“Then the fifth angel sounded; And I saw a star fallen from heaven to the earth. To him was given the key to the bottomless pit.”
The “Woe Judgments” are unveiled as the fifth angel sounds his trumpet. Like the first four Trumpet Judgments, the Woe Trumpets are difficult to interpret; therefore, there is much debate as to the various viewpoints.
The NKJV that we are using for this study and some of the other versions expresses “a star fallen from heaven” while the KJV and the MKJV speak of seeing “a star fall from heaven”.
This opens opportunity for debate in the very first verse. Is this a new event or is this the same star described in 8:10-11? In either case the results are woe brought against the ungodly of Israel. (See discussion of verse 4 for details)
Another question is always raised, “Is it a literal star or symbolic?” It is clearly a symbolic statement. Why, because “to him was given the key to the bottomless pit.” The reference is to a living person.
One symbolic view holds that it is the corrupt church leader or dignitary of 8:10. Some hold that it is the Antichrist and still others say it is Satan himself. In my view it is the fallen star of 8:10-11. We are being given additional details here. It is Wormwood that represents some figure that falls from heaven. If not Satan, he is most certainly some figure that Satan works through to accomplish his evil will.
We do know that he has “fallen from heaven”, which seems to support the idea that it is one who had been removed from the presence of God.
In Chapter 20 we will see Satan bound and cast into the abyss of the bottomless pit. Where and or what is the bottomless pit? Is it Hades, Tartarus, or Gehenna? For now let’s simply say that it is the eventual detention place of Satan and the demons.
“2 And he opened the bottomless pit, and smoke arose out of the pit like the smoke of a great furnace. So the sun and the air were darkened because of the smoke of the pit.
Don’t let the smoke get in your eyes! If you have ever been near any type of fire you know the blinding effect smoke can cause.
Staying with the symbolic view, we see the blinding effect of that which comes from the pit. The light in the world is dimmed and very air we breathe is polluted. The light that Jesus brought to us is attacked by false teachings and corrupt leadership.
2 Thessalonians 2 tells us “the man of sin is revealed” and “in his own time”. Verse 9 says, “The coming of the lawless one is according to the working of Satan, with all power, signs, and lying wonders.
The falling away, apostate church, false religions, pagan cults and an unbelieving world are all leading us into a darkening world.
“3 Then out of the smoke locusts came upon the earth. And to them was given power, as the scorpions of the earth have power.”
“4 They were commanded not to harm the grass of the earth, or any green thing, or any tree, but only those men who do not have the seal of God on their foreheads.”
These are no ordinary creatures. Some teach that they are symbolic of helicopters or some other military vehicle. I would not make such a definitive statement as to their being.
Some hold that verse 4 is clear evidence that these judgments are meant solely for the nation of Israel. Others see it as a world wide event.
If they are literal creatures then they are awesome destructive ones like never before seen on earth. If they are symbolic, they represent a force that comes out of the darkening of the earth by the corrupt person(s) who lead the world deeper and deeper into sin.
In both cases they do not harm the earth itself, but focus their destructive powers on man alone.
We know that they posses the power to inflict excruciating pain. While serving as a missionary in Honduras I endured the sting of a scorpion several times. I can assure you it is indeed painful and the pain is not short lived. Unlike the sting of a bee, the pain persists for an extended period. In verse 10 we are told their sting last for five months.
The creature is not a scorpion but is described as a locust with the sting of a scorpion. Locusts live in swarms and therefore are not solitary creatures, so it would be reasonable to see this as an invasion of these creatures, wide spread in scope.
As stated in the notes on verse 1, it is easy to see the reference to the nation of Israel. The conclusion of verse 4 states the creature is to attack “only those men who do not have the seal of God on their foreheads.”
Who are the protected ones? The men that do have the seal of God on their foreheads, the 144,000 of the nation of Israel we studied in Chapter 7 are the protected ones. Everyone else is fair game. For me this is yet another illustration that supports the viewpoint that the believers of the church age have been raptured and are not present on earth at this time.
In the letter to the church at Philadelphia in Chapter 3:10 Jesus said,“Because you have kept My command to persevere, I also will keep you from the hour of trial which shall come upon the whole world, to test those who dwell on the earth.”
