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Wednesday in the Word

Second Baptist Church

July 9, 2014

Revelations 9:1-21

  1. Earlier in our study of Revelations I told you that I believe that many of the visions are concerning the fall of Jerusalem in 70 AD. I want to make that case today. Let us look back at Revelation 6 then Leviticus 26:18:33, Jeremiah 15:2-4, and Ezekiel 14:21 to see a common thread of judgment on faithless Israel. Last week Revelation 8 has revealed devastating images of judgment as God unleashes his wrath because of the sins of man. History tells us that when Rome conquered Jerusalem, their food, money, water and power was cut off. These were partial judgments intended to bring about their repentance then and now (a point that is made clear in Revelation 9). Revelation 9 is going to reveal where these judgments are coming.

  2. Verse 1-2. The fifth trumpet sounds and John sees a star fallen from heaven to earth. This star that falls was given the key to the shaft of the bottomless pit. The pit is literally the abyss (see HCSB, NIV, and NET). We immediately want to know who is represented by the star that has fallen from heaven (notice that the star is called a “he”). A single star falling from the sky to the earth is a common picture in scriptures of a mighty king or ruler (Isaiah 14:12). Isaiah 14:4 tells us that Isaiah was prophesying against the king of Babylon. Revelation uses similar imagery in Revelation 12:7-9 shows Satan and his angels being thrown down to the earth. In Luke 10:17-18 we see Jesus using the same imagery of Satan falling from the sky also. In all of these cases the imagery symbolizes a mighty king or ruler losing his power to some degree, if not completely. We will learn who this king is in verse 11. Before we get to the description of who is causing this trouble, we are going to learn the devastation that comes from this judgment. The fallen star opens the shaft of the abyss and billows of smoke come out of the shaft and darken the sun. The darkening of the sun represents the doom and destruction of a nation. The end is coming for a nation. Smoke also represents divine judgment. The destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah used the same language. (Genesis 19-28).

  3. Verses 3-6. As the abyss opens with smoke riding John sees locusts coming from the smoke. We know these locusts are symbolic for something because the locusts are told not to harm the grass, any green plant or tree, or those who have the seal of God on their foreheads. True locusts destroy plants, grass, and trees. The locusts are symbolic and locusts are used as a symbol in the Old Testament. In Joel 1:4-7 we read Joel describing a locust invasion that had struck the land of Israel. Based on this event, Joel describes a nation that will come against Israel like a locust invasion. See Joel 2:1-5. Notice that the locusts sound like a powerful army coming against the nation of Israel. Joel 2: 4-5 make the connection that the locusts are an army very clear. The locusts have the appearance of horses and they leap like the rumbling of chariots. Locusts were the curse promised by God for Israel’s disobedience (Deuteronomy 28:38-42). The torment of the locusts is allowed for five months. The lifespan of locusts is five months and the duration season when locusts would attack is five months. This seems to be the reason for using this number of months for the duration of the torment. The suffering and torment will not be for a few days but for the duration of the life of the locusts. This attack will only end when the attackers have completed their devastation. The torment is as painful as the sting of a scorpion and the suffering will be so severe that people will want to die. They will seek death but not find it. It is possible that this and all the other trumpets represents the Roman siege against Jerusalem from 66-70 AD.

  4. Verses 9-12. The locusts are described as a powerful army. Many of the descriptions in these verses are similar to what we read in Joel 1:4-7 and Joel 2:1-5. Revelation is showing us that this is not a literal locust attack. Rather the locusts represent a terrifying ruling army. Notice that the locusts are wearing gold crowns showing that they have authority over the earth. This is another reason to see the locusts as the Roman Empire. The Roman Empire in the first century is the world power that dominates and rules over the earth. Verses 8-10 simply enhance the imagery of fierceness with which this attack will come. This invasion will be terrible and destructive. In Jeremiah 51:27 the prophet describes the coming of horses in war as locusts.

    1. The locusts represent the Roman Empire and its invasion against Judea and Jerusalem. In Revelation 11:7 we see a parallel image. The abyss is open and we see the beast rising up from the abyss. Revelation 17:8 again reveals that the beast is what is rising up from the abyss. We will see in Revelation 13 that the beast represents the Roman Empire, a point where all scholars agree. We will see when we get to Revelation 11 and 13 why the book uses the image of beast for the Roman Empire. What we need to see at this point is that the locusts and the beast represent the same entity. Both are unleashed from the abyss. To validate this point, it is the same entity that is unleashing the locusts/beast. In Revelation 12 and 13 we see the dragon unleashing the beast for war. The dragon is identified as Satan (Revelation 12:9) and the beast is the Roman Empire (Revelation 13:1-8; 17:7-1 1). In Revelation 9:11 we are told who this fallen star is. His name is Abaddon in Hebrew and Apollyon in Greek. The word Abaddon means destruction and the word Apollyon means destroyer. He is the one who has unleashed the locusts in this judgment. The destroyer refers to Satan. Satan is the ruler who has fallen to earth. Revelation 12:7-9 confirm the meaning of this image. Satan is shown unleashing the locusts in Revelation 9. Satan is shown as unleashing the beast in Revelation 13. In Revelation 9 Satan is called Abaddon and Apollyon. In Revelation 12 Satan is called the dragon. In Revelation 9 the Roman Empire is described as locusts. In Revelation 13 the Roman Empire is described as the beast.

    2. Reason to think these judgments are concerning the Roman destruction of Israel. In Revelation 6:8 we observed that the method of the killing was the way God promised to judge Israel for disobedience (Leviticus 26:18-33; Ezekiel 14:21; Jeremiah 15:2-4). In Revelation 7:14 we are told that the servants of God are those who have come through the great tribulation. The phrase, “great tribulation,” is only used in one place outside of the book of Revelation. That one place is in Matthew 24:21 where Jesus is predicting the destruction of Jerusalem by the Roman armies (cf. Luke 21:20). Revelation 9 has revealed destroying locusts, an image used of a world power. Since the locusts represent the Roman Empire because the locusts and the beast are synonymous images (Revelation 11:7), then the object of God’s wrath is the nation of Israel. More proofs of this will be seen in chapters 10 and 11 of Revelation.

    3. Verse 12 tells us that this is only one woe. As terrible as that fifth trumpet sounded there are two more woes to come.

  5. Verses 13-21. When the sixth trumpet sounds, the angels that were holding back the four winds (which we saw in Revelation 7:1) are released. Cataclysmic judgments are unleashed against Judea and Jerusalem. The information that we read about in the six seals found in Revelation 6 takes place. A third of mankind is killed. Terrible suffering and death occurs. The Euphrates River is used as the image because this was the typical direction of the invasions against Israel. The Euphrates is where Israel’s enemies came from. When Assyria attacked the northern nation of Israel in 722 BC they came from the Euphrates. When Babylon attacked the southern nation of Judah beginning in 606 BC they came from the Euphrates. Verse 14 shows that this judgment is a world power coming against Israel. The troops are numerous. The math given in verse 16 adds up to 200 million troops on horses. This number is not to be understood literal just as none of the previous numbers are literal. To hear that 200 million troops riding on horses are coming against you shows that the nation will be decimated. You are going to lose and be devastated. This is your end. The horses are also described with terrifying imagery (9:17-19). It is their doom. We noted since chapter 6 that God is bringing these judgments to bring the nation back from its sins. God was calling for the nation to repent. Verses 20-21 reveal that the partial judgments did not have their intended effect. No one repents.

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