Excerpts From James Glasgow's



"And the fifth messenger blew, and I saw a star fallen from the heaven to the land; and to him was given the key of the pit of the abyss.”—This trumpeter was the messenger of the church of Sardis, to whom Jesus said, “Thou hast a name, that thou livest, and art dead.” This star was a meteor or aerolith, like that which followed the third trumpet; but while the earlier meteor burst over the rivers, this descended to the land. A meteor, we have seen, represents a heresy or imposture, which are alike in foisting or forcing error on men in the name and semblance of truth. I accord with such interpreters as have identified this meteor with Mohammed, and the system called by him and his followers Islam. At this many have stumbled, and have said, Mohammed never having been an ordained minister in the Christian Church, was not a star. But this difficulty is of their own creation. John does not call him “a star,” but “a fallen star,” a term for a meteor in Hebraic Greek idiom, there being no single Hebrew word meaning meteor,—just as we have to say “falling star,” using two words for one idea in English, unless when we borrow the Greek word μετεωρα (meteors), a word not in the New Testament Greek.

But how, even as a meteor, did Mohammed fall to the land of vulgar, catholic Christianity? He was a reader, hearer, and partially a student of the Old and New Testament, and from them he drew the first great principle of his creed, the unity of God. That truth he taught in the same sense in which it is asserted by the modern soi-disant Unitarians, but with an intellectual activity in comparison with which their rushlights burn very dimly. Any reader of even the translated Qurán may see that its finest passages, historic facts, moral precepts, and announcements of futurity are borrowed from the Holy Scriptures, though generally with unhappy perversions. But he fell from the doctrine of the unity of God, when he set up the imposture which led men afterwards to revere him as mediator. A meteoric stone or aeorolith lighting on a man, would be deadly in its effect. And the whole history of this impostor and heretic (for both he was) shows that he smote with awful force much of the crude, gross Christianity that resisted his course.

There was some resemblance to this meteor in Montanus, who claimed to be the Paraclete (a.d. 171), and in Paul of Samosata, denying the deity of Christ (a.d. 269). But their influence was too local and too temporary to fulfil the prophetic import of the vision; nor did the effects they left behind them answer to what we shall find in the verses that follow under this trumpet.

“The pit of the abyss” is taken as one term in the English version, and rendered “the bottomless pit.” But we should not confound it with the whole abyss. We might as well confound a single cloud with the whole of a murky atmosphere. The abyss is a term taken from the crude and empty condition of the world at the beginning of its creation, called in Hebrew תְּהוֹם, by the LXX. αβυσσος, the abyss. In the New Testament the word occurs only in two instances besides those of the Apocalypse: Luke 8:31, referring to the demons; and Rom. 10:7, to the state of the dead into which Jesus went, and from which He returned. In the LXX. it is twice used for צוּלָה or מְצוּלָה (a flood), once for רחב (a wide place), and twenty-nine times for תְּהוֹם (the primeval chaos). This, then, is the radix of its meaning. It is descriptive of a dark and dead condition. Out of such a state of humanity Mohammed evolved his system, and founded his mighty sect. It is not a synonym for (γεεννα) hell, or the lake of fire, these coming after the judgment,1 and answering to the furnace in the next verse.

“The key.”—The keys of a city or fortress in the East are kept by the chief, whom I have repeatedly known to commit them to the hand of au inferior official—a sipahi, to open or shut the gates at night. Christ, the true David,2 having the key in His hand, gave it to Peter, not to retain it, but to open the door; and thus He assigned to that disciple the humblest office,—that of opening the gates by preaching, first to the pentecostal assembly of Jews and proselytes,3 and then to Gentiles at large, represented by the family and friends of Cornelius.1 So to Mohammed a key was given,—the key of the abyss or chaos of ignorance and false doctrine. Its being given, expresses no divine approbation nor authority. It is not said that authority, or power, or light, or inspiration, but only that a key, was given; and that not the key of David, but only of the pit of the abyss.

