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17 September 2020

Abyss

SynopsisThe Abyss is the source of satanic attacks against the people of God, yet it is under the authority of the LambRevelation 11:7.

Yosh Ginsu on Unsplash.com
Yosh Ginsu on Unsplash

A place called the “Abyss” is introduced when the fifth trumpet sounds in Chapter 9 of the book of Revelation, a pit from which a horde of locust-like creatures ascends to torment the “inhabitants of the earth.” In Revelation, this deep place is the source from which satanic agencies ascend to wage war against the “saints.” It also functions as a “prison” to hold satanic forces until their appointed time to “ascend” and wreak havoc on their victims (Revelation 9:1-2, 13:1-2, 17:8, 20:1-3, 20:7-10).

  • (Revelation 9:1-3) – “And the fifth messenger sounded; and I saw a star, out of heaven, fallen unto the earth, and there was given unto him the key of the shaft of the abyss. And he opened the shaft of the abyss; and there came up a smoke out of the shaft, as the smoke of a great furnace, and the sun and the air were darkened, by reason of the smoke of the shaft. And out of the smoke came forth locusts upon the earth; and there was given unto them licence, as the scorpions of the earth have licence.” – (The Emphasized Bible). 
However, the vision of the fifth trumpet is, by no means, the first presentation of this dark reality. And an “abyss” or “bottomless pit” is not the only image used to represent it. In the first vision of the one “like a son of man,” Jesus declared himself to be the “First and the Last, and the Living One—and I became dead—and, behold, living am I unto the ages of ages!” He pointed to his past Death and Resurrection for his present authority, including over the realm of “Hades.” As stated in the book’s prologue, Jesus is the “faithful witness and the firstborn of the dead”; therefore, he NOW possesses the “keys of death and of hades.” “Hades” is an unclean and ominous place; nevertheless, it is not beyond his reach (Revelation 1:9-20).

In the letter to the church at Thyatira, the Son of God chastises the “messenger” of this church for tolerating the activities of the prophetess “Jezebel.” Like the “Great Whore Babylon,” she taught many saints at Thyatira “to fornicate and to eat food offered to idols” (Revelation 2:18-2917:1-5).

This “prophetess” claimed it was permissible to “know the deep things of Satan.” Very likely, in her mind, she taught the “deep things of God” – supposedly, deeper spiritual insight and practices to protect initiates from harm when they participated in the idolatrous rites of the surrounding society. Jesus revealed this doctrine for what it was (and is) - the “deep things” or bathos of Satan. In reality, she promoted idolatry and, as Paul wrote, to participate in idolatry is to “commune with demons” (1 Corinthians 10:18-21).

Thus, the “deep things of Satan” is a conceptual link to the “Abyss,” the deep pit from which the Beast, demons, and Satan ascend to deceive men into the idolatrous worship of the Beast. “Depth” symbolizes the satanic source of the deception. Faithful saints must hold fast and not compromise, or “fornicate and eat food offered to idols” (Revelation 9:1-2, 11:7, 13:1, 17:8, 20:1-3).

When the fifth trumpet sounded, a “star” descended to the earth, one possessing a “key” with which he opened the “Abyss.” Likewise, at the commencement of the “thousand years,” an “angel” descended with the “key of the Abyss” to imprison Satan for the thousand years. At the end of the period, he was released from the “Abyss” to gather the nations against the “camp of the saints.” Elsewhere in the book, “stars” represent “angels” or “messengers” (Revelation 1:20, 9:1-12, 20:1-10).

Smoke Photo by Jens Johnsson on Unsplash
The opening of the “Abyss” produced a column of smoke that “darkened the sun and the air,” and unleashed a horde of “locusts upon the earth” that tormented men who did not have the “seal of God on their foreheads.” The “locusts” are likened to “horses prepared for battle.” This horde was ruled by the “angel of the abyss, whose name, in Hebrew is ‘Destruction’, also in the Greek, ‘Destroyer’.”

The sixth trumpet blast released the “four angels who were bound at the great river Euphrates. And the four angels were loosed, who had been prepared for the hour, and day, and month, and year, that they should slay the third of men. And the number of the armies of the horsemen was twice ten thousand times ten thousand.” The “Euphrates” of the sixth trumpet corresponds to the “Abyss” of the preceding fifth trumpet – The source of evil forces unleashed on the earth (Revelation 9:13-21).

