It's that time of year when everyone likes to be spooked and frightened by ghouls and goblins for some unknown reason. Well, we know the reason. Satan has taken one of man's basest fears and marketed back upon us through the occult, the paranormal, the unknown, and the bizarre. People want to be frightened, but not too much...just enough to feel alive again. Little do they know, that there is a time coming that will make the most terrifying horror movie seem like a walk in the park. It is a time the Bible calls by several names, all of which portend to hell on earth while the wrath of God is being poured out upon a Christ-rejecting world.
Paradoxically, the fact that it is even in Scripture in such graphic detail, is intended to frighten people to not want to go through it. And yet, it is for this very same reason that one of the most popular excuses for not teaching/preaching the book of Revelation from the pulpit these days is because of all the disturbingly graphic images contained therein. It's as is God is saying, here, preach this, and people will flock to salvation and the preachers are like...no, no, no, we can't do that, it's too scary. We'll preach "live your best life now" instead.
And they wonder why their churches are dying.
Granted, it is true that Revelation contains some truly horrifying imagery and symbolism in it, but the fact that believers will be leaving at the beginning of chapter 4, seems to escape the understanding of many. Furthermore, the disturbing nature of these descriptions isn’t there merely for sensational shock value. They are there because they detail the very things that are coming upon the earth.
Even the shocking symbolism described here isn’t subjective or arbitrary but is linked to passages from the Old Testament which provides both the connective tissue (Old Testament linkage) as well as meaning (Old Testament context) so that the reader can understand what the symbolism is intended to imply. While the book has many frightening scenarios (i.e., oceans turning to blood, hundred-pound hailstones, painful boils, and martyrdom), the most disturbingly graphic chapter awards go to chapters 9, 16, and 20. Understandably, the imagery can be challenging, because aside from their descriptions in the text itself, we don't really know how they are going to appear so you'll have to bear with my artistic license and speculation.
And he deceives those who dwell on the earth by those signs which he was granted to do in the sight of the beast, telling those who dwell on the earth to make an image to the beast who was wounded by the sword and lived. He was granted power to give breath to the image of the beast, that the image of the beast should both speak and cause as many as would not worship the image of the beast to be killed. Revelation 13:14-15
"The Image of the Beast" art design, by Pete Garcia
There is much speculation as to what the actual image of the beast will look like, we "assume" it is a statue of some kind, perhaps even one of the giant talking and moving statues we've seen the news on recently. Aside from that, we don't really know except that it will happen and it will be powered in part by a fusion of technology and dark supernatural power.
And I saw three unclean spirits like frogs coming out of the mouth of the dragon, out of the mouth of the beast, and out of the mouth of the false prophet. For they are spirits of demons, performing signs, which go out to the kings of the earth and of the whole world, to gather them to the battle of that great day of God Almighty. Revelation 16:13-14
"The Unclean frogs" art design by Pete Garcia
Throughout Revelation, the Apostle John is constantly having to use the simile "like" (Greek- homoios) to describe the things he's seeing. These aren't actual frogs, but demonic entities resembling frogs that come out of the mouths of the False Prophet, the Antichrist, and Satan. "Out of the mouth" also doesn't mean that these three actually vomit these frogs out of their mouths (demonic lies), but rather, they are three-fold arguments through deceitful propaganda to rally the world against Israel and Christ. Mark Twain once said that a "lie can travel halfway around the world before the truth can even get its shoes on." This lie will be of such magnitude that it sends the Christ-rejecting world into such a murderous frenzy that they will race towards the valley of Meggido with great fury.
Then the fifth angel sounded: And I saw a star fallen from heaven to the earth. To him was given the key to the bottomless pit. And he opened the bottomless pit, and smoke arose out of the pit like the smoke of a great furnace. So the sun and the air were darkened because of the smoke of the pit. Then out of the smoke locusts came upon the earth. And to them was given power, as the scorpions of the earth have power. They were commanded not to harm the grass of the earth, or any green thing, or any tree, but only those men who do not have the seal of God on their foreheads. And they were not given authority to kill them, but to torment them for five months. Their torment was like the torment of a scorpion when it strikes a man. In those days men will seek death and will not find it; they will desire to die, and death will flee from them.
The shape of the locusts was like horses prepared for battle. On their heads were crowns of something like gold, and their faces were like the faces of men. They had hair like women’s hair, and their teeth were like lions’ teeth. And they had breastplates like breastplates of iron, and the sound of their wings was like the sound of chariots with many horses running into battle. They had tails like scorpions, and there were stings in their tails. Their power was to hurt men five months. Revelation 9:1-10
"Demonic Locust" art design, by Pete Garcia
This portion of Scripture has fascinated the imaginations of readers and teachers alike for millennia. Everything from the rock band KISS to Apache Helicopters has been thrown out there as viable candidates for these hellish locusts. I don't have anything either. All we know is that they aren't real locusts (since real locusts don't have a king), and neither do real locusts attack humans (they eat vegetation). Rather, these locusts are told not to eat vegetation, but to attack and torment all the humans who don't have God's special seal on their foreheads. The only thing I will add is that they appear to be demonic, which means they don't need a natural explanation either.
And they had as king over them the angel of the bottomless pit, whose name in Hebrew is Abaddon, but in Greek he has the name Apollyon. Revelation 9:11
"Apollyon" art design by Pete Garcia
What we know:
He is the king of the bottomless pit
The bottomless pit has often been described as a place called Tartarus
The late great Chuck Missler once postulated that this "bottomless pit" could be at the center of the earth since a sphere has no bottom (since every direction is up (or out).
