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Thursday, June 13th, 2024
the Week of Proper 5 / Ordinary 10
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Bible Commentaries
Revelation 9

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Verses 1-12

Rev 9:1-12




Revelation 8:13 to Revelation 9:21


Revelation 8:13

13 And I saw, and I heard an eagle, flying in mid heaven, saying with a great voice,--The King James Version has "angel" instead of "eagle." This is a question of textual criticism which it is unnecessary to give here. The true facts may be derived from either one. Angels have been the usual agents through whom announcements have been made in the visions; but an eagle in the symbol may be the appropriate emblem to proclaim the coming woes. Its cry may have been especially significant for the purpose. The word "woe" sets the last three trumpets off in a separate class from the four preceding.

Woe, woe, woe, for them that dwell on the earth, by reason of the other voices of the trumpet of the three angels, who are yet to sound.--Doubtless the "earth" as John understood it was the Roman Empire. The woes promised then would affect those who dwelt in some part of that empire. Of course all classes, saints and sinners, would be affected more or less. The general results can be seen, though we may not always be able to find definitely what particular thing may be designated by every feature of the vision. Of course the preceding trumpets signified "woes" too, but these three indicated some that were distinctly different.


Revelation 9:1-12

1 And the fifth angel sounded, and I saw a star from heaven fallen unto the earth: and there was given to him the key of the pit of the abyss.--The language of 8:13 shows an evident division between the first four trumpets and the last three. How long a period intervened between the fourth and fifth is not indicated in the text. Only historical facts can give any light on that. We have already found that a star indicates a person of rank or distinction. The star had already fallen (had been cast down) when John saw it. "From heaven" would indicate that the person represented probably claimed divine honors. The pronoun "him" shows that a person is meant. The "abyss" means the abode of Satan and evil spirits. (20:1-3.) The "key" given him indicates his power to turn loose the multitude of evil workers described in the following verses.

2 And he opened the pit of the abyss and there went up 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.--There poured out of the open pit smoke as if coming from a furnace. Such a smoke would darken the sun in the section where it spread. This emblem indicated some evil influence coming directly or indirectly from Satan. Probably referred to false teaching which would darken the minds of men.

3 And out of the smoke came forth locusts upon the earth ; and power was given them, as the scorpions of the earth have power.--There is nothing in verses 1 and 2 to indicate either time or place for the fulfillment of the vision. The word "locusts" is the first significant term. John saw them upon the earth; hence, they must represent a host of men bent on some evil work. The description of the locusts (verses 7-11) will not allow them to be understood literally. In the eighth plague of Egypt the locusts came from the east--that is, from Arabia. (Exodus 10:12-15.) This, doubtless, indicates that the hosts they represent would come from that part of the world, and would strike its blow against the Eastern Empire, the capital of which was Constantinople. If so, the fallen star was Mahomet, and the vision was fulfilled in the rise and spread of Mahometanism. This is the view of several expositors, and is accepted here as the view that best accords with all the facts. Since the Roman Empire was divided into Western and Eastern, the fall of the Western in 476 left the Eastern standing. Against this the Mahometans came in the first part of the seventh century. The history, then, if the facts fit the vision, will justify the application to them. The sting of the scorpion is extremely painful, indicating the terrible damage and distress to be accomplished by the powers they represent.

4 And it was said unto them that they should not hurt the grass of the earth, neither any green thing, neither any tree, but only such men as have not the seal of God on their foreheads.--Real locusts would destroy grass, vegetation, and leaves. Those John saw were forbidden to damage vegetation; hence, they were symbolical of something else. Regarding the invasion of Syria (A.D. 632), Abubeker, the successor of Mahomet, said: "Destroy no palm trees, nor burn any fields of corn. Cut down no fruit trees." (Decline and Fall, Vol. 5, p. 189.) This is another significant item in helping to identify the Mahometan scourge as the fulfillment of this emblem. Hurting men on earth is a feature that must be taken literally, as there is no other apparent way to understand it. Another proof that in symbolical passages some things may be understood literally. Seal on forehead indicates a convert--one who receives a doctrine in the mind. The command not to hurt such shows that the vision refers to a religious conflict. The text does not say who gave the command to hurt only those not sealed. If from Satan, then it could mean those who would not accept Mahomet as a prophet of God, which he claimed to be. His converts would be considered as having God’s seal on their foreheads. It seems improbable that the leader of such a host would have respected the true people of God.

5 And it was given them 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 it striketh a man.--This does not mean that no individuals would be killed; wars of invasion do not usually result that way. But the purpose was not to kill, but to convert men to the so-called prophet. Killing would have defeated that purpose with those destroyed. They were to be tormented with ills comparable to the stings of scorpions. This was clearly the nature of the Mahometan scourge. It is not credible that such a torment as here described would last only five literal months-----150 days. Hence, the prophetic day, according to Ezekiel 4:6, is probably meant. That means a day stands for a year, and the torment would last 150 years. Expositors are not agreed on the date when this period of time began, but this is an immaterial point since we know that about this time (seventh century) the followers of Mahomet started out to make the world submit to the Koran.

6 And in those days men shall seek death, and shall in no wise find it; and they shall desire to die, and death fleeth from them.--This language indicates that the torment was to be so terrible that men would desire death as a release, but would not find it.

7 And the shapes of the locusts were like unto horses prepared for war; and upon their heads as it were crowns like unto gold, and their faces were as men’s faces.--This is how the locusts appeared to John--what he saw in the vision. Horses prepared for war would indicate warfare, and probably cavalry in the main. Such seems to have been the Mahometan method of war. The words "as it were" show that what they wore on their heads were neither crowns nor gold, but only what looked like crowns made of gold. If the Mahometans are represented by this symbol, their yellow turbans would fill the demand for this part of the picture. Faces like men must be in contrast with the faces of women. The essential difference is that men’s faces grow beards. As the Arabians wore beards, this feature of the symbol would also fit them.

8 And they had hair as the hair of women, and their teeth were as the teeth of lions.--The women wore long hair. (1 Corinthians 11:15.) As a fulfillment of this some refer to the Arabian poem, "Antar," from which Elliott (Vol. I, p. 438) quotes as follows: "lie adjusted himself properly, twirled his whiskers, and folded up his hair under his turban, drawing it from off his shoulders."

Teeth like those of lions indicate the fierceness with which they would prosecute their operations. That the Arabians were fierce and unmerciful in forcing submission to Mahometan teaching is perfectly evident from their history. This characteristic is manifested in their actions more than any other feature of the Mahometan soldier. It would be nothing against this interpretation if some feature in the symbol found no likeness in the thing represented; for in all figurative language only similarity is necessary to justify the comparison, not likeness in everything. This is true of parables, metaphors, or other figures. Hence, it could be true in these symbols as well.

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 rushing to war.--The locusts had breastplates that looked like iron. This would indicate the strong protection they would have against their enemies. Mahomet said to his soldiers: "God hath given you coats of mail to defend you in your wars." The sound of the wings of the locusts seemed to John as the onrushing of war chariots. Doubtless this was a fair representation of the way that the Arabian cavalry made their charges. To say the least, there are too many similaritiesbetween the locusts and the Arabian soldiers to deny that they may be the ones indicated by the symbol.

10 And they have tails like unto scorpions, and stings; and in their tails is their power to hurt men five months.--See notes on verse 3. As the sting of the scorpion’s tail would be intensely painful, so the torment inflicted by the Mahometan army would be fearful torture. On the five months see notes on verse 5. It does not mean that this false religious system would last only 150 years, but that the torment would continue that long. The history of the Mahometan scourge harmonizes with that fact.

11 They have over them as king the angel of the abyss his name in Hebrew is Abaddon, and n the Greek tongue he hath the name Apollyon.--The king over the locusts is said to have been the angel (messenger) of the abyss. If the application to the Mahometan scourge is correct, the king or leader was first Mahomet and then his successors, the Caliphs. But the real leader was Satan himself who inspires and influences men in all evil. These Hebrew and Greek words both mean destroyer, a term which accurately describes the work of Satan. On the word "abyss" see notes on verse 1.

12 The first Woe is past: behold, there come yet two Woes hereafter.--This verse simply announces the interval between the first and second woes, but gives no hint as to the time limit --the beginning or ending of either.


Some further facts should be observed here, if the symbol is correctly applied to the Mahometan uprising. Note the following:

1. As collected from various sources these items give the general history of the movement. Mahomet was born about A.D. 570, and in due time became one of the most effective false teachers known to the world. He began his preaching privately in A.D. 609, and his public work in 612. In 632 the Saracens left Arabia to begin their work in forcing the world to accept the Koran; in 634 the city of Damascus was taken Jerusalem fell to them in 637, and Alexandria in Egypt in 640. Elliott (Vol. I, p. 449) says that in ten years, 634 to 644, the Caliph had reduced 36,000 cities or castles to obedience, destroying 4,000 churches, and built 1,400 mosques for the worship of Mahomet. Twice, 675 and 716, they besieged Constantinople, but were repulsed each time; in 762 their capital was moved from Damascus to Bagdad on the Tigris River, and was called "the city of peace." From this time, says Gibbon (Vol. V, p. 300), "War was no longer the passion of the Saracens."

A.D. 609, 612, and 632 are all suggested dates to begin the 150-year period. If 612, the time that Mahomet began public preaching, be taken, the period ended with the founding of Bagdad, when war ceased as their passion. This is as probable as any, and fits this feature of the symbol.

2. If it be contended that Mahometanism fails as an unquestionable fulfillment of the symbol, the fact remains that something in that general period of the world must be its fulfillment. To say the least, the Mahometan effort to subvert the whole world to the worship of the prophet may be the thing represented. This false religion came into existence at the right time, swept the nations like a raging forest fire, and forced hundreds of thousands into submission. It would be remarkably strange if it were not included in a book of prophetic symbols touching the welfare of the church.

Commentary on Revelation 9:1-12 by Foy E. Wallace

The smoke of the pit--(the fifth trumpet)—Revelation 9:1-12.

1. A fallen star: I saw a star fall from heaven”—Revelation 9:1.

The star, as in previous instances where the symbol is used, denoted a ruler; and heaven in this connection, as also previously shown, denoted the dominion of these powers. When Jesus said in Luke 10:18, “I beheld Satan fall as lightning from heaven,” he meant the complete defeat of all the personified agents of Satan. By his fall from heaven, Jesus meant that Satan would be dethroned from his exalted dominion; and his downfall would come swiftly as lightning in the shaping conflict.

When the prophet said of a Babylonian ruler, in Isaiah 14:12 --"How art thou fallen from heaven, 0 Lucifer (brilliant star), son of the morning; how art thou cut down to the ground which didst weaken the nations”--it referred to the downfall of the ruler, personified as Lucifer. The name Lucifer in the Septuagint, is translated “Star,” which was represented as falling from heaven--the wicked king’s exalted place of dominion.

The figure is no different in this Revelation vision. The star is personified in the persecuting ruler. He was designated “a star fallen from heaven” for the wicked character that he exemplified in the descension from his exalted place of rulership to the satanic plane of a perfidious leader of impious forces. The star falling “from heaven unto the earth” merely denoted the descent of the ruler from an exalted dominion to a degenerate place of activity among the powers of men.

2. The key to the bottomless pit: “And to him was given the key to the bottomless pit”—Revelation 9:1.

The “bottomless” pit is the abyss, the infernal region, the diabolical domain of the devil. This fallen star being an agent of Satan personified, he was given the “key” to the abyss of Satan, that he might unloose the woes announced by the flying angel of Revelation 8:13.

The smoke of the pit: “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 --Revelation 9:2.

The pit is the infernal underworld, the dark abode of demons (Luke 8:31). Here the angel has the “key” to open it--unloose it--hence, an evil angel, in contrast with the angel with the “chain” in chapter 20, to bind. The smoke of the pit “as a furnace,” similar to destruction that came upon Sodom and Gomorrah (Genesis 18:28), the smoke of a pit sending forth effects of pollution and contamination.

Darkening the sun and the air: This was not the eclipse of the sun as in previous symbols, but the veiling of the sun “by reason of the smoke of the pit.” Here also instead of the sun and the moon being darkened, as before, it is the sun and the air.

As noted under the classification of symbols in the preview, the air is the symbol denoting the sphere of life and influence. As the blackout of the sun symbolized the dark distress that hovered over the land, the blackened air, “by reason of the smoke of the pit,” signifies with the same vividity the corruption of the whole sphere of life by this figure of the complete pollution of the air by the smoke of the infernal pit.

Locusts upon the earth: “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"—Revelation 9:3.

In Bible times the word locust was applied as widely and as loosely, it seems, as the word worm in our various uses. But in scripture apocalypses, both Old and New, the reference is to a large and vile insect of such multiplicity and voracity as to be a dreaded source of scourge. These insects borne by the wind in swift swarms hundreds of miles were known to the people of Palestine as “burners of the land,” a phrase derived from the literal meaning of “locust.” It was their nature to be together, flying in vast numbers, spoiling the grain, infecting the part they did not eat, and poisoning the very air through which they swarmed. A scourge of locusts ended with the decomposition of several millions of the vile things, and resulted in pestilence that afflicted the land, with heavy death toll. (Joel 2:20) One historical example is on record as occurring 125 B.C., when the swarms were driven by strong winds into the sea, and washed back by the tide in such vast numbers as to cause a stench and a plague from which several thousand people died in the countries of Libya, Cyrene and Egypt.

From the time of Moses they were the instruments of divine judgment as in Exodus 10:4-15; Deuteronomy 28:38-42; 1 Kings 8:37. The prophet Joel makes this locust the figurative instrument of fearful visitation in his vivid description of the devastating march of the Assyrian armies through the land. (Joel 2:9-11.)

It is this symbolic locust, swarming from the smoke of the abyss as a scourge “upon the earth,loch” that is employed in the vision here, to signify the woe being pronounced by the angel of the fifth trumpet upon Jerusalem and the land of the Jews. By the same symbol Joel described the invading armies of Israel’s Old Testament history (Joel 1:4-6)--a striking parallel.

Unto them was given power as the scorpions of earth: The scorpion is described as a small venomous reptile (Deuteronomy 8:15) having a bladder full of poison. Its anatomical description gives it two eyes in its mid-head, and another two eyes toward its extremity; with two arms like claws, eight legs with six talons each; a long tail like a string of beads, with two stingers full of poison, which it squirts into the object of its sting. This creature is used in the scripture figuratively to denote the wicked who torment the good. (Ezekiel 2:6) Jesus used it as a figure in promising his disciples power over every evil thing or agent that Satan could employ to their hurt (Luke 10:19). In the present vision of chapter 9 the locusts from the abyss were “given” the power of the scorpions of the earth--signifying the affiliation of all the evil forces of the infernal underworld to be personified in the characters of wicked rulers.

Hurt not grass, green thing, tree: “And it commanded them not to hurt the grass, or the earth, neither any green thing, neither any tree, but only those men who have not the seal of God in their foreheads”—Revelation 9:4.

In Revelation 8:7 the signal of the first trumpet was in the judgment against the land, symbolized by that which was in nature of it. But this first woe of chapter 9 does not have the destruction of the physical powers as its object, but the spiritual.

But only those who have not the seal: The “sealed of God” were the true disciples whom the scorpion power was commanded not to hurt; and it corresponds with Luke 21:25-28, “Look up, lift up your heads, for your redemption draweth nigh.” Matthew describes in Msy 24:15- 30, the escape of the disciples; and so does Luke in Luke 21:18.

Should not kill: “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 it striketh a Prayer of Manasseh—Revelation 9:5.

The victims were not put to death--the descriptions of the siege of Jerusalem.

But tormented five months: This referred to the literal period of time for the season of locusts, from spring to autumn (May to September), but here it figuratively denoted the full time, the whole period for the effects described, designating figuratively the period of the siege.

Torment as of a scorpion when he strikes man: The baneful effects of the siege on its victims had figuratively all of the sting of the scorpion’s tail-sorrow, suffering, famine, pestilence, carnage, stench and putrefaction, indescribable. Vivid description of these deadly carriers of the scourge of pestilence and putrefaction are narrated in dictionaries of antiquities and historical works, such as Josephus and Pliny.

Seeking death--“In those days shall men seek death, and shall not find it"—Revelation 9:6.

For comparison read Luke 21:26, Matthew 24:22, and Mark 13:12; Mark 13:20 -the Lord’s own predictions concerning these events. There could be no fitter application of these symbols than the tragic conditions attending the siege of Jerusalem, as described in the graphic language of Matthew, Mark and Luke.

The horse-like locusts.“And the shapes of the locusts were like the shapes of horses prepared for battle"—Revelation 9:7.

Shapes like horses: The composite appearance of the locusts-shape of horses for battle, heads as gold crowns, faces of men--shows this symbolism to be that of the rulers with their armies of destruction. The locusts were seen as horses “prepared for battle,” as the horses in cavalry battalions.

Heads as crowns: The heads of the locusts were seen as “crowns like gold” signifying that they were the armies of the Roman generals Vespasian and Titus, both of whom were given imperial crowns, in connection with their invasions of Judea and the siege of Jerusalem.

Faces as faces of men: The faces of the locusts, as men, identifies the symbolism with the imperial armies invading “the holy land” as swarms of locusts. It is not a new form of apocalypse at all. The prophetic vision in Joel 1:1-6; Joel 2:1-4 was the description of the invasion of the land of Judea by the armies of the north (Joel 1:6; Joel 2:20), as a baneful swarm of locusts, having both animal-like and humanlike forms-“The appearance of them is as the appearance of horses; and as horsemen so shall they run.” These visions of Joel, and of other pre-exile prophets, foretold the fall of Jerusalem when Nebuchadnezzar, having besieged the city, shut its inhabitants within the walls, inflicting upon them all the horrors of famine, pestilence and war, eventually burning the temple and its buildings, razing the walls, and reducing the city to rubbish and ruin--all the dreadful horrors of which were depicted by both Jeremiah and Joel.

As the prophet Joel’s apocalypse of the invasion of locusts concerned the Jerusalem of about B. C. 600, this vision of John’s apocalypse concerned the Jerusalem of A. D. 70, when Vespasian and Titus executed the imperial orders of Nero to besiege and destroy the city, the miseries of which exceeded all of its calamitous history before and after.

“And when ye shall see Jerusalem compassed with armies, then know that desolation is near . . . for these be the days of vengeance, that all things which are written may be fulfilled.” Luke 21:20; Luke 21:22.

“For in those days shall be affliction, such as was not since the beginning of the world to this time, no, nor ever shall be.” Matthew 24:22.

“For in those days shall be affliction, such as was not from the beginning of the creation, which God created unto this time, neither shall be.” Mark 13:19.

The cumulative evidence is preponderant that John’s visions encompass the invasion of Judea and the fall of Jerusalem described by Jesus in the records of Matthew, Mark and Luke.

The locust features: “And they had hair as the hair of women, and their teeth as the teeth of lions"—Revelation 9:8.

The hair of women: The kind of insect forming this vision was that of the hairy species referred to in Jeremiah 51:27 as “rough caterpillars,” or the “cankerworm” of the Revised Version, but is admittedly the variety of the devouring locust with a sort of bristling long hair. The comparison with the hair of women is because of the feature that draws attention, as the waving hair, the abundance of which is the woman’s natural glory-- John 11:2; John 12:3; 1 Corinthians 11:14-15. It is used as a figure to impress the personality of the locust creatures of this vision.

The teeth of lions: The same figure is used in Joel’s vision of the army of locusts, which signified that “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) It is a symbol of strength, as the frequent expression to put teeth in legislation, and is designed to personify the locusts of this vision.

The locusts of war: “And they had breast plates as it were of iron”—Revelation 9:9

Breastplates of iron: The breastplate is the armor of war. Its figurative use here is sufficiently obvious, showing the symbolic locusts to be men of war, and the whole scene descriptive of the Vespasian march on Jerusalem. The locusts were seen as haberdashed with breastplates of iron, as if shielded by the Roman soldier’s impenetrable coat of mail, encompassing the vital portions of the body. The figure of “iron” connected with breastplate denotes the irresistible force of the armies of invasion.

Sound of wings as chariots: The whirling of myriad wings of the locusts were in sound as the wheels of bustling chariots and hustling horses racing to battle. Here again John joins Joel in the imagery of war in their respective visions of the locusts. Describing the Chaldean armies as swarms of locusts in their march on Jerusalem B.C. 584, Joel said: “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 the mountains shall they leap . . . as a strong people set in battle array.” The locust visions of Joel and John are parallel--the former describing the Old Testament war of Nebuchadnezzar on the Jews, the latter the Neroan war of A. D. 70 on Judea and Jerusalem. Joel referred to the locusts as “people set in battle array,” or battle formation. John referred to the locusts as “chariots running to battle.” The parallels and the applications are unmistakable.

The Power to hurt: “And they had tails like scorpions, and their power was to hurt men five months.” –Revelation 9:10.

Tails like scorpions: This is a reemphasis of Revelation 9:5 with extended detail. These were unusual locusts, showing that they were figurative, not literal. The locusts had tails like scorpions--unlike the serpent that coils and strikes with the head, the scorpion strikes with its tail. The usual length of the scorpion was about two inches, but large scorpions of the deadly species exceeded six inches. Its sting produced violent convulsions, excruciating pain and death. In this vision it symbolizes the deadly striking power of the invading army.

Power to hurt five months: In Revelation 9:5 the expression is “tormented five months”; here it is “power to hurt men five months.” The season of the locust was from late spring to early fall of the year, May to September in our calendar. The expression five months, being the whole season of the locust, figuratively denotes the activity of the persecuting powers through the period of tribulation without surcease.

The king of the pit: “They had a king over them which is the angel of the bottomless pit”—Revelation 9:11.

A king, angel of bottomless pit: The king “over them” --over this ferocious locust army, was the angel-king of the abyss; he was Satan personified in the persecutor. As in later chapters (Revelation 12:9-12; Revelation 20:2) the dragon-beast, the old serpent, “was called the Devil, and Satan which deceiveth the whole world,” the king of this army of the abyss was Satan himself, represented in the persecuting power. Undoubtedly, Paul has reference to the persecutor when in Romans 16:20 he said, “The God of peace shall bruise Satan under your feet shortly.”

In early chapters reference was made to the “synagogue of Satan” (Revelation 2:9); “Satan’s seat” (Revelation 2:13); and the “depths of Satan” (Revelation 2:24). The epithet itself means adversary, enemy, accuser. It comports fully with the symbolism of these visions that Satan, angel-king of the abyss, should be personified by the persecutors in this vision.

Abaddon, Apollyon: The Hebrew word Abaddon means “destroyer.” The Greek word Apollyon means the same. The word Satan means “adversary,” but in this vision the adversary was given power todestroy. Verse 9 above says the power was “given.” Jesus said to Pilate: “Thou couldest have no power at all against me except it were given thee from above.” (John 20:11) By reason of this power of destruction personified, the angel-king Destroyer (Abaddon-Apollyon) was so designated. It was most apropos to so entitle the impious leader of such a monstrous army of horrid creatures of the abyss, to thus liken the literal emperor of the Roman world to the figurative king of the underworld.

The depths of Satan is the boldest delineation, the personification of whom code language alone could allow, as in a later chapter it was again done in the name and number of the beast. And to so label this monarch of oppression a despot; the destroyer in both of the two spoken languages-- Abaddon and Apollyon, the Hebrew and Greek--was a challenge to boldness which must have excited courage and inspired fortitude in all the suffering saints.

The woes: “One woe is past, behold there come two woes more hereafter”—Revelation 9:12.

