Revelation: Discussion Guide & Commentary (PDF)

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In this overview of the book of Revelation there are thought-provoking questions for you to give out in advance. More importantly, there is also a teacher's guide with the answers to the questions (including Greek word studies, historical data, commentary, theological truths, applications, illustrations, etc.).


Presented in each study are the four main views of interpretation: Preterism, Historicism, Futurism and Idealism.  


“I just began to read the Revelation study this morning and LOVE it. Thank you . . . Just so very much love your emphasis of Jesus in this study!!! That's the way it is meant to be, as John says in Revelation 1 -- "The revelation of Jesus Christ." vs 1. . . glory be to HIM!  And so like your reviewing for considering the various perspectives, futurist etc., as well as the question format. I plan to ask our fellowship about using it for the Scripture reading part of our times together - I think it likely we'll start it this very week even, like tomorrow . . .Thank you much again for this excellent Revelation study and work . . .”

 — L.A. in New York


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Here is sample Lesson:

Revelation 9 Answers

Woe Trumpets Five and Six

A World Gone Wild!


Teacher’s Tool:  Display a map of the Middle East and Turkey for this lesson.

What was Revelation 8 about? It was about the breaking of the seventh seal of the scroll.  This seventh seal then initiated the sounding of the first four of seven trumpets.

On the whole, what effect did the sounding of the four trumpets have on the earth (Re 8)?  They resulted in a destruction of a third of the land, a third of the sea, a third of the rivers and a third of the stars.

What dire warning/prophecy did an eagle give in 8:13?  The eagle cried that the last three trumpets (#5 – # 7) would result in “woe”.  Evidently this woe would be even worse that what had already happened. It will be a world gone wild!


****What terrifying sight did John see at the sound of the fifth trumpet (9:1-6)?  John saw warms of stinging locusts pouring out of the bottomless pit.  This is seemingly an invasion from hell.

How can a star be given a key to open a shaft (9:1)?  Obviously this was a symbolic star, not a literal star.

Who or what could this star represent (9:2)?  See Genesis 37:9-10, Isaiah 14:12, Luke 10:18, Revelation20:1-3.  

1.  Some feel that star represents Satan, a fallen angel, who elsewhere in Scripture is compared to a star.

ESV Isaiah 14:12  ~ How you are fallen from heaven, O Day Star, son of Dawn! How you are cut down to the ground, you who laid the nations low!

ESV Luke 10:18 ~ Jesus: I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven.

2.  Sometimes in the Bible, a star represents a religious or civil leader (such as a king or ruling family).  For a star to fall represents the loss of power.  Thus, some interpret this star to represent an earthly leader who had fallen from power.

ESV Genesis 37:9-10 ~ Then he dreamed another dream and told it to his brothers and said, "Behold, I have dreamed another dream. Behold, the sun, the moon, and eleven stars were bowing down to me."  But when he told it to his father and to his brothers, his father rebuked him and said to him, "What is this dream that you have dreamed? Shall I and your mother and your brothers indeed come to bow ourselves to the ground before you?"

3.  Some feel this fallen star is a good angel, the same one seen later in Revelation 20:1-3 who casts Satan into the abyss, closes the hatch and locks it shut.

Grammar:  John saw a star “fallen” (ESV, not “falling”) from heaven to earth.  What is the difference in meaning between fallen and falling (9:1)?  John did not see the star as it was falling. The star was “fallen”, meaning that the star had already fallen when John saw it.

What is the bottomless pit (9:1-2)? See Luke 8:27-31, Revelation 20:1-3.  “ “Bottomless” is from abussos (12), “boundless, bottomless”; basis for “abyss”.  Pit” is from phrear (5421), “a well; pit”.

The nether world was popularly thought to increase in size the further it extended from the surface of the earth and thus to resemble a cistern, the orifice of which is narrow (Thayer).  As is evident from Luke 8, a place called the abyss is identified as a prison for demonic spirits (PBD, p 8). Technically, the pit was/is a place of demonic confinement, and is not the same as hell (Morris, p 128).

Can you imagine what would happen if, worldwide, all prison doors were flung open and every arsonist, drug addict, rapist, murder, thief, child abuser, gang member, pervert and wicket person were let out?  With absolutely no police force to control them?  Can you imagine?  How would you like to live in a world like that?

