Over recent weeks we have been journeying through the book of Revelation. After all the intensity and tremendous worship we have seen from chapters 4-7, with the great chorus of praise from the great multitude, the elders, the angels and the four living creatures, everything now comes to a screeching halt. The suspense and anticipation of this moment is tangible. Back in chapter 7 we saw an angel holding back the judgments that we now see unveiled through the sounding of the 7 trumpets. The reason was that the 144,000 Jews had to be sealed (granted supernatural protection) before these trumpets were to sound.
In chapter 8 we have another earthquake followed by one third of the trees, grass, marine life, ships in the ocean, all destroyed. In chapter 9 we see demonic locusts released from the bottomless pit to cause terror on the earth.
As terrifying as is, we should remember that this is still the ‘beginning of sorrows’, the Great Tribulation is still to come. This highlights God’s great mercy, because all of the judgments in these chapters are in measure, they are restrained. God is not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance (2 Peter 3:9), God does not delight in the death of the wicked, but wants them to turn to Him (Ezekiel 33:11).
So, if you are a Christian, these chapters should stir you to be the light and salt you have been called to be; to preach the Word, in season and out of season, because the people standing next you in the queue at the supermarket, or at your work place, may well be the people who end up experiencing the first hand effects of these judgments.
If you are not a Christian, as the Bible says, today is the day of salvation. Don’t leave it a moment longer.
May these verse-by-verse study notes encourage and challenge you.
Revelation 8 begins with the deafening sound of silence! That of course is an oxymoron (a self-contradictory expression), but I remember hearing some years ago that the producers of a film wanted to emphasise a big explosion to give it the most dramatic effect. They experimented with various sounds to find the one that had the maximum impact, but nothing was quite working. Eventually they decided to precede the explosion with a second or two of absolute silence; no music or ambient noise, just silence. The decision worked and the end result was dramatic. We are so used to noise, that the sudden absence of noise is extremely powerful. In the UK, some years ago, we witnessed an eclipse during the middle of the day. As it went dark while the Sun passed behind the moon, suddenly all the birds stopped singing. The usual mid-day noise was stopped. It was quite eerie, and you just got this sense that nature itself was saying that something wasn’t right!
And when he had opened the seventh seal, there was silence in heaven about the space of half an hour.
After all the intensity and tremendous worship we have seen from chapters 4-7, with the great chorus of praise from the great multitude, the elders, the angels and the four living creatures, everything now comes to a screeching halt. The suspense and anticipation of this moment is tangible. It’s as if everyone suddenly remembers what is going on… the Lamb is opening the seals, and there is one seal still to loosen. All eyes turn back toward the throne…
And I saw the seven angels which stood before God; and to them were given seven trumpets.
The only other occasion in scripture where we find seven trumpets together is in the Book of Joshua. In chapter 6 God told Joshua to prepare seven priests to blow seven trumpets in preparation for the conquest and laying claim to the Land of Canaan. When the time came for them to blow the trumpets, the walls of the city of Jericho would fall down.
It is exciting to discover that the book of Joshua is a Holy Spirit inspired model of the Book of Revelation. Almost as if to expose those who would try to deny or allegorise these dramatic events in Revelation, we see that the ground has already been prepared, and a literal forerunner to these events has already taken place.
The first thing to note is the titles of the books; ‘Joshua’ is Hebrew for ‘Jesus’, and the book of Revelation is the revelation of ‘Jesus’, so the in effect have the same title. In both we have the account of God’s champion setting about the task of dispossessing the usurpers from the Land; in Joshua it is the Land of Canaan in view; in Revelation the Earth is the ‘real estate’ being claimed! Also, in both places, before the blowing of the trumpets, three is silence! (cf: Josh 6:10 / Rev 8:1).
In Joshua, when the trumpets had sounded the walls came down and Joshua went in a destroyed the enemy. So in Revelation, when the 7th trumpet has sounded the judgment will be complete and Jesus will return to destroy the enemy and establish His throne (see Rev 10:7).
In the Apocrypha ( which is not inspired Scripture) we are given the names of seven archangels: Uriel, Raphael, Raguel, Michael, Sarakiel, Gabriel and Phanuel. Are these the seven we are seeing here? We don’t know, and it doesn’t really matter. If God had wanted us to know He would have told us. What we do know is that this is not a symbol, allegory, or picture of something else. These are real angels with real trumpets, and the results will be real also.
The table below highlights the key parallels:
And another angel came and stood at the altar, having a golden censer; and there was given unto him much incense, that he should offer it with the prayers of all saints upon the golden altar which was before the throne.
