Revelation 9
Pulpit Commentary Homiletics
Homiletic expositions aim to avoid as tar as possible the topics of controversy. Yet must they be definite in their view of the interpretation of the words of Holy Scripture. Their own sphere is the moral and practical. They speak with no authority in the department of exposition. The view taken of this figure does not confine its reference to any individual person; although some individuals have gained a special notoriety. Many who have occupied the place of "stars," which are "the angels of the Churches," have fallen from their place and ceased to be illuminating powers, and their degeneracy has been the occasion of a temporary triumph of evil in one form or other. These have let loose the spawn of hell. Here the sad picture is presented of the ill effects of such degeneracy. It may be moral or intellectual descent; although the alliance with evil would seem rather to confine it to a departure from goodness and righteousness. A mere mental aberration not equally destructive. The great power of evil is found in that unfaithfulness to truth which issues in degeneracy of manners and life. The evil of such degeneracy is -

I. WIDESPREAD. From the position and influence of him who has been as a leader and guide of others. His life known, his influence great, his example contagious. Men follow leaders; and the welfare of the world is now advanced, now retarded, by the fidelity or unfaithfulness of them who are charged with high trust and responsibility.

II. DESTRUCTIVELY INJURIOUS. In proportion to the influence which any one wields is his power for good or evil. If one falls from a high position, he drags down others. The angel of light, become an agent of evil, opens the bottomless pit. He brings the utmost evil upon men such "as have not the seal of God upon their foreheads."

III. BITTERLY AFFLICTIVE. The injury caused is great in the social degeneracy, in the weakening of moral principle. A pillar of the house trembles, all becomes less secure. But the painfulness is great:

1. To him who falls.

2. To them whom he drags down with him.

3. To them whose sympathies being only with goodness are afflicted by anything that tends to degeneracy of manners, to feebleness of faith, or to the lowering of the tone and felicity of human life.

4. To the widespread, outlying multitudes, amongst whom the spread of goodness is retarded by every act of unfaithfulness and every instance of degeneracy and defection. - R.G.

And the fifth angel sounded, etc. We take these verses to illustrate moral evil in the universe. Moral evil is a "pit." A pit is a scene of confinement and darkness. Moral evil, or sin, wherever it exists in the spirit, imprisons the faculties and blinds the vision. Socrates has well said, "No man is a free man who has a vice for his master." All corrupt souls are reserved in chains of darkness. Sin is slavery, sin is midnight. In relation to moral evil as a "pit," four things are suggested.

I. IT IS EXPOSABLE. "The fifth angel sounded, and I saw a star fall from heaven unto the earth: and to him was given the key of the bottomless pit." Moral evil, in its incipient state, so stupefies the faculties and blinds the conscience that the subject only becomes aware of it by the advent of a messenger from heaven; an angel from heaven uncovers it, makes it bare to the soul. How do the savages, how do the millions whose souls are buried in sensuality, become conscious of sin? Only by a special message from heaven. What says Paul? "I was alive without the Law once, but when the commandment came, sin revived, and I died." That is, Paul fancied he was alive - that is, all right - until the Divine message came. Every genuine gospel minister may be said to be a star from heaven with the "key of the bottomless pit," that key with which he opens it and exposes it to the consciences of his hearers. Peter, on the Day of Pentecost, was such an angel; he uncovered the pit of moral evil within his hearers, and they exclaimed, "Men and brethren, what shall we do?"

II. IT IS FATHOMLESS. "Bottomless pit." It is an abyss without a bottom. Moral evil is fathomless.

1. Who can fathom its origin? We can account for sin in this world on two principles.

(1) On the principle of internal tendencies. The human being, from the very commencement of its existence, seems to have a disposition to go wrong.

(2) On the ground of external influences. He comes into a world where all human beings are more or less minted with sin; the moral atmosphere which he breathes is more or less corrupt. But in the case of the first sinner neither of these conditions existed; all his propensities were toward the right, and all external influences tended toward the right.

2. Who can fathom its issues? What are its bearings, ramifications, ultimate results? Problems these which the highest created intellect could, perhaps, never solve. Moral evil is, indeed, a "bottomless pit."

