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The Revelation - Book 3

A study of Revelation 6-9. This is book 3 of an 8 part book series.

Category - Bible Commentaries

Chapter 18

The First Woe (612-762 A.D.)

Mohammed began his mission in 612, but after ten years (in 622) he had to flee for his life from the city of Medina. The year 622 is called the hegira, his “flight from Mecca,” and this marked the beginning date of the Islamic lunar calendar that is used to this day. Later, Mohammed successfully negotiated the conquest of Medina, and the religion spread in the same Old Covenant manner that Christianity had spread after the fall of pagan Rome—by conquest through physical arms.

We must first recognize that Islam was a carnal religious empire even as the Christian religion had become by this time. When God raised up this new religion to bring judgment upon the church, it was by the principle of an “eye for eye,” where the judgment fits the crime.

The Saracen Horsemen

The Saracens were a specific tribe, distinct from the Arabs. They were among the early converts to Islam, and so later western writers called all Arab Muslims by the term “Saracens.” The Saracens themselves were noted for their horsemanship. (In earlier times the Roman army had included Saracen cavalry.)

The “locusts” in Revelation 9 were the Muslim armies in general, but more specifically, in Rev. 9:7-10 John saw the Saracen horsemen and gave us a physical description of them as they rode into battle:

7 And the appearance of the locusts was like horses prepared for battle; and on their heads, as it were, crowns [turbans] like gold, and their faces were like the faces of men. 8 And they had hair like the hair of women, and their teeth were like the teeth of lions. 9 And they had breastplates like breastplates of iron; and the sound of their wings was like the sound of chariots, of many horses rushing to battle.

This is an accurate description of the Saracens. The Saracens wore colored turbans, or “crowns.” The Greek word translated “crowns” is stephanos, the normal word for a laurel wreath that was given to conquerors or to those who won a contest. However, wreaths were always green in Rome or Greece. Those in Rev. 9:7 are said to be yellow to show that they were not made of leaves, but of cloth. In other words, their “crowns” were turbans.

They had the faces of men, but hair like that of women. They were men who wore their hair long. This describes the Saracens who were known for their long hair and full beards.

Their “teeth of lions” were not literally lions’ fangs but a description of their fierceness and valor in battle. They wore iron armor and had iron breastplates which made a great clatter as they charged their horses into battle. Hence, John says in verse 9 that “they had breastplates like breastplates of iron; and the sound of their wings was like the sound of chariots.”

The Five Prophetic Months

Revelation 9:5 says,

5 And they were not permitted to kill anyone, but to torment for five months; and their torment was like the torment of a scorpion when it stings a man.

This time period was said to be “five months.” A prophetic month is thirty “days” (i.e., years), so five months (30 x 5) is a period of 150 years. We see this by comparing the 42 months of Rev. 13:5 with the 1,260 days in Rev. 12:6. (1,260 is 42 x 30.) By using this model, five months is 150 years.

This time forms the first stage of political Islam, ending when the Abbasid Caliphate moved its capital from Damascus to the newly-built city of Baghdad. This event was similar to what happened in the Christian Empire, when Constantine built Constantinople and moved the capital of the Empire from Rome to his “New Rome.”

According to The Encyclopedia of World History, page 113, edited by Peter Stearns, al-Mansur founded his new capital city of Baghdad in 762.

762. FOUNDATION OF BAGHDAD, the new Abbasid capital, by al-Mansur. This first truly Islamic imperial city, situated 18 miles north of the Sassanian capital of Ctesiphon, was designed on a circular plan and was known as the City of Peace (Madinat al-Salam).

This date is important because it marks the climax of the rise of Islam precisely 150 years after Mohammed first began preaching his new religion.

The Time of Islamic Expansion

From the beginning of Mohammed’s mission in 612 until Islam’s height of power and glory, when the capital of the Islamic Empire moved from Damascus to Baghdad in 762 was 150 years. During that time of five prophetic months, as Islam was expanding, they swept across the Middle East and across North Africa. After taking Jerusalem in 638, they subdued Egypt in 641. In 668 they laid siege to Constantinople, but the city was saved by the use of an incendiary formula called “Greek fire.” Water could not extinguish it, and anyone sprayed with it would be burned to death.

In 700 they marched west and conquered Algiers. (By this time Christianity was nearly non-existent in North Africa.) By 707 they had taken all of North Africa, and from 711-713 they conquered most of the Iberian Peninsula (Spain). By 715 the Moslem Empire extended from the border of China to the Pyrenees between Spain and France.

From 720-732 the Arabs ravaged southern France until Charles Martel finally defeated them decisively at the Battle of Tours in 732 and again at Narbonne in 736. This put an end to Islam’s expansion into Europe. But Islam had entrenched itself in Spain by this time, and in 755 the Caliphate at Cordova, Spain was founded by Abd-al-Rahman.

Spain remained part of the Caliphate for more than seven centuries. But over time, territory was lost to the Europeans, and finally, in 1492, Queen Isabella expelled all Muslims and Jews. The ship carrying Columbus and five Jews left Spain for the New World about two hours before her deadline in 1492.

The Islamic armies conquered most of the territory of the Eastern Roman Empire that had been ruled from Constantinople. In 718 the Arabs sent a large fleet of ships to attack Constantinople, but they failed and the fleet was destroyed. In 748 another Arab fleet was destroyed during an attack on Cyprus. Although Islam took portions of the Balkans, they were forced to bypass the city of Constantinople for centuries, until they finally took the city in 1453.

In 760, just as the first phase of Islam was coming to a close, a Tartar tribe founded a Turkish Empire in Armenia, which proved to be the seed of the next phase of prophetic fulfillment in Rev. 9:12-21. It was founded just as plans were being made to build the new city of Baghdad and move the capital there from Damascus. That move took place in 762 A.D., ending the “five months” rise of Islam.