Back in chapter 5v8 we were told that the golden ‘bowls’ were full of odors, which represent the prayers of the saints. Throughout scripture incense is used as a type of worship and prayer – that which is a sweet savor and willingly offered up to God. Our deepest, most intimate communication with God is when we pray in the Spirit: “….Praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit” (Ephesians 6:11).
In the Old Testament, in the Tabernacle, and then later the Temple, the Brazen alter was where the sacrifices were offered. Once the sacrifice had been consumed, the burning coals were then taken to the Incense alter (also known as the Golden Alter) where they would heat the incense thus producing a sweet smell as the incense burned. When we have been consumed on God’s alter, as Oswald Chambers puts it, ‘given up the right to ourselves’, and yielded complete control to God, crucifying our flesh life and trusting completely in Him, our lives truly become a sacrifice and a ‘sweet smelling aroma’.
It is when we are in this place that we can pray in the Sprit, and not in the flesh. – What is the difference? When we pray in the flesh it is usually about what we want. When we pray in the spirit it will always be about what God wants. When Jesus taught His disciples to pray He told them to start by praying ‘Our Father, hallowed be Your Name”. In other words, when we pray we should have our focus on Him, not ourselves. It is not until half way through the prayer we get to pray ‘give us this day…’ If we start by getting the focus off ourselves and onto God, we start to see things from His perspective, so that by the time we get to ‘me’ bit, we are already thinking differently.
Chuck Missler says: “Prayer is not about getting man’s will done in Heaven but about getting God’s will done on earth.”
So what are these prayers that are being offered on the golden alter? In short, these are all the prayers from Adam to Abraham, Abraham to you, where it has been prayed “Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven.” (Matt 6:9-10). Of course the Old Testament saints may not have used these words, but throughout Psalms David continually prayed for God’s Kingdom to be unveiled on Earth (see Psalm 1:5 / Psalm 2 / Psalm 7:6 / Psalm 10:12-18 / Psalm 29 / Psalm 34:16 / Psalm 37:10-20 etc.).
When you pray, ‘Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done’ what is it you think you’ve been praying? What is the kingdom you’ve been praying for?
In his Gospel, Matthew uses a term that none of the other Gospel writer’s use. Matthew repeatedly refers to ‘the Kingdom of Heaven’, or to be more precise, ‘the Kingdom from Heaven’. It is the Millennial Kingdom of Christ, when Jesus will return at the end of the Tribulation to ‘put down all rule and all authority and power’ (1 Cor 15:24) and reign on the Throne of David (Luke 1:32) as King of kings and Lord of lords.
What John is seeing in Heaven in this verse is a petition signed by the church (and the other saints) for God to restore the kingdom to the One found worthy to open the seven seals – The Lamb of God.
Is your name going to be on the petition? Are you praying for the kingdom to come?
As an aside, the ‘Lord’s Prayer’ is ‘Pre-millennial’, that is, it requires Jesus to return and establish His own kingdom before the Millennium (as detailed in Rev 19-20 and Daniel 3 & 7). Yet week in and week out this prayer is prayed in churches all over this country that actually teach (if and when they do actually teach anything concerning these things!) that the Church will win the world for Christ, and then, and only then will Christ return. This belief is generally known as Amillennialism (denying that there will be a millennial thousand year reign of Christ). See appendix A – What is the danger of “Amillennialism”?
4 And the smoke of the incense, which came with the prayers of the saints, ascended up before God out of the angel’s hand.
5 And the angel took the censer, and filled it with fire of the altar, and cast it into the earth: and there were voices, and thunderings, and lightnings, and an earthquake.
This earthquake (the second in Revelation) is in response to the events in heaven – “For the earnest expectation of the creation eagerly waits for the revealing of the sons of God. For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of Him who subjected it in hope; because the creation itself also will be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God. For we know that the whole creation groans and labors with birth pangs together until now.” (Rom 8:19-23). Creation itself is getting ready to ‘give birth’ to a new era when the Creator Himself will rule.
In Acts 3:20-21 we read: “And he shall send Jesus Christ, which before was preached unto you: Whom the heaven must receive until the times of restitution of all things, which God hath spoken by the mouth of all his holy prophets since the world began.” What will things be restored to? The way it was in the beginning when God declared that ‘it was good’. (This is yet another verse that makes it impossible for a Christian to believe in evolution).
This is the end of the seventh seal.
6 And the seven angels which had the seven trumpets prepared themselves to sound.
7 The first angel sounded, and there followed hail and fire mingled with blood, and they were cast upon the earth: and the third part of trees was burnt up, and all green grass was burnt up.
