Join us as we study through Revelation verse by verse. Our Bible study guides contain discussion questions, teaching points, and applications which can help you or your small group get the most out of this book as you grow in understanding and obedience.
Revelation 9 Bible Study Guide With Questions – A Taste Of Hell
I. The Fifth Trumpet (1-12)
II. The Sixth Trumpet (13-21)
I. The Fifth Trumpet (1-12)
- What or who is the star fallen from heaven?
- Who allowed the key to be given to this being? Why?
- What came out of the bottomless pit?
- What do you think these locusts are?
- What does it mean that they “were given” power? What did they have power to do? What were they not allowed to do?
- Who will be protected?
- Why would the people attacked by them want to die?
- What can you learn from these creatures by the description of their appearance?
- Who is their leader?
- What motivates them to torture mankind? What can we learn about demons from this?
Luke 10:18 – And he said to them, “I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven.
Isaiah 14:12-14 – How you are fallen from heaven,
O Day Star, son of Dawn!
How you are cut down to the ground,
you who laid the nations low!
You said in your heart,
I will ascend to heaven;
above the stars of God
I will set my throne on high;
I will sit on the mount of assembly
in the far reaches of the north;
I will ascend above the heights of the clouds;
I will make myself like the Most High.
Revelation 20:1-3 – Then I saw an angel coming down from heaven, holding in his hand the key to the bottomless pit and a great chain. And he seized the dragon, that ancient serpent, who is the devil and Satan, and bound him for a thousand years, and threw him into the pit, and shut it and sealed it over him, so that he might not deceive the nations any longer, until the thousand years were ended. After that he must be released for a little while.
Genesis 6:2 – The sons of God saw that the daughters of man were attractive. And they took as their wives any they chose.
1. I saw a star fallen from heaven to earth – Clearly this is a being and not an actual star. This being is referred to as “he” and “him.” Suggestions as to the identity of this figure include a good or bad angel or Satan.
Since he is described as “fallen,” this would indicate that the being is an evil angel. At least two other texts describe Satan himself in a very similar fashion as being like a star that fell from heaven (a). In Luke 10:18, Jesus says that He witnessed this, thus establishing His authority over and pre-existence to Satan.
Thus the most likely interpretation of this is that Satan himself is given the key to open this bottomless pit.
2. He was given a key – Satan is not the ruler of the abyss. He is not in charge. Neither did he lock the inhabitants within. The fact that he was given a key shows us that he is not the authority himself. Instead he is under authority. God Himself is the one in charge and the one who allowed him to have the key. It was given to him at a specific time for a specific purpose.
Here we see the chess game between God and Satan. Satan has a massive ego. He believes that he can outwit God. He believes that he can come up with cunning plans and strategies in order to defeat the Creator. But his actions serve to accomplish God’s greater purposes.
Satan does not ask God, “what do you want me to do with this key?” and then happily obey God’s instructions. Rather, he acts according to his own depraved nature, wanting to unleash destruction and evil upon the earth. All of the time, God is one step ahead. He knows exactly what Satan is going to do and allows it for specific reasons to bring His plan to completion.
From this, we are reminded again that God is sovereign. Anything that resembles a short-term victory for Satan is in fact being used by God for His ultimate victory. Jesus’ death on the cross is the classic example of this. Satan possessed Judas and had him betray Jesus to death. It looked like a victory for Satan, but was the final nail in his coffin.
Application: When you look at the world around you, it often looks bleak. Many times it seems that Satan is winning. Do not be discouraged. Remember that God is allowing these things to happen according to His sovereign will. He has greater purposes that we can see and will bring everything to its perfect conclusion.
3. The bottomless pit – It can also be translated as the “abyss.” In this passage, it is clearly the abode of a a certain group of demons. How can we understand this?
Currently there are demons loose upon the earth. Jesus’ ministry made this clear. He demons out of many people. These were demons which roamed the earth. At the same time, there are also certain demons which are locked in the abyss.
When Jesus was casting a legion of demons out of a possessed man they begged him not to put them into the abyss.
Luke 8:31 – And they begged him not to command them to depart into the abyss.
Thus we see that even while some demons are roaming the earth, others are locked in this abyss, the bottomless pit.
Here are some other references to this.
Jude 1:6 – And the angels who did not stay within their own position of authority, but left their proper dwelling, he has kept in eternal chains under gloomy darkness until the judgment of the great day.
2 Peter 2:4-6 – For if God did not spare angels when they sinned, but cast them into hell and committed them to chains of gloomy darkness to be kept until the judgment; if he did not spare the ancient world, but preserved Noah, a herald of righteousness, with seven others, when he brought a flood upon the world of the ungodly; if by turning the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah to ashes he condemned them to extinction, making them an example of what is going to happen to the ungodly.
