levels of meaning
Scenes under the 5th and 6th trumpet calls are interpreted in two quite different ways. One describes a range of history and one, the end time. In fact, many Bible scholars have seen all the trumpet calls as historic. We will not discuss the earlier trumpets in this respect because the idea seems to lack merit.
In studying the opening of the seals, we found a layered pattern of meaning similar to what we will discuss here, re06a. There the white horse represented the early pure church and the red horse the early apostate church which opposed it. We concluded that these two horses, at another level, represented the righteous and the wicked who will be dead when Christ returns and who will be judged first. The other two horses would then be the end-time true and false churches — the people in judgment who will be living near the end of time.
This commentary holds that the trumpet calls are messages against the series of apostasies of NT (New Testament) times; and that the fifth describes the brief end-time persecution of the remnant while the sixth describes the punishment of the end-time wicked. We do not rule out possible overlaps among the trumpet messages.
To see the basic structure and purpose of the trumpet calls, I have prepared a table, re08-T. Next we will broaden our focus on the fifth trumpet.
|.Re 9:1 ¶ And the fifth angel sounded, and I saw a star fall from heaven unto the earth: and to him was given the key of the bottomless pit.||Star fall Lucifer was cast out of heaven re1208. See note a for this verse. It seems strange that he would have been given the key to the bottomless pit. Note b explains.|
|.2 And he opened the bottomless pit; and there arose a smoke out of the pit, as the smoke of a great furnace; and the sun and the air were darkened by reason of the smoke of the pit.||Opened the bottomless pit ... smoke Satan will eventually be destroyed ez2819. God allows him to reveal his true character so the universe will have no doubt about the divine justice. See the note for this verse below.|
|.3 And there came out of the smoke locusts upon the earth: and unto them was given power, as the scorpions of the earth have power.|| Locusts
A fit symbol for devastation in the Middle East. See note
a for this verse (on the next page).
Scorpions Why this characteristic? See note b.
|4 And it was commanded them that they should not hurt the grass of the earth, neither any green thing, neither any tree; but only those men which have not the seal of God in their foreheads.|| Not
hurt the grass Why kind of locusts would obey that command? See
Only [those without] the seal The final remnant are sealed in preparation of the blowing of the winds. Their final appeal to others will have been made and their faithfulness to God will be unshakable — sealed. re07.
|.5 And to them it was given that they should not kill them, but that they should be tormented five months: and their torment was as the torment of a scorpion, when he striketh a man.||Not kill [unsealed ones] but torment So the locusts have an assignment. Why five months? I understand the five months to be a symbol, not literal or prophetic time. See the notes.|
|.6 And in those days shall men seek death, and shall not find it; and shall desire to die, and death shall flee from them.||Seek death The situation, in different symbols, of those who called for rocks and mountains to fall on them. re0617. See the explanation.|
He was given the key
"And the fifth angel sounded, and I saw a star fall from heaven unto the earth: and to him was given the key of the bottomless pit." (Rev. 9:1).
Because Satan was given
the key, we may understand that he did not naturally have it. And in comparing
with Rev. 20:1 re2001, we see
that he will lose it. What would it mean for Satan to have the key?
The story of Job shows that he Satan had certain privileges in the court of heaven as a representative of this world. "Again there was a day when the sons of God came to present themselves before the LORD, and Satan came also among them to present himself before the LORD. And the LORD said unto Satan, From whence comest thou? And Satan answered the LORD, and said, From going to and fro in the earth, and from walking up and down in it. . . ." (Job 2:1ff). re20.
Of course the experience of Job is only an example of the access granted to Satan. The key here in Revelation 9 would be given at a different time in history, when he would have access to his whole arsenal of hatred and destruction.
"And when the dragon saw that he was cast unto the earth, he persecuted the woman which brought forth the man child. And to the woman were given two wings of a great eagle, that she might fly into the wilderness . . . from the face of the serpent. And the serpent cast out of his mouth water as a flood after the woman, that he might cause her to be carried away of the flood. And the earth helped the woman. . . . And the dragon was wroth [angry] with the woman, and went to make war with the remnant of her seed, which keep the commandments of God, and have the testimony of Jesus Christ." (Rev. 12:12-17).
The picture of Satan receiving
a key and opening the pit directs us to ask when this will happen. I believe
it is the time of the passage just quoted — the time at the end of chapter
12, when Satan will be poised for his final attack against the remnant
of the woman's descendants, 1217a.