Why was smoke billowing out of this pit (rather than butterflies or water, 9:2)?  Perhaps it was lit by the very fires of hell!  Volcanoes spew out smoke from deep within the earth; perhaps this is a fiery parallel.  

How much smoke billowed out of the pit (9:2)?  Enough to darken the sun and air; the point is that there was a lot of it.  This is a Satanic smoke screen.

According to 9:3, what came forth out of the smoke itself?  Locusts.  In the Middle East, swarms of locusts were known to darken the sky, with a loud roaring from their wings, eating and stripping everything green.

What power was given to the locusts (9:3)? The power to sting like scorpions.

What is a scorpion’s sting like (9:3)? It causes excruciating pain, it makes one nauseated and one’s glands will swell, but is seldom fatal (Ladd, p 132).  Can you imagine being subjected to such stings for months on end?

What limitations were put on these locusts (9:4-5)?  They were not allowed to harm the grass, plants, trees (as real locusts would) or those who had God’s seal on their foreheads (7:1-8).  Further, they could torment, but not kill (the sting of a scorpion is painful, but rarely fatal).

Review:  What men will have the seal of God on their foreheads (9:4)?See Revelation 7:3-4. This refers to either 144,000 Christian Jews or to all of spiritual Israel, the church.

How much time did the locusts have to inflict pain (9:5)?   Five months.  This seems like a random amount of time; at the very least it suggests the time of torment is for a limited duration.

Insight:  That the time and extent of the torment was limited shows that these executors of God’s judgment could do nothing except as allowed by God.

How is it that people will not be able to die (9:6)? Taken literally, this clearly would be a supernatural phenomenon.

Why will God not allow these men to die (9:6)? Death would be an escape from judgment, and escape is something God will not permit.


**** What is appearance of these locusts (9:7-11)?  (Try to envision them).  The locusts looked like battle horses, but with crowns, human faces, long hair like women, lion’s teeth, iron armor and noisy wings.

Why did John give us this detailed description (9:7-11)?  A crown suggests domination, the man’s face suggests intelligence, the woman’s hair speaks of seductiveness, the lion’s teeth suggest destructiveness; iron breastplates imply invincibility and heartlessness; the loud sound of their wings suggests a multitude of them. The overall effect is terrifying and demonic.

According to 9:11, what angel is the king of these locusts? The king is an angel named Abaddon (Hebrew) or Apollyon (Greek), which mean destruction or destroyer. (“Abaddon” is from the Hebrew abaddon (11) and means “destruction, ruin.” “Apollyon,” is from the Greek apolluon (623) and means a “destroyer.”)  

The Point:  Destruction and doom are coming.

What is the difference between an “angel” (9:11) and a demon? Matthew 25:41, 2 Peter 2:4. In English, an angel is always good and a demon always bad.  However, in Greek, “angel,” aggelus (32), can also refer to fallen angels, angels who proved faithless to the trust committed to them by God, and who gave themselves over to sin (Thayer), 2 Peter 2:4.  For instance, Matthew 25:41 makes reference to “the devil and his angels”.

Thus, the angel over the locusts may have been a fallen angel.

Preterism:   Preterists understand the fifth trumpet to describe the spiritual and moral decay within Judaism in the time leading up to their defeat by the Romans.  

The smoke from the pit symbolizes an obscuring of the truth.  

The fallen star represents a Jewish religious figure promoting heresy, such as the high priest.  

Their king (9:11) is none other than Satan himself (indeed, Jesus had told the Jews that their true father was the devil, John 8:44).  

The locusts represent armies of demons and the promotion of heresy and immorality by demons (the doctrine of demons) with Judaism.  That whole generation who rejected Jesus became demonized.  

However, God’s true people, the church (the sealed), were not hurt by the locusts because the church held to the truth of Jesus and was immune to the false teachings of apostate Judaism.  

Preterists see in Revelation 9 the fulfillment of Matthew 12:43-45.

ESV Matthew 12:43-45 ~ "When the unclean spirit has gone out of a person, it passes through waterless places seeking rest, but finds none. Then it says, 'I will return to my house from which I came.' And when it comes, it finds the house empty, swept, and put in order. Then it goes and brings with it seven other spirits more evil than itself, and they enter and dwell there, and the last state of that person is worse than the first. So also will it be with this evil generation."

