The Bottomless Pit
When we compare the events recorded in Revelation we can’t help but notice how relevant announcements are. So far angels, thunder, lightening, earthquakes, trumpets, and other things have been used to announce events. We see this repeated throughout Revelation. In some chapters the symbol is introduced and defined. In other cases the symbol is defined in other chapters. When that occurs, much more details is added to the symbol and the event at hand. That is seen throughout the Bible. It is the writing style God decided to use before He told Moses to record the first book that would later lay the foundation for the Bible. In many ways that is God’s signature of authenticity.
When we study the Bible, we look for those types of patterns. Those patterns tell us not to guess at interpretations or answers, but to search scripture for each and every answer. When you are a serious student of the Bible, that becomes common sense. The highest form of study I’ve run across and verified in the Bible is the study of parallel chapters. That is where a prophecy is recorded in one book, and its fulfillment recorded in another book. It is the most reliable form of Bible Study I know of and the most reliable because the Bible not only confirms how the prophecy was fulfilled, but proves the Bible was divinely inspired. Unfortunately, not many people use the study of parallel chapters to confirm the fulfillment of a prophecy. It takes too much time and study. The introduction and summary of the chapter have to be confirmed along with the context of the two chapters. Key words are the only thing that lead you from the prophecy to its recorded fulfillment. You have to know what key words to search. Or you have to totally rely on the Holy Spirit to lead you to the recorded fulfillment. Still, the chapters need to be verified so they can be properly presented. Studies like that cannot be rushed or forced. God can lay His hand on details within a recorded fulfillment until the time is right to reveal the information. That frustrates some people. So they try to invent other methods to study scripture. Methods that are less than reliable and in the long run, rely on the individual or other sources outside the Bible. I prefer to stick to methods used in the Bible and proven by the Bible.
It would be interesting to search for parallel chapters within the Book of Revelation. Or look for prophecies in other books, then match the fulfillment recorded in Revelation. But that was not the intent of this book. If we run across parallel chapters, they will be confirmed according to the rules for parallel chapters. So far parallel chapters have not been detected within the first eight chapters of Revelation. But we are seeing some interesting parallels in Revelation. Many of the symbols are repeated in the same order. This of course follows the same pattern found in Genesis and other books that followed. An event or scene is introduced, and elaborated upon in the next chapter, or a later chapter. Both chapters describe the same event. The event or series of events are first recorded with few details. Later the series of events is repeated and more details are added.
If there are parallels in Revelation, the book will reveal those parallels itself. The first sign is revealed by paying attention to key words. In many cases those key words are symbols. Common sense tells us to search other parts of Revelation, and let Jesus explain what those symbols represent. That is what we have been doing in this book. No guesswork. Just gathering facts from different parts of Revelation, putting them together, and letting Jesus’ book explain itself. As we go deeper into Revelation, we should see reasons to go back over information we’ve already covered. That tends to be a sticking point for some people who think they got it right the first time. But when it comes to studying with Jesus, He has His ways of keeping us humble. We have to learn to expect and accept that fact.
Revelation 9:1-2 RSVA And the fifth angel blew his trumpet, and I saw a star fallen from heaven to earth, and he was given the key of the shaft of the bottomless pit; (2) he opened the shaft of the bottomless pit, and from the shaft rose smoke like the smoke of a great furnace, and the sun and the air were darkened with the smoke from the shaft.
Chapter 8 ended with an eagle delivering a message about the last three trumpets. For one thing, eagles don’t talk. How can an eagle deliver a message? The announcement for these last three trumpets was a symbol. A symbol reminding us that all these figures are symbols and they originated in Heaven. Something we have to keep in mind. When we get to symbols like the star in verse 2, people look at that sentence in a rather logical manner. The star fell from Heaven to earth. Of course earth is not a symbol, but the planet the star fell upon. Then the logic kicks in. If the earth is physical, the star must be physical. When we look back on the other trumpets and seals, the earth has always been physical. The other elements involved have always been symbols people on this planet should be familiar with. Why would that pattern change?
