The Fallen Star

“Then the fifth angel blew his trumpet, and I saw a star that had fallen to earth from the sky, and he was given the key to the shaft of the bottomless pit. When he opened it, smoke poured out as though from a huge furnace, and the sunlight and air turned dark from the smoke.”

‭‭Revelation‬ ‭9:1-2‬ ‭NLT

After the eagle’s proclamation of more terrors to come, another angel appears. I wonder what he was thinking? He had observed what had happened when his colleagues, his fellow angels, had blown their trumpets, and now it was his turn. Did the angels know in advance what would happen in response to their trumpet blasts? We don’t know, but the fifth angel would have had a good idea that something terrible was about to happen. But he didn’t shirk from his responsibilities; instead he took a deep breath and blew his trumpet. 

John immediately, in his vision, saw a “star that had fallen to earth from the sky”. What else could that have been other than a glimpse of satan? Isaiah prophesied, ”How you are fallen from heaven, O shining star, son of the morning! You have been thrown down to the earth, you who destroyed the nations of the world.” (‭‭Isaiah‬ ‭14:12‬). Jesus also referred to satan’s eviction from Heaven in Luke 17:18, ““Yes,” he told them, “I saw Satan fall from heaven like lightning!”” But whoever it was, “he was given the key to the shaft of the bottomless pit”. 

Notice that satan was given the key to the abyss, the bottomless pit. He didn’t have the key on his own key ring. This is perhaps an indication that satan’s power is limited to only what God permits. But he was allowed to unlock the door to the abyss. And “smoke poured out as though from a huge furnace, and the sunlight and air turned dark from the smoke”. 

John saw in his vision what was most likely the door and shaft leading to hell. And it appears that there was a fire there – John referred to a “huge furnace”. So much smoke came up from the abyss that there was darkness from the smoke, and even the sun was blotted out. I wonder what was burning down there to cause so much smoke? Jesus used the picture of Jerusalem’s rubbish dump, referred to as Gehenna, where fire constantly burned. Some people claim that hell didn’t exist at this point in the end times judgement. Others say hell was created when satan and his fellow rebellious angels were kicked out of Heaven. But whichever it is I believe John received a glimpse of hell in his vision.

Hell is reality. Heaven is reality. We pilgrims have to be diligent in getting across the message about Heaven and hell to our families, our friends, our communities – remember the strap line “Hell is hot, Heaven is real, and Jesus saves”? That must be our message. Sadly these days (in my opinion) nothing much is preached from the pulpit about hell and God’s judgement. Perhaps our ministers and pastor are afraid of putting too much emphasis on hell because they might upset someone. But Jesus Himself spoke a lot about hell; in fact most of what we know about that place came from His lips. In Mark 9:48, Jesus quoted a verse from Isaiah 66 about hell being a place, “where the maggots never die and the fire never goes out“. In Matthew 13:49-50 we read, “That is the way it will be at the end of the world. The angels will come and separate the wicked people from the righteous, throwing the wicked into the fiery furnace, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth“. A graphic description of hell. To today’s sophisticated and cynical cultures, the concept of hell seems a bit medieval, so getting across the danger of going to hell to such people is a challenge. We pray for wisdom and the leading and support of the Holy Spirit before we engage in speaking about what many refer to as the “place downstairs”. The man in my village will find out, too late, that there will be no party in hell – just eternal maggots and fire, with the sound of weeping, wailing and the gnashing of teeth.

Father God. Thank You for the opportunities we get to share about Your love and righteous, but also about what will happen at the end of the age. Please help us in our conversations we pray. Amen.

The Incense Burner

“Then another angel with a gold incense burner came and stood at the altar. And a great amount of incense was given to him to mix with the prayers of God’s people as an offering on the gold altar before the throne. The smoke of the incense, mixed with the prayers of God’s holy people, ascended up to God from the altar where the angel had poured them out. Then the angel filled the incense burner with fire from the altar and threw it down upon the earth; and thunder crashed, lightning flashed, and there was a terrible earthquake.”
Revelation‬ ‭8:3-5‬ ‭NLT

Something significant happened when the incense burner collided with Planet Earth. We are not told in John’s vision the extent of the devastation but the thunder, lightning and the earthquake would have been yet something else to be endured by the remaining inhabitants, those still alive on earth. But in what way was it significant?

To me, the symbolism was of the holiness of Heaven colliding with the sin and wickedness present on Earth. The incense burner held two things of significance, which were God’s incense, and the prayers of the saints. And they were poured out on the altar as an offering to God. But the angel then took fire from the altar and filled up the incense burner, before hurling it through the spiritual dimension of Heaven to the Earthly dimension below. Did those still alive on earth at that time see something hit their surroundings; perhaps they thought it was a meteorite or asteroid, as some might assume? Or was there just another apparently natural event that once again caused much devastation? Of course, we don’t know, but John’s vision was clear. The Bible does tell us that Heavenly events can have an earthly impact. For example, in Luke 10:18 Jesus said that He saw satan fall from Heaven like lightning.

Perhaps the fire confirmed what John the Baptist had prophetically said about Jesus some time before, which we read in Matthew 3:11, “I baptise with water those who repent of their sins and turn to God. But someone is coming soon who is greater than I am—so much greater that I’m not worthy even to be his slave and carry his sandals. He will baptise you with the Holy Spirit and with fire.” Fire purifies. Fire cleanses. Perhaps on this occasion fire represents yet another judgement from God in response to the wickedness found on Earth. 

And the message was clear – sin can in no way prevail when it encounters holiness. An electrical storm of celestial proportions was followed by a “terrible earthquake“. Did the remaining inhabitants on earth rationalise the seemingly natural disaster to make it fit their entrenched belief system? Or did they at last realise that they were experiencing the consequences of their sins and wickedness? 

In these verses located between the judgements of the seven seals and the seven trumpets, we pause and consider how devastating sin really is and how it breaks God’s heart to see His creation behave in sinful and wicked ways.

Father God. On our knees before You today we confess our sins and pray for Your forgiveness. Your kindness, love and compassion knows no bounds. We are so grateful. Amen.