We will notice the similarity with the plagues in Egypt as we go through the following judgments, and rightly so! For the events recorded in Exodus are another shadow, a model in advance, of the Tribulation. The Egyptian Pharaoh at the time of the Exodus was actually Assyrian (see Isaiah 52:4), so it is no surprise to find that one of the titles of Antichrist is ‘the Assyrian’ (See Isaiah 10:24 / 14:25).
Hail is seen in scripture as a judgment from God (see Exodus 9:22-26 – the seventh plague of Egypt) and so it is here. There is speculation as to the cause of these events, but two possible causes are as follows.
Firstly, the volcanic eruptions resulting from a worldwide earthquake such as has just occurred in Rev 8:5 would throw debris up into the atmosphere. The only place for all of this to go is back down to earth. This could account for all the things mentioned, i.e. hail and fire mingled with blood, (blood being in the earth (albeit dried blood) from creatures that have died and whose blood has been shed upon the ground.
There is strong evidence to suggest that Sodom and Gomorrah were destroyed in this way, by a massive build-up of oil, bitumen and other compounds, mixed with sulpher that had been trapped under ground. As the pressure continued to increase, there was eventually only one for the pressure to go – up! The resulting upward force would have propelled this lethal mixture up into the atmosphere, from where it would have very literally rained down fire and brimstone on these two cities that were in rebellion to God. This doesn’t ‘explain away’ the miracle, God still had to orchestrate the event, but it is a possibility.
Jesus Himself said :“And as it was in the days of Noah, so shall it be also in the days of the Son of man. They did eat, they drank, they married wives, they were given in marriage, until the day that Noah entered into the ark, and the flood came, and destroyed them all. Likewise also as it was in the days of Lot; they did eat, they drank, they bought, they sold, they planted, they built; But the same day that Lot went out of Sodom it rained fire and brimstone from heaven, and destroyed them all. Even thus shall it be in the day when the Son of man is revealed” (Luke 17:26-30).
A second possible scenario is a nuclear exchange. As Pastor Jon Courson points out: “Keep in mind history verifies that weapon systems have never been developed which have not been used. Therefore, it would be an aberration of history if all of the countries which presently have nuclear weapons including Russia, France, England, Israel, India, China, the US, and a host of others failed to use them. I am not saying this passage can only refer to a nuclear holocaust. However, the fact remains that upon the detonation of a nuclear warhead, 250-mph winds of fire follow. In addition, above-ground nuclear tests on the island of Bikini caused the surrounding water to shoot thousands of feet into the air, where it froze and returned as hailstones big enough to destroy the equipment intended to monitor it.”
Either way, one third of the earth’s trees being destroyed would play havoc with the climate and one third of all green grass would severely affect agriculture and produce. The effects of these things combined (the events and the aftermath) are unimaginable.
8 And the second angel sounded, and as it were a great mountain burning with fire was cast into the sea: and the third part of the sea became blood;
9 And the third part of the creatures which were in the sea, and had life, died; and the third part of the ships were destroyed.
(cf. Exodus 7:17 – the first plague of Egypt)
This was not ‘a great mountain’ but John doing his best to describe this tells us it was ‘as it were a great mountain’. This is most likely to be a burning meteor that crashes into the sea. If this is the case, the ships would probably be destroyed by the ensuing tidal waves that such a massive meteor hitting the oceans would produce. Planes would almost certainly be grounded, and with major problems for the world’s shipping companies, trade on planet earth is going to get very hard – you can almost hear the people crying out to have a leader who would govern the distribution of food – in fact, a system could be introduced to ensure that each person gets their ration, a mark maybe?!
Possibly as many as 8000 ships are going to be destroyed (based on current figures of the number of ships on the sea). Provocative, if nothing else, is the fact that 1/3 of all ships can be found at any one time in the Atlantic Ocean, which just happens to be about one third of the world’s oceans!
However, possibly even more frightening is that approximately 70% of all our oxygen comes from the oceans. If one third of the sea becomes blood and as a result one third of all marine life dies, it would have life changing effects! It has been estimated that losing 1/3rd of the Earth’s oceans would have the same effect to the oxygen levels on Earth as losing ALL the rain forests and plant life! It’s it going to make taking a deep breath, something that we take so much for granted, seem like a luxury!
10 And the third angel sounded, and there fell a great star from heaven, burning as it were a lamp, and it fell upon the third part of the rivers, and upon the fountains of waters;
11 And the name of the star is called Wormwood: and the third part of the waters became wormwood; and many men died of the waters, because they were made bitter.
