Revelation Part 20 – Recap
Revelation Ch. 9
Having just covered this unusual chapter in 2 parts, someone asked if I might do a brief recap to help put it all together. I thought that was a stellar idea. At the same time wanted to show you just how and why I arrived at some of the interpretive decisions I made, with the hope that it will be both useful and encouraging to each of you in your own study.
While there is no question Revelation is a challenging book, with just a few key ideas under your belt, there is no one here who cannot read it without great understanding and profit – as long as we avoid assigning arbitrary meaning to the symbols and pictures it contains.
So today will be a bit different as a sermon as I attempt to explain some of the methodology of approaching it.
Basic Method: Questions.
- Are the symbols self-explanatory or even common to John and his first readers?
- Are they explained in the immediate text?
- Are they explained elsewhere in the Bible?
- Do the concepts accord with other clear Biblical teaching?
What is certain? What is reasonable? What is mere speculation?
I try to be careful to tell you where that is the case on my part.
Quick recap up to Ch. 9.
Ch. 1 – Introduction & Commission
Chs. 2-3 – The Letters
Ch. 4 – The Throne of God
Ch. 5 – The Lion, the Lamb and the Scroll
Ch. 6 – Opening the 6 seals (Revealing and enacting)
Ch. 7 – Sealing the Saints
Ch. 8 – The 7th Seal and the 1st 4 Trumpets
Ch. 9 – The 5th & 6th Trumpets / What can we know for sure, and how do we know it?
1. Books as we have them, were quite rare in John’s time. Scrolls were the norm. A sealed scroll was the typical means of preserving very important documents untampered with. Especially the wills of important people in John’s day. When a will was opened, just as today, it then entered the stage of its contents being carried out. Disbursements. In this case, taking into account the rest of the book – God’s final plan for judging sin and evil, and granting the saints their inheritance. We take that scenario from reading the book as a whole. That is how it ends – sin and death and Satan being finally dealt with, and Believers entering the fullness of their promised inheritance.
Writing on both sides would indicate the contents were entire. There was no part 2, say on another scroll. Someone took pains to be sure it was all written in one place and made tamperproof. This was the whole deal.
2. From the OT we firmly established how God appointed the use of trumpets to signal action on the part of His people militarily, civilly and even ecclesiastically. Military use of trumpets has been common through the ages up to and including our own civil war. Hence our view that the trumpets serve as announcements and warnings. And as we’ve seen, they appear to enlarge upon aspects of God’s judgments as revealed in the opening of the seals. There are a dozen or more passages in the OT where God tells His prophets to “blow the trumpet” in warning God’s people judgment is coming upon them for their sins.
III. Rev. 9:1
Stars: As early as Job 38 angels are sometimes referred to as “stars”. Rev. 1:20 clearly explains that picture and sets the tone for its use in the rest of the book. In this verse, the star is even personified as “he.” So we KNOW it is an entity.
Angels as “fallen” are never referred to positively in Scripture.
IV. Rev. 9:2
The bottomless pit or abyss we’ve seen addressed in other places like 2 Peter 2:4 and Jude 6. Additionally, this will reappear in Rev. 20:3, where the pit is identified as the place where Satan is bound – so that he can “deceive the nations no longer.” There we also see another very important fact: The activity of Satan and the main concern about his activity is – deception. Darkness from the truth.
V. Rev. 9:3-5
Natural knowledge of locusts combined with the revelation of darkness and deception from Satan and his minions is clear. Natural locusts eat plant life – these do not. Natural locusts would not make a distinction between people – these do. The previous chapter showed us by demonstration from the OT that this sealing of God’s people was invisible and spiritual – keeping them from the harm of the locusts, just as Jesus told us that if it were possible, even the elect would be deceived in the last days.
Again, the natural knowledge of the 1st readers would have recognized the 5 month period as simply the season of locusts – indicating this demonic deception has its season too.
VI. Rev. 9:6
Common knowledge would tell us there is no state of immortality for people, which would rule out the idea this inability to die is a purely physical thing – not to mention the fact that later in the chapter, 1/3 of mankind ARE killed. Physical death in that sense is not the issue. This coincides more closely with spiritual or psychological pain as the result of the demonic darkness and deception.
VII. Rev. 9:7-10
The language here is clarified for us in detail back in Joel 2. There, a genuine locust invasion is used to symbolize God’s judgment on His people – just like the locust plague on Egypt in Ex. 10. And all of the same military language is used of the locusts back there too – because they are in effect, an “army” sent from God in judgment.
IIX. Rev. 9:11
In case we had any doubt this plague is Satanic and demonic in nature – the text then says explicitly that Satan is the one behind this invading force which inflicts woes on those who do not belong to God in Christ.
IX. Rev. 9:12-16
Keeping with the involvement of the angelic hosts, both holy and fallen, one sent from the very altar of incense before the throne in Heaven – where the prayers of the saints are offered up (so we too factor into this) God sends an angel to loose 4 demonic entities to marshal an innumerable army of other demons to bring about the loss of 1/3 of mankind. Exactly how is not explained. But whatever the means, it seems to have zero impact on people in terms of turning from their sin and to God.
