The fifth trumpet now sounds. “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.” The warning to the earth was given from an angel from heaven and now the reality of woe trumpets comes. This is the first woe or sorrow that sounds. Unlike those trumpets before this – this judgment does not touch creation but mankind himself. These woe judgments are specifically called plagues in this chapter (see verse 20). So, it is not surprising that we see a parallel between the plagues of Egypt in the days of Moses and the plagues seen here. The plagues of Egypt included a plague of locust and here the fullness of that plague is seen as well. But, there is a noted difference between the locust mentioned there and these locusts. There is no doubt in my mind that these are not literal locust but spiritual beings, fallen angels, or devils. They are called locust but when they are described John used metaphor to describe them. He used the word “like” to describe their appearance. And the appearance that he gives removes them from the realm of any creature that we know. Now some have speculated that these still may be literal locusts but as we shall see as we proceed that is highly unlikely from the description. We could well imagine if they were literal that they could be the products of genetic engineering in modern science, cloning, or other so called scientific advances. I will not argue against the possibility. But, I believe this woe is demonic in nature. Buy so is much of what is called science today.
Consider their description; they are described in a tenfold way. “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.” We see that as John describes their shape he falls into metaphor; they are like something else. That does not diminish their reality for they will be part of a very real future event. They are first described by the name locusts. It is a fitting title for them to bear in this text for they are coming to devour and destroy. They are coming in swarms. The Geneva Bible stated of these devils that the name locusts fits their nature “for that they are like certain locust, in quickness, subtilty, hurtfulness, number, and such like, in this verse. ….” When locusts are described in the Bible they are compared to an invading army which plunders: “And your spoil shall be gathered like the gathering of the caterpiller: as the running to and fro of locusts shall he run upon them” (Isa. 33:4). So the name is fitting. Secondly, they are compared to horses prepared for battle. The locust cares not for the activity that is ahead of their swarm. “He paweth in the valley, and rejoiceth in his strength: he goeth on to meet the armed men” (Job 39:21). They were intimidating and unstoppable. Thirdly, they each carried authority; they each had crowns like gold on their head. Christ had a crown of gold as we saw earlier these imitate his authority. Fourthly, the resembled men; their faces were as the faces of men. There was something familiar about them; something in which related them to mankind. Fifthly, they also resembled women. They were clothed with beauty. Sixthly, Their beauty was connected with their ability to devour; they had teeth like lions. This made them like their king who is “as a roaring lion” who seeks to devour. Seventhly, They were well defended; they had breastplates that were as breastplates of iron. That means that there was little or no means of defeating them. Eighthly, they were intimidating and fearful in their approach for “the sound of their wings was as the sound of chariots of many horses running to battle.” The sound of their coming was like the sound an overcoming and overpowering army. All who heard them coming were struck with fear. Ninthly, they had a hurtful sting. “And they had tails like unto scorpions, and there were stings in their tails….” We will talk briefly about this shortly. Suffice it to say that this is not a description of literal locusts but makes them fit the description of devils. “Behold, I give unto you power to tread on serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy: and nothing shall by any means hurt you” (Luke 10:19). The Geneva Bible notes that the term locusts described their nature but their sting their power “for that they are as the scorpions of the earth, of a secret force to hurt….”
Lastly, they had a king over them which removes them from the realm of literal locusts for the Bible says, “The locusts have no king, yet go they forth all of them by bands… (Proverbs 30:27). Our text says, “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.” He is the angel of the bottomless pit which means that he is one and the same as the one that had the keys in the first verse. He is given a name which reveals his identity. This is Satan himself that is leading this army of devils. The name means destroyer and is fitting for the king of the devils. “The thief cometh not, but for to steal, and to kill, and to destroy: I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly” (John 10:10). Matthew Henry added this note to our text: “The king and commander of this hellish squadron is here described, [1.] As an angel; so he was by nature, an angel, once one of the angels of heaven. [2.] The angel of the bottomless pit; an angel still, but a fallen angel, fallen into the bottomless pit, vastly large, and out of which there is no recovery. [3.] In these infernal regions he is a sort of prince and governor, and has the powers of darkness under his rule and command. [4.] His true name is Abaddon, Apollyon—a destroyer, for that is his business, his design, and employment, to which he diligently attends, in which he is very successful, and takes a horrid hellish pleasure; it is about this destroying work that he sends out his emissaries and armies to destroy the souls of men.”
