Category Archives: REVELATION 9

The fifth and sixth trumpet-judgements

REVELATION 9

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REVELATION 9

Survey of the chapter
The chapter gives details of the events brought about by the sounding of the fifth and sixth trumpet, and presents to us the horrifying things that are to take place on the earth as God judges men for their wickedness.

THE WORDS OF THE BIBLE, THE CHRISTIAN SCRIPTURES, AS FOUND IN THE BOOK OF THE REVELATION CHAPTER 9, VERSES 1 TO 11:

9:1  And the fifth angel sounded, and I saw a star fall from heaven unto the earth: and to him was given the key of the bottomless pit.

9:2  And he opened the bottomless pit; and there arose a smoke out of the pit, as the smoke of a great furnace; and the sun and the air were darkened by reason of the smoke of the pit.

9:3  And there came out of the smoke locusts upon the earth: and unto them was given power, as the scorpions of the earth have power.

9:4  And it was commanded them that they should not hurt the grass of the earth, neither any green thing, neither any tree; but only those men which have not the seal of God in their foreheads.

9:5  And to them it was given that they should not kill them, but that they should be tormented five months: and their torment was as the torment of a scorpion, when he striketh a man.

9:6  And in those days shall men seek death, and shall not find it; and shall desire to die, and death shall flee from them.

9:7  And the shapes of the locusts were like unto horses prepared unto battle; and on their heads were as it were crowns like gold, and their faces were as the faces of men.

9:8  And they had hair as the hair of women, and their teeth were as the teeth of lions.

9:9  And they had breastplates, as it were breastplates of iron; and the sound of their wings was as the sound of chariots of many horses running to battle.

9:10  And they had tails like unto scorpions, and there were stings in their tails: and their power was to hurt men five months.

9:11  And they had a king over them, which is the angel of the bottomless pit, whose name in the Hebrew tongue is Abaddon, but in the Greek tongue hath his name Apollyon.

Verses 1-11  The sounding of the fifth trumpet

9:1  And the fifth angel sounded, and I saw a star fall from heaven unto the earth: and to him was given the key of the bottomless pit.

And the fifth angel sounded, and I saw a star fall from heaven unto the earth- in the previous chapter the star that fell was described as a lamp, alerting us to the fact that it was not an angel.  Here it is different, for the word star is not qualified at all, and represents a bright angel of God, sent on a solemn mission.  There are those who believe that this star is Satan, of whom the Lord Jesus said, “I beheld Satan fall as lightning from heaven”, Luke 10:18, and that this is the event spoken of in that saying.  But it seems unlikely that the enemy of God would be given any part in His dealings in judgement.  It would be very unsafe to give him the key to anything, knowing how evil and treacherous he is. 
And to him was given the key of the bottomless pit- we should not confuse the bottomless pit with hell, which in the Old Testament is sheol, and in the New Testament hades.  That is the place of departed souls, and is in the heart of the earth.  The bottomless pit is situated beneath the abyss, or the depths of the ocean.  Since we are thinking of the abode of spirits the idea of dimensions is not relevant, for spirits do not take up any space!  The idea is of unlimited capacity.  When the Lord cast out the demons from the man of Gadara, they besought Him that He would not command them to go out into the deep, or abyss, Luke 8:31.  It is the abode of fallen angels, the ones that Peter and Jude speak about.  “For…God spared not the angels that sinned, but cast them down to hell, and delivered them into chains of darkness, to be reserved unto judgement”, 2 Peter 2:3.  “And the angels which kept not their first estate, but left their own habitation, He hath reserved in everlasting chains under darkness unto the judgement of the great day”, Jude 6.  The word translated “hell” that Peter uses is Tartarus, so is not the regular word for hell. 

9:2  And he opened the bottomless pit; and there arose a smoke out of the pit, as the smoke of a great furnace; and the sun and the air were darkened by reason of the smoke of the pit.

And he opened the bottomless pit the fact that the angel came down from heaven with a key shows he had authority from God to open the pit, and the fact that he needed a key showed that it was a prison.  Jude tells us of everlasting chains, Jude 6, but here there is a temporary release of at least some of them, to judge men upon the earth.  It is appropriate that these should be the agents of God’s judgement, for the Lord Jesus likened the days we are thinking of to the days of Noah, Matthew 24:37,38.
And there arose a smoke out of the pit, as the smoke of a great furnace; and the sun and the air were darkened by reason of the smoke of the pit- the Lord Jesus taught that there is everlasting fire reserved for the devil and his angels, Matthew 25:41, and those who die unrepentant shall share their doom.  At present, however, it is only the spirits who rebelled against God by co-habiting with the daughters of men that are in prison there, 1 Peter 3:19. It was in the days of Noah that these angels, who are now imprisoned, sinned.

