Imagine locking a lion in a pit for a month without feeding him and then letting him out. You wouldn't want to be anywhere near that pit when he comes springing out! In Revelation 9, God opens the pit where Satan has been bound for a thousand years; when he comes out . . . all hell will break loose.
The Abyss Unlocked
Every year, hundreds of new books are published dealing with demonism, witchcraft, magic, spiritism and ghosts. Every new television season brings new programs and documentaries on astrology, fortune telling, divination and the paranormal. / John Phillips, Exploring Revelation (Loizeaux Brothers, 1991), p. 124
Channeling is now prime time. Communicating to the dead through spiritists is now main stream.
Just google the word demon and you get more than 70 million places to surf.
It doesn’t matter if you’re a Christian, or you’re Jewish, or Muslim, or Hindu or into Native American fire worship, demons have infiltrated the thinking of the human race.
And to make it even more convenient, those who say they are in touch with “angels” good or fallen – it doesn’t really matter – these beings can quote from the Bible, the Book of Mormon, the Koran and the Kabbalah.
This growing fascination just sort of gush over how spirit guides are here to help mankind reach its fullest potential.
It’s interesting that the growing following of spirit guides, who by the way deny the Bible and the deity of Jesus Christ and the primacy of the cross and the sinfulness of mankind, they are adamant that their guides are providing wisdom and truth about the other world beyond.
They fail to heed the warning of scripture that Satan masquerades as an angel of light (2 Corinthians 11:14), delivering a different gospel than the gospel of Christ which can truly save (Galatians 1:6).
Certainly people seem to understand that demons do bad things, although they don’t seem to focus on that reality.
One list of demons I came across included a demon who gave people sore throats, but fortunately it flees whenever you mention the angel Raphael’s name.
Another demon I discovered in my research causes shivering and numbness.
Yet another demon gives people indigestion. You thought it was that sausage pizza, with extra onions, but it was actually spiritual warfare.
The church hasn’t helped the problem by its superstitions, along with its anemic portrayal of good angels. You usually see them in soft gowns and effeminate faces.
For centuries, the most popular way to portray angels was as fat little naked babies that just sort of hovered around to make people feel loved.
Go to the Bible and you discover good angels, used by God were so impressive that they usually had to start their conversation with humans by saying, “Fear not.” Literally, “Stop being terrified.” (Matthew 1:20; Luke 1:13)
In one Biblical account, one angel directed by God was responsible for killing 200,000 enemy soldiers singlehandedly.
No fat little naked baby is gonna do that.
To add to the confusion, the church has for centuries presented Satan and his demons outside of God’s control, or at least His immediate command because it really takes a lot of praying and a lot of holy water and usually a personal priest to be able to get rid of one of ‘em.
The truth is the Bible introduces us to a demonic world that is both terrifying to mankind, yet controlled by God in their every movement.
You never want to underestimate the cunning and destructive power of Satan, but you don’t want to overestimate his abilities – and the abilities of his demon forces – either.
People who dabble in sorcery and games like the Ouija board and séances and divination is opening their minds to a real and powerful world that has only one desire – the destruction of their lives and eternal damnation.
One woman I read of claims to be able to receive direction from her angel guides specifically given to whoever sends in their 200 dollars – 200 dollars per vision.
She will get a message for you from the spirit world. All you have to do is give her your name and she’ll focus on a candle, slip into a trance and receive a vision for you.
One person responded, “What could be more comforting in an age of broken families, economic uncertainty, rising crime and loss of personal worth? The message of these spirit guides is, and I quote, “Love yourself unconditionally, because we love you and we are always with you.”
In other words, we care about the human race. We are here to give you assistance and direction and wisdom and let you know your uncle really did make it to the other side and we can prove we know that, the channeler says because he just told me his favorite shirt was the green flannel one; which ends up being true. Demons can communicate what they know to willing participants. And people burst into tears as they now believe that their uncle, who had nothing to do with Jesus Christ, or the gospel of Christ was safe on the other side.
Listen, divination and sorcery and communicating with the dead through channelers or spirit guides are all forbidden by God in His word (Deuteronomy 18).
They are not forbidden because they are make-believe; because they are just hocus-pocus. No, they are forbidden because there is a real spirit world and the forces of hell desire to deceive and destroy.
Yet, the average person believes in a spirit world where angels, or ghosts or demons or whatever you want to call them, live.
