Many interpreters make the fallen star to be the devil, citing Isa. 14:12 and Luke 10:18. They interpret the smoke and darkness of the sun to be the blindness of men. The locusts, they say, are evil angels. Their hurting, the mistreating of men. But this is too general and confused. For why should ancient history so familiar to Christians be re-introduced under obscure types? Even Ribera saw the inconsistency in such logic, though his solution is no better. For he interprets this fallen star to be a good Angel, to whom was given the key to the bottomless pit, that he might open it, as a minister of God’s righteous judgments.
Others, such as Junius, interpret this Angel to be Christ because He is said to have the key of the bottomless pit, Rev. 1:18; 20:1. Bellarmine confesses that he dares not rashly pronounce anything concerning this dark prophecy. And yet, in a long oration, or rather a satirical invective consisting of almost as many lies as words, he most rashly pronounces Luther to be this star; the smoke ascending out of the pit, to be Luther’s doctrine, and that the innumerable multitude of these horrible Locusts do most lively express his disciples! But this whole fiction is so ridiculous, as indeed, Alcazar himself derides it, saying, ‘I wonder that he did not also refer it to the fall of Judas!’ By such wantonness of wit it is obvious that Bellarmine endeavors to darken the true meaning of this vision, so that he may preserve the Pope’s reputation by not allowing his readership to see the Papacy typed out in this prophecy. Besides, he would dissipate this hellish smoke from Popery, if he could, lest he himself should be accounted a leading and chief locust among them, as in truth he is.
Notwithstanding all these interpretations, if all things be well considered, it will easily and undoubtedly appear that by the fall of this great star nothing else is prefigured but the apostasy of the Roman Bishop, who makes himself head of the Church, along with his devised hierarchy. I will, therefore, not out of any sinister affection, but truly as the things are, and according to how the Lord has made me to see, attempt to expound every particular, leaving it unto the judgment of the reader.
It is plain that by stars in the Revelation are noted, not Emperors or earthly kings, but Bishops and teachers of Churches. By great stars are meant, not the inferior ministers or Bishops, as they are called, but Prelates of higher note and rank. Now the reasoning of this analogy I have already explained on Chap. 1:20, to wit, because Bishops ought to shine like stars in sincerity of doctrine and holiness of life. They ought to be the light of the world. And hence, I agree with Bullinger, the Catholic Gloss, and other learned interpreters, who understand this great star fallen from heaven to signify some chief and eminent Bishop; and by his fall from heaven into the earth is signified his apostasy from the heavenly truth, unto earthly doctrines of human traditions. But who is this eminent Bishop?
In the third trumpet, the great star falling from heaven was the Bishop of Rome, who, being accounted by Constantine a God on earth, enriched with wealth and power beyond measure, began to swell with great pride, whereupon Pope Sylvester’s successors, by means of the Emperor’s decree, began to fall upon the third part of the rivers and fountains of waters, that is, leaving the study of heavenly things, affecting an earthly dominion and power over the Churches and Bishops of all Europe, bringing in pernicious superstitions and worship of idols, made the waters bitter, to the destruction of the Eastern Churches.
Now this great star fallen from heaven spoken here in Rev. 9 is none other than the same one in the sounding of the third trumpet. Here John sees the adjuncts and effects of the same star being far more grievous than before. Now he sees this star fully fallen, neither vanished away, nor perished in the waters, but sticking fast like filth unto the earth, as do slimy and thick vapors which fall from heaven.
The Angel of the Abyss is the Papal Antichrist
He also saw the key of the bottomless pit given to him to open therewithal the bottomless pit, etc. By this the worsened condition of the Roman chair is represented to John, viz., its total apostasy and monstrous corruption. By this it is obvious that the rising of the great Roman Antichrist is described. For to what other Ecclesiastical person, I pray you, can these things be applied? And, indeed, Gregory 1st calls Antichrist the one who affects the title of Universal Priest, the very thing Boniface III did three years after Gregory’s decease, in A. D. 606, by the decree of the Emperor Phocas, the Intruder, calling him Universal Bishop, Chief Priest and Bishop of Bishops. But this prophecy must not be limited to Boniface alone, but to all his successors in that Seat, just as the falling star of the third trumpet typed out not only Pope Sylvester, but all his successors until Gregory. Although Boniface sat in the chair of universal pestilence only one year, his successors proceeded from evil to worse.
