9 And the fifth angel blew his trumpet, and I saw a star fallen from heaven to earth, and he was given the key to the shaft of the bottomless pit. He opened the shaft of the bottomless pit, and from the shaft rose smoke like the smoke of a great furnace, and the sun and the air were darkened with the smoke from the shaft. Then from the smoke came locusts on the earth, and they were given power like the power of scorpions of the earth. They were told not to harm the grass of the earth or any green plant or any tree, but only those people who do not have the seal of God on their foreheads. They were allowed to torment them for five months, but not to kill them, and their torment was like the torment of a scorpion when it stings someone. And in those days people will seek death and will not find it. They will long to die, but death will flee from them.
In appearance the locusts were like horses prepared for battle: on their heads were what looked like crowns of gold; their faces were like human faces, their hair like women’s hair, and their teeth like lions’ teeth; they had breastplates like breastplates of iron, and the noise of their wings was like the noise of many chariots with horses rushing into battle. They have tails and stings like scorpions, and their power to hurt people for five months is in their tails. They have as king over them the angel of the bottomless pit. His name in Hebrew is Abaddon, and in Greek he is called Apollyon.
The first woe has passed; behold, two woes are still to come.
Then the sixth angel blew his trumpet, and I heard a voice from the four horns of the golden altar before God, saying to the sixth angel who had the trumpet, “Release the four angels who are bound at the great river Euphrates.” So the four angels, who had been prepared for the hour, the day, the month, and the year, were released to kill a third of mankind. The number of mounted troops was twice ten thousand times ten thousand; I heard their number. And this is how I saw the horses in my vision and those who rode them: they wore breastplates the color of fire and of sapphire and of sulfur, and the heads of the horses were like lions’ heads, and fire and smoke and sulfur came out of their mouths. By these three plagues a third of mankind was killed, by the fire and smoke and sulfur coming out of their mouths. For the power of the horses is in their mouths and in their tails, for their tails are like serpents with heads, and by means of them they wound.
The rest of mankind, who were not killed by these plagues, did not repent of the works of their hands nor give up worshiping demons and idols of gold and silver and bronze and stone and wood, which cannot see or hear or walk, nor did they repent of their murders or their sorceries or their sexual immorality or their thefts.
Revelation 9 Commentary
by Hank Workman
I want you to think of someone in your life, someone you know who does not know Jesus. Someone who actually is not even remotely interested in Him; possibly belligerent toward the thought of Him. Maybe it’s even someone who at one time was exposed to truth of God but for whatever reason has slowly hardened their hearts. Do you have someone in mind?
The reason I start off this way is these people we read about today – they have faces and names. They’re people we know. They’re ones who have belligerently turned against God. And these very faces and very names we have in our mind – this could be them. This could be what happens to them if they don’t turn from their ways and toward Jesus.
Trumpets which have been given to the angels are raised to their lips – the cosmic blows that pierce the air will affect large fractions of the planet. In some ways, these seem more extensive and devastating than the seals.
And it seems that their aim is at those who still defy the rule of the warrior Lamb. The aim and direction these things go toward are the very people you have in your mind at this moment. This is that moment where pain and horrible affliction comes upon people.
This is a fight to the finish between 2 main characters of redemptive history: Jesus and Satan. And both of these lay exclusive claim to the earth and its inhabitants. Only one will triumph.
This fight began all the way back in Genesis. In chapter 3 Satan deceived Adam and Eve. Their disobedience resulted in expulsion from the Garden of Eden and he usurped control over the planet earth. That last statement seems pretty radical. But look:
“We know that we are children of God and that the world around us is under the control of the evil one.”1 John 5:19
“The time for judging this world has come, when Satan, the ruler of this world, will be cast out.”John 12:31
God is supreme. Nothing happens that does not pass through his hands – and for whatever reason – Satan has been allowed to rule this world with his determination and sinfulness that has gripped it. But as Jesus said, the time is coming when this ruler of the world will be cast out. Satan’s time is coming to a close. But it will be a fight to the finish.
You see, if he’s had so many people who have willingly followed, willingly turned away from God – seeking things for themselves, seeking their own ways, not following Jesus, bending their knee to Him – you can understand why this is a fight to the finish. Satan does not want to give up what he has already laid claim to. And so the war will be horrific.
Chapter 9 speaks of the fact that after all that came against the people of the earth, all that the wrath of God unleashed, they simply did not repent of their sins. They refused to turn to God. It’s kind of like they stood there defiantly, “Bring it!” They simply loved their sin, loved their self-centered ways so much, they still wouldn’t turn toward Him. Even in the middle of heartache and woe. Even in the reality that their eternity was in balance. Who is that person again in your mind?
If you recall, the first four seals sent riders on horsemen out across the planet. They depicted the consequences of human sinfulness. But the trumpets blown reveal something different. They show an active involvement of God bringing punishment upon a wicked world.