In 8:13 the flying angel announced three woes to enhance solemnity. Now, it was John speaking, not the angel, not the eagle, not one of the elders, nor one of the creatures, but John. As if to mark by count the three woes announced by the angel in Revelation 8:13, in recording tones John said: “One woe is past: and, behold there come two woes more hereafter.”

A retrospective comment is in order here on the meaning of the expression “third part” in the beginning of fifth trumpet—Revelation 9:7-8; Revelation 9:10; Revelation 9:12 --finds explanation in the three woes, each announcement of the angel representing a third part of the whole realm of the woes.

Commentary on Revelation 9:1-12 by Walter Scott


Revelation 9:1 — “A star out of the Heaven fallen to the earth.” The Authorized Version reads, “I saw a star fall from Heaven,” whereas what the Seer beheld was the star when fallen, not in the act of falling.

Under the third and fifth Trumpets (Revelation 8:10; Revelation 9:1) apostate personages of high position and of commanding influence figure in the prophetic scene. The “great star” of Revelation 8:10 and the “star” of Revelation 9:1 do not set forth systems of civil or ecclesiastical power singly or combined, nor a succession of eminent persons, but point to those once set in the moral Heaven, i.e., recognized authorities of a religious character now fallen and degraded and acting under satanic influence. In the earlier reference (Revelation 8:10) the degraded ruler fills the western part of the Roman world (the guiltiest) with misery and death. In the later scene he is about to let loose the malignant and darkening power of Satan on the apostate part of Judah. (Judah, in the coming crisis, in her closing hour of sorrow and unbelief, and previous to the public intervention of Christ on her behalf, seems to be completely under the power and influence of Satan. The last state of Israel is worse than the first. Idolatry rampant in the land (Matthew 12:45), and her chiefs and guides in league with death and hell (Isaiah 28:15-18), make an awful picture of combined satanic and human wickedness.) Apostate Gentiles are the subjects of judgment under the third Trumpet; apostate Jews are the sufferers under the fifth Trumpet. The state of things under the first Woe, or fifth Trumpet, surpasses anything we have hitherto witnessed. Direct satanic influence and power energize the agents and instruments of evil.


Under the successive judgments and events revealed in the Apocalypse a certain historical correspondence and sequence may be traced. But by no means a partial, much less an exhaustive, fulfilment is to be sought for in the annals of the historian.

The Revelation, from chapter 4 to 22: 5, is not history, but prophecy. The shadows only of the future are thrown on the masterly pages of Gibbon and others. But inasmuch as the principles which govern men and nations are ever the same, for there is “nothing new under the sun,” an historical resemblance to the prophecies under the Seals, Trumpets, and Vials is fully allowed. We are satisfied, however, that the historical application of the Apocalypse, especially the central part, as set forth in most of the literature on the subject today, is a serious mistake. The course of prophecy is resumed in connection with the last of Daniel’s 70 weeks or 490 years (Daniel 9:27), and after the translation of the heavenly saints (1 Thessalonians 4:17). Paul witnesses to the translation. John in the Apocalypse views the translated in Heaven (Revelation 4:1-11). The whole of this Church period, the history of Christianity itself, is a great and intensely interesting episode, and has its place between the close of the sixty-ninth and the opening of the seventieth week of Daniel, and yet forming no part of either. The Church is not the subject of prophecy but of Revelation. It was a mystery hidden from men and angels till revealed to and by Paul to us (Ephesians 3:1-21). The Jew, and subordinately the Gentile, is the subject of prophecy. The supreme importance of the Jew is the key to unlock prophecy. The prophetic periods are all in relation to the Jews and Jerusalem (Daniel 9:24) (“Seventy weeks (490 years) are determined upon thy people (the Jews), and upon thy holy city (Jerusalem).”); those contained in the central part of the Apocalypse equally so. But, as we have said, history presents a resemblance (not fulfilment) to the prophetic portions of the Apocalypse; a resemblance not devoid of interest. According to the ablest of the historical school — and in this there is substantial agreement amongst his confreres — the first four Seals represent four successive periods of pagan Rome. Then on the downfall of paganism and the historical triumph of Christianity large numbers, both of Jews and Gentiles, were converted to God, and of this it is supposed Revelation 7:1-17 speaks. Then the first four Trumpets are said to pertain still to pagan Rome, but in its decline, downfall, and extinction in the west. The northern irruptions of Gothic, Lombard, and Hungarian into the fertile fields and rich and prosperous towns of Italy soon culminated in the destruction of the empire of the Caesars. The rule of the uncivilised barbarian in Rome itself, once the proud and haughty mistress of the world, was a sorrowful but instructive spectacle. Rome fell A.D. 476.

Again, the fallen star of Revelation 9:1-21 is generally supposed to point to the great Arabian impostor Mohammed, and certainly he may well be regarded as the prototype of the coming false prophet, the man of sin, and the Antichrist — titles referring to one and the same person. Mohammed (Mohammed (lit. “The Praised One”) was born in Arabia, at the famous city of Mecca, A.D. 570. The Koran (lit. “The Reading”) is the Bible of the Mohammedan world, and was cleverly compiled by Mohammed, partly from materials supplied by a renegade Jew and an apostate Christian, and added to by the impostor himself as occasion required. Whatever is really good in it is from Judaism and Christianity. But there is much that is disgusting and filthy in the book. Mohammedanism as a system is the greatest curse on the face of the earth, and has effected the spiritual ruin today of fully 150 millions of the earth’s teeming population, and what of the countless millions in the past who lived and died in the faith of the hellish creed of the Arabian prophet? The professing Church has broken up into fragments, and by far the largest and worst of these fragments is Roman Catholicism. But bad as it is, with its mixture of paganism and Christianity, Mohammedanism is infinitely worse. Its founder was, without doubt, devil inspired. Mohammed, the fallen star, opened the pit and let loose the darkening power of Satan, and flooded the east, and partially the west, with doctrines which can justly be termed hellish in their nature and effects. For information on this system of deadly error, see “Studies in Mohammedanism,” by J. J. Pool.) founded the most satanic system the world has ever known. The Antichrist yet to come will head up under Satan the most awful combination of soul-destroying and blasphemous doctrines conceivable. Pursuing the historical application, the locust army would be the Saracens, whose military achievements, equalled by their spiritual conquests, are a wonder to this day. The east was conquered. The Crescent displaced the Cross. The ruin of the east may be well likened to a locust devastation. Only the glorious victory of Charles the Hammer (so termed because of his military prowess) at Tours, in France, checked the career of the Saracenic host and preserved the west as a whole from Mohammedan apostasy, with its awful consequences for time and eternity. The five months of torment (Revelation 9:10) are supposed to refer to the 150 years of unchecked conquest by the Moslem hordes on the year-day theory. Then the sixth Trumpet, or second Woe, is applied to the revival of Mohammedanism under the Turks, and the extinction of the Greek-Roman empire in the ever memorable siege and capture of Constantinople. For nearly eight hundred years repeated efforts had been made to establish Islamism in the eastern half of the empire, but beautiful Constantinople, standing on the borders of Europe and Asia — the Bosphorus dividing the two continents — defied capture. Its hour, however, had come. The decree had gone forth. Mohammed the Second entered Constantinople on the morning of the 29th May, 1453. The great Greek Church was purified and then transformed into a mosque, and the Crescent floated over the walls of the city of the Caesars.

But the corrupt Turkish power is waning, and the predicted drying up of the Euphrates (Revelation 16:12), that famous river, is claimed by historicalists to point to that cruel Mohammedan power now and for many years past almost tottering to its fall. Its complete destruction is certain. Such, then, in brief, are a few of the leading points in which, in the interpretation of the prophetic parts of the Apocalypse, the historical school feel on firm ground. In our judgment the position is untenable. It is an impossibility to square these prophetic visions with the facts of history. There is at the most but a general resemblance, and fulfilment in the past of the visions and prophecies there is not. God will “Amen” them to the full in that brief and solemn crisis for Israel and Christendom, after the translation of the heavenly saints, in the coming reign of Antichrist and his political chief and confederate, the Beast or revived empire, with its great personal head, the little horn of the west (Daniel 7:7-8).


The rise of a personal Antichrist in the last dark days of Gentile and Jewish apostasy was an undoubted article of belief in apostolic and succeeding Christian times. There have been many Antichrists and antichristian systems of deadly error, but there is yet a blacker outlook. The Antichrist to come, an apostate of Jewish extraction, will be the incarnation of satanic wickedness and the greatest soul-destroyer who has ever trod the earth; moreover, he will sum up in himself every form and phase of sin, and head the most awful system of corrupt and damnable evil ever known — a combination of Jewish and Christian profession, and “natural religion” too — in open daring rebellion against God. He assumes Christ’s place, titles, and functions on earth. He works miracles. Supernatural signs accredit his mission, and by these he deceives guilty Christendom, and thus lures it on to hopeless destruction.

It is during the last phase of the revived power of Rome when distributed into ten kingdoms that the personal Antichrist arises. (The rise of the Antichrist — after the subversion of the one undivided empire of the Caesars, and during its prophetic revival when portioned into ten kingdoms with a great central and controlling chief — was taught and “expounded with confidence, definiteness, and unanimity by the whole body of patristic writers.” — “The Antichrist Legend,” Englished from the German W. Bousset. There may be much in this remarkable work to condemn, but it contains a vast amount of able research and valuable information as to what the early Christians taught and held on the doctrine of a personal Antichrist.) This final character of Rome was therefore dreaded by the early Christians. In their minds the future revival of the civil power of Rome and the presence of the Antichrist were coeval and connected events. They were wont to pray for the continuance of the empire in its imperial form, and even for the rule of the cruellest of the Caesars, as the last bulwark against the coming sway of the Antichrist. The subject of the Antichrist was a common one to the fathers of the Church. Some held that he was the devil incarnate; others spoke of him as “the devil’s son.” The relation of Satan and the Antichrist in the traditional lore of the first four Christian centuries may be resolved into two distinct thoughts: first, that the coming Antichrist (as delineated by John), or the man of sin (as described by Paul), is a real man of earthly Jewish parentage, controlled directly by Satan; second, that he is Satan incarnate, and thus in his conception simulating the miraculous birth of our blessed Lord. The former notion is undoubtedly the scriptural one, and it is an interesting fact that Jerome in the west, and Chrysostom in the east, distinctly taught that the Antichrist is a man energised by Satan, in direct opposition to those who maintained that he was the devil in human form. “Henceforth the assumption that the Antichrist is the devil himself practically dies out of ecclesiastical tradition.” The early Christians regarded Nero (It was during the reign of Nero, that Christianity and paganism first came into open conflict. The history of these thirteen years, in which for the first time persecution of the Christian, was legalized by imperial edict, has never yet been fully written. The unchronicled events of that reign await full disclosure at the judgment seat of Christ.) and Claudius, especially the former, as precursors of the Antichrist. The almost superhuman wickedness of Nero marks him out in the page of history as the most apt and fitting historical type of the coming man of sin and blood.

The mass of Protestant expositors apply the term Antichrist to the papal system. But this we conceive is a blunder. The term Antichrist, whether employed in the singular or plural, denotes a person or persons, never a system. The Roman Catholic interpreters have written much and learnedly on this theme, and, we are compelled to add, more correctly than many of their Protestant opponents. The former look on to the end for the rise of a personal Antichrist, (To the Protestant the Pope is an Antichrist. To the Papist Luther is an Antichrist. Both are wrong, for both miss the scriptural characteristics of Antichrist, and these, as described by John and Paul, do not apply to the Pope, much less to the illustrious reformer.) and in this they are right. He is yet to come. Dr. Manning, one of the most distinguished of Roman Catholics, held that the Antichrist, or “the man of sin,” is one individual, and neither a succession of persons nor a system. He says: “To deny the personality of Antichrist is therefore to deny the plain testimony of Holy Scripture.” (“The Temporal Power of the Vicar of Jesus Christ.”) The learned Cardinal adds: “He (the Antichrist) may indeed embody a spirit, and represent a system, but is not less therefore a person.” (Dr. Manning further shows that the rise of the papacy in the west and its hindrance in the east is accounted for in the fact that the throne of the Caesars removed from Rome paved the way for the establishment of Roman Catholicism in Italy; whereas the political imperial power in Constantinople hindered and checked the claims of the papacy in the east. This witness is true.) Bellarmine, second to none as a Roman Catholic writer, tersely sums up papal belief on the subject of the Antichrist, saying, “All Catholics hold that Antichrist will be one individual person.” One special person, a man, a Jew, an apostate, is the Antichrist of the prophetic Scriptures.

Some modern expositors regard the Antichrist as the civil head of the Roman empire, but this is not so. He is the false messiah, the minister of Satan amongst the Jews in Jerusalem, working signs and displaying wonders through direct satanic power. He sits in the temple of God then set up in Jerusalem, and claims divine worship. The Beast (Rome), the false prophet or the Antichrist, and the dragon (Satan) are deified and worshipped, counterfeiting the worship of Father, Son, and Holy Ghost. The apostate nation accepts the Antichrist as king. In no sense is he a great political power. True, he influences Christendom, but religiously, not politically. The government of the world, civil and political, is then in the hands of a great Gentile chief. It is he whose throne is in Rome who rules politically under Satan. The Antichrist has his seat in Jerusalem. The head of Gentile dominion in Rome. The two men are ministers of Satan, confederates in wickedness; the one a Jew, the other a Gentile. Both exist at the Coming of the Lord in judgment, and both are then consigned alive to the lake of fire — an eternal doom.

The term Antichrist is used only by the writer of the Apocalypse, and by him four times (1 John 2:18; 1 John 2:22; 1 John 4:3; 2 John 1:7), and once in the plural (1 John 2:18). From these texts we gather several important points. The rise of Antichrists is a definite mark of “the last time;” they are apostates. The Antichrist sets himself in direct opposition to what is vital in Christianity — the revelation of the Father and of the Son — and also to the distinguishing truth of Judaism — Jesus the Christ (1 John 2:22). The holy Person of the Lord is also the object of satanic attack by Antichrists (2 John 1:7). Evil of this character is found fully developed in the coming Antichrist, in whom every form of religious evil culminates.

Paul, in one of his earliest and briefest epistles (2 Thess.), sketches a personage characterized by impiety, lawlessness, and assumption towering far beyond all the world has ever seen, a character clearly identical with the Antichrist of John. They are one and the same person, and on this, in all ages, there has been an almost complete concensus of opinion.

It is evident that Paul had personally instructed the Thessalonian Christians on the solemn subjects of the coming apostasy or public abandonment of Christianity, and, consequent thereon, the revelation of the man of sin (2 Thessalonians 2:5). He now adds to former verbal instruction. There are three descriptive epithets here used of the Antichrist: “The lawless one” (R.V.), “the man of sin,” and “the son of perdition.” The first intimates that he sets himself in direct opposition to all divine and human authority. The second, that he is the living and active embodiment of every form and character of evil — sin personified. The third, that he is the full-blown development of the power of Satan, and as such perdition is his proper doom and portion. This frightful character usurps God’s place on earth, and sits in the temple then set up in Jerusalem, claiming divine worship and honour (Revelation 9:4). His religious influence, for he is not a political person of any account, dominates the mass of professing Christians and Jews. They are caught in Satan’s snare. They had already given God up, had publicly renounced the Christian faith and the essential truth of Judaism, and now in retributive justice He gives them up to the awful delusion of receiving the man of sin whilst believing him to be the true messiah (Revelation 9:11). What a lie! The Antichrist received and believed on instead of the Christ of God! If verse 9 is compared with Acts 2:22 a remarkable correspondence is shown. The very same terms are found in both texts, namely, power, signs, and wonders. By these God would accredit the mission and service of Jesus of Nazareth (Acts 2:22), and by the same credentials Satan presents the Antichrist to an apostate world (2 Thessalonians 2:9). In the latter case, however, lying and deceit significantly characterise the more than human signs of that day (2 Thessalonians 2:9-10).

The Lord Himself refers to the Antichrist and to his acceptance by the Jews as their messiah and prophet (John 5:43). In the book of Psalms he is prophetically written of in his character as “the man of the earth” (Psalms 10:18), as also “the bloody and deceitful man” (Psalms 5:6), whilst these descriptive epithets are in themselves characteristic of the wicked in general in the coming crisis, yet there is one person, and but one, to whom they can in the fullest sense refer. It is the character of the Antichrist, and not his person, that is before us in these and other Psalms.

Daniel in chapter 11 of his prophecy refers to three kings: The king of the north (Syria); the king of the south (Egypt); and the king in Palestine (the Antichrist). The wars, family alliances, and intrigue so minutely detailed in the first thirty-five verses of this interesting chapter have had an exact historical fulfilment in the history of the Syrian and Egyptian kingdoms formed after the break up of the mighty Grecian empire. It was this prophecy in its literal and detailed fulfilment which so roused the ire of that bitter pagan and opponent of divine truth, Porphyry, in the third century. His “Treatise against Christians” is the armory which from the seventeenth century has supplied material for attacks upon Christianity. Think of Christian (?) teachers eagerly availing themselves of the help of a pagan philosopher in their wicked campaign against the truth!

In verse 36 the king” is abruptly introduced into the history. This king is the Antichrist whose reign in Palestine precedes that of the true Messiah, even as King Saul preceded King David, the former pointing to the anti-Christian king, and the latter to Christ, the true King of Israel. This portion of the chapter (Daniel 11:36-45) is yet future, carrying us on to the time of the end (Daniel 11:40). The king exalts himself, and magnifies himself above man and every god. The pride of the devil is embodied in this terrible Jewish character. God’s place alone will satisfy his ambition. What a contrast to the true Messiah, to Jesus Who humbled Himself as none other ever did. He Who was God humbled Himself, even to the death of the cross (Philippians 2:5-8).

That the Antichrist is of Jewish descent seems evident from Daniel 11:37, as also from the consideration that otherwise he could have no claim even with apostate Jews to the throne of Israel. The king, or the Antichrist, is attacked from the north and south, his land, Palestine, lying between the two. He is unable, even with the help of his ally, the powerful chief of the west, to ward off the repeated attacks of his northern and southern enemies. The former is the more bitter and determined of the two. Palestine is overrun by the conquering forces of the north; but its king, the Antichrist, escapes the vengeance of the great northern oppressor, of whom Antiochus Epiphanes of infamous memory is the prototype. The Antichrist is the subject of the Lord’s judgment at His Return from Heaven (Revelation 19:20).

In the Apocalypse, chapter 13, two Beasts are seen in vision. The first is the Roman power and its blasphemous head under the direct control of Satan (Revelation 13:1-10). The second Beast is the personal Antichrist (Revelation 13:11-17). The first is characterized by brute force. It is the political power of earth in those days, and the one to whom Satan “gave his power, and his throne, and great authority” (Revelation 13:2). The second Beast is clearly subordinate to the power of the first (Revelation 13:12). It is religious, not political, ends he has in view. Religious pretension is supported by the might and strength of apostate Rome; thus the two Beasts act together under their great chief, Satan. The three are jointly worshipped.

The second Beast, or Antichrist, is identical with “the false prophet,” named three times (Revelation 16:13; Revelation 19:20; Revelation 20:10). The respective heads of the rebellion against Christ in His royal and prophetic rights are two men directly controlled and energised by Satan — a trinity of evil. “The dragon has given his external power to the first Beast (Revelation 13:8); to the second he gives his spirit, so that having this spirit it speaks as a dragon” (v. 11).(“Daniel and the Revelation.” p. 309. — Auberlen.)

Finally, Zechariah refers to the Antichrist as the “idol shepherd,” utterly regardless of the flock (Israel) over whom he assumes royal, priestly, and prophetic power. But his boasted authority (his arm) and vaunted intelligence (his right eye) by which his pretensions in the land are supported are utterly blasted, while personally he is cast alive into the eternal abode of misery, the lake of fire (Zechariah 11:15-17; Revelation 19:20).

In our judgment, therefore, the fallen star under the first Woe unmistakably designates the Antichrist. To whom other of the apocalyptic personages could the description apply? The spiritual aims and religious pretensions of Satan are supported and enforced by the Antichrist, whilst his temporal sovereignty on earth is established in the kingdom and person of the Roman prince. (The blessed Lord peremptorily refused to accept from Satan universal lordship and glory (Matthew 4:8-9). But the coming prince will gladly receive both at the hands of Satan; the awful compact is ratified, the Beast worships the dragon, and Satan then endows his political minister with the world’s sovereignty.)

Now the agony here depicted is that of soul and conscience; not bodily anguish. The Antichrist seems the devil’s chosen instrument in the infliction of the former, whereas in the latter kind of torment the brute force of the Beast is let loose, indulging itself in scenes of cruelty and bloodshed, tormenting the bodies of men.

After this long but needful digression we return to our chapter.


Revelation 9:1. — I saw a star out of the Heaven fallen to the earth; and there was given to it the key of the pit of the abyss. This symbolic fallen star, once set in the moral Heaven to reflect and uphold God’s authority in government, is neither a religious nor a political system, but an actual person, a degraded ruler. The reference is not to the fall of Satan, as prophetically beheld and announced by the Lord to the Seventy (Luke 10:18), but to the king of Babylon. “How art thou fallen from heaven, O Lucifer, (Lucifer signifies day star, and is so rendered in the Revised Version of Isaiah 14:12.) son of the morning! How art thou cut down to the ground which didst weaken the nations!” (Isaiah 14:12-15). The haughty, great, and proud king of Babylon is here alluded to in his awful fall from a height never before attained by any earthly potentate, down to the lowest depths of infamy. “Yet thou shalt be brought down to hell (sheol), to the uttermost parts of the pit.” Some regard the “day star” of the prophet (Isaiah 14:12), and fallen star of the Apocalypse (Revelation 9:1-21. l), as both pointing to the fall of Satan from Heaven, but we are satisfied that the king of Babylon (The first and fourth of the universal imperial powers (Daniel 2:1-49; Daniel 7:1-28), to whom Judah was enslaved, were Babylon and Rome. The former is doomed to everlasting desolation. “Thus shall Babylon sink and shall not rise from the evil that I will bring upon her” (Jeremiah 51:64). It is a mistake to suppose that either Babylon as a city, or the ancient Chaldean empire will again flourish. The last holder of the imperial power on earth. “the Beast,” takes up and completes the story of Babylon. The historical Nebuchadnezzar is a type of the great coming Gentile chief who will combine, with features peculiar to himself, the main characteristics of the three preceding empires. The king of Babylon (Isaiah 14:1-32) is a type of the king in the last days of Gentile supremacy prior to the Lord’s Return.) is signified by the former and the Antichrist by the latter. The context of both Scriptures confirms the prophetic application to the secular and religious chiefs of the last days — the Beast and the False Prophet.

This fallen dignitary has committed to him “the key of the pit of the abyss.” “The key” symbolizes competent authority (see Matthew 16:19; Revelation 1:18; Revelation 3:7; Revelation 20:1). “The pit of the abyss” is a singular expression, only used in connection with the judgment recorded in verses one and two of our chapter. “The bottomless pit,” or abyss, occurs seven times in the Apocalypse. The deep, or abyss, (Luke 8:31) seems the prison house of demons, in which Satan is to be confined for one thousand years (Revelation 20:3) — the duration of the kingdom reign. The lake of fire, not the abyss, is the eternal abode of the devil and of the lost. Says the Rev. W. B. Carpenter in his commentary on the Apocalypse: “The verse before us suggests the picture of a vast depth approached by a pit or shaft, whose top, or mouth, is covered. Dante’s Inferno, with its narrowing circles winding down to the central shaft, is somewhat similar. The abyss is the lowest spring of evil, whence the worst dangers arise” (cp. Revelation 11:7; Revelation 17:8; Revelation 20:1-3). Here, then, the abyss is regarded as locked up, but commission is given to unlock it. It has been contended that, as a result of this vast prison house being opened, swarms of evil spirits issue therefrom and overrun the earth. But smoke, not spirits, rose up out of the pit, and out of the smoke emerged a devastating swarm of symbolic locusts.


