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Bible Commentaries
Revelation 9

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Verses 1-12

The Fifth Trumpet

Revelation 9:1. The star that John sees when the fifth angel sounds is already on the earth. He does not see that star falling from heaven, but he knows that it came from heaven down to the earth. As well as in chapter 8 (Revelation 8:10) as in this verse it is about a star from heaven on the earth. In both cases you see a power that once had been a recognized person of authority with a religious character, but now has fallen and has been degraded. It acts whether under satanic influence (Revelation 8:10) or as satan himself (in this verse).

The star is given “the key of the bottomless pit”. The possession of a key means the possession of power over a territory to which the key gives access (Revelation 1:18; Revelation 3:7). Here it is about “the bottomless pit”. The star therefore has power over the dark forces of the bottomless pit. The star therefore seems to be a symbolic presentation of satan. The dark forces of the bottomless pit have satan as king (Revelation 9:11). The bottomless pit is the place where at this moment the evil is still being kept in control. When satan gets the keys he will let loose these evil forces, as the next verses show. When God has achieved His purpose with this loosening He will lock up all evil forces, including satan, for a thousand years (Revelation 20:1-Leviticus :).

Revelation 9:2. The star opens up the bottomless pit. The bottomless pit is the lowest, most depraved source of evil, from where the worst danger comes out. Up to this moment that pit had been closed, for the worst evil could not manifest itself yet. But once the pit has been opened, the swarms of evil spirits will be released and they will flood the earth. They will wrap themselves in a “smoke” like “the smoke of a great furnace”.

It is a black, heavy smoke that causes an eclipse of the sun. Besides the light the smoke takes away also the warmth. The smokes works like a suffocating blanket and takes away all the oxygen. The smoke takes away everything that supplies light and warmth (the sun) and it defiles the spiritual atmosphere of the human society (the air). A spiritual darkness falls down upon men, which causes them to lose any sight of and insight in a healthy society.

Revelation 9:3. That it is not about a usual smoke, even it is extremely heavy and black, appears also from what comes out of it. The smoke that arises up from the pit appears to be a means of transport of “locusts”. The locusts represent satanic powers (Exodus 10:12-Proverbs :; Joel 1:4-Judges :). These insects destroy everything they come across.

The atmosphere of the thick smoke of the previous verse is a paradise for powers that like locusts destroy all life and like scorpions torment people. Someone who has been stung by a scorpion will be completely restless and driven to total insanity, as long as the poison is active. This will happen to the Jews as a result of their rejection of God in their Messiah (Deuteronomy 28:28; Deuteronomy 28:65; Matthew 12:43-Romans :).

Revelation 9:4. The powers of darkness will be released. They will rise up by swarms from the bottomless pit in order to do all they can, namely sowing death and destruction. Still, they cannot be undisturbed in whatever they want to do. They only can and are permitted to do what God wants to use them for. Therefore a limitation is imposed on them. The limitation is to such a great extent that actually only one purpose is left for them. They are allowed to carry out their pernicious work to “the men who do not have the seal of God on their foreheads”.

This indication seems to show that this very judgment of the fifth trumpet, specifically strikes the ungodly mass of the Jewish people. You have seen in chapter 7 that out of Israel one hundred and forty-four thousand people were sealed. Now you see the purpose of it. It is a warranty against the deceptive and pernicious spirits from the bottomless pit. The apostate Jews are the object of the judgment, because they have obtained more knowledge of God than other people, but have thrown that knowledge away by their rejection of God’s Messiah.

Revelation 9:5. Besides a limitation of the territory over which they can assert their wicked power, also a limitation is imposed on these spiritual forces for the practice of causing pain and for the duration of the practice of their power. This pain is extremely severe. It will make people desire to die. The duration is relatively short, namely five months. But you may know from experience how long a relatively short time can be when you are suffering extreme pains from moment to moment. It is remarkable that this duration is strikingly the same as the normal lifetime of the locusts, which is also five months.

By the way, you can see a proof of God’s mercy in the fact that the apostates are not immediately killed. Due to this ‘suspension’ the individual still has the chance to repent. The fact that this chance is not taken shows how much man has hardened his heart. However severe the pain of the scorpion’s sting may be, man refuses to consider going to God and begging Him for mercy (Revelation 9:20; Revelation 16:9).