Some Preterists understand the five months (9:5) to refer to the five months (May to September) in the year of the Roman siege (A.D. 70) when the Jewish zealots inside Jerusalem caused such suffering for their fellow Jews inside the city.

The death wish (9:16) is a fulfillment of Jesus’ words of Luke 23:28-30.

ESV Luke 23:28-30 ~ Jesus said, "Daughters of Jerusalem, do not weep for me, but weep for yourselves and for your children. For behold, the days are coming when they will say, 'Blessed are the barren and the wombs that never bore and the breasts that never nursed!’  Then they will begin to say to the mountains, 'Fall on us,' and to the hills, 'Cover us.'”

That these locusts had faces of men and hair of women suggests that there would be transvestite activity going on.  Josephus said of the Zealots:

“With their insatiable hunger for loot, they ransacked the houses of the wealthy, murdered men and violated women for sport; they drank their spoils with blood, and from mere satiety and shamelessness gave themselves up to effeminate practices, plaiting their hair and putting on women’s clothes, drenched themselves with perfumes and painting their eyelids to make themselves attractive. They copied not merely the dress, but also the passions of women, devising in their excess of licentiousness unlawful pleasures in which they wallowed as in a brothel. Thus they entirely polluted the city with their foul practices. Yet though they wore women’s faces, their hands were murderous. They would approach with mincing steps, then suddenly become fighting men, and, whipping out their swords from under their dyed cloaks, they would run through every passerby” (Wars, IV:9:10, Gregg, p. 175ff).

Historicism:  The Historicist position really shines in this passage (Gregg, p. 147ff).

These locusts represent the Muslim Arabs (the Saracens) and their campaigns against the Middle-Eastern part of the Roman Empire (Palestine and Jerusalem) from A.D. 612 to 763, a 150 year period.  Islamic tradition speaks of locusts having dropped into the hands of Mohammed, bearing on their wings the inscription, “We are the army of the Great God.

Their king (9:11) is Mohammed, who was of a royal family that had fallen from power (thus the already fallen star, 9:1).    

The crowns (9:7) are the Saracens’ turbans.  It is a fact of history that these Arab warriors wore turbans and had long hair (9:8).  Pliny wrote of the “turbaned Arabs with their uncut hair.”  The Arabian poem Antar, written during the time of Mohammed, reads, “He adjusted himself, twisted his beard, and folded his hair under his turban, drawing it up from his shoulders.”  

As for the decree that no vegetation be harmed (9:4) by the locusts, Mohammed’s Koran states, “Destroy no palm trees, nor any field of corn, cut down no fruit trees” (this was in stark contrast to the slash and burn tactics of the earlier Gothic invasion, 8:7).  

Those who could not be killed by the locusts were the Greek and Latin Churches in the Middle East which, although decimated, were not destroyed.  The decimation occurred because most of them did not have the mark of God’s protection because they were carnal and idolatrous.

The five months represent 150 years (one day = one year; 30 days/month x 5 months = 150 days or years); the Saracens attacked from A.D. 612 to A.D. 763 (150 years).  Their attacks lessened and then ceased when they built their new capitol, Baghdad.

As for the iron breastplates (9:9), the Saracens also had iron coats of mail.  The Koran states, “God has given you coats of mail to defend you in your wars”.

The stings in the tail (9:10) may refer to the fact that the Saracens were known to be adept at fighting rearward over the tails of their horses.

Catholicism:  The locusts are the Lutherans of the Reformation; Martin Luther is the fallen star (Gregg, p. 175ff)!

Futurism:  Futurists generally take the fallen star to be Satan.  The locusts are not typically seen as literal (for a change!), but as symbolic for hordes of demons unleashed from divine confinement to inflict a spiritual and physical plague upon the earth.  Hal Lindsey suggested the locusts were Vietnam-era Cobra helicopters.  Moorehead identified the locusts as the Russia army.  No explanation is usually given for the features of the locusts (man’s face, woman’s hair, iron armor, etc., Gregg, p. 175ff).

