“At thy right hand there are pleasures for evermore” (Ps. 16:11)
“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. And he opened the bottomless pit; and there arose a smoke out of the pit, as the smoke of a great furnace; and the sun and the air were darkened by reason of the smoke of the pit. And there came out of the smoke locusts upon the earth: and unto them was given power, as the scorpions of the earth have power. And it was commanded them that they should not hurt the grass of the earth, neither any green thing, neither any tree; but only those men which have not the seal of God in their foreheads. And to them it was given that they should not kill them, but that they should be tormented five months: and their torment was as the torment of a scorpion, when he striketh a man. And in those days shall men seek death, and shall not find it; and shall desire to die, and death shall flee from them” (Rev. 9:1–6).
So the fifth angel sounds, and the first of three woes is declared. In order to understand this well, we have to review some of our history.
The Jewish War lasted for three and a half years. This was prophetically declared by John the apostle just a few chapters later. The Temple is measured, and it is declared that the Gentiles will trample the holy city for 42 months (Rev. 11:2). And the same figure is given in the next verse, under a different form. 42 months of 30 days each amounts to 1260 days. In this passage, we are given the tormenting figure of 5 months, which I would link to the final months of the siege of Jerusalem (April through August, A.D. 70). This was the time during which the Jewish defenders of the city turned on each other in a terrible frenzy, and which Josephus records in his annals (Wars 5.1.5, 5.10.5, 6.3.4-5). Why is this relevant?
A star falls from heaven, and because a personal pronoun is used we know that it is a personage. He opens the Abyss, and smoke comes out of it, blocking the sun and choking the air. Out of that smoke a horde of locusts come, only with power to sting like scorpions. I take these to be demons because of the Lord’s instruction elsewhere. In the exorcism of Legion, the demons beg not to be sent to the Abyss, same word (Luke 8:31). And the Lord says something quite striking when He tells us what happens when a demon is cast out of a man.
“When the unclean spirit is gone out of a man, he walketh through dry places, seeking rest, and findeth none. Then he saith, I will return into my house from whence I came out; and when he is come, he findeth it empty, swept, and garnished. Then goeth he, and taketh with himself seven other spirits more wicked than himself, and they enter in and dwell there: and the last state of that man is worse than the first. Even so shall it be also unto this wicked generation” (Matt. 12:43–45).
Jesus had spent three years casting demons out of the House of Israel. Israel was the house that was found empty, swept, and garnished. All the demons that had been cast out—and there had been a multitude—went and gathered up a host of more demons, like a plague of locusts with a sting, and they poured back into that wicked generation. The Jewish defenders of Jerusalem in the final months were demon-possessed, hell bent on destruction. As we shall see in the next verses, they had a king over them, with the Hebrew name of Abaddon and the Greek name of Apollyon. It does not matter because the name means the same thing, which is Destruction.
The demons pent up in the Abyss are beyond frustrated because their nature is to destroy, and they dwell in a place where everything is already destroyed. They cannot wreck because they live in a wrecked place.
When released, they do not hurt the grass, and they cannot touch those who were sealed in chapter 7. Those they torment long for death, but death still eludes them.