Once again the symbol for the star here has been interpreted within the story by the word, “he.” Stars have been identified as angels back in chapter 1. “As for the mystery of the seven stars which you saw in my right hand, and the seven golden lampstands, the seven stars are the angels of the seven churches and the seven lampstands are the seven churches.” (Revelation 1:20 RSVA). Since the star has been identified with the word, “he,” in the story about the fifth trumpet, “and he came from Heaven,” the context identifies this star as an angel.
When we look at that key as a symbol, we could guess what it means until the cows come home. That is an old cliché meaning, a long time. But when we look at how keys are used in Revelation, we find some interesting facts.
When I saw him, I fell at his feet as though dead. But he laid his right hand upon me, saying, “Fear not, I am the first and the last, and the living one; I died, and behold I am alive for evermore, and I have the keys of Death and Hades. (Revelation 1:17-18 RSVA)
Jesus has the keys to Death and Hades, or hell. When we check the Greek word, key could be singular or plural. It may be the same key, or a separate key for each. Of course the context identified that key as being singular is a fashion. Jesus holds that key. It is the knowledge of both life and death. That is explained in the same sentence. On the other hand, translators may have looked at that key as symbolizing two points of knowledge. Now let’s look at the basic points of that knowledge.
Jesus is also known and the Author of life. We all know how He died and rise from the grave. In other words, Jesus is the only one with experience on both sides. Jesus holds the key to life because He is able to take to place of sinners when we face the judgment process. And Jesus has of course overcame death and defeated the grave. The question in Revelation chapter 9 is, does the angel hold the key to life or hell? When we look at the context of the story, hell would be the simple answer. So why is this angel given the key to open hell? The key is not physical but symbolic. Because that key points to knowledge Jesus has to share, we have to look at this trumpet as a learning process. Not an opportunity to show off what we think we know. But to study at that the feet of our Savior. All we are doing is following the simple instructions Jesus wrote about in the first few chapters of Revelation. Jesus arranged this book to reveal exactly what He wrote about. In the beginning of Revelation we learned that we had to put all the facts and explanations together to get the full view. The key is a symbol designed to point us back to Jesus and His experience. The experiences we can learn from. At this point we are learning from Jesus’ experience with life, death, and His experience as a Author. The knowledge Jesus has will be revealed and explained as we progress through the fifth trumpet.
Why is that pit translated, “bottomless?” A quick check of the original Greek shows the word,”bottomless,” was added. The proper translation had a bottom. It was a pit designed to hold something like a cistern or a well. It seems the original Greek leads us back to another connection with water. The second and third trumpets also used water as a direct symbol relating to people. Here we see an indirect symbol, a pit related to water. Rather strange how Jesus used a symbol of a pit to get us to uncover a message. What is that message? At this point we have no idea. We could begin guessing. Or we could leave the book of Revelation, Jesus’ letter, and go back to the world for an interpretation. That would be like taking ten steps backwards. The introduction to this scene is telling us that key is more than physical. Knowledge is opening up that pit. There are people in that pit. Now the satanic powers that took those people into that pit are free to cover the earth. Something is being released, That smoke is telling us something, but what?
Smoke represents two things in Revelation. Smoke is either associated with prayers from the saints, or with something sinister.
And this was how I saw the horses in my vision: the riders wore breastplates the color of fire and of sapphire and of sulphur, and the heads of the horses were like lions’ heads, and fire and smoke and sulphur issued from their mouths. By these three plagues a third of mankind was killed, by the fire and smoke and sulphur issuing from their mouths. (Revelation 9:17-18 RSVA).
Later in the same chapter, the sixth trumpet explains what that smoke does. First it blocks out the sun in the firth trumpet. Then that smoke kills people. Here we have a series of linking symbols that uncover a story. The key leads us to knowledge from Jesus. That knowledge is focused on teaching us what is inside that pit. The pit is designed to hold water. Which represents people. If smoke poured out of that pit, the people inside would be surrounded by that smoke. Blinded by that smoke. That same smoke darkens the sky and blocks out the sun. Light is also linked to knowledge. Jesus is opening more than a door, He is setting up a choice. We can ether learn from Him, or we can be blinded by that smoke. What does that smoke have in it to blind us? The explanations continue.
