Thursday, June 28, 2012

Revelation Bible Study - Lesson 26 - Revelation 9:1-12

And the fifth angel blew his trumpet, and I saw a star fallen from heaven to earth, and he was given the key of 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 growth or any tree, but only those of mankind who have not the seal of God upon their foreheads; they were allowed to torture them for five months, but not to kill them, and their torture was like the torture of a scorpion, when it stings a man. And in those days men will seek death and will not find it; they will long to die, and death will fly from them.

In appearance the locusts were like horses arrayed 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 scales like iron breastplates, and the noise of their wings was like the noise of many chariots with horses rushing into battle. They have tails like scorpions, and stings, and their power of hurting men for five months lies in their tails. They have as king over them the angel of the bottomless pit; his name in Hebrew is Abad'don, and in Greek he is called Apol'lyon.

The first woe has passed; behold, two woes are still to come. (RSV) 

Star Fallen from Heaven

The book of Revelation is full of symbols and stars are one of them. The context usually gives us clues that reveal the meaning.
What things can you see here and elsewhere in the Bible that will identify this star that had fallen from heaven?

It is obvious that the star that had fallen from heaven is something different from a physical star that fell in chapter eight. This star is immediately personified when he is giving a key. Since he came from heaven, it is possible that he is an angel of some kind. It isn’t clear from the text whether this star is the angel who is king over the Abyss or he releases the king of the Abyss when he opens the shaft. Assuming that the star is an angel, it is doubtful that he is a good angel since it says that he fell from heaven rather than he came forth at God’s bidding, which has been the case of other angels we have seen.

Where in the Bible are we provided with some possible identities for this fallen angel and how do they fit with this angel?

How you are fallen from heaven, O Lucifer, son of the morning! How you are cut down to the ground, You who weakened the nations! For you have said in your heart: “I will ascend into heaven, I will exalt my throne above the stars of God; I will also sit on the mount of the congregation On the farthest sides of the north; I will ascend above the heights of the clouds, I will be like the Most High.” Yet you shall be brought down to Sheol, To the lowest depths of the Pit. (Isa 14:12-15 NKJV)

Son of man, take up a lamentation for the king of Tyre, and say to him, Thus says the Lord God:

"You were the seal of perfection, Full of wisdom and perfect in beauty. You were in Eden, the garden of God; Every precious stone was your covering: …

"You were the anointed cherub who covers; I established you; You were on the holy mountain of God; You walked back and forth in the midst of fiery stones. You were perfect in your ways from the day you were created, Till iniquity was found in you.

"… And you sinned; Therefore I cast you as a profane thing Out of the mountain of God; And I destroyed you, O covering cherub, From the midst of the fiery stones.

"Your heart was lifted up because of your beauty; You corrupted your wisdom for the sake of your splendor; I cast you to the ground, I laid you before kings, That they might gaze at you.” (Ezek 28:12-17 NKJV)

These verses were directed to the king of Babylon and the king of Tyre. At the same time God condemned these men, He moved on to explain how Satan had sinned and lost his position in heaven. As he brings these kings to destruction, He also shows how He cast Satan out of heaven. These verses refer to bringing Satan to the depths of the pit. Could this be the angel in the abyss? Probably not, because we know that Satan is still active in the world. Luke 22:3 says that Satan entered into Judas Iscariot. Acts 5:3 says that Satan filled the heart of Ananias (a believer) to lie to the Holy Spirit. If he were locked in the Abyss He wouldn’t have been able to tempt Jesus or control Judas. This star could very well be Satan who is given permission to release the angel of the abyss at this time. The angel of the abyss is probably one of the other demons that Satan dragged down with him. Rev 12:4 gives a description of Satan taking others with him. Rev 9:11 says that the king over the locusts is named Abaddon or Apollyon, both of which mean a destroying angel.

In the description of Satan, what did he have and what was his biggest problem? How do we face the same temptation?

