Keys to Understanding the Book of Revelation.
'How you are fallen from heaven, O Lucifer,[b] son of the morning! How you are cut down to the ground, you who weakened the nations! '( Isaiah 14:12 )
'Babylon is fallen, is fallen! And all the carved images of her gods He has broken to the ground!' ( Isaiah 21:9b )
In the first passage; we find Isaiah prophesying the utter destruction of the king of Babylon at the hand of the Medes and Persians ( see also Daniel 5 ): in the second; the fulfillment of that prophesy. As we can see from the note ( b ) in Isaiah 14:12, above; 'Lucifer' literally means 'Day-star', from the Greek הילל , meaning 'light-bearer'. The Israelite people of God were to be light-bearers, shining forth the light that God shed on a dark and dreary world, but they failed, in part, not in whole, to carry out that mission, or as it's called elsewhere, their 'dominion mandate' ( Genesis 1:28, 9:1 )
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.
When thinking of Old Testament references to 'pits'; one might remember the pit that Joseph's brothers threw him into, in Genesis 37:22. Joseph, as a type of Christ ( deliverer-Genesis 45:7 ) was so cruelly treated by his brethren, also children of Israel, or Jacob ( Genesis 35:10 ). Jeremiah 38:6 records how the prophet Jeremiah was cast into a pit because he revealed God's word of warning to the children of Israel in Jerusalem. Probably recalling this imprisonment; the prophet, in Lamentations 3:53-56, voices his complaint before God, in words that might almost have been uttered by Christ on the cross.
'They silenced[b] my life in the pit and threw stones at me. The waters flowed over my head; I said, “I am cut off!” I called on Your name, O LORD, from the lowest pit.' ( Jonah 2 )
There are many other examples of the mistreatment, and even the murder of God's prophets ( I Kings 18:13, 19:10, Nehemiah 9:26, Luke 11:47, Acts 7:52, Romans 11:3 ( I Kings 19:14 ), I Thessalonians 2:15, etc ) by the wicked and rebellious children of Israel throughout Scripture. In Leviticus 26:14-30, God promised to 'cast down' those children of His that were rebellious against His covenant. ( see also Deuteronomy 28:15-68 ). In agony, almost; pondering the seeming prosperity of the enemies of God and His people, David realized, in Psalm 73:18, that 'Surely You set them in slippery places; You cast them down to destruction.', and in Psalm 147:6, that 'He casts the wicked down to the ground'. Of His back-slidden children; God promised, in Jeremiah 8:12, 'They shall be cast down' ( see also Jeremiah 6:15 ). The prophet Jeremiah recalled, in Lamentations 2:1, how that God had 'cast down from heaven to the earth the beauty of Israel', which should remind us of Jesus' words to His disciples, in Luke 10:18, 'I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven', concerning the defeat of the enemies, or adversaries, of His people. ( see also Romans 16:20 )
Regarding the 'keys to the bottomless pit' that were given to this 'star fallen from heaven to earth'; remember that Jesus told His disciples in Matthew 16:19, 'I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed[d] in heaven.' I believe that we can safely infer the obverse of this; that the 'keys of Hades and of Death' ( Revelation 1:18b ) were given to those who opposed Christ and His Kingdom, or people. ( II Corinthians 3:7, ( Romans 7:7-12 ) Romans 9:4 )!
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.
