Read the Passage: Revelation 9
Reminder: The book of Revelation is structured around seven parallel sections, each describing the time between Jesus’ first and second comings. These sections can be delineated into chapters 1–3, 4–7, 8–11, 12–14, 15–16, 17–19, and 20–22.
Spiritual Anguish (9:1–21)
By way of review, the first four trumpets, which are described in Rev. 8:1–13, narrate physical harm to the created order, including harm to the vegetation, the seas, the fresh water, and the heavens. The two trumpets described in Revelation 9 are similar in that they also reveal judgment, yet they differ from the previous four in that they describe spiritual anguish. As with the first four trumpets, so these next two describe on-going calamity on the earth, yet they also detail a heightened prevalence of evil just prior to the return of Christ. This end-times chaos is sometimes referred to as “Satan’s little season” and is later described by John at Rev. 20:3, 7–8. This tribulation was cited by Jesus in His Olivet Discourse, as He taught, “For then there will be great tribulation, such as has not been since the beginning of the world until this time, no, nor ever shall be” (Matt. 24:21).
The Fifth Trumpet
When the fifth trumpet sounds John sees “a star fallen from heaven” (Rev. 9:1). This is similar to Jesus’ statement, “I saw Satan fall like lightening from heaven” (Luke 10:18). Observe that near the beginning of John’s next telling of the story of history he writes, “So the great dragon was cast out, that serpent of old, called the Devil and Satan, who deceives the whole world; he was cast to the earth, and his angels were cast out with him” (Rev. 12:9). In Rev. 9:1 the star, who is Lucifer, is allowed to unlock the bottomless pit, which is hell. The smoke John sees represents deception, delusion, sin, sorrow, moral darkness, and degradation. In this vision John describes the effects of sin and Satan in the world as a locust plague. Yet, these locusts are not ordinary locusts, like in the eighth plague upon Egypt (cf. Exod. 10:4–15), for they forgo vegetation and afflict mankind.
The locust plague that John describes represents the powers of hell operating in the hearts and lives of men. Note, however, that God will not allow these locusts to destroy those who have been sealed by God, who are the redeemed (cf. Rev. 7:1–8). The redeemed are described as being “seal[ed] . . . on their foreheads,” which communicates having a renewed mind (cf. Rom. 12:2). A renewed mind is the “mind of Christ,” which we have revealed to us in the Bible (cf. 1 Cor. 2:16; Phil. 2:5; 1 Pet. 4:1). Thus, while believers can be physically impacted by sin, Satan cannot rob them of their light, righteousness, holiness, joy, peace, wisdom, and understanding. Moreover, the reign of the locust plague is limited in duration to five months, which shows God’s complete authority, even over the forces of darkness (cf. Matt. 24:22). John writes that the terrifying locusts are led by Satan, who is referred to here as Abaddon (or Destruction) and Apollyon (or the Destroyer).
The Sixth Trumpet (9:13–21)
When the sixth trumpet is sounded, John sees four angels being released, by God’s divine command, from the Euphrates River. John notes that the command to release these angels comes from a voice near “the golden altar which is before God” (Rev. 19:13). Thus, John emphasizes the truth that God is sovereign over good and evil, as well as the fact that the death caused by these four angels is a form of divine judgment upon the earth. These four angels, then, lead a vast army upon the world—some “two hundred million” (Rev. 9:16) strong—bringing fire, smoke, and brimstone upon the earth, and killing one third of all humanity. This divine judgment, which is similar to the happenings described earlier under the second and fourth seals (cf. Rev. 6:3–4, 7–8), can be understood as a general description of warfare and destruction upon the earth in the current age. The reference to the Euphrates River here is likely an allusion to Babylon, which represents worldliness.
The four angels that John sees represent the four corners of the earth. Thus, the picture is one of continual warfare and death upon the earth throughout all of history, which affects and will affect many people. Recall Jesus’ teaching, “And you will hear of wars and rumors of wars. See that you are not troubled; for all these things must come to pass, but the end is not yet” (cf. Matt. 24:6). At Rev. 9:20 John alludes to the fact that the purpose of such destruction is repentance. John wrote, “But the rest of mankind . . . did not repent of the works of their hands. . . . They did not repent of their murders or their sorceries or their sexual immorality or their thefts” (Rev. 9:20–21). Earlier, at Luke 13:1–5, Jesus acknowledged the presence of natural evil in the world. In this passage Christ exhorted those who witness natural evil to repent, as He reiterated, “Unless you repent you will all likewise perish. . . . Unless you repent you will all likewise perish” (Luke 13:3, 5).
- Why does God allow Satan a “little season” of rampant evil at the end of the age?
- What is the proper way to view the relationship between God and the devil?
- How can believers retain joy in the midst of trials, suffering, and persecution of the present world?
- In what ways are evil, sin, and worldliness self-defeating acts? Does the sowing and reaping principle apply to sin as well as to righteousness (cf. Gal. 6:8)?
- Why do lost people continue in sin, despite the oftentimes obvious undesirable results of such sin (cf. 1 Cor. 2:14)?