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Bible Commentaries
Revelation 9

Utley's You Can Understand the BibleUtley Commentary

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Introduction

Revelation 8:1-21

PARAGRAPH DIVISIONS OF MODERN TRANSLATIONS

UBS4NKJVNRSVTEVNJB
The Seventh Seal and the Golden CenserSeventh Seal: Prelude to the Seven TrumpetsThe Seventh SealThe Seventh SealThe Seventh Seal
Revelation 8:1-2Revelation 8:1-6Revelation 8:1-2Revelation 8:1-2Revelation 8:1
The Prayers of the Saints Bring the Coming of the Great Day Nearer
Revelation 8:2-5
Revelation 8:3-5Revelation 8:3-5Revelation 8:3-5
The TrumpetsThe First Six TrumpetsThe TrumpetsThe First Four Trumpets
Revelation 8:6The First Six TrumpetsRevelation 8:6Revelation 8:6Revelation 8:6-12
Revelation 8:7Revelation 8:7Revelation 8:7Revelation 8:7
Second Trumpet: The Seal Struck
Revelation 8:8-9Revelation 8:8-9Revelation 8:8-9Revelation 8:8-9
Third Trumpet: The Waters Struck
Revelation 8:10-11Revelation 8:10-11Revelation 8:10-11Revelation 8:10-11
Fourth Trumpet: The Heavens Struck
Revelation 8:12Revelation 8:12Revelation 8:12Revelation 8:12
Revelation 8:13-6Revelation 8:13Revelation 8:13Revelation 8:13Revelation 8:13
Fifth Trumpet: The Locusts from the Bottomless PitThe Plague of Demonic LocustsThe Fifth Trumpet
Revelation 9:1-12Revelation 9:1-6Revelation 9:1-6Revelation 9:1-6
Revelation 9:7-11Revelation 9:7-11Revelation 9:7-11Revelation 9:7-11
Revelation 9:12Sixth Trumpet: The Angel from the EuphratesRevelation 9:12Revelation 9:12Revelation 9:12
Revelation 9:13-19Revelation 9:13-21Revelation 9:13-19Revelation 9:13-19Revelation 9:13-21
Revelation 9:20-21Revelation 9:20-21Revelation 9:20-21

READING CYCLE THREE (from "A Guide to Good Bible Reading")

FOLLOWING THE ORIGINAL AUTHOR'S INTENT AT THE PARAGRAPH LEVEL

This is a study guide commentary, which means that you are responsible for your own interpretation of the Bible. Each of us must walk in the light we have. You, the Bible, and the Holy Spirit are priority in interpretation. You must not relinquish this to a commentator.

Read the chapter in one sitting. Identify the subjects. Compare your subject divisions with the five translations above. Paragraphing is not inspired but it is the key to following the original author's intent which is the heart of interpretation. Every paragraph has one and only one subject.

1. First paragraph

2. Second paragraph

3. Third paragraph

4. Etc.

CONTEXTUAL INSIGHTS TO Revelation 8:1-21

A. As the seven trumpets proceed out of the seventh seal, the question is, "what is the relationship between the trumpets, the seals, and the bowls?" There is a partial, if not complete, recapitulation. They cover the same time period. They are built on the same pattern and proceed out of each other. A partial recapitulation theory seems to have first been advanced in the third century by Victorinus of Pettau (see The Ante-Nicene Fathers, vol. 7, pp. 344-360). He only mentions a parallel relationship between the trumpets and bowls. When one compares the three, they seem to be apocalyptic, progressively destructive metaphors of the same eschatological period. It is quite possible that as the sixth seal (cf. Revelation 6:12-17) brings us up to the end, the seven trumpets (cf. Revelation 11:15-19) and seven bowls (cf. Revelation 16:17-21) describe the events of the end.

B. From where does John draw his imagery for these apocalyptic visions? There are several theories:

1. There are allusions to several OT passages, particularly in chapters 8 and 9, to the plagues of Egypt and to the locust invasion of Joel 2:0. As always in Revelation, the imagery of Daniel, Ezekiel and Zechariah form the basic background.

