The Fifth and Sixth Trumpets
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.
Revelation 9 opens here with John seeing an image of an archangel sounding the 5th trumpet and an angel who had fallen to earth with the keys to the infernal abyss. There is much debate about who this angel would be, and whether it would be a good or evil angel. It could be Uriel, who was Chief over Tartarus, or the archangel, Saraquael, who was over the spirits who sinned in the spirit (that we see in 1 Enoch 19:1, 20:1-6, and 21:1-10)? Actually, 1 Enoch never refers to those figures as “fallen stars.” Instead this description is reserved exclusively for fallen angels under the authoritative confinement of the Archangels. So this star should instead be interpreted in the same way as the “star” in Revelation 8:10, because of the parallel wording, “a star fell from heaven.”
We said that the star in 8:10 was either an angel executing judgment or, more probably, in line with Isaiah 14, an angel representing sinful people, undergoing judgment along with those people. The same imagery is seen in the verse where Jesus said in Luke 10, “I beheld Satan fall as lightning from heaven.” This is judgment.
Good angels, in antiquated writings, are never described as “falling stars” or as “falling from heaven.” In the Testament of Solomon, it states that good angels do not fall like stars from Heaven because “they have their foundations laid in the firmament.” Jude 13 describes these fallen stars as “wandering stars, for whom the black darkness (abyss) is reserved forever.” In the ancient near east, people believed the entrance to “the abyss” to be in the depths of the sea. That world view heavily influenced the biblical writers, including John in this context.
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.
Dark smoke arises from the abyss when the angel opens it. It is said to darken both the sun and the air. Darkening of the sun and other parts of the cosmos has already been seen to connote judgement, such as we saw in chapters 6:12 and 8:12. This image is an allusion of the repeating expression: “the sun will be darkened”, as seen throughout scripture, such as Joel 2:10,31….Isaiah 13:10….and many others, denoting judgment.
Before them the earth shakes, the heavens tremble, the sun and moon are darkened, and the stars no longer shine.
The sun will be turned to darkness and the moon to blood before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the Lord.
We also saw it in part in Exodus 10:15, where the many locusts caused the land to be darkened.
And out of the smoke locusts came down on the earth and were given power like that of scorpions of the earth.
Here imagery of demonic beings go out through the land arising from Hell to go over the earth. “Authority was given to them”, which means they were commissioned by someone to execute a task. Christ commissions them, as can be seen from the use of the same authorization clause seen in Revelation 6:2-8 and 8:2. (The images of this book again are repetitive messages of information, using different allusions pointing to the same things.)
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.
Again the locusts of Exodus 10 destroyed vegetation. But here in Revelation 9, these destroyers are commanded not to hurt any vegetation, but only unbelievers; those who are not sealed by (allegiance to) God. These beings are able to inflict spiritual harm upon those marked by the love of the world. They torment and remind these unbelievers of their separation from the Living God. They induce fear and despair as these people are forced to reflect on their hopeless situations. The fact that this kind of torment is in the mind is made explicit by verses 5 and 6. This trumpet woe is directed towards rebellious humanity and not nature, hence the previous trumpet burning the grass, but here the vegetation being preserved.
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.
Here in the commission of these demons, they are given a two-fold limitation:
1) they cannot kill anyone
2) they can only torment people for a limited period.
The five month span depicted here could lend its origin to the five-month life cycle of the locust, during which locusts could strike. If so, this is portraying a really severe locust plague since these locusts do not strike occasionally like literal locusts, but unceasingly throughout the five month period. The imagery depicts a judgment in a span of increased spiritual oppression. But as with all numbers in the book of Revelation, this numerical period should not be taken literally. As implied in the text, it is God who sets the “stops” and “starts”, and can call it on or off as He wills.
During those days people will seek death but will not find it; they will long to die, but death will elude them.
Here John gives a partial interpretation of the vision he has just seen. These demons impose a form of suffering that is psychological in nature, that will induce a desire for death, yet an unwillingness to commit suicide. “They will seek” and “they will desire” are synonymous to suggest that both make the same point. As elsewhere in scripture, and again here, suffering of this magnitude causes a desire for death in place of a life of torment. This is often the place of decision where the running ends, and God demands an answer, like He did from me in 2003. “Choose Me, or deny Me, but you will ignore Me no longer!”
