What does Revelation 9:6 mean?
ESV: And in those days people will seek death and will not find it. They will long to die, but death will flee from them.
NIV: During those days people will seek death but will not find it; they will long to die, but death will elude them.
NASB: And in those days people will seek death and will not find it; they will long to die, and death will flee from them!
CSB: In those days people will seek death and will not find it; they will long to die, but death will flee from them.
NLT: In those days people will seek death but will not find it. They will long to die, but death will flee from them!
KJV: And in those days shall men seek death, and shall not find it; and shall desire to die, and death shall flee from them.
Prior verses described Satan releasing a horde of locust-like demons, limited to torment—not kill—unbelievers only. Their ability was comparted to that of a scorpion (Revelation 9:1–5). This verse reveals that the locust-like creatures' "scorpion" stings will be so painful that victims will want to die. The Greek wording of this verse implies that the people stung will seek death vehemently or earnestly. The pain of this experience will not be something one "gets used to."
That someone in horrible agony would want to die is not hard to understand. What's less clear, in this verse, is the implication that these afflicted non-believers will be unable to die. Somehow, in some way, they will be prevented from ending their own lives to cut short their suffering. What exactly this means, Scripture is not clear. Perhaps the sting so immobilizes victims that they give no outward sign of pain—preventing others from mercy killings or other interventions. Perhaps their condition renders them temporarily immune to other drugs and chemicals. Or, it might be simple supernatural intervention keeping them alive.
The reference to "five months" in the prior verse may, also, suggest that the effect of the demons' sting lasts five months for those who are stung. Scripture isn't explicit about this, but that possibility might explain why people would seek death for something so painful and chronic.
This period of inescapable torment parallels the concept of hell. Physical death is the separation of the spirit/soul from the body, which leads to eternal suffering for unbelievers. They will experience eternal death: a forever separation from God. Jesus told a story in Luke 16:19–31 about a rich unbeliever who died and went to Hades. His story also focused on Lazarus, a beggar who died and went to Paradise, where he enjoyed the company of Abraham. The rich man called upon Abraham to show him mercy by sending Lazarus to dip his finger in water and cool his tongue with the water. The rich man confessed he was "in anguish in this flame" (Luke 16:24). At the end of human history, the occupants who suffer in Hades will be consigned to the lake of fire, where their agony will continue eternally (Revelation 20:7–15).
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 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.
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.
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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