God’s judgment has come to all the earth and the Great Tribulation has begun.
“5 And they were not given authority to kill them, but to torment them for five months. Their torment was like the torment of a scorpion when it strikes a man.
“6 In those days men will seek death and will not find it; they will desire to die, and death will flee from them.”
The life of a literal locust is five months, normally from May to September. The time of torment is limited by God. The pain of a scorpion’s sting is considered by many to be the most painful an animal can inflict on man. I can say from my own personal experience it was not the most fun thing I ever encountered.
Imagine a pain so sever that you would seek to die rather than to continue to suffer, but death is not an option. Men will agonize and plead for death but they will not find it.
Consider that following symbolic viewpoint. The creatures from the pit are Satan’s demons. They come in numbers like locusts determined to devour mankind and they are given power to bring to man mental and physical torment. The corrupt person(s), represented by the smoke that darkens the world, now has demons who take possession of man --- except for the ones seal by God. The world is now a Godless society of demon-possessed men. The Christian influence of our churches is not present. Evil reigns in every part of life --- despair replaces all hope --- hate replaces love --- greed replaces charity.
If the viewpoint that these opening events are directly solely toward the nation of Israel is correct, then all these attacks are focused in their direction. And, have been brought on by their rejection of Jesus as the Messiah.
“7 The shape of the locusts was like horses prepared for battle. On their heads were crowns of something like gold, and their faces were like the faces of men.”
“8 They had hair like women’s hair, and their teeth were like lions’ teeth.”
“9 And they had breastplates like breastplates of iron, and the sound of their wings was like the sound of chariots with many horses running into battle.”
“10 They had tails like scorpions, and there were stings in their tails. Their power was to hurt men five months.”
The detail description of the creatures supports the symbolic rather than the literal view. The details are characteristics of the demon-possessed rather than a physical description.
They wear the tapings of a victorious warrior. They are wearing gold like crowns, an inferior copy of the gold crowns of the overcomers. They faces are like mans --- representing intellect. They have hair like a women’s --- a symbol of attractive seductive powers. The armor like iron breastplates make them impenetrable to attack. Their wings bring forth a great noise that is both terrifying and demoralizing. And the lion’s teeth represent that they are fierce and ravenous in their destructive powers.
“11 And they had as a king over them the angel of the bottomless pit, whose name in Hebrew is Abaddon, but in Greek he has the name Apollyon.”
The Hebrew name of the king is given first, Abaddon. Abaddon means destruction. The Greek name, Apollyon, means destroyer.
The Hebrew is given first because the first Woe is directed at Israel. The Destroyer then turns his attention to the Gentiles.
Although there is some debate over the matter, it is widely held that the king over them, the angel of the bottomless pit is Satan.
“12 One woe is past. Behold still two more woes are coming after these things.”
The first of the three woes is past but judgment is far from over. Two more are to come.
The first Woe Judgment was directed at ungodly Israel and the second upon unbelieving Gentiles.
“13 Then the sixth angel sounded; And I heard a voice from the four horns of the golden altar which is before God.”
Whose voice do we hear? Is it God the Father, the voice of Jesus or an angel? We can not be sure who speaks, but we do know from where the voice comes.
Exodus 30 gives us this description of the golden altar. “You shall make an altar to burn incense on; you shall make it of acacia wood. A cubit shall be its length and a cubit its width --- it shall be square --- and two cubits shall be its height. Its horns shall be of one piece with it. And you shall overlay its top its sides all around, and its horns wit pure gold and you shall make for it a molding of gold all around. Two gold rings you shall make for it, under the molding on both it sides. You shall place them on its two sides and they will be holders for the poles with which to bear it. You shall make the poles of acacia wood and overlay them with gold. And you shall put it before the veil that is before the ark of Testimony.”
In the Temple and the Tabernacle the golden altar is placed before the veil that separated the Holiest of Holies from man. This is the altar of 8:3-4 from which an angel offered incense and prayers of the saints. This is a clear link between the prayers of God’s oppressed people and the judgment.
“14 saying to the sixth angel who had the trumpet, “Release the four angels who are bound at the great river Euphrates.”
