1. And the fifth angel sounded, and I saw a star from heaven fallen unto the earth: and there was given to him the key of the pit of the abyss.
The abyss is Sheol in Hebrew and Gehenna in Greek. (See the author’s articles on these words in the Eerdman’s Dictionary of the Bible (Eerdmans: 1997).
2 And he opened the pit of the abyss; and there went up 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.
It smokes because the godless are punished by fire.
3 And out of the smoke came forth locusts upon the earth; and power was given them, as the scorpions of the earth have power.
4 And it was said unto them that they should not hurt the grass of the earth, neither any green thing, neither any tree, but only such men as have not the seal of God on their foreheads.
5 And it was given them 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 it striketh a man.
Why 5 months? 5 is one half of 10 -- thus the torment is not complete, but only partial. Final judgement only comes at the last day.
The sting of the scorpion is sharp, painful, and unforgettable. And so is the judgment of God. Scorpion stings in Palestine were common in the 1st century; but lots of folks died of them.
6 And in those days men shall seek death, and shall in no wise find it; and they shall desire to die, and death fleeth from them.
7 And the shapes of the locusts were like unto horses prepared for war; and upon their heads as it were crowns like unto gold, and their faces were as men's faces. hair of women, and their teeth were as teeth of lions.
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 rushing to war. 10 And they have tails like unto scorpions, and stings; and in their tails is their power to hurt men five months.
These are monstrous beasts. But, remember, these passages are visionary in nature (cf. 1:10). The meaning of these incredible descriptions is that the sting of judgement is more horrible than any normal scorpion sting, which is bad enough in itself!
11 They have over them as king the angel of the abyss: his name in Hebrew is Abaddon, and in the Greek tongue he hath the name Apollyon.
See the author’s articles on Abaddon and Apollyon in the Eerdman’s Dictionary of the Bible (Eerdmans: 1997). In short “abaddon” means “negation”.
Jewish legend maintains that Uriel is the angel charged with keeping “hell” sealed and its inhabitants incapable of escaping.
12 The first Woe is past: behold, there come yet two Woes hereafter.
Woe to those who know not God. They have triple sorrow to expect.
13. And the sixth angel sounded, and I heard a voice from the horns of the golden altar which is before God,
14 one saying to the sixth angel that had one trumpet, Loose the four angels that are bound at the great river Euphrates.
15 And the four angels were loosed, that had been prepared for the hour and day and month and year, that they should kill the third part of men.
16 And the number of the armies of the horsemen was twice ten thousand times ten thousand: I heard the number of them.
17 And thus I saw the horses in the vision, and them that sat on them, having breastplates as of fire and of hyacinth and of brimstone: and the heads of lions; and out of their mo and brimstone.
18 By these three plagues was the third part of men killed, by the fire and the smoke and the brimstone, which proceeded out of their mouths.
19 For the power of the horses is in their mouth, and in their tails: for their tails are like unto serpents, and have heads; and with them they hurt.
The judgement is now depicted as the onslaught of armies. As the Romans conquered and victimized so would they eventually be conquered themselves. The people of the earth know that God lives and yet they live as though He did not.
20 And the rest of mankind, who were not killed with these plagues, repented not of the works of their hands, that they should not worship demons, and the idols of gold, and of silver, and of brass, and of stone, and of wood; which can neither see, nor hear, nor walk:
21 and they repented not of their murders, nor of their sorceries, nor of their fornication, nor of their thefts.
How astonishing that, though given ample reason and time to repent most people do not. They are not swayed by trials or by words. Some people will never change their minds and will never admit their need for God, no matter what is done.
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