2. Jewish intertestamental apocalyptic writings, like I Enoch. I Enoch was widely known in first century Judaism, as well as in the church and was alluded to by NT authors (cf. 2 Peter 2:0 and Jude).

3. The historical setting of the first century, particularly Roman Emperor worship and local persecution.

The option we choose as the major source of imagery will determine how we interpret these two chapters. If we see this against the background of Imperial Rome, we will fit it into Roman history (preterist). If we see it against Jewish apocalyptic language, we will be more likely to interpret it as symbolic (idealist). If we see it against OT prophecies, we will project it into an end-time Jewish setting (futurist).

C. These two chapters describe an incrementally intensifying judgment on unbelievers. However, it must be emphasized that God brings judgment on them for the purpose of their redemption (cf. Revelation 9:20-21; Revelation 14:7; Revelation 16:9, Revelation 16:11). Therefore, they function like the covenantal curses of Deuteronomy 27-29.

D. As in previous chapters, the symbolism is so vague that what some commentators ascribe to Christ, some ascribe to Satan. With that kind of fluidity of symbolism, dogmatism is totally inappropriate. Interpreters must summarize the complete vision in one central truth. This central truth should guide the interpretation of the details and remain the central theological issue to be emphasized!

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS

This is a study guide commentary which means that you are responsible for your own interpretation of the Bible. Each of us must walk in the light we have. You, the Bible, and the Holy Spirit are priority in interpretation. You must not relinquish this to a commentator.

These discussion questions are provided to help you think through the major issues of this section of the book. They are meant to be thought provoking, not definitive.

1. Where are we to find the source of the imagery of these chapters: (1) the OT; (2) Jewish apocalyptic literature; or (3) historical events of the Roman Empire?

2. Do these events refer to (1) the first century, (2) every century, or (3) the future?

3. Are these chapters meant to be taken literally or apocalyptically?

4. What is the major thrust of chapters 8-9?

5. How are the seven seals and the seven trumpets related in chapters 8 and 9?

6. Why will there be increased angelic and demonic activity before the Second Coming?

Verses 1-6

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: Revelation 9:1-6 1Then the fifth angel sounded, and I saw a star from heaven which had fallen to the earth; and the key of the bottomless pit was given to him. 2He opened the bottomless pit, and smoke went up out of the pit, like the smoke of a great furnace; and the sun and the air were darkened by the smoke of the pit. 3Then out of the smoke came locusts upon the earth, and power was given them, as the scorpions of the earth have power. 4They were told not to hurt the grass of the earth, nor any green tree, nor any tree, but only the men who do not have the seal of God on their foreheads. 5And they were not permitted to kill anyone, but to torment for five months; and their torment was like the torment of a scorpion when it stings a man. 6And in those days men will seek death and will not find it; they will long to die, and death flees from them.

Revelation 9:1 "and I saw a star from heaven which had fallen to the earth" There have been several theories as to the identity of this personified star who is called an angel.

1. because the verb is perfect tense, it could refer to Satan having fallen in the past and continues to be fallen from heaven (cf. Isaiah 14:12; Ezekiel 28:16; Luke 10:18; Revelation 12:9)

2. because of the context it could be just another servant angel involved in God's judgment (cf. Revelation 20:1)

Angels as falling stars are often found in the intertestamental Jewish apocalyptic literature.

"the key of the bottomless pit was given to him" A "key" is mentioned in Revelation 1:18 and Revelation 20:1. It symbolizes authority. God exercises authority over the demonic hordes of judgment.

The abyss is a Greek term that meant "depth" negated by an alpha privative.

1. It is used in the Septuagint (Greek translation of the OT) in Genesis 1:2; Genesis 7:11; Psalms 42:7; Psalms 107:26 for the depths of the waters of creation.

2. In Psalms 71:20 it refers to the holding place of the dead.

3. This is also true of I Enoch 18:12-16; 21:7-10; 108:3-6, where it is both a temporary and final prison of fallen angels.

