Category Archives: Salvation

Revelation 1-9 Recap – Getting our Bearings

Revelation Part 20 – Recap

Revelation Ch. 9


Having just covered this unusual chapter in 2 parts, someone asked if I might do a brief recap to help put it all together. I thought that was a stellar idea. At the same time wanted to show you just how and why I arrived at some of the interpretive decisions I made, with the hope that it will be both useful and encouraging to each of you in your own study.

While there is no question Revelation is a challenging book, with just a few key ideas under your belt, there is no one here who cannot read it without great understanding and profit – as long as we avoid assigning arbitrary meaning to the symbols and pictures it contains.

So today will be a bit different as a sermon as I attempt to explain some of the methodology of approaching it.

Basic Method: Questions.

  1. Are the symbols self-explanatory or even common to John and his first readers?
  2. Are they explained in the immediate text?
  3. Are they explained elsewhere in the Bible?
  4. Do the concepts accord with other clear Biblical teaching?

What is certain?     What is reasonable?      What is mere speculation?

I try to be careful to tell you where that is the case on my part.

Quick recap up to Ch. 9.

Ch. 1 – Introduction & Commission

Chs. 2-3 – The Letters

Ch. 4 – The Throne of God

Ch. 5 – The Lion, the Lamb and the Scroll

Ch. 6 – Opening the 6 seals (Revealing and enacting)

Ch. 7 – Sealing the Saints

Ch. 8 – The 7th Seal and the 1st 4 Trumpets

Ch. 9 – The 5th & 6th Trumpets  /  What can we know for sure, and how do we know it?

1. Books as we have them, were quite rare in John’s time. Scrolls were the norm. A sealed scroll was the typical means of preserving very important documents untampered with. Especially the wills of important people in John’s day. When a will was opened, just as today, it then entered the stage of its contents being carried out. Disbursements. In this case, taking into account the rest of the book – God’s final plan for judging sin and evil, and granting the saints their inheritance. We take that scenario from reading the book as a whole. That is how it ends – sin and death and Satan being finally dealt with, and Believers entering the fullness of their promised inheritance.

Writing on both sides would indicate the contents were entire. There was no part 2, say on another scroll.  Someone took pains to be sure it was all written in one place and made tamperproof. This was the whole deal.

2. From the OT we firmly established how God appointed the use of trumpets to signal action on the part of His people militarily, civilly and even ecclesiastically. Military use of trumpets has been common through the ages up to and including our own civil war. Hence our view that the trumpets serve as announcements and warnings. And as we’ve seen, they appear to enlarge upon aspects of God’s judgments as revealed in the opening of the seals. There are a dozen or more passages in the OT where God tells His prophets to “blow the trumpet” in warning God’s people judgment is coming upon them for their sins.

III. Rev. 9:1

Stars: As early as Job 38 angels are sometimes referred to as “stars”. Rev. 1:20 clearly explains that picture and sets the tone for its use in the rest of the book. In this verse, the star is even personified as “he.” So we KNOW it is an entity.

Angels as “fallen” are never referred to positively in Scripture.

IV. Rev. 9:2

The bottomless pit or abyss we’ve seen addressed in other places like 2 Peter 2:4 and Jude 6. Additionally, this will reappear in Rev. 20:3, where the pit is identified as the place where Satan is bound – so that he can “deceive the nations no longer.” There we also see another very important fact: The activity of Satan and the main concern about his activity is – deception. Darkness from the truth.

V. Rev. 9:3-5

Natural knowledge of locusts combined with the revelation of darkness and deception from Satan and his minions is clear. Natural locusts eat plant life – these do not. Natural locusts would not make a distinction between people – these do. The previous chapter showed us by demonstration from the OT that this sealing of God’s people was invisible and spiritual – keeping them from the harm of the locusts, just as Jesus told us that if it were possible, even the elect would be deceived in the last days.

Matthew 24:24–28

Again, the natural knowledge of the 1st readers would have recognized the 5 month period as simply the season of locusts – indicating this demonic deception has its season too.

