Revelation 9-12: mythological animals and divine battle

The fifth angel blew his trumpet, and locusts emerged from a bottomless pit.  The locusts had human faces, women’s hair, lions’ teeth, wings, and tails like scorpions.  Their king is the angel Apollyon; they were allowed to torture all unbelievers for 5 months.  The sixth angel blew his trumpet, and 200 million cavalry came forth to kill 1/3 of humankind.  The horses had lions’ heads.  The rest of mankind still did not repent.  I saw an angel come down from heaven, telling me to eat the scroll in his hand.  I did, and it tasted sweet in my mouth but bitter in my stomach.  I was told that two witnesses will prophecy for 3.5 years, with authority to stop the rain and turn water into blood.  A beast from the bottomless pit will kill them in Jerusalem, but God will resurrect them and take them to heaven after 3.5 days.  An earthquake will destroy 1/10 of the city, killing 7000 people.  The seventh angel blew his trumpet, and angels proclaimed the beginning of God’s reign on earth.

A sign appeared in heaven: a pregnant woman clothed with the sun, with the moon at her feet and wearing a crown of 12 stars.  A red dragon stole her child right after she gave birth, but God snatched it up to heaven.  War broke out in heaven: Michael and his angels fought against the dragon and its angels.  The dragon, who is Satan, lost and was cast down to earth.  He pursued the woman, but she was given eagle wings to fly into the wilderness.

Commentary:

  • 3.5 years is half of 7 years.  7 represents completeness, while 3.5 symbolizes radical incompleteness.
  • It is unknown who the “two witnesses” are.  They could include Enoch, Elijah, and Moses, all prophetic figures who were expected to return in the end-time.  Just like Elijah in 1 Kings 17:1, the witnesses are given authority to “shut the sky”.
  • The vision of the woman, child, and dragon is filled with symbolism from mythological traditions in Babylonia, Egypt, Greece, and Rome.  It is similar to the story of Apollo’s birth, where his mother Leto is pursued by a dragon named Python because he knows Apollo is destined to kill him.
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