The Fifth Trumpet

FIFTH TRUMPETThe fifth angel sounded his trumpet, and I saw a star that had fallen from the sky to the earth. The star was given the key to the shaft of the Abyss. When he opened the Abyss, smoke rose from it like the smoke from a gigantic furnace. The sun and sky were darkened by the smoke from the Abyss. And out of the smoke locusts came down upon the earth and were given power like that of scorpions of the earth. They were told not to harm the grass of the earth or any plant or tree, but only those people who did not have the seal of God on their foreheads. They were not given power to kill them, but only to torture them for five months. And the agony they suffered was like that of the sting of a scorpion when it strikes a man. During those days men will seek death, but will not find it; they will long to die, but death will elude them. The locusts looked like horses prepared for battle. On their heads they wore something like crowns of gold, and their faces resembled human faces. Their hair was like women’s hair, and their teeth were like lions’ teeth. They had breastplates like breastplates of iron, and the sound of their wings was like the thundering of many horses and chariots rushing into battle. They had tails and stings like scorpions, and in their tails they had power to torment people for five months. They had as king over them the angel of the Abyss, whose name in Hebrew is Abaddon, and in Greek, Apollyon. The first woe is past; two other woes are yet to come. (Revelation 9:1-12)

The Fallen Star – When John saw this star it was not
in the act of falling. It had fallen already (“that had fallen”). The fifth trumpet is connected with Revelation 12:8, 9, 12, “Woe to the inhabiters of the earth, for the devil is come down.” See also Isaiah 14:12, “How art thou fallen from heaven, Lucifer, son of the morning!(1)

The Abyss – The Abyss or bottomless pit is literally the pit of the abyss. Luke tells us in his Gospel that this pit is the abode of certain demons (Luke 8:31). John states that Satan will be temporarily jailed there during Christ’s reign on the earth (Revelation 20:1–3). The anti-Christ (i.e., the beast) will ascend out of this pit (Revelation 11:7; 17:8). It is not the lake of fire, for that is the final prison for Satan and all who follow him (Revelation 20:10). Rather, it is part of the mysterious and hidden underworld that is under the Lord’s authority. The fearsome army has up to this point been incarcerated in the Abyss, awaiting their hour of liberation.(2) We do not know why these particular demons have been bound while others have not. Perhaps they are so evil that God has spared us from their attacks until end times. We do know that demons that were otherwise free, were fearful of being cast into the Abyss before their time.

The fallen star (as noted above, probably Satan) is the king over the beings (the worst of his demons) that are in the pit (Revelation 9:11). Although their king, he did not have complete authority over them, for the key to the pit had to be given to him before he could unloose his army. One of the names for Satan is Lucifer, which means brightness. He also is compared to the morning star (Isaiah 14:12–14). Jesus said to His disciples, “I beheld Satan as lightning fall from heaven” (Luke 10:18).(3)

Abaddon means destruction and is the Hebrew name for Hades, the place of the departed dead (Job 31:12; Psalms 88:11; Proverbs 15:11). Apollyon means destroyer and is possibly connected to name of the Greek god Apollo, for whom the locust was often used as a symbol. Domitian—who many believe was the emperor at the time Revelation was written—thought of himself as Apollo incarnate. John may be referring to Domitian as the destroyer. If so, the underworld which he controls is Rome, equating Rome with hell.(4)

The Locusts with Power Like Scorpions – This judgment is similar to the eighth plague on Egypt (Exodus 10:14, 15).(5) But, as is characteristic of apocalyptic literature and prophetic revelation, John’s vision describes these locusts as something far more terrifying. Joel describes an imminent locust plague in terms of the armies of the final war (Joel 1:4–2:27) and also describes the final war (Joel 3:9–17). John borrows Joel’s imagery here to amplify the imagery of a locust plague into a terrible invasion.(6)

When the swarms came with the eighth Egyptian plague, they devoured every green thing.(7) Here, however, they are instructed not to hurt any grass, plant or tree (the food on which they ordinarily prey), but rather to torment (not kill) unsealed humans. This, of course, would be contrary to the natural instincts of an ordinary locust,(8) which is another reason to believe that they are not ordinary locusts, but rather demons. The demons might have the appearance of locusts, or perhaps it is the closest that John is able to describe the other worldly creatures that he had never seen before. Their control over people was such that though the victims desired to die they could not take their own lives.(9)