Revelation 9:2. — And there went up smoke out of the pit as (the) smoke of a great furnace; and the sun and the air were darkened with the smoke of the pit. A satanic delusion bred in the abyss, and characterised by its moral blinding and withering effect is here intimated. Probably the same delusion to which Christendom will be given over referred to by Paul (2 Thessalonians 2:11-12). The effect of the smoke or darkening influence and power of Satan will be to blight the supreme government (the sun), and darken and corrupt the whole social life and principles of men (the air). The air denoting moral influence occurs twice in the Apocalypse, under the fifth Trumpet (Revelation 9:2) and in the pouring out of the seventh Vial (Revelation 16:17).


Revelation 9:3-10. — Neither the smoke nor the locusts are literal. The smoke gives birth to the locusts. Out of the smoke came forth locusts on the earth. Satanic agencies are let loose upon the prophetic scene. The intense anguish caused by these hordes of satanic instruments and agents is likened to the torment caused by the poisonous sting of the scorpion, a creature which shuns the light, and is justly dreaded by the native races of Africa and the various Arab tribes of Asia. It is not often that the sting proves fatal, but the suffering is dreadful. “The scorpion is constantly shaking his tail to strike, and the torment caused by his sting is very grievous.” In Luke 10:19 the Lord connects serpents, scorpions, and the power of the enemy with the fall of Satan, as here scorpions with the fallen star. But these hellish instruments of vengeance let loose upon guilty Israel are powerless, save as authority is given them to act: And power was given to them as the scorpions of the earth have power (Revelation 9:3).

That the locust army is a symbolical representation of judgment of a superhuman kind is evident from the whole description, as also from the prohibition to injure the grass and trees (v. 4), their natural food. There is a further reason why the vegetable world was to be spared. A general condition of prosperity in the temporal circumstances and position of men is intimated by the grass, “any green thing,” and trees. Now the locusts were commissioned to invade Palestine, the country above all others of grasses, and injure alone “the men who have not the seal of God on their foreheads” (Revelation 9:4). The Gentile multitude is not sealed; the 144,000 of Israel are (Revelation 7:3-4). Here, then, the unsealed part of the nation is given up to drink the cup of the Lord’s vengeance, yea, to the dregs thereof. Death would be a welcome release from the torment, the anguish of soul inflicted by these myrmidons of Satan, but that last refuge of despair is denied them, “death flees from them” (Revelation 9:6). The gnawing anguish and horrible torment of a guilty and sin-defiled conscience is beyond all telling; it can only be weighed and balanced by those enduring it.

The duration of the satanic scourge is limited to five months (Revelation 9:5), the time of natural locust life. (From May to September.) The time specified points to a brief and determinate period of woe, not necessarily one of five literal months.

Next follows a detailed description of the locust army, each item in the delineation being significant and full of meaning.

(1) They are seen fully prepared and eager in warlike energy to execute their commission, “like to horses prepared for war.” (In Italy and in some other countries locusts are termed “little horses,” because of the resemblance of the head to that of the horse (see Joel 2:4). Hostile armies, especially cavalry, are in the Sacred Writings symbolised by locust invasion (Joel 2:1-32; Jeremiah 51:27). For the desolation caused by a locust plague see Exodus 10:12-15.)

(2) They lay claim to royal dignity. The crown of gold adorns the head of the Son of Man (Revelation 14:14), and also those of the triumphant elders or redeemed (Revelation 4:4). But these satanic invaders from the smoke of the pit are not really crowned, nor is real gold in question. They lay claim to a dignity not divinely conferred. “Upon their heads as crowns like gold.” Their pretension to royal authority is spurious.

(3) They profess to be guided in their movements by human intelligence, but in appearance only, “their faces as faces of men.” Their assumed dignity and intelligence are as worthless as their claim to royal authority.

(4) Their effeminacy and subjection, not to God, but to Satan their leader, are next intimated: “They had hair as women’s hair.

(5) They are savage, rapacious, cruel: “Their teeth were as of lions” (Joel 1:6).

(6) They know no pity. Neither force nor entreaty is of any avail in turning them from their purpose. Their hearts are hardened, their consciences steeled, “they had breastplates as breastplates of iron.”

(7) In resistless energy the satanic host swept on, causing fear and terror to their victims. Their approach is heralded thus: “The sound of their wings (was) as the sound of chariots of many horses running to war” (Joel 2:5).

(8) In the next part of this extraordinary description the past tense is departed from and the present tense employed. Surely this is intentional, and marks off the worst and most characteristic feature from what has preceded, “they have tails like scorpions, and stings;” again, “and their power was in their tails to hurt men five months,” referring back to Revelation 9:3; Revelation 9:5.

These scorpion locusts overrun the once Holy Land, and prey upon the unsealed and ungodly part of Israel. The venom of falsehood, born in the pit — doctrines, teachings, and principles conceived in the abyss are received by the apostate part of the nation, and create in their souls and consciences intolerable anguish. Without God, yea, given up judicially by Him to receive Satan’s lies and delusions, little wonder that they, his dupes and disciples, share, as far as men on earth can, the full tale of misery. The scorpion-like tails of the locusts contain the moral poison which so awfully torments those who receive it. There lie the venomous stings, and there the power to torment (Isaiah 9:15).


Revelation 9:11. — They have a king over them, the angel of the abyss: his name in Hebrew Abaddon, and in Greek he has (for) name Apollyon. The king of the symbolic locusts (“The locusts have no king,” so said Solomon the monarch, that keen observer of nature (Proverbs 30:27.) and the angel of the abyss are identical, as the singular pronouns “his” and “he” show. Both terms directly refer to Satan. Now the judgment we have been considering is a judgment executed on earth. It is not eternal judgment. The human leader in this awful woe is the fallen star, or the Antichrist, while the unseen chief of all is the devil himself. But the Antichrist is the personification of Satan in malignant influence, representing him religiously amongst men, hence certain expressions are employed in this locust vision which seem to regard them as one. They are in a sense, for the devil gives his character to his human subordinate, but, on the other hand, they are distinct. Satan is a spirit, and the leader of the hosts of evil; while the Antichrist is a man, an apostate Jew, and has as his sphere of operation corrupt and semi-infidel Judaism and apostate Christendom.

We regard, therefore, the fallen star as signifying the Antichrist; and the king of the locust army and the angel of the abyss as designating Satan.

The two descriptive epithets, Abaddon and Apollyon, while practically meaning the same, and both applied to the same awful personage, yet present in their exactness of signification a difference worth noting. Abaddon is Hebrew, and literally means destruction. Apollyon is Greek, and signifies the destroyer. Why this seemingly unimportant distinction in these suggestive titles? And why does the Hebrew precede the Greek one? Inasmuch as the Jew is more guilty than the Gentile, the Hebrew title Abaddon, destruction, emphatically asserts judgment on apostate Judah, its certainty and finality. And as the first Woe has its direct application to the mass of Judah, Abaddon is first named. The second Woe directly concerns the inhabitants of the Roman empire, hence, fittingly, the order of the names: first, Abaddon; second, Apollyon. The order in grace as in judgment is the Jew first, then the Gentile. The Greek name Apollyon, the destroyer, intimates Satan’s character in relation to Christendom, as his former title his connection with Judaism. Both systems in “the last days” will be fully represented in the person and doings of the Antichrist, who will head up the revolt against the priestly and prophetic rights of Christ, denying the essential truths of Judaism (Daniel 11:36-39; 1 John 2:22), and of Christianity (1 John 2:18-22). The Beast out of the abyss will head the civil and political rebellion against Christ in His royal rights, His kingly authority. Hence the two names in Hebrew and Greek used of Satan have their counterpart on earth in the double connection of the Antichrist with the corrupt systems of Judaism and Christendom. The denial of the Christ, i.e., the Messiah, is the characteristic feature of the former; the denial of the Father and of the Son is as truly the distinguishing character of the latter system.

If further proof were needed that the fallen star is a personage subordinate to the angel of the abyss it is to hand in the fact that the former exercises delegated authority. “To it,” the star, or “him,” the personage intended, “was given the key of the pit of the abyss. The insertion of the definite article, “the angel of the abyss,” marks him off as an independent personage in authority. Further, it will be noted that the pit of the abyss” is spoken of in connection with the star, whereas the “abyss ” simply is referred to as under the control of “the angel.” This latter term by itself gives the full expression of satanic power. Out of it the Beast emerges (Revelation 11:7), and into it Satan himself is cast, and it becomes his prison for one thousand years (1,000 being a symbolic number, not literal). The fallen star (v. 1) is the Antichrist; the king and the angel (v. 11) both designate Satan.

Revelation 9:12No commentary on this verse.

Commentary on Revelation 9:1-12 by E.M. Zerr

Revelation 9:1. It is fair to my readers to state that a number of commentators connect this chapter with Mohammed. In reasoning upon the subject some of them will mention certain things that could not have been true of any persons but the soldiers of Mohammed. But in their reasoning I note that the chief basis of their argumant is the idea that the literal characteristics of locusts and horses and soldiers. etc.. will not agree with any interpretation except to apply the predictions to Mohammed. But we are in a book of symbols where it does not count for a conclusion to rely on the literal nature of things. On the principle of "giving others the benefit of the doubt," I am sure there were many facts and truths about Mohammedanism that correspond with the language of the several verses. Yet that could truly be said of some other noted impostors who have come into the world to poison the minds of men. The scope of history is so wide that one might find incidents to correspond with various characters he would select for the comparison. Against all of the above considerations I am keeping in mind that the Lord was concerned principally with the experiences of His people in connection with the Roman Empire, and the great apostasy that was formed by the corruption of His system with its union of church and state. In view of the aforesaid remarks I shall devote my comments to the items that were and are being fulfilled by the doings of the institution of Rome. Star fall from heaven is rendered "out of heaven fallen" by The Englishman’s Greek New Testament. It denotes that John saw a star (symbol for a leader among men) that was in fallen condition, not that he saw it fall. That would be true of the head of Rome; he had fallen from the spiritual purity that exists in heavenly things. Bottomless pit is from ABUS-SOS, which is explained at Luke 8:31 in the first volume of New Testament Commentary.

Revelation 9:2. We have learned that the bottomless pit is the abode of demons (usually translated "devils" in the King James Version). These demons were suffered to come into the world at one time and afflict mankind. After that period was gone it was easy to refer to such a performance as a symbol of other activities in the politico-religious world, namely, the institution in which the church and state were united. Since this great apostate organization served the interests of Satan so much, it was appropriate to represent the Roman bishop as having a joint interest with him in opposing the true servants of God. Paul verifies this conclusion in 2 Thessalonians 2:9 where he says: "Even him, whose corning is after the working of Satan with all power and signs and lying wonders." Literally we would think of smoke coining out of a place where there is a flame of fire (Luke 1 G:24), but it is used symbolically which will be developed as the chapter proceeds.

Revelation 9:3. We still have symbols but they are more definite. The smoke proves to have been a "smoke screen" that enclosed a swarm of locusts. That explained why the sun was darkened by the "smoke" in the preceding verse. It has been known many times that this insect comes in such great numbers as to have the effect of a cloud that obscures the sun. In selecting a symbol the Lord would call attention to some literal fact that would truly represent some other fact or• truth that is not literal. This swarm of locusts was the clergy of Rome acting on behalf of the apostate church, otherwise called Babylon the Great. As the swarm of locusts obscured the sun so the clergy of Rome would prevent the people from having the full benefit of the "Sun of Righteousness" (Malachi 4:2). Scorpions is described by Thayer as follows: "The name of a little animal, somewhat resembling a lobster, which in warm regions [such as Hades, E.M.Z.] lurks especially in stone walls; it has a poisonous sting in its tail."

Revelation 9:4. Here we have another instance where the Lord uses a literal object to symbolize a fact that is not literal, except that He uses the symbol contrary to its usual behavior. This is not the only instance where a performance in nature is used "contrary" to its usual manner. (See Romans 11:24.) The natural thing is for the locusts to eat the very things this verse says they did not hurt. They were to hurt men only and not all of them even. Their destructive work was to be against the men which have not the seal of God in their foreheads. Such men were true servants of God and no kind of oppression could actually hurt them. But on the principle that. "evil sometimes works its own rebuke," the Lord suffers the workers of iniquity to be scourged by their own leaders. It is a historical fact that the dupes of Rome often suffer many hardships at the hands of the clergy. The writer of this paragraph knew a familyin which a small son was compelled to earn money, half of which was taken from him by the clergy though his widowed mother was much in need of it.

Revelation 9:5. Not kill them. The clergy needed to retain their dupes that they might further exploit them for their• own selfish interests. Five months is a definite period of time if taken literally, but in actual history we do not find such processes as have been described being so exact in their beginning and ending. The figure refers to some particular period in the history of the apostate church when the oppression by the clergy was active to an extraordinary degree.

Revelation 9:6. Seek death and shall not find it. There are some things worse than death (Jeremiah 8:3). I once heard a lecture by a woman who had escaped from the clutches of Rome. In that lecture the speaker related the experiences of a woman who was being tortured as a result of self-inflicted wounds induced by the heresies of Rome. This victim moaned and sighed as if death at once would have been a relief.

Revelation 9:7. It was fitting that these locusts were in the form resembling war horses, for the apostate institution has not hesitated at using carnal warfare for its defense whenever it was thought necessary. Crown of gold indicates both authority and wealth, and the clergy of Rome have ever been equipped with both, in order to carry out the schemes of the headquarters of the corrupt organization. Faces of men is an important identification also, because while the use of war horses is necessary in the program of Rome, it also requires the scheming trickery of human intelligence.

Revelation 9:8. Hair of women . . . teeth of lions; this is a very interesting combination. In 1 Corinthians 11:15 it is shown that women are expected to have long hair (that being the only distinction between the hair of women and that of men as far as the appearance is concerned.) Women are supposed to be milder and less harmful in their natural disposition. Hence when these creatures first appear they are regarded as women and thus would not be suspected as being such as needed to be avoided. But they had teeth like those of lions which indicates that they were in reality a dangerous group of creatures. That is a true picture of the clergy of Rome, including all from the pope down to the humblest priest.

Revelation 9:9. A breastplate is a piece for the protection of the vital parts of the body. The apostate church stood behind its clergy and gave them all the protection necessary. Sound of their wings. The locusts have wings literally and since the symbolism is still drawn from those insects it is appropriate to mention that part of their anatomy. Yet we know it is not to be taken literally, for the rest of the verse represents them sounding like war chariots drawn by horses going into battle.

Revelation 9:10. This is the same as Revelation 9:3-4.

Revelation 9:11. See the remarks at verse 1 for the meaning of bottomless pit. The angel of this place would mean some outstanding character who was in partnership with the influences of that domain. The capitalized words of this verse are used by John as proper nouns, but in Bible times most names of persons had special meaning. That of the ones in this verse means "destroyer," and it is certainly an appropriate name in view of the destructive work and tendencies of the leaders of Rome. This king or angel would be either the pope or some special member of the clergy who had unusual success in controlling the others. It is noteworthy that John connects this evil arrangement with the bottomless pit which is the abode of fallen angels called demons.

Revelation 9:12. Two woes more is a reference to the statement of the angel in Revelation 8:13, who announced that three woes more were to be pronounced against the inhabitants of the earth. One of them has been announced and two more are waiting to be sounded.

Commentary on Revelation 9:1-12 by Burton Coffman

Revelation 9:1

The seven seals were divided into two groups (4,3); and the same is true with the trumpets, the division being marked by the insertion of Revelation 8:13"[1] where the last three trumpets are designated as "woes." These last three "woes" contrast with the first four trumpets in that their judgments fall directly upon man; whereas, in the four, the judgments fell upon the environment, with their effect being felt indirectly by man. Both here and there, however, the heavenly limitation is clearly visible. The torment of the locusts is for "five months" only (Revelation 9:5; Revelation 9:10); only the "third part" of man may be killed under the sixth trumpet (Revelation 9:15); the fallen angel (Revelation 9:1) could not open the abyss until "there was given him" the key; the four angels bound at the Euphrates could not act independently, but only upon orders from God himself (Revelation 9:13-14); and in the fifth trumpet (first woe), the tormentors could only inflict punishment, but could not kill.

This chapter relates the fifth trumpet (Revelation 9:1-12) and the sixth trumpet (Revelation 9:13-21), which are the first two woes; and here there is a dramatic progression beyond the environmental judgments of the first four trumpets recorded in Revelation 8.

The picture of terror mounts in its awful intensity. Here the terrors coming upon the earth are beyond nature; they are demonic. The abyss is opened, and the superhuman terrors are being dispatched upon the world.[2]

This fundamental change in the character of the visions from environmental dislocations to the type of terrors in the woes forbids the interpretation that makes the successive trumpets prophecies of sequential historical events; and exactly the same change is seen in the first two woes. For example, Barnes’ view that the fifth trumpet represents Muslim conquests, and that the sixth refers to the rise of the Turkish power, takes no account whatever of the fact that the fifth trumpet was not fatal, and that the sixth resulted in the slaughter of a third of the human race. This is a distinction that cannot pertain to the successive conquests of the Muslims and the Turks.

In fact, it is likely that the fifth trumpet does not symbolize military operations at all. Taken together, and there is an obvious connection, the two woes represent such things as wicked philosophies, false theories, satanic delusions, vain imaginations, humanistic assumptions, perverted religious systems, evil patterns of human thought, etc., which turn people’s thoughts away from God and betray the whole world into the hands of Satan, with a result, of course, that plunges the whole world repeatedly into destructive wars and revolutions, producing a lifestyle radically contrary to the will of God.

And the fifth angel sounded, and I saw a star from heaven fallen upon the earth: and there was given to him the key of the pit of the abyss. (Revelation 9:1)

This heralds the appearance of the first woe.

A star from heaven fallen upon the earth ...

The fallen star must be Satan himself[3] The fallen star is apparently Satan, his power to open and close being exercised by divine permission.[4] The star fallen represents the devil’s present condition. Having rebelled against God, he has lost his position in heaven ... When we read that Satan had power to open the abyss, it means that he receives power to incite men to evil.[5] Isaiah said of Satan, "How art thou fallen from heaven, O Lucifer, son of the morning" (Isaiah 14:12). It seems therefore that Satan himself is here referred to under this symbol.[6] The star is Satan[7] The pit is opened by one who is a fallen star - no doubt Satan.[8]

The only "fallen star" in the sense of this passage in the entire Bible is Satan. Jesus said, "I beheld Satan fallen as lightning from heaven" (Luke 10:18). Lenski objected to this interpretation on the basis that Satan fell "like lightning," but not "out of heaven to the earth."[9] However, Lenski failed to show any difference in falling "from" heaven and "out of’ heaven. Compare this verse with Luke 10:18. Others also have shown great reluctance to accept this fallen star as Satan:

He is obviously an angel of God carrying out the divine will.[10] (Would such an angel be called "fallen"?) He depicts the corporate life of men in its opposition to God..[11] "Fallen" is used because that is the way stars come down out of the sky. It represents some angelic figure, not Satan.[12]

Such objections are arbitrary and unsupported by any solid logic. It appears that much of the reluctance to admit what appears to this writer as a certainty derives from an erroneous identification of this being with the angel with the key in Revelation 20:1 who bound Satan and locked him up; but that angel was the true possessor of the key. Here the fallen angel used it only by permission. As Caird observed:

There is all the difference in the world between this fallen angel who was given the key, and the angel of Revelation 20:1 whom John saw descending from heaven with the key. The difference is not just that one releases and the other locks up. One is an evil agent acting with divine permission, and the other is a good agent carrying out God’s will.[13]

We do not hesitate to identify what takes place under these trumpet woes with the "loosing of Satan," detailed later in the prophecy.

And there was given to him the key of the pit of the abyss ... Jesus’ encounter with the demons of Gadara (Luke 8:31) revealed the "abyss" as "the abode of the devil and demons."[14] When people serve Satan rather than Christ, the Lord permits Satan to torment them (the fifth trumpet) and to slay them (the sixth trumpet). Fallen in this verse therefore refers to what took place long before this vision; "the proper translation is star which had fallen."[15] Having the key of the abyss, with limitations, shows that Satan is free to deceive and even to cause the death of the wicked, and has special reference here to his inciting them to rebel]ion against God. Beckwith objected that, "Satan nowhere appears as a divine agent of God to carry out a divine ordering, such as the sending of these plagues upon the world";[16] but the Scriptures teach that Satan blinds the ungodly (2 Corinthians 4:4), and practically all of Romans 1:18-32 is a vivid description of God’s use of Satan in just such a capacity. It is clearly satanic activity which is in view in these verses.

[1] Isbon T. Beckwith, The Apocalypse of John (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Book House, 1919),p. 555.

[2] William Barclay, The Revelation of John (Philadelphia: The Westminster Press, 1976), pp. 46,47.

[3] Frank L. Cox, According to John (Austin, Texas: Firm Foundation Publishing House, 1948), p. 64.

[4] Charles H. Roberson, Studies in Revelation (Tyler, Texas: P. D. Wilmeth, P.O. Box 3305,1957), p. 57.

[5] William Hendriksen, More Than Conquerors (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Book House, 1956), p. 145.

[6] A. Plummer, The Pulpit Commentary, Vol. 22, Revelation (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1950, p. 262.

[7] Edward A. McDowell, The Meaning and Message of Revelation (Nashville: Broadman Press, 1951), p. 104.

[8] Michael Wilcock, I Saw Heaven Opened (Downers Grove, Illinois: InterVarsity Press, 1975), p. 97.

[9] R. C. H Lenski, The Interpretation of St. John’s Revelation (Minneapolis, Minnesota: Augsburg Publishing House, 1943). p. 288.

[10] Martin Rist, The Interpreter’s Bible, Vol. XII (New York-Nashville: Abingdon Press, 1957), p. 431.

[11] J. W. Roberts, The Revelation of John (Austin, Texas: The R. B. Sweet Company, 1974), p. 78.

[12] George Eldon Ladd, A Commentary on the Revelation of John (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1972), p. 129.

[13] G. B. Caird, The Revelation of St. John the Divine (New York: Harper and Row, 1966), pp. 117,118.

[14] James A. Moffatt, Expositor’s Greek New Testament, Vol. V (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1967), p. 406.

[15] Leon Morris, Tyndale New Testament Commentaries, Vol. 20, The Revelation of St. John (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1969), p. 127.

[16] Isbon T. Beckwith, op. cit., p. 561.

Revelation 9:2

And he opened the pit of the abyss; and there went up 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.

The smoke here, and the locusts, are the hellish teachings, influences, thought styles, intellectual delusions, etc., that darken the true light of Christ in the world. The perverted minds of sinful men mislead the whole world, promising happiness, but giving instead wretched and miserable torment.

This obscuration (by the smoke) is surely the diffusion on earth of evil thoughts and ideas, the spirit of falsehood and hate, hostility to truth, and enmity against God and man.[17]

The very air men breathe in their education, managing, governing, etc., is black murk. Hell spreads its pall over them. The light of truth shines, but men live in this hellish atmosphere.[18]

Now it is evident that this is a description of the way it is now, in this present dispensation of God’s grace; and this awful blindness and debauchery of people is not natural. "It is demonically inspired."[19] "The picture taken as a whole symbolizes a very grievous moral and spiritual darkening by the forces of evil."[20] "The smoke is the evil influence of Satan which darkens men’s minds."[21] The "sun" which is darkened thus is Jesus Christ, the only true light of our world. God uses even the work of the devil as warning and punishment for the wicked; but the blame for the torments which people suffer is not upon God; rather, it is upon the wicked themselves and upon Satan whom they follow.

