Revelation Chapter 9: the three woes begin with the first two woes - the plagues of the fifth and sixth trumpet judgments of Yahovah ("the LORD")
9:1-12 Then the fifth angel sounded: And I saw (a) a star fallen from heaven to earth. To (b) him was given the key to the bottomless pit. 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. Then out of the smoke (c) locusts came upon the earth. And to them was given power, as the scorpions of the earth have power. They were commanded not to harm the grass of the earth, or any green thing, or any tree, but (d) only those men who do not have the seal of [Yahuah] on their foreheads. And they were not given authority to kill them, but to torment them for (e) five months. Their torment was like the torment of a scorpion when it strikes a man. In those days men will seek death and will not find it; they will desire to die, and death will flee from them. (f) 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. They had hair like women’s hair, and their teeth were like lions’ teeth. 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. They had tails like scorpions, and there were stings in their tails. Their power was to hurt men five months. And (g) they had as king over them the angel of the bottomless pit, whose name in Hebrew is Abaddon, but in Greek he has the name Apollyon. One woe is past. Behold still two more woes are coming (h) after these things.
a. Of course, if a star (our sun is a relatively small star) literally fell to Earth, Earth would instantly be annihilated. The description given in these verses seems to fit that of a cometary impact. Scientific studies have shown that a large comet impacting the earth at over 25,000 miles per hour would (as some have in the past) penetrate Earth’s crust into the molten mantle, producing a “bottomless” crater, the explosive force of thousands of atomic bombs, a mushroom-shaped cloud exactly like that of the explosion of a nuclear bomb, and fill the atmosphere with toxic smoke and debris for hundreds or thousands of miles around, exactly as did the volcanic eruption in Iceland in 2010. It would also send seismic shock waves through and around the earth that would shake the whole planet.
b. The ancient Hebrews and Greeks (and, before them, the Sumerians, Akkadians, Babylonians and Assyrians) called any luminous celestial object (star, meteor or comet) a “star.” And they personified falling stars as “messengers of the gods.” So, the “star” in this verse could, ironically, be a comet sent as a “messenger” from the one true "God" Yahovah to wreak destruction on the ungodly earth dwellers. The Lord uses symbolic language here to communicate to the mindset of the first century Believers.
c. These are not literal locusts because they do not harm vegetation. These “locusts” are apparently microorganisms that cause painful diseases. Like locusts, bacteria and other microbes amass in great numbers and are carried, in smoke and dust, wherever the wind takes them. Another possible interpretation is that these "locusts" are demonic creatures.
d. Of Earth’s inhabitants, only the Yahudim ("Jews") who have not yet recognized that Yahushua is the Messiah but who still cling to their faith in the coming Messiah, refusing to take the mark of the anti-messiah, plus those Gentiles who do not take the mark, are protected from the plagues of the judgments of Yahovah.
e. What horrible suffering! - tormented with excruciating pain (like the sting of a scorpion), wanting but not being able to die, for five months. This is a foretaste of “eternity” in the Lake of Fire (cf. Mark 9:47, 48). This description makes it clear that these terrifying creatures are like an innumerable swarm of locusts in number, and the torment that they inflict on the inhabitants of the world, from which there is no escape, makes it more woeful than the previous plagues or calamities.
f. What horrible suffering! - tormented with excruciating pain (like the sting of a scorpion), wanting but not being able to die, for five months. This is a foretaste of "eternity" in the Lake of Fire (cf. Mark 9:47, 48). It is surely the most prolonged manifestation of the executions of Yahovah's judgments, because if each of the trumpet judgments, not including the bowl judgments, lasted five months, the trumpet judgments alone would occupy almost all the last half of the seven years.
g. There are several types of deadly bacteria (including streptococcal and viral bacteria) that, when viewed through a microscope, closely resemble this description of “locusts.” Although not yet confirmed, scientists have discovered evidence of viruses and bacteria in comets.
