End-times prophecies, last days, eschatology, Second Coming of Christ, the Antichrist, the Tribulation, the Millennium, the Rapture, the Resurrection, Revelation, Dispensational teaching, the Preterist viewpoint, 70 Weeks of Daniel, Authors Pentecost, Walvoord, Gundry, Russell, Hanegraaf.
Friday, July 11, 2014
A SURVEY OF REVELATION, PART 9B
Abbreviations:ESV = English Standard Version; ESVSB = ESV
NIV = New International Version; NIVSB = NIV
Scripture quotations are from ESV unless
I discussed 9:1-6 in the
previous article.Chapter 9 describes
the events that are initiated by the fifth and sixth trumpets (simply referred
to as “trumpet five” or “trumpet six”).The fifth through the sixth trumpets were introduced by verse 8:13,
which described them as woeful to “those who dwell on the earth.”Most commentators consider this expression
(which might be shortened to “the earth-dwellers”) to be a technical term that
refers to the general mass of human-kind, but not to the people of God.
Verses 9:7-11 continue
the description of the demonic “locusts” that are loosed from the Abyss.The first part of the description focuses on
the role of these demons, whereas the second part describes in more detail
their appearance and their leader.
Verses 9:7-10—the appearance of the locusts:
Verse 9:7:The locusts are like cavalry
horses.Joel 2 describes a plague of
locusts with the same imagery.This
probably is not a far-fetched description of occasional invasions of locusts in
the Middle East.Joel is describing the
behavior of the locusts, but Revelation emphasizes their appearance.Both Rist (433) and Ladd (132) consider that
John used Joel as a source in this description.There is not much else in the description, however, that imitates
Joel.The horse/locusts have crowns.Again, Rist (433) and Ladd (132) agree that
these crowns are symbols of their conquering power.To add to their bizarre appearance, the
locusts have human-like faces.
Verse 9:8:The horse/locusts have hair like
women’s hair.Ladd (133) suggests two
possibilities for this description.The
Parthians, who relied on cavalry, wore their hair long.Also, some ancients believed that a locust’s
antennae were like long hair.Joel
described the invading locusts as having lion’s teeth, which John also uses to
describe the locusts from the Abyss.
Verse 9:9:The cavalry description continues in
that the horses have breastplates of iron and they make a sound like the
rolling of chariots.The latter echoes
Verse 9:10:The description returns to the
scorpion-like torment of the locusts of 9:5.This verse explains that torment to be due to tails with stingers like
scorpion tails.The reader is reminded
that the torment lasts five months.
may summarize these bizarre creatures in the following way:
look like horses with armor like cavalry horses.
have human faces with long hair and crowns on their heads.
have scorpion-like tails with stingers.
buzzing of their wings sounds like the rumbling of chariots.
unlike locusts, do not eat vegetation, but rather sting people and torment them
over a period of five months.
victims are those who have not been sealed by God.They are the “earth-dwellers” who constitute
evil society and who persecute Christians.
Verse 9:11—The king of the locusts
The locust/demons have a king.He is the “angel of the bottomless pit
[Abyss].”Ladd (134) believes this the
is the same angel of verses 9:1-2 who opens the shaft of the Abyss.Rist (434) says that is possible but not
necessarily true. I agree with Rist for
the following reasons. The angel who
opens the shaft comes from heaven.The
implication is that the king of the locusts comes from the Abyss.The angel from heaven was given a key to open
the shaft to release the locusts.It
strikes me that the king of the locusts would not simply open the door and let
them out.The idea of a “king” is one
that leads, so I think the king leads his subjects out of the Abyss.Therefore, I do not think the king is the
same as the angel of verses 9:1-2.
name of the king is given in Hebrew as Abaddon and in Greek as Apollyon.The Hebrew, Abaddon, means “Destruction.”It is linked closely to Sheol in various uses
in the Old Testament (Job 26:6, 28:22, 31:12, Psalms 88:11, Proverbs 15:11 and 27:20).The Greek word Apoleia (destruction) is used by the Septuagint to translate
Abaddon.Revelation uses a closely
related word, Apolluon (or Apollyon) (the participle of the verb for
“destroy”).The participle form would be
translated “The One Who Destroys” or “The Destroyer.”Though some believe this name is derived from
the god Apollos (some emperors believed they were descendants of Apollos), this
is probably not true.There may be a
passing allusion to Apollos and the emperor.
king of the locusts is the Destroyer.However, he was not allowed to utterly destroy his victims (see verse
9:5).There is often an implication in
Revelation of the “permissive will” of God.God lets loose all sorts of evil, but the evil is always done on God’s
terms—in God’s timing, with God’s limitations.
