************ Sermon on Revelation 9:1-3 ************
By: Rev. Adrian Dieleman
This sermon was preached on July 20, 2008
"The Fifth Trumpet"
Many people believe in dualism – perhaps that includes some people in front of me this evening. Many people believe in two opposite but equal powers at work in our universe. There are good forces and bad forces. They are in a struggle for supremacy and the hope is that the good forces win.
Christian who are dualists give a name to the good and bad powers. The good force or power is God. The bad force or power is Satan. All the good things comes to us from God. All the bad things comes to us from Satan. But one day, God will prevail over Satan and sin will be vanquished forever.
Do you know what dualism sounds like? It sounds like an old Western or a Rambo or a Rocky movie where the good guys always win.
Dualism looks attractive and sounds nice but it is wrong. It is wrong because it is not what the Bible teaches. The Bible teaches – from beginning to end – that God alone is sovereign, that God is absolutely sovereign, that God is in control, that God reigns, that God is King. Dualism is wrong because it gives way too much power and authority to Satan – it makes Satan the opposite but equal of God. Don't forget, Satan is but a finite creature like us whereas God is the infinite Creator.
As we go through the Revelation, the picture of Satan is scary. But, we need to remember that God – not Satan – is in control. God – not Satan – has the last word.
We see the sovereign control of God throughout the Revelation. Let me remind you of where we have seen and heard this:
Rev 1:8 - God is the Alpha and Omega, the One Who is and Who was and Who is to come. Remember what this means? It means He is the eternal God Who is sovereign over time itself.
Rev 1:8 - God is the Almighty. This speaks of the sovereignty of His power.
Rev 1:9 - Christ holds in His hands the keys of death and Hades. His sovereignty extends over death.
Rev 1:16 - Christ holds seven stars in His right hand. This shows His sovereignty over the church.
Rev 2 & 3: God commands a letter to be written to the angel of each of the seven churches. This shows His sovereignty over angels and churches.
Rev 2:7 - Christ gives the right to eat from the tree of life. He is sovereign over the blessings of eternity.
Rev 2:10 - It is Christ Who gives the crown of life. He sovereignly determines the reward for faithful service.
Rev 4:4,10 - God's throne is surrounded by other thrones. Those sitting on the other thrones take off their crown and lay them before His feet. In other words, His sovereignty comes over theirs and is the supreme sovereignty.
Rev 4:11 - God is declared to be the Creator and Sustainer of all things. In His providence, God is Lord of everything.
Rev 5:1 - God holds in His hand the scroll of destiny. He determines all things.
Rev 6 - Christ is the One Who opens the seals of the scroll of destiny. His sovereignty therefore includes the execution of justice upon the enemies of the cross and the church.
Rev 7 - God ordains a protective seal to be placed upon His people. His sovereignty determines their eternal security.
Rev 7:17 - Christ wipes away every tear from the eyes of His people. His sovereignty is over the curse and all its effects.
Rev 8:2 - to the angels who stand before His throne, God gives seven trumpets to sound. When they sound them, expressions of divine wrath come hurtling down from heaven. His sovereignty expresses itself as a righteous judge over a rebellious human race.
It is impossible to miss the message: God is King, God is sovereign. To Asia Minor Christians facing the reality of persecution unto death, the loss of job and family, the confiscation of homes and businesses, imprisonment and whipping and hunger – to these Gospel martyrs, God's sovereignty is incredibly comforting. John is telling them that life is not under the control of Rome or Satan; rather, it is under the control of God. Neither Rome nor Satan is a threat to our Almighty King.
There are NOT two equal but opposite powers in this universe. In fact, the Bible's perspective is that Satan is but a tool, an instrument, a servant of God's sovereignty. Yes, it is Satan's desire to only do evil and not good. Yes, Satan hates Christ and the church. Yet, Satan serves only to accomplish the purposes of God. What an expression of God's sovereignty: God uses the wickedness of the Devil to accomplish His own eternal purposes.
If there is one thing I want you to remember from tonight's message, it is this: Satan always serves God; or, to put it another way, God is sovereign over evil! This message comes through so clearly in our text for tonight.
