Rev. 9:1-4. “And the fifth angel sounded, and I saw a star fall from heaven unto the earth: and to him was given the key of the bottomless pit. And He opened the bottomless pit; and there arose a smoke out of the pit, as the smoke of a great furnace; and the sun and the air were darkened by reason of the smoke of the pit. And there came out of the smoke locusts upon the earth: and unto them was given power, as the scorpions of the earth have power. And it was commanded them that they should not hurt the grass of the earth, neither any green thing neither any tree; but only those men which have not the seal of God in their foreheads.”
Taking in order the parts (the “star,” the “key,” the “pit,” the “smoke,” the darkness, and the locusts) of this fifth trumpet symbolism, we come first to
Just as did the star of the third trumpet, so this fifth-trumpet star descended from heaven to earth. And as the third-trumpet “star” has been conclusively identified as representing the advent of the Bible then this latter one, since it is similar to the former must stand for something the equivalent of It.
The Bible and Christ being complementary affinities, each the Word of God (John 1:1-14), then the fact that the descent of the first “star” is symbolical of the advent of the Bible, compels the conclusion that the descent of the second star is symbolical of the first advent of Christ. Moreover, the star is personified as “Him” (masculine in gender), thus being limited to a male person. And finally Christ Himself gives testimony that He is “the bright and morning star.” Rev. 22:16. To Him, be it remembered, was given
“The Key of the Bottomless Pit.”
“And I saw an angel come down from heaven, having the key of the bottomless pit and a great chain in his hand. And he laid hold on the dragon, that old serpent, which is the Devil, and Satan, and bound him a thousand years.” Rev. 20:1, 2.
As Christ is the one who secures Satan’s captivity, thereby ushering in the millennium, He alone can be fittingly symbolized by the “angel…having the key of the bottomless pit,” and by the “star” to whom the “key” was given. And as the “giving” of a thing to any certain one must precede the having” of it by that one, the verbs “given” (Rev. 9:1) and “having” (Rev. 20:1; 1:18) point, of course, to two different times. Obviously, therefore, Christ received the “key” at the sounding of the fifth trumpet — sometime before the millennium. Hence at the commencement of the millennium He already has it.
Christ’s mission being to bring deliverance from the prison house of sin and of death (the bottomless pit), and to do so through the preaching of the gospel, the key, therefore, must be figurative of the gospel, the only power that is able to set free those who are imprisoned in
The “Bottomless Pit.”
Since the “bottomless pit” of Revelation 20:3 is symbolical of the earth as a prison house during the millennium, then the “bottomless pit” of Revelation 9:1, being identical, must likewise be symbolical of the earth as a prison house at another time.
This implicitly Biblical interpretation of the “star,” the “key,” and the “bottomless pit,” reveals that the earth, at Christ’s first advent, had become a prison house (a pit) for God’s people and that Christ came to open it in order to save them.
The very fact that God’s people are vested with the power to keep open the bottomless pit, then should they be defeated, the pit would be shut and would become a prison house from which there would be no escape unless it be reopened. And so Satan in the latter days of the Jews, as sacred history records, attacked them, took them captive, and thus shut the pit. And knowing that when the Saviour should come, He would open it, the dragon therefore stood ready to devour the “child as soon as it was born.” Rev. 12:4. But losing sight of the infant Christ, he incited Herod to slay “all the children that were in Bethlehem, and in all the coasts thereof, from two years old and under” (Matt. 2:16), in the hope of making rid of the Saviour. Under the protection of Providence, however, Christ was kept from the bloody hand of Herod. Then subsequently with the gospel key, He opened the “pit” and freed His people. This, He Himself avowed:
“The Spirit of the Lord,” He declared, is upon Me, because He hath anointed Me to preach the gospel to the poor; He hath sent Me to heal the broken-hearted, to preach deliverance to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty them that are bruised, to preach the acceptable year of the Lord.” Luke 4:18, 19. And as a result of opening the pit, there came
The Smoke, the Darkness, and the Locusts.
Rev. 9:2. “And He opened the bottomless pit; and there arose a smoke out of the pit, as the smoke of a great furnace; and the sun and the air were darkened by reason of the smoke of the pit.”
