The 5th and 6th Trumpets, the Bottomless Pit, and the First Woe
1And 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.
It is absolutely essential that the reader keep in mind that these are all symbols and not literal objects or events stated else the interpretation of this book is arbitrary and can mean anything.
A. The fifth angel sounded...Edit
The fifth herald announces the next series of events. In understanding these seven messengers to correspond to the seven stars or messengers from Rev. 1:20, it is important to understand that they all bore the same message, including what was given to the other six. But just as each messenger also carries a specific message to a specific congregation (Rev. 2-3), each messenger also represents heralding a specific set of events.
B. I saw a star fall from heaven unto the earth:Edit
This solitary star is a leader of some sort who falls from power.
To the star, not to the 5th herald, was given the key to the bottomless pit. To understand this phrase, it is important to understand first the nature of the abyss or the bottomless pit from scripture. Then it is possible to discuss the key, which then makes it possible to discuss further the identity of the star that fell.
The bottomless pit – Read Psalm 9:15; Psalm 30:3; Psalm 35:7; Psalm 40:2; Proverbs 22:14; Proverbs 28:10; Isaiah 14:15; Isaiah 24:17-18, 22; Isaiah 38:17; Jeremiah 18:20-22; Jeremiah 48:43; Jeremiah 48:44; Ezekiel 19:4; Ezekiel 19:8; Ezekiel 26:20; Ezekiel 28:8. It is true that in a number of cases the pit is referred to as Sheol/Hades/the grave. But this is an example of the greater overall meaning of the pit. The basic idea of the pit is the snare or trap for beasts or men. It is important to note that in many cases (including Revelation) the pit is something that can be entered and exited! It is not necessarily a permanent trap. The bottomless nature of the pit is the nature of its size rather than its function. It is bottomless because it has to hold something(s) very, very big.
The key – represents the authority to open the pit and unleash what is contained therein. That the star is given this key implies that someone had the authority to give that key. Essentially this represents God’s machinations, causing a leader to do His will. God gives Nero the key, the authority, to send the Roman army, just as all kingly authority derives from God, and just as we see throughout the Old Testament with kings such as Nebuchadnezzar working God’s will.
The star – I believe this to be the Caesar [historically Nero] who unleashes the Roman army on the land of Judah. This Caesar unleashes the Roman army but falls from power individually. His fall and his opening of the pit are not necessarily in order.
2And 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/leader, opens the bottomless pit and releases what is contained therein.
B. there arose a smoke out of the pit, as the smoke of a great furnace;Edit
Read Genesis 19:28; Joshua 8:20-21; Judges 20:38-40; 2 Samuel 22; Psalm 18; Psalm 37:20; Isaiah 9:18; Isaiah 14:31; Isaiah 34:10; Hosea 13:3; Joel 2:30; Nahum 2:13; Acts 2:19. The prophetic idea of smoke is tied to judgment against a nation. In some cases the smoke is associated with the great cloud that follows a large army, which I believe to be the case here. In other cases, such as with Sodom and Gomorrah the smoke is that of the city conquered rising up after the city is destroyed, which does not fit here. The furnace, or great heat coming from the pit and associated with the smoke, is the fires of judgment coming in the form of this army.
C. the sun and the air were darkened by reason of the smoke of the pit.Edit
The sun is darkened – the king of the Jews looses his power because of the army approaching (Herod Agrippa before whom Paul defend himself in Acts 25-26.) [Historically Agrippa, the 7th and final King Herod of the line, fled to Rome after being rejected by the Jews at the beginning of the Jewish war with Rome.]
The air is darkened – the air or heaven is the realm of Jewish authority. The prince of the power of the air is at this time Satan, who works in the children of disobedience, the Jews (Ephesians 2:2). The air darkening is a weakening of the authority of the Jewish leadership over the land of Judah as the Roman army moves forward and begins conquering the cities of the land. Eventually their authority is reduced to Jerusalem, and then destroyed altogether.
3And there came out of the smoke locusts upon the earth: and unto them was given power, as the scorpions of the earth have power.
A. there came out of the smoke locusts upon the earth:Edit
This is a great visual representation of the approach of a great army. First you see the smoke, then you see the fire, or in this case, the army seems to appear out of the smoke. This army is symbolically associated as locusts. This symbol points, in some sense, to the plague against Egypt (Exodus 10:4-19), but it is more than just that. Read Jeremiah 51:14; Jeremiah 51:27; Joel 1:4 and especially Ezekiel 38-39. The concept of locusts is of vast destruction, generally associated with an army. Consider the nature of such an army that moves through a land, pillaging supplies in a slash and burn style leaving nothing behind them just like a swarm of locusts. We'll touch on Gog and Magog later and connect it to this.
B. and unto them was given power, as the scorpions of the earth have power.Edit
The Roman army had a capacity similar to the Jewish partisans who fought against them, negating that power.