X. Rev. 9:17-19
Once again, we are given images to reinforce the attack nature of God’s judgments in military imagery. And in keeping with what we have seen already in the first part of the chapter, these do their damage by what comes out of their mouths. Just as in Ch. 1 it is a sharp, two-edged sword which comes out of the mouth of the Risen and glorified Jesus, so here, their word is the means whereby people are destroyed in great number.
It is the propagation of deception and darkness from the truth. This is a recurring motif throughout the Bible where the figures of light for truth, and darkness for the obscuring of truth is common. Especially in John’s writings.
John 3:19–21 And this is the judgment: the light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the light because their works were evil. For everyone who does wicked things hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his works should be exposed.”
We see it in Paul too: 2 Corinthians 4:6
2 Corinthians 4:1–5
And in Peter as well: 1 Peter 2:9
1 John 1:5–10
XI. Rev. 9:20-21
Given the ways mankind is suffering to this point, even to a 1/3 of it being wiped out in the era of this 6th trumpet – it seems to have no impact on the hearts and minds of those remaining.
As the text marvels at their unrepentance, so should we. And marvel that in God’s economy, repentance is still being held out as a hope – though it is rejected.
The previous 2 times we’ve looked at several lessons we can take away from all this – and there are yet more for us to consider as we think about this recap.
- What can possibly be more cruel, than to seal the fate of people such that they die in their trespasses and sins? That they be blinded from the truth of reality – of Who God is, who and what mankind is, why we are here, why things are the way they are, what the purpose of creation and life is, and what will come after this.
“In 1944, Hiroo Onoda was sent to the small island of Lubang in the western Philippines to spy on U.S. forces in the area. Allied forces defeated the Japanese imperial army in the Philippines in the latter stages of the war, but Onoda, a lieutenant, evaded capture. While most of the Japanese troops on the island withdrew or surrendered in the face of oncoming American forces, Onoda and a few fellow holdouts hid in the jungles, dismissing messages saying the war was over.
For 29 years, he survived on food gathered from the jungle or stolen from local farmers.
After losing his comrades to various circumstances, Onoda was eventually persuaded to come out of hiding in 1974.
His former commanding officer traveled to Lubang to see him and tell him he was released from his military duties.
In his battered old army uniform, Onoda handed over his sword, nearly 30 years after Japan surrendered.” CNN Website article.
Think of the sad deception of world-renowned theoretical physicist Stephen Hawking who just passed away last week. Deceived into a wholly materialistic view of life and the universe, standing finally before the Creator he steadily and emphatically denied. How tragic is that?
2. While Christians, as sealed by the Spirit are protected against the great delusion of unbelief, we are not immune to the enemy attempting to deceive us as well in making us ineffectual for the Kingdom.
We can all too easily buy into some of the World’s current thinking as well – and be deceived in some ways. This was a key issue in the letters to the 7 churches in Chs. 2-3.
The Ephesians were deceived into thinking that as long as they had their doctrine straight, their lack of passion toward Christ was irrelevant.
Smyrna was in danger of hiding their Christianity due to persecution.
Pergamum was in danger of syncretism – blending their Christianity with false religions and what it could lead to. Losing the exclusivity of salvation by grace alone, through faith alone, because of Christ’s substitutionary death on the cross alone.
Thyatira was being deceived by a false prophetess who was convincing them in matters that led them into sexual immorality.
Sardis was living on their reputation as hot, hip and happening, when their spiritual lives were all but dead. Deceived into relishing external demonstrations over internal life in Christ.
Philadelphia was in danger of thinking that because they were small and marginalized, that they didn’t really matter in the grand scheme of things. Of losing their grip on how important patient endurance is.
Laodicea was wealthy, prominent and self-sufficient, and were deceived into settling for that even though they were not of any real spiritual value to anyone else.
We must guard our own hearts and minds – for this enemy of ours will attempt – if it were possible – to lead the very elect into the great deception of rejecting Christ.
Knowing he cannot do that, he will do his best to distract, discourage, demoralize, doubt and derail us from our mission to the world.
3. This is the great deception WE are called to dispel in the preaching and living of the Gospel of Jesus Christ in our age.
1 John 2:7–11
If you are looking for purpose in life – what can possibly be greater than helping people see and understand the truth about all of life – in the light of glory of Jesus Christ? Seeing them reconciled to the God who made them? Forgiven of all their sins. Freed from the bondage of those sins. Becoming inheritors of eternal life. How?
Giving so the Church continues to preach and teach the Word of God.
Public Worship in making God known locally.
Personal growth in the image, the character of Christ so others are exposed to Him through us.
Sharing the Gospel of justification by faith alone in the atoning sacrifice of Jesus Christ.
Serving the local Church so it continues its testimony in the world.
Missions – so the Gospel goes abroad.
You have only to repose
On my wisdom, love, and care;
When my wrath consumes my foes,
Mercy shall my children spare;
While they perish in the flood,
You that bear my holy mark,†
Sprinkled with atoning blood,
Shall be safe within the ark.”
4 Sinners, see the ark prepar’d!
Haste to enter while there’s room;
Though the Lord his arm has bar’d,
Mercy still retards your doom:
Seek him while there yet is hope,
Ere the day of grace be past,
Lest in wrath he give you up,
And this call should prove your last.