When reading this passage; one might be immediately reminded of the incident, recorded in Daniel 3, in which Christ is prefigured as deliverance from this 'fiery furnace'. Daniel's friends prophesied ( in a figure ) of the Christ, replying to the king 'our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and He will deliver us from your hand, O king', and indeed,we read later, that 'the hair of their head was not singed nor were their garments affected, and the smell of fire was not on them'. In Genesis 19:28, we see a very vivid picture of this 'bottomless pit' in the destruction of Sodom & Gomorrah. The Author revealed that Abraham 'looked toward Sodom and Gomorrah, and toward all the land of the plain; and he saw, and behold, the smoke of the land which went up like the smoke of a furnace.' ( see also Isaiah 1:9, II Peter 2:6 ( Matthew 11:23 & 24 ). In Ezekiel 22:17-22; the prophet recorded that God promised to purify His Old Covenant children in this furnace. ( see also Isaiah 48:10, Matthew 13:49 & 50 ( Revelation 1:15 ). The prophet Isaiah, speaking in figurative terms of this 'furnace' of the Lord, wrote, 'For it is the day of the LORD’s vengeance, the year of recompense for the cause of Zion. Its streams shall be turned into pitch, and its dust into brimstone; its land shall become burning pitch. It shall not be quenched night or day; its smoke shall ascend forever. From generation to generation it shall lie waste; no one shall pass through it forever and ever. ' ( Isaiah 34:8-10 ( Revelation 20:9 & 10 ). My readers might recall the plague of locusts on the 'land' of Egypt, that 'darkened' the land, recorded in Exodus 10:1-15 ( Psalm 105:34 ). ( see also verse 21, Luke 23:44 & 45 ), and that Jesus, speaking of the destruction of the Temple and the Old Covenant 'age', in Matthew 24:29, told His disciples that 'Immediately after the tribulation of those days the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light; the stars will fall from heaven, and the powers of the heavens will be shaken.' (see also Revelation 8:12 )
Then out of the smoke locusts came upon the earth. And to them was given power, as the scorpions of the earth have power.
I mentioned above the plague of locusts that God loosed upon the 'land' of Egypt, the adversaries of His people. We have noted many of the similarities between the plagues of Egypt and the plagues that we read about in the book of Revelation, and as we continue to study this book, we will see many more similarities, not only to these, but also to many prophecies and visions laid before us through the Old Testament prophets.
God spoke to Solomon of this 'day' ( Joel 2:1 ), in II Chronicles 7:13, reminding His people that, as He sent the plague among the adversaries of His people, in Egypt, so He would send the same plague among them when they became adversaries to themselves. The prophet Amos had a vision of this 'day' also, I believe, revealing that 'He ( God ) formed locust swarms at the beginning of the late crop; indeed it was the late crop after the king’s mowings' ( Amos 7:1 ). It is interesting to note that John the Baptizer fed on locusts, which could have been a reminder of the coming judgment. ( Matthew 3:4, Mark 1:6 ( Malachi 4:5 ( Matthew 11:14 ). The Lord comforted the prophet Ezekiel with these words, 'And you, son of man, do not be afraid of them nor be afraid of their words, though briers and thorns are with you and you dwell among scorpions; do not be afraid of their words or dismayed by their looks, though they are a rebellious house' ( Ezekiel 2:6 ). Back in Deuteronomy 8:15; God warned His children, in type, of the consequences of disobedience, reminding them that it was only by His protection that they escaped, unscathed, from their wilderness wanderings. ( Luke 10:19 )
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. 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. In those days men will seek death and will not find it; they will desire to die, and death will flee from them.
'And the LORD said to Satan, “Behold, he is in your hand, but spare his life.' ( Job 2:6 ) Whatever you believe about this 'Satan', this adversary of Job, whether you believe God 'simply' allowed 'Satan' to plague Job, or whether God Himself was the Hand that struck Job's person ( verse 10 ); it is clear that Job realized that His troubles came from the Lord, as the 'locusts' above were allowed to torment the children of men, but not to kill them. The first part of the passage above takes us back to the 'plagues of Egypt', in Exodus 7-12. In Exodus 8:23, God told the Pharaoh that 'I will make a difference[a] between My people and your people' ( Exodus 11:7 ). As we noted above; in most, if not all of the other plagues, Scripture makes it clear that the children of Israel were exempt from these plagues, as long as they were obedient ( Exodus 12:21-24 ). To those who refuse to be enlightened by the true Light; God says, in Isaiah 50:11, 'Look, all you who kindle a fire, who encircle yourselves with sparks: walk in the light of your fire and in the sparks you have kindled— this you shall have from My hand: you shall lie down in torment'. Solomon, King of Israel wrote, in Proverbs 21:6, that 'Getting treasures by a lying tongue is the fleeting fantasy of those who seek death.[b]' ( see also Proverbs 8:36 ) God reminded His children that they had, in their foolishness, 'made a covenant with death', which covenant ( II Corinthians 3:7 ( Romans 7:10 ) He would annul ( Colossians 2:14, Hebrews 8:13 ), fore-telling of the 'new' covenant in Christ, in Isaiah 28:15-18.
