The name Abaddon or Apollyon appears in Revelation 9:11: “They had as king over them the angel of the Abyss, whose name in Hebrew is Abaddon, and in Greek, Apollyon.” In Hebrew, the name “Abaddon” means “place of destruction”; the Greek title “Apollyon” literally means “The Destroyer.”
In Revelation 8–9, John describes a period during the end times when angels sound seven trumpets. Each trumpet signals the coming of a new judgment on the people of earth. When the fifth angel blows his trumpet, the Abyss, a great smoking pit, will open, and a horde of demonic “locusts” will rise out of it (Revelation 9:1-3). These creatures will be given the power to torture any person who does not bear God’s seal (verse 4). The pain they inflict will be so intense that sufferers will wish to die (verse 6). Abaddon/Apollyon is the ruler of the Abyss and the king of these demonic locusts.
Abaddon/Apollyon is often used as another name for Satan. However, Scripture distinguishes the two. We find Satan later on in Revelation, when he is imprisoned for 1,000 years (Revelation 20:1-3). He is then released to wreak havoc on the earth (verses 1-8) and ultimately receives his final, eternal punishment (verse 10). Abaddon/Apollyon is likely one of Satan’s underlings, a destroying demon and one of the “rulers,” “authorities,” and “powers” mentioned in Ephesians 6:12.
The destroying angel is also commonly referred to as the angel of death. On numerous occasions, God used angelic beings— heavenly messengers of some kind—to bring judgment to sinners on earth. Various Bible translations refer to this being as a “destroying angel.” There is no clear biblical evidence that any one particular angel was given the title “destroying angel” or “angel of death.” The most we can say is that the Bible’s mentions of a “destroying angel” are references to a heavenly being or beings that came to destroy those under God’s judgment.
The most famous visitation of a destroying angel was on the first Passover. Egypt was about to experience the tenth and final plague, the death of the firstborn. Moses’ instructions to the Hebrews contained this warning: “For the Lord will pass through to smite the Egyptians; and when he seeth the blood upon the lintel, and on the two side posts, the Lord will pass over the door, and will not suffer the destroyer to come in unto your houses to smite you” Exodus 12:23. Some other translations have “Angel of Death” or “death angel” instead of “destroyer.” This being is called “the destroyer of the firstborn” in Hebrews 11:28.
Interestingly, the original Hebrew text of Exodus 12:23 does not mention an “angel” at all. It simply says that “the destroyer” or “the spoiler” or “the one who causes damage” would slay the firstborn of Egypt. It could have been the Lord Himself who was the destroyer, although the possibility exists that God sent an angel to do the deed. Psalm 78 recounts the plagues in Egypt and sums them up as God’s unleashing of “a band of destroying angels” (verse 49). The Hebrew word for “angel” is used here, but it is not limited to one particular angel.
A destroying angel—a heavenly messenger who brought destruction—was also sent by God to judge the Israelites because of David’s sin in numbering the people: “So the Lord sent a pestilence upon Israel from the morning even to the time appointed: and there died of the people from Dan even to Beersheba seventy thousand men. And when the angel stretched out his hand upon Jerusalem to destroy it, the Lord repented him of the evil, and said to the angel that destroyed the people, It is enough: stay now thine hand. And the angel of the Lord was by the threshing place of Araunah the Jebusite. And David spake unto the Lord when he saw the angel that smote the people, and said, Lo, I have sinned, and I have done wickedly: but these sheep, what have they done? let thine hand, I pray thee, be against me, and against my father's house.” 2 Samuel 24:15–17
The Assyrians who attacked Jerusalem during King Hezekiah’s reign also met what could be called an angel of death or a destroying angel: “That night the angel of the Lord went out and put to death a hundred and eighty-five thousand in the Assyrian camp. When the people got up the next morning—there were all the dead bodies!” 2 Kings 19:32–35
Another angel who brought death and destruction is mentioned in the judgment of King Herod (Acts 12:23). An angel with lethal intent bearing a sword gives a warning to Balaam (Numbers 22:31–33). And Jesus mentions that angels will be involved in the end-times judgment of the wicked (Matthew 13:49–50). In none of these cases are the angels called “the angel of destruction” or “the angel of death.” We might refer to an angel who metes out God’s judgment as an “angel of destruction,” but it is not an explicitly biblical term.