Revelation 9:1

The first two of the final three trumpets are sounded, releasing demonic judgments upon the earth. Unlike the previous four trumpet judgments, these target men rather than natural systems. Even in the face of “hell on earth,” the earth dwellers continue in their ways and refuse to repent.

Then the fifth angel sounded
This is the fifth angel of the seven which were given trumpets (Rev. Rev. 8:2+). When he sounds, it brings forth the first of the remaining three woes. See commentary on Revelation 8:13.

As we’ve seen, once one departs from a literal interpretation of the text, there is almost no end to the speculation concerning the meaning of the text which results. And the more unusual the description of the plague, as here, the more fanciful this speculation becomes. Although we describe the problems associated with the Historicist Interpretation elsewhere, we offer a small example of its fruits in interpreting this fifth trumpet—a demonstration of its inadequacies:

By this [the fifth trumpet] is predicted an event, from which the world still trembles,—the French Revolution. . . . A sketch [of the French Revolution], divested of the prejudices of both sides, shall now be given. . . . This sketch unquestionably contains the substance of the French Revolution. Yet it is the work of no living pen. It is seventeen hundred years old,—The Ninth Chapter of the Apocalypse.1

Rather than attempting to “shoe-horn” what is related in this chapter into past historic events such as the French Revelation, how much more productive to recognize a description of something the likes of which has never yet occurred. The key to understanding the nature of the judgment associated with the fifth trumpet is found in a study of the source from whence the locust army, loosed by the fifth trumpet, comes and how they got there. Suffice it to say, it is not Frenchmen being held locked away in the bottomless pit!

This entire passage describes something yet future to the experience of the earth:

I agree with Alford and De Burgh, that these locusts from the abyss refer to judgments about to fall on the ungodly immediately before Christ’s second advent. None of the interpretations which regard them as past, are satisfactory. Joel Joel 1:2-7; Joel 2:1-11, is strictly parallel and expressly refers (Joel Joel 2:11) to THE DAY OF THE LORD GREAT AND VERY TERRIBLE: Joel Joel 2:10 gives the portents accompanying the day of the Lord’s coming, the earth quaking, the heavens trembling, the sun, moon, and stars, withdrawing their shining : Joel Joel 2:18, Joel 2:31, Joel 2:32, also point to the immediately succeeding deliverance of Jerusalem: compare also, the previous last conflict in the valley of Jehoshaphat, and the dwelling of God thenceforth in Zion, blessing Judah.2

a star fallen from heaven to the earth
As we previously observed, angelic beings are, at times, referred to as stars (Job Job 38:7; Isa. Isa. 14:13). That this star is not an astronomical body, but a person, can be seen by the reference to him, he (Rev. Rev. 9:1-2+), and by his personal action of opening the bottomless pit. Fallen is πεπτωκότα [peptōkota] , a perfect tense participle, having previously fallen and now being in a fallen state. John did not see the actual fall. At the time John saw the star, it had already fallen.

Since the star had previously fallen, some suggest from the immediate context that it refers to the star of the third trumpet which fell from heaven and is called Wormwood (Rev. Rev. 8:10-11+):

In the last chapter we saw it in the course of its falling. The result was the bitterness of wormwood. We now see it fallen to the earth. . . . May it not be merely that the great star has lost much of his power and is now a fallen star? It is none other than Satan himself and we shall see the details of this coming to earth in the twelfth chapter [Rev. Rev. 12:9-10+].3

Whether this star fell in the events of the previous chapter (Rev. Rev. 8:10-11+) or in the events recorded in a subsequent chapter (Rev. Rev. 12:9-10+), the possibility exists that it could be Satan. If so, then the demonic locusts which he unleashes from the pit may be what is referred to, in part, when John records: “Woe to the inhabitants of the earth and the sea! For the devil has come down to you, having great wrath, because he knows that he has a short time” (Rev. Rev. 12:12+). It is interesting that John uses the term woe to describe the results of Satan’s fall while the star which falls here looses the first of three woes. Satan’s “tail” drew a third of the stars of heaven and threw them to earth (Rev. Rev. 12:4+), and he himself is cast out of heaven (Rev. Rev. 12:9+). When Jesus’ disciples reported their success at exorcising demons to Jesus, He said “I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven” (Luke Luke 10:18)—referring to the authority which they demonstrated over the powers of Satan’s domain. The coming of God in the flesh to disable the accuser at the cross spelled the doom of Satan and the eventual overthrow of his rule in this world by God’s coming kingdom on earth. “Now is the judgment of this world; now the ruler of this world will be cast out” (John John 12:31). Jesus said that when the Holy Spirit had come, He would convict the world of judgment “because the ruler of this world is judged” (John John 16:5-11). “Jesus was not speaking of Satan being cast out at that precise moment, but that his power had been broken and that he was subject to Jesus’ authority.”4 If the star that had previously fallen is Satan, then there is considerable irony in the fact that he now releases his demonic horde from the very region where he himself will be confined during the Millennial Kingdom (Rev. Rev. 20:1-3+).5

