I love to watch the old sci-fi films from the 50’s and 60’s—centering on themes such as giant leeches, ants, spiders and locusts. They entertain to the hilt and thrill to open dark corners of the mind where these creatures lurk. One needs to be cautious, though, lest these creepy images consume an overly active imagination. The same can be said for Apocalyptic Literature, for as with horror movies, this literature is not factual but actually imaginative and surrealistic in nature and not to be taken literally. The Book of Revelation, although at times entertaining, is meant to convey messages that are deeply hidden on the spiritual level—which is why the vivid and shocking imagery is intended to wake-up the reader to higher Spiritual Truths.

First, the reader should keep in mind that the plague of locusts, like the other scenes in Revelation, is not a description of an actual event. John is not literally predicting what will occur. Rather, he is using imaginative language to convey theological concepts. This kind of language is impressionistic rather than descriptive; it is emotive language. It produces its desired effect by creating impressions and stirring emotions and feelings in the reader, not by means of rational argumentation. That is why the details in John’s visions are not as important as the overall presentation. The reader of John’s Apocalypse needs to be asking, “What is the message that is being communicated by this imagery? What is the purpose of this scene?” In the case of the plagues, including the locust plague, the primary message is that sinfulness, which is contrary to the will of God, will ultimately come under the judgment of God. The horrific images that John uses to convey that idea are intended to impress upon the reader the seriousness of human sinfulness and evil. (Smyth Helwys Bible Commentary)

It is best to keep this perspective in mind as we proceed with today’s chapter.

The Fifth Trumpet, 9:1-12

Rev 9:1 Then the fifth angel blew his trumpet, and I saw a star that had fallen from heaven onto the earth, and the angel was given the key to the shaft leading down to the Abyss.

Rev 9:2 When he unlocked the shaft of the Abyss, smoke rose out of the Abyss like the smoke from a huge furnace so that the sun and the sky were darkened by the smoke from the Abyss,

Rev 9:3 and out of the smoke dropped locusts onto the earth: they were given the powers that scorpions have on the earth:

Rev 9:4 they were forbidden to harm any fields or crops or trees and told to attack only those people who were without God’s seal on their foreheads.

Rev 9:5 They were not to kill them, but to give them anguish for five months, and the anguish was to be the anguish of a scorpion’s sting.

Rev 9:6 When this happens, people will long for death and not find it anywhere; they will want to die and death will evade them.

Rev 9:7 These locusts looked like horses armoured for battle; they had what looked like gold crowns on their heads, and their faces looked human,

Rev 9:8 and their hair was like women’s hair, and teeth like lion’s teeth.

Rev 9:9 They had body-armour like iron breastplates, and the noise of their wings sounded like the racket of chariots with many horses charging.

Rev 9:10 Their tails were like scorpions’ tails, with stings, and with their tails they were able to torture people for five months.

Rev 9:11 As their leader they had their emperor, the angel of the Abyss, whose name in Hebrew is Abaddon, and in Greek Apollyon.

Rev 9:12 That was the first of the disasters; there are still two more to come.

The initial description of that dark and eerie abyss opening-up is highly suspenseful as everyone awaits what will be crawling out of it. For the most part, John is using Old Testament symbolism to strike a chord of dread and then proceeds to embellish upon it. There is much speculation as to the nature of these marauding and evil-looking locusts. Many believe that they are demonic creatures, since they emanated from that dark abyss. An 8th century Spanish Monk speculated that they symbolized invading Moslem Arab hordes, who during his time had just conquered North Africa, the Near East, and Spain. Their faces are indeed quite menacing, yea even in human mannerisms. G.B. Caird once commented, “Evil may take many sinister forms and ramify far beyond the immediate implications of individual sin; but in the last analysis it has a human face, for it is caused by the rebellion of human wills against the will of God.” (ibid) Hal Lindsey, the popularizer of sensationalist readings of apocalyptic texts, when writing in the early 1970s, implied that John’s description of these flying locusts who have stingers in their tails was an allusion to the use of Huey Cobra helicopters during the Vietnam War! (ibid) I tend to believe these locusts are supernatural entities because they originate from that dark abyss, a spiritual place where evil souls are temporary held before their final judgment. These harbingers of terror and pain even have a commander—Abaddon—whose name means “the destroyer”. The inclusion of the Greek Apollyon implies that John was taking a swipe at the pagan cult of Apollo.

