Revelation 9:12-21 Part 2


1)    Then the fifth messenger trumpeted, and I saw a star having fallen from the heaven into the land, and the key of the shaft of the abyss was given to it.

2)    And the shaft of the abyss was opened, and smoke as smoke from a great furnace arose out of the shaft, and the sun and the atmosphere was darkened by the smoke from the shaft.

3)    Then locusts came forth into the land from the smoke; and power was given to them the same as the capabilities the scorpions of the land have.

4)    And it was said to them that they should do no harm to the grass of the land nor any green plant nor any tree, but only the men having no seal of God on their foreheads.

5)    And it was given to them that they not kill them but that they should be tormented five months, and their torment as the scorpion torments when it has stung a man.

6)    Then the men will seek the death in these days and will not find it; they will long to die, but the death flees from them.

7)    The appearances of the locusts like horses having been made ready into battle; upon their heads as crowns like gold; their faces as men’s faces;

8)    they had hair as women’s hair; their teeth were as lions’;

9)    they had breastplates as iron breastplates; the sound of their wings as chariot sound from many horses running into battle;

10) they have tails and stings like scorpions, their ability to harm the men five months in their tails.

11) For their ruler they have the messenger of the abyss, the Hebrew name: Abaddon, the Hellenic name being Apollyon.

12) The one woe did go forth.  Lo!  It comes yet two woes after this.

13) Then the sixth messenger trumpeted.  Then I heard one voice from the four corners of the altar of gold before God

14) saying to the sixth messenger having the trumpet, ‘loose the four messengers having been bound at the great river Euphrates’.

15) And the four messengers having been made ready into the hour and the day and the month and the year were loosed in order that they might kill the third of the men.

16) The number of the armies of horses: two myriads of myriads.  I heard their number.

17) And thus I saw in the appearance of the horses, and those who sit on them, having breastplates of fire and hyacinth and brimstone, the heads of the horses as lions’ heads, and fire and smoke and sulphur went forth out of their mouths.

18) From these three plagues, the fire and the smoke and the sulphur going forth from their mouths, the third of the men were killed,

19) for the ability of the horses is in their mouths; and in their tails, their tails like serpents having heads, they do harm.

20) And the rest of the men, those not killed in these plagues, neither repented of the works of their hands that they should not worship devils and idols of gold and silver and brass and stone and wood (which neither can see nor hear nor walk),

21) nor did they repent of their murders nor of their sorceries nor of their fornications nor of their thefts.


In the book of Leviticus, Moses records the Word of Yahveh as He gives the nation of Israel explicit instructions regarding sins that defile the nation and the land.  A people that practices these things becomes defiled (polluted), and so pollutes the land.

In chapter eighteen of that book there is a long list of defilements then practiced by the Canaanites; and when their sins are “filled up”, this entire land will be cleansed of its sin as the new covenant nation of Yahveh is commanded to destroy all who occupy it.

These “defilements” of the land include profanation of the Name of Yahveh by idolatrous practices, and a long list of sexual perversions.

Here is the end of the words in that chapter – spoken to Israel and written by Moses:


24) "Do not make yourselves unclean by any of these things, for by all these, the nations I am driving out before you have become unclean,

25) and the land has become unclean, so that I shall punish its iniquity, and the land shall vomit out its inhabitants.

26) But you shall keep my statutes and my laws and do none of these abominations, either the native or the stranger who sojourns among you

27) (for the people of the land, who were before you, did all of these abominations, so that the land has become unclean),

28) lest the land vomit you out when you make it unclean, as it shall vomit out the nation that was before you.

29) For everyone who does any of these abominations, the persons who do them shall be cut off from among their people.

30) So keep my charge never to practice any of these abominable things that were practiced before you, and never to make yourselves unclean by them: I am Yahveh your God."


Should Israel become unclean (as the former Canaanites were) by these profane practices, then she shall be judged in terms of the curses of the Covenant as recorded in chapter twenty-six of Leviticus.  Yahveh says that if, instead of obedience to His Law-word, Israel should break His covenant and defile themselves and the land, (then listen to a little bit of chapter twenty-six):


14) "But… if your soul abhors my statutes, so that you will not do all my commandments, but break my covenant…


16) …then I will do this to you:  I will visit you with panic, with wasting disease and fever……

17) I will set my face against you, and you shall be struck down before your enemies.  Those who hate you shall rule over you, and you shall flee when none pursues you.

