The Tribulation: Woe to the Earth
In Part 5, we witnessed the trumpets begin to blast one by one, sending a fresh series of disasters upon planet earth and it's inhabitants. We pick up at the fifth trumpet, which is one of the three "woes" the eagle flying in the heavens has warned about:
The Fifth Trumpet sounds:
"The fifth angel sounded his trumpet, and I saw a star that had fallen from the sky to the earth. The star was given the key to the shaft of the Abyss. When he opened the Abyss, smoke rose from it like the smoke from a gigantic furnace. The sun and sky were darkened by the smoke from the Abyss. And out of the smoke locusts came down upon the earth and were given power like that of scorpions of the earth. They were told not to harm the grass of the earth or any plant or tree, but only those people who did not have the seal of God on their foreheads. They were not given power to kill them, but only to torture them for five months. And the agony they suffered was like that of the sting of a scorpion when it strikes a man. During those days men will seek death, but will not find it; they will long to die, but death will elude them." (Revelation 9:1-6, NIV)
The "star" in this verse is not a celestial body, but rather, a person. We get this from the language used: stars normally are not living entities, and cannot be 'given" anything. These are qualities reserved for a person, and this person is a "he." Mentioned in the verse is that the "star" had fallen from the sky to earth. From the language used in this verse, we might conclude that this is probably a fallen angel, as celestial beings are often called "stars" We just need to be careful that we don't assume ALL references to stars are considered angels; we need to consider context.
What we also discover in this section of scripture is that the shaft of a place called the "Abyss" is located on earth, and is locked. This angel has they key and releases a swarm of locusts. Note that the shy, already darkened by the previous judgments, is darkened even moreso. The "marching orders' for this swarm are not to touch anyone but those who don't have God's seal on their heads. They are not to touch the grass, vegetation, or anything else but their specified target. They aren't allowed to kill, only to torture for a period of 5 months; not even half a year. But during that period, men will suffer the pain from the "sting" of this swarm, as if it were a scorpion sting. Middle eastern varieties of scorpions, such as the Death Stalker Scorpion and the Yellow Fantail Scorpion, have particularly nasty stings, as their venom can kill a full-grown adult. John probably knew full well of these types of scorpions , and used this simile as he wrote.
A side note I need to make mention of: during this period; scripture tells us that people will seek to die, but that death will flee from them. It doesn't just limit it to a specific area or group, but it seems to reference THE WHOLE PLANET. Imagine a world in the conditions of the tribulation: darkness, disasters, famines and wars have devastated the planet, freak weather, poisoned water, earthquakes. People trying to do away with themselves, but they are unable to die. The horror is unimaginable: wounds, broken bones, burns, poisoned water and diseases would not kill, but leave masses of people in need of care. What was left of hospitals and healthcare systems would be quickly overrun and collapse due to lack of supplies, or be rationed out very harshly. Disease would run rampant, and people would be literal skeletons warmed with flesh. People dying from hunger, yet still alive because they cannot die would wander aimlessly. Those who tried to kill themselves now have severe wounds, yet still not be able to end their lives. Add all this on top of all the plagues and the fact that we would have trouble finding a place to place all those people. The elderly would be long gone by now, and children would be scare, if any at this point....
I think I needn't go on.
The "Locusts" are described in detail:
"The locusts looked like horses prepared for battle. On their heads they wore something like crowns of gold, and their faces resembled human faces. Their hair was like women’s hair, and their teeth were like lions’ teeth. They had breastplates like breastplates of iron, and the sound of their wings was like the thundering of many horses and chariots rushing into battle. They had tails and stings like scorpions, and in their tails they had power to torment people for five months. They had as king over them the angel of the Abyss, whose name in Hebrew is Abaddon, and in Greek, Apollyon" (Revelation 9:7-11, NIV)
The description of them in greek uses the word stephanoi, which denote crowns of authority. They have power given to them to act. They appear to have human faces, hair like a woman's, and the appearance of horses as well as tails like scorpions. The descriptions given have been speculated by some to be akin to an attack helicopter; this is entirely possible, as the attributes would match. But I'm choosing to stick to scripture here. So, we may leave that as a possibility, but I cannot solidly support it biblically.