Revelation 9:3-6 RSVA Then from the smoke came locusts on the earth, and they were given power like the power of scorpions of the earth; (4) they were told not to harm the grass of the earth or any green growth or any tree, but only those of mankind who have not the seal of God upon their foreheads; (5) they were allowed to torture them for five months, but not to kill them, and their torture was like the torture of a scorpion, when it stings a man. (6) And in those days men will seek death and will not find it; they will long to die, and death will fly from them.
This is where the story begins to get interesting. We have to consider the fact, not only does that smoke kill, it also conceals. We see something described as locusts coming out of that smoke. Locust is the first detail we need to look at.
For if you refuse to let my people go, behold, tomorrow I will bring locusts into your country, and they shall cover the face of the land, so that no one can see the land; and they shall eat what is left to you after the hail, and they shall eat every tree of yours which grows in the field, and they shall fill your houses, and the houses of all your servants and of all the Egyptians; as neither your fathers nor your grandfathers have seen, from the day they came on earth to this day.'” Then he turned and went out from Pharaoh. (Exodus 10:4-6 RSVA).
In the first book of the Bible, locusts were used to deliver a curse. Of course the locusts coming out of that pit deliver another curse. Not the same curse mentioned in Exodus, but a curse all the same. No one has a better description of locusts than Joel.
Joel 1:1-8 RSVA The word of the LORD that came to Joel, the son of Pethu’el: (2) Hear this, you aged men, give ear, all inhabitants of the land! Has such a thing happened in your days, or in the days of your fathers? (3) Tell your children of it, and let your children tell their children, and their children another generation. (4) What the cutting locust left, the swarming locust has eaten. What the swarming locust left, the hopping locust has eaten, and what the hopping locust left, the destroying locust has eaten. (5) Awake, you drunkards, and weep; and wail, all you drinkers of wine, because of the sweet wine, for it is cut off from your mouth. (6) For a nation has come up against my land, powerful and without number; its teeth are lions’ teeth, and it has the fangs of a lioness. (7) It has laid waste my vines, and splintered my fig trees; it has stripped off their bark and thrown it down; their branches are made white. (8) Lament like a virgin girded with sackcloth for the bridegroom of her youth.
There is no doubt Joel linked locusts to education, learning, and remembering. The locusts cut that away. Not in a single attack, but a series of attacks. Parents were responsible for teaching their children. As time marched on, parents stopped teaching. Their children were left with nothing to teach. The link in the chain was broken. Joel wrote about a nation. The Hebrew word Joel wrote down could easily be translated as an army, force, or hoard of locusts. Joel could have been writing about the same attack John saw in Revelation. In short terms, locusts point to a lack of knowledge caused by an outside, organized force. Of course that is a force that originated in hell.
The next symbol to look at is scorpions. Each of us has an idea what a scorpion represents, but what does the Bible say about scorpions? I found one interesting symbol. “Yes, my father laid heavy burdens on you, but I’m going to make them even heavier! My father beat you with whips, but I will beat you with scorpions!'” (1 Kings 12:11 NLTse). Who would have thought that scorpions was a symbol for taxes? But we have to consider both the source and context before we plug it into Revelation chapter 9. The source is of course king Rehoboam. The context is taxes. Which is not the same context in Revelation chapter 9 where we have seen education and learning as the main theme. The search continues. Ezekiel wrote about a similar vision.
“Son of man, do not fear them or their words. Don’t be afraid even though their threats surround you like nettles and briers and stinging scorpions. Do not be dismayed by their dark scowls, even though they are rebels. You must give them my messages whether they listen or not. But they won’t listen, for they are completely rebellious! Son of man, listen to what I say to you. Do not join them in their rebellion. Open your mouth, and eat what I give you.” Then I looked and saw a hand reaching out to me. It held a scroll, which he unrolled. And I saw that both sides were covered with funeral songs, words of sorrow, and pronouncements of doom. (Ezekiel 2:6-10 NLTse).
Ezekiel pointed out the threats and words people will use against him. And how easy it is to slip into their ideas and concepts. That is exactly what John saw in his vision. Ezekiel received a scroll containing funeral songs, words of sorrow, and pronouncements of doom. That is something Jesus would like to warn us about. Now we can see how scorpions symbolize verbal attacks. Combining that with the smoke, we can see their conversations are obscured. At least their threats are obscured by a smoke screen.
