Revelation 12 – Part 3

“So the great dragon was cast out, that serpent of old, called the Devil and Satan, who deceives the whole world; he was cast to the earth, and his angels were cast out with him.” Revelation 12:9

Last time in our study of the book of Revelation, we saw that the dragon, Satan (12:9), failed to destroy the Christ Child at His birth and during His life and in His death, so Jesus could ascend victoriously to heaven after His resurrection (12:3-5). Since Satan cannot get to the Christ Child who is now on His throne in heaven (12:5), he is going to go after what is dearest to the Child – His people, Israel.

The apostle John writes, “Then the woman fled into the wilderness, where she has a place prepared by God, that they should feed her there one thousand two hundred and sixty days.” (Revelation 12:6). Christ’s birth and ascension to heaven in verse 5 took place some two thousand years ago, but the events described here in verse 6will take place in the future. The nation of Israel, represented by “the woman” (cf. 12:1-2; Genesis 37:9-11), will flee “into the wilderness” immediately at the middle of the Tribulation period when the Man of Sin (the Beast or Antichrist) occupies the rebuilt temple in Jerusalem and declares himself to be God (12:6a; cf. Matthew 24:15-21; 2 Thessalonians 2:3-4). 1

During the first half of the Tribulation many Jews will believe in the gospel of the kingdom proclaimed by the Two Witnesses from Jerusalem (11:1-6). This believing remnant (“our brethren” – 12:10) will need to get out of Israel as quickly as possible because Satan’s desire is to exterminate Israel so he can render God’s promises to them as false, making God a liar.

If Israel obeys Jesus’ command to flee to the mountains to the “place prepared by God” when the Man of Sin occupies the rebuilt Jewish temple (“abomination of desolation” – Matthew 24:15-16), God will “feed” or provide for her “there one thousand two hundred and sixty days” or three and a half years during the last half of the Tribulation period (12:6b). “God fed millions of Jews for forty years during their Exodus from Egypt, and He will do so again in Israel’s darkest hour.” 2

Hitchcock suggests that this place of refuge prepared by God for Israel could be the rock city of Petra in modern Jordan (cf. Micah 2:12-13; Daniel 11:41). He writes, “This place is also consistently described as being in ‘the mountains’ or ‘the wilderness’ (Matthew 24:16; Revelation 12:6, 14, NASB). Therefore, this city must be prepared by God in advance, must be in the hills and in the wilderness. The city of Petra fits all of these criteria: it is adequate to hold what may be one million Jewish people; it is both in the hills and the wilderness; and it is accessible to the fleeing remnant. Therefore, putting all these points together, it is apparent that God will provide the fleeing Jewish remnant an accessible place of refuge in the wilderness and in the hills that will be like a sheepfold and that will be outside the Antichrist’s domain. The place that best fits the clues provided in Scripture is the magnificent rock city of Petra.” 3

To protect Israel during the last half of the Tribulation, John writes, 7 And war broke out in heaven: Michael and his angels fought with the dragon; and the dragon and his angels fought, 8 but they did not prevail, nor was a place found for them in heaven any longer.” (Revelation 12:7-8). John then sees a “war” break “out in heaven” between “Michael,” the archangel who battled with Satan over the body of Moses (cf. Jude 1:9), 4 and Satan, “the dragon.” Michael is accompanied by “his” unfallen “angels” and Satan is joined by “his” fallen “angels” or demons (12:7). The angels’ way of fighting here will be like what they do on behalf of all believers today (cf. Hebrews 1:14). The accidents we narrowly escape, and the perfect timing of various life events are not coincidences, but heaven’s divine arrangements of all things for our good. 5

As Michael fought on Daniel’s and Israel’s behalf against demons in the Old Testament era (cf. Daniel 10:13), angels fight for believers today and will fight for Israel in the last half of the future Tribulation. 6 Daniel 12:1a explains this event when it says, “Michael shall stand up,” which undeniably refers to the fact that the archangel is ready to act on behalf of Israel (cf. Daniel 10:21). This war in heaven will occur just before the time of Jacob’s “trouble” – the last half of the Tribulation (cf. Daniel 12:1b). 7

Despite all of Satan’s raging, he, and his fallen angels “did not prevail” over Michael and his angelic army (12:8a). As a result, there was no “place found for them in heaven any longer” (12:8b). Satan and his demonic cohorts are prohibited from entering heaven ever again. Since the fall of humankind, Satan used this God-given access to make relentless accusations against the people of God (cf. Revelation 12:10; Job 1:6-12; 2:1-7), but near the middle of the Tribulation period, this access to God’s throne is stopped. 8 God will no longer hear Satan’s accusations against believers in His throne room. 9 In the end, Satan and his demonic armies will not be able to stop God’s plan for Israel nor His Son’s return to earth to set up His kingdom. 10

Hitchcock states,Both amillennialists and postmillennialists… view the casting of Satan from heaven in Revelation 12:7-9 as parallel with Luke 10:18-19. They point to Mark 3:27 and Matthew 12:25-29 as the fulfillment of the binding of Satan during the earthly ministry of Christ. For them, Satan’s activity and power are restricted during this present age. However, this contradicts the way Satan is pictured in the New Testament. Satan is called ‘the ruler of this world’ (John 12:31; 14:30), ‘the god of this world’ (2 Corinthians 4:4), ‘an angel of light’ (2 Corinthians 11:14), ‘the commander of the powers in the unseen world’ (Ephesians 2:2), and he is ‘like a roaring lion, looking for someone to devour’ (1 Peter 5:8). The devil schemes against believers (2 Corinthians 2:11; Ephesians 6:11), hinders us (1 Thessalonians 2:18), accuses us (Revelation (Revelation 12:10), and blinds the minds of the lost (2 Corinthians 4:4). Satan is anything but bound today. He is aggressively opposing the work of God. 11

“As someone once said, ‘If Satan is bound today, he must have an awfully long chain.’ Satan is characterized as the arch-deceiver in the New Testament. Yet, Revelation 20:3 says that when he is bound Satan will ‘not deceive the nations anymore.’ This does not fit the current situation. It demands a later time after the Lord’s coming.” 12

Satan’s defeat in heaven at the midpoint of the Tribulation led to his and his fallen angels’ expulsion to earth. So, the great dragon was cast out, that serpent of old, called the Devil and Satan, who deceives the whole world; he was cast to the earth, and his angels were cast out with him.” (Revelation 12:9). God identifies “the great dragon” as “that serpent of old, called the Devil and Satan.”

What do we learn about Satan in this verse? He is a “great dragon” who is fierce, cruel, and monstrous in nature. 13 As the “serpent of old,” he is crafty and subtle in character (cf. Genesis 3:1-5; 2 Corinthians 11:3). Satan is too strong and crafty for us to overcome his strategies on our own. We need God’s power and wisdom to experience victory over him in our Christian lives.

The name “Devil” (diabolos) means “Slanderer” or “Accuser.” 14 This title for “the evil one would have made a specially strong impact in the first century, for there was a well-known and well-hated figure called the delator, the paid informer. He made his living by accusing people before the authorities.” 15

In this church age the Devil focuses on accusing believers of wrongdoing. But because God has “justified” or declared believers totally righteous in His courtroom the moment we believe in Jesus apart from any works (Romans 4:5), no one can successfully accuse us of wrongdoing before God (cf. Romans 8:33), including the Devil.

The title “Satan” (Satanas) means “Adversary.” 16 Satan is not our friend. He is against us. He is our worst enemy. He hates us and wants to destroy our lives and testimony. But Jesus is our “Advocate” (I John 2:1-2) Who ceaselessly defends us and intercedes before God the Father’s throne in heaven (Hebrews 7:25). Whenever Satan accuses us of wrongdoing, Christ says to the Father, “I paid for that sin, Father.”   

John writes that Satan is the one “who deceives the whole world” (12:9b). The primary strategy Satan uses to accuse and oppose us is deception. The Devil cannot win spiritual battles by exerting authority because he has been defeated on the cross (cf. Colossians 2:14-15; Hebrews 2:14-15). So, Satan must win by deception, influencing our thinking through spiritual and worldly means. We permit Satan to achieve victories in our lives when we act on that deception rather than rejecting it as a lie. 17

How can we overcome Satan’s deception? Jesus tells us in John 8. 31 Then Jesus said to those Jews who believed Him, ‘If you abide in My word, you are My disciples indeed. 32 And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.’” (John 8:31). Christ is talking to Jewish believers who have eternal life, so He is not talking about salvation here. He is talking about the lifelong process of discipleship after we believe in Him for everlasting life.

