And the fifth angel sounded, and I saw a star fall from heaven to the earth: and to him was given the key of the bottomless pit.…
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.
Parallel VersesKJV: And 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.