The Smoking Pit of Despair

“And I looked, and I heard an eagle flying in midheaven, saying with a loud voice, “Woe, woe, woe, to those who dwell on the earth, because of the remaining blasts of the trumpet of the three angels who are about to sound!” And the fifth angel sounded, and I saw a star from heaven which had fallen to the earth; and the key of the bottomless pit was given to him. And he opened the bottomless pit; and smoke went up out of the pit, like the smoke of a great furnace; and the sun and the air were darkened by the smoke of the pit.

“And they were told that they should not hurt the grass of the earth, nor any green thing, nor any tree, but only the men who do not have the seal of God on their foreheads. And they were not permitted to kill anyone, but to torment for five months; and their torment was like the torment of a scorpion when it stings a man. And in those days men will seek death and will not find it; and they will long to die and death flees from them.”

We’re not stopping here, we’re simply pausing to catch our breath, because the context continues–we’ll continue in it soon. In the meantime, we’ll continue to waltz through that which we have read now, remembering what we’ve read perviously. There is much to remember, I realize.

Remembering what we’ve read about all the grass having already been burned up, one may come to the conclusion that much time has elapsed since the first trumpet was sounded. This is entirely possible yet, if this is taken to literal extremes, and the tribulation is a literal 7 years, and the sun is shining for 1/3 less of the day, and the waters are 1/3 bitter, from where does this green grass come? Perhaps it is imagery after all. We are getting deep into Revelation’s imagery now, and we must remember that we don’t want to keep the Bible​ caged, so we’ll be using the CAGED method to unlock the meanings behind the imagery.

One Eagle Flying in Midheaven…

Imagery, without a doubt–even the most literal of text takers understands this is imagery. But do we who tabernacle in the United States think heavenly or Americanly? (The genre allows for me to make up words.) Is the heavenly perspective of an eagle the same as the American perspective? The American eagle symbolizes, freedom, resilience, strength and liberty. But what does the eagle represent in the Bible? Problem: the eagle symbolizes two vastly different images in the Bible. In Isaiah 40 we read, “Yet those who await for the LORD Will gain new strength; They will mount up with wings like eagles, They will run and not get tired, They will walk and not become weary.” And in Exodus 19, “You yourselves have seen what I did to the Egyptians, and how I bore you on eagles’ wings, and brought you to Myself.” However, we also read, “The LORD will bring a nation against you from afar, from the end of the earth, as the eagle swoops down, a nation whose language you shall not understand.” We also find in Hosea 8; “Put the trumpet to your lips! Like an eagle the enemy comes against the house of the LORD, Because they have transgressed My covenant, And rebelled against My law.”

Solution: Context

We don’t simply apply the symbolism of Hosea because we read of an eagle and a trumpet, but it is a good place to start. We look to our Old Testament tutor for similar images, wordings, situations–anything that jives with the context. In Revelation we read the eagle cries out, woe, woe, woe. And there are trumpets and the sense of gloom and doom. For this reason, we think of the eagle symbolism as it was used in the Old Testament prophecies–unwanted change. This now helps us moving forward as we waltz. Honestly, we need all the help we can get. We’ve come to the dreadful end of the trumpet blast, also known as the 3 woes. As we read, we waltz.

And the fifth angel sounded,

and I saw a star from heaven which had fallen to the earth;

and the key of the bottomless pit was given to him

And he opened the bottomless pit;

and smoke went up out of the pit,

like the smoke of a great furnace;

and the sun

and the air

were darkened by the smoke of the pit.

The angel sounded and a star, which had fallen from heaven, was given the key to the bottomless pit. Who was given the key? The Greek has been well translated​ to English, in all respects. I’m not going to give a lecture on subjects, verbs and predicates. We see by the sentence structure that the angel sounds, and the star is given the key. Yes, it is weird for a star to receive a key but it is in apocalyptic genre and the star is imagery, as is the key. The English agrees with the Greek. Also, notice that the star isn’t falling, but had fallen. Again the English does it’s best to translate the original Greek. To translate it it more literally would sound like, “having had fallen”–which isn’t proper English and doesn’t sound correct. Nevertheless, both are in the perfect tense in the participial mood. All this to say that we don’t know how, when, and for how long the star fell, but it has fallen. John wasn’t watching a shooting star but describing imagery of a star that has already fallen, at some point– a millisecond to a million millennium–we’re not told.

Let’s clear the air. Some claim that this star is the Antichrist. I ask; other than our presuppositions, is there any reason to assign this star to the Antichrist? No, there is not. Not one iota of evidence suggests that this is the denier of Christ. Though maybe it will as we continue to waltz, considering the context and genre.