The shape of the locusts was like horses prepared for battle. On their heads were crowns of something like gold, and their faces were like the faces of men.
To start with, that these 'locusts' had faces 'like the faces of men' should tell us something! I can't emphasize too greatly that John is receiving this Revelation in the form of a vision; what he 'saw' was a picture of what was going to happen, even what was already happening. A friend of mine likened these 'word-pictures', or hyperbole, to a comic strip, which are often used to portray a subtle, or deeper meaning, using a preposterous circumstance to reveal a certain truth, without actually saying it out-right. I believe that this is what Jesus revealed here, to His servants; this vision was meant to show John the true 'nature' of these 'locusts': they were men, those same men whom God had 'raised up' ( Exodus 9:16, I Kings 11:23, Isaiah 41:25 ( Habakkuk 1:6 ) to discipline His covenant children. In the midst of instructions to His covenant children, before bringing them into the 'Promised Land; God spoke in this way, in Deuteronomy 20:1, 'When you go out to battle against your enemies, and see horses and chariots and people more numerous than you, do not be afraid of them; for the LORD your God is with you, who brought you up from the land of Egypt'. Although this vision was to serve as a warning to the children of God; in the context of Scriptures such as that above, John's words would have brought great comfort to his Hebrew, or Jewish readers. ( Deuteronomy 31:6, Psalm 3:6 ) In Zechariah 10:5; God again offers the same words of hope to His covenant people, saying, 'They shall be like mighty men, who tread down their enemies in the mire of the streets in the battle. They shall fight because the LORD is with them, and the riders on horses shall be put to shame'. I believe that David prophesied of these 'locusts', in Psalm 2:2 & 3, writing, 'The kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers take counsel together, against the LORD and against His Anointed, saying, 'Let us break Their bonds in pieces and cast away their cords from us' ( see also Acts 4:26, Revelation 17:12 ).
They had hair like women’s hair, and their teeth were like lions’ teeth. 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. They had tails like scorpions, and there were stings in their tails. Their power was to hurt men five months.
The apostle Paul wrote to the Corinthian church that, 'if a man has long hair, it is a dishonor to him' ( I Corinthians 11:14 ). Paul's words, in the immediate context, may seem to have been spoken of the distinction between men and women, who's place have been more or less clearly defined, but in the historical and geographical context of Paul's writing; I believe that he referred to the Scythians, those of the nations that were still considered 'barbarians. I think that John may have had the same sort of idea in mind when he wrote that 'They had hair like women’s hair', indicating that God was bringing judgment on His Old Covenant children from the 'nations'. God; revealing beforehand the glory of the restored Temple, and His people Israel, wrote, through the prophet Ezekiel, 'They shall neither shave their heads, nor let their hair grow long, but they shall keep their hair well trimmed' ( Ezekiel 44:20 ). The apostle Peter wrote to the churches, 'Be sober, be vigilant; because[c] your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour' ( I Peter 5:8 ( Judges 14:5, Psalm 22:13 ). Solomon wrote, in Proverbs 19:12, prophesying, I believe, of this 'day' ( Luke 21:22 ), 'The king’s wrath is like the roaring of a lion, but his favor is like dew on the grass', and of the wicked rulers of Judah and Jerusalem, who fully warranted the adverse judgment of a righteous God, the prophet Zephaniah wrote, 'Her princes in her midst are roaring lions' ( Zephaniah 3:3 ). Remember the words of Jacob concerning his son Judah, back in Genesis 49:9 ( see also Hosea 5:14 )? How ironic then, that God judged His errant children, using the same mannerisms that they had displayed! John's reference to 'wings...like the sound of chariots' should immediately bring to mind passages such as Exodus 14:7-9, the chariots of Pharaoh, king of Egypt ( see also Joshua 24:6 ), and Joshua 11:4-6, concerning the armies of Jabin, king of Hazor, who assaulted the children of Israel as they began to 'occupy' the 'Promised Land' ( see also Judges 4:3 ( 7, 15 ). Isaiah prophesied of this 'day, writing, in Isaiah 66:15, 'For behold, the LORD will come with fire and with His chariots, like a whirlwind, to render His anger with fury, and His rebuke with flames of fire'. ( see also Jeremiah 4:13 ) Prophesying of this 'day', in Ezekiel 23:24, God promised of His instruments of judgment, 'And they shall come against you with chariots, wagons, and war-horses, with a horde of people. They shall array against you buckler, shield, and helmet all around'. The prophet Zechariah 'saw' these 'chariots' of God that brought peace through the sword. ( Zechariah 6:1-8 ( Habakkuk 3:8 )
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. One woe is past. Behold, still two more woes are coming after these things.