It’s a little frightening, but I’ve got my crystal hanging on my rear view mirror for good energy. I’ve got my shiny ball standing at my front door to ward off the bad energy. I’ve got just enough of religion to serve as a lucky rabbit’s foot in case I need it and I even have a picture of Jesus hanging up somewhere in the back room and I’ve got a big white Bible on the coffee table for good measure.
And isn’t it reassuring that the spirit guides communicated in that woman’s vision, “We love you and we are always with you.”
Ladies and Gentlemen, the Bible presents an entirely different picture.
Demons are destroyers, accusers and deceivers and the day will come when God takes off their leash and gives them access to do to mankind what they really have wanted to do all along.
Torment the believer and kill the unbeliever lest they repent and follow after God.
They, like their fallen leader are murderers from the beginning (John 8:44).
If we place our current study in Revelation in its broader context, the Antichrist has been ruling much of the known world for several years – demon empowered and Satan controlled.
He has attempted to hold the scepter of world power . . . but God continually unleashes world-wide calamities and disasters – earthquakes, pestilence, tsunamis, crashing asteroids, hail and fire from heaven; water turned to blood, shortened daylight hours and on and on which continue to hinder Antichrist’s hopes of creating and ruling a one-world utopia.
God in His mercy is still saving those who trust in Jesus Christ and refuse to follow Antichrist.
The judgments of God are increasing in their terror, more and more tormenting as seven archangels sound their seven trumpets of judgment.
And nothing has ever been experienced on earth like these events in Revelation chapter 9 – when the fifth trumpet blows – when God opens the Abyss and allows demons to invade the world of humanity.
The Abyss Unlocked
Let’s rejoin our study at chapter 9 and verse 1 as the fifth angel steps forward. Then the fifth angel sounded, and I saw a star from heaven which had fallen to the earth; and the key of the bottomless pit was given to him.
He was given, literally, the key to the opening of the abyss, translated – bottomless pit. There really is a bottomless pit – that phrase which you use sometimes to refer to your 13 year olds stomach.
It’s from the Greek word abussos (abussoV), which refers to the inability of man to fathom its depth. / Fritz Rienecker/Cleon Rogers, Linguistic Key to the Greek New Testament (Regency, 1976), p. 832
The Apostle John uses words to describe it as a deep cavern, connected to the earth’s surface by a “shaft” with a lid on it that no one but God has the key to open. / Adapted from Robert L. Thomas, Revelation: Volume 2 (Moody Press, 1995), p. 28
This has led some to speculate that hell is in the center of the earth.
This isn’t talking about Hell, but about the Abyss – where millions of demons are being held by God, awaiting this very hour of torment.
Remember when the demons left the demonized man, they begged the Lord not to send them into the Abyss (Luke 8:31). That is, don’t incarcerate us with other demons.
By the way, hell isn’t occupied by humans yet – the unbelievers who’ve died are awaiting their final judgment in Hades; they will eventually be taken to the lake of fire – eternal hell – where Hades will be emptied and all unbelievers will be placed for eternal punishment. (Revelation 20:14-15).
Just as Hades is the preliminary place of suffering for unbelievers, the Abyss is the preliminary place of incarceration for many fallen angels – otherwise known as demons – who await God’s commands and God’s final judgment. / William Barclay, The Revelation of John: Volume 2 (Westminster Press, 1976), p. 47
That’s why you will read about demons being bound temporarily in the Abyss in Revelation 9; in chapter 11:7, and chapter 20:1.
The question needs to be asked, “Who is this star given the key to open the Abyss?”
Notice the phrase in verse 1, “I saw a star from heaven which had fallen to the earth.” The perfect tense of the verb translated, “had fallen” informs us that John didn’t see the star fall, but that it had fallen sometime in the past and was already on earth when John sees him.
And I say “him” and not “it”, because it’s a living being – note verse 1b, a key was given to him. 2. He opened the bottomless pit.
I believe this star is Satan himself.
- Which fits perfectly with the language of Isaiah who writes of the fall of Satan through his rebellion, “How have you fallen from heaven, O star of the morning . . . you have been cut down to the earth.” (Isaiah 14:12)
- Jesus Christ said plainly, I watched Satan fall from heaven like lightning. (Luke 10:18)
- Job referred to the angels prior to the fall of Satan as “morning stars” who sang together and shouted for joy at the creation of the universe by God. (Job 38:7)
This one is Satan who is now given the key to open the Abyss.
We know the giver of the key to be our Lord who earlier in chapter 1 of Revelation was revealed as the one who holds the keys to Death and Hades (Revelation 1:18)
Satan is now given the key to open the Abyss and release this hoard of demonic beings which John will have to resort to simile in order to describe.
