Then the fifth angel sounded, and I saw a star from heaven which had fallen to the earth; and the key of the bottomless pit was given to him. 2 He opened the bottomless pit, and smoke went up out of the pit, like the smoke of a great furnace; and the sun and the air were darkened by the smoke of the pit. 3 Then out of the smoke came locusts upon the earth, and power was given them, as the scorpions of the earth have power. 4 They were told not to hurt the grass of the earth, nor any green thing, nor any tree, but only the men who do not have the seal of God on their foreheads. 5 And they were not permitted to kill anyone, but to torment for five months; and their torment was like the torment of a scorpion when it stings a man. 6 And in those days men will seek death and will not find it; they will long to die, and death flees from them.
The fifth angel sounded the fifth trumpet, and John saw a star from heaven which had fallen to the earth. Revelation 1:20 speaks of stars being angelic beings when not being obviously literal stars. A key to the bottomless pit was given to this angel to go and open up the abyss (see Revelation 20:3, Luke 8:31) in which bound demonic forces dwell (2 Peter 2:4, Jude 6). He opened the pit, and smoke came out like from a great furnace, darkening the air and sun. Locusts with the power and sting of scorpions came up out of the pit. These were clearly not typical locusts (v. 7-11) but demonic forces. They were instructed by heaven not to harm any of the green plants and trees as locusts normally would, but their mission was to afflict and hurt people except for those who were sealed of God (Revelation 7:4-8). Thus, it should be clear to those who had ears to hear and eyes to see that this punishment was indeed supernatural and divine and targeted to those who were not sealed by God. These locust/scorpion creatures were appointed to torment mankind for five months with severe stings, but they were not allowed to kill anybody. The severity of the torture and torment would make people want to die, but they wouldn’t be able to. As time gets closer to the return of Christ, the punishments get more severe as God mercifully tries to get the attention of people before they must be cast into hell, which has a torment that would make this one pale in comparison.
7 The appearance of the locusts was like horses prepared for battle; and on their heads appeared to be crowns like gold, and their faces were like the faces of men. 8 They had hair like the hair of women, and their teeth were like the teeth of lions. 9 They had breastplates like breastplates of iron; and the sound of their wings was like the sound of chariots, of many horses rushing to battle. 10 They have tails like scorpions, and stings; and in their tails is their power to hurt men for five months. 11 They have as king over them, the angel of the abyss; his name in Hebrew is Abaddon, and in the Greek he has the name Apollyon.
This description makes it abundantly clear that these locust-like creatures are really demonic forces. They are marched out of the abyss like horses arrayed for battle with crowns on their head, hair like women, and the teeth of lions. They had breastplates of iron and wings to fly, and their wings sounded like chariots and horses running to battle. They also had tails which is how they stung like scorpions for that five month period of torture for mankind. Abaddon or Apollyon means “destroyer,” and it could refer to a high ranking demonic force or to Satan himself. Satan enjoys bringing pain to people, for his work is to steal, kill, and destroy (John 10:10). God’s purpose is to give life and life to the full, and His hope is that some will repent even in this time of great tribulation.
12 The first woe is past; behold, two woes are still coming after these things. 13 Then the sixth angel sounded, and I heard a voice from the four horns of the golden altar which is before God, 14 one saying to the sixth angel who had the trumpet, “Release the four angels who are bound at the great river Euphrates.” 15 And the four angels, who had been prepared for the hour and day and month and year, were released, so that they would kill a third of mankind. 16 The number of the armies of the horsemen was two hundred million; I heard the number of them. 17 And this is how I saw in the vision the horses and those who sat on them: the riders had breastplates the color of fire and of hyacinth and of brimstone; and the heads of the horses are like the heads of lions; and out of their mouths proceed fire and smoke and brimstone. 18 A third of mankind was killed by these three plagues, by the fire and the smoke and the brimstone which proceeded out of their mouths. 19 For the power of the horses is in their mouths and in their tails; for their tails are like serpents and have heads, and with them they do harm.
Still under the umbrella of the seventh seal, John spoke about the sixth angel with the sixth trumpet. The threefold “woe” (v. 13) for the last three trumpet judgments had two yet to go. The first was the scorpion stings from the creatures from the abyss. This passage describes the second woe. A voice came from the golden altar before God and told the sixth angel to release the four angels who were bound at the Euphrates River. These angels had been prepared for this precise time to be released and to kill a third of mankind. These angels were heavenly warriors to carry out God’s righteous judgment. The time for mercy to repent for many had expired, and it was time for the end to draw even nearer. The angels had horsemen and armies with a count of two hundred million. This angelic host went forth to kill a third of all living people who remained on the earth. The riders on the horses had breastplates that looked like fire, likely red, orange and brightly colored, representative of the wrath of God. The horses which they rode upon had heads like lions with mouths that had fire, smoke, and brimstone coming out. Like a fire-breathing dragon, except from a horse with a lion’s head, these armies killed a third of all mankind with the fire, smoke, and brimstone which proceeded from their mouths. These creatures were as strong as horses from head to tail, and their tails were like snakes with heads with which they will do additional harm. These scenes in the vision which seem like a fictional novel are actually real future events that will happen and bring terror and death upon those who resist God upon the earth (v. 20-21).
20 The rest of mankind, who were not killed by these plagues, did not repent of the works of their hands, so as not to worship demons, and the idols of gold and of silver and of brass and of stone and of wood, which can neither see nor hear nor walk; 21 and they did not repent of their murders nor of their sorceries nor of their immorality nor of their thefts.
Though God was willing to be merciful and to forgive anyone who would repent even this late in the scheme of things, those who survived this plague, the remaining two-thirds of what was left of mankind, did not repent of their evil doing. Instead, they chose to worship demons. Demons had just tormented them for five months prior to this plague, and yet they chose to worship them instead of the God Who alone could deliver them. Their hearts were so hard and their minds so defiled that they worshipped their very enemies, torturers, and tormentors instead of the One Who could save them. This is how it has been from the beginning with man choosing to worship the created order rather than the Creator Himself (Romans 1:21-25). Mankind of the future will, just like mankind of today and of times past, elect to worship things made with human hands, idols of gold, silver, brass, stone, and wood. Even though these idols will be powerless and unable to hear what the people say to them or walk because they are not alive, still mankind will worship them instead of the one true God Who created the gold, silver, stones, and wood that they are crafted from. Those who survived these initial plagues did not repent of their wicked deeds, and they continued in their wicked ways, including murder, sorcery, and all kinds of immorality and stealing. They loved their sin too much to want to change, refusing to respond in humility before God Whom they were well aware of was behind the judgments (Revelation 6:16-17, 9:4).