And the fifth angel sounded, and I saw a star fall from heaven unto the earth: and to him was given the key of the bottomless pit.Revelation 9:12The Great Voice from Heaven.
This is a world in which there is no standing still. Ceaseless progress is the law of nature. Everything is going on, and in our lives we feel it often, and sometimes we feel it sadly; there is no pause nor cease. Here in truth we have no continuing city; our feet are not set upon solid land; from birth to death we are carried on by a rapid current against which there is no striving. Now there are just two ways by which men can advance: the one leads upward, and its end is heaven; the other leads downward, and its end is perdition.
I. The voice of God comes to us from heaven and says to us, "Come up hither." The new voice of God speaks not to the ear, but to the heart. The whole Bible is a great voice from heaven. Revelation furnishes us with a continuous proof that it is the upward path which God would have us choose from the two that are before us.
II. A second voice that invites us up to heaven is that of our blessed Saviour. What was the Redeemer's whole appearance on earth but one earnest, unceasing, lifelong entreaty that men would turn to God? And the Saviour even yet appears to remind us of His earthly travail and sorrow, and to whisper to us, "As ye would not that all that should prove in vain, come up hither."
III. The blessed Spirit, too, adds His voice to that which invites us towards heaven. The whole scope and object of His working is to make us fit for heaven, is an indication of His design and His wish that we should go up thither. The Spirit, the Purifier, as He makes us holier and better, thus fitting us for a clearer atmosphere and a nobler company, is ever whispering within us that it must be a higher life in which virtue will be perfect, and another world in which hearts will be pure.
IV. The voice of our dear friends who have fallen asleep in Jesus invites us to "come up hither." Let us plant our feet on the rock, and take not one step further in the evil way, for tomorrow may end our path, and today is the accepted time.
A. K. H. B., Graver Thoughts of a Country Parson, p. 283.
Reference: Revelation 11:12.—Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. ix., No. 488; W. Gledden, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xxvi., p. 136.
Revelation 9:15The Triumph of Christianity.
This book of the Apocalypse is confessedly one of those Scriptures that Scripture itself speaks of as "hard to be understood." Yet it must not on that account be neglected. Nay, perhaps, on that very account it is deserving of the most painstaking study.
I. Note well the topography, or, as I might truly say, the geography, of the text. The event concerning which this seventh angel is sounding, and which occasions these great voices of jubilation in heaven, is not an event which is happening in the region of heaven; but it is an event which is to occur on this earth. They are rejoicing over this event which is thus foreshadowed: that "the kingdoms of this world are become the kingdoms of our Lord and of His Christ." Through the whole of Scripture, it is this earth, which was the scene of the usurper's conquest, and the scene of the Redeemer's conflict with him, and the scene of the Redeemer's travail, and toil, and agony, and shame, and death, and the scene of all His Church's conflicts and sufferings, that is yet to be the theatre of His triumphs. He is not to win in some ghostly region far away, and leave this world to the devil or to ashes. But here, in this tangible world, is He yet to triumph, and over the field of His sufferings is He yet to wield His sceptre. The prayer that has been going up from the Church for two millenniums shall yet receive its glorious answer, "Thy kingdom come; Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven."
II. Let me next observe that, as an earnest of the final triumph, there has already been a partial fulfilment of this prophecy. Has nothing been done yet to make "the kingdoms of this world the kingdoms of our Lord and of His Christ"? Take a map of Europe and see; take the page of history and see. All along the line there has been victory. Though the enemy has vastly outnumbered the Church's little armies, and though there has been hard fighting, and though it has suffered reverses and repulses, and though its sufferings have been great and its martyrs many, yet defeat it has never known up till now. And though the battle is still prolonged, and its final victory not actually grasped, yet all is tending that way, and the issue cannot be doubtful. The Church's
"Battle once begun,
Bequeathed from bleeding sire to son,
Though baffled oft, is ever won."
R. Glover, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xxviii., p. 371.
Revelation 9:15(with 1 Corinthians 15:24, 1 Corinthians 15:28)
The Coming of the Kingdom the Sure Hope of the Church.
When we read these passages, "The kingdoms of this world are become the kingdoms of our Lord, and of His Christ; and He shall reign for ever and ever," and again, "Then cometh the end, when He shall have delivered up the kingdom to the Father, and God shall be all and in all," we are transported in thought to the utmost verge of future history. The end stands in contrast to the beginning. Sin began in man putting God off the throne of his heart and will; redemption ends in "God being all and in all." Again, we have seen how Israel was trained to the idea of an invisible King, and how all the national institutions of law, temple, monarchy, priesthood, were to be witnesses for Him, being pictures of an ideal state. In the shattering of the earthly symbolism and the advent of Christ, the training passed from the narrow limits of a nation to the whole world, and from external domain to inward and spiritual obedience. The true theocracy is reached when "the end comes," and "the kingdoms of the world have become the kingdom of the Lord." The advance of that kingdom of God is by the increasing recognition of the truth, the truth of God and the truth of humanity as in Christ, sin and evil passing away as the mind of Christ possesses the spirit of man. But in what sense can the kingdoms of the world become the kingdom of our Lord and of His Christ?
