All things God made are good. Creation is a wonder to be studied and appreciated every day. We, the children of Adam, have never stopped naming and labeling the wonders God made for us to sustain our life and enjoy. Our process of naming and labeling is what we call science and it is a source of awe and inspiration to any child of God, confirming the splendour of creation. Nature is an amazing and inexhaustible source of life and stimulation. Japanese researchers have established that just a 15 minute daily walk amongst trees, could reduce tiredness and improve mental health significantly.
In the previous chapters we came under the impression of nature’s participation in the judgment of sin. Nature is fully synced with God and His plan and “waits” for the revelation of His fullness in renewing the earth.
For the earnest expectation of the creation eagerly waits for the revealing of the sons of God. (Romans 8:19)
The fifth trumpet is sounded in the heavens with awful intensity. It is announcing something beyond nature – the demonic. The abyss (reservoir of evil) is opened to release superhuman terror. In the ancient world, stars were regarded as living beings, celestial and divine in nature, but here they are described as evil. The fallen angel is Lucifer, known as the morning star and the leader of worship in heaven.
The abyss was regarded as the intermediate place of punishment for fallen angels, false prophets, satan, all demons and the beast – all things evil. (Revelation 9:1,2,11,11:7, 20:1, 20:3). The final place of punishment is the lake of burning fire and brimstone (Revelation 20:10,20:14-15). The abyss was part of the creation story. It was seen as the primeval waters mentioned in Genesis 1:6-7. It is the abode of God’s enemies. (Amos 9:3, Isaiah 51:9, Psalm 74:13) The prisoners in the pit are the disobedient hosts of heaven. (Isaiah 24:21,22) It is a place of horror and separation from God and therefore chaotic.
Smoke depicts deception. Deception is the act of propagating beliefs in things that are not true, or not the whole truth. It is a concept that presents itself as truth. The sun of truth that should bring light is darkened by the smoke from the pit. The atmosphere is changed into oppression and depression. It is when the “Sun of Righteousness” shines “with healing in His wings” that we are saved from deception. (Malachi 4:2)
Clear and wise vision is needed to expose deception. Through smoke one cannot see clearly. Vision and breathing are impaired. The revelation of Jesus is truth and the breath of God is the Holy Spirit. This is the core message of Revelation: Jesus as the king of heaven and of our hearts and the revelation of truth and clean air to breathe by the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit changes the atmosphere in which we live, regardless of our circumstances.
The invasion of locusts is a symbol of destruction and described in Joel 1 and 2. Locusts bring starvations and destruction. Nothing escapes the utter devastation of locusts on the march.
The commentators agree that according to the natural characteristics of locusts Joel and Revelation are not exaggerating. The devastation they cause is beyond belief. All grass, bark of trees and every living thing are stripped away. Locust has the head of a horse, illustrated by their German (Heupferd) and Italian (cavaletta) names. In Hebrew they had five names:
gazam – shearer – destroys vegetation
arbeh – swarmer – immensity of the numbers
caal’am – swallower or annihilator
hargol – galloper – speed
tslatsal – creaker – sound
They are loosed to attack men without the seal of God on their foreheads, not the vegetation of the earth. The terrors are not literal; demonic torment is being described. Demonic locusts have the power of scorpions added. They hurt with extreme pain, but cannot kill. Death will be seen as escape, but not available. God alone has power over death and life.
When we look around us the torment of the demonic in our society is vicious and merciless. Often death looks like the only way to escape the pain.
Five months are the life span of locusts. It is only a limited time of destruction allowed. They are being described as something coming from a sci-fi movie. They resembled:
- horses equipped for battle – ready for a fight
- golden crowns – wealth and luxury
- hair like women – the adultress luring the church into sin somewhat attractive like all evil. Harlots of ancient times showed hair to attract. Married women had to cover their hair to show commitment and fidelity to one man.
- tail – to sting and hurt with agony and distress. A scorpion is the symbol of excruciating pain – Luke 10:19.
- king whom is called in Hebrew Abaddon (destruction), and in Greek Apollyon (destroyer-king).
In the aguish of sin the people will wish for death, but cannot die. (Job 3:21, Jeremiah 8:3)
The horror mounts in 9:13-21. Demonic torment is not to destroy but to lead to repentance. It is only in the deepest darkness and pain that some will turn and acknowledge the power of salvation and redemption.
The locusts destroy but cannot kill. In Luke 10:19 Christ gives us power over all.