VI. Rev. 9:6

Common knowledge would tell us there is no state of immortality for people, which would rule out the idea this inability to die is a purely physical thing – not to mention the fact that later in the chapter, 1/3 of mankind ARE killed. Physical death in that sense is not the issue. This coincides more closely with spiritual or psychological pain as the result of the demonic darkness and deception.

VII. Rev. 9:7-10  

The language here is clarified for us in detail back in Joel 2. There, a genuine locust invasion is used to symbolize God’s judgment on His people – just like the locust plague on Egypt in Ex. 10. And all of the same military language is used of the locusts back there too – because they are in effect, an “army” sent from God in judgment.

IIX. Rev. 9:11

In case we had any doubt this plague is Satanic and demonic in nature – the text then says explicitly that Satan is the one behind this invading force which inflicts woes on those who do not belong to God in Christ.

IX. Rev. 9:12-16

Keeping with the involvement of the angelic hosts, both holy and fallen, one sent from the very altar of incense before the throne in Heaven – where the prayers of the saints are offered up (so we too factor into this) God sends an angel to loose 4 demonic entities to marshal an innumerable army of other demons to bring about the loss of 1/3 of mankind. Exactly how is not explained. But whatever the means, it seems to have zero impact on people in terms of turning from their sin and to God.

X. Rev. 9:17-19

Once again, we are given images to reinforce the attack nature of God’s judgments in military imagery. And in keeping with what we have seen already in the first part of the chapter, these do their damage by what comes out of their mouths. Just as in Ch. 1 it is a sharp, two-edged sword which comes out of the mouth of the Risen and glorified Jesus, so here, their word is the means whereby people are destroyed in great number.

It is the propagation of deception and darkness from the truth. This is a recurring motif throughout the Bible where the figures of light for truth, and darkness for the obscuring of truth is common. Especially in John’s writings.

John 3:19–21 And this is the judgment: the light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the light because their works were evil. For everyone who does wicked things hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his works should be exposed.”

We see it in Paul too: 2 Corinthians 4:6

Colossians 1:13

2 Corinthians 4:1–5

And in Peter as well: 1 Peter 2:9

1 John 1:5–10

XI. Rev. 9:20-21

Given the ways mankind is suffering to this point, even to a 1/3 of it being wiped out in the era of this 6th trumpet – it seems to have no impact on the hearts and minds of those remaining.

As the text marvels at their unrepentance, so should we. And marvel that in God’s economy, repentance is still being held out as a hope – though it is rejected.

The previous 2 times we’ve looked at several lessons we can take away from all this – and there are yet more for us to consider as we think about this recap.

  1. What can possibly be more cruel, than to seal the fate of people such that they die in their trespasses and sins? That they be blinded from the truth of reality – of Who God is, who and what mankind is, why we are here, why things are the way they are, what the purpose of creation and life is, and what will come after this.

“In 1944, Hiroo Onoda was sent to the small island of Lubang in the western Philippines to spy on U.S. forces in the area. Allied forces defeated the Japanese imperial army in the Philippines in the latter stages of the war, but Onoda, a lieutenant, evaded capture. While most of the Japanese troops on the island withdrew or surrendered in the face of oncoming American forces, Onoda and a few fellow holdouts hid in the jungles, dismissing messages saying the war was over.

For 29 years, he survived on food gathered from the jungle or stolen from local farmers.

After losing his comrades to various circumstances, Onoda was eventually persuaded to come out of hiding in 1974.

His former commanding officer traveled to Lubang to see him and tell him he was released from his military duties.

In his battered old army uniform, Onoda handed over his sword, nearly 30 years after Japan surrendered.” CNN Website article.

Think of the sad deception of world-renowned theoretical physicist Stephen Hawking who just passed away last week. Deceived into a wholly materialistic view of life and the universe, standing finally before the Creator he steadily and emphatically denied. How tragic is that?

2. While Christians, as sealed by the Spirit are protected against the great delusion of unbelief, we are not immune to the enemy attempting to deceive us as well in making us ineffectual for the Kingdom.

