Who is The Angel of The Abyss (Apollyon/Abaddon)? + If I Have it, Should I Flaunt it? #161

Hello friends and happy Lord’s Day to you! As has become the tradition around here, I’d like to invite you to join us on Facebook at VBC Salinas (click here):  https://www.facebook.com/VBCsalinas/ 

We are going through the book of Revelation, and our focus tomorrow is on Jesus’ letter to the church at Ephesus calling them to return to their first love. Join us live at 11am!

Today’s Scripture for the podcast is Deuteronomy 11, Psalms 95 and 96, Isaiah 39 and Revelation 9. Once again, we are deviating from the norm and handling two questions for the day, which will give us two separate focus passages, Isaiah 39 and Revelation 9. Let’s tackle the harder question first. In Revelation 9, we are introduced to a most enigmatic and unsettling figure. He is called several things: The king of the locusts, the angel of the abyss, Abaddon and Apollyon. Let’s read Revelation 9 and shiver.

The appearance of the locusts was like horses prepared for battle. Something like golden crowns was on their heads; their faces were like human faces; they had hair like women’s hair; their teeth were like lions’ teeth; they had chests like iron breastplates; the sound of their wings was like the sound of many chariots with horses rushing into battle; 10 and they had tails with stingers like scorpions, so that with their tails they had the power to harm people for five months. 11 They had as their king the angel of the abyss; his name in Hebrew is Abaddon, and in Greek he has the name Apollyon.

Revelation 9:7-11

Well, that whole business is alarming, to say the least. Who is Abaddon? Well….I don’t know, and by the end of this, we won’t know either, but we can at least explore some possibilities. The name itself, Abaddon/Apollyon, means destroyer or destruction. Apollyon only occurs here in the Bible, but we find the Hebrew Abaddon in a few places in the Old Testament – usually as a place, rather than a being:

Will your faithful love be declared in the grave, your faithfulness in Abaddon? Psalms 88:11

Sheol and Abaddon lie open before the Lord— how much more, human hearts. Proverbs 15:11

Sheol and Abaddon are never satisfied, and people’s eyes are never satisfied. Proverbs 27:20

However, there is a passage in Job where both death and Abaddon are viewed as actual entities, very similar to how Paul speaks of death in 1 Corinthians 15 – as an enemy that Jesus will destroy.

Abaddon and Death say, “We have heard news of it with our ears. Job 28:22

So, we can learn from this that Abaddon represents death and destruction in some way. Perhaps a clue lies in the realm that Abaddon is the king of – he is the king of the abyss. What/where is the abyss? Great question. This is a place that seems to be different from Hades – the place of the dead. It seems to be more terrifying than that, though I admit that I am guessing based on a couple of key passages. In Luke 8, the demons that Jesus ultimately casts out of a herd of swine beg not to be cast into the abyss – a request that Jesus grants, and which causes us to wonder how bad the abyss is exactly if demons are terrified of it. We also read about the abyss in other passages. Psalms 140 seems to imply that the abyss is a kind of hell:

When those who surround me rise up,
may the trouble their lips cause overwhelm them.
10 Let hot coals fall on them.
Let them be thrown into the fire,
into the abyss, never again to rise.
11 Do not let a slanderer stay in the land.
Let evil relentlessly hunt down a violent man.

Psalms 140:9-11

Something along those lines might be also implied by Revelation 20

Then I saw an angel coming down from heaven holding the key to the abyss and a great chain in his hand. He seized the dragon, that ancient serpent who is the devil and Satan, and bound him for a thousand years. He threw him into the abyss, closed it, and put a seal on it so that he would no longer deceive the nations until the thousand years were completed. After that, he must be released for a short time.

Revelation 20:1-4

Though it must be said that Romans 10 seems to speak of the abyss in a more neutral/Sheol/Hades/Place of the dead way:

But the righteousness that comes from faith speaks like this: Do not say in your heart, “Who will go up to heaven?” that is, to bring Christ down or, “Who will go down into the abyss?” that is, to bring Christ up from the dead. On the contrary, what does it say? The message is near you, in your mouth and in your heart. This is the message of faith that we proclaim:

Going further than this with any sort of confidence is going to be difficult, because the Bible is very quiet on the identify and purpose of this being/place – we are only able to speculate beyond this point. That, however, hasn’t stopped people from speculating over the years:

Tyconius, who was a theologian from North Africa who lived in the 300s AD considered that Abaddon was the devil, “[The angel of the bottomless pit] is the devil, who possesses his great power among the kings of the world.”