I The Star
A "The fifth angel sounded his trumpet, and I saw a star that had fallen from the sky to the earth" (Rev 9:1). "A star." Is this a meteor, a shooting star, a comet? Or, is John talking about something else? Notice what the rest of verse 1 says: "The star was given the key to the shaft of the Abyss" (Rev 9:1). The star was given a key. Didn't we see something similar way back in Revelation 1? Remember what Christ said to John?
(Rev 1:18) I am the Living One; I was dead, and behold I am alive for ever and ever! And I hold the keys of death and Hades.Christ is saying He possesses control, power, and authority over death and Hades. Likewise, the star possesses a measure of control, power, and authority over the Abyss. But, how can this be given to an inanimate object? Look at verse 2: "When he ..." "He." Not "it." John uses the masculine pronoun. "When he opened the Abyss ..." Not only is he given the key but he also uses the key. Doesn't this imply intelligence, ability, will? So, what is this star? Or, who is this star?
B In light of the Old Testament, we can safely assume that the star John sees is an angel. Not only that, but John sees a fallen angel. Notice how John puts it: "I saw a star that had fallen from the sky to the earth" (Rev 9:2). John did not see the star fall. Rather, he saw a star that had fallen.
In apocalyptic literature, stars that fall from heaven to earth represent the judgment of Satan and his host of demons. In Luke 10, Jesus uses almost the same language. Jesus sent out the seventy-two:
(Lk 10:17-18) The seventy-two returned with joy and said, "Lord, even the demons submit to us in your name." (18) Jesus replied, "I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven."We see similar language in Revelation 12. There, we see a conflict in heaven between Michael and his angels and the dragon and his angels. The result is that the great dragon was hurled down to the earth (Rev 12:9).
The star that John sees is the ancient serpent called the devil, or Satan himself (cf Rev 12:9).
II The Abyss
A John tells us, "The star was given the key to the shaft of the Abyss" (Rev 9:1). "The Abyss." We are to imagine a giant cave, a great underground pit, with a narrow opening at the top that is locked.
What is this Abyss? In Revelation 11 and 17, the Abyss is the place from which the beast emerges. In Revelation 20, the Abyss is the place where the dragon is confined for a thousand years. The Abyss is the abode of Satan and his demons.
Remember the vision we were given of God's throne room in Revelation 4 and 5? What an awesome and glorious place! We saw a throne, a rainbow, twenty-four elders, four living creatures, seven blazing lamps, a crystal sea, flashes of lightning, thousand of angels. We heard thousands upon thousands of voices praising God. Well, the Abyss is the exact opposite of heaven's throne room.
The Abyss is a horrible place, a terrifying place. Why do I say this? Remember the demons that Jesus cast into a herd of pigs who then rushed down the steep bank into the lake and was drowned? Do you remember what the demons begged of Jesus before they were cast into the pigs? They begged Jesus repeatedly not to order them to go into the Abyss (Lk 8:31). The Abyss must be a horrible place that even demons dread going there. And, notice, the demons acknowledge the sovereignty of Jesus – they begged Jesus not to send them into the Abyss.
B Notice what the Revelation says next: "When he opened the Abyss, smoke rose from it like the smoke from a gigantic furnace" (Rev 9:2). We have seen smoke before in the Revelation. In Revelation 8, we see a heavenly angel mixing the sweet smelling smoke of incense with the prayers of the saints; these prayers ascend to God as a fragrant aroma (Rev 8:4).
This smoke of incense is being contrasted with the smoke of the Abyss. The smoke of incense is offered by a heavenly angel; the smoke of the Abyss is released by Satan. The smoke of incense is a pleasing aroma; the smoke of the Abyss produces a stench.
Notice how much smoke: "The sun and sky were darkened by the smoke from the Abyss" (Rev 9:2).
Put the picture together in your mind: a pit, a shaft, rising smoke, a darkened sun and sky. In my mind, I see an erupting volcano. I am sure that John's audience was thinking of Mt. Vesuvius which blew and buried Pompeii in A.D. 79. John compares it to a belching furnace.
But this is no volcano. Nor is it a furnace. It is much worse: it is the Abyss.
C What does John have in mind? John has judgment in mind when he talks about smoke. Think about it: where there is smoke, there is fire. Eternal fire. The fire of judgment. The Lake of Fire. Remember what Abraham saw as he looked at Sodom and Gomorrah? Abraham "saw dense smoke rising from the land, like smoke from a furnace" (Gen 19:28).
