Study Notes

Revelation 8:1-9:21

8:1 Silence In Heaven

As the seventh seal is broken on the scroll, there is silence in heaven for about half an hour.

After all the noise of the last four chapters, what with the voice like a trumpet, the cherubim saying "holy, holy, holy" constantly, the angel with the loud voice, and all kinds of people singing all kinds of worship, this silence would probably prove to be rather unnerving.

Why silence? Well, there are several scriptures that illuminate the silence that comes before judgment:

Zeph. 1:7 Be silent before the Lord GOD! For the day of the LORD is near...

Zech. 2:13 "Be silent, all flesh, before the LORD; for He is aroused from His holy habitation."

Hab. 2:20 "But the LORD is in His holy temple. Let all the earth be silent before Him."

This is a silence in anticipation of the most terrible judgments to ever come upon the earth.

8:2 The Seven Angels Before God

Seven angels standing before God, each with a trumpet. There is a theory that these are archangels. The reason for this is that the apocryphal book of Enoch names seven angels who stand before God, including Michael, Gabriel, and Raphael. Gabriel did tell the priest Zacharius in Luke 1,

Luke 1:19 ..."I am Gabriel, who stands in the presence of God..."

So we know that Gabriel stand before God. It's possible that these seven angels are archanges. Of course, you should never build doctrine on apocryphal books. Even though the epistle of Jude quotes the book of Enoch, the book itself is not included in the canon of Scripture. So all we can really know for sure is that there are seven angels standing before God, each with a trumpet.

These trumpets are going to bring seven horrific judgments of God.

8:3-5 Incense And Prayers

Another angel stood at the altar in heaven. This altar with smoke and incense is modelled by the altar of incense we see in the tabernacle.

In the tabernacle, the priests would use their censers to burn incense before the Lord. This was an act of intercession, prayers ascending to God in the fragrant aroma of the smoke.

What incense is burning on this altar? The prayers of the saints. Do you wonder what prayers they are specifically?

I believe that they are the prayers which have been offered up by God's people for thousands of years:

Matt. 6:10 "Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven."

God's kingdom is finally on its way to the earth - this portion of His people's prayers are finally about to be answered.

The incense of prayers of all the saints was already on the altar, and much more incense is given to this angel. I believe that this "much incense" is even more prayers, but not the intercessory prayers of the saints. I believe that these are the prayers of intercession that Jesus Christ makes. Romans 8 tells us,

Rom. 8:34 ...Christ Jesus is... at the right hand of God, who also intercedes for us.

Christ's prayers for his people are much more numerous than even all His people's prayers put together.

The censer that the angel is carrying is filled with fire from the altar and cast to the earth. The result was thunder, lightning, and another earthquake.

8:6-7 The First Trumpet: Earth

This was the cue for the first angel to sound his trumpet. Although these judgments have parallels with the judgments that came upon Egypt during the days of Moses, they are far more intense and on a world-wide scale.

It destroys a third of the earth and a third of the trees. Plus, all of the green grass is burned.

So we're talking about worldwide destruction from hail and fire mixed with blood from the sky. What is this terrible thing to happen to the earth? Is it a nuclear war? Is it a devastating meteor shower? Frankly, I don't believe it is wise to attempt to pin down a certain conjecture, because I know that God will judge the world in one or more of three methods:

1) He uses man to judge man. For example, using the Babylonians to judge the Israelites.

2) He uses natural phenomena. Like when He destroyed the earth with the flood during Noah's day.

3) He uses supernatural methods, like the angel that slew 185,000 Assyrians in one night.

I don't know exactly how God is going to rain hail and fire mixed with blood to burn up a third of the earth, trees, and green grass. But I do know that it will happen.

8:8-9 The Second Trumpet: Sea

The second trumpet blast brings a mountain burning with fire thrown into the sea. If I had to explain this in natural terms, I would guess that this is describing an asteroid plummeting to earth, burning with fire as it enters the earth's atmosphere. It lands in the ocean, and utterly devastates the sea life by the impact and its chemical and mineral make-up.

Interestingly, it is estimated by space experts that there are 2,000 near-earth objects that could possibly pose a threat, and only 200 or them have been discovered and cataloged so far. We have no idea if the other 1,800 pose an immediate threat or not. According to NASA,

"...(An) impact by an asteroid 4 km across...would probably lead to the death of billions, perhaps as many as half the Earth's population. The only technology we have today for defense against asteroids and comets is nuclear, and we would require years of warning in order to deflect or disrupt a threatening object. The truth is that if we found an asteroid headed our way with less than several years' warning, there is nothing we could do to protect ourselves except evacuate population from the impact site."

