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The Bottomless Pit

What is the "Bottomless Pit"? The Greek word, abyssos, is translated to "bottomless pit" in Revelation in four different places (9:11, 11:7, 17:8 and 20:3). The word "abyssos" means deep, depthless or having no bounds. It indicates an immeasurable quality, such as the depths of the sea or a vast desert. The word abyssos is used in the Bible in association with the earth, or a part of the earth, that is sparsely inhabited, undeveloped or lacking life.

Note: The idea of "bottomless" doesn't necessarily have to be associated with a pit, though it can refer to a grave, which is a hole or pit in the earth that lacks life. Revelation 9:1-2 are the only verses that specifically associate abyssos with the Greek word phrear, which means pit or hole in the ground. The other verses use abyssos alone.

To better understand the term, let's look at the examples of its usage in the Bible.

EXAMPLE #1 - We shouldn't look for Christ in the abyssos

"But the righteousness which is of faith speaketh on this wise, Say not in thine heart, Who shall ascend into heaven? (that is, to bring Christ down from above:) Or, Who shall descend into the deep [abyssos]? (that is, to bring up Christ again from the dead.) But what saith it? The word is nigh thee, even in thy mouth, and in thy heart: that is, the word of faith, which we preach; That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved." (Romans 10:6-9).

Abyssos here refers to the place of the dead, which is the grave. Christ was dead and in the grave for 3 days. The "bottomless" nature of the grave represents the immeasurable darkness of death where one is in the earth and there is no life. Paul emphasizes that there is no need to struggle to find righteousness, because Christ places it into the hearts of those who believe He died and rose (Rom. 10:9).

Abyssos = The grave; a lifeless place

EXAMPLE #2 - The devils don't want to be sent to the abyssos

When Jesus cast out the devils, named "Legion", from the man of Gadara, the devils begged not to be sent out into the abyssos (Luke 8:30-31).

"And Jesus asked him, saying, What is thy name? And he said, Legion: because many devils were entered into him. And they besought him that he would not command them to go out into the deep [abyssos]. And there was there an herd of many swine feeding on the mountain: and they besought him that he would suffer them to enter into them. And he suffered them. Then went the devils out of the man, and entered into the swine: and the herd ran violently down a steep place into the lake, and were choked" (Luke 8:30-33).

Read this same story in Mark...

"And he asked him, What is thy name? And he answered, saying, My name is Legion: for we are many. And he besought him much that he would not send them away out of the country. Now there was there nigh unto the mountains a great herd of swine feeding. And all the devils besought him, saying, Send us into the swine, that we may enter into them. And forthwith Jesus gave them leave. And the unclean spirits went out, and entered into the swine: and the herd ran violently down a steep place into the sea, (they were about two thousand;) and were choked in the sea" (Mark 5:9-13).

Notice that Luke says the devils don't want to be sent "out into the deep [abyssos]", and Mark says "out of the country [chora]". The word translated to "country" is "chora" (derived from "chasma", indicating an empty expanse or gulf), which means a space of territory, region or country. Notice that the devils didn't want to be sent to the abyssos, and asked instead to be sent into the pigs. The abyssos and chora are contrasted with the devils being able to inhabit a body. The devils apparently would rather live in pigs than go to a place that is uninhabited or lacking life.

Abyssos = A country that is empty or lifeless (uninhabited/undeveloped)

EXAMPLE #3 - Satan is bound in the abyssos for 1000 years

"And he laid hold on the dragon, that old serpent, which is the Devil, and Satan, and bound him a thousand years, And cast him into the bottomless pit [abyssos], and shut him up, and set a seal upon him, that he should deceive the nations no more, till the thousand years should be fulfilled: and after that he must be loosed a little season" (Revelation 20:2-3).

During the 1000 years, the devil is bound in the abyssos, so that he cannot deceive people anymore (Rev. 20:2-3). After Jesus' second coming, everyone is either slayed by the brightness of His coming or taken to heaven with Him. There are no people left on earth for Satan to tempt and tell lies, thus he cannot deceive people anymore. The earth has experienced the 7 last plagues, earthquakes, hail and destruction by fire, and it is in a disordered and desolate condition. The earth is uninhabited and lacking organization, and thus an abyssos. Satan is cast into the bottomless pit, the vast, dark, desolated wilderness of uninhabited earth, for 1000 years. Only the other angels who rebelled will be alive on earth during that time.

