One of the really interesting components of the Book of Revelation is the distinct pattern and structure presented in the way these various divine judgments are laid out. Not only will you find seven seal, seven trumpet, and seven bowl judgments, but in each set, you’ll also discover a coupling of four — then a distinct grouping of two — followed by an intermission — before the seventh judgment initiates the next set of seven.
Again, keep in mind, two things… (1) With each of these movements within the heavenly space (whether it be the opening of a seal, blowing of a trumpet, or pouring out of a bowl) a corresponding event is carried forth on earth representing the judgment of God. And (2) the way time in heaven relates to time earth can be wonky. For example, in this chapter, John will see the fifth trumpet sound and five months transpire before we get to the sixth.
With Jesus’ opening of the seventh seal, John watches as seven angels step forward to blow seven trumpets in sequence. With the first, a third of the vegetation of earth was burnt up. With the second, a third of the seas were turned to blood. With the third, a third of the freshwater became undrinkable. And with the fourth, a third of the sky was darkened.
Following this fourth trumpet judgment, John closes out chapter 8, “And I looked, and I heard an angel flying through the midst of heaven, saying with a loud voice, ‘Woe, woe, woe to the inhabitants of the earth, because of the remaining blasts of the trumpet of the three angels who are about to sound!’” Even though things are terribly bad on earth, God is warning humanity things were about to get so much worse! While the first four trumpets devastate the planet itself, the next three will specifically target humanity.
As a warning, Revelation 9 is about to get really strange. In fact, this will likely be the most bizarre Bible study I have ever given — so buckle up! While there are a lot of ways such a passage could be tackled, we’re going to first read through the entire chapter in order to set up a framework before then working backward hoping to make sense of these things.
Revelation 9:1-6, “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. 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. Then out of the smoke locusts came upon the earth.
And to them was given power, as the scorpions of the earth have power. 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. 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. In those days men will seek death and will not find it; they will desire to die, and death will flee from them.
Revelation 9:7-12, “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. They had hair like women’s hair, and their teeth were like lions’ teeth. 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.
They had tails like scorpions, and there were stings in their tails. Their power was to hurt men five months. 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. One woe is past. Behold, still two more woes are coming after these things.
Revelation 9:13-19, “Then the sixth angel sounded: And I heard a voice from the four horns of the golden altar which is before God (we don’t know who’s voice), saying to the sixth angel who had the trumpet, ‘Release the four angels who are bound at the great river Euphrates.’ 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. Now the number of the army of the horsemen was two hundred million; I heard the number of them.
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. 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. 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.”
Following the blast of the fifth trumpet, John says, “I saw a star fallen from heaven to the earth. To him was given the key to the bottomless pit.” The first thing you should notice is this “star” John mentions had to of been some type of created being and not a literal star. We know this because John immediately pivots to say of the star “to him was given.”
The other important detail is the fact John describes this “fall” in the past tense. We don’t know when it happened, but he’s describing a fallen star. Additionally, because this fall resulted in the relocation of this being “from heaven to the earth,” it’s logical this “star” John sees was an angel who’d been stripped of his heavenly glory and position.
In fact, this phrase “fallen from heaven” likely provides for us the definitive clue as to the identity of this star itself. In Isaiah 14:12-15, the prophet wrote, “How you are fallen from heaven, O Lucifer, son of the morning! How you are cut down to the ground, you who weakened the nations! For you have said in your heart: ‘I will ascend into heaven, I will exalt my throne above the stars of God; I will also sit on the mount of the congregation on the farthest sides of the north; I will ascend above the heights of the clouds, I will be like the Most High.’ Yet you shall be brought down to Sheol, to the lowest depths of the Pit.”
With these things in mind, we understand, following the blowing of this fifth trumpet, John sees Satan “given the key to the bottomless pit.” Naturally, possessing “the key” grants him the ability to set loose onto the earth creatures being held in the pit. In his vision, John says, when “he opened the bottomless pit, smoke arose out of the pit like the smoke of a great furnace… Then out of the smoke locusts came upon the earth.”
In order for me to explain what I believe John is watching play out on the earth with the fifth and sixth trumpet, I think it would be helpful if I start by putting all of my cards onto the table… It is my opinion that Revelation 9 records for us a future invasion of the planet by two groups of supernatural beings: demons who torment men for five months, followed by an army of fallen angels who proceed to kill a third of mankind.
Now before you immediately turn me off… If you keep in mind two important things, my thesis isn’t all that outlandish. First, there is no question the Bible affirms the existence of angels and demons in massive numbers. Not only are these beings referenced frequently all throughout the Scriptures, but we actually have the historical record of a moment when their interactions with humanity occurred openly and on a global scale. We’ll get to this!
