SYNOPSIS – The Abyss is the source of satanic attacks against the people of God but remains under the authority of the Lamb – Revelation 11:7.
The “Abyss” was introduced by the fifth trumpet, a deep pit from which a horde of locust-like creatures ascended to torment the “inhabitants of the earth.” In Revelation, this deep place is the place from which satanic agencies ascend to wreak havoc and wage war against the “saints.” It is also where demonic forces are held until their appointed time to “ascend” and execute their evil deeds – (Revelation 9:1-2, 13:1-2, 17:8, 20:1-3, 20:7-10).
(Revelation 9:1-3) – “And the fifth angel sounded; and I saw a star, out of heaven, fallen unto the earth, and there was given to 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 to them license, as the scorpions of the earth have license.”
In his first vision, John heard one “like a son of man” declared the “First and the Last, and the Living One, and I became dead, and behold, living am I unto the ages of ages!” His past death and resurrection granted him great authority, including the “keys of death and of hades.” “Hades” may be an unclean and ominous place; nevertheless, it is not beyond his authority – (Revelation 1:9-20).
In the letter to the church in Thyatira, the Son of God chastised the “angel” of the congregation for tolerating the prophetess “Jezebel.” Like the “Great Whore, Babylon,” she was teaching many saints “to fornicate and to eat food offered to idols” – (Revelation 2:18-29, 17:1-5).
The false “prophetess” claimed it was permissible to “know the deep things of Satan.” In her mind, she taught the “deep things of God” – supposedly, deeper spiritual insight and practices. Jesus revealed her doctrine for what it was – the “deep things” or bathos of Satan. This is a conceptual link to the “Abyss,” the deep pit from which demonic forces ascend to deceive men. “Depth” symbolizes the satanic source of such deceptions – (Revelation 9:1-2, 11:7, 13:1, 17:8, 20:1-3).
When the fifth trumpet sounded, a “star” fell to the earth with the “key” that opened the “Abyss.” Likewise, at the commencement of the “thousand years,” an “angel” descended with the “key of the Abyss” to imprison Satan. 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).
In chapter 9, the opening of the “Abyss” unleashed a horde of “locusts upon the earth” that tormented men. They were likened to “horses prepared for battle.” The horde was ruled by the “angel of the abyss, whose name, in Hebrew is ‘Destruction’, also in the Greek, ‘Destroyer’.”
The sixth trumpet released the “four angels who were bound at the great river Euphrates…” The “Euphrates river” corresponds to the “Abyss” of the preceding trumpet – The source of evil unleashed on the earth – (Revelation 9:13-21).
The fifth and sixth trumpets parallel the fifth and sixth “bowls of wrath.” Like the fifth trumpet, the fifth “bowl of wrath” caused the “darkening” of the kingdom of the “beast,” as well as the tormenting of men who had its mark. Like the sixth trumpet, the “sixth bowl of wrath” 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” – The last battle, Armageddon – (Revelation 16:10-16).
The “two witnesses” or “two lampstands” prophesied 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” was released to wage war on the “two witnesses,” and to “slay them” – (Revelation 1:20, 11:3-7).
The same “beast” appears again when it “ascends from the Sea.” The “sea” represents the same reality as the “Abyss.” In either instance, the “beast ascends” to prosecute war against the “saints/witnesses.” Both visions borrow the same language from Daniel– “The same horn made war with the saints, and prevailed against them.” Thus, the “two witnesses” represent the same group called “saints” in chapter 13 – (Daniel 7:21, Revelation 13:1-10).
(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.” Now, the angel descends from heaven to bind the Devil, not to release him. This locates the imprisonment of Satan in the “Abyss” BEFORE the events detailed in chapter 9, when a “star” fell from heaven with the “key to the Abyss” to release demonic forces.
“The dragon, the ancient serpent, who is the Devil and Satan.” These four names link this image 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.” The “Dragon was “cast” (ballō) to the earth.
Likewise, Satan was “cast” (ballō) into the “Abyss” BEFORE the commencement of the “thousand years.” With the victory of the “Lamb,” he lost his prosecutorial powers – (Revelation 12:9-13).
The Devil was imprisoned so “he might not deceive the nations anymore until the thousand years should be ended.” This is a further link to chapter 12 where the “Dragon” was called “the deceiver of the whole habitable earth.” He was not bound from all activities – only from “deceiving the nations.”
A voice pronounced “woe” to the “inhabitants of the earth” – the Devil was “cast to the earth,” knowing he had “but a short time.” However, he was still able to unleash destructive forces against humanity, including the “saints.” Thus, though imprisoned, he was the “angel of the Abyss” and the “Destroyer” – (Revelation 9:1-12, 12:12).
Likewise, Satan was freed from the “Abyss” at the “end of the thousand years” to “deceive the nations” and gather them for a final assault against the “saints” – he “ascended” from it to attack the “camp of the saints.” Once more, the theme of evil “ascending” from the Abyss/sea is repeated. The “Dragon” did not escape from the pit; he was “released,” presumably by the “Lamb,” but only for a “short time” – (Revelation 20:7-9).
Note the parallels. In Thyatira, the “prophetess Jezebel” attempted to deceive believers into participating in idolatry – (“To commit fornication, and to eat things sacrificed unto idols”). Likewise, the “beast from the earth” deceived the “inhabitants of the earth” to give allegiance to the “beast from the sea.” So also, the “Great Whore” used her “sorcery” to “deceive all the nations.” And at the end of the “thousand years,” Satan was released to “deceive the nations” to make a final attempt to destroy the church – (Revelation 2:20, 13:14, 18:23, 20:8-10).
Revelation portrays the defeat and imprisonment of Satan by the “Lamb” until an appointed time – He is down but not completely “out” – No longer able to “deceive the nations” until his release from the “Abyss.” Yet he remains deadly, though his powers have been curtailed – for now. Thus, throughout the present age, the “Lamb” is in firm control – sovereign over all things – including “Hades” and the “Abyss.”