We can all too easily buy into some of the World’s current thinking as well – and be deceived in some ways. This was a key issue in the letters to the 7 churches in Chs. 2-3.

The Ephesians were deceived into thinking that as long as they had their doctrine straight, their lack of passion toward Christ was irrelevant.

Smyrna was in danger of hiding their Christianity due to persecution.

Pergamum was in danger of syncretism – blending their Christianity with false religions and what it could lead to. Losing the exclusivity of salvation by grace alone, through faith alone, because of Christ’s substitutionary death on the cross alone.

Thyatira was being deceived by a false prophetess who was convincing them in matters that led them into sexual immorality.

Sardis was living on their reputation as hot, hip and happening, when their spiritual lives were all but dead. Deceived into relishing external demonstrations over internal life in Christ.

Philadelphia was in danger of thinking that because they were small and marginalized, that they didn’t really matter in the grand scheme of things. Of losing their grip on how important patient endurance is.

Laodicea was wealthy, prominent and self-sufficient, and were deceived into settling for that even though they were not of any real spiritual value to anyone else.

We must guard our own hearts and minds – for this enemy of ours will attempt – if it were possible – to lead the very elect into the great deception of rejecting Christ.

Knowing he cannot do that, he will do his best to distract, discourage, demoralize, doubt and derail us from our mission to the world.

3. This is the great deception WE are called to dispel in the preaching and living of the Gospel of Jesus Christ in our age.

1 John 2:7–11

If you are looking for purpose in life – what can possibly be greater than helping people see and understand the truth about all of life – in the light of glory of Jesus Christ? Seeing them reconciled to the God who made them? Forgiven of all their sins. Freed from the bondage of those sins. Becoming inheritors of eternal life. How?


Giving so the Church continues to preach and teach the Word of God.

Public Worship in making God known locally.

Personal growth in the image, the character of Christ so others are exposed to Him through us.

Sharing the Gospel of justification by faith alone in the atoning sacrifice of Jesus Christ.

Serving the local Church so it continues its testimony in the world.

Missions – so the Gospel goes abroad.



You have only to repose

On my wisdom, love, and care;

When my wrath consumes my foes,

Mercy shall my children spare;

While they perish in the flood,

You that bear my holy mark,†

Sprinkled with atoning blood,

Shall be safe within the ark.”

4 Sinners, see the ark prepar’d!

Haste to enter while there’s room;

Though the Lord his arm has bar’d,

Mercy still retards your doom:

Seek him while there yet is hope,

Ere the day of grace be past,

Lest in wrath he give you up,

And this call should prove your last.



Revelation Ch.9b – Seeing the Invisible

Revelation 9:13–21

Daniel 2:1-45

Seeing the Invisible


We are currently in the 2nd portion of Revelation ch. 9. As we saw last time, a pretty challenging chapter due to the nature of its imagery.

Once again, we are approaching this structure of Jesus addressing the 7 churches in Asia as they were in John’s day; moving on to Jesus opening the 7 seals of the scroll which lays out and begins God’s final program for judging sin and rewarding His saints; and now the sounding of the 7 trumpets which appear to be warnings and enlargements on the way God’s judgments will take place; and then on to the 7 bowls which seem to be the actual final events being accomplished.

And just as John reminds us in his own 1st letter, 1 John 2:18 “Children, it is the last hour, and as you have heard that antichrist is coming, so now many antichrists have come. Therefore we know that it is the last hour.” – All the way through this book of Revelation we have this dynamic of the very final things yet to come, but in some capacity we’re are already experiencing some of those things now. I believe this 9th chapter gives us a real sense of that.

This of course is fully in keeping with Jesus’ words to John in Rev. 1:19 “Write therefore the things that you have seen, those that are and those that are to take place after this.”