I wish here to remind my readers of the apostle Paul's words, in II Corinthians 3:7, concerning 'the ministry of death, written and engraved on stones': these words of Paul's, along with passages like Romans 7:7-13 ( James 1:15 ) might give us a hint as to whom John might, in code, be referring. In the midst of his afflictions, Job realized, of God, that 'You will bring me to death, and to the house appointed for all living' ( Job 30:23 ), and although the writer to the Hebrews ( 2:14 ) relegated 'the power of death' ( Hosea 13:14 ( Revelation 20:14 ) to the 'devil'; we should note, in the covenant context ( in particular, Paul's words above ) of Scripture, that the Old Covenant ( AKA 'Mosaic' ) law, which was entrusted to the physical Israelites ( Romans 9:4 ), who were but typical of the New Covenant 'Israel of God' ( Galatians 6:16 ), was that which actually held the power of death! As I implied in the earlier part of this study; as the 'keys of the kingdom' were given to those New Covenant people of God, so the keys to Hell & Death ( spiritual death ) were given to the Old Covenant children of Israel!
The Hebrew אבדון, translated 'Abaddon', means literally, 'destruction'. In Deuteronomy 32:24, after the children of Israel had become fat off the land and turned from God, He promised that 'They shall be wasted with hunger, devoured by pestilence and bitter destruction; I will also send against them the teeth of beasts, with the poison of serpents of the dust', and II Samuel 24:15 & 16 records that, when David, king of Israel had sinned by ordering a census of Israel, 'So the LORD sent a plague upon Israel from the morning till the appointed time. From Dan to Beersheba seventy thousand men of the people died. And when the angel[b] stretched out His hand over Jerusalem to destroy it, the LORD relented from the destruction, and said to the angel who was destroying the people, “It is enough; now restrain your hand.” And the angel of the LORD was by the threshing floor of Araunah[c] the Jebusite'. God spoke, in Ezekiel 5:16, of the time 'When I send against them the terrible arrows of famine which shall be for destruction, which I will send to destroy you, I will increase the famine upon you and cut off your supply of bread' of His apostate children. In Joel 1:15 the prophet laments for his people, saying 'Alas for the day! For the day of the LORD is at hand; it shall come as destruction from the Almighty', and Amos 3:14 & 15 records the judgment of God upon the northern tribes, wherein He promised that 'in the day I punish Israel for their transgressions, I will also visit destruction on the altars of Bethel; and the horns of the altar shall be cut off and fall to the ground. I will destroy the winter house along with the summer house; the houses of ivory shall perish, and the great houses shall have an end,' says the LORD'. John als uses the Greek Ἀπολλύων , translated 'Apollyon', which means 'Destroyer', to describe this 'angel of the Lord' ( Exodus 12:12-23 ( Psalm 78:51, Hebrews 11:28 ). God told the king of Judah, in Jeremiah 22:7, 'I will prepare destroyers against you, everyone with his weapons; they shall cut down your choice cedars and cast them into the fire', and Paul, in I Corinthians 10:9 & 10, reminded readers of what happened to their fathers, saying 'nor let us tempt Christ, as some of them also tempted, and were destroyed by serpents; nor complain, as some of them also complained, and were destroyed by the destroyer' ( Numbers 21:4-9, Numbers 11 ).
