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THE LOCUSTS FROM THE PIT – Revelation 9:1-12

Posted by Pastor Greg Allen on April 20, 2016 under AM Bible Study |

AM Bible Study Group; April 20, 2016 from Revelation 9:1-12

Theme: This passage describes the unleashing of the locusts from the abyss upon the earth at the blowing of the fifth trumpet.

(All Scripture is taken from The New King James Version, unless otherwise indicated).

We have been studying the portion of Revelation that deals with the seven ‘trumpet’ judgments. As we recall from our previous time together, the first four trumpets are best seen as representing a unit—with a special focus on the impact of each trumpet’s judgment upon the earth. The blowing of the first trumpet impacted the trees and green grass (Revelation 8:7). The second impacted the sea, the ships and the marine life (vv. 8-9). The third impacted the rivers and springs of water—this time resulting in the death of many people (vv. 10-11). And the fourth impacted the light upon the earth from the sun, moon and stars. But as horrible as all four of these trumpet judgments will be, they are set apart from the three much more ‘woeful’ blasts of the trumpets that yet remain.

With the blowing of the fifth trumpet, it appears that the dividing wall between the earth and the abyss is permitted to be breached; and a plague of hellish, demon-like locusts is brought on the earth—a plague of locusts unlike any other in human history. Though many have sought to spiritualize and symbolize the things described in this passage, there’s no real warrant for doing anything else but interpreting these words as describing a literal horror.


A. At the sounding of the fifth trumpet, John says that he saw "a star fallen from heaven to the earth" (v. 1). This doesn’t appear to be the same sort of star as is described in verse 10; because this star is clearly a ‘personal’ being. The Bible describes angelic beings as "stars" (Job 38:6-7); and says that some of them fell to the earth through Satan (Revelation 12:4). This appears, then, to be an angelic being—not seen as merely "falling", but (in the perfect tense of the verb) as having already "fallen" as a completed act. This is an angel who is given authority and power to open a place called "the bottomless pit" (or, literally, “the shaft of the abyss”). This is a dreadful place—so dreadful that demons once begged Jesus not to cast them into it (Luke 8:31). It appears to be the same as the place called Tartarus in 2 Peter 2:4—the prison in which “the angels who sinned” were delivered “into chains of darkness, to be reserved for judgment.”

B. Upon the opening of this bottomless pit, smoke arose that was so thick that it was described as being like the dark, heavy, stifling smoke of a great furnace. It was so thick, in fact, that it obscured the sun; and the air became darkened because of it (v. 2; see also 16:10a). In Genesis 19:28, we’re told that Abraham looked upon the plain of Sodom and Gomorrah, “and behold, the smoke of the land which went up like the smoke of a furnace.” We’re also told in Exodus 19:18 that, when God came upon Mt. Sinai to give the law to the people, the smoke from the mountain “ascended like the smoke of a furnace”. The smoke that fills the air at the opening of the bottomless pit is of an horrifyingly unholy nature. What a dreadful and ominous sight this will be to the people of the earth!

C. The sight of the smoke of the abyss would be frightening enough. But we’re told that from out of that smoke came a swarm of locusts upon the earth (v. 3). These are no ordinary locusts. As we will see later, they are intelligent and obey orders. And we’re told that they have "power as the scorpions of the earth have power". Note that this power was not natural to them, but was something that had been "given" to them. These may be some type of demonic being which is given a dreadful and monstrous form—a form already easily recognized as horrifying and destructive to humankind, but with a far greater intensity of horror than anything yet seen or known. That such a thing can happen shouldn’t be too strange to us—considering that unclean spirits were willing to occupy a herd of pigs. But the strange appearance of these creatures suggests that they aren’t simply demon-inhabited locusts—but something of a far more diabolical origin.