Idealism:  The locusts represent demonic forces unleashed upon the earth from out of the prison of demons, and led by Satan.  Thus, unlike normal locusts, they are not interested in grass.  The blotting out of the light represents being plunged into spiritual darkness, deception and delusion.  Those sealed, God’s people, are protected from being deceived by the demons.  The five month time frame means the time of torment will be limited (Gregg, p. 175ff).


****As bad as this first woe was, what was yet to come (9:12)?  See 8:13.  Two more woes (trumpets six and seven).  This verse serves as a dramatic pause in the action.  Take a deep breath; worse is yet to come..


****What ghastly invasion did John witness when the sixth angel sounded (9:13-19)?  John witnessed a cavalry invasion of 200,000,000 horsemen from across the Euphrates River.  

In the tabernacle, what was the golden altar with four horns (9:13)? See also Psalm 141:2, Revelation 8:3, 5:8. The golden altar in the earthly tabernacle was a table, a golden altar, called the altar of prayer, which contained incense.  This incense was said earlier in Revelation to represent the prayers of the saints (5:8).

What do horns represent elsewhere in the Bible (9:13)?  Horns, in the Bible, often speak of power.  The High Priest would sprinkle the blood of the sacrifice on the four horns of the altar of prayer.  The blood of Jesus gives power to our prayers.

Why is this voice coming from the golden altar (as opposed to somewhere else, 9:13)?  These divine orders are in response to the prayers of God’s people. Prayer is a powerful force.  

Truth:  In 6:9-11, the praying saints were told to wait a little longer.  Prayer delayed is not prayer denied.  It does not necessarily mean that God did not hear or that He said no.  Sometimes He says, “wait”.  So, they waited.  

God has His own schedule.  Now here in Revelation 9 we see God responding to the prayers of Revelation 6.

The Prayer Factor:  Prayer is the saints’ secret weapon.  It can be launched from any place in the world.  It can travel undetected at the speed of light.  It hits the target every time.  Satan has no defense against it (there is no anti-prayer missile).  It often has a delayed detonation (as we see here in Revelation 6-9).  (Sermon by Adrian Rogers, Bellevue Baptist Church).

Where is the great river Euphrates (9:14)? (See an atlas.) It runs from far eastern Turkey down through Syria and Iraq, and empties into the Persian Gulf.  It is the longest river (1780 miles) in the region (PBD, p 263).  It divides East from West.  In relation to the seven churches (Re 2-3), which were in extreme western Turkey, the Euphrates was about 700 miles due east.

It is a historical fact that in the first century the Parthian armies from beyond the Euphrates were a constant threat to Roman peace. Picking up on this Eastern threat beyond the borders of the empire, John gave it renewed meaning.

Why had these four angels, these filthy four, been bound (9:14)? See Jude 6.  Evidently because they were evil and destructive; it was to restrain them, even as the “bottomless pit” was closed with a lock, Revelation 9:1.

ESV Jude 1:6 ~ And the angels who did not stay within their own position of authority, but left their proper dwelling, he has kept in eternal chains under gloomy darkness until the judgment of the great day . . .

Who released the four bound angels (9:13-14)?  The text suggests that the angel with the sixth trumpet released them.

Why were these angels released (for what purpose, 9:15)? They were released in order to kill a third of mankind.

It says these angels had been “prepared” (9:15) for this moment.  In what way had they been “prepared”?  It is not that God created them to be evil, but rather after they had already rebelled, God “prepared” them for later use by binding them until such a time as they were needed. God released rebellious angels against rebellious men as a form of judgment.  

Sovereign Timing: With God, timing is more important than time.  God does not punch a time clock when He goes to work!  The Holy Trinity has never yet convened an emergency meeting; all is in God’s control.  Everything is exactly according to God’s time table, down to the year, the month, the day, even the very “hour” (9:15). God is in control.  Not a speck of dust moves without God’s permission.  God a blade of grass blows without God’s permission.  God is never ahead of time and God is never late.  Satan may be sinister, but God is sovereign.  God is always on time (sermon by Adrian Rogers, Bellevue Baptist Church).

Just because it has been 2,000 years since Jesus stepped into glory, do not forget for one second that one day the trumpet will sound and Jesus will appear again.

