Chapter 9: 1-12
“Then the fifth angel sounded: And I saw a star fallen from heaven to the earth. To him was given the key to the bottomless pit. And he opened the bottomless pit, and smoke arose out of the pit like the smoke of a great furnace. So, the sun and the air were darkened because of the smoke of the pit. Then out of the smoke locusts came upon the earth. And to them was given power, as the scorpions of the earth have power. They were commanded not to harm the grass of the earth, or any green thing, or any tree, but only those men who do not have the seal of God on their foreheads. And they were not given authority to kill them, but to torment them for five months.
“Their torment was like the torment of a scorpion when it strikes a man. In those days men will seek death and will not find it; they will desire to die, and death will flee from them. The shape of the locusts was like horses prepared for battle. On their heads were crowns of something like gold, and their faces were like the faces of men. They had hair like women’s hair, and their teeth were like lions’ teeth. And they had breastplates like breastplates of iron, and the sound of their wings was like the sound of chariots with many horses running into battle. They had tails like scorpions, and there were stings in their tails. Their power was to hurt men five months.
“And they had as king over them the angel of the bottomless pit, whose name in Hebrew is Abaddon, but in Greek he has the name Apollyon. One woe is past. Behold, still two more woes are coming after these things.”
It is hard for some to accept that the book of Revelation is literal. It is hard to accept that these hard things will actually happen. Yes, the merciful, kind, gracious and loving God will set forth a course of death and destruction that many Christians question. How, they ask, could a loving God allow this to happen to people?
For about the last generation we have changed the preaching about the holiness of God to make it so that, for the most part, we talk about His love, His kindness, His grace, His gentleness and the like. And yes, He is all those things. But the same God who made the Garden of Eden and who inhabits Heaven, made Hell and the bottomless pit. We have tried to make God more palatable to the lost man; and what we have done is poison a generation of people, even many Christians who do not fear God any longer.
Just a few weeks ago I was reading through the book of Exodus, and in chapter 19: 21-25 we see these warnings,
“And the Lord said to Moses, ‘Go down and warn the people, lest they break through to gaze at the Lord, and many of them perish. Also let the priests who come near the Lord consecrate themselves, lest the Lord break out against them.’
“But Moses said to the Lord, ‘The people cannot come up to Mount Sinai; for You warned us, saying, ‘Set bounds around the mountain and consecrate it.’ Then the Lord said to him, ‘Away! Get down and then come up, you and Aaron with you. But do not let the priests and the people break through to come up to the Lord, lest He break out against them.’ So Moses went down to the people and spoke to them.”
This is a warning from the Lord for the people not to come too close to the mountain where He was giving the Law, lest they be killed. The Lord will ‘break out’ on them and many will die. God is loving, He is kind, He is gracious and He is gentle, BUT, He is also ruthless to those that defy Him. He is not your friend if you are rejecting Jesus.
Let this be clear to you, God poured out His wrath on Jesus. He allowed Him to be beaten beyond recognition, His beard to be pulled out, and His brow to be pierced by a crown of thorns; He allowed mere men to hammer large spikes into Jesus’ hands and feet because He became sin for us. What Jesus went through for you and me was a glimpse of how God deals with sinners. It is harsh, ruthless and without pity. If God did this to His Son, imagine what He will do to those who rejected His Son and cheapened His great sacrifice for us.
God does not need you to like Him to be God. But you need God to know you will live forever, and He will only know you if your sin is covered in Jesus’ righteousness.
The beasts of the Bottomless Pit, verses 1-12
In this passage, one of the angels comes down from heaven and opens a place called the bottomless pit, and lets out some of God’s secret creations. These ‘insects’ (actually demons) are not like any insects that have ever been seen before. They look like locusts, but they bite like scorpions. These locusts are not interested in grass or vegetation; NO, they bite men. For five months they torment the people of the earth. They do not attack the people who are sealed by God, beginning with the 144,000 Jewish men. These locusts are not allowed to kill people, just torment them. They bite them, and the sting is like that of a scorpion.
These locusts-like creatures are a highly organized and well-armored group. It does not appear that men will be able to kill them, and they will affect people all over the earth. How could God make such creatures? He is Supreme and He can do all that He pleases.
We just got a cat, and it is playful and cuddly, but she will turn and bite you as well. We see nature shows about lions; they can be so playful with the cubs but then turn and kill off intruders with ease. We go to these parks and see the killer whales; they are so majestic, but in the wild they are very good killers. They hunt in packs, often killing baby whales with precision and without pity.
