Elon, North Carolina
For those who have not been with us, we are studying the Book of Revelation, the only prophetic book in the NT. It is the only book of the NT that deals with things to come. Right now we are studying a future period of time called “the great tribulation” and “the wrath of the lamb”. It is a period in which God’s wrath will be unleashed on the planet.
It will come in three series of judgments (the seals, the trumpets the bowls). Last week, we saw that these judgments are chronological and they get worse. The trumpet judgments are worse than the seal judgments. The seal judgments affected only one-fourth of the planet. The seals affect one third of the planet.
Last week, we looked at the first four trumpet judgments in Revelation 8. Today, we will look at two more trumpet judgments and these two are worse than the first four. They are more terrifying and destructive than the first four. They are called “woes”.
The first four trumpet judgments affected nature. They were God’s judgment on nature – the land, the seas, the rivers, the sun, moon and stars. People were affected only indirectly (e.g., if they happened to drink some bad drinking water).
These next two trumpet judgments do NOT target the environment. They target people directly. They hit the inhabitants of the earth (8:13).This is a rather strange chapter. I have to warn you before you begin that some of the things in this chapter may be hard to imagine.
This chapter describes two invasions on earth of strange beings. One is an army of locusts and one is an army of horsemen. The first invasion, which we will look at today, tortures people (the fifth trumpet).
The Fifth Trumpet
The first trumpet involves an invasion of locusts that torture people for five months and they do not just torture people, they torture people so bad that they want to kill themselves. Last week, we saw that these trumpet judgments were literal. Many try to spiritualize them but they were literal plagues.
We also saw that they replicate or resemble some of the Ten Plagues of Egypt which God sent on Pharaoh when he refused to let the Hebrews leave the country after being slaved for four hundred years. This trumpet judgment is also similar to one of the plagues of Egypt. The eighth plague was a plague of locusts (Exodus 10:1-20).
However, this future Tribulation plague will be far worse than the OT Egyptian plague. The locusts will not be natural but supernatural. This will be a supernatural invasion of locusts from the pit of hell. These will not be ordinary locusts.
They are not just insects. They will be demons in the form of locusts. While in the future men will go to hell, in Revelation 9 hell comes to men. How do we know that these locusts are demons? There are five reasons that these locusts are not ordinary locusts.
Unusual Nature of these Locusts
1) Their Diet
Ordinary locusts eat vegetation. Since ancient times, locusts have been known for destroying crops in many parts of the world. The Egyptian plague of locusts affected vegetation. They like green things. They feed on grass and when grass is not available, they eat plants but we are specifically told that these locusts do NOT eat grass, any plant or tree (9:4).
2) Their Purpose
Ordinary locusts don’t hurt people. These locusts cause pain. They do not just cause pain, they cause severe pain. Their purpose is to torture people (9:5). Ordinary locusts do not attack people. They are not harmful to humans.
Real locusts do not sting like a scorpion. These locusts have a tail like Scorpions (9:10). They sting people with their tail. And they have teeth like lions (9:8). Lions have sharp teeth. Ordinary locusts do not have sharp teeth and are not violent creatures. Locusts are just a kind of grasshopper. These locusts are “like horses prepared for battle” (9:9).
3) Their Organization
Ordinary locusts do not have a leader (Proverbs 30:27). These locusts are said to have a king and we are told the name of this king in two different languages – Greek and Hebrew. The king’s name is “Destroyer”. Who is their leader?
Many believe that their leader is Satan but Satan is not in the Abyss right now. He will not be confined to the Abyss until the Millennium (20:2-3). This must be another bad angel who is destruction personified. You might think of him as Satan’s lieutenant or chief of staff.
4) Their Appearance
They do not look like ordinary locusts. Ordinary locusts do NOT have golden crowns on their heads (9:7). They do NOT have faces like men (9:7). They do not have hair like women (9:8). These demons will look like hippies. They will have the face of a man and the hair of a woman. Ordinary locusts also do NOT have breastplates like iron (9:9) which will make them indestructible.
You will not be able to kill these locusts. Insecticides will not work. They will be super insects. These will be demonic locusts. You may have seen many Hollywood movies about demons and demon possession (The Omen, The Exorcist, Rosemary’s Baby, The Exorcism of Emily Rose) but none of them look like this.