[17] W. Boyd Carpenter, Ellicott’s Bible Commentary, Vol. VIII (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan Publishing House, 1959), p. 574.

[18] R. C. H. Lenski, op. cit., p. 289.

[19] William Barclay, op. cit., p. 48.

[20] William Hendriksen, op. cit., p. 271.

[21] A. Plummer, op. cit., p. 263.

Revelation 9:3

And out of the smoke came forth locusts upon the earth; and power was given them, as the scorpions of the earth have power.

Out of the smoke came forth locusts ... The evil influence of Satan has results, and the locusts are that result. The locust is an organized entity of evil, supported, induced, and held together by the satanic influence which produced it. Some scholars are very busy here with descriptions of plagues of locusts mentioned in the Old Testament, but the language here is figurative. No swarm of locusts ever had a king over them, or the power to inflict a sting lasting for five months. Furthermore these locusts did not even touch earth’s vegetation such as the grass (Revelation 9:4). It is a spiritual plague which is depicted here. "Such a spiritual malignity is, in truth, the source of the forces that are chewing up our world."[22] "The locusts are symbols of wild ideas and false doctrines, which becloud men’s mental faculties."[23]

Barclay described a literal plague of locusts in Algiers in 1886, which was so destructive that, "Over 200,000 people died of the famine that followed."[24] This only shows the aptitude of the metaphor here employed by the Holy Spirit. Such damage as that in Algiers, however, is nothing compared to that of 1939-1945, when the Germans lost their minds through accepting the "locust" doctrine of Aryan supremacy, or that they were a "master race." Ten million Jews alone were destroyed, to say nothing of forty million others. Such a "locust" doctrine, like the locusts of this fifth trumpet, at first only tormented the people who received it. Early observants of it merely smiled at it, not realizing what the second phase of the swarm of locusts would be. Just as, in these fifth and sixth trumpets, the locusts of the fifth changed into the hellish horsemen of the sixth, in exactly the same manner, Hitler’s "locust" doctrines of Nazi nonsense, in a later phase, became a roaring tornado of worldwide destruction. The locust metaphor is peculiarly applicable here; for, in the great destructive plagues of locusts, the physical appearance of these creatures actually changes, the insects taking on a different coloring, becoming far stronger, and manifesting an incredibly greater destructive power. Of course, we are using the Nazis here merely as an example. There have been many such examples in history. The destructive horsemen always follow the locusts. In Germany, the whole dreadful experience developed when men burned the Bibles at Nuremberg, denied the Scriptural truth of the brotherhood of all races (Acts 17:26), renounced the Biblical doctrine of the supreme value of the individual, and drowned a third of mankind in blood. There are a million other "locusts" pouring out of the pit of the abyss continually, and the wicked are easily deceived by them.

Plummer pointed out that "some scholars apply the symbol (the locusts) to the Muslims";[25] and the prophecy surely fits that part of history; however, it misses the true identity of the "locust." That was the hell-born idea that Mohammed was a prophet of God! They even had to get a new Bible to go with such a falsehood. As Lenski said, "All that is presented here is only one hellish curse to let loose on the earth."[27] Every generation has its own variety of "locust." It will be seen from these observations that the apparent mildness of the fifth trumpet locusts, in that they were not to "kill" people, but could merely torment them, is applicable only to their first phase. These two trumpets deal with exactly the same phenomenon in successive periods of its development. Note the resemblance of the hellish horsemen to the locusts; they are the "locusts" come of age!

Such locust-lies continually dominate the minds of the wicked. As these lines are being written (December, 1978), the news media are relating the saga of Jim Jones (recommended by the Vice President of the United States), who passed himself off as a Messiah, ending in the suicide-murder massacre of over 900 of his followers in Guyana, South America. The dupes who fell for Jones’ lie were indeed deceived by Satan; but before they could swallow his "locust," they had to renounce and deny their Bibles.

"Various kinds of "locusts" are today tormenting people all over the world. Think of Communism, the words of Mao Tse-tung, the emperor cult in Japan, etc. In America, we have our own "locust," which is the falsehood that Uncle Sam can take care of everybody from the cradle to the grave, and that he is also the godfather, benefactor, and policeman of the whole world!

It will be noted that in this interpretation, death follows the locusts, even though they did not have the power to kill, but only to hurt. This truth is inherent in the close proximity of these woes which follow each other: first the locusts, then the death.

[22] Vernard Eller, The Most Revealing Book of the Bible (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1974), p. 110.

[23] Frank L. Cox, op. cit., p. 64.

[24] William Barclay, op. cit., p. 50.

[25] A. Plummer, op. cit., p. 263.

[27] R. C. H. Lenski, op. cit., p. 290.

Revelation 9:4

And it was said unto them that they should not hurt the grass of the earth, neither any green thing, neither any tree, but only such men as have not the seal of God on their foreheads.

Should not hurt the grass ... Locusts which do not eat grass and other green vegetation cannot possibly be literal locusts; a figurative meaning is demanded.

But only such men as have not the seal of God ... Our studies in Revelation 7 revealed this "seal" as the blessed Holy Spirit in the lives of God’s people. If the German nation had been following their New Testament, they would have found it impossible to buy the locust of "Aryan supremacy"; and if Jim Jones’ congregation had possessed the slightest knowledge of the Bible, they would have recognized him from the first as a fraud and a deceiver. The locusts of this fifth trumpet are presented as being able to hurt "only such men" as those who are walking without God and contrary to the truth. All evil, unscriptural "locusts" have the power to hurt. The "locust" doctrine of the transmigration of souls made it a sin to kill rats; and a bubonic plague wiped out half of Europe; the "locust" doctrine that land, air, water, and fire are "sacred" blocked Hans Victor Reisser’s efforts to wipe out malaria in the Orient. He was prohibited from treating the ponds and water courses with kerosene to kill the larvae of mosquitoes. One of the great seductive elements in all "locust" lies is that people imagine that they are safe in believing anything!

Ladd’s deduction in this verse that "the plague falls only upon the wicked, and that Christians exempt from it,"[28] is only partly true. Christians are indeed exempt from accepting ideas and slogans contrary to the word of God; but, when some monstrous error has worked itself into a massive world upheaval, as in the Nazi terror, Christians are in no sense physically exempt from the debacle that follows, even though they are spiritually exempt in the sense of Luke 21:16-19. "A plague from which those whose way is through tribulation are exempt can hardly be a physical one."[29] Thus the plague of locusts is a plague of lies, false theories, evil philosophies, selfish proverbs elevated to the status of law, etc. Both of the woes in this chapter are primarily against the world; "but it is true that the church also suffers, but not in judgment."[30]

[28] George Eldon Ladd, op. cit., p. 132.

[29] W. Boyd Carpenter, op. cit., p. 575.

[30] Charles H. Roberson, op. cit., p. 63.

Revelation 9:5

And it was given them 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 it striketh a man.

The "torment" of people who have swallowed some false idea is as amazing as it is pitiful. This writer was living in Washington, D.C., when the atom bomb spies who delivered nuclear weapons to the Russians were executed. People who had swallowed the locust-lie of Communism traveled long distances to march in front of the White House in protest; and it was pathetic to see old ladies, some of them in their 70’s, marching in a freezing rain in 16 degree weather, hobbling along, shouting until they were hoarse, and dragging placards and banners with them. They were people clearly tormented by an idea. One sees similar dupes screaming, protesting, demonstrating, and snarling in almost every presentation of news media coverage of world events. There are a lot of "tormented" people today; and it should be kept in mind that this is only Phase I of the locust saga.

They should be tormented for five months ... There is a limitation here; but the more it is studied, the less comforting it is. What happens after the "five months"? Instead of disappearing, the hurt enters Phase II in the sixth trumpet (See under Revelation 9:13). The repetition of this "five months" in Revelation 9:10 "makes it doubly significant."[31] "The very fact that these monsters are not to kill indicates that this torment is only half of what is to occur."[32] The other half will appear in the next woe (Revelation 9:13 f). Just as in the first four trumpets, the destruction was limited to "one third," here the restriction of "five months" is imposed. False ideas run their course and are discredited. No one today effectively preaches the doctrine of Aryan supremacy; but there are swarms of locusts, and as soon as one dies, a hundred others take its place. Satan has plenty of them!

Of course, some seek a specific, dated, historical fulfillment of these "five months." They have been viewed as: (1) five years of Gothic rule; (2) 150 years of Saracen control; (3) 79 1/2 natural years (A.D. 510-589); (4) Muslim conquests (A.D. 612-672); and (5) merely a short time, etc.[33] Lenski’s suggesting that the ten plagues of Egypt are in mind, with the meaning that, "This is only half of what’s going to happen,"[34] seems reasonable and fits the interpretation advocated here. The locusts of the fifth trumpet are just half of these two woe judgments in Revelation 9, there being a very definite connection between them.

Torment as the torment of a scorpion ... All of us have known people who were "stung" by some ridiculous false philosophy! See first paragraph under this verse. The mention of "scorpion" was explained thus by Roberson:

The scorpion takes its place with the snake, and other creatures hostile to man, and with them symbolizes the forces of spiritual evil which are active in the world.[35]

[31] R. C. H. Lenski. op. cit., p. 291.

[32] Ibid.

[33] A. Plummer, op. cit.. p. 264.

[34] R. C. H. Lenski, op. cit., p. 292.

[35] Charles H. Roberson. op. cit., p. 58.

Revelation 9:6

And in those days men shall seek death, and shall in no wise find it: and they shall desire to die, and death fleeth from them.

Men shall seek death and shall in no wise find it ...

How often is the life of a man rendered intolerable because of his sins; and he has recourse to the razor, the rope, or the poison.[36]

The vast multitudes who commit suicide every year are but a small remnant of the millions whose lives have been made wretched through sin, either of themselves or others, and who vainly long for a death that does not come!

When the illusions, fantasies and lies are exposed to the light of reality, men often cry for death rather than face their failure and respond to the grace of God.[37]

The true Christian cannot be deceived by the lies of Satan, and always retains in his heart that peace of God which passes understanding.

[36] Frank L. Cox, op. cit., p. 65.

[37] Douglas Ezell, Revelations on Revelation (Waco: Word Books, 1977), p. 51.

Revelation 9:7

And the shapes of the locusts were like unto horses prepared for war; and upon their heads as it were crowns like unto gold, and their faces were as men’s faces.

This description of the locusts seems designed to make them appear as disgusting as possible; but there are significant revelations in these details.

Horses prepared for war ... Here is the true prophecy of what the locusts will soon become. For all the prohibitions against their killing anyone, the wicked ideas, doctrines, and philosophies of the devil are embryonic war horses; and, given a little time, the holocaust will arrive! These "horses" point the direction in which the locusts travel. Their thundering wings carry the echo of a cavalry charge.

Crowns like unto gold ... These are not genuine, but false. The wicked ideas are always advocated from premises of virtue and benevolence; false ideas promise all kinds of victories and utopias; but, alas, the crowns are not really gold at all, but tinsel.

Faces ... as men’s faces ... Ah! These locusts are not symbols of invisible demons, but of very evil, visible, and destructive men advocating the delusions of hell itself. Back of every evil on earth, in the last analysis, there looms the face of an evil man. Thus, "Under the symbolism of a locust plague, John describes the power and influence of hell operating in the hearts and lives of wicked men."[38] "Human agents are denoted by these locusts."[39]

Fanciful Arabian poets compared locusts: in head to the horse, in breast to the lion, in feet to the camel, in body to the snake, and in antennae to a girl’s long, waving hair.[40]

[38] William Hendriksen, op. cit., p. 146.

[39] A. Plummer, op. cit., p. 265.

[40] James Moffatt, op. cit., p. 407.

Revelation 9:8

And they had hair as the hair of women, and their teeth were as the teeth of lions.

Hair as of women ... The so-called resemblance between the locust antennae and a woman’s hair is non-existent, regardless of Arabian poets! What is meant by this is that letting the hair grow long will mark certain "locusts" who will plague the earth. Whether this is exactly what is prophesied here or not, that is certainly the way it is. We think instantly of Fidel Castro and a host of long-haired agitators and revolutionaries who have appeared in our own times. Any TV broadcast of social uprisings on any part of the earth will also show the predominance of this very characteristic. Despite this long-hair fad being unrecognized for what it is by many thoughtless and relatively innocent persons, it is essentially the marking of the locusts. The vandals and Huns of antiquity exhibited this characteristic exactly in the manner of Fidel Castro and his dirty, long-haired rapists of Cuba.

Teeth as the teeth of lions ... Despite the feminine appearance, the true nature of this horde is seen in the teeth, namely, that of utter destructiveness.

Some will object to the view expressed here, and we respect their right of doing so. Mounce noted that, "The fact that both Samson (Judges 16:13; Judges 16:19) and Absalom (2 Samuel 14:25-26) wore their hair long should show that long hair may be a symbol of vitality rather than femininity";[41] and while this is true enough, it is also in order to note that Absalom was a traitor and Samson a profligate!


[41] Robert H. Mounce, The Book of Revelation (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1977), p. 197.

Revelation 9:9

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 rushing to war.

Breastplates . .. chariots . .. horses rushing to war ... What is the projected outcome of false teachings, destructive philosophies, etc.? What shall be the ultimate result of these locusts that do not kill, but only hurt? Well, here it is. The battle lines are inevitably drawn, and the whole world is drowned in blood and violence.

Revelation 9:10

And they have tails like unto scorpions, and stings; and in their tails is their power to hurt men five months.

In their tails is their power ... The scorpion has a relatively long tail; and the fact of these war-horse like things having power in their tails would appear to symbolize the "final impact" or "the end result" of their influence. The evil of a false theory, like Communism, for example, is seen, not at first, when it glamorized, idealized, and advocated as a cure of all social ills, but later, when the mask is off, and repression, tyranny, death, and destruction are nakedly enthroned above the unhappy peoples who have been deceived. Certainly this view must be accounted as reasonable as that which finds here a reference to Turkish horsemen who fired their arrows over the tails of their horses after turning around to retreat from a cavalry charge!

The scholars who see this fifth trumpet as a "symbol of the forces of decay and corruption which God used to undermine the Roman Empire,"[42] are not wrong, except in their limitation of the phenomenon described here to a particular period. For example, homosexuality was one of the lifestyles deriving from sensuality and wickedness which figured prominently in the downfall of Rome, as pointed out by many; but the same gross evil has surfaced again and again in several periods of social decline and overthrow of established order. "The motif in these judgments is reflected many times throughout history, but the primary focus is the ultimate conflict between God and Satan which brings history to a close."[43] That conflict is going on now; and the old locust game is doing a flourishing business on every street in the world.

[42] Ibid.

[43] Ibid.,

Revelation 9:11

They have over them as king the angel of the abyss: his name in Hebrew is Abaddon, and in the Greek tongue he hath the name Apollyon.

A king, the angel of the abyss ... Who is this, if not Satan? Bruce identified this character, somewhat reluctantly, with "the fallen star of Revelation 9:1."[44] Caird also did the same thing,[45] but neither of them recognized him as Satan. Here he is given two names, "both of which mean the Destroyer;[46] and can this be some other than the devil? We do not think so.

Apollyon ... "Both Caligula and Nero aped the pagan God Apollo,[47] and Beckwith thought the use of this name was "a direct allusion to such a pretending Roman emperor."[48] If so, it is the same as saying that this Roman emperor Apollo was one and the same as the devil. Plummer identified this king over the locusts as "Satan," adding that, "the height of absurdity is reached by those writers who see in the name Apollyon a reference to Napoleon!"[49]

[44] F. F. Bruce, A New Testament Commentary (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan Publishing House, 1969), p. 648.

[45] G. B. Caird, op. cit., p. 120.

[46] Ibid.

[47] James Moffatt, op. cit., p. 408.

[48] Isbon T. Beckwith, op. cit., p. 563.

[49] A. Plummer, op. cit., p. 265.

Revelation 9:12

The first Woe is past: behold, there come yet two Woes hereafter.

The second woe begins here and runs through the end of the chapter. "This sixth trumpet is the climax beyond which lies the final judgment."[50] "It is a companion to and the complement of the first woe (the fifth trumpet)just described."[51] The great feature of this woe is the 200,000,000 hellish horsemen; but the first woe has already made us see in the locusts there the beginnings of these horsemen here. We regard it as a mistake to identify these with events of specific dates in history, of which there are doubtless many valid examples of what is prophesied here. We believe that the locusts are still swarming, and that the evil horsemen are still doing their thing on the earth. Again, we wish to call attention to a quotation from Albertus Pieters under Revelation 8:6.

It should always be remembered that Revelation was written to help Christians of John’s day face the rigors of the actual, evil world in which they lived; and the same truth that helped them can help the Christians of all ages, including our own. These two woes depict a world that is largely controlled by a wicked and malignant ruler of the abyss, who darkens the light of truth itself with the terrible smoke of the infernal world. Conditions will not become progressively better and better, but steadily worse and worse. Evil teachings will set off the rampaging destruction of 200,000,000 diabolical horsemen. Even then, people will not repent. No matter what awful judgments of God fall upon rebellious and wicked men, they will not renounce their wickedness.

But the Christians must not delude themselves. The world that John depicts with wicked men resisting God to the limit, no matter how they hurt themselves in the process, is the world believers must live in. There is no other.[52]

[50] R. C. H. Lenski, op. cit., p. 299.

[51] Ibid.

[52] Leon Morris, op. cit., p. 132.

Commentary on Revelation 9:1-12 by Manly Luscombe

1 Then the fifth angel sounded: And I saw a star fallen from heaven to the earth. To him was given the key to the bottomless pit. At the sounding of the fifth trumpet, a star falls from heaven to earth. Who, or what, is this star? Jesus speaks of Satan as falling like lightening from heaven. (Luke 10:18) See also Revelation 12:12. This verse refers to Satan, the devil and his forces that are on the earth. The bottomless pit (abyss) seems to be the abode of Satan. It may represent hell itself. Smoke comes out of it. Where there is smoke, there is fire. Also in chapter 20, Satan is bound and cast into a bottomless pit. In all ages, including today, the forces of Satan are present and active in our world. God is warning us of the consequences of following the devil.

NOTE: We must be careful about making the bottomless pit in chapter 20 and here the same. Here Satan has the key and is able to unlock and open the pit. In chapter 20 the angel of God has the key and binds Satan and throws him into the pit.

2 And he opened the bottomless pit, and smoke arose out of the pit like the smoke of a great furnace. So the sun and the air were darkened because of the smoke of the pit. The smoke must represent the pain and anguish which is located there. It is called the “smoke of their torment” in Revelation 14:11. The smoke is so thick that the sun is darkened and the walking outside is like walking into a burning building.

3 Then out of the smoke locusts came upon the earth. And to them was given power, as the scorpions of the earth have power. Out of the smoke come locusts. Common in the summer time, great swarms of locust would literally march across acres, destroying all plants in their path. Their power was like the power of a scorpion. The sting of the scorpion would do great harm and cause a lot of pain, but was seldom fatal. When man follows Satan, painful consequences will result.

4 They were commanded not to harm the grass of the earth, or any green thing, or any tree, but only those men who do not have the seal of God on their foreheads. The power of these locusts was limited. 1. They were not after plants and grass. 2. They were after men. 3. Only men who were not sealed by God - non-Christians. “Any green thing” is symbolic of the Christians who have the seal of God on their foreheads. Here is a parallel with the plague of locust in Exodus. The locusts hurt the Egyptians, but not the people of Israel. Here, the locust hurt men who are not marked as God’s. But, God’s people are spared any harm. The clear message - Remain faithful and the locust will do you no harm. Abandon your faith and loyalty to Christ, and harm great pain can result.

5 And they were not given authority to kill them, but to torment them for five months. Their torment was like the torment of a scorpion when it strikes a man. The locusts were forbidden from killing men. They were allowed to torment them. The period of torment is described as 5 months. The number 5 is half of 10. Since 10 represents completeness. The number 5 is used to describe incomplete or short of perfection. This should not be understood as a literal period of five months. This means that the domination of the locusts is not total or complete. Their powers are limited and there is a means of escape from this harm and pain. The locusts represent all kinds of evil and wickedness. Today, we have problems with alcohol, drugs, prostitution, homosexuality, and adultery. The locusts are still around.

6 In those days men will seek death and will not find it; they will desire to die, and death will flee from them. The pain will be so severe that some will seek death as a relief from the intense pain. Some have tried to make this say “suicide”. However, the next phrase shows that death is not available. They are wishing for death, but it does not come.

7 The shape of the locusts was like horses prepared for battle. On their heads were crowns of something like gold, and their faces were like the faces of men. Now we will focus on the shape of the locusts. They are like horses ready for war. Satan is ready for war. Satan is alive and active on the earth. Satan is prepared for battle but we are not always alert to his attacks. On their heads are crowns, which “appear” to be gold. NOTE: They are not gold. They are pseudo-gold. They are fakes. The intent is to deceive and leave the impression that they have power and authority. But, they do not. Their faces are like the faces of men. These locusts are actually people we meet and deal with in our lives. They are following Satan and seeking to get others to do the same.

8 They had hair like women’s hair, and their teeth were like lions’ teeth. The symbolism here is not clear. Some have suggested that the long hair like a woman represents the practice of all kinds of sexual sins. Others have suggested that this picture is a man - looking in some ways like a woman. Is this a picture of a cross-dresser, a transvestite or a homosexual? I do not believe it is. Rather, my view is that Satan’s locusts can look like men or women, young or old, rich or poor. Satan’s locusts are humans on the earth, living for Satan, and trying to get others to follow Satan. The teeth like a lion are much easier to understand. They have the ability to devour. If you listen to their teachings, and follow their examples, you will be devoured. Remember, Satan is a roaring lion seeking whom he may devour. (1 Peter 5:8)

9 And they had breastplates like breastplates of iron, and the sound of their wings was like the sound of chariots with many horses running into battle. The breastplates of iron show that they have strong protection and defense. The sound of their wings was like an army of horses heading into battle. This tells us that the number of locusts is great. Satan has a vast army. This loud roaring sound also alerts us to the fact that Satan is always on the attack. He is aggressive in his war with mankind.

10 They had tails like scorpions, and there were stings in their tails. Their power was to hurt men five months. Similar to verse 5, we are reminded again of a couple of points. They are locusts, but they sting like a scorpion. This is repeated in Revelation 19:19. Their power is limited in duration. It is limited to five months. The five-month limitation represents that the destruction will not be total. The sting is in the tail. It is not as the temptation approaches, but as it leaves. Many sins seem to bring pleasure when we start them. It is later - after the sin has taken its toll on our life, health, safety and relationships, and we are trying to quit - the sting is felt. Ask any smoker, alcoholic, or drug addict. Ask a practicing homosexual who has contracted AIDS.

11 And they had as king over them the angel of the bottomless pit, whose name in Hebrew is Abaddon, but in Greek he has the name Apollyon. Now the focus turns to the leader of this army, Satan himself. Their king, leader, and captain of the army, is identified. “Abaddon” is the Hebrew name. Abaddon means destruction. “Apollyon” is the Greek name. Apollyon means destroyer. NOTE: He is introduced as the angel of the bottomless pit. Then he is identified by the Hebrew term (representing the Old Testament period) and is called destruction. Next, he is recognized by the Greek term (New Testament era) and named destroyer. Christ offers eternal life. Satan offers destruction. Do not follow Satan. This fifth trumpet is sounding a warning that the devil is active and his followers are on the earth seeking to make converts.

12 One woe is past. Behold, still two more woes are coming after these things. These last three trumpets are also called “The Three Woes” because woes are pronounced before they begin and between each one. One is past. Two more to go. Things are bad and they will get worse.