Model of a Parthian Soldier
The locusts looked like horses prepared for battle. On their heads they wore something like crowns of gold, and their faces resembled human faces.
Verses 7-9 evokes the imagery from Exodus where Moses stretched out his rod over Egypt in the Lord made an east wind blow across Egypt all that day, and all that night, and by morning it had brought in the locusts. You can imagine how uncomfortable this would be. It depicts these locusts as more like a morphing of locusts and scorpions, which combines Joel’s description of a locust plague which foreshadows the coming of the day of the Lord. In Joel 2:4-7 it describes the same imagery that we see here in Revelation.
“They have the appearance of horses; they gallop along like cavalry. With a noise like that of chariots they leap over the mountaintops, like a crackling fire consuming stubble, like a mighty army drawn up for battle. At the sight of them, nations are in anguish; every face turns pale. They charge like warriors; they scale walls like soldiers.
They all march in line, not swerving from their course.”
Does this mean Revelation is pointing to the past plagues of Egypt, or comparing coming plagues to those of the past in Egypt? What does that say about the world’s obduracy? Remember Pharaoh’s stubbornness, and consider how much it is like the world today, in refusing to turn from evil and obey the commands of the Lord. Judgments come and yet we pay no heed, and do not turn from our wicked ways.
Normal locusts only hurt vegetation. But in the depiction here, these locusts are commanded not to hurt grass, trees, or anything other than the people who are not sealed by the seal of God. Some imagery here would refer to the Parthians. The imagery of verse 7 describes the Parthian archers on horseback, which were a fear in this day. The locusts in Joel didn’t have the sting in their tail as here, but all the same and all the more frightening.
Revelation 16:12-16 would seem to be the Parthians as well. The river Euphrates had been the boundary between the Roman and Parthian empires since the time of Pompeii. If you just happen to start reading through Roman literature, you’ll run across this more than once. Earlier Pagan prophecies of people from Asia invading the Roman Empire terrified Rome, but so far they’d been left unfulfilled. But there was a Jewish expectation that Nero would lead Parthia into the Roman Empire. Also we have the angels bound in the river, which fits what we see in Jewish apocalyptic literature where at times hostile angels are bound in bodies of water, or elsewhere, to be released at a later date to execute judgment at a particular time.
Their hair was like women’s hair, and their teeth were like lions’ teeth.
Parthians, and others outside the Roman Empire were known to have long hair. In fact, Vespasian told a joke one time as he was on his deathbed, that there was a comet that appeared. Comets were often viewed to portend the death of an emperor, or ruler. And Vespasian was on his deathbed and they described this comet as having long hair, or a long tail behind it, to which Vespasian said, “Oh, it must not be portending my death but one of a Parthian emperor”, after which Vespasian soon died.
The teeth reference being like lions teeth is based off Joel 1:6…
A nation has invaded my land, a mighty army without number;
it has the teeth of a lion, the fangs of a lioness.
There were later Jewish writings comparing the teeth of the locusts that plagued Egypt in Exodus 10 to the teeth of lions. If this in any way reflects the earlier tradition, then it shows that the link between Exodus and Joel would have been a natural one.
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.
The iron breastplates are a generalization of part of the armor of a soldier or battle horse. The scaled thoraxes of locusts would have been likened to the scaled armor of the Assyrian or Parthian war horses.
The sound of their wings being like the sounds of chariots, or many horses running into battle, alludes to what we saw above in Joel 2:4-5 and also in Jeremiah 51:27, which further is preceded by a “trumpet sounding” to commence the battle, as seen preceding this allusion in Revelation 9.
“Lift up a banner in the land! Blow the trumpet among the nations! Prepare the nations for battle against her; summon against her these kingdoms: Ararat, Minni and Ashkenaz. Appoint a commander against her; send up horses like a swarm of locusts.
This chapter of Jeremiah also denotes the burning mountain we looked at in chapter 8, in Jeremiah 51:25. So, again, Revelation in every verse is pointing the target audience to whom it was written (The 7 churches), to Old Testament allusions intending to prompt them to a call of readiness and holiness.
*The Septuagint version of Jeremiah 51:27 is more likened to Revelation 9 in that it says: “…. bring up horses against her as a multitude of locusts”, rather than the word, “caterpillars.”
