Chapter 9: Sounding the Fifth and Sixth Trumpets-- Demonic Locusts and Demonic Horsemen
As the Second Half of the Tribulation Week progresses from the
Seal Judgments to the Trumpet Judgments, the intensity of God's dealing increases
by at least a third, i.e., the First Trumpet burns up 1/3 of trees and green grass
(Revelation 8:7), the Second Trumpet turns 1/3 of the sea to blood (8:8), the Third
Trumpet poisons 1/3 of fresh water (8:10-11), and the Fourth Trumpet darkens 1/3
of light from the sun, moon, and stars (8:12-13). I believe that the Fifth Trumpet
Judgment sounds about 5 1/2 years into the prophetic week. [See "Tribulation
Timeline: When Shall These Things Be? (Part 3)" ---New
Window for more on the Trumpet Judgments.]
This chapter begins with the sounding of the Fifth Trumpet Judgment, where a "star" falls "from Heaven unto the Earth" (Revelation 9:1). Satan is that fallen star. In the Book of Job, the stars refer to the angels. "When the morning stars sang together, and all the sons of God shouted for joy?" (Job 38:7). Commentators point out that the Greek word for "fall" (Revelation 9:1) is in the perfect tense, which signifies completed action. But, when was that action completed? At the Middle of the Tribulation Week. Why? Revelation 12 describes the Woman in the Wilderness-- elect-but-still-lost Israel-- during the last half (1,260 days) of the Tribulation Week, i.e., "where she hath a place prepared of God, that they should feed her there a thousand two hundred and threescore days [1,260 days]" (12:6). Israel is described, in the context of Revelation 12, immediately before Satan's final ejection from Heaven, i.e., "neither was their place found any more in Heaven" (12:8). Though the "fall" (9:1) will be completed 3 1/2 years into the Week, Satan will be "given the key of the Bottomless Pit" (9:1), i.e., to have his cohorts released, about 2 years later-- at the sounding of the Fifth Trumpet.
Those 1,260 days (Revelation 12:6) begin-- after a war in the Heavens, where Satan is permanently banned from accusing the brethren-- with the Abomination of Desolation (Matthew 24:15) at the Middle of the Tribulation Week. "7 And there was war in Heaven: Michael and his angels fought against the dragon; and the dragon fought and his angels, 8 And prevailed not; neither was their place found any more in Heaven. 9 And the great dragon was cast out, that old serpent, called the Devil, and Satan, which deceiveth the whole world: he was cast out into the Earth, and his angels were cast out with him. 10 And I heard a loud voice saying in Heaven, Now is come Salvation, and strength, and the Kingdom of our God, and the Power of His Christ: for the accuser of our brethren is cast down, which accused them before our God day and night" (Revelation 12:7-10). Satan has historically accused all the Saints before God, as depicted in the ancient Book of Job. "6 Now there was a day when the sons of God came to present themselves before the LORD, and Satan came also among them. 7 And the LORD said unto Satan, Whence comest thou? Then Satan answered the LORD, and said, From going to and fro in the Earth, and from walking up and down in it... 9 Then Satan answered the LORD, and said, Doth Job fear God for nought?" (Job 1:6-7, 9).
The "Bottomless Pit" (9:2) is the Abyss. This place cannot be a physical confine, but a spiritual
cage for demons. Legion, the collective name of the demons that possessed the man
of the Gadarenes (Luke 8:30), begged Jesus Christ not to "command
them to go out into the deep [literally, the abyss]" (8:31). In other words, the
demons asked permission of the Son of God to remain at large-- until their Final
Judgment, i.e., "And, behold, they cried
out, saying, What have we to do with Thee, Jesus, Thou Son of God? art Thou come
hither to torment us before the time?" (Matthew 8:29).
May we forever remember the transcendent authority of our LORD Jesus Christ over
all things-- especially Satan. "And Jesus
came and spake unto them, saying, All Power is given unto Me in Heaven and in Earth" (28:18).