I. The kingdoms of the world are something more than the various political states—empire, monarchy, or republic—into which nationalities are divided. The true kingdoms of the world are the moral forces and interests which bear sway over human life. There are the kingdom of commerce, with its penetrating influences, the kingdom of science, with its vast interests, the kingdom of literature, of art, of public opinion, all of which govern in that inner sphere which gives shape to history and character to movements. When we weigh what these kingdoms are we can perceive the possibility of their becoming the kingdoms of the Lord without any arrestment of movement or any shock to the methods in which they now control society. Life need not be of the world, but "the pride of life" constitutes it worldly. If we take away "the lust" and "the pride," then "the eye," and "the flesh," and "life" remain, but purified and true parts of the kingdom of God.
II. From these hints we can imagine the kind of victory secured by the coming of the kingdom of God. Already we can see how the aspect of civilisation has been changed by the inward influence of the Christian spirit, as in the case of marriage, slavery, and a thousand cruelties that have passed away as the mist vanishes when the sun arises in its strength. Let us imagine the diffusive power of the heavenly leaven to have penetrated the entire "lump" of human interest. To believe in the possibility of such an end is itself ennobling. It is good for us even to hope that Christ will yet reign, not by the forceful putting down of all authority, but by winning the willing homage of every heart.
D. Macleod, Christ and Society, p. 107.
References: Revelation 11:15.—J. Halsey, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xxxiii., p. 264. Revelation 11:19.—Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xxvii., No. 1621. Revelation 12:7.—Ibid., Evening by Evening, p: 337. Revelation 12:7-9.—H. S. Holland, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xxxvi., p. 209. Revelation 12:10.—Expositor, 1st series, vol. ii., p. 405. Revelation 12:11.—Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xxi., No. 1237; Preacher's Monthly, vol. vii., p. 77. Revelation 12:12.—Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xxv., No. 1502.
And he opened the bottomless pit; and there arose a smoke out of the pit, as the smoke of a great furnace; and the sun and the air were darkened by reason of the smoke of the pit.
And there came out of the smoke locusts upon the earth: and unto them was given power, as the scorpions of the earth have power.
And it was commanded them that they should not hurt the grass of the earth, neither any green thing, neither any tree; but only those men which have not the seal of God in their foreheads.
And to them it was given that they should not kill them, but that they should be tormented five months: and their torment was as the torment of a scorpion, when he striketh a man.
And in those days shall men seek death, and shall not find it; and shall desire to die, and death shall flee from them.
And the shapes of the locusts were like unto horses prepared unto battle; and on their heads were as it were crowns like gold, and their faces were as the faces of men.
And they had hair as the hair of women, and their teeth were as the teeth of lions.
And they had breastplates, as it were breastplates of iron; and the sound of their wings was as the sound of chariots of many horses running to battle.
And they had tails like unto scorpions, and there were stings in their tails: and their power was to hurt men five months.
And they had a king over them, which is the angel of the bottomless pit, whose name in the Hebrew tongue is Abaddon, but in the Greek tongue hath his name Apollyon.
One woe is past; and, behold, there come two woes more hereafter.
And the sixth angel sounded, and I heard a voice from the four horns of the golden altar which is before God,
Saying to the sixth angel which had the trumpet, Loose the four angels which are bound in the great river Euphrates.
And the four angels were loosed, which were prepared for an hour, and a day, and a month, and a year, for to slay the third part of men.
And the number of the army of the horsemen were two hundred thousand thousand: and I heard the number of them.
And thus I saw the horses in the vision, and them that sat on them, having breastplates of fire, and of jacinth, and brimstone: and the heads of the horses were as the heads of lions; and out of their mouths issued fire and smoke and brimstone.
By these three was the third part of men killed, by the fire, and by the smoke, and by the brimstone, which issued out of their mouths.
For their power is in their mouth, and in their tails: for their tails were like unto serpents, and had heads, and with them they do hurt.
And the rest of the men which were not killed by these plagues yet repented not of the works of their hands, that they should not worship devils, and idols of gold, and silver, and brass, and stone, and of wood: which neither can see, nor hear, nor walk:
Neither repented they of their murders, nor of their sorceries, nor of their fornication, nor of their thefts.