Secondly, even a secular world that rejects what we’d call the supernatural is growing increasingly cognitive of the reality we are not alone in this universe. In fact, if you see the accounts of alien encounters or the documented evidence of foreign objects moving into and out of space in ways that defy what we know of physics as potentially being angels and demons, then a future “alien invasion” of our planet is not as crazy as it may initially seem.
In order to understand what’s happening in this chapter and more specifically what’s being released from the “Bottomless Pit,” we need to start with the pit itself. While there is an unavoidable measure of mystery regarding the spiritual realms that exist outside our physical dimension, the Bible does describe for us several locations.
Aside from heaven and what was known as Paradise before, the Bible tells us the final destination of the unbelieving world along with Satan, demons, and the rest of the fallen angelic host is a place called Hell — which is also known as Sheol or the eternal Lake of Fire. (Please note, Hell is presently unoccupied and is not a place where Satan and his boys dwell.) Furthermore, the Scriptures also describe a place called Hades where the souls of the wicked are currently sent to await the final Great White Throne Judgment.
What’s interesting about this “Bottomless Pit” John references here in Revelation 9 is that it doesn’t appear to be either Hell or Hades, but a third location also called the Abyss. Now, regarding what we can glean about this place from the details John provides in our text, we can say this Bottomless Pit acted as a place of incarceration — a prison of sorts — a place where certain wicked creatures are being kept under a literal lock and key.
Obviously, the next logical question in order to unpack what John is witnessing in this chapter would center on whether or not the Bible provides any clues as to what creatures would be held in such a place. Broadly speaking, we understand God formed man from the dust of the earth on the sixth day. And while we don’t know when God created the angelic host, we can say with complete certainty they are also created beings.
Sadly, as with humanity, the Bible affirms a third of the angels ended up joining Satan in his rebellion against God which resulted in them being cast from heaven to earth. It’s also worth pointing out that according to Jesus, in Matthew 25:41, “the everlasting fire” or Hell was originally “prepared for the devil and his angels.” Man’s rebellion changes this design.
My point in bringing these things to your attention is to remind you that active within other dimensions all around us there exist the angels of God as well as various kinds of fallen angels. They are as real as you and me. Once more, the Bible is clear that because angels (whether they be fallen or not) also possess the ability to take on a physical form crossing into our dimension, it’s highly possible for you to “entertain angels” and not even know it.
As mentioned, one of the things that’s helpful when approaching a trippy and challenging passage like Revelation 9 is to remember mankind is not alone on this planet! The truth is there exists all around us an angelic host that seeks to be a blessing and others who do not have our best interests in mind. In fact, in Ephesians 6:12, Paul acknowledges, “For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against the spiritual hosts of wickedness.”
Aside from humanity, we understand that our universe is cohabitated with various kinds of angelic beings — a third of which are fallen. And yet, you should also note the Bible seems to affirm the existence of a third type of creature “alien” to God’s original design. We’re going to take a bit of a detour, but give me time and it’ll all come together.
In Genesis 6:1-4, we read, “Now it came to pass, when men began to multiply on the face of the earth, and daughters were born to them, that the sons of God saw the daughters of men, that they were beautiful; and they took wives for themselves of all whom they chose.
And the LORD said, ‘My Spirit shall not strive with man forever, for he is indeed flesh; yet his days shall be one hundred and twenty years.’ There were giants on the earth in those days, and also afterward, when the sons of God came in to the daughters of men and they bore children to them. Those were the mighty men who were of old, men of renown.”
During this period of human history, the Bible says “there were giants on the earth” who “were the mighty men of old, men of renown.” In the original Hebrew, the word we have translated as “giants” is Nephilim. It would seem during this population growth the human genome was altered in such a way that not only could men grow to incredible statures, but also possessed the ability to achieve supernatural feats of which they were “renown.”
And how did this happen? The record provided in Genesis 6 tells us this took place “when the sons of God came into the daughters of men and bore children to them.” While there is little confusion as to the plain reading of this phrase “the daughters of men,” the controversy of this text undoubtedly comes down to the identity of these “sons of God.”
There are those who attempt a natural reading; and yet, the biggest problem is the fact the phrase “sons of God” is never once used in Scripture to refer to human beings. Aside from this passage, this phrase is used in Job 1:6, 2:1, 38:7 — and in all three places “sons of God” or “ben ‘elohiym” is used as a direct reference to angelic beings. In fact, the scholars behind the Septuagint translate this phrase as the “angels of God.”
Though the Scriptures present angels as being asexual and not able to procreate among themselves (Matthew 12:25), it appears these Nephilim were born through some type of strange sexual intercourse taking place between fallen angels and human women.
