The Pit and the Plagues

Title: The Pit and the Plagues

Bible Book: Revelation 9 : 1-21

Author: Johnny L. Sanders

Subject: Tribulation



What’s in it for me? That is a fair question. You have heard it before: What’s in it for me? A perfectly logical question, one that may reflect wisdom, seek knowledge, and lead one to make the right decision. It may, of course, reveal greed, covetousness, and a self-first attitude, but let us think of it in a more positive sense, especially as we approach the Book of Revelation. What’s in it for me?

Carl F. H. Henry once stressed that it is not only the past that effects the present, the future has a profound effect on the present. If you decide to go to Seattle on vacation, that decision will influence a lot of the little decisions you are going to make in preparing for your trip. We have assurance today because we know where we are going. Angel Martinez pointed out that one verse in every 25 in the New Testament have to do with the Second Coming of Jesus Christ or end-time events. R. G. Lee claimed that some 370 verses in the New Testament have something to say about the Second Coming. The Lord did not waste any space in His Word, so this must be an important subject for us today.

In Revelation 1:3, we are promised a blessing if we read this book - or hear it read. That is want we are looking for in this series of messages from the last book of the Bible, the conclusion of God’s inspired Word. The question we might reasonably ask right here today is, if the Revelation is all about something that happened two thousand years ago, what’s in it for me? But let’s not stop there: if the Revelation is all about something that is going to happen way out there in the future, what’s in it for me? Let us fine-tune it a little more: if the Revelation is all about something that is going to happen in the Great Tribulation, and if I am not going to be here then, why should I concern myself with this mysterious book? What’s in it for me? Where is the blessing? That is a fair question and I believe there is an answer. But let me warn you, before we finish the Book of Revelation we are going to be looking at some really disturbing prophecy. The blessing, however, is still there. But before we continue, let us very quickly look at a summary of what we have already seen:

In chapter 1, the Son of God is the Alpha and the Omega, the first and the last, the beginning and the end.

In chapters 2, and 3, we find the letters to the seven churches of Asia Minor. These were real, historical churches with real people, real problems, and real ministries.

In chapter 4, we are introduced to the throne room of Heaven. God is seated on the throne and the risen Savior is standing at His right hand. There are four living ones and the four and twenty elders around the throne.

In chapter 5, the One who is seated on the throne has a scroll in His hand and no one in Heaven or on earth can break the seven seals and read the message, until the Lamb of God steps up and takes the scroll. He is qualified because He was the Agent of Creation, and because He poured out His life’s blood for our redemption, and He was raised from the dead.

In chapter 6, the first six seals are broken and as each is broken there is an announcement of judgment. The martyrs cry out for vindication and unredeemed cry out for the rocks and hills to fall on them and hide them from the judgment of the One Who sits on the throne and from the wrath of
Lamb of God.

In chapter 7, judgment is held back while the angel of the Lord who has the seal of the living God seals those who are redeemed - those who are redeemed of Israel during the Great Tribulation - and those who believe in Him from every nation, race, and language.

In chapter 8, the seventh seal is broken and then we see the seven trumpets which announce God’s judgment against the earth. The first four trumpets are sounded in chapter eight and the fifth and sixth follow in chapter 9.


1). The fifth trumpet sounds and John saw a star that had fallen from Heaven, 1:1.

“The fifth angel blew his trumpet, and I saw a star that had fallen from heaven to earth. The key to the shaft of the abyss was given to him.”

The HCSB has it right. John does not see the star falling, he sees a star that has fallen.

“Fallen’ is in the perfect tense, which in Greek emphasizes a past action with results continuing into the future. The tense aids in establishing the identity of this "star" which had long ago been ejected from the heavenlies. The star is Satan, whose precosmic fall continues to afflict the human family (cf. Isa. 14; Ezek. 28). He is given a key (the power of release) to the bottomless pit. This ‘abyss’ (Lit. shaft of the abyss) is apparently a place of confinement for fallen spirits (fallen angels) [BSB].

The abyss is mentioned seven times in the Revelation, always as a prison where some of the hordes of demons are imprisoned. It is a place of extreme torment and isolation. Luke 8:31 tells us this is the abode of demons.

