The Fifth Trumpet - "Locusts" from the Abyss. v1 - 12.
1, 2. "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."
As the first of the "woes" (Rev. 8:13), the fifth trumpet, was sounded, John saw a star that had fallen from heaven to earth. This can only refer to Satan (Rev. 12:9; Isaiah 14:12; Luke 10:18). He was given the key to the abyss, not Hades, but the place where demons have been bound (Luke 8:31) and where he himself is to be temporarily imprisoned during the Millennium (Rev. 20:3). That fact that in Rev. 20:1 the key is in the possession of an angel of God shows that God grants his permission for Satan to be given the power to open the abyss at this time. As he does, sulphurous smoke ascended from the abyss, as from a burning furnace, so thick that it filled the air and obscured the sun.
3. "Then out of the smoke locusts came upon the earth. And to them was given power, as the scorpions of the earth have power."
Together with the smoke from the abyss came all the demons who had been locked up there, set loose on the earth. As the description of these locusts is unfolded, it becomes obvious that they were not literally locusts. They were given the poisonous power of a scorpion on earth to sting. i.e. Their power was limited.
4. "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 natural instinct of locusts is to destroy everything green. These demon "locusts" are commanded not to harm any vegetation. Their purpose is only to injure those who had not been sealed (Rev. 7:4).
5. "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."
God does not grant them authority to cause the death of their victims, but instead to inflict unbearable physical pain and distress for limited period of five months - the life span of a real locust. The torment they bring is likened to the excruciating suffering that a scorpion sting brings.
"When a scorpion has stung, the place becomes inflamed and hardened; it reddens by tension, and is painful by intervals, being now chilly, now burning. The pain soon rises high, and rages, sometimes more, sometimes less. A sweating succeeds, attended by a shivering and trembling; the extremities of the body become cold, the groin swells, the hair stands on end, the members become pale, and the skin feels throughout the sensation of a perpetual pricking, as if by needles." Encyclopaedia Britannica
6. "In those days men will seek death and will not find it; they will desire to die, and death will flee from them."
So dreadful will the torment be that men will try to kill themselves rather suffer but they will not be able to for death will not come to them. They will long for death but it will run away from them.
7, 8. "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."
To John the locusts resembled war horses - large with great strength, ready for battle (Joel 2:4 - 6). They wore what looked like gold crowns on their heads, possibly helmets. Each demonic creature had a face like a man's, only distorted, grotesque and terrifying. Each had long hair, like the antennae of locusts and teeth like a lion, fierce, strong and suitable for devouring their prey, without mercy.
9. "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."
Their protection was impregnable and the deafening noise of their wings like that of a vast army of chariots and war horses. From this description we see that there is nothing man can do to resist or overcome them, for they will accomplish exactly what they have been freed from the abyss to do.
10. "They had tails like scorpions, and there were stings in their tails. Their power was to hurt men five months."
Their weapon of attack is described as being like the sting of a scorpion, having the ability to hurt, but not to kill, for a set time (see verse 5).
11. "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."
These demonic creatures have a king over them, the one who had released them from the abyss whose identity cannot be mistaken. In Hebrew John names him as Abaddon, destroying angel, and in Greek Apollyon, destroyer or Satan.
12. "One woe is past. Behold, still two more woes are coming after these things."
Although the first woe has come to an end, there are still two more to come.
The Sixth Trumpet - The Satanic Army. v13 - 21.
13, 14. "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."
The second "woe" begins with the sounding of the sixth trumpet and from the altar of incense that stands before the throne of God. The voice tells the angel with the sixth trumpet to release the four angels that were imprisoned in the Euphrates river. For "angels" the Living Bible has "mighty demons", which is correct since only fallen angels are bound.
15. "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."
These four demons, kept in readiness for this woe, are set free at the time appointed by God to kill a third of all mankind.
16. "Now the number of the army of the horsemen was two hundred million; I heard the number of them."
These four demons stir men to muster armies for war. Though John could not count the number in this army, he heard that the number of horsemen in it were two hundred million.
17. "And thus I saw the horses in the vision: those who sat on them had breastplates of fiery red, hyacinth blue, and sulphur yellow; and the heads of the horses were like the heads of lions; and out of their mouths came fire, smoke, and brimstone."
John describes the horses and their riders as they appeared to him. The riders wore breastplates made of a material that blazed fiery red, blue and yellow. Jacinth (the word translated hyacinth blue) could possibly be taken to refer to the gem which is made of a mineral called zircon which has an high melting point and is used to line the inside walls of a furnace. Brimstone is an old word for sulphur, a constituent of gunpowder. The horse's heads looked like lion's i.e. the beasts were as ferocious as their riders and caused destruction. From their mouths came fire accompanied by smoke and sulphur as a matter of course. These are obviously not literal horses but could represent a form of weapon like a tank.
18. "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."
A third of mankind was killed by the combination of fire, smoke and sulphur which came out of the mouths of these instruments of destruction.
19. "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."
Not only did they destroy from the front (mouth) but also from the back (tail) which had the shape of a serpent and a head with which it struck and fatally wounded. Again, some kind of war machine may be implied.
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."
The purpose of these plagues apart from the just judgement of God for sin was to bring to repentance those men who remained alive. Unfortunately, like Pharaoh, they hardened their hearts and did not turn from their sin or stop worshipping the works of their hands. They did not cease to worship demons and the idols they had made.
21. "And they did not repent of their murders or their sorceries or their sexual immorality or their thefts."
At the time concerned in this vision, murder, witchcraft and sexual immorally of all kinds will be rife to an excess, with no restraint and no justice being meted out to wrongdoers. There was no remorse, no feeling of regret for the murder they had committed or for their witchcraft. No one turned from sexual immorality or stealing.
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