Listen carefully: I have given you authority [that you now possess] to tread on serpents and scorpions, and [the ability to exercise authority] over all the power of the enemy (Satan); and nothing will [in any way] harm you. [Amplified]
Serpents and scorpions are symbols of demonic activity. That is what we are seeing around us in the world today – this present age. It is as Paul says:
You were following the ways of this world [influenced by this present age], in accordance with the prince of the power of the air (Satan), the [the unbelieving, who fight against the purposes of God]. (Ephesians 2:2, Amplified)
The voice from the four horns of the golden altar depicts divine displeasure. It indicates that that the sins of men must have been very great, when the altar, which was their sanctuary and protection, called aloud for vengeance. (Benson Commentary)
The four angels bound at Euphrates could be the four sultans living east of the former Roman Empire around the eleventh century. The Euphrates river was the border of Israel and later the Roman Empire with the rest of Asia. The angels might be from the distant lands outside Israel. (Countries have angels – Daniel 10:13).
The most dreaded warriors in the world were the Parthian cavalry who lived on the other side of the Euphrates. They were extremely effective soldiers for killing. Jews were familiar with the concept of angels carrying out punishment.
A third of mankind depicts a limit to the destruction. Looking back in history, the fall of the Turkish Empire, ruled by sultans, following the Roman Empire, comfortably fits into this description of the sixth trumpet. Their rule was “bound” by the river. They never extended into Israel or Europe because of the strong rule of the church in Europe and the crusades into Jerusalem, but established a false religion in the east. As quoted from Matthew Henry’s Commentary:
The sixth angel sounded, and here the power of the Turks seems the subject. Their time is limited. They not only slew in war, but brought a poisonous and ruinous religion. The antichristian generation repented not under these dreadful judgments. From this sixth trumpet learn that God can make one enemy of the church a scourge and a plague to another. The idolatry in the remains of the eastern church and elsewhere, and the sins of professed Christians, render this prophecy and its fulfilment more wonderful. And the attentive reader of Scripture and history, may find his faith and hope strengthened by events, which in other respects fill his heart with anguish and his eyes with tears, while he sees that men who escape these plagues, repent not of their evil works, but go on with idolatries, wickedness, and cruelty, till wrath comes upon them to the utmost. (Matthew Henry’s Concise Commentary – my emphasis)
Benson’s Commentary meticulously follows the years of the conquests to underline the detail of this prophecy in the history of the Turks and the Greeks. For myself, I have to restrain my interest in the historic detail, which thrills and captivates me.
The more important theme here is that evil is under restraint – the concept of limitation. The presence of the church contains evil. Jesus gave us authority over evil as quoted above from Luke 10. We keep the destruction at bay and with our armour in Christ bring down the principalities and powers of darkness. This is our true calling.
The number of the cavalry is depicted as something beyond counting – twice ten thousand times ten thousand, which calculates as two hundred million.
The chariots of God are myriads, thousands upon thousands;
The Lord is among them as He was at Sinai, in holiness. (Psalm 68:17)
They were armoured in the colours of flames; fire and brimstone coming out of their mouths always a symbol of evil and destruction. The horses have heads like lions and tails like serpents. Serpent-tails bring hurt and harm.
The revelation of evil serves to clear the way for repentance. Harm and hurt must be brought to the Healer. His Grace is always available, even for last minute repentance and desperate pleas for mercy.
So often God is blamed for all the bad things in the world, without any personal knowledge of Him or turning to Him. The wickedness of idolatry is so deep and deceptive that idolaters refuse to repent in spite of the overwhelming evidence of God’s displeasure with them. (Psalm 115:8; 135:18). The unfortunate effect of sorrow and distress is in some people the hardening of their hearts.
The last verses of this chapter sound like a lament from heaven, mourning the unbelief of the people, while stating the facts of worship to the demons and idols of gold, silver and bronze that cannot see, hear or walk and the sins of murders, sorcery (drugs and intoxication), sexual immorality and robbery.
I thank God for the details of the vision that help me to understand the overwhelming evil in the world today and the consequences of destruction and disease. Just a glance at the statistics of STD’s as one example of immorality, is shocking. The general recommendation to avoid these diseases, is having one partner or complete abstinence.
What a privilege to live in the realm of the Kingdom on earth, to know that there is a better life where my value as a person is not determined by my participation in the life of destruction. We, as children of God, can live in the shadow and protection of our almighty Father and stand against the devastation.
Let us sing the ancient Song of Moses: (Exodus 15)
“I will sing to the Lord, for He has triumphed gloriously;
The horse and its rider He has thrown into the sea.
“The Lord is my strength and my song,
And He has become my salvation;
This is my God, and I will praise Him;
My father’s God, and I will exalt Him.