Revelation Jewish New Testament, JNT, CJNT, David H. Stern

chapter 9
1. The fifth angel sounded his shofar; and I saw a star that had fallen out of heaven onto the earth, and he was given the key to the shaft leading down to the Abyss.
The star is not Satan (despite Isaiah 14:12, Lk 10:17), but an angel, who still has the key at 20:1. The Abyss is not Sh'ol (as at Ro 10:7), but a place where demonic beings are imprisoned (vv. 2-11, 11:7, 17:8, 20:2-3). In the Apocrypha, God is called, "You who close and seal the Abyss with your fearful and glorious name" (Prayer of Manasseh 3). 

2. He opened the shaft of the Abyss, and there went up smoke from the shaft like the smoke of a huge furnace; the sun was darkened, and the sky too, by the smoke from the shaft.
Like the smoke of a huge furnace or volcano, evoking images of Sodom (Genesis 19:28) and of Sinai; there too a shofar sounded (Exodus 19:18-19). 

3. Then out of the smoke onto the earth came locusts, and they were given power like the power scorpions have on earth.
Demonic monsters are released which fly like locusts (Exodus 10:12-20; Joel 1:4, 2:4-14) and sting like scorpions (Ezekiel 2:6, Lk 11:12). 

4. They were instructed not to harm the grass on the earth, any green plant or any tree, but only the people who did not have the seal of God on their foreheads.
The people who did not have the seal of God on their foreheads. See 7:1-8&NN. 

5. The locusts were not allowed to kill them, only to inflict pain on them for five months; and the pain they caused was like the pain of a scorpion sting.
"Five months" may mean "a few months, a short time." 

6. In those days people will seek death but will not find it; they will long to die, but death will elude them.
Compare 6:16, Jeremiah 8:3, Hosea 10:8, Job 3:21, Lk 23:30. 

7. Now these locusts looked like horses outfitted for battle. On their heads were what looked like crowns of gold, and their faces were like human faces.
8. They had hair like women’s hair, and their teeth were like those of lions.
9. Their chests were like iron breastplates, and the sound their wings made was like the roar of many horses and chariots rushing into battle.
The descriptions are from Joel 1:4-6, 2:4-5. 

10. They had tails like those of scorpions, with stings; and in their tails was their power to hurt people for five months.
11. They had as king over them the angel of the Abyss, whose name in Hebrew is “Abaddon” and in our language, “Destroyer.”
"The locusts have no king, yet all of them march in rank" (Proverbs 30:27). Here they have as king over them the angel of the Abyss, probably not the same angel as in v. I. In our language, "Destroyer." Literally, "in Greek, he has the name 'Apollon.'" Hebrew "Abaddon" and Greek "Apolluon" both mean "Destroyer." 

12. The first woe has passed, but there are still two woes to come.
See 8:13&N. 

13. The sixth angel sounded his shofar, and I heard a voice from the four horns of the gold altar before God,
14. saying to the sixth angel, the one with the shofar, “Release the four angels that are bound at the great river Euphrates!”
15. And they were released. These four angels had been kept ready for this moment, for this day and month and year, to kill a third of mankind;
16. and the number of cavalry soldiers was two hundred million! — I heard the number.
Two hundred million. Perhaps a literal number, but compare Psalm 68:18: "The chariots of God are twice ten thousand, thousands upon thousands." 

17. Here is how the horses looked in the vision: the riders had breastplates that were fire-red, iris-blue and sulfur-yellow; the horses’ heads were like lions’ heads; and from their mouths issued fire, smoke and sulfur.
18. It was these three plagues that killed a third of mankind — the fire, smoke and sulfur issuing from the horses’ mouths.
Fire... and sulfur. See 14:10aN. 

19. For the power of the horses was in their mouths — and also in their tails, for their tails were like snakes with heads, and with them they could cause injury.
The fifth shofar brought suffering, the sixth brings death.
Those who interpret literally take this as a description of some modern invention. On literal and figurative interpretation see 8:7-12N. 

20. The rest of mankind, those who were not killed by these plagues, even then did not turn from what they had made with their own hands — they did not stop worshipping demons and idols made of gold, silver, bronze, stone and wood, which cannot see or hear or walk (Psalms 115:4–7; 135:15–17; Daniel 5:23).
The locusts in Joel 2:4-10 were intended to bring about repentance (Joel 2:11-14); likewise here, but the people refused.
Idols, though themselves not real (1С 8:4, Psalm 115:4-8), have real demons behind them (1С 10:19-20). Moreover, not every idolatry involves bowing to statues (see Ep 5:5, Co 3:5,1 Yn 5:21&N). On this and plagues see 8:7-12N. 

21. Nor did they turn from their murdering, their involvement with the occult and with drugs, their sexual immorality or their stealing.
Nor did they turn.... Compare 16:9, 11, 21. All the sins named are connected with idolatry (v. 20). Misuse of drugs in connection with the occult. Greek phartnakeia, usually translated "sorceries," "witchcraft" or "magic arts," is here rendered by this longer phrase in order to focus on the fact that using potions and drugs is an essential part of the word's meaning — as is clear from the derived English words "Pharmaceuticals" and "pharmacy." The usual renderings suggest to many people a setting so removed from the fabric of their lives that the text does not speak to them. The reason I employ this lengthy expression is that the Jewish New Testament is a product of the 1980's, when the Western world has seen an explosion of drug abuse, and I want readers to understand that this subject is dealt with in the Bible.

Spiritually speaking, there are four distinct categories of drug misuse:
(1) taking drugs in order to explore spiritual realms,
(2) taking drugs in order to engage in "sorcery, witchcraft and magic arts" while under their influence,
(3) giving drugs to other people in order to gain control over them, which is another form of "sorcery, witchcraft and magic arts," and
(4) taking drugs for pleasure. The last is a misuse because the drugs in question — besides whatever temporary enjoyment they provide, and apart from their adverse medical and psychological effects — open a person to supernatural or spiritual experiences; but these experiences are almost always demonic and not from God, since the Holy One of Israel reveals himself through his Word (Ro 1:16-17, 10:8-17), not through drugs. (I know of one instance where God overruled LSD and spoke to someone under its influence; he became a believer immediately, was instantly sober and never used drugs again.)

Just as a virgin who has sexual intercourse can never again be a virgin, so a person is not the same after having taken mind-altering drugs. His range of experience has been broadened, but not every experience is edifying (1С 10:23). As Sha'ul puts it:

"You say, 'For me, everything is permitted"? Maybe, but not everything is helpful. 'For me, everything is permitted' ? May be, but as far as 1 am concerned, I am not going to let anything gain control over me. 'Food is meant for the stomach and the stomach for food'? Maybe, but God will put an end to both of them. Anyhow, the body is not meant for sexual immorality" [or for drugs] "but for the Lord, and the Lord is for the body."(1С 6:12-13) "I want you to be wise concerning good, but innocent concerning evil." (Ro 16:19)

From other New Testament passages where "pharmakeia" and its cognates appear, we learn that those who misuse drugs "have no share in the Kingdom of God" (Ga 5:20), so that they remain outside the holy city. New Jerusalem; and instead, "their destiny is the lake burning with fire and sulfur, the second death" (below, 21:8, 22:5). (At 18:23 pharmakeia has a different meaning.)

So much for the Bad News. The Good News is that when a pride-filled, weak-willed, uncaring, despairing drug-user trusts Yeshua the Messiah, God can turn him into a person of faith and right action. 

next chapter...