Grass and trees are identified later in the same sentence. “Only those of mankind who have not the seal of God upon their foreheads;” It may seem rather strange to see a series of symbols, and only a few are explained in the story. Then to suddenly find a few symbols that are not explained in Revelation, but in other books in the Bible. We have to look back at the context of this trumpet, and that key that points to knowledge. We are in a new learning phase. But we have to know what we are learning as well is why we are learning it. To protect us from those locusts seems to be the logical explanation.
That seal from God must have a connection with the learning process we see in that key and other symbols used in this vision. The seal is a choice and something we need to work on. It is not the type of seal we hear preached about. The kind of seal you get when you join a certain church, make a donation, or any of those other promises we find difficult to understand. God’s seal is not the easy fix we hear about in this world. Or a seal with no explanation required. God’s seal has nothing to do with blind faith.
There is that matter of five months. We are supposed to keep a sharp eye out for dates we can place on a timeline. We are not given a stating or ending date. Up to this point in Revelation all we know for sure is, this all happens after John’s time. And the world sees a series of curses, and chances to grow their faith in God.
Based on one popular Bible verse, that five months could spam a much longer time frame. “‘You said your children would be carried off as plunder. Well, I will bring them safely into the land, and they will enjoy what you have despised. But as for you, you will drop dead in this wilderness. And your children will be like shepherds, wandering in the wilderness for forty years. In this way, they will pay for your faithlessness, until the last of you lies dead in the wilderness. “‘Because your men explored the land for forty days, you must wander in the wilderness for forty years–a year for each day, suffering the consequences of your sins. Then you will discover what it is like to have me for an enemy.’ I, the LORD, have spoken! I will certainly do these things to every member of the community who has conspired against me. They will be destroyed here in this wilderness, and here they will die!” (Numbers 14:31-35 NLTse).
When we look at this particular story, there doesn’t seem to be much of a link to the fifth trumpet in Revelation chapter 9. But is there? In Revelation chapter 9 we are still on a journey to the promised land. I included enough of the story in Number to see the Israelites decided to second guess or doubt God’s promise of safety. Instead they decided to rely on their instincts. That turned out to be a mistake they paid for with their lives. The main theme in the fifth trumpet is a parallel. Can we apply the same day equals a year scenario here? If we did, that five months would be 5×30 = 150 years. That is a long time span. But that equation doesn’t give us a starting or ending date.
When we look at the sequence of learning we’ve experienced while studying this trumpet, and apply that to what John wrote about death, could that be telling us how people prefer to study about death more than studying about or with Christ? Let’s face it. That is a distinct possibility on the spiritual side if the subject. People waste their time studying the mark of the beast instead of the God’s seal. The only thing mentioned in this trumpet vision that will save them. Is that another underlying message we are supposed to see? What else can we find out about God’s seal? Part of that seal is a learning process. As we continue to look at this vision, we are given more details about those locusts.
Revelation 9:7-10 MKJV And the shapes of the locusts were like horses prepared for battle. And on their heads were as it were crowns like gold, and their faces were like the faces of men. (8) And they had hairs like the hairs of women, and their teeth were like the teeth of lions. (9) And they had breastplates like breastplates of iron. And the sound of their wings was like the sound of chariots of many horses running to battle. (10) And they had tails like scorpions, and there were stings in their tails. And their authority was to hurt men five months.
How can a locust be shaped like a horse? It can’t. They never have and never will look the same. Evidence that Jesus is using symbols. We’ve seen horse before. Horses in Revelation represent death, wars, and other features fitting the context of whatever comes out of that pit.
Revelation 6:4-8 MKJV And another, a red horse, went out. And power was given to him sitting on it, to take peace from the earth, and that they should kill one another. And there was given to him a great sword. (5) And when He had opened the third seal, I heard the third living creature say, Come and see. And I looked, and lo, a black horse. And he sitting on it had a balance in his hand. (6) And I heard a voice in the midst of the four living creatures say, A choenix of wheat for a denarius, and three choenixes of barley for a denarius. And do not hurt the oil and the wine. (7) And when He had opened the fourth seal, I heard the voice of the fourth living creature say, Come and see. (8) And I looked, and behold, a pale horse. And the name of him sitting on it was Death, and Hell followed with him. And authority was given to them over the fourth part of the earth, to kill with the sword and with hunger and with death and by the beasts of the earth.