Hence, the first way to overcome Satan’s deception is to believe in Jesus as the Christ, the Son of God, so you may have eternal life in His name (John 20:31). The only condition for eternal life is simply believing in Christ for it. Obviously, then if you want to be free from the deception of the Devil, you must believe or trust in Christ alone for His gift of everlasting life. And the moment you do, the eternal Son of God comes to live inside of you. If you don’t have Jesus Christ in your life, the only changes in your life will be superficial. You may read your Bible, pray, and go to church or counseling, but you are not going to experience lasting freedom from Satan’s lies without Christ in your life! Only Christ has the power to defeat the Devil’s deception in your life.

But overcoming deception does not stop with believing in Christ. Christ says to these believers, “If you abide in My word, you are My disciples indeed” (8:31b). What is the condition for being Jesus’ disciples? Abiding in His Word. To “abide” (menō) in Christ’s Word means “to continue or remain” 18 in Jesus’ teaching – literally, “to make one’s home at.”Where we make our home is where we spend our time. So, notice that you can believe in Jesus and not abide in His word. When believers “abide” or remain in Christ’s word, they “shall know the truth, and the truth shall make” them “free” (8:32).

Note two things. First, there is such a thing as truth. Truth is the absolute standard by which reality is measured. We live in a relativistic society that denies absolute truth, claiming, ‘What’s true for you may not be true for me.’ But truth is not based on our feelings, experiences, or desires. Truth is God’s viewpoint on every matter, and it is not subject to redefinition. Pilate would ask, ‘What is truth?’ (18:38), and the answer to that question is ‘Jesus’ (see 14:6).

“Second, knowing the truth results in genuine freedom. Don’t be confused. Truth alone doesn’t liberate; rather, the knowledge of the truth liberates. Deliverance comes when we know the truth—that is, when we hang out in what God says. When this happens, we will experience the truth setting us free from illegitimate bondage” 19 to Satan’s lies.

I cannot stress enough the importance of being a part of a discipleship relationship with other believers. We always learn from others, truths we would never learn on our own. Other people will help you see insights you would miss and help you apply God’s truth in a practical way. They can also help hold you accountable and I know I need that, don’t you? So, as we abide or remain in Christ’s word, we shall know the truth, and the truth, Jesus Christ (John 14:6), shall make us free from Satan’s deception. The truth will identify the lies we have been believing that have held us in bondage to sin and will also provide the remedy to overcome those lies. It is knowing and applying the truth of God’s Word that will overcome the Devil’s deception.

Prayer: Father God, thank You for reminding us that although Satan is a powerful and aggressive foe, he will not be victorious. Your angels will defeat him at the midpoint of the Tribulation period, so he never has access to Your throne in heaven again. And while Satan accuses us before You every day and night during this current Church Age, we have an Advocate, Jesus Christ, Who ceaselessly defends us and intercedes for us. Not only this, but Jesus also gives us eternal life the moment we believe in Him so we can subsequently abide in His Word and know the truth which sets us free from Satan’s lies. Please empower us, Lord, to know, believe and act on Your truth so that we may become all that You intended us to be for Your glory alone. In the mighty name of Jesus Who is the truth, we pray. Amen.

ENDNOTES:

1. Bob Vacendak; Robert Wilkin; J. Bond; Gary Derickson; Brad Doskocil; Zane Hodges; Dwight Hunt; Shawn Leach. The Grace New Testament Commentary: Revised Edition (Grace Evangelical Society, Kindle Edition, 2019), pg. 1542.

2. Ibid.   

3. Mark Hitchcock, The End: A Complete Overview of Bible Prophecy and the End of Days (Carol Stream, IL: Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., 2012 Kindle Edition), pp. 378, 490 491.

4. Vacendak, pg. 1542.

5. Tony Evans, CSB Bibles by Holman, The Tony Evans Bible Commentary (B & H Publishing Group, Kindle Edition, 2019), pg. 2397.

6. Ibid.

7. Vacendak, pg. 1543; see also John F. Walvoord, The Bible Knowledge Commentary Epistles and Prophecy, Editors John F. Walvoord and Roy B. Zuck, (David C Cook, 2018 Kindle Edition), location 5701 and Tom Constable, Notes on Revelation, 2017 Edition, pg. 136.  

8. Vacendak, pg. 1543. cf. Hitchcock, pg. 314.

9. Constable, pg. 136.

10. Evans, pg. 2397.

11. Hitchcock, pp. 413-414.

12. Ibid., pg. 414 cites Grant R. Osborne, Revelation (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2002), pp. 702-703.

13. Contstable, pg. 136.

14. Ibid., see also Walter Bauer, A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature: Third Edition (BDAG) revised and edited by Frederick William Danker (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2000 Kindle Edition), pg. 226.

15. Ibid., cites Leon Morris, The Revelation of St. John, Tyndale New Testament Commentary series, Reprint ed. (Leicester, England: Inter-Varsity Press, and Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1984), pg. 161; cf. William Barclay, The Revelation of John Vol. 2, The Daily Study Bible series, 2nd ed. (Edinburgh: Saint Andrew Press, 1964), pg. 102.

16. Ibid., cf. Bauer, pg. 916.

17. Evans, 2397.

18. Bauer, pp. 630-631.

19. Evans, pg. 1779.

Revelation 12 – Part 1

“Now a great sign appeared in heaven: a woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet, and on her head a garland of twelve stars.” Revelation 12:1

If you are a Christian, you are familiar with God’s love for you. Jesus said, “For God so loved the world…” (John 3:16). The world includes you and me. God loves us!!! The apostle Paul wrote, “But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:8). God showed how much He loved us by dying in our place “while we were still sinners.” God did not wait for us to clean up our lives and become “worthy” of His love. Even when we were at our worst, God loved us by giving His best for us when He took our punishment for sin on the cross.

As much as God loves us, we need to understand that Satan hates us. Swindoll writes, Never forget those three words if you love and follow Christ’s teachings. Satan wants nothing more than to sabotage our love for God and for others, to tempt us into a moral catastrophe, and to see us choose a lifestyle of sin rather than a walk with the Lord Jesus Christ. When we falter, he stands ready to accuse us before God. When we pass the tests of temptation, he looks beyond that and is already strategizing his next attack. Satan’s hatred of us is relentless.

“… Understanding that Satan is neither all-powerful nor completely powerless will help us come to terms with the real challenges we face as we do battle with Satan’s evil empire in its current form. I say ‘current form’ because it’s important to understand that Satan’s ability to unleash his fury on God’s people is limited in the present age. However, one day Satan’s empire will be allowed to strike the world in full force before crumbling at the coming of Christ.” 1

You may recall that the apostle John received instructions to“prophesy again,” a second time regarding the seven-year Tribulation “about many peoples, nations, tongues, and kings” in Revelation 10:11. Therefore, Revelation 11-19 surveys the seventieth week of years (Tribulation) a second timewith a view to revealing the specific characters on the stage of the drama. In Revelation 11, John reviews the first half of the Tribulation with a focus on the Two Witnesses whom God will bring directly to faith in Christ so they can proclaim the truth to the world from Jerusalem (11:1-6), resulting in the salvation of the 144,000 Jewish evangelists (“firstfruits” – 14:4) who will proclaim the “gospel of the kingdom” during the last half of the Tribulation period (cf. 7:1-10) to “all the nations” (cf. Matthew 24:14).