Revelation 9:6. The sting of the scorpion is not a literal sting, as neither are the scorpions. Also the locusts are not literal locusts. It is about symbols of creatures that will operate in an extremely sadistic way. They will have a satanic pleasure, according to their nature, in tormenting people in a way that these people will seek to die, for they think that in that way they can escape the torturing pains. But death, the last weapon of satan, withdraws itself from them, so that the tortures remain.

The torture that is caused consists of diabolical doctrines that will torture people in their heart and conscience from which they cannot escape. The control of demonic influences is a result of having opened up themselves for occultism, spiritualism, sorcery and fortune-telling. These movements find more and more followers. People who surrender themselves to it will be struck with insanity. They will try to commit suicide in order to escape, but they will not succeed.

Revelation 9:7. Then a description of these demonic powers follows. From this description it appears that they love war and are aggressive. Horses are a good symbol for that. In some countries locusts are called ‘little horses’ because of the similarity of their head to that of a horse (cf. Job 39:23). They are also not to be stopped, but they move on triumphantly, which you can derive from what you see on their heads – something “appeared to be crowns like gold”. It also indicates that they claim royal dignity.

That “their faces were like faces of men”, means that they operate with insight. This insight they gained by their familiarity with people for ages. They present their doctrines, which cause pernicious, unbearable pain, very acceptably and humanly (human rights, rights of children, rights of privacy), but with the intention to dethrone God. Behind this ‘human face’ demonic powers are hidden who cover their true nature.

Revelation 9:8. Another characteristic of them is that they have “hair like the hair of women”. There is no doubt that it is about long hair. The ‘material’ is after all not different from that of man. When you look at what is written about the long hair of the woman in 1 Corinthians 11 (1 Corinthians 11:4-Nehemiah :), you can discover in relation to this remark two aspects in the performance of these creatures.

In the first place their performance is charming, attractive, as long hair is the woman’s adornment, her attractiveness. In the second place this proves that it is not about independent powers here, that operate on their own, but that they are in reality subjected to their chief, which is satan. That they are subjected to satan, is expressed by “their teeth were like [the teeth] of lions”, which indicates that their performance has the savage, cruel and tearing power of lions.

Revelation 9:9. Besides their brutal cruelty they are inviolable too for any resistance. Their iron harness shows their invulnerability. It also shows their insensitiveness, their heartlessness, the total absence of mercy. A conscience is something that they do not have or when they do, it is seared. The noise of their appearance is frightening (Joel 2:4-Joshua :). Their goal is war without compassion. They are aggravated by satan, while they cause terror and fear to their victims.

Revelation 9:10. The description closes with another indication that the main thing here for them is to harm people and that they have a limited period of time for that. But the sting is in the tail, which becomes clear here. The tail represents false doctrines (Isaiah 9:15). They cause spiritual damage by spreading false doctrines, which cause an enormous torment. The sting comes from the pit. Dogmas, doctrines and principles that come from the bottomless pit are accepted by the apostate part of Israel and cause unbearable agonies in their souls and conscience.

Revelation 9:11. That they are under the control of a leader and therefore are neither independent nor operating by their own insight appears from Revelation 9:11. “The angel of the abyss” is their “king”. They are under his government. He is the controlling intelligence and the hidden organizer of these pernicious battle orders. His name is written in both Hebrew and Greek. Probably his Hebrew name refers to the relation to the antichrist with the apostate Jewish people and his Greek name to the relation with the apostate Christianity.

The names have one same meaning: Abaddon means ‘destruction’ and refers more to the result of his work. Apollyon means ‘destroyer’ and refers more to the person himself. No one else than satan can be meant here (John 8:44). He is the angel of the bottomless pit, represented in the star (cf. Isaiah 14:12) which fell down from heaven (Revelation 9:1). The antichrist and the beast are animated by him.

