The Sounding of the Fifth Trumpet, (9: 1-12)
This follows the fourth trumpet. (4)
(5) The sounding of the fifth trumpet brought the scourge of locusts. (9: 1-12)
A huge star becomes personified and, having fallen, exposes a yawning abyss.
At first, there come out great clouds of smoke which darkened the sun.
Gradually the smoke gives way to locusts, or what first appeared to be smoke
turns out to be locusts.
Locusts were a common pest in that day, but these are uncommon locusts.
They had stingers like scorpions; they were armored like battle horses; they had men's faces,
women's hair, and lions' teeth.
The sound of their wings made a noise like many chariots.
They were told not to hurt the grass, common food for locusts, but to spend five months,
length of life of a locust plague, in tormenting men until they desire to die rather than live.
They were to hurt only the enemies to God's cause.
They were to injure no one who was marked as God's man.
They have a king who has the very appropriate name " Destruction."
We must remember that this is symbolical language
So, what is symbolized by these locusts from within the earth and led by one named
"Destruction," a name often associated with the devil?
The best interpretation is to view this vision as symbolizing the hellish spirit which penetrates
the earth or the forces of decay which God has in His hand for retribution upon defiant Rome.
It symbolizes the hellish rottenness, the internal decadence in the Roman Empire.
One thing which brought about Rome's downfall was a series of corrupt rulers and leaders.
Such a spirit of internal rottenness is pictured here as coming from within
the Empire (out of the earth) to work toward her destruction.
Such a condition injured Rome, but it could really do no hurt to God's persecuted Christians
because they were not really a part of wicked Rome.
God has now indicated two instruments which He can use to cut down the oppressors of His people:
natural calamity and internal decadence.
A third instrument follows in the next vision.
(6) The sounding of the six trumpet brings the second woe of all men. (9:13-21)
The sixth angel sounded his trumpet, and then a voice came from the altar telling him to loose
the four angels who were bound at the great river Euphrates.
The four angels were loosed and led a great cavalry host bent on destruction.
These had been especially prepared for this work.
The symbolism of this vision is packed with dramatic details.
The army of horsemen measured 200,000,000, or twice 10 thousand times times 10 thousand,
a number designating a great host, a complete number.
In regular formation this would make a troupe of cavalry one mile wide and eighty-five miles long!
The men wore breastplates of fire.
The horses had heads like lions.
Fire, smoke, and blazing brimstone came from their mouths.
Instead of regular horse tails the horses had snakes for tails so that they could bite and bring hurt to man.
A third part of mankind was killed by this cavalry.
The details are added for the purpose of making the vision more dramatic.
Within themselves the details have no prophetic or doctrinal significance.
The whole picture presents the Parthian cavalry from the land of the Euphrates.
This group was Rome's most dreaded enemy and a constant threat to her eastern boundary.
They were never completely conquered by Rome.
The description given in this passage is such as to terrorize any opponent.
Feature a horse with a lion's head, with fire, smoke, and blazing sulphur coming from his mouth,
with a poisonous snake in place of a tail.
Now multiply that by 200,000,000 and get the picture of the army marching on Rome.
This whole picture is given to symbolize external invasion which would serve as an instrument in God's hand
to punished the oppressors of His people.
This completes the three instruments.
Running like a thread through the entire work of Gibbon's, The Decline And Fall of the Roman Empire,
is the truth and the proof that these three great things combined to overthrow the Roman Empire.
They were partly working in John's day.
The three were natural calamity, internal rottenness, and external invasion.
All these are symbolized in Revelation as instruments ready for God's use to rescue His people.
Natural calamity (flood, earthquake, volcanic eruption), internal rottenness (a long line of corrupt rulers),
and external invasion (from new and old enemies) combined to overthrow what appeared to be so invincible.
Verses 20 and 21 indicate that such judgments as the above were judgments on the world power,
not on the Christians.
The Christians might suffer from them, but not in judgment.
They may be a part of their trial as they mix with the world during their earthly pilgrimage,
but trial is not judgment.
The vision is given as a means of reassurance to the Christians to help them see that
Rome will never triumphs over Christianity.
The judgments were to be sent as punitive measures on the wicked oppressors
and as a call to repentance.
This is indicated when we see in these verses that the rest of the men, those not injured by the plagues,
refuse to repent and turn from their evil: idols, murders, sorceries, thefts, and fornications.
Still after the sixfold judgment, they continued in their evil ways.
Nothing would make them repent.
Nothing is left for them except the still heavier and judgments of God.
Next is Announcement of Retribution, 10:1 to 11:13