The fifth and sixth trumpets correspond to the fifth and sixth “bowls of wrath” in Chapter 16. Like the fifth trumpet, the fifth bowl of wrath caused the “darkening” of the kingdom of the Beast and the tormenting of men who had its mark (“they began to gnaw their tongues by reason of the pain…and repented not of their deeds”). Like the sixth trumpet, the sixth bowl dried up the waters of the “Euphrates” to “prepare the way of the kings from the rising of the sun.” Demons were dispatched to gather the “kings of the whole habitable earth to the war of the great day of God the Almighty,” Armageddon (Revelation 16:10-16).

In Chapter 11, the “two witnesses” or “two lampstands” prophesy for a “thousand, two hundred and sixty days.” In Revelation, “lampstands” represent “churches.” At the end of their prophetic mission, the “Beast that ascends from the Abyss” is released to wage war on the “two witnesses,” and to “slay them” (Revelation 1:20).
  • (Revelation 11:3-7) – “And I will give unto my two witnesses that they shall prophesy a thousand two hundred and sixty days, arrayed in sackcloth. These are the two olive-trees and the two lampstands, which before the Lord of the earth do stand. And, if any one upon them chooseth to inflict injury, fire cometh forth out of their mouth and devoureth their enemies; and, if anyone shall choose upon them to inflict injury, thus, must he be slain. These have authority to shut heaven in order that no rain be moistening in the days of their prophesying; and authority have they over the waters to be turning them into blood and to smite the land with any manner of plague, as often as they will. And as soon as they have completed their witnessing, the beast that is to ascend from the abyss will make war with them, and overcome them, and slay them.”
The passage uses language from Daniel 7:21 - “I beheld, and the same horn made war with the saints, and prevailed against them.” The same “Beast” appears again in Chapter 13 where it ascends “from the Sea.” The “sea” in Chapter 13 represents the same reality as the “Abyss” in Chapter 11. In either instance, the “Beast ascends” from the Abyss/Sea to prosecute war against the saints.
  • (Revelation 13:1-10) – “And I saw out of the sea, a wild-beast coming up; having ten horns, and seven heads, and, upon his horns, ten diadems, and upon his head, names of blasphemy…And it was given unto him to make war with the saints, and to overcome them.”
Both of the preceding visions borrow the same language from Daniel 7:21 - “The same horn made war with the saints, and prevailed against them.” Thus, the “two witnesses” represent the same group designated “saints” in Chapter 13.

In Chapter 15, victorious saints are observed standing upon a “glassy sea mingled with fire” just prior to the final outpouring of God’s bowl judgments against the Beast and Babylon:
  • (Revelation 15:1-4) – “And I saw another sign in heaven, great and marvellous,—seven messengers having seven plagues, the last, because, in them, was ended the wrath of God. And I saw as a glassy sea mingled with fire, and them who escape victorious from the beast and from his image and from the number of his name, standing upon the glassy sea, having harps of God; and they sing the song of Moses, the servant of God, and the song of the Lamb, saying — Great and marvelous are thy works, Lord, God, the Almighty! Righteous and true are thy ways, O King of the ages! Who shall in anywise not be put in fear, O Lord, and glorify thy name — because alone full of lovingkindness; because all the nations will have come, and will do homage before thee, because thy righteous deeds were made manifest?” – (The Emphasized Bible).
The victorious saints standing on the “sea of glass” sing the “song of Moses.” This stresses the theme of Israel’s exodus from Egypt after the plagues unleashed by Yahweh against it. The “glassy sea” corresponds to the Red Sea, the “Beast from the sea” to Pharaoh, and the overcoming saints to Israel after its deliverance through the Red Sea, hence, they sing the “song of Moses” AND the “song of the Lamb.”

In the Old Testament, the sea is the abode of “beasts” and “Leviathan,” and the latter often represents the Pharaoh of Egypt. The “glassy sea mingled with fire” represents the persecuting powers of Satan, only now subdued by the Lamb for the sake of his people (Psalm 74:12-15Isaiah 51:9-11Ezekiel 32:1-6).

Previously, a “sea of glass like crystal” was seen before the heavenly throne. Now, John sees a “glassy sea mingled with fire” - The “sea” is the place from which the Beast ascended to attack the saints; the same place also called the “Abyss.” “Fire” most often refers to divine judgments in Revelation. The “sea of glass” is a source of evil and opposition ripe for the ultimate judgment, the “Lake of Fire.” Elsewhere, the “sea” is connected to Babylon’s maritime trade that empowers her but is destroyed by God (Revelation 8:7-9, 9:17-18, 13:1, 14:7, 16:3, 18:17-21).