What is meant by ‘a great star’ is unknown. Again, two possible scenarios present themselves. Firstly, another burning meteorite hitting a third of the world’s rivers, the resulting gasses of which could poison them causing many to die. Or alternatively, a nuclear missile, which if John was seeing in his vision he may well describe as ‘burning as a lamp’. This could easily pollute the waters with radioactive material and make them lethal. Maybe it’s a coincidence, but the Russian word for ‘Wormwood’ is translated ‘Chernobyl’. When the Chernobyl reactor problem occurred in 1986 many died and the surround water supplies were contaminated.
And the fourth angel sounded, and the third part of the sun was smitten, and the third part of the moon, and the third part of the stars; so as the third part of them was darkened, and the day shone not for a third part of it, and the night likewise.
As this forth angel sounds, something happens that reduces the amount of light from the Sun, Moon & stars by one third. The most probable explanation is that either a nuclear fallout or volcanic debris in the sky fill the atmosphere with ash or dust. Remember that as John is seeing these things it would indeed look as if the celestial orbs themselves were being darkened – which we should not completely rule out, as God may do something beyond our comprehension! This will however affect the temperature on earth, as with a 1/3rd less light the Earth will cool down – so you won’t have to worry about ‘global warming’ just yet!
And I beheld, and heard an [Eagle] flying through the midst of heaven, saying with a loud voice, Woe, woe, woe, to the inhabiters of the earth by reason of the other voices of the trumpet of the three angels, which are yet to sound!
The word translated ‘Angel’ in this verse is actually from the Greek word for ‘Eagle’ according to the Septuagint. Why an eagle flying through heaven? – I don’t know, and I’m fairly sure that John was a little taken back. What does matter is what is said. ‘Woe, woe, woe, to the inhabiters of the earth’. This literally means ‘those who have chosen to inhabit the earth’. This idea occurs 12 x in Revelation and the obvious contrast is with those who ‘do not love the world or the things in the world….For all that is in the world….. is passing away, and the lust of it; but he who does the will of God abides forever.” (See John 2:15-17).
Jesus told us that we are not of this world, but are pilgrims passing through. So don’t hold on too tightly, because believe me, you really don’t want to stay here! How do I know? Because the eagle the eagle pronounces three woes for the three trumpets that have yet to sound. In other words, if you thought the first four trumpets were bad – you ain’t seen nothing yet!
A word of warning:
“Whoso mocketh the poor reproacheth his Maker: and he that is glad at calamities shall not be unpunished.” (Prov 17:5)
It is easy for us (Christians) to get complacent; after all we’ve been promised that Jesus will deliver us from the wrath to come (1 Thess 1:10) so we know that we won’t have to suffer these things. But we read in Ezekiel 18:23 “Have I any pleasure at all that the wicked should die? saith the Lord GOD: and not that he should return from his ways, and live?”
A few verses later we are given the answer (in case we’re not sure). “For I have no pleasure in the death of him that dieth, saith the Lord GOD: wherefore turn yourselves, and live ye.” (Ezekiel 18:32)
It breaks God’s heart to see men and women He created turn their back on Him. He doesn’t want to judge them; that’s why He did everything He could – sending His only Son to die for them – so they might live.
The things that we have studied in this chapter could produce two reactions: a sense of morbid curiosity and excitement, or a fear and a desire to forget about it and try to pretend that it’s not real. However, God has revealed these things to us in His word, and therefore they are here for our learning, that we might be ‘thoroughly equipped for all good works’ (2 Tim 3:16).
We need to act on these things and make it our resolve never to miss an opportunity to talk to someone about the wrath to come and the Saviour who so desperately wants to rescue anyone who has ears to hear.
And the fifth angel sounded, and I saw a star fall from heaven unto the earth: and to him was given the key of the bottomless pit.
We are dealing in this verse with an angel and not a literal star or meteor such as we have seen in previous chapters; for we are told that he was given the key to bottomless pit.
An asteroid or meteor would not have a lot of use for a key!
Some scholars think that because this angel ‘falls from heaven’ it must be Satan. Jesus said: “I beheld Satan as lightning fall from heaven”. However, in this verse from Luke 10:18, it would appear that Jesus is speaking prophetically of an event that will occur in Rev 12:7-9 in the middle of the Week (i.e. at the mid-point of the Tribulation.) When Satan falls to earth in Rev 12, he ‘knows he has a short time’ and immediately goes after Israel who then flee into the wilderness. In contrast to this, as we will see from the book of Joel, when these events in chapter Rev 9 take place, Israel are still in their land. This is consistent with the view that all of the events in chapters 6-9 take place in the first half of the Tribulation.
