Times of Tribulation (Revelation 6-11) >Seven Trumpets >First four trumpets >The abyss
You have now reached Revelation chapter nine. This lesson covers the first two verses.
John sees the fifth angel sound his trumpet. Then John sees a vision of a bottomless pit out of which come a cloud of very strange locusts. This is "the first woe" of three which the eagle lamented (Revelation 8:13). This lesson is about the pit or abyss.
star "I saw a star from heaven which had fallen to earth" (Revelation 9:1) Jesus sent seventy disciples out to preach the gospel, and when they returned he said, "I was watching Satan fall from heaven" (Luke 10:1,16-20).
Since Jesus was not in natural sight of the seventy, he was “watching” in a vision. John’s vision is similar to what Jesus saw. The preaching of the gospel together with the prayers of the saints will make Satan fall and bring him low. This is what the fallen star means.
abyss This vision introduces us to "the bottomless pit" (Revelation 9:1). This abyss will be mentioned in later visions. See below, “Facts About the Abyss”.
key The "key of the bottomless pit" was given to the fallen star to open the shaft of the abyss (Revelation 9:1-2).
The star did not keep the key or have charge of it, for in a later vision an angel holds the key, and locks the abyss having chained Satan and cast him in.
Only Christ has a right to the keys of all spiritual realms, and nobody can open what he shuts or shut what he opens except they borrow the key from him (Revelation 3:7). Here is represented the fact that Christ allows Satan to be active within limits while the world lasts.
smoke "smoke went up out of the pit" (Revelation 9:2) This was a big smoke, like that from a great furnace. It polluted the air and darkened the sun.
This smoke is a parody of the incense at the heavenly altar in a previous scene. This horrible smoke is a symbol of great evil, of antichrist and spiritual darkness. It represents the tribulations suffered by all the world, Christians and non-Christians alike.
I once looked down into the abyss of an active volcano. On another occasion I experienced smoke from bushfires so thick over my town and its countryside, that the middle of the day became pitch dark like the middle of the night. I can imagine very well the awesome vision John sees of the abyss and its smoke.
The Abyss has an angel as its ruler. He is called Apollyon, the angel of destruction (Revelation 9:11).
This abyss is the domain of Satan the Dragon, yet in later visions it becomes his dungeon until he is loosed, and goes rampaging to his own doom (Revelation 1-3).
This is the sense in which the Dragon is "the beast that comes up from the Abyss" (Revelation 11:7, Revelation 17:8) although originally he came down from the heavens (Revelation 12:7-9).
The abyss is seen in the visions as an evil deep, a great and bottomless hole. It represents the powers of darkness. The abyss portrays the temporary restraining of the Devil while he is in this world, and resembles the spiritual dungeon where fallen angels await Judgment Day (2Peter 2:4, Jude 1:6).
The abyss is not a sign of, and should not be confused with, eternal hell. In the visions, eternal hell or "the second death" is seen as a "lake of fire and brimstone", that is to say a lake of burning sulphur (Revelation 20:1-2,10).
That fiery lake is what Jesus called "the eternal fire prepared for the Devil and his angels" (Matthew 25:41). Hell was not prepared for us, but unless we have our robes washed white in the blood of the Lamb, and unless we have our names written in the book of life, we too will be thrown there (Revelation 20:15).
Mind you, whilst the Abyss and the Lake of fire are different, they are not disconnected. They are both seen in the visions as instruments of God’s wrath. They both illustrate God’s intention to restrain, overpower, and destroy, everything evil and everyone who follows evil. This divine intention is strongly emphasised in the book of Revelation.
NOTE: It might help you to know that, in the Greek, the temporary dungeon for fallen angels (until Judgment Day) is called Tartarus. The hiding place of the dead (until Judgment Day) is called Hades. The final and eternal abode of the wicked (after Judgment Day) is called Gehenna. To avoid confusion, some translators reserve the word "hell" for the latter, and leave the other two words untranslated (transliterated).