Series - Abaddon

The Angel of the Bottomless Pit: Challenging Our Comfortable Worldview, Part 4

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I’ve said quite a lot about already about the angel of the bottomless pit, but I’ve not finished. I believe certain passages of Scripture act as hermeneutical touchstones. Decisions about what direction to take can be either determinative of where the exposition is going to go, or they highlight the assumptions brought to the text. One thinks of the Olive Tree metaphor in Romans 11, or the exhortation given to Ezekiel in Ezekiel 43. The first eleven verses of Revelation 9 are like that. They ask the interpreter, “Are you going to hold your nerve?”

Last time I ended by saying something about the strange statement of the angel who rebukes John for worshiping him in Revelation 22:9. This angel claimed to have been “of your brethren the prophets,” and I stuck my neck out and connected him with Daniel. I did so tentatively, let it be said, but in the spirit of inquiry. Still some might object to this because how can a man now be an angel? I don’t know. But I do know that the Angel of the Lord isn’t an “angel” either. (Of course, I realize that some writers insist that the Angel of the Lord is not a theophany, but most accept it). “The Angel of His Presence” (Isa. 63:9) is, after all, no mere angel. Therefore, the Bible does use the term “angel” (meaning “messenger”) in what we might call a non-technical sense, at least in respect to the Angel of the Lord.

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The Angel of the Bottomless Pit: Challenging Our Comfortable Worldview, Part 3

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The Angel and the Beast

We are now in a position to look at the angel of the bottomless pit. Here is the principal (some say only) verse referring to him:

And they had as king over them the angel of the bottomless pit, whose name in Hebrewis Abaddon, but in Greek he has the name Apollyon. (Rev. 9:11)

The first thing to notice is that in contrast to the fairly detailed descriptions of the demonic locusts in verses 3-10, the “king” gets one solitary verse and no description. Well, that’s not quite true; we are told that he is an angel, and seeing as the Book of Revelation is the Book where angels appear with more frequency than anywhere else in Scripture, we might learn something from that.

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The Angel of the Bottomless Pit: Challenging Our Comfortable Worldview, Part 2

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4. The smoke from the pit darkens an already darkened sun.

When I say “an already darkened sun” I do so because of Revelation 8:12:

Then the fourth angel sounded: And a third of the sun was struck, a third of the moon, and a third of the stars, so that a third of them were darkened. A third of the day did not shine, and likewise the night.

Here the sun is already greatly affected when the fourth trumpet sounded. As an aside, this verse assumes that, like the sun and the stars, the moon gives off its own light (cf. Matt. 24:29. Do with that what you wish, but I always take the “assured results of science” with a big grain of salt).

A Chronological Conundrum

Having said this, the question of chronology arises. When exactly is the fifth trumpet blown? We have to ask this question because in a purely sequential understanding of Revelation, not only must Revelation 8:12 be considered, there has already been an obscuration of the sun at the opening of the sixth seal:

I looked when He opened the sixth seal, and behold, there was a great earthquake; and the sun became black as sackcloth of hair, and the moon became like blood. And the stars of heaven fell to the earth, as a fig tree drops its late figs when it is shaken by a mighty wind. (Revelation 6:12-13)

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The Angel of the Bottomless Pit: Challenging Our Comfortable Worldview

There are some Bible passages that pose peculiar challenges to interpreters. These passages confront us with revelations of weirdness. We are faced with accepting and exploring this weird side of Scripture, or else with smoothing it over, perhaps by not actually dealing with it, but instead just pretending it is obscure, and on that basis, moving on. Episodes that qualify to be on the list of weird passages would include Genesis 6:1-4 and Joshua 10:11-14, but many could be added.

Certainly one of the strangest of these strange texts concerns the opening of the bottomless pit and “the angel of the bottomless pit” in Revelation 9. Here is how the passage opens:

Then the fifth angel sounded: And I saw a star fallen from heaven to the earth. To him was given the key to the bottomless pit. And he opened the bottomless pit, and smoke arose out of the pit like the smoke of a great furnace. So the sun and the air were darkened because of the smoke of the pit. Then out of the smoke locusts came upon the earth. And to them was given power, as the scorpions of the earth have power. They were commanded not to harm the grass of the earth, or any green thing, or any tree, but only those men who do not have the seal of God on their foreheads. And they were not given authority to kill them, but to torment them for five months. Their torment was like the torment of a scorpion when it strikes a man. In those days men will seek death and will not find it; they will desire to die, and death will flee from them. (Revelation 9:1-6)

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