Ch. 9:2: “And he opened the pit of the abyss; and smoke ascended out of the pit of the abyss, as smoke of a great furnace;2 and the sun and the air were darkened from the smoke of the pit.”—The smoke that filled the temple of old was the cloud of the incense, and the cloud of glory typical of Christ’s presence and intercession. But the smoke from the pit of the abyss is indicative of a soi-disant but spurious mediator—a smoke offensive in its fumes, hurtful to the sight, and darkening so as to conceal the sun and the azure sky. The symbol seems suggested by the smoke of Sodom.3 The sun, as explained at ch. 6:12, is to be understood of the supreme ecclesiastical headship or power,—that of Christ; and the word means the sunlight as here connected with “the air.” The word “air” (αηρ) occurs in the Apocalypse only here and in ch. 16:17, and in the eighteenth Psalm (LXX.) for שַׁחַק (a cloud). It is the medium of sunlight. Jesus “saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven,”4 but He did not add “to the ground.” The fall was into the air, or lower firmament; as Paul calls him “the prince of the power of the air.”5 It is the region of the intellect in relation to the ecclesiastical sun; and when the smoke of Mohammed’s teaching beclouded it, the minds of men neither saw Christ nor truly understood the spiritual world. The furnace or oven out of which this pernicious smoke, as spurious incense, ascends, is the unquenchable fire “prepared for the devil and his angels.”6 But observe: only a pit of the abyss is here opened—a single shaft communicating with the mine below, permitting noxious gas to come up from the abyss of error. Only one chapter of human error, and a little portion of the whole, was promulgated by Mohammed in all the surahs of the Qurán.

Ch. 9:3: “And from the smoke issued locusts on the land; and to them was given authority as the scorpions of the land have authority.”—This vision contains the only apocalyptic usage of the word “locust.” The prophets have repeatedly metaphorized the word, and they evidently derived the usage from the plague of locusts on Egypt, eating up all vegetation. It is thus a graphic symbol of a devastating and plundering army. The Midianite host in Gideon’s day were compared to clouds of locusts; and those who have not seen them can form but an inadequate idea of the multitudes of these frail creatures, and the prowess of the multitudes. So speaks Isaiah of the movements of locusts;1 but especially Joel sublimely allegorized the Chaldeans as locusts.2

Now the history of the rise and progress of Mohammedanism is a history of a religious system, and a vast political power inseparably united,—of a religion propagated by the sword, mustering armies compared to swarms of locusts, and making their devastating, plundering, and subjugating assaults on “the land,”—the nominally Christian but now corrupted region of Palestine, Egypt, Syria, etc.

“Scorpion” (σκορπιος) is a term used only in this vision. In the LXX. it occurs four times; but Christ associates scorpions with serpents.3 Thus both terms are apt symbols of evil spirits. The authority here given to these locusts of the vision is no divine right, but akin to a scorpion’s authority to sting, and insert its virus. “The scorpions of the land” are evil spirits, but in the flesh,—wicked men under the external Christian profession. A scorpion will make its way in warm climates any, almost everywhere:

“A visitor unwelcome into scenes

Sacred to neatness and repose, the alcove,

The chamber, or refectory.”

Silently and stealthily it uncoils its tail, “armed with mortal sting.” Its authority is all usurpation; and just such the authority which unhallowed men assume in sacred things, and just such also that given to the locusts. It was not given to them by God, but by the pretended “apostle of God,” Mohammed, and continued from him to the Arabian sovereigns, known since his death by the title of khalif1 or successor of Mohammed.

Ch. 9:4: “And it was said to them that they should not injure the grass of the land, nor anything green, nor any tree; only the men who have not the seal of God on their foreheads.”—It is recorded of the first khalif, Abubeker, that in sending his army to invade Syria, he gave them an injunction which remarkably accorded with the letter of these words. But he knew neither the words, nor their symbolic import. He wished to spare the trees and produce of the fields, without which his army could not long subsist. But the divine mandate, which his ear could not hear, contemplated the trees and the grass as the people of God, high and low. Now it is historically true that the Saracens swept over the regions where outward Christians had become so corrupted as to lose the seal of God; but they were never permitted to reach, much less subdue, the lands in which Christ’s two witnesses had found refuge. They overran Persia, but in the mountains of Kurdistan the persecuted Nestorians escaped extermination from them. They conquered Spain; but when they penetrated into France for the purpose of passing thence into Italy, which would have brought the Vallensian witnesses under their yoke, they sustained a final defeat2 at the hands of a French hero, Charles, who was thence called Martel (the Hammer).