While I understand this sounds nuts, keep in mind we know angels can take on a human form and the Bible affirms this form is always male. Not to deviate any further down the rabbit hole, but it’s true that sexual perversions with demons are common in the occult.
In the end, the destruction of this mutated version of humanity made Noah’s Flood all the more necessary. And yet, the truth is that you can’t kill an angel let alone drown one! As such, according to Jude 1, we’re told these fallen “angels who did not keep their proper domain, but left their own abode, Jesus has reserved in everlasting chains under darkness for the judgment of the great day; as Sodom and Gomorrah, having given themselves over to sexual immorality and gone after strange flesh, are set forth as an example.”
Again, this entire notion that God punished these fallen angels who’d committed such an abomination placing them into chains is affirmed for us in 2 Peter 2:4-5. The Apostle wrote, “God did not spare the angels who sinned, but cast them down to hell (a literal translation is tartaros or the deepest abyss) and delivered them into chains of darkness, to be reserved for judgment; and did not spare the ancient world, but saved Noah, one of eight people, a preacher of righteousness, bringing in the flood on the world of the ungodly.”
Looking back at our text… When Satan unlocks the bottomless pit two things are immediately released — smoke and then from the smoke come these locusts. Initially, John’s focus centers on these “locusts” who proceed to torment everyone on earth for a specific period of five months — with the lone exception of 144,000 who have “the seal of God on their foreheads.” Men will want to die, but will not be allowed during this time.
And yet, while they will not become a factor until the sixth trumpet sounds following these terrifying five months, I believe the “smoke” also released from the pit ends up becoming this “army of horsemen” or literally a calvary of fallen angels totaling “two hundred million.”
During these five months, this army of fallen angelic beings is awaiting the “release of the four angels bound at the river Euphrates” who’d been “prepared for the hour and day and month and year.” In the end, they will be responsible for the deaths of “a third of mankind.” Again, in Jude 1, it’s not an accident we’re told these “fallen angels” had been “reserved in everlasting chains under darkness for the judgment of the great day.”
To be fair, there are those who try to connect the sixth trumpet with the sixth bowl judgment which sets into motion the final battle of Armageddon. Ultimately, to do this they take verses 16 through 19 of Revelation 9 and read into what is a really bizarre description of modern methods of warfare John would have naturally struggled to describe.
Additionally, those who take this particular position will point to the fact that during the sixth bowl the Euphrates is dried up providing the armies of the east easy access for the final battle in the Valley of Megiddo. Again, building on this idea, they’ll also argue how the People’s Republic of China has boasted of having a 200 million man army.
And yet, there are problems with this perspective… First, the armies of the world in Revelation 16 are brought to Armageddon by “three unclean spirits” whereas in Revelation 9 things are initiated by the release of “four angels” who seem to actually lead this army.
Aside from this, in our text, John only mentions the Euphrates in relation to the sixth trumpet because it was where these four angels had been bound. The truth is Revelation 9 makes no mention of the river drying up creating a superhighway. Lastly, if you consider the pure logistics of what it would take to supply and move a 200 million man army, it’s not possible.
Let me be clear… These “horses” John sees scouring the earth towards the end of this chapter are unlike anything else described in the Bible and do not easily correspond to some modern method of warfare we’ve presently ever seen. As such, if you allow the plain reading to read plainly, I believe the only conclusion you can reach about this sixth trumpet judgment is that it’s a continuation of the previous one. God allows an army of 200 million fallen angels to invade the earth and in the process kill a third of humanity!
While we understand fallen angels are released from this bottomless pit, what about these bizarre creatures who emerge “out of the smoke” that John simply refers to as being “locusts?” It’s true that I always seek to remain dedicated to the plain, literal reading of a text; however, in this case, I don’t believe we should read this as being a literal description but instead as John’s way of describing the swarming nature of these devastating creatures.
Before I explain what I believe these creatures actually are, let me give you a few reasons why I don’t believe they’re actually locusts… For starters, it’s obvious the detailed description of these creatures provided by John in verses 7 through 10 is not consistent with the anatomy of any kind of locusts we know of on earth. Look again at John’s description and note how frequently he employs illustrative language…
“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. They had hair like women's hair, and their teeth were like lions' teeth. 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. They had tails like scorpions, and there were stings in their tails.”
The other clue that these were not literal locusts centers on the fact locusts do not typically avoid eating vegetation and aren’t inclined to attack and physically torment men. John says, beginning with verse 4, “They were commanded not to harm the grass, or any green thing, or any tree, but only those men who do not have the seal of God on their foreheads. They were not given authority to kill them, but to torment them. Their torment was like the torment of a scorpion when it strikes a man…” Then, in verse 10, John adds, “They had tails like scorpions, there were stings in their tails. Their power was to hurt men five months.”