Because Jesus reveals Himself several times as: Rev. 1:8 “I am the Alpha and the Omega,” says the Lord God, “who is and who was and who is to come, the Almighty.” We should expect this back and forth between things which are already history, some things contemporaneous with ourselves and some things yet to come. Trying to slice these too thinly may be not really be possible with much certainty. Though there are places where the timeframe is more evident.

So, at the sounding of the 5th trumpet, we were introduced to the reality that not only is God in Heaven and doing things, and that we are on earth doing things, but also there is the unseen realm of the demonic and that also has to factor into how we understand what is going on around us. And we saw that the chief work of Satan and his demons is to perpetuate deceptions to keep people from knowing God as He truly his, our own sinful, fallen condition and its implications, and especially our need of salvation and how that has been provided for in the life, death, burial and resurrection of Jesus – especially His substitutionary death on the cross and salvation by faith in it.

Now, at the sounding of the 6th trumpet, a voice comes from the altar in Heaven – an indication this would be the voice of God Himself – issuing a command that has further massive implications on earth.

  1. (13-15) “Then the sixth angel blew his trumpet, and I heard a voice from the four horns of the golden altar before God, saying to the sixth angel who had the trumpet, “Release the four angels who are bound at the great river Euphrates.” So the four angels, who had been prepared for the hour, the day, the month, and the year, were released to kill a third of mankind.”

The command is to set free 4 angels, who had apparently been kept bound by God – most likely in judgment. That would be in keeping with what we saw last time – how the angels who rebelled against God earlier were consigned to chains of darkness. (2 Pet., Jude 6)

These particular angels are bound at the river Euphrates. And they are released according to a divine time table of some sort.

What we are probably looking at here is not so much a geographical reference, as it is what the geography represents.

Looking back at the whole Old Testament and especially the passage we had read for us in Daniel, we recall the Euphrates basin was where Babylon was located. And the figure of Babylon always represented 2 things to the Jewish mind Biblically. We’ll see this developed more later in the book. But the 2 things Babylon most often represented to John and his 1st readers are these:

  1. Babylon was used as symbol of the contrast between human government and the World system, as opposed to God’s Reign and His people. This will be developed more in Revelation later.
  2. Babylon represented global conquest. The great Babylonian empire which conquered and destroyed Israel gave way to the Medo-Persian empire, then the Greek and the finally the Roman empire. And as the prophecy in Daniel demonstrates, there will NOT be another world empire like those – for in the days the Roman empire, Christ came and began to establish His empire, before which all other world empires had to crumble.

There will never again be a world empire the likes of those previous ones. But that does not mean the idea behind those empires is gone.

When prophecy mavens look for a one-world government politically or militarily, they are probably barking up the wrong tree. From what we see here, the “one-world government” is spiritual in nature. We are being exposed to the global deception of it even now; which is keeping people from the light of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, and bound in the deception of human religion, material wealth, cultural morality and personal autonomy.

The world is captive to this system. This is the global empire of darkness as we saw last time. All the more insidious because of its seeming invisibility.

It is this invisible empire that is being exposed in this chapter as we began to see last time – and which is now expanded upon in the 6th warning, announcement or trumpet.

There is no bondage as great as that of the invisible chains of deception.

  1. (16-17) “The number of mounted troops was twice ten thousand times ten thousand; I heard their number. And this is how I saw the horses in my vision and those who rode them: they wore breastplates the color of fire and of sapphire and of sulfur, and the heads of the horses were like lions’ heads, and fire and smoke and sulfur came out of their mouths.”

Once again, we’re being confronted with images that are surreal, but communicate important ideas.

The number is simply meant to communicate immensity – 200 million. Just like the picture of the vast number of “locusts” in vs. 3 that darken the sky.

Breastplates clearly speak of war or battle of some sort. They are referred to as “troops” – the same way the locusts above were, both here, Joel and elsewhere.

Lion’s heads indicate ferocity.

Fire, sulfur and smoke are common images of judgment lumped together which we can trace throughout Scripture: (Gen. 19:24, 28; Deut. 29:23; Isa. 34:9–10; Ezek. 38:22 etc.).