Ancient depiction of the “Parthian Shot.”
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 stings in their tales…..??? Parthian archers were known for riding forward while shooting backwards. This is known historically to this day as the “Parthian Shot.” The Parthian archers would retreat up a hillside from the Romans, and turn and shoot a barrage of arrows down upon the Romans. This occurred several times before the Roman armies learned to never follow a retreating Parthian army up a hill.
Proverbs 30:27 -“Locusts have no king, yet they advance together in ranks.”
From looking at this text from a spiritual standpoint, locusts had no king, as stated in Proverbs 30:27. Yet here in Revelation, it is clear these entities depicted in the spiritual aspect have a king named Apollo (Apollyon, or Abbaddon in Hebrew.) Amos 7:1 portrays the army coming to invade Israel as a “swarm of locusts coming from the East”, which is led by “one caterpillar (locust), King Og.” This would parallel the Gog and Magog tradition in Ezekiel 38 and 39, which is alluded to in Revelation 20:8, where Satan is called the leader of Gog and Magog.
Even though this imagery refers to the ancient Parthians, the Exodus plagues, and the various other allusions at play, this narrative still seems infused with the ancient Roman morphing of different creatures of terror intending to depict the horrors of divine judgment. Here in this chapter, God destroys one third of everything. This still denotes mercy in judgment, because in Jewish history God destroyed two thirds. It depicts the long-suffering of God, giving them an opportunity for repentance. Why? Because this book is leading up to the climatic moment of the return of the Lord, to where all hope is lost for anyone who is not marked with the seal of God, (a.k.a. obedience to God’s Word in servitude and surrender.) And God’s heart is that “no man perish eternally, but for all to come to repentance.” The entire purpose of these judgments is in hope of turning as many hearts towards Christ as possible, so that a loving God does not have to dispose of them from His presence for all of eternity, because of their pride and hardness of heart.
This book is a summoning call of the world to attention. Are we really listening?
The fact that Revelation 9 depicts these locusts as having a king denotes they are spiritual entities behind the natural scene. The reference to Apollyon, or Apollo, the Greek god, whose name originates from the same Greek word as apollyon, meaning, “destroy”, who was sometimes depicted as a “locust”, may imply here that he is behind the actions of Domitian, and all other rulers who claimed to be incarnations of Apollo. Caesar Augustus is known to have played the role of Apollo in private dinner plays. Romans sometimes referred to Apollo as the “Tormentor.” This fact would also be a further implication that the figure here in Revelation 9:11 is satanic in origin, and that evil angels are to be identified with sinful rulers and people. Remember Paul speaks of “rulers of wickedness in heavenly places.” No matter what imagery from the Old Testament is being used, all of this represents a spiritual army of demons, and not a physical army of people marching. It certainly isn’t China, as some of your “prophets of profit” promote on TV.
The first woe is past; two other woes are yet to come.
Verse 12 is a transitional verse, and summarizes between the preceding trumpet and the introduction of the next two. “The first woe is past” statement does not denote that the events depicted have already transpired in history, but only that the vision containing them is now past. We know that this book is written to the seven churches, but is applicable in its call to holy readiness to all generations until Christ’s return.
The sixth angel sounded his trumpet, and I heard a voice coming from the four horns of the golden altar that is before God.
A voice coming “from the four horns of the golden altar that is before God” sets us up for the revealing of the sixth trumpet’s content. This trumpet continues on with the imagery we saw in chapters 6 and 8, with the saints crying for retribution against their murderers. This reference to the same altar further intensifies the role of the sixth trumpet as God continues to answer the prayers of His faithful.
It said to the sixth angel who had the trumpet, “Release the four angels who are bound at the great river Euphrates.”
This voice, whether of Jesus or an angel, speaks to the sixth archangel to release four bound angels at the Euphrates River. The fact that these angels are bound would denote they are wicked angels, and imagery of being tied to the Euphrates evokes the thought of the Old Testament references of an army in the north beyond Euphrates, that God would release to bring judgment upon sinful Israel.
“You will come from your place in the far north, you and many nations with you, all of them riding on horses, a great horde, a mighty army. You will advance against my people Israel like a cloud that covers the land. In days to come, Gog, I will bring you against my land, so that the nations may know me when I am proved holy through you before their eyes.”