At the end of Revelation 11, the seventh trumpet sounded to prepare the apostle John, and his readers for the seven horrific bowls of wrath (cf. Revelation 16) immediately before Christ returns to set up His kingdom on earth (Revelation 11:15-19). God now gives John and his readers more information about the forces behind the anti-God hatred during the last half of the Tribulation (Revelation 12-15), so John and his readers could understand the bowl judgments (Revelation 16) which the seventh trumpet judgment contained. 2

Beginning in Revelation 12, John will describe the conflict between God and Satan in the spiritual realm that has taken place throughout history since Satan’s rebellion against God (Isaiah 14:12-15; Ezekiel 28:11-18) so we can understand how it will be manifested in the physical realm during the second half of the Tribulation period, especially during the bowl judgments. 3

John will now focus on five main characters in Revelation 12 that are involved in this spiritual conflict. First, we are introduced to a woman. “Now a great sign appeared in heaven: a woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet, and on her head a garland of twelve stars.” (Revelation 12:1). The phrase “a great sign” (mega sēmeion) Walvoord says refers to “the first of a series of events called ‘signs’ or ‘miracles’ (12:3; 13:13-14; 15:1; 16:14; 19:20). As signs they were symbols of something that God was about to reveal and usually contained an element of prophetic warning. Though this sign was seen in heaven, the events which followed obviously occurred on earth.” 4

Swindoll states that the Greek word for ‘sign’ (sēmeion) signifies a mark or symbol that carries a special meaning or points us to something beyond it.” 5 In this case, John indicates that the new vision contains symbolic characters that point to real people or events in history – past as well as future.” 6

Many interpretations have been offered regarding the identity of the “woman” in this verse. Some have said that John was referring to something that his original readers knew about, namely, the “mother of the gods” represented on Roman coins. 7 Others have held that this woman is the church that is laboring to bring Christ to the nations. 8 This is built on an allegorical interpretation of Scripture and must be disallowed. The church did not produce Christ, but Christ produced the church. Also, since the church is not seen on earth in Revelation 4-19, the church cannot be represented by this woman. 9

Others say the woman refers exclusively to Mary, the mother of Jesus. 10 But this is not possible because Mary was never persecuted and never fled into the wilderness where she was fed for 1260 days (Revelation 12:6, 13-14). Clearly the woman is the nation of Israel who will be intensely persecuted during the last half of the Tribulation period (Revelation 12:13-17; cf. Matthew 24:15-22).

Other reasons why the “woman” refers to the nation of Israel include:

1. The context of Revelation 12:1 reveals that John is dealing with the nation of Israel. Grant says of Revelation 11:19, “The ark, then, seen in the temple in heaven is the sign of God’s unforgotten grace toward Israel…” 11

2. The identity of the woman as the nation of Israel is supported further by the reference to “the sun… the moon… and twelve stars” (Revelation 12:1) which connects back to a similar symbolic representation of Israel in Genesis 37:9-11. In this passage, Joseph, the son of Jacob has received a dream from God. 9 Then he dreamed still another dream and told it to his brothers, and said, ‘Look, I have dreamed another dream. And this time, the sun, the moon, and the eleven stars bowed down to me.’ 10 So he told it to his father and his brothers; and his father rebuked him and said to him, ‘What is this dream that you have dreamed? Shall your mother and I and your brothers indeed come to bow down to the earth before you?’ 11 And his brothers envied him, but his father kept the matter in mind.” These verses identify “the sun” and “moon” as Jacob and Rachel, Joseph’s parents, and the stars as Jacob’s twelve sons (cf. Isaiah 26:17-18; 60:1-3, 20). Compare Jeremiah 31:35-36; Joshua 10:12-14; Judges 5:20 and Psalm 89:35-37 where heavenly bodies are associated with Israel’s history. 12

3. The use of the term “woman.” Eight times the term “woman” is used in this chapter (12:1, 4, 6, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17), and thirteen additional times the pronoun “she” (12:2, 5, 6, 14) or “her” (12:1, 3, 4, 5, 6, 14, 16, 17) is used in reference to the woman. We find this term used frequently in the Old Testament to refer to the nation of Israel (cf. Isaiah 47:7-9; 54:5-6; Jeremiah 4:31; Micah 4:9-10; 5:3; Isaiah 66:7-8). While the church is called a “bride” (Revelation 21:2, 9, 17), a “wife” (Revelation 19:7; cf. Ephesians 5:22-33), or a “chaste virgin” (2 Corinthians 11:2), we never find the church referred to as a woman in the New Testament. 13

4. The use of the term “wilderness.” The “wilderness” is said to be the place of refuge afforded the woman in her flight (Revelation 12:6, 14). The “wilderness” was a common reference to Israel in her national history (Exodus 3:18; 4:27; 5:1; 7:16; 8:27-28; 13:17-18, 20; 14:3, 11-12; 15:22; 16:1-3, 10, 14, 32; et al.). Israel was taken into “the wilderness of the land of Egypt” (Ezekiel 20:36). Israel, since she refused to follow God into the promised land, was turned back into the wilderness for forty years where they would die, and a new generation would be brought forth (Numbers 14:1-35; cf. Hebrews 3:7-18). Israel’s unbelief caused Ezekiel to declare God’s purpose: “And I will bring you into the wilderness of the peoples, and there I will plead My case with you face to face.” (Ezekiel 20:35). Hosea reveals that in the long period Israel would spend “in the wilderness” God would be gracious to them (Hosea 2:14-23). 14

5. The references to the period of three and a half years (“one thousand two hundred and sixty days” – 12:6 and “a time and times and half a time” – 12:14) in Revelation 12 connect to the last half of the week of Daniel’s seventieth week prophecy (Daniel 9:24-27) which was specifically addressed to “your people and for your holy city” (Daniel 9:24). Since this prophecy was given to Daniel it could only refer to Israel and the city of Jerusalem. Each time this period is mentioned in Scripture, whether as a “one thousand two hundred and sixty days” (Revelation 11:6; 12:3), “forty-two months” (Revelation 11:2; 13:5), “time, times, and half a time” (Daniel 7:25; 12:7; Revelation 12:14), or three and a half years, it always refers to Israel and a period in which God is dealing with that nation. 15

6. The reference to the angel, “Michael” (Revelation 12:7). In Daniel 12:1 the archangel Michael is called “the great prince who stands watch over the sons of your people.” Michael is united with the destiny of the nation Israel by this word of the Lord to Daniel. In Revelation 12:7 Michael appears again in reference to the warfare in heaven. The fact that Michael appears on the scene here indicates that God is again dealing with the nation Israel, and Michael is a character here because the destiny of Israel is involved. 16

Pentecost quotes Moorehead regarding Revelation 11:19, And the temple (sanctuary) of God was opened in heaven, and there was seen in his temple the ark of the covenant.’ This is strictly Jewish ground; the temple, the ark, the covenant belong to Israel, represent Hebrew relations with God and Hebrew privileges. The Spirit now takes up Jewish things, Jewish standing, covenant, hopes, dangers, tribulations and triumph.” 17

Clearly the people of Israel are in view here, so the woman in Revelation 12 represents the nation of Israel.

Next John writes, “Then being with child, she cried out in labor and in pain to give birth.” (Revelation 12:2). Since the woman is Israel, the “child” is the Lord Jesus Christ (cf. 12:5). The Bible tells us that Christ would come from the nation of Israel. 3 For I could wish that I myself were accursed from Christ for my brethren, my countrymen according to the flesh, 4 who are Israelites, to whom pertain the adoption, the glory, the covenants, the giving of the law, the service of God, and the promises; 5 of whom are the fathers and from whom, according to the flesh, Christ came, who is over all, the eternally blessed God. Amen.” (Romans 9:3-5).

The “labor” and “pain” in giving “birth” to Jesus (Revelation 12:2) are pictures of the grief and sorrow that the nation of Israel experienced in Old Testament days at the hand of Satan in his attempts to prevent the Messiah from coming. This agonizing struggle between Satan and Israel has been going on from the very beginning (cf. Genesis 3:15). 18

Israel’s founding father, Abraham, was promised a son (Genesis 12:1-7). Instead of waiting on God’s timing, Abraham took a shortcut and slept with his maidservant, Hagar, who gave birth to Ishmael (Genesis 16:1-16). Later Abraham’s wife, Sarah gave birth to Isaac (Genesis 21:1-7). The result of these two births has been a source of conflict between the Arabs and the Jews ever since (Genesis 21:8-21; 25:12-16). Israel faced terrible pain while in exile in Egypt, Babylon, and Assyria.In the days that Jesus was born, Israel was under the oppression and taxation of the Roman government.

God used many imperfect people to bring His Son into the world through the nation of Israel. When you examine the genealogies of Christ (Matthew 1:1-17; Luke 3:23-37), these lists of names contain broken sinners like you and me. They include Jacob (Matthew 1:2; Luke 3:34) who was a deceiver. David (Matthew 1:6; Luke 3:31) who committed adultery and murder. Solomon (Matthew 1:7) who took an abundance of wives and concubines. Manasseh (Matthew 1:10) was one of Judah’s most wicked kings.

Moreover, and while women do not normally show up in biblical genealogies, the women in Jesus’s line were particularly questionable. Tamar (Matthew 1:3) was a Canaanite who posed as a prostitute and committed incest with her father-in law Judah. Rahab (Matthew 1:5) was a prostitute; Ruth (Matthew 1:5) was from Moab, a non-Israelite people that worshiped false gods.