Ch. 9:5: “And it was granted to them that they should not kill them, but that they should be tormented five months; and their torment as the torment of a scorpion, whenever it may strike a man.”—Who are the persons here meant? Those implied by contrast in the previous verse, such as have the seal of God in true spiritual baptism. By the victorious progress of armies that swept down all opposition, they slaughtered, tormented, and persecuted from land to land. The Persian monarchy, which was Zoroastrian, fell. Palestine and Syria were lost to the Grecian emperor; Egypt and all North Africa became theirs, from which, excepting a feeble relic of Kopts in Egypt, they literally stamped out Christianity. They then passed into Spain, and established the Moorish kingdom. And as to the duration of these woe-inflicting Saracen1 conquests, it was five months of symbolic time = 5 × 30 or 150 days, representing that number of years. To this different limits may be assigned: thus a.d. 612 to a.d. 762 = 150 years;2 also a.d. 635 to a.d. 785 current=150 years. Either of these fulfils the conditions. The last begins with Umar’s expedition against Jerusalem, and ends with depredations committed against the Grecian empire by Harun al Rashid, the khalif then reigning at Bagdad. After this the Saracen power gained no extension in Christian regions, but became broken and weakened. After the establishment of the khalifs at Bagdad, they depended less on Saracen, and more on Persian armies.

Some interpreters suppose five months the time of the depredations of locusts, and in this respect view it as the symbol of the historic period of Saracen political existence.

Scorpions, like serpents, are poisonous, though in a less degree, as they are generally smaller than serpents. Some species are about six inches long, and in Africa their virus is said to be fatal to men. The difference between them is mainly this: that the serpent’s poison is ejected from its fangs, that of the scorpion’s from the sting lodged in its tail. Both are grovelling, deceitful, and unfeeling. The scorpion with poisonous tail is peculiarly appropriate as a symbol of propagators of deadly error, and persecutors for conscience’ sake.

Ch. 9:6: “And in those days the men shall seek the death, and shall not find it; and they will he eager to die3 and the death flees from them.”—This is sometimes explained as the consequence of the times of war, and the resulting famine and pestilence. But it implies much more, and of a different kind. It is explanatory, and therefore not visional, but literal. It declares the martial spirit that was to pervade the Saracen armies. And their history does indeed show that they faced all dangers, and exposed their lives with unsurpassed bravery.

The secret of their bravery lies in Mohammed’s teaching, and can be found in the Qurán. He had taught them, that if they fell in battle against kafirs (قافر), or infidels, they would be shahéds, or martyrs (شهيد), and sure of Paradise (Behisht), with its sensual attractions;1 and that those who would slay infidels were to be called ghazi (غازى) or heroes, and to enjoy the special favour of God.2 The natural result was an ardour that carried them over the battle-field, wishing to be slain and to enjoy the dazzling prospects of Paradise.

Ch. 9:7: “And the likenesses of the locusts resembled horses prepared for war; and on their heads as it were chaplets like gold, and their faces as faces of men.”—The word “horse” does not per sc denote anything martial, but rather a speedy messenger. But here the horses are “caparisoned for war.”3 Here are armies mustered from the land most famous for horses: Arabia. Their armies were cavalry, and their rapid movements were strikingly symbolized by the flights of locusts. Even in the shapes of the locusts, a curious and fanciful resemblance to horses has been pictorially represented in various books.