18) And if in spite of this you will not listen to me, then I will discipline you again sevenfold for your sins,

19) and I will break the pride of your power, and I will make your heavens like iron and your earth like bronze.

20) And your strength shall be spent in vain, for your land shall not yield its increase, and the trees of the land shall not yield their fruit.

21) "Then if you walk contrary to me and will not listen to me, I will continue striking you sevenfold for your sins.

22) And I will let loose the wild beasts against you, which shall bereave you of your children and destroy your livestock and make you few in number….

23) "And if by this discipline you are not turned to me but walk contrary to me,

24) then I also will walk contrary to you, and I myself will strike you sevenfold for your sins.

25) Then I will bring a sword upon you that shall execute vengeance for the covenant. And if you gather within your cities, I will send pestilence among you….


27) "But if in spite of this you will not listen to me, but walk contrary to me,

28) then I will walk contrary to you in fury, and I myself will discipline you sevenfold for your sins….


30) And I will destroy your high places and cut down your incense altars and cast your dead bodies upon the dead bodies of your idols, and my soul will abhor you.

31) And I will lay your cities waste and will make your sanctuaries desolate, and I will not smell your pleasing aromas.

32) And I myself will devastate the land, so that your enemies who settle in it shall be appalled at it.


This whole chapter of Yahveh’s Words, written by Moses in his book of Leviticus, repeatedly threatens a seven-fold judgment should Israel pollute itself and the land (which is viewed by God as a cosmic replica of His heaven and earth!  It is God’s new Edenic Paradise; and the land even has a location at which Israel’s sins are remitted and her prayers are heard by Yahveh – a place at which her prayers are a sweet-smelling aroma in his nostrils!).  But Yahveh will not “smell” the aroma should Israel pollute the land with abominations.

Here in our text, it’s those who have been persecuted by Israel’s princes and priests and lawyers whose prayers are heard at the incense altar, whose prayers are a sweet-smelling aroma.

Israel has polluted the land from the river of Egypt to the great river Euphrates with every vile practice (just as the Canaanites did), and the land that God cleansed of the Canaanite defilement is defiled once again; it has mocked the Word of Yahveh; it has refused to repent at the Word of God through the prophets – instead, persecuting and killing them; and it has murdered God’s Messiah – the Son of God; and now they have pursued and killed His elect from the twelve tribes!  And now the blood of those for whom He died cries out before the golden altar for God’s promise of revenge.

Because of the blood of the Christ on the horns of the altar, the prayers of the saints martyred for their witness to the Christ are heard as a pleasing scent to the Father.

His readiness to hear and be pleased with the aroma is continually proclaimed throughout Scripture.  You can find seven of the 150 Psalms in which there are explicit prayers to Yahveh for His forgiveness and grace.  And they are answered.

And there are thirteen in which the Psalmist fervently prays for the overthrow and destruction of God’s enemies.  And isn’t it strange that our Lord’s Church has seen fit to ignore the Revelation of those prayers!  There seems to be an unwillingness to pray that way.  Maybe it’s the thought of being unforgiving or intolerant, or “judgmental”.  Maybe it’s just “convenient” to look the other way when God’s enemies profane His Name; so the imprecatory prayers in Scripture are just “discredited” as being an Old Testament practice that’s unsuitable in the new testament Church.

But according to Scripture one aspect of a godly man’s attitude is hatred for God’s enemies and an impassioned prayer for their ruin.  Not that we take it upon ourselves to exact that revenge… revenge belongs only to God.  The apostle James, in the second chapter of his letter, says: “you don’t have because you don’t ask”!  Your prayers in faith are heard at the altar before the judgment seat; and our Lord is pleased with them as a sweet aroma because of the blood of the Christ.

Notice that I said prayers “in faith” are received by God as a sweet-smelling aroma of the sacrifice.  We are always to be in a state of contact and communication with our Father in the Heaven.  And that constant state should be augmented often in special seasons of prayer.  That’s a privilege that we have because of the shed blood of the Christ, and one of the “marks” of a child of God… one of His “little ones”.  Our faithful communication with God means that we pray in His Will, which is revealed in the enscripturated Word….  For we are to be “conformed” to the image of His Son, that He might be First-born among many (Romans 8:29)!