9:3  And there came out of the smoke locusts upon the earth: and unto them was given power, as the scorpions of the earth have power.

And there came out of the smoke locusts upon the earth- what a terrifying prospect, spirit-forces let loose on the earth as demon-locusts!  Literal locusts are a scourge in the Middle East and Africa, with huge swarms devouring everything in their path.  As the prophet Joel said, “the land is as the garden of Eden before them, and behind them a desolate wilderness; yea, and nothing shall escape them”, Joel 2:3.  If this was true of normal locusts, how much more so with demon-locusts.

That these locusts are not normal insects is seen by the following:

1. Locusts do not come out of the bottomless pit.
2. Locusts do not sting, as these locusts do.
3. Locusts have no king, Proverbs 30:27, but these do, verse 11.
4. The king over these locusts is a fallen angel, verse 11, so they must likewise be fallen angels.
5. The locust plague that came into Egypt was never to be repeated in its severity, Exodus 10:14, for we read there, “very grievous were they; before them there were no such locusts as they, neither after them shall be such”.

And unto them was given power, as the scorpions of the earth have power- that they were given this power shows that God is totally in control of the situation. The sting of the scorpion is very powerful, and the pain caused is excruciating.  They were to torment men, so that they might have a foretaste of the terrors of the Lake of Fire, and be caused to repent.  At the present time it is the goodness of God that leads men to repentance, Romans 2:4, but when the age of grace has run its course, God will send terror upon men, to see if they will repent.

9:4  And it was commanded them that they should not hurt the grass of the earth, neither any green thing, neither any tree; but only those men which have not the seal of God in their foreheads.

And it was commanded them that they should not hurt the grass of the earth, neither any green thing, neither any tree- this confirms that they are strictly controlled by God.  He does not even delegate the commands to these locusts to the angel that unlocked their prison.  As they were not ordinary locusts, they are not going to harm the things that locusts normally harm.
But only those men which have not the seal of God in their foreheads- some see this as referring to the rest of the nation of Israel that are not sealed with God’s seal in chapter 7.  But there will be a remnant of the nation who are believers, and who will be terribly persecuted in those times, and we do not read that they have the seal of God.  The point is that by the time we have reached this stage in the tribulation, the Antichrist will have achieved world-wide dominance, and to avoid persecution his mark will have to be on the forehead, 13:16.  Those with that seal do not have the seal of God, but the seal of Satan. They are the ones who are targeted by this judgement.

9:5  And to them it was given that they should not kill them, but that they should be tormented five months: and their torment was as the torment of a scorpion, when he striketh a man.

And to them it was given that they should not kill them, but that they should be tormented five months- we read of the beast and the false prophet, that after a thousand years they are still in the Lake of Fire, for it burneth for ever and ever.  So here, those who are attacked by these demon-hosts are not killed, to put them out of their misery, but are preserved to suffer torment.  The word torment is used of the Lake of Fire, Revelation 20:10, and this is a foretaste.
The average length of the life of a locust is five months, and here we are again reminded that God has the whole matter under His control, for just as He limits the life-span of the ordinary locust, He also limits the time during which these operate.  The Lake of Fire is for ever and ever, but this terror is designed to cause men to repent, and thus escape its torments.
And their torment was as the torment of a scorpion, when he striketh a man- by all accounts the pain inflicted by a scorpion is terrible, and is a reminder that in the Lake of Fire there shall be “weeping and gnashing of teeth”, Matthew 25:30.

9:6  And in those days shall men seek death, and shall not find it; and shall desire to die, and death shall flee from them.

And in those days shall men seek death, and shall not find it; and shall desire to die, and death shall flee from them- the Lord Jesus warned that in Gehenna, (another name for the Lake of Fire), “their worm dieth not, and the fire is not quenched”, Mark 9:44.  There is no respite from the suffering for the whole of eternity.  If any should be reading these lines who have not God’s salvation, then we urge you to seek it as a matter of urgency.  Please read, for your own sake, Romans chapters 1 to 3.
Normally, men do all they can to keep alive, and only in dire circumstances do they consider suicide.  These will seek for relief in death, but will not find it. Again, this is an evidence of God’s mercy, so that every opportunity to repent may be given them.

9:7  And the shapes of the locusts were like unto horses prepared unto battle; and on their heads were as it were crowns like gold, and their faces were as the faces of men.

