Revelation 9:11 reads, “And 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.”
I looked up "Apollyon" in my Greek-English dictionary and discovered that the name meant "the destroyer." That got me thinking. It reminded me of the reading I'd been doing in Exodus about the ten plagues God instituted against Egypt in order to rescue His people. I was reminded that in the last plague, in the deaths of all the firstborn not protected by the blood of a lamb, there had been mention made of "the destroyer."
In all my growing up years, I had heard this story told in Sunday School time and time again, and it seems to me that "the destroyer" was always called, "the angel of death" or "the death angel" in those Sunday School tellings. Because he was called an “angel,” I had somehow always had the impression that "the destroyer" was one of God's angels, a non-fallen angel, I mean.
Or maybe I had gained that impression by reading Exodus 12 and noticing verse twelve, "For I will pass through the land of Egypt on that night, and will strike all the firstborn in the land of Egypt, both man and beast; and against all the gods of Egypt I will execute judgment: I am the LORD," or verse twenty-three, "For the LORD will pass through to strike the Egyptians ..." or verse twenty-nine, "And it came to pass at midnight that the LORD struck all the firstborn in the land of Egypt ..." Hmmm! You can probably see why I had the impression that striking the unprotected firstborn in the land of Egypt was God's doing.
And yet ...
I quoted only part of Exodus 12:23 for you. It's a very pivotal verse in any discussion on the Passover. Let me quote all of it to you. "For the LORD will pass through to strike the Egyptians; and when He sees the blood on the lintel and on the two doorposts, the LORD will pass over the door and not allow the destroyer to come into your houses to strike you." (There is more to be said on the subject of Exodus 12:23 and an amazing, prophetic picture it paints, but I can't say it all here. That will be material for the next article.)
So, who was the destroyer in Exodus 12:23? Was “the destroyer” one of God's servants? Let's go back to Revelation 9 in an attempt to answer that question. After reading about Abaddon and Apollyon in Revelation 9, I expected to look up Exodus 12:23 in the Hebrew and find the name "Abaddon" used in that verse for "the destroyer." The Hebrew word used in Exodus 12:23, however, is a different word in the Hebrew. It's a form of the word, “shachath.” So, I wondered if perhaps "the destroyer" in Exodus 12 might be different from Abaddon in Revelation 9. Maybe the destroyer in Exodus 12 was one of God's angels? Maybe "shachath" and "abaddon" were two entirely unrelated concepts. I decided to do a word study on "shachath" as well as on "abaddon" and learned some very interesting information.
I learned that "shachath" (or some variation on that root) often means "pit" in some places. I'll quote three. "He made a pit and dug it out, and has fallen into the ditch which he made" (Ps. 7:15). "The nations have sunk down in the pit which they made; in the net which they hid, their own foot is caught" (Ps. 9:15). "Whoever digs a pit will fall into it, and he who rolls a stone will have it roll back on him" (Prov. 26:27). In all of those verses, "shachath" is used to describe the destruction that comes on those who plan their own destruction by planning the destruction of someone else.
But it's interesting, isn't it, that the Hebrew root "shachath" sometimes translated "destruction" or "the destroyer" can also be a pit? I mean, where in Revelation 9 do we see a pit? Right, Abaddon or Apollyon is the “angel” of the bottomless pit.
Then I discovered that, like the relationship between “shachath” and “pit,” something similar happens with "abaddon" and “destruction.” "Abaddon" and "sheol" (the place of the dead -- sometimes the grave) are paired in Job 26:6, 28:22, Ps. 88:11, Prov. 15:11, 27:20. In these verses when it's coupled with "sheol," "abaddon" (always translated "destruction" in these verses in the New King James) is also, like sheol, a place of the dead. "Sheol" and "abaddon" are translated in the two Proverbs verses as "hell and destruction" and appear to be synonymous.
So what's my point? Just this: abaddon and shachath, both carrying the idea of destruction or the destroyer, are also used as names for the place of destruction -- the pit of Revelation 9. After my little word study, I was convinced that "the destroyer" of Exodus 12:23 and "Abaddon" of Revelation 9 are one and the same being. And that being is not God's angel. Not anymore. That being is the angel of the bottomless pit. A fallen angel. Most likely, Satan himself is the destroyer.
But what about the other verses I pointed out to you in Exodus 12 that told us that God was responsible for destroying the lives of the firstborn in Egypt?