Mohammed not the Angel of the Abyss
I am not ignorant that some learned men think that Mohammed is to be understood in this prophecy because it was at this time that he caused an open apostasy from the faith of Christ in most of the East, esteemed by his followers to be a great Prophet, even to this day. But I see no reason why he should be called a celestial star in Scripture, since from the very first he was a most wicked deceiver and a cruel murderer, setting up his own dreams by magical art and the power of the sword. Wherefore I judge that here is most plainly typed out the Roman Antichrist with his clergy, while Mohammed is predicted in the following trumpet.
The sum of all this is that we may interpret the Revelation by itself. The falling of this star is that great earthquake which arose at the opening of the sixth seal.
‘And to him was given the key to the bottomless pit…’
The primary event here shown John is the giving of the key of the bottomless pit unto this apostate star. Hence, he is called the Angel of the bottomless pit, and Abaddon, the king of the locusts. All of these titles may most fitly be applied to the Popes of Rome, who received this key after apostatizing. The term, ‘bottomless pit,’ refers to the deepest, filthiest, particularly wicked sink of Hell. The ‘key’ symbolizes the power to open or shut the same, thrusting into and delivering out of it whomsoever he pleases. For keys signify power. Now who, besides the Pope, usurps this power to himself? This is yet another proof that the Pope is this apostate star.
But who gave him this key? It was Phocas who appointed, by a solemn decree, that the Pope should have absolute and full power over all Bishops and Churches, to call and dissolve Synods, to confirm or abolish their decrees, and that nothing can be ratified, but by the sole authority of the See of Rome. And thus it is that the Pope has power both in Heaven, Earth, and Hell. This power is signified in the triple crown which he wears. A Papal decree even stipulates, If the Pope should send many thousands of men into hell, no man may say unto him, what doest thou? Hence, the Pope makes laws ruling men’s consciences, makes new articles of faith, canonizes books, saints and images, celebrates Jubilees, sends forth innumerable indulgences or pardons for sin, empties Purgatory, the latter which most fittingly may be applied to this bottomless pit. But in truth, this key was given unto him by Satan, that old serpent, according to the prophecy of the Apostle, The coming of Antichrist shall be after the working of Satan, with all power, etc.
I confess, indeed, that the first Bishop or pastor of the Christian Church at Rome received the key of the kingdom of Heaven from Christ, that is, the power to bind and loose the consciences of men according to the Law and the Gospel. But Satan gives unto the Pope the contrary key, by which he hath thrust aside and made void Christ’s key. And hence it is that the Pope hath two keys crosswise in his ensigns.
John Paul II Papal Coat of Arms
Nevertheless, this did not come to pass without God’s secret and unsearchable judgment, as the Apostle witnesses, 2 Thess. 2, saying that the coming of Antichrist is with all deceivableness of unrighteousness. Yet God shall send them strong delusion that they should believe a lie because they received not the love of the truth. We must not understand this only of a bare permission, as if God did nothing but look upon that which Satan, Phocas and Antichrist should do. He willingly granted this power to Antichrist by His secret and righteous judgment, so that he, himself, and all who believed not the truth might be damned. This similar thing is said in verse 3, that power was given to the locusts to hurt men as the scorpions of the earth have power, that is, from their king, the devil, yet not without the ordering hand of God, who wisely disposes all things, whether done by men or devils. Likewise it is said in Rev. 13:5, 7, 15, that it was given to the beast to make war with the saints, and to give life to the image of the beast, etc. From this we may see how God righteously punishes sin with sin in Antichrist’s kingdom. This truth we are to take notice of, so that in the midst of these Antichristian confusions we may not look upon Antichrist and the devil only, but indeed chiefly consider and adore the presence and secret judgments of God.
But you may ask, ‘How is it the key to the bottomless pit (which Christ has) is given unto Antichrist?’ I answer: Christ has it one way, Antichrist another. Christ truly has it by right of His Godhead and as Mediator, as Lord of death and Hell, having the power to redeem sinners from this judgment. But Antichrist hath it falsely and by deceit, as being king of locusts, and impudently professing himself to be Christ’s Vicar. Besides, he does not have the key of Hell absolutely, but that of the bottomless pit, or the sink of Hell, out of which comes the smoke of his pestilent lies and deceit, to the damnation of the inhabitants of the earth.
