What does Revelation 9 mean?
Chapter Commentary:
John's Revelation from Jesus has shown God's judgment on the earth, first symbolized as the opening of seven seals, and now as the blowing of seven trumpets. Chapter 8 described the last seal, which inaugurated the trumpets. The first four resulted in catastrophic destruction to trees and grasses, the seas, fresh waters, and even natural light. Even so, the prior verses warned that the impending judgments would be even worse.

Chapter 9 begins with the fifth angel's trumpet. John observes a "star" falling to earth, which is immediately said to be given a key. "He," clearly, is not a literal astral body, but a person. In connection with other statements made in Scripture (Isaiah 14:12), this is most likely Satan. Importantly, Satan is "given" this key to the shaft of the bottomless pit. This is not a power or authority he naturally possesses. This abyss is the realm of confinement for some demons, and Satan's use of the key releases a horde of creatures. Their mission is narrowly defined: to torment only non-believers, and not with death. Rather, like scorpions, these locust-like beings will cause agonizing and inescapable pain for five months (Revelation 9:1–6).

Though briefly described as "locusts," these demonic creatures are only vaguely like the common insect. John describes them as resembling war horses, to be expected since locust heads and horse heads have a similar shape. They wear what appear to be crowns, either a literal piece of jewelry or a golden colored band on their head. John depicts them with women's hair, lions' teeth, iron armor, and thunderously loud wings. Some suggest these are John's attempt at describing something like a modern helicopter. The leader of these creatures carries names in Hebrew and Greek, both meaning "The Destroyer" (Revelation 9:8–11).

Chapter 8's ending warned that the last three trumpet judgments would be far worse than the first four. The sixth trumpet precedes a voice from the altar in heaven. The voice commands that four angels be released from imprisonment at the river Euphrates. Since God's angels are free, these beings are fallen angels—demons. Their role has been carefully planned, and their release delayed until a specific instant in time. Their purpose is to kill one third of the remaining population of earth. The four angels seem to command a vast army, given a specific number by John: two hundred million troops. John's description of his "vision" here again leads to speculation that he might have seen modern military equipment. The army kills a third of mankind, by smoke and fire from their mouths (Revelation 9:12–19).

The Bible often speaks of mankind's stubbornness and disobedience. God's actions during the end times, in some ways, are meant to make this clear and obvious. Despite the horrific judgments that will happen, humanity at large will still refuse to repent and come to God in faith. This passage refers to idolatry—possibly in both a literal and a metaphorical sense—as well as using a Greek word implying drug use. Sadly, even when God's power and prophecy are on full display, most people will refuse to turn from sin and submit to their Creator (Revelation 9:20–21).
Verse Context:
Revelation 9:1–6 tells what happens when the fifth angel blows his trumpet. This trumpet judgment is more severe than the previous trumpet judgments. A star, presumably Satan, falls from heaven and receives a key to the bottomless pit. He uses the key to release a demonic force of locusts that torment unbelievers for five months. The torment is so severe that people seek death but are unable to find it. The verses that follow describe the locusts and tell what happens when the sixth angel blows his trumpet.
Revelation 9:7–12 more thoroughly describes the locust-like beings which ascend from the bottomless pit. They appear like horses galloping into battle. They have something on their heads resembling crowns. Their faces are humanlike; their hair is like women's hair; and they have teeth like lions' teeth. Their chests seem to be iron plated, and the noise of their wings sounds like chariots and horses rushing into battle. They torment humans for five months, and their leader is Apollyon. Joel 2:1–11 prophesies an invasion of locusts, sharing similarities to the description in this passage, and adding details some suggest are references to modern machines of war.
Revelation 9:13–21 provides further insight into the assault by the northern invader. Earlier in chapter 9 we read about a horde of demonic locusts ascending from the bottomless pit. Now we read about two hundred million heavily armed cavalrymen, whose horses have heads like those of lions and tails like those of snakes. Four angels residing at the Euphrates allow the demonic army to advance across the river. The swarm of locusts described earlier may control or even possess these two hundred million cavalrymen. What follows is the annihilation of one third of humanity. However, the rest of humanity refuse to repent of their evil deeds, idolatry, murders, sorceries, or sexual immorality. Joel 2 and Ezekiel 38 also prophesy this northern army's invasion of Israel. Revelation 10 will provide another interlude between the judgments.
Chapter Summary:
Revelation 9 tells us that under the fifth trumpet judgment John sees a star fall from heaven to earth. This ''star'' is Satan, and he is given the key to the bottomless pit. Using this key, Satan unleashes a plague of supernatural demons resembling locusts. They torment unbelievers for five months with such pain that people seek death unsuccessfully. They appear like horses prepared for battle, and they have a king, whose name is Apollyon, meaning ''Destroyer.'' Under the sixth trumpet judgment John sees four angels released from the Euphrates river. Their release coincides with a horde of two hundred million demonic mounted troops that kill a third of mankind. However, the survivors refuse to abandon their idolatry and to repent of their evil deeds.
Chapter Context:
The ninth chapter of Revelation continues the report of what happens when the seven angels blow their trumpets. Chapter 8 described the first four trumpet judgments; chapter 9 reports the fifth and sixth. The events in chapter 9 are much more severe than those which came before. The severity of judgments increases dramatically with each trumpet blast. These judgments precede the final series of events, called the bowl judgments. Revelation chapters 15 and 16 will reveal what happens under these judgments.
Book Summary:
The word ''revelation'' means ''an unveiling or disclosure.'' This writing unveils future events such as the rapture, three series of judgments that will fall on the earth during the tribulation, the emergence of the Antichrist, the persecution of Israel and her amazing revival, as well as Jesus' second coming with His saints to the earth, the judgment of Satan and his followers, and finally, the eternal state. This content, combined with the original Greek term apokalypsis, is why we now refer to an end-of-the-world scenario as ''an apocalypse.''
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