THE ABYSS or DEEP, BOTTOMLESS PIT

BY:  JONATHAN MITCHELL

FEBRUARY 7, 2004

Now isn’t this a heart-warming subject?  This is part of what is to be a blessing to those who read it (Rev. 1:3).

This passage has been coming to mind, so I thought I’d throw something different on the table.  It is a segment of a study of the Unveiling (Rev.) in which I took a look at the symbol, or figure, of the term “the Deep” (Also transliterated as “the Abyss,” or, in the passage under consideration [Rev. 9], sometimes translated “Bottomless” pit).  Although this is lifted out of a symbolic context, I hope that meditations on this piece of God’s Word will be a blessing to us.  It’s a few pages.  Enjoy, if you’re feeling hungry for a different topic.
Jonathan

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In Rev. ch. 9:1, at the message of the 5th agent, John saw another star which had fallen out of heaven into the land.  Recall the sounding of the 3rd agent (ch.8:10) and the star named Wormwood.  So he sees another sign in the heavens another meteorite signifying a move of the heavens upon earth.  To this agent is given the key (access and control) of the Well of the Deep.

The word translated well is used in John 4:11,12, and numerous places in the O.T. to speak of a well having water; a source of water.  But if the well is dry, it could be considered a pit.  Thus (phrear) means a well, a cistern, a pit, or a shaft.  I chose the word “well” because of its frequent connection with water in the LXX.

The next term we need to investigate is the word “deep,” also being translated by the word “abyss,” and “bottomless.”  This last term arose from the concept that some places on earth (such as places in the oceans, some lakes, etc.) were so deep that their bottom could not be discerned, and so were thought to perhaps be “bottomless.”  The term “abyss” is merely a transliteration of the Gr. abussos.  It too means something very deep.  Thus, the most correct translation of the Gr. phrase in vs. 1 and 2 is “the well of the Deep.”  To come to an understanding of the Scriptural meaning of this figure, let us look at its usage.

Its first use is in Gen. 1:2, “But the earth was invisible (unseen) and unbuilt (unprepared; not ready), and darkness [was] up upon (over) the Deep, and God’s Spirit was bearing (conducting) Himself over upon the water.” (LXX)

The next occurrence of the word is in conjunction with the flood in Gen. 7:11, “…on this day all the springs (fountains) of the Deep were broken up…” (LXX)

In Gen. 8:2 we find that, “And the fountains of the Deep were closed up, and the flood-gates of heaven, and the rain from heaven was withheld.” (LXX)

We next see the word used in Deut. 8:7, “For the Lord thy God will bring you into a good and extensive land, where there are torrents of waters, and springs (fountains) of the Deeps (pl.) issuing through the plains and through the mountains.”  Here it would seem that the Deep was considered to be the source for the springs and rivers of the land.

In Deut. 33:13 we see that the Deeps (again pl.) are part of the blessings with which Moses blessed Joseph, “And to Joseph he said, ‘His land is of the blessing of the Lord of the seasons of sky and dew, and from springs of the Deep below.’ (LXX)

“But whence has wisdom been discovered? …it has neither indeed been discovered among men.  The Deep said, ‘It is not in me.’  And the sea said, ‘It is not with me.’ (Job 28:12-14, LXX)  So here the sea and the Deep are put in association.

The Lord asks Job, “But have you come upon the spring of the sea, or walked about in the footsteps (tracks) of the Deep?” (Job 38:16, LXX)

“He makes the Deep boil like a brazen caldron; and He regards the sea as a pot of ointment and the subterranean part (Tartarus) of the Deep like a captive: He counts (regards, reckons) the Deep unto a range for walking about.” (Job 41:2223, LXX)

Ps. 33:7, “…Who lays up the Deeps in treasuries.”  “…Thy judgments are as a great Deep.” (Ps. 36:6, LXX) Ps. 42:7, “Deep calls upon Deep, unto the Voice of Thy cataracts: all Thy billows and thy waves have gone over me.”

