The Star Falling from Heaven
After the first four angels sounded their trumpets, Rev. 8:13 says,
13 And I looked, and I heard an eagle flying in midheaven, saying with a loud voice, “Woe, woe, woe, to those who dwell on the earth, because of the remaining blasts of the trumpet of the three angels who are about to sound!”
The first four trumpets were designed to bring about the fall of Rome and the Western Roman Empire in 476 A.D. The final three trumpets were blown to judge Constantinople until its fall in 1453. These are called woes, because these judgments are directed as much at the church as at the Roman empire.
In 380 Roman Emperor Theodosius made Christianity the official religion of the empire, and in 395 paganism was outlawed completely. Later, in 534 A.D., Emperor Justinian completed this process by adopting church law as the law of the empire, in fulfillment of the prophecy in Dan. 7:25. The state—represented by the emperor— inadvertently became the mere enforcer of church law and therefore became the servant of the church. After all, the church had created the laws for the empire to enforce.
For this reason, the final three trumpets, or “woes,” directed divine judgment upon both church and state. Rev. 9:1 says,
1 And the fifth angel sounded, and I saw a star from heaven which had fallen to the earth; and the key of the bottomless pit was given to him. 2 And he opened the bottomless pit; and smoke went up out of the pit, like the smoke of a great furnace; and the sun and the air were darkened by the smoke of the pit. 3 And out of the smoke came forth locusts upon the earth; and power was given them, as the scorpions of the earth have power.
Here we read plainly that the fifth angel was assigned by God to open the bottomless pit, or the abyss. From the start it is established in Scripture that the woes are divine judgments upon the church, and that last verse of the chapter says that the church nonetheless refused to repent. These woes were designed to put pressure upon the church and the Christian empire and to expose its sin of idolatry, murder, sorcery, immorality, and theft (Rev. 9:20, 21).
The earthly manifestation of the three woes has mostly to do with the rise of Islam. Since that time, Islam has been the whip in God’s hand to judge the church—and the empire with it. The problem is that too many in the church thought that Islam was a movement which they were called to fight and destroy, not seeing that they could not succeed in fighting what God had ordained, apart from repentance.
The Universal Bishop
The rise of the little horn after 476 A.D. came to full bloom in 606 when Pope Boniface III claimed exclusive right to the title, “Universal Bishop.” This he did just a few years after his predecessor (Pope Gregory) had stated strongly that this was a “blasphemous antichristian assumption.”
In making such a statement, Pope Gregory identified the Papacy itself as the little horn of Daniel. Dan. 7:8, 20 says that this little horn spoke “great boasts.” But Rev. 13:5 paraphrases this and interprets it as “arrogant words and blasphemies.”
Furthermore, Pope Gregory even identified the Papacy as “antichrist,” if any Roman Bishop were to lay claim to the title of “Universal Bishop.” As we saw previously, the word antichrist means “in place of Christ.” In other words, the Vicar of Christ. A Vicar (or “antichrist”) can either rule as a steward or as a usurper. Which role a ruler takes is determined by the manner of his rule. Pope Gregory, then, claimed that any pope who would assume the title of Universal Bishop was no longer a steward but a usurper of Christ’s throne.
Those who teach the futurist view of Revelation think that the little horn is the antichrist, who will rule a revived Roman Empire. They are largely correct, but they are wrong in placing this into the future. They simply do not know history, and so do not realize how this has already come to pass. 1 John 2:18 says there are “many antichrists,” of course, so by no means was the “Universal Bishop” of Rome the only antichrist.
There have been many Protestant antichrists, Evangelical antichrists, and even Pentecostal antichrists in history, and many are in that position to this day. One only has to look at the prophetic examples of King Saul and Absalom to understand how antichrists usurp the throne for themselves. Saul, who had a legitimate anointing, usurped authority by doing his own will. Absalom was not called to rule, but he actually usurped the throne of his father David with the support of the majority of the people of Israel (2 Sam. 15:13).
The church is “Saul,” which had a genuine anointing at the start. The misuse of church authority, which was the sin of King Saul, is what gave rise to Islam insofar as God was concerned. Mohammed actually began to get his revelations just after 606 A.D. when Pope Boniface III claimed the title of “Universal Bishop.” Mohammed then began to preach his message in 612.
The Traditions of Men
When the emperor Justinian established church law as the law of the empire in 534 B.C., the new laws were no doubt an improvement upon the previous laws that the empire had accumulated over 1200 years of its history. However, he did not adopt Scripture itself as the law of the land. Instead, he adopted laws that seemed right to him and to church officials who were largely ignorant of the divine law.
Hence, they wrote their laws with their best understanding, but in the end—as the Jews themselves had done—they put away the divine law in favor of their own traditions. They became legalistic, instead of being lawful. Matt. 15:3, 7-9 said to the scribes and Pharisees,
3 And He answered and said to them, “And why do you yourselves transgress the commandment of God for the sake of your tradition? … 7 You hypocrites, rightly did Isaiah prophesy of you, saying, 8 ‘This people honors Me with their lips, but their heart is far away from Me. 9 But in vain do they worship Me, teaching as doctrines the precepts of men’.”
The same Scripture applied later to the church—not only to the Roman church, but any church that put away the law of God in favor of their own “tradition.” This was why God raised up Islam to judge the church. God raised up Islam to show us what legalistic religion looks like. By threshing the church with legalistic Islamic traditions, Christians should have repented from their own legalistic ways and returned to the laws of God.