‘And he opened the bottomless pit…’
Now John expounds the pestilent effects of this power. The bottomless pit was shut up by the doctrine of the Prophets and Apostles, who plucked men out of the snares of Satan by leading them unto the living fountains of Israel. I was shut up, I say, almost until these times. For hitherto the faithful teachers took heed that this pestilent smoke might not spread itself over their Churches. But that Antichrist has received the key into his hand, he has unlocked, as it were, the very Gate of Hell which had before been shut. But what is this? Surely it is nothing less than the Pope’s universal power by which he labored, not to open the kingdom of God to men, but on the contrary, to unloose the very bars of Hell, so that the world might rush headlong into it. The Pope opened this bottomless pit when, by his authority, he established his filthy errors, superstitions, idols, etc., and removed from the Church the certainty of salvation and perseverance, tormenting and infusing into the consciences of men all kinds of fears and doubts, etc. This was the porch or entry into Hell. Therefore, he opened the bottomless pit for the destruction of all men, as hunters also open caves and pits, whereinto the unwary deer might fall and be taken. This was the first effect of the key.
‘And there arose a smoke out of the pit…’
The second effect is an exhalation of a pestilent smoke which necessarily follows the former. It is called ‘smoke’ because it ascends out of Hell, as of a great furnace, like that used by bakers, brick makers, smiths, and the like.
The smoke is nothing less than the black and smoky divinity of the Pope as evidenced in his wicked decrees touching images and idol worship, his taking upon himself the ability to purge sins by saying masses, penance, satisfactions, pilgrimages, alms, purgatory, jubilees, pardons, etc., the primacy of his Roman Chair, his power in Heaven and Hell. In short, the entire volumes of their Canons and Decretals, together with the extricable toys of Scholastic divinity. By means of all these the Pope hath in very deed brought a thick smoke upon the Christian world, establishing a mingle-mangle of Judaism and Paganism instead of Christianity, oppressing the truth of Christ with most gross darkness. Now the doctrines of Antichrist are compared to smoke from the effects thereof. For as the smoke obscures the air, hurting the eyes, causing such a darkness that things cannot be clearly seen, and he who walks in it is in danger of suffocating, or to fall down headlong, so it is with Antichrist’s smoke.
‘And the sun and air were darkened…’
This signifies the same evil as in the fourth trumpet, but more grievous. For before only a third part, but here a total defect of the light. Nothing is more sad to behold than total eclipse, (which occurred in Egypt during Christ’s passion).
Now as Christ is the Sun of righteousness, nothing else can be signified by this total darkness, but that universal apostasy from the faith, which the Apostle Paul foretold should come to pass under Antichrist. For after Gregory 1st Boniface III and his successors sitting in the chair of universal pestilence, a horrible night darkened Christ the Sun in the Church, for all places were filled with the most gross darkness of Papal decrees, traditions, superstitions, ceremonies, lies, fraud and Sophistry. The sum of all is this: The darkness of the sun which the apostate star brought in by hellish smoke of Papal divinity doth exactly answer to that obscurity which happened at the opening of the sixth seal. For the sun was made black like sackcloth of hair, the moon was turned to blood, the stars fell from the Heaven to the earth, etc. By all these signs is mystically set forth that horrible night of blindness which Christ suffered during Antichrist’s reign.
But you might say, ‘How can this darkness be applied to the Papacy since they profess the name of Christ, believing Him to be the Saviour, receiving the Apostolic faith as orthodox, and acknowledge the holy Scriptures of God to this day?’
Now here I desire the reader to consider what I have before answered unto this fair pretence. Also, what the Apostle said unto the hypocritical teachers of his time, who under a show of preaching Christ, brought into the Church Jewish ceremonies and a flagrant licentious lifestyle, they profess that they know God, but in work they deny him. How perfectly this corresponds to Antichrist, as the early Church Fathers, Hilary and Augustine, and others, well observed. It is true, indeed, in word he professes Christ, but in works he denies Him; for had he come as an open enemy of Christ he could never have invaded the kingdom of the Church. But his coming, as foretold by the Apostle, was with all deceivableness of unrighteousness.
Thus we see that Antichrist, under the name of Christ, should oppose Christ, and labor to destroy the faith of Christ out of the hearts of men. I quote Hilary, ‘The propriety of Antichrist’s name is to be contrary to Christ, which is now effected under the opinion of feigned piety. This is now preached under show of preaching the Gospel. And, indeed, Christ, while he seems to be preached, is denied. I quote Augustine, ‘He is also to be esteemed the son of perdition who, under the name of Christ, which is the name of God, that is, making show of being a Christian, exalts himself above Christ.’ From this it appears that these fathers were of the opinion that Antichrist, under the name and faith of Christ, should deny both.