But (back to the text) the seven-fold curse of God has progressed now to the sixth trumpeter, and there is still no repentance; and the “progression” of God’s vengeance there in Leviticus twenty-six is evident here in the Revelation.  The sixth trumpeter sounds long and loud; and the One Voice from the horns of the altar commissions the sixth trumpeter to “loose” the four messengers having been “bound” at the northern border of the land – the great river Euphrates.

Yahveh still sees His edenic paradise – now polluted and degraded as it is – as “the land”.  It is His original land of milk and honey, cleansed of the Canaanite abominations and created in the likeness of His heaven and earth with all its own cosmic structure, and with the man-made likeness of His throne-room right in its midst, and all of it prophetic of the coming Anointed One.  And its northern border was the River Euphrates.  And please remember that the Euphrates was the southern-most river flowing from Eden as our Triune God originally created it.

And just “east of Eden” (where Yahveh cast out our first father and mother) was built the city of Haran from which Yahveh chose Abram in order to give his seed the Promised Land.

But now we have to go to the Words of our Lord in the Newer Testament; for here we find the Biblical meaning of the words “binding” and “loosing”.  For the One Voice from the horns of the altar commands the sixth trumpeter to “loose” the four messengers having been “bound” at the great River Euphrates.

From Matthew sixteen we read:


“I will give to you the keys of the Kingdom of the Heavens; and whatever you shall bind upon the earth shall be as having been bound in the heaven, and whatsoever you shall loose upon the earth shall be as having been loosed in the heaven.”


So binding and loosing have to do with divine authority – the “keys” having been given to the apostles.  And since all authority in heaven and earth is centered in the “heaven”, by the Word of the Christ, the giving of the authority to bind and loose comes from there – from Him.  It doesn’t come from Hades!  Whatever has been bound and loosed is bound and loosed in the heaven, not in Hades!  So the apostles have been given to bind and loose that which has been bound and loosed in the heaven.

The apostles are not given the keys to Hades, because men don’t need to have Hades opened up to them; mankind already lives in the realm of death by virtue of his depraved nature.  Men must leave the realm of death and enter into the portals of life!  And since life is found only in the Kingdom of the Heaven, the portals must be opened to them.  And the keys are given to the apostles.  And the keys are not given to them to bind and loose that which has not been bound and loosed in the heaven!

We’ll examine this some more in a few minutes.  But, first, we need to get an idea about the terms “binding” and “loosing” because, not only do the two words appear here in the text of John’s Revelation, but with the keys to the Kingdom, the apostles have been given to bind what has already been bound in the heavens, and to loose what has already been loosed in the heavens.  And, as the remainder of the foundation of our Lord’s New Holy Temple, it is apostolic preaching and enscripturation of the Word of the Christ that binds and looses!

Now, as we’ve already seen on numerous occasions, it is Jesus’ practice to speak in prophetic language (His Own language) – some of which is parabolic.  And it is for us to ascertain, with wisdom, the fullness of His words.  And, as always, He, Himself, is the fullness of the Word of God – and His language is the language of God in His enscripturated Word!  So, with the Bible in hand, there can be no “mystery” in any of His language.  It is simply a matter of searching and discovery of the “mind” of Christ.  That’s what we’re told to have, isn’t it?

But all too often men search and discover what is in their own minds and hearts, which always leads to a violent misuse of Scripture and a man-centered or self-centered “interpretation” of the truth!  And this saying of Jesus concerning “binding” and “loosing” is one of the better examples in which there has been violent misuse by those who would reinterpret from their own perspectives!

Please remember what has been said here before, that our God has already interpreted His creation and His eternal, covenantal decree.  And His interpretation is available to us to receive!  It doesn’t need to be re-interpreted by men. 

However, men have always wanted the authority for themselves to make personal pronouncements concerning the sins of others.  From the Pharisees – to Roman Catholicism – to cultic authority figures, men have always coveted the authority of God Himself – an authority to condemn other men to hell, or to free them from their guilt, or to control them in some extra-Biblical way!