2) Satan opens the shaft of the abyss, 1:2.

“He opened the shaft of the abyss, and smoke came up out of the shaft like smoke from a great furnace so that the sun and the air were darkened by the smoke from the shaft.”

a. Smoke came up out of the shaft.

We are not given any information as to why some demons are confined while others have been released on earth. Does this mean that God has permitted some of the fallen angels to roam the earth seeking whom they may devour while others have been confined since they were cast out of Heaven? If we had needed that information in order to receive God’s promise blessing I am sure He would have provided that information.

What we are told is that smoke came up out of the shaft of the abyss. I am not trying to be trite here, but I have to mention that old saying: “where there is smoke there is fire.” If John saw smoke coming up out of the pit, there must have been fire in the pit.

I found it interesting that Jerry Sutton, in his book about the Conservative Resurgence, made the statement that New Orleans escaped much of the liberalism that invaded other seminaries. The simple truth is that he did not go back far enough. When Dr. Leo Eddleman became president, there were professors who did not believe in a literal devil, did not believe in a literal hell, did not believe in a literal fire. It was all symbolic. They held to the theory of annihilation - when the lost die they just cease to exist, just like cats and dogs. Dr. Eddleman’s father had been pastor of my home church many years earlier and he confided in my pastor that he was going to get rid of that kind of theology if he had to take that place apart brick by brick.

I doubt that John was seeing smoke coming up from imaginary fire here. What ever else hell may be, it will be a place of conscious, eternal torment. People may joke about hell fire, but I can assure you, hell is no joking matter. This “smoke came up out of the shaft like smoke from a great furnace.” For what is a furnace built if not for fire?

b. The sun and the air were darkened by the smoke.

At this time (10-5-04) spectators are maintaining a vigil before Mount St. Helens, waiting for that volcano to blow again, as it did in 1980. When the north side of Mount St. Helens blew out in 1980, we are told that molten lava, rocks, crushed and burning trees, and dirt blew out with such velocity no one near it could have escaped. It blew over the first mountain range at a speed of 300 miles and hour, over the second range at a speed of 200 miles per hour, and over the third range at over 100 miles an hour. One man, standing ten miles away with his camera on a tri-pod, got some outstanding shots, but reported that by the time he could get the first few shots and run for his car, the cloud of ashes and debris had already blowing over him. Fortunately, the force caused it to lift going over the mountain ranges and it was propelled over him.

A man named Harry Truman refused to leave, and he was killed when the volcano erupted. I believe fifty-seven people were killed in that eruption - and that is a minor volcano compared with some. Months after the eruption of Mount St. Helens, people in Seattle, we are told, were seeing ash from that eruption that had been blown so far into the atmosphere that it was taken all the way around the world before some of it settled on that city.

Creation scientists believe that during the Flood, there may have been many volcanic eruptions, accompanied by earthquakes, tidal waves, and accompanying storms of every sort imaginable. Some believe that the ash from those volcanoes might have blotted out the light of the sun to a great extent, causing temperatures to drop lower than anything the world has ever seen. Some have suggested that the temperature may have dropped to 200 degrees below zero, and that winds may have reached 200 miles and hour or more, creating conditions in which giant mammoths would be flash frozen, to be discovered in ice banks thousands of thousands of years later - with green grass in their stomach and between their teeth.

All we know for sure is there is coming a time when the earth will see catastrophic things happen, things like the world has not seen since the days of Noah. This time, however, the world will not be destroyed by water.

3) Locusts came out of the smoke to afflict the earth, 9:3-6.

“Then out of the smoke locusts came to the earth, and power was given to them like the power that scorpions have on the earth. (4)They were told not to harm the grass of the earth, or any green plant, or any tree, but only people who do not have God’’s seal on their foreheads. (5) They were not permitted to kill them, but were to torment them for five months; their torment is like the torment caused by a scorpion when it strikes a man. (6) In those days people will seek death and will not find it; they will long to die, but death will flee from them. ”

a. Locust came out of the smoke to attack earth, 1:3.