Revelation 9:12. An end has come to the first woe, the fifth trumpet. Actually, the disasters that were caused by the locusts from the bottomless pit would last for just five months. It is possible that there is a short break before the next ‘woe’ sounds. Thereafter a third ‘woe’ is to come. That only happens in chapter 11 when the seventh angel sounds the trumpet (Revelation 11:15-Job :).

With the cry “behold” more attention is focused on the two times that after this another ‘woe’ is to come. How terrible the first ‘woe’ has been, still both other woes are yet to come. The second ‘woe’ is the sixth trumpet and is again related to the Roman empire, which is connected to the second (the Greek) name of the previous verse. After the judgment over the apostate Jews under the first ‘woe’ follows the judgment under the second ‘woe’ over the apostate Christians.

Now read Revelation 9:1-12 again.

Reflection: Do you already observe the destructive influences in your environment? How can you recognize them?

Verses 13-21

The Sixth Trumpet

Revelation 9:13. The sixth trumpet is sounded by the sixth angel. The result is that John hears a voice. That may be the voice of God or of the Lord Jesus. That voice comes from the four horns of the golden altar which is before God. That gives the impression that this judgment is the result of the prayers of the saints who had prayed for revenge and redemption (Revelation 6:9-1 Kings :; cf. Revelation 8:3). The four horns show that the judgment is full of power (horns) and that it is also general (which is represented by the number four).

Revelation 9:14. Here you read about something that had not happened with any of the previous angels. Actually an order is given to the angel that had sounded the trumpet. In that way this angel himself is involved with the judgment that he announces. He is ordered to release the four angels who are bound at the Euphrates river. The Euphrates river is always the border between Israel in the broadest sense (Genesis 15:18) and the eastern powers, especially Assyria. It was also the most eastern border of the Roman empire.

These four bound angels must not be confused with the four angels that are ‘holding back’ in chapter 7 (Revelation 7:1-Leviticus :). Here we have the release of powers and there the powers are stopped. There we have the good angels who are preventing the outbreak of the evil a little bit longer, here we have the evil angels who are about to cause destruction. The fact that they must be released proves that they are evil angels.

Revelation 9:15. It is remarkably written that the four angels “had been prepared” in order to be released at an exactly mentioned moment. It confirms the providence of God. He arranges everything in advance that everything may happen at the right moment. He determines the means and the time. God has prepared these angels for a long time already. He has everything in control and makes it come to pass just as it fits in His plan and serves His goal. That also goes for all destroying powers. They are released “to kill a third of mankind”.

Revelation 9:16. The release of the angels causes an enormous army to appear. It seems that the four evil angels activate these armies. All armies, consisting of horses with horsemen, together form an army of two hundred million horsemen. John hears their number, for it was impossible for him to count. The number is mentioned to give an impression of the enormous mass that has been made ready to make war.

It is possible that this number is to be taken literally. It is also possible that the demonic powers that control this army are to be included in this number. These powers come from the east. When you imagine these armies you may think of the great influence of the islam that asserts itself more and more.

Revelation 9:17. John mentions that he sees everything in a vision. Therefore it is not really happening, but he sees with his spiritual eye what is going to take place. He not only sees events and the scene where it will happen, but he also sees the actors. These are frightening appearances. However, there is no fear with John. That should be the same with you. Those are after all creatures which are ultimately in God’s hand. He determines their act and their way.

The characteristics of these armies are those of hell; they wear the armor of hell. Fire and brimstone are the consuming elements which are used judicially (Genesis 19:24). They are also symbols of the everlasting torment (Revelation 20:10). Their breastplates again refer to their complete insensitiveness. The heads of lions is a picture of their superiority. What comes out of their mouth comes from their heart (Matthew 15:18-Psalms :; Matthew 12:34; Revelation 16:13), which makes clear that their heart is in connection with the hell. Their vomit consumes and suffocates everything that is alive and leads into darkness and deception, without any escape.

Revelation 9:18. Hellish means, “the fire and the smoke and the brimstone”, are used in this war to kill people. These armies harvest for death. The means to kill are mentioned twice in these verses and come out of their mouth, which is also mentioned twice. “Their mouths” refers to their voracity, which means that people are being devoured by them. It is also possible that they approach people with an unprecedented eloquence, which causes those people to be captured and in that way become a prey to these armies. In this way they are killed, which in a spiritual sense means that any connection with God, in case there should still be a connection, is being erased.

