THE BOOK OF REVELATION
THE CHURCH'S TRIUMPH THROUGH CHRIST
Sermon #36 - Covenantal Curses and the Fifth Trumpet - Revelation 9:1-12
INTRODUCTION - Our principles for interpretation of the book of Revelation have been that we want to read the book in the way that the early church would read it, not bringing our modern views to the literature, but understanding it as the first century Christians would. We must also read this book in close conjunction with the Old Testament, for its pictures and passages are drawn right out of Old Testament theology. Revelation is a first century book, written for the early church, and is dealing with the first century judgment of the nation of Israel. As Deuteronomy 28 clearly shows us, should Israel turn away from the Lord, she would reap the judgments which God had prescribed. If Israel of the first century had turned away from God by rejecting and crucifying the Messiah, then surely we should expect that all the judgments of Deuteronomy 28 would fall upon that generation. Revelation, therefore, is a description of those covenantal curses upon first century Israel. We have been looking at the seven angels of judgment in Revelation 8. The first four sound their trumpet blasts in chapter eight and bring forth the plagues of Egypt against Israel (a judgment warned about in Deuteronomy 28). Now, as we come to chapter nine, the flying eagle has warned that greater judgments will come upon the nation of Israel. The Apostle John will be describing for us the great judgments unleashed against that nation during the first century because of their rejection of the Lord Jesus Christ.
1) THE FIFTH TRUMPET - LOCUSTS LED BY APOLLYON - Revelation 9:1-12
A) A STAR FALLEN FROM HEAVEN TO EARTH - With the first four trumpet blasts, Israel would become a wilderness, the destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple were coming, the Jews would drink the bitter waters of judgment, and darkness would cover the land as God put out the lights of this nation. Now, with this fifth trumpet blast, an even greater judgment is poured out on Israel. How are we to understand this "star" fallen from heaven? The text helps us here for we are told that the star is an actual person (verse 1). As he is given the key to the bottomless pit, this person has control of the demonic forces bound within. Later in the passage we are told that the king of these forces is Apollyon, the Destroyer, the devil himself. In Christ's day, the Lord Jesus said that He saw Satan "fall like lightning from heaven" (Luke 10:18), hence, we can presume that the fallen star is indeed the devil. We remember that Jesus also described the Jews of His day as worshipping in "synagogues of Satan" (Revelation 2:9; 3:9). They had become worshippers of the devil, thus, in Revelation 9, God gives them up to their new master. The devil is given permission by God to bring his demonic forces against first century Israel. Truly, as the eagle exclaimed in chapter eight, this is a terrible judgment from God. He has given apostate Israel up to demonic force. The "bottomless pit" or "abyss" is known in Scripture as the prison for demons (Luke 8:31). Satan is given permission by God to unleash this devilish horde in judgment against first century Israel.
B) THE SWARM OF LOCUSTS - This next judgment parallels another one of the Egyptian plagues, the eighth plague (Exodus 10:12-15). Again, we must remember what God said to the Jews in Deuteronomy 28. If they turned away from Him, the Lord would send upon them the same plagues which Egypt felt. Yet, as we see from this passage, these locusts are quite different from the literal locusts sent against Egypt. The Apostle John wants us to see the origin of these forces. It is the devil who unleashes this fury, and it is a force of demons from the abyss. They are likened to a plague of locusts, paralleling the plague in Egypt and the warring locusts in Joel. Yet, as is obvious from their description, they are actually a military force. They are described as horses prepared for battle, men dressed in armor, and chariots coming forth in destruction. In studying the overthrow of Jerusalem in the first century, we know about the raging forces of the Romans, coming with their horses and chariots. Josephus' description of the five year Jewish war is full of horror and slaughter. If you want a good description of demonic fury, the description of the Jewish War is certainly an incredible parallel. John is showing us here that though Israel's overthrow would come through the agency of men, there would be a demonic power behind these forces at work over the five year period. In Matthew 12:41-45, Christ had predicted that when first century Israel was judged for her rejection of the Messiah, that generation of men would become a dwelling place for demons. They would be given up to demonic rule and the devil would have his freedom with them. Also, in Revelation 18:2, where Jerusalem is called "Babylon" since it is no longer the Holy City of God, the city becomes a dwelling place for demons.
C) THOSE WHO WERE PROTECTED FROM THE RAMPAGING LOCUSTS - Earlier, in Revelation 7, God had divided the true Israel from the apostate Israel. In Revelation 7, the church is given the seal of God so that they will not experience any of the covenantal curses being poured out upon the false Israel. So we know historically, the Christians of the first century escaped the tribulation and destruction which fell upon Jerusalem in 70 AD. Here in Revelation 9, the effect of the seal is apparent, as the Christians are spared the torment of the demons sent to pillage apostate Israel. Nothing can touch the true people of God! If the Lord takes us through trials, struggles, and discipline, then He has His reasons and purposes. Yet when He protects His church, nothing can touch her, for she has the seal of God upon her!
D) THE RESPONSE OF THE JEWS TO THIS PERSECUTION - Revelation 9:6 tells us that those being tormented will seek death, but will not find it. This should remind us of the familiar statement which Christ made to the weeping women of Jerusalem at His crucifixion. Jesus, knowing that judgment would fall upon that generation, upon those women and upon their children, tells them not to weep for Him, but for themselves. They will see their children destroyed, and they will hear men cry out for death, for the anguish of the judgment of Israel will be so great. Better to face death than the torment unleashed with these demonic forces. "One woe is past…Behold, still two more woes are coming after these things." We can see why the eagle of Revelation 8 gave this warning. This would be just the beginning of anguish before the actual fall of Jerusalem.