During the 1950s a swarm of locusts devoured every green thing in sight over several hundred thousand square miles in the Middle East (John MacArthur Notes), but the locusts here are not the same kind of locusts that have plagued mankind for thousands of years. That these are not ordinary insects is seen in their description as well as their activity. What Satan releases on the earth is a horde of demons. The Scripture will bear that out.

b. They attack people, not green grass or trees (4-6).

These locusts do not kill, but the torment unleashed on the human family is so devastating that men seek death, only to find that death escapes them (vv. 5, 6). I think most of us have lived very long have seen situations and circumstances that hold a greater terror than physical death. I have talked with a number of people who do not fear death so much as they fear the dying process, especially when there are years of pain, inactivity, loneliness, nausea, weakness, and a feeling of helplessness. Some consider suicide, others pray for the Lord’s return.

During the Great Tribulation there will be a lot of people whose suffering will lead them to seek death, but according to this prophecy death will escape them. When we face trials, whether they are physical, emotional, or any combination of them in this world, thank God you will not be going through these attacks which go beyond - but include - physical and emotional suffering.

4) These locusts are actually demons, unleashed upon the earth, 9:7-12.

a. Their humanlike faces and hair indicate that they are intelligent spiritual life, 9:7-9.

“The appearance of the locusts was like horses equipped for battle. On their heads were something like gold crowns; their faces were like men’’s faces; (8) they had hair like women’’s hair; their teeth were like lions’’ teeth; (9) they had chests like iron breastplates; the sound of their wings was like the sound of chariots with many horses rushing into battle.”

In describing these locusts, John uses the word “like” over and over.

(1) They were “like” horses equipped for battle - they were awesome and seemingly invincible.
(2) They wore something “like” crowns on their heads - they would usurp the authority of the God. (3) Their faces were “like” the faces of men - they could pass for rational intelligent human beings.
(4) They had hair “like” women’s hair - Jeremiah 51:27 refers to locusts that had bristles like hair.
(5) They had teeth “like” lion’s teeth - fierce, powerful, and vicious.
(6) They had chests like iron breastplates - they are invulnerable to normal men.
(7) The sound of their wings was “like” the sound of chariots - rushing to war.

b. With tails with stingers like scorpions, they would harm people for five months, 9:10.

“(A)nd they had tails with stingers, like scorpions, so that with their tails they had the power to harm people for five months.”

We have a lot of chamaeleons around out house. When you live in Louisiana everything that moves in the grass or in you flower bed causes you to react - just in case it is a snake. But these little lizard like creatures are absolutely harmless. The scorpion, on the other hand is equipped to do some damage. Bear, my third English Shepherd dog, is the biggest English Shepherd I have seen (at 90 pounds or more). He gives you the impression that he may be the least courageous, if only because of the fact that he is afraid of snakes and scorpions (but very little else). Heidi and Smokey would tackle anything, which was the reason we kept them in the back yard all the time.

Bear can crack walnuts and hickory nuts with his teeth, he keeps the whole area cleared of other dogs. In fact, he really doesn’t like dogs. Bear has discouraged late-night visitors, he digs up moles, and has left his teeth marks on the bumper of my wife’s car where caught it to try to pull it off to get to a cat under the hood. But bear ran up and stuck his nose down to a scorpion several years ago and I heard him yelp and saw him back off. He has taken them seriously every since. These locusts have stingers “Like” scorpions and they have the power to harm people for a period of five months.

c. They had as their king the angel of the abyss, 9:11.

“They had as their king the angel of the abyss; his name in Hebrew is Abaddon, and in Greek he has the name Apollyon.”

The locusts of the insect variety have no king, but these demonic locusts do. His name, both in Hebrew and Greek means “destroyer.” Just as there is an hierarchy among the holy angels of God, so there seems to be a hierarchy among the demons. This angel from the bottomless pit seems to be one of Satan’s most powerful demons.

The first four trumpets launched attacks upon the physical universe. Beginning with the fifth trumpet we see a satanic attack against human beings as demons are released from the shaft of the abyss, from the bottomless pit, to wage war against mankind.