Their “garlands,” tiaras, or turbans, neither actual stephanoi nor actual gold, but “as it were,” such. The simile is double, and taken from the yellow spots on the heads of locusts. The Arabs wear head-bands, or turbans, resembling priestly crowns in form, made of long, narrow webs of white,—or in case of saids, that is, descendants of Mohammed, green,—with stripes of golden weft at the end, tastefully exhibited. Such head-dresses must here be symbols—of what? Of the royal station many of them were to attain, as well as of the dignities of mullas, qázis; and of saids, sultáns, nawábs, etc., who became kings in numerous places of the world: as Arabia, Turkey, Persia, Bokhara, Mongolia, India, Egypt, North Africa, Spain, Greece, Sicily, etc.

“Their faces as faces of men.”—The symbol is taken from the locust in prophetic visions of the Old Testament,—especially from Jeremiah’s comparison of the Median and Persian armies coming against Babylon, to “hairy locusts.”1 It denotes bearded men, and is intended as a symbol of valour and a matter of pride.

Ch. 9:8: “And they had locks as locks of women, and their teeth were as those of lions.”—This is a symbol of a practice predicted here of the Saracens, and which is found to prevail in all Mohammedan countries. Multitudes of men, from various causes, assume a life of monachism and mendicancy. They are called in Arabic faqir (فقير), and in Persian darvesh (درويش). Besides covering their bodies with ashes, they wear matted locks coiled on their heads, and often long enough to reach the feet, rivalling or excelling the hair of women.

The “teeth as those of lions” is a symbol of the murders and rapine that have ever characterized them,—not of lions, but as of lions, equally ravenous and resistless; for we are not to forget that the vision is a vision of locusts. As the lion watches for and preys chiefly on herbivorous animals,2 so this symbol has its fulfilment in the Arabs, who live mainly on the flesh of such animals, and abstain from that of hogs and other creatures prohibited in the Mosaic law.

Ch. 9:9: “And they had breastplates, as breastplates of iron; and the voice of their wings was as the voice of the chariots of many horses rushing to battle.”—The symbol of breastplates we find employed by Isaiah, “He put on righteousness as a breastplate,” and by Jeremiah, “Put on the coats of mail,”3 סִרְיוֹן or שִׁרְיוֹן, θωραξ. The armies in the vision are thus beheld mailed in steel, which obviously represents irresistible prejudice and fanatical bigotry. The Mohammedans, until within the last few years, would neither read nor inquire into any system but his own. His holding the abstract unity of God, and his general acknowledgment of the Bible and of the prophets and apostles, though often contravening their testimony, fostered in his mind the conviction that he had all truth, and that all other men were enemies of God. Thus did his followers graphically fulfil the vision.

“The wings” represent, in metaphoric language, the outer provinces of a country, the outskirts of a building, etc.;1 and in both ancient and modern warfare the word has been technically so employed.2 We read of an eagle’s wings symbolizing protection and rapid movement, and of the wings of the earth.3 By this sign, there are denoted the right and left sides of their marshalled armies. It is not said they were provided with chariots, like the armies of Pharaoh and of Jabin,—they were generally mounted cavalry; but that the tramp of their rushing steeds, and the clangour of mail and sabres, with the deafening war-shouts,4 were equal to the sound of chariots.

Ch. 9:10: “And they have tails like scorpions, and stings; and in their tails is their authority to injure the men five months.”—Of what are these tails armed with stings the sign? The prophet Isaiah furnishes the key to this. Distinguishing the head, elders, prophets, etc. of the people, he says, “The teacher of lies, he is the tail.”5 It is quite in harmony with the Mohammedan system of forcing the so called Islam on nations by conquest, that the front and wings of the army should precede, and the mulvi, qázi, mufti, álim, etc. etc., should follow.

Here, as previously, the authority is not divine,—not de jure, but de facto. The same kind of authority possessed by the horses and riders (see ver. 3) is also possessed by the tail. It was gained by imposture, usurped by force and fraud, and granted or acquiesced in by superstitious multitudes. The “five months” are not a new symbol, and therefore not an additional time, because the word “authority” has the article (ἡ εξουσια) here, but wants it when first mentioned in ver. 3,—the authority of theirs already specified; and because these locust-like horses and their tails are co-existent, not successive. The authority of the one and the other is the same. The infliction of injury for five months is predicated of both; and both are coetaneous, the one operating by the sword, and the other by the Qurán.