Another observation about Jesus’ genealogies is that they are mixed racially, including both Jews and Gentiles which indicates that Jesus’ kingdom identity and rule includes all races of people. All of this points to God’s sovereign grace. He accomplishes His glorious purposes despite difficult circumstances and the character of the people involved. If God can use the imperfect people listed in these genealogies to bring Jesus, the Messiah-God, into the world, God can surely use you and me to accomplish His purposes. 19

Evans writes, Notice also that of the five women mentioned in Matthew’s genealogy, four are of Hamitic descent: Tamar, Rahab, Bathsheba, and Ruth. That doesn’t mean that Jesus was black. To assert such, as some black theologians and religious leaders do, is to fall into the exclusionist perspective of many whites, who would make Jesus an Anglo-European, blue-eyed blond with little relevance to people of color. It would also fail to respect the distinct Jewish heritage of Christ. Jesus was a person of mixed ancestry.

“It blesses me to know that Jesus had black in His blood because this destroys any perception of black inferiority once and for all. In Christ we find perfect man and sinless Savior. This knowledge frees blacks from an inferiority complex, and at the same time it frees whites from the superiority myth. In Christ, we all have our heritage.

“Black people, as all other people, can find a place of historical, cultural, and racial identity in Him. As Savior of all mankind, He can relate to all people, in every situation. In Him, any person from any background can find comfort, understanding, direction, and affinity—as long as Christ is revered as the Son of God, a designation that transcends every culture and race and one to which all nations of people must pay homage.” 20

In conclusion, God wants us to remember that His faithfulness to His promises is not contingent upon our character, but upon His. We see this throughout history when God promised to bring the Messiah through the nation of Israel despite the nation’s unfaithfulness. The genealogies of Christ underscore God’s faithfulness in using imperfect Jews and Gentiles to fulfill this promise. As a nation, Israel had to endure much pain to usher the Messiah into the world. Likewise, we may have to endure much pain to fulfill God’s purposes. Whether we are faithful or not, God remains faithful to what He has promised.

The Bible tells us, “If we are faithless, He remains faithful; He cannot deny Himself.” (2 Timothy 2:13). I have heard many Christians and churches insist that going to heaven is based on our faithfulness to God, instead of His faithfulness to His promises. Where is the assurance in such an assertion? If our assurance of going to heaven is based on our faithfulness to God, then we are all in a heap of trouble.

Why? Because like the nation of Israel, we also have sinned against God (Romans 3:23). Our good thoughts, words, and actions cannot make us right before God because they are all stained with sin (Isaiah 64:6). This is why God sent His only perfect Son into the world through the imperfect nation of Israel (Romans 9:3-5) so He could pay the penalty for all our sin once and for all by dying in our place on a cross and rising from the dead (John 19:30; Romans 5:8; I Corinthians 15:3-6; Hebrews 7:27; 9:12; 10:10-14). All God asks us to do to enter His heaven is believe in Christ and His finished work on the cross.

Jesus said, “14 And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up, 15 that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life.” (John 3:14-15). Just as Moses “lifted up” the bronze serpent in the wilderness so that all the dying Israelites could look at that serpent in faith and live physically (Numbers 21:1-8), so Jesus Christ was lifted up on the cross so “that whoever believes in Him” or looks to Him “should not perish but have eternal life.” Nowhere does Jesus say, “Whoever remains faithful to Him should not perish but have everlasting life.” Repeatedly, Jesus and His followers tell us to “believe” 21 or have “faith” 22  in Christ alone as the only condition for entering God’s heaven.

Have you been looking to your own faithfulness as the way to Christ’s heaven? If so, Satan has deceived you to trust your own faithfulness instead of God’s. This is an expression of the Devil’s hatred toward God and humanity. Satan is a liar, a thief, and a murderer (John 8:44; 10:10a). He wants to deceive people to miss God’s heaven by distorting the gospel message lest people believe it and are saved (Luke 8:5, 11-12).

If you have believed the gospel, that Christ gives eternal life to all who believe in Him (John 3:14-18), but now you are trusting your own faithfulness as the basis of your assurance that you will go to heaven, then Satan, being the thief that he is, has successfully robbed you of your assurance of going to heaven. You still have eternal life because of your faith in Jesus, but your assurance of going to heaven is lost by looking to your own faithfulness instead of Christ’s. Our faithfulness to God can vary from moment to moment. So, when we are unfaithful to God with our thoughts, motives, words, or actions, we are prone to doubt our salvation if our assurance is rooted in our own faithfulness.

God makes it clear in the Bible that He does not want any of His children to doubt that they have eternal life and a future home in heaven with Him. “These things I have written to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, that you may know that you have eternal life.” (I John 5:13). God wants you to know that you “have eternal life” the moment you believe in the name of the Son of God.” So, if you lack assurance of going to heaven, why not ask God to show you the truth and to make His Word understandable to you? 23

The key to assurance of salvation is looking to Jesus’ promise that all who simply believe in Him have everlasting life (John 3:14-18; 5:24; 6:35-50, 47; 7:37-39; 11:25-26; et al.). It is also important to remember, that we do not get to heaven through the promises we make to God, but through the promises He makes to us! 24

If you have been trusting your own faithfulness or anything else besides Jesus and His finished work on the cross to get you to heaven, Christ invites you right now to stop and look to Him and His finished work on the cross as Your only way to His heaven. When you do this, God gets all the glory and the only boasting in heaven will be in our gracious and loving Savior Who got us there (I Corinthians 1:18-31; Ephesians 2:8-9).

Prayer: Father God, we give You praise for the first main character in Your description of the conflict between You and Satan. The nation of Israel is central to Your redemptive purposes. It was through this imperfect nation and imperfect individual Gentiles that You brought Your only perfect Son into the world the first time to be our one and only Savior. If any of us struggle with shame and not feeling worthy to be used by You, may Your Holy Spirit use today’s Bible verses to silence our shame so we can present ourselves to You as Your available servants. You are a faithful God Who remains faithful to His promises even if we are faithless. Thank You, Lord, for this powerful reminder that can embolden us to faithfully proclaim Your saving message no matter what our past. Please use us to accomplish Your purposes so all the glory belongs to You. And Lord, if there is anyone reading this article right now who is trusting in someone or something other than Christ alone as their only way to heaven, please persuade them to stop and believe in Jesus for His free gift of eternal life. Thank You, Lord, for hearing our prayers. In the mighty name of Jesus Christ, we pray. Amen.

ENDNOTES:

1. Charles R. Swindoll, Insights on Revelation, (Swindoll’s Living Insights New Testament Commentary Book 15, Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., 2014 Kindle Edition), pp. 234-235.

2. Tom Constable, Notes on Revelation, 2017 Edition, pg. 132.

3. Ibid., pp. 132-133 cites Robert L. Thomas, Revelation 8—22: An Exegetical Commentary (Chicago: Moody Press, 1995), pg. 117.

4. John F. Walvoord, The Bible Knowledge Commentary Epistles and Prophecy, Editors John F. Walvoord and Roy B. Zuck, (David C Cook, 2018 Kindle Edition), locations 5656 to 5662.

5. Swindoll, pg. 235 cites Eugene Nida and Johannes P. Louw, Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament Based on Semantic Domains, §33.477.

6. Swindoll, pg. 235.

7. Constable, pg. 133 cites as examples Merrill C. Tenney, Interpreting Revelation (Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1959), pg. 337; and Ethelbert Stauffer, Christ and the Caesars (London: SCM, 1965), pp. 151-152.

8. J. Dwight Pentecost, Things to Come (Zondervan Academic, 2010 Kindle Edition), pg. 288 cites as an example Ford C. Ottman, The Unfolding of the Ages (New York: Baker and Taylor, 1905), pg. 280.

9. Pentecost, pg. 288.

10. Ibid., cites F. C. Jennings, Studies in Revelation (New York: Loizeaux Brothers, [n.d.].), pp. 310-311.

11. Ibid., cites W. Grant, The Revelation of Christ (New York: Loizeaux Brothers, [n.d.]), pg. 126. There is extensive biblical evidence showing that the woman of Revelation 12 is best identified as the nation of Israel (see Pentecost, pp. 288-291).

12. Ibid.

13. Ibid., pg. 289.

14. Ibid.

15. Ibid., pg. 290.

16. Ibid.

17. Ibid., pp. 290-291 cites William G. Moorehead, Studies in the Book of Revelation (Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania: United Presbyterian Board of Publication, 1908), pg. 90.

18. Bob Vacendak; Robert Wilkin; J. Bond; Gary Derickson; Brad Doskocil; Zane Hodges; Dwight Hunt; Shawn Leach. The Grace New Testament Commentary: Revised Edition (Grace Evangelical Society, Kindle Edition, 2019), pg. 1541.