Notice the location of the four angels. They are bound at the great river Euphrates. The angels of 7:1-3 are described differently. Their location is given as at the four corners of the earth. It is logical to conclude that these are not the same angels. The angels of 7:1-3 are holding back judgment and the angels of verse 14 were prepared to begin judgment. (See verse 15).
“15 So the four angels, who had been prepared for the hour and day and month and year, were released to kill a third of mankind.”
Some see these angels as demons. In any case we know that they have been prepared for this exact time, hour --- day --- month --- year. God’s infinite knowledge is displayed and His plan will be carried out. The four angels kill a third of mankind.
“16 Now the number of the army of the horsemen was two hundred million; I heard the number of them.”
John is told that the number of the army of the four angels is 200,000,000. Some try to tie this army to some specific nation or group. Their viewpoint often comes from the location given for the four angels, the great river Euphrates. The Euphrates is 1780 miles long and is part of the boundary of the Promised Land. It was also the eastern boundary of the old Roman Empire.
“17 And thus I saw the horses in the vision; those who sat on them had breastplates of fiery red, hyacinth blue, and sulfur yellow; and the head of the horses were like the heads of lions; and out of their mouths came fire, smoke and brimstone.”
“18 By these tree plagues a third of mankind was killed --- by the fire, and the smoke and the brimstone which came out of their mouths.”
“19 For their power is in their mouth and in their tails; for their tails are like serpents, having heads; and with them they do harm.”
Mankind is killed not by the riders who wear protective armor, but by the horses which they ride. The three plagues from which man dies are, fire --- smoke --- and brimstone. Fire burns while smoke and brimstone choke. This reminds me of the choking effect of the smoke of verse 2.
Symbolically, the smoke could represent the deceitful acts of Satan that destroy the moral fiber of man. This deceit can also be seen in verse 19, “their power is in their mouth”. The reference to the tails like a serpent, also speak to the symbol of deceit.
In any case this is a destructive force that produces changes on the earth that have not been see since the flood of Noah’s day.
The death that man suffers is a literal death. Literally one third of mankind is killed.
“20 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, and idols of gold, silver, brass, stone and wood, which can neither see nor hear nor walk.”
“21 And they did not repent of their murders or their sorceries or their sexual immorality or their thefts.”
Man is his arrogance continues in his sin. Even the destructive power of God poured out on the earth and mankind does not sway him from sin. Man is not just doing his own thing; he is worshipping demons and idols. There is no sorrow over murder, sexual immorality is his delight, and theft is common place. Webster’s Dictionary defines sorcery as the use of magic power derived from evil spirits. It could be that man reverts back to pagan acts and ritual.
The first Woe was poured out on Israel and the second on the Gentiles. The defiant world is in total chaos. The last Woe Trumpet will be seen in 11:15-18.
The Mighty Angel and the Little Scroll
We now experience our second break in the action or parenthesis in Revelation. From the beginning of Chapter 10 until 11:14 we will be given some additional detail and information between the sixth and seventh trumpets.
Watch for these important events. 1) A second scroll, 2) an account of seven thunders, 3) solemn oath by the Angel, 4) the charge given to John.
“I saw still another mighty angel coming down from heaven, clothed with a cloud. And a rainbow was on his head; his face was like the sun and his feet like pillars of fire.”
Pay attention to the description of this new angel. He came from heaven, a rainbow was on or around his head, his face was like the sun and his feet like pillars of fire.
This is a similar description of the angel way back in Chapter 1:14-16. I believe Him to be the same angel we saw in 7:2-3 and 8:1-6. He is clothed in a cloud, heavenly attire.
With a cloud he veils his glory which is too great for mankind to behold. The rainbow reminds us of his covenant. He face shines with His majesty. And His feet are firmly set and are pure and steady.
He is our Lord, Jesus Christ, the angel of the Lord from the Old Testament.
“2 He had a little book open in his hand. And he set his right foot on the sea and his left foot on the land,”
There is debate as to the nature of the “little book”. The following are some of those viewpoints.
1. It is the same book or scroll we discover in 5:1, the sealed scroll of judgment that only the Lamb was worthy to open.
