1 And the fifth angel blew his trumpet, and I saw a star fallen from heaven to earth, and he was given the key to the shaft of the bottomless pit. 2 He opened the shaft of the bottomless pit, and from the shaft rose smoke like the smoke of a great furnace, and the sun and the air were darkened with the smoke from the shaft. 3 Then from the smoke came locusts on the earth, and they were given power like the power of scorpions of the earth. 4 They were told not to harm the grass of the earth or any green plant or any tree, but only those people who do not have the seal of God on their foreheads. 5 They were allowed to torment them for five months, but not to kill them, and their torment was like the torment of a scorpion when it stings someone. 6 And in those days people will seek death and will not find it. They will long to die, but death will flee from them.
7 In appearance the locusts were like horses prepared for battle: on their heads were what looked like crowns of gold; their faces were like human faces, 8 their hair like women’s hair, and their teeth like lions’ teeth; 9 they had breastplates like breastplates of iron, and the noise of their wings was like the noise of many chariots with horses rushing into battle. 10 They have tails and stings like scorpions, and their power to hurt people for five months is in their tails. 11 They have as king over them the angel of the bottomless pit. His name in Hebrew is Abaddon, and in Greek he is called Apollyon.
12 The first woe has passed; behold, two woes are still to come. – Revelation 9:1-12 ESV
Chapter eight ended with the pronouncement of three woes.
“Woe, woe, woe to those who dwell on the earth, at the blasts of the other trumpets that the three angels are about to blow!” – Revelation 8:13 ESV
Now, in this first half of chapter nine, John will describe what the first of those three woes will be. It comes in conjunction with the fifth trumpet blast and brings with it even more horrific judgments upon the earth – this time aimed at the people living on the earth. John records that he saw “a star fallen from heaven to earth” (Revelation 9:1 ESV). This is not the first time John has seen such a vision. Back in chapter eight, verse 10, he describes seeing “a great star fell from heaven” (Revelation 8:10 ESV). This was in conjunction with the third trumpet. And in chapter six, he records that, with the opening of the sixth seal, “the stars of the sky fell to the earth as the fig tree sheds its winter fruit when shaken by a gale” (Revelation 6:13 ESV). But in this chapter, there is something different about this particular star. In this case, John repeatedly refers to this fallen star as an individual.
…he was given the key to the shaft of the bottomless pit. – Revelation 9:1 ESV
He opened the shaft of the bottomless pit… – Revelation 9:2 ESV
This would appear to be a person or some form of angelic or demonic being. The fact that he is described as having fallen from heaven would seem to eliminate the possibility of this being a human. And John does not describe seeing the star actually falling from heaven, but only as a star “fallen to earth from heaven.” In Luke 10:18, we have the words of Jesus describing Satan in this same fashion: “I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven.” So, this could be a reference to Satan. Others believe that this is simply an un-fallen angel, sent by God on a divine mission. But the use of the Greek word, piptō, would seem to eliminate this option. It is a word that, in most cases, seems to be used to convey either a position of worship (falling prostrate) or the process of being cast down from one place to another, as a form of judgment. So, it seems more likely that John is seeing either Satan himself or a fallen angel, whom God is giving authority, in the form of a key, to open the bottomless pit. The actual word in the Greek is abyssos, and it is a sort of prison for demons. In fact, we are told later in the book of Revelation, that Satan himself will be confined in this same place during the 1,000 years of Christ’s millennial reign on earth.
1 Then I saw an angel coming down from heaven, holding in his hand the key to the bottomless pit and a great chain. 2 And he seized the dragon, that ancient serpent, who is the devil and Satan, and bound him for a thousand years, 3 and threw him into the pit, and shut it and sealed it over him, so that he might not deceive the nations any longer, until the thousand years were ended. After that he must be released for a little while. – Revelation 20:1-3 ESV
This “fallen star” is allowed to open up the bottomless pit and, in so doing, he releases a horde of locust. There are so many that they appear like smoke swirling up out of the pit. Like bats exiting a cave at dusk, these demonic creatures will swarm the earth, wreaking havoc and destruction upon the earth. But notice that the focus of their activity will be directed at human beings. Unlike normal locusts, that destroy vegetation, this demons will specifically target “only those people who do not have the seal of God on their foreheads” (Revelation 9:4 ESV). Anyone who has come to faith in Christ during the days of the tribulation will be protected from this menace. It will be only those who have rejected Christ as their Messiah and Savior, who will suffer the effects of these demonic creatures. And it is hard not to deduce that these are demons based on John’s bizarre description of them.
7 In appearance the locusts were like horses prepared for battle: on their heads were what looked like crowns of gold; their faces were like human faces, 8 their hair like women’s hair, and their teeth like lions’ teeth; 9 they had breastplates like breastplates of iron, and the noise of their wings was like the noise of many chariots with horses rushing into battle. 10 They have tails and stings like scorpions, and their power to hurt people for five months is in their tails. – Revelation 9:7-10 ESV
What John sees defies explanation or description. He has difficulty putting into words what he is seeing. But it is clear that these are evil and inhuman creatures who are bent on tormenting mankind. And that torment, while only five months in duration, will be so intense, that the people on earth will long to die, but they will be prevented from taking their own lives. Verse 11 tells us that they have a leader. “They have as king over them the angel of the bottomless pit. His name in Hebrew is Abaddon, and in Greek he is called Apollyon.” Abaddon is a Hebrew word and Apollyon is its Greek equivalent. They both mean “destroyer.” Some have assumed that this is a reference to Satan himself. But this could just as easily be a reference to a particular demon who has the title of “destroyer” and is responsible for leading this demonic horde as they torment humanity. The bottom line is that this presents to us a vivid picture of the spiritual warfare that is going to take place in the last days. The forces of Satan will be released upon the earth, and their destructive power will be targeted on the unbelieving world. Those who have placed their faith in Christ will be protected. This is reminiscent of the plagues that fell on the land of Egypt. God protected the people of Israel, preventing the full brunt of His wrath, in the form of ten plagues, to fall on them.
But the Lord will make a distinction between the livestock of Israel and the livestock of Egypt, so that nothing of all that belongs to the people of Israel shall die. – Exodus 9:4 ESV
Only in the land of Goshen, where the people of Israel were, was there no hail. – Exodus 9:26 ESV
In spite of all the persecution these tribulation saints had to endure, they were being protected by God. The enemy can do nothing to them without the express permission of God. But for all those who have rejected Jesus as their Messiah, the forces of evil will have a field day with them. They will long for death. They will wish for relief from the torment they suffer. But they will not cry out to God in repentance. They will prefer death to salvation and eternal life. Even in these difficult days, the lost will stubbornly refuse to call out to the only one who could save them. And yet, these demonic forces can only torment, not destroy. They cannot take the lives of their victims. That is God’s prerogative. Only He can give life and take life away. And there is more in store for these people. This is only the first of three woes, and the intensity of God’s judgment is only going to increase. And John warns: “behold, two woes are still to come.”
New Living Translation (NLT) Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.