Notice verse 2. He opened the bottomless pit – the Abyss – and smoke went up out of the pit, like the smoke of a great furnace; and the sun and the air were darkened by the smoke of the pit. 3. Then out of the smoke came locusts upon the earth, and power was given them, as the scorpions of the earth have power, 4. They were told not to hurt the grass of the earth, nor any green thing, nor any tree, but only the men who do not have the seal of God on their foreheads.
There has been enough time elapsed between the first four trumpets, and this trumpet for foliage to re-grow to some extent.
The point is, these demons are only allowed to attack humans who are not sealed by God as His own.
This could be a reference to the 144,000 Jewish evangelists only, or at this point in the Tribulation, it could refer to all other believers who have come to place their trust in Christ after the rapture and who have survived this far in the Tribulation.
Actually, even those who do not believe in Christ will be spared death. Notice verse. 5. And they were not permitted to kill anyone, but to torment for five months; and their torment was like the torment of a scorpion when it stings a man. 6. And in those days, men will seek death – that is, they’ll want to die – but will not find it; they will long to die, and death flees from them.
This judgment will be so terrifying and painful that people will try to kill themselves.
The Suffering Unimaginable
You might be tempted to think – this is only gonna last for 5 months. When 5 months are up, these demons are evidently commanded back to the Abyss where they will wait until called again.
You might think, it’s only 5 months. Listen, five months is a long time if you’re waiting for something exciting to happen; but it’s an eternity if you’re waiting for something terrible to end! / Adapted from Gordon, p. 210
To the human race, it will seem that this never ends and so they try to end their lives, but John records, death flees from them.
The pistol won’t fire; the knife will break; invisible forces will keep them from jumping off tall building; they’ll float when the land in the river and survive; poison won’t work and any other method of suicide will fail as unsaved humanity longs to die but are not allowed to.
And little wonder they try . . . notice John’s description of this demon terror from the Abyss.
In fact, get your pencil ready because 10 times, John will resort to using the word “like” and “appeared to be”. In other words, John will use similes to describe this supernatural scene with familiar analogies. / John MacArthur, Revelation: Volume 1 (Moody Press, 1999), p. 262
Notice verse 7. The appearance of the locusts was like horses prepared for battle; and on their heads appeared to be crowns like gold, and their faces were like the faces of men – in other words, this wasn’t just some strange animal or freak of nature – something the State Fair would put in a booth and charge you a dollar to stare at.
These were creatures whose human like faces revealed the shocking truth that these are demonic creatures with intelligence and emotion and rationale and intent and strategy and organization and desire to inflict pain.
By the way, the ability of demons to assume all kinds of material forms will be further illustrated in this Book. In chapter 16, demons will take on the appearance of frogs. / Thomas, p. 30
John writes further in verse 8. They had hair like the hair of women – in other words, long hair.
They probably looked to John much like the Parthian warriors in ancient times who grew their hair long – not out of effeminacy, but intimidation - it was startling and unusual, which made them appear only more fierce and intimidating. / Kendell H. Easley, Holman New Testament Commentary: Revelation (Holman, 1998), p. 158
Verse 8 again, “And their teeth were like the teeth of lions. 9. They had breastplates like breastplates of iron; and the sound of their wings was like the sound of chariots, of many horses rushing to battle. 10. They have tails like scorpions, and stings; and in their tails is their power to hurt men for five months.
This is no science fiction movie.
Some have tried to lessen the strangeness of this judgment by interpreting these as missile spitting helicopters and tanks, whose bullets sting.
There isn’t any reason to interpret this any other way than plainly – at face value.
The demons will assume the form of a most terrifying, painful, destructive creature and will be given God-delegated time to chase, corner, bite, sting and terrorize the human race.
And the world will finally know the truth of their spirit guides. The demons will have taken off their mask of love and concern.
There will be no more, “we love you and we want to help you”!
The truth about the demonic world’s hatred and bloodlust and destructive intent is now unveiled.
The truth will be out and in the open. They hate the special, immortal creation of God – that can commune with Him and is loved by Him - the human being.
And allowed by God, these demons will do as much as He allows.
Don’t miss this . . . demons only operate under Divine permission and for Divine purposes. / Sam Gordon, Revelation: Worthy Is The Lamb(Ambassador, 2000), p. 308
They are the puppet servants of God.