For the significance of the “smoke,” we need look no further than to the ceremonial system which was “a compacted prophecy of the gospel.” — The Acts of the Apostles, p. 14. There we behold the ascending smoke of the ceremonial offerings which, as we know, prefigured Christ’s great sacrifice in behalf of the human race. Accordingly, the smoke which came from the “pit” is symbolical of Christ’s crucifixion and the “darkened sun” and “air” are symbolical of the “darkness over the whole land” from “the sixth hour…until the ninth hour” (Mark 15:33) — while He was dying on the cross. And the darkness covering the land for the period of these three hours shows that at the moment the sixth hour struck, the “pit” was opened.
This clear sequence of facts shows that with the gospel key (the good news of salvation through His shed blood) Christ opened to His captive people, the way of deliverance from the prison house — the “bottomless pit” of sin and death.
Thus we see, to recapitulate in brief, that the “star” is symbolical of Christ; the “key,” of the gospel; the “pit,” of the earth, the “smoke,” of His sacrifice; and the darkening of the “sun and the air,” of the “darkness” that covered the world during His crucifixion. Perfect symbols.
Rev. 9:3, 4. “And there came out of the smoke locusts upon the earth: and unto them was given power, as the scorpions of the earth have power. And it was commanded them that they should not hurt the grass of the earth, neither any green thing, neither any tree; but only those men which have not the seal of God in their foreheads.”
With the smoke symbolizing the crucifixion, and the locusts coming out of the smoke, the only admissible conclusion is that they are symbolical of the Christians who came as a consequence of the sacrificial blood that was shed on Calvary. And the fact that they were to hurt “only those men which have not the seal of God in their foreheads,” makes this conclusion even more inescapable. For only a true Christian, one who has a personal experience with God, a perfect knowledge of His Word, and who is filled with His Spirit, can discriminate saint from sinner. He, only, can recognize who has the seal and who does not have it, when the latter is cloaked in a counterfeit robe of righteousness.
The idea that the locusts are symbolical of the “Saracen” warriors is both unscriptural and illogical, for, unlike the locusts, the Saracens killed as many as opposed their way. Especially did they trouble the Christians — those who had the “seal of God in their foreheads.” And such precisely is Satan’s business, that he might kill all who have the seal of God. To those though, whom the “locusts” represent, the restraining order “was given that they should not kill” (Rev. 9:5) anyone, their business instead being to hurt “only those men which have not the seal of God in their foreheads.” Rev. 9:4. For this reason, also the one prior, the “locusts” cannot symbolize the followers of Mohammed or of any other of Satan’s agents.
Had the Christians not been told “that they should not kill,” they naturally would not have known that they were entering into the period of grace, and so would have followed the example of the Jewish nation when, as a theocracy charged to execute God’s judgments, they were commanded to kill and to drive out of the land (as was revealed by the first three trumpets) both those who were departed from Him and those who did not acknowledge Him as the only true God. His command, however, to the locusts “that they should not kill,” inaugurates a significant change in His people’s dealings with His enemies. The great principle of non-resistance enjoined in this change, Christ enunciated in His sermon on the mount:
“Ye have heard that it hath been said, An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth: but I say unto you, That ye resist not evil: but whosoever shall smite thee on thy right cheek, turn to him the other also.” Matt. 5:38, 39.
Preaching Christ and Him crucified was a bitter cup to quaff for those who, because they loved sin and despised reproof, hated Him and His people. The Christians consequently became a great nuisance and vexation to their antagonists. Indeed, just as the Old and New Testament Scriptures, the “two witnesses,” which are the “two olive trees,” — “two prophets” (Rev. 11:3, 10), — were so great a torment to the wicked during the “forty and two months” (Rev. 11:2), just so the locusts became so great a torment by the preaching of the gospel that both the Jews and the Romans persecuted and killed as many of them as time allowed, thus fulfilling “the first woe.”
Just think how many were converted on the day of Pentecost alone — “about three thousand souls”! And following that “the Lord added to the church daily such as should be saved”! Acts 2:41, 47. This sudden great increase in numbers among the Christians, after the crucifixion, made them appear to be swarming like “locusts.”
Then, too, locusts can neither be frightened nor made to defend themselves under any provocation. Neither is there felt in the human heart any sorrow or pity for them, be they ever so ruthlessly killed. Yet they cannot be exterminated by the human hand. For these reasons, they are a perfect symbol of the early Christians’ indomitable courage and meekness in the face of the cruel oppression of them by their heartless enemies, and of the impossibility of the latter’s bringing about an extinction of Christianity.
Rev. 9:7, first clause: “And the shapes of the locusts were like unto horses prepared unto battle.”
Horses are prepared for battle by being well trained, a fact which in this connection manifestly denotes that the early Christians swiftly and proficiently marched on with their message, as horses in battle array.
