The Fifth Angel

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The fifth angel, who sounds the fifth trumpet, is the subject of Revelation 9:1-12.

Revelation 9:1:
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.

Evidently this star is an angel. The angels of the 7 churches were called stars.

Revelation 1:20:
The mystery of the seven stars which thou sawest in my right hand, and the seven golden candlesticks. The seven stars are the angels of the seven churches: and the seven candlesticks which thou sawest are the seven churches.

Revelation 9:2:
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 indicates there is no limit to the evil that emerges from this source. The sun being darkened means the truth of the gospel is obscured, as the sun is the clothing of the heavenly woman in Revelation 12, who pictures the Church, and so is identified with the promise of the gospel, that in Christ all families of the earth will be blessed. The fifth angel portends an ominous false teaching from the "bottomless pit" that is pictured here, one that obscures the gospel.

Note: It is not describing worldwide pollution due to the industrial revolution, because it generates locusts that do no harm at all to the grass, or any green plant; these locusts represent something else. The prophecy of Joel 2 also speaks of locusts. These locusts promote destructive teachings. As when there is a locust plague, huge numbers of locusts involved, it is similar in this case, there are vast numbers of people who believe the false doctrine.

Revelation 9:3:
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.

Joel 2 describes an army of destroying locusts. It evidently spreads false teachings, changing a garden of Eden to a wasteland, (Joel 2:3) and is a strong people in battle array, Joel 2:5. The army in Joel 2 also causes the sun and moon to become dark, and the stars to withdraw their shining (Joel 2:10). This is one of the saddest of all the effects caused by the devastating army.

Daniel 12:3:
And they that be wise shall shine as the brightness of the sky; and they that turn many to righteousness as the stars for ever and ever.

When stars withdraw their shining, it means that the people of God, the saints, are not turning many to righteousness as stated by Daniel.

Revelation 9:4:
And 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 seal of God is the Spirit of God. Those who are sealed with the Holy Spirit are immune, which shows that this plague of destructive locusts indeed has something to do with false teaching, but it is a teaching that only affects unbelievers!

Revelation 9:5:
And 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.

What is the 5 months? The time period is equal to the 150 days of the flood.

Genesis 7:21-24:
And all flesh died that moved upon the earth, both of fowl, and of cattle, and of beast, and of every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth, and every man:
All in whose nostrils was the breath of life, of all that was in the dry land, died.
And every living substance was destroyed which was upon the face of the ground, both man, and cattle, and the creeping things, and the fowl of the heaven; and they were destroyed from the earth: and Noah only remained alive, and they that were with him in the ark.
And the waters prevailed upon the earth an hundred and fifty days.

Five months is the time that the flood waters were on the earth, and it is the time in which all people and animals died, who were not saved by being aboard the ark. The "torment" is a teaching about the fate of the unsaved. It pictures the hopelessness of those who do not believe the gospel, and who lack the assurance of salvation that is pictured by the ark of Noah. But since the victims are not killed, it pictures the false doctrine about their torment after death!

Revelation 9:6:
And in those days shall men seek death, and shall not find it; and shall desire to die, and death shall flee from them.

Could this refer to the idea of immortality of the soul, the common belief in never-ending punishment and suffering after death? Perhaps this prophecy pictures men wishing that this life were all there is, and that there is no judgement, no "hell", no torment, and nothing to worry about after death, but not understanding the truth of the gospel, they fear that such is their fate. Joel says:

Joel 2:6:
Before their face the people shall be much pained: all faces shall gather blackness.

The pain and blackness they cause in other people suggests fear. The prophet Nahum wrote of the city of Nineveh:

Nahum 2:10:
She is empty, and void, and waste: and the heart melteth, and the knees smite together, and much pain is in all loins, and the faces of them all gather blackness

Revelation 9:7:
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.

In Joel 2 the army of locusts is compared to an army of horses and horsemen, and it is curious that at one stage in their development, locusts appear remarkably similar to horses prepared for battle. This is also mentioned in Joel.

Joel 2:4
The appearance of them is as the appearance of horses; and as horsemen, so shall they run.

An interpretation of this metaphor of horsemen riding horses has been suggested by David Matthieu P.P., who says: "These horses are anointed men, and the horsemen are the fallen angels riding on them." They have "faces of men" which indicates these are actually men, but their teachings have a devastating effect, comparable to the effect of a locust plague.

The crowns picture some kind of government, or authority, for which Matthieu offers the following explanation: John in Revelation 1:5 says Jesus has "made us kings and priests unto God"; also in Revelation 5:10 the 24 elders say the Lamb "hast made us unto our God kings and priests: and we shall reign on the earth." Paul writes sarcastically to the Gentile believers at Corinth.

1 Corinthians 4:8-9:
Now ye are full, now ye are rich, ye have reigned as kings without us: and I would to God ye did reign, that we also might reign with you.
For I think that God hath set forth us the apostles last, as it were appointed to death: for we are made a spectacle unto the world, and to angels, and to men.