As we see in our present chapter and elsewhere, Satan goes to make war
to destroy the saints, but without anyone knowing, probation closes and
the saints are preserved. Then trouble begins for the wicked. When Satan's
defiance is fully ripe, Michael stands and the time of trouble begins (6th
trumpet). We see here (5th trumpet) the saints terrorized in anticipation
of the wrath of the dragon. Under the 7th trumpet. God takes charge of
the kingdom. These are the three woes.
We will not understand it all clearly until it happens, but studying ahead will give us a framework. Our job is to be ready and, now, to help others be ready. We will learn more looking at the events of the final three trumpet calls. I just wanted you to see the larger picture so you could examine the puzzle pieces for yourself as we set them in place.
If Satan unlocks the pit, the four angels must have released the winds
In other words, we see Satan using his key. Isn't God in control of this event? Let's review the story of the four angels. In response to the question of being able to stand in the day of the Lamb's wrath re0617, we see the four angels holding the winds until God's servants are sealed in their foreheads re0701. The servants are then safe from the blowing winds. Although Satan is granted some action, God is ultimately in control and protects the sealed ones.
The Greek in this case, reads phear tes abussou, literally, "pit of the abyss" or as in the NIV, "shaft of the Abyss." I like to think of it as "depths of the abyss." Where does this imagery come from? "In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth. And the earth was without form, and void; and darkness was upon the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters. And God said, Let there be light: and there was light." (Gen. 1:1-3).
"Deep" here is from the Hebrew, tehom. The Septuagint translators repeatedly used the Greek word, abussos, for the Hebrew tehom, confirming the relationship between the two terms. Deep and bottomless are essentially the same symbol drawn from the chaotic earth at the time God said "Let there be light" on the first day of creation ge0102.
Smoking furnace (still of the time of the fifth angel)
"And the fifth angel sounded, and I saw a star fall from heaven unto the earth. . . And he opened the bottomless pit; and there arose a smoke out of the pit, as the smoke of a great furnace; and the sun and the air were darkened by reason of the smoke of the pit." (Rev. 9:1, 2)
Why like a furnace?
The furnace smoke directs our thoughts to the classic story of king Nebuchadnezzar's intention throw three faithful Hebrews into an extremely hot furnace because they refused to bow to his image. Read the story from da0316ff. The test of the righteous at the end of time draws its symbolism from this ancient test of the three Hebrews re1315a. We will see that the time of the fifth trumpet angel is the time of test for God's end-time faithful ones. Consider the smoking furnace opened by Satan as parallel to Nebuchadnezzar's furnace.
"And he [the fallen star] opened the bottomless pit; and there arose a smoke out of the pit, as the smoke of a great furnace; and the sun and the air were darkened by reason of the smoke of the pit." (Rev. 9:2).
From other references to darkness 1jo0106, is6001 we may understand that the darkness from the smoke obscures the light of God's truth. The celestial light sources were partially darkened under the fifth trumpet call, re0812a. Here the darkness is complete for the wicked — those who have refused light permanently cease to want it.
We recall first the awesome time when God revealed His law from Mount Sinai ex1916-8. There smoke and fire ascended from the mountain like smoke from a furnace. Could Satan's smoke from the pit be a counterfeit of the revelation of God's law, His great standard of righteousness? I believe it is. In our verse, Satan has just received the key to the pit, and, smoke rises in full fury as he demands worship that recognizes his own authority re1407e.
The air, too, is darkened by smoke from the pit. In a literal situation smoke in the air not only makes it difficult to see (like understanding truth). It also makes it hard to breathe (to be guided by the Holy Spirit). By refusing the call of the Spirit, the final wicked will have closed their own probation jn0308, 2th0210, ge0603.
discussing the Sun of Righteousness (Christ)
Why were these elements darkened by the smoke? In a physical sense we can understand, but what is the symbolic significance?
The pure woman who is pursued by the dragon in chapter 12 was clothed with the sun re1201. It was the "sun of righteousness" mal0402 or "the Lord our righteousness." je3316. What special way has God given for us to receive that righteousness? "Moreover also I gave them my sabbaths, to be a sign between me and them, that they might know that I am the LORD that sanctify them." (Ezek. 20:12). The yearly ceremonial sabbaths were rest days for God's people in recognition for His power to make them holy through the coming Messiah. The weekly sabbath does not point to the coming Messiah but is a more important time for growing in Christ, for receiving His righteousness. It points, not to the cross but to Christ's creative power ge0201ff. We rest because He worked. Our righteousness — our holiness — is not manufactured by our work. It is His work of re-creation in us ph0213. This is the truth of righteousness by faith in the Sun of Righteousness which is nurtured in our Sabbath-rest relationship. We may expect this principle to be obscured during the chaos of the opened pit preceding the time of trouble. We may expect Satan to obscure truth and make a counterfeit of resting in Christ.