Ch. 9:11: “They have over them a king, the1 messenger of the abyss; his name in Hebrew is Abaddon, and in Greek he has the name Apollyon.”—Here, as in ver. 1, the abyss is a chaotic state of society. Its messenger is an evil agent. Such are spoken of in a few instances: as in ch. 12, “the dragon and his messengers;” Ps. 78:49, “God sent evil messengers,” inflictors of punishment permitted to act. Here the messenger of the abyss can be no other than Satan. Some have supposed Mohammed; but that false prophet acted a different part in the vision: as an exploding aerolith he burst upon the abyss, and forth issued the symbolic locusts led by a king, who is the messenger of the abyss, not sanctioned, but permitted by Jehovah. Why was such permission given? Why did Christ permit the Mohammedans so to prevail? To subserve a great purpose,—as a castigator of degenerate Christians, backsliders to the Roman apostasy, and as a counterpoise to their power, which might otherwise have overrun the world, and also as a hammer to break in pieces the great political powers of Oriental heathenism. Satan is here called in the Cod. Alex., not only αγγελος, but also αρχων (prince),—not widely different in sense; and Jesus called him “the prince (αρχων) of this world;”2 and Paul styles him “the prince of the power of the air.”3 He ruled over the Saracen locusts, as he had done in the form of the pagan Roman dragon.

“His name, in Hebrew, Abaddon.”—It is Syriac or Aramean, which was the Hebrew spoken in the apostolic age, as by Jesus when He did not speak Greek. “Apollyon” is Greek. Both names mean “destroyer,” causer of death. Solomon4 associates the Hebrew name with Sheol or Hades, שְׁאוֹל וַאֲבדּוֹן = “hell and destruction” (English version). It is beyond human statistics to present any adequate idea of the destruction to men’s bodies resulting from Saracenic warfare, in battles, and sieges, and massacres, and bloody persecutions, by famine, pestilence, and poverty. And who shall estimate the destruction of a spiritual nature produced by the poison of the deadly heresy?[1]


1 Matt. 25:46; Rev. 20:15.

2 Isa. 22:22.

3 Acts 2.

1 Acts 10.

2 καμινος (kiln, oven, or chimney).

3 Gen. 19:28.

4 Luke 10:18.

5 Eph. 2:2; and exp. of ch. 7:1.

6 Matt. 25:46; Mark 9:44.

1 Isa. 33:4.

2 Joel 2:1–11.

3 Luke 10:9.

1 Incorrectly written caliph. The word is خليفه (Khalifa) or خليفا (kaliph), an active participle of خلف

2 a.d. 732.

1 Some absurd derivations have been given of this word: as, that they were named from Sarah, whoso posterity they were not; from Sahara, the desert, etc. The actual word is. شرقين (sharaqin, the easterns, from sharq, the east).

2 See Faber’s Sac. Cal. of Proph.

3 Or, to be slain,—αποθνησκω, de morte naturali, etiam violenti (Schleus.).

1 See Qurán, ii. 148.

2 Qurán, ii. 186.

3 See Joel 2:4.

1 Jer. 51:27: יֶלֶק סָמָר, hairy locust, not caterpillar, as in the Eng. ver.

2 See Dallas’s Zoology: Leo.

3 Isa. 59:17; Jer. 46:4; and see Blaney.

1 Isa. 18:1; Dan. 9:27; Isa. 11:12.

2 Jer. 48:40, 49:22.

3 Job 37:3.

4 Of “Allah Akbar,” الله اقبار (God is greatest), etc.

5 Isa. 9:15.

1 Tisch. and Alford have omitted the article, but both the Cod. Sin. and the Cod. Alex. have it. Even without it, the phrase, as a Hebraism, would be definite.

2 John 12:31.

3 Eph. 2:2.

4 Prov. 15:11.

[1] Glasgow, J. (1872). The Apocalypse Translated and Expounded (251–261). Edinburgh: T&T Clark.