At the end of chapter eight we were warned of the terrible judgements remaining to be brought upon the earth. The awesomeness of these catastrophes is now described in chapter nine as the fifth and the sixth trumpet are blown. In the first, an unusual locust plague is described, unlike anything mankind has ever experienced. Following that, and perhaps related to it, is an army of 200 million horsemen who bring death to one-third of the remaining world’s population.
Locusts Out of Hell
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. 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. And out of the smoke locusts came down upon the earth and were given power like that of scorpions of the earth. 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. They were not given power 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 a man. During those days men will seek death, but will not find it; they will long to die, but death will elude them. The locusts looked like horses prepared for battle. On their heads they wore something like crowns of gold, and their faces resembles human faces. Their hair was like women’s hair, and their teeth were like lion’s teeth. 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. They had tails and stings 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 Abbadon, and in Greek, Apollyon. The first woe is past; two other woes are yet to come.
The leader of the Locusts is the devil himself
Revelation 9:1-2, 11
It is very likely that the leader of these locusts is the devil himself. The reasons for this are:
1. This leader is pictured as a “star fallen from heaven” and this star is identified as “him” indicating a real personal being.
2. In Revelation 1:20 we are told that “stars” represent “angels”. Therefore, we can assume that here too the “star” is in fact an angel. Also in Revelation 9:11 the king of the locusts is “the angel of the Abyss”.
3. This “star” had “fallen from the sky” indicating a moral failure. In Jude 6-7 we learned of angels who have experienced such ruin.
4. Satan is an angel, morally fallen from his original state. Isaiah writes of the moral fall of satan in Isaiah 14: 12-15 and states that it was his pride that caused it to happen. Jesus identifies him as a liar and a murderer according to John 8:44. Matthew speaks of “the devil and his angels” in Matthew 25:41.
5. The Scriptures indicate that satan has access to God in heaven where he continues to bring accusations against the people of God according to Job 1:6-12. One day this will end according to Revelation 12:10. At that time he will be completely removed from heaven, which is very likely during the tribulation period. His final destiny is to be thrown into the lake of fire where he will be tormented day and night forever according to Revelation 20:10.
6. This “fallen angel”, satan, is given a key which clearly shows us that his power and authority is being determined and controlled by God Himself. In Revelation 1:18 we are told that “the keys of Death and Hades” are in the hands and control of Jesus Christ. Satan is not the king of hell – he is the chief prisoner. The key that unlocks the chains of those demonic spirits in hell was given to satan. He obviously did not have it in his control. God allows him to unleash his fury against a world that has rejected the Lord. The Day of God’s wrath has come and God is using satan to fulfil His purposes. The key is for the “Abyss”. Luke describes this place as a “place of torment” in Luke 16:19-31. The apostle Peter describes it in II Peter 2:4 as a place of “gloomy dungeons”. Satan himself will be bound for a thousand years in this Abyss according to Revelation 20:1-3. This will happen before he is thrown into the lake of fire.
7. The locusts come out of the Abyss. Their king was the angel of the Abyss. The fact that the locusts had a king over them would indicate that these locusts were not literal locusts but were demons with satan as their king. Proverbs 30:27 speaks of literal locusts. They do not have a king over them.
The locusts are demons out of hell who were given power
These locusts who, as we have already mentioned, are demons, were given power. These demons operate under divine permission; their authority or power comes ultimately from God. This proves that in fact all things, including demons, are working towards accomplishing God’s purposes and will as we can read in Ephesians 1:11 and Romans 11:36. There are limitations to their authority. Their authority is limited to a time period of five months and in that period they are not to harm the grass on the earth or any plant or tree but only those people who did not have the seal of God on their foreheads. They can torment people but cannot kill them.
The agony they will cause people is like that of a person being stung by a scorpion. Though a scorpion sting is painful, it is not deadly. The result of their agony upon people is that people will want to die but will not be able to die. John has great difficulty in trying to find the appropriate words to describe the appearance of these demonic beings. He ends up with the following description: They look like horses prepared for battle. And the sound of their wings was like the thundering of many horses and chariots rushing into battle. We have a similar wording in Joel 2:4-5.
He goes on by saying: They wear on their heads something like crowns of gold; their faces are like that of human faces; their hair is like women’s hair; their teeth are like lion’s teeth. Their breastplates are like breastplates of iron. They have tails and stings like scorpions. The word “like” makes it very clear that John is not giving us a literal description but possibly tries to indicate something about them: for instance, “crowns like gold” may indicate that they will be conquerors and achieve some sort of victory in the worldwide conflicts for power during the tribulation. Their “breastplates like iron” may indicate that they are immune to any attempts by governments and people to resist them.