5) Their Origin
Ordinary locusts do not come from the pit. These locusts come from the Abyss. The term “abyss” (άβυσσος) is used nine times in the NT (Luke 8:31; Romans 10:7; Revelation 9:1, 2 (2), 11:7; 17:8; 20:1; 3. Seven of those times are in Revelation. In fact, in Revelation 9, the word is used four times. What exactly is the Abyss? There are many misconceptions about this place.
Misconceptions about the Abyss
1. The Abyss is NOT Hell.
Hell is the FINAL place of punishment for BOTH people and for angels. It is called “the Lake of Fire” in Revelation and it is eternal. This is a temporary holding place for demons. It is a prison house for demons. Both Jude and Peter say that this is a place where angels are chained up and are waiting final judgment (II Peter 2:4; cf. Jude 6).
Not all demons are there. In fact, most demons are probably not there. Most are free but some were so wicked that God threw them in prison and that prison is called the Abyss. This is just a temporary place of punishment and only has demons in it and only some demons, the worst of the worst.
2. The Abyss is NOT Hades.
Hades is the Greek term for the place of departed spirits. Hades is the place where people in the OT went and where unbelievers who die today go. The wicked who die today still go to Hades. No one is in Hell now. If you want to know what that place is like, read Luke 16.
Jesus told a story about a man who went there. Hades is the place where your spirit goes after you die. The body goes to the grave but your spirit goes to Hades, unless you are a believer. Paul said concerning believers, “To be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord” (II Corinthians 5:8).
Both Hades and the Abyss are temporary places of punishment but Hades is a prison for wicked people. The abyss is a prison for wicked demons. This prison is locked and some of the worst demons are confined there. In the Tribulation Period during the fifth trumpet judgment, this prison will be opened.
3. The Abyss is NOT a bottomless pit.
Most Bibles translate this “the bottomless pit” (so KJV, NKJV, RSV, NLT, NCV, ESV, NRSV, NASB). That is a mistranslation. F.F. Bruce notes that the idea of a bottomless pit is based on a false etymology and is logically impossible. It is described here as “a gigantic furnace” (9:2).
When it is opened, you John saw all this smoke and not just a little smoke. He saw a lot of smoke. He saw so much smoke that “The sun and sky were darkened by the smoke from the Abyss” (9:2). Where there is smoke there’s fire. Smoke comes from a fire.
The Abyss is not just a place where demons are locked up and incarcerated, they are punished. This is a place that demons do not want to go to. They fear this place (cf. Luke 8:26-39).
In Luke 8, Jesus encountered a demon-possessed man in a predominately Gentile area known as the Gerasene demoniac. What do we know about this person?
Characteristics of the Gerasene Demoniac
1) He had many demons in him.
He not only had one demon in him, he had a whole host of demons in him. The name of the demon was legion and that is the term for a large group. A Roman legion was made up of six thousand soldiers.
2) He displayed anti-social behavior.
He did not live in a house. He lived in tombs (8:27) with dead bodies and he wore no clothes. Antisocial behaviors like these are signs of demonic possession.
3) He had superhuman strength.
This man had superhuman strength and that is not the result of lifting weights or taking steroids. You could chain him and he would break the chains (8:29).
4) Mark tells us that he practiced self-mutilation.
Like some young people do today, he would cut himself (Mark 5:5). It is clear from this story that that practice is demonic. The temptation to deliberately injure the body that God created does not come from God but from Satan.
When Jesus cast the demons out of that man, they made a rather unusual request. They know that they cannot stay in the demon-possess man. They begged Jesus repeatedly not to order them to go into the Abyss (Luke 8:31).
It was a place they feared. If they have to leave the man, they asked Jesus if they could at least go into some pigs. These demons wanted bodies. They would rather be in a pig than to be in the air without a body. The demons were bent on destruction. If they couldn’t destroy this man, they at least wanted to destroy some pigs.
The amazing thing is that Jesus allowed them to do this (8:32). They must have all been deviled hams. Pigs were unclean animals and Jews were not allowed to eat pork anyway. What happened next is rather interesting.
The demons go into two thousand pigs. The pigs jump off a cliff and are drowned in the sea. People who hate the Bible say this is the story where Jesus killed two thousand pigs. They would say that this is cruelty to animals. Why did Jesus allow them to go into the swine?
It gave tangible proof that the demon had left the man. There was no doubt about it. In addition, the man was in his right mind. He was no longer crazy and he was no longer violent and he had his clothes on (8:35).