A. Note that these locusts from the pit are given commands (v.4). They are specifically told not to harm the grass of the earth, or any green thing, or any tree—which would make them unlike any natural swarm of locusts mankind had ever seen before. In terms of the restriction they are given, they are similar to the four angels described at the beginning of Revelation 7—who were also told not to harm the earth or sea or trees (Revelation 7:3). But those four angels in Revelation 7 do not harm man; whereas these hellish locusts are specifically commanded to only harm "those men who do not have the seal of God on their foreheads". This reminds us of the 144,000 sealed servants of God mentioned in 7:1-8; but it doesn’t necessarily mean that sealed servants of God are on the earth at this time. (The argument of this study has been that they had been taken out of the earth in chapter 7.) Rather, the mention of their limitation is only meant to highlights that those that are harmed did not receive the seal of God.

B. The form of harm these locusts are permitted to inflict upon human beings is to torment them—much as a scorpion’s sting in the middle east would result in almost maddening pain upon a person today (v. 5). They are not permitted, however, to kill people; but only to harm them and cause them torment. Note also that they are permitted to bring this harm on people for five-months—again, distinguishing them from any other sort of earthly locusts. (Note that the five months of torment from these locusts parallels the 150 days during which the waters of the flood prevailed upon the earth in the days of Noah; see Genesis 7:24.)

C. The agony that the locusts will bring is so great that people will seek death (v. 6). They will, in fact earnestly desire to die. But death will evade them. It’s hard to fathom this dreadful judgment!—a judgment so great that one aspect of its dreadfulness is that people will not be allowed to die during the administration of it! (If this passage parallels the fifth bowl judgment of Revelation 16:10-11; then 10b-11 shows us the hard and unrepentant condition of people’s hearts during this time.)


A. These locusts that arise up from out of the bottomless pit are, in shape, like horses. Locusts have often been noted for their horse-like appearance. These particular locusts, however, are shaped like horses fitted for battle—like war horses. They have an ominous and threatening appearance.

B. On their heads are crowns that appear to be made of something like gold. Imagine how the light would flash as they flew! This may be meant to express that they are intelligent, are obedient to orders, and are conquerors who over the efforts of men stop them.

C. Their faces were like the faces of men. This may mean that they are able to exhibit and express dreadful emotion and passion in their attacks. What monstrosities! What horror they will evoke in those who see them coming!

D. They appear to possess a quality that us utterly unlike any earthly locust—that is, having hair like women. But there’s nothing beautiful about them.

E. Their teeth were like the teeth of lions—with perhaps a dreadful snarl. It’s possible that they bite as well as sting.

F. They had breastplates like breastplates of iron. People will try to destroy them; but those who attempt to do so will find that they are well-defended and are indestructible.

G. The sound of their wings was deafening—like the sound of chariots with many horses running into battle. What a dreadful sound! Imagine the terror—to both the eye and the ear—that they would inspire! Imagine the panic they would provoke at their coming!

H. They have tails like scorpions—with stingers! Imagine—stinging scorpions that can fly! We’re told again that they thus have the power to hurt people for five months. This time-period is repeated, not only in order to stress the dreadfulness of it, but also to stress the merciful limitation of it.

I. And finally—and most remarkably—they are said to have a ruler. This ruler is the angel of the bottomless pit. He may be the same angel that opened the pit (in v. 1); but this is not necessarily so. In any event, they are under his rule; and his name is described in Hebrew as Abaddon and in Greek as Apollyon—both of which mean "destruction" or "destroyer". What a fitting name!


When all this is done, we’re reminded that this was only one "woe". Two more follow! How could more woefulness after this? But there will be!

* * * * * * * * * *

When the prophet Joel spoke of a swarm of locust in his day, perhaps he was speaking prophetically of what would happen at the blowing of the fifth trumpet:

Blow the trumpet in Zion,

And sound an alarm in My holy mountain!

Let all the inhabitants of the land tremble;

For the day of the Lord is coming,

For it is at hand:

A day of darkness and gloominess,

A day of clouds and thick darkness,

Like the morning clouds spread over the mountains.

A people come, great and strong,

The like of whom has never been;

Nor will there ever be any such after them,

Even for many successive generations (Joel 2:1-2).

This underscores the blessedness of the saints; who, as 1 Thessalonians 4:9 says, are not appointed for wrath. But it also reminds us that these locusts are kept even now in reserve for the day of God’s judgment. This underscores our need, as Christ’s people, to tell others about Him today—while they can be delivered from the wrath to come!

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