How the Papists deny Christ
They pray unto the images of Mary made of stone, wood, gold, etc., saying, ‘Holy Mary, Queen of Heaven, hear us, save us, O thou our only hope, etc. In thee, O Lady, I trust. Into thy hands, I commend my spirit. The Lord said unto my Lady, sit thou at my right hand, etc.’ Unto other images of Peter, Paul, Nicholas, Magdalene, they pray, ‘Have mercy on us, save us, etc.’
Is not this to deny God and Christ, the only Saviour, by their works, though in the words of the Creed they profess him? They teach that the remission of sins, righteousness and eternal life is to be sought in the merits of human works – penance, satisfactions, Jubilees, indulgences, masses, exorcisms, processions, pilgrimages, purgatory, etc. Is not this a denying of the blood and merit of Jesus Christ, despite their profession?
The Pope boasts of being the Vicar of Christ, the Head and Monarch of the Church on earth. But Christ never appointed nor gave any such office unto the Church. Read 1 Cor. 12:8, and Eph. 4:11, where the distinct orders and offices which Christ gave to His Body are all listed. Now if any man takes upon himself to be the King’s Vicar without his appointment, is he not the King’s enemy? As the Jews said in John 19:12, Whosoever maketh himself a king speaketh against Caesar. The Pope, therefore, arrogating to himself the title, ‘Christ’s Vicar,’ doth thereby plainly prove that he is Antichrist, Christ’s adversary.
The Pope will be adored as God, taking divine honor to himself. The Fathers of the Lateran Council gave this blasphemous applause to the Pope: ‘Thou art all things, and above all things; to thee is given all power in Heaven and in earth. Books are dedicated to the Pope which contain the words, ‘pavlo v. vice deo,’ ‘To Paul 5th in place of God.’ The letters of this Latin title precisely express the number of the Beast’s name, 666. Doth he not, therefore, deny God, and show himself to be the very Antichrist seeing how he presumptuously takes the attributes of Deity to himself? Touching marriage, meats and fasting, etc., he binds where God loosens and loosens where God binds. Now is this not pride, lifting himself up both against and above the Lord?
He hath made himself to be the greatest High Priest of the Church, whereas Christ is called the great High Priest thereof, Heb. 4 & 12.
To be short, he not only weakens, but labors diligently to take away all faith out of the hearts of the Godly, not only making the Scriptures (which is the rule of faith) to depend on his will, but also in denying and condemning all certainty and confidence of grace, mercy, and salvation. For on the contrary, he will have men’s consciences be in perpetual trouble, fear and doubting.
‘And the air by reason of the smoke of the pit….’
The sun being darkened the air must of necessity be likewise, for the air is lit by the sun. Nicholas Lyra correctly understands the ‘air’ to symbolize the Church, because the Church receives her light from Christ as does the air from the sun.
Now the [true] Church vanished out of the sight of men when she lay hid and buried (as it were) under the smoke of this pit, [while the visible Church was] transformed into the chair and kingdom of Antichrist. At first, the Church economy was such that Christ was the only Father over His household who, taking a long journey even to Heaven, appointed many servants over His family, the Church. He gave unto them a diversity of talents or gifts, yet equal power in the dispensing thereof. But Antichrist, having possessed the chair of universal pestilence, altered Christ’s economy, making it a Monarchy, where he is acknowledged to be the High Priest and Head of the Church in the stead of Christ.
You may now ask, ‘But does mean that Christ was without a Church, that He had forsaken and lost His Spouse?’ These are the objections of the Roman Parasites, but they are idle and frivolous. For in the midst of the confusions of Antichrist, Christ preserved unto Himself out of every tribe and nation 144,000 sealed ones. So that there was a church even in the bowels of Popery, although it did not consist of the Papal Hierarchy.
We may also interpret the ‘air’ to be the holy Scriptures or the ministry of the Church. For as the air is the means by which the light of the sun is brought to us, so by the opening of the holy Scriptures is the light of the glorious Gospel of Christ doth brightly shine in our hearts. But now this air was darkened by a fatal perversion of the Word and of the whole ecclesiastical order.