Based on 9:16, what method will these four angels use to kill a third of mankind? It appears that they will develop, empower and then release an army of 200,000,000 mounted troops. When restraint is removed, battles begin.  Evidently the four angels will work behind the scenes to insure the success of this cavalry.  They will be demonically empowered.  

In 9:16, why did John feel the need to write, “I heard their number”? There probably were not 200,000,000 people on the face of the earth when John wrote this.  Likely he thought someone would think he had gotten his decimal point in the wrong place with such a large number!

What in 9:17 indicates that these are not normal horses? These horses have heads like lions with fire, smoke and brimstone (sulfur) coming out of their mouths!

Futurism:  Some have suggested the 200,000,000 are Chinese cavalry, crossing the Euphrates to invade Israel. The Chinese certainly must breed exotic horses! Yet it is interesting that at one time Red China boasted to be able to field an army of two hundred million (Time, 5/21/65, p 35).  As of 2011 it was under 5 million (Wikipedia).

What three colors of breastplates did these horsemen have (9:17)?  

What is the color of fire (9:17)? Red.

What is the color of sapphire (ESV) or Hyacinth (NIV, 9:17)? It is from huakinthanos (5191), basis for our word hyacinth.  It refers to a precious stone or a plant like our lily, iris or gladiola. Its color was hot blue or deep purple (Thayer, PBD p. 367).

What is the color of sulfur (9:17)? The word sulfur is from theion (2303) and means sulfur, which is yellow.

According to 9:18, what impact did these horsemen have on the world?They killed one third of mankind.

Reviewing all the judgments thus far, what percentages of the earth’s population would have been destroyed at this point?  See 6:8, 9:18.   In Revelation 6:8, one quarter were killed, leaving three quarters.   Now in 9:18, one third of the surviving three quarters were killed, leaving about one half of the original total alive (one half of the world’s population dead).

ESV Matthew 24:22 . . . if those days had not been cut short, no human being would be saved. But for the sake of the elect those days will be cut short.

According to 9:18, what was it that killed these people?  The fire, the smoke and the sulfur coming out of the mouths of the horses, which John described as three plagues (9:18a).

What in 9:19 verse further indicates that these are no ordinary horses?They had tails that were like serpents with heads, and with these they were able to wound people.  These are evidently demonic beings.  Not even Seabiscuit could win a race against these horses!

Preterism:  These horsemen represent the first century Roman armies invading Judea.

Many of the troops that took part (the 10th Legion) had been stationed at the Euphrates (9:14).  Also, many of Israel’s ancient enemies had crossed the Euphrates en route to invade Israel (Assyria, Babylon, Medo-Persia).  

The mention of an exact year, month and day shows it was a precisely anticipated and prophesied event, per Daniel’s Seventy Weeks (Dan 9:24-26).

The 200,000,000 is not a literal number; the point is that the invading numbers were so huge as to overwhelm the tiny Jewish state, a fulfillment of Deuteronomy 28.  

Historicism:  The Roman Empire was divided into three sections:  Latin Western Europe, North Africa, and the Greek Eastern Europe.  The sixth trumpet concerns the fall of the Greek third of the empire (9;15), otherwise known as the Byzantine Empire, with headquarters in Constantinople, which fell to the Turks in A.D. 1453 (thus that area is now called Turkey).  

The angels bound at the Euphrates (9:14) represent the fact that the Turks, for a very long time, mysteriously failed to cross the Euphrates.  The Turks had already conquered the Saracens and in the process converted to Islam. They conquered Baghdad, Persia and India, but then they mysteriously stopped their advance, as if bound by some unseen power. 

Finally, however, around A.D. 1000, they crossed the Euphrates and began harassing the Byzantine Empire.  Four hundred years later, Constantinople fell.  This four hundred year period corresponds to the time statement of 9:15 (a year for a day; a year of days is 365 years; a month is 30 years; a day is one year; an hour is a fraction of a year).  

200,000,000 (9:16) is a symbolic number meaning an indefinite, large number.  

It is a fact that the Turkish warriors were known for wearing red, blue and yellow apparel.  

The fire and smoke and sulfur coming out of the horses’ mouths refer to artillery (9:17).  The Fall of Constantinople was perhaps "the first event of supreme importance whose result was determined by the use of artillery" when the huge bronze cannons of Mehmed II, made by the Hungarian Orban, breached the city's walls, ending the Byzantine Empire. The smallest fired a stone shot weighing 200 pounds; the largest had a bore of three feet and could hurl a 1,200 pound ball.  

