Revelation 9

The Word Made Fresh

1Then the fifth angel blew his trumpet, and I saw a star that had fallen from the sky onto the earth. The angel was given a key to open the tunnel of the bottomless pit. 2He opened it and it poured forth smoke, as from a giant furnace, a smoke that darkened the sun and the atmosphere. 3Then locusts came out of the smoke onto the earth, and they were given permission to do like that of the scorpions on the earth. 4They were told not to harm the grass or any green growth or any tree on the earth, but only those people who don’t have God’s seal on their foreheads. 5They were permitted to torture them for five months, but not to kill them. Their torture was like the stinging of scorpions. 6During the five months, people will look for death, but won’t find it. They will want to die, but death will escape them.

7The locusts looked like horses ready for battle. They wore what appeared to be golden crowns on their heads. Their faces looked human. 8Their hair was like women’s hair. Their teeth were like those of lions, 9and they were covered with scaled iron breastplates. Their wings sounded like many chariots drawn by horses galloping into battle. 10Their tails were like scorpion tails with stingers, and their tails had the power to hurt people for those five months. 11The angel of the bottomless pit, whose name is Abaddon in Hebrew, or Apollyon in Greek, was their king.

12The first torment has passed; two more torments are to come.

13The sixth angel blew his trumpet, and I heard a voice coming from the horns of the golden altar that stood before God. 14The voice said to the sixth angel who held the trumpet, “Release the four angels who are bound at the great river Euphrates.”

15Then the four angels who had been held ready for the hour, the day, the month, and the year to kill a third of humankind were set free. 16I heard the number of the cavalry troops; two hundred million. 17This is what I saw in my vision: The riders wore breastplates of fire, sapphire, and sulfur. The horses’ heads were like lion heads, and the fire and smoke and sulfur came out of their mouths. 18A third of the people were killed in these three plagues of fire and smoke and sulfur from the horses’ mouths. 19The horses’ strength is in their mouths and tails. Their tails are like snakes with heads, and they inflict much harm with them.

20The people who were not killed by these plagues didn’t repent of their misdeeds, nor did they cease to worship demons and idols made of gold and silver and bronze and stone and wood; idols that cannot see or hear or move. 21And they refused to repent of their murders or of their sorceries or of their sexual sins, or of their thefts.


1-6: The last three trumpet blasts signal the beginning of the “woes” mentioned in the last verse — as if there weren’t woes enough already! The seventh trumpet puts into motion “a star that had fallen from heaven,” probably a reference to Lucifer, aka Satan (see Isaiah 14:12). John introduces the bottomless pit (also called the abyss) as heaven’s opposite. In ancient lore it was the place of punishment for demons, fallen angels, and Satan. Satan is given a key to release evil upon the earth, the idea being that God will give the powers of evil one last hurrah before being forever banished. The locusts represent demons; they are not to damage the trees or the grass (there isn’t any grass anyway — see 8:7), but are to afflict only human beings with torment, though not with death. That they afflict the earth for five months is a curious detail which some have explained by speculating that it represents the average lifespan of a locust.

7-12: The locust is a grasshopper-like creature whose head resembles that of a horse. It could be that John’s vision was influenced by the prophets: Joel tells of the destruction of a locust swarm (Joel 1:4), as did the prophet Amos (7:1). In Amos the locust swarm is connected somehow to royalty and that may have inspired John’s vision of locusts with crowns and human faces. The rest of the physical description of the locusts — women’s hair, lion’s teeth, scales, stinging tails — is fantastic, to say the least. It is a picture of utter horror. The demonic locusts are ruled by Destruction (that is the meaning of Abaddon in Hebrew and Apollyon in Greek). This first woe leaves the earth’s population in pain, but still alive. John’s apocalyptic vision pictures a great purging to take place before the new creation emerges.

13-19: The sixth trumpet sounds, and a voice emanates from the stanchions at the corners of the altar, which now is described as being golden (the altar appeared without explanation in chapter 6, verse 9). Voices play a huge role in Revelation, some 37 instances of solo and group voices are heard throughout, many of them only vaguely identified, as is the case here. The voice calls forth four more “angels” bound at the river Euphrates, who release a huge army that kills a third of humanity through their plagues of fire, smoke, and sulfur. The basis of this vision likely has to do with the great empires that grew up successively in the east: Assyrian, Babylonian, Persian, and Parthian — the Parthians being John’s contemporaries and Rome’s primary opposition. Again, the description of the great cavalry is fantastic. It reminds me of some of the popular science fiction movies about aliens and robots. John’s Revelation is very likely the inspiration for many of Hollywood’s special effects.

20-21: You would think that after such horrors people would fall to their knees in repentance, but in John’s vision such is not the case. The people remaining behave even more wickedly than before, just like the spread of evil after the Garden of Eden and after the Great Flood – in other words, typical human behavior. Idol worship, murder, sorcery, and sexual immorality are especially prevalent.


As we read through these descriptions of unimaginable horrors we need to keep in mind that the outcome has already been determined. God is with us. Christ is for us. Keep the faith and all will be well.