Here's my best guess: the Lord was willing to take the credit (or the blame, however you'd like to look at it) for slaying all the unprotected firstborn in Egypt because HE IS THE ONE IN CONTROL. No question about it! Nothing can happen outside of His permission. And He permits only what He can use for good as part of His good plan. Yet, I believe we can see from Exodus 12:23 that, while the Lord struck the firstborn, He used an instrument of destruction to do it, and that instrument of destruction was called, "the destroyer."
We see something similar happening in an apparent contradiction between 2 Samuel 24:1, "Again the anger of the LORD was aroused against Israel, and He moved David against them to say,'Go number Israel and Judah.' " (And a terrible plague follows.) 1 Chronicles 21:1, on the other hand, says, "Now Satan stood up against Israel, and moved David to number Israel."
Then there was Job. We know, from our behind-the-scenes look that it was really Satan who was directly responsible for all the destruction in Job's life. Yet, God, at the end of the book of Job, comes along and seems to take all the credit (or blame) for what had happened to Job. He doesn't bother to explain to Job then and there that it was all Satan's doing. And maybe that's because even Satan can only cause as much destruction as he's allowed. And God is in control of His universe, however much it looks as though it's run amuck.
A little later on in Revelation 9 (verse fourteen) we read about four angels who are “bound” at the Euphrates. They are released after the sounding of the “sixth trumpet” (Rev. 9:13) – released to destroy a third of mankind. Again, from the word "angel" I had the vague notion that these were God's angels. Through working on this study, however, I've come to rethink that position.
For one thing, there seems to be a definite theme happening throughout the six trumpets of Revelation 9 that the destruction on earth is being caused directly by Satan and his forces. Then, there's the fact that these angels are "bound" (until they're released). I don't believe God's angels are ever bound. Except, I suppose, by their own desire to do God's will. (But being able to do what we've chosen to do is generally known as freedom.) So in their choice to serve only God, God's angels are free.
On the other hand, Satan and his angels are the ones who are bound. They are not free to follow all their desires. They can and must do only what they're given permission to do. 2 Peter 2:4 and Jude 6 talk about the fallen angels being delivered into "chains of darkness, to be reserved for judgment."
So, it looks to me like the war being fought in Revelation 9 that kills a third of mankind (and the other destruction of Revelation 9 as well as the general destruction of the earth and its inhabitants in the book of Revelation) is demonically-inspired.
And that only makes sense. Destruction is not in God's nature though He will destroy (or allow Satan to destroy) as is necessary for His own purposes. Destruction has become the very nature of God's enemy. So much so that he and his natural abode have come to be synonymous -- Abaddon, Destruction; Shachath, Pit. As heaven IS God, His very presence makes heaven, so the willful turning away from His presence and His desires creates destruction and hell. When Satan rejected God's rightful control, he was destroyed by his own choices. And now can do nothing but destroy.
To go back again to the verses I quoted to you earlier from Psalms and Proverbs that have the word "shachath" in them, can you see that the point of every one of them is that destruction comes upon those bent upon destruction? But it is destruction they have heaped upon themselves. Like Satan, we are the makers of our own demise. Destruction is not in God's nature. His nature is the opposite. It is creative. It is life-bringing and life-sustaining. Yet when we reject that wonderful, heavenly nature and banish ourselves from His presence, destruction will and must follow. There's no other way it could be.
There's another very important verse I'd like you to notice from Revelation 9. "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" (Rev. 9:20, emphasis mine). People don't realize that choosing to worship any other god than the One True God is really choosing to serve Satan and his demons. They believe they are only serving themselves (which they believe is freedom), but they are really acting in obedience to the one who originally chose not to worship God and, since those days, has been trying to get all of humanity to join him in that decision. And serving any other god brings captivity. Even those other "gods" are captives. Even they cannot serve only themselves.
I believe we're seeing, from Revelation 9:20, that God is giving humanity at large what they've always asked Him for. Humanity at large has told God, "We will not serve you." By so doing, they've chosen to turn themselves over to God's enemy and his legions. In the seven years of tribulation, God releases Satan and his forces to do what they will (though still within limits) with their rightful property -- all those who have rejected God and by so doing, have chosen to serve Satan and his forces.
The demonic "locusts" of Revelation 9:2-3 were turned loose out of their prison. The four angels are "released" from their bonds. In short, Satan has much greater reign on earth in the last seven years of life on earth, and a great deal of the book of Revelation is devoted to showing us what things look like when Satan is allowed greater control over earth. The word that sums it all up is simply “destruction.”
Who could possibly choose Satan and his destruction over the life that God offers? Quite a lot of people, actually, if history and present-day observation is any indicator.
An excerpt taken from "Revelation Plus," an online Bible Study by Connie Cook