In this article, John's prophecy in Revelation 9:1-11 is interpreted as a symbolic description of those who teach the ancient superstition of the unending infernal torment of unbelievers.
Preston Eby wrote:
We do ourselves much injury when we seize upon every Scripture which proclaims the salvation of all men, but carefully avoid all Scripture which speaks of the fearful judgement of the wicked. Yet even greater harm is done when people insist upon taking the other point of view, as almost the entire Church system has done for centuries, emphasizing only those Scriptures which seem to teach the unending doom of those unfortunate creatures who never once heard that God had a Son and skillfully avoiding every direct statement of Scripture which indicates that God has reconciled all things to Himself, and that every knee shall bow and every tongue shall confess to God of things in heaven and things in earth and under the earth.
In the interpretation of the prophecy of Revelation 9:1-11 below, the meanings from the prophetic symbols are derived from scripture. The translation used is the NIV.
"The fifth angel sounded his trumpet, and I saw a star that had fallen from the sky to the earth. The star was given the key to the shaft of the Abyss. When he opened the Abyss, smoke rose from it like the smoke from a gigantic furnace." [Revelation 9:1-2]
A fallen star could refer to one of the early Christians. In Revelation 12:4, the tail of the dragon drew a third of the stars to the earth. The stars are symbolic of saints, Genesis 22:17, 37:9, Daniel 12:3.
The star may be identified with one of the church fathers, who believed in pagan superstition of the unending infernal torment of unbelievers, and introduced that doctrine into the church. Edward White's Life in Christ, (London 1875) identifies Augustine as the one who was chiefly responsible for the orthodox doctrines of the church on the fate of unbelievers. See: http://vinyl2.sentex.ca/~tcc/OP/white.html
The smoke from the bottomless pit in verse 2 is a metaphor, of course. The bottomless pit is where Satan is restrained, in Revelation 20:3. Smoke like the smoke of a furnace was associated with the destruction of Sodom, Genesis 19:28. And smoke like the smoke of a furnace hid the Lord when he descended on Mount Sinai to give Moses the Ten Commandments. In the context of John's prophecy it probably refers to a lot of false teaching and confusion. Pagan superstitions about death and the soul were introduced into the church in the early centuries AD. The historian Livy in Hist., I:19, says Numa Pompilius, the second king of Rome, invented the fear of the gods, as "a most efficacious means of governing an ignorant and barbarous populace."
The ancient historian Polybius also reported that superstition and a "pageantry of terrifying fiction" was promoted in ancient Roman society, by their rulers, as a means of restraining the passions of the people. He wrote, "The ancients, therefore, acted not absurdedly, nor without good reason, when they inculcated the notions concerning the gods, and the belief of infernal punishments..." [Histories VI,56]
Because of the influence of the superstition that Polybius refers to above, people continue to view God as mean and unforgiving, but the scriptures reveal a God of love, who is very merciful. "The Lord is merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and plenteous in mercy. He will not always chide; neither will He keep His anger forever." [Psalms 103:8,9]
"The sun and sky were darkened by the smoke from the Abyss." [Revelation 9:3]
The sun represents the gospel; the sun clothes the woman in heaven, Rev. 12:1. Jesus spoke of the righteous shining as the sun, in the kingdom of their Father, Matthew 13:43. The sun becoming dark means the truth of the gospel is obscured.
"And out of the smoke locusts came down upon the earth" [Revelation 9:3]
The locusts in John's prophecy resemble the locusts of the great destructive army described in Joel 2.
"and were given power like that of scorpions of the earth." [Revelation 9:3]
Scorpions are mentioned in connection with chastisement and punishment in scripture. Solomon's son Rehoboam said to the people of Israel, "My father hath chastised you with whips, but I will chastise you with scorpions." [1 Kings 12:11]
"They were told not to harm the grass of the earth or any plant or tree, but only those people who did not have the seal of God on their foreheads." [Revelation 9:4]
These are not real locusts, but people who spread a flawed doctrine about the fate of unbelievers.