In the Exodus story, liberated Israel stood “beside” the Red Sea. Now, the victors of the Lamb stand “upon it” to portray their victory over the Dragon and its agents.
  • (Revelation 20:1-3) – “And I saw a messenger coming down out of heaven, having the key of the abyss, and a great chain upon his hand; and he laid hold of the dragon, the ancient serpent, who is Adversary and the Accuser, and bound him for a thousand years, — and cast him into the abyss, and fastened and sealed [it] over him, — that he might not deceive the nations any more until the thousand years should be ended: after these, must he be loosed for a short time.”
An angel descending having the key of the Abyss.” The "Abyss" was first mentioned in Chapter 9 where a “star fallen from heaven was given the key of the Abyss” with which he opened the Abyss to unleash an army of “locusts.” The “Abyss” had a “king” over it named Abaddon and Apollyon; that is, “destruction” and “destroyer.” His destructive forces were released to torment the “inhabitants of the earth,” those who do not have the “seal of God.”

In contrast, in Chapter 20 an angel descends from heaven authorized to bind the Devil, not to release him or his evil forces. This locates the imprisonment of Satan in the “Abyss” BEFORE the events detailed in Chapter 9.

The dragon, the ancient serpent, who is the Devil and Satan.” These four names are verbal links to Chapter 12 where “the great dragon was cast down, the ancient serpent, he that is called the Devil and Satan; he was cast down to the earth, and his angels were cast down with him” (Revelation 12:9, Genesis 3:15).

In Chapter 12, the Dragon was “cast” (ballō) down to the earth. Likewise, Satan is “cast” (ballō) into the "Abyss" in Chapter 20. With the victory of the Lamb, he was expelled and lost his prosecutorial powers; therefore, the “brethren” became victorious over the Devil “by the blood of the Lamb” (Revelation 12:9-13).

Dungeon Photo by Nathan Wright on Unsplash
In Chapter 20, the Devil was cast into the “Abyss” so that “he might not deceive the nations anymore until the thousand years should be ended.” This is another link to Chapter 12 where the Dragon was called “the deceiver of the whole habitable earth.” He was not bound from all activities, but specifically from “deceiving the nations.” A heavenly voice declared “woe” to the “inhabitants of the earth” because the Devil was cast onto the earth enraged, knowing that he had “but a short time.” However, prior to his release, he is still able to unleash destructive forces against humanity, and especially against the “saints.” Thus, though imprisoned, he is the “angel of the Abyss” and the “Destroyer.” By no means is the Devil dead or yet in the “Lake of Fire” (Revelation 12:12).

Likewise, in Revelation 20:7-9, Satan is freed from the “Abyss” to deceive the nations and he, therefore, “ascends” from it over the whole earth in a final attempt to destroy the “saints.” Again, the theme of something evil “ascending” from the Abyss/sea is repeated.

Deceive the nations of the earth.” In Revelation 2:20, the “prophetess Jezebel,” an incarnation of the Great Harlot, attempted to deceive believers into participating in idolatry (“to commit fornication, and to eat things sacrificed unto idols”). In Revelation 13:14, the “beast from the earth” deceived the “inhabitants of the earth” into giving their allegiance to the Beast from the sea. Similarly, the Great Harlot used her “sorceries” to “deceive all the nations.” So, also, at the end of the thousand years, Satan is released from the "Abyss" to “deceive the nations” into a final attempt to destroy the church (Revelation 13:14, 18:23, 20:8-10).

After this, he must be loosed for a short time.” That is, a final period during which Satan is freed to deceive the nations into a final war against the Lamb and his followers. In Chapter 20, several themes are repeated from earlier chapters. Note especially, the warnings of a coming short period during which Satan will be released from the “Abyss” to attack the saints.

Portrayed in the book of Revelation is the defeat of Satan by the slain Lamb, and his “imprisonment” by Jesus until an appointed time prior to the final judgment. Satan is down but not yet completely “out.” No longer is he able to “deceive the nations” until his release. He is still powerful and deadly, but his powers are curtailed by the Lamb until the designated time. Thus, throughout the present age, the Lamb remains in firm control and sovereign over all things, including “Hades," “Abyss,” and Satan.

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