Summary: This week we’ll discuss exegetical issues and the context of the last sentence (vv. 20-21), then next week we’ll observe this very disturbing response of the world to the suffering torment created as God’s judgment is poured out on the earth-unrepentance.
Revelation 9 The Destroyer, the Army, and the Rebel:
(The Bad, the Worse, and the Ugly)
This morning I wanted to focus on the last sentence of this chapter:
The rest of mankind who 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. Nor did they repent of their murders, their magic arts, their sexual immorality or their thefts.
But today we will not have time to consider all of the ramifications of chapter 9:20-21.
Before this is possible, there are many exegetical issues we have to discuss, because if you study the book of Revelation, or go to online materials available on the book, you’ll hear a lot of interesting ways of looking at this chapter-Trumpets 5 and 6. This week we’ll discuss those issues, and the context of the last sentence, then next week we’ll observe this very disturbing response of the world to the suffering torment created as God’s judgment is poured out on the earth.
Chapter 8 introduced the 7 trumpets. In that chapter the first 4 Trumpets are sounded, and each trumpet reveals a horrible form of destruction coming on the earth, most of them looking like asteroids or a comet impacting the earth, and killing about a third of the population of plants and animals and people on the planet. At the end of the chapter, God declares “Woe! Woe! Woe to the inhabitants of the earth, because of the trumpet blasts about to be sounded by the other three angels!”
Chapter 9 describes two of those last three Trumpet Blasts.
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. 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. And out of the smoke locusts came down on 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 allowed 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. During those days people will seek death but will not find it; they will long to die, but death will elude them.
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 like breastplates of iron, and the sound of their wings was like the thundering of many horses and chariots rushing into battle. They had tails with stingers, 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 is Apollyon (that is, Destroyer).
The first woe is past; two other woes are yet to come.
The Star is a person this time, rather than a burning mountain (as in Revelation 8). Who this is we don’t know. An angel? Satan? Whoever he is, he is given a key to
the Abusso, the Abyss.
The Abusso appears in classical Greek literature as the place lesser or evil people go when they die. It was thought of as a place toward the center of the earth that mortals could access if they could find the secret passage. It was a place of fire and smoke and the lingering dead. The Bible only uses the term a few times: Here in Revelation (chapters 9 and 20) and Luke 8, where the demons who posses a man beg Jesus to be thrown out into the pigs, rather than into the Abusso. It seems to be a holding place for demonic creatures and fallen angels.
It may be related to Hell, Hades, Tartarus, and the lake of fire, but exactly how it is related is not clear, and it is, apparently, not exactly the same as any of these.
Since classical literature depicted the Abyss as a place somewhere in the center of the earth it is likely a first century Greco/Jewish reader may have something similar in mind. Whether this is to be understood literally or not, it is interesting that recent science has concluded that below the first few miles of the crust of the earth most of the earth’s core is melted, super-heated rock and iron. It is the spinning molten iron core which creates the earth’s magnetic field. So, the center of the earth really is a hot burning place. Who knows? If it is not literal, if the abode of fallen angels and demons is in some hyper-dimensional no-escape-zone which cannot be localized with our planet, the center of the earth is certainly an appropriately hot and forbidding place to liken it to.