In this article, John's prophecy in Revelation 9:1-11 is interpreted as a symbolic description of those who teach the unending infernal torment of unbelievers.
Preston Eby wrote:
We do ourselves much injury when we seize upon every Scripture which proclaims the salvation of all men, but carefully avoid all Scripture which speaks of the fearful judgement of the wicked. Yet even greater harm is done when people insist upon taking the other point of view, as almost the entire Church system has done for centuries, emphasizing only those Scriptures which seem to teach the unending doom of those unfortunate creatures who never once heard that God had a Son and skillfully avoiding every direct statement of Scripture which indicates that God has reconciled all things to Himself, and that every knee shall bow and every tongue shall confess to God of things in heaven and things in earth and under the earth.
In the discussion below, the symbols in the prophecy of Revelation
9:1-11 are related as much as possible to scriptural references.
And the fifth angel sounded, and I saw a star fall from heaven unto the earth: and to him was given the key of the bottomless pit.
And he opened the bottomless pit; and there arose a smoke out of the pit, as the smoke of a great furnace;
The smoke from the bottomless pit is a metaphor, of course. The bottomless pit is where Satan is restrained, in Revelation 20:3. Smoke like the smoke of a furnace was associated with the destruction of Sodom, Genesis 19:28. And smoke like the smoke of a furnace hid the Lord when he descended on Mount Sinai to give Moses the Ten Commandments. In the context of John's prophecy it probably refers to a lot of false teaching and confusion. Pagan superstitions about death and the soul were introduced into the church in the early centuries AD. The historian Livy in Hist., I:19, says Numa Pompilius, the second king of Rome, invented the fear of the gods, as "a most efficacious means of governing an ignorant and barbarous populace."
In the quote below, the historian Polybius describes how the idea of infernal torments originated in ancient times.
Polybius [Histories VI,56].
But among all the useful institutions, that demonstrate the superior excellence of the Roman government, the most considerable perhaps is the opinion which the people are taught to hold concerning the gods: and that, which other men regard as an object of disgrace, appears in my judgement to be the very thing by which this republic chiefly is sustained. I mean, superstition: which is impressed with all it terrors; and influences both the private actions of the citizens, and the public administration also of the state, in a degree that can scarcely be exceeded. This may appear astonishing to many. To me it is evident, that this contrivance was at first adopted for the sake of the multitude. For if it were possible that a state could be composed of wise men only, there would be no need, perhaps, of any such invention. But as the people universally are fickle and inconstant, filled with irregular desires, too precipitate in their passions, and prone to violence; there is no way left to restrain them, but by the dread of things unseen, and by the pageantry of terrifying fiction. The ancients, therefore, acted not absurdedly, nor without good reason, when they inculcated the notions concerning the gods, and the belief of infernal punishments; but much more those of the present age are to be charged with rashness and absurdity, in endeavoring to extirpate these opinions. For, not to mention effects that flow from such an institution, if, among the Greeks, for example, a single talent only be entrusted to those who have the management of any of the public money; though they give ten written sureties, with as many seals and twice as many witnesses, they are unable to discharge the trusts reposed in them with integrity. But the Romans, on the other hand, who in the course of their magistracies, and in embassies, disperse the greatest sums, are prevailed on by the single obligation of an oath to perform their duties with inviolable honesty. And as, in other states, a man is rarely found whose hands are pure from public robbery; so, among the Romans, it is no less rare to discover one that is tainted with this crime. But all things are subject to decay and change. This is a truth so evident, and so demonstrated by the perpetual and the necessary force of nature, that it needs no other proof.
Because of the influence of the superstition that Polybius described above, people continue to view God as mean and unforgiving, but the scriptures reveal a God of love, who is very merciful. "The Lord is merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and plenteous in mercy. He will not always chide; neither will He keep His anger forever." [Psalms 103:8,9]
and the sun and the air were darkened by reason of the smoke of the pit.
The sun represents the gospel; the sun clothes the woman in heaven, Rev. 12:1. Jesus spoke of the righteous shining as the sun, in the kingdom of their Father, Matthew 13:43. The sun becoming dark means the truth of the gospel is obscured.
