Bible Studies in the Book of Revelation 13

Revelation 9              

The fifth angel sounds a trumpet and the effect now is focussed on humans rather than the earth. The star is an angel, cf 1.20, and as with all the other trumpets something happens that can be observed, the angel is given the key to the Abyss. What was the ‘Abyss?’ Imagine an underground cavern, with a shaft going to the surface with a locked door at the top. When the angel opens the door, there escapes smoke bursting up the shaft and into view, like smoke from a furnace. It was enough to create darkness in the sky. At the end of ch 8 there were three woes, so here is the first woe! Locusts appear, these were feared in the Middle East as they destroyed the vegetation. These were powerful ones, unlike any before; they had power to attack people rather than the vegetation. They did not kill but torture for a set period of five months. Their victims were those without the seal of God, five months is the normal life cycle of locusts! The picture is one of sustained agony and looking for relief, even for death, but this did not come. John now looks in detail at these creatures, what are they like, he describes them in term that could be understood;

  • Horses prepared for battle- strong and powerful creatures
  • Crowns of gold- sign of victory
  • Like human faces- intelligent thinking
  • Hair like a woman- waving antennae, fierceness
  • Teeth like lions- tearing with power
  • Iron breastplates- warfare protection, strong
  • Sound of wings like an army- this is the volume of noise, producing terror
  • Stinging tails- like scorpions they had power to attack people
  • King- the angel of the Abyss, not the angel with the key but a demonic power related to the Abyss, named as Abaddon or Apollyon, which means Destroyer!

This is the first woe, with two still to come. So now the sixth trumpet is sounded, this releases terror and judgment, which causes the death of people. The vision is of the golden altar, seen before with the souls of the martyrs beneath it, the prayers for judgment are about to be answered. The mention of the four horns of the altar represent the strength the action and completeness as it comes in all directions. The instruction was to release the powerful demonic angels who had been held back until now. They were the servants or the generals of the king of the Abyss, who were ready and waiting for this moment to unleash their power.

The Euphrates was on the eastern edge of Israel and a remote part of the Roman Empire in John’s day, the river had been a natural barrier but now is breached. The power released was a mighty army, 200m, never been seen before! Their aim and permission was to kill 1/3 of mankind. A dire event, but not a final event; as more than 1/2 of mankind was to remain. John then describes these horses, not the riders:

  • Breastplates in colours- red, blue and yellow like the coming plagues
  • Heads like lions- power and terror, the locusts had lion-like teeth, these had heads, terrible and frightening
  • Fire, smoke and sulphur out of their mouths- picture a volcano erupting, with fire smoke and lava, the effect was similar and so was the destruction, 1/3 of mankind is here repeated as their aim
  • Tails like snakes- inflict more injury. Jesus referred to demons as snakes and scorpions, Lk 10.27; here the demons have scorpion and snakes as their tails. Torture and injury but not total destruction.

After such an event what was the effect on the remnant of mankind?

  • Did not repent of their sin
  • Carried on worshipping idols- the material gods of the first century world.
  • Their evil society carried on with
    • Murder- sixth commandment broken
    • Magic arts- witchcraft, drugs etc.
    • Sexual immorality- seventh commandment broken
    • Theft- eighth commandment broken

Human sin has two sorts, one is sin against God and the other is sin against their society. This reflects the 10 Commandments, with 1-4 as the instruction to worship God, and then the other six summed up be Jesus as living their neighbours and themselves. These who remained were like the Pharaoh who defied God and would not release the Israelites until the final plague.

God will judge the wicked that reject him. We also see that the forces of evil are powerful and well organised but can only act when God allows it to happen. Sin can be seen as refusing to worship God and also refusing to love others. Sadly those with hardened hearts refuse to repent even when confronted with the most severe and horrendous warnings. Our love for Christ is shown when we continue to love others and proclaim the message of hope in Christ.


Page last updated: 6th May 2016 2:45 PM