There is a nagging problem in all of this though. And you’re going to struggle with it. The question for sure that will be raised in our mind is this: How can a loving God do such a thing? And you may ask this question. And others in our lives may ask it as well.
There’s no easy way around this. God hates sin. He hates it. He will not tolerate it. And in His timing, He will deal with it. This is what’s evident in this passage. We love to candy coat God. We’re all guilty of this. But in passages like this – we see that his patience comes to an end – and his hatred of sin has a price.
But the second thing here – remember how this whole vision began how? Jesus appeared to John and penned letters for him to write to the churches from Jesus. They were warnings. They were encouragements. They were truth. Then the visions began – and John, in turn, wrote this down – the Revelation.
And you think about the readers from then – til now – until Jesus comes – the very readers of these words. This book was not written to create division among churches as to what they believe and how they all think it will turn out. Although we’ve made it that way.
This book is a loving warning to people, to us, the very people in our lives whom we’ve thought about initially. This is a loving warning from God – that it’s not too late. He is warning in advance of what is to come. That my friends is a gracious and merciful God. He’s giving all the possibility of turning. And what is so frustrating – many will not. What even makes this more difficult is the last few verses.
“But the people who did not die in these plagues still refused to repent of their evil deeds and turn to God. They continued to worship demons and idols made of gold, silver, bronze, stone, and wood—idols that can neither see nor hear nor walk! 21 And they did not repent of their murders or their witchcraft or their sexual immorality or their thefts.“Revelation 9:20-21
These people had hardened their hearts. It didn’t matter what happened to them. It didn’t matter what came against them. It didn’t matter what the demonic activity that surrounded them looked like – they refused to repent and turn to God. They did not repent; they did not bend their knee.
Judgment does not bring repentance. This is evident.
And this is what makes this passage so difficult – because the hardest part of this is that we can put faces with this story. We see people whom we know, whom we love – that don’t want to follow God. They refuse to follow Him. Refuse to surrender and bow their knee before Him. These are people in our lives whose love for God is not the same as ours, not the same as a committed follower. And so the hardest part is when we put faces to this because we see what God’s wrath looks like toward those who don’t follow.
I’m not just talking about the obstinately opposed to Jesus. I’m also talking about the nominal people who claim to know and follow but have no fruit that bears the truth of this. If the goats and sheep were separated at this moment – they would possibly be thrown with the goats. And they’d cry out “Didn’t we do this, didn’t we do that…?” And Jesus would say, “I never knew you…”
There are faces to these people. Faces of people who are in our lives but refuse to make Jesus Lord. This should bring a sense of urgency in our own life first and foremost. We need to step back and look as to where we belong. Where do we stand? And then it should bring a sense of urgency for our friends and loved ones.
Every bit of this is about the heart. We can think of those we love, the people whose faces have been at the forefront of our minds throughout this time today and wonder – we simply wonder what it will take for them to turn toward God. And you know, sometimes we land on, “Well if that happens, they’ll believe. If this happens, they’ll believe.”
If anything, this passage of revelation shows us that is not the case at all. Because tragedy happened here… and nothing changed. It’s about the heart. If anything it’s about the Holy Spirit.
“But now I am going away to the one who sent me, and not one of you is asking where I am going. 6 Instead, you grieve because of what I’ve told you. 7 But in fact, it is best for you that I go away, because if I don’t, the Advocate[a] won’t come. If I do go away, then I will send him to you. 8 And when he comes, he will convict the world of its sin, and of God’s righteousness, and of the coming judgment. 9 The world’s sin is that it refuses to believe in me.
10 Righteousness is available because I go to the Father, and you will see me no more. 11 Judgment will come because the ruler of this world has already been judged. 12 There is so much more I want to tell you, but you can’t bear it now. 13 When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all truth. He will not speak on his own but will tell you what he has heard. He will tell you about the future. 14 He will bring me glory by telling you whatever he receives from me. 15 All that belongs to the Father is mine; this is why I said, ‘The Spirit will tell you whatever he receives from me.’” –John 16:5-15
Jesus said that the Holy Spirit would what? He would convict people of their sin, of their rebellion, of coming judgment, convict them of Jesus. This my friends is more powerful than what they see, than what they experience. The conviction of the Holy Spirit must come upon people for real change to take place.
I know there are people in our lives who are not following Jesus. They are the ones here that we’ve put faces on the passage. It is not going to be an event, it is not going to be a sermon, it is not going to be some tragedy that will lead them to the safety of Jesus. It is going to be the Holy Spirit who convicts hearts and leads toward repentance and restoration. And we must pray for this. We must pray for those who are on our minds and hearts – that the Holy Spirit will reveal Himself, do whatever it takes, to convict their hearts and lead them toward repentance. Only He can do this.
Revelation 9 Commentary
by Brad Boyles
The 5th Trumpet
The 5th trumpet releases a key to open the abyss. Many scholars believe this is the same abyss that the demons begged Jesus not to throw them in. It may be the same place where God locked up the spiritual beings who sinned by choosing to reproduce with human women.