This we believe refers to Lucifer, or ‘Day-star’ (see Isa. Isa. 14:12 margin). The reference, we think, is not to his original fall, but to what is described in Rev. Rev. 12:9+. The fact that the key of the abyss is given to him is in keeping with the fact that during the tribulation period God allows him free rein and suffers him to do his worst.6

Satan’s expulsion from Heaven and his consequent casting down (confinement) to earth will happen in the second half of the tribulation, for Rev. Rev. 12:6+, Rev. 12:14+ require this as these verses indicate that Satan’s fall to earth will happen at the midpoint of the seven year tribulation.7

If the angel is Satan, then some see a further description of him as “the angel of the bottomless pit whose name in Hebrew is Abaddon, but in Greek he has the name Apollyon” (Rev. Rev. 9:11+). See commentary on Revelation 9:11. It is impossible to be dogmatic on this point, for it is also possible that the star which opens the pit is some lesser principality than Satan himself and “the angel of the bottomless pit” may be simply the highest ranking among the fallen angels in the pit prior to their having been loosed.

It is no accident that at the conclusion of these, the fifth and sixth trumpet judgments, we read, “But the rest of mankind, who were not killed by these plagues, did not repent of the works of their hands, that they should not worship demons” [emphasis added] (Rev. Rev. 9:20+a). As we see in this book, God has a wry wit about His judgments, for example: “stoning” those who are guilty of blasphemy (Rev. Rev. 16:21+). Here he unleashes upon the world the very beings they worship in order that they may get a fill of their ways. Incredibly, they will still refuse to repent!

to him was given
He did not have the authority to open the pit himself, it was given by God. The horror which this fallen star is about to unleash is entirely subject to the sovereign permission of God. See commentary on Revelation 6:2.

the key of the bottomless pit
The shaft of the abyss had been locked so that whatever or whoever was there could not escape. Now the star which had previously fallen is given the key to unlock whomever or whatever is held there! Later, an angel will be given the same key with which to lock Satan within the same compartment for the duration of the Millennial Kingdom (Rev. Rev. 20:1-2+).

Elsewhere, Jesus is said to “have the keys [plural] of Hades and of Death.” Since different regions of Hades are separated by a “great gulf” (χάσμα μέγα [chasma mega] ) (Luke Luke 16:26), perhaps the bottomless pit is also within Hades—even being the great chasm itself, although its shaft is normally sealed. Paul associated the bottomless pit (abyss) with the location of the dead (Rom. Rom. 10:7). If so, then there may be a relationship between the “keys of Hades” and this key. See commentary on Revelation 1:18.

bottomless pit
τὸ φρέατος τῆς ἀβύσσου [to phreatos tēs abyssou] , the shaft of the abyss. Shaft is φρέατος [phreatos] , a deep opening in the ground to a sealed-in well.8 It is “the pit of the abyss (because the nether world is thought to increase in size the further it extends from the surface of the earth and so resemble a cistern, the orifice of which is narrow).”9 In contrast with an underground spring, it is a sealed compartment, a “tank, cistern, reservoir.”10 Here, it stores a reserve of malevolent beings. The word is also translated pit (Luke Luke 14:5) and well (John John 4:11).

