• The Explore the Bible lesson for Aug. 16 focuses on Revelation 9:1-12.
In the previous lesson, we discovered John encouraged believers concerning the search, discovery and honoring of the only true Lord in a time of “cultural climate change.” John’s Apocalypse is a tract for hard times. Those who profess faith in Jesus alone can rest assured God will be victorious, even though we may have to endure much chaos and calamity throughout our lives. Jesus never promised the life of a true Christian disciple would be easy, but he did promise his presence and power (John 16:33).
Consequently, John’s vision moved from God’s throne room in Chapter 5 to a series of apocalyptic visions that begin in Chapter 6 and involve the opening of seven seals. Many scholars conclude each seal brings with it sustained destruction wrought by God as a method of vindicating righteous believers.
Some debate the timing of the seals’ opening, and we could get into a rather lengthy argument at this point. Are the seals opened when no Christian is left on the earth, or not? Many who subscribe to a premillennial dispensational view of the Revelation can argue the church has been raptured by this point. Others suggest we actually may be experiencing the opening of the seals in our present day before the Lord comes back. This debate is for the reader to decide for himself/herself. Suffice it to say, God will have the last word since he is the only true and eternal God.
Since God has the final say, John then moved to a description of seven trumpet blasts that occurred in conjunction with the opening of the seventh seal. Remember, the number seven refers to completion, maturity or wholeness. The trumpet blast is an ancient symbol of judgment and especially was utilized in the Old Testament. This lesson, therefore, will deal with the terrible judgment of God, for God’s judgment is sure regardless of our debates on his timing. Those who fail to turn to Jesus in repentance will experience an eternity of separation from God. Let’s look specifically at four major points of the fifth trumpet blast of judgment.
Locusts unleashed (9:1-3)
John first saw a fallen star at the sound of the fifth trumpet of judgment. People in John’s time equated stars with angels. It is quite clear John described a fallen angel at this point. What is not clear is the exact identity of the angel. Many scholars agree the angel was ejected from heaven, much like those described in the curious passage regarding the sons of men in Genesis 6. Consider, though, this angel was allowed to do his dirty work only by the sovereignty of God.
The fallen angel opened the shaft of a great abyss, or bottomless pit. We could interpret the abyss as a place where evil resides, or the abyss could be hell itself. John later would describe the imprisonment of Satan in the abyss (20:1). Once the shaft was opened, locust-filled smoke darkened the skies. The locusts were given tremendous power like scorpions. Prior to this in Scripture, locusts were feared not for their effect on people directly but for their effect on vegetation. Once liberated from the abyss, however, the locusts stung unbelievers like scorpions while leaving the vegetation unscathed. God obviously has total, complete and unimpeded power in achieving his purposes.
Believers protected (9:4)
John said believers were protected from God’s judgment at the sound of this important trumpet blast. The “seal of God” on the foreheads of believers is a direct reference to 7:1-8 and describes Christians who remain faithful in spite of horrific circumstances and persecution. Consider also Scripture passages such as Exodus 8:21-22 and 9:25-26 where God’s judgment befell the Egyptians while God’s people were completely protected in Goshen. We must remember God’s saving power during troublesome times today.
Death sought (9:5-6)
The locusts plague lasted five months. In apocalyptic literature, the number five usually referred to the completion of an event. In other words, the plague lasted as long as God felt it necessary. The locusts did not inflict a mortal wound but incited intense pain. In fact, the sting became so painful, affected people unsuccessfully tried to take their own lives. Isn’t it unfortunate their hearts were so dark they preferred death over repentance? How urgent is the call of Christians now to witness to unbelievers before it’s too late?
Judgment administered (9:7-12)
The locusts appeared to have powerful human and animal qualities. These were not run-of-the-mill insects. They are described as an overwhelming and overpowering army. Their commander-in-chief was named Abaddon, and this king served as the ruler over the abyss. In Greek, the king is known by the title Destroyer. Abaddon appears also in the book of Job and, in context, represents death and everything opposed to God. Some scholars think John included the Greek and Hebrew names as a way of challenging the worshippers of both the Apollo heresy and the Roman Emperor.
This is only the first woe, as John describes it. There is more judgment to come. Hopefully, Christians will read these words of John, and their heart rates will rise in urgency for evangelizing the lost.