In Ps. 71:20-21, we see the term used figuratively and applied to events in this life. “What afflictions many and sore hast Thou showed me!  Yet Thou didst turn and quicken me, and brought me again from the Deeps of the earth.  Thou did multiply Thy righteousness, and did turn and comfort me, and brought me again out of the Deeps of the earth.” (LXX)  Here it is used of a place of afflictions (pressures, tribulations), but it is not the final place, for when the tribulations were finished he was QUICKENED.

In Ps. 76:16 we see that the Deeps can be agitated and troubled when they see God, even as the waters see Him and fear.  Are these speaking figuratively of mankind, and the deep places within him?  

In Ps. 104 we see some interesting descriptions, “Who dost robe Thyself with light as a garment …Who covers His chambers with waters; Who makes the clouds His chariot …The Deep, as a garment, is His covering…” (vs. 2, 3, 6, LXX)

Ps. 106:9, “…so He led them through the Deep as through the wilderness.”

Ps. 107:23-26, “They that go down to the sea… these have seen the works of the Lord, and HIS WONDERS IN THE DEEP…They go up to the heavens, and go down to the Deeps; their soul melts because of troubles.”

Ps. 135:6, “All that the Lord willed, He did in heaven, and on the earth, in the sea, and in all the Deeps.”

Ps. 148:7,8, “Praise the Lord from the earth, you serpents (dragons), and all Deeps.  Fire, hail, snow, ice, stormy wind: THE THINGS CONTINUALLY PERFORMING HIS WORD.”

Prov. 3:20, “By understanding were the Deeps broken up…”

Prov. 8:22-24, “The Lord made Me [Wisdom] the beginning of His ways, unto His works.  He established Me before the Age, in the beginning, before He formed the earth, even before He constructed the Deeps …”

Isa. 51:10, “Art Thou not It [the Arm of the Lord, vs.9] that dried the sea, the water, the abundance of the Deep, that made the depths of the sea a way of passage for the delivered and the redeemed?”

Isa.63:13, “He led them through the Deep, as a horse through the wilderness…”

Ezk. 26:19, “For thus saith the Lord God, when I shall make thee a desolate city… when I have brought the Deep up upon thee.”

Ezk. 31:4,15, “The water nourished him, the Deep made him grow tall… In the day wherein he went down into the Unseen, the Deep mourned for him.”

Amos 7:4, “Thus has the Lord showed me; and behold, the Lord called for judgment by fire, and it devoured the great Deep, and devoured the Lord’s portion [Jacob, vs.2, 5].”

Jonah 2:6, “Water was poured around me to the soul: the last Deep compassed me…”  All the above OT references were from the Septuagint and use the same Gr. word abussos that is used here in ch. 9.

The only occurrence of this word in the Gospels is in Lu. 8:31. Here the situation is where Jesus came to the region of the Gerasenes (some MSS read “Gadarenes”) and was met by the man who was host to a legion of demons.  “And they entreated Him to the end that He would not order (arrange upon) them to go away into the Deep… that He would permit them to enter into [the herd of hogs], and He permitted them.” (vs. 3132)  In vs. 33 we see that once the demons were in the hogs, the whole herd rushed over a precipice into the lake, and the hogs drowned.  Interesting to note in vs. 29 that when they were in the man that, “he was driven by the demon into the deserts.”  This would be a place away from water, or the Deep.  Something about the Deep apparently held fear for them.  Vs. 29 states that Jesus had commanded them to come out from the man, and thus he was continually asking that He would not examine (test, as with metals, by use of the touchstone) him.  We are not told what happened to the demons when the hogs cast them, and themselves, into “the deep” of the lake at hand.  Whatever the case, vs. 31 tells us that the demons did not want to go into the Deep.  Thus it would not appear that this was their home, their origin, or the normal realm of their existence.  To thus assume that it is demons that come out of the Deep in Rev. 9, seems inconsistent.  The Deep here in Luke seemed to spell their doom to them.