"They were not given power to kill them, but only to torture them for five months." [Revelation 9:5]
The life span of the desert locust is 3 to 5 months, but varies depending on environmental conditions. Five months, or 150 days, was the duration of the flood waters that covered the earth, and destroyed all those not saved in the ark of Noah, and the unsaved are those who are affected by their torment. Perhaps the 5 months of torment represents a "locust life- span".
"And the agony they suffered was like that of the sting of a scorpion when it strikes a man." [Revelation 9:5]
The doctrine of the locusts is that those who do not accept their religion will be punished for their sins, and suffer agonizing pain, and an unending infernal torment.
"During those days men will seek death, but will not find it; they will long to die, but death will elude them." [Revelation 9:6]
This verse describes the doctrine of infernal torment of unbelievers, whose souls are said to be immortal, so they can't die.
"The locusts looked like horses prepared for battle." [Revelation 9:7]
John compares the locusts with horses. In scripture, people with no understanding are compared with horses.
Be ye not as the horse, or as the mule, which have no understanding: whose mouth must be held in with bit and bridle, lest they come near unto thee.
Their riders are men, as they are ridden by the doctrines of men.
"On their heads they wore something like crowns of gold," [Revelation 9:7]
Arron the high priest wore a crown of gold, Leviticus 8:9.
Crowns of gold may represent halos that are shown on the heads of the saints in old paintings;
The crowns show the locusts are religious people, or churchmen. [1 Peter 2:9]
"Their hair was like women's hair," [Revelation 9:8]
Long hair like women suggests the Narazites, who were devoutly religious. It may also show they are confident in their own safety, and their own salvation: 2 Samuel 14:11, Luke 21:18.
The locusts of Revelation 9 obviously don't recognize themselves as being locusts. It is simply a metaphor. The teachings are destructive, and a locust plague is destructive. They exist in vast multitudes, and locusts also are very numerous. Locusts actually come in both sexes, male and female. Their hair like the hair of women is metaphorical; perhaps it represents confidence about ones' own security, concerning salvation. Their long hair implies safety, as in the statement of Jesus "there shall not an hair of your head perish" [Luke 21:18]. If their hair does not perish, it continues to grow until it is long. So their confidence in their own salvation is pictured by the metaphor "hair like the hair of women".
"and their teeth were like lions' teeth." [Revelation 9:8]
Lions' teeth represent people who are fierce, as Paul said they would be in the last days.
2 Timothy 3:1-3
This know also, that in the last days perilous times shall come. For men shall be lovers of their own selves, covetous, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, Without natural affection, trucebreakers, false accusers, incontinent, fierce, despisers of those that are good,
"They had breastplates like breastplates of iron," [Revelation 9:9]
Breastplates are associated with righteousness in Ephesians 6:14. The locusts tout their own righteousness. Their breastplates of iron show they are impervious to the truth, and to reason, so even God can't touch their cruel hearts.
"and the sound of their wings was like the thundering of many horses and chariots rushing into battle." [Revelation 9:9]
Horses and chariots rushing to battle would make a loud, clattering noise, as chariot wheels rolled over stony ground.
"They had tails and stings like scorpions," [Revelation 9:10]
Isaiah said, "the prophet that teacheth lies, he is the tail" Isaiah 9:15.
"and in their tails they had power to torment people for five months." [Revelation 9:10]
The tails are symbolic of a "prophet that teaches lies" as that is what the locusts are, false prophets. They have another gospel, a distortion of the true gospel of Christ, that incorporates the doctrine of infernal torment of unbelievers. Centuries of tradition have cemented the concept of unending infernal torment in the minds of many. Their views are not easily discarded.
"They had as king over them the angel of the Abyss, whose name in Hebrew is Abaddon," [Revelation 9:11]
Abaddon means destroyer, Job 26:6. The effect of the locust plague is that it destroys the church, and obscures the gospel. It paints God as a cruel monster, a fiend.
"and in Greek, Apollyon." [Revelation 9:11]
This probably alludes to Apollo Parnopius, the Greek god of plagues. (Parnopius means "grasshopper.") Apollo was also a god of prophecy.