#24 The Terrible Woes
Contained in this chapter are some very terrifying things. And we must understand, that is, we must keep this in the forefront of our minds; that it is the ungodly who are being judged for their sinful lives. They have hated God with all of heart, soul, mind and strength and they have hated their neighbors as much as they hate their own souls.
They have loved their sinful behavior, their evil deeds of darkness so much that they would rather die in the pursuit of sin and suffer the eternal consequences than turn to God and live in paradise for all eternity. Theirs is the attitude of John Derek whose motto was “Live fast, die young and leave a good looking corpse.” This is the mindset of the unbeliever. There is no afterlife, no judgment, only a cessation of life; and therefore there is no reason to curb their fleshly indulgences.
We know from (2Ti 3:13) this truth; “But evil men and impostors will proceed from bad to worse, deceiving and being deceived.” And Jesus said in (Mt 24:12) “Because lawlessness is increased, most people’s love will grow cold. This is why men can murder one another and think nothing of it. To kids now-a-days life is like a video game. Nothing is real, nothing has consequences. And so they kill, they drive by someone’s house and empty their guns. They see someone walking down the street and blow them away. Someone calls them a name and they pull their guns.
Worse still they think this is fun! They are, as Paul stated, (Ro 1:31) “Without understanding, covenant-breakers, without natural affection, implacable, unmerciful: (2Ti 3:3) they are “Without natural affection, trucebreakers, false accusers, incontinent, fierce, despisers of those that are good, their lives are characterized by (1Ti 4:2) “Speaking lies in hypocrisy; that is, they wear the mask of friendship and their words of peace mask their hearts of hatred. And the reason is they have no natural affection, no natural feelings at all, having their conscience seared with a hot iron;”
And God, The Holy and True, the Almighty who is of purer eyes than to behold evil will have had enough. The stench of their sin will have reached to the heavens. In (Gen.15:16) we read of the mercy of God in not immediately punishing sin. Remember that He gave the world of Noah 120 years of mercy before He had enough and sent the flood to destroy that world.
And He spoke of the limit of His mercy in (Gen. 15:16) when He said “Then in the fourth generation they will return here, for the iniquity of the Amorite is not yet complete.” But there comes a time when He says, “Enough!” Their iniquity will be complete like those who once were disobedient, when the patience of God kept waiting in the days of Noah, during the construction of the ark, in which a few, that is, eight persons, were brought safely through the water. (1Pe 3:20) God’s patience will be at an end.
And this is what we see happening in the book of Revelation. Gods’ mercy will be at an end. He will have had enough. Speaking to the Pharisees in (Mt 23:32) “Jesus said, 32 “Fill up, then, the measure of the guilt of your fathers. 33 “You serpents, you brood of vipers, how will you escape the sentence of hell?
We have been watching that horrible judgment unfolding in graphic detail and today is no exception. Let’s get right to it. Our text is found in (Rev 9:1-21) and we see the next trumpet judgment. 1Then the fifth angel sounded, and I saw a star from heaven which had fallen to the earth; Who is this. Some say Jesus, and some say it’s the devil. I think the phrase a star from heaven which had fallen to the earth is key. What is the devil but a fallen angel, one who did not keep his first estate.
I am reminded of the words in (Isaiah 14:12-14) 12 “How you have fallen from heaven, O star of the morning, son of the dawn! You have been cut down to the earth, you who have weakened the nations! 13 “But you said in your heart, ‘I will ascend to heaven; I will raise my throne above the stars of God, and I will sit on the mount of assembly In the recesses of the north. 14 ‘I will ascend above the heights of the clouds; I will make myself like the Most High.’ 15 “Nevertheless you will be thrust down to Sheol, to the recesses of the pit.
The word fallen comes from the Greek word “Pipto” which means to “fail, to descend from a higher place to a lower, to fall (either from or upon) to be thrust down, to fall under judgment, to fall down.” None of these terms could be applied to Jesus in any way, shape or form. Jesus is the Perfect Holy Son of God. When He came to this earth, He came willingly. He was not forced, or thrust out of heaven. He didn’t fail. He is not under the condemnation of God. You see therefore that this cannot refer to Jesus Christ.
This is exactly what Isaiah was saying when He said, “How you have fallen from heaven, O star of the morning, son of the dawn! You have been cut down to the earth, you who have weakened the nations! Therefore I believe that this ‘fallen star” refers to Satan.
Another point that leads me to this conclusion is this. We read in verse 1 “and the key of the bottomless pit was given to him. This key was given to him. Now in Chapter 1 and verse (17), in John’s vision of Jesus Christ we read this, “And when I saw him, I fell at his feet as dead. And he laid his right hand upon me, saying unto me, Fear not; I am the first and the last: 18 I am he that liveth, and was dead; and, behold, I am alive for evermore, Amen; and have the keys of hell and of death.
