Revelation Chapters 8 and 9, Part 2
by Karl Kemp
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We continue this verse-by-verse study of Revelation chapters 8 and 9 here in Part 2, starting with Rev. 8:12.
(12) The fourth angel sounded, and a third of the sun and a third of the moon and a third of the stars were struck, so that a third of them would be darkened and the day would not shine for a third of it, and the night in the same way. [[The darkening by a third goes with the "third" factor of the first six trumpets. It's not clear exactly what will happen here, but it shouldn't be difficult to recognize when it comes to pass, especially with it coming to pass in sequence after the first three trumpets. This probably just means that a third of the light coming from the sun, moon, and stars to the earth will be blocked out (darkened) somehow under the fourth trumpet. Surely it will be obvious that something unusual (apparently supernatural) is happening.
Some believe this speaks of a partial eclipse (which seems rather complicated when applied to the sun, moon, and stars). Others speak of the light being blocked out for a third part of the day (like for four hours) and for a third part of the night. (This view also seems rather complicated, but God certainly could do it this way.) This partial darkening foreshadows/anticipates the somewhat complete darkening of the sun, moon, and stars that will come to pass in the middle of Daniel's 70th week (cf. Isa. 13:10; Joel 2:31; 3:14; Zeph. 1:15; Matt. 24:29; Mark 13:24; Luke 21:25; and Rev. 6:12). Also, under the fifth bowl of wrath, the kingdom of Antichrist will be darkened (Rev. 16:10, 11). It doesn't seem that anyone will be harmed, much less die, under the fourth trumpet.]] (13) Then I looked, and I heard an eagle flying in midheaven, saying with a loud voice, 'Woe, woe, woe to those who dwell on the earth, because of the remaining blasts of the trumpet of the three angels who are about to sound!' [[The warning judgment of the fifth angel is called the "first woe" in "Rev. 9:12. (No one will die under the fifth trumpet.) The intense judgment of the sixth judgment is called the second woe (Rev. 11:14), and the seventh trumpet, with its very extensive judgments, is called the "third woe" (Rev. 11:14). Many glorious things will also come to pass under the sounding of the seventh trumpet, including the return of Christ; the resurrection and rapture; and the salvation of the end-time remnant of Israel.]]
Now we'll start Revelation chapter 9, starting with the first verse.
Then the fifth angel sounded [his trumpet], and I saw a star from heaven which had fallen to the earth [This fallen "star" is an evil angel (cf. Rev. 12:4, 7-9; 8:10, 11; and 1:20).]; and the key of the bottomless pit [As the margin of the NASB points out, the Greek literally has, "the key of the shaft of the abyss." The NIV has, "the key to the shaft of the Abyss." The English word "abyss" comes from the Greek "abussos," which was also used in Luke 8:31; Rom. 10:7; Rev. 9:2, 11; 11:7; 17:8; and 20:1, 3.] was given to him. [With this key the "star" could now open the shaft of the abyss. The fact that the key, which ultimately came from God, was given to this fallen star shows that God is in control, including the timing. God often uses evil beings in His end-time judgment of the world. We'll discuss this point further when we discuss His use of four evil angels under the sixth trumpet (Rev. 9:14, 15).] (2) He opened the bottomless pit ["the shaft of the abyss"], and smoke went up out of the pit [shaft], like the smoke of a great furnace; and the sun and the air were darkened by the smoke of the pit [shaft]. [[The fact that John saw smoke come out of the shaft of the abyss that darkened the sun and the air doesn't necessarily mean that the sun and air will be darkened when the fifth trumpet sounds in the last days. These words regarding the sun and air being darkened by smoke demonstrate, however, that it's Biblical to think of the sun being darkened by smoke that blocks out the light coming from the sun to the earth. The sun itself isn't actually darkened.