The "smoke out of the pit" (9:2) represents the vastness of the numbers of the demons, i.e., fallen angels, that darken the sky. A third of the angels of Heaven fell with Satan at the original rebellion. "And his tail drew the third part of the stars of Heaven, and did cast them to the Earth: and the dragon stood before the woman which was ready to be delivered, for to devour her child as soon as it was born" (12:4). We are revealed that there are more than 100 million angels thronging the Almighty's Heavenly Throne in a scene following the Pre-Tribulational Rapture-- described as the First "Come Up Hither" (4:1). "And I beheld, and I heard the voice of many angels round about the Throne and the beasts and the elders: and the number of them was ten thousand times ten thousand, and thousands of thousands" (5:11). This meant that there must have been at least 150 million total angels before the rebellion.
Notice that the "sun and the air were darkened by reason of the smoke of the pit" (9:2). Angels and demons are not normally visible to human physical perception, except as allowed by God. "And I saw another angel fly in the midst of heaven, having the Everlasting Gospel to preach unto them that dwell on the Earth, and to every nation, and kindred, and tongue, and people" (14:6). Even when men are allowed to see angels, it is not always apparent that they are angels. "16 And the angel of the LORD said unto Manoah, Though thou detain me, I will not eat of thy bread: and if thou wilt offer a burnt offering, thou must offer it unto the LORD. For Manoah knew not that he was an angel of the LORD... 20 For it came to pass, when the flame went up toward Heaven from off the altar, that the angel of the LORD ascended in the flame of the altar. And Manoah and his wife looked on it, and fell on their faces to the ground" (Judges 13:16, 20). Just as the Almighty gave permission to Legion (Matthew 8:29) to not be confined in the Abyss, the Omnipotent God orders these demons to be unleashed in a visible form upon deserving humanity. "Surely the wrath of man shall praise Thee: the remainder of wrath shalt Thou restrain" (Psalm 76:10).
Ants, bees, and termites are the most numerous and prevalent of
insects upon the planet; but, possibly, the locusts are best known for their destructive
plagues. "And the LORD said unto Moses,
Stretch out thine hand over the land of Egypt for the locusts, that they may come
up upon the land of Egypt, and eat every herb of the land, even all that the hail
hath left" (Exodus 10:12). The locust is a species of
short-horned grasshopper found throughout the world, known to increase greatly in
number and migrate long distances. Periodically, swarms appear, then disappear. In
1869, desert locust swarms reached England from probably West Africa. In 1889, a
swarm of locust crossed the Red Sea-- whose flight was estimated to cover a 2,000
square mile area. Swarms are known to fly as high as 5,000 feet. A developed locust
plague is almost impossible to control with even modern measures. "And the LORD turned a mighty strong west wind, which took away
the locusts, and cast them into the Red Sea; there remained not one locust in all
the coasts of Egypt" (10:19).
The scorpion is a species of arachnids with a segmented tail, tipped with a venomous stinger. Possessing six pairs of appendages-- four for walking, two for grasping, and two for tearing apart their prey-- this "lobster-like" insect usually paralyzes its large prey with a venomous neurotoxin before feeding upon them. "I will both lay me down in peace, and sleep: for Thou, LORD, only makest me dwell in safety" (Psalm 4:8). A milder hemotoxin is also injected by scorpions, resulting in great pain. "Behold, the whirlwind of the LORD goeth forth with fury, a continuing whirlwind: it shall fall with pain upon the head of the wicked" (Jeremiah 30:23). These are more than a mutant locust-scorpion. They are the demons that God has divinely appointed to terrorize godless, rebellious man. "Thine heart shall meditate terror" (Isaiah 33:18). While to the righteous, the LORD promises, "In righteousness shalt thou be established: thou shalt be far from oppression; for thou shalt not fear: and from terror; for it shall not come near thee" (54:14).