As we look at this fallen star and Satan, it is interesting to note that Satan’s biggest problem is a lust for power driven by pride. He had more than any of us could imagine. He was beautiful, wise, and perfect in all ways. But he wasn’t satisfied with this and wanted more. He was most likely the highest-ranking angel in heaven so the only thing more he could get was to be God. With all his power, he must have forgotten that he was a created being; otherwise he would have understood how ludicrous it is to think he could become more powerful than his creator. I don’t think that we have a very good concept of how insidious pride is until we see what it did to Satan. It should be a warning to us all. Contrast Satan’s desires as well as most of ours with Paul’s.

Not that I speak from want; for I have learned to be content in whatever circumstances I am. I know how to get along with humble means, and I also know how to live in prosperity; in any and every circumstance I have learned the secret of being filled and going hungry, both of having abundance and suffering need. (Phil 4:11-12 NASB)

Can we say that we are content regardless of the circumstances? We should; we have more than Satan ever dreamed because we are co-heirs of the kingdom of God because of what Jesus has done for us. If we aren’t content, then we have a big hole in our spiritual armor that Satan can use to cause us no end of problems. After all, he is the expert in discontentment.

How much power does Satan have to tempt us and cause problems for us?
What are some things we need to remember when we are tempted?

The LORD said to Satan, “Very well, then, everything he has is in your hands, but on the man himself do not lay a finger.” Then Satan went out from the presence of the LORD. (Job 1:12 KJV)

The LORD said to Satan, “Very well, then, he is in your hands; but you must spare his life.” (Job 2:6 KJV)

Satan still has much spiritual power as evidenced by Ananias in Acts 5:3. He also has physical power to harm as demonstrated by what he did to Job. However, his power is limited to what God allows. Knowing this helps us when we undergo time of trials whether they are in health, wealth, relationships, spiritual battles, or anything else. Job suffered in all these areas more than most of us will ever face. He struggled with the question of why God would allow this to happen to him since he had been faithful to the Lord. When God revealed Himself to Job, he finally understood that it wasn’t really about him, but it was to bring glory to God. When we trust that our loving heavenly Father is in control of all things, even the hurtful circumstances of our lives, we will not succumb to Satan’s schemes to destroy our faith or our witness.

Therefore let anyone who thinks that he stands take heed lest he fall. No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man.  God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it. (1 Cor 10:12-13 ESV)

We have God’s promised limit on our temptations, but we must be willing to take the way out that He has provided. Most people don’t quote verse 12, but it needs to be remembered because pride in our spiritual strength gets in the road of taking His way out and we end up falling under the temptation instead.

How has Satan’s power been reduced and what will be his future?

Now is the time for judgment on this world; now the prince of this world will be driven out. But I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all men to myself. (John 12:31-32 NIV)

the prince of this world now stands condemned. (John 16:11 NIV)

He threw him into the Abyss, and locked and sealed it over him, to keep him from deceiving the nations anymore until the thousand years were ended. After that, he must be set free for a short time. (Rev 20:3 NIV) 

Satan had power over death until Jesus was crucified and resurrected. His power has been limited even more now that Jesus lives in us and we know that we have Jesus’ resurrection power living in us (1 John 4:4). We also have the promise that Satan will be bound for 1,000 years when he will be totally incapable of harm to anyone. He will be released, and then forever incarcerated in the lake of fire. The point is that God is in control, not Satan. The verdict over Satan has been given. It is only a matter of time before it is executed. Do as the saying suggests, “If Satan is threatening you about your past, remind him of his future.”

If we successfully resist Satan in one temptation, can we be assured we won’t have to deal with that temptation again? Explain your answer.

And when the devil had ended all the temptation, he departed from him for a season. (Luke 4:13 KJV)

This indicates that even Jesus had another contest coming after He successfully triumphed over Satan’s temptations in the wilderness. It was in the Garden of Gethsemane when Jesus was tempted to avoid the cross.

for the prince of this world cometh, and hath nothing in me … (John 14:30 KJV)

Jesus was able to win that contest because Satan had no hold on Him and now Jesus is living in us. We need to remember that when he starts bugging us. 