As for the power being in their tails (9:19), the authority of high ranking Turks was shown by attaching two or three horse tails to a pole as a standard (Gregg, p. 186ff).

Futurism:  The sixth trumpet predicts a future invasion of an Asian army under demonic influence, a divine judgment upon corrupt civilization.  The time statement (year, month, day and hour) shows it will happen at the time that God ordains.  John’s bizarre description of the horses is the best John can do to describe modern warfare (tanks, troop carriers, missile launchers, rocket batteries, helicopter gunships, etc.)  (Gregg, p. 186ff).

Idealism:  This vision reflects oft-recurring phenomena, spiritual in nature.  It represents the spiritual evils that afflict the ungodly in this life.  The number of such afflictions is great (myriads of myriads) and the fire and sulfur show it is a foretaste of hell.  The previous locust invasion represents spiritual armies of demons against the wicked.  This invasion of horsemen represents physical armies sent as punishment upon rebellious mankind.  This is not a single conflict at the end of the age, but rather applies to all war at all times throughout history.  The Lord Jesus will again and again punish the persecutors of the church by inflicting upon them disasters in every sphere of life (Gregg, p. 193ff).


****What spiritual impact did these plagues have on those who survived them (9:20-21)?  There was no positive impact.  They continued on in their idolatrous ways.  Surely in the midst of all this the world wondered, “Where is God?”  Yet they did not turn to him.  Rather than be horrified, they were hardened.  Their continued sin proves that these men deserved the judgment that God sent upon them.  God’s punishment of them was just.  If God’s love does not bring repentance, then God’s judgment will bring rebellion.

Illustration:  This attitude of unbelief toward God, despite His hand of judgment falling upon this, is illustrated in comments made by MSNBC political analyst Lawrence O’Donnell in April of 2011.  Said O’Donnell, “The Book of Revelation is a book of fiction describing how a vicious God would bring about the end of the world. No half smart religious person believes the Book of Revelation anymore.”  

Application:  We see here the power of God in either judgment or salvation.  You will either be pardoned in Christ or punished in Hell.

What does Revelation 9:20-21 tell us about the likelihood of people being converted during this time of God’s wrath? See 2 Thessalonians 2:9-12.These judgments, rather than driving people to God, will drive them further away.

ESV 2 Thessalonians 2:9-12  ~ The coming of the lawless one is by the activity of Satan with all power and false signs and wonders, and with all wicked deception for those who are perishing, because they refused to love the truth and so be saved.  Therefore God sends them a strong delusion, so that they may believe what is false, in order that all may be condemned who did not believe the truth but had pleasure in unrighteousness.

Preterism:  The Jews in Judea, having rejected Jesus, continued in their unbelief even as the Romans, city by city, continued to conquer their country.  Said Josephus, “Thus were the miserable people beguiled by these charlatans and false messengers of God, while they disregarded and disbelieved the unmistakable portents that foreshadowed the coming desolation; but, as though thunderstruck, blind, senseless, paid no heed to the clear warnings of God”  (Wars 4:5:3).

Historicism:  That the Byzantine survivors did not repent shows that the Greek Church had become apostate.

So What?

What does Revelation 9 tell us about fallen angels? Some of them are fallen and have become demons.  Not all such demons are free to roam the earth; at least some of these fallen angels are held in bondage by God and are limited in their destructive power.  Demons are sometimes behind the rise of human armies and behind military invasions.  Satan is a devil of war.  Demon spirits led the heart of Hitler.  Demon spirits are war mongering spirits to working n the hearts of men to move them to destruction and battle.  

What message would Revelation 9 have conveyed to the Christians of John’s day? It shows that Christians must not expect to live in a world that welcomes their witness; in fact, no matter how severe God’s judgment, the world still prefers its sin. God will be resisted to the limit, 1 Peter 4:12-19.  It also shows that God will act in response to the prayers of His people, that there will be payday someday.

Salvation Application:  If you don’t plan to be around during times of God’s wrath, then you need make other plans!

Review:  The four views of Revelation are summarized at


Stephen E. Atkerson