And there came out of the smoke locusts upon the earth:
The locusts in John's prophecy resemble the locusts of the great destructive army described in Joel 2.
and unto them was given power, as the scorpions of the earth have power.
Scorpions are mentioned in connection with chastisement and punishment in scripture. Solomon's son Rehoboam said to the people of Israel, "My father hath chastised you with whips, but I will chastise you with scorpions." [1 Kings 12:11]
And it was commanded them that they should not hurt the grass of the earth, neither any green thing, neither any tree; but only those men which have not the seal of God in their foreheads.
These are not real locusts, but people who spread a flawed doctrine about the fate of unbelievers.
And to them it was given that they should not kill them, but that they should be tormented five months:
The life span of the desert locust is 3 to 5 months, but varies
depending on environmental conditions. Five months, or 150 days, was
the duration of the flood waters that covered the earth, and destroyed
all those not saved in the ark of Noah, and the unsaved are those who
are affected by their torment. Perhaps the 5 months of torment
represents a "locust life-
and their torment was as the torment of a scorpion, when he
striketh a man.
The doctrine of the locusts is that those who do not accept their religion will be punished for their sins, and suffer agonizing pain, and an unending infernal torment.
And in those days shall men seek death, and shall not find it; and shall desire to die, and death shall flee from them.
This verse describes the doctrine of infernal torment of unbelievers, whose souls are said to be immortal, so they can't die.
And the shapes of the locusts were like unto horses prepared unto battle;
John compares the locusts with horses. In scripture, people with no understanding are compared with horses.
Be ye not as the horse, or as the mule, which have no understanding: whose mouth must be held in with bit and bridle, lest they come near unto thee.
Their riders are men, as they are ridden by the doctrines of men.
and on their heads were as it were crowns like gold,
Arron the high priest wore a crown of gold, Leviticus 8:9.
Crowns of gold may represent halos that are shown on the heads of the saints in old paintings;
The crowns show the locusts are religious people, or churchmen. [1
and their faces were as the faces of men.
And they had hair as the hair of women,
Paul wrote, "Doth not even nature itself teach you, that, if a man have long hair, it is a shame unto him?" [1 Corinthians 11:14]
Paul said the head of every man is Christ; and a man praying of prophesying with long hair dishonours Christ. [1 Corinthians 11:3-4] The faces of men, and hair of women show the locusts preach a doctrine that dishonours Christ.
and their teeth were as the teeth of lions.
Lions' teeth represent people who are fierce, as Paul said they would be in the last days.
2 Timothy 3:1-3
1 This know also, that in the last days perilous times shall come. 2 For men shall be lovers of their own selves, covetous, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, 3 Without natural affection, trucebreakers, false accusers, incontinent, fierce, despisers of those that are good,
And they had breastplates, as it were breastplates of iron;
Breastplates are associated with righteousness in Ephesians 6:14. The locusts tout their own righteousness. Their breastplates of iron show they are impervious to the truth, and to reason, so even God can't touch their cruel hearts.
and the sound of their wings was as the sound of chariots of many horses running to battle.
Horses and chariots rushing to battle would make a loud, clattering noise, as chariot wheels rolled over stony ground.
They had tails and stings like scorpions,
Isaiah said, "the prophet that teacheth lies, he is the tail" Isaiah 9:15.
and there were stings in their tails: and their power was to hurt men five months.
The tails are symbolic of a "prophet that teaches lies" as that is what the locusts are, false prophets. They have another gospel, a distortion of the true gospel of Christ, that incorporates the doctrine of infernal torment of unbelievers. Centuries of tradition have cemented the concept of unending infernal torment in the minds of many. Their views are not easily discarded.
And they had a king over them, which is the angel of the bottomless pit, whose name in the Hebrew tongue is Abaddon,
Abaddon means destroyer, Job 26:6. The effect of the locust plague is that it destroys the church, and obscures the gospel. Their doctrine of unending infernal torment of unbelievers paints God as a cruel monster, a fiend.
but in the Greek tongue hath his name Apollyon.
This probably alludes to Apollo Parnopius, the Greek god of plagues. (Parnopius means "grasshopper.") Apollo was also a god of prophecy.
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