4. It seems to be synonymous with the term "tartarus" (cf. 2 Peter 2:4 and I Enoch 21:7), a place where evil angels are held in prison (cf. Luke 8:31; Jude 1:6; Revelation 11:7; Revelation 17:8; Revelation 20:1-3; and I Enoch 10:4; 86:1; 88:1; Jubilees Revelation 5:6-11).

5. Paul used this term (abyss) in Romans 10:7 for the place of the dead (cf. Isaiah 24:21-22).

6. Later the rabbis said it was the name of the unrighteous part of Sheol/Hades (see Special Topic at Revelation 1:18).

"was given" There is a series of passive verbs in both chapters 8 and 9, which emphasizes God's control of both history and the demonic (cf. Revelation 8:3, Revelation 8:7, Revelation 8:8, Revelation 8:11, Revelation 8:12; Revelation 9:1, Revelation 9:3, Revelation 9:4, Revelation 9:5). Often Jewish writers used passive voice as a circumlocution for deity's actions.

Revelation 9:2 "smoke went up out of the pit, like the smoke of a great furnace" This terminology is used in several senses in the OT:

1.it accompanied the judgment on Sodom and Gomorrah (cf. Genesis 19:28)

2. it accompanied the judgment of God on the nations (cf. Isaiah 34:10)

3. it accompanied the presence of God on Mt. Sinai (cf. Exodus 19:18)

Revelation 9:3 "locusts" These are often used as symbols of God's wrath (cf. Exodus 10:12-15; Joel 1:4; Joel 2:1ff) because they symbolized an invading army (cf. Revelation 9:7; Joel 2:4-5, Joel 2:7-9).

Revelation 9:4 "They were told not to hurt the grass of the earth, nor any green thing, nor any tree" These demonic forces are limited in their punishment. They must not destroy any plant life and they can only torment, but not kill, the unbelievers (cf. Revelation 9:5; Revelation 7:4); the believers are protected by God (as they were in the Egyptian plagues).

"the seal of God on their foreheads" See full note at Revelation 7:2. It is an allusion from Ezekiel 9:4.

Revelation 9:5 "five months" Some interpret this time span as the life expectancy of a locust. However, it is possibly one-half the number ten, which would be another metaphor for a limited judgment (cf. Revelation 6:6, Revelation 6:8; Revelation 8:7-12).

"the torment of a scorpion" The sting of a scorpion is another OT metaphor (cf. 2 Chronicles 10:11, 2 Chronicles 10:14).

Revelation 9:6 This is a direct parallel to Revelation 6:15-16, which may be additional evidence for the recapitulation theory among the seals, the trumpets, and the bowls. This may be an allusion to the judgment of the faithless idolatrous Jews of Jerusalem in Jeremiah 8:2-3.

Verses 7-11

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: Revelation 9:7-11 7The appearance of the locusts was like horses prepared for battle; and on their heads appeared to be crowns like gold, and their faces were like the faces of men. 8They had hair like the hair of women, and their teeth were like the teeth of lions. 9They had breastplates like breastplates of iron; and the sound of their wings was like the sound of chariots, of many horses rushing to battle. 10They have tails like scorpions, and stings; and in their tails is their power to hurt men for five months. 11They have as king over them, the angel of the abyss; his name in Hebrew is Abaddon, and in the Greek he has the name Apollyon.

Revelation 9:7-9 "the appearance of the locusts" The physical description of these locusts is very similar to Joel 2:4-9 and also to a famous Arabian proverb that says, "locusts have a head like a horse, a breast like a lion, feet like a camel, a body like a serpent, and antennae like the hair of a maiden."

This is obviously an allusion to the book of Joel in its description of:

1. the lion's teeth (cf. Revelation 9:8; Joel 1:6)

2. the vast number of chariots and horses rushing to battle (cf. Revelation 9:9 and Joel 2:5)

Revelation 9:8 Some see this as a reference to the Parthian hordes, cavalry with long hair. These were known for their skill as mounted archers. The Romans feared these barbaric invaders.

Revelation 9:11 "They have as king over them" Proverbs 30:27 says that locusts do not have a king, but this is an allusion to a demonic swarm, not physical locusts.