Interestingly enough; John now writes that 'One woe is past', using the Greek ἀπέρχομαι , meaning 'to go away, depart', giving us the impression that this 'plague' has happened, and is passing away ( Hebrews 8:13, I Corinthians 7:31, II Corinthians 3:7-18, I John 2:8 ) , or has passed away. ( II Corinthians 5:17 )
Then the sixth angel sounded: And I heard a voice from the four horns of the golden altar which is before God, saying to the sixth angel who had the trumpet, “Release the four angels who are bound at the great river Euphrates.” So the four angels, who had been prepared for the hour and day and month and year, were released to kill a third of mankind.
' Thus says the LORD, who makes a way in the sea and a path through the mighty waters' ( Isaiah 43:16 ( Jeremiah 4:7, 18:11 )
'Thus says the LORD: “Behold, I am against you, and I will draw My sword out of its sheath and cut off both righteous and wicked from you.' ( Ezekiel 21:3b )
'For this is he who was spoken of by the prophet Isaiah, saying: The voice of one crying in the wilderness:‘ Prepare the way of the LORD;make His paths straight.'[a]'
( Matthew 3:3 ( Isaiah 40:3 )
Again, we find familiar language here, the reference to 'one-third': remember that in the previous study we noted the significance of the term 'one-third', most often referring to 'the remnant' those brought 'through the fire', to be revealed as the people of God. ( Psalm 66:12, Isaiah 43:2 ( Daniel 3 ), Zechariah 13:9 ( I Corinthians 3:15 ), I Peter 1:7 ( Job 23:10 ) We might note, too, the use of the term 'four'. ( Ezekiel 1:4-12, Daniel 7, Zechariah 1:18-21, Matthew 24:31 ) The 'four winds' ( of heaven ), the 'four corners of the earth' ( Isaiah 11:12, Revelation 7:1, 20:8 ), '' 'of the land' ( Ezekiel 7:2 ) and etc.
When I read about the 'horns of the altar', one of the first Old Testament passages that comes to mind, strangely enough, is I Kings 1:50, where it is recorded that Adonijah fled from his brother Solomon to the altar of God, pleading for mercy after he had presumed to ask for something that was not his right. ( see also 2:28 ) The prophet Jeremiah wrote, 'The sin of Judah is written with a pen of iron; with the point of a diamond it is engraved on the tablet of their heart, and on the horns of your altars' ( Jeremiah 17:1 ): I believe that John's reference above to the 'voice from the four horns of the golden altar' point directly back to Jeremiah's words here!
Finally; Jesus' words in Matthew 24:36 seem to come clearer, make more sense than what, I believe, we have traditionally read in them: He said 'But of that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven,[e] but My Father only'. When John 'saw' that 'the four angels, who had been prepared for the hour and day and month and year' were to be released; do you think Jesus' words above came to his mind?
Now the number of the army of the horsemen was two hundred million; I heard the number of them.
Speaking to 'Gog' and his allies, significant of the 'nations' surrounding His Old Covenant 'children'; God said, 'You will ascend, coming like a storm, covering the land like a cloud, you and all your troops and many peoples with you' ( Ezekiel 38:9 ), and in verses 15 & 16, 'Then you will come from your place out of the far north, you and many peoples with you, all of them riding on horses, a great company and a mighty army. You will come up against My people Israel like a cloud, to cover the land. It will be in the latter days that I will bring you against My land, so that the nations may know Me, when I am hallowed in you, O Gog, before their eyes'. Ezekiel 39:11-16 tells us that it took seven ( there's that number again ) months to bury this great multitude when God 'turned the tables on them'. Young's Literal Translation ( YLT ) reads Revelation 9:16, 'and the number of the forces of the horsemen [is] two myriads of myriads, and I heard the number of them', whereas the Authorized King James Version ( KJV reads, more familiarly, 'And the number of the army of the horsemen were two hundred thousand thousand : and I heard the number of them'. One problem that the English bible translators have had, I believe, is that they are English. No; I'm not saying that being English is a bad thing; just that they/we are Western in culture, as well as geo-politically. Obviously, in o9ur Western mind-set; a 'thousand thousand' is equal to a million, therefore naturally, 'two hundred thousand thousand' should be translated 'two hundred million', right? Wrong: the Greek μυριάς, more correctly, I believe, translated 'myriad' in the YLT, was used here, and it literally means 'ten thousand' or 'an innumerable multitude, an unlimited number'.