If therefore this angel is not Satan, the question arises as to whether this angel is a fallen angel or one of God’s good angels. In support of the idea that this angel is a good angel, Bible scholar Dake comments: “There is no indication that this is a fallen angel. He will descend from heaven to open the abyss, liberating the creatures who will fulfil this vision…….He must be a holy and trusted angel to have the key to the pit. If a fallen one he could liberate all the fallen creatures that are now there. He is not the angel of the bottomless pit, for no king of demons could be trusted with such a key”
In support of this view is the opening verse of Chapter 10, which states “And I saw another mighty angel come down from heaven”. There is no question that the angel in chapter 10 is a good angel and the Greek word for ‘another’ used here means ‘another of the same kind’, which would strongly suggest that the previous angel that came down from heaven was also a good angel.
The only real objection to this is that we are told that this angel ‘fell’ from heaven, which in the English implies an involuntary action. However, the word in Greek is ‘pipto’ which means to ‘alight’ (as you would choose to alight from a horse for example). If we compare this to Rev 12:9 where Satan is cast out of Heaven, the word is ‘ballo’ which means to ‘throw’ or ‘thrust’ and implies a violent or intense action involuntarily forced on the subject – in this case Satan.
From these observations, it would seem fairly conclusive that this angel is an obedient servant of God acting as instructed.
The phrase ‘bottomless pit’ is literally translated as the ‘long shaft of the abyss’. The abyss was understood by the Jewish Rabbis and Greek philosophers to be a hollow place in the centre of the earth that was the abode of the dead. This view has much biblical support from verses such as Num 16:33 ‘…went down alive into the pit’, Ezek 26:20 ‘When I shall bring thee down with them that descend into the pit, with the people of old time, and shall set thee in the low parts of the earth’ Ezek 31:16 ‘I made the nations to shake at the sound of his fall, when I cast him down to hell with them that descend into the pit’ (See also: Romans 10:7 / Isaiah 5:14 / Isaiah 38:17-18 / Psalm 28:1 / Psalm 30:3)
It is also consistent with the idea that the abyss was bottomless; for the only place that you could have a bottomless pit would be at the centre of the earth for the simple reason that every direction from there would be up.
It is also interesting to recall the words of Peter regarding the angels who sinned prior to the flood by taking the daughters of men: “….God spared not the angels that sinned, but cast them down to hell, and delivered them into chains of darkness, to be reserved unto judgment;” (2 Peter 2:4). The Greek word translated ‘Hell’ is ‘Tartaros’ which was believed to be the deepest part of Hades. Some scholars believe that God has held these angels in chains until this point. Literally: they have been ‘reserved for a time of judgment’ when they will be loosed to fulfill God’s purposes prior to their own destruction.
One final thought on this verse is that there is the implication that somewhere on planet earth, there is a long shaft that leads directly to the abyss. But don’t worry, God has got the key – until He gives it to this angel, and then…
And he opened the bottomless pit; and there arose 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.
It is clear from this verse that tension is implied. The smoke comes out, everything starts getting dark, and you get the feeling that something nasty is about to happen…
And there came out of the smoke locusts upon the earth: and unto them was given power, as the scorpions of the earth have power.
…there we go, we were right, this is something very nasty!
Apparently the sting of a scorpion is one of the most painful things that you can experience. These are no ordinary locusts because ‘power is given to them’.
In Egypt there were real locusts that devastated the land (Exodus 10:12-15), but we are told there would never be locusts like those again, and indeed so, for here they are supernatural and far more frightening. People who have witnessed swarms of locusts have said that the most terrifying thing is the sound of them eating their way through whatever is in their path.
And it was commanded them that they should not hurt the grass of the earth, neither any green thing, neither any tree; but only those men which have not the seal of God in their foreheads.
Those who have the seal of God are the 144,000 Jews that we encountered in chapter 7.
Just to hammer it home once again, there is no mention of the Church being sealed – so either Christ, who now judging the world, is allowing these supernatural creatures to torture and hurt His Bride, or the Church is not on earth! Ephesians 5:25 says that husbands should love their wives as Christ loved the Church. If the Church is on earth during this time, and Christ is allowing creatures to trample over her, are we to believe that this is the way husbands should treat their wives? I think not!
These creatures have one mission only: to hurt mankind.
And to them it was given 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 he striketh a man.
We can only speculate as to why only five months are allotted to them. One of the most plausible explanations is that the number 5 often seems to be used to indicate grace and completeness. It is certainly by the grace of God that these creatures are not left any longer, and it may also be that 5 months is all that is required for God to make His point. We see this with the plagues in Egypt. God left the plague only as long as it took for the message to hit home with Pharaoh. Even in judgment God is merciful.
And in those days shall men seek death, and shall not find it; and shall desire to die, and death shall flee from them.