The key, the pit and the smoke

Imagery: Key, bottomless pit and smoke–what do they represent? Remember back to Revelation one; “I am the first and the last, and the living One; and I was dead, and behold, I am alive forevermore, and I have the keys of death and of Hades.” According to this text, Jesus holds the keys of death and Hades; does this bottomless pit symbolize death and Hades?

Problem: we find many instances in the Bible for the place to which lost sinners go; the abyss, the outer darkness, the lake of fire, Hades, etc. We see that there seems to be a jail, or temporary holding cell at present, but in the future this holding cell will be cast into the lake of fire, an eternal prison. But we’re not there yet. What does the bottomless pit symbolize? And what about this key?

We have already read about the key of David in Isaiah 22:22, “Then I will set the key of the house of David on his shoulder, When he opens no one will shut, When he shuts no one will open.” In Matthew 16 Jesus says to Peter, “I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven; and whatever you bind on earth shall have been bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall have been loosed in heaven.” The Bible only mentions keys or, a key, about 10 times. Approximately 2 of which are literal, in Judges and in Chronicles, the rest are figurative, as in Luke 11:52. “Woe to you lawyers! For you have taken away the key of knowledge; you yourselves did not enter, and you hindered those who were entering.” As with Isaiah and Matthew, the keys are figurative. Actually, the imagery is fairly close to what we see in our modern time. If I were to give you the keys to my house, I am implying that I trust you and that I give you authorization to use my house. In the same way, if I gave you the keys to my car, it is implied, unless stipulations are made, that I am giving you authorization to use my car. In the passages we’ve looked at, a similar imagery is seen–the ability, the authorization and acceptance is given to the receiver of the keys. The star is given the authority of the bottomless pit.

In order to find out more about the pit and the star, it behooves us to continue in the context. Then the rest of the text about the green grass and scorpions will be illuminated for us. Revelation 9:11, “They have as king over them, the angel of the abyss; his name in Hebrew is Abaddon, and in the Greek he has the name Apollyon.”

Abaddon means destruction, Apollyon means destroyer. This one is easy, it must be Satan. That makes sense. We think of Satan as the fallen angel–angel is star in Revelation–and in 1 Corinthians Paul says, “Nor grumble, as some of them did, and were destroyed by the destroyer.” Clearly this is the wicked Satan himself. Or is it? Question: why would Jesus give the keys to the Chrysler to Satan?

“Is your love declared in the grave, your faithfulness in Destruction (Abaddon),” the Psalmist asks? Let’s look at the entire context:

“Lord you are the God who saves me; day and night I cry out to you. May my prayer come before you; turn your ear to my cry. I am overwhelmed with troubles and my life draws near to death. I am counted among those who go down to the pit;

I am like one without strength. I am set apart with the dead, like the slain who lie in the grave, whom you remember no more, who are cut off from your care.

You have put me in the lowest pit, in the darkest depths. Your wrath lies heavily on me; you have overwhelmed me with all your waves. You have taken from me my closest friends and have made me repulsive to them. I am confined and cannot escape; my eyes are dim with grief. I call to you, Lord, every day; I spread out my hands to you. Do you show wonders to the dead? Do their spirits rise up and praise you? Is your love declared in the grave, your faithfulness in Destruction? Are your wonders known in the place of darkness, or your righteous deeds in the land of oblivion?

But I cry to you for help, Lord; in the morning my prayer comes before you. Why, Lord, do you reject me and hide your face from me?

From my youth I have suffered and been close to death; I have borne your terrors and am in despair. Your wrath has swept over me; your terrors have destroyed me. All day long they surround me like a flood; they have completely engulfed me. You have taken from me friend and neighbor—darkness is my closest friend.”

Paul writes twice, to sing to each other in psalms, hymns and Spiritual songs–do you suppose the seven churches sang this Psalm?  It’s not until I study Revelation that I find out how Biblically illiterate I am.

The only other times that Abaddon is used in our Old Testament tutor is in Proverbs and in the book of Job. Yes, that book–the one in which God asks, Really? Where were you when I did everything?

I cannot set aside the imagery of the falling star, nor the King of scorpions or the destroyer. I believe this star to be the devil, Satan himself. But if it is, “Oh, the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgments and unfathomable His ways! For WHO HAS KNOWN THE MIND OF THE LORD, OR WHO BECAME HIS COUNSELOR? Or WHO HAS FIRST GIVEN TO HIM THAT IT MIGHT BE PAID BACK TO HIM AGAIN? For from Him and through Him and to Him are all things. To Him be the glory forever. Amen.”

To be continued…

 

 

 

 

 

 

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