This confirms that it's reasonable to say that the darkening of the sun and moon at the time the Lord Jesus returns in the middle of Daniel's 70th week (e.g., Joel 2:31; Matt. 24:29, 30; Mark 13:24-26; and Rev. 6:12) will be caused by the smoke and dust generated during the intense warfare of the sixth trumpet/of the short great tribulation (e.g., Joel 2:30; Matt. 24:21, 22; Mark 13:19, 20; Rev. 6:12 [the great shaking of Rev. 6:12 probably includes this intense warfare]; and Rev. 9:13-21 [note the smoke in 9:17, 18]). We will discuss these things under Rev. 9:13-21.]] (3) Then out of the smoke [which came up out of the shaft of the abyss] came locusts upon the earth [[A large number of locusts came into Egypt under the eighth plague (Ex. 10:1-20). Joel 1:1-2:27 are another important cross-reference for the locust attack of Rev. 9:1-11; these verses in Joel also are an important cross-reference for Rev. 9:13-21. Cross-references to Joel will demonstrate this fact as we continue. Exodus 10:1-20 and Joel 1:1-2:27 speak of an invasion by a large numbers of literal locusts, but it's clear (based on the description of the locusts) that the locusts of Rev. 9:1-11 aren't literal locusts. In agreement with many, I consider them to be demonic locusts. They come from the abyss, from the underworld. John saw these demonic locusts, but it's quite possible that these locusts won't be visibly present during the time of their attack.]], and power was given them, as the scorpions of the earth have power [see Rev. 9:5, 10]. (4) They were told not to hurt the grass of the earth [These directions ultimately came from God, who is in control. Apparently at least some of the grass that was burned up under the first trumpet (Rev. 8:7) will have been replaced by newly grown grass.], nor any green thing, nor any tree, but only the men who do not have the seal of God on their foreheads. [[In Rev. 7:1-8 we learned that the end-time elect remnant of Israel will be sealed on their foreheads for protection. They won't become Christians until after the rapture at the seventh and last trumpet, so they will need a special seal for protection during the sounding of the trumpets, especially during the events of the 6th trumpet. The Christians who will be living on the earth during the first half of Daniel's 70th week, in the days before the rapture when the trumpets will be sounding, won't need a special seal: As born-again Christians they have been sealed by God with the blood of Christ and with the Holy Spirit (cf. Eph. 1:13; 4:30; and 2 Cor. 1:22).]] (5) And they were not permitted to kill anyone, but to torment for five months [Compare Rev. 9:10. I assume that this locust attack will last for a literal five months.]; and their torment was like the torment of a scorpion when it stings a man [cf. Rev. 9:3, 10]. [[It's clear that this warning judgment will be powerful enough to get the attention of the world, and it's equally clear that this judgment is in the category of being a warning (of the fast approach of the day of judgment and of the need for repentance), with no one dying under this trumpet. The fact that these locusts won't be able to touch God's people, that it will follow in sequence after the first four trumpets, and that it will last for five months, etc. - just like the Bible said - will make this warning judgment all the more effective at getting the attention of people worldwide. It will be more effective yet if the two witnesses/prophets announce this trumpet before it sounds and/or speak of this warning judgment while it is taking place, which I assume will happen.]] (6) And in those days men will seek death and will not find it; they will long to die [cf. Job 3:21; 7:15; Jer. 8:3; and Rev. 6:16], and death flees from them. [I don't believe there's any idea intended that God will prevent people from committing suicide, etc. This verse apparently just emphasizes the fact that the torment that results from the sting of these demonic locusts will be quite severe. This will get the attention of the world.] (7) The appearance of the locusts was like horses prepared for battle [[Joel 2:4 says, "Their appearance is like the appearance of horses; And like war horses, so they run." I'll comment briefly on the background and meaning of Joel chapters 1, 2. Joel chapter 1 speaks of a literal invasion of locusts that came to Israel/Judah in the days of Joel. God, through Joel, called for the repentance of His people in the light of their dire straits, and in light of the fact that the day of the Lord was still coming (cf. Joel 1:15; 2:1, 11). Joel chapter 2 builds on the locust invasion of chapter 1 and warns of a mighty invasion (by gigantic armies of men) of the land of Israel/Judah in the last days, which is likened to an invasion of locusts, and of the need for repentance at that time (not that God's people are supposed to wait for signs before they repent). The last lines of Joel 2:19 ("And I will never again make you a reproach among the nations)"; of Joel 2:26 ("Then My people will never be put to shame"); and of Joel 2:27 ("And My people will never be put to shame") help demonstrate that Joel chapter 2 looks beyond the days of Joel to God's ultimate salvation of the end-time elect remnant of Israel. Joel chapter 2 has much application for the people of Joel's generation and subsequent generations too.