And what is it except the desire to be “as God” – with the power to decide life and death over other men?  What greater power is there than to consign to hell or permit entrance into heaven?  With a self-centered interpretation of “the keys to the Kingdom”, and the power of “loosing” and “binding”, the Pharisees shut and locked up the Kingdom to the entire nation of Israel! 

Roman Catholicism has kept the masses of its followers in total fear of the pope and the local priests!  And cultic authority figures rule with fear and intimidation!  Men crave to have the power to dispose of others in whatever way they see fit.  It’s a craving for sovereignty.  Even elders in some reformed congregations are subject to these cravings.

And one of the passages of Scripture used in this process of “self-deification” is this verse in Matthew sixteen where the Lord gives the keys of the Kingdom to His apostles and endows them with the power of binding and loosing that which has been bound and loosed in the heavens.  Instead of searching the “mind” of Christ for the fullness of the meaning, men prefer to feel self-empowered and “puffed up” with a misunderstood authority, delegating the authority to themselves by apostolic succession!  And that self-delegation is, by no means, limited to Roman Catholicism!

As I said, this is the same craving which is easily seen from depraved man in society generally.  Those in civil government want absolute authority. Women seek empowerment.  Blacks seek empowering.  Gays seek empowering.  And “little caesars” rule their homes and their Churches with iron fists….  Everybody wants empowering with its accompanying self-esteem!  It would probably be a great surprise to learn how many in the Churches would think their elders possessed the authority of the Christ Himself and His apostles!

So the “self/god” looks into the Scriptures and sees these wonderful words from our Lord, and he interprets them in whatever way meets his own cravings for authority!  And, strangely enough, the word “to loose” appears in verse twenty of Second Peter chapter one, where it says, “No prophecy should be exposited according to private opinion!”  The word “luo” – to loose – is the root word used for the translation of “exposited”, which means to release – or to resolve!  You could translate it like this:  “No prophecy should be self-explained!”  Or, “No prophecy should be interpreted (loosed) according to the needs of the ‘self’!”  It is not one’s private opinion!

This verse nineteen of Matthew sixteen is a prophetic utterance of our Lord Jesus concerning His resurrection from the dead and His ascension to Power, and His giving of the keys of the Kingdom to His apostles.  And the authority of the keys will be given to them for loosing and binding that which has been loosed and bound in the heavens.  It is not to be self-explained – nor is it to be “loosed” from its moorings in the fullness of the revealed Word of The Christ.

That’s what the Pharisees did; that’s what Roman Catholics do; that’s what petty tyrants do; that’s what god-like cultic figures do.  And it’s destructive – which leads me to one of the distinctive meanings of this word “to loose”.

In Matthew five, verses seventeen and eighteen, Jesus says,


“Do not think that I came to destroy, or abrogate, the Law….  I did not come to abrogate, but to be its fullness.”


The root word translated “to destroy”, or “to abrogate” in that quote from Jesus is from our word here, “to loose”.  In John chapter two verse nineteen, Jesus says,


“Destroy this temple and, in three days, I will raise it up.”


The root word translated “destroy” is from our word here in verse nineteen, “to loose”.

In John chapter five, verse eighteen, the Jews sought to kill Jesus because, in their opinion, He had “broken” the Sabbath.  The word “broken” is our word “to loose”.  In Ephesians two verse fourteen, Paul says that Christ has “broken down’ the wall of partition…”  That’s the word “to loose”.  In Revelation chapter five, there is no one who is able to loose the seals of the scroll until the Lamb slain takes the book and opens it.

So this word is used on many occasions to mean a “breaking up” or a “disintegration”, or an “abrogation” or “dissolution”.  And it is in this sense that apostolic preaching of the Gospel of the Risen Savior brought final judgment and destruction to Israel!  And it is in this same sense that the word is used over in Matthew chapter eighteen, verse eighteen when Jesus instructs the apostles to dissolve (loose) the relationship between the Church and the pagan who will not repent of his sin!


But the term has another meaning as well.  Listen to Revelation chapter one, verse five:


5)    and from Jesus Christ the Witness, the Faithful, the Firstborn from death and the Ruler of the kingdoms of the earth  --- To Him Who loves us and has freed us from our sins in His blood

6)    and made us a kingdom, priests to His God and Father….


