KALEO Notes on Revelation 9

{Note: Katrina is checking into Vanderbilt Hosptial today for MS evaluations prior to her open heart surgery tomorrow. I will post updates here on this blog. Thanks so much for your prayers and concern. In the meantime, here are my teaching notes from Sunday night’s study of Rev. 9}

Introduction: Even as a child, I didn’t like going to horror movies. We’d sometimes go to movies at the old Bonnie Kate Theater in Elizabethton, taking big grocery bags of popcorn. I seem to remember hiding my head in those popcorn bags when the previews of horror movies came on. And those horror movies were old black-and-white silly things with actors like Vincent Price. He starred in “House of Wax” and “The Fly” and became famous for all his primitive horror films. I can’t imagine what horror movies are like today, but they cannot be good for us mentally, emotionally, or spiritually. Wikipedia describes the horror film genre like this:

Horror films are unsettling movies that strive to elicit the emotions of fear, disgust, panic, alarm, shock and horror from viewers through the means of macabre and the supernatural, thus frequently overlapping with the fantasy and science fiction genres…. Horror films center on the dark side of life, the forbidden, and strange and alarming events. They deal with the viewer’s nightmares, vulnerability, hidden worst fears, alienation, revulsions, terror of the unknown, fear of death and dismemberment. Although a good deal of it is about the supernatural, any film with a morbid, gruesome, surreal, suspenseful or frightening theme may be termed ‘horror….’ Its plots often involve the intrusion of an evil force, event, or personage, sometimes of supernatural origin, into the everyday world.

Well, there is one chapter in the Bible that resembles the script of a horror movie better than any other, and it’s Revelation 9. It describes the sounding of the fifth and sixth trumpet judgments.

Review: In thumbing through the chapters of Revelation, we see that chapter 1 is the initial vision of the glorified Christ, which sets the stage for the entire book. Chapters 2 and 3 are a series of miniature epistles addressed to the church regarding their own spiritual life in the last days. In chapters 4 and 5, the scene shifts to heaven where we attend a great worship convocation that launches the events of the Second Coming. Chapters 6 – 18 are a graphic play-by-play description of some of the events that will occur during the Great Tribulation—the seven-year period of time preceding the return of Christ. There are three great series of events that will unfold during this time. They are symbolized in the book of Revelation as Seven Seals, Seven Trumpets, and Seven Bowls of Wrath. Chapters 6 and 7 describe the seven seals. Chapter 8 describes the first four trumpets, and we’re coming now to chapter 9, which describes the next two of the seven trumpets (the seventh and last trumpet judgment occurs at the end of chapter 11). These last three trumpet judgments are unlike anything we’ve seen so far and are right out of a horror movie. This chapter describes the unleashing of virulent predatory demons in large numbers on planet earth. In verse 1, we come to the fifth trumpet judgment.

These last three trumpet judgments are described as “woes” in Revelation 8:13. Judgment must inevitably occur, but God always warns. He warned Adam. He warned the people of the days of Noah. He warned the ancient Israelites in the days of the prophets. He warns and warns and warns of coming judgment. Even here in the book of Revelation, there is a cry of warning before the intensity of the last three trumpet judgments.

V. 1: 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.

In this passage, a great angel (probably Lucifer or one of his demonic archangels, see below) has fallen from the sky. This is past tense; something that has already happened. This evil person is described as a “star,” but the word “star” doesn’t seem to be a literal star but a person. Even in today’s terminology, we call those who excel in sports or entertainment – stars. Several times the Bible rather mysteriously compares angels with stars: Job 38:7; Isaiah 14:12-14; Matthew 2:1; and the seven stars that are “angels” in the seven churches of Asia in Revelation 1-3. Also see Luke 10:18. Here in Revelation 9:1, the reference seems to be to an angel, and almost certainly to Satan himself (See again Isaiah 14:12-14 and Luke 10:18).

Here in this passage we’ve come to the point where the devil is given the key to hell to unleash all the demons that are imprisoned there. The old translations said that this “star” had the key to the “bottomless pit.” The actual Greek word is “abussos” (a-bu’-sis), which is transliterated into our English word “Abyss.” The Greek word refers to an extremely deep place. Luke 8:31 uses this word when the demons beg Christ not to send them to the “abussos.”

Demons are a mystery to us, but they seem to be angels who follow Lucifer in his rebellion against God.  See Isaiah 14:12-14. We believe that perhaps a third of all the angels of heaven follow him (Revelation 12:1-4).

Some of these demons are free and roaming the world, causing trouble (Luke 11:24-26). They showed up in force during the ministry of Christ; they seem to be the lurking forces behind the conflicts of earth between the nations; and they can oppress and possess human beings. Paul encountered a demon-possessed girl in Acts 16. But other demons, perhaps the most virulent of them, are imprisoned. See Luke 8:26-31; 2 Peter 2:4-9; and Jude 4. Now the prison doors are going to be opened and all these dangerous swarms of demons are going to attack the earth.

V. 2:  John describes the sight of these demons swarming up from the Abyss as making the air as thick as smoke.

V. 3: He describes these demons using the images of locusts and scorpions.

V. 4: This is really a very encouraging verse for believers. The demons cannot and are not permitted to hurt anyone bearing the seal of God. In chapter 7, we read about the 144,000 Jewish evangelists who were sealed with the sign of God’s protective ownership. The demons are unable to touch them. There is a shield of grace around them; and I think the same is true for Christians today. We are covered with the blood of Christ and protected from the evil one (see John 17:15).

V. 5: Even with the unbelievers, the demons are not able to destroy as they would like. There is restraining grace. This demonic swarm will last for five months and will inflict pain. The description here is like constant invisible tasers.

V. 6: During these five months, the pain and terror will be so great that people will wish they were dead.

V. 7-10: As John sees these demons he describes them in figurative language. Whether this is both a literal and symbolic description or just a symbolic description, I don’t know.

V. 11: The words “Abaddon” and “Apollyon” mean “destroyer.” This is probably a biblical title for Satan, although it could be referring to a satanic archangel.

V. 12: Next comes the sixth trumpet judgment (the second “woe”).

V. 13-16: This is another maximum security prison in the spiritual realm (perhaps located in an invisible realm in Iraq or ancient Babylon near the Euphrates River, near where the Garden of Eden once existed—the site of the original sin and the historic center of so much opposition to God’s plan, see verse 14). Another set of demons is released. These have four terrible commanders and the “troops” under them number two hundred million. This time, the demons can inflict death, resulting in a third of earth’s remaining population being slain.

V. 17-19: These verses contain another vivid and graphic description (symbolic and perhaps literal, too) of the appearance of this army of demons.

V. 20-21: In spite of these horrific terrors, the humans on earth during the Great Tribulation refuse to repent. They are so hardened in their hearts that nothing can move them to repentance. They persist in their demonism and their endless worship of idols, and in their murders, magic arts, and sexual immorality (sounds like our culture today, doesn’t it?)

Conclusion: Reading on, we’ll see that in chapters 10-11a, we have another interlude, another parenthetical explanation of these events. The seventh trumpet sounds at the end of chapter 11. But if you want to end this chapter on a note of encouragement, look at Revelation 20:1-3 and 10. At the end of the story all the demons along with Satan himself will be herded back into the Abyss and locked up forever and ever, never more to trouble the earth or the people of God.