The Abyss

What is the abyss? Who is there and how did they get there?

And they cried out, saying, "What business do we have with each other, Son of God? Have You come here to torment us before the time?" (Matt 8:29 NASU)

They were imploring Him not to command them to go away into the abyss. (Luke 8:31 NASU)

These two verses have to be taken together to get the full picture of what is going on. The first point is that there will be an appointed time of torture for all demons. That includes a time when they will be sent into the abyss and locked up with Satan for a thousand years. From this account, it seems that Jesus usually sent demons into the abyss ahead of time when He casts them out of someone. In this case, He didn’t. My conclusion is that the abyss is a place where demons are kept from people. It is populated with some demons at this time while some are still free to roam.

For if God did not spare the angels who sinned, but cast them down to hell and delivered them into chains of darkness, to be reserved for judgment; (2 Peter 2:4 NKJV)

And the angels who did not keep their proper domain, but left their own abode, He has reserved in everlasting chains under darkness for the judgment of the great day; (Jude 6 NKJV)

The population includes demons that Jesus cast out of people as well as some that have been locked up since they rebelled. These latter ones were angels that sided with Satan and were so bad that they were sent directly to hell and some to dungeons – perhaps to the Abyss. Some may have been of high position and deemed too dangerous to allow them to be free.
The fallen star (most likely Satan) is given the opportunity to release the demons from the Abyss. As they are released, the sun and sky are darkened. This may be symbolic of extreme demonic activity of the last days. These will be days when the light of Jesus is hard to see because it will be blocked by much satanic deception. We can thank God that He has restricted the demonic activity in the world at this time. 


What is the first abnormality that you see in these locusts?

The first strange thing about these locusts is that they don’t do what normal locusts do. They don’t devour all of the grass and trees in sight. Look at Joel 2:1-11 for a description of what an army of natural locusts does. The Lord leads them to bring His people to repentance. He does it by having the insects devour everything in sight. But other than crawling all over people, they don’t actually harm them. These in Revelation are different. They don’t touch the vegetation, but only sting unbelievers.

What could the locusts’ ability to harm only unbelievers signify?

This could symbolize divine protection that keeps believers from falling into the trap of the enemy as indicated in Matt 24:24.

For false messiahs and false prophets will rise up and perform great signs and wonders so as to deceive, if possible, even God's chosen ones. (NLT)

What could the locusts’ ability to harm so that people seek death but can’t find it signify or be literally?

It is possible that these five months of torment is spiritual when people who are “stung” become demon possessed. That could explain why people seek death, but it eludes them. They could be in such spiritual and emotional turmoil that they want to commit suicide, but the demons themselves ensure that it can’t be done. Demons are not interested in quickly destroying their host unless they think they may lose the person to Christ. There are examples of this in the following verses.

And when he had come out of the boat, there met him out of the tombs a man with an unclean spirit …  Night and day among the tombs and on the mountains he was always crying out, and bruising himself with stones. (Mark 5:2, 5 RSV)

"Lord, have mercy on my son, for he is an epileptic and he suffers terribly; for often he falls into the fire, and often into the water.” And Jesus rebuked him, and the demon came out of him, and the boy was cured instantly. (Matt 17:15, 18 RSV)

You would think that the man living in the tombs would have long since killed himself, yet he was kept alive. The boy in Matthew appears to have epilepsy causing him to fall into the fire or water but it is actually a demon. This demon would also seem to kill the boy, yet he continues to live. If what the locust hoard is describing is actually demon possession, then it supports the belief that a believer cannot be possessed by a demon for it says they can only harm those who do not have the seal of God. Praise God for that!