In Ecclesiastes 8:15 we read that God gives life, and this verse shows that only God has the power take it away at the end of our days. Whilst it is appointed to all men once to die (Heb 9:27), it is God who decides when our life on this earth is to come to an end. An example of this is seen in the death of Lazarus that we read about in John 11, which occurred at just the right moment. It was approaching the end of Jesus’ ministry and God had arranged all the details so that Lazarus would die at the appointed time so that four days later when Jesus arrived, Lazarus would be raised as a witness to the nation. Only God had the power to take life from Lazarus, and only God in the flesh – Jesus had the power to restore it.
Here we have men that are so scared that suicide seems the best option – until they realise that they can’t die. Imagine trying to end your life but every attempt makes it worse. You try and jump in front of a truck, but instead of dying, you just get hurt really badly and your pain gets worse. As you get to your feet you look up and there’s another ‘Demonic Locust’ bearing down on you getting ready to strike.
This is not an attempt to dramatise the situation, but rather an attempt to bring home the reality of it. Surely there is no one that we know whom we would want to have to endure this time? Why is this information revealed for us in the Bible? It is there so that we might wake up to the awful reality that awaits those who choose to live their lives without God.
Attention Church! We have a mission to warn people before it’s too late.
7 And the shapes of the locusts were like unto horses prepared unto battle; and on their heads were as it were crowns like gold, and their faces were as the faces of men.
8 And they had hair as the hair of women, and their teeth were as the teeth of lions.
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 running to battle.
Notice that John says they were like horses, on their head as it were crowns of gold etc.
John is just trying to describe what he is seeing – and it is obviously not normal. But neither is it allegorical (just a picture to illustrate something else). Make no mistake, the reason we are given so much detail is so that we don’t make the assumption that this can’t be real!
Dr. Vincent makes this observation in his comments on these verses “The likeness of a locust to a horse, especially to a horse equipped with armor, is so striking that the insect is named in German ‘Heupferd’ hay-horse, and in Italian ‘cavaletta’ little horse”.
And they had tails like unto scorpions, and there were stings in their tails: and their power was to hurt men five months.
This verse adds to what we are told in verse 5 as if to underline the pain that they cause and the duration for which they will torment men. This locust invasion is not confined just to one area; they may well cover the whole Earth. You certainly get them impression there is nowhere to hide from these terrifying creatures.
This picture is Christian artist Rodney Matthews’ rendering of what these creatures might look like. We are not told what size they are, but from Joel 2 and Rev 9:7 it would seem that they will resemble horses in size as well as other features.
And they had a king over them, which is the angel of the bottomless pit, whose name in the Hebrew tongue is Abaddon, but in the Greek tongue hath his name Apollyon.
“These locusts are further differentiated from ordinary locusts in that they have a king over them. Proverbs 30:27 says of natural locusts that they have no king. The king or leader of these locusts is probably one of the fallen angels, the chief henchman of Satan, and he is permitted to lead an invasion of earth for the first time. This is something that is going to be rather frightening. His name in Hebrew means “destruction,” and in Greek it means “the destroyer.” This confirms what Daniel told us, that the demon world of the fallen angels is divided into gradations. I think there are generals, majors, lieutenants, sergeants, and buck privates. In Ephesians we find that the angels of God are divided in the same way.” (J.Vernon McGee)
One woe is past; and, behold, there come two woes more hereafter.
Trumpet judgment 5 has now past, but we need to watch out because Trumpets 6 and 7 are about to sound.
All of this – the 7 seals, the 7 trumpets – seem to be leading to a crescendo which we will reach in chapter 10:6. Remember also that seemingly all of this is really the prelude to the Great Tribulation and therefore God’s wake up call to the people on the earth to repent before things really start to get nasty. Notice that everything is in measure at this time; one third of the sea, one third of the rives turned to blood, one third of the grass & trees burned up, only 5 months of torment etc. When we get to the ‘Great Tribulation’ – the last 3 ½ years, there will be no more mercy. God’s wrath will be unrestrained. Once again, God is longsuffering, not willing that any should perish, and every opportunity is given for men to repent. No one can blame God for not knowing as these events are going to impact the whole world.
13 And 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 which had the trumpet, Loose the four angels which are bound in the great river Euphrates.
