Read the Passage: Revelation 9-10
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.
The Fifth Trumpet (9:1–12)
In Revelation 8 we looked at the first four trumpets of judgment, which narrate physical harm. The two trumpets described in Revelation 9 are similar to the first four trumpets in that they reveal judgment, yet they differ from the previous four blasts in that they describe spiritual anguish. To elaborate, 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; cf. Rev. 12:9). John sees the star, who is Lucifer, being 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 being like a locust plague. Yet, the locusts John sees are not ordinary locusts, as 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). Indeed, 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 in the world (cf. Matt. 24:22). Observe that the locusts’ description is meant to depict terror and power.
The Sixth Trumpet (9:13–21)
When the sixth trumpet is sounded, John sees four angels being released, by divine command, from the Euphrates River. These angels lead an innumerable army upon the world, bringing fire, smoke and brimstone, and killing one third of humanity. This event, which is similar to the happenings described earlier under the second and fourth seals (cf. Rev. 6:3–4, 7–8), is a general description of warfare and destruction upon the earth. The Euphrates River is an allusion to Babylon, which represents worldliness. The four angels 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 (cf. Matt. 24:6). At Rev. 9:20 John alludes to the fact that the purpose of such destruction is repentance, which Jesus taught at Luke 13:1–5. Yet, mankind will “not repent of their murders or their sorceries or their sexual immorality or their thefts” (Rev. 9:21).
The Little Book (10:1–11)
After the sounding of the first six trumpets in Rev. 8–9, we’d expect John to describe the seventh and final trumpet in Rev. 10. Yet, just as with the seals (cf. Rev. 7:1–17), so here there is an interlude between the sixth and seventh trumpets. In Rev. 10:1–7 John describes seeing an angel, standing on the earth and waters, holding a little book, and crying out with seven thunders. This angel is actually meant to encourage John’s readers, as he communicates God’s sovereignty over the entire world, as well as the future judgment of the wicked. Interestingly, when the angel speaks, John is prohibited from recording his words. This is similar to Daniel’s experience at Dan. 8:26; 12:4, 9. The idea here is likely that some aspects of God’s will are hidden and not meant to be known. God has not revealed all things to mankind, and He is under no obligation to do so. What God does choose to reveal, He does on His own timetable and for His own glory (cf. Rev. 22:10).
In Rev. 10:8–11 John is told to take the scroll from the angel and to eat it. John obeys, noting that the scroll was sweet, but that it made his stomach bitter. This harkens back to the experience of Ezekiel. In Ezek. 2:9–3:3 we read, “And when I looked, behold, a hand was stretched out to me, and behold, a scroll of a book was in it. . . . So I opened my mouth, and he gave me this scroll to eat. . . . Then I ate it, and it was in my mouth as sweet as honey” (cf. Ps. 119:103). The scroll represents the Word of God. The idea being communicated here is that John must internalize the gospel message and spread it. The gospel is sweet; yet oftentimes is accompanied by suffering and persecution when shared. Of course, Jesus had taught this very idea during His ministry (cf. John 15:20). Here John, who was writing from exile in Patmos, is reminded of the necessity of cross-bearing in the service of Christ. Such a reminder of God’s awareness and sovereignty would encourage John.
- In your estimation, what is worse: physical suffering or spiritual suffering?
- What is the proper way to view the relationship between God and Satan?
- How can believers retain joy in the midst of trials, suffering, and persecution?
- Why do the lost continue to sin, despite the undesirable results of such sin?
- Do you trust God enough to follow Him, even if He keeps his purposes from you?