Revelation 9:19. Again the devouring and deceptive nature of this army force is emphasized. The mouth indicates devour. That the tails have heads indicates guile and betrayal appears from the comparison with serpents. The horsemen appear to have no role here, for there is only mention of horses.

It is remarkable that ‘mouth’ is written here in the singular – while before ‘mouths’ was twice mentioned, the plural – and that ‘tails’ are in plural. That shows that on the one hand they are all animated by one spirit and that they act out of that one particular spirit, while the tails indicate the manifold doctrines and lies of satan. That the tails have heads indicates that their wicked influence is guided by intelligence.

Revelation 9:20. After the horses have done their malevolent work a lot of people still remain. They will witness a mass slaughter which is achieved by this overpowering army, but there is no movement of any repentance to be found with them in the direction of the living God. They have abandoned Him and no trace of any thought arises in them in order to allow Him back into their lives.

These people have fallen prey to all kinds of idolatry, demonic powers of violence and destruction. They worship their cultural, technical and medical products, the performances they have carried out without any gratitude to God who enabled them to. The different values of the materials that are mentioned indicate that all layers of the society, the rich and the poor have subjected themselves to idolatry. Everyone makes himself an own idol to worship with the means that are available to him. That kind of idol which is being worshiped is connected to the conduct of the worshiper and shows what nature he has. You see that in the next verse.

Thereby you should consider that the people who are concerned here are the nominal Christians of Western Europe. It is the part of the world where the light of the gospel has been shining the clearest. But the gospel has become more and more a social chat of philanthropy from which God in His holiness has been expelled more and more. That’s why the light has become darkness. When light becomes darkness, that darkness is the greatest possible darkness (Matthew 6:23).

They did not repent of their idols, which means as it is written here, that they did not repent of “the works of their hands”. Their whole life, all of their daily routines was connected with idolatry in such a way that they were totally blind to the fact that they were practicing idolatry. About the idols it is again described that they are totally unable to come into any action. God’s Spirit mocks with that, as you read that also in Isaiah 44 (Isaiah 44:9-Proverbs :).

Revelation 9:21. It is remarked once more that they did not repent. In the previous verse you have seen a sketch of the decay of Christianity. The works of human hands have become objects of adoration. But this fact does not stand by itself. This adoration of idols goes hand in hand with an inner depravity which is exposed in the most horrendous way. A borderless selfishness towards other people becomes clear.

A totally moral degeneration reveals itself with which the world was totally unfamiliar before. At the adoration of his idols, man follows the lusts of his corrupted nature without any reservation. In the deeds of man it will become clear that both features of satan, lies and murder, will control man completely at the end.

It is not about incidents, but murder, sorcery, fornication and thefts are the order of the day. The things that are mentioned show the absolute selfishness of man and the total lack of respect for what other people have. Every relation that is forbidden by God is being embraced by these people with eagerness. Wherever the relation with God is absent the relations in society become more and more loose and respect for rights and the possessions of others disappear. Everyone decides for himself.

1. “Murders” indicates the lack of respect for life. You see that today in the legalization of abortion (murder at the very beginning of life) and euthanasia (murder at the end of life). In between are the countless other violent murders.
2. In the “sorceries” you see the improper relation with wicked spirits, in order to be able to forecast the future (1 Samuel 28:7).
3. “Immorality” is the trampling of marriage, which was established by God and the disregard of the rights that go together with it (1 Thessalonians 4:6).
4. “Thefts” are committed commonly as if there is an entitlement to another one’s possession. Morality has sunken that deep that there is in no way any awareness of sincerity and honesty.

Now read Revelation 9:13-21 again.

Reflection: Which forms of idolatry do you recognize around you? Do you also see any danger for yourself to worship an idol?

Bibliographical Information
de Koning, Ger. Commentaar op Revelation 9". "Kingcomments on the Whole Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/kng/revelation-9.html. 'Stichting Titus' / 'Stichting Uitgeverij Daniël', Zwolle, Nederland. 2021.
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