Buy our Entire Web site on CD Revival Reformation Classics:
Can Change the World Again.
Introduction to Alethea In Heart Ministries

The Revelation of John - Chapter IX
Commentaries on the Entire Bible

By Rev. Henry Cowles
Professor of Church History and Prophesy at Oberlin College, and Main Editor of
The Oberlin Evangelist (responsible for giving us most of Finney's sermons).





This chapter gives us the fifth and sixth trumpets, spoken of sometimes as the first and second of the woe-trumpets.

1. 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.

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.

This "star" represented a conscious intelligent agent, for he receives the key of the pit of the abyss and proceeds to open it. He is one of God's angels, brilliant and distinguished like a star. For the figure we may compare Num. 24: 17: "There shall come a Star out of Jacob, and a Scepter shall rise out of Israel and shall smite the corners, of Moab," etc.

3. 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.

4. 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.

This may not mean that the smoke generated the locusts, nor that the locusts, coming up in a dense cloud, were at first mistaken for smoke, but were ultimately seen to be only locusts; but rather that the issuing smoke was the natural product of a burning pit and that the locusts came up with the smoke and so emerged from it.—Their power was like that of scorpions—to torment rather than to kill. That is, while they were nearly locusts in form and general apperance, they were essentially scorpions in their power and functions. This special feature is brought out yet more definitely by explicit statement (vs. 4 and 5).—Naturally locusts are destructive to grass, green things and trees, subsisting on such food; but these are commissioned to hurt only men, and of men, only those who had not the seal of God in their foreheadsa circumstance which closely connects this seal and its events with the scenes of chap. 7. The sealing there was preparatory to the exemption from the plagues revealed here. This fact forbids us to divorce that marking of good men which lies between the sixth seal and the seventh from this symbol of torment which belongs to the fifth trumpet. It would be a reckless severing of this intimate connection to interpret the four intervening trumpets (chap. 8) as sweeping us on over whole centuries of the history of our world, to find the scenes of the fifth trumpet afar down ages beyond the marking of good men for exemption from its plagues as given in chapter 7.

5. And to them it was given that they should not kill them, but that they should be tormented five months: and their torment was as the torment of a scorpion, when he striketh a man.

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.

Here the significance of the symbol is brought out yet more fully. They are not to kill but to hurt—not to take life but to take from it all its joys and leave men longing for a death that will not come to their relief!—We can not be far from the truth when we apply this fearful symbol of woe to those demoniac passions that burned in human hearts and fired them to madness and agony in the early months of that awful siege of the city of Jerusalem. It was hell uncapped and its ministries of torment sent up in clouds to smite their maddening stings into the guilty souls of men. Whoever will read the account of those conflicts and feuds, or rather, of that infuriate madness which set brother against brother, father against son, and son against father, and turned the myriad swords and daggers of her warriors one against another, making the salvation of the city impossible, and its unutterable ruin inevitable; and then will consider for a moment how this must have stricken down all hope in every Jewish bosom, and palsied every arm, and made life intolerable, will see a striking harmony between the prophetic portraying and the historic facts.—Other prophecy had touched these prominent features of this awful scene. Moses had written (Dent. 28: 66, 67): "And thy life shall hang in doubt before thee, and thou shalt fear day and night and shalt have none assurance of thy life: in the morning thou shalt say, Would God it were evening! And at evening, Would God it were morning!"Jesus also, as recorded by Luke (21: 23—26): "There shall be great distress upon the land and wrath upon the people: upon the earth distress of nations with perplexity, the sea and the waves roaring; men's hearts failing them for fear and for looking after those things which are coming on the earth; for the powers of heaven shall be shaken."

7. And the shapes of the locusts were like unto horses prepared unto battle; and on their heads were as it were crowns like gold, and their faces were as the faces of men.

8. And they had hair as the hair of women, and their teeth were as the teeth of lions.

9. And they had breastplates, as it were breastplates of iron; and the sound of their wings was as the sound of chariots of many horses running to battle.

10. And they had tails like unto scorpions, and there were stings in their tails; and their power was to hurt men five months.

These descriptive features combine to make up a most appalling picture.—Five months was the normal life-period of the locust. This limit of time is therefore probably due to this fact, rather than to the precise duration of the historic events to which the symbol looks. Some critics stretch this period of five months to one hundred and fifty years, on the baseless assumption that a day in prophecy is a year in history and in fact. Such theorists are respectfully requested to study Dissertation I, at the close of this volume.

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.

