figure is also described as a king over the creatures in the bottomless pit. His name in Hebrew is Abaddon and in Greek is Apollyon meaning “destroyer.”
When he opens the door to the abyss, out of the dark smoke arises a great swarm of locusts (see Ex. 10:12-15 and Joel 2:3-10) prepared for battle with faces that looked human, hair like women’s hair, teeth like lion’s teeth, and what looked like crowns of gold on their heads. Clearly these were not literal locusts, but still part of a prophetic vision of spiritually demonic figures set to attack unbelievers. John says that they were given power to sting like the power of scorpions on the earth. Thus their design was not to kill unbelievers but to torture them for five months, which is about the literal lifespan of a locust. In this fifth judgment no one dies, but those subject to it long for death, seeking it but not finding it.
Then the second woe is pronounced as the sixth angel blows his trumpet and John hears a voice from the four horns of the golden altar before God saying to the angel to release the four angels who are bound at the Great River Euphrates. If you remember from the previous chapters, the golden altar was where the incense was burned representing the prayers of the people of God (see Rev. 8:3,5). It was also under the altar that the souls who had been slain for the word of God were crying out to God for justice on the earth in Revelation 6:9. So here we have God’s answer to the prayers of the saints who have suffered at the hands of God’s enemies. They’ve cried out for justice and now the Lord is going to grant it to them.
When the sixth angel is told to release the four angels bound at the Euphrates River, these, again, are fallen angels who had been bound, but now are released for this exact time to carry out God’s bidding in killing a third of mankind. According to v.16, it seems that these four angels then directed two hundred million other evil creatures to do the brunt of the dirty work. For in his vision, this time John sees horses and their riders wearing fearsome armor. The heads of these horses were like lion’s heads but with fire, smoke and sulfur coming out of their mouths. And their tails were like serpents heads that also could kill by their deadly poison. Their calling was not to torture but to kill and to finally bring justice to God’s persecuted people.
This is meant to bring comfort to suffering saints and an alarm to the unconverted, but, sadly, those who weren’t killed by the plagues in this vision did not repent of their evil works. They did not repent of their murders, sorceries, sexual immorality or stealing. And they did not repent of their worldly idolatry. Surely, this message is given even to those who are sinner-saints warning us of the real and fearful judgment placed upon all those who will not repent of their sins. All those who have ears to hear, let them hear.