III. IT IS BURNING. "A great furnace." Sin, or moral evil, is fire; like all fire it exists in two states, latent and active. Where it becomes active it is consuming and transmuting; it consumes the good and transmutes its embers into evil, and in all it inflicts agony on the soul - the agony of moral regrets for the past, and terrible forebodings for the future. Every sinner has a "furnace" within him, a furnace that must break forth into awful activity sooner or later.

IV. IT IS OBSCURING. "A smoke and the sun and the air were darkened by reason of the smoke of the pit." How great the obscuration of moral evil! It clouds all the moral stars of truth in the soul, and mantles the moral heavens in gloom.

1. How benighted men are on the eternal question of right! The foundations and laws of moral obligation are, in the daily course of human action, buried in darkness.

2. How blinded men are to the eternal conditions of well being! Men look for happiness without instead of within; in the senses, not in the soul; in matter, not in mind; in the creature, not in the Creator. Thus, in truth, our moral heavens are starless and our path is a wilderness. We walk in darkness and have no light.

V. IT IS ALARMING. "And there came out of the smoke locusts upon the earth, and unto them was given power." It is here represented that from the fathomless abyss, burning and smoking, there issued a host of scorpion-locusts resembling war horses, with crowns like gold, with the face of men, the hair of women, the teeth of lions, having breastplates as of iron, and the sound of their wings like the sound of chariots and of horses charging to battle. In Oriental lands and distant ages nothing was regarded with greater horror than an army of locusts; their numbers darkened the heavens, their wings rattled as thunder, and their mission was to devour What hellish squadrons, to terrify and destroy the soul, issue from the fathomless abyss of moral evil! Terrible armies come in the memories of the past and. in the apprehensions of the mysterious future.

CONCLUSION. Do not ask - Where is hell? Place it not in some underground region, or in some burning planets far away; the fathomless, burning, and tormenting pit is in the soul of every morally unrenewed man. Thank God, there are remedial means on this earth for the quenching of its fires, and the annihilation of all the squadrons of tormentors it sends forth. - D.T.

And in those days shall men seek death, and shall not find it; and shall desire to die, and death shall flee from them. We take these words as a picture of the extremest anguish. Here we have -


1. Death, is universally regarded amongst men as the greatest evil. It is the "king of terrors." It gives terror to everything terrible in the world. The ravenous beast, the furious storm, the destructive pestilence, the engulfing earthquake, are only terrible because death is terrible.

2. The relief which men generally seek in this world in their sufferings is from death. The mariner will forsake his ship with valuable cargo, the king will resign his kingdom, the wounded will suffer the amputation of every limb, if thought needful, to avoid death. Yet here we have a state of being where death is sought as a relief.

II. A STATE OF MISERY IN WHICH DEATH IS SOUGHT AS A RELIEF IN VAIN, "And death shall flee from them." It is miserable to seek relief in the most deeply felt evil, but to seek it in such an evil in vain adds wondrously to the misery of the case. Fatigue, disappointment, the consciousness of lost energy, add to the anguish. Earth runs from death, hell runs after it and runs in vain. In conclusion, I infer:

1. That the fact that men are exposed to such a state of being implies that some sad catastrophe has befallen our nature. Could Infinite Goodness have created beings designed and fitted by their nature for such a state? Nay; deep within us has the Great One planted the love of life, and to seek death is to go against our nature. Sin explains it.

2. That there is something in the universe to be dreaded by man more than death, and this is sin. Death, though an evil, is not to be compared to sin. Sin, though robed in beauty and adorned with a thousand attractions, is the evil of evils.

3. That Christianity should be hailed as the only means to deliver us from this extremity of anguish. It destroys sin, it "condemns sin in the flesh." - D.T.

