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three woes or dreadful calamities, to fall upon its inhabiters, under the three remaining trumpets.
No greater calamity can befall the sons of men than the corruption, rejection, and loss of true and saving religion. Under the four first trumpets, an hostile invasion of the whole Christian Church, in its fourfold divisions, had taken place; but the view of its effects had been hitherto general, involving few events which could be particularly ascertained. The warfare is now exhibited more openly, and Antichrist will soon stand confessed. In the apostolic times, at the very latest date of which this vision was seen, Antichrist was already said to be come, (1 John ii. 18, 22; iv. 3 ; 2 John 7.) The mystery of iniquity did even then begin to work, (2 Thess. ii. 7,) and waxed worse and worse, (2 Tim. iii. 13.) Under the four first trumpets, which have their beginning from this period, the storm increases; and under the three last, it advances to its maturity, and produces the most special and desolating effects, by three distinct explosions.
The fifth Trumpet, and first Woe.
CHA P. ix. ver. 1–12.
1 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.
2 And he opened the bottomless pit; and there arose 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.
3 And there came out of the smoke locusts upon the earth : and unto them was given power, as the scorpions of the earth have power.
4 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.
5 And to them it was given 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 he striketh a man.
6 And in those days shall men seek death, and shall not find it; and shall desire to die, and death shall flee from them.
*7 And the shapes of the locusts were like unto horses prepared unto battle ; and on their heads were as it were crowns like gold, and their faces were as the faces of men.
8 And they had hair as the hair of women, and their teeth were as the 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 running to battle.
10 And they had tails like unto scorpions, and there were stings in their tails; and their power was to hurt men five months.
11 And they had a king over them, which is the angel of the bottomless pit, whose name in the Hebrew tongue is Abaddon, but in the Greek tongue hath his name Apollyon.
12 One woe is past: and, behold, there come two woes more hereafter.
Ver. 1, 2. And the fifth angel sounded, &c.] A star is a teacher, or leader in doctrine. The angels or bishops of the seven Churches were such, appearing under the same symbol, (ch. i. 20.) But this star is no human Being: he is an angel who has fallen from heaven: for an angel he is called in the eleventh verse, “ the angel of the bottomless pit,” most certainly an evil angel. In the twelfth chapter we read that such an one was cast out from heaven to earth; all which circumstances, taken together, will direct our attention to that prince of evil angels and of darkness, denominated Satan in the Scriptures, and so called in the twelfth chapter of this Revelation.
He in person, or at least one of his prime angels or ministers, seems to be designated in this passage. He opens the bottomless pit, which, by comparing chap. xx. 1-3, and 2 Pet. ii. 4, will be found to be that part of 'Aans, or hell, called Gehenna, the place of prison and punishment for wicked angels and men. The key of this horrid place is permitted to him for a time, and for a special purpose only; for in no wise does it belong to him, nor can he use it but for the purpose now permitted; the rightful possessor of it being that divine Lord who asserts himself to “ have the keys of hell and death,” (ch. i. 18.)
The pit being thus opened, there ariseth from it “ a smoke as from a great furnace, and the sun and air are darkened.” Under the third trumpet we have seen the fall of such a being from heaven to earth, corrupting the sources and streams of pure doctrine. This afforded a general view of the rise and progress of heresy in the Christian Church, (see note, ch. viii. 10,11.) We have now before us the symbols of an heresy more particularly pestilential and destructive, to which the former corruptions under the third and fourth trumpets were conducive.
Ver. 3, 4. And there came out of the smoke locusts upon the earth, &c.] Locusts are described, by ancient and modern authors, as committing the most extraordinary ravages in the east; and the appearance of them is announced by a sudden deprivation of light. Like a thick cloud obscuring the sun, they settle upon the trees and herbs, devouring every thing before them, (Plinii Hist. Nat. xi. 29; Thuani Hist. tom. v. p. 364; Adamson's Voyage to Senegal. See also Exod. x. 4—15.) But these locusts are of a yet more dreadful description : they have the power of scorpions, and stings in their tails, and their
prey is not the grass-green plants and trees of
the field, but men. Yet those men only have they the power to hurt “ who have not the seal of God upon
their foreheads." The men so excepted from their baneful power are of the same character with those divinely saved from“ the great tribulation” in chap. vii; and who have there been shown to be Christians, by baptism, profession, faith, and practice, distinguished and directed by God's holy Spirit. Such persons the scorpion-locusts are not permitted to injure; and from this restriction we may reasonably conclude, that the attack is of an heretical character, implying alienation from the life in Christ by the introduction of false doctrines ; for this is precisely that species of mischief, from which the heaven-taught Christian, firm in faith, would escape, while the nominal and merely professed Christians would fall a prey to the invader. These, in verses 5 and 6, are not to be killed, but to undergo torment five months, a torment so affictive, that they shall wish for death, but without being able to find it.
The whole description is highly metaphorical, and so, as it may reasonably appear, is this death. The persons who suffer under this plague, do not die spiritually. They lose not altogether their life in Christ, whose name they profess, although they have renounced his purer doctrines and laws : they may yet repent and return to him, and live. But the horrible superstitions which they adopt, under the influence of their hellish teachers, take away from them the comforts of pure Christianity, and render the religion that is left, though it may perchance be nominally Christian, a torment, from which they wish to be relieved, but in vain.
1 In explaining the prophecy of the witnesses, the commentators are generally agreed in understanding the words die and death in this spiritual sense. Why then should they not admit it here?
Ver, 7, 8, 9, 10.] A nearer view of these invaders, exhibited in this remaining description, shows them,
1st. In shape, “ like horses prepared unto battle.” The insect locust is observed by naturalists to have such resemblance; and of this warlike appearance, in a spiritual sense, were these polemical heretics. 2dly,
“ On their heads were, as it were, crowns of gold.” But the true crown of gold is not theirs ; this is the peculiar ornament and distinction of Christ himself and his elders, and of all those who, by his example and power, overcome sin and the evil world, (ch. iii. 11; ii. 10; iv. 4; vi. 2.) But these deceivers have a base counterfeit of this crown, “as it were, crowns of gold.” They boast a show of religion, without possessing its truth and efficacy.
3dly. “ Their faces were us the faces of men.” This appearance in an animal, seems to imply somewhat of a reasoning power, a means of persuasion. Ignatius, who wrote at the time when the Gnostic heresiarchs began to prevail, calls these deceivers Onpia Ανθρωπομορφα, wild beasts under the appearance of men. (Epist. ad Smyrnæos.)
4thly. They had hair as the hair of women.” In the eastern nations of antiquity the women wore their hair long, which was accounted effeminate and disgraceful to men; yet, under this effeminate appearance, assumed to allure, they destroy. For,
5thly. Their teeth are as the teeth of lions.” (See Joel i. 6; Ps. lvii. 4; lviii. 6; 1 Pet. v. 8,) ready to devour.
6thly. They had breastplates, as it were, of iron.” Iron in appearanee, as their defensive armour, but not of ironlike strength; for the controversial armour of the Gnostics made but a poor defence against the arguments of the philosophers and of the Christian fathers.