"It was commanded them" (9:4) by the Judge of the Tribulation Week that they should not hurt the grass or trees, but only the ungodly, i.e., "which have not the seal of God in their foreheads" (9:4). Why would the demons torment their own? We know that Satan hates the godly and can receive permission for limited tempting of the Righteous. "4 And Satan answered the LORD, and said, Skin for skin, yea, all that a man hath will he give for his life. 5 But put forth thine hand now, and touch his bone and his flesh, and he will curse Thee to Thy face. 6 And the LORD said unto Satan, Behold, he is in thine hand; but save his life" (Job 2:4-6). The demons torment the ungodly, because:
(1) God has commanded it, i.e., "That at the Name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in Heaven, and things in Earth, and things under the Earth" (Philippians 2:10), and
(2) the fear that torments them causes them to torment others, i.e., "fear hath torment" (1John 4:18) and "19 Now the works of the flesh are manifest, which are these; Adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness, 20 Idolatry, witchcraft, hatred, variance, emulations, wrath, strife, seditions, heresies, 21 Envyings, murders, drunkenness, revellings, and such like: of the which I tell you before, as I have also told you in time past, that they which do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God" (Galatians 5:19-21).
Torment without death would include the classic symptoms of scorpion bites, i.e., edema (swelling), discoloration, pain, convulsions, paralysis, and cardiac irregularities. "There is no peace, saith my God, to the wicked" (Isaiah 57:21). Ice compresses and limited antivenins may have proven beneficial to conventional scorpion bites, but these are unconventional. The Holy Spirit designates a five month window of affliction for these Demonic Locusts, which means that the pain of one scorpion bite may give way to the next bite, until the five months have elapsed. "When He slew them, then they sought Him" (Psalm 78:34).
To these, suicide is preferable to the pain of living; but, God does not allow the afflicted rebels the luxury of death-- "death shall flee from them" (9:6). Both temporal punishment, as well as possible repentance, are reasons for the All Wise God to prevent success to the rebels' desired suicide. Sin will be punished. "Behold, ye have sinned against the LORD: and be sure your sin will find you out" (Numbers 32:23). But, repentance will be visited with mercy. "But go ye and learn what that meaneth, I will have mercy, and not sacrifice: for I am not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance" (Matthew 9:13).
This will be the Fifth Trumpet Judgment, not conventional times. "Howl ye; for the Day of the LORD is at hand; it shall come as a destruction from the Almighty" (Isaiah 13:6). At this point, it is obvious that these are not ordinary locusts; but, in fact, they are Demonic Locusts.
(1) They are shaped like "horses prepared unto battle" (9:7), but they may be only the size of your thumb (2 1/2 inches or 65 mm).
(2) They appear, as it were, wearing "crowns like gold" (9:7), just as the gregarious locusts may appear golden when they swarm-- from their previously green coloration in their solitary phase. And,
(3) They appear-- to the horror of the Tribulation Week ungodly-- with the "faces of men" (9:7), but they may be capable of traveling as far as 30 miles (48 km) in one day's time-- if they are restricted to the range of conventional locusts. "Horror shall cover them" (Ezekiel 7:18).
A woman's glory is her hair. "If a woman have long hair, it is a glory to her: for her hair is given her for a covering" (1Corinthians 11:15). But, Demonic Locusts-- having human-like faces-- with the "hair of a women" (Revelation 9:8), are nightmarish! The sleep of the Righteous is blessed, for "He giveth His beloved sleep" (Psalm 127:2). But, the impenitent of the Tribulation Week will experience the nightmare of these Demonic Locusts, whose teeth will be "as the teeth of lions" (Revelation 9:8). The plague of demonic, nightmarish Hollywood movies is an effort of Satan to desensitize the world to the upcoming Tribulation plagues; thus, making it less probable that the hardened Earth dwellers will repent. "Whose end is destruction, whose God is their belly, and whose glory is in their shame, who mind earthly things" (Philippians 3:19).
The Christian puts on the "breastplate of righteousness" (Ephesians 6:14) as defensive armor in the spiritual battle against our "adversary the devil" (1Peter 5:8). Just so, these Demonic Locusts have "breastplates of iron" (Revelation 9:9), indicating that these "hoppers" will not be defeated like a grasshopper under a gardener's shoe. Sound will first assault the Tribulation Week impenitents, who "have not the seal of God in their foreheads" (9:4). The horrific sound of "many horses running to battle" (9:9) will be the sound of the tormentors' wings approaching their victims. And, the only thing that will stop the torment of these Demonic Locusts will be the penitent's cry for God's mercy. "And the publican, standing afar off, would not lift up so much as his eyes unto Heaven, but smote upon his breast, saying, God be merciful to me a sinner" (Luke 18:13).
