Author: Ron Graham
Times of Tribulation (Revelation 6-11) >Seven Trumpets >5th trumpet >1st woe >The locusts
We now look at the vision of the four angels released at the river Euphrates to go and kill. This vision, the second of three "woes", comes at the sounding of the sixth trumpet. This is "the second woe" of three which the eagle lamented (Revelation 8:13)
locusts "Then out of the smoke came locusts" (Revelation 9:3). These creatures John calls locusts, perhaps for want of a better name, were strange indeed. They had a sting in their tails like scorpions, and other features as we shall see. These creatures are a symbol of the harm that tribulations on earth can do to the vulnerable —those who have no hope in Christ.
grass "The locusts were told not to hurt the grass of the earth nor any green thing" (Revelation 9:4). Green pastures and trees are symbolic of eternal blessings (Psalms 23:1-3, Revelation 22:2). God has "blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ" (Ephesians 1:2-3). Satan is given no permission to harm those blessings. They are the pasture and orchard of the kingdom of heaven on earth. Satan is forbidden to touch even one blade of grass there.
A Life Futile and Unfulilled: A locust forbidden to harm any green thing, is a locust forbidden to fulfill its purpose in life —for eating green things is what a locust is supposed to do. This tells us that the devil and his angels have rejected God's purpose for themselves so God has made their existence futile. They are alienated from the eternal blessings of Christ, and what they cannot have, they also cannot harm.
Revelation 9:3-4 cont
seal The locusts were permitted to hurt "only the men who do not have the seal of God on their foreheads" (Revelation 9:4). Everyone on earth, Christian or not, suffers tribulation (the smoke in the vision). However the Christian has the seal of God upon him as a ward against evil, so that tribulation can do him no spiritual harm (the sting of the locusts in the vision). Jesus said, "Do not fear those who can kill the body but are unable to kill the soul. Rather fear him who is able to destroy both body and soul in hell" (Matthew 10:28). In the gospel, the “seal of God” is the gift of the Holy Spirit who dwells in us as a guardian and guarantee (Ephesians 1:13-14). Those who refuse this seal leave themselves vulnerable to harm by Satan.
Slaves of Christ or of Sin: The seal on the forehead suggests enslavement, and the gospel teaches that Christians are slaves of God. In baptism, we are released from sin by the death of Christ, but we become slaves of righteousness under Christ (Romans 6:4-7,16). Of course God treats his slaves very well —indeed he treats them as sons (Romans 8:14-18). In the visions, those who refused the seal of God on their foreheads remained slaves of sin and accepted instead "the mark of the beast" (Revelation 19:20).
kill The locusts "were not permitted to kill anyone" (Revelation 9:5). This symbolizes the spiritual fact that it is not in anyone's power to kill your soul. You can bring spiritual death upon yourself, but nobody else can bring it upon you. Spiritual death is not within even Satan's power. So the state of your soul is up to you. The good news of the gospel is that Jesus, amid all your tribulations, can assure you of eternal life if you will accept it from him and take his seal upon you (John 10:25-30).
torment The locusts were permitted "to torment for five months" (Revelation 9:5). Tribulation and temptation are permitted, and we must suffer various trials (James 1:2-4). The gospel says, "Through much tribulation we must enter the kingdom of God" (Acts 14:22). However, as we have seen, this is suffered outwardly. (2Corinthians 4:16-18). Satan cannot torment the inward man in which dwells the hope and peace of Christ (Philippians 4:4-7). He can, however, torment the inward man who does not take refuge in Christ. This torment consists of confusion, despair, guilt, envy, moral weakness, and all such things. The non-Christian is stung by these. The faithful Christian, however, is able to fight these off with enlightenment, hope, sanctification, love, faith, and all such spiritual blessings.
Understanding Mental Illness: Tribulation includes mental illness where symptoms of abnormal confusion, despair, guilt, etc. manifest themselves, even to the point of contemplating suicide. These illnesses often have physical causes rather than being a “spiritual problem”. It is important to seek medical help to diagnose and treat such illnesses. We should regard such help as in the providence of God. The spiritual blessings of Christ certainly help a person to cope with such illnesses, but one should not think that seeking medical help is unnecessary or somehow unfaithful.
Revelation 9:5-12 cont
five A "five months" limit is placed upon the torment. Five months is a great part of a year, but not the greater part. Seven months is the remainder. Seven is a special symbol in the visions representing God's work in us, and the heavenly sabbath of rest he has promised us. It reminds us that "there remains a rest for the people of God" (Hebrews 4:9). So the five months and the seven remainder symbolize what we have been noticing, that there may be much tribulation (for the non-Christian even torment of the soul) but nothing can cancel the promise of eternal life available to all.
scorpion The locusts had in their tails "the torment of a scorpion when it stings a man" (Revelation 9:5 cf verse 10). The locusts stung those without the seal of God because they did not take advantage of the hope and help of Christ.
Three points to remember...
appearance "The appearance of the locusts was like horses prepared for battle..." (Revelation 9:7-10). There are seven attributes of these battle-horse locusts...
A Sign of Antichrist: Those seven attributes all symbolize the nature of the Roman empire: its wealth, its worship of earthly kings, effeminacy, dominion, law enforcement, armies, cruelty, and suchlike. These Romish symbols, like the number of the beast, indicate the spirit of antichrist so typical of the Roman world at the time of John’s visions.
The Roman empire eventually fell, but the spirit of antichrist that drove it in the time of the early Christians continues to be very present in the world today. We must remember that the Devil still tries to corrupt the rulers of this world as he did those of the Roman empire, the Babylonian empire, and others of their ilk. He still promotes false religion based on man-worship and idolatry.
The book of Revelation emphasises that if we are really genuine and devoted Christians, we may find ourselves in peril from the political and religious establishments in league in our time. But we take courage for nothing can separate us from the love of Christ (Romans 8:37-39).
king "The locusts have as king over them, the angel of the abyss" (Revelation 9:11). This angel is called Abaddon and Apollyon. Both these names indicate one who is intent on destruction. One name is Hebrew and the other Greek, to represent the whole world, Jew and Gentile, both equally subject to the tribulations from the abyss, and both having an equal right to take refuge in Christ through the gospel. This evil angel is of course Satan the devil, the fallen star who was given the key to the abyss. The kings of this world generally allow Satan to rule over them when they should be subject to Christ the true King of kings.
past...coming [ TRANSITION ] "The first woe is past, behold two woes are still coming after these things" (Revelation 9:12). This statement is merely a marker to separate the visions and indicate the end of the vision of the first woe, namely the bottomless pit. That vision is past and a new vision is coming. The sixth angel is about to sound his trumpet, and the second woe, is about to be seen.
It is important to realize that the progression of visions does not indicate a progression through various events in history. Each successive vision encompasses the Christian era and the same general themes. Therefore we do not relate the visions specifically to points in history, but to our own lives in this gospel age.