The shaft leads to the abyss (ἀβύσσου [abyssou] ): “from a, intensive, and bussos, a depth; akin to bathus, deep.”11 The term is used to describe the invisible underworld which is contrasted with the sky and earth that are visible to the human eye. The abyss is discernible only by God.12 It is said to describe “a very deep gulf or chasm in the lowest parts of the earth used as the common receptacle of the dead and especially as the abode of demons.”13

The word “abyss” comes from roots meaning “without depth” and so is properly translated “bottomless.” It is apparently at the very center of the earth and so, in truth, has no bottom. Its boundaries in all directions are all ceilings; one cannot do “down” in any direction.14

If the shaft to the abyss was previously locked, then how did this compartment come to have occupants? How did they get in? The abyss appears to be a prison of sorts for demons, as evidenced by the request of the demons which Jesus cast out of Legion. They “begged Him that He would not command them to go out into the abyss” (Luke Luke 8:30-31). “These demons preferred to be incarnate in swine, so deep was their horror and dread of the abyss to which some of their fellows were already confined.”15 It appears that the demonic forces which are about to be released from the abyss were supernaturally transported there by God—reserved for the day of judgment when they will serve God’s purposes. “Not only that they should be then judged, but that they should be the executors of God’s judgments also in that great day which we are now studying and learning about in the Apocalypse.”16 The locking away of these demons is described by Jude:

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; as Sodom and Gomorrah, and the cities around them in a similar manner to these, having given themselves over to sexual immorality and gone after strange flesh, are set forth as an example, suffering the vengeance of eternal fire. (Jude Jude 1:6-7)

The demons are fallen angels, some of which left their own abode and are reserved for the judgment of the great day. This is The Day of the Lord. The angels themselves will not be judged at this time, but are “reserved for the judgment”—they will be used by God to torment the earth dwellers.17 Unlike other demons which were free to roam the earth, these particular fallen angels were guilty of an especially wicked act. Similarly to the inhabitants of Sodom and Gomorrah, they had given themselves over to sexual immorality, ἐκπορνεύσασαι [ekporneusasai] , and “gone after strange flesh.” Strange flesh is σαρκὸς ἑτέρας [sarkos heteras] , another [different] kind of flesh. The flesh was not allos (similar), but heteros (different). This seems to point to the event prior to the flood when certain angels went after flesh of a different kind: “There were giants on the earth in those days, and also afterward, when the sons of God came in to the daughters of men and they bore children to them. Those were the mighty men who were of old, men of renown” (Gen. Gen. 6:4).

Some suggest that the these in Jude’s passage refers to Sodom and Gomorrah—that the cities in a similar manner to Sodom and Gomorrah went after strange flesh. But the grammar indicates that these (masculine plural) refers back to the angels (masculine plural). Sodom and Gomorrah and the cities around them gave themselves over to sexual immorality and went after strange flesh in a similar manner to the angels. The actions of the inhabitants of the cities is compared to that of the angels which preceded.18

Jude tells us that they did not keep their “proper domain,” ἀρχη [archē] , meaning: “rule, office, domain, sphere of influence.”19 “The idea is that certain angels acted improperly, going outside the bounds prescribed by God.”20 The bounds which they exceeded involved their interaction with strange flesh—mingling with the daughters of men.21 Because of this grievous sin, they are “reserved in everlasting chains under darkness.” Darkness is ζόφον [zophon] , which denotes “especially the darkness of the nether regions and these regions themselves.”22 Elsewhere, Peter uses a similar phrase to describe the situation of these same angels:

For if God did not spare the angels who sinned, but cast them down to hell (ταρταρώσας [tartarōsas] ) and delivered them into chains of darkness (σειραῖς ζόφου [seirais zophou] ), to be reserved for judgment, and did not spare the ancient world, but saved Noah, one of eight people, a preacher of righteousness, bringing in the flood on the world of the ungodly; and turning the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah into ashes, condemned them to destruction, making them an example to those who afterward would live ungodly. (2Pe. 2Pe. 2:4-6) [emphasis added]

That these are a specific subset of sinning angels can be seen from the fact that many fallen angels remain free to roam the earth. These angels are guilty of the specific sin involving flesh of a different kind (Gen. Gen. 6:4). Those who were involved with exceedingly serious sins such as these are “bound” for subsequent release in God’s judgment (Rev. Rev. 9:14+).