And thus I saw the horses in the vision: those who sat on them had breastplates of fiery red, hyacinth blue, and sulfur yellow; and the heads of the horses were like the heads of lions; and out of their mouths came fire, smoke, and brimstone.
'I will turn you around, put hooks into your jaws, and lead you out, with all your army, horses, and horsemen, all splendidly clothed, a great company with bucklers and shields, all of them handling swords'. ( Ezekiel 38:4 )
'But when you see Jerusalem surrounded by armies, then know that its desolation is near'. ( Luke 21:20 )
As John further describes these 'horses' and their riders, one can almost see these armies of foreigners, such as J.R.R. Tolkien describes in Book Four of 'The Lord of the Rings', as those of a people who did not know God, those who clothed themselves ( Genesis 3:7 ), in fancy clothing rather than being clothed in the righteousness of Christ! Again we see the reference to 'lions': this time to lions that breath fire out of their mouths. I believe that Jesus intimated to John, through this vision, that, as David cried, in Psalm 58:6, 'Break their teeth in their mouth, O God! Break out the fangs of the young lions, O LORD!', and as Daniel explained to king Darius, 'My God sent His angel and shut the lions’ mouths, so that they have not hurt me, because I was found innocent before Him; and also, O king, I have done no wrong before you' ( Daniel 6:22 ): those who fear God, clothing themselves in His righteousness have nothing to fear ( Matthew 10:28 ) from the 'power of the lion' ( Daniel 9:27 ( Psalm 22:21, II Timothy 4:17 ). David wrote, in Psalm 29:7, 'The voice of the LORD divides the flames of fire', thus comforting us yet again, with the fact that those who trust in the Lord have no need to fear the wrath of man. ( reference Daniel 3 again, in connection with the fire and smoke that did them no harm. ) Isaiah 66:15 reminds us again, that this is the Lord's doing, that the Revelation referred, not only to the revealing Jesus Christ as the true Son of God, but spoke of the 'days of vengeance' ( Luke 21:22 ), God's righteous judgment on His Old Covenant 'children' who had rejected His Son ( Matthew 21:33-45 ), and ultimately, Him! ( Numbers 14:23, I Samuel 8:7, Hosea 4:6 ( Jeremiah 2:13 ) Looking back on this passage in Revelation; we can see that John seems to be borrowing from he Old Covenant Scriptures in his usage of 'biblical parallelism'; the horsemen's 'breastplates of fiery red, hyacinth blue, and sulfur yellow' directly parallel the horses that breathed 'fire, smoke, and brimstone', because fire, of course, is fiery red, smoke is often described as blue, and brimstone is very sulfurous. KJV and YLT translate the words 'sulfur yellow', as 'brimstone'.
By these three plagues a third of mankind was killed—by the fire and the smoke and the brimstone which came out of their mouths. For their power[a] is in their mouth and in their tails; for their tails are like serpents, having heads; and with them they do harm.