Follow me here, this is very important: John sees Satan, a star that had fallen from heaven; Satan opens the Abyss and releases the smoke and fire of judgment. See what Satan is doing here? Against his own will, much to his wicked rage, Satan ends up being God's instrument, God's tool, for judgment.
III The Locusts
A Verse 3 tells us what happens when Satan opens the Abyss and releases the smoke of judgment:
(Rev 9:3) And out of the smoke locusts came down upon the earth and were given power like that of scorpions of the earth.
What or who are these locusts? Don't forget, they come from the Abyss. They have been released by Satan. They are Satan's tools, Satan's hosts, Satan's followers. They are demons – just like the ones that begged Jesus not to cast them into the Abyss (Lk 8).
B What do they do? Verse 4: they were told not to harm grass, plants, or trees but only people. Their job is to torment people. But only a certain kind of people: only those people who do not have the seal of God on their foreheads (Rev 9:4). The mission of the locusts who are demons is to torment unbelievers, those earth dwellers who refuse to believe in Jesus. It is not their mission to kill such people but to torment and torture (Rev 9:5). John likens their torment to the sting of a scorpion when it strikes a man (Rev 9:5). The sting of a scorpion rarely brings death but it always brings great pain.
C Why are the demons compared to locusts? Remember what I said when we first looked at the trumpet judgments? I said the trumpet judgments are like the plagues that were visited upon Egypt. Listen to what Scripture says about the eighth plague:
(Ex 10:13-15) So Moses stretched out his staff over Egypt, and the LORD made an east wind blow across the land all that day and all that night. By morning the wind had brought the locusts; (14) they invaded all Egypt and settled down in every area of the country in great numbers. Never before had there been such a plague of locusts, nor will there ever be again. (15) They covered all the ground until it was black. They devoured all that was left after the hail--everything growing in the fields and the fruit on the trees. Nothing green remained on tree or plant in all the land of Egypt.
Locusts continue to pose a threat to this day. In recent history, no year was worse than 1874 when millions of locusts descended on the prairies from the Dakotas to Texas. Listen to this description:
In late July they came without warning in swarms so large they blocked out the sun and sounded like a rainstorm. When a swarm landed, the omnivorous pests brought near total destruction. Crops were eaten out of the ground, as well as the wool from live sheep and clothing off people's backs. Paper, tree bark and even wooden tool handles were devoured.The locusts of Revelation are different: they torment people rather than grass, plants, or trees. John compares the demons to locusts because their mission is both devastating and unstoppable.
IV The Divine Passive
A The Devil, the Abyss, smoke, locusts, demonic tormenters who are devastating and unstoppable. This sounds like the stuff of nightmares. Some of you are probably saying to yourself: "I told you this is scary. Look at how powerful Satan is. Look at the destruction he causes."
Yes, Satan is powerful. Yes, Satan unleashes horrible destruction upon the earth. Yet, Satan still serves God! Let me say it again: Satan serves God! He does so right here, in the passage in front of us this evening. Do you hear what I have been saying? It is Satan who unleashes the demons that execute God's judgment upon unbelievers!
B More than once as I have been preaching on the Revelation, I have given you a Greek lesson. One of the things I have taught you is what I call the "divine passive."
We saw the divine passive when we looked at Revelation 8:2 – the seven angels "were given seven trumpets." They "were given." They don't grab the seven trumpets for themselves. Nor, did the trumpets belong to them. They "were given seven trumpets." Who gave them the trumpets? Even though God is not mentioned, it is clear that the trumpets were given them by God and from God. The trumpets belong to God and He gave them to the seven angels of the seven churches.
We also saw the divine passive in Revelation 8:3 – the heavenly angel "was given much incense to offer ..." "Was given." He didn't offer his own incense. He "was given much incense." Who gave him the incense? The incense, like the trumpets, was given by God and from God. The incense belongs to God and He gave it to the angel to offer as a fragrant sacrifice.
In front of us we have the divine passive again. Listen to the first verse of our Bible reading:
(Rev 9:1) The fifth angel sounded his trumpet, and I saw a star that had fallen from the sky to the earth. The star was given the key to the shaft of the Abyss.He "was given" the key to the Abyss. The key does not belong to Satan. The key was not taken by Satan. The key to the Abyss "was given" to Satan. Who gave him the key? This is a divine passive. The key to the Abyss was given to Satan by God.