Only the Beginning
Revelation 9:12 declares that two more “woes” are coming.
The Infernal Army
The sixth angel sounded his trumpet, and I heard a voice coming from the horns of the golden altar that is before God. It said to the sixth angel who had the trumpet, “Release the four angels who are bound at the great river Euphrates.” 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. The number of the mounted troops was two hundred million. I heard their number. The horses and riders I saw in my vision looked like this; Their breastplates were fiery red, dark blue, and yellow as sulphur. The heads of the horses resembled the heads of lions, and out of their mouths came fire, smoke and sulphur. A third of mankind was killed by the three plagues of fire, smoke and sulphur that came out of their mouths. 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. The rest of mankind that were not killed by these plagues still did not repent of the work of their hands; they did not stop worshipping demons, and idols of gold, silver, bronze, stone and wood – idols that cannot see or hear or walk. Nor did they repent of their murders, their magic arts, their sexual immorality or their thefts.
While the fifth and the sixth trumpet judgements are distinct, there is one major similarity – they both describe the attack of demons upon the world’s population.
The Control of this Army
John hears a voice near the throne of God. This could have been the voice of an angel but we do not know for sure. He hears that four angels are to be released. The angels are fallen angels who have been bound up to this time but their time to be released has come. There is a set of four angels who stand at the four corners of the earth according to Revelation 7:1. These are God’s good angels and are not described as being bound. Only fallen angels are bound as we can read in II Peter 2:4 and Jude 6-7.
These angels were bound at the river Euphrates, which is one of the four rivers that came out of the Garden of Eden:
1. This river is the eastern boundary of Israel according to Genesis 15:18 (cf Deuteronomy 1:7; Joshua 1:4, I Kings 4:21-24).
2. This river is also the traditional boundary between East and West.
3. (The Romans lived in constant fear of the Parthian Empire on the other side of the River Euphrates).
4. Reference to the River Euphrates dates from the Garden of Eden according to Genesis 2:14-15 and sin began here according to Genesis 3:6-7.
Through their actions the world’s population is reduced by one-third. Earlier in the tribulation one-fourth of the world population was eliminated by the fourth seal judgement according to Revelation 6:7-8 and others died from polluted waters according to Revelation 8:10-11. By this time over half of the world’s population has died. The day of God’s wrath has indeed come.
The Characteristics of this Army
The four angels seem to influence a very large army to arise – 200 million strong. It is possible to take this figure literally but it certainly speaks of an army that is impossible to count and is greater than mankind has ever seen.This time John saw horses and “their breastplates were fiery red, dark blue, and yellow as sulphur”. The word “like” is not mentioned in these sentences. However, the heads of the horses were like “the heads of lions”. Here the symbolic language describes the nature and purpose of such an army, ready to devour like a hungry lion as we can read about in I Peter 5:8. Out of their mouths came “fire, smoke and sulphur”. Since these three things result in the death of one-third of mankind, weapons of warfare may be described here.
The Consequences of this Army
It is hard to imagine such consequences. Their power was not only in their mouths but in their tails as well. This may mean that this attack may bring injury or harm in other ways that just death to one-third of the population of the world.
Nevertheless the survivors of this terrible war refuse to repent of their sins. John specifies four particular sins the people at that time are not willing to give up:
Murders: At least in Western Society crime continues to be portrayed and promoted in movies. Television, books etc. In addition to the killing of people on our streets, we now tolerate the most terrible of all crimes – the murder of the unborn. The horrible sin of abortion has taken the lives of millions of children before they ever had the chance to see life outside their mother’s womb. The blood of innocent children is on the hands of an unrepentant generation.
Magic arts: This is not just about being involved in occult practices, although that is a part of it. The Greek word used here indicates a use of drugs, which has become a worldwide tragedy.
Sexual immorality: The sex slave trade is increasing today. And particularly in the West, there is an increase of acceptance of homosexuality and lesbianism even within the Church.
Thefts: Stealing is a national and an international problem that is literally out of control.
What a tragic picture of depravity presented in this prophecy – a clear reminder to all of us that we need a change of heart that is possible only through the forgiveness and cleansing of God through His Son Jesus Christ, our Lord and Saviour.