And the shapes of the locusts were like unto horses prepared unto battle- everything about these beings was designed to bring terror.  Horses prepared to battle represent an ominous sight.  Huge creatures trained for warfare.  Man has been at war with God for six thousand years, but now God is at war with men.
And on their heads were as it were crowns like gold, and their faces were as the faces of men- they had the symbol upon them that they would win the day, that their conquest of men would be successful.  And they were not unintelligent brute creatures, but had the faces of men, the sure sign that they knew what they were doing. 

9:8  And they had hair as the hair of women, and their teeth were as the teeth of lions.

And they had hair as the hair of women- their long streaming hair as the hair of wild women possessed of the devil, would strike terror into the heart. 
And their teeth were as the teeth of lions- this is enough in itself to strike terror into the souls of men, with demon-lions baring their teeth, ready to leap on their prey.

9:9  And they had breastplates, as it were breastplates of iron; and the sound of their wings was as the sound of chariots of many horses running to battle.

And they had breastplates, as it were breastplates of iron- it will not be possible for men to rid themselves of these terrible creatures, for they are able to withstand the war-machines of mere men, for these are spirit-beings, who will not succumb to physical onslaughts. 
And the sound of their wings was as the sound of chariots of many horses running to battle- Ezekiel describes the sound of the wings of the cherubim as “the sound of a host”, Ezekiel 1:24, and these are the same.  The roar as they make their rapid advance, (running to battle), will strike terror into men.

9:10  And they had tails like unto scorpions, and there were stings in their tails: and their power was to hurt men five months.

And they had tails like unto scorpions, and there were stings in their tails- the tails of scorpions arch over their back, so that they sting as they move forward.  Their sting is noted for the intensity of the pain it causes.  So there will be the combination of the sight and sound of these creatures, striking terror into men as a swarm of locusts does, and then the pain of their sting. 
And their power was to hurt men five months- despite being fallen angels, and therefore part of Satan’s domain, these, (and their king, verse 11), are strictly controlled by God, and their power is only theirs because He has given it, and He has limited the time of their use of it.  They hurt men severely, but do not kill them.

9:11  And they had a king over them, which is the angel of the bottomless pit, whose name in the Hebrew tongue is Abaddon, but in the Greek tongue hath his name Apollyon.

And they had a king over them, which is the angel of the bottomless pit- as noted, ordinary locusts have no king, for they simply swarm in a seemingly uncontrolled mass.  These are different, for they have an angel controlling them.  As already noted, the fact that he is an angel shows that these locusts over whom he is king are likewise fallen angels.
Whose name in the Hebrew tongue is Abaddon, but in the Greek tongue hath his name Apollyon- these two titles both mean “Destroyer”, or “Destruction”.  There is no reason to think that this is a reference to Satan, for he is not confined to the bottomless pit until 20:1,2.  He is not, in fact, confined at all at present, but is the prince of the power of the air, Ephesians 2:2.  Satan is not King of Hell, nor is there any reason to think that he has ever been there.  But he will be confined there for one thousand years, and then, after being freed for a short season, will be cast into the Lake of Fire, otherwise known as Gehenna.

ADDITIONAL NOTE: A consideration of the place of departed souls.
Points to bear in mind:
1.   Man is a tri-partite being, for in the beginning “the Lord God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul”, Genesis 2:7.  This is confirmed in 1 Corinthians 15:45,47, “And so it is written, ‘The first man Adam was made a living soul’…the first man is of the earth earthy”.  So Paul tells us that the man whom God formed in Genesis 2 on the sixth day of creation week, was the Adam we know.
So man has a body, (in the case of us today through procreation, not formation), has a spirit, and not only has a soul, but by the combination of the spirit and the body, is a living soul, a person, a self-conscious human being.

2.   When he dies, man’s spirit returns to God, awaiting the resurrection day.  Scripture says, after describing the ageing process, “Then shall the dust return to the earth as it was: and the spirit shall return to God that gave it”, Ecclesiastes 12:7.  This is true of all men, believers and unbelievers alike.  God is called “the God of the spirits of all flesh”, Numbers 16:22.  Since this is so, the soul and the spirit cannot be identical, nor can they be inseparable, for if the soul goes where the spirit goes, then no souls go to sheol or hades. 

3.   In Old Testament times, the souls of men went to Sheol, which is translated “grave” 31 times, “hell” 31 times, and “pit” 3 times.  The word “grave” always has the definite article before it, except in Hosea 13:14 where it has the word “O” before it.  So, for instance, Jacob said “For I will go down into the grave to my son mourning”.  But Jacob did not believe Joseph had a grave in the sense of a burial place in the earth, for he thought he had been torn in pieces by a wild beast.  But he was still going to the grave to his son, for to Jacob the grave, meaning in his case a sepulchre, was simply the entrance to the grave, meaning the place of departed souls, the place where his son was.

