What Is the Apollyon?

By his smooth words, this liar will lead many people astray, destruction and persecution will spread alarmingly. However, we already know how to defend ourselves against the darkness: By submitting to protection by Christ alone.

Contributing Writer
Updated Oct 08, 2020
What Is the Apollyon?

There are several names in the Bible for Satan and his minions. One of these is “the Apollyon,” which might refer to Satan or to a high-ranking demon. The name “Apollyon” is the Greek for “Abaddon” meaning “Destroyer.”

We see this name mentioned in Revelation 9: “They had as king over them the angel of the Abyss, whose name in Hebrew is Abaddon and in Greek is Apollyon (that is, Destroyer)” (Revelation 9:11).

Context of Revelation 9:11

Immediately after the fifth angel blew his trumpet, a star fell from “the sky to the earth” (Revelation 9:1). This star “opened the Abyss” (Revelation 9:2), unleashing a battalion of demonic soldiers likened to a plague of locusts (Revelation 9:3) resembling “horses prepared for battle” (Revelation 9:7).

By this time there had already been “hail and fire mixed with blood, and it was hurled down on the earth. A third of the earth was burned up, a third of the trees were burned up, and all the green grass was burned up.” Next, “something like a huge mountain, all ablaze, was thrown into the sea. A third of the sea turned into blood, a third of the living creatures in the sea died, and a third of the ships were destroyed.” (Revelation 8:7-9).

This is the beginning of the end in which Satan and his demonic forces will be unleashed. He will be permitted to take those who reject Christ as King during the cleansing of the whole earth to make way for a “new heaven and a new earth” (Revelation 21:1).

Abaddon appears in some versions of the Old Testament (BSB, ESV, NASB), or as “Destruction” in others (NIV, KJV, NLT). We see him in Job 26:6 and Proverbs 15:11. As Job describes God’s wondrous power, he declares that “the realm of the dead is naked before God; Destruction lies uncovered” (Job 26:6). The realm of the dead is Sheol or Hell and even this place is helpless before Almighty God.

Historical Context

John “is making a bold spiritual and political statement” in Revelation by referring to both Abaddon (Hebrew) and Apollyon (Greek). The Greek evokes Apollo, a god whom the Romans worshiped. The cult of Apollo used the symbol of the locust.”

The disciples of Christ lived during a time when Rome controlled much of the known world. John had experienced persecution “under Domitian.” John was “taken to Rome, and there, by his boldness, though not by death, gain[ed] the crown of martyrdom” by being boiled in oil. This did not kill him, so John was “sent to labor in the mines.”

By naming the Destroyer “Apollyon” and with the imagery of locusts, “John is effectively saying that the Roman Empire is ruled by the forces of Hell” because “the emperors Caligula, Nero and Domitian considered themselves to be incarnations of Apollo.

Who Is the Destroyer?

One writer says, “there is no doubt this is also Satan, the Devil himself.” On the other hand, many theologians remain unsure. “Some make him [...] to be only one of Satan’s many evil subordinates.” John might have thought that the Roman Emperor was the Apollyon and his language certainly suggests as much. Christians continue to watch for the Destroyer and anticipate Christ’s return. We do not know where the Destroyer will come from, but we do know:

1. He will be a good actor. There are highly convincing false prophets out there today, and Abaddon will be the ultimate false prophet. By his smooth words, this liar will lead many people astray. Jesus says, “be aware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly are ravenous wolves” (Matthew 7:15). “False teachers” will “secretly bring in destructive heresies” (2 Peter 2:1). Christians are warned to be on their guard against these smooth-talking, but deadly impersonators of Christ’s returned.

2. God is ultimately in control. Our Father in Heaven is not the destroyer, but “God himself has brought about this destruction as part of his righteous judgment.” While Satan is “evil and powerful,” he is “not all-powerful.” Abaddon does not have full command over the demons of Hell, those locusts emerging from the abyss.

They are permitted “to harm the grass of the earth or any plant or tree, but only those people who [do] not have the seal of God on their foreheads” (Revelation 9:4). Even then, the locusts can only torture but not kill their victims. Who holds them back? “Even at his most virulent” the Destroyer “cannot escape God’s control.”

3. The Destroyer’s exploits will not wake everyone up. This is a heartbreaking reality. Living obediently and lovingly before Christ will fail to get the attention of unbelievers. They will see what Abaddon does to the rest of the world but remain unconvinced that Christ is Lord. “The message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing” (1 Corinthians 1:18).

Even after “a third of mankind was killed,” those who remained “did not repent of the work of their hands” or “stop worshiping demons, and [...] idols that cannot see or hear or walk. Nor did they repent of their murders, their magic arts, their sexual immorality or their thefts” (Revelation 9:18, 20-21). God’s “image bearers charge that God is unfair” when He brings judgment, and they “drift away from him” when times are good.

Even when Abaddon’s destruction is unleashed, many men and women will prefer to die in their sin than repent. “How desperately we would like to believe that in the face of coming judgment, all lost men and women will cry out to God.”

Instead, they worship idols. They celebrate the “lives of celebrities” for example, which stand in “complete contempt of God:” Lives that might even be “sad, lonely, drug-filled, [and] immoral.”

4. Abaddon will not destroy God’s people. For Christians, the Holy Spirit is like the lamb’s blood Israel painted on door frames to protect their sons from death — not from suffering, but from eternal destruction. Revelation says that everyone will receive either a mark from God (Revelation 9:4) or the mark of the beast (Revelation 13:17).

This is probably the invisible mark of loyalty made plain by worship. “Everyone who isn’t a Christian” will “belong to the beast” and be “loyal to him.” But, “if you have the name of Jesus and God the Father written on your forehead, it simply means that they own you, that you belong to them, that you are loyal to the Lord God Almighty.”

5. There is hope. “Only the light of Christ, the power of the Spirit and the love of the Father can deal with the darkness. We are heading into the Abyss. Only Christ can save us.” Since they first met secretly in the upper rooms of people’s homes, Christians have faced everything from hurtful rejection by hard-hearted unbelievers to torture and martyrdom.

But when Apollyon comes, persecution will spread alarmingly. No Christian will remain untouched. As frightening as this sounds, we already know how to defend ourselves against the darkness — by submitting to protection by Christ alone. It’s true that “only Christ can save us,” so we don’t need to seek refuge in our own strength. God has revealed the nature of defense: “the full armor of God” (Ephesians 6:11).

Do Not Worry: Prepare

God has not given us a “spirit of slavery to fall back into fear but” instead we are given “the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, ‘Abba! Father!’” (Romans 8:15). As sons and daughters of the Most High, we are heirs to the future Kingdom but also to His power now. That power — our armor — is greater than the powers of sin and death over our lives.

We can gird ourselves for the coming tribulation by prioritizing our time to read Scripture and to pray so that we might learn how to identify Christ and reject the Destroyer; learn to trust the promises of God so as not to fear the day of tribulation or be deceived by the cunning of Abaddon. “So we can confidently say, ‘The Lord is my helper; I will not fear; what can man do to me?’” (Hebrews 13:6).

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Candice Lucey is a freelance writer from British Columbia, Canada, where she lives with her family. Find out more about her here.


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