h. The language here also seems to be highly personified and symbolic. Remember, the Greek word translated “angel” (aggelos) can also be translated “messenger.” And the Greek word translated “king” (basilleus) can be translated “controller.” Also, the Greek term translated “over” (epi) can mean “to give direction.” Plus, Psalm 147:4 states, “He [the Lord] tells the number of the stars [the luminous celestial objects]; He calls them by their names.” The names Abaddon (Hebrew) and Apollyon (Greek) mean “destroyer.” So, if we can suspend the usual interpretation that these verses are speaking of supernatural beings and events, we will see that an equally valid, literal translation of 9:11 might be, “And the direction from which the harmful organisms came was controlled by a comet (named Abaddon in Hebrew or Apollyon in Greek) that created the 'bottomless' pit from which the creatures ascended.” Nevertheless, I will not be dogmatic about that interpretation and just offer it as a possible alternative that shows that Scriptural symbology disparaged by some as being just too fanciful may be explained in perfectly rational and credible scientific terms.
i. Unlike “after these things I looked” (4:1, et al.), which denotes primarily a change in visions, “after these things” (without the “I looked”) indicates a new time-sequence event.
9:13-19 Then the sixth angel sounded: And I heard (a) a voice from the four horns of the golden altar which is before [Yahovah], saying to the sixth angel who had the trumpet, “Release (b) the four angels who are bound at the great river Euphrates.” So the four angels, who had been prepared for (c) the hour and day and month and year, were released to kill a third of mankind. Now the number of (d) the army of the horsemen was two hundred million; I heard the number of them. 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 heads of the horses were like the heads of lions; and out of their mouths came fire, smoke, and brimstone. (e) By these three plagues a third of mankind was killed - by the fire and the smoke and the brimstone which came out of their mouths. 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.
a. Commentators are not in agreement as to the source of this voice. It does not seem to be the voice of the Lord who is behind the altar. The only voice clearly identified as coming from an altar in heaven is the cry of the martyrs crying out to Yahovah for vengeance (6:1). Therefore, the voice of 9:13 may be the voice of the angel of 8:3-5 that is identified as the angel that offers the prayers of the saints on the altar and casts the embers from the altar to Earth.
b. Possibly, an incorrect translation. Again, the Greek word (aggelos) translated “angels” can also be translated “messengers”; also, the Greek word (epi) translated “in” can be translated “toward” or “for.” So, this sentence could and apparently should read, “Loose the four messengers [comets or comet fragments] which are bound for the river Euphrates.” This latter translation of the description of what occurs to start the execution of the sixth trumpet judgment perfectly parallels the description of what happens when the sixth bowl judgment is executed - the water of the Euphrates River is dried up (16:12). Comets or comet fragments striking the river will instantly vaporize its water. On the other hand, this may refer to fallen angels who are imprisoned beneath the Euphrates River.
c. These “angels” (or comets) have been prepared for their role in executing Yahovah’s judgments at this specific point in time. Some claim that the events of Revelation occurred during the first century or two of the “Church Age,” or have been occurring throughout the past 2,000 years, but this verse argues strongly against those hypotheses: At no specific hour, day, month, or year in history has one-third of the earth’s population been killed, much less by the objects described here or in the ways described here.
d. Some have claimed that these two hundred million comprise a vast human army from the East (the direction of the Euphrates River from Israel). But that hypothesis cannot be true either, without allegorizing the details beyond reasonable recognition. Why not just accept the literal interpretation that, as with the events of the fifth trumpet, these are terrifying natural objects (comet fragments) or demonic creatures that had been prepared by Adonai ("the Lord") Yahovah for this point in time to release more of the plagues of His judgments on Earth? The Bible speaks of the “treasures [storehouses] of the hail” (the Oort Cloud of billions of comets that surrounds our solar system?) which the Lord has “reserved against the time of trouble” (a phrase in Scripture that refers to the Great Tribulation and the Day of Yahovah) (Job 38:22-23). Prophetic Scripture also speaks of “the weapons of [Yahovah's] indignation” which “come . . . from the end of heaven [the edge of our solar system?] . . . to destroy the whole land” (Isaiah 13:5).