According to Bob Hawkes, a Canadian researcher, "A 10 km diameter asteroid entering at 30 km/s would have the energy equivalent to 15 billion times that of the Hiroshima nuclear bomb. The effects from a major (about10 km in size) impact include: shock waves in the crust of the earth, tsunamis (tidal waves), firestorms over large portions of a continent, destruction of the ozone layer, atmosphere alteration (due to the huge amount of material ejected into the upper atmosphere), etc. and range in time scales from hours to thousands of years."

So, provocative statements from guys "in the know". God could very well choose to use the natural phenomena of an asteroid to judge the world during the great tribulation.

8:10-11 The Third Trumpet: Waters

At the sounding of the third trumpet, a star named "Wormwood" falls from heaven, burning like a torch. It somehow falls on a third of the rivers and springs, making them bitter - deadly to drink.

This was prophesied long before New Testament times, by the prophet Jeremiah:

Jer. 9:15 therefore thus says the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel, "behold, I will feed them, this people, with wormwood and give them poisoned water to drink.

Jer. 23:15 Therefore thus says the LORD of hosts concerning the prophets, "Behold, I am going to feed them wormwood and make them drink poisonous water..."

Wormwood falling to earth, making a third of the fresh water of the earth bitter, poison, deadly to drink. It might interest you to know that "Wormwood" in Russian is "Chernobyl."

You may remember that on April 26, 1986, the Chernobyl nuclear power plant in the Ukraine had a major accident. Afterwards, huge amounts of radioactivity were released into the atmosphere throughout the northern hemisphere. This radiation was measured not only all over Europe, but also in Canada, Japan, and the USA. Most of the population of the Northern hemisphere was exposed, in varying degrees, to radiation from the Chernobyl accident.

Not only did 31 people die because of Chernobyl, about 140 people contracted radiation sickness. Plus, in the 10 years following, there has been a radical increase in thyroid cancer in children living in the region.

According to the NEA, "Water bodies, such as rivers, lakes and reservoirs can be, if contaminated, an important source of human radiation exposure because of their uses for recreation, drinking and fishing."

To make matters worse, the concrete structure that they encased the reactor in as a temporary barrier to prevent further leaks, has begun to deteriorate. Rainwater has gotten in through cracks in the roof, contaminating the water, and decomposing the container's support structure. Unless something is done, it is only a matter of time before the area becomes lethal again.

During the great tribulation, could God use Chernobyl to burn like a torch, contaminating a third of the waters, and causing many men to die?

8:12 The Fourth Trumpet: Sun, Moon, And Stars

The fourth trumpet brings a judgment that brings a "brown-out" of natural light. This darkening could be atmospheric pollution from a nuclear war, volcanic eruption, or asteroid impact. It could also be a miraculous darkening of the sun, moon, and stars.

8:13 An Eagle In Midheaven

Altough the King James calls this an angel, the majority of reliable Greek manuscripts use the word "eagle" here.

This eagle is flying in midheaven. Where is midheaven? This word is used in Rev 19:17 to describe the place that all the birds fly.

He says, "woe to those who dwell on the earth." This would be more literally translated, "those who make their home on earth." This is not addressing the believers of the tribulation, but the ungodly men that have rejected Jesus Christ.

This eagle is saying to those whose home is on the earth, "Woe, because of the three coming trumpet judgments."

It is evident that this eagle is symbolic of something, for I've never seen a speaking eagle (and the Greek word doesn't allow for it to be a parrot!). What could this eagle be? I can't say for sure, but we may get a better idea when we see this eagle again chapter 12.

9:1-2 The Fifth Trumpet: The Bottomless Pit

At the sounding of the fifth trumpet, a star falls from heaven to earth. But this is no ordinary star - it is a "him." I believe this star is satan. God said in Isaiah,

Isa. 14:12-15 "How you have fallen from heaven, O star of the morning, son of the dawn! You have been cut down to the earth, You who have weakened the nations! But you said in your heart, 'I will ascend to heaven; I will raise my throne above the stars of God, And I will sit on the mount of assembly In the recesses of the north. I will ascend above the heights of the clouds; I will make myself like the Most High.' Nevertheless you will be thrust down to Sheol, To the recesses of the pit."

Also, when the disciples were rejoicing that the demons were subject to them in Jesus' name, He said,

Luke 10:18 And He said to them, "I was watching satan fall from heaven like lightning."

So here in Revelation 9, we see that satan has fallen, and the key of the bottomless pit was given to him.

The Bottomless Pit

What is the bottomless pit? It is the Greek word, "AB-us-sos," sometimes translated "the abyss."

Remember that what we think of as hell actually comes from several different words and phrases:

There is a place called "Tartaros", where certain angels who sinned are kept bound in chains, waiting for the day of judgment.