One of the most interesting statements involving the Deep and the only other place it is used in the N.T. outside of The Unveiling is found in Rom. 10:7.  “The quotation in 6-8 is a free citation from Deut. 30:11-14. Paul recognizes a secondary meaning in Moses’ words, and thus changes the original expressions so as to apply them to the Christian faith-system.  His object in the change is indicated by the explanatory words which he adds.” (Vincent)  “Or, who shall descend into the Deep? that is, to lead Christ back up from out of dead ones.” (Rom. 10:7)  Again quoting Vincent, “[The] Septuagint,[reads] ‘Who shall pass through to beyond the sea?’ Paul changes the phrase in order to adapt it to the descent of Christ into Hades.  The two ideas may be reconciled in the fact that the Jew conceived the sea as the abyss of waters on which the earth rested. Compare Ex. 20:4 [‘… the waters under the earth’].  Thus the ideas ‘beyond the sea’ and ‘beneath the earth’ coincide in designating the realm of the dead.”

In Rev. 11:7, the two witnesses are killed by the little animal (little wild beast) that “is continuously (or: repeatedly) rising up out of the Deep.”

In Rev. 17:8, the scarlet little beast “… is repeatedly on the point of rising up out of the Deep, and is to be continuously led away (drug under) into destruction.”

Now, in Rev. 20:1, please note that the agent with the key of the Deep is descending out of heaven (is this another view of the same scene that John saw in ch. 9:1?).  Then in vs.3 this agent (who in vs. 2 has seized and bound the dragon, “the original serpent that has been from the beginning,” who is a devil and an adversary {Satan}) cast the adversary into the Deep, then closed and sealed over it.  The Deep, where he is bound for 1000 yrs., is referred to as his prison (or, ward; place of custody where he is watched), from whence he is to loosed for final use before being cast into the lake of fire.

What then can we conclude from these references to “the Deep”?  1) it is a place where Satan is bound;  2) demons don’t want to go there;  3) an agent from heaven controls it;  4) Christ can descend to the dead there and then captivate the captivity there (Eph. 4:8,9);  5) it can encompass a person, but one can be brought out of it again;  6) the children of Israel were led through it it is compared to a wilderness;  7) it is a source of springs of water;  8) it is a source of blessings and prosperity;  9) it is a source of God’s judgment;  10) it brings praise to the Lord;  11) His wonders are seen in it;  12) it is His covering, as a garment;  13) it was covered with darkness until God bore Himself (brooded) upon it;  14) it was a blessing in the promised land;  15) they are in His treasuries;  16) they call upon one another;  17)  they were collected together into synagogues (Gen. 1:7,LXX);  18) they have footsteps;  19) they are places where God does His will;  20) a little beast continually rises up out of it.

With the concept of “bottomless” in mind, Ray Prinzing has referred to it as a place where one has no “footing,” no place to stand, no Rock upon which to build until Christ goes there.  The picture here in ch. 9 reminds us of an erupting volcano: a furnace pouring out smoke.  But this is God’s kiln, His smelting pot that He has made to “boil as a caldron.”  It is the source of His transforming judgments.  His presence is evidenced by the pillar of smoke (as with Israel of old).  Once again we see His army of locusts, as in Joel, bringing judgment that the people of the land may learn righteousness.  These are unusual locusts, for they do not eat vegetation, but rather they return man’s injustice back upon himself.  This is not for their death, but to test and examine them as metal is tested and this for only a short period [some have suggested that the 5 months corresponds to the life cycle of a locust].  They bring the pressure and discomforts which make men long for death (Job 3:21-23; Jer. 8:3).

So what do you think? 

 

ABYSS OR DEEP, BOTTOMLESS PIT [Jonathan Mitchell] ~ BIBLE STUDY           1

 

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