In our study of Revelation Chapter Nine, we continue our look at the sounding of the trumpets. In chapter 8, we looked at the first four trumpets and the judgement on the earth. Now, after the pause and the warning at the end of the first four trumpets, we are introduced to the three woe trumpets and the judgement on the people of the earth.
"The fifth angel sounded his trumpet, and I saw a star that had fallen from the sky to the earth. The star was given the key to the shaft of the Abyss." NIV translation
This is the third star mentioned since we started looking at the sounding of the trumpets. (Remember that the number three represents the fact that God's will is established.) This third star is different from the other two in that it has intelligence as we see that it is given the key to the shaft. This star is Satan (see Isaiah 14:12-14 & Luke 10:18) but he is still subject to the will of God and God has granted him this power (the key). This same type of thing happened in the book of Job as God granted Satan the ability to test Job.
"When he opened the Abyss, smoke rose from it like the smoke from a gigantic furnace. The sun and sky were darkened by the smoke from the Abyss." NIV translation
If you have ever heated your home with an old wood stove, you know how sometimes when you open the door smoke billows out and fills the home. This is the same type of thing only much bigger as we see that there is so much smoke coming up from this pit that the sun and sky are darkened.
"And out of the smoke locusts came down upon the earth and were given power like that of scorpions of the earth. They were told not to harm the grass of the earth or any plant or tree, but only those people who did not have the seal of God on their foreheads. They were not given power to kill them, but only to torture them for five months. And the agony they suffered was like that of the sting of a scorpion when it strikes a man. " NIV translation
We have seen a plague of locusts before (see Exodus chapter 10) but this one is different. In Exodus, the locusts ate all of the green plants that were left in Egypt but this time they are not allowed to harm any plants. These locusts have stingers like scorpions and are out to torture the people that are left on the earth. I've never been stung by a scorpion but it does not sound like a good thing especially if it continues to sting you for five months. But, even in this terrible situation, we see the grace of God as the time is limited to five months. It's going to be a tough five months for these people but it does end.
"During those days men will seek death, but will not find it; they will long to die, but death will elude them." NIV translation
This plague of locusts is so bad that people beg for death but there is no relief. They cannot even commit suicide to end the torture.
"The locusts looked like horses prepared for battle. On their heads they wore something like crowns of gold, and their faces resembled human faces. Their hair was like women's hair, and their teeth were like lions' teeth. They had breastplates of iron, and the sound of their wings was like the thundering of many horses and chariots rushing into battle." NIV translation
John gives us this description and they aren't your everyday locusts. We can look around us today and see some pretty weird looking creatures. Many say that this is all symbols but we simply have to take God's Word as it is and believe that He can do anything. Imagine hearing the noise that John describes as they fly around and just waiting for them to torture you. The time to avoid these creatures is now and the only way is through faith in Jesus Christ. If you can hear the noise that John describes, it is too late and there is no escape.
Revelation 9:10 & 11
"They had tails and stings like scorpions, and in their tails they had power to torment people for five months. They had as king over them the angel of the Abyss, whose name in Hebrew is Abaddon, and in Greek, Apollyon." NIV translation
This is the second time in this chapter that we are told that they have stings like a scorpion and power to torment for five months. When God repeats Himself, we need to take notice and here we must realize how absolutely horrible this is going to be. The one in charge of the locusts and the torture is Satan or the Destroyer.
"The first woe is past; two other woes are yet to come." NIV translation
As bad as the locusts have been, that is just the beginning of the suffering. We are reminded that there are two more woes coming. The number three is usually associated with the fact that God's will is established and these three woes remind us that, even though Satan is doing the torture, it is still God who is in control.
"The sixth angel sounded his trumpet, and I heard a voice coming from the horns of the golden altar that is before God." NIV translation
As we saw in chapter eight, this altar is a place of prayer before God. The horns represent strength and the voice coming from the strength of God is none other than Jesus Christ. We are reminded that it is He that is the judge and He is giving the orders!
"It said to the sixth angel who had the trumpet, 'Release the four angels who are bound at the great river Euphrates.'" NIV translation
The Euphrates river that is mentioned here starts in Turkey and runs through Syria and Iraq before ending at the Persian Gulf. The river has been a dividing line between East and West and an important location throughout biblical history. The Garden of Eden was in this area as well as the Tower of Babel and the kingdom of Babylon. We see that some really bad demons have been bound here but now Jesus is ordering their release.
"And the four angels who had been kept ready for this very hour and day and month and year were released to kill a third of mankind." NIV translation
Here, we see again that it is God who is in control as He even has set the very time of the release of these angels. We also know that the Father is the only one that knows when all of these events start as Jesus said that He didn't even know.
"The number of the mounted troops was two hundred million. I heard their number." NIV translation
The largest military in the world today is from China and it is around two million men/women. The number mentioned here by John is one hundred times the largest military on earth. As we shall see, these are not mere men but are either demons or people controlled by demons and there are lots of them.
"The horses and riders I saw in my vision were fiery red, dark blue, and yellow as sulfur. The heads of the horses resembled the heads of lions, and out of their mouths came fire, smoke and sulfur." NIV translation
We see here that these are not your ordinary horses. The colors described are not natural colors and the heads are definitely not natural for horses. These horses are either demons or are controlled by demons and they have three ways of killing people. We should also remember that the number three is usually a sign of God's will being established and so He is still in control here.
"A third of mankind was killed by the three plagues of fire, smoke and sulfur that came out of their mouths." NIV translation
This reminds me of what God did in judging Sodom and Gomorrah in Genesis 19. Their sin had gotten to the point where God acted and the same thing will happen here in the book of Revelation. We may look at the world and wonder what God is waiting on as it seems that things are every bit as bad as they were in Sodom and Gomorrah. The simple answer is that God is loving and patient but, as we see here, the sin will be punished in God's time.
"The power of the horses was in their mouths and in their tails; for their tails were like snakes, having heads with which to inflict injury." NIV translation
Not only did the horses have the power to kill with their mouth but they were able to torture with their tails. Once again, we see that they aren't your ordinary horses as their tails have heads like snakes.
"The rest of mankind that were not killed by these plagues still did not repent of the work of their hands; they did not stop worshiping demons, and idols of gold, silver, bronze, stone and wood - idols that cannot see or hear or walk." NIV translation
Even as bad as things have gotten, the people still hold onto the things that are not of God. When we read this we may think that "worshiping" is only bowing down to these things but what we see here is that these things meant more to the people than a right relationship with God.
"Nor did they repent of their murders, their magic arts, their sexual immorality or their thefts." NIV translation
The people keep doing the same things even in the face of the judgment that has been going on around them. It is interesting to note that the "magic arts" that is mentioned here is not what we think as the original word is where we get our modern word "pharmacy". This is speaking about people taking drugs to escape the reality that is around them.
There are those that take this verse to mean that we should not use any medicines and even go so far as to judge Christians that use medicines as unspiritual or lacking faith in God. We should keep in mind the lesson that Paul shared in, Romans 2, about judging our fellow man.