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REVELATION OF ST. JOHN THE DIVINE - Chapter 9 - Verse 1

 

CHAPTER IX

ANALYSIS OF THE CHAPTER

THE three remaining trumpets (chap. 9-11.) are usually called the woe-trumpets, in reference to the proclamation of woes, Re 8:13. —Prof. Stuart. The three extend, as I suppose, to the end of time, or, as it is supposed by the writer himself, (Re 11:15,) to the period when "the kingdoms of this world shall have become the kingdoms of Christ," embracing a succinct view of the most material events that were to occur, particularly in a secular point of view. See the Analysis prefixed to the book. In Re 11:19, as I understand it, a new view is commenced, referring to the church internally; the rise of Antichrist, and the effect of the rise of that formidable power on the internal history of the church, to the time of its overthrow, and the triumphant establishment of the kingdom of God. This, of course, synchronizes in its beginning and its close with the portion already passed over, but with a different view. See the Analysis prefixed to Re 11:19, seq.

This chapter contains properly three parts. First, a description of the first of those trumpets, or the fifth in the order of the whole, Re 9:1-12. This woe is represented under the figure of calamities brought upon the earth by an immense army of locusts. A star is seen to fall from heaven—representing some mighty chieftain, and to him is given the key of the bottomless pit. He opens the pit, and then comes forth an innumerable swarm of locusts that darken the heavens, and they go forth upon the earth. They have a command given them to do a certain work. They are not to hurt the earth, or any green thing, but they are sent against those men which have not the seal of God on their foreheads. Their main business, however, was not to kill them, but to torment them for a limited time—for five months. A description of the appearance of the locusts then follows. Though they are called locusts, because in their general appearance, and in the ravages they commit, they resemble them, yet, in the main, they are imaginary beings, and combine in themselves qualities which are never found united in reality. They had a strong resemblance to horses prepared for battle; they wore on their heads crowns of gold; they had the faces of men, but the hair of women, and the teeth of lions. They had breastplates of iron, and tails like scorpions, with stings in their tails. They had a mighty king at their head, with a name significant of the destruction which he would bring upon the world. These mysterious beings had their origin in the bottomless pit, and they are summoned forth to spread desolation upon the earth. Second, a description of the second of these trumpets, the sixth in order, Re 9:13-19. When this is sounded, a voice is heard from the four horns of the altar which is before God. The angel is commanded to loose the four angels which are bound in the great river Euphrates. These angels are loosed—angels which had been prepared for a definite period—a day, and a month, and a year, to slay the third part of men. The number of the army that would appear—composed of cavalry—is stated to amount to two hundred thousand, and the peculiarities of these horsemen are then stated. They are remarkable for having breastplates of fire, and jacinth, and brimstone; the heads of the horses resemble lions; and they breathe forth fire and brimstone. A third part of men fall before them, by the fire, and the smoke, and the brimstone. Their power is in their mouth and in their tails, for their tails are like serpents. Third, a statement of the effect of the judgments brought upon the world under these trumpets, Re 19:20,21. The effect, so far as the reasonable result could have been anticipated, is lost. The nations are not turned from idolatry. Wickedness still abounds, and there is no disposition to repent of the abominations which had been so long practised on the earth.

Verse 1. And the fifth angel sounded. See Barnes on "Re 8:6-7".

 

And I saw a star fall from heaven unto the earth. This denotes, as was shown in the See Barnes "Re 8:10, a leader, a military chieftain, a warrior. In the fulfilment of this, as in the former case, we look for the appearance of some mighty prince and warrior, to whom is given power, as it were, to open the bottomless pit, and to summon forth its legions. That some such agent is denoted by the star is farther apparent from the fact that it is immediately added, that "to him [the star] was given the key of the bottomless pit." It could not be meant that a key would be given to a literal star, and we naturally suppose, therefore, that some intelligent being of exalted rank, and of baleful influence, is here referred to. Angels, good and bad, are often called stars; but the reference here, as in Re 8:10, seems to me not to be to angels, but to some mighty leader of armies, who was to collect his hosts, and to go through the world in the work of destruction.

And to him was given the key of the bottomless pit. Of the under-world, considered particularly of the abode of the wicked. This is represented often as a dark prison-house, enclosed with walls, and accessible by gates or doors. These gates or doors are fastened, so that none of the inmates can come out, and the key is in the hand of the keeper or guardian. In Re 1:18, it is said that the keys of that world are in the hand of the Saviour, (compare See Barnes "Re 1:18") here it is said that for a time, and for a temporary purpose, they are committed to another. The word pitfrear—denotes properly a well, or a pit for water dug in the earth; and then any pit, cave, abyss. The reference here is doubtless to the nether world, considered as the abode of the wicked dead, the prison-house of the guilty. The word bottomless, abussov— whence our word abyss—means properly without any bottom, (from a, pr., and buyov, depth, bottom.) It would be applied properly to the ocean, or to any deep and dark dell, or to any obscure place whose depth was, unknown. Here it refers to Hades—the region of the dead—the abode of wicked spirits—as a deep, dark place whose bottom was unknown. Having the key to this, is to have the power to confine those who are there, or to permit them to go at large. The meaning here is, that this master-spirit would have power to evoke the dead from these dark regions; and it would be fulfilled if some mighty genius, that could be compared with a fallen star, or a lurid meteor, should summon forth followers which would appear like the dwellers in the nether world called forth to spread desolation over the earth.

{a} "star" Re 8:10; Lu 10:18 {b} "pit" Re 17:8; 20:1

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