‘And there came out of the smoke locusts….’
We have thus heard three effects of this apostate ‘star’: the opening of the bottomless pit, the smoke of the pit, and the darkening of the sun and air. Now the fourth effect follows: a monstrous brood of locusts came out of the smoke of the pit.
Locusts are a small kind of vermin with weak wings, lifting themselves up by flight but a short distance from the earth that they appear to leap rather than fly. In Africa, Syria and India they have bigger bodies and stronger wings. They are very hurtful to herbs, fruits and trees upon which they feed, infecting them by their touch. In the summer they leap, making a distinct noise with their wings. Among the ten plagues of Egypt the locusts were the eighth, brought by an east wind across the land, Ex. 10:33. The Lord threatened the Israelites with locusts in the book of Joel, where they are described as having teeth like lions, alluding allegorically to the Babylonians. Here, also, the whole description argues that this vermin are not to be understood literally, but rather mystically of the troops of the hurtful enemies.
‘Who they are is hard to define,’ saith Ribera, but later understands them to be cruel and barbarous men afflicting the Church, as did the Goths and Vandals of old. But their description does not agree with those nations. For these locusts are raised and spread over the earth by the key of the apostate ‘star,’ that is, by Antichrist’s power they come out of the bottomless pit. But Antichrist did not raise up or send forth the Vandals or Goths. Besides, they did not torment, but miserably murdered many, and not the wicked alone, but the godly also, not for five months, but for years.
Junius interprets them as evil spirits molesting the world, but the description little agrees therewith. Besides, it is not necessary this truth be given to John in such a way. For the working of evil spirits among men is well known to all, the fact that they never cease troubling and tempting the sons of men.
Gagneus and others apply them to the swarm of heretics which in Constantine’s time and later, prepared the way for Antichrist with a mighty force. Which heretics came forth from the hellish smoke of arrogance and presumption, like locusts devouring the pastures of the Church far and wide. Even Ribera correctly notes the error in such reasoning because of the fifth verse. It was given that they should not kill them, but they should be tormented. Now heretics do not torment their disciples and favorers, but such as are found in the faith who have the seal of God. Whereas the locusts are commanded not to torment those which have the seal of God on their foreheads. To this we may add that the heretics were already described by the third and fourth trumpets, as well as in Revelation 6, at the opening of the 3rd and 4th seals.
I, therefore, assent to the Catholic Gloss, as well as that of Illyricus and Bullinger, who follow Bede, understanding by these ‘locusts’ the disciples of Antichrist, that is, the innumerable troops of the Pope’s clergy.
Pareus answers objections to this interpretation
(1) First, my opponents say that Antichrist’s kingdom is described later, in Chapter 13. Now, howsoever this is true, yet it is not sufficient grounds to prove their argument. For not only is Antichrist’s kingdom described here and in Chapter 13, but also in the Chapter 6, by the opening of the sixth seal. Furthermore, it will be described again later throughout the Revelation. For in every one of these prophetic visions the same is repeated, but more clearly illustrated.
(2) Secondly, they object that these locusts shall only rage for the space of five months, whereas the power of the Roman clergy has continued much longer. But neither is this to the purpose. For the time of five months is not to be here literally understood precisely to the letter. (For in this sense it would also not agree with either the Vandals or the heretics, whose time of rage and cruelty lasted many years.) Instead, the words allude to that space of time in which the locusts are in their chief vigor and strength, as we shall prove hereafter.
(3) Thirdly, they object that the power given the locusts is not over the servants of God, but those who were not sealed. Whereas Antichrist has power over the sealed ones, for he shall kill the witnesses of the truth. But it is one thing to kill, and another to hurt. He shall indeed kill the two witnesses, yet not hurt them, for the spirit of life from God shall enter into them, Rev. 11:11. Therefore, he shall only hurt those who are not sealed, by seducing and leading them to destruction, 2 Thess. 2:10.
(4) Lastly, they object that the locusts had power to grievously torment men, which cannot be truly said of their own Roman Catholic people, who have lived all kinds of carnal licentious lives. But we are to distinguish between the outward condition of the flesh and the inward state of the conscience. Indeed, outwardly idolaters rejoice greatly, abounding in all pleasures. But inwardly, when conscience comes to work, they feel secret torments because by seeking life and salvation outside of Christ, they never find any rest for their souls. Instead, they are tormented with perpetual anguish, fear and torture of Hell or Purgatory.