Jesus already has the keys. He doesn’t need anyone to give Him anything. All power belongs to Him. He upholds all things by the word of His power. He directs all of His creation. He is in need of nothing. The devil on the other hand is a tool in His hands to be used for His glory.
Jesus is glorified in the judgment of sinners. Here He gives the devil the keys of the bottomless pit for the purpose of using him as a tool for judging sinners. Now we read in verse 2He opened the bottomless pit, there are those who believe that there is a shaft somewhere on the surface of the earth that leads to hell itself.
This leads to a sub-point. Now if hell is in the center of the earth as people suppose then what happens to it when the earth itself is destroyed by fire? The scriptures speak of a new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells. I don’t think those who hold to this idea have really thought it through completely.
But I do know this; we are dealing with spiritual forces here, demonic forces that are released at the appointed time by God Himself. Where they are He knows. When they will be released He knows. And regardless of where they are the plain fact of the matter is that God Himself uses them to judge the world of sinners for their wicked ways.
And this is a most horrific judgment. Notice what it says here; “and smoke went up out of the pit, like the smoke of a great furnace; what is hell but a furnace of fire, and the sun and the air were darkened by the smoke of the pit. 3Then out of the smoke came locusts upon the earth, and power was given them, as the scorpions of the earth have power. 4They were told not to hurt the grass of the earth, nor any green thing, nor any tree, as regular locusts would, but only the men who do not have the seal of God on their foreheads.
We see that these creatures come from a pit that smokes like a furnace. Some say that this smoke represents deception, and delusion, sin and sorrow, moral darkness and degradation. This is a graphic picture of the power of darkness is it not!
It seems to me that this judgment will visible in its approach like a swarm of locust. In the 1870’s the skies of Nebraska were darkened by a cloud of locust 300 miles long and 100 miles across. This must have been a terrifying sight indeed and there was nothing the farmers could do to stop it. They could only look with horror as the cloud of insects blotted out the sun.
Hendriksen says, “The destruction, the utter ruin, the desolation caused by a locust storm can be understood only by those who have seen and experienced it. Unbelievable in their destructive power, they are a fit symbol of the far more terrible and destructive hellish locusts which the Apostle John sees.”
Whatever these ‘locust’ are; whether demons or some created thing, or perhaps even some false doctrine as some are inclined to believe, they are directed to attack those who hate God, who worship the devil or themselves or the antichrist or any thing other than God, and whose lives are characterized by the practice of sin in every form imaginable. They will see their judgment approaching and there is nothing they can do to stop it! Matthew Henry calls these locusts the emissaries of the antichrist.
Now notice what these locusts do. 5And they were not permitted to kill anyone, the scope of their power is limited by God Almighty… they weren’t allowed to kill but to torment for five months; and their torment was like the torment of a scorpion when it stings a man. Now I have only experienced a partial sting from a scorpion and so I cannot speak from firsthand knowledge but I do know several people who have and they speak of months of physical problems that accompanied the sting. Again from Henry, The hurt they were to do them was not a bodily, but a spiritual hurt. They should not in a military way destroy all by fire and sword; the trees and the grass should be untouched, and those they hurt should not be slain; it should not be a persecution, but a secret poison and infection in their souls, which should rob them of their purity, and afterwards of their peace. Heresy is a poison in the soul, working slowly and secretly, but will be bitterness in the end.
Now if I understand this correctly they will attack en-mass, like a swarm of locust attacking crops. The pain would be excruciating. This gives us understanding to what we read in verse 6And in those days men will seek death and will not find it; they will long to die, and death flees from them. I cannot conceive of what this will be like; to be in such agony that you would wish to die and can’t!
I remember one pastor giving this illustration; “A man takes a 45 and blows his brains out but still lives, still suffers the agony of the locust stings. He cannot die! God won’t allow it. The one think he thinks will alleviate his suffering is taken from him!’ But here too we see the mercy of God. If that man should die in his sins he would be sentenced to hell and the agony he suffered in this life is nothing compared to the eternal agony of Hell! And so the day of grace still continues. It is only when Jesus returns that time will be no more; that it will be too late to repent, that eternity will begin with eternal joy for God’s children and eternal judgment for those who love sin, hate God and revel in deeds of darkness.
John gives us a description of the locusts and here we must remember that John is using word pictures that he understood. He says 7The appearance of the locusts was like horses prepared for battle; This was something that he saw firsthand. The Roman Army cavalry had armor for their horses as well as for themselves. These locusts resembled those horses ready for battle.