Beyond this, according to Proverbs 30:27, we’re told, “The locusts have no king” which is one of the things that makes the uniformity in the way they swarm so puzzling. You see locust have no leader providing them marching orders; and yet, in verse 11, these locusts “had as king over them the angel of the bottomless pit, whose name in Hebrew is Abaddon (destruction), but in Greek he has the name Apollyon (Destroyer).” Again, all of the language John uses in these verses builds the case these “locusts” were not actually locusts.
So if these creatures Satan sets loose on the earth to torment man for five months are not insects, what in the world are they? When you really begin to wrap your mind around Genesis 6, you’re left wondering what became of these Nephilim following the Flood?
Theoretically, you can imagine alien offspring of angels mating with humans would also be quite difficult to kill off completely. Yes, their physical bodies would have perished in the flood (their humanity), but their angelic nature would have remained. So what happened?
While it’s difficult to say with 100% certainty, in Luke 8:27-33, we have the record of a story I believe sheds some light on a potential answer… “When Jesus stepped out on the land, there met Him a certain man from the city who had demons for a long time (the word for “demon” means evil spirits). He wore no clothes, nor did he live in a house but in the tombs. When he saw Jesus, he cried out, fell down before Him, and with a loud voice said, ‘What have I to do with You, Jesus, Son of the Most High God? I beg You, do not torment me!’
(Before getting to Jesus’ response, Luke explains the justification for the demon’s reaction.) For Jesus had commanded the unclean spirit to come out of the man. For it had often seized him, and he was kept under guard, bound with chains and shackles; and he broke the bonds and was driven by the demon into the wilderness.
Jesus asked him, saying, ‘What is your name?’ And he said, ‘Legion,’ because many demons had entered him. And they begged Jesus that He would not command them to go out into the abyss (same word used for the bottomless pit). Now a herd of many swine was feeding there on the mountain. So they begged Jesus that He would permit them to enter them. And He permitted them. Then the demons went out of the man and entered the swine, and the herd ran violently down the steep place into the lake and drowned.”
It would seem that, while similar, demons and fallen angels have some very significant differences. For example, one of the interesting things about the angelic realm is that we have zero examples of angels (fallen or not) possessing individuals or for that matter craving a physical body to indwell as we see with the demons referenced in this story.
And yet, as illustrated by this story and many others in the Gospels, there is something about demons in particular where they long for and even necessitate some kind of physical embodiment. As such, I believe demons are actually the disembodied remnant of the Nephilim making them a pseudo-angelic being that needs a physical host!
Either way, what is interesting about this story recorded in the Gospel of Luke is that these demons feared Jesus might decide to cast them from this man into this dreaded “abyss.” The implication is that many of these demons end up being cast into the Bottomless Pit.
In the end, I believe that what we have described by John in this fifth trumpet is a five-month period during the Great Tribulation when an unknown number of these demons from the bottomless pit are given bodies and set loose on the earth to “torment” mankind.
And torment mankind is what they do… In verse 5, John says, “Their torment was like the torment of a scorpion when it strikes a man.” While I have no idea what the strike of a scorpion feels like or what type of torment these demons are able to inflict, from the Greek a better translation would be torture or to vex the mind and body with grievous pains.
What is truly disturbing about the entire ordeal is that, according to verse 6, John tells us “in those days men will seek death and will not find it; they will desire to die, and death will flee from them.” Please note never before in the history of our planet has anything similar to this ever happen! Death takes a five-month vacation. You can only imagine what type of strange mutilations will occur when a man “seeks death,” but “death flees from him.”
Before we wrap things up, you can’t help but consider… If the bottomless pit was holding back so much horror, why would God give Satan the key? Never forget, God is dealing with a planet filled with people who’ve rejected His Son Jesus and want nothing to do with Him. They are choosing hell instead of heaven. So what does God do in an attempt to persuade them from their evil intent — He gives them a taste of what hell will be like!
I hope you know hell will not be a grand party! Instead, as a place originally created for Satan, the fallen angels, and these demons, hell will be a place of torment and terror. In fact, those who are sent there will “desire to die,” but “death will flee from them.”
You see in hell there will be no reprieve — no escape — the torture will be constant. It’s almost as if, by allowing Satan to set loose on this earth the future occupants of hell, God’s practically illustrating for man what his eternity will be like if he continued down this path.
In closing, while we’ve seen some really crazy stuff in these nineteen verses, the chapter reserves the most unbelievable for the last two verses… Revelation 9:20-21, “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. And they did not repent of their murders or their sorceries or their sexual immorality or their thefts.”
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