The golden alter is in Heaven, also known as the Alter of Incense, where the prayers of the saints were offered in Rev 8:3. Now a voice comes from alter with a strange and chilling request. The four angels that are loosed must be fallen angels as is clear from the fact that they are bound (there would be no need to bind a good angel). The Euphrates appears to be a dividing line on God’s map of the world. It is the eastern boundary of the land that God promised to Abraham in Gen 15:18: “In the same day the LORD made a covenant with Abram, saying, Unto thy seed have I given this land, from the river of Egypt unto the great river, the river Euphrates”
Rome was able to conquer up to the Euphrates but no further. At the time of Rome the land east of the Euphrates was the territory of the Parthian Empire (home of the Magi) whom even the Romans feared. It was from the area of the Euphrates that God raised up the Assyrians and Babylonians as an instrument to judge Israel to turn the nation back to Him. One of the main purposes of the Tribulation is to do exactly that, and this time it will succeed. Israel will cry out to the Messiah to save her from her enemies as recorded in Hosea 5:15-6:1 “I will go and return to my place, till they acknowledge their offence, and seek my face: in their affliction they will seek me early”.
In light of what we are about to read it is also interesting that the religions east of the Euphrates have literally millions of god’s which are nothing more that demonic deceptions. Psalm 96:5 in the Septuagint is translated: “For all the gods of the nations are demons”; and Babylon, the birthplace of false religion and idolatry is situated on the Euphrates itself, the river dividing the city.
And the four angels were loosed, which were prepared for an hour, and a day, and a month, and a year, for to slay the third part of men.
This is an important verse as it makes it absolutely clear that God’s clock is on schedule. The erroneous idea that the Church is responsible for ushering in the kingdom age is nonsense. God is working all things to His timetable – to the very hour.
In the forth seal (Rev 6:8) we saw a third of mankind die, the third trumpet (Rev 8:10) judgment causes ‘many men’ to die, and now a third of those who are left. This is way over half the world’s population – or every second person you know – and we haven’t even got to the 7 Bowels of Wrath or Armageddon yet! Again, we are not being told this to satisfy our curiosity. God wants us to know this so we will act.
And the number of the army of the horsemen were two hundred thousand thousand: and I heard the number of them.
This verse has led to much speculation about the 200 Million army being an army from communist China or Asia. Whilst these nations may well play a major role in the events on earth during this time it is clear from the context and information following, this army is a demon army.
And thus I saw the horses in the vision, and them that sat on them, having breastplates of fire, and of jacinth, and brimstone: and the heads of the horses were as the heads of lions; and out of their mouths issued fire and smoke and brimstone.
This is a scary image, worse than any fictional horror story.
This is not ‘picture language’, John is describing what he is seeing. However John was not the first; the prophet Joel saw the same events and adds further insight……………
“For a nation is come up upon my land, strong, and without number, whose teeth are the teeth of a lion, and he hath the cheek teeth of a great lion”. (Joel 1:6)
“Alas for the day! for the day of the LORD is at hand, and as a destruction from the Almighty shall it come. Is not the meat cut off before our eyes, (food will be in short supply and famines will about as we have already seen) yea, joy and gladness from the house of our God? The seed is rotten under their clods, the garners are laid desolate, the barns are broken down; for the corn is withered. How do the beasts groan! the herds of cattle are perplexed, because they have no pasture; yea, the flocks of sheep are made desolate. O LORD, to thee will I cry: for the fire hath devoured the pastures of the wilderness, and the flame hath burned all the trees of the field. (We have already seen a third of the trees and green grass burnt up in Rev 8:7 with the first Trumpet) The beasts of the field cry also unto thee: for the rivers of waters are dried up, and the fire hath devoured the pastures of the wilderness.” (Joel 1:15-20).
“Blow ye the trumpet in Zion, (notice we have here a trumpet being blown) and sound an alarm in my holy mountain: let all the inhabitants of the land tremble: for the day of the LORD cometh, for it is nigh at hand; A day of darkness and of gloominess, a day of clouds and of thick darkness, as the morning spread upon the mountains: (The sun and moon will be darkened again we have seen in Rev 8:12, the forth Trumpet, and also when the ‘locusts’ are released in Rev 9:2, the fith Trumpet) a great people and a strong; there hath not been ever the like, neither shall be any more after it, even to the years of many generations. A fire devoureth before them; and behind them a flame burneth: the land is as the garden of Eden before them, and behind them a desolate wilderness; yea, and nothing shall escape them. The appearance of them is as the appearance of horses; and as horsemen, so shall they run. Like the noise of chariots on the tops of mountains shall they leap, like the noise of a flame of fire that devoureth the stubble, as a strong people set in battle array. Before their face the people shall be much pained: all faces shall gather blackness. (This description is almost identical to John’s in Revelation) They shall run like mighty men; they shall climb the wall like men of war; and they shall march every one on his ways, and they shall not break their ranks: Neither shall one thrust another; they shall walk every one in his path: and when they fall upon the sword, they shall not be wounded.