Verse 9:12—the end of the first “woe”:
It is easy to get lost in Revelation,
but we are given little helps along the way.Verse 9:12 reminds us that in verse 8:13 we were warned of three
woes.Now, with the description of the
locust/demons, we have completed the first woe.It would be no comfort to know that two more are to come.We will observe the end of the second woe in
11:14.We never find the end of the
third woe.We may speculate on that in
THE BEGINNING OF THE SECOND WOE:
THE SIXTH TRUMPET
Verses 9:13-15—the sixth trumpet and the angels at the Euphrates
The narrative has been framed by the
blowing of trumpets, a series of seven (see 8:2 and 6).
Verse 9:13:The sixth angel sounds his trumpet and there
is a “disembodied” voice from the four horns of the altar before God.The Greek specifies that it is “one” voice
and four horns.In one other place the
altar speaks:Revelation 16:7.Revelation never ceases to amaze us with its
almost surreal imagery.(In fact, the
surrealists probably would be envious.)So,
here we have the horns of the altar speaking.The altar has been the location of the martyred saints (6:9), who pray
to God for vindication, and of the prayers of the saints (8:3-4).Thus, it is the locus of consciousness before
God of the saints and their concerns, especially for justice.
Verse 9:14-15:The voice gives an order to the angel who
blew the trumpet.We see other instances
where angels call upon other angels to do things.In one case we even see an angel give an
order to Christ (14:15).The Biblical
picture of heaven and of the community of angels and of God is a picture of
harmony and affirmation.Remember that
Jesus told us to pray that the Kingdom would come.That Kingdom He defined as where “Your
[God’s] will is done on earth [just like] as it is [done] in heaven.”The earth is a mess of envy and strife where
people and demons vie for power and accumulation of things and experiences of
pleasure.In heaven, there is a focus on
God’s will.As we observe the various
events in Revelation from a heavenly perspective, we have the impression that
all of heaven is focused on these events.
order is to release four angels who are bound at the Euphrates River.Metzger (66) reminds us that the eastern
border of the Roman Empire was the Euphrates.On the other side were the dreaded Parthians.
The Parthians had been
somewhat the nemesis of the Romans from about 60 BC.They would continue to represent an eastern
barrier until they would collapse from within in the late second century.They were a highly organized empire with an
excellent military.The back-and-forth
power struggle between the two empires never led to a decisive victory for
either side.It should be noted that the
Euphrates was not a hard-and-fast border.The territory held by the two empires varied greatly over the years.(“Invictus”)
Rist (435) speculates
that these four angels are the same as the four who are standing at the four
corners of the earth in 7:1.In fact he
seems to see a relationship of all the fours—four corners, four horsemen, and
four angels bound at the Euphrates.Although “four” may have a certain resonance in Revelation, it does not
seem to me productive to see any strong relationship among these various
The angels have been “prepared” for
this particular time (down to the hour).This is considered a reflection of the determinism in Revelation and
other apocalypses (Rist, 435); although Ladd (136-137) does not consider it a
“rigid” determinism.I do not consider
this evidence of determinism.I tend to
call it an example of God’s foreknowledge and future planning.To explain my thought, I first must jump
ahead in the narrative and note that these are evil angels.The fact that they must be bound is evidence
of that, and the fact that they release an enormous army of demons or
demon-like horses and riders is definitive evidence of their evil.The fact that these are demon-like creatures
means that their evil would not be subject to the whims of human history.I write that to refute that idea that this
invasion represents (necessarily) an invasion by a particular political entity
(such as the Parthians or the Communist Chinese or the modern-day
Iranians).Thus, we do not need to
speculate that God has determined a particular geo-political scenario by
binding these angels at the Euphrates River.What we might consider is that the “mystery of lawlessness” has been
unfolding for centuries (II Thessalonians 2:7).As that evil unfolds, the time will become “ripe” for these angels to be
released to do their evil.They will, I
believe, take advantage of whatever geo-political situation exists and exploit
for their own evil ends.
mission or, we might say, the limitation on the evil of the four angels is to
kill one-third of humankind.They will
accomplish this through the release of the army at their disposal.
Verses 9:16-19:The horses
Verse 9:16:The wording of this verse is a little
odd.John gives the number of the
“mounted troops” as 200 million (twice ten thousand times ten thousand).This would exceed any army that has ever been
mustered, that I know of.Some have
speculated that only Communist China could raise such an army.That may be true, but it does not necessarily
mean that the Chinese are coming.
oddity of the verse is that, after giving the number, John says, “I heard their
number.”It seems to me that this is a
somewhat dramatic/poetic wording that adds to the somber picture.It is as though an angel off in the distance
cries out:“Here comes this vast horde
of mounted troops, two hundred million of them!”Everyone shrinks in horror.
Verse 9:17:The description of this “cavalry” is mostly
focused on the horses rather than their riders.The riders have tricolored breastplates or “cuirasses” (Ladd, 137).The three colors match what comes out of the
mouths of the horses—red for fire, sapphire for blue smoke, and yellow for
sulfur.The horses have heads like
lions.The picture is unnatural and,
like the locusts, demonic and terror-inspiring (Rist, 435-436, and Ladd,
Verse 9:18:The focus is on the horses because
they, not their riders, are deadly (Rist, 435-436).The material which is coming from their
mouths represents three separate plagues (Ladd, 138), which altogether kill
one-third of humanity.