Albert Barnes says “The resemblance between the locust and the horse, dissimilar as they are in most respects, has been often remarked. Dr. Robinson says, “We found today upon the shrubs an insect, either a species of black locust, or much resembling them, which our Bedouin called Faras el Jundy, or ‘soldiers’ horses.’ They said these insects were common on Mount Sinai, of a green color, and were found on dead trees, but did them no injury.” A.T. Robertson says “The likeness of a locust to a horse, especially to a horse equipped with armor, is so striking that the insect is named in German Heupferd (hay horse), and in Italian cavalett a little horse”
We read further “and on their heads appeared to be crowns like gold, Now this is interesting as one of the translations of the word Stephanos carries with it the idea of a turban. The true idea in the word is that of something that is passed around the head, and that encircles it, and as such it would well describe the appearance of a turban as seen at a distance. In keeping with the world situation at present this is an interesting observation.
John continues with his description saying “and their faces were like the faces of men. Human-looking faces in these demonic locusts to give added terror, “suggesting the intelligence and capacity of man.” Vincent actually sees “a distinct resemblance to the human countenance in the face of the locust. 8They had hair like the hair of women, and their teeth were like the teeth of lions. 9They had breastplates like breastplates of iron; and the sound of their wings was like the sound of chariots, of many horses rushing to battle. 10They have tails like scorpions, and stings; and in their tails is their power to hurt men for five months.
Consider this synopsis by Matthew Henry which I found interesting. The power given to these factors for hell is limited in point of time: five months, a certain season, and but a short season, though how short we cannot tell. Gospel-seasons have their limits, and times of seduction are limited too. Though it would be short, it would be very sharp, insomuch that those who were made to feel the malignity of this poison in their consciences would be weary of their lives, A wounded spirit who can bear? These locusts were of a monstrous size and shape. They were equipped for their work like horses prepared to battle. They pretended to great authority, and seemed to be assured of victory:
They had crowns like gold on their heads; it was not a true, but a counterfeit authority. They had the show of wisdom and sagacity, the faces of men, though the spirit of devils. They had all the allurements of seeming beauty, to ensnare and defile the minds of men—hair like women; their way of worship was very gaudy and ornamental. Though they appeared with the tenderness of women, they had the teeth of lions, were really cruel creatures. They had the defense and protection of earthly powers, breastplates of iron. They made a mighty noise in the world; they flew about from one country to another, and the noise of their motion was like that of an army with chariots and horses. Though at first they soothed and flattered men with a fair appearance, there was a sting in their tails; the cup of their abominations contained that which, though luscious at first, would at length bite like a serpent and sting like an adder.
And then John tops it all off by saying, 11They have as king over them, the angel of the abyss; his name in Hebrew is Abaddon, and in the Greek he has the name Apollyon. Both names mean destroyer. Here again we see the prince of the power of the air, Satan himself is meant.
And he is a tool in the hand of God to accomplish His holy purposes of judgment upon sinful mankind for their sinful deeds, for their rebellion, for their sorceries, for their adulteries and for their hatred of everything God stands for; all that is holy and righteous and just and pure.
Isn’t it interesting that sinful man is following the very one who will bring about their demise! But that is no different than drug addicts or homosexuals. These practice the very thing that will kill them. And they don’t care. They would rather have sin, darkness and death than God and the salvation that He alone can bestow. They would rather suffer in hell, (for they don’t know what they are saying, they have no idea what hell is or they would never say such a thing) than find rest for their souls in the arms of Jesus!
Jesus Himself said in (John 12:40) “HE HAS BLINDED THEIR EYES AND HE HARDENED THEIR HEART, SO THAT THEY WOULD NOT SEE WITH THEIR EYES AND PERCEIVE WITH THEIR HEART, AND BE CONVERTED AND I HEAL THEM.” Unless He opens their eyes and unstops their ears they will continue in the error of their ways; they will continue to practice their beloved sins and they will continue on that broad road that leads to destruction, being unable to see the billowing smoke and brimstone of the lake of fire that lay just over the horizon.
What horror awaits those who will not turn from their wicked ways and live! What misery is in store for those who hate God! We must pray for them, and we must speak to them. We must plant the seeds of truth in their hearts and water them with prayer, pleading God to have mercy upon them. We must prostrate ourselves before His mercy seat and beg Him to send His saving grace upon them before it’s too late! The day of grace is still upon us but one day God will close the door to the wedding feast and on that day such a wail of misery and torment will arise, such a cry of agony as has never been heard.
There is only one positive in this whole passage. They will not be able, allowed to hurt any of God’s people. Like the Israelites in Egypt, there will be a distinction made between the children of God and the followers of the devil. While they suffer, we will be preserved. When they are judged, we will be ushered into our heavenly rest.
This in no way should cause the believer to gloat. It is only the mercy of God that has caused us to be born again. We should be humbled by the fact that we have been made the recipients of blessing instead of the curse. We should bow our heads in humility, in an attitude of thankfulness for what our great God has done. We should be offering endless praise to Jesus because He had mercy upon poor worms like ourselves. The old doxology is appropriate here;
Praise God from Whom all blessings flow.
Praise Him all creatures here below.
Praise Him above ye heavenly host.
Praise Father, Son and Holy Ghost.