A final note before we move of: the names Abaddon and Apollyon both mean the same thing: "Destroyer". Yet another clue that this is a fallen angel. The Lord generally doesn't name his angels these types of names.
The Sixth Angel sounds:
"The first woe is past; two other woes are yet to come. The sixth angel sounded his trumpet, and I heard a voice coming from the horns of the golden altar that is before God. It said to the sixth angel who had the trumpet, "Release the four angels who are bound at the great river Euphrates." And the four angels who had been kept ready for this very hour and day and month and year were released to kill a third of mankind." (Revelation 9:12-15, NIV)
From God's altar, we hear a command issue to the sixth angel, who has just sounded. He is commanded to unbind four angels whose purpose is to slay a third of mankind. By this, I'm reasoning that it is 1/3 of REMAINING people on the earth after the previous judgments. We are not told from scripture whether these are fallen angels or not; only that that they are angels. I have heard others argue they are demons because they slay, but one must remember in Isaiah that an angel of the Lord slew over 100,000 Assyrian soldiers in a night.
"The number of the mounted troops was two hundred million. I heard their number.The horses and riders I saw in my vision looked like this: Their breastplates were fiery red, dark blue, and yellow as sulfur. The heads of the horses resembled the heads of lions, and out of their mouths came fire, smoke and sulfur. A third of mankind was killed by the three plagues of fire, smoke and sulfur that came out of their mouths. The power of the horses was in their mouths and in their tails; for their tails were like snakes, having heads with which they inflict injury." (Revelation 9:16-19, NIV)
This passage has troubled many people who have studied this portion of scripture. A lot of folks believe that this will be an army from China: they connect this army with Revelation 16:12, which mentions the armies of the kings of the east, and that the Euphrates river is dried so that they can come to the battle of Armageddon. Others insist that this is a demonic army, led by the angel of the pit, Apollyon. Their reasoning is that China does not have 200 million horses for that many people, even though they could conceivably field an army that big. And to feed them as they move would be a massive undertaking. The only problem is that scripture does NOT clearly connect this army with Apollyon, or as a force of demons. The horses described as having weird attributes, but the riders are not spoken of, save for their breastplates. It is conceivable that the army could be demonically possessed, but once again, that is not mentioned in scripture either. We know from this is that plagues come from the 'horses" mouths, and that they are fire, smoke and sulfur. To me, that sounds a lot like the results of tank artillery (propellant uses sulfur, and gives off smoke and fire.), which would mean that the "horses' might be mechanized infantry, which could be manufactured en masse. It fits, but like the helicopters of earlier mention, it cannot be solidly supported biblically.
"The rest of mankind that were not killed by these plagues still did not repent of the work of their hands; they did not stop worshiping demons, and idols of gold, silver, bronze, stone and wood—idols that cannot see or hear or walk. Nor did they repent of their murders, their magic arts, their sexual immorality or their thefts." (Revelation 9:20-21, NIV)
Here, we find a report that confirms why the church would not be involved in the Tribulation, and why only the unsaved would be: the condition of their hearts. Despite ALL of the plagues, wars, disasters and whatnot, these people are ADAMANT in their persistence to sin! You would think by this point, these folks would get the idea that someone up above was NOT happy with them. But they are so deluded and stone-hearted, they have but one path: straight to hell.
The church, on the other hand, has ALREADY surrendered to God, and are therefore saved and indwelt with the Holy Spirit. There is nothing in this series of judgments that would "purify" or "sanctify" anyone or anything. Only Christ's blood can do that, and if it by itself is NOT enough, then NOTHING is, INCLUDING the Tribulation. So for ANY who cling to the Mid-Trib, Pre-Wrath or Post-Trib raptures, take a GOOD look at the scenario.
This is NOT "purification" or "sanctification"...
...this is God judging a planet for REBELLION, and he is NOT playing games.
In Part 7, We will pick up with John's vision of the Angel with the scroll, and the Seventh Trumpet.
I bid you all peace.