"the angel of the abyss" The term "abyss" refers to the realm of the dead (cf. Revelation 9:1, Revelation 9:2, Revelation 9:11; Revelation 11:7; Revelation 17:8; Revelation 20:1, Revelation 20:3; and Romans 10:7).

See full note at Revelation 9:1.

"his name in Hebrew is Abaddon, and in the Greek he has the name Apollyon" The Hebrew (Aramaic) term meant "destruction" and the Greek term meant "destroyer." The Hebrew term was identified with Sheol, the realm of the dead (cf. Job 26:6; Job 29:22; Job 31:12; Psalms 88:11 Proverbs 15:11; Proverbs 27:20).

Robert B. Girdlestone has an interesting comment on this term in his book Synonyms of the Old Testament: "This word is rendered "perish" in about a hundred passages. When used of persons it generally signifies death, when used of lands it implies desolation" (p. 273).

In Job 28:22 it is personified along with Death. This personification is also characteristic of the Dead Sea Scrolls and the intertestamental Jewish apocalyptic literature. This is somewhat unusual because the angel of death in the OT is a servant of YHWH (cf. Exodus 12:23; Job 15:21) or even a personification of YHWH (cf. Exodus 12:13, Exodus 12:29). But here the angel seems to be the ruler of an imprisoned, demonic horde. This may be another way to show God's control of all things.

Some have even asserted that as the emperors Nero and Domitian claimed to be the incarnation of Apollo, that this Greek name is a corrupted form and an allusion to Apollyon. There are two pieces of evidences to support this,

1. locusts were a symbol of Apollo

2. the term Apollo and Apollyon both come from the same Greek root

Verse 12

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: Revelation 9:12 12The first woe is past; behold, two woes are still coming after these things.

Revelation 9:12 This verse links up with Revelation 9:4 and 12:2.

Verses 13-19

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: Revelation 9:13-19 13Then the sixth angel sounded, and I heard a voice from the four horns of the golden altar which is before God, 14one saying to the sixth angel who had the trumpet, "Release the four angels who are bound at the great river Euphrates." 15And the four angels, who had been prepared for the hour and day and month and year, were released, so that they would kill a third of mankind. 16The number of the armies of the horsemen was two hundred million; I heard the number of them. 17And this is how I saw in the vision the horses and those who sat on them: the riders had breastplates the color of fire and of hyacinth and of brimstone; and the heads of the horses are like the heads of lions; and out of their mouths proceed fire and smoke and brimstone. 18A third of mankind was killed by these three plagues, by the fire and the smoke and the brimstone which proceeded out of their mouths. 19For the power of the horses is in their mouths and in their tails; for their tails are like serpents and have heads, and with them they do harm.

Revelation 9:13 "I heard a voice from the four horns of the golden altar" This is an allusion to the altar of incense in the Tabernacle (cf. Exodus 30:2, Exodus 30:3, Exodus 30:10). There are two altars mentioned in this section: the altar of sacrifice under which the souls of the martyrs were found (cf. Revelation 6:9-11), and the altar of incense upon which the prayers of God's people are placed (cf. Revelation 8:3-5). The horns were an OT symbol of power. Both the incense altar and altar of sacrifice had horns. See note at Revelation 8:3.

Revelation 9:14 "'Release the four angels who are bound at the great river Euphrates'" Those who are looking for historical first century allusions see this as the Parthian hordes just beyond the Euphrates River (i.e., the boundary of the Roman Empire, cf. I Enoch 56:5-8). Others, however, see this as an allusion to the OT where, as the four horses of the apocalypse are found in Zechariah 1:8 and Revelation 6:1-8, these four angels seem to be another metaphor for God's appointed servants bringing judgment on a fallen, rebellious world (cf. Revelation 7:1). However, because these angels are bound, it may be a reference to evil angels (cf. Jude 1:6). These angels bring death to one-third of mankind (cf. Revelation 9:18).

The northern part of the headwaters of the Euphrates River was the northeastern boundary of the Promised Land (cf. Genesis 15:18; Deuteronomy 1:7; Deuteronomy 11:24; Joshua 1:4).