Verses 13-21

Rev 9:13-21


Revelation 9:13-21

13 And the sixth angel sounded, and I heard a voice from the horns of the golden altar which is before God,--In the temple the golden altar was the altar of incense before the of the golden altar which is before God. 14 one saying to the sixth angel that had the trumpet, Loose the four angels that are bound at the great veil. (Exodus 40:26.) See notes on Revelation 8:2-3. John sees this in heaven where God was seated upon his throne. (Revelation 4:1-2.)

14 one saying to the sixth angel that had the trumpet, Loose the four angels that are bound at the great river Euphrates.--Since there is no vision intervening between the fifth and sixth trumpets, it is safe to presume that the fulfillment of the sixth vision was probably in the east also, and it will he found after the events pictured in the fifth trumpet vision. It is unnecessary even to mention the conflicting views of expositors on this verse. As the word "angels" means messengers--agents through whom something is accomplished--and these four had been held in check for a time, it is evident that the command here means to release them for the accomplishment of what was designed. It seems wholly incredible that such a vision should not represent some great historical movement. If applying the fifth trumpet vision to Mahometanism then this doubtless refers to the Turkish power. A comparison of the vision with facts of history will make this apparent. Four "angels" here are called four "winds" in 7:1. See Hell 1:7.

Since the power referred to was to operate on earth, it is most natural to understand "Euphrates" as applied literally and meaning the well-known river of the name east of Palestine. We have already learned that words may be used literally in passages of general symbolic character; an example already noted is Psalms 80:8, "Thou broughtest a vine out of Egypt." Vine is figurative; Egypt is literal. Gibbon says that one of the greatest Turkish princes reigned in the eastern provinces of Persia one thousand years after the birth of Christ. For about a half century these people operated east of the Euphrates, accepting the Mahometan religion, and were finally authorized by the Caliph to cross the river to wage a war in defense of that religion. This explains "bound" and "loosed" in verses 14 and 15.

Commentators have had much difficulty in explaining who and what the "four angels" signify. The language implies that all four were turned loose at the same time. This does not harmonize with the view of some that the four divisions of the Turkish Empire were meant, for the reason that this division did not occur till A.D. 1092, which was some thirty years after the Turks had crossed the Euphrates on the mission designated. Probably the simplest solution is this: As the four quarters of the earth mean the whole, completeness or fullness, so the four angels would indicate the full power, which God would allow to be turned loose against the Eastern Roman Empire. This at least is in harmony with historical facts, which is much in its favor.

15 And the four angels were loosed, that had been prepared for the hour and day and month and year, that they should kill the third part of men.--The time of restraint before crossing the river was the time of preparation for the work. This preparation was complete when the Mahometan Caliph invested the Turkish leader as "temporal lieutenant of the vicar of the prophet." (Decline and Fall, Vol. V, pp. 510-512.) This occurred in A.D. 1055. Again expositors are hopelessly at variance on the meaning of the time expressed. The popular view is the day-year theory, by which the sum total of all the times mentioned is supposed to be the exact time from the crossing of the river to the fall of Constantinople in A.D. 1453. But the methods of calculation differ, though any of them may be made to give practically the time needed for the theory. Some use a thirty-day month and a 360-day year; others a solar year of 365 1/4 days. Some begin with the time the Turkish leader was invested with authority at Bagdad; others when he crossed the Euphrates. Doubtless such hairsplitting calculations are unnecessary. If the true explanation is that the sum total of all the times stated is the period meant, it is sufficient to know that with either of the calculations the result is substantially the time till the taking of Constantinople.

But another and perhaps simpler view is this: The destructive power which was to be permitted to overthrow the Eastern Empire of Rome was ready to begin at the exact time--hour, day, month, and year--that God’s providence had determined. This view requires no exact time limit, and obviates the necessity of all calculations. And it does not interfere in any measure with the time factor as presented in the historical facts. The command to kill indicates that the vision represents a peculiarly destructive war. The "third part of men" here refers to the Eastern Empire and only one-third of that part of the Roman Empire. Not exactly one-third, but a large element. The one-third indicates that the destructive work was limited--could not kill all.

16 And the number of the armies of the horsemen was twice ten thousand times ten thousand: I heard the number of them.---Literally two myriads of myriads, or 200 millions. Such an immense number--definite for indefinite--was doubtless intended to indicate an enormous army. Gibbon speaks of the "myriads of Turkish horse" and the blood of 130,000 Christians as "a grateful sacrifice to the Arabian prophet." (Vol. V, p. 512.) This shows that the Turkish army had a countless number of horsemen, and accords with the view taken of this vision. If this number indicates the result of one campaign, the total results over the period must have been appalling.

17 And thus I saw the .horses in the vision, and them that sat on them, having breastplates as of fire and of hyacinth and of brimstone:--This is a description of how the horses and soldiers on them appeared to John as he beheld the vision. The breastplates appeared as if they were of fire, hyacinth, and brimstone; that is, red, blue, and yellow.

and the heads of the horses are as the heads of lions; and out of their mouths proceedeth fire and smoke and brimstone. --The horses with heads that looked like lions’ heads, doubtless, was meant to indicate the fierceness and suddenness with which the Turkish army would strike its blows. Probably the roaring of the lion would also represent the loud noise as the firearms were discharged in their battles. The firing of guns from horseback would appear to those at a distance as coming from the horses’ mouths. Here several expositors think we have a most remarkable proof that this vision refers to the Turkish power, though others think that the purpose was only to indicate that the wars in view were to be surpassingly fiendish. The latter is possible, but the facts are so significant that the former seems more probable. It is supposed that the invention or discovery of gunpowder was in the first half of the fourteenth century. That the Turks used artillery in their siege and capture of Constantinople, A.D. 1453, is the plain statement of Gibbon. He mentions three large cannons and says that "fourteen batteries thundered at once on the most accessible places," and that one of them possibly "discharged one hundred and thirty bullets." (Vol. VI, pp. 388, 389.) Again the same author says "From the galleys, and the bridge, the Ottoman artillery thundered on all sides; and the camp and city, the Greeks and the Turks, were involved in a cloud of smoke which could only be dispelled by the final deliverance or destruction of the Roman Empire." (Ibid., p. 400.) The use of such cannon implies the use of smaller arms that were discharged with gunpowder.

18 By these three plagues was the third part of men killed, by the fire and the smoke and the brimstone, which proceeded out of their mouths.--"These three plagues" may mean that by the exploding of gunpowder--fire, smoke, and brimstone--the effect was produced. Of course, in such a battle many would be killed, but probably the thought has more direct reference to the destruction of the eastern Roman Empire, as being a one-third of the whole of the Roman Empire. Constantinople, founded by Constantine more than eleven hundred years before, as the capital of Rome, had withstood every assault up to this time. The siege with cannon delivered it into the hands of the Turks

19 For the power of the horses is in their mouth, and in their tails: for their tails are like unto serpents, and have heads; and with them they hurt.--If the fire, smoke, and brimstone that, in the vision, seemed to pour out of the horses’ mouths represent the use of firearms in taking a city, then it is easy to see how the power appeared in their mouths. The smoke from exploded gunpowder bursting from their guns would appear as if coming from the horses heads. How the power was also represented by their tails is not so evident. John did hot see in this vision the ordinary cavalry soldiers with swords, spears, or bows, but horses with mouths from which there appeared to go fire, smoke, and brimstone, and with tails like serpents. The text says the power of this army was in the horses’ mouths and tails. Elliott (followed by B. W. Johnson) attempts further to identify this symbol with the Turkish power by the fact that horsetails were emblems of authority carried by the Pachas--Turkish rulers. This view seems to overlook the fact that the text says power was in the tails "to hurt," not just an emblem of power. If there is any specific application for the expression, most expositors have failed to suggest it. Perhaps the serpentlike tails only signify the biting torture that would be felt by those who would have to suffer from the new kind of warfare indicated.

20 And the rest of mankind, who were not killed with these plagues, repented not of the works of their hands, that they should not worship demons, and the idols of gold, and of silver, and of brass, and of stone, and of wood; which can neither see, nor hear, nor walk:--The remaining two-thirds that were not killed in the Greek one-third of the Roman Empire did not repent. The language shows that, though they claimed to be Christians, they had so apostatized from the true teachings of Christ that they were both idolaters and morally corrupt. Of course this was also true, in fact, of the other parts of the Roman Empire. They were so wedded to their corrupt religious practices that they failed to realize that the awful Turkish scourge that had fallen upon them was probably God’s providential punishment for their own sins. They learned no salutary lesson from their terrible calamities and sufferings. They worshiped departed spirits, a thing which is contrary to apostolic teaching. (1 Corinthians 10:20.) They also worshiped the idols made with their own hands from different kinds of materials, images that can neither see, hear, nor walk. Another plain sin. (Acts 19:26.)

21 and they repented not of their murders, nor of their sorceries, nor of their fornication, nor of their thefts.--It is unnecessary here to offer detailed proof that the professed Christians were then guilty of these crimes to an alarming extent. The fact that the charge is here made is sufficient proof unless we want to deny the record. Of course, it does not mean that every one was guilty, but that these sins were scandalously prevalent. It is not a matter of wonder that such crimes would cause a just God to permit such a disaster to befall them. In these expressions we have still another example that words may be used in their literal sense, even when in a passage that is highly symbolic.

Commentary on Revelation 9:13-21 by Foy E. Wallace

The loosing of four angels--(sixth trumpet)—Revelation 9:13-21.

The symbolism of the sixth trumpet like that of the fifth, is a parallelism of imagery with Joel’s vision of horsemen and chariots surging in battle. The symbolism is the same because the events envisioned are of the same character, the one pertaining to the war of the Chaldeans against the Jerusalem of Joel’s era, the other to the war of the Romans against the Jerusalem of John’s era. The visions carry the same import, and hence present the close similarity in the figures of horses, heads, tails, and of armor and chariots and embattled armies.

The four angels: “A voice from the four horns of the golden altar which is before God . . . saying to the sixth angel which had the trumpet, saying, Loose the four angels which are bound in the great river Euphrates”--Revelation 9:13-14.

A voice from four horns: The voice here is that same voice of authority “in the midst” of the throne of Revelation 6:6. Not the voice of any one of the angels, creatures or beings of the scene, but the voice from within, “in the midst” of them all. It emphasizes the source of all divine revelation, from within the throne itself. Here, in the sixth trumpet vision, the voice came from the four horns of the altar-four horns, but one voice proceeding from them. There were four angels, in Revelation 7:1, “holding the four winds of the earth.” The same four angels were in this scene of chapter 9, and there were four horns on the altar --a horn to convey a divine message, an order, to each of the four angels; but the one voice from the four horns signified one message--the same for all. The horns were of the altar “which was before God,” so the voice from the horns was the voice of direct authority from God. The voice was not personified, as of an angel, or any representative, but was simply designated a voice of direct command from the altar “before God” to the angel of the sixth trumpet.

Loose the four angels: As the voice from the altar of this scene is the same voice from within “the midst” in chapter 6, so the four angels here are the same four angels “holding the four winds of the earth” in chapter 7. The four angels there, as explained, were the imperial angels or agents holding the winds that they should not blow: that is, hindering the messengers of the gospel, preventing the spread of Christianity. A heavenly angel, referred to as another angel, countermanded the orders of the imperial angels, restraining them from the performance of their mission “to hurt the earth” by holding back the four winds --the messengers of Christ--and the four imperial angels were commanded by this angel to “hurt not the earth.” Now, the voice from the altar “before God” commanded the angel of the sixth trumpet to “loose the four angels.” The suspension period designated as time to “seal” or to preserve “the holy seed,” the true Israel, the symbolic number of one hundred forty-four thousand, had been accomplished, and it was time for the four angels to proceed.

Again, the scene was comparable to the promise to the faithful disciples of time to escape the siege of Jerusalem, and the flight from the city was described in all three records of Matthew, Mark and Luke. Josephus records that after the siege had begun for some unknown reason Vespasian withdrew his armies to such distance and for such time for the flight of the disciples from the city to the mountains to be accomplished. It is a remarkable parallel to this scene of Revelation 7:1-17, where the angels of destruction were ordered to wait “till we have sealed the servants of our God,” and a suspension was signified in this vision as that recorded in the accounts of Matthew 24:1-51, Mark 13:1-37 and Luke 21:1-38, the fulfillment of which according to Josephus is historical.

The command to “loose” these angels of destruction was in contrast with the command of chapter 7:2 which restrained, or bound them. That these four angels were bound is further evidence that they were evil angels, the angels or agents of destruction “standing on the four corners of the earth,” poised to blast Jerusalem with destructive horror, and in consequence blight the earth by “holding the four winds,” preventing the promulgation of the gospel to its four corners.

Bound in the great river Euphrates: The Euphrates river is named in Genesis 2:13-14 as a fork of the river of Eden. Moses called it “the great river” in Genesis 15:18 and Deuteronomy 1:7. It was designated by the Lord to Moses as the eastern boundary of the Promised Land in Deuteronomy 11:24, and restated as a part of the promise to Joshua after the death of Moses (Joshua 1:4). It was the border by which David established his dominion (1 Chronicles 18:3), when he went in conquest to recover that part of Canaan lost to the savage neighbors of enemy nations. (2 Samuel 8:3)

In Psalms 137:1-3 the Psalmist said that by the river Euphrates the Israelites in captivity wept. In no less than two dozen scripture passages it is called “the river,” indicating geographical, historical, and biblical importance. From the regions of this river the Assyrian and Chaldean armies had in the past swept over the land of Israel like an overwhelming flood. (Isaiah 7:20; Isaiah 8:7-8; Jeremiah 46:10; Habakkuk 1:6-11)

The symbolical allusion to “the great river” in this sixth trumpet scene has a two-fold significance. First, the four angels were said by the voice to be bound in, or at, the river Euphrates. To be bound means to be held at the border of the land. The Euphrates being the border, the four angels of destruction had been countermanded for the time; hence, bound “in the great river Euphrates” at the port of entry to the land doomed to their destruction. Second, the ruler of the Euphrates region was symbolically called the “rod” of wrath and anger, and the “staff” of indignation sent against “an hypocritical nation.” (Isaiah 10:5-6) The sixth angel was therefore commanded to “loose the four angels which were bound at the great river Euphrates,” as the symbolic allusion to the indignation and destruction poised at the borders to sweep the land and overwhelm its inhabitants. To literalize it serves only to destroy the imagery, and in so doing the apocalypse itself, as is so usually done when literal constructions are placed on symbolical things.

The cavalry legion: “The four angels were loosed, whichwere prepared for an hour, a day, a month, a year, to slay third part of men. And the number of the army of the horsemen were two hundred thousand thousand: and I heard the number of them”—Revelation 9:15-16.

The four angels loosed: The voice in Revelation 9:14 commanded the angel of the sixth trumpet to loose the four angels. In Revelation 9:15 the sixth angel obeyed the voice, “and the four angels were loosed” to go unrestrained to execute the mission suspended Revelation 7:3.

Prepared, hour, day, month, year: It is noted that “an” hour is the article "the"--it is the hour, used with hour only, not with day, month and year. Hence, “the hour and day and month and year” denoted the suspension time, the period of intervention, during which these four agents of evil were "prepared"--their armies massed for attack, waiting for the time of chapter 7:3 to be over, and for the directive, in military parlance, to unleash the armies, the dogs of war.

To slay the third part of men: The sounding of the trumpets was accompanied by the announcement of three woes. With the fifth trumpet, John interposed that “one woe is past, and behold there come two woes hereafter.” (Revelation 9:12) In Revelation 11:14, John interrupts the vision again to say “the second woe is past, and behold the third woe cometh quickly.”

In chapter 9 the apocalypse envisioned the armies of the Euphrates under the imagery of swarms of locusts numbering twice ten thousand times ten thousand. It was a figure of overwhelming military might that descended on Judea and Palestine. The apocalypse presented a two-fold catastrophe: 1. the tormenting locusts which brought the demonic plagues; 2. the armies of the Euphrates which brought the demonic wars. The swarms of locusts were said to hurt men; while the armies of the Euphrates were said to kill men. The two-fold vision of destruction symbolized famine and sword. The first part of the vision to hurt men was accomplished in the ravages of pestilence by famine; the second part of the vision to kill men was executed in the devastations of war by the sword. The terrible atrocities of the armies of Titus, Cestius Gallus and Vespasian, were recorded in the historical annals of eye-witnesses, who saw the armies overrun Judea and who witnessed the fall of Jerusalem, such as Josephus and Pliny; and in the works of the near-contemporary historians, Tacitus and others.

Since the judgments contained in the trumpets are divided into three woes, each directive is accordingly applied to “a third part” of the mission, which expression is repeated with each extension of the sixth scene. In the Revelation 6:8, where the judgments were symbolized in the opening of the seals, the division was called “the fourth part of the earth” in contrast with “the third part of men,” in Revelation 9:15. The division of the parts is made proportionate with the pronouncements of judgments or woes.

The scene consisted of a series of four judgements in chapter 6 and of three woes in chapter 9; hence, “the fourth part of the earth” and " the third part of men” proportionately.

Two hundred thousand thousand: At this point the vision transforms “the four angels standing on the four corners of the earth . . . to whom it was given to hurt the earth” into the immense army of two hundred thousand thousand, or twice ten thousand times ten thousand, which counted literally would compute the figure of two hundred million. This was not a numerical count of the conscripts composing this army, but the symbolic description of immensity so overwhelming as to make human resistance impossible.

And I heard the number of them: The number of this mighty army was proclaimed to John, not in visionary form, but as being audible--"I heard the number." It was another interposed statement, as of verse 12, containing the overtones of an overpowering onslaught.

The apocalyptic horses: “And thus I saw the horses in the vision, having breastplates of fire, jacinth, brimstone: and the heads of the horses were as the heads of lions; and out of their mouths issued fire and smoke and brimstone."--9:17.

Thus I saw . . . in the vision: In the manner of thenarrative John “thus” saw these things--that is, not in physical life, not actual or real, but “in the vision”--therefore, it was not a description of fleshly animals, material armor or human riders, but symbolic of the woes to befall the inhabitants of Jerusalem and the land of the Jews.

Breastplates of fire, jacinth, brimstone: In Revelation 9:9 the army of locusts had breastplates of iron, to signify an impervious shield. Here “them that sat” on the horses, the horsemen, and “breastplates of fire, jacinth and brimstone” denoted the glittering colors of the bedecked armor.

Jacinth, known also as hyacinth, resembling amethyst (Exodus 28:19; Exodus 39:12), was an opaque stone consisting of crystallized quartz, a gem of dark blue-violet or purple-like color; the oriental amethyst belonging to a variety of sapphire mentioned frequently in the Old Testament; an ancient gem of brilliance and beauty, next to the diamond in lustre and hardness.

Brimstone was a sulphuric mineral substance of inflammable potency and yellowish hue, the fumes of which were odious and suffocating. It is figuratively employed in Job 18:15; Isaiah 36:9; and in Revelation to symbolize the terrible condition of suffering and punishment, temporally or spiritually, pertaining to both the present and the future state.

Fire, aside from its natural uses, was variously used in both Old and New Testaments as a metaphor of divine presence, as a purifier of intense emotion either of love, anger or hate, of the execution of penal judgment on men and nations and of the future eternal punishment of the wicked, all of which uses are figurative and carry the full intensity of the word in all of its connotations and applications. The “fire, jacinth and brimstone,” of verse 17, were used to figuratively describe the irredescent glitter of the horsemen’s armor, in the glowing red of fire, the blue-purple hue of the hyacinth, and the smokish yellow of brimstone.

The blending colors signified also the mingled sufferings to be inflicted with the awful intensity of fire and brimstone, as indicated by the corresponding expression in the same verse, that “fire, smoke and brimstone” proceeded from the mouths of the horses. The vision of two hundred million horsemen bedecked in armor of fire, jacinth and brimstone, riding horses with heads “as the heads of lions,” with mouths issuing “fire and smoke and brimstone,” presents a monstrous picture of the approaching speedy execution of judgment on Jerusalem.

The figurative use of these terms as metaphors of misery and woe is unquestionable when compared with the context of the several other passages in which the phrase “fire and brimstone,” and similar expressions occur. In an imprecatory psalm against his enemies David said, “upon the wicked he shall rain snares, fire and brimstone . . . this shall be the portion of their cup.” (Psalms 11:6)

Prophesying God’s judgments upon Gog, Ezekiel said: “I will rain upon him . . . and upon the many people that are with him . . . an overflowing rain . . . hailstones, fire and brimstone.” (Ezekiel 38:22)

Describing similar judgments on wicked nations and their rulers, Isaiah said: “The Lord will come with fire . . . to render his anger with fury and his rebukes with flames of fire . . . for their worm dieth not, neither shall their fire be quenched.” (Isaiah 66:24)

The allusion here is to that accumulation of filth and putrefaction in the valley of Hinnom, near Jerusalem, always alive with worms, and its everburning fires day and night, to consume these sources of pestilence. From "Hinnom” was compounded the word Gehenna, which the Lord used to denote the word “hell.” In the application of the figure to the torments of hell Jesus said: “Where their worm dieth not and the fire is not quenched”-- Mark 9:44; Mark 9:46; Mark 9:48. The use Jesus made of these words cannot be applied literally to the torments of souls in hell any more than the language of David, Ezekiel and Isaiah could be applied literally to the rulers of the nations against whom they were inveighing. As a metaphor of eternal banishment from the presence of God, Jesus used the expression “outer darkness,” like “outer space,” a darkness beyond the physical darkness of this world. In reference to the misery of such banishment he used the phrase, “weeping and wailing and gnashing of teeth.” An amateur in exegesis should recognize the figurative character of these expressions. So it is in the use of the word “fire” to indicate the intensity of suffering beyond degree: “Where their worm dieth not and the fire is not quenched”--remorse is the worm and anguish is the fire--where remorse of conscience will never end and anguish of soul will never cease.

In an almost identical association of metaphorical phrases employed in the Psalms of David, in the visions of Isaiah and Ezekiel and in the discourses of Jesus on Jerusalem, the visions of John employ the expressions “fire and smoke and brimstone” to describe the plagues of the four angels turned loose; and the atrocities which attended the invasions of their monstrous army were as smoke ascending from the fire of hell.

The deadly plagues:“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. For their power is in their mouth and in their tails”—Revelation 9:18-19.

By these three: The three symbols of three atrocious plagues, fire, smoke and brimstone were a three-fold description of catastrophe and destruction in the terrors of the four angels loosed to hurt the land--“by these three was the third part of men killed.”

Power in mouth and tails: A symbol of spreading destruction before them, “issued out of their mouths,” leaving only devastation behind them, “for their tails were like serpents,” and as the horses had heads like the heads of lions, their tails were not only like serpents, but their tails had heads like serpent heads. “And with them they do hurt”--that is, using their tails to do harm, with devastation from the rear as well as destruction that issued from their mouths. It is the description of the deadly scourge in the path of the invasion before this army and in its wake behind, sweeping everything before, leaving nothing behind ; as a scorched earth and burnt land. It is an extension of the appalling picture of the complete desolation mentioned by Jesus, in Matthew 24:15; Mark 13:14; Luke 21:20, which followed the siege and destruction of Jerusalem.

The same description is given by Joel of the invasion of Judea by the Chaldeans in the sixth century B.C. “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.” (Joel 2:2)

Of this same invasion of Old Testament history, Jeremiah said: “And I will send . . . the king of Babylon . . . and will bring them against this land, and against the inhabitants . . . and will utterly destroy them . . . and make them an hissing and perpetual desolations . . . and this whole land shall be a desolation; and these nations shall serve the king of Babylon seventy years.” (Jeremiah 25:9-11)

Numerous other examples could be cited but these are sufficient to show that when comparison is made between these historical visions concerning Jerusalem of the era of six hundred B.C. with the visions of John concerning the Jerusalem of A.D. 70, their application is not only obvious but unavoidable.

