Revelation 9 The Judgment of God
Although it may not be clear exactly what St. John is talking about in Revelation 9, one thing’s for sure: I don’t want to be a part of it!
I’d like today to look at Revelation 9 as possibly being fulfilled in the first century by the Romans persecution of the Jews. The horrific historical reality of these terrors ought to be enough to convince us that the judgment of God is a certain reality, even if only at the end of time.
The well of the Abyss seemed to have been opened up against Jerusalem and Israel in the first century, a judgment for her rejection of the Lord greater even than the captivities by the Assyrians and Babylonians. Some have likened the five month period to the time in A.D. 66 when Gessius Florus, the procurator of Judea terrorized the Jews for five months, from May to September, trying to incite them to rebellion. Josephus date the beginning of the Jewish War from this time. This five month period from May to September is also the time when locusts normally appeared.
John’s description of the locusts, who are probably demons, bears similarities to the description of the invading heathen armies mentioned in the prophets. It’s also possible that these locusts were not only the Romans but the Zealots, from whom, Josephus tells us, the Jews had more to fear than from the Romans. “Zealots ransacked houses with their insatiable hunger for loot; they murdered men and violated women for sport; they drank their spoils with blood, and from mere satiety they shamelessly gave themselves up to effeminate practices, plaiting their hair and putting on women’s clothes, drenching themselves with perfumes and painting their eyelids to make themselves attractive. They copied not merely the dress, but also the passions of women, devising in their excess of licentiousness unlawful pleasures in which they wallowed as in a brothel. Thus they entirely polluted the city with their foul practices. Yet though they wore women’s faces, their hands were murderous. They would approach with mincing steps, then suddenly become fighting men, and, whipping out their swords from under their dyed cloaks, they would run through every passerby.”
In response to the Jewish rebellion provoked by Gessius Florus, Cestius invaded Palestine with large numbers of troops from the regions near the Euphrates River. When Cestius inexplicably retreated when near victory, the revolt against Rome was transformed into a war, the Jewish War that Josephus describes in such terrifying terms.
His descriptions include frenzied mobs attacking one another, deluded multitudes following after false prophets, mass murders, executions, and suicides, fathers slaughtering their own families, mothers eating their own children, and the crucifixion of Jews at the rate of 500 per day.
During the Feast of Unleavened Bread of A.D. 66, there were signs from heaven, according to Josephus. On the eighth day of the month Nisan at 3:00 a.m. a light shone so brightly that it looked like daylight. This lasted for half an hour. During the same feast the east gate of the inner sanctuary, a massive brass gate that could scarcely be moved by 20 men, opened of its own accord at midnight.
At the second Passover celebrated a month later for those who couldn’t attend the first, Josephus relates the following: “a supernatural apparition was seen, too amazing to be believed. What I have to relate would have been dismissed as an invention had it not been vouched for by eyewitnesses and followed by disasters that bore out the signs. Before sunset there were seen in the sky over the whole country chariots and regiments in arms speeding through the crowds and encircling the towns.”
Josephus also relates that this same year, “A star that looked like a sword stood over the city and a comet that continued for a whole year.” Josephus, a Jew, remarks that Jerusalem was “no longer the dwelling place of God.” Four years later, Josephus writes, “I believe that the Deity has fled from the holy places and stands now on the side of those with whom you are at war. Why, when an honorable man will fly from a wanton home and abhor its inmates, do you think that God still remains with this household in its iniquity — God who sees each hidden thing and hears what is wrapped in silence?”
Josephus also addresses the judgment that befell the Jews for their rejection of God, saying: “These men, therefore, trampled upon all the laws of man, and laughed at the laws of God; and as for the oracles of the prophets, they ridiculed them as the tricks of jugglers; yet did these prophets foretell many things concerning the rewards of virtue, and punishments of vice, which when these zealots violated, they occasioned the fulfilling of those very prophecies belonging to their own country.” He concludes that , “Neither did any other city ever suffer such miseries, nor did any age ever breed a generation more fruitful in wickedness than this was, from the beginning of the world.”
God will not be mocked. He may extend His mercy for many generations, even until the end of time. He may not judge any of us, not even the most reprobate of all, in this life. But the day is coming when God will mete out justice for all who have rejected Him.
This ought to motivate us to do two things. The first is to never forget that we should watch, for we know not when the Master is returning: at evening, at midnight, at the crowing of the cock, or at morning. The second is to be eternally and daily thankful that those who love and obey the Lord have been delivered from such a judgment.
Prayer: O God, who knowest the weakness and corruption of our nature, and the manifold temptations which we daily meet with; We humbly beseech thee to have compassion on our infirmities, and to give us the constant assistance of thy Holy Spirit; that we may be effectually restrained from sin, and excited to our duty. Imprint upon our hearts such a dread of thy judgments, and such a grateful sense of thy goodness to us, as may make us both afraid and ashamed to offend thee. And, above all, keep in our minds a lively remembrance of that great day, in, which we must give a strict account of our thoughts, words, and actions; and according to the works done in the body, be eternally rewarded or punished, by him whom thou hast appointed the Judge of quick and dead, thy Son Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
Points for Meditation:
- Meditate on the seriousness of sin.
- Meditate on the mercy of God.
Resolution: I resolve to thank God today for preserving me from His judgment.