12. One woe is past; and, behold, there come two woes more hereafter.

These ministers of torment, coming up from the great pit of the abyss, are marshaled and led on by a king whose name signifies The Destroyer. This entire symbol of the fifth trumpet, and more particularly this one feature of if their king Apollyon—seem to show that God employs the spirits of darkness as his ministers of vengeance and judgment upon the incorrigibly guilty in this world even—perhaps as foreshadowing their similar service of torturing the wicked in the great prison—house of woe in the world to come. Let no one think of the devil as too good to torment his victims—too good to lead on the agents and ministers of torture to madden and desolate human souls, either in earth or hell, in this world or the next!

13. And the sixth angel sounded, and I heard a voice from the four horns of the golden altar which is before God,

14. Saying to the sixth angel which had the trumpet, Loose the four angels which are bound in the great river Euphrates.

The sixth trumpet corresponds closely in general significance with the fifth, differing chiefly in the respect of a manifest advance; for while that was only torture, this is actual death.—That this voice comes from the golden altar indicates again how close the connection is between the prayers of saints suffering under persecution and these judgments of God upon their persecutors. Compare 6: 9-11, and 8: 3-6.—That the four angels of destruction are loosed from the great river Euphrates is obviously an historical allusion, either to Nebuchadnezzar or to Cyrus, and most naturally to the former, since God raised him up as his servant to scourge his ancient people in that age of their deep and desperate apostasy. The analogies between that age and this were in many points most obvious: hence the pertinence of this symbol which brings up God's agents of desolation from the same quarter. The Roman arms were only a second edition of the fierce and terrible Chaldeans, sent of God to scourge a like guilty and hopeless apostasy from the God of their fathers.

15. And the four angels were loosed, which were prepared for an hour, and a day, and a month, and a year, for to slay the third part of men.

16. And the number of the army of the horsemen were two hundred thousand thousand: and I heard the number of them.

The time is limited, the period short; so were the scenes of the siege and fall of Jerusalem. The symbols thus far seem to contemplate only its earlier stages, not its final catastrophe.—The numbers of horsemen are astonishingly great—so great that no human eye could estimate them; but the prophet says that he heard the number stated. We are left to imagine how thrilling this scene must have been.

17. And thus I saw the horses in the vision, and them that sat on them, having breastplates of fire, and of jacinth, and brimstone: and the heads of the horses were as the heads of lions; and out of their mouths issued fire and smoke and brimstone.

18. By these three was the third part of men killed, by the fire, and by the smoke, and by the brimstone, which issued out of their mouths.

19. For their power is in their mouth, and in their tails: for their tails were like unto serpents, and had heads, and with them they do hurt.

It is remarkable that although the number of this army of cavalry is so enormous, yet little is apparently made of the martial force of the riders—the horsemen; none of their features being given save their breastplates; while the description of the horses is very minute, and their destructive force is terrible. These circumstances may be in part ascribed to the fact that the Jews never had cavalry of their own for war, but had some bitter and well-remembered experience of the terror of this arm of military strength. Hence such a representation as this would be fearfully impressive.—In the fulfilling history, the shock of the Roman arms was terrible. It brought down upon the Jewish state and society a power which they could by no means resist.

20. And the rest of the men which were not killed by these plagues yet repented not of the works of their hands, that they should not worship devils, and idols of gold, and silver, and brass, and stone, and of wood; which neither can see, nor hear, nor walk:

21. Neither repented they of their murders, nor of their sorceries, nor of their fornication, nor of their thefts.

The men not killed by these plagues refused to repent. With one heart they persisted to the last in their rebellion against God and in their mad infatuation. Hence there could be no reversal of their doom, nor any long suspension in this series of desolating plagues.—The description of their sins names the worship of devils and of senseless idols, because, of all sins known to the Hebrew prophets, these had been most abominable and offensive to God. It can not be certainly inferred that the crimes of the Jews which filled their cup of national guilt to its brim in the age here referred to were precisely of this form. The terms of the description are historic in their origin, taking their shape from the ancient prophets. Their actual sins indicated a strength of moral hardihood in rebellion against God, a depth of depravity, a desperation in their stand against Jesus of Nazareth, altogether surpassing the worst idolatries of the old prophetic ages. The fact that under the most fearful scourging they would not repent, sufficed to seal their doom; and now its consummation hastens on apace.

Next Chapter (10.).

Previous Chapter (VIII.).

Preface | Introduction | I | II | III | IV | V | VI | VII | VIII | IX | X | XI | XII | XIII | XIV | XV | XVI | XVII | XVIII | XIX | XX | XXI | XXII
"Day" = year?