Since the symbolic locust invasion of Revelation chapter 9 has a link to my series of posts on the “doctrines of demons” I thought I would write something concerning the idolaters mentioned at the end of chapter 9. If indeed the locust invasion of Revelation chapter 9 points figuratively to the rise and spread of Islam (as demonstrated Scripturally in parts 3, 4 and 5 of this current series of posts) then that provides us with a clue in understanding the identity of the men who are first tormented by these symbolic locusts.
“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 DEMONS (Greek word “daimonion”), 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.” (Revelation 9:20-21)
* the ones just mentioned in the same chapter; one could add the plagues of the first four trumpets as well
Notice that there is FALSE WORSHIP INVOLVING DEMONS** and WORSHIP OF LITERAL IDOLS (STATUES) MADE BY HUMAN HANDS.
** the original Greek word translated “demons” either meaning FALLEN ANGELS or DEIFIED MEN/WOMEN ACTING AS MEDIATORS BETWEEN GOD AND MEN ACCORDING TO ANCIENT GREEK RELIGIOUS VIEWS (see for example Plato’s “Symposium”; Augustine in his “City of God” when discussing paganism mentions mediators – called “demons” – between men and the gods)
There is also mention of murders, sorceries, fornication and thefts. The Greek word translated “sorceries” only occurs one other time in the Book of Revelation in chapter 18 in connection with the Great Whore described in chapters 17 and 18. The prophetic symbol of a whore/harlot was used in the Old Testament in connection with APOSTASY and IDOLATRY:
“How is the faithful city become an harlot! it was full of judgment; righteousness lodged in it; but now murderers.” (Isaiah 1:21)
“For their mother hath played the harlot: she that conceived them hath done shamefully: for she said, I will go after my lovers [false gods], that give me my bread and my water, my wool and my flax, mine oil and my drink.” (Hosea 2:5)
The Greek word translated “FORNICATION” occurs 6 other times in the Book. In chapter 2 fornication is mentioned for the first time in connection with a false prophetess (called “Jezebel”) teaching false doctrine among believers in Thyatira. The fornication in chapter 2 refers to SPIRITUAL FORNICATION because the “bed” mentioned in connection with “Jezebel” (2:22) is not to taken literally. In the 5 instances where the word occurs after chapter 9 (chapters 14, 17, 18 and 19) it refers to SPIRITUAL FORNICATION. So the 6 other instances of the word “fornication” all point to SPIRITUAL FORNICATION and I believe this is the same kind of fornication referred in chapter 9. SPIRITUAL FORNICATION is to be understood in connection with people who profess (or have professed) to know the true God (professing Christianity) so this “fornication” cannot refer in any way to Buddhists or Hindoos for example. SPIRITUAL FORNICATION involves IDOLATRY.
I would add before proceeding that the vision of chapter 9’s “locusts” can in no way point symbolically to evil spirits tormenting 1st century Jews as the preterist David Chilton teaches. As guilty as the 1st century Jews were for rejecting Christ it could not be said of them that they worshiped idols made with hands (Revelation 9:20-21) like their ancestors in the days of the prophets. Since literal idols are mentioned earlier in the book in connection with warnings to 1st century Gentile churches about avoiding literal idolatry we can’t spiritualize away the meaning of the “idols made by human hands” of chapter 9 to mean something other than literal idolatry. Especially when there’s nothing in the description of 9:20 to mean something other than literal, physical idols. Such a description of literal, physical idols was used by the prophet Daniel (Daniel 5:4,23). It would be most natural to expect God to warn 1st century Christians of the future rise of literal idolatry within professing Christianity (9:20-21) and of its deserved judgments as an added motivation for them to avoid idolatry in their own day.
At the time of the rise of Islam in the 7th century (fixing the timing of the vision of chapter 9) professing Christianity was mostly concentrated in Europe (Western and Eastern), in the Middle East and in Northern Africa. With the letter having been written to Christians and for the benefit of Christians we can say without hesitation that this chapter 9 vision has reference to those parts of the world just mentioned. That means for example that the “demon” worship of chapter 9 cannot refer to modern-day American Satanists. We must look at the first centuries of professing Christianity up till at least the 7th century.
Which “demons” were worshipped at the beginning of the 7th century? Which idolaters were tormented by Islam in the first centuries of its rise? Was there a part of professing Christianity guilty of spiritual fornication at that time? To the point of committing literal idolatry (making images) and being recognized as idolaters by the first Muslims?