Notwithstanding, therefore, all the foresaid objections, we understand by the Locusts the Roman Catholic clergy, unto whom the whole description and all the effects thereof do exactly agree.
Pareus compares the Roman Catholic clergy to literal Locusts
(1) Locusts remain skipping on the ground, and fly not up into the air. Likewise this wicked clergy favors nothing but earthly things, seeking only after them, and not the things that are above.
(2) The Locusts go forth in great troops. Likewise in the Papacy there are seen innumerable swarms of religious orders, such as the Franciscans, Dominicans, Benedictines, Cistercians, begging, barefoot friars, whippers, Capuchins, Jesuits, etc. This is confirmed, as Sabellicus records, that one of the Pope’s Generals promised to send a complete army of 30,000 soldiers, consisting only of Franciscan Friars, to war against the Turks. This could be accomplished, he claimed, without any interruption of divine service in their cloisters, [their numbers are so great].
(3) The Locusts sing and skip in summer and delight in ease. What does this sinful clergy do, but perpetually sing, dance, and delight in pride and luxuriousness, being of no service to God or men.
(4) The Locusts, though little, are creatures who gorge themselves, falling upon, consuming and destroying most pleasant fields and gardens. The false Roman clergy loves to be in the chief and greatest cities, possess the pleasant valleys, ingratiate themselves into great men’s favor and families, spoil and devour widows houses, build their cloisters, colleges and palaces in places most commodious, gather infinite riches without labor, etc.
‘And their torment was as the torment of the scorpion, when he striketh a man….’
The Locust is a little and weak creature, being able to bite and gnaw only herbs and flowers of trees. But these Locusts have a mighty and deadly power like unto the scorpion of the earth, that is, who hide themselves in the earth, under stones, hills, and cliff walls, to hurt them that pass by, by which is noted their most dangerous power, altogether venomous, secret and full of wiles, so much so that they can hardly be avoided. For the scorpion is a little worm, fair, and in no way fearful to look at, but strikes deadly with his tail, infusing his mortal poison into the wounds. In like manner, these spiritual locusts appear to be weak, having neither sword nor weapon, in their behavior and manner they appear reverend, ingratiating themselves by flattering speeches into the minds of men. But they infuse the venom of their pestilent doctrine into the hearts of the unlearned. And as the scorpion sting is not felt at first, until the venom works, little by little, penetrating into the vitals of the heart. Likewise, the bite of these spiritual grasshoppers is not felt, for their pious deceits are very pleasing to men. But soon the deadly poison comes forth, causing their miserable consciences to rush headlong into the sorrows of death, guilty of utter desperation.
The are given their power, first, by the papal Antichrist, Abaddon, their king; second, by Satan, by whose effectual working the Son of Perdition came to sit in the Temple of God; and lastly, by God, without whose most righteous permission neither Satan nor Abaddon could have effected anything. For it seemed good to the Lord, in His righteous judgment, to punish the horrible blindness and idolatry of the Christian world by means of these Locusts. For as the Apostle witnesses, Therefore, God sends them strong delusions, etc.
‘And it was commanded them that they should not hurt…’
The limitation of their power is here added,:
(1) They are not permitted to hurt every one they would wish, but only certain men.
(2) It was commanded by God who, by His secret providence restrains the tyranny of Satan and Antichrist, so that they cannot rage promiscuously over all. This is the first consolation of the godly – that the tyranny of Antichrist is limited by the power of God.
(3) The Locusts may not hurt the grass of the earth, nor any green thing, nor any tree. Now these are ordinarily the sweetest pastures of the Locusts. But God does not permit them to be touched. By this we are to understand that these Locusts are no grass eaters or herb devourers, for Antichrist’s clergy does not feed on hay. By the grass of the earth, we are to understand the ‘faithful,’ who shall be under the dominion of Antichrist. By green things, we are to understand Christians in civil authority (for the green wood is strong), namely, Princes, Kings and Emperors who have manfully withstood Antichrist’s deceits. By trees, we are to understand godly pastors and teachers eminent in piety and zeal of pure doctrine, who contradicted Antichrist’s wicked devices. These the Locusts are forbidden to hurt, that is, to seduce and destroy them. They are the sealed ones we have seen in Rev. 7. Although the witnesses in Revelation 11 are killed, yet their salvation is not hurt, and cannot be touched by the enemy. It is impossible that the Elect shall be seduced, for none can pluck Christ’s sheep out of His hands.