Ever since the Fall of Man, pain has been the LORD God's means of attracting man's attention so that we might be turned to righteousness. "17 And unto Adam He said, Because thou hast hearkened unto the voice of thy wife, and hast eaten of the tree, of which I commanded thee, saying, Thou shalt not eat of it: cursed is the ground for thy sake; in sorrow shalt thou eat of it all the days of thy life; 18 Thorns also and thistles shall it bring forth to thee; and thou shalt eat the herb of the field; 19 In the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread, till thou return unto the ground; for out of it wast thou taken: for dust thou art, and unto dust shalt thou return" (Genesis 3:17-19). Likewise, pain from the tails of these Demonic Locusts will punish or convert men for "five months" (Revelation 9:10). What an imagination the Creator has, to produce such judgments! "And I will execute judgments upon Moab; and they shall know that I am the LORD" (Ezekiel 25:11).
"Abaddon" (9:11), in the Hebrew, means destruction. "Apollyon" (9:11), in the Greek, means destroyer. Satan is that destroyer, who is the "angel of the Bottomless Pit" (9:11). The Almighty is alone, the True Creator. "Hast thou not known? hast thou not heard, that the Everlasting God, the LORD, the Creator of the Ends of the Earth, fainteth not, neither is weary? there is no searching of His understanding" (Isaiah 40:28). Satan cannot truly create, so he must resort to destroying God's creation. "8 Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour: 9 Whom resist stedfast in the faith, knowing that the same afflictions are accomplished in your brethren that are in the world" (1Peter 5:8-9). The Saints do now and will then overcome Satan by faith. "For whatsoever is born of God overcometh the world: and this is the victory that overcometh the world, even our faith" (1John 5:4).
The Fifth Trumpet Judgment is the first of the last three woes pronounced by the angel previously. "And I beheld, and heard an angel flying through the midst of heaven, saying with a loud voice, Woe, woe, woe, to the inhabiters of the Earth by reason of the other voices of the trumpet of the three angels, which are yet to sound" (8:13). The "two woes more hereafter" (9:12) are the Sixth and Seventh Trumpet Judgments (9:13-21; 11:15-19). "11 Woe unto the wicked! it shall be ill with him: for the reward of his hands shall be given him... 20 Woe unto them that call evil good, and good evil; that put darkness for light, and light for darkness; that put bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter! 21 Woe unto them that are wise in their own eyes, and prudent in their own sight!" (Isaiah 3:11; 5:20-21).
At the sounding of the Second Woe (8:13) or the Sixth Trumpet Judgment (9:13), the very voice of the Living God comes forth "from the four horns of the golden altar which is before God" (9:13). This verse speaks of the Presence of God, without saying it outright. "Surely the righteous shall give thanks unto Thy Name: the upright shall dwell in Thy presence" (Psalms 140:13). And, "God is greatly to be feared in the assembly of the Saints, and to be had in reverence of all them that are about Him" (Psalm 89:7). The "golden altar" (9:13) indicates that the "sacrifice of praise" (Hebrews 13:15) is offered in the presence of God, and that the "prayers of all Saints" (Revelation 8:3) are mixed with praise before the throne of God. The "four horns of the golden altar" (9:13) are the fixtures to which the sacrifices of prayer and praise are bound. "God is the LORD, which hath shewed us Light: bind the sacrifice with cords, even unto the horns of the altar" (Psalm 118:27).
The angel, who sounds the Sixth Trumpet Judgment, is divinely commanded
to set free "four angels" (9:14). These four angels must be evil angels, because God never imprisons
the righteous angels-- only the evil. "And
the angels which kept not their first estate, but left their own habitation, He hath
reserved in everlasting chains under darkness unto the judgment of the Great Day" (Jude 6). Just as there are righteous angels, who were assigned to each
of the Seven Churches of Revelation 2 and 3, i.e., the "angel
of the church in Philadelphia" (3:7), there are evil angels
confined to significant locations, i.e., "which
are bound in the great river Euphrates" (9:14) for the
very purpose of fulfilling these prophetic functions. "Surely
the wrath of man shall praise Thee: the remainder of wrath shalt Thou restrain" (Psalm 76:10).