I believe the ultimate fulfillment of the invasion spoken of in Joel chapter 2 will come to pass with an invasion of very large armies (on the very large armies, see under Rev. 9:14-16) that will lead to the intense warfare of the sixth trumpet of the book of Revelation/of the short great tribulation that will be centered in that part of the world which includes Israel/Judah. We can see the effects of this warfare in Joel 2:30, "blood, fire and columns of smoke." Joel 2:31, 32 go on to say, "The sun will be turned into darkness And the moon into blood Before the great and awesome day of the LORD [Yahweh] comes. (32) And it will come about that whoever calls on the name of the LORD Will be delivered; For on Mount Zion and in Jerusalem There will be those who escape [referring to the end-time remnant of Israel, as in Dan. 12:1; Zech. 13:8, 9; 14:2 (These verses are all discussed in my book, "The Mid-Week Rapture," for one place)], As the LORD has said, Even among the survivors whom the LORD calls." On the intense warfare of the sixth trumpet and the darkening of the sun and moon, see under Rev. 9:13-21. The fifth trumpet with its invasion of "locusts" on the earth builds to some extent on Joel, but the sixth trumpet apparently builds even more on Joel.
I'll quote from Robert B. Chisholm's introduction to the book of Joel ("Bible Knowledge Commentary," Old Testament [Victor Books, 1985], pages 1410, 1411). I'll quote part of what he said under the heading, "The nature of the army in 2:1-11." "Some contend that the locust plague in Joel 1, or an even more severe wave of locusts, is described in 2:1-11. ...
A more likely interpretation is that a literal foreign army is envisioned. The account is patterned after that of chapter 1, the army being described in locust-like terms in many respects (cf. Hans W. Wolff, 'Joel and Amos,' p. 42). In this way the close relationship and continuity between the plague of chapter 1 and the army of chapter 2 is emphasized. Both were instruments of the Lord's judgment - one past, the other future. Locusts had come - more 'locusts' were coming!
Several observations may be made in support of this position.
(1) The locust plague of chapter 1 was past; the invasion of 2:1-11 was still future from Joel's vantage point (cf. also 1:15). Thus the two accounts cannot deal with the same event (Wolff, 'Joel and Amos,' pp. 6-7, 42). ...
(2) The army in 2:1-11 is called in 2:20 'the northern army' (literally, 'the northerner'). Locusts usually attack Palestine from the south or southeast, not from the north (though invasions from the north are not unknown; cf. Allen, 'The Books of Joel, Obadiah, and Micah,' p. 88). The designation 'northerner' more likely refers to a literal foreign army, since historical or eschatological armies are often described as invading Palestine from that direction (including Assyria, Isa. 14:25, 31; Babylon, Jer. 6:1, 22; 15:12; Ezek. 26:7; and Gog, Ezek. 38:15 [cf. Dan. 11:40-44, discussed in chapter 9 of my book, "The Mid-Week Rapture"]).
(3) The use of locust imagery in the description of the army in Joel 2 has parallels in the ancient Near East (cf. John A. Thompson, 'Joel's Locusts in the Light of Near Eastern Parallels,' 'Journal of Near Eastern Studies' 14. 1955:52-5." Chisholm continued with a fourth observation and further discussion.)]]; and on their heads appeared to be crowns like gold, and their faces were like the faces of men. (8) They had hair like the hair of women [probably meaning long hair], and their teeth were like the teeth of lions. [Joel 1:6, speaking of literal locusts says, "For a nation has invaded my land, Mighty and without number; Its teeth are the teeth of a lion, And it has the fangs of a lioness."] (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. [The NIV has, "and the sound of their wings was like the thundering of many horses and chariots rushing into battle." Joel 2:4b, 5 has, "And like war horses, so they run. With a noise as of chariots."] (10) They have tails like scorpions, and stings; and in their tails is their power to hurt men for five months. [Cf. Rev. 9:3, 5.] (11) They have as king over them, the angel of the abyss [On the abyss see under Rev. 9:1.]; his name in Hebrew is Abaddon [I.e., Destruction. Compare Job 31:12.], and in the Greek he has the name Apollyon [i.e., Destroyer]. [Apparently the king of these demonic locusts, the angel of the abyss, is an evil angel under Satan who has authority over the abyss. It's possible that the angel of the abyss is the same angel pictured in Rev. 9:1, 2, the one who received the key and opened the shaft of the abyss.] (12) The first woe is past; behold, two woes [the judgments of the sixth and seventh trumpets (cf. Rev. 8:13)] are still coming after these things. (13) [[These verses that deal with the sounding of the sixth trumpet are extremely important to a correct understanding of the end times. (They are discussed in some detail in my book, "The Mid-Week Rapture." For a brief overview see number 8 on page 14, and see pages 31, 32, and 131, 132. On the warfare of the sixth trumpet, see pages 137-143 [starting with Dan. 11:40] and pages 149-159 [under Dan. 12:1]. On when God's day of wrath begins, see note 24 on pages 308, 309. Much of what was said in my book will not be repeated here.)