Thus, the Lord preserves His thousands of saints whose salvation the Locusts cannot hurt. Those not sealed of God are the reprobate, among whom is Antichrist himself. This is as the Apostle foretold in 2 Thess. 2:9-10, that Antichrist’s coming should be after the working of Satan with all power and signs and lying wonders in them that perish, that they should believe a lie because they received not the love of the truth that they might be saved. By this prophecy the Apostle tells us, (1) Antichrist shall establish his power by cunning and diabolical deceit; (2) By his tyranny he shall oppress the greater part of men in the Christian world, who are not sealed; (3) Antichrist’s followers will inevitably perish and run into destruction; (4) Their destruction will be voluntary and just because they cast off, or received not the love of the truth, rather delighting in popish dreams and lies; (5) Even under Antichrist there shall always be found some teachers of the truth, who shall suffer grievous opposition, as seen in Rev. 11:4.
‘And it was given that they should not kill them, but that they should be tormented five months.’
The first limitation of the Locusts’ powers we have just heard, they should not hurt the elect. A second is now added: that they should not kill men but torment them. A third limits the time: not always, but for five months. Behold, the wonderful leniency of God even in suffering the wicked, limiting and moderating their plagues, though they all deserve to be destroyed in one instant. God preserves the elect hidden in Antichrist’s kingdom, even in Spain, Italy and Rome, etc. The mortal biting of these scorpions will not harm them. The other idolatrous troop God will not suffer the Locusts suddenly to kill, to the end that they may have time to repent. They may only be tormented, so that by this means they may be stirred up to seek remedy for their souls.
Notwithstanding, it seems that not so much a mitigation, but an exasperation is signified by the aforesaid limitation. For it is far worse to be tormented with a lingering disease, then to suddenly perish. No doubt an Ecclesiastical and not a civil Locust is meant by the limitation of not killing. Rather, they shall torment men’s souls and consciences, torturing them continually, as on a rack, by means of their deceitful doctrines of penance, satisfactions, Purgatory, etc. Now what, I pray, can be spoken more openly against the impostures of that false and Antichristian clergy, who kill not the body, but torment the wretched conscience by showing men remission and expiation of sin, not by faith in the Gospel, the mercies of God, and blood of Christ, but in the merits of good works, in auricular confessions, in numbering of sins, in doing penance, in penal satisfactions, in traveling by sea and land, going on pilgrimage to the sepulchers of the Lord and St. James, in pilgrimages to the holy ground of Our Lady of Loretto, in fasting and abstinence, in Masses, alms and wills, in building of Cloisters, in monks’ cowls, in whippings, in going barefoot, in the Pope’s Jubilees, and in buying indulgences for money.
Now what are all these, but the sinful devices of men, all of which tend toward the wounding of men’s consciences, not the healing thereof. For in vain is the Lord worshipped with the doctrine of men. This is the miserable torture rack of the conscience. None is greater or more dangerous. Let the histories of the Church of Rome and Emperors be read, and there it will appear that many, through the fury and rage of the Locusts, have been so stirred up, brought to such madness, that they have, of their own accord, to quiet their consciences, laid down the government of the Empire and Kingdom, putting themselves into religious convents or monasteries, or built Cloisters and colleges for monks with great liberality, thereby to redeem their souls have taken upon themselves religious orders for the expiation of sins. They have even worn the cowls or hoods of the begging Friars, whether alive or dead, as a remedy for their sins. But in all these things what could they find or receive but a perpetual torture and trouble of conscience, a dreadful fear and doubt by such deception. We need not, therefore, seek these Locusts among the Vandals, Goths, Huns, Saracens, Mohammedans, etc. For these promiscuously rage and tyrannize by fire and sword, against both the just and unjust. Besides, it is very clear by the matter itself that Ecclesiastical and religious deceivers are here meant because they, indeed, continually torment the fearful consciences of men with the terrors of Hell and Purgatory. They do not send men to Christ by faith for relief, but instead to the Popes’ laws, that is, instead of the cure they administer poison.
