Chapter nine begins immediately with the fifth trumpet (the first “woe”). Whereas the first four trumpets are “natural,” the next two are completely supernatural. At the sounding of the fifth trumpet the “shaft of the abyss” (“bottomless pit” in some translations) will be unlocked and opened. Outside of the Revelation, ἄβυσσος, abyssos, is used only in Luke 8:31 and Romans 10:7. In Luke, when Jesus cast the demons out of the pigs, they begged that he not send them into the abyss. In Romans, Paul quoted Deuteronomy 30:13 (substituting “into the abyss” for “beyond the sea”) to refer to Jesus’ resurrection. Since it is likened to a great furnace, it is possible that this abyss can be understood as hell or the lake of fire.
Out of this abyss came locusts, yet they were unlike normal locusts. Instead of destroying grass and plants, their mission was to torture “those people who did not have the seal of God on their forehead” (Revelation 9:4). This obviously refers to the 144,000 Jews of chapter seven, and probably includes all who will come to believe in Jesus during the Tribulation. Unlike the previous trumpets, this judgment will last for five months (Revelation 9:5). The torturous sting of these locusts will cause people to want to kill themselves; however, part of this judgment will be the inability to die.
To clarify that these are not just natural locusts with unnatural bites, John wrote what they looked like in his vision in Revelation 9:7-11. Each of the parts of the description may represent a characteristic: a man’s face, intelligence; a woman’s hair, beauty; lions’ teeth, ferocity; iron breastplates, indestructibility. Additionally, they will have scorpion-like tails with stingers that they will use to torture people. Their “king” is an angel or demon, whose name in both Hebrew and Greek means “Destroyer.”
The sixth trumpet (the second “woe”) will also release demons upon the Earth, this time in two sets. The first set is described as “four angels who had been prepared for this hour, day, month, and year” (Revelation 9:15). The only thing we know about them is that they “are bound at the great river Euphrates” (Revelation 9:14). There is nothing else in Scripture that points to their identity or the reason for or timing of their imprisonment. Their purpose is “to kill a third of humanity.”
The second set of demons unleashed are likened to “soldiers on horseback” (Revelation 9:16). In contrast to the nebulous “myriads of myriads and thousands of thousands” of angels that John heard in chapter five, he heard the number of this army to be 200,000,000. Although these soldiers are not called demons, their appearance is similar to the locusts earlier in the chapter but different enough to recognize them as distinct beings. Because this army also killed a third of humanity, it is likely that the four angels are the commanders of the army, in a similar way that Abaddon/Apollyon is the “king” of the locusts. Whereas the locust plague lasted for five months, no time limit is stated for this demonic army.
Even after these horrible plagues and demonic attacks, those who survive will refuse to repent and turn to the Lamb of God (Revelation 9:20-21).