The Abbasid Caliphate in Baghdad

Though Islam had its birth in the Arabian peninsula, Medina was too far south to remain the capital of the emerging empire. Islam’s capital was soon moved to Damascus in Syria. H. G. Wells says on page 593 of The Outline of History,

“Medina was no longer a possible centre for its vast enterprises in Asia, Africa, and the Mediterranean, and so Damascus became the usual capital of the Omayyad Caliphs.”

The Omayyad Caliphs (“successors”) were of the family of Omar I, who came to power in 634 shortly after the death of Muhammed (632) and his immediate successor, Abu Bakr (634). The Omayyad family remained in power until overthrown by the Abbasids in 750.

The Abbasid Caliphate was established in 750 by Abu al-Abbas al-Saffah (“The Bloodthirsty”), ruling from India to Syria, and along the coast of North Africa all the way to the Atlantic Ocean. However, he died of smallpox in 754, and his son, Abu Jafar al-Mansur (“The Victorious”) was his successor. Hence, it was al-Mansur who built Baghdad and moved his capital there in 762.

By this time the center of gravity for culture and civilization itself had shifted from the Christian West to the Muslim East. In Baghdad, al-Mansur gathered together the greatest intellectuals of the world. In the very time of Europe’s dark ages, where literacy was at a minimum, learning flourished in Baghdad. As H. G. Wells says on page 596,

“Arabic continued to spread until presently it had replaced Greek and become the language of educated men throughout the whole Moslem world.”

Roman civilization had largely been destroyed by the invasions from the north. Literacy and education in general had been reduced and restricted to a privileged few who could afford it. Such was the result of divine judgment upon Christian Rome for its sin and its refusal to repent. Proud Roman civilization had sunk into the dark abyss.

Apollyon and Abaddon

Revelation 9:11 says,

11 They have as king over them the angel of the abyss; his name in Hebrew is Abaddon, and in the Greek he has the name Apollyon.

The Hebrew word, Abaddon, is translated “destruction” whenever it is used in the Old Testament. John says that its Greek equivalent is Apollyon. Abaddon is associated with sheol (the grave, or “hell”) in Prov. 15:11 and with death in Job 28:22. This is meant to associate this “king” with the abyss, or bottomless pit, mentioned in Rev. 9:1.

Hence, I find it significant and interesting that the city at the north end of the Persian Gulf, where Iran, Iraq, and Kuwait meet, is the city of Abadon. In 1908 oil was discovered there, and the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company (now BP) began to build its Abadon refinery. It soon became the largest oil refinery in the world.

Iran’s prime minister, Mohammed Mosaddegh nationalized the company in 1951, which caused the CIA to overthrow him two years later and to install the Shah of Iran until he was overthrown by Ayatollah Khomeini in 1979. The Abadon refinery was largely destroyed in 1980 by the Iraqi army under Saddam Hussein at the start of the Iran-Iraq war (1980-1988).

It is significant that this refinery, which was named after the spiritual “king” of Islam in Rev. 9:11, should play such a prominent role in modern history. John gives us the name of this spiritual “king” in both Hebrew and Greek, as if to suggest its importance. Since the book of Revelation is written in Greek, there must be some compelling reason to include the Hebrew translation of the name.

Apollyon, or Abaddon, is the name of the spiritual entity (principality) that rules the Muslim world in general. This is not an angel of God, but an evil entity. His name identifies his character and his “calling,” as well as the nature of Islam that he inspired. Apollyon means “destroyer,” but the word is the active particle of apollume, which means to perish or to lose. It is the word used in Matt. 10:6, where Jesus told His disciples to “go to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.”

These “sheep” were not literally destroyed, nor had they perished. They were simply lost. In the Old Testament, the prophet Jeremiah wrote about them in a similar passage. Jer. 50:6 says, “My people have become lost sheep.” Here, the Hebrew word for “lost” is abad. Hence, the one doing the action—that is, the “loser” or “destroyer”—is abaddon.

So the “king” in Rev. 9:11 is the same spiritual entity that was raised up to destroy Israel, to scatter them among the mountains (nations), and to cause them to become “lost sheep.” God raised up Abaddon to bring judgment upon the House of Israel for their rebellion against God and His law. This “king” still rules from the Mideast and must be overcome in order for the promises of God to be fulfilled. But to overcome Abaddon requires repentance, for one cannot fight spiritual entities by carnal means. As long as we try to do so, the power of Abaddon remains strong.

When the Twin Towers were destroyed on September 11, 2001 (or “9-11”), I immediately recognized that this was connected to Rev. 9:11. I advocated repentance, rather than war. But of course, my small voice was overwhelmed by the angry calls for war and revenge. Jonathan Cahn’s book, The Harbinger, later showed us that the destruction of the Twin Towers was only a harbinger (early warning) of a greater judgment yet to come, on account of our refusal as a nation to repent. He based much of his teaching on Isaiah 9:9-11, which he connected to 9-11.

I believe that it was Abaddon, or Apollyon, “the destroyer,” who was the spiritual inspiration behind the destruction of the Twin Towers (regardless of who actually carried out the attack). Yet this is also the ruling spiritual power behind the religion of Islam itself, which God raised up to bring judgment upon the Church, even as He raised up Apollyon to “lose” the House of Israel in early times.

It seems that neither the House of Israel nor the church understood that their loss was due to their own sin and rebellion. For this reason, they rose up to fight “the enemy” and even appealed to God for assistance, not realizing that their rebellion had made God Himself their enemy (Isaiah 63:10).