The demon worshiper: “The rest of the men which were not killed by these plagues, repented not of the works of their hands--neither repented they of their murders, fornication, sorceries, nor their thefts”—Revelation 9:20-21.

The rest of the men: This referred to the residual number specified to be survivors of this second woe, pronounced on “the third part of men.” They are described as being guilty of the “worship of devils,” which covered all the idolatrous objects immediately mentioned--“which neither can see, nor hear, nor walk,” classified as “idols of gold, and silver, and brass, and stone, and of wood"--all of which declared to be “the works of their hands.” To include all these categories of idolatry under the blanket indictment of “the worship of devils” was in keeping with the law of the Jews, which proscribed all idol worship as homage “unto devils,” and was branded as religious whoredom in the Mosaic law. “They shall no more offer their sacrifices unto devils, after whom they have gone a whoring. This shall be a statute forever unto them throughout their generations.” (Leviticus 17:7) Again, in the song of Moses it is said: “They sacrificed unto devils, not to God; to gods whom they knew not, to new gods that came newly up, whom your fathers feared (worshiped) not.” (Deuteronomy 32:17)

The apostle Paul upholds the Mosaic statute on that point, having himself lived under it as a Jew: “But I say, that the things which the Gentiles sacrifice, they sacrifice to devils, and not to God, and I would not that ye should have fellowship with devils.” (1 Corinthians 10:20)

Those survivors here designated as “the rest of the men” were evidently that residue of Jewish people who were classed as adherents of Jezebel, and as holding the doctrine of Balaam in the letters to the seven churches (chapter 2:14; 2:20)--the apostate Israelites “of the synagogue of Satan, which say they are Jews, and are not, but do lie.” (Chapter 3:9)

Reference to the comments on these verses in chapters two and three will spare further discussion of the symbolic names of Jezebel and Balaam here. Because of her determination to exterminate the prophets of Israel and to sabotage the nation of Israel by idolatrous worship, her name stood for infamy among the people of Israel, and was used in the apocalypse of Revelation to symbolize the Judaizers in the churches. The name Balaam carried a similar symbolic connotation, because of that mongrel prophet’s seductive schemes to destroy the people of Israel by means of heathen practices. Thus the figurative phrases “the doctrine of Balaam" and “that woman Jezebel” originated, as representative of that element in the churches “which say they are Jews, and are not, but do lie.”

In the present context the phrase “the rest of the men” apparently referred to that residue classed as adherents of Jezebel, and further identified with“the doctrine of Balaam”--chapter 2:14--"who taught Balak to cast a stumblingblock before the children of Israel, to eat things sacrificed to idols, and to commit fornication.” The language of this vision describing those Jew--Israelites as practicers of these prohibited things was largely an adaptation of the language of Isaiah in forecasting an extolling allegiance to the Holy One of Israel amid the idolatries of the nations: “At that day shall a man look to his maker, and his eyes shall have respect to the Holy One of Israel. And he shall not look to the altars, the works of his hands, neither shall respect that which his fingers have made, either the groves or the images. In that day shall his strong cities be as a forsaken bough, and an uppermost branch, which they left because of the children of Israel: and there shall be desolation. Because thou hast forgotten the God of thy salvation.” (Isaiah 17:7-10)

These “men” who avoided the plagues of the second woe were those Jews who were affiliated with those things defined in verse 20, and the parallel passages cited, and “repented not” of these “works of their hands”; but their escape from the tribulations of the woe did not secure immunity from the condemnation of disloyalty to the God who recompensed to all men their evil.

Neither repented . . . murders, sorceries, fornication, thefts: The category of evil things were the flagrant crimes of Jezebel, recorded in 1 Kings 21:14-15 and 2 Kings 9:22, and again connects “the rest of the men” of these verses with the Jezebel apostates. While the idolatries of verse 20 and the crimes of verse 21 were all in violation of both tables of the decalogue, they were not to be applied literally in this vision-their idolatries, murders, sorceries and thefts belonged to the spiritual category for which those sensual things stood. Abandoning Christianity for the praise of princes was as idolatry; deserting Christ to escape malediction was murder of his Cause; turning from the principles of the faith to the arts of magic was a broad definition of sorcery (Acts 13:6; Acts 19:13), of which there seemed to be a rather numerous party. (Colossians 2:18-23) And theft does not consist only in the violation of the eighth commandment--seducing men was spiritual theft. (John 10:8-10; Matthew 15:9; Jeremiah 23:30; 1 Timothy 1:10) That fornication has a figurative as well as physical meaning goes without saying. (Revelation 2:21; Revelation 19:2; 2 Chronicles 21:11; Revelation 17:5) Apostasy is spiritual fornication. Thus “the rest of the men” is a phrase designating apostate Israelites, guilty of the entire category of spiritual crimes, of which they “repented not”--verse 20; “neither repented” --verse 21. This dual emphasis on the impenitence of these apostates was for the four things representative of apostasy both under the decalogue of Moses and the gospel of Christ.

First, murder: This crime exists in fact in the malicious act of taking human life (2 Samuel 13:28; 1 Kings 21:19; Mark 15:7; Exodus 22:2-3; Deuteronomy 18:9; Numbers 35:27-31) It exists in principle in seeds of wrath, hate, retaliation, oppression, and all of its evil consequences. (James 4:2; James 5:6; Romans 1:29; 1 John 3:15) It exists in effect in vicarious sufferings, reproaches, and afflictions. (Psalms 44:22; Romans 8:36; 1 Corinthians 15:30-32; 2 Corinthians 6:9; John 8:44; Job 5:2; Job 24:14) It was a flagrant, odious and abominable crime. For intentional murder there was no legal pardon, nor ceremonial remission. (Deuteronomy 19:13; Deuteronomy 21:9; Exodus 21:14; Exodus 21:28-29; Numbers 35:30-34) Figuratively, it represented a spiritual degeneracy of the emotions of love and loyalty which leads to betrayal and destruction of righteous causes and men. It is a fitting characterization here.

Second, sorceries or magic: This was a professional part of divination, described in Exodus 7:11; Deuteronomy 18:10; Acts 8:9; and Acts 13:6. It was a system of pseudo-divinity belonging to the dark demon world, as mentioned in Acts 16:16-18. It was an essential element in false religions and was held in opposition to the true religion of the Jews, as in Leviticus 20:27; Deuteronomy 18:9-14; Jeremiah 14:14. It was prevalent among Jews, many of whom believed in it and resorted to it, as stated in Samuel 28:3-20. In whatever form it was regarded or practiced it was reproachful to the Mosaic religion and to Christianity, and was reprobated in both the law and the gospel. The writings of the prophets are full of invectives against Israelites who consulted diviners and of the false prophets seducing the people by means of it, examples of which are Jeremiah 14:14, and Ezekiel 13:6-7. Again, here was a fitting characterization of the Jewish apostasies.

Third, fornication: This is a term of frequent occurrence in all the sacred writings to denote acts of lewdness and of incontinency. It is used for the sin of impurity in 1 Corinthians 6:13; 1 Corinthians 7:2 and Jude ‘7. It is used for the sin of adultery in Matthew 5:28-32 and 1 Thessalonians 4:3. It is used for the sin of incest in 1 Corinthians 5:1. It is used for spiritual and religious infidelity, apostasy from truth and right in 2 Chronicles 21:11 and Revelation 19:2. In the spiritual sense it denotes the unfaithfulness of the Israelites because the union between God and Israel was set forth as marriage. (Jeremiah 3:9; Ezekiel 23:37; Isaiah 23:17) Jesus upbraided a faithless God-denying and Christ-rejecting age as “an adulterous generation” in Matthew 12:39. The mingling of error and evil with that which was true and pure in teaching, worship and practice was spiritual adultery. It applied to participation in heathenism or affiliation with any false system or practice. (James 4:4) It was truly an apt use in this present scene.

Fourth, theft: The term here referred to the deceptions of any form of stealing. It was applied physically to the unlawful taking of anything that belongs to another, as in James 4:4; Job 30:5 and Luke 10:30. It was applied morally, or ethically, to fraudulence, as in Matthew 21:13. It was applied doctrinally and spiritually to seduction, to seducers of doctrine, as in Jeremiah 7:9; Jeremiah 23:30, Ezekiel 13:10; 1 Timothy 4:1; 2 Timothy 3:13; 1 John 2:26 and Mark 13:22.

In this sixth trumpet scene these words are employed figuratively, not literally. It was spiritual murder, in the sense of traitors to the Jewish cause, and betrayers of their brethren. It was spiritual sorcery in the magical influence exercised over the Jewish population. It was spiritual fornication in adulterous affiliation with the false systems of deism, pantheism and paganism. It was spiritual theft in the stealing of the truth from men’s hearts and God’s way from their lives.

The correctness of the characterization of the “rest of the men which were not killed by the plagues,” and who “repented not” of the category of figurative crimes, as the residual number of the Jewish people, is supported by the corresponding Jewish history of the same period. The sins listed in the category of verses 20 and 21 were typical of all Jewish apostasies from the law of Moses promulgated from Mount Sinai and which was preached in all the synagogues. “Thou camest down upon Mount Sinai, and spakest with them from heaven, and gavest them right judgments and true laws, good statutes and commandments . . . by the hand of Moses thy servant.” (Nehemiah 9:13-14) “For Moses of old time hath in every city them that preach him, being read in the synagogues every sabbath day.” (Acts 15:21) But the residue of this nation were those to whom John said, “0 generation of vipers, who hath warned you to flee from the wrath to come,” (Matthew 3:7); and whom Jesus called an “offspring of vipers” (Matthew 23:28-33).

These were condemnations of which hypocrisy and iniquity made them deserving. Among them arose a legion of false prophets and seducers to lead them astray, particularly true in the very period of the calamities portrayed in the vision of these trumpet visions and of corresponding description in the records of Matthew, Mark and Luke on the destruction of Jerusalem. “And there shall arise false prophets and shall show great signs and wonders, insomuch that, if it were possible, they shall deceive the very elect.” (Matthew 24:24) “And they shall show signs and wonders to seduce.” (Mark 13:22) “And ye shall be betrayed . . . and some of you shall they cause to be put to death.” (Luke 21:16) Later, before these things came to pass that were thus foretold to mark the latter part of that period ending with the fall of Jerusalem, inspired apostles were issuing warnings against all such seducers and their doctrines, with all the resulting wickedness. “Now the spirit speaketh expressly that in the latter times some shall depart from the faith, giving heed to seducing spirits, and doctrines of devils.” (2 Timothy 4:1) “This know also that in the last days perilous times shall come.” (2 Timothy 3:1)

These apostolic admonitions correspond with the warnings of the Lord in the discourse on Jerusalem, and are descriptive of the same Jewish apostasies of the residual number in the closing scene of the sixth trumpet vision. The drawing of these parallels was in full accord with the teaching of the passages cited in reference to the times, with the history of that period, and with the purpose of the apocalypse.

The voice from the four horns of the altar commanded the angel of the sixth trumpet to “loose” the four agents which were “bound” in or at “the great river Euphrates” (verse 14) was the ominous announcement of encompassing desolation. It is a geographical fact that the Euphrates river formed the boundary of the Roman empire at the time of the Jewish-Roman war, and their army installations and concentrations were there where the legions of this vision were said to be “bound.” It was therefore in harmony with all the facts, scriptural and historical that the mighty cavalry of the Euphrates portrayed in this trumpet was the immense Roman army which marched against Jerusalem and initiated the terrible siege resulting in all the desolation foretold by Daniel and depicted by the Lord in pointing up the fulfillment.

Matthew’s account reads: “When ye therefore shall see the abomination of desolation, spoken of by Daniel the prophet, standing in the holy place, (whoso readeth let him understand), then let them which be in Judea flee."-- Matthew 24:15-16.

Luke’s record reads: “And when ye shall see Jerusalem encompassed with armies, then know that the desolation thereof is nigh. Then let them which are in Jerusalem flee to the mountains."-- Luke 21:20-21.

Here Daniel’s vision, in chapters 9 and 12 of his prophecy, were merged with the signs of the Lord’s Jerusalem discourse and with the like symbols of John’s apocalypse. To search the distant future for a fulfillment of these symbolic descriptions, not only reduces both the text and the context of Revelation to confusion, but renders meaningless all of the passages which apply with such clarity and so full of force to that period. The interpretations which remove these events of the symbolic history from the Neroan period of the apostolic century, and assign them to centuries later and yet to come are rankanachronisms. Any attempt to explain these visions by the rise and fall of the successive monarchies, through the centuries from them till now and on to the end of time, would necessarily continue the existence of the armies symbolized in this vision for periods ranging from five to twenty centuries, which not only destroys all practical applications of the symbolic descriptions to the people to whom they were addressed, rendering them impossible to understand, but it furthermore declares an open season for the maneuvering, manipulation and juggling of events of history to fit a manufactured theory. But viewed in the light of the application of the symbols of Revelation to the period of time in which the people lived to whom the visions were addressed, all such anachronisms disappear.

Commentary on Revelation 9:13-21 by Walter Scott



Revelation 9:13-21. — And the sixth angel sounded (his) trumpet: and I heard a voice from the four horns of the golden altar which (is) before God, saying to the sixth angel that had the trumpet: Loose the four angels which are bound at the great river Euphrates. And the four angels were loosed, who are prepared for the hour, and day, and month, and year, that they might slay the third part of men. And the number of the hosts of horsemen (was) twice ten thousand times ten thousand; I heard their number. And thus I saw the horses in the vision, and those that sat upon them, having breastplates of fire, and jacinth, and brimstone; and the heads of the horses (were) as heads of lions, and out of their mouths goes out fire and smoke and brimstone. By these three plagues were the third part of men killed, by the fire, and the smoke, and the brimstone which goes out of their mouths. For the power of the horses is in their mouth and in their tails; for their tails (are) like serpents, having heads, and with them they injure. And the rest of men who were not killed with these plagues repented not of the works of their hands, that they should not worship demons, and the golden and silver, and brazen and stone, and wooden idols, which can neither see nor hear nor walk. And they repented not of their murders, nor of their witchcrafts, nor of their fornication, nor of their thefts. In the tabernacle of old there were two altars. One stood without in the court; the other within in the holy place. The golden altar is twice referred to in these apocalyptic visions, here and in Revelation 8:3. The brazen altar is mentioned six times simply as “the altar.” It was this latter which stood in the court. The kernel of the Levitical system was the brazen altar — the altar of sacrifice. What “the altar” was to Judaism, namely, the moral foundation of the people’s relations to Jehovah, that “the cross” is to Christianity — its centre and distinguishing glory. Now the golden altar derived its force and value from the brazen altar. Every morning and evening, save on the annual day of atonement, incense (the merits of Christ) was burned on the golden altar, while on that special day in the history of Israel, as on other occasions, the blood of the sacrificial animals was put on its four golden horns (Leviticus 16:18-19; Leviticus 4:7; Leviticus 4:18). The fragrance of the incense was brought out by fire taken from the brazen altar, while the blood on the golden horns was that shed on the north side of the altar in the court (Leviticus 1:11). Thus the efficacy of the worship and communion of the people with Jehovah, maintained and carried on at the golden altar, had as its basis the shedding of blood at the altar of sacrifice.



Revelation 9:13. — I heard a voice from the four horns of the golden altar. We have already noted the fact that the golden altar is twice mentioned in the Apocalypse. In the earlier reference the prayers of the saints on earth are heard (Revelation 8:3). The Beast out of the abyss comes upon the scene. Blasphemy and persecution characterise his closing career. During the time of which we have read in Revelation 6:11, a body of witnessing, and hence suffering, saints are recognised. Their prayers for God’s intervention on their behalf are about to be answered (Revelation 9:13). Under the first four Trumpets the general condition of the empire is subjected to a course of judicial dealing. Its social, moral, commercial, and political state comes under the rod of God’s anger, but the sixth Trumpet, or second Woe, is far more dreadful in its character and effects than any of the preceding chastisements. The peoples of the Roman earth are here the direct subjects of woe, not torment as in the preceding one, but a widespread and extensive slaughter of the inhabitants from hordes of external enemies, added to which satanic delusion and falsehood will play sad havoc in the souls and consciences of the people. Judicial plagues upon men’s circumstances are one thing, but dealing with the men themselves, the open and declared enemies of God and of His saints, is a very different matter. Hence God’s answer to the cries and prayers of His suffering saints is answered from the altar of intercession. To it their prayers ascended (Revelation 8:3). From it the answer goes forth (Revelation 9:13).

The “voice” which the Seer heard is either the voice of God or of one commissioned by Him to act.

The voice is heard “from the four horns of the golden altar.” Why not from the altar itself, as in Revelation 16:7? And why are the horns and their number so specifically mentioned? “Four” expresses universality. (Four metals (Daniel 2) and four beasts (Daniel 7) representing the four universal empires. Four divisions of the human family (Revelation 7:9).) “Horn” denotes power.(*See Psalms 118:27; Psalms 89:17; Psalms 89:24; Psalms 92:10; Psalms 132:17; Revelation 5:6, etc.) The whole strength and power of the altar of intercession is put forth in the divine answer to the mingled prayers and incense which gathered around it. Both altars had each four sides and four horns. All sinners from every part of earth may use the brazen altar. All saints wherever found are heard at the golden altar. We refer, of course, to the truths respectively set forth by the altars.

Another minute distinction may here be pointed out. In Revelation 8:3 the connection is between the altar and the throne, whereas in Revelation 9:13 the connection is between the altar and God. This latter is the nearer and more intimate relation, and brings out God’s personal interest in His saints.


Revelation 9:14-15. — Loose the four angels which are bound at the great river Euphrates. And the four angels were loosed, who are prepared for the hour, and day, and month, and year, for to slay the third part of men.” The voice from the place of intercession and power is evidently one of divine authority, and is addressed to the sixth angel. The repetition of the ordinal sixth (Revelation 9:13-14) and of the cardinal four (Revelation 9:14-15) intimates the precision with which this Woe will be executed. The exactness, too, of the appointed hour of vengeance (Revelation 9:15) and the number of the instruments employed (Revelation 9:16) all go to mark this divine infliction as one of an unusually solemn character. The four restraining angels (Revelation 7:1-3) must not be confounded with the four bound angels at the river Euphrates (Revelation 9:14-15). The former are stationed at the extremities of the earth, the latter in the circumscribed region of the Euphrates. Besides, not only are the times and circumstances different, but the action in each case is exactly opposite. The four angels of chapter 7 restrain the forces of evil, whereas those of chapter 9 let loose the human and satanic instruments of vengeance.

The Euphrates is twice mentioned in the Apocalypse, here and in Revelation 16:12. The epithet “great” is used in both instances: “The great river Euphrates.” Its entire length is about 1780 miles, and it is by far the longest and most important river of western Asia. It is famous in Bible history and prophecy. Israel’s great progenitor, Abram, came from its other side into the land of Canaan. The rivers Nile and Euphrates are prophetically designated as the limits of the promised land (Genesis 15:18). For a brief season David and Solomon extended the royal authority to the Euphrates (1 Chronicles 18:3; 2 Chronicles 9:26). This extensive dominion was greatly curtailed in the disruption of the kingdom under Rehoboam. The Euphrates was the natural boundary separating the nations of the east from Palestine. Its broad stream flowed between Israel and her powerful enemy Assyria. The Euphrates was also the limit of the Roman conquests in that part of the world. We understand, therefore, that the literal Euphrates is here signified, and not the Turkish power. So also in Revelation 16:12.

The mandate to the sixth angel is to loose the four angels bound at the great river. These angelic ministers of judgment are under divine control; they cannot act without express command. The very hour when the Lord in retributive justice would deal with the apostate peoples of the revived Latin empire is carefully noted, for that hour the angels were prepared. (One would gather from the Authorized Version that the time during which the four angels were to act in judgment would be “for an hour, and a day, and a month, and a year,” whereas these exact denominations of time refer to the moment when the angels begin to act, not the duration of their action.) What hindered an earlier action by these angelic ministers of God’s providence we are not informed. The hour of vengeance in the prophetic scheme had not arrived. The iniquity of the empire had not risen to the height foretold in Scripture; now it has, and judgment, sharp and overwhelming, can no longer be delayed.

Revelation 9:15. — To slay the third part of men. There is no “third part” in the previous Woe. There Palestine is the sphere of judicial action, and the unsealed of Israel only are the subjects of judgment. Gathered in rank unbelief to the land, the last state of Israel will exceed in idolatrous wickedness any former condition (Matthew 12:45). But a recurrence to the “third part,” so prominent in the earlier Trumpets, brings once again the Roman empire into the sphere of divine operation. A terrible slaughter of the inhabitants takes place. We are now to consider the human instruments which are to drench the empire in blood.


Revelation 9:16. — We have had the number of the invisible leaders, four; now both the reader and the Seer are informed as to the number of the invading and avenging host, stated to be twice ten thousand times ten thousand,” or two hundred millions. This immense host is a number too vast for human conception. The mind gets bewildered in the effort to comprehend such an army, which for number surpasses anything ever seen on earth. The unseen chariots of God are similarly numbered (Psalms 68:17). May the lesson be graven on our hearts that the seen and unseen powers of good and evil are all under the direct control of God. A literal army consisting of two hundred millions of cavalry need not be thought of. The main idea in the passage is a vast and overwhelming army, one beyond human computation, and exceeding by far any before witnessed. (The largest army, ever brought into the field recorded in history was that under Xerxes in the invasion of Greece. On the testimony of Herodotus it exceeded two and a half millions of men.) “An army of prevailing, imperial, congregated power.” (“Notes on the Book of Revelation,” p. 45.) The Revised Version reads, “the armies of the horsemen.” It is not one army, but “armies,” not a host, but “hosts.” The reason why the plural is employed and not the singular is that more than one invasion into the territory of the Beast from beyond the Euphrates will be attempted and succeed. The future antagonist of the revived empire is Gog (Russia), the great north-eastern power. Persia and, generally, the kingdoms and powers situated north and east of Palestine follow in the train of the great northern despot (Ezekiel 38:1-23; Ezekiel 39:1-29; Psalms 83:1-18). The repeated attacks upon the kingdom, or empire of the Beast, will be commenced by the king of the north, then established in the present Syrian possessions of Turkey. This king, the determined political enemy of restored Israel, is subordinate to his great chief, the autocrat of the vast Russian power. Hence “hosts” or “armies” is the fitting word employed.


Revelation 9:17. — The riders have breast plates of fire, and jacinth, and brimstone.” These lands on which the light of the Gospel has shone so brilliantly will ere long be given over to satanic darkness and delusion. The devil will take possession of the doomed scene. His influence will permeate and poison the springs and sources of national and individual thought and action. He will command the spiritual and human forces of evil. Demon worship will prevail (v. 20). Judea and Christendom will be given over to the direct worship and homage of Satan and of his two main supporters on earth — the Beast and the False Prophet (Revelation 13:1-18; 2 Thessalonians 2:1-17). Satan, then, is divinely permitted to furnish his countless hosts with a defensive armour which makes them invulnerable. The combination of fire, jacinth, (“The jacinth was of a deep blue colour, similar to the blue which we see in flame, or burning brimstone. The blue flame of the pit is indeed a widely different thought from the blue of Heaven.”) and brimstone as a breastplate has been well termed “the defensive armour of hell.” Fire and brimstone are destructive elements not of a providential kind, but judicially inflicted (Genesis 19:24). They are also the symbols of everlasting torment.