Bullinger’s exposition of the five months best agrees with the nature of the prophecy, whereby he suggests the time constraint is taken from the lifespan of the Locust insects which ordinarily is no more than five months, April to September. His interpretation then limits the time of Antichrist’s seducers, after which they shall torment men no more. But this seems to not agree with the histories. For it has been a thousand years or more that the Pope has sent forth his Locusts to spoil the field of the Church and the end does not appear near. Yea, he shall continue devouring until he be consumed by the brightness of Christ’s coming.
If a day with the Lord is as a thousand years, what are five months? This time, I believe, need not be limited to 150 days or 150 years, [the prophetic principle of a day for a year], but need be understood that it would be short. Therefore, a definite time is here to be understood for an indefinite short time span. And so we are here taught that Antichrist shall remain with his Locusts, yet when he shall be revealed, his tyranny and power of the Locusts shall be so weakened that they shall not torment men anymore, or at least not as much as previously. This truth of God’s mercy we now see these last 100 years in Germany and other kingdoms. For now the biting of these Locusts is not so forceful because they are held in contempt due to the five months being ended.
‘And in these days men shall seek death, and shall not find it…’
Men’s lives are not only made bitter, but become so detestable that they prefer death (of which all sane men stand in fear) to life. This I understand to mean they exchange life for death, good for evil. Now this behavior is not that of sober men, but rather of mad men, having been bitten become infatuated and deluded, as if bitten by mad dogs. The bites of the Locust priests have made fools of the greatest Kings and wisest men of the earth, persuading them that black was white, that eternal life was procured under the hood of monks, that holy water purges sin and quenches the flames of Purgatory.
‘Horses prepared unto battle’: With great cruelty these Locusts furiously oppose the Gospel of Jesus Christ; some by railing in their pulpits, by disputations, etc.; others by cruel counsels and bloody designs.
‘Crowns like gold on their heads’: The King of the Locusts, the Pope, wears on his head a crown of fine gold, as governor of Heaven, Hell and the earth. The Cardinals wear miters glittering with precious stones. The Bishops and Abbots have precious ornaments wrought with gold and silk.
‘And they had hair as the hair of women…’
Ribera believes these Locusts to be a real, literal military army, also composed of Kings and Princes, taking away the true sense of the prophecy. Women, in particular, delight in cherishing, coloring and softening their hair. So these Locusts are tender and effeminate. They curiously shave and style their hair. Their clothing also reflects their tender and delicate affectation, for they wear gorgeous, long flowing robes, as well as silken and embroidered garments.
‘Teeth like the teeth of lions’: Lions are ravenous and terrible. So these Locusts, under a human face, hide their lions’ teeth, by which they snatch all things, empty the common treasures, devour widows’ houses, lay waste orphans’ fields, and all other pretence of religion. The godly who fall into their hands are treated with merciless cruelty. Witness the Spanish Inquisition and other histories. They also make use of their lions’ teeth in their encyclicals and disputations, cruelly tearing or blaspheming the truth and its teachers, lest they might seem to be overcome.
The sum is this: In their faces they seem friendly, like men. Their tails are hurtful, like scorpions; honey is in their mouth, but gall in their heart. Those whom they intoxicate with their doctrine, they mortally wound, as are those when stung by literal scorpions. In words, countenance and gesture they promise salvation, but those whom they strike they draw with them into destruction.
‘And they had a king over them…’
The monarch of the Locusts is now addressed. In Proverbs 30:27, it is said the locusts have no king. But these Locusts do have one. These are unlike any locusts and much more prudent. They have set over them a King, under whose protection they may safely creak, skip and destroy the fields. This King is called the angel of the bottomless pit, being the apostate ‘star,’ to whom was given the key to that bottomless pit. Lest we think this is Christ, who also has a key of the bottomless pit, the Apostle expresses his name as Abaddon in Hebrew, Apollyon in Greek, which terms signify destruction, perished, destroying, or rooting out; that is, the ‘Destroyer of the Church.’
Here, without doubt, by using the term, ‘Destroying King,’ is meant that Son of Perdition, spoken of in 2 Thess. 2, so called in Hebrew both passively and actively, to denote he is to be destroyed by God’s judgment while destroying himself and his followers. Moreover, it is manifest to all that the Son of Perdition is that Antichrist. This then proves that this King, Abaddon, and the apostate ‘star’ are both the same Antichrist.
 Sink: ‘a place where vice, corruption, or evil collects or gathers.’ (Webster)
 2 Thess. 2:9.
 2 Thess. 2:3.
 2 Thess. 2:10.
 Isaiah 29:13; Matthew 15:9.