- Note again verse 1 – the key was given to him (Satan) – he didn’t have the key and couldn’t get it if he wanted to – it was given to him;
- Verse 3 – power was given to them – delegated, temporary power;
- Verse 4 – they were told not to hurt foliage;
- And in verse 5 – they were not permitted to kill anyone.
Our Sovereign Lord is firmly is in total control of even the demons, even though it seems that the earth is, at this moment, totally controlled by them.
By the way, this is true not only in the future Tribulation, but in your present tribulation.
Your world might be in total chaos, but God is in total control of the chaos. He knows how long it will last – 5 hours, 5 months . . . or perhaps 5 years.
In your times of tribulation – this is true as well – God has determined the depth of pain and the extent of its sting – he has told it to go only so far and no further.
Even in total chaos, Jesus Christ is in total control.
Even though your world right now might be unsettled, God is not unseated!
Even now - Although this world with devils filled
Would threaten to undo us
We will not fear for God hath willed
His truth to triumph through us.
A Mighty Fortress is our God, by Martin Luther; translated by Frederick H. Hedge
No sooner have the scorpion demons been recalled to the Abyss, that another, even more terrifying army of demons prepare to gallop throughout the earth.
The Euphrates Unchained
Verse 13. Then the sixth angel sounded, and I heard a voice form the four horns of the golden altar which is before God, 14. one saying to the sixth angel who had the trumpet, “Release the four angels who are bound at the great river Euphrates.” 15. And the four angels, who had been prepared for the hour and day and month and year, were released, so that they would kill a third of mankind..
The river Euphrates is prominent in scripture. It is the dividing line between east and west, between what we call the Near East and the Far East. / Phillips, p. 130
- It was the Euphrates that flowed out of the Garden of Eden.
- It was near the Euphrates where Satan tempted and beguiled Adam and Eve.
- It was near the Euphrates where the first murder occurred;
- It was hear where earth’s miseries were first introduced;
- It was here where the first martyr for righteousness was killed;
- It was here the Jews lived out their bitter exile
- It was here that Babylon was built;
- It is here that the kingdom of Antichrist will be rebuilt;
- And it is here where four powerful demons are unchained and released to kill mankind. / Adpated from Phillips, p. 130 and Gordon, p. 214
Now some would say that these are good angels and not fallen angels because they seem to be similar to the 4 angels at the corners of the earth in chapter 7.
However, you noticed that these angels are bound – the verb indicates that this has been their condition for some time. / Rienecker/Rogers, p. 833
Besides that, you never find in scripture any reference to good angels ever being bound.
These are fallen angels who have been kept bound until this divinely appointed time for them to perform as agents of God’s wrath. / Thomas, p. 43
Again – God commands even the fallen demonic world to deliver the torment of His wrath.
The Destruction Unstoppable
If you thought locusts with human heads and long hair and sharp teeth were strange enough, put on your seatbelt for these horsemen from Hell.
16. The number of the armies of the horsemen was two hundred million, and I heard the number of them.
In other words, if you think I was mistaken or just took a wild guess, I actually heard that number used in reference to this army.
By the way, this is not some foreign army from the east. This is not the Battle of Armageddon where the Kings of the East will march on Israel – that comes later.
Further, I don’t know of any secret weapon of war some country is breeding that looks like this animal that breathes fire and smoke.
They is demonic . . . supernatural . . . and even more distinctive, they are indestructible.
Notice verse 17, I saw in the vision the horses and those who sat on them; the riders had breastplates the color of fire – that is fiery red; and of hyacinth – deep smoky blue; and of brimstone – which is from the word theiwdes (qeiwdhV) which happens to be yellow. / Rienecker/Rogers, p. 833
17b. And the heads of the horses are like the heads of lions; and out of their mouths proceed fire and smoke and brimstone. 18. And a third of mankind was killed by these three plagues, but the fire and the smoke and the brimstone which proceeded out of their mouths.
So here come these charging stallions with heads that looks like lions but who also have the ability to breath fire out of their mouths like the dragons long extinct now, described in the Book of Job.
That’s not all . . . notice verse 18. For the power of the horses is in their mouths and in their tails; for their tails are like serpents and have heads, and with them they do harm.
Somehow their tails have the ability to bite like a serpent.
Talk about a weapon of mass destruction.
Now when John saw this vision, remember there weren’t 200 million people living on the earth. That’s probably why he adds the commentary for his readers, “I actually heard this number verified . . . I knew some of you wouldn’t believe it.”