The crowning achievement of legalism is to justify hatred of all “enemies,” as if hatred is the fruit of the Spirit. Even as the Church had attempted in a carnal manner to convert men and nations by turning the cross into a sword, so also did Islam respond in kind. The only difference is that God empowered Islam to do it, whereas the Church did it in direct disobedience to the commandment of Jesus Christ.
This, then, was the divine judgment, based on the principle of equal justice, or “eye for eye” (Exodus 21:24). The judgment always fits the crime. If a man falsely accuses another, he is to be judged according to the penalty that he thought to bring upon his victim (Deut. 19:19). This is why Jesus said in Matt. 7:1, 2 that if we judge others, we will be judged (held accountable) according to the same standard of measure.
In this case, Christian Rome established “traditions of men” in the same manner that the Jews had done, and so they came under the same condemnation. God then raised up Islam, another legalistic religion, to judge the church in order to reveal to Christians the folly of legalism. The solution to the problem of Islam was not to make war on Mohammed, but for the church to repent of its lawless rebellion and to put on the mind of Christ in order to interpret the law properly.
Unfortunately, the church as a whole did not understand this, and so God’s Islamic judgment has continued to the present time.
The Smoke and the Locusts
The rise of Islam began in 612 A.D., the year that Mohammed began to teach, and it peaked 150 years later when Islam’s religious and political capital moved from Damascus to the newly-built city of Baghdad in 762-763. Rev. 9:1 says,
1 And the fifth angel sounded, and I saw a star from heaven which had fallen to the earth; and the key of the bottomless pit was given to him [the fifth angel].
Rev. 9:1 speaks of a “falling star,” which is not to be taken literally as a star or meteor or planet. It says that God gave the key of the bottomless pit to the fifth angel. He used the key to open the abyss, and let loose what is pictured as smoke and locusts. Meteors falling from the sky do not release locusts or spiritual entities from the abyss. The “star” was Mohammed himself. He was said to fall from heaven to earth in order to show us that he was raised up by God Himself.
Hence, from the outset we learn that God took credit for raising up Mohammed and for loosing these “locusts” from the abyss. Since God does nothing without purpose, this shows that He intended to bring judgment upon the church. Rev. 9:2, 3 says,
2 And he opened the bottomless pit; and smoke went up out of the pit, like the smoke of a great furnace; and the sun and the air were darkened by the smoke of the pit. 3 And out of the smoke came forth locusts upon the earth; and power was given them, as the scorpions of the earth have power.
Locusts come out of the ground, and so they are a very appropriate symbol of an earthly, or carnal religion. Rev. 9:2 speaks of “smoke” coming out of the pit, by which “the sun and the air were darkened.” Islam was to bring darkness, rather than the light of true revelation. Even the air was to be darkened. Rev. 9:3 says that the locusts were not the cause of this darkness, but rather that the darkness brought forth the locusts. It says, “out of the smoke came forth locusts.” Jesus tells us in Matt. 6:22, 23,
22 The lamp of the body is the eye; if therefore your eye is clear, your whole body will be full of light. 23 But if your eye is bad, your whole body will be full of darkness. If therefore the light that is in you is darkness, how great is the darkness!
The dark revelation that Mohammed brought did not bring the true light of Christ to the earth. The Koran did not produce any sons of God, but only spiritual locusts. Locusts periodically devastated the land when they swarmed and ate everything in sight. They were considered to be a plague on account of the devastation left in their wake.
Prophetic locusts are described in the first two chapters of Joel as the army God raised up in “the day of the Lord” (Joel 2:1, 11). After introducing the plague of locusts in Joel 1:4, we read in Joel 2:3-11,
3 A fire consumes before them, and behind them a flame burns. The land is like the garden of Eden before them, but a desolate wilderness behind them, and nothing at all escapes them… 7 They run like mighty men; they climb the wall like soldiers… 8 They do not crowd each other; they march everyone in his path. When they burst through the defenses, they do not break ranks. 9 They rush on the city, they run on the wall; they climb into the houses, they enter through the windows like a thief… 11 And the Lord utters His voice before His army… The day of the Lord is indeed great and very awesome, and who can endure it?
In light of the destructive nature of great swarms of locusts, which darken the sky and eat up every living thing in its path, Rev. 9:4 says something quite strange:
4 And they were told that they should not hurt the grass of the earth, nor any green thing, nor any tree, but only the men who do not have the seal of God on their foreheads.
These locusts are not literal, for they are commanded not to hurt the grass or any green thing. Literal locusts devour everything that is green, for that is natural to locusts. Locusts cannot be denied food without quickly dying. But if these represent the adherents of Islam, then it all makes sense.
Islam’s sacred color is green, and for this reason many flags from Islamic countries are green or contain green. Koran Law forbids harming trees and all green things. Hence, these “locusts” are not leaf-eating insects, and yet they leave devastation in their wake.
The Islamic Tax on Christians
Muslim policy was to conquer and convert people to Islam, and if they did not convert, they had to pay a special tax. In those days only non-compliance brought death. In his book, The Outline of History, H. G. Wells says on page 584,
“. . . everywhere they offered a choice of three alternatives; either pay tribute, or confess the true God and join us, or die.”
At the beginning, when Jerusalem first surrendered to Omar in 638 (without resistance), Islamic policy was established. H. G. Wells informs us on page 586,
“. . . the Christians were to be tolerated, paying only a poll tax; and all the churches and all the relics were left in their possession.”
Thus, Rev. 9:5 was fulfilled, for the new invaders were not allowed to kill Christians and Jews but only to impose a tax upon them. In this, the Muslims were more merciful than either the Jews (in the early days of Christianity) or the Christians (when they came to power). God was merciful when He limited their divine mandate—at least in those days.