The word “freed” is the word in our text – “to loose”.  In this use it has the sense of the word “redeem” (in the sense of abrogating our heritage in the first Adam).  In Luke chapter thirteen, when Jesus encountered the severely crippled woman on the Sabbath day and was condemned by the Pharisees for healing her, He replied to them:


“Hypocrite!  Do not each one of you on the Sabbath loose his ox or ass from the stall, and lead it away to watering?  And ought not this woman, being a daughter of Abraham, who Satan has bound lo these eighteen years, be loosed from this bond on the Sabbath Day?”


So our word “to loose” means to free from being “bound” by Satanic activity!

And now, listen to a small part of the preaching of Peter at Pentecost – Acts chapter two, beginning at verse twenty-two:


“You men of Israel, hear these words:  Jesus of Nazareth, a Man approved of God among you by miracles and wonders and signs, which God did by Him in the midst of you, as you yourselves also know:  Him, being delivered by the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God, you have taken, and by wicked hands have crucified and slain, Who God has raised up, having loosed the pangs of death; because it was not possible that He should be held by it….”


Our word “to loose” is plainly used in this passage, and it clearly means to free from the bonds of death – or Hades!  To abrogate – to destroy that bond of death.

And where is all this prophesied?  In that great chapter having to do with the coming of the great Shepherd/King, Isaiah chapter forty!  Listen:


“Comfort ye, comfort ye my people, says your God.  Speak comfortably to Jerusalem, and cry unto her, that her conflict is over, that her iniquity is pardoned; for she hath received of the Lord’s hand – double for all her sins.”


The word translated “pardoned’ there is the Hebrew equivalent of the word “to loose”, found in the Matthew sixteen passage and in our text here in Revelation nine!  Israel’s iniquity is “loosed”, for she has received double for her sins… and that by the authority of the Christ in the heaven, and by the preaching of the apostles, and through the prayers of the martyred before the golden altar.

So, in the translation of this word we have both the breaking up and dissolution of the old, and the immediate expectation of a new order – freed (loosed) from the bondage of iniquity, Satan, and death!

Now let’s see if we can grasp the significance of the word “deo” – to bind; for Jesus also said,


“whatsoever you shall bind upon the earth shall be as having been bound in the heaven….”


And, as with the word “loosing”, “binding” also has a couple of distinctive meanings as is evidenced, first, by the second verse of Romans chapter seven where Paul says,


“for the woman who has a husband is bound by the Law to that husband so long as he lives….” 


So the Law is “binding” upon mankind to obedience.

But the overwhelming evidence of the Scripture is that “binding” means imprisonment!  And I give you one example from Paul, as he writes to Timothy from prison.  He says,


“Wherein I suffer trouble, as an evildoer – unto bonds; but the Word of God is not bound.”


This is a particularly good example, because imprisonment is used in Scripture as analogous to bondage in spiritual darkness.  Those who have been kept in darkness, as Israel was by the Pharisees, are said to be imprisoned – in a state of bondage!  But, at the same time, the Word of God knows no bondage – and can’t be imprisoned, for it is Life and Light to the blind!

Further, in a passage which we covered years ago, chapter thirteen of Matthew, we encountered the parable of the zizanium in the field.  The alien seed had been sown over the good seed; and the owner of the field let them remain until it was time to bind the zizanium in bundles to be burned!  The “binding” and burning are judgmental activity, foreordained in the heavens and implemented through the preaching of the apostles, until the final retribution occurred between 30 AD and 70 AD.

But one of the very best examples of the use of this word “to bind” occurs in the conversation between Jesus and the Pharisees concerning demonic activity – in Matthew chapter twelve.  During that exchange Jesus says,


“How can one enter into a strong man’s house, and rob his goods, except he first bind the strong man?  And then he will rob his house!”


This teaching has to do, of course, with the chaining or “binding” of Satan so that Christ the King could go and take what belongs to Him in the wilderness nations of the world!

But remember most of all that the Word of God is unbound.  The Word of God – the Gospel of God – is the Power of God into salvation for those who are believing.  And by its proclamation – apostolic doctrine – the alien seed are bound and made ready for destruction.  And, at the same time, through apostolic preaching, there comes pardon – loosing – from an Adamic heritage; from iniquity; and blindness; and death.