19. Tony Evans, CSB Bibles by Holman, The Tony Evans Bible Commentary (B & H Publishing Group, Kindle Edition, 2019), pp. 1480-1481.

20. Ibid., pg. 1481.

21. Matthew 18:6; 21: 32(3); 24:23, 26; 27:42; Mark 1:15, 9:42; 15:32;16:16(2), 17; Luke 8:12, 13; 22:67; John 1:7, 12, 50; 2:11, 23; 3:12(2), 15, 16, 18(3), 36(2); 4:39, 41, 42, 48, 53; 5:24, 38, 44, 45, 46, 47(2); 6:29, 30, 35, 36, 40, 47, 64, 69; 7:5, 31, 38(2), 39, 48; 8:24, 30, 31, 45, 46; 9:35, 36, 38; 10:25, 26, 37, 38(3), 42; 11:25, 26, 27(2), 42, 45, 48; 12:11, 36, 37, 38, 39, 42, 44(2), 46, 47; 13:19; 14:12; 16:9, 27; 17:8, 20, 21; 19:35; 20:29, 31(2); Acts 2:44; 4:4, 32; 5:14; 8:12, 13, 37(2); 9:42; 10:43, 45; 11:17, 21; 13:12, 39, 41, 48; 14:1, 23, 27; 15:5, 7; 16:1, 31, 34; 17:4, 5, 12, 34; 18:8, 27; 19:2, 4, 9, 18; 21:20, 25; 22:19; 26:27(2); 28:24(2); Romans 1:16; 3:3, 22, 4:3, 5, 11, 17, 24; 9:33; 10:4, 9, 10, 11, 14(2), 16; 13:11; 15:31; I Corinthians 1:21; 3:5; 7:12, 13; 9:5; 10:27; 14:22(2); 15:2, 11; 2 Corinthians 4:4; Galatians 2:16; 3:6, 9,

22; Ephesians 1:13, 19; Philippians 1:29; I Thessalonians 1:7; 2:10; 4:14; 2 Thessalonians 1:10; 2:12,13; I Timothy 1:16; 3:16; 4:3, 10; 6:2(2); 2 Timothy 1:12; Titus 3:8; Hebrews 11:31; I Peter 1:21;2:6, 7; I John 3:23; 5:1, 5, 10(3), 13.

22. Matthew 9:2; Mark 2:5; Luke 7:50; 17:19; 18:42; Acts 6:7; 14:22, 27; 15:9; 16:5; 20:21; 24:24; 26:18; Romans 1:17; 3:3, 22, 25, 26, 27, 28, 30(2), 31; 4:5, 9, 11, 13, 14, 16 (2); 5:1, 2; 9:30, 32; 10:6, 8, 17; 11:20; 16:26; I Corinthians 15:14, 17; Galatians 2:16 (2); 3:2, 5, 7, 8, 9, 14, 22, 24, 26; 5:5; Ephesians 2:8; Philippians 3:9(2); Colossians 1:4; 2 Thessalonians 3:2; 2 Timothy 3:15; Titus 1:4; Hebrews 6:1;11:31; James 2:1, 23, 24; I Peter 1:21; 2 Peter 1:5; I John 5:4.

23. Robert N. Wilkin, The Road to Reward: A Biblical Theology of Eternal Rewards Second Edition (Grace Evangelical Society, 2014 Kindle Edition), pg. 7.

24. Ibid.

Revelation 10 – Part 1

“I saw still another mighty angel coming down from heaven, clothed with a cloud. And a rainbow was on his head, his face was like the sun, and his feet like pillars of fire.” Revelation 10:1

Christian author John Eldredge notes three truths that surface in every good story, including God’s true story of creation and redemption: Things are not what they seem. This is a world at war. We have a crucial role to play.” 1

The book of Revelation depicts a captivating drama in which we can recognize each of the three parts of a great story. First, things are not what they seem. Although we live in the physical realm, an invisible world also exists, which influences our everyday lives. This spiritual world will become increasingly more “visible” in the future. Second, this is a world at war. Since Satan’s successful temptation of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden (Genesis 3), the conflict has continued. Not only has it infected human history; it also will one day immerse the whole world in deception and destruction. This all leads us to the third element in the book of Revelation: We have a crucial role to play. This battlefield is no place for distant spectators. Our participation as members of God’s redeemed people is essential. 2

Like an intense thriller movie on TV, the book of Revelation has many intense scenes involving God’s defeat of evil leading to the ultimate victory of Christ and His people. Even as victors in Christ, we can be overwhelmed with the severity of God’s judgments in this book. And just as we look forward to commercial breaks amidst the intense scenes in a thriller movie to process what we have seen and prepare for what is next, so God provides interludes in the book of Revelation that give us an opportunity to pause and process what we have just seen and prepare for what is coming.

The first interlude between the sixth and seventh seals revealed God will save two groups of people during the first half of the Tribulation: The 144,000 Israelites alive on the earth (7:1-8), and a great multitude of people from all nations who will die during that time and be taken to heaven (7:9-17). In Revelation 10, a second interlude interrupts the sequence between the sixth and seventh trumpets. 3 The focus shifts, temporarily, from the outpouring of God’s wrath on unbelieving earth dwellers, to the consolation and encouragement of believers. 4

John records, “I saw still another mighty angel coming down from heaven, clothed with a cloud. And a rainbow was on his head, his face was like the sun, and his feet like pillars of fire.” (Revelation 10:1). In contrast to the demonic assault of the fifth and sixth trumpet judgments (9:1-21), John sees a powerful angel of God appear. Some suggest that this “mighty angel” is Jesus Christ. 5 But the evidence for his being simply “another” (Greek: allon = another of the same kind) “mighty angel” is more persuasive(cf. 10:5-6). 6

The appearance of this “mighty angel” makes the previous wicked angels look plain in comparison. This angel is “clothed with a cloud” because of his heavenly origin and his role as God’s messenger bearing a message of judgment (cf. 1:7; 14:14-16; Matthew 24:30; 26:24; Mark 13:26; 14:62; Luke 21:27). 7 “A rainbow was on his head,” signifying God’s faithfulness and mercy (cf. Genesis 9:12-17). Even amid God’s severe judgments, He will show mercy on those who believe the gospel (cf. Hebrews 8:12; Ephesians 2:4-5). 8 The angel’s “face was like the sun,” reflecting God’s glory, and “his feet like pillars of fire” is reminiscentof the pillar of fire manifested by God to protect and guide His people as they fled out of Egypt (Exodus 13:21; 14:19-24).  

2 He had a little book open in his hand. And he set his right foot on the sea and his left foot on the land, 3 and cried with a loud voice, as when a lion roars. When he cried out, seven thunders uttered their voices.” (Revelation 10:2-3). This mighty angel “had a little book” or scroll “open in his hand.” The “little book” in the angel’s hand may be different from the scroll that Jesus Christ unrolled (cf. 5:1; 6:1). In contrast with the seven-sealed scroll (biblion) in the hand of the Lamb (5:1), John used a different, and rare, Greek word to describe this “little book” (biblaridion). The tense of the Greek verb translated “open” (ēneōgmenon) is perfect passive, and indicates that someone had already opened it, and it was already unrolled in his hand. It probably represents a new revelation from God (10:2a; cf. Ezekiel 2:9—3:3; Jeremiah 15:15-17). 9 The fact that this angel stood with one foot “on the sea” and one foot “on the land,” suggests that his authority and message apply to the whole world (10:2b).

Next the mighty angel “cried with a loud voice, as when a lion roars” to overpower his prey (10:3a). The angel’s “loud voice” indicates that God is about to overpower His enemies. Following the loud voice, John hears the “seven thunders” utter their voices, which symbolize God’s voice (10:3b; cf. Job 37:2-5; 40:9; Psalm 29:1-9; John 12:28-29). Psalm 29 makes this very evident as it contains a seven-fold manifestation of God’s voice in relation to thunder (“The God of glory thunders… The voice of the Lord is powerful… full of majesty… shakes the wilderness…”, etc. – Psalm 29:1-9). What John seems to be saying in Revelation 10 is that God’s promise to bring judgment on sinful humankind will be brought to pass by His unlimited power. Thunder warns people that a violent storm is coming soon. 10

“Now when the seven thunders uttered their voices, I was about to write; but I heard a voice from heaven saying to me, ‘Seal up the things which the seven thunders uttered, and do not write them.’” (Revelation 10:4). John was not allowed to write down the judgments which “the seven thunders” (God) revealed which means there are some judgments that would take place during the Tribulation that are not revealed in the Bible (cf. Deuteronomy 29:29).