Here was a man whose life was completely changed and everyone who came in contact with him immediately saw the change. If we have come to Christ, is there a change in our life? Do others around us see the change?
The problem with the critics is that they are far more concerned with the fate of some pigs than they are concerned with the fate of a person. Some seem to think that animal rights are more important than human rights.
The fate of some pigs cannot be compared to the fate of an eternal soul. What Jesus did not just benefit the man, it benefited the whole community. William Barclay writes,“We do not have any objections to eating meat for dinner nor refuse pork because it involved the killing of some pig. Surely if we kill animals to avoid going hungry, we can raise no objection if the saving of a man’s mind involved the death of a herd of these same animals. There is a cheap sentimentalism which will languish in grief over the pain of an animal and never turn a hair at the wretched state of millions of men and women created in the image of God. This is not to say that we need not care what happens to animals, for God loves every creature whom his hands have made, but it is to say that we must preserve sense of proportion and in God’s scale of proportion,there is nothing more important than a human soul.”
Was this not the destruction of someone’s property? Yes. Someone owned those pigs but keep in mind that because Jesus is the Creator. The Bible says that he owns a thousand cattle on the hills. Psalm 50:10 says, “Every animal of the forest is mine, and the cattle on a thousand hills”. Jesus owns the pigs and he can do what he wants with them.
1. Demons are real and are dangerous.
The Bible teaches that Satan is real and demons are real. That does not mean that Satan is behind every rock and every problem in your life is caused by some demon. Many think that if you can’t stop smoking, you must have a cigarette demon.
If someone has a problem with pornography, he has a demon of lust. That is not necessarily true. We all have a sin nature and as James says are “drawn away by our own lust” (James 1:13). You don’t need Satan to tempt an alcoholic. All you have to do is to give him a Bud Light.
Demons are real. They are not just a figure of speech. We talk about someone dealing with his or her personal demons and no one takes that literally. If you believe the Bible, you have to believe that demons are real and can inflict incredible damage on people. Their goal is destruction (John 10:10).
They want to destroy your life, your marriage, your home, your church and your nation. They are nothing to joke about. This will be clear to people who will be alive during the Fifth Trumpet Judgment.
People who will be alive during that time would rather face death than to face these Tribulation locusts (9:6). We do not need to seek death. Death will find us, because the Bible says “It is appointed unto man once to die” (Hebrews 9:27).
They will be in so much pain that they would rather die. Death is normally man’s greatest enemy and humanity’s greatest fear but in this case people will welcome death to get some relief from their suffering.
They will attempt suicide several times but each time it doesn’t kill them. There will be all of these suicide survivors in the Tribulation. This is actually a picture of Hell. People will be tormented but never die. That is the way that Hell is described in the Bible. In fact, the word “tormented” and “torment” (9:5) in Greek is used later in the book to describe Hell (14:10-11).
2. God is in complete control of these demons.
That is very clear from this text. The locusts in Revelation 9 are in the Abyss and that Abyss is completely locked. They cannot get out. There is no way to escape from that prison.
- They get out of the Abyss only when God lets them out.
The only way that they can get out is if someone lets them out. In this case, an angel lets them out (9:1-2). It is interesting to me that the Abyss is opened two times in Revelation and both times it is opened by an angel with a key. Once it is opened to let someone out (9:1-11) and once it is to throw someone into that prison (20:1-3). These demons get out only when God wants them to get out.
- They only have the power that God gives them.
Limitations on the Demonic Locusts
The text says that they WERE GIVEN power like that of scorpions of the earth (9:3). They can only do what God allows them to do. “It WAS GIVEN to them that they may not kill them, but that they may be tormented five months” (9:5).
1. They only have this power for a limited period of time.
They only have five months to do their damage (9:5), which happens to be the lifespan of a locust.
2. They are prevented from doing certain things.
There are three things these locusts CANNOT do. First, they cannot harm the grass, trees or any plant (9:4). Second, they cannot kill anyone (9:5). They can torture but not kill people. This is the second limitation. There is an irony about this.
During the Tribulation, believers will be martyred. In the fifth seal, the martyrs cry out to God for justice. In the Fifth Trumpet, those that tortured the martyrs are now being tortured themselves.
Third, they cannot hurt believers (9:4). They cannot hurt anyone with the seal of God on their forehead. Anyone with the seal of God on them is protected. Believers in the Tribulation will sound like M.C. Hammer. They will go around saying to these locusts “You can’t touch this”.