e. According to scientist Jeffrey Goodman (The Comets of God, page 283), this is a perfect, symbolic description of comet fragments plummeting through Earth’s atmosphere. Comets (and comet fragments) eject gases and dust through vents in their surfaces that rise up in a plume away from the “head” of the comet, like the mane of a horse or lion, and trail behind like a long, serpentine tail. And when plunging through Earth’s atmosphere at thousands of miles per hour, comets burn with an intense heat of thousands of degrees Farenheit, reflecting the exact colors (fiery red, hyacinth blue and sulfur yellow) mentioned in this verse. Plus, a comet or comets entering Earth’s atmosphere could disintegrate into millions of fragments.
f. So, by the three agents of death released by the two hundred million comet fragments—the fire, the smoke, and the brimstone (brimstone is burning sulfur which is common in comets)—another third of humanity is killed. That is over five billion or two-thirds of Earth’s population who have been killed so far during the Final Seven Years, with the “last plagues of the wrath of [Elohim]” (15:1)—the terrible bowl plagues—plus the battle of “Armageddon” (16:16) yet to come.
Dr. John S. Lewis, a professor of planetary science and Co-Director of the NASA Space Engineering Research Center at the University of Arizona, in his book Rain of Iron and Ice: The Very Real Threat of Comet and Asteroid Bombardment, made an interesting observation:
. . . the description of future events in Revelation leans heavily upon the phenomenology of violent cosmic events. . . . The central theme is clear and unambiguous: the events described in Revelation are of astronomical origin and describe real physical events, not mere portents or symbols. Did John (the author of the Book of Revelation) somehow know more about impact phenomena than any scientist before the present decade [book published in 1996]? (pages 11-13)
9:20-21 But (a) the rest of mankind, who were not killed by these plagues, did not repent (b) 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. And they did not repent of their murders or their sorceries or their sexual immorality or their thefts. (c)
a. Indicating that virtually all of mankind, other than the Jews and Gentiles who have not taken the mark of the beast and are protected by Yahovah from physical harm, have either been killed or are unrepentant.
b. The one-third or so of mankind remaining on the earth are so hardened in the confidence that they can save themselves (by “the works of their hands”) and in their confidence in the power of riches or inanimate objects (which is actually the worship of demons [cf. 2 Chronicles 11:15]), that they refuse to repent of the sins that result from such idolatry, including murders (destroying people in thoughts, words, or actions), sorceries (confidence in spiritual powers, forces, or beings other than Yahovah), sexual immorality (including lust), and thefts (including dishonest business practices, defrauding people, and extortion).
c. Notice that by this point in time, mankind is beyond hope; the Gospel has no effect. There is no appeal for anyone to repent; it is just noted that no one does repent. The only inhabitants left on the earth (other than the Yahudim ("Jews") and the Gentiles who have not taken the mark of the beast) are earth dwellers - “vessels of wrath prepared for destruction” (Romans 9:22).
In the next five chapters (10-14), the stage will be set for the "last plagues of the Wrath of [Elohim]" (15:1) - the vials or bowls of wrath - to be poured out on the Day of Yahovah at the end of the Final Seven Years.
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Common English translations of Hebrew and Messianic terms used in this commentary:
Yahovah - the LORD or GOD
Elohim - God
Adonai - my Lord or Master
Yahushua - Jesus
Followers of Yahushua -
Messiah - Christ
Assembly of Followers of
Yahushua - the Church
Yahudim - Jews
Antimessiah - Antichrist
BBM - Before the Birth of
the Messiah (as
opposed to BC or BCE)
ABM - After the Birth of the
Messiah (as opposed to
AD or CE)
For a complete explanation of Hebrew terms used, go to Important Terms and Concepts.
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