5 The angel whom I saw standing on the sea and on the land raised up his right hand to heaven 6 and swore by Him who lives forever and ever, who created heaven and the things that are in it, the earth and the things that are in it, and the sea and the things that are in it, that there should be delay no longer. 7 but in the days of the sounding of the seventh angel, when he is about to sound, the mystery of God would be finished, as He declared to His servants the prophets.” (Revelation 10:5-7). The fact that “the angel” whom John saw took an oath (“raised up his right hand to heaven”) and “swore by” God as the eternal Creator (“Him who lives forever and ever, who created heaven… the earth… the sea”) seems to confirm that he (the angel himself) is not God. Lifting the right hand toward God was and is a customary gesture when making a solemn oath (10:5-6a; cf. Genesis 14:22; Deuteronomy 32:40; Daniel 12:7). The little book must have been in the angel’s left hand. 11

Appealing to God as the eternal Creator (“by Him who lives forever ever and ever, who created heaven…the earth…the sea”) answers evolutionary speculation as to the origin of the earth. 12 As Creator God He has the power to bring to pass whatever He wants when He wants to emphasize the certainty “that there should be” no more delay in carrying out God’s plans (“the mystery of God”) which “He declared to His servants the prophets” (10:5b-7) concerning “the kingdoms of this world” becoming “the kingdoms of our Lord” Jesus Christ (11:15).   

Tony Evans writes, With the rapid pace at which descriptions of judgment have proceeded thus far, it may seem surprising that God’s messenger would say there has been a delay! Yet what has been delayed to this point is the full and final outpouring of God’s wrath. Through the judgment of the seven seals (6:1-17; 8:1-5) and the first six trumpets (8:6–9:21), God has been restraining his final judgment to allow continued opportunity for repentance. As Peter put it, the delay is not slowness but patience: ‘The Lord does not delay His promise, as some understand delay, but is patient with you, not wanting any to perish but all to come to repentance’ (2 Pet 3:9).” 13

“When the seventh angel will blow his trumpet in 11:15, it will mark a shift to the end of the tribulation, when the seven bowls of God’s wrath will be poured out on the earth (16:1-21). At that point, the narrative truly will begin rushing toward the return of Jesus to set up His throne on earth. It might seem puzzling that John would announce a rush to the second coming when there are still twelve chapters remaining in Revelation. However, some of those chapters will rehash from a different perspective events already described. Thus far, God has revealed events to come. Beginning in chapter 11, He will focus on personalities involved in those events. These include the two witnesses, the Antichrist, and the false prophet.” 14

Walvoord explains that “the mystery of God” declared to the prophets is not a “reference…  to hidden truth but to the fulfillment of many Old Testament passages which refer to the glorious return of the Son of God and the establishment of His kingdom of righteousness and peace on the earth. While God’s purposes are not necessarily revealed in current events where Satan is allowed power and manifestation, the time will come when Satan no longer will be in power and the predictions of the Old Testament prophets will be fulfilled. Then all will know the Lord and the truth about Him (Jeremiah 31:34). Here again is evidence that the seventh trumpet introduces the seven bowl judgments of God’s wrath described in Revelation 16.” 15

Remember when the martyred Tribulation believers cried out, “How long, O Lord, holy and true, until You judge and avenge our blood on those who dwell on the earth?” (Revelation 6:10)? The mighty angel of Revelation 10 loudly announces that God’s response to their prayers will soon come to an end without delay. 16

It is easy for us to avenge the wrongs that have been done to us and to those close to us. Throughout history Christians have endured intense persecution and suffering. The mighty angel reminds us that God will not delay His full and final judgment of rebellious humanity to avenge the wrongs done to His people. Instead of taking vengeance into our own hands, we are to release it to God so He can make things right in His time and way.

Prayer: Heavenly Father, thank You for giving us understanding of Your prophetic Word. Thank You for this interlude between the sixth and seventh trumpet judgments expressing Your grace and mercy to those who have yet to believe in Christ for His gift of salvation. The fact that You have delayed the full and final outpouring of Your wrath upon rebellious earth-dwellers shows that You are not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance, that is, change their minds about whatever is keeping them from believing in Jesus, and then believe in Him so they can enter His future kingdom on earth. Every day that passes by is another expression of Your grace which gives underserving sinners on earth another opportunity to get right with You through faith in Jesus Christ. Father, thank You for Your patience toward us, Your sinful children. Please grant us abundant grace to proclaim Your gospel message to a lost world that is perishing without Jesus Christ. Please rescue the unsaved from the horrific judgments that will come upon the earth in the future and from their ultimate judgment in the lake of fire. Forgive us our sins and help us to forgive others, knowing that vengeance belongs to You. In Jesus’ mighty name, we pray. Amen.  

ENDNOTES:

1. Charles R. Swindoll, Insights on Revelation (Swindoll’s Living Insights New Testament Commentary Book 15, Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., 2014 Kindle Edition), pp. 203-204 cites John Eldredge, Waking the Dead: The Glory of a Heart Fully Alive (Nashville: Nelson, 2003), pp. 26-34.

2. Adapted from Swindoll, pg. 204.

3. The last two paragraphs are adapted from Ibid.

4. Tom Constable, Notes on Revelation, 2017 Edition, pg. 118.

5. Ibid., cites William W. Wiersbe, The Bible Exposition Commentary Vol. 2 (Wheaton: Victor Books, Scripture Press, 1989), pg. 597 and Gregory K. Beale, The Book of Revelation: A Commentary on the Greek Text. The New International Greek Testament Commentary series (Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., and Carlisle, England: Paternoster Press, 1999), pg. 522.

6. Ibid.

7. Bob Vacendak; Robert Wilkin; J. Bond; Gary Derickson; Brad Doskocil; Zane Hodges; Dwight Hunt; Shawn Leach. The Grace New Testament Commentary: Revised Edition (Grace Evangelical Society, Kindle Edition, 2019), pg. 1534; Constable, pg. 119.

8. Vacendak, pg. 1534.

9. Constable, pg. 119.

10. Vacendak, pg. 1535.

11. Constable, pg. 120.

12. John F. Walvoord, The Bible Knowledge Commentary Epistles and Prophecy, Editors John F. Walvoord and Roy B. Zuck, (David C Cook, 2018 Kindle Edition), pg. 164.

13. Tony Evans, CSB Bibles by Holman, The Tony Evans Bible Commentary (B & H Publishing Group, Kindle Edition, 2019), pg. 2391.

14. Ibid.

15. Walvoord, pg. 164.

16. Swindoll, pg. 206.

Revelation 9 – Part 1

3 Then out of the smoke locusts came upon the earth. And to them was given power, as the scorpions of the earth have power… 5 And they were not given authority to kill them, but to torment them for five months. Their torment was like the torment of a scorpion when it strikes a man.” Revelation 9:3, 5

The Devil and his demons have been at work tempting and attacking humans since their sneak attack in the Garden of Eden thousands of years ago (Genesis 3). They have never stopped pursuing their ultimate goals of destroying humankind’s dignity and driving a wedge between people and their Creator God. But Revelation 9 shows us that a time will come when the invisible spiritual warfare that people experience today will seem pale compared to the visible assault of the enemy’s army during the last half of the Tribulation period. As we study John’s vision and observe the armies of darkness battling in the future, we can better understand how similar spirits of wickedness try to plague us today. 1

Following the announcement of three woes warning that the next three trumpet judgments would be worse than the first four (8:13), John continues by recording the fifth trumpet judgment (9:1-12). “In this chapter, there are more occurrences of the words ‘as’ and ‘like’ than in any other chapter in the Bible, which shows how difficult it was for John to describe the scene which he saw in the vision.” 2

John writes, “Then the fifth angel sounded: And I saw a star fallen from heaven to the earth. To him was given the key to the bottomless pit.” (Revelation 9:1). When “the fifth angel sounded” the trumpet blast, John “saw a star fallen from heaven.” This is not an actual “star,” but either the Devil (cf. Isaiah 14:12-14) or a fallen angel (Revelation 12:3-4a) because “to him was given the key to the bottomless pit.” Just as a key grants us access to a home, office, or car, this key grants this angelic being access to the shaft “to the bottomless pit” or abyss. The abyss is the abode of the demons, according to Luke 8:31, in which demons begged Jesus “not to banish them.” 3