Verse 9:19:The horses, like the scorpions, have
tails that can cause harm, for they are like snakes with heads that can
wound.Ladd (138) points out that the
fire, smoke, and sulfur kill, but the snakes only torture (or “wound”).
description of this cavalry of 200 million is frightening all around.The number is overwhelming.The appearance of the horses is a bizarre
amalgam of horse, human, and snake.The
horses are blowing deadly fire, smoke, and brimstone (sulfur) out their
mouths.The snakes are biting
people.What is happening here?Several ways of understanding this passage
come to mind.
cavalry represents a real invading army that will be powerful and
frightening.The description is
extremely hyperbolic to strike terror (or satisfaction for those seeking
cavalry is a dream of an idealist who believes God loves His saints and will
vindicate the martyrs in some way.The
vision is more the hope of the author than any real future event.
cavalry is a real army that will someday come (most likely at the end of the
present order of existence or during the mid to late Tribulation period).The bizarre word picture is John’s attempt to
describe modern-day warfare, such as tanks and flame-throwers.
cavalry is a demonic host that will come during the Tribulation period.The word picture represents their deadly
capacity and overwhelming numbers and power.The description is not of their physical appearance, but of their
I personally favor the last
choice.It is possible that the demons
will also inspire a human army that will be part of their invasion (see ESVSB).
Verses 9:20-21—the call to repentance
Verse 9:20:The death toll is large—one-third of
humankind die because of the horses.Yet, this can also be viewed as merciful (Metzger, 66, and Ladd,
138-139).The purpose is to bring people
to repentance.Metzger (67) points out
that the central sin is idolatry, especially emperor worship in John’s
day.Ladd (139) notes that idols are
described in two ways:they are lifeless
images of metal and wood but also representations of demons.See I Corinthians 10:18-22.
Verse 9:21:The idolatry is directly connected with other
sins.Ladd (139) says that this is the
same line of thought as Paul’s description of human degradation in Romans
1:18-32:idolatry and ungodliness
results in all sorts of immorality.This
certainly is a picture of our day.As
our society grows more and more secular, we see the multiplication of every
kind of evil.
a futurist I understand that Revelation has a component of future
fulfillment—future from the standpoint of the first century.I do not reject the idea that the situation
of the church in the late first century is the “sitz im leben” (the situation in which the book was written), but I
do not think it is simply a book for the church of the first century.I believe that it is a description of “those [things]
that are to take place after this.” (Revelation 1:19)With this understanding in mind, I must ask
myself:What would idolatry look like in the twenty-first century?
latest sociological study that has created a stir is a Pew Research/PBS study
(see Pew Research) that has produced the result that has come to be called “the
rise of the ‘nones.’”It found that 20%
of adults in the U.S. are religiously unaffiliated—up 5% in five years.Of the adults under 30, 1/3 are unaffiliated.Of these “nones,” 68% believe in God and 37%
are spiritual but not religious.The “nones”
are not looking for a religion (88% of them are not).They believe religious organizations are too
concerned with money, power, politics, and rules.
noted also that 58% of the “nones” “often feel a deep connection with nature
and the earth.”Though the “New Age” as
it was framed, say, 20 years ago does not seem to have a lot of traction, it
seems like the “nones” are very similar to the New Age.
So, I think a religious expression that had
a “New Agey” feel to it and that seemed to avoid a power play might be popular
in the current generation.The other
overall cultural trend that the devil can use for leverage is the cult of
personality.This has always been
with us, but it seems like in recent years people have become more and more
fascinated with the “rich and famous.”When print journalism was failing, one magazine and its imitators continued
to sell big time—People.The rise of the Beast that is described in
Revelation 13 is a combination of personality cult (13:3-4) and idolatrous
central is not really the rise of the “nones.”The central issue is Jesus Christ.Whether people are affiliated with a religion or not, the central
question is:Is it true that Jesus is the
way, the truth, and the life and no one comes to the Father except by Him?That truth is assaulted every day in every
way.The devil’s central target is Jesus
and those who have His testimony (see Revelation 12).
plagues that are represented by the trumpets represent God’s wrath that will be
poured out on the earth-dwellers.The
primary purpose of the plagues is not to beat up on people, but to persuade
them to come to repentance (9:20-21).
the next article, I shall discuss the Dispensationalist and Preterist views of
the fifth and sixth trumpets.
Crossway Bibles (2009-04-09). ESV
Study Bible. Good News Publishers. Kindle Edition.
“Invictus.” All Empires.Online History
Community.“Rome and Parthia at War.”
Ladd, George Eldon.A
Commentary on the Revelation of John.Grand Rapids:William B.
Publ. Co., 1972.
Metzger, Bruce M.Breaking
the Code.Understanding the Book of