The “spirits now in prison” in the abyss are those “who once were disobedient—in the days of Noah.” They are the demons who cohabited with human women in Satan’s failed attempt to corrupt the human race and make it irredeemable (Gen. Gen. 6:1-4). . . . The demons released by Satan at the fifth trumpet may not include those who sinned in Noah’s day (cf. Jude Jude 1:6), since they are said to be in “eternal bonds” (Jude Jude 1:6) until the final day when they are sent to the eternal Lake of Fire (Rev. Rev. 20:10+; Jude Jude 1:7). Other demons imprisoned in the abyss may be the ones released. So the pit is the preliminary place of incarceration for demons from which some are to be released under this judgment.23

The beast who overcomes God’s two witnesses “ascends out of the bottomless pit [abyss]” (Rev. Rev. 11:7+). The world is said to marvel at the beast “that was, and is not, and yet is” (Rev. Rev. 17:8+). Perhaps the abyss is his abode while he “is not”—after “one of his heads” was “mortally wounded,” but before “the deadly wound was healed” (Rev. Rev. 13:3+). Perhaps the angels, some of which are in the abyss for having gone after strange flesh, will be involved in the origination of the beast. Or perhaps his ascent from the abyss merely indicates his empowerment by Satan (2Th. 2Th. 2:9). See commentary on Revelation 11:7.

The demons which inhabit the abyss have a king, Abaddon or Apollyon: see commentary on Revelation 9:11.


Notes

1 George Croly, The Apocalypse of St. John (London, England: C. & J. Rivington, 1827), 123-126.

2 A. R. Fausset, “The Revelation of St. John the Divine,” in Robert Jamieson, A. R. Fausset, and David Brown, A Commentary, Critical and Explanatory, on the Old and New Testaments (Oak Harbor, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc., 1997, 1877), Rev. 9:12.

3 Donald Grey Barnhouse, Revelation (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 1971), 168.

4 John A. Martin, “Luke,” in John F. Walvoord and Roy B. Zuck, eds., The Bible Knowledge Commentary (Wheaton, IL: SP Publications, 1983), Luke 10:18.

5 [Robert H. Mounce, The Book of Revelation (Grand Rapids, MI: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1977), Rev. 9:1] suggests that the “fall” of the star merely describes the descent of an elect angel, as in “having come down” to do God’s will by opening the pit. But here, the angel is said to “fall” (root πιπτω [piptō] ) whereas the elect angel which descends to bind Satan is said to “come down” (root, καταβαίνω [katabainō] ). Moreover, the former is perfect tense whereas the later is present tense.

6 Arthur Walkington Pink, The Antichrist (Oak Harbor, WA: Logos Research Systems, 1999, 1923), s.v. “Antichrist in the Apocalypse.”

7 Monty S. Mills, Revelations: An Exegetical Study of the Revelation to John (Dallas, TX: 3E Ministries, 1987), Rev. 9:1.

8 Timothy Friberg, Barbara Friberg, and Neva F. Miller, Analytical Lexicon of the Greek New Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 2000), 402.

9 James Strong, The Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible (Ontario: Woodside Bible Fellowship, 1996), G5421.

10 Henry George Liddell, Robert Scott, and Henry Stuart Jones, A Greek-English Lexicon. With a revised supplement, 1996., With a revised supplement, 1996 (Oxford, England: Oxford University Press, 1996).

11 W. E. Vine, Vine’s Expository Dictionary of Old and New Testament Words (Nashville, IL: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1996), s.v. “#12.”

12 Frederick William Danker and Walter Bauer, A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature (Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press, 2000).

13 Strong, The Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible, G12.

14 Henry Morris, The Revelation Record (Wheaton, IL: Tyndale House Publishers, 1983), Rev. 9:2.

15 Barnhouse, Revelation, 169.

16 E. W. Bullinger, Commentary On Revelation (Grand Rapids, MI: Kregel Publications, 1984, 1935), Rev. 9:15.

17 Later, the demons will undergo their own judgment and suffer torment: Mtt. Mat. 8:29.

18 “And the [angels (masculine plural)] 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; as [Sodom (neuter plural)] and [Gomorrah (feminine singular)], and the [cities (feminine plural)] around them in a similar manner to [these (masculine plural)], [having given themselves over to sexual immorality (feminine plural)] and [gone after (feminine plural)] strange flesh, are set forth as an example, suffering the vengeance of eternal fire” (Jude Jude 1:6-7).

19 Danker, A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature, 112.

20 New Electronic Translation : NET Bible, electronic edition (Dallas, TX: Biblical Studies Press, 1998).

21 We are unable to discuss the many arguments for and against this interpretation as it is beyond the scope of our current study. When all the various considerations and related passages are taken into account, it is our view that it is difficult to escape the plain teaching of Scripture concerning this unnatural event for which specific angels have been locked away.

22 Danker, A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature, 339.

23 John MacArthur, Revelation 1-11 : The MacArthur New Testament Commentary (Chicago, IL: Moody Press, 1999), Rev. 9:3.

Read Revelation 9:1