The “bottomless pit” (lit. “shaft of the abyss”) is the future abode of Satan (cf. Revelation 20:1-3), some demons (cf. Luke 8:31; 2 Peter 2:4; Jude 6), and the beast (Revelation 11:7; 17:8). It is evidently a preliminary prison, not their final abode, which is the lake of fire (or hell – Revelation 19:20; 20:10; cf. Matthew 25:41), from which this angel is about to release some of them temporarily. 4

During the tribulation, this angelic being will be granted authority to unlock this bottomless pit. A principle illustrated in this verse is that Satan and his demons only have as much authority as God grants them. Nowhere in Scripture is that principle more prominently revealed than in Job 1:12 and 2:6, in which Satan cannot harm Job without God’s permission. But what the devil intends for evil, God intends for good. 5

“And he opened the bottomless pit, and smoke arose out of the pit like the smoke of a great furnace. So the sun and the air were darkened because of the smoke of the pit.” (Revelation 9:2). When this angelic being uses the authority given to him to open “the bottomless pit,” so much “smoke arose” that “the sun and the air were darkened.” This may refer to some type of volcanic eruption of a magnitude never experienced on earth. 6

Next John writes, 3 Then out of the smoke locusts came upon the earth. And to them was given power, as the scorpions of the earth have power. 4 They were commanded not to harm the grass of the earth, or any green thing, or any tree, but only those men who do not have the seal of God on their foreheads. 5 And they were not given authority to kill them, but to torment them for five months. Their torment was like the torment of a scorpion when it strikes a man. 6 In those days men will seek death and will not find it; they will desire to die, and death will flee from them.” (Revelation 9:3-6). That these “locusts” are demonic creatures who appeared in the form of locusts is confirmed by the fact that they came from the Abyss, the home of demons (Luke 8:31). 7 These creatures were given the “power” of “scorpions” to “torment” people who did not have “the seal of God on their foreheads” with intense pain (9:3-4). These demons will not be able to harm followers of Jesus.

They could not “kill” unbelieving people, but for “five months” they could inflict such severe pain on them like a scorpion’s sting that these nonbelievers “will seek death,” instead of repenting, but would not even be able to commit suicide (9:5-6). They will be forced to live through a period of prolonged, demonic suffering intended for those who do not know Jesus as their Savior.” 8

Swindoll writes, We can marvel at the overwhelming number and startling appearance of these supernatural locusts, but we shouldn’t miss the limitations placed on them. First, note that their power will be ‘given’ to them (9:3). The word ‘power’ (exousia), means ‘authority’ or ‘permission.’ It may appear at first that this swarm is completely out of control, but we must remember that they can do nothing apart from God’s permission.

Second, they will not be permitted to harm the things that locusts usually devour—vegetation, crops, or grass (9:4). These aren’t your average hungry locusts! Their target will not be plants but people.

Third, although they will be told to harm humans, they can only inflict their torment on certain people— ‘men who do not have the seal of God on their foreheads’ (9:4). This recalls the remnant of Israel, sealed for protection in 7:2-3. Those saints will be spared from the suffering inflicted by the locusts.

“Fourth, they will be given authority to torment, not to kill (9:5). This torment will be similar to the torment of a scorpion sting—excruciating, burning, even debilitating, but in this case, not deadly.

Finally, God will place a limit of five months on their mission of torment (9:5). But in those five months the physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual agony these people will experience will drive them mad. Some of the most haunting words in all of Scripture describe the desperate situation: ‘And in those days men will seek death and will not find it; they will long to die, and death flees from them’ (9:6).” 9

Having just explained what these demonic creatures will do, John now describes what they will look like from head to tail. John’s vision here is a primarily symbolic vision as the word “like” is used eight times, pointing to a figurative rather than literal interpretation. 10 “The shape of the locusts was like horses prepared for battle.” (Revelation 9:7a). Locusts resemble “horses” when viewed through a magnifying glass, 11 but this sentence emphasizes the ferociousness of these demonic locusts and their intimidating looks.

“In the Old Testament, locusts were instruments of judgment, as in the eighth plague God brought upon the Egyptians (Exodus 10:1-20) and in the judgment envisioned by the prophet in Joel 1:2-12.” 12 As horses prepared for battle, the demons from the abyss will be extremely swift (cf. Joel 2:4).” 13

“On their heads were crowns of something like gold, and their faces were like the faces of men.” (Revelation 9:7b). Their “crowns” (stephanos) represent their victory over the people they oppressed. 14 The fact that “their faces” resembled “men” points to their intelligence. They are intelligent creatures, perhaps even alluring, utilizing deception and persuasion to attract people. But their goal will be to torture, to tear apart, and to destroy.” 15

Next John writes, “They had hair like women’s hair, and their teeth were like lions’ teeth.” (Revelation 9:8). These demonic creatures possessed an initial allurement with “hair like women’s hair.” Since one of the attractive qualities of a woman is her hair, it is possible that there is something about mankind’s experience of this plague that is similar to sexual attraction. The conjoining of this with ‘teeth…like lions’ teeth’ may indicate that though there is an initial allurement pulling people to this experience, in the end, the experience is like the bite of a lion in its painfulness. In ages past (as well as in contemporary society), sinful people have involved themselves in matters concerning sexual relations with demonic entities (who if they became visible might be beautiful indeed). Yet it is clear that the description given here by John paints their true character—they will be like hungry lions that ravage peoples’ lives.” 16 (emphasis mine)

9 And they had breastplates like breastplates of iron, and the sound of their wings was like the sound of chariots with many horses running into battle. 10 They had tails like scorpions, and there were stings in their tails. Their power was to hurt men five months.” (Revelation 9:9-10). Their “iron . . . breastplates,” which covered both chest and back in John’s day, 17 gave them appearance of indestructibility by humans. People will not be able to overcome this demonic army. The “sound of their wings” was terrifying “like the sound of chariots with many horses running into battle.”

The fact that this army sounded to John like chariots with many horses running into battle indicates the terror that they will inspire in the hearts of those who have given in to their seductive allure. It can be compared to the terror in the hearts of ancient soldiers who suddenly and without warning find themselves facing a rush of chariots and horses (cf. 2 Kings 7:6-7; Jeremiah 47:3). People overcome by this deception will not experience physical pleasure, but torment similar to the stings of scorpions.” 18

This plague will afflict unsaved people for a period of “five months” (cf. Rev 9:5, 10), which emphasizes that God is in control of the spirit world and over the events of the Tribulation. 19 “Unlike the previous judgments which apparently were short in time this judgment extended for five months… This is important as it refutes clearly the notion that all these judgments will occur in a brief span of time immediately before the second coming of Christ.” 20

The leader of this demonic army is addressed next. “And they had as king over them the angel of the bottomless pit, whose name in Hebrew is Abaddon, but in Greek he has the name Apollyon.” (Revelation 9:11). “The names ‘Abaddon’ in Hebrew, and ‘Apollyon’ in Greek, both mean ‘Destroyer.’ Only the apostle John supplied information bilingually in the New Testament (cf. John 1:38, 42; 4:25; 6:1; 9:7; 11:16; 19:13, 17, 20; 20:16; Rev. 1:7; 3:14; 12:9). The objective of these demons, like their leader’s name implies, is to destroy people. God grants this lead ‘angel-king’ creature permission, here in this judgment, to carry out his objective against unbelievers, as part of God’s outpouring of wrath on earth-dwellers (cf. Job 2:6).” 21 (emphasis mine)

Some suggest that this “king over” this demonic army is Satan, 22 but this is unlikely because the text only calls him an “angel.” Also,Satan’s abode is not in the “bottomless pit” or abyss —at least not until he is cast down into it at the end of the Tribulation (Revelation 20:1-3). In contrast, this king’s authority seems to be limited to the demonic army that comes from the abyss itself. 23 

In two passages in Revelation Satan is spoken of by alternate names (12:9 and 20:2). In both places John clearly states that he is speaking of Satan. If the angel of the bottomless pit is Satan, John would have clarified it here as well.” 24

So, who is this “angel of the bottomless pit”? He is probably a high-ranking fallen angel (cf. Ephesians 6:12) serving his master, Satan. 25

Finally, John states, “One woe is past. Behold, still two more woes are coming after these things.” (Revelation 9:12). This verse is transitional, and clarifies that the fifth, sixth, and seventh trumpet judgments are the same events as the first, second, and third “woes” announced by the eagle earlier (8:13). The third woe, then, would be the seven bowl judgments. Although the release of this demonic locust army may seem sufficient from a human vantage point, God says He is only getting started. 26 The second and third woes will be worse.