While there is binding of men to unforgiven sin, the Gospel frees, or looses, men from death – abrogating it.  While there is the binding of Satan, there is also the breaking open – loosing - of the seals of the New Covenant Charter of Humanity!  While in the proclamation of the Gospel there is the breaking up and dissolution of the old, there is the binding of men to the Law of God.  While there is a binding of the blind in the prison of darkness, there is also a loosing from Satanic activity.

Our Lord Jesus Christ has “loosed” the pangs and sorrows of death.  He has entered into “the death” and exited it (for He could not be bound there) to be King of a New Heavens and a New Earth.

And, as He promised, He gave the “keys” to the Kingdom to His apostles.  And as they preached the Gospel of the Resurrected Lord (apostolic doctrine), the portals of the Kingdom were opened wide to all who would believe.  And all their names were written in that book that only the “slain Lamb” could loose – so that those who were loosed in heaven were the same as those loosed through the preaching of the apostles.  And those whose names were not in the book were bound by that same preaching.  Apostolic preaching is “the keys”.  And it binds those who are already bound in the heavens, while loosing those having been loosed in the heavens.

Personal pronouncements of binding and loosing; declarations by men of binding and remitting of sin; individual assertions of imposing and/or removing an obligation; personal declarations of what is forbidden and permitted – all of these are judaistic casuistry.  All are Romanist casuistry.  All are doctrinal assertions of personal sovereignty.  All are manifestations of cultic activity; and all come from depraved hearts and minds wishing to have the personal power of binding and loosing!

Egocentricity and personal esteem are at the root of men seeking to be “as God”.  And all who attempt to exercise this power, which only belongs to our Lord, will receive the “loosing” from the bondage of the old humanity only through the proclamation of the Gospel and the work of Holy Spirit.  And, by the way, that’s the very subject of Martin Luther’s great book called _The Bondage of the Will_.  Get it and read it.  There is a “binding” of cursed humanity in the heaven which makes ready for final judgment and destruction.

Rather than egocentricity and personal esteem, Christ’s people must be Theocentric and have “Christ-esteem”.  For it is through the ministry of the Word of God that men enter into the wide-open portals of the Kingdom of Christ, not by personal pronouncement.  Minister the Word to the lost – to those bound in the prison of darkness.  And to those having been bound in the heaven, they shall be bound by the preaching of apostolic doctrine.  And to those having been loosed in the heaven, they will be loosed by the preaching of apostolic doctrine.  Therein are the keys to the Kingdom of the Heaven.

In the prophetic Word the Christ Himself speaks the very words that He speaks to the apostles in Matthew sixteen.  Listen to Him as recorded in Isaiah sixty-one:


1)    The Spirit of Adonai Yahveh is upon Me, because Yahveh has anointed Me to announce good news unto the meek; He hath sent Me to bind up the broken of heart, to proclaim liberty to the captives and a complete opening (loosing) to those who are bound;

2)    to proclaim Yahveh’s year of acceptance and the day of vengeance of our God; to comfort all mourners

3)    that mourn in Zion, to appoint to them that beauty should be given unto them instead of ashes, the oil of joy instead of mourning, the mantle of praise instead of the spirit of infirmity that they might be called trees of righteousness, the planting of Yahveh that He may be beautified.


And our Lord sends His apostles out with the Word of the Christ that all that is bound in the heaven is thereby bound on the earth; and that all that is loosed in the heaven is thereby loosed on the earth.  And that the Day of Vengeance of our God is also a great day of comfort to those who mourn… that they might receive the oil of joy, and that they might be called trees of righteousness to the glory of Yahveh, having been loosed from their captivity (bondage) in darkness by the Word of the Christ preached and enscripturated in Apostolic Doctrine.

The apostle John hears and writes those same words inscribed here in verse fourteen of our text.  It’s a very important concept in all of Scripture.   

That which is loosed and bound in the heaven is hereby loosed and bound by the Word of the Christ which has been preached by the apostles.  The apostles have found all of our Lord’s elect and gotten them out, freeing them – loosing them – from the wrath to come; and binding them to the Law of the Christ.

At the same time, and by that same apostolic preaching and doctrine, Israel has been bound in her iniquity.  And that which has been bound at the Euphrates is loosed upon her to requite her double for her sin.