Then there is Hades (in the Greek) and Sheol (in the Hebrew). This is the place in the center of the earth, where people's spirits descend to at death. Before the resurrection of Christ, Hades was divided into a place of torment and fire and a place of comfort called "Paradise" and "Abraham's Bosom."

The ultimate destination for eternal destruction is Gehenna - "hell," which Jesus described as outer darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. Also called the second death and the lake of fire.

Finally, the Abyss, or the bottomless pit, is a shaft, a bottomless pit leading to Hades in the center of the earth. How can it be bottomless, yet lead to and end at the center of the earth? Simple: if you are in the center of the earth, where is the bottom? The center of the earth is the one place that has no bottom - only top. Whatever direction you go, it's up, not down!

So the bottomless pit is essentially a chimney from Hades to earth. Normally kept securely locked, at this time satan will given the key. When he opens up the abusso, smoke pours out, like a volcano that leads straight from the center of the world.

9:3-11 The Locusts

Out of the smoke comes "locusts." Locusts in the Bible are always a symbol of God's judgment. Since locusts always go after the vegetation of the land, we have to wonder - what kind of locusts are these that do "not hurt the grass of the earth, nor any green thing, nor any tree," but only men"? The answer is, they aren't. How do I know? Verse 11 tells us that

Rev. 9:11 They have as king over them, the angel of the abyss...

But earlier in the Bible, in the book of Proverbs, we read

Prov. 30:27 The locusts have no king, yet all of them go out in ranks;

Real locusts have no king, but these do. So then these "locusts" must not really be locusts. They arise out of the abusso, and Abaddon, or Apollyon, is their king. Who is Abaddon, or Apollyon? These names are the same word in two languages. The word means "destroyer." Who could this be? Jesus said,

John 10:10 "The thief comes only to steal, and kill, and destroy; I came that they might have life, and might have it abundantly."

Who is the destroyer? None other than satan himself. He is the star who unlocks the abyss, and the destroyer who leads the horde of locusts.

Since they are not true locusts, having a king, and coming up out of the abyss, they must be a demonic horde, thousands upon thousands of them swarming onto the earth.

Torment Five Months

These horrifying looking creatures are able to injure men, stinging them with the torment of a scorpion's sting. Physicians tell us that the scorpion's sting is among the most continuously and intensely painful stings a human being can receive. This torment will be upon those who are stung for five months.

The pain will be so bad that

Rev. 9:6 those days men will seek death and will not find it; and they will long to die and death flees from them.

This sounds terrifying! What exactly does this mean? There two major theories:

1) The pain will be so bad that men will want to kill themselves but are so incapacitated that they cannot. You may remember the story of "Johnny Got His Gun," who lay on a hospital bed in horrible pain, his arms and legs amputated - fully conscious, but paralyzed and unable to communicate that he was even alive. This may be the condition of men who are attacked by these demons from the abyss.

2) The second interpretation of this verse is that men will actually attempt to kill themselves, but their spirits will not leave their bodies. "Imagine a person taking a 45 and putting it to his skull and pulling the trigger... and yet not dying - his spirit not leaving and he goes around with this hole in his head, but he keeps on living." (Smith)

Whichever interpretation you choose, it is a terrible, horrible time for mankind.

The Seal of God

The only people protected from this demonic horde are those with the seal of God on their foreheads. The 144,000 that we learned about in chapter seven.

9:12-15 The Sixth Trumpet: The Angels At The Euphrates

The Euphrates is a huge river, almost cutting the Middle East in half from the Black Sea to the Persian Gulf. It flows from the mountains of Turkey, runs through Syria and Iraq, and empties into the Persian Gulf at the Iranian border. It was the eastern boundary of both the Roman Empire and the land that God promised to Abraham's descendants, the Jews (Gen 15:18). So basically, it is the physical division dividing Israel from countries like Russia, Iran, Iraq, and China.

Four angels are bound at the Euphrates River. They have probably been there since they sinned. Peter tells us,

2Pet. 2:4 ...God did not spare angels when they sinned, but cast them into Tartaros and committed them to pits of darkness, reserved for judgment;

It is possible that these four are the sinning angels that Peter and Jude talked about.

9:16-19 Two Hundred Million Horsemen

With the loosing of the four bound angels, an army of 200 million appear. It seems that this is another demonic horde released,and that they will kill a full third of the people left on the earth.

9:20-21 No Repentance

What we've read this morning is horrifying if you truly picture it. But you can avoid it all, simply by repenting of your sin and turning to Jesus Christ for salvation.

The sad thing is, the majority of mankind will refuse to repent. They continue on in their sin, hardening their hearts against God.

Hebr. 2:3 how shall we escape if we neglect so great a salvation?

Indeed, how will any man escape these terrible things if he neglects the unconditional forgiveness offered to him in Jesus Christ?

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