Certain demons were so egregiously evil in stepping beyond God’s boundaries that He would no longer tolerate them to be loose on the earth. They ignored His design and committed great evils. Therefore instead of waiting to judge them at the final judgment He pre-emptively had them chained in the abyss to await their judgment. God’s mercy was at work. He did not allow these demons to influence the world. Satan himself will be locked there during the millennium so that he will not be able to deceive the world during that time (Revelation 20:1-3).
However, both of these references show that one day they will be let out. And it will be at the time of judgment. Revelation 9 appears to be this time. First, He will use them to judge the world. Shortly after this, they themselves will be judged.
On one hand, we should be comforted in knowing that the demons are under His authority. Many of the very worst of these are locked away for the time being. That is God’s mercy toward us. On the other hand, it is a somber thing to recognize that one day in the future God will allow these demons out. When He does they will go on a rampage.
4. Smoke and locusts from the shaft – A great amount of smoke will rise up and darken the sun, demonstrating the worldwide catastrophe this will be. It is not just a minor local event, which will effect a few. The demon horde unleashed will spread throughout the earth.
They will be unleashed like locusts. In the Bible, locusts are almost always used by God as judgment. They are a plague, descending upon and destroying everything in their path. That is what these demons will be like. It will not be actual locusts, but something far worse and more destructive.
5. They were given power and told not to harm – Verses 3-5 establishes the limits placed on the demonic horde. Once again, we are reminded that God is sovereign. Even in the midst of such horrible judgment, he shows mercy by limiting the impact of these demons. Without God’s clear boundaries, they would assuredly do far worse. Four limits are placed upon them.
- They were told not to harm grass, green plant, or tree. The first four trumpet judgments targeted the earth and its ecosystem. The fifth and sixth trumpet judgments will target people. Specifically, they will not have power to destroy the earth. Such demons could severely affect the inhabitability of the earth, but God will not allow them to.
- They are not allowed to harm anyone with the seal of God. His seal is divine protection for His people. How priceless that seal is! At the same time, it will be very clear to all who are on the earth that this is a judgment upon those who rebel against God. His faithful are not affected. The clear distinction is an object lesson. It both encourages the saints and also is an appeal to the wicked to repent.
- They are allowed to torment them only for five months. The torment would not last forever. Here again is God’s mercy at work. This like a taste of hell. God allows them to experience some of the agony of hell for a short term (in comparison with eternity) in order to encourage them to repent so that they will not experience it forever. For those who do, this five months of torture will be the best thing that ever happened to them.
- They are not allowed to kill them. God wants them to go through the entire five months. That period of time will give them ample opportunity to reflect upon their lives and consider turning to the Lord.
Everything that happens in our lives is allowed by God.
Application: Firstly, don’t complain! Second, don’t lose hope. Third, look for the lessons inside of the trials that you face because God allows them for a reason.
6. People will seek death, but will not be able to find it – We don’t see repentance. We don’t see people seeking the Lord. Instead, they are seeking death. They want to stop the agony. Again, it is God’s mercy that keeps them from doing so. Though they will want to commit suicide, they will be unable to. Though many will be cursing God, little will they know that dying will usher them immediately into a far worse state with no more second chances. Death is not the end, but after death comes judgment (Hebrews 9:27). Many today also seek comfort in death, but will not find it. The only comfort is in Christ.
7. The appearance of the demons – Firstly, we should note that John’s descriptions are meant only to give us an idea and are not exact. He repeatedly says that they are “like” this or that. In other words, they are beyond human description. His efforts give us an idea.
So what are they like?
In short, terrible. Horrible. Monstrosities. While demons do not normally have a body, here they are able to take the form of one (or are given a body by God). They are ugly and ferocious. We see that they have some type of authority by the crowns on their heads. And they have great power to inflict damage. They have one purpose, carnage. They pack a terrible bite like a lion and a sting like a scorpion.
You can imagine that people will desperately try to shield themselves from the bite of these foul beasts. Yet that will be extremely difficult. They are small and quick, and can fly and run. It is unlikely many will be able to escape their sting for long. And once they are stung, it starts the clock on five months of agony. No human medicine will be able to stop it.
8. Their leader Abaddon – This demonic leader is not mentioned by name elsewhere in Scripture. He is most likely one of the chief “powers” under Satan (Ephesians 6:12). Since he is the leader of this group of demon rogues, we can assume that he likely spearheaded their evil plans which resulted in their imprisonment. So like the others, he has had lots of time to stew and plan his revenge. He will be ready to storm out of the pit and unleash another wave of destruction.
Abaddon is their king, which is another proof that these are not literal locusts.
Proverbs 30:27 – The locusts have no king, yet they all advance in ranks.
Demons are not just some mythical fantasy or a nameless force of evil. They are real beings, which rebelled against God. And Abaddon is one of their top leaders.
9. The first woe has passed; behold, two woes are still to come – It’s not over. There are two more trumpet judgments to come.
II. The Sixth Trumpet (13-21)
- What happens at the sixth trumpet?