Is there a prophecy in the New Testament pointing to “demon” worship in association with apostasy from the truth which could help us out? Yes there is! I will quote this prophecy from the New American Standard version :
“But the Spirit explicitly says that in later times SOME WILL FALL AWAY FROM THE FAITH, paying attention to deceitful spirits and DOCTRINES OF DEMONS, BY MEANS OF the hypocrisy of liars seared in their own conscience as with a branding iron, MEN WHO FORBID MARRIAGE AND ADVOCATE ABSTAINING FROM FOODS…” (1st Timothy 4:1-3a)
These doctrines CONCERNING/ABOUT “demons” (Greek word “daimonion”, the same word used in Revelation 9) are promoted/taught instrumentally “by means of the hypocrisy of liars… who forbid marriage and advocate abstaining from foods…” (v.2a,3a). CELIBATE ASCETICS (APOSTATES) who use lies (legends, fables, false visions, dreams) to spread these doctrines. Were there such men (or women) prior to the rise of Islam in Europe, Northern Africa and the Middle East? Yes! Here’s the 5 letter answer: M-O-N-K-S.
What kind of “worship” did these celibate, ascetic monks advocate? The visible worship of the devil and his fallen angels or visible worship of saints (deified men/women – “saints” – acting as mediators between God and men)? I believe the answer is pretty obvious to those who know history and the true Gospel.
Let me first quote Joseph Mede :
“But now I come to shew how this prediction of our apostle bath been accomplished; how the cozenage and feigning of liars was the means whereby the doctrine of demons was advanced in the Church ; I mean the deifying and worshiping of saints and angels, the adoring and templing of relics, the bowing down to images, the worshiping of crosses as new idol-columns, the worshiping of the breaden God or any other visible thing whatsoever upon supposal of any Divinity therein : all which I have proved to be nothing else but the Gentiles’ idolatrous theology of demons revived among Christians…. began to appear in the Church presently after the death of Julian the Apostate, who was the last heathen Emperor. The grounds and occasions whereof were most strange reports of wonders shewn upon those who approached the shrines of martyrs, prayed at their memories and sepulchres ; devils were charmed, diseases cured, the blind saw, the lame walked, yea the dead revived, and other the like : which the doctors of those times for the most part avouched to be done by the power and prayers of the glorified martyrs, and by the notice they took of men’s devotions at their sepulchres ; though at the beginning those devotions were directed to God alone, and such places were merely chosen for the stirring up of zeal and fervor by the memory of those blessed and glorious champions of Christ. But while the world stood in admiration, and most men esteemed these wonders as glorious beams of the triumph of Christ ; they were soon persuaded to call upon them as Patrons and Mediators, whose power ‘with God, and notice of things done upon earth, they thought that these signs and miracles approved.”
“Besides the silence of all undoubted antiquity about any such sepulchral wonders to have happened in the former ages, the very manner of speech which the fathers living in this miraculous age used, when they spake of these things, will argue that they were then accounted novelties, and not as continued from the Apostles’ times.”
“The second particular I named of the hypocrisy or feigning of liars, was fabulous legends of the acts of saints and martyrs. This was also another means to advance the doctrines of demons. For the true acts and stories of the martyrs being extinguished for the most part by the bloody edict of Dioclesian, they now began to supply again that loss by collecting such tales as were then current of them, and adding thereto such miracles as were fabled of them after death ; fashioned all to the best advantage of what they meant to promote in the Church, and which was already on foot in the same.”
“But when the idolatry of image -worship came to be added to that of saints, whether monks and friars, were not the chief sticklers therein, judge, when you shall hear how it fared with them in that great opposition against idols in the east.”
