The Great Throne Visions the Second Cycle The Abyss
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“Then the fifth angel trumpeted, and I saw a “star” fly from heaven and alight on the earth. He was given the key to the shaft of the abyss. When he opened the shaft to the abyss smoke poured out of the shaft like smoke from a great furnace. The sun and the atmosphere were obscured by the smoke from the shaft.”
The scene opens with the sounding of the Fifth Trumpet. As its ominous notes reach the prophets ear he simultaneously “sees” a “star fallen from heaven unto the earth.” The imprecise language of the text at this point has caused a good deal of confusion among the commentators. Did John witness the fall, or did he see a “star from heaven” that had fallen at some previous time? Marvin Vincent renders the passage as “a star from heaven, fallen”, and interprets the phrase to mean, “the star had fallen before and is seen as fallen.” He associates the time of the fall of this “star” with the casting of Satan out of Heaven.
“How art thou fallen from heaven, 0 Lucifer, son of the morning.” Isaiah 14:12. Cf. also Luke 10:18.
In the opinion of the writer this is a more logical conclusion, and conforms to the flow of the visions. The Seer is in a deep trance and experiencing an ecstatic prevision of the future. As each Trumpet sounds John “sees” another series of symbols. For him to suddenly use deductive logic and mentally conclude that the star he sees had actually fallen long ago is simply out of harmony with the way things happen in the Apocalypse. It is also out of harmony with the nature of the prophetic experience, wherein the images are produced by the unconscious mind rather than by ratiocination.
The abrupt transition of the star into a person led Isbon T. Beckwith to accuse John of delving into Jewish angelology, where stars are viewed as divinities, or living beings, possessing a conscious personal nature. Let me say that this is true only in the narrowest sense possible. The Prophets angelology is that of the Old Testament, where the stars and the angels where often linked symbolically. To accuse John of going beyond this tradition, and of embracing the fantastic views of Jewish occultism on the basis of what Beckwith perceives to be the “metamorphosis” of the star into an angel, is simply an unwarranted conclusion. There is an abundance of angelology in the Apocalypse, and I concede that it is often a difficult subject; but to arbitrarily class the angels of the Apocalypse with the angels of Jewish occultism shows a chauvinistic disregard for the Apocalypse itself, and for most of the rules of logical exegesis.
As we have repeatedly affirmed, each symbol must be interpreted individually and with great care. This is especially true of the angel of this vision, who is endowed with great power and authority. Just who this angelic personality is, and the symbolic importance of his actions, draw their significance from the symbolic figures he is associated with. Therefore, we must delay our commentary on this important and mysterious “star” for the moment, and consider the other symbols of the vision. Perhaps, once we understand their significance, the identity of this star-angel will become clear.