They shall run to and fro in the city; they shall run upon the wall, they shall climb up upon the houses; they shall enter in at the windows like a thief. The earth shall quake before them; the heavens shall tremble: the sun and the moon shall be dark, and the stars shall withdraw their shining: And the LORD shall utter his voice before his army: for his camp is very great: for he is strong that executeth his word: for the day of the LORD is great and very terrible; and who can abide it? Therefore also now, saith the LORD, turn ye even to me with all your heart, and with fasting, and with weeping, and with mourning: And rend your heart, and not your garments, and turn unto the LORD your God: for he is gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and of great kindness, and repenteth him of the evil.” (Joel 2:1-13)
Notice: once again God’s call for people on earth to repent.
In Leviticus 23 we have detailed the 7 feasts of Israel that were to occur during the year. From various passages in the Bible we know that these feasts also have a prophetic application. The first three had their prophetic fulfilment during ‘Passion Week’ (i.e. Passover, Feast of Unleavened Bread & Feast of Firstfruits – all of which were fulfilled in Jesus’ death burial and resurrection). Pentecost, or the Feast of Harvest as it is also known, had a partial prophetic fulfilment when the Church was born on ‘Pentecost’ and will be completed at the Rapture (also apparently destined to occur on Pentecost). Thus the first four feasts are all but complete from a prophetic perspective, leaving just the last three feasts.
There would appear to be a prophetic link between the book of Joel and the last three of these feasts, namely:
- The Feast of Trumpets cf. the trumpet judgments (Joel 1:1-2:11)
- The Feast of Atonement cf. Israel’s spiritual restoration (Joel 2:12-32),
- The Feast of Ingathering (or Tabernacles) cf. Israel’s re-gathering to the land and the Lord’s returning to dwell (‘tabernacle’) amongst them (Joel 3:1-21).
By these three was the third part of men killed, by the fire, and by the smoke, and by the brimstone, which issued out of their mouths.
As if to underline the fact, we are again told that a third of men will die. Forget Sci-Fi monsters, these are the real thing – and there will be no stopping them until God says enough. Clearly Jesus was not exaggerating in Matt 24:21-22 when He said: “For then shall be great tribulation, such as was not since the beginning of the world to this time, no, nor ever shall be. And except those days should be shortened, there should no flesh be saved: but for the elect’s sake those days shall be shortened.”
And bear in mind the ‘Great Tribulation’ hasn’t yet begun! (that’s the last 3 ½ years).
For their power is in their mouth, and in their tails: for their tails were like unto serpents, and had heads, and with them they do hurt.
Again, the description pushes our imagination to the limit. Thy can attack from the front with the mouths; but they also have tails and the tails have heads that can hurt – so you can’t creep up from behind either, not that you would want to. The best advice would be to RUN! Actually that’s not quite true. The BEST advice is to repent and put your trust in Jesus Christ now and “be accounted worthy to escape all these things that shall come to pass, and to stand before the Son of man.” (Luke 21:36)
And the rest of the men which were not killed by these plagues yet repented not of the works of their hands, that they should not worship devils, and idols of gold, and silver, and brass, and stone, and of wood: which neither can see, nor hear, nor walk:
Why? How stubborn and rebellions can mankind be? This must break God’s heart; He takes no pleasure in the death of the wicked (Ezekiel 18:23) but desires that they would repent (Acts 17:30). God could unleash ‘all Hell’ at once and destroy mankind; but with each succeeding judgment we see His mercy and longsuffering.
In Isaiah 44 God mocks those who worship idols, for God alone can save.
Neither repented they of their murders, nor of their sorceries, nor of their fornication, nor of their thefts.
Even today, murders are a fact of daily life. 52 million children are aborted each year. Recently, three schoolgirls in a Muslim country were beheaded – they were Christians.
Sexual immorality is presented as the norm, and any who oppose are labeled ‘old fashioned’ or ‘intolerant’. Crime, particularly as a result of drug abuse is escalating around the world.
If this is what it’s like now; what will it be like when the restraining influence of the Holy Spirit indwelt Church is taken out of the way at the time of the Rapture? (See 2 Thes 2:6-8)
But even given that there will be no restraint during this time, it is still hard to believe that people will still choose not to repent when such terrifying judgments are coming on the earth.
The word translated ‘sorceries’ is the Greek word ‘pharmakeia’ which is the using and selling of drugs. Drugs bring about an altered state of consciousness and opens people up to forces that God does not want us exposed to. With the internet and world communication as it now is, we are back at Genesis 11:6 when with one ‘language’ nothing will be beyond the wicked imagination of man.
To be continued…