Let me quote again from Philip Mauro’s book “Things Which Must Soon Come to Pass”:
“It is not, however, because of the amazing spread of Islam in so short a time, or because of the absolute and tyrannical character of its rule, that place is given it in these visions of God. Rather it is because by it the judgment of God was executed upon those parts of the earth which had been illuminated by the Gospel from its beginning, but which had turned that heavenly light into a darkness worse than that of Paganism… [quoting Isaac Taylor] “What Mahomet and his caliphs found in all directions whither their scimitars cut a path for them, was a superstition so abject, AN IDOLATRY SO GROSS AND SHAMELESS [emphasis : mine], church doctrines so arrogant, church practices so dissolute and so puerile, that the strong-minded Arabians felt themselves inspired as God’s messengers to reprove the errors of the world, and authorized as God’s avengers to punish APOSTATE CHRISTENDOM. [emphasis : mine]“”
Let me add some Albert Barnes’s observations concerning Revelation 9:20-21 :
“That they should not worship devils – Implying that they practiced this before. The word used here – daimonion- means properly “a god, deity”; spoken of the pagan gods, Acts 17:18; then a genius, or tutelary demon, e. g., that of Socrates; and, in the New Testament, a demon in the sense of an evil spirit. See the word fully explained in the notes on 1 Corinthians 10:20. The meaning of the passage here, as in 1 Corinthians 10:20, “they sacrifice to devils,” is not that they literally worshipped devils in the usual sense of that term, though it is true that such worship does exist in the world, as among the Yezidis (see Layard, Nineveh and its Remains, vol. i. pp. 225-254, and Rosenmuller, Morgenland, iii. 212-216); but that they worshipped beings which were inferior to the Supreme God; created spirits of a rank superior to human beings, or the spirits of people that had been enrolled among the gods. This last was a common form of worship among the pagan, for a large portion of the gods whom they adored were heroes and benefactors who had been enrolled among the gods – as Hercules, Bacchus, etc. All that is necessarily implied in this word is, that there prevailed in the time referred to the worship of spirits inferior to God, or the WORSHIP OF THE SPIRITS OF DEPARTED PEOPLE [emphasis : mine]. This idea would be more naturally suggested to the mind of a Greek by the use of the word than the worship of evil spirits as such – if indeed it would have conveyed that idea at all; and this word would be properly employed in the representation if there was any homage rendered to departed human spirits which came in the place of the worship of the true God. Compare a dissertation on the meaning of the word used here, in Elliott on the Apocalypse, Appendix I. vol. ii.”
“The word rendered “sorceries” – pharmakeia- whence our word “pharmacy,” means properly “the preparing and giving of medicine,” Eng. “pharmacy” (Robinson‘s Lexicon ). Then, as the art of medicine was supposed to have magical power, or as the persons who practiced medicine, in order to give themselves and their art greater importance, practiced various arts of incantation, the word came to be connected with the idea of magic sorcery, or enchantment. See Schleusner, Lexicon. In the New Testament the word is never used in a good sense, as denoting the preparation of medicine, but always in this secondary sense, as denoting sorcery, magic, etc. Thus, in Galatians 5:20, “the works of the flesh – idolatry, witchcraft,” etc. Revelation 9:21, “of their sorceries.” Revelation 18:23, “for by thy sorceries were all nations deceived.” Revelation 21:8, “Whoremongers, and sorcerers.” The word does not elsewhere occur in the New Testament; and the meaning of the word would be fulfilled in anything that purposed to accomplish an object by sorcery, by magical arts, by trick, by cunning, by sleight of hand, or “by deceiving the senses in any way.” Thus, it would be applicable to all jugglery and to all pretended miracles.”
“The statement that they worshipped devils; that is, as explained, demons, or the deified souls of people. Homage rendered to the spirits of departed people, and substituted in the place of the worship of the true God, would meet all that is properly implied here. We may refer, then, to the WORSHIP OF SAINTS*** IN THE ROMAN CATHOLIC COMMUNION [emphasis : mine] as a complete fulfillment of what is here implied in the language used by John. The fact cannot be disputed that the invocation of saints took the place, in the Roman Catholic communion, of the worship of sages and heroes in pagan Rome, and that the canonization of saints took the place of the ancient deification of heroes and public benefactors. The same kind of homage was rendered to them; their aid was invoked in a similar manner, and on similar occasions; the effect on the popular mind was substantially the same; and the one interfered as really as the other with the worship of the true God.”
*** the “demons” of the 1st Timothy chapter 4 and Revelation 9 prophecies
Let us not forget that in chapter 9 it mentions that the locusts were not to torment those who had the seal of God. Remembering the important principle that Scripture interprets Scripture we should note that the same kind of language and symbolism is found in the Book of Ezekiel (chapter 9). In the context of Ezekiel’s vision was the seal a distinction between racial Israelites and racial Gentiles or was it not rather a distinction between Israelites who feared God (the Israel of God, the elect, the godly remnant) and apostate, idolatrous Israelites (professing Israel with no true love or fear of God)? When we consider that in the vision given to Ezekiel in the Old Testament God had given instructions to His servants to kill the guilty people in Jerusalem (not a Gentile city) and to start the killing in His sanctuary (the temple) should it then not be natural to suppose that vision given to the apostle John, a Jew, in Revelation chapter 9 should concern the judgment of false Christians, idolaters among those who profess to know God. Did not the apostle Peter echo the thought found in Ezekiel that judgment is to begin in the house of God (1 Peter 4:17)? Let us remember Christ’s rule of prophetic hermeneutics given in chapter 1. He used an Old Testament symbol, the candlestick, and gave it a New Testament meaning (church). In Revelation we should not think in terms of racial Israel but in terms of spiritual Israel. In other words the Israel of God which contains both Jews and Gentiles.