Abyssos = The earth in a sparsely inhabited and unorganized state

EXAMPLE #4 - A beast ascends out of the abyssos and is destroyed

"The beast that thou sawest was, and is not; and shall ascend out of the bottomless pit [abyssos], and go into perdition: and they that dwell on the earth shall wonder, whose names were not written in the book of life from the foundation of the world, when they behold the beast that was, and is not, and yet is" (Revelation 17:8).

Based on the meaning of abyssos (deep, vast, boundless) and the examples of usage above (a sparsely inhabited and undeveloped place), a beast that rises out it, could indicate the following possibilities:
  • A) A realm/kingdom that rises to power out of a sparsely inhabited part of the world.
  • B) A realm/kingdom that rises to power after having "died" (in the grave) or lost power.
Option B: Since the verse also describes the beast as "was, and is not, and shall ascend", the idea of option B, a realm/kingdom that dies and rises to life again, fits perfectly. This situation is also prophesied in Revelation 13, when the beast from the sea receives a deadly wound but later is healed. "And I saw one of his heads as it were wounded to death; and his deadly wound was healed: and all the world wondered after the beast" (Revelation 13:3).

This beast from the sea has seven heads and ten horns, just like the beast in Revelation 17. Both prophecies are describing the same realm, the Roman realm, but under a different phase of its power. One of the heads on the beast represents the papacy. It was spiritually dominant for 1260 years (beginning in 538 AD) until 1798 when Napolean took the pope prisoner and the papacy was considered at an end, thus giving its head a deadly wound. The Papal power "was" (functioning prior to 1798), "is not" (dead, or considered at an end in 1798, the date to which John was taken in vision), "shall ascend" (will raise to life and grow in power), and wondered after by all the world (others will copy the ways of the papacy). For more information see the study guides for Revelation 13 and Revelation 17

Abyssos = A place lacking life or sparsely populated and undeveloped

EXAMPLE #5 - A beast that ascends out of the abyssos makes war

"And when they shall have finished their testimony, the beast that ascendeth out of the bottomless pit shall make war against them, and shall overcome them, and kill them" (Revelation 11:7).

This verse also refers to the beast that ascends out of the bottomless pit (abyssos). The similarities between this beast and the beast from the abyssos of Revelation 17 show that they are referring to the same realm (see more details in Rev. 17 Study Guide), the Roman realm, emphasizing its activities under the 7th Head. This prophecy specifically reveals activities related to the French Revolution with the beast that ascends out of the bottomless pit symbolizing the political entity that ruled during the French Revolution. The power that ruled during the French Revolution is the same power that rules as the 7th Head. It is called the "beast that ascendeth out of the bottomless pit" because it is the power that rules the realm while the wounded papal head is ascending back to power after being in its lifeless state ("it's deadly wound was healed" - Rev. 13:3). This prophecy is addressed in more detail in the study guide on Revelation 11.

Abyssos = Death; a lifeless place.

EXAMPLE #6 - Smoke and locusts rise out of the abyssos

"And the fifth angel sounded, and I saw a star fall from heaven unto the earth: and to him was given the key of the bottomless pit. And he opened the bottomless [abyssos] pit [phrear]; and there arose a smoke out of the pit, as the smoke of a great furnace; and the sun and the air were darkened by reason of the smoke of the pit. And there came out of the smoke locusts upon the earth: and unto them was given power, as the scorpions of the earth have power... And they had a king over them, which is the angel of the bottomless pit, whose name in the Hebrew tongue is Abaddon, but in the Greek tongue hath his name Apollyon" (Revelation 9:1-3, 11).

In the fifth Trumpet, smoke rises up out of a bottomless pit (Revelation 9:1-3). Locusts then emerge out of the smoke. The smoke represents false doctrines and the locusts represent a devouring army that arises because of the false beliefs. The false beliefs and army originate in the abyssos, a sparsely inhabited or lifeless place (note that phrear, or the pit, is used with abyssos in these verses, the only place that is done, which possibly indicates the place is also isolated). Thus, we would look in history for an army (locusts) to rise at the time period of the 5th Trumpet, from a relatively isolated, undeveloped or sparsely populated area (bottomless pit). The army would promote beliefs (smoke) that obscurred Jesus' righteousness (sun). Study more about this in the prophecy of the 7 Trumpets (Rev. 8:2 - 11).

Abyssos = A sparsely inhabited or lifeless place.