Consider the fact that in World War II, the greatest number of soldiers the United States had at one time was twelve million. Here is a demonic army of 200 million, each one riding a strange creature and they gallop in to terrorize and kill 1/3rd of the rest of the people on the planet still alive. / Adrian Rogers, Revelation: Unveiling the End Times in Our Time (Broadman, 2004), p. 121
By the way, none of this is to purify the church. It is to hurt mankind – (verse 10) and to kill mankind (verse 15).
By the time you’ve taken enough of these verses at face value and simply and plainly interpreted the text without any mental or grammatical gymnastics, you can easily see why the Apostle John wanted the church in Revelation chapter 3 to know they would be taken out of and away from this coming hour of tribulation. They wouldn’t be here.
The church has never been and will never be purified by demons.
But just imagine this terror . . . like the creatures that ride into battle in Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings – with bodies that run as fast as horses and teeth that can kill as quickly as their riders can kill . . . these demons and their animals will look like they are armored with fire – equipped with flame throwers that will kill everyone in their path.
And remember, already, 25% of the world’s population has died during the first four seals . . . millions more were martyred for their newfound faith in Christ . . . still more died from drinking embittered water in a previous trumpet judgment and now 1/3rd of those remaining alive are killed by demons and their fire breathing animals upon which they ride.
Add up the numbers and we’ve got at last 50% of the world’s population who’ve died so far in the tribulation – in a matter of only a few years. / Gordon, p. 215
With that in mind, you would imagine those remaining alive would say to the Antichrist, some Messiah you are . . . some world ruler you are.
Instead, they remain under his spell, having been abandoned by God to believe the delusion of Antichrist’s lies . . .notice their response in verse 20.
The Rebellion Unmitigated
Verse 20. The rest of mankind, who were not killed by these plagues, did not repent of the works of their hands, so as not to worship demons, and the idols of gold and of silver and of brass and of stone and of wood, which can neither see nor hear nor walk; 21. And they did not repent of their murders, nor of their sorceries, nor of their immorality, nor of their thefts.
In spite of it all, their rebellion is unmitigated. Their hearts are not softened, they are hardened.
Five Sins are clung to, John records:
- Idolatry - Mankind will still cling to their idol antichrist and worship the demon world and the natural world. As unbelievable as it may seem, men and women will remain committed to earth and nature rather than the Creator.
- Murders – gone is all value of human life. They are surrounded by decaying corpses and the think nothing of adding to their number. It is the law of the jungle as people mimic the demon bloodlust
- Sorceries – this word comes from the word – farmakeia (farmakeia) – which gives us our word pharmacy or pharmaceuticals. It’s the word for drugs. The word has an elastic use and can be used for incantations, charms, séances, witchcraft, contacting mediums, amulets and spells. / MacArthur, p. 272
- John also mentions unrepentant immorality – this word is porneia (porneia); the root word which gives us pornography. It’s a general term for sexual relations of any kind outside of marriage. Imagine, even in the face of death, even having survived scorpion demons and fire breathing demon riders, mankind will cling to sexual addictions . . . pornography . . . adulteries and drug fixes as he abandons himself to the lusts of the flesh.
- Finally, John mentions that people will be unwilling to give up their thieving. The word used has to do with stealing.
Morality and honesty will be nonexistent as people compete for the scarce supplies of food, clothing, water and shelter and even medicine. / Ibid, p. 274
Stealing will literally become a way of life.
This is a grim picture indeed, isn’t it?
However, I believe a chapter like this can accomplish several responses in the believer’s life:
- It can increase our appreciation for the sovereignty of God.
He remains enthroned and in control.
- It magnifies for us the mercy of God.
Yes, mercy and grace. He could easily move to wipe mankind from the face of the earth in one sweep of His hand . . . yet He will take several years to warn humanity and warn them and warn and warn and warn them again and again.
By giving glimpses of His wrath and showing people the terrors of Hell that await those who rebel against Him He invites them to be rescued.
It is a chapter that says, “There is not hope but in Christ, so run into His mercy!”
- It reminds us of the reality and seriousness of the demonic world
It’s a real world. It is a limited world dependent on the permission of God but it is real . . . and it can be vicious.
It isn’t something you play with or dabble in. In fact, in this chapter, vicious bloodthirsty demons will hold the world hostage.
Let this be an invitation today to all who do not believe in Christ to run to Him. Run to Him . . . He’s your only hope!
And those who do believe in Christ alone thank Him . . . thank Him that this will never be your experience in life – and never in the life to come.