4.   David was confident that through the mercy of God he had been delivered from the lowest hell, for he wrote, “For great is Thy mercy towards me: and Thou hast delivered my soul from the lowest hell”, Psalm 86:13. This supports the idea that hell has at least two compartments, with the righteous dead going to the upper part, and the unrighteous dead to the lower part, which would correspond to the pit to which Korah went, Numbers 16:33.
Now whilst David was confident that his soul would not go to the lowest place it is possible for a man’s soul to go, this does not mean there is nothing lower.  In fact, God said, “For a fire is kindled in Mine anger, and shall burn unto the lowest hell”, Deuteronomy 32:22.  This suggests that there is a place lower than where man’s soul can go. 

5.   When the psalmist was considering the fact that God is everywhere, he wrote, “If I ascend up to heaven, Thou art there; if I make my bed in hell, behold, thou art there”, Psalm 139:8.  Something of the psalmist’s surprise that the latter statement is true is seen in the word “behold”.  We learn the strange and startling truth that it is possible for God to be in hell.  And it is obviously possible for Him to be there without being compromised.  Since the Lord Jesus is equal with God, then it is also possible for Him to go to the place where the souls of the righteous dead are without compromise also, for that place is not of punishment but of rest.

6.  Ephesians 4 is dealing with the fact that Christ fills all things, Ephesians 4:10.  The argument of the apostle is that the Lord Jesus must make His presence felt in all parts of the universe so that it can be said of Him that He fills all things.  In other words there is no room in the whole of God’s universe for a competitor.  He has gone into heaven to assert that, and He went into the lower parts of the earth to assert His rights in that place too.
When He was prophesying His death, the Lord said, “for as Jonas was three days and three nights in the whale’s belly; so shall the Son of Man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth”, Matthew 12:40.  By no stretch of the imagination can it be said that a sepulchre is in the heart of the earth.  It must refer to Christ’s soul, and corresponds to the lower parts of the earth the apostle Paul wrote of in Ephesians 4:9.  Notice he did not write “lowest parts of the earth”, but “lower”, for Christ did not need to go to the place of torment, the lowest part of the earth to which human souls can go, for Him to have asserted, in principle, His resurrection rights there. 

7.   When he was referring to the judgement of the angels that sinned by leaving their first estate and taking wives of the daughters of men, Peter writes that “God spared not the angels that sinned, but cast them down to hell, and delivered them into chains of darkness, to be reserved unto judgement”, 2 Peter 2:4.  And Jude speaks likewise, “And the angels which kept not their first estate, but left their own habitation, he hath reserved in everlasting chains under darkness unto the judgement of the great day”, Jude 6. 
Now when Peter wrote “cast them down to hell”, he was using a Greek verb, tartaroo, meaning to “thrust down to Tartarus”.  This would correspond to the “lowest pit”, or “the bottomless pit”, the place reserved for those who rebelled against God so daringly in Genesis chapter 6.  It is not safe for these to be allowed to roam the earth, so they are imprisoned.  We see now why it is necessary for an angel to come down from heaven to unlock the doors of this place, so that, in a way that God closely controls, they may be God’s judgement on men for a strictly limited period.
At the end of the Tribulation period, Satan will join them, as Revelation 20:1,2 indicates.  Meanwhile Satan, and the hosts of evil angels that rebelled with him at the beginning, are able to roam the earth, as Job 1:7 and 1 Peter 5:8 make clear.

THE WORDS OF THE BIBLE, THE CHRISITAN SCRIPTURES, AS FOUND IN THE BOOK OF THE REVELATION CHAPTER 9, VERSES 13 TO 21:

9:13 And the sixth angel sounded, and I heard a voice from the four horns of the golden altar which is before God,

9:14 Saying to the sixth angel which had the trumpet, Loose the four angels which are bound in the great river Euphrates.

9:15 And the four angels were loosed, which were prepared for an hour, and a day, and a month, and a year, for to slay the third part of men.

9:16 And the number of the army of the horsemen were two hundred thousand thousand: and I heard the number of them.

9:17 And thus I saw the horses in the vision, and them that sat on them, having breastplates of fire, and of jacinth, and brimstone: and the heads of the horses were as the heads of lions; and out of their mouths issued fire and smoke and brimstone.

9:18 By these three was the third part of men killed, by the fire, and by the smoke, and by the brimstone, which issued out of their mouths.

9:19 For their power is in their mouth, and in their tails: for their tails were like unto serpents, and had heads, and with them they do hurt.