The "great river Euphrates" (9:14) is the largest river of western Asia, and it was one of the four chief principal rivers that flowed from Paradise. "10 And a river went out of Eden to water the garden; and from thence it was parted, and became into four heads... 14 And the name of the third river is Hiddekel: that is it which goeth toward the east of Assyria. And the fourth river is Euphrates" (Genesis 2:10, 14). Originating in the Armenian plateau of Turkey, it flows 1,700 miles (2,700 km) through Syria and southern Iraq, joining with the Tigris River, before it empties into the Persian Gulf. "In the same day the LORD made a covenant with Abram, saying, Unto thy seed have I given this land, from the river of Egypt unto the great river, the river Euphrates" (15:18). Jehovah appointed it as Israel's northeasterly boundary. "Every place whereon the soles of your feet shall tread shall be yours: from the wilderness and Lebanon, from the river, the river Euphrates, even unto the uttermost sea shall your coast be" (Deuteronomy 11:24). The Euphrates was regarded as the eastern limit of the Roman Empire; and thus, it identified the powers from the East. "After all this, when Josiah had prepared the temple, Necho king of Egypt came up to fight against Carchemish by Euphrates: and Josiah went out against him" (2Chronicles 35:20).
The "four angels were loosed" (9:15), who "were prepared for an hour, and a day, and a month, and a year" (9:15), or for a period of 391.042 days in duration. Certainly, the preparation for the appropriate moment is indicated, but it seems more appropriate that the period of 391.042 days may be required for terrorizing and slaying the "third part of men" (9:15). The combination of the Fourth Seal Judgment (6:7-8) and the Sixth Trumpet judgment would accomplish the deaths of a half of mankind. If the Tribulation Week began with 6 billion people, then the Fourth Seal Judgment would slay a "fourth part of the Earth" (6:8)-- or, 1.5 billion dead-- leaving 4.5 billion. A "third part of men" (9:15)-- or, 1.5 billion men-- are slain in the Sixth Trumpet Judgment. The combination of both judgments yields 3 billion dead, which is half of the initial number to enter the Tribulation Week. "For by fire and by His sword will the LORD plead with all flesh: and the slain of the LORD shall be many" (Isaiah 66:16).
An army of 200 million-- "two hundred thousand thousand" (9:16)-- horsemen are described. It can be seen that these are not mere human soldiers, but Demonic Horsemen, because they are released from confinement, just as the Demonic Locusts of the previous Trumpet Judgment (9:1-2). Also, it would be a mistake to confuse the Sixth Vial Judgment's invading army of the "kings of the east" (16:12) with the events of this Sixth Trumpet Judgment. Since these are demons and not humans, it is unnecessary to speculate where such a sizable army could be presently found. But still, it is interesting to note that the People's Republic of China (PRC) claimed to have had a man-and-woman militia of 200 million, as far back as 1965 (from "Time" magazine, May 21, 1965, p. 35).
The Apostle John reminds us that we are receiving a faithful account
of the "vision"
(9:17), which he received on the Isle of Patmos (1:9). God bless him! "Let another man praise thee, and not thine own mouth;
a stranger, and not thine own lips" (Proverbs 27:2). With
the horses, he saw their riders. His only description of the riders is that they
had "breastplates of fire, and of jacinth,
and brimstone" (9:17). Armored with protective breastplates
with a fiery appearance ("fire"), having a red color bordering on black ("jacinth"), and smelling like burning sulfur ("brimstone"), these riders appear as Horsemen from Hell. "But
the same day that Lot went out of Sodom it rained fire and brimstone from heaven,
and destroyed them all" (Luke 17:29). The demons and the
damned are characterized by the filling of their cup with fire and brimstone. "Upon the wicked He shall rain snares, fire and brimstone,
and an horrible tempest: this shall be the portion of their cup" (Psalm 11:6).