We see a similar thing with God’s judgment on Egypt. Notice God sends Babylon to carry it out. FYI: He is Lord of all. When you are Lord of all, everyone is subject to you, even your enemies.
“The swift cannot flee nor the strong escape. In the north by the River Euphrates they stumble and fall.”………”This is the message the Lord spoke to Jeremiah the prophet about the coming of Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon to attack Egypt.”
In chapter 46 of Jeremiah, there is an unmistakable likeness in the imagery to Revelation 9, where we see this “army of horsemen from the north…like serpents, innumerable locusts, wearing breastplates…and standing by the river Euphrates.” So it is very obvious that in John’s day that the Parthian threat that was beyond the Euphrates as well was being identified with this Old Testament writing, to symbolize the spiritual demonic army God would release upon rebellious humanity. Remember the hermeneutic rule: All of the Book of Revelation is allusion to Old Testament scripture.
So as in the Old Testament parallels of an invader from the north, here in the apocalypse it is Yahweh who unleashes these evil angelic armies upon rebellious mankind.
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.
These four angels had been waiting, yet restrained from carrying out the intended purpose of killing one-third of humanity. In 1 Enoch 66:1 it tells of the time of the deluge, that there were “angels of punishment prepared to execute judgment and destruction.” So these angels are released according to God’s sovereign orders. The image of them being released down to a specific hour… (at the hour, day, month, and year.)..denotes that all things are subject to God’s divine, sovereign control. He is the Almighty One.
Many made up suppositions exist about what this army represents. Today China is the really common one. People are like, “Dude!! the Euphrates is gonna dry up and China’s two-hundred million man army is gonna march the earth!”……. Ughhhhh…NO!
At the expense of sounding redundant, “Revelation is SYMBOLIC, not literal.” This army represents demonic forces released upon those not loyal to Yahweh, not human soldiers upon men.
The number of the mounted troops was twice ten thousand times ten thousand. I heard their number.
And here we see that infamous number: Two-Hundred Million!! Doesn’t the scripture come alive and make way more sense when filtered through the context, language, and culture it was written to, rather than twenty-first century preachers guesstimating with their elaborate charts and “newspaper hermeneutics”, trying to paint a sci-fi image of the end of the world that is just utterly lost to Biblical context and intent? I agree.
This number, like all numbers in Revelation is not literal. It simply is referring to an innumerable, or incalculable number. These four depicted angels are being shown to have power over other ungodly spiritual forces, which are portrayed as a “multitude of armies on horses”, alluding to Old Testament passages we’ve seen, and these beings carry out a mandate to “kill” by means of these forces.
The horses and riders I saw in my vision looked like this: Their breastplates 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.
Here John begins to elaborate more on the vision and explain further what is portrayed in verses 13-16. He gets a bit more descriptive. His description of this devilish army we saw in verse 16 is the entire focus of the vision. It is very similar to the description of the demonic locusts in verses 3-10. The breastplate colors here are explained as the “fire, smoke, and sulfur” in the next verse. Why? Because following the pattern of writing he has used in the entire book, he again here uses multiple allusions to describe the same thing, although at times adding more detail and features.
These demonic beings in verses 17-19 are described as monstrous looking horses. Like the locusts in verses 7-10, here again they are like lions with breastplates and with tails that inflict harm on people. Metaphor after metaphor describing the fierce nature of demons by using visual images of dreadful looking things known to this audience. I remember listening to a now deceased evangelist years ago as he was telling a story about a woman in the front row of one of His meetings. He claimed the Lord began to ask him to describe what he sees while looking at her. He tells the Lord, “She is a very beautiful lady!” He says that God tells him to look at her again. When he looks out at her, he sees her face as a boars head with mucous running down her nostrils. This preacher explained that he was startled by the image. In the same way he claimed that God showed him her spiritual condition in a visual way, so is the Book of Revelation: spiritual imagery presented thru Old Testament allusion. The book is pointing to spiritual precepts, not future science fiction events.
A third of mankind was killed by the three plagues of fire, smoke and sulfur that came out of their mouths.
Again, immediately the mind of a first century believer, to whom John was writing, would have thought of the wording here…”fire, smoke, and sulfur” (like the breastplate in verse 17)…because that distinct combination only appears in one Old Testament story: Sodom and Gomorrah.