9:20 And the rest of the men which were not killed by these plagues yet repented not of the works of their hands, that they should not worship devils, and idols of gold, and silver, and brass, and stone, and of wood: which neither can see, nor hear, nor walk:

9:21 Neither repented they of their murders, nor of their sorceries, nor of their fornication, nor of their thefts.

Verses 13-21  The sounding of the sixth trumpet

9:13 And the sixth angel sounded, and I heard a voice from the four horns of the golden altar which is before God,

And the sixth angel sounded- in the case of the first five trumpets, the actual sounding of the trumpet provoked the judgement, but with the sixth, there is the intervention of a voice, instructing the angel what to do.
And I heard a voice from the four horns of the golden altar which is before God- the golden altar came into view just before the seven angels began to sound their trumpets, in 8:3-5. Then there was not only incense offered on that altar, but the fire of the altar was cast to the earth. Here is a reminder of this double function of the golden altar, to enable the fire to burn the incense symbolising the cries of God’s saints and the intercessions of the Saviour, and also to provide the fire of judgement to be cast upon the earth, the sign that Christ is not indifferent to the plight of His people, nor is He indifferent to the sins of men.
The voice comes from the four horns. A horn in Scripture speaks of power, and this would remind us of the power of the intercession represented by the incense, and the power behind the judgements upon the earth that follow. The voice coming from the four horns perhaps represents the combined force of the intercessions represented by the incense offered there.
The fact that it is the altar before God indicates that it is not an altar in the temple in Jerusalem, for that has been profaned by the image of the beast by this time. It may even be that incense is offered to that image in blasphemy, hence the altar has to be defined as being before God.

9:14 Saying to the sixth angel which had the trumpet, Loose the four angels which are bound in the great river Euphrates.

Saying to the sixth angel which had the trumpet- so the sounding of the trumpet is instigated directly by the voice from the altar.
Loose the four angels which are bound in the great river Euphrates- this is a similar situation to that described in verses 1 and 2, where an angel unlocked the bottomless pit to set free evil spirits imprisoned there. Here there are just four angels in view, and the fact that they are bound in the Euphrates would show they are evil angels. They are restrained from acting as they once did, but are now allowed to do their evil work again, just for a short while.
At the beginning, “a river went out of Eden to water the garden; and from thence it was parted, and became into four heads”, Genesis 2:10. This shows that the water cycle was completely different before the Flood, for now rivers do not part and produce other rivers. They may part at a delta, as the Nile does, but they do not form rivers like this. The river of Eden was possibly supplied by undergound water, coming up under pressure.
The four rivers that were produced when the initial river parted at the boundary of Eden, are given the following names: Pison, Gihon, Hiddekel and Euphrates. The present river Euphrates is the only river that retains the pre-flood name, although the Tigris is called Hiddekel in ancient Assyrian chronicles. The course of the first three are described, but the Euphrates is simply named. Perhaps this suggests that the geography of its original course is irrelevant, given that it will feature in the post-flood world, even until the end times.
The force of the waters of the Flood would have completely obliterated the rivers, so the present Euphrates must have been named after the one existing before the Flood by those who remembered it, namely those who were in the ark. The most likely candidate for this naming is Ham, for he was the father of Cush, the builder of Babel, (according to ancient history), and the grandfather of Nimrod the son of Cush, whose kingdom began there, Genesis 10:10.
Babel, or Babylon as it came to be called later, is closely linked with the river Euphrates, being built on its banks. It is there that the first organised rebellion against God was begun, the ringleaders of this being Cush and his son Nimrod. Now we know from Genesis 6:4 that there were not only giants in the earth in the days before the flood, but also after that, so it could well be that the four angels released here were imprisoned because of their part in the great Babel rebellion. Just as their fellow-angels were imprisoned in the Abyss for their pre-flood activity, so these are confined to the Euphrates. It is appropriate that the former should be in the abyss, (for this is a word that elsewhere is used of the depths of the ocean), for their sin brought on the universal flood. And it is appropriate that the latter should be in the Euphrates, since it was there that the rebellion against God was centred. It may or may not be significant that there is an island in the middle of the Euphrates river called Abadan, with which compare verse 11.

9:15 And the four angels were loosed, which were prepared for an hour, and a day, and a month, and a year, for to slay the third part of men.

And the four angels were loosed, which were prepared for an hour, and a day, and a month, and a year- the work of these angels is allotted to them by God, not Satan. God has prepared them in some way to be the executors of His judgements. He has not only prepared them, but their release is timed precisely, even to the hour. This expression may signify one of the following:

1. The particular moment at which they will be released.

2. The length of time that they will operate, even 13 months, one day and one hour.

3. A particular point at which various cycles of time coincide.

For to slay the third part of men- how they do this is told us in verses 17 and 18.