Not only earlier in this study, but in previous studies as well; we have noted John's use of the 'third' concept. In the study directly prior to this; we read that 'a third of the trees were burned up', next, that 'a third of the living creatures in the sea died', and I believe this is also very significant, when the third angel sounded his trumpet, that 'A third of the waters became wormwood' ( Exodus 32:20 ). Jesus said, in Luke 10:18, 'I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven'. We know that it was because of His great sacrifice that this happened, and I find it very significant that this happened at the sounding of the 'third' trumpet because Jesus rose from the grave on the third day, thus sealing the final defeat of 'Satan' and his emissaries! We also noted the connection to the days of creation ( in reverse, if you will ) and in the passage above, this theme is not only continued, but we can also begin to see some of the 'sense of urgency' that I talked about, a sort of 'biblical parallelism', in which John begins to repeat his theme of a 'third' being destroyed, leaving behind a remnant. The 'fire, smoke, and brimstone' which came from the mouths of these lion-headed horses brings to mind, again, much imagery from the Old Testament prophets, but even as far back as Genesis 19, where we read the story of what God did to Sodom and Gomorrah, out of which a very small remnant escaped ( Luke 17:29 ). David, in Psalm 11:6, speaks of God's just judgment in these terms; 'Upon the wicked He will rain coals; fire and brimstone and a burning wind shall be the portion of their cup'. Isaiah prophesied of God's righteous judgment on the king of Assyria, in Isaiah 30:33, saying 'For Tophet was established of old, yes, for the king it is prepared. He has made it deep and large; its pyre is fire with much wood; the breath of the LORD, like a stream of brimstone, kindles it', and speaking of judgment on the nations around His chosen people, in particular Edom, the prophet wrote, in Isaiah 34:9, ' Its streams shall be turned into pitch, and its dust into brimstone; its land shall become burning pitch'. The horses with 'tails...like serpents' can be directly paralleled to the horses with 'tails like scorpions' that we read about earlier.
But the rest of mankind, who were not killed by these plagues, did not repent of the works of their hands, that they should not worship demons, and idols of gold, silver, brass, stone, and wood, which can neither see nor hear nor walk. And they did not repent of their murders or their sorceriesb]">[b] or their sexual immorality or their thefts.
'Woe to you, Chorazin! Woe to you, Bethsaida! For if the mighty works which were done in you had been done in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes. But I say to you, it will be more tolerable for Tyre and Sidon in the day of judgment than for you. And you, Capernaum, who are exalted to heaven, will be[d] brought down to Hades; for if the mighty works which were done in you had been done in Sodom, it would have remained until this day. But I say to you that it shall be more tolerable for the land of Sodom in the day of judgment than for you'. ( Matthew 11:21-24 )
'Why has this people slidden back, Jerusalem, in a perpetual backsliding? They hold fast to deceit, they refuse to return. I listened and heard, but they do not speak aright. No man repented of his wickedness, saying, ‘What have I done?’ Everyone turned to his own course, As the horse rushes into the battle'. ( Jeremiah 8:5 & 6 )
'And the LORD spoke to Manasseh and his people, but they would not listen. Therefore the LORD brought upon them the captains of the army of the king of Assyria, who took Manasseh with hooks,[b] bound him with bronze fetters, and carried him off to Babylon'. ( II Chronicles 33:10 & 11 )
'As it is written in the Law of Moses, all this disaster has come upon us; yet we have not made our prayer before the LORD our God, that we might turn from our iniquities and understand Your truth. Therefore the LORD has kept the disaster in mind, and brought it upon us; for the LORD our God is righteous in all the works which He does, though we have not obeyed His voice'. ( Daniel 9:13 & 14 )