One feature we have to pay attention to is the money system the devil introduced to this world. How is that system going to deliver a sting that makes people suffer? I don’t think I have to explain that. We also see one more verse with a horse.
Revelation 6:1-2 MKJV And I saw when the Lamb opened one of the seals, and I heard one of the four living creatures like a sound of thunder, saying, Come and see. (2) And I saw. And behold a white horse! And he sitting on it had a bow. And a crown was given to him, and he went forth conquering and to conquer.
We also see Christ on a horse. When we see that, it may not seem to have much to do with those locusts coming from that pit. But it is something we have to keep in mind as we look at the other symbols.
The horse were prepared for battle with crowns on their heads. Does a normal king enter battle with a crown on their head? No. They may as well place a target on their chest to make them easier to spot. Those horses must not be afraid of showing their crown or rank on the battle field. Which makes me wonder if people are able to see that those horses are ready for a fight. Those horses had men’s faces. Another disguise or smoke screen. The men’s faces had long hair. They had teeth like lions, and each wore a breastplate made of iron. What do we get when we combine all of those elements. Where have we seen them before? Jesus road a white horse. Jesus also wore a crown. Time to take a look at those other features.
Revelation 6:2 MKJV And I saw. And behold a white horse! And he sitting on it had a bow. And a crown was given to him, and he went forth conquering and to conquer.
Revelation 1:13-14 MKJV (13) And having turned, I saw seven golden lampstands. And in the midst of the seven lampstands I saw One like the Son of man, clothed with a garment down to the feet, and tied around the breast with a golden band. (14) His head and hair were white like wool, as white as snow. And His eyes were like a flame of fire.
Isaiah 59:16-17 MKJV And He saw that there was no man, and wondered that there was no intercessor. Therefore His own arm brought salvation to Him; and His righteousness sustained Him. (17) For He put on righteousness like a breastplate, and a helmet of salvation on His head. And He put on the garments of vengeance for clothing, and was covered with zeal like a cloak.
From these examples we can see how the description of those locusts contains a number of symbols also used to describe Christ, the Author of Revelation. Why would Jesus use the same symbols to describe a threat and Himself? There is only one reason. Christ is well aware of Satan’s plans to offer a substitute. A substitute for what? Based on the amount of symbols and their meaning we can see Satan is offering a substitute for everything. That is the main theme throughout the fifth trumpet. There is one more symbol we have to look at. Why do men have teeth like a lion. Instead of guessing, let’s look at the Bible.
Revelation 5:5 MKJV And one of the elders said to me, Do not weep. Behold, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has prevailed to open the book and to loose the seven seals of it.
1 Peter 5:8 MKJV Be sensible and vigilant, because your adversary the Devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking someone he may devour;
These two verses show how a lion can represent Christ or the devil. Symbols are not always constant, but rely on the story and context to interpret them. Now that we know symbols are directly identified by the story and its context, we can see how the symbols that make up those locusts and horses add up to a deception. The devil in charge of that pit sends out an army that attempts to look like Christ but is far different to God’s people who are sealed. Those locusts can’t touch God’s people because they know Christ and can spot an imitation a mile away.
Revelation 9:11-12 MKJV (11) And they had a king over them, the angel of the bottomless pit, whose name in the Hebrew tongue is Abaddon, but in Greek his name is Apollyon. (12) The first woe is past. Behold, after these things yet come two woes.
The story verifies who the leader of that pit is. Abaddon and Apollyon means destroyer. Those locusts were sent to destroy this world. God restrained them to a degree for a time. This trumpet signifies a release. Any association with those locusts is fatal. It can result in the loss of your eternal life.
The locusts have a close resemblance to Christ, but are out to destroy. We should be smart enough to see the difference. But do people know Christ? That is the question. When we see how Jesus trains us from one chapter to the next, we are safe in His hands. But when we ignore those lessons, or if we depend on someone to study for us, we loose that seal that protects us. How can’t we tell a locust from Jesus? It seems impossible. But it can happen at any moment.