Matthieu writes, "There are two distinct details that will allow us to discover the identity of these Horses: have you ever seen horses with Crowns like gold or horses with breastplates? These horses strangely remind us of the sons of Aaron, the anointed Levites of the temple of the Lord who also had holy golden crowns and breastplates... There are more similarities between these unique horses and the anointed Levites, Zechariah the prophet gave us an important clue in finding the identity of these mysterious Horses, this will help us unravel the secrecy surrounding these peculiar horses." He links Exodus 39:25-30 with Zechariah 14:20 and suggests the horses Zechariah referred to were the Levites or priests of Israel. Exodus 39:25-30 describes the elaborate preparation of Aaron's robe:

Exodus 39:25-30
And they made bells of pure gold, and put the bells between the pomegranates upon the hem of the robe, round about between the pomegranates;
A bell and a pomegranate, a bell and a pomegranate, round about the hem of the robe to minister in; as the LORD commanded Moses.
And they made coats of fine linen of woven work for Aaron, and for his sons,
And a mitre of fine linen, and goodly bonnets of fine linen, and linen breeches of fine twined linen,
And a girdle of fine twined linen, and blue, and purple, and scarlet, of needlework; as the LORD commanded Moses.
And they made the plate of the holy crown of pure gold, and wrote upon it a writing, like to the engravings of a signet, HOLINESS TO THE LORD.

Zechariah 14:20:
In that day shall there be upon the bells of the horses, HOLINESS UNTO THE LORD; and the pots in the LORD’S house shall be like the bowls before the altar.

Aaron's golden crown is also mentioned in Exodus 29:6.  Matthieu writes, "The anointed Levites were clearly called horses by the prophet Zechariah, but these Horses of the chapter nine of Revelation are not the Levites. Even though we can read in Revelation that these horses have faces of men, they are anointed men like the Levites, but they are anointed by the Devil."

Revelation 9:8:
And they had hair as the hair of women, and their teeth were as the teeth of lions.

Paul wrote, "Doth not even nature itself teach you, that, if a man have long hair, it is a shame unto him?" [1 Corinthians 11:14] A man who prays having long hair dishonours Christ, according to Paul. So these locusts represent people who hold a doctrine that dishonours Christ.

They believe that they themselves will not suffer after death, but teach that such is the fate of those who do not believe!

Lion's teeth picture a carnivore, with sharp teeth, very dangerous. Satan is compared to a lion.

1 Peter 5:8
Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour:

Revelation 9:9:
And 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.

What are their wings? They make a noise with their wings, like horses going to battle. The locusts in Joel 2 also make a noise like chariots. The "noise" perhaps pictures the prevalence of the false teaching about the fate of unbelievers; everyone has heard of it. They have breastplates of iron, but Paul says Christians need to have a breastplate of righteousness.

Ephesians 6:14:
Stand therefore, having your loins girt about with truth, and having on the breastplate of righteousness;

Revelation 9:10:
And they had tails like unto scorpions, and there were stings in their tails: and their power was to hurt men five months.

The tail is indeed what one should beware of:

Isaiah 9:15
The ancient and honourable, he is the head; and the prophet that teacheth lies, he is the tail.

The power to hurt men five months is evidently a reference to the fear of torment after death. This is not something that believers worry about, just those people who are not believers.

Revelation 9:11:
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.

The name Abaddon indicates the nature of this plague. It is a false teaching about the state of the dead. Caird writes [Caird, p. 120]:

Abaddon occurs six times in the Old Testament as a synonym for Sheol or Hades, the universal graveyard, the land of death, darkness, silence, and oblivion, the destroyer of life and hope. John has personified Abaddon, just as earlier he personified Death and Hades; and the three are all variations on a single theme.

Apollo was the god of prophecy. Apollyon is apparently a play on the name Apollo, along with apollymi which means to destroy. The tails of the locusts are false prophets, who teach suffering and torment of unbelievers in hell. Of course this teaching is not true. Their king is Apollo, the pagan god of prophecy, as their teachings are not of Christ. The following is from the Anchor Bible Dictionary.

Apollyon
Apollyon is no doubt the correct reading. But the name Apollo (Gk Apollon) was often linked in ancient Greek writings with the verb apollymi or apollyo, "destroy." From this time of Grotius, "Apollyon" has often been taken here to be a play on the name Apollo. The locust was an emblem of this god, who poisoned his victims, and the name "Apollyon" may be used allusively in Revelation to attack the pagan god and so indirectly the Roman emperor Domitian, who liked to be regarded as Apollo incarnate.

Certainly the passage in Revelation 9:1-12 seems to portray those who believe a false gospel, as Apollo was considered a god of prophecy. The doctrine of infernal punishment after death is not the gospel of Christ.

2 Corinthians 5:19
God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto himself, not imputing their trespasses unto them; and hath committed unto us the word of reconciliation.

Eventually, this plague will end.

Revelation 9:12:
One woe is past; and, behold, there come two woes more hereafter.

References

  • Caird, G.B., 1984, A Commentary on the Revelation of St. John the Divine, A.C. Black, London

Copyright © 2005 by Douglas E. Cox
All Rights Reserved.