Monday, October 20, 2008

Revelation 9, The Demonic Invasion

In this chapter, demons invade the planet at the sounding of the fifth and sixth trumpets.

v.1 "And the fifth angel sounded, and I saw a star fallen from heaven to the earth. And to him was given the key to the bottomless pit."

As the fifth trumpet sounds, John sees "a star” fall from heaven and given "the key to the bottomless pit."

The “bottomless pit,” or more literally, "the pit of the abyss,” speaks of that place located inside the earth (Eph.4:9) now serving as the holding cell for all unsaved disembodied spirits (Rev.20:13-15). The "key" signifies the power and authority over the bottomless pit. In other words, what John sees is an exchange of power, but between whom, and why?

Foremost, we've already learned that Jesus is the One who possesses the key to Hades and Death (Rev.1:18). Therefore, the question is, to whom does He release it? We know that the star is no celestial particle, but clearly an entity, because John says, "And to him was given…” Moreover, given Satan's evil intent to fully dispatch demonic forces upon humanity to hurt, injure, and destroy, it's safe to conclude that the fallen star is Satan.

In other words, John sees Jesus give Satan the authority to unlock hell, and in turn to unleash demonic armies capable of invading this planet with a terror and destructive power unparalleled in the history of man.

v.2-4 "And he opened the bottomless pit, and smoke arose out of the pit like smoke of a great furnace. And 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."

The mere thought of all the forces of hell unleashed in the power of a volcanic eruption is ominous. Think about it: Demons long incarcerated inside the ancient tomb of hell, in a place they dread (Luke 8:30,31), will one day suddenly all be set free upon this planet like a stampeding horde of insanely brutal beasts.

Okay, but we should consider how this event might unfold.

Keep in mind that demons are warring spirits invisible to man (Eph.6:11,12), and only "signified" to John in this vision by the Holy Spirit. In other words, we can’t assume the world will see the demons described in this chapter, nor that their form is meant to reveal what demons look like. They are shown to John in hideous shapes and configurations only to signify their dreadful and ferocious nature. Moreover, their invasions will probably be considered “natural” occurrences to the world brought about by plagues, disasters, and war. As in all things spiritual, I don't believe that unrepentant humanity in the time of the tribulation will comprehend the evil and destructive devices of Satan levied against them any more than they do currently.

This first wave of demons appears in the form of “locusts” (the Biblical symbol of a destructive enemy; Joel 1:1-7; 2:2-9; Nah.3:15-17). And each has the power to inflict pain upon man's flesh equal in torment to the venomous sting of a scorpion. Their only restraint: Not to harm the grass of the earth, any green thing or tree, nor those men who have the seal of God on their foreheads.

v. 5-6 "And they were not given the authority to kill them, but to torment them for five months. And 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.”

The judgment carries with it a grim twist: The absence of death for five months. While the locust-demons are given full authority to torment man with an excruciating pain, neither they, nor anyone else will be able to initiate death. Even those who attempt suicide (apparently a large number) will not die. "They will desire to die," John says, "and death will flee from them."

Why death is withheld is not explained. Perhaps the answer lies in what another has suggested: That it’s the grace of God to allow man a foretaste of hell-torment short of death, and temporarily, that some might repent and find salvation and thereby escape the place of eternal torment. (Check also—Jude 22-23).

v.7-11 "And the shape of the locusts was like horses prepared for battle; and on their heads were crowns of something like gold, and their faces were like the faces of men. They had hair like a women's hair, and their teeth were like lion's 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. And 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."

Because there is a king, we can assume that a hierarchy exists amongst the demons—demons of various rank with manifest power, authority, and evil. Moreover, we might be given an insight of how highly fierce, powerful, and severely lethal this king named Abaddon and Apollyon is by his name. In Hebrew, Abaddon means "destruction,” and in Greek, Apollyon means "the destroyer."

It should be noted that some see this personage, the king over the locust-demons, as Satan. Yes, he is a destroyer set on destruction, but I don't believe that it is Satan. In my opinion, because this demon-king is referred to as "the angel of the bottomless pit," it's more likely that he is the highest ranking, or perhaps most fierce, of all the demons released, and is subjected to Satan.

v.12 "One woe is past. Behold, still two more woes are coming after these things."

This recalls the three “woes” declared for the world by the flying angel described in the last chapter (Rev.8:13). This invasion of the locust-demons, with their power to inflict upon man bodily pain so excruciating that they will prefer death rather than to endure the pain, yet not be able to escape it by death, completes the first.

To assist your study, here are the two remaining: The second "woe" is another demonic invasion, along with a great earthquake that destroys a tenth of Jerusalem following the death and resurrection of God’s two witnesses (Rev.11:14). The third "woe" is levied upon the inhabitants of the earth because Satan is banished from heaven to earth, and thereby must endure his fury (Rev.12:12).

v.13-15 "Then the sixth angel sounded: And I heard a voice from the four horns of the golden altar which is before God, 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."

This sixth trumpet blast unleashes four more demons upon the earth, and institutes another demonic invasion. But this second wave of demonic activity is diverse from the first.
  1. There are just four, not a multitude, and they are released from the floor of the Euphrates River, not from the bottomless pit
  2. Their release is not ordered by Satan but by an audible command made from the “four horns of the golden altar which is before God”, and is probably that of none other than Jesus Christ Himself
  3. Unlike their predecessors, these are given no restrictions, but rather granted the Sovereign license to kill a third of mankind
Clearly, something strange about the identity and nature of these demons is going on here but not explained, though it may be elsewhere in Scripture. Both Jude and Peter include a rather bazaar comment about a select group of demons. Listen to what they wrote:
“And the angels who did not keep their proper domain, but left their own habitation, He has reserved in everlasting chains under darkness for the judgment of the great day” (Jude 6)

“For if God did not spare the angels who sinned, but cast them down to Tartarus and delivered them into chains of darkness, to be reserved for judgment…” (2Pet. 2:4)
Both writers identify fallen angels bound in chains, under darkness, reserved for the judgment. Moreover, gleaning from both, we discover that these demons “did not keep their proper domain, but left their own habitation” and were cast down to “Tartarus”. The Greek word for "the deepest abyss of Hades” and used nowhere else in the entire New Testament.

I tend to accept the notion that the accounts of both writers are related to this passage in Revelation, for two reasons. We should conclude that these are creatures far more threatening than average demons. Having committed crimes so vile to get abolished to an uncommon place called "the deepest abyss of Hades”, it seems consistent they would be bound at an uncommon place called "the great river Euphrates". Secondly, being reserved in everlasting chains under darkness until this very hour that God requires them for judgment seems to explain why they must be set free only at the command of Christ Himself.

v.16-19 "Now the number of the army of the horseman was two hundred million, and 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."

God’s purpose for these four diverse demons is clear. They are meant to inspire a war between men in a magnitude unlike any other war ever fought, resulting in the death of one third of mankind (about two billion people) by this war.

v.20 "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."

It's difficult to imagine that warfare on a such a global scale, with death tolls in the billions, doesn't stir hearts to consider death and mortality, and their eternal destiny, but it doesn't. Despite being able to repent before a God willing to forgive, they continue to reject God. We can only hope that amongst the dead, there are many who do question and come to know Jesus as Saviour before they die.

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