Sometimes God’s judgment is ironically appropriate. If people persist in rebelling against him and worship idols, he may turn them over to what they worship. The result can be chaotic, but God’s people are sometimes caught up in that. Hananiah, Mishael, Azariah, and Daniel were godly Israelites, but were caught up in the judgment of of Israel as she was exiled in Babylon (Daniel 1 and 3). Revelation 9 tells of the sounding of the fifth and sixth trumpets. Idolaters are subjected to judgment. Revelation 9 reminds you that God is still in control. It summons you to turn from idols to the living God.
Trust the Lord for protection from the chaos of the fallen star. Satan has fallen from heaven. John sees a star that had fallen from heaven, apparently some time earlier. Revelation 12 compresses the history of redemption into a few verses, including the casting out of Satan. The language reminds you of what Jesus said in Luke 10:18, which, in turn, draws from the prophesy against Babylon in Isaiah 14:12, and points, not to an astronomical event, but to symbolism of Satan’s fall. He unleashes upon the earth what seem to be demonic forces. Significantly, he is given the key to the shaft of the Abyss. Don’t forget who is the rightful holder of those keys, Revelation 1:18. As Job reminds you, Satan cannot go one step beyond what God permits. Satan is a terrible enemy, but Revelation assures you that he is not in control.
Terrible locusts bring suffering as the fifth trumpet sounds. The plague described in Exodus 10 was real locusts, as likely were the plagues of locusts described in Joel 1. Plagues of locusts can be devastating. But in Joel 2 they become symbolic of the destruction involved in the day of the Lord. The Babylonian army would be the instrument the Lord used to bring judgment on his people. In Revelation 9 the locusts have their origin in the Abyss. You might expect Satan’s minions to attack Satan’s enemies, but this destruction targets his followers, with God’s people protected, as we’ll see. Rebellion against God is self-destructive. Mental and spiritual torment leave those attacked wishing for death, but unable to die. The locusts of Revelation 9 are unlike the real insects. These look like horses and have the tails and sting of scorpions, have hair, and teeth like those of lions. They cause excruciating torment, but lack to the power to kill. Five months is an extremely long time for a locust plague, but this is still a limited time. The leader of the locusts is the angel of the Abyss, called Destroyer, both in Hebrew and Greek. John uses dramatic imagery to describe satanic forces become more and more active, less restrained, as God allows this destruction to sweep over the earth.
Those sealed by God are safe. Normal locusts destroy vegetation, but do not attack humans. These spare the plants, but attack people. But notice who are spared. In Revelation 7 the saints are given the seal of the living God. That is their protection. These locusts cannot destroy them. This doesn’t mean that God’s people avoid all suffering: look at Daniel and his friends. But it does meant that in the midst of turmoil and seeming chaos, in the spiritual attacks of Satan’s followers, God’s people, the followers of the Lamb, are secure. They may suffer. They may lose their lives, as some had in John’s day, and as has continued to happen. But God refuses to give them over to Satan. They are preserved for the final victory. “As the visions beginning in ch. 9 are unveiled the readers are given am ever expanding definition of the extent of God and the Lamb’s sovereignty. God and the Lamb are in ultimate control of Satan’s realm. And the saints are to remember this when the forces of evil direct their wrath against them or self-destructively against their own allies, the followers of the the Antichrist. There is a grand purpose which God is working through it all, which is a basis for hope and encouragement for beleaguered Christians.” (B. K. Beale, The Book of Revelation, p. 463). Remember that, as you live in a world that is becoming more consistent and self-conscious in its rebellion against God. This woe is bad enough—but there is more to come.
The living and true God brings judgment on the earth. Deadly horses and riders invade as the sixth trumpet sounds. First century Rome faced an constant enemy on its eastern border. Mounted Parthian archers kept probing and threatening to invade. Again, John uses physical imagery to picture a deeper reality. These invaders (from the Euphrates, whence attacks on God’s people had come historically) are feared, not so much for their riders, but for their terrible horses, breathing fire, sulfur, and smoke. A third of mankind die before them. Parallel to the breaking of the sixth seal in Revelation 6, this sixth trumpet reminds you that the various judgments that God allows to sweep over the earth are anticipations of the final wrath of the Lamb.
God speaks from heaven and no longer restrains his judgment. Notice the source of the voice that releases the angels on the Euphrates (in Daniel angelic beings had been associated with world empires)—the voice comes from the altar. God had prepared this horde, 2,000 thousands, as the instrument of his wrath to be released at his precise time. John’s word to you who live in chaotic times as well is, God is still in control. As terrible as event may seem, the voice from the altar is in control. The battle is real, but you know the victor.
Repent from idolatry! What should the inhabitants of the earth have learned from these judgments? Behind the idols they worshiped were dark spiritual forces. No matter how much short term satisfaction or pleasure the idol worship may have provided, the false gods lead to judgment. They even turn on their own and consume them. Idols of wood and stone, even idols of precious metals, are blind, dear, and immobile. The sinful, self-centered behavior that accompanies idolatry is to be repented of—but the inhabitants of the earth refuse. “As the sixth seal provided a preview of the traumas that will characterize the dissolution of the first heavens and earth, so the sixth trumpet previews an increase of satanic deception that precipitates growing violence, death, and despair. Such a crumbling of law, order, and safety should shake idolaters confidence in ‘the works of their hands’ and cure their desire 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’ (Rev. 9:20).” (Dennis E. Johnson, Triumph of the Lamb, p. 152). The idols of our culture, the things that would ensnare your hearts may be different. They may be wealth, they may take the form of electronic images that fail to glorify God, but they are just as spiritually deadening and addicting as first century idolatry. The immorality that flows out of modern idolatry has not changed since John’s day. The third woe, the sounding of the seventh trumpet, will take place in Revelation 11:15. The anticipatory judgments lead up to the final triumph of the kingdom of our Lord and of his Christ. At that point there will be no more time to repent. John has described this so that you, unlike the godless inhabitants of the earth, can turn in repentance and trust in the Lamb.
There is only one way to flee from the wrath of the Lamb—and that is to flee to the Lamb that was slain.