But the most important feature is that “fire and smoke and sulfur came out of their mouths.” Again, images like this one on the screen completely miss the point.

We’re already familiar with this kind of imagery, aren’t we?

Remember what we saw back in Ch.1 and the vision of the risen Jesus John saw there? Revelation 1:16 “In his right hand he held seven stars, from his mouth came a sharp two-edged sword, and his face was like the sun shining in full strength.”

Do we imagine Jesus actually has a sword coming out of His mouth? Or do we instantly recognize that what is being depicted is the power and action of His word?

The same here. What is dangerous and devastating about these demonic entities is what they communicate! How they lie against the truth of God and spread deception that blinds people to the Gospel, so that they die in their sins.

  1. (18-19) “By these three plagues a third of mankind was killed, by the fire and smoke and sulfur coming out of their mouths. For the power of the horses is in their mouths and in their tails, for their tails are like serpents with heads, and by means of them they wound.”

By the lies these demons propagate, and what ensues or follows from those lies (the picture of their tails biting like serpents) – 1/3 of mankind dies.

And immediately our minds run to a picture of either some biological disaster or perhaps war – especially with the idea of 200,000,000 mounted troops. A specific event or battle.

But I am not so sure those interpretations fit with how this is all the result of darkness and deception.

Note first of all that earlier in the chapter, we’re told those sealed with the mark of God are spared from this. But in all human wars Christians have always suffered and died along with unbelievers. Something else is happening here.

Perhaps more fitting, and I am only suggesting here, but just perhaps – we’re witnessing something far more insidious. What if through the darkening of people’s eyes from Biblical truth, a doctrine, a pervasive point of view began to spread that justified the murder of untold millions – but all in the name of doing good, supporting human autonomy, in line with economic expediency, with the moral approval of the culture and even justified by those claiming to be religious ? Something like a global capitulation to – abortion?

Population today: 7.4 billion

Total number of abortions worldwide since 1980 – 1.5 billion

We’re not far off from 1/3 of mankind being slaughtered with governmental, cultural and moral approval, in the darkness of demonic deception and all right under our noses in those nations most championed as enlightened and evolved.

I’m not saying that specifically IS what is being referred to here. But it sure makes us realize how it can happen, with nary a hand raised in opposition. Happening, but still not alarming those in the following verses to repentance.  For that is precisely what is recorded – they aren’t alarmed. They don’t repent.

  1. (20-21) “The rest of mankind, who were not killed by these plagues, did not repent of the works of their hands nor give up worshiping demons and idols of gold and silver and bronze and stone and wood, which cannot see or hear or walk, nor did they repent of their murders or their sorceries or their sexual immorality or their thefts.”

By virtue of their false teaching – what comes out of their mouths – they will seal the fate of 1/3 of mankind.

What’s happening here? Mankind is being decimated in unimaginable numbers, and the rest of humanity witnesses it, but doesn’t comprehend what’s going on.

The darkness and deception has so clouded their minds, they cannot see the reality of it. And so they don’t repent. They don’t understand that this is judgment for sin and demonically inspired. They just go about their business of serving material goods under the influence of demons. Increasing in their violence against one another in war, abortion, the character assassination that pervades social media, their humanly invented religion and spirituality, their sexual immorality and their greed.

None of it sinks in. They truly have become dumb sheep marching to their own slaughter.

So they do not repent of the works of their hands nor give up worshiping demons and idols of gold and silver and bronze and stone and wood, which cannot see or hear or walk. And for many, their idols of gold are enshrined in their bank accounts, while they live in their temples of stone and wood.

Nor do they repent of their murders (war, abortion, etc.).

Nor their sorceries.

I know it is common today for many to make a connection here between the Greek word “pharmakon” from which we have the English word pharmacy and the prevalent use of drugs in our culture. There is a slight possibility there, but that’s not really how language works. Like no one imagines that a butterfly has anything to do either with butter or flies.