Listen to the divine passive in the third verse of our Scripture reading:
(Rev 9:3) And out of the smoke locusts came down upon the earth and were given power like that of scorpions of the earth.The locusts "were given power." Were given. Power does not belong to them. Power was not taken by them. We have already learned that power is not Satan's to give. Power was given them by God.
Notice verse 4: the locusts "were told" not to harm the grass, the plants, the trees. They "were told." Other translations: they "were commanded." By whom? By God.
Look at verse 5: "they were not given power to kill ..." Who did not give them the power? God did not.
C Do you realize what the divine passive means? It means that God, not Satan, has the final authority over the Abyss. It means that God, not Satan, exercises sovereignty over the Abyss. It means that God holds the key to the Abyss just like Christ holds the keys to death and Hades (Rev 1:18).
So, what does the divine passive mean for Satan? Are you ready for this? The answer might shock you and dismay you and turn your world upside down. This means that Satan and his demons only exercise the power given them by God. This means that Satan's authority is a delegated authority. This means that Satan and his demons only operate under the sovereignty of God.
So, what does the divine passive mean for you and me? It means that whenever we see Satan unleashing evil on the earth, we are to see an outworking of the sovereignty of God. It means we are to see Satan as God's servant. It means we are to see God is King!
D The power of Satan and his demons to torment people is an authority granted them by God Himself. We see that God is sovereign over evil.
This should not be anything new to anyone here. Let me tell you four illustrations of this principle in Scripture.
First, remember Joseph being sold by his brothers as a slave? What an evil and wicked deed. Yet, Joseph ended up as the ruler of Egypt under Pharaoh. When he was reunited with his family, do you remember what Joseph said to his brothers?
(Gen 50:19-20) "Don't be afraid. Am I in the place of God? (20) You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives."God is sovereign over evil!
Second, remember the story of Job? God gave Satan permission to afflict Job. God gave permission. It was not something Satan could do on his own. God is sovereign over evil!
Third, remember the story of Israel's return from captivity in Babylon? This is what God says about Cyrus, the king of the Medes and Persian, at the time of Israel's return:
(Is 44:28) He is my shepherd and will accomplish all that I please; he will say of Jerusalem, "Let it be rebuilt," and of the temple, "Let its foundations be laid."Cyrus is God's shepherd, God's servant, God's messenger. Did he love and fear God? No. Was he holy and good and righteous? No. He was a pagan idolater. But God used Cyrus and his sin and his evil and his unrighteous ways to accomplish His eternal purposes. God is sovereign over evil!
Fourth, I want you to think of the cross. Who was responsible for the death of Jesus? We can point to Judas who was driven by his greed. We can point to Pilate whose motive was political power. We can point to the leaders of the Jewish people who hated and despised Jesus. But, listen to what Peter says in his Pentecost Day sermon:
(Acts 2:23) This man was handed over to you by God's set purpose and foreknowledge; and you, with the help of wicked men, put him to death by nailing him to the cross.Two chapters later, we see the Christians of Jerusalem gathering together for prayer. Hear what they say:
(Acts 4:27-28) Indeed Herod and Pontius Pilate met together with the Gentiles and the people of Israel in this city to conspire against your holy servant Jesus, whom you anointed. (28) They did what your power and will had decided beforehand should happen.
Who was responsible for the death of Jesus? Judas has no one but himself to blame for his greed. Pilate's lust for political power made him fickle with justice. The hatred of the Jewish leaders made them blind to Jesus as the Son of God. Each party is fully responsible. None of them acted contrary to their own desires. And yet, the One Who is ultimately responsible for the cross is God.
Do you see the sovereignty of God over evil? Do you see how God uses evil to advance His own eternal purposes?
Remember the one point I want you to remember? I want you to remember that Satan always serves God. Or, to put it another way, God is sovereign over evil!
Satan always serves God. God is sovereign over evil! That happened with Joseph. That happened with Job. That happened with Cyrus. That happened at the cross. That happens, too, with the sounding of the fifth trumpet.
Alleluia! sing to Jesus!
His the scepter, His the throne.
Alleluia! His the triumph,
His the victory alone.
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