When I was in seminary there were a few professors of theology who had made some discoveries the person in the pew had not yet made. They had discovered that there is no personal devil. While they were denying the existence of Satan he was, in the modern political vernacular, getting traction on the streets of America. There has been an incredible increase in occult activity over the past half a century. Do you suppose the devil senses something some professors have not discovered yet? Is it possible that they sense that their time may be drawing to a close? Or, is it possible that they still think they will win the spiritual battle that is raging and that will escalate?

d. The first woe has passed, 9:12.

“The first woe has passed. There are still two more woes to come after this.”

“The best interpretation of this locust plague of the fifth trumpet is that these hideous, repugnant, and evil creatures are demonic in nature (v. 11). One of the ministries of the Holy Spirit in the present dispensation is the restraining of evil (2 Thess. 2:6, 7). This charitable ministry of restraining the onslaught of evil will be concluded just before the beginning of the Tribulation, and the end result will be a devastating invasion of the demonic in the lives of men. So stringent and devastating is this plague that John designates it the first of three woes (Rev. 9:12)” [BSB].


1) The sixth angel blew the trumpet that released four angels to attack mankind, 9:13-14.

“The sixth angel blew his trumpet. From the four horns of the gold altar that is before God, I heard a voice (14) say to the sixth angel who had the trumpet, ‘Release the four angels bound at the great river Euphrates.”

When the sixth angel blew his trumpet, John heard a voice coming from the gold altar that is before God saying, “Release the four angels bound at the great river Euphrates.” The golden altar had horns at each corner. This altar was a place of mercy and grace, but at this point there is a command for judgment. Does God want to see people hurt? The answer is a definite “No.” How do we know that? In verse four the locusts are commanded not to attack those who have the seal of God in their foreheads.

2) The four angels of the Euphrates were prepared for the appointed time, 9:15-16.

“So the four angels who were prepared for the hour, day, month, and year were released to kill a third of the human race. (16) The number of mounted troops was 200 million; I heard their number.”

Jesus warned, “Take heed, keep on the alert; for you do not know when the appointed time will come” (Mark 13:33). Just as there is an appointed time, known only to God, for the return of Christ, there is an appointed time for other events. The appointed time is pinpointed to the year, month, day, and hour. None of this is going to happen by accident.

3) John explains his vision, 9:17-19.

“This is how I saw the horses in my vision: The horsemen had breastplates that were fiery red, hyacinth blue, and sulfur yellow. The heads of the horses were like lions’’ heads, and from their mouths came fire, smoke, and sulfur. A third of the human race was killed by these three plagues——by the fire, the smoke, and the sulfur that came from their mouths. For the power of the horses is in their mouths and in their tails, because their tails, like snakes, have heads, and they inflict injury with them.”

a. The breastplates of the horsemen were fiery red, Hyacinth blue, and sulfur yellow.

b. The heads of the horses were like lion’s heads.

c. From their mouths came fire, smoke, and sulfur.

d. One third of the human race was killed by the fire, smoke, and sulfur.

e. The demons vent their destruction from both ends.

Snakes strike with their fangs, scorpion with the stinger in their tails. These demons strike in all directions. They inflict injury and bring death in all directions.

4) The people left still did not repent, 9:20-21.

“The rest of the people, who were not killed by these plagues, did not repent of the works of their hands to stop worshiping demons and idols of gold, silver, bronze, stone, and wood, which are not able to see, hear, or walk. (21) And they did not repent of their murders, their sorceries, their sexual immorality, or their thefts.”

Can you think of anything more shocking that this? Can you think of anything more foolish than this? Those who survived the slaughter did not repent! They “did not stop worshiping demons and idols of gold, silver, bronze, stone, and wood, which are not able to see, hear, nor walk.” Can you imagine anything so foolish or so shocking?

In fact, this is exactly what Pharaoh and the people of Egypt did - ten times. This is what the people of Israel did - some fifteen times during the period of the judges. It is what they did repeatedly during the period of the United Kingdom (Under David and Solomon) and the Divided Kingdom (from Rehoboam forward). But aren’t you glad Americans are not as stupid as those ancient people - or those who will go through the Great Tribulation?

Well, let’s see about that. Out country was built on the solid foundation of the Word of God. All but one of the first 126 colleges in America were founded to teach the Word of God and train Christians, especially ministers. Yet, did we honor God? There have been some great awakenings when revival fires swept the country. What did the next generation do? The same thing the ancient Israelites did. They turned back to their sins.