The word as it was used then, had more to do with using means to manipulate reality – or especially manipulate God – or the cosmic or spiritual powers. It is more akin to the idea behind books like The Secret or even some books in Christian circles, like The Prayer of Jabez. More subtly, using rites, rituals, promises or behaviors etc., to get God to do what we want Him to do.

Bargaining with Him. Using obediences as means of bribery or cosmic arm twisting.

All of which is utterly and completely contrary to Biblical truth, and who God is and who we are.

The idea that God can be bought off to give us what we want if we promise to read the Bible more, or pray more, or give more or go to Church more make Him out to be a deity for hire! It is blasphemy.

It demeans Him as God, and we as made in His image.

Deut. 10:17 “For the LORD your God is God of gods and Lord of lords, the great, the mighty, and the awesome God, who is not partial and takes no bribe.”

Nor do they repent of their sexual immorality. No indeed. They even justify it – Biblically!

Nor their thefts. Greed governs all.

So we’re reminded in 1 Tim. 4:1–3 “Now the Spirit expressly says that in later times some will depart from the faith by devoting themselves to deceitful spirits and teachings of demons, through the insincerity of liars whose consciences are seared, who forbid marriage and require abstinence from foods that God created to be received with thanksgiving by those who believe and know the truth.” Teachings of demons that destroy biblical notions of marriage and even how we eat in the name of a humanly created religion.

2 Tim. 3:1–9 “But understand this, that in the last days there will come times of difficulty. For people will be lovers of self, lovers of money, proud, arrogant, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, heartless, unappeasable, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not loving good, treacherous, reckless, swollen with conceit, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, having the appearance of godliness, but denying its power.”

2 Tim. 4:3–4 “For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths.”

All of this resulting in a Cross-less salvation, personal autonomy, invented legalism for salvation (political correctness), license for sin and false Christs.

What if anything then are we to take away from this? Let me suggest just 3.

  1. Grasping the SPIRITUAL REALITY OF OUR SITUATION. We must remain aware of the demonically influenced BLINDNESS OF MEN.

That even as Christ’s Kingdom is already among us, but not yet fully realized, so this demonic darkness and deception is already at work and increasing.

Hence our need to be aware of, and to live in, the light of this revelation. This will greatly impact what we do.

There are no political solutions to spiritual problems.

There are no legal solutions to spiritual problems.

There are no scientific solutions to spiritual problems.

There are no economic solutions to spiritual problems.

There are no religious solutions to spiritual problems.

We must act responsibly in all of these spheres, but realize that nothing short of true, inward spiritual renewal through the Holy Spirit’s application of the Gospel can change fallen human nature.

Humankind needs Christ!

  1. Resting in God’s SOVEREIGN SUPERINTENDENCE. Rev. 9:15 “So the four angels, who had been prepared for the hour, the day, the month, and the year, were released to kill a third of mankind.”

So completely is our God still actively in control, that even these demonic hordes cannot act except He permits them, and that, down to a year, a month, a day and even a specific hour.

How comforting for those sealed with the seal of God in their foreheads – those who are Christ’s!

We are kept by His love and power. In the midst of all of these grizzly things – God still knows His people, and sets the limits on those who seek to do us the most harm – even the very forces of Hell.

  1. Committing to the MISSION and METHOD OF THE CHURCH. God’s chief method and means of protecting of His people is by sanctifying us, setting us apart by the truth as it is in Jesus Christ.

I wish I could go back this morning and unpack Jesus’ prayer in John 17 as it relates to all of this – because it instructs us by example to face all that is coming. But there is this all important point in that prayer that speaks to the heart of all of this for Believers – the importance of God’s Word as our source of unimpeachable truth.

John 17:17 “Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth.”

Beloved, Read, know, meditate on, study God’s Word. It is God’s means to separate His people from those upon whom these plagues are poured out.

Sunday school and preaching and the Bible studies we offer aren’t just to keep people busy or “involved” – they are to keep the truth before our hearts and minds in the face of demonic opposition.

And His Word IS sufficient for all these things, by the power of His indwelling Spirit – come what may.

Christ has died for us, that it might be so.