Hell on Earth, pt. 1

The first entry in this series can be found here.
The previous entry can be found here.

Remember the good old days, when we could go to movie theaters?

I sure do. As such, i also remember that you didn’t have to worry about missing anything if you were running about twenty minutes late, because the movie theater would always play a lot of advertisements for upcoming movies before playing the “feature presentation.”

They wanted to make sure you knew about upcoming films so that you could keep giving them money to continue making movies. They wanted to entertain you, so they showed you previews of what was coming to draw you in.

John does something similar in Revelation 9:1-12

The fifth angel blew his trumpet, and I saw a star that had fallen from heaven to earth. The key to the shaft of the abyss was given to him. He opened the shaft of the abyss, and smoke came up out of the shaft like smoke from a great furnace so that the sun and the air were darkened by the smoke from the shaft. Then locusts came out of the smoke on to the earth, and power was given to them like the power that scorpions have on the earth. They were told not to harm the grass of the earth, or any green plant, or any tree, but only people who do not have God’s seal on their foreheads. They were not permitted to kill them but were to torment them for five months; their torment is like the torment caused by a scorpion when it strikes a man. In those days people will seek death and will not find it; they will long to die, but death will flee from them.

The appearance of the locusts was like horses equipped for battle. Something like gold crowns was on their heads; their faces were like men’s faces; they had hair like women’s hair; their teeth were like lions’ teeth; they had chests like iron breastplates; the sound of their wings was like the sound of chariots with many horses rushing into battle; and they had tails with stingers like scorpions, so that with their tails they had the power to harm people for five months. They had as their king the angel of the abyss; his name in Hebrew is Abaddon, and in Greek he has the name Apollyon. The first woe has passed. There are still two more woes to come after this.

The difference between a movie preview and Revelation 9:1-12 is easy enough to grasp. When it comes to movie previews, they want to draw you in for more. John’s purpose, in Revelation 9:1-12, is to warn the non-believers listening that there is worse in store for them. Instead of trying to draw them in for more, John is trying to convince them to flee the wrath to come.

This blog post will be intentionally brief.
If you’re interested in elaboration on any point, you can find it here.
If you’re interested in the technical exegetical work that went into these posts, you can find it here.

There’s a few things to note on this text.

First, this plague can only harm nonbelievers (9:4). This is the only plague with this specification. We saw God seal His people in 7:1-8. This means that if you want to avoid the terror of this plague, you need to become one of God’s people.

Trust Christ before it’s too late!

Secondly, Those who are tormented by this plague are tormented for five months (9:5).

Why five months?

Perhaps because its the lifespan of a locust. But more likely because it is a long time to be suffering, but at the end of the day–compared to eternity–it isn’t a long time at all.

Trust Christ before it’s too late!

Third, it must be noted that the conclusion of these five months is the end of “the first woe” (9:12). As such, like we discussed last time, it should be convincing people to turn from their sin and place their hope in Christ.

This purpose is especially clear because there are still two more woes to come. If the first is this bad, how much worse will the next two be?

Trust Christ before it’s too late!

Fourth, what kind of creatures is John describing? According to the text, they come out of the Pit, and Abbadon/Apollyon (“destroyer”) is their master (9:1-3, 7-11). This means that they are demonic in nature. But what are we to do with the physical description?

  • locusts
  • like horses equipped for battle
  • something like gold crowns on their head
  • faces like a man’s
  • hair like a woman’s
  • teeth like a lion’s
  • chests like iron breastplates
  • sound of their wings like sound of chariots and horses rushing into battle
  • tails with stingers like scorpions

I suggest that John is describing a mythological creature known as a manticore. Why? Let’s start with a picture of one:

https://mythology.net/mythical-creatures/manticore/

You see, John has made it clear throughout the Revelation that God is on His throne and in complete control. Manticores were thought to be invincible. John likens them to locusts and says they’ll only be around for 5 months. Manticores were deadly; John says they can only torment for 5 months. This further shows the picture John is painting of the ultimate sovereignty of God–whether they are as small as a locust or as big as a dinosaur, they are subservient to God’s sovereign control.

Trust Christ–the one who is in complete control of everything!

Finally, in Revelation 6:8, the fourth horseman was named “Death.” He was allowed to kill a fourth of the population of the earth. Here, in Revelation 9:1-12, we see the opposite image. Instead of Death charging toward his victims, we see death running away from people (9:6). Death flees from the victims of this torment so that their torment will not end until the five months are over.

When we remember that this plague only affects those who are unbelievers, we quickly understand that Death fleeing from the victims of these “locusts” is actually a blessing in disguise. Five months of torment is nothing compared to an eternity of torment. If God allowed these “locusts” to kill their victims, then the hope and possibility of repentance and salvation would be removed from them. (We will see next time that some people are granted death when the five months end.)

Trust Christ before it’s too late!

God offers grace. Even in the midst of worldwide judgment, God offers grace. He gives people time to repent. He doesn’t just crush everyone like grapes instantaneously. He offers grace through judgment.

Judgment will always be misunderstood if we forget hope, and equally, hope will always be misunderstood if we forget judgment.

John N. Oswalt, The Holy One of Israel: Studies in the Book of Isaiah (Eugene, OR: Cascade Books, 2014), 32.

This plague exists to convince people that eternal torment is a horrible reality, by giving people a taste of it for five months. Wisdom would cause people who experience this torment to turn to God and escape His wrath, but most (according to Revelation 9:20-21) will fail to repent.

Don’t be one of those people. Trust in Christ today! He faced the wrath of God on the cross so you need never be tormented for eternity. Place your faith in Him today!

In this with you.

Soli Deo Gloria
Solus Christus
Sola Scriptura

Thanks for reading.

The next entry can be found here.

One thought on “Hell on Earth, pt. 1

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