Of the Old Covenant 'children' of Israel, in Deuteronomy 32:17; the Author spoke these words, 'They sacrificed to demons, not to God, to gods they did not know, to new gods, new arrivals that your fathers did not fear', and David recalled, in Psalm 106:37, that 'They even sacrificed their sons and their daughters to demons'. I have mentioned before, in previous studies, the incident of 'the golden calf' that 'came out' of the fire, recorded in Exodus 32 ( Deuteronomy 9:12-21, Psalm 106:19 ), but, as the prophet recounted, in Isaiah 2:8, 'Their land is also full of idols; they worship the work of their own hands, that which their own fingers have made'. ( Psalm 115:4-8 ) Even though Moses took drastic measures to rid the 'children' of Israel of this sin they had committed we can see from Scripture that this episode was not the end, or extent, of their idolatry, in fact the prophet Jeremiah wrote, as David had seen, 'Hear this now, O foolish people, without understanding, who have eyes and see not, and who have ears and hear not': these 'children' had become just like their idols ( Jeremiah 5:21 )! Isaiah again wrote, in Isaiah 42:20, 'Seeing many things, but you do not observe; opening the ears, but he does not hear'. In Ezekiel 12:2, God told the prophet, 'Son of man, you dwell in the midst of a rebellious house, which has eyes to see but does not see, and ears to hear but does not hear; for they are a rebellious house' ( Psalm 135:15-18 ) and Jesus Himself quotes from Isaiah 6:9, when He told His disciples, 'Therefore I speak to them in parables, because seeing they do not see, and hearing they do not hear, nor do they understand' ( Matthew 13:13 ). When the children of Israel were confessing their sins before God, in Nehemiah 9:26, the prophet recounted how 'they were disobedient and rebelled against You, cast Your law behind their backs and killed Your prophets, who testified against them to turn them to Yourself; and they worked great provocations', and in Stephen's address, in Acts 7:52, he reminded the Sanhedrin ( the judges of Israel ), 'Which of the prophets did your fathers not persecute? And they killed those who foretold the coming of the Just One, of whom you now have become the betrayers and murderers'. In Jeremiah 3:8, recalling the covenant unfaithfulness of His 'children'; God told the prophet, 'Then I saw that for all the causes for which backsliding Israel had committed adultery, I had put her away and given her a certificate of divorce; yet her treacherous sister Judah did not fear, but went and played the harlot also' ( see Jeremiah 5:7-9, Exodus 20:14 ). Paul wrote, in Romans 1:28-32, of these covenant 'children' who should have known better, 'And even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a debased mind, to do those things which are not fitting; being filled with all unrighteousness, sexual immorality,[c] wickedness, covetousness, maliciousness; full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, evil-mindedness; they are whisperers, backbiters, haters of God, violent, proud, boasters, inventors of evil things, disobedient to parents, undiscerning, untrustworthy, unloving, unforgiving,[d] unmerciful; who, knowing the righteous judgment of God, that those who practice such things are deserving of death, not only do the same but also approve of those who practice them'. Jude reminded his readers of what happened to those disobedient 'children', bringing to their remembrance, as an example, what God had brought upon Sodom and Gomorrah, 'But I want to remind you, though you once knew this, that the Lord, having saved the people out of the land of Egypt, afterward destroyed those who did not believe. And the angels who did not keep their proper domain, but left their own abode, He has reserved in everlasting chains under darkness for the judgment of the great day; as Sodom and Gomorrah, and the cities around them in a similar manner to these, having given themselves over to sexual immorality and gone after strange flesh, are set forth as an example, suffering the vengeance of eternal fire' ( Jude 5-7 ( I Corinthians 10:8, Revelation 2:14, Matthew 10:15 ( Jeremiah 23:14 ). In Malachi 3:8, for instance, God reminded His Old Covenant 'children' of their thefts against Him; 'Will a man rob God? Yet you have robbed Me! But you say, ‘In what way have we robbed You?’ In tithes and offerings'. When the apostle Paul wrote, in Ephesians 4:28, 'Let him who stole steal no longer, but rather let him labor, working with his hands what is good, that he may have something to give him who has need'; I believe that this is exactly what ( and who ) he had in mind, those wicked spiritual leaders of Israel who were using the tithes and offerings for their own purposes, rather than for the sustenance, both physical and spiritual, of God's people, for which they were intended, for which cause God visited judgment upon them ( the Old Covenant 'children' of Israel ).
As we end this study of chapter 9; I pray, first of all, that all glory be to God for the revelation of His Son, and that this study would help my readers to understand that through the revelation, fully and in finality, of His Son, we now have the comfort and rest promised to His people, to those that love Him and keep His commandments!
May God bless you with these thoughts, as we continue to study His Revelation, and hope to gain a better and deeper understanding and knowledge of Him and His revealed!
in His service,
and for His glory and Kingdom,