Tuesday, 12 January 2021
They had tails like scorpions, and there were stings in their tails. Their power was to hurt men five months. Revelation 9:10
Over the past few verses, John has been describing the vision of the locusts. It is certain that the general idea is that these are modern jet fighters and that they are using targeted attacks against an enemy foe. These fighters have been sent out, not to kill the enemy, but to cripple them without taking life.
Understanding this symbolism, John begins this verse with, “They had tails like scorpions.” Like his other descriptions, he is making a comparison to their function, not their appearance. The Pulpit Commentary, written before the age of jet fighters (19th century), understood this, saying, “Not that their tails possessed the appearance of scorpions … but that their tails were like the tails of scorpions in respect of having stings in them.”
With this correct understanding, John next says, “and there were stings in their tails.” The sting of the scorpion is right at the end of the tail, and it is sharp and extremely painful. As the tail of a scorpion proceeds forward over the body of the insect, it is from the midpoint of the body, not from behind it. Likewise, a jet fighter will have its weapons under the wings, or under the main body, not at the head.
When shooting a missile, John would have seen it flying out from the body, rather than the front of the aircraft. He would probably have the idea of a scorpion in his mind. He is using a metaphor that best describes what he sees, both in the means of attack and in the effect the attack makes. From there, he then finishes the thought with, “Their power was to hurt men five months.”
The exact duration of this particular aerial campaign is given, and the effects of it are succinctly stated. The intent is to hurt but not to kill. Obviously, this doesn’t mean people won’t die in such a battle. There is normally collateral damage associated with any aerial bombardment. But the intent of targeted attacks is to harm but not kill. This is what John is seeing and conveying to the one seeking to understand this future prophecy.
This air war will last five months. When the campaign ends, things will move into another judgment. All of this could be avoided, but man has other intentions than to willfully submit to the sovereign authority of God. And so, the troubles will only increase.
Life application: For millennia, readers of the Bible have come to these words concerning the locusts, and their minds have strained to understand what is being conveyed. The most fanciful of descriptions have been given, attempting to align real living creatures with what John is writing about.
In other words, they have taken John’s words as absolute truth, but there has been no ability to appreciate them from a known perspective. And so, their analyses have ranged from describing actual mutant locusts to various creatures that have never existed, but which must supposedly be coming in the future. We no longer need to wonder about whether they are real living creatures or not. We can know, with high reliability, that John is describing modern jet fighters.
With this understanding, we can also know that the events of Revelation are coming, and that we are right on the doorstep of that coming Day of the Lord. This future battle, now being described, will be done with precision-guided munitions that are used by an air force that has great restraint. Based on past history, this brings the number of modern countries down to just a few. Most countries go in to completely destroy the enemy without regard to human life.
Whether these prophecies are soon to pass or in the distant future, this will be the general idea. This will be a nation or group of nations that is restrained in their assault with highly destructive weapons.
For the believer in Christ, and apart from the words of naysayers concerning the rapture, the timeline of the Bible tells us that believers who have called on Jesus will be taken out before these events begin. The rapture, including its timing, is defined by the Apostle Paul. It is he who received his instruction directly from the Lord (Galatians 1:2), and it is he who then conveyed that to us. The mercy of God is coming upon his people, and it is because His Son has already taken our judgment upon Himself at the cross. Thank God for the sure promises that are found in JESUS!
Lord God, we can look at the pages of future prophecy given in Scripture, and the world cannot say that it has not been warned. Terrible times are ahead for those who fail to accept Jesus now. Your offer of peace through Him has been given. You are in complete control and have all things worked out in a way that will bring You great glory and that will also show that You are just when You judge. Truly, You are great – merciful and also righteous! Be exalted among Your people, O God. Amen.