Jews and Christians were the only people who believed in one God in the first century. One historian has remarked that there were more gods in the Roman Empire than could be counted.
Like America has football and baseball stadiums that dot the landscape, pagan temples dominated the public space in the ancient world. The temples were both religious shrines, meeting places, and restaurants.
When people dined in the pagan temples, they set a place at the table for the “god” of that temple.
Paul criticized church members in Corinth, who believed that they could eat the Lord’s Supper and also participate in meals at pagan temples.
He identified the real spirit of the pagan temple as being a demon. Paul wrote, “What they sacrifice, they sacrifice to demons and not to God. I do not want you to be partners with demons” (1 Corinthians 10.20).
The members of the church had deceived themselves to believe that their behavior was acceptable, but Paul revealed the opposite.
Jesus and Religious Authorities
Jesus encountered serious opposition from religious leaders. In one tense exchange, he told them: “You are from your father the devil, and you choose to do your father’s desires.
“He was a murderer from the beginning and does not stand in the truth because there is no truth in him.
“When he lies, he speaks according to his own nature, for he is a liar and the father of lies” (John 8.44).
The religious authorities like the church in Corinth were surprised at such a rebuke. Both Jesus and Paul confronted them because they wanted them to turn to the True and Living God.
Jesus knew what many fail to understand, “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I have come that they may have life and have it abundantly” (John 10.10).
Whether you are arguing with Jesus about religious matters or compromising your faith in a pagan temple, you are dealing with the devil or demons who want to steal your life.
In his infinite wisdom, God will pull back the curtain of demonic deception to show humans the true nature of the idols we worship. When we see the true nature of the demonic, we will turn to the One who loves us.
The True Nature of Demons
At the present time, demons are limited in their ability to harm humans. When the fifth trumpet sounds, demons will be given permission to show humans their true evil nature.
And the fifth angel blew his trumpet, and I saw a star that had fallen from heaven to earth, and he was given the key to the shaft of the bottomless pit;
He opened the shaft of the bottomless pit, and from the shaft rose smoke like the smoke of a great furnace, and the sun and the air were darkened with the smoke from the shaft (Revelation 9.1-2).
The bottomless pit is the realm of demons.
You will remember the experience of the Gadarene demonized man and the demons’ appeal to Jesus, “They begged him not to order them to go back into the abyss” (Luke 8:31).
To some extent, demonic activity has been contained, but with the fifth trumpet, their true nature will be released.
Then from the smoke came locusts on the earth, and they were given authority like the authority of scorpions of the earth.
They were told not to damage the grass of the earth or any green growth or any tree, but only those people who do not have the seal of God on their foreheads (Revelation 9.3-4).
This plague, even though demonic, is under the control of God.
They were allowed to torment them for five months but not to kill them, and the agony suffered was like that caused by a scorpion when it stings someone.
And in those days people will seek death but will not find it; they will long to die, but death will flee from them (Revelation 9.5-6).
The torment though intense is limited in length and scope. It is intended to bring repentance.
The death which was inflicted on the martyrs was denied the wicked.
A leading pastor once had a very realistic dream of a beautiful and tempting woman. At some time during the dream, the beautiful woman turned into a hideous creature.
The fifth trumpet reveals the true nature of the attractive idols humans worship. The evil spirits that hide today behind an attractive facade are wholly repulsive (Revelation 9.7-10).
Revelation pulls back the curtain for humans to see God’s plans and purposes for the end time. It also reveals the true nature of actors in human history.
For example, Domitian was the emperor of the Roman Empire when Revelation was written. He wanted to be regarded as Apollo.
In light of what we have read, it is interesting to note that the locust was one of the symbols for Apollo.
Here is where heaven reveals the true nature behind the man who sat on the throne of the Roman Empire. Apollo is a short form for Apollyon.
They have as king over them the angel of the bottomless pit; his name in Hebrew is Abaddon, and in Greek he is called Apollyon (Revelation 9.11).
Both Abaddon and Apollyon refer to destruction. The Roman emperor required that his subjects worshiped him as a god, but the trumpet revealed him to be a demon of destruction.
Christians in Corinth wanted to be part of the city’s culture. It was good for their business and social lives. They found a way to rationalize joining in meals at pagan temples.
Religious leaders believed so strongly in their understanding of God that they became instruments of Satan when they confronted Jesus.
Both Jesus and Paul revealed the true nature of what seemed to be innocent behavior. Behind the actions of religious authorities and compromising Christians were the devil and demons.
The fifth trumpet of Revelation shows the true nature of demonic activity. They are horrific creatures who have one purpose, to torment and ultimately kill humans.
Let’s read Revelation 9 not as a mere intellectual exercise. Let’s read this passage as a warning to flee from the idolatry of our age.
Rudy Ross and I discuss this on YouTube today. It can be found on the Bob Spradling channel.