Rev. 9:7, second clause. “And on their heads were as it were crowns like gold.”
So obvious as to require no interpretation, the locusts’ having “crowns of gold” signifies their being invested with authority pure and excellent: the authority of Christ. And such was exclusively the investment of the members of the early Christian church. Christ secured it unto them in His commitment:
“I will give unto thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt bind on earth shall be bound in heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.” Matt. 16:19.
Rev. 9:7, third clause. “And their faces were as the faces of men.”
Observe that the locusts have human faces symbolizing intelligence, but mark especially that they are masculine. Were they feminine, the symbol would be faulty, for the face of a woman does not naturally characterize a soldier.
Rev. 9:8, first clause. “And they had hair as the hair of women.”
A woman’s hair being her glory (1 Cor. 11:15), and a “woman” being symbolical of the church (Jer. 6:2), the feminine hair shows that the “locusts” were affiliated with the church, and that she was their glory. “So that we ourselves,” says Paul, “glory in you in the churches of God for your patience and faith in all your persecutions and tribulations that ye endure.” 2 Thess. 1:4.
Rev. 9:8, second clause. “And their teeth were as the teeth of lions.”
Though a lion is the most fearsome of beasts, yet had he no teeth, he would be scarcely more fearsome than a dog. The locusts’ having the teeth of lions denotes that the early Christians had far greater potential power to defend themselves and to kill every beast (man) that was not of their kind (a Christian) than had ancient Israel against the heathen in their day. For this reason it was necessary to command the “locusts” not to kill. A demonstration of the power which they possessed is seen in the fate of Ananias and Sapphira, who instantly, upon Peter’s exposing their sin of dissimulation, fell dead at the apostle’s feet (Acts 5:1-11). Clearly, then, if Peter, without exertion on his part, had sufficient power to destroy hypocrites who came into his presence, he most certainly had as much power to destroy the heathen who attempted to retard the advancement of the gospel.
Rev. 9:9, first clause. “And they had breastplates, as it were breastplates of iron.”
The Scriptural significance of “breastplate” is “faith and love” (1 Thess. 5:8) — the Christian’s only defense. And the locusts’ breastplates were “as it were breastplates of iron,” the strongest metal known. The faith, therefore, of those fearless soldiers of the cross was so invincible, and their love for Christ and for His people so pure and unconquerable, that “daily in the temple, and in every house they ceased not to teach and preach Jesus Christ” (Acts 5:42), though for so doing they were killed like locusts. O what a contrast between these heroic love-slaves of Christ and most professed Christians of today!
Rev. 9:9, second clause. “And the sound of their wings was as the sound of chariots of many horses running to battle.”
As has been seen so far, the symbols of the fifth trumpet show that though the early disciples were mercilessly persecuted and killed yet they openly and fearlessly swarmed to the battle-line to proclaim the gospel of Christ. And in giving an individual sample of their fearless efforts, Paul says: “I kept back nothing that was profitable unto you, but have shewed you, and have taught you publicly, and from house to house, testifying both to the Jews, and also to the Greeks…not knowing the things that shall befall me.” Acts 20:20-22.
How many of today’s disciples of Christ would knowingly risk their lives for the proclamation of the gospel? Even in time of peace most Christians would rather send a missionary to do the work which the Lord calls to be done than to go do it themselves. In thus serving by substitute, by proxy as it were, they are not unlike the cuckoo who lays her eggs in other birds’ nests for them to hatch and to care for. And some, because of their ignorance of Christ’s majesty and of His power to protect, and because of their blindness to their duty and to the “recompense of reward,” are even ashamed openly to confess Him in word and in deed.
(Rev. 9:10 will be explained after Rev. 9:11).
Rev. 9:11. “And they had a king over them, which is the angel of the bottomless pit, whose name in the Hebrew tongue is Abaddon, but in the Greek tongue hath his name Apollyon.”
Genuine Christians, as subjects of the kingdom of Christ, have over them Christ, their King. Ruling over them in Old Testament time (1 Cor. 10:1-4) as well as in New Testament time, He is therefore King over them in both periods. Consequently the Old Testament Scriptures being originally written in the Hebrew tongue give Him the name Abaddon, whereas the New Testament Scriptures, being originally written in the Greek, give Him the name Apollyon.