Then the Lord rained on Sodom and Gomorrah sulfur and fire from the Lord out of heaven.
And he looked down toward Sodom and Gomorrah and toward all the land of the valley, and he looked and, behold, the smoke of the land went up like the smoke of a furnace.
In Revelation, kill means kill. The plague of death includes all forms of death that the ungodly can be stricken by, whether illness, tragedy, murder, etc. Physical death seals their eternal death apart from God. One who physically dies in a rebellious state remains in that condition for all eternity.
The power of the horses was in their mouths and in their tails; for their tails were like snakes, having heads with which they inflict injury.
Again, these are likened to the scorpions in verse 10, having their power to harm in their tails. The harm would include not only death but also the spiritual torment we looked at previously. These demons are not only able to kill those not sealed with the divine seal of God, but also spiritually torment the soul of their victim. God’s people can be physically killed, as it is obviously a purpose in the plan of suffering for Christ, but believers are released at death into the unimaginable splendors of eternity with Christ, but the ungodly into eternal torment. Demons torment now, often by deception, then seal the fate of their victims by imposing physical death. The smoke and darkness allude to punishment of deception, and the fire represents a lethal judgment of death and eternal separation. The power of these horses’ mouths also denote “deception by words/ false teachers.”
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.
Remember the pride and hardness of the heart of Pharaoh? Even though you see all this imagery of the judgement of God upon the earth, you still witness the rest of rebellious mankind, here in this verse, refusing to repent of their idolatry, and to stop worshiping anything other than the One True God. People love their idols, materialism, and this things of this world. Possessions becoming possession. In the Bible, and in theology, we read about human depravity. But all around us we see it lived out. The problem is that no one is willing to admit that themselves or their loved ones are indeed among the number mentioned here. We try to preach each other into heaven and excuse our sinfulness, pride, and idolatry. The scripture is clear that all who don’t repent (forsake sinning) will perish in Hell. It doesn’t matter how much we lay claim to the Lord. Jesus said, “Why do you call me Lord and not do the things that I say?”
Nor did they repent of their murders, their sorcery, their sexual immorality, or their thefts.
Here, the Ten Commandments may be the source of this list of idolatrous acts in this verse. They begin with “You shall have no other gods before Me”, and go on to say, “You shall not murder, commit adultery, nor steal.”
The peculiar sin of idolatry listed here is “sorcery.” The Greek word translated here is pharmakeia, from whence we derive our English word pharmacy. It denotes intoxicating drugs, or elixirs. State altering drugs is in essence demon worship in the eyes of God. Sobriety is a principle command. Anyone not mentally in control of themselves and their own behavior is under the influence of something else, whether a sorcery or a spirit.
The book of Revelation was written to the seven churches of Asia Minor in warning them of compromising to the idolatrous culture surrounding them, and encouraging them to remain loyal to God in all things. The modern church today is probably one of the most compromising eras in professed Christianity’s history. The church is full of intoxicated, drug dependent people who claim faith in the Great Physician, yet will see a doctor as a first step before ever seeking God. Nothing wrong with doctors. There is plenty wrong with putting faith in their medicines over the Healer. The culture today guides the church instead of the church changing the culture, by the power it claims to walk in. The only way anyone walks in power with God is through allegiance and faithfulness, and being full of His Spirit. Being full of the Spirit today is suggested as evidenced by some incoherent psycho-babbling referred to as tongues, when scripture says it is merely walking in Christ’s power. Many in the professing church today are seeking signs and wonders because they do not know the God of the Bible, who has stated that “it is an evil and adulterous generation who seeks a sign.” They’re deceived by these very demonic locusts of Revelation 9 who were released upon the children of disobedience to deceive and torment. Most often the lack of corresponding action to the church’s vocal profession of faith is due to a lack of confidence with God because our heart condemns us!
1 John 3:21-24
“Dear friends, if our hearts do not condemn us, THEN we have confidence before God, and receive from him anything we ask, BECAUSE we keep his commands and do what pleases him. And this is his command: to believe in the name of his Son, Jesus Christ, and to love one another as he commanded us. The one who keeps God’s commands lives in him, and he in them. And this is how we know that he lives in us: We know it by the Spirit he gave us.”