9:16 And the number of the army of the horsemen were two hundred thousand thousand: and I heard the number of them.

And the number of the army of the horsemen were two hundred thousand thousand- the narrative seems to jump from the loosing of the angels to the description of an army. Perhaps John expects us to draw the conclusion that since the angel of the bottomless pit is associated with a demon-army, so these four angels are associated with one also.

It is also the case that John does not specify who the horsemen are, whether they are evil spirits, as with the locusts under the fifth trumpet, or men. That they are evil spirits is more likely, and it seems that the four angel-ringleaders of the violence in the days of Nimrod, are now allowed to recruit myriads of the spirits that inhabit the air, to fulfill God’s will in judgement. This is confirmed by the fact that the four angels are said in verse 15 to slay the third part of men; they do it through others, with themselves no doubt in overall control.
And I heard the number of them- it is estimated that the population of the whole world in John’s day was no more than this, so we can understand that he wants to impress his first readers as to the correctness of this number.

9:17 And thus I saw the horses in the vision, and them that sat on them, having breastplates of fire, and of jacinth, and brimstone: and the heads of the horses were as the heads of lions; and out of their mouths issued fire and smoke and brimstone.

And thus I saw the horses in the vision, and them that sat on them- it seems that the horses are more prominent than the riders, for it is from the horses’ mouths that the fire, smoke and brimstone issue. The fact that John was given a vision of these things does not detract from the awful reality of them. He needed to see in vision because the actual event was far in the future. These things are not metaphors, but grim realities, which are soon to come upon the earth.
Having breastplates of fire, and of jacinth, and brimstone- it will be impossible for the men of earth to attack these armies, for they are protected, not by armour plating, but by fire, jacinth and brimstone. The flames of the fire will camouflage them; the jacinth will dazzle men, (for jacinth is the colour of brimstone when it is burning brightly); the brimstone will choke men, so that they will not be able to approach them to fight them. It is very probable that the sophisticated computer systems of men will be radically disrupted during the tribulation period, so the advanced weaponry which is now used will be useless, and men will have to resort to simpler means of fighting.
And the heads of the horses were as the heads of lions- this gives us some idea of the size of the horses, in that their heads were like lions’ heads.
And out of their mouths issued fire and smoke and brimstone- this is the means by which the four angels slay the third part of men, using the horses as their agents.

9:18 By these three was the third part of men killed, by the fire, and by the smoke, and by the brimstone, which issued out of their mouths.

By these three was the third part of men killed, by the fire, and by the smoke, and by the brimstone- not only are the horsemen protected by fire, fire is one of the means whereby men are killed. Just as under the fifth trumpet men were given a foretaste of the torments of the Lake of Fire, see 9:5, in order that they might repent, so here, men are given a foretaste of “the Lake of Fire burning with brimstone”, 19:20. Even in the midst of wrath God remembers mercy, in that He gives opportunity to repent before death ends that possibility.

Special note
It is solemn to notice that those who tamper with the word of God are warned in the closing verses of this book of Revelation that all such shall have the plagues of this book come upon them. The passage reads, “For I testify unto every man that heareth the words of the prophecy of this book, If any man shall add unto these things, God shall add unto him the plagues that are written in this book: And if any man shall take away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God shall take away his part out of the book of life, and out of the holy city, and from the things which are written in this book, Revelation 22:18,19. We might ask how can men of centuries ago suffer the plagues of this book that have not yet happened? Is not the answer that the plagues are a foretaste of the Lake of Fire sufferings, and the warning to abusers of the word of God is that they shall suffer in that dread place if they do not repent?

The fire burns men, the smoke confuses and disorientates them, and the brimstone, which is burning sulphur, suffocates them. These effects are so severe that a third of the population of the world die. These are terrible judgements, but they are necessary in order to show men that God is angry. In the days of Abraham, fire and brimstone came down from heaven upon the cities of the plain, Genesis 19:24,25 because of their wickedness, but this fire and brimstone affects the whole earth. This is just, because the whole earth will be living as they did in Sodom in the days of Lot, as the Lord Jesus prophesied, Luke 17:28-30.
Which issued out of their mouths- fire does not issue forth from normal horses, so these must be demon-horses, endowed with the power to kill men in this terrible way.

9:19 For their power is in their mouth, and in their tails: for their tails were like unto serpents, and had heads, and with them they do hurt.

