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Bible Commentaries

Grant's Commentary on the Bible

Revelation 9

Verses 1-21

The Fifth Trumpet: A Demon Infestation

(vv. 1-12)

The sounding of the fifth trumpet discloses "a star fallen from heaven:" it is already fallen (v. 1). This is the same star that fell under the third trumpet (Revelation 8:10). Thus the false prophet, the Antichrist, is given the key to the pit of the abyss. His opening it (v. 2) releases a smoke that darkens the sun and the air. This is the darkening and polluting of the very atmosphere of people's existence by satanic doctrine that will also pollute their minds.

Out of this smoke comes a plague of locusts which are given power such as that of scorpions (v. 3). Locusts eat vegetation, and their huge number makes them virtually irresistible as they devastate a land, while the scorpion leaves a tormenting sting. These locusts do not touch the vegetation, but only those persons who don't have God's seal in their foreheads. This indicates the character of this scourge as being that of evil spirits. When the Antichrist brazenly proclaims his polluting doctrine of the denial of the Father and the Son, and with it makes an image to the Roman Beast and requires Israel to give the Beast divine honors, this obnoxious smoke opens the way for Satan's evil spirits to take possession of great numbers of people. This appears to be an infliction specially centered in Israel, though the whole kingdom of the beast also will be affected since most of the population will accept the lie of the Antichrist (Revelation 16:13-14).

This torment continues for five months (v. 5) which number speaks of human responsibility, for the victims have themselves invited it. The horror of such demon possession makes people wish for death (v. 6), but God does not allow them to die: they must learn the results of their folly.

The shape of the locusts being like horses prepared for battle (v. 7) speaks of their strength in conquest: they subdue men. "Crowns like gold" speaks of an assumed dignity that deceives people, while faces similar to men's adds to this deception with a boastful, humanistic approach. The women's hair, speaking of subjection, reminds us of their total subjection to infernal, satanic authority. Teeth as those of lions, however, exposes their actual character of rapacity and tenacity: they catch a person and do not let go.

They have breastplates simulating iron (v. 9). In contrast to the believer's "breastplate of righteousness" (Ephesians 6:14), this speaks of a hardened conscience with no proper feeling remaining. The sound of their wings inspired terror, as an army of war-horses on the run. When people have defiantly rejected God, this leaves room for a great and awesome infestation of demons who will make their power felt.

These demons are as scorpions with stings in their tails, which shows that people finally will feel the results of their evil work (v. 10). Just as with alcohol and drugs, the people think it exhilarating at first, but the vicious sting comes later. The king over them is the angel of the pit of the abyss. His name is Abaddon or Apollyon, another of Satan's designations, meaning "a destroyer." This unparalleled plague of demons is the culmination of the doctrine of the Antichrist in his implanting of gross idolatry in the holy place (the temple area of Jerusalem) in defiance of the living God. This woe will be dreadful, but two more will follow.

The Sixth Trumpet: A Great Invading Army

(vv. 13-21)

The sixth angel sounds his trumpet and a voice speaks from the horns of the golden altar which is before God (v. 13). It is God Himself whose glory has been outraged, who calls for judgment. Four angels bound in the Euphrates River are loosed (vv. 14-15). The golden altar reminds us that it is God's glory that is to be upheld. The Euphrates River was the former boundary of the Roman Empire and is to be Israel's future border. The four angels bound are Satan's angels who have power in connection with the King of the North, the Assyrian, who will head a strong alliance in bitter animosity against Israel. This man is spoken of a great deal in Old Testament prophecy. The Assyrian Empire was at one time of great importance, its capital being Ninevah (in present-day Iraq). It included Syria, Lebanon, Jordan, part of Iran and part of Turkey. At one time it took the ten tribes of Israel captive. Russia is not the King of the North: the Assyrian is. In Ezekiel 38:15 and Ezekiel 39:2 "the prince of Rosh, Meshech and Tubal" is seen coming from "the far north," or "the uttermost north," which must be Russia, while the King of the North is close to Israel, as a map of the time of the Assyrian Empire will show.

