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FIFTH AND SIXTH TRUMPETS.
THE FIRST WOE TRUMPET.
Revelation 9:1-12 . “ And the fifth angel sounded (his) trumpet: and 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. And it opened the pit of the abyss; 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. And out of the smoke came forth locusts on the earth, and power was given to them as the scorpions of the earth have power. And it was said to them that they should not injure the grass of the earth, nor any green thing, nor any tree, but the men who have not the seal of God on their foreheads. And it was given to 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 strikes a man. And in those days shall men seek death, and shall in no way find it; and shall desire to die, and death flees from them. And the likenesses of the locusts (were) like to horses prepared for war; and upon their heads as crowns like gold, and their faces as faces of men. And they had hair as women’s hair, and their teeth were as of lions. And they had breastplates as breastplates of iron, and the sound of their wings (was) as the sound of chariots of many horses running to war. And they have tails like scorpions, and stings; and their power (was) in their tails to hurt men five months. 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 first woe has past; behold, there come yet two woes after these things. ” The details of this “woe” are wrapped up in mysterious language and symbol, but the general bearing seems evident. The Trumpets present more difficulties in minute exposition than either the Seals or Vials. But care, patience, and waiting upon God for light and intelligence are vital factors in the elucidation of Scripture. We “have an unction from the Holy One,” said of even babes in Christ (1 John 2:20 ; 1 John 2:27 ), and we “have the mind of Christ” (1 Corinthians 2:16 ), i.e. , the intelligent reasoning faculty, and are thus made divinely competent to understand the written Revelation of our God.
TWO FALLEN STARS.
1. “ A star out of the Heaven fallen to the earth. ” The Authorised 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. , recognised 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 energise the agents and instruments of evil.
HISTORICAL RESEMBLANCE AND SEQUENCE.
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 FALLEN STAR; OR, THE PERSONAL ANTICHRIST
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 legalised 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 ( 1Jn 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 characterised 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 (v. 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 (v. 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 armoury 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 characterised 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.
THE FALLEN STAR.
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.
SATANIC DELUSION AND ITS DARKENING EFFECT.
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 ).
THE LOCUST ARMY.
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 ” (v. 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 verses three and five.
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. The fallen star (v. 1) is the Antichrist; the king and the angel (v. 11) both designate Satan.
SIXTH TRUMPET, OR SECOND WOE.
THE TWO ALTARS.
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.
A VOICE FROM THE FOUR HORNS OF THE GOLDEN ALTAR.
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 2:0 ) and four beasts (Daniel 7:0 ) 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.
AN AUTHORITATIVE COMMAND.
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 ” (vv. 13, 14) and of the cardinal “ four ” (vv. 14, 15) intimates the precision with which this Woe will be executed. The exactness, too, of the appointed hour of vengeance (v. 15) and the number of the instruments employed (v. 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 chapter 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.
THE NUMBER OF THE AVENGING HOST.
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.
DESCRIPTION OF THE HORSEMEN AND THEIR HORSES.
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 ).
17. “ Out 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 (v. 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.
A HARVEST OF DEATH.
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 (v. 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 emphasise the fact that the judicial power of Satan is at work; and, further, that the agents are not mere mercenaries, but are energised 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.
THE MOUTH AND TAILS OF THE HORSES.
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 (v. 10). Here the power to destroy is in the mouth and tails (v. 19). There he is the liar. Here he is both murderer and liar.
19. “ Tails 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 Romans 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 verses 20, 21 of our chapter 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 verse 20.
Their impenitence in turning from righteousness to wickedness, and persisting therein, is stated in verse 21.
20. “ The 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 ).
20. “ That 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 practised 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 verse 20 gives their religion, verse 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 practised 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 verse 20 presents, and what a code of morals is unfolded in verse 21!
THE TWO WOES COMPARED.
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.
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Scott, Walter. "Commentary on Revelation 9". "Walter Scott's Commentary on Revelation". https://www.studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 12 / Ordinary 17