Tuesday, 5 January 2021
Then out of the smoke locusts came upon the earth. And to them was given power, as the scorpions of the earth have power. Revelation 9:3
The events resulting from the sounding of the fifth trumpet continue with these words. The bottomless pit was opened, smoke arose out of it like a furnace, and now John says, “And out of the smoke locusts came upon the earth.”
It must be noted that, like the stars representing earthly leaders, locusts in the Bible also represent real people. Due to their number and the way they organize and move in ranks, they symbolize massive armies that work in essentially the same way. First from the proverbs –
“The locusts have no king,
Yet they all advance in ranks.” Proverbs 30:27
Armies, then, are likened to locusts because of the advance in ranks. However, locusts also fly and devour. That will be seen in the coming verses. For now, not only do locusts represent ranks, but various aspects of warring ranks. From the book of Jeremiah –
“Set up a banner in the land,
Blow the trumpet among the nations!
Prepare the nations against her,
Call the kingdoms together against her:
Ararat, Minni, and Ashkenaz.
Appoint a general against her;
Cause the horses to come up like the bristling locusts.” Jeremiah 51:27
Locusts are used in simile concerning the riders and the horses of these nations. And again, from the book of Joel –
“So I will restore to you the years that the swarming locust has eaten,
The crawling locust,
The consuming locust,
And the chewing locust,
My great army which I sent among you.” Joel 2:25
Here, the armies that brought destruction on Israel are equated to the destructive locusts of the land. And, yet again, from the book of Nahum –
“Draw your water for the siege!
Fortify your strongholds!
Go into the clay and tread the mortar!
Make strong the brick kiln!
15 There the fire will devour you,
The sword will cut you off;
It will eat you up like a locust.
Make yourself many—like the locust!
Make yourself many—like the swarming locusts!
16 You have multiplied your merchants more than the stars of heaven.
The locust plunders and flies away.
17 Your commanders are like swarming locusts,
And your generals like great grasshoppers,
Which camp in the hedges on a cold day;
When the sun rises they flee away,
And the place where they are is not known.” Nahum 3:14-17
The imagery is clear. The warring armies of real humans are equated to locusts. There is no need to depart from the symbolism here in Revelation. These are not some supernatural beasts that suddenly appear in the world, nor are they angels coming to fight in battle.
Rather, what we have presented here are real people employing modern means of combat. What John will describe is from the eyes of a person who had never seen or known of such things, and so he is using apocalyptic terminology to describe it as best as he can. With that in mind, he next says, “And to them was given power, as the scorpions of the earth have power.”
Scorpions are arachnids that have an exoskeleton (an external covering of the body that provides support and protection) and they have terrible stings in their tails. What John will describe in the coming verses is exactly like this. There is no need to devolve into the fantastic and devise mutant creatures, Nephilim warriors, or space aliens. Rather, what is written about here will be clearly understood with simple examples of modern warfare.
Life application: The plague of locusts is a common theme in the Bible. The 8th plague on Egypt involved locusts, and the book of Joel deals with differing locust plagues in detail –
“What the chewing locust left, the swarming locust has eaten;
What the swarming locust left, the crawling locust has eaten;
And what the crawling locust left, the consuming locust has eaten.” Joel 1:4
Using Old Testament symbology, John will give the best possible description he can. It will be based on the times he lived in and from the view of the world as he saw it, but not until modern times could we clearly identify what these locusts are.
Even until recently, scholars have symbolically termed them demons or other spiritual beings because what is described are obviously not real locusts.
These locusts are said to have been “given power, as the scorpions of the earth have power.” Thus, John is speaking in simile. Scorpions are small and can go anywhere because of their size. They are found on every continent but Antarctica. They can go places that other things can’t go and they have the ability to hurt those that they attack. Their exoskeletons protect their insides. These attributes describe what we will see in the verses ahead.
Lord God, it is always so interesting to see what You have placed in Your word. It is often a challenge to our minds to try to understand what is being conveyed to us and how it points to future events. But in carefully studying Your word in its entirety, we can form a much better picture of how things fit into the overall story. And so, help us to be diligent in our studies, cherishing Your word always. Amen.