The Sixth Trumpet, 9:13-21

Rev 9:13 The sixth angel blew his trumpet, and I heard a single voice issuing from the four horns of the golden altar in God’s presence.

Rev 9:14 It spoke to the sixth angel with the trumpet, and said, ‘Release the four angels that are chained up at the great river Euphrates.’

Rev 9:15 These four angels had been ready for this hour of this day of this month of this year, and ready to destroy a third of the human race.

Rev 9:16 I learnt how many there were in their army: twice ten thousand times ten thousand mounted men.

Rev 9:17 In my vision I saw the horses, and the riders with their breastplates of flame colour, hyacinth-blue and sulphur-yellow; the horses had lions’ heads, and fire, smoke and sulphur were coming from their mouths.

Rev 9:18 It was by these three plagues, the fire, the smoke and the sulphur coming from their mouths, that the one third of the human race was killed.

Rev 9:19 All the horses’ power was in their mouths and their tails: their tails were like snakes, and had heads which inflicted wounds.

Rev 9:20 But the rest of the human race, who escaped death by these plagues, refused either to abandon their own handiwork or to stop worshipping devils, the idols made of gold, silver, bronze, stone and wood that can neither see nor hear nor move.

Rev 9:21 Nor did they give up their murdering, or witchcraft, or fornication or stealing.

The voice commands the sixth angel to release “the four angels who are bound at the great river Euphrates” (9:14). In contrast to the other trumpet plagues, in this plague the angel participates in the action of the plague rather than simply initiating the plague with a trumpet blast. The four angels “bound at the great river Euphrates” are not the same as the four angels in 7:1-3 who stand at the four corners of the earth holding back the four winds. In the latter case, the angels are divine functionaries, carrying out the tasks assigned to them. In the scene in chapter 9, however, these angels are bound, like the evil angels of Jewish tradition. These are demonic forces whose destructive power God uses for divine purposes. The command to release them portends grave danger.

Why are the angels bound at the Euphrates River? The Euphrates River is located in the Mesopotamian region, the area of modern Iraq. In biblical tradition, this was the place of Israel’s enemies, for from this area came the Assyrians, the Babylonians, and the Persians. The prophet Isaiah warned that God would use the Assyrians, who are “beyond the River,” as instruments of punishment against Israel (7:20; cf. 8:5-8). (ibid)

Like the locusts, these avenging horses are a real horror to behold. Their heads are like lions’ heads, and their tails are like serpents. Hence, both their heads and tails are weapons of terror and seething devastation. Their mouths issue-forth fire, smoke, and sulfur, all of which are symbols of chastisement, annihilation, and trepidation. Eerily reminiscent of the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah. It’s most interesting to note John’s footnote concerning those who somehow escaped these mind-terrors—they refuse to relinquish their evil ways. They still decided to pay homage to the old and inferior gods and continue their practice of sorcery and witchcraft. There are striking modern parallels here. There are those who have opened doorways to demons whose mission is to strike discord and vile behaviors—even directed at children!  Woe to these ambassadors of evil—their karma will one day truly be brought home to roost. This is a karmic law—there are those who become their own executioners. The evil they wrought will not go unpunished. In conclusion, the horrific images John created are intended to show an evil humanity the seriousness of sinfulness and the consequences paid for such inhumane actions.

This entry was posted in Exploring the Book of Revelation and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Enter Captcha Here : *

Reload Image