You may be wondering, “How does the five-month demonic attack in the last half of the future Tribulation relate to us today?” Swindoll shares several insights:

“Although they are invisible, demons are real and aggressive. Not all demons are confined to the abyss (see Luke 8:31). Countless spirits of wickedness roam freely, and as long as they do, they are in search-and-destroy mode. They’ll pounce at any opportunity to strike both believers and unbelievers. Sometimes we’d rather pretend these beings don’t exist—or that they are so limited in power that we don’t need to worry about them. Not true! Ignorance of our enemies gives them an advantage over us. Don’t be naive!

“We are reminded that demons are organized and committed to our destruction. Like a battle-hardened army, Satan’s forces know how to wage an efficient war to conquer the hearts and minds of all people. From subtle tricks to a full-blown spiritual blitzkrieg, they are ready to use whatever means necessary to win. Take a close look at 1 Peter 5:8: ‘Be of sober spirit, be on the alert. Your adversary, the devil, prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.’ How can you be more ‘sober’ and ‘alert’ in light of this warning? Peter gives us some hints in 1 Peter 1:13-16: ‘Therefore, prepare your minds for action, keep sober in spirit, fix your hope completely on the grace to be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ. As obedient children, do not be conformed to the former lusts which were yours in your ignorance, but like the Holy One who called you, be holy yourselves also in all your behavior; because it is written, “YOU SHALL BE HOLY, FOR I AM HOLY.”

“In light of this passage, are you prepared for inevitable spiritual attacks?

We should be encouraged that, although these demons are powerful, they have limitations. We see that even during the Tribulation these wicked angels can only do what they are allowed to do. Today—in the age of the Spirit’s restraining power through the church—their abilities are even more limited (2 Thes. 2:6-8). But don’t underestimate the deceptive and destructive powers of the enemy (Jude 1:8-10). As soon as we drop our guard, we’re liable to crumble under his attacks. We can’t neglect our spiritual lives, forsake our assembling with other believers, or trust in our own strength.

“Finally, we must never forget that these aggressive and insidious creatures flee at the name of the Lord Jesus Christ. At His matchless name they cower in fear, run for cover, and scramble for survival. With a single syllable of rebuke, Jesus Christ can flatten Satan’s entire army. They are no match for Him (Luke 8:26-31). Let Christ handle your spiritual battles for you. Submit to Him. Release all your anxieties to Him through prayer (1 Pet. 5:6-7). Resist the devil in faith, resting in Christ and trusting that He alone can shut the mouth of the roaring lion and quench the flaming arrows of the evil one.” 27 (emphasis mine)

While spiritual warfare today is very real, believers in Jesus can experience the victory Christ has already won in the spiritual realm by wearing the whole armor of God (Ephesians 6:10-19). Please join me in putting on the whole armor of God by praying these Scriptures in Ephesians 6:10-19 back to our victorious God.

Prayer: O Father God, since Satan and his servants are far wiser and stronger than us, please grant us strength in the power of Your might to put on the whole armor of God so we may stand against the schemes of the devil.

Protect us O God with the Belt of Truth. You are truth, Jesus, and in You and in Your Word we find truth. You are the foundation for all of life. We cannot overcome the father of lies (John 8:44) apart from Your truth (John 8:31-32). Please replace Satan’s lies with the truth of Your Word. Please empower us to be truthful and honest.

We pray the protection of the Breastplate of Righteousness over us. Knowing we are covered with Christ’s righteousness at the moment of our salvation (Romans 4:5) can protect us from Satan’s accusations and motivate us to live out that righteousness as we yield to the Holy Spirit (Romans 8:1, 4-5).  Help us not to believe the lies from Satan that say we are no good or that we can be good enough to earn Your acceptance. Because of the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, we have been declared totally righteous before You the moment we believed in Jesus. We are completely covered by the righteousness of Your Son so there are no grounds for our condemnation. Please manifest Your righteousness in our motives, words, thoughts, and actions.

We pray the Shoes of the Gospel of Peace over our lives.Protect us from anything that would rob us of Your peace. Please enable us to be prepared to always share the gospel of grace with those who need Your peace. Give us Your compassion and alertness for those who do not know Jesus as their Savior. Help us to see the lost through Your eyes of compassion. As the God of peace, please crush Satan under our feet (Romans 16:20).

Please help us to take up the Shield of Faith as needed.Protect us from the flaming arrows of the evil one. Lead us into a time of praise and worship that invites the Holy Spirit to anoint our faith, so it is kept from becoming rigid and brittle. As we worship You, may the water of the Holy Spirit pour over us, so all the flaming arrows of Satan are extinguished. Help us to place our faith in the promises of Your Word. Enable us to realize who we are in Christ and to appropriate faith in all situations. We can trust You, Father, because You are good, and You are faithful to keep Your Word. You are in control of all things. Thank You, Father, for reminding us of this.

We pray the protection of the Helmet of Salvation on our heads. Satan is out to trick us into doubting our salvation, but we are Your children, Father, by grace through faith in Christ alone and Jesus is more powerful than Satan (I John 4:4). Please protect our minds from doubting Your promises to save us from the penalty of sin in hell, from the power of sin now, and from the presence of sin in the future. Help us remember that we are fighting from victory, not for victory! Please enable us to get God’s Word in our hearts and minds so we can confront Satan in the Spirit as Jesus did (Matthew 4:1-11).

Enable us to be protected and have all power through Jesus Christ and through the Sword of the Spirit, the Bible. Holy Spirit, please enable us to speak Your Scripture to the devil and his servants on the battlefield so their lies and deceptions are exposed and defeated (Matthew 4:1-11). Enable us to submit to You, God, and resist the devil, so the devil will flee from us (James 4:7). We pray the power of the Holy Spirit is ignited in our lives, so that Christ may live His life through us today and every day.

Grant all boldness to us so we may speak Your gospel message to all who need to hear it. Redeem this time O Lord for Your honor and glory. Thank You for what You are going to do. Please make the name of the Lord Jesus more well known. In the name above all names, the Lord Jesus Christ, we pray. Amen. 

ENDNOTES:

1. Charles R. Swindoll, Insights on Revelation, (Swindoll’s Living Insights New Testament Commentary Book 15, Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., 2014 Kindle Edition), pp. 184-185.

2. Tom Constable, Notes on Revelation, 2017 Edition, pg. 109 cites Charles C. Ryrie, Revelation, Everyman’s Bible Commentary series (Chicago: Moody Press, 1968), pg. 61.  

3. Tony Evans, CSB Bibles by Holman, The Tony Evans Bible Commentary (B & H Publishing Group, Kindle Edition, 2019), pg. 2388.

4. Constable, pg. 110.

5. Evans, pg. 2388.

6. Bob Vacendak; Robert Wilkin; J. Bond; Gary Derickson; Brad Doskocil; Zane Hodges; Dwight Hunt; Shawn Leach. The Grace New Testament Commentary: Revised Edition (Grace Evangelical Society, Kindle Edition, 2019), pg. 1530.

7. John F. Walvoord, The Bible Knowledge Commentary Epistles and Prophecy, Editors John F. Walvoord and Roy B. Zuck, (David C Cook, 2018 Kindle Edition), pg. 164.

8. Evans, pg. 2388.

9. Swindoll, pp. 186-187.

10. Vacendak, pg. 1531.

11. Constable, pg. 112.

12. Evans, pg. 2388.

13. Vacendak, pg. 1531. 

14. Ibid., pg. 1532; Constable, pg. 112.

15. Swindoll, pg. 187.

16. Vacendak, pg. 1532.

17. Constable, pg. 113 cites Archibald Thomas Robertson, Word Pictures in the New Testament Vol. 6 (Nashville: Broadman Press, 1931), pg. 364.

18. Vacendak, pg. 1532.

19. Ibid.

20. Walvoord, pg. 164.

21. Constable, pg. 113.

22. Evans, pg. 2389;  Walvoord, pg. 164.

23. Swindoll, pg. 188.

24. Vacendak, pp. 1532-1533.

25. Ibid., pg. 1532; Swindoll, pg. 188 cites Grant R. Osborne, Revelation Verse by Verse, Osborne New Testament Commentaries (Bellingham WA: Lexham Press, 2016), pg. 373; Constable, pg. 113 cites Robert L. Thomas, Revelation 8—22: An Exegetical Commentary (Chicago: Moody Press, 1995), pp. 38-39.

26. Evans, pg. 2389.

27. Swindoll, pp. 189-190.