You Have Not Returned to Me
Chapter 9 picks up the next two trumpets following the first four we looked at last week. The 5th and the 6th trumpet seem to deal with invasions. Are they human or are they demonic? It's not that clear, however, what does seem to be apparent is that there will be those that still remain unrepenting!
We see a star fall from the sky. Linking this to the angel of the Abyss in verse 11 seems to suggest that the star is the angel. There is no doubt that the Abyss is a place of evil, a place where evil entities are imprisoned.
And they begged Jesus repeatedly not to order them to go into the Abyss. (Luke 8:31)
The 5th trumpet may point more towards a human invasion. The locusts point back to one of God's plagues He used to help free the Israelites from Pharaoh. These locusts though are not concerned with damaging crops and land, but rather harming people. These composite creatures are meant to scare and scare they do. We see composite creatures used even in Greek-Roman culture and mythology. Some of these descriptions were taken from Joel 1:6 and 2:4. These point to a human army invasion. Even the imagery of golden crowns could point back to Roman soldiers who wore bronze helmets. The fact they had long hair also pulls in the idea of the Parthians, although the next trumpet makes more reference to this empire. Scorpians stings (apparently) aren't life-threatening to humans, just very painful. I haven't tested this, but does tie into this trumpet's purpose... to inflict pain and suffering. The purpose of which is to cause people to repent.
Now the 6th trumpet. We see a golden alter. Linked to the incense alter found in Exodus 30:1-3 and Hebrews 9:4. This in turn links to the prayer (when incense was burned) of the saints (chapter 8). This alter is not where sacrifices were made, but rather emphasises the judgement that the martyrs are calling for.
Here we see a closer tie in with the Parthians. The empire who bordered with the Romans along the river Euphrates. They were the archrivals and an empire that the Romans struggled with (possibly even feared), to defeat in battle. Their house back riding archers seemed to have the beating of the organised army of the Romans. We see this invasion bring in death this time. The sting in the tail this time of snakes (like the mythological character Medusa). The four angels, possibly evil, being used by God to strike down 1/3 of the people. It's then that we see the outcome. That the remaining 2/3 still didn't turn back to God.
God has used this form of justice before, see Amos 4:6-11. Using judgement to encourage repentance. Not like Greek-Roman gods who became angry and vengeful. No, our God is using it to show people that they have a purpose, and that's to bring glory and honour to Him. That we are made in His image and that by denying this and rejecting God we end up depending on other earthly things, that is, we replace God with something else. This is idolatry!
So, while this is a horrific chapter and one that doesn't bring comfort, it does shake us up, it does move us from a life of complacency. One that helps us focus on standing fast in faith and for us not to be compromised by the ways of this world! We are God's people sealed and protected (Rev 9:4). Demonic preditors can't touch us. God is not absent in times of trouble, but rather in control.
So, while this call to repentance is aimed at the remaining people, I think this is also a reminder to us, God's people, those that have been sealed, that we are to stand fast in faith, to trust and depend on nothing other than God. We are His people and therefore we are to put anything first before God. He who has saved us through His own son. The one true, living God who has provided us with eternal hope with Him and through Him - forever and ever!