The warfare of the sixth trumpet is also discussed in my eschatological paper on Matthew chapter 24. I'll quote what I said under Matt. 24:21, 22 to supplement this study of Rev. 9:13-21. (This is a lengthy excerpt that goes on for some three pages.) Matthew 24:21, 22 is the key passage in the New Testament that uses the words "great tribulation." For one thing, this excerpt mentions the three most important cross-references that will help us understand the warfare of the short great tribulation.
(Matt. 24:21) "for then there will be a [I would skip this "a" with the KJV, NKJV, and NIV.] great tribulation, such as has not occurred since the beginning of the world until now, nor ever shall. [[It's extremely important for us to understand the short great tribulation; however, from my point of view, very few do understand it (at the present time). We often hear that the final seven-year period (Daniel's 70th week) is the great tribulation, but that is clearly wrong: Matthew chapter 24 shows that it doesn't start until the time of the abomination of desolation, and it is clear that the abomination doesn't take place until the middle (I would say the approximate middle) of Daniel's 70th week (see Dan. 9:27; 12:11; both verses are discussed in my book, for one place). ("Then" at the beginning of Matt. 24:21 [and 24:16] refers to the time of the abomination.) Much more reasonable is the widespread viewpoint that the great tribulation refers to the second half of the seven-year period; however, I believe this view is also wrong.
For one thing, as discussed above (in this paper on Matthew chapter 24, and in my book under Dan. 9:27 and 12:11), the abomination of desolation will be initiated a month before the middle of the seven-year period. Furthermore, I believe Matt. 24:29 shows that the great tribulation (spoken of in 24:21, 22) will be over before the mid-week return of Christ. Note that Matt. 24:29 starts with the words "immediately after the tribulation of those days," referring back to the great tribulation. In Matt. 24:30, 31 we see the mid-week return of Christ with the clouds of the sky with power and great; a great trumpet; and the gathering of the saints in the rapture. (The primary passage that convinces me that the Lord Jesus will return right in the middle of Daniel's 70th week is Revelation chapters 11-13, which are discussed verse-by-verse in my book, "The Mid-Week Rapture.") It is also significant that the sun and moon's being darkened in Matt. 24:29 will be caused by all of the smoke and dust generated during the intense warfare of the short great tribulation (cf. Rev. 9:17, 18; Joel 2:30, 31).
I consider Rev. 9:13-21 to be the most important of the three cross-references that I'll mention here that enable us to begin to understand the short great tribulation. These verses describe what will happen when the sixth trumpet of Revelation sounds; they speak of very intense warfare, undoubtedly nuclear (and perhaps chemical and/or biological), that will take place in the general region that includes Israel. This trumpet will sound about the time of the abomination of desolation, about a month before the rapture.
The warfare described in Rev. 9:13-21, which constitutes at least the major part of the warfare of the short great tribulation, is a war between nations (not an attack against Christians; this is not to say that there won't be any such attacks during those days); this warfare (described in Rev. 9:13-21) seems to start with an attack against Antichrist and his armies by a gigantic army (it could be as large as two-hundred million soldiers) coming against him. This invasion of troops and intense warfare will certainly include staking out various claims for control of the land of Israel, and especially Jerusalem and the temple mount. We'll talk more about this warfare as we continue.
The nation Israel will suffer greatly during the one-month period between the abomination of desolation and the mid-week return of Christ. During this period they will apparently be reduced to a repentant remnant, ready (for the most part at least) to receive Christ Jesus when He comes. Based on Zech. 13:8 it seems that some two-thirds of the Israelites will be cut off and perish in those days. (See on Zech. 13:7-14:2 [pages 225-229 of "The Mid-Week Rapture"]; see on Dan. 12:1 [pages 149-159], and see on Zech. 12:1-14 [pages 221-224].)
Daniel 11:40-12:1 are another important cross-references for the warfare of the short great tribulation. Daniel 11:40-43 apparently deal with the preliminary warfare that leads up to the warfare of Rev. 9:13-21, and Dan. 11:44 apparently deals with the warfare of Rev. 9:13-21, in very brief form. The abomination of desolation will apparently take place at the time of the events of Dan. 11:41. The warfare of Dan. 11:41-43 can probably be considered part of the warfare of the great tribulation of Matt. 24:21, 22. Chapter 9 of my book, "The Mid-Week Rapture" deals with Daniel 11:36-45.