These ‘locusts’ will do a lot of damage; your local hardware store will not have the spray to kill them, and they are not afraid of men. Now I understand why there was a cry of ‘Woe, Woe, Woe’ at the end of the last chapter. The previous parts of the tribulation could be escaped by death and dying, but this one cannot be dodged. This is one of the greatest parts of this judgment, and we will look at this in the next section.
Locust swarms can block out the sun as they are so plentiful. There are a lot of these tormentors to go around; no one will be left out. A scorpion bite can be quite painful I have learned as I am researching. Some can cause you to be in great agony, foam at the mouth and even grind your teeth in pain. John the apostle seems to be at a loss for words; he uses the word ‘like’ often. He is trying to wrap his head around what he is seeing, but his confusion is a great reflection of what the people on earth will be feeling during this time. They have never seen anything like this before, and they can neither control them nor kill them. They are powerless to stop the torment.
We are told in Proverbs 30:27 that the “locusts have no king,” yet they advance in ranks. These ‘locusts’ here in the Tribulation do have a king; his name in Greek means ‘Destroyer.’ These locust-like creatures will be demons. They look like men in the face, they look like horses in the body, they have wings and they are loud. They sound like horses in battle when they advance.
Hollywood has not thought of anything this bad ever for any horror film. This is a creature only God can control. I cannot imagine what life, and I use that term life very loosely, will be like on earth. Billions of people suffering in immeasurable agony with no hope of a reprieve.
Only God controls Death, verse 6
Life will be so bad on earth during this attack by the locusts that people will want to die. The most basic of instincts is the will to live. Except in the most extreme cases, people have a built-in desire to live. We feed ourselves, medicate ourselves and care for ourselves so that we can live. The entire world takes medication to try to live longer. We fight death with pills, diets, exercise, and religion; and one of the biggest draws to Christianity is eternal life. But the bite and the torment of these locusts will be so painful that the people on earth will wish for death.
From the context, it appears that some will try to kill themselves and not be able to. It says “men will seek death.” They will try to commit suicide, and God will not allow it. Can you imagine the gruesome scenes on earth – people with gunshot wounds to the head, their bodies destroyed from jumping off tall buildings, their necks distended and bruised by trying to hang themselves, their bodies broken for jumping in front of vehicles – and yet they are not able to die?
There are two things I take from this: one is the absolute Sovereignty of God over life and death. We, in the modern world, are so enamored with our right to vote that we do not understand what a genuine Sovereign is. Even the current Queen of the Commonwealth, Elizabeth 2, is not a true and genuine Sovereign. She does not control life and death. In the heyday of true kings, they did. If they let you live, you did; and if they commanded that you died, you did.
There are a few absolute rulers still on earth, but even then, they can be limited by the international community. We see this in places like North Korea. Their leader is a sovereign, but his power is limited only to North Korea. But God’s Sovereignty transcends all aspects of the creation. He controls the things above, on and even below the earth. God is even Sovereign over death. In this case here during this time in the Tribulation, He temporarily stops death. Wow, listen to that! God stops death.
This is one of the reasons that just reading the Revelation brings blessings. Our God has the power to stop death. This should bolster the faith of everyone who reads this. This is a power unique to the God of the Bible – the power to stop death, to control death and to overrule death. Death, we are told, is not a respecter of persons, BUT it will respect God. It will obey the God of the Bible. Oh, what an awesome God we serve! Oh, what a powerful God we serve!
The second thing that I take from this is God’s grace even in the midst of His wrath. The people want to die to escape their temporary torment here on earth, but death will immediately put them in eternal torment in Hell. This torment will last but a short while, some five months, but Hell is forever. Had God let them die, they would have been in a worse situation.
Maybe, just maybe once they get past the five months, some of them will see and understand that the people of God were not attacked; and maybe, just maybe some of them may repent and be saved. Even if it were just one of them who repented, then this stay on death would be worth it.
Sometimes we miss the ‘little’ wonders of God’s grace in the middle of the storms. God is good; even in His wrath He is good.
Are you as diligent as God at helping people stay out of Hell? This is our primary job as people in local New Testament churches – making disciples, teaching and sharing the Gospel, lifting Jesus up so He can draw ALL men to Himself. Be agents of God’s grace; tell someone the Gospel. Let us work like we believe this verse, 2 Peter 3:9,
“The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance.”