Revelation 9

The Fifth and Sixth Trumpets


I saw a star which had fallen from heaven to earth, and the key to the shaft of the abyss was given to him (Revelation 9:1).

The word “shaft” (Gk. phrear) refers to a deep, vertical construction; elsewhere the same word refers to the shaft of a well of water (Luke 14:5; John 4:11). Shafts of this kind in the ancient world were typically lined with stone after being dug, to prevent the collapse of the walls. The well shown here at Lachish is from the Iron Age (ca. 1200–586 BC), but it is similar to wells of much earlier and much later periods, and many such wells, once dug, were used for centuries or even millennia.


And he opened the shaft of the abyss, and smoke ascended out of the shaft (Revelation 9:2).

One of the purported entrances to hell in the 1st century AD was located in Hierapolis, not far from Laodicea. The ancients discovered a natural crack in the ground that emitted a warm, suffocating gas that killed anything exposed to it for any length of time. A temple was built there to the god Pluto, the ruler of the underworld, and regular sacrifices and other activities were held there. This photo of the ruins of the temple of Pluto at Hierapolis was taken in the early morning, when mists shrouded the area.

Seal of God

They were told not to 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 (Revelation 9:4).

In the 1st century, a “seal” (Gk. sphragis) could refer either to an instrument made for sealing or stamping, or the impression or mark created by that instrument. Personal seals in the Roman period were typically made of a semiprecious or precious stone that was incised with an image, and sometimes with an inscription. This gold ring with an inset chalcedony seal stone illustrates a typical seal from the Greco-Roman period.

The Heavenly Altar

And I heard a voice from the horns of the golden altar (Revelation 9:13).

The tabernacle on earth was patterned after the temple in heaven (Heb 8:5). The incense altar was the only golden altar in the tabernacle or temple. The sacrificial altar, which was located in the courtyard, was made of bronze. This model was photographed at the 1:1 model of the tabernacle in the Timna Park in southern Israel.

Humanity's Idolatry

But the rest of mankind who were not killed by these plagues did not repent. They did not stop worshiping demons and idols of gold, silver, brass, stone, and wood (Revelation 9:20).

Ancient literary sources tell of the gold, silver, and other costly materials that were used to create Greco-Roman idols. This massive, life-size statue of Athena was built by Alan LeQuire in 1990, based on the descriptions and materials recorded in ancient literary sources about the Parthenon in Athens. It was photographed at the Nashville Parthenon.

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