Daniel 12:1 is a very significant verse for the great tribulation. For one thing, there is widespread agreement that the very words of Matt. 24:21 regarding a time of unequaled great tribulation/distress, though not a word-for-word quotation, derive from the words of Dan. 12:1. See pages 149-151, 155, 156 of my book on Dan. 12:1.
Daniel chapter 12 (with Dan. 11:36-45) serves as a very strong confirmation of the fact that the rapture will take place right in the middle of Daniel's 70th week. The time of great tribulation/distress mentioned in Dan. 12:1 will be over by the middle of Daniel's 70th week. Daniel 12:7 shows that three and one-half very difficult years still remain (after the time of great tribulation) for the end-time remnant of Israel (cf. Dan. 7:21, 25; Rev. 13:5, 7). Daniel 12:2 speaks of the mid-week resurrection of God's people (not that you could tell that it will take place in the middle of Daniel's 70th week based on Dan. 12:2 by itself).
Further rather strong confirmation that the time of great tribulation is over and the resurrection (and rapture) takes place in the middle of the seven-year period is provided by Dan. 12:6, 7, which speak of "the man dressed in linen, who was above the waters of the river." This apparently refers to the Lord Jesus Christ (the Angel of the LORD [Yahweh]), seen in an exalted position above the earth (apparently relating to His coming in the clouds at the time of the rapture), at a time corresponding with the middle of Daniel's 70th week (in that He says that there are still three and one-half years to go). And last, I'll mention that Dan. 12:11 helps us see that the abomination of desolation will take place a month before the middle of Daniel's 70th week. To say the least, Daniel chapter 12 is a very important prophetic chapter. (These important points are all discussed in the two chapters of "The Mid-Week Rapture" that deal with Daniel chapter 12.) In my book, there is a section titled "The Time of the Sounding of the Seventh and Last Trumpet," starting on page 293. Under number 10 there, I discussed Daniel chapter 12 somewhat, but that discussion should be modified/expanded a little to include all that I have said in the last two paragraphs.
Revelation 7:14 must also be considered here since this verse speaks of "the great tribulation." These words undoubtedly build on Matt. 24:21. Revelation 7:14 is discussed in the verse-by-verse discussion of Revelation chapter 7 on this Christian article site.
Joel 2:30, which we'll discuss further below, is a third important cross-reference for the warfare of the short great tribulation. (I discussed the prophecy of Joel 2:30-32 above in this article.) This verse is doubly significant in that it mentions "columns of smoke." This smoke (and the dust) generated during the warfare of the great tribulation will undoubtedly cause the darkening of the sun and moon pictured in Matt. 24:29. It's significant that Rev. 9:17, 18 mention smoke too. (As mentioned above, Rev. 9:13-21 are the most important cross-reference for the warfare of the great tribulation.) It's significant that Joel 2:30, 31 specifically mention the darkening of the sun and moon, and that they show that this darkening will take place (just) before the day of the Lord begins. Now we'll continue with Matt. 24:22.]] (22) And unless those days had been cut short, no life would have been saved; but for the sake of the elect those days will be cut short. [[The "elect" are God's people, the Christians, but the elect here undoubtedly include those who will eventually become Christians (after the rapture), including the end-time remnant of the nation Israel. Because of the intensity of the warfare of the great tribulation (Revelation 9:15, 18 show that a third of mankind will be killed, which is overwhelming, even if this third probably deals with a third of a population substantially less than the total population of the earth), there wouldn't be any people left alive on the earth if these days weren't cut short in God's end-time plans.
Having now completed the excerpt from my paper under Matt. 24:21, 22, we'll continue with Rev. 9:13.]] (13) Then the sixth angel sounded [his trumpet], and I heard a voice from the four horns of the golden altar which is before God [[Revelation 8:3 spoke of the prayers of the saints (us believers) being offered before God on this golden altar. As we discussed under Rev. 8:2-5, it's significant that the trumpets are sounded (in part) in answer to our prayers. The fact that the voice that gives directions regarding the judgment of the sixth trumpet comes from the horns of this same golden altar reinforces that idea here. The judgments of the trumpets (including the sixth trumpet) are not coming against us (God's people). Revelation 9:20, 21 serve to confirm this important point. It's not clear who actually spoke (ultimately the voice reflects the will of God), but the voice somehow came from the horns of the golden altar. The altar itself could have spoken: Rev. 16:7 says, "And I heard the [sacrificial] altar saying, 'Yes, O Lord God, the Almighty, true and righteous are Your judgments.' "]],
We will finish this verse-by-verse study of Revelation chapters 8, 9 in Part 3, starting with Rev. 9:14.
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