Revelation 9:15 "And the four angels, who had been prepared for that hour and day and month and year, were released" There is a definite article with the term "hour," which implies the definiteness of this complete phrase. This is a reference to God's sovereignty and control of history (cf. I Enoch 92:2). This is a great help to those who are undergoing persecution.

Revelation 9:16 "The number of the armies of the horsemen was two hundred million" This is a symbolic number of the demonic hordes that engulf unredeemed mankind. This number is comparable to the myriads of angels who serve God (cf. Revelation 5:11; Deuteronomy 33:2; Psalms 68:17; Daniel 7:10; Hebrews 12:22; Jude 1:14).

Again, to try to relate this to the modern nation of China is another example of forcing figurative literature into current history. The desire of Christians to figure out the future and impress each other with esoteric knowledge is a recurrent problem.

Revelation 9:17-19 "the horses and those who sat on them" The description that follows sees the horses and riders as one unit. The real agents of death and torment are the horses themselves (cf. Revelation 9:19). The colors of the horsesred (fire), blue (hyacinth) and yellow (brimstone)identify this particular demonic horde as related to the three plagues of fire, blue smoke, and sulphur mentioned in Revelation 9:18.

Verses 20-21

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: Revelation 9:20-21 20The rest of mankind, who were not killed by these plagues, did not repent of the works of their hands, so as not to 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; 21and they did not repent of their murders nor of their sorceries nor of their immorality nor of their thefts.

Revelation 9:20 "The rest of mankind, who were not killed by these plagues, did not repent of the works of their hands" This is a clear, unambiguous statement of the redemptive purposes of these plagues (cf. Revelation 9:21; Revelation 14:6-7; Revelation 16:9, Revelation 16:11; Revelation 21:7; Revelation 22:17).

As God used the plagues on Egypt as a motivation for (1) Egyptians to believe and serve Him and (2) Israel to stay faithful and serve Him (cf. Deuteronomy 27-28), so these similar plagues were meant to turn unbelieving mankind back to their creator, but they refused. Their stubborn unbelief had become a settled state of rebellion (cf. Romans 1:24, Romans 1:26).

"the works of their hands" This an allusion to idolatry (i.e., the worship of demons, cf. Deuteronomy 32:17; Psalms 106:37; 1 Corinthians 10:20) mentioned so often in the OT (cf. Deuteronomy 4:28; Deuteronomy 28:36, Deuteronomy 28:64; Deuteronomy 29:17; Deuteronomy 32:17; Psalms 115:4-8; Psalms 135:15-18; Isaiah 2:8; Isaiah 37:19; Isaiah 40:19-20; Isaiah 44:17; Jeremiah 1:16; Jeremiah 10:3-5; Daniel 5:23; Micah 5:13). Notice in the NT that idolatry is linked to the demonic (cf. Revelation 16:14; 1 Corinthians 10:20; 1 Timothy 4:1).

Revelation 9:21 These four things (idolatry, murder, sorceries, immorality) are condemned in the OT (cf. Deuteronomy 18:10-11, Deuteronomy 18:14, Deuteronomy 18:20; Exodus 22:18; Leviticus 20:6) and they characterize the immoral lifestyle of the unbelievers (cf. Romans 1-2; 1 Timothy 4:1; Revelation 18:23). This same inclusive group of unrepentant unbelievers is mentioned in Revelation 13:15-17; Revelation 14:9; Revelation 16:2, Revelation 16:9, Revelation 16:11.

NASB, NKJV, NRSV"sorceries" TEV"magic" NJB"witchcraft"

We get the English term "pharmacy" from this Greek word for sorceries (pharmakeia, cf. Galatians 5:20). This may have been a reference to magical potions or poisoning, like the wormwood mentioned earlier (cf. Revelation 8:11). In the ancient world drugs were often used to induce "religious" experience.

Bibliographical Information
Utley. Dr. Robert. "Commentary on Revelation 9". "Utley's You Can Understand the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/ubc/revelation-9.html. 2021.
 
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