None of the saints are hurt by these locusts,(10) which would be contrary to the nature and desire of demons. But they were not granted authority to harm the saints. The locusts were granted authority (likely by God) over the unsaved for five months. This corresponds to the general lifespan of actual locusts, which hatch in the springtime and die near the end of summer. Figuratively, this phrase could also describe a long but indefinite period of torture.(11) Ultimately, the pain will be so great that people will prefer death, but the stings will not be fatal (Revelation 9:5). See also Job 3:21 and Jeremiah 8:3.(12)

The locusts are said to resemble “horses prepared for battle,” and yet they are unlike any known horse. They had human faces, crowns of gold, women’s hair, lions’ teeth, iron-like breastplates, and wings that sounded like horse-drawn chariots rushing into battle. John described what he saw but did not interpret each characteristic. If demonic, the picture is one of Satan’s awesome supernatural power and the demon world, especially in relation to unbelievers.(13) Joel 1:6 described locusts with “teeth like lions” to emphasize their destructiveness to the crops and everything else. The “noise of chariots” is borrowed from the military imagery for locusts in Joel 2:5. The swarms would be so intense that they would sound like an invading army, with a sound great enough to make a land quake (Jeremiah 8:16).(14) It is probably unnecessary to try to spiritualize these symbols, or interpret them in such a way that they are symbolic of modern means of warfare. But they are also not literal locusts as we understand them. Locusts do not have scorpion-like stings in their tails and they devour crops rather than torment men.(15)

Up Next – The Sixth Trumpet

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References

  1. Jamieson, R., Fausset, A. R., & Brown, D. (1997). Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible (Vol. 2, p. 572). Oak Harbor, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc.
  2. Wiersbe, W. W. (1996). The Bible exposition commentary (Vol. 2, p. 594). Wheaton, IL: Victor Books.
  3. Wiersbe, W. W. (1996). The Bible exposition commentary (Vol. 2, pp. 594–595). Wheaton, IL: Victor Books.
  4. Barry, J. D., Heiser, M. S., Custis, M., Mangum, D., & Whitehead, M. M. (2012). Faithlife Study Bible (Re 9:11). Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software.
  5. Vincent, M. R. (1887). Word studies in the New Testament (Vol. 2, pp. 507–508). New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons.
  6. Keener, C. S. (1993). The IVP Bible background commentary: New Testament (Re 9:3). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.
  7. Robertson, A. T. (1933). Word Pictures in the New Testament (Re 9:3). Nashville, TN: Broadman Press.
  8. Jamieson, R., Fausset, A. R., & Brown, D. (1997). Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible (Vol. 2, p. 572). Oak Harbor, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc.
  9. Walvoord, John F. (1985). Revelation. In J. F. Walvoord & R. B. Zuck (Eds.), The Bible Knowledge Commentary: An Exposition of the Scriptures (Vol. 2, p. 952). Wheaton, IL: Victor Books.
  10. Jamieson, R., Fausset, A. R., & Brown, D. (1997). Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible (Vol. 2, p. 572). Oak Harbor, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc.
  11. Barry, J. D., Heiser, M. S., Custis, M., Mangum, D., & Whitehead, M. M. (2012). Faithlife Study Bible (Re 9:5). Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software.
  12. arry, J. D., Heiser, M. S., Custis, M., Mangum, D., & Whitehead, M. M. (2012). Faithlife Study Bible (Re 9:6). Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software.
  13. Walvoord, John F. (1985). Revelation. In J. F. Walvoord & R. B. Zuck (Eds.), The Bible Knowledge Commentary: An Exposition of the Scriptures (Vol. 2, p. 952). Wheaton, IL: Victor Books.
    Keener, C. S. (1993). The IVP Bible background commentary: New Testament (Re 9:9). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.
    Wiersbe, W. W. (1996). The Bible exposition commentary (Vol. 2, p. 595). Wheaton, IL: Victor Books.

 

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