- Who are these four angels and what are they going to do?
- What plagues would be unleashed?
- Should we take these beasts as literal or symbolic? Why?
- How did most people respond to this judgment?
- What do verses 20-21 show you about God’s purpose for allowing these judgments?
1. Release the four angels who are bound at the river Euphrates – Little is known about these four angels. Clearly they are fallen angels or they would not be bound. Perhaps their binding is related to the binding of the other fallen angels in the bottomless pit.
In any case, God is restraining them until the exact time, year, month, day, and hour which they were prepared for.
They are bound in or near the Euphrates, which is a river often associated with Babylon. This region was the cradle of human civilization from the time of the Garden of Eden.
2. To kill a third of mankind – As the previous trumpets targeted one third of different aspects of the world’s ecosystem, so this judgment will target one third of people. It will come after the five months of torture by the demon swarm. It is interesting to note that for the fifth trumpet judgment, the demons were not permitted to kill people. God ordained a period of time to reflect and hopefully repent. Only after that time passes with no effect on most people’s hearts, will the next be unleashed.
Although the judgments are serious and terrifying, we still see over and over again God’s mercy in giving ample opportunities for repentance, right up until the very end.
3. The mounted troops – John reports the number of mounted troops as 200,000,000.
What are these troops? Are they world armies or another demonic horde of a different shape?
Some equate these descriptions with technologically advanced armies. Others believe that they represent the power of a demonic army following the four fallen angels.
It is difficult to be dogmatic. Of more concern, is the effect upon the earth. They will unleash three plagues: fire, smoke, and sulfur. These three plagues will kill one third of mankind
4. God’s purpose – So why would God do this? Why would he allow demon hordes to be unleashed on the world, bringing torture and death?
God is angry and in these judgments we see His wrath towards sin along with His justice. At the same time, verses 20-21 reveal a deeper purpose.
Revelation 9:20-21 – The rest of mankind, who were not killed by these plagues, did not repent of the works of their hands nor give up worshiping demons and idols of gold and silver and bronze and stone and wood, which cannot see or hear or walk, nor did they repent of their murders or their sorceries or their sexual immorality or their thefts.
Two times in these verses we see that the people did not repent. Even though these judgments came, they kept on chasing after sin. It is clear that God sends these plagues as a warning toward humankind. He warns them that continued rebellion will be dealt with harshly.
He literally gives them a taste of hell, showing them what eternal destiny has in store for them if they will not repent and acknowledge Him. Although it is extremely painful, it is a great gift.
It is much like the ghost from Christmas future in the Christmas Carol did for Ebenezer Scrooge. But when Scrooge saw what would become of him, he changed his ways.
Imagine if a person who smokes is allowed to feel the agonizing pain of lung cancer for a week. Would he stop smoking? The sad truth is many would not.
And sadly, Scrooge is a work of fiction. In Revelation 9, we see that most people will not repent.
Likely this does not indicate that zero people will repent. Rather “the rest of mankind” refers to people as a group. The vast majority will not turn to God or receive His mercy. Based on what we learned in Revelation 7, it is likely that many will, but they will be in the minority.
Throughout the Bible God’s justice and grace are displayed side by side over and over again. Even in Revelation at the end of the world, God’s grace is manifest through His judgments. These are meant to serve as a divine wake up call to repent before it is too late.
Application: Do not wait to repent of unconfessed sin. Do not live for yourselves now and declare that later you will turn to God after you have enjoyed the good life today.
The longer one walks in sin the harder his heart becomes and the more difficult it is to confess.
2 Corinthians 6:2 – Behold, now is the favorable time; behold, now is the day of salvation.
5. Hard hearts of mankind –
Reflect: Why would people brazenly continue in rebellion against God even in the face of such torture and clear signs of God’s displeasure?
Jeremiah 17:9 – The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it?
Perhaps nowhere in Scripture is the total depravity of mankind more clear than in these chapters in Revelation. Plague after plague, judgment after judgment, warning after warning, and people still refuse to submit to God.
They willfully choose to worship demons, probably the very demons that torture and kill them! They willfully worship idols when God’s existence and supremacy cannot be more plain. And they continue on in their sins.
I believe that the end of verse 21 is the secret to why they continue to reject God. They do so because they love their sin. God is light. He is good. He hates sin. And they know He doesn’t tolerate it. So the choice is turn to God and away from their sin or reject God and continue in their sin. And they love their sin so much, that they are willing to face God’s judgments and continue in it. Deliberately and with eyes wide open, they choose sin instead of a loving Savior.
Application: It is easy to look at their choice and think how foolish it is. But what about us? Do we choose sin instead of God? Do we willfully continue in behavior we know God hates? What sin is keeping you from a close fellowship with God? Spend some time in prayer and reflection. Let the lesson for us today be to repent now. Let us not harden our hearts and continue in willful. Instead let us humbly confess, coming to Him for the strength to overcomes.
More to Come Soon!
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