For their power is in their mouth, and in their tails- as if the terror of fire-breathing giant horses was not enough, their tails were harmful too.
For their tails were like unto serpents, and had heads, and with them they do hurt- men will be under the control of the “Old Serpent…which deceiveth the whole world”, 12:9, so this feature of the horses is designed to make them realise that to listen to the serpent, as Eve did, is to be deceived. This is the reason why the judgements have come upon them. So the judgement contains with it the remedy, which is to stop listening to the Serpent, and start listening to God when He calls to repentance. It seems that the tails only hurt, whereas the mouths kill. The tails hurt, to jolt men out of their hardness of heart; the mouths kill if they fail to respond.

9:20 And the rest of the men which were not killed by these plagues yet repented not of the works of their hands, that they should not worship devils, and idols of gold, and silver, and brass, and stone, and of wood: which neither can see, nor hear, nor walk:

And the rest of the men which were not killed by these plagues yet repented not of the works of their hands- we are now told the result of these things as regards those who are left behind. They still did not repent of their sin, despite the horrors that had been inflicted on their fellows. How hard is the unbelieving heart of man, even when confronted by the direct intervention of an angry God!
The specific matter for which they did not repent is said to be “the works of their hands”. The verse goes on to describe idols, so these are the works in view. In chapter 13 we shall learn that the second beast requires the men of earth to make an image to the first beast, and he then gives life to this image and causes it to speak.
The Lord Jesus referred to this image in the following way: “When ye therefore shall see the abomination of desolation , spoken of by Daniel the prophet, stand in the holy place, (whoso readeth let him understand)”, Matthew 24:15. Or, as is found in Mark, “But when ye shall see the abomination of desolation, spoken of by Daniel the prophet, standing where it ought not, (let him that readeth understand), then let them which be in Judaea flee to the mountains”, Mark 13:14. By saying “let him that readeth understand”, the Lord is pointing His people back to read the prophecy of Daniel. (Notice that the Lord Jesus, who is The Truth, spoke of Daniel as “the prophet”, so they are wrong who say that the book of Daniel was written after the events it describes have happened).

The following are the references to the abomination of desolation in Daniel’s prophecy:

1. “And in the midst of the week he shall cause the sacrifice and the oblation to cease, and for the overspreading of abominations he shall make it desolate”, Daniel 9:27.

2. “And they shall pollute the sanctuary of strength, and shall take away the daily sacrifice, and they shall place the abomination that maketh desolate”, Daniel 11:31.

3. “And from the time that the daily sacrifice shall be taken away, and the abomination that maketh desolate set up, there shall be a thousand two hundred and ninety days”, Daniel 12:11.

Several points are relevant here.

First, the word abomination refers to an idol of some sort, that which God finds abominable.

Second, the desolation spoken of is the result of the setting up of the idol, since this means that God must vacate the temple, and this makes it desolate or deserted. When the Lord Jesus left the temple buildings He exclaimed, “Behold, your house is left unto you desolate”, Matthew 23:38; 24:1.

Third, Daniel 9:27 speaks of abominations in the plural, so the Lord does not seem to be quoting that verse in Matthew 24.

Fourth, Daniel 11:31 is usually thought of as being a reference to the pollution of the temple by Antiochus Epiphanes.

Fifth, not one of these verses tells us exactly where the abomination is set up; it is the Lord who tells us in His Olivet discourse that it is in the Holy Place.

So there will be set up in the rebuilt temple at Jerusalem an idol, which causes God to desert the temple, and which pollutes the sanctuary. It may well be that the idol is set up as a replacement for the ark of the covenant with its winged cherubim. The “overspreading of abominations” may be Satan’s wicked parody of the ark. We are told by the apostle Paul that the Man of Sin, (another name for the Antichrist), will himself sit in the temple of God, 2 Thessalonians 2:4. The image will serve to represent him when he is elsewhere.
There is a further possibility with regard to the image of the beast, referred to in Revelation 13:14,15. Why should it be “them that dwell upon the earth” who have to make an image of the beast? And why is there an image “of the beast”, in verse 14, and an image “to the beast”, in verse 15? Is it that every unbeliever will be required to have their own image of the beast, whereas there will be one image to the beast erected in the temple? If the foregoing is correct, then this is why the worship is of “the works of their hands”, for each one has made his own image.