When people had spread all over the world, and daughters were being born, 2 some of the heavenly beings saw that these young women were beautiful, so they took the ones they liked. 3 Then the LORD said, “I will not allow people to live forever; they are mortal. From now on they will live no longer than 120 years.” 4 In those days, and even later, there were giants on the earth who were descendants of human women and the heavenly beings. They were the great heroes and famous men of long ago.Genesis 6:1-4 GNB
And angels who did not keep their own domain, but abandoned their proper abode, He has kept in eternal bonds under darkness for the judgment of the great day, 7 just as Sodom and Gomorrah and the cities around them, since they in the same way as these indulged in gross immorality and went after strange flesh, are exhibited as an example in undergoing the punishment of eternal fire.Jude 1:6-7 NASB
For if God did not spare angels when they sinned, but cast them into hell and committed them to pits of darkness, reserved for judgment;2 Peter 2:4 NASB
And Jesus asked him, “What is your name?” And he said, “Legion”; for many demons had entered him. 31 They were imploring Him not to command them to go away into the abyss.Luke 8:30-31 NASB
The key unlocks a disobedient demonic plague that sweeps over the Earth. Similar to the book of Job, God allows for these demonic forces to have their way with the people. However, the major difference is that it is not the righteous who will suffer from this plague but “the inhabitants of the Earth.”
The 6th Trumpet
The 6th trumpet releases 4 angels to bring more destruction. It reminds us of the 4 angels who were cautioned earlier not to disrupt Earth with the forces of wind. At that time they needed to wait until the entirety of God’s people were sealed. We can assume the people being sealed were the 144,000 who transformed into a great multitude.
The staggering numbers and graphic descriptions can be overwhelming to us. We read this and immediately think, “I would do anything to avoid that.” However, we learn at the end of the chapter that this was not the case. In fact, the people on the receiving end of this torment do not repent at all.
The rest of mankind, who were not killed by these plagues, did not repent of the works of their hands, so as not to worship demons, and the idols of gold and of silver and of brass and of stone and of wood, which can neither see nor hear nor walk; 21 and they did not repent of their murders nor of their sorceries nor of their immorality nor of their thefts.Revelation 9:20-21 NASB
In Revelation 9, John wrote about how mankind will seek death but will be unable to find it. The sins listed specifically by name were very common to the Gentile nations. Although the list here opposes the 10 commandments, it was also taking place within Christian churches in the NT where false teachers were promoting sexual immorality, sorcery, and idolatry.
It seems impossible that people would not repent after these horrible judgments, but we have seen it before in history. The picture here mirrors Exodus when Pharoah hardens his heart even amongst the most deadly plagues sent by God. After the Passover, he finally agrees to release the Israelites but then later changes his mind and comes after them again!
Death Over Repentance
This is one of the more eye-opening discoveries from the book of Revelation. People will prefer death and torture over repentance. These people (that God loves) have so much pride and hatred in their hearts that even as this horror story unfolds here on earth, they choose to continue living the way they want rather than repenting and turning to God. It seems unbelievable, but upon further study, it’s actually very believable – especially in terms of what we are seeing in our nation today.
One of the vices mentioned in this list of sins is the word sorceries. People refuse to repent of their sorceries. In ancient times, sorcery was attached to witchcraft but it also commonly involved something else. That word sorceries comes from the Greek word pharmakeia. This is where we get our word pharmaceuticals and pharmacy. In other words, drugs.
When we render the text that way, suddenly it speaks to our culture like never before. Do you know addicts who despite losing everything continue to go back to their drug of choice?
Look at this list and tell me if this sounds like our nation today: idols, murder, drugs, sexual immorality, and stealing. These will have such a stronghold over them that even when the wrath of God is sent from Heaven above, it will not change their minds about turning from their sin! These verses are potentially speaking to humanity’s addictions which will keep them from repentance!
God’s judgment will not produce repentance. But, I think we already know that.
Failure to keep the law of God has never worked to change a human heart. Only the love of Christ can do that. This is why it is so critical for believers to love people into the Kingdom (especially in the midst of the end times) because we understand that the wrath of God will not produce the change needed to turn from their sin. It may provide the conditions for change to happen, but it is only through humility, repentance, and the grace and forgiveness of Jesus that any of us are able to be free from our addictions today.
If the wrath of God changed people we could just sit back and wait for natural consequences to change everyone, but real life experiences tell us that isn’t the way it works. So, knowing this, what does that mean we should be doing today?
I think it means we should be praying for people and loving them like never before. I think it means we must take seriously our responsibility to bear God’s image to people who are in such a dangerous state of mind and don’t even know it. I think it means we need to be honest and get the healing we need from our own addictions, no matter how big or small they might seem. People’s eternal destination hangs in the balance.
In Revelation 9, the most frightening thought here is not the fact that God will send legions of spiritual beings to torture unbelieving people on earth (that’s a big statement.) The most frightening part is that those people being tortured will continue sinning even while God is judging them!