The center of the earth (the inner core) is approximately 5,700 K (that’s 5,430°C or 9,806°F) which happens to be about the same temperature as the face of the sun.
Abbadon / Apollyon is a wicked angelic being who was locked up long ago for reasons Scripture doesn't expound on. Perhaps he was the leader of the fallen angels of Genesis 6, who was tricked by Satan into corrupting the human population. His release may be a form of revenge/retribution against the Antichrist's kingdom since his demonic horde is ONLY allowed to attack those who belong to Satan.
Then the sixth angel sounded: And I heard a voice from the four horns of the golden altar which is before God, saying to the sixth angel who had the trumpet, “Release the four angels who are bound at the great river Euphrates.” So the four angels, who had been prepared for the hour and day and month and year, were released to kill a third of mankind. Now the number of the army of the horsemen was two hundred million; I heard the number of them. And thus I saw the horses in the vision: those who sat on them had breastplates of fiery red, hyacinth blue, and sulfur yellow; and the heads of the horses were like the heads of lions; and out of their mouths came fire, smoke, and brimstone. Revelation 9:13-17
"The Sixth Trumpet" art design by Pete Garcia
At the sixth trumpet, a new judgment is released that is different from the previous fifth trumpet (demonic locusts). It is unknown whether these are human armies (200M horsemen) or if these are some other kind of demonic entities that are released by the four angels bound at the Euphrates river. Either way, it seems that this 200M army is released and under the command of these four angels and is able to kill a third of the remaining human populations. Perhaps each angel gets 50M and heads in each of the cardinal directions?
Then I saw a great white throne and Him who sat on it, from whose face the earth and the heaven fled away. And there was found no place for them. And I saw the dead, small and great, standing before God, and books were opened. And another book was opened, which is the Book of Life. And the dead were judged according to their works, by the things which were written in the books. The sea gave up the dead who were in it, and Death and Hades delivered up the dead who were in them. And they were judged, each one according to his works. Then Death and Hades were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death. And anyone not found written in the Book of Life was cast into the lake of fire. Revelation 20:11-15 (my emphasis)
"The Great White Throne Judgment" art design by Pete Garcia
Lastly, the most terrifying portion of Revelation is at the end. The unredeemed living and the dead of all ages, face God, not as their Redeemer, but as their Judge and Creator in the Great White Throne Judgment. Here they are sentenced to eternal separation from all that is good and pleasant forever.
While my artistic imaginations (AI-derived or not) fall far short of what heaven's throne room scene will actually look like. There will come, after the 2nd Coming, and the Millennial Kingdom, when all of mankind (except the Church who will have already been judged at the Bema Judgement) must stand before God as their Creator to be sentenced to their eternal reward or punishment. For the righteous (the Old Testament, Tribulation, and Millennial Kingdom Saints), these are those whose names are found in the Lamb's book of Life and will be gathered to His right (the Sheep). And the unredeemed of all ages going all the way back to Cain will be gathered on His left (the goats). (Matt 25:31-46)
The Old Testament Saints who had died prior to Jesus' death, burial, and resurrection, will have already met Him there in Paradise (Abraham's Bosom) during Christ's burial phase. This is where Christ leads captivity captive, emptying out the Paradise portion of Sheol and delivering their spirits up to heaven. However, the unrighteous dead will remain in Torments until the Great White Throne Judgment. When that day comes, they will be pulled from the Torments portion of Sheol and will stand before God, not as their Savior or Redeemer, but as their Creator.
In this courtroom, there are no lawyers. No jury of your peers. No hope of retrials or a mistrial. No hope of a 'reduced' sentence for time served. When God judges you, He is going to show you every second of your life and show all of the instances and opportunities where you willfully rejected Jesus Christ or refused the Holy Spirit's drawing upon your soul toward salvation. Each of the dead will be judged according to their works; not comparing them to other people, but to God's perfect standard of righteousness. And since no one can measure up to that apart from having a personal connection to God through Christ Jesus, their names will not be found in the Lamb's Book of Life. At this point, God will say to those on His left hand, "‘depart from Me, you cursed, into the everlasting fire prepared for the devil and his angels." (Matt. 25:41)
After this, a door will be opened and those angels charged with tossing you into the lake of fire will carry out God's judgment dutifully. The thought of this moment always reminded me of that scene from the Jack Chick tract years ago (which has demons instead of angels tossing people into the lake), but terrified me nonetheless, and whose image still haunts my psyche to this day.
Image source: Chick Tract Back from the Dead
Understandably, the artwork doesn't do justice to the severity of eternal separation from God. If God is the very representation of all that is good (He is), then that goodness includes love, light, peace, joy, hope, pleasure, comfort, and happiness, then the lake of fire is the direct opposite of all of those attributes forever.
No light. That firey lake will be bathed in eternal darkness
No rest- not even a second to catch one's breath, for every breath you take will be like swallowing smoke and flame
No company- even though billions will be with you, you will never speak to another living soul ever again
The eternal flame will forever be consuming the bodies but never destroying them. The stench of searing flesh will be the only smell that fills the noses of those writhing in its firey waves.
Lastly, there is no hope of EVER leaving once you enter. There is only pain, misery, anxiety, hopelessness, fear, shame, disgust, bitterness, anger, suffocation, and darkness forever.
"The Lake of Fire" art design by Pete Garcia
The Good News is that if you are reading this, you still have time. Do not put off the free gift of salvation. So if you are not saved, then make today the day of your eternal salvation. You are not promised tomorrow.
...that if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation. For the Scripture says, “Whoever believes on Him will not be put to shame.”For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek, for the same Lord over all is rich to all who call upon Him. For “whoever calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved.” Romans 10:9-13