Though the riders are Demonic Horsemen, it is their horses that receive the Apostle John's attention, i.e., the "heads of the horses were as the heads of lions" (9:17). The ferocity of the horses' heads compounds the frightfulness of the riders. "Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour" (1Peter 5:8). With "fire and smoke and brimstone" (9:17) issuing forth from the horses' mouths, they act like the dragon that their master is. "And he laid hold on the dragon, that old serpent, which is the Devil, and Satan, and bound him a thousand years" (Revelation 20:2). The Demonic Horsemen guide their steeds, much like a fighter pilot guides his craft, with the attack issuing forth from their mounts, i.e., from their fire-breathing horses with lions' heads. "The LORD knoweth how to deliver the godly out of temptations, and to reserve the unjust unto the day of judgment to be punished" (2Peter 2:9).
Every third person that remains alive on planet Earth will be killed by these Demonic Horsemen, or more specifically, will be killed by their horses. And, "it is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the Living God" (Hebrews 10:31). Scripture specifies the "fire", "smoke", and "brimstone" as "these three" (9:18) by which a third of mankind is killed. "Shall not the Judge of All the Earth do right?" (Genesis 18:25). Essentially, every third person in the world will be burned alive. The "brimstone" is the fuel, the "fire" is the combustion process, and the "smoke" is the exhaust; but, wicked men are the targets of the flame. "And fear not them which kill the body, but are not able to kill the soul: but rather fear Him which is able to destroy both soul and body in hell" (Matthew 10:28). How significant that the LORD speaks of plucking the brands from the burning, when describing rescuing men from hell by the power of the Gospel! "22 And of some have compassion, making a difference: 23 And others save with fear, pulling them out of the fire; hating even the garment spotted by the flesh" (Jude 22-23).
And, lest we conclude that these horses are vulnerable from behind, "their tails were like unto serpents, and had heads, and with them they do hurt" (9:19). Greek mythology proposed its own monster figure of a winged woman with a head of hair consisting of snakes-- Medusa-- and, we understand such descriptions to be that of demons. "Ye are of God, little children, and have overcome them: because greater is He [the Holy Spirit] that is in you, than he [Satan] that is in the world" (1John 4:4). The text does not reveal that death takes place by the bite of the serpent's head in the horse's tail, but pain will come to the afflicted, i.e., "and with them they do hurt" (9:19).
As the Sixth Trumpet Judgment proceeds toward the last few months of the Tribulation Week, the men that will repent, have done so; and, those who will not repent, are hardened. "But the heavens and the Earth, which are now, by the same Word are kept in store, reserved unto fire against the day of judgment and perdition of ungodly men" (2Peter 3:7). Except for the amazing feat of reclaiming Israel-- along with an assortment of Gentiles-- on the very day of our LORD's Second Coming, i.e., "Who hath heard such a thing? who hath seen such things? Shall the Earth be made to bring forth in one day? or shall a nation be born at once? for as soon as Zion travailed, she brought forth her children" (Isaiah 66:8)-- no one repents. Instead, they continue to "worship devils, and idols of gold, and silver, and brass, and stone, and of wood: which neither can see, nor hear, nor walk" (9:20).
This is the sad description of the Universal Depravity of Lost Men. "As it is written, There is none righteous, no, not one" (Romans 3:10). There is not a good argument that men need not a Saviour. "2 The LORD looked down from Heaven upon the children of men, to see if there were any that did understand, and seek God. 3 They are all gone aside, they are all together become filthy: there is none that doeth good, no, not one" (Psalm 14:2-3). Those who foolishly defend the idea of the innate goodness of man, have their own conscience to reproach them. "So when they continued asking Him, He lifted up Himself, and said unto them, He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her" (John 8:7). Without a statement of hope for the penitent, there would remain nothing but a "certain fearful looking for of judgment and fiery indignation, which shall devour the adversaries" (Hebrews 10:27). "But thanks be to God, which giveth us the victory through our LORD Jesus Christ" (1Corinthians 15:57).
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