Next follows a description of the horses “in the vision.” In the previous Woe we had a combination of locust and scorpion, denoting destruction and agony; here horses are prominent — the aggressive and military agents of rapine and slaughter. Their heads “as heads of lions” invest the warlike host with a certain majesty, courage, and boldness, well-known characteristics of “the king of the forest.” (We have the roar of the lion causing terror (Revelation 10:3). The teeth of the lion denoting ferocity (Revelation 9:8). The head signifying majesty (Revelation 9:17). The mouth pointing to its destructive character (Revelation 13:2).)

Revelation 9:17Out of their mouths goes out fire and smoke and brimstone. These military expeditions are under the direction of Satan. He it is who out of the pit supplies his agents with a defensive armour against which all opposing weapons of war are powerless (Revelation 9:17). Here he arms the host with a trinity of offensive destructive forces. The men of the empire under which Christ was crucified, Jerusalem destroyed, and the Jews dispersed, are to suffer on earth, so far as men can, the agonies and torments of the lake of fire. To fire and brimstone, the symbols of inconceivable anguish (Revelation 14:10; Revelation 19:20; Revelation 21:8), are added “smoke,” the moral darkness and delusion of the pit.


Revelation 9:18. — The fire, smoke, and brimstone are separate plagues, but here they are associated in the work of slaughter. The death to which the mass are doomed is one inflicted by the judicial power of Satan, and hence more dreadful than sudden death by the sword. The scene described is not one simply of human slaughter by scientific methods of modern or ancient warfare; the destructive forces of the pit are let loose upon a “third part of men” who are killed, probably the worst in the empire, as there is a remnant spared (Revelation 9:20), who, however, repent not. Twice the three plagues are named, and twice as going out of the mouths of the horses. The repeated mention of these destructive forces would emphasize the fact that the judicial power of Satan is at work; and, further, that the agents are not mere mercenaries, but are energized by Satan, and delight to kill. “Out of their mouths ” would show the heart’s diabolic pleasure in the work. See Revelation 16:13 for what is evil; also Matthew 12:34 for the general principle.


Revelation 9:19. — “The clause stating the power to be in their mouth serves only as a connecting link with what is still to be said of their tails. The injurious and dreadfully destructive tendency had not been sufficiently represented by what proceeds out of the mouth of the horses. It still farther embodies itself in the symbol of the serpent — tails.” (Hengstenberg, vol. 1, p. 370.)

It may be noted that mouth is here in the singular, whereas it has just been used twice in the plural, and that tails, the plural, is employed. Mouth and tails, singular and plural, would express that all are animated by one spirit, but that the teachings and lies of Satan are multifarious. “The power of the horses is in their mouth and in their tails.” There is not only the open power of Satan, but in addition his secret malignant and soul-destroying influence. Both are contemplated here. In the previous Woe the power to injure was in the tail (Revelation 9:10). Here the power to destroy is in the mouth and tails (Revelation 9:19). There he is the liar. Here he is both murderer and liar.

Revelation 9:19Tails like serpents. The serpent was the chosen creature in which the devil hid himself in deceiving Eve (Genesis 3:1), and is probably the only member of the animal creation doomed to perpetual degradation, even during the lengthened and universal blessing in millennial days (cp. Genesis 3:14 with Isaiah 65:25). The serpent is synonymous with craft, deceit, guile, subtlety. The “tail” of the serpent is the expression of malignant influence, falsehood, mischief (Isaiah 9:15; Revelation 12:4).

Further, the tails have “heads,” intimating that the mischievous influence is intelligently directed. The purpose to injure is pursued with relentless and intelligent activity.


Revelation 9:20-21. — The two closing verses of the chapter reveal an astounding picture of human depravity. The loud blasts of the Trumpets successively sounded are God’s public announcements to the world — heralds of woe. Increasing in severity, judgment succeeds judgment. The prophetic scene is turned into Satan’s special sphere of action. He triumphs for a season. What a scene is depicted in these last of “the last days!” Western Europe, so boastful of its light and knowledge, given up to the grossest idolatry and most shameful wickedness. We here witness a distinct return to the paganism of early days. What! Shall these christianised populations retrogade to such an extent that the most disgusting forms of idolatry and the sins of the flesh in their vilest character be again practised? Yes. Romans 1:21-32, (The state of the world from the introduction of idolatry (Joshua 24:2) till the introduction of Christianity is described in Roman 1:21-32. Christianity abandoned, a return to the ancient pagan state is most sure. There are signs which unmistakably point in that direction — signs which the observant may see today.) 2 Timothy 3:1-5 and Revelation 9:20-21 remove the veil, and give us to witness a seething mass of iniquity and wickedness. The rest,” or spared apostates, repented not. The awful doom of their fellow-associates in idolatry and general wickedness had made but a passing impression. They repented not is repeated. Their obduracy of heart in turning from God to Satan and continuing there, spite of warning examples before their eyes, is stated in Revelation 9:20.

Their impenitence in turning from righteousness to wickedness, and persisting therein, is stated in Revelation 9:21.

Revelation 9:20The works of their hands,” of which they did not repent, is a phrase peculiar to heathen idolatry (Isaiah 2:8; Jeremiah 1:16; Jeremiah 25:6-7; Jeremiah 25:14; Deuteronomy 4:28; Psalms 115:4-7; Psalms 135:15).

Revelation 9:20That they should not worship demons,” not “devils” as in the Authorised Version. Demon worship is here distinguished from that of lifeless idols made of various materials. Demons are living spiritual beings who dread a judgment to come (Matthew 8:28-29). The abyss is their proper home (Luke 8:31, R.V.). They are a class of wicked spirits (Revelation 16:14). Satan is their leader, “the angel of the abyss” (Revelation 9:11). The demon host of the pit is worshipped. Gentile idolatry, so sternly denounced by Paul (1 Corinthians 10:20-21), will yet be openly and universally practiced within the bounds of the lands termed Christian.

The whole scene is given over to idolatry. The rich have their gods of gold and silver, the middle class have theirs of brass and stone, while the poor are equally provided for in idols of wood. The character of the worship and the conduct of the worshippers must necessarily correspond. If God, Who is light and love, is given up for Satan, a murderer and a liar, the character of the latter is stamped upon his devotees and worshippers. Assimilation in nature and ways is the natural result. Hence there follows a short but comprehensive list, the crimes to which the demon worshippers were addicted. As Revelation 9:20 gives their religion, Revelation 9:21 shows their deeds. These latter are pre-eminently heathen vices. The crimes enumerated are four in number, a brief list, but sufficiently comprehensive.

(1) Murders,” and not as an exceptional occurrence, the result of passion, etc., but habitually practised.

(2) Witchcrafts,” or “sorceries,” the claim of supernatural power, illicit intercourse with spirits, professed telling of the future. The witch of Endor (1 Samuel 28:7) and Elymas the sorcerer (Acts 13:8) are examples of those who practised “the black arts of witchcraft.” This ancient Canaanitish iniquity was sternly denounced by God, and death was the decreed penalty for those who practiced it (Deuteronomy 18:10-12; Leviticus 20:27; Exodus 22:18). Sorcerers are classed with dogs, murderers, fornicators, and idolaters as shut out from the heavenly city (Revelation 22:15). Spiritualism is making rapid strides, and soon Christendom will be given over almost wholly to its practice.

(3) Fornication,” which we understand in its actual and literal sense. The marriage tie is that which binds society together; its safeguard and bulwark against the grossest impurity. With no fear of God, with no magistracy to punish, with no check against the wildest indulgence of unbridled lust, this, the pre-eminent sin of the heathen at all times, will flourish in these very lands of Christian morality. What a picture of moral debasement is here depicted! The morals of Christendom are rapidly degenerating.

(4) Thefts.” The bonds of society loosened, all mutual respect for each other’s rights, even in the most sacred relationship, completely gone, what follows? Greed will lure on the mass of men “not killed” to enrich themselves at the expense of society. “Each one for himself” is the order and motto of these coming days. A certain respect for property, for others’ rights, for others’ goods may exist, but “thefts” will be part of the characteristic life and history of these awful times. A world without God, given up judicially by Him, and Satan received as its prince and ruler! What a caricature of Christianity Revelation 9:20 presents, and what a code of morals is unfolded in Revelation 9:21!


The first Woe desolates Palestine. The second is wider in its range, and more disastrous in its effects, reaching to the limits of the Roman earth. The delusions of Satan are more marked in the first, the violence of Satan is characteristic of the second, although the former is also present in the second Woe. This latter is by far the worst. “The scene of this wave of trouble is wider than that of the preceding, for its waters were circumscribed by the bounds of the Hebrew and Greek tongues. Here the trouble springs up in the Euphrates, and has a fourfold energy, going whithersoever there is idolatry. There is a haste and a wildness in the mighty rush here presented, and an all-devouring character of action prominently displayed in their first appearance, very unlike the character of action in the last Trumpet. There is no presenting of any such idea of order, preparedness, dominion, intelligent lordship, or apparent gentleness, as in the fifth Trumpet; but the two hundred millions are presented at once, brilliant as the flames in action; and consumption, rather than victory, marking their progress; while behind them is felt the stinging wretchedness of subjection to them. The sorrow rolls on in judgment over heathenism, but leaves it, in moral result, just where it was.” (“The Bible Treasury,” vol. 13, p. 239.) The seventh Trumpet, or third Woe, is dealt with in the next chapter.

Commentary on Revelation 9:13-21 by E.M. Zerr

Revelation 9:13. The golden altar was in the first room of the tabernacle and placed by the vail that separated the second room. Just through the vail was the ark where God met with the high priest to speak to him. Hence the voice John heard was coming from the presence of God.

Revelation 9:14. The voice was giving instructions to the sixth angel. The river Euphrates is a significant subject in connection with God’s people. The ancient city of Babylon was situated on its banks, which was the capital of the first of the four world empires. The word "babylon" came to mean confusion and was finally applied to the great institution of the apostate church, concerning which we are now reading in our studies. It was fitting, therefore, that these four angels should be represented being located in this river. The particular events which they were to announce are not named, but the train of happenings is not interrupted. It means that the disciplinary treatment which the dupes of Rome were suffered to have come upon them was continuing. It will be well now to read the comments at 2 Thessalonians 2:11-12. There it will be seen that God sent certain judgments upon the citizens of the apostate institution, using their own people and practices as the instrument by which judgments were to be sent. That is what is going on in our chapter, and the four angels are merely some of the specific agencies within the corrupt institution for this epoch in the punishments.

Revelation 9:15. The hour, day, month and year are exact periods of time when literally considered, but they are to be understood in the same light as "five months" in Revelation 9:5 which the reader should see. Likewise he should see the comments at Revelation 8:9 for the meaning of third part.

Revelation 9:16. The number of the army-is another exact figure if taken literally, but the meaning is that a great army was serving the interests of the evil institution. And I heard the number of them. The conjunction and is not in all copies and it is unnecessary, for the sentence means that John was not sizing up the army personally but the number was announced to him.

Revelation 9:17. Some commentators see an invasion of heathen armies into the domain of the Roman Empire. No doubt things of that nature took place at certain times through the centuries. However, the fundamental background of the vision being shown to John has not been changed, hence I believe all these descriptive phrases are symbolical of the fierceness of the judgments which the dupes of Rome brought upon themselves. For that reason I shall not attempt any further comments on the descriptions.

Revelation 9:18. See the comments at Revelation 8:9 for the significance of third part.

Revelation 9:19. These creatures were invested with powers at the two extremities of their bodies, which indicates how complete was the agency that God suffered to come upon the citizens of the corrupt organization.

Revelation 9:20. The worship of devils and other "forms of idolatry that are mentioned refers to the worship of dead "saints" that was practiced by the members of the apostate church. They also introduced images into their churches and they would fall down before them (even as they do in our day) which constituted the idol worship condemned here. Repented not. Notwithstanding all the hardships that had been brought upon the leaders and many of their followers by their corrupt practices, the others (rest of the men) did not "learn their lesson" so as to be induced to repent.

Revelation 9:21. These are literal crimes which doubtless many of them comwitted, for it is well established that the apostate church deals in all of such means to further the interests of the corrupt institution.

Commentary on Revelation 9:13-21 by Burton Coffman

Revelation 9:13

And the sixth angel sounded, and I heard a voice from the horns of the golden altar which is before God,

And the sixth angel sounded ... Here begins the second woe, actually a development of the first. This is the locust story, Phase II.

This is the last appeal for people to renounce their evil ways and turn their hearts to God. This woe, coming in close proximity to the final judgment, could indicate that far greater sufferings and death than anything previously seen upon earth may come as the immediate prelude to the Second Advent and the final judgment. Significantly, the prophet here did not foretell any wholesale conversion of the Jews or of anyone else, no restoration of fleshly Israel, no millennium (so-called), nor any other of the fanciful utopias which people have sometimes imagined as taking place before the end. No! "They repented not" (Revelation 9:21)! "In each series, there are seven, and yet they are one. Any characteristic thought that appears in one, may be carried through all its members."[53]

A voice from the horns of the golden altar ... Frequently in Revelation we encounter this voice of authority, always indicating the will of God himself. The fact of the voice’s coming in this instance from the horns of the golden altar shows that the prayers of God’s people are an important factor, and that they have a definite relationship to the great events foretold.

Rist was correct in the discernment that "The sixth trumpet seems to be a variation of the fifth."[54] He also noticed the resemblance to the red horse vision in the seals (Revelation 6:1-8), one of the numerous indications throughout Revelation of recapitulation in the successive series of seals, trumpets, and bowls. The aim of this vision was thus stated by Carpenter:

It is to exhibit the death-working power of false thoughts, false customs, false beliefs, and to arouse men to forsake false worship, worldliness and self-indulgence into which they have fallen.[55]

Concerning the mysterious words of the last half of this chapter, Barclay said, "No one has ever been able fully to explain its details.[56] Summers said of the "horses" that, "The combined efforts of P. T. Barnum and Robert Ripley could not produce such an animal";[57] and Eller said of the locusts, just described, "These are locusts the way Picasso would have painted them."[58] Despite the mystery of this symbol, however, we believe that the central message comes through loud and clear.

Regarding our interpretation of this sixth trumpet, our own view is stated in the words of Carpenter, above; but other meanings are proposed by various scholars. Summers wrote: "The whole picture presents the Parthian cavalry."[59] Ellicott, Barnes, and others refer the fifth and sixth trumpets to the two great Muslim invasions culminating in the fall of Constantinople in 1453.[60] We do not at all despise such interpretations. The events mentioned did fulfill what is here prophesied; but so did the events of two great world wars fought within the lifetime of this writer. Furthermore, it cannot be absolutely ruled out that supernatural events never yet seen on earth may be indicated, an opinion held by Lenski.[61]

[53] Charles H. Roberson. op. cit.. p. 61.

[54] Martin Rist, op. cit., p. 435.

[55] W. Boyd Carpenter, op. cit., p. 577.

[56] William Barclay, op. cit., p. 52.

[57] Ray Summers, Worthy is the Lamb (Nashville: Broadman Press, 1961), p. 159.

[58] Vernard Eller, op. cit., p. 109.

[59] Ray Summers, op. cit., p. 159.

[60] R. C. H. Lenski, op. cit., p. 300.

[61] Ibid.

Revelation 9:14

one saying to the sixth angel that had the trumpet, Loose the four angels that are bound at the great river Euphrates.

Loose the four angels ... These angels symbolize the control of the horde of incredible monsters about to be released. It is immaterial whether these "four angels" are good, or evil angels. In either case, they operate only with God’s permissive will, and in full accord with God’s order.

The Euphrates ... Why this river? Many will agree with Hinds, that, "It seems wholly incredible that such a vision should not represent some great historical movement."[62] He saw the Muslim invasion here. Caird discovered the Parthian menace to Rome on its eastern boundary (the Euphrates), suggesting that:

The tactics of the Parthian army were to shoot one volley as they charged, and another over their horses’ tails as they withdrew. There was therefore some factual basis for John’s surrealistic picture of horses able to wound with their mouths and with their tails.[63]

Like other specific fulfillments, however, this does not fit. If the Parthian invasion had been meant, the horsemen would form the principal part of the vision; but they are barely mentioned. No activity in the infliction of the plagues is attributed to them. "There is no allusion to the characteristics of the Parthians."[64] Beasley-Murray adopted a somewhat different view when he pointed out that, "Without doubt (the mention of the Euphrates here) is due to its being the eastern boundary of the empire."[65]

Despite many learned opinions pointing in that same direction, we are convinced that another meaning must be sought. The Euphrates valley is the ancient home of mankind on earth. The Garden of Eden was there, long before there was a Rome; and it is likely that the place indicated here by the mention of this great river is man’s homeland, the cradle of his civilization, and the birthplace of his institutions, showing that it is from people themselves, as a product of their own devices, and as a result of their own philosophies, that the monstrous hordes of destroying cavalry really derive. Is not this the truth? It will be remembered that the locusts had men’s faces. Thoughts such as those advanced by Ladd do not contradict this. "The scourge is inflicted by the horses themselves which represent demonic powers."[66] True enough; but demons are only able to operate through wicked men. See note on "Euphrates" at end of chapter.

[62] John T. Hinds, A Commentary on the Book of Revelation (Nashville: The Gospel Advocate Company, 1962), p. 138.

[63] G. B. Caird, op. cit., p. 122.

[64] Isbon T. Beckwith, op. cit., p. 565.

[65] Beasley-Murray, The Book of Revelation (Greenwood, South Carolina: The Attic Press, 1974), p. 164.

[66] George Eldon Ladd, op. cit., p. 135.

Revelation 9:15

And the four angels were loosed that had been prepared for the hour and day and month and year, that they should kill the third part of men.

The hour and day and month and year ... means the precisely exact date. "This is not to be taken to imply the duration of the plague,"[67] but applies to the exact historical moment when this development will occur, or perhaps "when the conditions in human thought are exactly right," for such things to happen. Inherent in this is the thought of God’s having an exact timetable and schedule for the accomplishment of all of his purposes. Jesus often referred to "my hour," meaning when the exact moment for God’s will to be done would arrive; and Paul mentioned the same thing in Acts 17:26. Such expressions as "the times of the Gentiles," "the fullness of time," and "the fullness of the Gentiles" are all connected with the thought here. God has a plan and a time schedule for all things; and at the exact moment his plans will be executed. It hardly needs to be said that people do not know this timetable but God does.

Beckwith was incorrect in speaking of this time factor to attribute it to "non-canonical literature."[68] The whole New Testament has this conception. As Morris said, "It is clear that John is speaking of a divine plan. God has a purpose, and it is worked out. It is a purpose of judgment; and, upon this occasion, the third part of man were to be slain."[69] There is a vast difference between Revelation and the apocalyptic writings of those approximate times, as pointed out by Mounce:

The latter always envision foreign invasion, an attack against the people of God by pagan hosts, while John sees the invasion as a divine judgment upon a corrupt civilization.[70]

They should kill the third part of men ... The limitation should be stressed. If Satan were completely free to work his wicked plans, the entire populations of earth would not survive for thirty days, but would be utterly and ruthlessly destroyed, the same having been the invariable purpose of the devil from the Garden of Eden until this very instant. When Satan tormented Job, he could go only so far, and no further. The same restraint is operative here.

[67] W. Boyd Carpenter, op. cit., p. 579.

[68] Isbon T. Beckwith, op. cit., p. 567.

[69] Leon Morris, op. cit., p. 134.

[70] Robert H. Mounce, op. cit., p. 201.

Revelation 9:16

And the number of the armies of the horsemen was twice ten thousand times ten thousand: I heard the number of them.

The number mentioned here could not possibly have been ascertained by counting, hence the mention of John’s having heard it. Even this vast number appears to be symbolical of an infinitely greater and more overwhelming number.

This martial host signifies war, the great recurring scourge of the human race. When it is time for millions of men to perish, a war is all that is needed to bring it about.

This describes war, not one particular war, but all wars, past, present and future, but especially those frightful wars that shall be waged toward the close of this dispensation.[71]

Some have taken "myriads of myriads" as the 200,000,000 are enumerated here to symbolize the Turkish cavalry, which were numbered by "myriads." However, the heavenly angels were numbered with the same words in Revelation 5:11. Are God’s angels numbered like Turkish cavalry? Furthermore, this is an army of cavalry; and Constantinople fell to artillery. All specific applications of this prophecy encounter similar difficulties.


[71] William Hendriksen, op. cit., p. 147.

Revelation 9:17

And thus I saw the horses in the vision, and them that sat on them, having breastplates as of fire and of hyacinth and of brimstone: and the heads of the horses are as the heads of lions; and out of their mouths proceedeth fire and smoke and brimstone.

What appropriate comment could possibly be made upon such "horses" as these? No one can even imagine such things. The description is possibly for the purpose of showing how dreadful, destructive, invincible and infernal they really are. Could not many of the devices of modern warfare be similarly described? "It is very doubtful whether these details should be pressed to a particular interpretation."[72]

[72] A. Plummer, op. cit., p. 267.

Revelation 9:18

By these three plagues was the third part of men killed, by the fire and the smoke and the brimstone, which proceeded out of their mouths.

By these three plagues ... is usually applied to the "fire, smoke and brimstone" mentioned three times in these two verses (once with hyacinth instead of smoke), and which proceeded out of the horses’ mouths. The use of the word "hyacinth" in this connection is interesting. The word has several meanings, and each one of them is suggestive of the terror here described: (1) It is a bulbous plant of the lily family having spike-like flowers, suggesting the weapons of ancient warfare. (2) It is the name of an ancient gem with a bluish-violet color, the color of smoke, which the word replaces in Revelation 9:17. (3) It is a plant frequently alluded to by the Greek poets, fabled to have born on its petals the words of grief.[73] Whatever definition John had in mind, all of its definitions were attended by doleful and melancholy overtones.

Whatever may be symbolized by these terrible beings, "There is no doubting the reality of those demonic forces that thrive on men’s unbelief and are bent on their ruin."[74]

[73] Britannica World Language Dictionary Edition of Funk and Wagnalls Standard Dictionary (New York: Funk and Wagnalls Company).

[74] F. F. Bruce, op. cit., p. 648.

Revelation 9:19

For the power of the horses is in their mouth, and in their tails: for their tails are like unto serpents, and have heads; and with them they hurt.

One of the evident purposes of this verse is that of linking this vision with that of the previous fifth trumpet. "The deadliness of the tails links this vision with the preceding."[75] Thus there appears here the true nature of those false views which are adopted by mankind contrary to the revealed will of God. They are not merely innocent and harmless aberrations, but deadly and destructive errors that issue finally in a vast orgy of bloodshed and death. There are no innocent false doctrines. Lenski believed this woe points to the final judgment of God upon the corrupt human society "in its ultimate stage, delusions of hell overrunning what should be Christian nations."[76] It is also possible that some phase of the final "loosing of Satan" may be depicted here.

The power of the horses is in their mouth ... Evil propaganda is clearly suggested by this. It is the flood of wicked, irresponsible, inflammatory, deceitful, and violence-oriented rhetoric of all kinds of Pied Pipers screaming for people to follow them which is evident here. His evil mouth is the ruination of man.

[75] Leon Morris, op. cit., p. 135.

[76] R. C. H. Lenski, op. cit., p. 306.

Revelation 9:20

And the rest of mankind, who were not killed with these plagues, repented not of the works of their hands, that they should not worship demons, and the idols of gold, and of silver, and of brass, and of stone, and of wood; which can neither see, nor hear, nor walk:

And the rest of mankind ... repented not ... The benign purpose of God, even in such terrible judgments as this, is seen in this mention of repentance. God does not desire the destruction of men, but their repentance; however, this prophecy indicates that hardened and rebellious men will not repent, no matter what dire judgments may befall them. "There is hidden in this, right here in the midst of what may be John’s most terrible scene, a very positive note."[77] Although man’s awful wickedness may result in the most terrifying disasters upon the whole world, some may find in such things the incentive and the occasion of their repentance and turning to God. This appears to be the important thing from the standpoint of God.