Satanic power is encouraged by human unfaithfulness. The utmost power of evil is let loose, and with destructive energy works only evil, and the direst evil, amongst the children of men. The evil character of the effects of unfaithfulness is represented by figures which suggest the greatest painfulness, and which are repulsive in the extreme. The sun and the air are darkened by "smoke" issuing from the opened "pit of the abyss" - the smoke "as of a great furnace." The power of "locusts" and "scorpions of the earth" reveals the most painful and repulsive effects, for "their torment was as the torment of a scorpion when it striketh a man." So great is this that men "seek death," though unavailingly. They are as "horses prepared for war," crowned with kingly power, having faces as of men, and hair as of women, and teeth "as the teeth of lions," covered are they with "breastplates of iron," and the sound of their wings as "the sound of chariots of many horses rushing to war;" they have "tails like unto scorpions, and stings," and in these is "their power to hurt men." The whole are leagued together under the leadership of "the angel of the abyss," whose name "in Hebrew is Abaddon, and in Greek Apollyon, i.e. Destroyer." Thus is set forth the evil, repulsive, and deadly power of those forces which are called into play by unfaithfulness and degeneracy. One falls, but he lets loose many forces of evil, which he, once having called into activity, cannot arrest. It is a bitter woe to the earth, such as it has suffered many, many times in the great history. The lesson is for all times; for in many times the sad scene has been enacted. This section of the "revelation" declares to us -

I. THAT IN THE DEPARTURE FROM TRUTH AND GOODNESS ERROR AND EVIL BECOME PREVALENT. Every false doctrine is a cloud of darkness upon the path of the human life.

II. IN THE DIMINUTION OF THE HEAVENLY THE HELLISH POWERS PREVAIL. Finally, darkness shall be held back as in chains. But here it is let loose, and in the loss of the heavenly power the earthly, rather the hellish, gains ascendancy.

III. IN A DEPARTURE FROM THE PEACEFUL OBEDIENCE OF RIGHTEOUSNESS THE DESTRUCTIVE AND PAINFUL EFFECTS OF SIN ARE PROVED. The ways of pleasantness and the paths of peace forsaken, there are only the hard ways of the transgressor to walk in.

IV. THE BROKEN ALLEGIANCE TO GOD ISSUES IN THE TRIUMPH OF THE DESTROYER. The authority of the Prince of peace being rejected, another king, even Apollyon, usurps his throne. So men carelessly exchange good for evil, and sell life for an empty world. - R.G.

The voice of suffering innocence does not pass unheeded. The Lord of sabaoth is long-suffering and very merciful, even towards the disobedient and towards the enemies of the truth; but the angels of judgment and punishment, bound and restrained, must at length be loosed. Though the Lord suffereth long and is kind, yet he will avenge his own elect which cry to him day and night. We learn -

I. THAT THE END OF JUDGMENT IS REPENTANCE. This is the object always kept in view by him who judgeth right. All his judgments are therefore blessings in disguise. "He doth not willingly afflict." The cry from them who suffer wrongfully is not immediately answered in judgment upon their oppressors. He can requite his own in other ways. Yet, though judgment be stayed against an evil work, it is finally "loosed," lest the hearts of men be set in them wholly to do evil.

II. THAT THEY WHO PLACE THEMSELVES IN OPPOSITION TO THE SERVANTS OF TRUTH EXPOSE THEMSELVES TO THE JUST AND TERRIBLE JUDGMENTS OF GOD. Even the prayers of the righteous, which are accepted before the throne, cry for vengeance. The evil workers who place themselves in antagonism to the struggling Church are met, not only by the feeble arm of "the little flock," but by the might of him who, as a good Shepherd, defends even with his life them who are his own sheep.

III. THAT EVEN THE SEVERITIES OF JUDGMENT ARE INSUFFICIENT TO LEAD ALL TO REPENTANCE. That many are saved through the judgment is obvious to all observers. Yet is there a hardness of heart that seems to increase by the pressure of outward calamity. All do not see the Divine hand in the meted judgment; and many rise in greater rebellion by how much the strokes of that hand are severe. "The rest of mankind, which were not killed with these plagues, repented not of the works of their hands."

IV. We further learn that IT IS THROUGH DEVOTION TO EVIL THAT MEN ARE PREVENTED FROM REPENTANCE. Men harden their hearts even in the midst of Heaven's fiery judgments. Many happily learn righteousness, and repent of their evil ways, but of some - "the rest" - alas! always a remnant - it is to be said, "They repented not." They are devoted to evil. They are the willing slaves of lust and vice. They are greedy to do iniquity. The fiendish spirit finds its embodiment in them, and men are as though possessed with devils. If these are to be saved, other means must be devised. - R.G.

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