2. It is a book of Old Testament prophecy for the nation of Israel.
3. It is a new book associated with the seventh trumpet.
Commentaries like Henry, Gill and Liberty hold to the belief that it is indeed the sealed scroll of viewpoint 1. The JFB, Barnes and Wesley commentaries do not share in this idea.
Barnes points out that the word used here, biblaridion, does not appear anywhere else in the New Testament except for 10:8-10. Biblaridion is defined as “a diminutive book or booklet”.
Could it be the title or deed to earth as some think? The symbolism of placing His right foot on the sea and His left on the earth is certainly symbolic of taking possession of earth. But, why would John find its taste bitter (verses 9-10).
“3 and cried with a loud voice, as when a lion roars. When he cried out, seven thunders uttered their voices.”
“4 Now when the seven thunders uttered their voices, I was about to write; but I heard a voice from heaven saying to me, “Seal up the things which the seven thunders uttered, and do not write them.”
“5 The angel whom I saw standing on the sea and on the land raised up his hand to heaven”
“6 and swore by Him who lives forever and ever, who created heaven and the things that are in it, the earth and the thing that are in it, and the sea and the things that are in it, that there should be delay no longer.”
The Lamb has become the Lion of the Tribe of Judah. His has taken His prey, those who have refused Him. Most agree that the seven thunders show God is active in judgment.
Just as John was about to record the words of the seven thunders, he is told not to write them. We must accept that some things are not meant for us to know. It is in our interest not to know, but more importantly it is God’s will that we do not know.
The little book contains the one piece of information that is withheld from us.
Jesus lifts His hands to the Father and declares that there will be no further delay in judgment. This is not an announcement of the end of time, that will come over 1000 year later. It is judgment!
“7 but in the days of the sounding of the seventh angel, when he is about to sound, the mystery of God would be finished, as He declared to His servants the prophets.”
God keeps His promises. The promises He made to and through His servants the prophets will be completed. The seventh trumpet will bring the mystery to completion.
“8 Then the voice which I heard from heaven spoke to me again and said, “Go, take the little book which is open in the hand of the angel who stands on the sea and on the earth.”
“9 So I went to the angel and said to him, “Give me the little book.” And he said to me, “Take and eat it; and it will make your stomach bitter, but it will be as sweet as honey in your mouth.”
“10 The I took the little book out of the angel’s hand and ate it, and it was as sweet as honey in my mouth. But when I had eaten it, my stomach became bitter.”
Ezekiel 2:7-10 and 3:1-3, “You shall speak My words to them, whether they hear or whether they refuse, for they are rebellious. But you, son of man, hear what I say to you. Do not be rebellious like that rebellious house; open your mouth and eat what I gave you. Now when I looked, there was a hand stretched out to me; and behold, a scroll of a book was in it. Then He spread it before me; and there was writing on the inside and on the outside, and written on it were lamentations and mourning and woe. Moreover He said to me, “Son on man eat what you find; eat this scroll, and go, speak to the house of Israel. So I opened my mouth, and He caused me to eat that scroll. And He said to me, “Son of man feed your belly, and fill your stomach with this scroll I give you.” So I ate, and it was in my mouth like honey in sweetness.”
The word of God is sweet. Its promises for the overcomers are sweeter than honey.
The little book was not sealed from us, only the words of the seven thunders are withheld. Eating the book, as with the instructions to Ezekiel, are symbolic of taking God’s word into ourselves. Making it a part of who we are, it becomes part of our flesh.
God’s word is eaten by studying and by unshakeable faith in its teachings. For overcomes, true believers, God’s word is sweet. It is sweet to know that we can restore our relationship with God. It is sweet to know that we can benefit from His guidance during our life here on earth. It is sweet to have assurance of eternal life with our God and fellow believers.
But it is bitter to think about the fate of those who are not among those with robes washed in the blood of the Lamb. It is bitter to think upon the eternal fate of those who have rejected Jesus as Lord and Savior.
As we take it in, eat of the word, it is sweet. As we come to know Jesus as the Lamb and he becomes part of us, we die to the world and live in Him, it is indeed sweet. Our stomach becomes sour with the bitterness of judgment for the lost, for the unforgiven.
I believe the little book is the Scriptures. It is held open to all to see.