Daniel 8:21-22 shows that the kingdom of Alexander the Great would be broken apart into four kingdoms. One of these would be the forerunner of the future King of the North, who is spoken of in verse 23 as "a king-having fierce features who understands sinister schemes." Verse 24 says, "His power shall be mighty, but not by his own power," indicating that another power is backing him up, which may be Russia.

Isaiah 10:5-6 is most important in this connection. There God speaks of the Assyrian as the rod of His anger, saying that He would send him against a godless nation (Israel). Then in verse 12 of that chapter He tells us, "when the Lord has performed all His work on Mount Zion and on Jerusalem, He will say, 'I will punish the fruit of the arrogant heart of the king of Assyria and the glory of his haughty looks.'" Daniel 9:27 gives us further instruction as to why God sends the Assyrian against Israel: "Because of the protection of abominations there shall be a desolator, even until that the consumption and what is determined shall be poured upon the desolate" (or desolator) (J.N.D. translation). Because Israel will be guilty of protecting idolatry in the temple area, God will send the King of the North to punish her, though afterward judgment will be poured upon him also. Isaiah 28:14-18 speaks of the Assyrian as "the overflowing scourge" to punish Israel when they have made "a covenant with death" and an "agreement with Sheol," speaking of their idolatrous alliance with the Roman Beast.

Until this time God has restrained the King of the North from attacking Israel, but following the demon infestation brought on by the idolatry of the Antichrist He gives the command to loose the four angels bound in the Euphrates River, opening the way for the great invasion by the King of the North. This is spoken of also in Daniel 11:40. The King of the South (Egypt) would "attack" the Antichrist "and the King of the North shall come against him like a whirlwind, with chariots, horsemen, and with many ships; and he shall enter the countries, overwhelm them, and pass through."

This is a most significant event in prophecy, referred to in many Old Testament scriptures, for it is here that God Himself begins to take a definite, public hand in dealing directly with the idolatrous pride of man that has risen to its boldest height of defiance against His authority as seen in the man of sin sitting as God in the temple in Jerusalem (2 Thessalonians 2:4). These loosed angels "are prepared for the hour and day and month and year" (v. 15), which seems to infer the time gradually increasing, as though God were willing at any time to intervene in mercy if Israel would repent. The antagonism of this enemy is against "a third of mankind," the Roman earth, though Israel is the direct point of attack.

Their number (200 million) (v. 16) must include not only the actual army engaged in literal fighting, but the peoples of these mid-eastern lands who will be stirred in hostile antagonism toward the West, as in fact is seen developing strongly in their character today.

The horses (v. 17) are not literal, but speak of whatever influences it may be that carry the riders into war. The breastplates of the riders are not like iron (as in verse 9) which speaks of hardened consciences, but of fire which rather implies consciences deceived by false religious doctrine and consumed by religious fanaticism. All of this is consistent with the character of their leader at the time, "a king-having fierce features and understanding sinister schemes" (Daniel 8:23), that is, ruthless and conversant with evil spirits.

The heads of lions speak of the fierceness of this attack. Fire and smoke and brimstone from their mouths is comparable to the threats, subterfuge and blasphemy of Rabshakeh, the general of the Assyrian army as he besieged Jerusalem (Isaiah 36:1-22) after his conquest of other nations. This attack of the King of the North is similar to the character of the infestation of locusts in verses1 to 11, but while the locusts hurt people without killing them, the horses "kill" by the fire, smoke and brimstone from their mouths. This is not physical killing, but driving people to a a state of dead infidelity. The religious fanaticism of the Assyrian in his spiteful treatment of Israel and the West will serve to turn the West more strongly against religion and against any recognition of God. The attack also will be physical and violent, as well as attended by a multitude of words. The horses seem to be the whole religious system that upholds the attack, for they have power in their mouths as well as in their tails (v. 19)-not only in their tails as was true of the locusts. Their words are fierce and the end result is harmful.

However, verses 20 and 21 show us that those not killed by these plagues remained coldly unrepentant in reference to their corrupt religion of idol worship. People will not of themselves turn to God in spite of every solemn warning and shaking experience. Their idolatry seems to them a sufficient cover-up of their murders, sorceries, fornications and thefts.

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Text Courtesy of Used by Permission.
Bibliographical Information
Grant, L. M. "Commentary on Revelation 9". Grant's Commentary on the Bible. 1897-1910.