In the blazing light of this symbol, intensifying the illumination from the whole series of symbols of which it is a part, and which no human mind could either have devised or thus rightly interpreted, Christ is clearly seen to be King of His people in both the Old and the New Testament periods, and Author of the Scriptures in both the Hebrew and the Greek. And from this fact it follows that as He is “the Word” (the Bible in human form), His Hebrew name, Abaddon, is also the name of the Old Testament Scriptures, and His Greek name, Apollyon, is also the name of the New Testament Scriptures.
Showing that he recognized Christ’s sovereignty over the church not only in the New Testament period but also in the Old Testament period, Paul, in his epistle to the Corinthians, declared: “Moreover, brethren, I would not that ye should be ignorant, how that all our fathers were…baptized unto Moses in the cloud and in the sea:…and did all drink the same spiritual drink: for they drank of that spiritual Rock that followed them: and that Rock was Christ.” 1 Cor. 10:1-4.
Woe to him who accepts the one Testament and casts aside the other, pays no attention to either, or exalts tradition above both!
Abaddon, Christ’s name in the Hebrew, signifying Him as a “destroyer,” shows that in the Old Testament period He simply destroyed many of His enemies; whereas Apollyon, His name in the Greek, signifying Him as an “exterminator,” shows that in the New Testament period He will exterminate all the wicked. (What beautiful precision of connotation in these symbolic appellations!) And this exterminatory work is vividly pictured in the climactic scene:
“And out of His mouth goeth a sharp sword, that with it He should smite the nations: and He shall rule them with a rod of iron: and He treadeth the winepress of the fierceness and wrath of Almighty God. And He hath on His vesture and on His thigh a name written, KING OF KINGS, AND LORD OF LORDS. And I saw an angel standing in the sun; and he cried with a loud voice, saying to all the fowls that fly in the midst of heaven, Come and gather yourselves together unto the supper of the great God; that ye may eat the flesh of kings, and the flesh of captains, and the flesh of mighty men, and the flesh of horses, and of them that sit on them, and the flesh of all men, both free and bond, both small and great.” Rev. 19:15-18.
To those, therefore, who accept Christ as their King, He is a Saviour, while to those who refuse to have Him rule over them (Luke 19:14), He is a destroyer. Hence, accordingly, the curses, or judgments, fall (as the trumpets reveal) upon those who reject the teachings and the authority of the Bible, and who as a result do not have the seal.
These solemn facts gravely admonish us not to forget the Bible’s warning that our treatment of It will bring one of two results — death or life.
Rev. 9:10, first clause. “And they had tails like unto scorpions, and there were stings in their tails.”
We have seen that the “locusts” are symbolical of the soldiers of the cross; we know that the tail of an animal is the hinder member of its body; in other words its rearguard. So we have no choice but to conclude that the tails of the locusts symbolize the church’s rearguard — its followers. Furthermore, the tail’s being a connected part of the body shows that both the ministry and the laity of the early Christian church were bound together inseparably in Christ (Rom. 12:5), one contributing to another. So reads the record: “for as many as were possessors of lands or houses sold them, and brought the prices of the things that were sold, and laid them down at the apostles’ feet: and distribution was made unto every man according as he had need.” Acts 4:34, 35.
Rev. 9:10, second clause. “And there were stings in their tails.”
Their tails representing their converts, and at the same time having stings in them, then, obviously, in the rapid accession of disciples to the religion of Christ, there was a sting, a torment, to the wicked. “What shall we,” they cried in consequent despair, “do to these men? for that indeed a notable miracle hath been done by them is manifest to all them that dwell in Jerusalem; and we cannot deny it. But that it spread no further among the people, let us straitly threaten them, that they speak henceforth to no man in this name. And they called them, and commanded them not to speak at all nor teach in the name of Jesus,” for “the world is gone after Him.” Acts 4:16- 18; John 12:19.
Rev. 9:5, 6. “And to them it was given that they should not kill them, but that they should be tormented five months:…and in those days shall men seek death, and shall not find it, and shall desire to die, and death shall flee from them.”
Seeing that the “locusts” are symbolical of the followers of Christ after the crucifixion, and that they were commanded not to resist their enemies the “five months,” therefore, began at that time. And seeing, furthermore, that death does not as yet flee any men, but still reigns over all, the “five months” are in consequence figurative time, and extend from the crucifixion to a time when “death shall flee” from some men; that is, to the time when some will be made invulnerable to death.
Rev. 9:10, third clause. “And their power was to hurt men five months.”