4And 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 army was commanded to not “hurt” the Jewish commoners as a whole, but specifically the leaders (men) of the Jews in revolt against Rome. This was a precise mission with a precise goal that left the majority of the people of Judah alone.
5And 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.
This is further identification of this army’s mission not to destroy but to harass and hurt (symbolically) their target. The Roman army coming in was to subjugate the leaders of the Jewish revolt and leave a lasting debilitation. [Historically this happened with Cestius Gallus who spent five months at the beginning of the Jewish Wars coming at Jerusalem, but he was unsuccessful in taking the Temple Mount.]
It is also important to note at this point, that in every case where a specific time (not a generalized time like 1000 years) is mentioned, it is literal. There is no basis on which to take it as anything but in any apocalyptic context, especially within the context of the book of Revelation itself.
6And in those days shall men seek death, and shall not find it; and shall desire to die, and death shall flee from them.
The horrors of war come on the heels of the four horsemen, especially that last three, and those who are commoners, those who are poor already will suffer even more.
7And 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.
The interpretation of the locust swarm is given partly here. The swarm of locusts is really an army of men astride horses, coming for battle. The crowns on their heads are the symbol of kingly authority given to them to carry out their mission. This army is representative of the king whom they serve.
8And they had hair as the hair of women, and their teeth were as the teeth of lions.
A. they had hair as the hair of womenEdit
Men in this army have marched long, fast, and hard to achieve their mission and have not had opportunity or reason to shear their hair (nor shave).
B. their teeth were as the teeth of lions.Edit
Read Psalm 58.
9And 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.
A. they had breastplates, as it were breastplates of iron;Edit
Again identifying this as the Roman army. In Daniel 2, the Roman Empire is represented by iron. It is a fulfillment of the promise in Leviticus 26 and Deuteronomy 28 “And I will break the pride of your power; and I will make your heaven as iron, and your earth as brass:”.
B. the sound of their wings was as the sound of chariots of many horses running to battle.Edit
The buzzing drone of the locusts that John hears is compared to the thundering sound of the chariots and horses of the army.
10And they had tails like unto scorpions, and there were stings in their tails: and their power was to hurt men five months.
Reiterating the idea of scorpions as part of the army, these are at the “tail” of the locusts, the back of the army. This is the sting of arrows from archer companies within the legion. Above the scorpions were balanced against the scorpions of the earth, the archers of the Romans matched the archers of the Jews
11And 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.
This verse identifies the fallen star as a king. This king has the name “Destroyer” in both the Hebrew and Greek tongues. What is surely significant here is the need for a reference to the Hebrew tongue. ONLY in the pre-Jerusalem interpretation does this even matter. After the Jews fell, what importance is there to the Hebrew language (as it relates to scripture especially)?
Here then we have another key to when Revelation was written.
12One woe is past; and, behold, there come two woes more hereafter.
The sounding of the fifth trumpet releases the first woe (the first military incursion). The Jews see this woe and realize there is much worse to come.
13And the sixth angel sounded, and I heard a voice from the four horns of the golden altar which is before God,
The voice is from the altar, the symbol of communication between God and men from the OT. It’s where sacrifices were made, prayers were offered by the priests, and so on. The idea here is that the command comes from God, but it is also significant in that it represents that the Jewish Temple is still standing. More on this in later chapters.
14Saying to the sixth angel which had the trumpet, Loose the four angels which are bound in the great river Euphrates.
These four messengers are those from Revelation 7:1 holding back the four winds. The sixth herald is to loose them, not because they are imprisoned, but because they are holding back, awaiting command.
The great river Euphrates on the northern border of Israel is a symbol of the border and even barrier to northern nations. Read Deuteronomy 11:24; 2 Samuel 8:3; Jeremiah 13; Jeremiah 46:10; Revelation 16:12. To cross that river indicated invasion into the land of Judah by a powerful army.
15And 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.
These four messengers, representing the larger invasion force of the Roman army, had been prepared for some time. This “third part of men” is the first third to be slain of the Jewish nation and it represents those killed or captured and taken out of active capacity for the Jewish cause. The other two will follow.
16And the number of the army of the horsemen were two hundred thousand thousand: and I heard the number of them.
This is another look at the Roman army in its vastness. 200 million is certainly not a real number [as there were only around 300 million humans on the whole planet at that time], but like a locust swarm, John indicates here that the army was big…really big.
17And 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.
Basically these are like the original foray into Judah. The breastplates are not iron any more, but loaded with the symbols of judgment (shining like fire, blood red hyacinth boarding on black, and the yellow of sulphur/brimstone). This larger army was not on a limited mission but was out for full destruction.
18By 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.
Full judgment is brought against the Jews now, not just the limited foray for the five months.
19For 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.
Descriptors of the Roman army as it advanced.
20And 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: 21Neither repented they of their murders, nor of their sorceries, nor of their fornication, nor of their thefts.
Again the reference to the locusts as a plague (or plagues) associating the defenders with Egypt. The Jews remaining did not repent of their multitude of sins past nor present.
In Truth and Love.