William C. Weinrich, ed., Revelation, Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2005), 138.

Andrew of Caesarea agrees with this view, writing in the 500s, “It follows that the devil is to be regarded as their king, for he certainly destroys those who obey him”

As does friend of the podcast Charles Spurgeon:

“The paths of the destroyer have often tempted us; we have been prompted to become destroyers too, when we have been sorely provoked, and resentment has grown warm; but we have remembered the example of our Lord, who would not call fire from heaven upon his enemies, but meekly prayed, “Father, forgive them.” All the ways of sin are the paths of Satan,—the Apollyon or Abaddon, both of which words signify the destroyer. Foolish indeed are those who give their hearts to the old murderer, because for the time he panders to their evil desires.”

C. H. Spurgeon, The Treasury of David: Psalms 1-26, vol. 1 (London; Edinburgh; New York: Marshall Brothers, n.d.), 217.

Primasius, a Bishop who lived in the 500s AD, and was also from Northern Africa, considered Abaddon to be some sort of dark angel:

“As king they have over them the angel of the bottomless pit, whose name in Hebrew is ‘Armageddon,’ whose name in Greek is ‘Apollion,’ and whose name in Latin is ‘Exterminans.’ ”] Although God is supremely good, by hidden yet just judgments he nevertheless allows an angel suitable for such persons to rule over them. For a person is awarded as servant to the one who conquered him. And so the apostle said that they had been handed over “to every wicked deception because they refused to love the truth and so be saved. Therefore, God sends upon them a strong delusion that they might believe what is false and that all who did not believe the truth but consented to iniquity might be condemned.”61 The kind of work he did, therefore, was befitting to the character of his name, that is, the “exterminator.”

William C. Weinrich, ed., Revelation, Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2005), 138.

Finally, the more modern poet Alfred Tennyson, no theologian, thought of Abaddon as a demon:

“Devils pluck’d my sleeve,
Abaddon and Asmodeus caught at me.
I smote them with the cross; they swarmed again.
In bed like monstrous apes they crushed my chest:
They flapped my light out as I read: I saw
Their faces grow between me and my book:
With colt-like whinny and with hoggish whine
They burst my prayer.”

W. K. Lowther Clarke, The Lausiac History of Palladius, Translations of Christian Literature: Series I: Greek Texts (London; New York: Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge; The Macmillan Company, 1918), 27.

So – who indeed is the king of the abyss? Who is Abaddon/Apollyon? The simple and safest answer is: We don’t know, but almost certainly a being of great power that you and I want to avoid if we possibly can!

Next question, and this is a short one. The world says, “If you’ve got it, flaunt it.” Today in Isaiah 39, we see a real life story that serves as a parable against that point of view. Hezekiah, normally a very righteous king, flaunts his bling to an enemy king. This decision, along with the many sins of the people of Judah, will ultimately cause their country to be wiped out, and their people to go into exile. Let’s read!

Should we boast? Should we show off? Should we display our bling? The biblical answer is, NO! I read a story earlier today of a young man who was building a bomb in his home to kill a bunch of cheerleaders…true story! The bomb went off in his hand, removing his hand and injuring him greatly. Upon going to the hospital, he told investigators that he had a lawnmower accident, but FBI agents who searched his house found evidence of a bomb explosion. One of the pictures in the article of him was from his social media, and he was flashing a handful of 20s. He would have done better (and so would Hezekiah!) had he considered these words of truth:

Don’t boast about tomorrow, for you don’t know what a day might bring.Let another praise you, and not your own mouth—a stranger, and not your own lips.” Proverbs 27:1-2

“For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.” Luke 14:11

“And in his teaching he said, “Beware of the scribes, who like to walk around in long robes and like greetings in the marketplaces and have the best seats in the synagogues and the places of honor at feasts, who devour widows’ houses and for a pretense make long prayers. They will receive the greater condemnation.” Mark 12:38-40

Beware of practicing your righteousness before other people in order to be seen by them, for then you will have no reward from your Father who is in heaven. “Thus, when you give to the needy, sound no trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may be praised by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward.” Matthew” 6:1-2


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