That they should not worship devils- there were some believers in the assembly at Corinth who, incredible as it might seem to us, were still going to the idol temple and eating things offered to idols. The apostle Paul writes, “For if any man see thee which hast knowledge sit at meat in the idol’s temple, shall not the conscience of him that is weak be emboldened to eat those things which are offered to idols?” 1 Corinthians 9:10. He went on to say, “the things which the Gentiles sacrifice, they sacrifice to devils, and not to God”, 10:20. This is an allusion to Moses’ words, “They provoked Him to jealousy with strange gods, with abominations provoked they Him to anger. They sacrificed to devils, not to God”, Deuteronomy 32:17. So there will be some who will consciously worship devils as they stand before the image of the beast erected in their own home.
And idols of gold, and silver, and brass, and stone, and of wood- some only worship the idol out of fear of the consequences, and perhaps do not realise that they are in fact worshipping Satan’s agents. We see here that men will make their idol out of what they can afford. The rich will have golden images, much like Nebuchadnezzar in Daniel chapter 4. The poor will make theirs out of easily-available wood. Whatever their status, however, they are condemned by God for doing it. He expects them to repent of their idolatry, but they refuse.
Which neither can see, nor hear, nor walk- this would indicate that the idols are of the human form. We do not bother that animals do not answer us if we speak to them, but we do bother if a human does not respond. So it is of no account that an idol shaped like an animal does not answer, but it does matter if an idol like a human does not answer, for it means there is no intelligence there.
The psalmist wrote of the heathen, “Their idols are silver and gold, the work of men’s hands. They have mouths, but they speak not: eyes have they, but they see not: they have ears, but they hear not: noses have they, but they smell not: they have hands, but they handle not: feet have they, but they walk not: neither speak they through their throat. They that make them are like unto them; so is every one that trusteth in them”, Psalm 115:4-8. So the psalmist drew two conclusions from what the idols were like. First, those who made idols must have been in sympathy with idolatry, (or else they would have refused to do the task), and this showed that they were like the idol. Second, that those who showed they trusted in idols by offering prayers to them, were like them too. So if the idol has a mouth, but cannot talk, that is what the idol-worshipper is like in relation to God. So likewise with all the other features of the idol. He cannot see spiritually; cannot hear with the hearing of faith; cannot appreciate the incense that is offered to God in Israel’s temple; cannot present things to God with their hands; cannot walk in ways pleasing to Him; they breathe God’s air, but do not breathe out praise to Him. (See Psalm 135:15-18 for almost identical words to the ones just quoted from Psalm 115, except for “neither is there any breath in their mouths”).

9:21 Neither repented they of their murders, nor of their sorceries, nor of their fornication, nor of their thefts.

Neither repented they of their murders- having refused to repent for breaking the commands on the first table of the law, they are now condemned by the second table. God said, “Thou shalt not kill”, Exodus 20:13, and although this command was given to Israel, nevertheless murder is condemned of God whoever commits it, and should be punished by the execution in some way of the murderer. The covenant which God made with the earth in Genesis 9 still stands, and He still requires that “whoso sheddeth man’s blood, by man shall his blood be shed”. The result of disobeying this command is seen around us in our day, and will be multiplied in the lawless times ahead.
Nor of their sorceries- this refers to the use of drugs to induce occult experiences. Such practices are definitely condemned by God, for those who engage in them lay themselves open to the deceptions of evil spirits.
Nor of their fornication- all types of moral deviation, whether adultery, homosexuality, lesbianism, or any other perversion, are condemned of God, who wants the best for His creatures. As our Creator He has made us the way He wants us to be, and if we are born male that is how we should live; if born female, that is our status. He has instituted the ordinance of marriage, so that families may be raised in a stable, loving, and moral environment. All attacks on God’s creatorial order are an attack on God. Far from condoning the vile acts that are listed here, God commands those who commit them to repent.
Nor of their thefts- it might seem that this sin is an anticlimax, given the serious nature of the other evils listed. But “thou shalt not steal” is God’s command, and He thereby safeguards the rights of those who own property. The word theft being in the plural might suggest the sin is prevalent, and takes many different forms in those future lawless times.
Those who believe in socialism say that wealth should be re-distributed, so that all have an equal share. They do not seem to stop and think that this amounts to stealing, for others have worked to gain what they own. Is it right to take this away and give it to those who have not worked for it? (Of course we should all expect to pay taxes to support law and order, Romans 13:1-7, but that is the limit of a government’s power; everything else is interference). Despite the injustice of this, it is a favourite ploy of politicians to redistribute (others people’s) wealth in order to keep power, but this is contrary to God’s mind. God has ordained that if a man will not work, he should not eat, 2 Thessalonians 3:10. Of course there are those who genuinely are unable to work, and there is provision for them in the words, “support the weak”, 1 Thessalonians 5:14.
This is not to say that capitalism is free of blame. There are many ways in which those in business can use the system to their own ends, gaining advantage at the expense of others by means of monopolies, cartels, creative accounting, misleading advertising and other such dishonest practices. Is this not theft?
The fact that repentance is mentioned show that God is still, even at this late stage, looking for it. “The Lord…is not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance”, 2 Peter 3:9.

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