The fact, too, that the trumpets are figurative, is another evidence that these five months are figurative time. But why should this period in which the locusts, the Christians, have power to torment men be limited to “five months”? It will be noted that the 144,000 are called the “first-fruits,” denoting that they are sealed at the beginning of “the harvest” — the commencement of the time to separate “the tares” from “the wheat.” To the parable of the “harvest,” then, we must go for the full explanation of the “five months” period.
In Tract No. 3, The Harvest, the time from the baptism of Christ to the close of probation is shown to be illustrated by twelve figurative months — six from Christ’s baptism to His crucifixion, five from the crucifixion to the ingathering of the first fruits (the 144,000 — Rev. 14:4), leaving one month for the ingathering of the second fruits (the great multitude — Rev. 7:9).
During the five figurative months, the “locusts” were commanded to torment those who had not the seal of God, but not to kill them. This command implies that after the expiration of this period, the killing restriction will cease, and that from then on the wicked will be killed rather than tormented only. At that time “the four angels” of Revelation 9:15 will have prepared themselves “for to slay the third part of men.”
These several linked facts present a solid chain of evidence that in the Christian era, during the five figurative months, God has deferred His vengeance to grace. And hence it follows inescapably that such Christians as executed the death penalty upon those who disagreed with them, were working against Christ rather than for Him. For, as Christians (locusts), they were commanded not to kill, but to bless even those who “despitefully” used them. Indeed to him who would smite them on the “one cheek,” they were to turn “the other” cheek. And if he should take away their “cloak,” they were to let him have their “coat” also. Luke 6:28, 29.
After the expiration of the five figurative months of restriction during which they were not to kill some will be made invulnerable to death for the finishing of the gospel work, and will, if necessary to the discharging of their responsibility, be
Glad to Die, But Cannot.
Rev. 9:6. “And in those days shall men seek death, and shall not find it; and shall desire to die, and death shall flee from them.”
The experience of Christ’s first disciples will explain why that, after the expiration of the “five months,” men will desire to die, but cannot. Despite great persecution against the faithful of the primitive Christian church, their vision of the world’s great need urged them on to preach the gospel of Christ at the cost of their lives. And notwithstanding cruelest death awaiting them, they in faith and courage in God held the light of the gospel before the people as constantly as the sun holds its rays over the earth.
“I came into Asia,” testifies the death-bound apostle, “after what manner I have been with you at all seasons, serving the Lord with all humility of mind, and with many tears, and temptations, which befell me by the lying in wait of the Jews:…
“And now, behold, I know that ye all, among whom I have gone preaching the kingdom of God, shall see my face no more. Wherefore I take you to record this day, that I am pure from the blood of all men. For I have not shunned to declare unto you all the counsel of God….
“And when we heard these things, both we, and they of that place, besought him not to go up to Jerusalem. Then Paul answered, What mean ye to weep and to break mine heart? for I am ready not to be bound only, but also to die at Jerusalem for the name of the Lord Jesus.” Acts 20:18, 19, 25-27; 21:12, 13.
By preaching in the name of Christ, the Christians in Paul’s time were indeed seeking death. Esteeming it the greatest privilege and honor to die for Him, they desired to do so if others might by their death obtain eternal life.
Though God’s people today shall go through a “time of trouble such as never was” (Dan. 12:1), when earthly tribunals shall cause to come to pass “that as many as would not worship the image of the beast should be killed” (Rev. 13:15), yet the Word declares: “…at that time thy people shall be delivered, every one that shall be found written in the book.” Dan. 12:1.
O what a promise and what assurance! Who can comprehend God’s mighty power, and the glory of this long awaited deliverance? Those who at all do, and who fully trust in the Lord will, for the good of His people, “go forth therefore unto Him without the camp, bearing His reproach.” Heb. 13:13.
In thus pursuing a course against all earthly favor (by proclaiming the message of the “hour”), they will be going “forth as sheep in the midst of wolves” (Matt. 10:16) — “seeking death.” And although happy to “die” for Christ’s sake, or, as the Revelator puts it though they “shall desire to die,” the promise is that “death shall flee from them,” making it impossible for them to die. Even the sword of the wicked that is raised to kill them, shall break and fall “as powerless as a straw” (Early Writings, p. 34), making them utterly invincible.
“In that day,” saith the Lord, “whosoever shall seek to save his life shall lose it; and whosoever shall lose his life shall preserve it.” Luke 17:31, 33. In short, only those who “desire to die” for Christ’s sake shall obtain eternal life.
“One woe [fifth trumpet] is past; and, behold there come two woes more hereafter” (Rev. 9:12) the next being in THE SIXTH TRUMPET.