Demons ... gold ... silver ... brass ... stone ... wood ... Note the progressive downward movement in the objects of false human worship. Exactly the same thing was outlined in Paul’s great discussion of pagan worship in Romans 1:18 ff. People changed the worship of God into the worship of man ... birds ... four-footed beasts ... creeping things. The movement of the human soul is inevitably downward when once the vital link with God is severed.

Worship ... idols of gold, ... "These words do not restrict the application of this prophecy to those times when pagan idol worship prevailed, with its worship of the physical idols of antiquity. The ancient idols of the pagan temples are now gazing-stocks in museums; but the old gods of gold, wine, power, fame, sex, self, hatred, cruelty, and sensuality are still very much in business; and they are still worshipped by people who reject God and walk after their own lusts and selfish desires.


[77] Vernard Eller, op. cit., p. 111.

Revelation 9:21

and they repented not of their murders, nor of their sorceries, nor of their fornication, nor of their thefts.

Murders ... sorceries ... fornication ... thefts ... This list, like many other similar lists in the New Testament, is not exhaustive, but typical. Two of these words are particularly interesting:

Sorceries ... Vine tells us that the primary meaning of this word ([@farmakeia]), from whence we have pharmacy, "signified the use of medicine, drugs and spells."[78] The drug culture of current times immediately comes to mind.

Fornication ... All the other words in this list are plural, but this is singular. Cox commented that, "Other crimes are perpetrated by men at intervals; but there is one continual fornication within those who do not have purity of heart."[79]

"When men turn from the knowledge of God, the path leads downward to idolatry and immorality (Romans 1:18-32)."[80]

And they repented not ... This trumpet (the sixth) has revealed the world in its final impenitence."[81] What comes next? The final judgment of Revelation 11:14-19; but before that is described there will be an interlude as there was before the opening of the seventh seal; and the purpose of the interlude here (Revelation 10) is to show God’s holy purpose of continuing the witness of the truth to people by means of preaching the gospel. Apart from that interlude, "The Apocalypse has now reached the verge of the final catastrophe."[82]


This mighty river so prominently mentioned in the text which stresses the loosing of "the four angels bound at the great river Euphrates" in Revelation 9:14 is almost invariably stressed by scholars as a reference to the eastern boundary of the Roman empire; but, although true enough, we do not believe that this river’s connection with the empire of the Romans is the important thing here. It is the prior connection of it with the garden of Eden and the fall of mankind which makes the mention of it significant in connection with the awful judgment recorded in this passage. That river, in the midst of the garden of Eden, is where all the woes of mankind originated. That is where the rebellion of people against God began; and this passage depicting the final falling of the cumulative wrath of God upon the human race is actually the fulfillment of God’s truth that, "In the day that thou eatest thereof, thou shalt surely die" (Genesis 2:17). Thus, John T. Hinds’ remarkable pronouncement that the mention of this river demands that it be understood as a reference to "some great historical movement"[83] is profoundly true. That great historical movement, however, was no obscure invasion of the ancient Roman empire by the Parthians or any other such military incursion against Roman authority, but a far greater historical movement of the whole human race away from their Creator, a movement which began at the Euphrates in the dawn of human creation.

And what about the four angels being "loosed" here, indicating a long restraint previously? They represent the judgment of God upon Adam and Eve for their rebellion, a judgment that was not executed at once, in order not to frustrate God’s purpose of redemption, but a judgment that was not cancelled, merely deferred until the day when the avenging angels would be "loosed" and there would finally fall the promised judgment. A very similar thing is revealed concerning the long deferred judgment against Jerusalem, a judgment which was not cancelled, but only deferred.

Commentary on Revelation 9:13-21 by Manly Luscombe

13 Then the sixth angel sounded: And I heard a voice from the four horns of the golden altar which is before God,… Here we begin the sixth trumpet, the second woe. Now we are going to see God unleashing the powerful forces that will destroy the spiritual part of man. While the fifth and sixth trumpets have some similarities. They are very different. In the fifth trumpet, Satan is given power to hurt people. In the sixth trumpet, God is the one who has the power to inflict torment.

14 saying to the sixth angel who had the trumpet, “Release the four angels who are bound at the great river Euphrates.” The voice comes from the throne of God, from the golden altar. This is real gold, not the fake gold of the locusts. The voice instructs the angel to release the four angels. This will take you back to Revelation 7:1. There were four angels at the four corners of the earth, ready to hold back winds and the sea. They were ready to destroy the earth, but were told to wait. The Euphrates River, 1700 miles long, was the farthest boundary of the Roman Empire. The Euphrates was also used in the sixth plague of God’s wrath. (Revelation 16:12). This river is not to be taken as the literal Euphrates River. It is the symbol of the border between God and his people, and Satan and his followers. It is the line of separation between righteousness and wickedness.

15 So the four angels, who had been prepared for the hour and day and month and year, were released to kill a third of mankind. The angels were released to kill a third of mankind. Here, again, is the fraction of one third. Thus, what is described is not the death of physical men, but the death of spiritual men. Some believe this is against the nature of God. Not true. Study 2 Thessalonians 2:11-12. We should also pay attention to Romans 8:28. This in no way removes the longsuffering of God. He is patient. But, there will come a time when patience has ended and God is ready to act. The angels were prepared (taught, trained, given clear instructions) for an hour, a day, a month, and a year. This is additional proof of the longsuffering of God. My view, God sees a person rejecting, refusing and rebelling against the will of God. God encourages them He is patiently waiting for them to return. God waits for an hour. God says, “I will give them a day.” Then, God extends the time to a month, then to a year. At some point, God determines that they are not going to repent. See Revelation 2:21 where God gave Jezebel “space to repent” and she would not. It is a serious mistake to think that our rebellion to God will prevent Him from ending this world and sending the rebellious to hell. The end will come. There will be a day of judgment. The wicked will be judged and assigned to hell. It will happen. God’s time of patience will end. His longsuffering is not eternal.

16 Now the number of the army of the horsemen was two hundred million; I heard the number of them. The army is numbered at 200 million. Remember “2” is the number of strength and courage. Here is a picture of an army strong and complete. This army is very able to do the task God has given it. They are able to destroy the spiritual part of men who have rebelled against God.

17 And thus I saw the horses in the vision: those who sat on them had breastplates of fiery red, hyacinth blue, and sulfur yellow; and the heads of the horses were like the heads of lions; and out of their mouths came fire, smoke, and brimstone. The description of the horses and riders are similar to the fifth trumpet. The riders have breastplates of fire. They are indestructible. The heads of the horses are like lions. They are able to devour and destroy. They are breathing fire, smoke and brimstone. These are all terms used later in Revelation to describe hell, the place of eternal punishment for Satan and his angels.

18 By these three plagues a third of mankind was killed-by the fire and the smoke and the brimstone which came out of their mouths. Today, there are many in our world that totally and completely rejects God, the Bible, Jesus, or anything spiritual. They have turned so completely away from the spiritual that prayer at a public gathering offends them. They object to an astronaut reading the Bible from space. They are driven to file a lawsuit because a prayer for the safety of athletes is given before a football game. The fraction of one third shows we are dealing with the spiritual life, not physical life. God is not killing men. The destruction here is spiritual. He is allowing them to believe and live the lies of Satan. (2 Thessalonians 2:11-12)

19 For their power is in their mouth and in their tails; for their tails are like serpents, having heads; and with them they do harm. Again, like the fifth trumpet, the tails carry the sting. The real harm, the pain, the agony is in the tail. After one has followed Satan and his teachings, after they have continually rejected God, they will be turned loose to follow their reprobate mind and heart. Often what begins as fun and pleasure turns into painful torture in the end. This is the pictured in the sixth trumpet.

20 But the rest of mankind, who were not killed by these plagues, did not repent of the works of their hands, that they should not worship demons, and idols of gold, silver, brass, stone, and wood, which can neither see nor hear nor walk. Remember the fraction shows that this is not complete or total destruction of all the wicked souls. These thundering horses will not affect some. God lists some of the sins that are involved. Demon worship, idolatry of dumb statues of gold, brass or stone - these are the sins that kill the spiritual man. These are the sins that took the heart and soul out of Old Testament Israel. They are the sins that will take the spiritual life out of New Testament Israel also.

21 And they did not repent of their murders or their sorceries or their sexual immorality or their thefts. They did not repent. Remember, God gave them time. He gave them opportunity and encouraged them to make the changes needed. They refused. NOTE: All church discipline involves not just a sin, like adultery or drunkenness, but the refusal to repent. If they refuse to repent, there is not option left for God. God cannot remain Holy (pure, untainted by sin) if he condones, tolerates and permits sin to continue. God extends the list - Murder, sorcery, sexual immorality, and stealing. These are just sample lists, not the sum total of sins that condemn. See Romans 1:1-32 and Galatians 5:1-26 for longer lists.

Sermon on Revelation 9:1-21

The Destroyer

Brent Kercheville

Revelation 8 has revealed devastating images of judgment as God unleashes his wrath because of the sins of the Jewish nation. These were partial judgments intended to bring about their repentance (a point that is made clear in Revelation 9). Revelation 9 is going to reveal where these judgments are coming. That is, we are going to learn who is doing the destroying against the Jewish nation.

The Fifth Trumpet (Revelation 9:1-12)

The fallen star (Revelation 9:1-2).

The fifth trumpet sounds and John sees a star fallen from heaven to earth. This star that falls was given the key to the shaft of the bottomless pit. The pit is literally the abyss (see HCSB, NIV, and NET). We immediately want to know who is this star that has fall from heaven (notice that the star is called a “he”). A single star falling from the sky to the earth is a common picture in scriptures of a mighty king or ruler.

“How you are fallen from heaven, O Day Star, son of Dawn! How you are cut down to the ground, you who laid the nations low!” (Isaiah 14:12 ESV) Isaiah 14:4 tells us that Isaiah was prophesying against the king of Babylon. Revelation uses similar imagery in Revelation 12:7-9 shows Satan and his angels being thrown down to the earth. In Luke 10:17-18 we see Jesus using the same imagery also.

The seventy-two returned with joy, saying, “Lord, even the demons are subject to us in your name!” And he said to them, “I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven.” (Luke 10:17-18 ESV) In all of these cases the imagery symbolizes a mighty king or ruler losing his power to some degree, if not completely. We will learn who this king is in verse 11. Before we get to the description of who is causing this trouble, we are going to learn the devastation that comes from this judgment.

The fallen star opens the shaft of the abyss and billows of smoke come out of the shaft and darken the sun. The darkening of the sun represents the doom and destruction of a nation. The end is coming for a nation. Smoke also represents divine judgment. The destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah used the same language. And he looked down toward Sodom and Gomorrah and toward all the land of the valley, and he looked and, behold, the smoke of the land went up like the smoke of a furnace. (Genesis 19:28 ESV)

Locusts (Revelation 9:3-6).

With the abyss open and the smoke rising John sees locusts coming from the smoke. We know these locusts are symbolic for something because the locusts are told not to harm the grass, any green plant or tree, or those who have the seal of God on their foreheads. True locusts destroy plants, grass, and trees. The locusts are symbolic and locusts are used as a symbol in the Old Testament. In Joel 1:4-7 we read Joel describing a locust invasion that had struck the land of Israel. Based on this event, Joel describes a nation that will come against Israel like a locust invasion.

Blow a trumpet in Zion; sound an alarm on my holy mountain! Let all the inhabitants of the land tremble, for the day of the LORD is coming; it is near, 2 a day of darkness and gloom, a day of clouds and thick darkness! Like blackness there is spread upon the mountains a great and powerful people; their like has never been before, nor will be again after them through the years of all generations. 3 Fire devours before them, and behind them a flame burns. The land is like the garden of Eden before them, but behind them a desolate wilderness, and nothing escapes them. 4 Their appearance is like the appearance of horses, and like war horses they run. 5 As with the rumbling of chariots, they leap on the tops of the mountains, like the crackling of a flame of fire devouring the stubble, like a powerful army drawn up for battle. (Joel 2:1-5 ESV)

Notice that the locusts sound like a powerful army coming against the nation of Israel. Revelation 9:4-5 make the connection that the locusts are an army very clear. The locusts have the appearance of horses and they leap like the rumbling of chariots. Locusts were the curse promised by God for Israel’s disobedience (Deuteronomy 28:38-42). The torment of the locusts is allowed for five months. The lifespan of locusts is five months and the duration season when locusts would attack is five months. This seems to be the reason for using this number of months for the duration of the torment. The suffering and torment will not be for a few days but for the duration of the life of the locusts. This attack will only end when the attackers have completed their devastation. The torment is as painful as the sting of a scorpion and the suffering will be so severe that people will want to die. They will seek death but not find it. I believe this suffering represents the Roman siege against Jerusalem from 66-70 AD. I will give an explanation why shortly.

Characteristics of the locusts (Revelation 9:7-11).

The locusts are described as a powerful army. Many of the descriptions in these verses are similar to what we read in Joel 1:4-7 and Joel 2:1-5. Revelation is showing us that this is not a literal locust attack. Rather the locust represent a terrifying ruling army. Notice that the locusts are wearing gold crowns showing that they have authority over the earth. This is another reason to see the locusts as the Roman Empire. The Roman Empire in the first century is the world power that dominates and rules over the earth. Verses 8-10 simply enhance the imagery of fierceness with which this attack will come. This invasion will be terrible and destructive. In Jeremiah 51:27 the prophet describes the coming of horses in war as locusts.

Identifying The Locusts

The locusts represent the Roman Empire and its invasion against Judea and Jerusalem. In Revelation 11:7 we see a parallel image. The abyss is open and we see the beast rising up from the abyss. Revelation 17:8 again reveals that the beast is what is rising up from the abyss. We will see in Revelation 13 that the beast represents the Roman Empire, a point where all scholars agree. We will see when we get to Revelation 11, 13 why the book uses the image of beast for the Roman Empire. What we need to see at this point is that the locusts and the beast represent the same entity. Both are unleashed from the abyss.

To validate this point, it is the same entity that is unleashing the locusts/beast. InRevelation 12, 13 we see the dragon unleashing the beast for war. The dragon is identified as Satan (Revelation 12:9) and the beast is the Roman Empire (Revelation 13:1-8; Revelation 17:7-11). In Revelation 9:11 we are told who this fallen star is. His name is Abaddon in Hebrew and Apollyon in Greek. The word Abaddon means destruction and the word Apollyon means destroyer. He is the one who has unleashed the locusts in this judgment. I believe there is no doubt that the destroyer refers to Satan. Satan is the ruler who has fallen to earth. Revelation 12:7-9 confirm the meaning of this image. Further, the Qumran community spoke of Abaddon fifteen times in their writings. Abaddon is spoken of with Sheol (the place of the dead in Hebrew) and is tied to Belial. Belial is the name the Qumran community used to refer to Satan (cf. 1QM 15:18; 18:17). Even the apostle Paul used the name Belial to refer to Satan and a fellowship with darkness. What accord has Christ with Belial? Or what portion does a believer share with an unbeliever? (2 Corinthians 6:15 ESV) Satan is shown unleashing the locusts in Revelation 9. Satan is shown as unleashing the beast in Revelation 13. In Revelation 9 Satan is called Abaddon and Apollyon. In Revelation 12 Satan is called the dragon. In Revelation 9 the Roman Empire is described as locusts. In Revelation 13 the Roman Empire is described as the beast.

The weight of this interpretation has become unavoidable. In Revelation 6:8 we observed that the method of the killing was the way God promised to judge Israel for disobedience (Leviticus 26:18-33; Ezekiel 14:21; Jeremiah 15:2-4). In Revelation 7:14 we are told that the servants of God are those who have come through the great tribulation. The phrase, “great tribulation,” is only used in one place outside of the book of Revelation. That one place is in Matthew 24:21 where Jesus is predicting the destruction of Jerusalem by the Roman armies (cf. Luke 21:20). Revelation 9 has revealed destroying locusts, an image used of a world power. Since the locusts represent the Roman Empire because the locusts and the beast are synonymous images (Revelation 11:7), then the object of God’s wrath is the nation of Israel. More proofs of this will be seen in chapters 10 and 11 of Revelation.

Revelation 9:12 tells us that this is only one woe. As terrible as that fifth trumpet sounded there are two more woes to come.

The Sixth Trumpet (Revelation 9:13-21)

When the sixth trumpet sounds, the angels that were holding back the four winds (which we saw in Revelation 7:1) are released. Cataclysmic judgments are unleashed against Judea and Jerusalem. The information that we read about in the six seals found in Revelation 6 takes place. A third of mankind are killed. Terrible suffering and death occurs. The Euphrates River is used as the image because this was the typical direction of the invasions against Israel. The Euphrates is where Israel’s enemies came from. When Assyria attacked the northern nation of Israel in 722 BC they came from the Euphrates. When Babylon attacked the southern nation of Judah beginning in 606 BC they came from the Euphrates. Verse 14 shows that this judgment is a world power coming against Israel. The troops are numerous. The math given in verse 16 adds up to 200 million troops on horses. This number is not to be understood literal just as none of the previous numbers are literal. To hear that 200 million troops riding on horses are coming against you shows that the nation will be decimated. You are going to lose and be devastated. This is your end. The horses are also described with terrifying imagery (Revelation 9:17-19). It is their doom.

We noted since chapter 6 that God is bringing these judgments to bring the nation back from its sins. God was calling for the nation to repent. Revelation 9:20-21 reveal that the partial judgments did not have their intended effect. No one repents. We noted in Revelation 6 that God brings judgment on a nation not only to bring about their repentance but also to bring about repentance for the rest of the nations. Recall these prophecies by Isaiah.

Draw near, O nations, to hear, and give attention, O peoples! Let the earth hear, and all that fills it; the world, and all that comes from it. 2 For the LORD is enraged against all the nations, and furious against all their host; he has devoted them to destruction, has given them over for slaughter. 3 Their slain shall be cast out, and the stench of their corpses shall rise; the mountains shall flow with their blood. 4 All the host of heaven shall rot away, and the skies roll up like a scroll. All their host shall fall, as leaves fall from the vine, like leaves falling from the fig tree. 5 For my sword has drunk its fill in the heavens; behold, it descends for judgment upon Edom, upon the people I have devoted to destruction. (Isaiah 34:1-5 ESV)

And people shall enter the caves of the rocks and the holes of the ground, from before the terror of the LORD, and from the splendor of his majesty, when he rises to terrify the earth. 20 In that day mankind will cast away their idols of silver and their idols of gold, which they made for themselves to worship, to the moles and to the bats, 21 to enter the caverns of the rocks and the clefts of the cliffs, from before the terror of the LORD, and from the splendor of his majesty, when he rises to terrify the earth. (Isaiah 2:19-21 ESV)

In Isaiah 34 Edom is the object of God’s wrath but God calls for the nations to pay attention and change. In Isaiah 2 Judah and Jerusalem are the objects of God’s wrath but mankind was to cast away their idols and sinful ways. But they do not. Therefore, judgments must continue because they are deserving of God’s wrath due to their sins.


  • · God’s mercy is revealed. God has the right to destroy us for our sins immediately. Look at what God keeps doing to bring back his creation.

  • · God’s wrath is revealed. God will not ignore our sinsforever. Justice and judgment must come.

  • · Repent while there is still time. Turn back to God before it is too late.



Read Revelation 8:1 to Revelation 9:21

1. What followed the opening of the seventh seal? Ans. Revelation 8:1.

2. How many angels stood before God and what was given to them? Ans. Revelation 8:2.

3. Where did another angel stand and what did he do? Ans. Revelation 8:3.

4. What ascended before God from the angel’s hand? Ans. Revelation 8:4.

5. What do the bowls of incense represent? Ans. Revelation 5:8.

6. What followed when the angel cast fire on the earth? Ans. Revelation 8:5.

7. Then what did the seven angels prepare to do? Ans. Revelation 8:6.

8. Tell how the earth was affected by the sounding of the first angel. Ans. Revelation 8:7.

9. What happened to the sea, to the creatures in the sea, and to the ships when the second angel sounded? Ans. Revelation 8:8-9.

10. What was affected by the sounding of the third angel? Ans. Revelation 8:10.

11. What was the name of this star? Ans. Revelation 8:11.

12. What was smitten when the fourth angel sounded? Ans. Revelation 8:12.

13. The sounding of the other three trumpets was prefaced by what announcement? Ans. Revelation 8:13.

14. What fell from heaven when the fifth angel sounded? Ans. Revelation 9:1.

15. What did this fallen star do? Ans. Revelation 9:2.

16. What came out of the smoke from the abyss? Ans. Revelation 9:3.

17. What were the locusts forbidden to harm? Ans. Revelation 9:4.

18. How were they to punish those who "have not the seal of God on their forehead?" Ans. Revelation 9:5-6.

19. Describe the locusts. Ans. Revelation 9:7-10.

20. Who was the king of these locusts? Ans. Revelation 9:11.

21. How many woes were then past and how many were to follow? Ans. Revelation 9:12.

22. Tell of the death and destruction that followed the sounding of the sixth angel. Ans. Revelation 9:13-19.

23. What of those who were not killed with these plagues? Ans. Revelation 9:20-21.

E.M. Zerr

Questions on Revelation

Revelation Chapter Nine

1. Which angel sounded next?

2. At this what did John see fan?

3. From and to where did it fall?

4. What was given to him?

5. Ten what he did with it.

6. What arose out of it?

7. To what was it compared?

8. State immediate effects of the smoke.

9. What came out of the smoke?

10. To what place did they come?

11. What was given unto them?

12. ’l’o what was this compared?

13. What were they prohibited from doing?

14. Whom were they to tonch?

15. What should they not do to the others?

16. But what should be done to them?

17. Describe their torment.

18. What will men seek in those days?

19. Shall they find it?

20. What will fiee from them?

21. Describe shape of these locusts.

22. What was on their heads?

23. Describe their faces.

24. What kind of hair did they have?

25. To what were their teeth likened?

26. What did they have made like as of iron?

27. Tell what their wings sounded like.

28. What kind of tails did they have?

29. With what were these tails provided?

30. Tell what they had power to do.

31. What did they have over them?

32. Over what was he an angel?

33. State his two names.

34. What has now passed?

35. How many are to follow?

36. Which angel sounded next?

37. What did John then hear?

38. To whom did the voice speak?

39. What was he commanded to loose?

40. Where were they bound?

41. For what time were the four angels prepared?

42. What were they prepared to do?

43. Tell what John heard at this time.

44. What was the number?

45. Tell what he saw in the vision.

46. Describe breast plates of the riders.

47. And describe the heads of the horses.

48. What came out of their mouths?

49. Tell what effect it had on men.

50. Where was their power located?

51. To what were the tails likened?

52. What could they do with them?

53. Tell the stubbornness of rest of the men.

Revelation Chapter Nine

Ralph Starling

When the 5th angel sounded the 1st woe to begin.

Locust appeared, live scorpions and horses with faces like men.

Bringing torment and misery on those swho said

"no" to God’s seal on their foreheads.

The 6th angel sounded and was told to deliver

the four angels bound in the great river.

The 4 angels prepared an army of death to deliver

fire, smoke, brimstone to upheavel.

In spite of the many trials and pleadings that God sent,

Still men, of their evils, refused to repent.

And the men that escaped the number killed,

continued to worship as they so willed.

Bibliographical Information
"Commentary on Revelation 9". "Old & New Testament Restoration Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/onr/revelation-9.html.
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