On the other hand is the possibility that this is as it is described, physical torture inflicted by some kind of mutant ninja locust. Some have speculated that these locusts are mutants, perhaps caused by nuclear radiation. (This isn’t very scientific as mutations from radiation usually kill rather than produce Spider Man or the Incredible Hulk.) Since they are nothing seen on earth, they would have to be supernaturally created – not mutants. They inflict a sting that causes a person such pain that they simply wished they were dead. The source is supernatural since a fallen angel only releases them. Naturally occurring locusts are usually indiscriminate unless God has prevented them from harming Christians.

You increased your merchants more than the stars of the heavens. The locust spreads its wings and flies away. Your  princes are  like grasshoppers,  your scribes like clouds of locusts settling on the fences in a day of cold—when the sun rises, they fly away; no one knows where they are. (Nah 3:16-17 ESV)

How did Nahum use locust and grasshoppers as symbols and how would this fit with Revelation?
What warnings can we derive from this?

Nahum did an interesting turn on locust symbolism. He used locusts to describe the bureaucracy of government and the greed of merchants who only desire riches for themselves. They only see the immediate gain that can be made. They are a torment to the rest of people because they are willing to take what is needed at the expense of the poor. The poor can be left with malnutrition, tormented but very much alive. When the time of accounting comes, they are not to be found.

In our business dealings, we need to be conscious of our impact on others. There may be many things that are legal and proper, but in the long run may have bad affects on others. Waste disposal is an example. For a long time it was perfectly legal to put chemicals in the garbage or down the sewer. This has left people disfigured, tormented, and killed by cancer. Today we know better, but laws had to be made to prevent it.

Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind let each of you regard one another as more important than himself; do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others. (Phil 2:3-4 NASB)

We need to have an attitude in which we are looking out for the interests of others and these problems would diminish.

While this is interesting and provides a good warning, I don’t think this is a good explanation for the locusts because Christians aren’t harmed. It is obvious from the rest of the book of Revelation that Christians will be greatly harmed by merchants in the last days.

Do you have any other explanations for the bizarre description of the locusts?

I have not drawn anything else from the description of the locusts except they are not in any sense like normal locusts. The hair, teeth, breastplates, etc. all may have symbolic meaning but they don’t relate to anything I’ve found in the Bible. Author Hal Lindsey says that a friend of his was in the Green Berets and after reading the description he immediately thought of Cobra helicopters.[1] The description fits very well with the breastplates and sound that they make. I’ve seen pictures with teeth painted on them and hair painted on them so the image is very realistic. Lindsey’s friend speculates that the sting could be some kind of nerve gas sprayed from the tails. However this is also a stretch to explain what these locusts are. Yet the Lord may indeed have shown something like this to John, who had a hard time explaining what he saw. However, the bottom line is that they don’t harm Christians so this would not support this military explanation.

Why do the locusts only harm people for five months?

I’ve read that claims that these five months are symbolic and each could each represent a decade (50 years being the length of time helicopters have been existence). Since this is part of the tribulation, it makes sense to consider that the five months are exactly that, five months. There is nothing in the context or even other biblical passages to suggest otherwise.

The fact that these creatures, demons, or armed forces have the ability to torture for only five months is puzzling. It is possible that the Lord, even in displaying His wrath upon the lost, stops and gives them a rest to repent before the next woe comes.

The fact that the locusts have a king, and that his name is destroyer, leads me to believe that the locusts are most likely demons. Other explanations simply don’t fit.  

So What?

Summarize what you have learned (from this woe announced by the fifth trumpet) that you can apply to your life.

At this point you may be asking this question. How does this really affect me? Again, it is a huge reminder that God is in control, even over the forces of evil. It is also a warning that pride can interfere with a Christian’s spiritual armor, causing us problems, but not to the point that we can become possessed by a demon. Any who don’t know Christ can be possessed at any time and suffer greatly. Turning our lives over to Jesus is the only way to guarantee our victory over spiritual forces of evil.

May the Lord bless you as you focus on Jesus our Lord.

[1] Hal Lindsey, There’s A New World Coming  (Santa Ana: Vision House, 1973) page 138

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