Again, John said that when the trumpet sounded “I saw a star fall from heaven unto the earth: and to him was given the key of the bottomless pit.” Now in the twelfth chapter one third of the stars followed Satan who is called the morning star in the book of Isaiah. This verse may have been a description of Lucifer falling where Christ said prophetically, “I beheld Satan as lightning fall from heaven” (Luke 10:18). The mention of the abyss or the bottomless pit here is the convincing for me as for as the demonic nature of this trumpet. The legion of devils feared being cast into the abyss (Luke 8:31). God for reasons that he has not revealed has held certain devils captive, as some teach, in the abyss (II Peter 2:4, Jude: 7). Here the devil is given temporary loaned authority from God to lose the devils held in the pit. This will be a great woe to this world as we see from our text. All the powers of hell released on this earth. Jamieson et al stated “When John saw it, it was not in the act of falling, but had fallen already. This is a connecting link of this fifth trumpet with Revelation 12:8,9,12, “Woe to the inhabiters of the earth, for the devil is come down,” &c. Compare Isaiah 14:12, “How art thou fallen from heaven, Lucifer, son of the morning!”” Johnson stated, “John saw when the trumpet sounded, not a star fall, but a star fallen to the earth. A star is a symbol of a leader. A star fallen to the earth would indicate his degradation in some way.”
Our text goes on to say, “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.” The bottomless pit is now opened and there is no longer any barrier between earth and hell. The smoke of the pit darkens the whole atmosphere of earth. Darkness always is related to sin and demonic activity. Men hide their devilish deeds in the dark and now darkness is what they have reaped.
Then our text says “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.” More borrowed power mentioned. The devil and all of his demons have no power but what is given to them of God. Here they are released with borrowed power to terrorize the earth.
Next we see that “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.” The power of the devils limited by God. They go no further than God has allowed. We readily see again that these are not literal locusts for the do not consume the grass as the locusts would. They are told not to hurt the green things that remained from the first four trumpets. God is not judging nature now but man who was set in dominion over nature. They were limited also in who they could hurt. They could not hurt those who do not belong to God. The Geneva Bible stated that “Their actions are said to be limited by the counsel of God: both because they do not hurt all men, but only the reprobate (for the godly and elect, in whom there is any part of a better life, God guards by his decree) whom Christ shall not have sealed, in this verse: and also because they did not have all power nor at all time, no not over those that are their own, but limited in manner and time, by the prescript of God in (Revelation 9:5). So their power to afflict the godly is none, and for the wicked is limited in act and in effect, by the will of God: for the manner was prescribed to them that they should not slay, but torment this wretched world.” The sealed of God, which thus far are the 144,000 Jews were not to be touched by these demons. Just as Job could not be touched without a permit from God so the godly are always safe from the influence of devils if the Lord gives them no permit.
Then we see that “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.” Here there are further limits put on these demons. They are unable to take life. God would not allow the devil to take the life of Job. The devil does not have the power over life. Henry stated, “The hurt they were to do them was not a bodily, but a spiritual hurt. They should not in a military way destroy all by fire and sword; the trees and the grass should be untouched, and those they hurt should not be slain; it should not be a persecution, but a secret poison and infection in their souls, which should rob them of their purity, and afterwards of their peace.” These are not literal locust but they are attacking men spiritually as we will see in the next verse. These are tormentors and they are bringing fear and torment to this earth with their stinging. I do not know the significance of five months other than that it limited the power of these devils to a certain time and that a short time. This torment was not permanent for it is meant to be a warning to mankind in these trumpets. God is calling mankind to repentance. Sadly they will not repent.
Here is the real spiritual significance of this demonic activity: “in those days shall men seek death, and shall not find it; and shall desire to die, and death shall flee from them.” The devils brought despair, depression, and anguish to this earth. Men wanted to die and sought death but could not find it. God would not allow them to die for He is the holder of their life. No man, not even the most ardent sinner can take a life without the permit of God. Demonic activity is behind the desire to seek death and that is explicitly taught in our text. Henry stated, “Though it would be short, it would be very sharp, insomuch that those who were made to feel the malignity of this poison in their consciences would be weary of their lives, v. 6. A wounded spirit who can bear?”
Lastly, we see that this is not the end. It is declared, “One woe is past; and, behold, there come two woes more hereafter.” There is more terror to come for man. Will man repent? Sadly, the answer to that is going to be answered.