God has blessed America in many ways. America is, without any doubt, the greatest country in the history of the world. It is the most powerful nation, the best fed nation, the nation with the greatest freedom, and the greatest opportunities. God has blessed us with victory in two world wars for which we were unprepared.

How did we respond to His blessings at the end of World War I? America responded with the Roaring Twenties, complete with the gods of materialism, immorality, alcoholism, and Humanism. Evolution became the gospel of the classroom. How did America respond to God’s deliverance in World War II? We returned to the gods of materialism, immorality, pornography, lawlessness, alcoholism and drugs.

The Gospel is preached, Bibles are sold, songs are recorded, programs are broadcast and telecast across America, and how have we responded? We have turned to the gods of materialism, pornography, homosexuality, New Age religions that preach moral relativism. Evolution is even more the gospel of the classroom.

During the World Series in San Francisco a number of years ago there was an earthquake that had a lot of church members asking if we thought this would turn America to the Lord. I said, “No. American no longer looks to God in times of trouble, we look to government.” Four hurricanes hit Florida within a month (2004) and then we had a record number of hurricanes in 2005, including Katrina that left death and destruction through a major part of Mississippi, and all but destroyed the city of New Orleans. And how has America responded? Every kind of sin you can imagine has multiplied. We are paying a price in sexually transmitted diseases for which there is no cure. People are no longer just addicted to alcohol and drugs, but to gambling, pornography, homosexuality, and vile language. Folks, if Hollywood reflects America, America is in trouble. Our culture is in a tailspin, and what are we doing.

Our morals have convinced radical Muslims that they can attack us eventually defeat us because we are so depraved that we cannot maintain any resistance to their attacks. If you listen to the politicians and the news media you would think that the Muslims are righteous and Americans are the evil ones.

There is more. We are losing this country to the devil and we cannot convince the church that it is her responsibility to do anything about it. The world is going to hell and what is the message they are getting from the church? Go on to hell?! We don’t want to offend people with anything negative. Let the world tell us what kind of sermons they want to hear. Let the world tell us what kind of music it wants. Let the world tell us what kind of material to publish. Let the world tell us what kind of entertainment it wants. Excuse me, does the Bible not tell us that the world hates Jesus Christ?!!! You will not find the answers in the world, but you will find them in the Word of God.


What is the blessing? What is in it for me? I am almost embarrassed to ask the question. What is in it for me is the assurance that the God Who saved me is preserving me and He will preserve me to the end. What is in it for those who repent during the Great Tribulation? They will receive the seal of the living God and they will be protected from the most serious judgments.

The very name for our Lord, Yahweh (I AM) tells me that He exists of Himself, that he is the uncaused Cause of all that exists. He is also the source of my existence, my Creator, my Sustainer, and my Redeemer. While there are many things about end-time events I do not understand, and while there are many things that remain a mystery, there are some things I do know. I “know that my Redeemer lives and on the earth again shall stand.” Furthermore:

“I am not ashamed, for I know whom I have believed and am persuaded that He is able to keep what I have committed to Him until that Day” (2 Tim. 1:12, NKJV).

What’s in it for me? Where is the blessing?

“He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. He who overcomes will not be hurt by the second death” (Rev. 2:11, NASB).

“Blessed and holy is he who has part in the first resurrection. Over such the second death has no power, but they shall be priests of God and of Christ, and shall reign with Him a thousand years” (Rev. 20:6, NKJV).


If you are one of those people who has heard the Gospel preached over and over and you have never called on Jesus Christ for His great salvation, I am going to ask you to pray with me now, repenting of your sins, calling on the Lord to forgive you and save you. If you are a saved person and you have not served the Lord as faithfully as you know your should, you are a backslider and you need desperately to repent. Trust Him to forgive you and restore you. It is through the grace of God that you can throw yourself on the mercy of the eternal Judge.

Now, if you do not feel that you need to make any decision, you may be the very one who needs to seek forgiveness and restoration right now. He may not lead you to make that decision publically - but He may be speaking to you now. We are giving you that opportunity.

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