I want to offer some thoughts on Revelation ch9 vv1-12
This passage is about the fifth of the "seven trumpets".
It also counts as the first "Woe"- because, at the end of the previous chapter, the dwelllers on the earth were told to expect woe from the next three
So I'm going to be asking the question; what is the First Woe?
When the fifth trumpet is sounded, something is released. But the exact nature of that "something" is not easy to pin down.
They are locusts
The text calls them locusts.
I understand that some of the details of the description are features which might be found on any ordinary swarm.
Ordinary locusts, apparently, have hair and scales, and make a noise in flight, and their normal life-span is around five months. Just like the ones
in this passage.
And an ordinary locust-swarm would be a source of terror., because locusts will eat up your crops and bring you close to starvation.
They are not ordinary locusts
But this description has got additional details, bizarre details, which would not be found in any ordinary locust swarm.
They appear "like horses, arrayed for battle".
They have human faces, with golden crowns.
They have the teeth of lions, and stings like scorpions.
The noise of their wings has become thundrous.
And it seems that everything else about them has been magnified; at least their features are surely much more visible and noticeable than they would
have been in locusts of ordinary size.
So the image starts with a topical model (a locust swarm) which would have been a source of terror in its own right.
The emotion is then magnified. Further details are thrown into the image to ramp up the intensity of the terror by several degrees.
They come from "outside"
They make their appearance when the shaft of the pit has been opened.
We're not told, strictly speaking, that the locusts themselves come from the pit.
The smoke arises from the pit, and the locusts come from the smoke, but they might have been "generated" in some way after the smoke reached the
But the pit is the ultimate source of the trouble, either way.
The underground pit, by its nature, is outside the inhabited world.
The fact that the pit is called "bottomless" (ABYSSOS) brings an echo of the Creation story.
The same word is used in the Septuagint in their translation of "the deep" which God pushes back to make room for human life.
In both cases, the implication is that "the Abyss" is that region which God has not organised for human habitation
The locusts are under the command of Abaddon or Apollyon- the destroyer or power of destruction.
And destruction, of course, is the polar opposite of order.
They come from God
We're told, in the first verse, that the star, when he opened the shaft, "was given" the key. This is a reverential way of saying that the key came
from God. It avoids using the name outright.
This means that the locusts have been released on God's authority.
Similarly, when we read that the locusts "were given power", we can understand that the power came from God.
And when we're told that the locusts "were allowed" to torture men, we can understand that their permission to act and their limitations come from
We should also recognise that these locusts are partly modelled on the locust invasions described by Joel.
The first band of locusts in that book have "lions' teeth"- Joel ch1 v6
As for the second band, "Their appearance is like the appearance of horses", and and they leap on the tops of the mountais "as with the rumbling of
chariots"- Joel ch2 vv4-5.
But the locusts in Joel are designated as the Lord's army;
"The earth quakes before them, the heavens tremble...
The Lord utters his voice before his army, for his host is exceedingly great"- Joel ch2 vv10-11
The implication is that this army of locusts, whatever its immediate origin, is also ultimately acting as God's army and serving his purpose.
They bring torture
They're called locusts, and up to a point they look like locusts. But they don't act like locusts.
Their impact is on the human population, not the crops.
But they don't have the power to kill their victims. Only to torture them.
The effect of the torture is that "men will seek death".
This is the state of mind which we call "despair", and I don't think we need to look any further to identify the nature of the torture.
Despair is the torture.
The function of these locusts is that they are the specialised agents and carriers of Despair.
But this is no ordinary despair.
You would think that "wanting to die" was the deepest, the worst possible, level of despair.
But there's a much deeper level indicated in the words that "men will seek death and will not find it".
There's no need for us to puzzle our minds about the exact mechanism of "not being able to die", because that's not the point.
The real point is that this possibility implies an intensity of Despair beyond anything previously experienced, almost beyond anything that could
previously be imagined.
Nevertheless, there's a precedent, contained in one of the complaints of Job;
"Why is light given to him that is in misery, and life to the bitter in soul,
Who long for death and it comes not, and dig for it more than for hid treasures;
Who rejoice exceedingly, and are glad when they find the grave?...
For the thing that I fear comes upon me, and what I dread befalls me.
I am not at ease, nor am I quiet; I have no rest; but trouble comes" - Job ch3 vv20-26
This is not a coincidence, because there's another reference to Job at the same stage in the "vials" sequence.
When the fifth vial is poured out, we're told that men "cursed the God of heaven for their pain and sores".
And of course this is precisely what Job was advised to do when he was suffering the experience of his own sores.
The message seems to be that the population of the world at large is undergoing a collective "Job" experience. The thing they feared has come upon
them. They are not at ease and have no rest, and so they long for death.
Job was plunged into despair by the fact that his world was falling apart.
I suggest that the human race, in this chapter, is plunged into despair for the same reason.
This must be seen in the context of what was happening when the first four trumpets were blown. I was discussing this in the attached thread;
My impression was that the first four trumpets were describing a massive catastrophe, with an impact on the planet at large, spoiling the land, the
sea, and the atmosphere.
I thought the "vials" of ch16 were describing the culmination of the same process, in which case it looked like the kind of process which would
ultimately render the planet almost uninhabitable.
If this was a correct interpretation, then a state of intense Despair becomes understandable.
Their world would be falling apart.
And, in consequence, their mental world would fall apart as well.
It would collapse under the impact of "the Destroyer".
Perhaps we can see the "locusts" as a symbolic description of that state of mind.
But there is one part of the population which would be immune.
We're told that those who have "the seal of God" are immune. They cannot be touched.
And this would make sense if, as I believe, the "seal of God" is that same sealing "with the promised Holy Spirit" which belongs to those who have put
their trust in Christ (Ephesians ch1 v13).
The torture of Despair is essentially a spiritual attack, against which there is a spiritual defence.
Because the effect of the Holy Spirit would include the confirmation and strengthening of Faith.
And of course Faith is the polar opposite of Despair.
Those who had been "sealed by God" would still be putting their trust in the Creator-God, whatever else was happening.
They bring a call to repentance
The "scorpion sting" has been used (eg by Rehoboam) as a metaphor for chastisement.
And I'm also reminded of the "hornets" which were sent, according to Judges, against the enemies of Israel when they were moving into Palestine.
But these locusts have been modelled chiefly on the locusts of Joel.
And the function of those locusts in Joel was that they were a call to repentance;
"Yet even now (says the Lord) return to me with all your heart,
With fasting and with weeping and with mourning" Joel ch2 v13
However, the implied opportunity for repentance is not taken in this chapter;
"The rest of mankind...did not repent of the works of their hands nor give up worshipping demons and idols...nor dod they repent of their murders or
their sorceries or their immorality or their thefts"- Revelation ch9 vv20-21
So if the function of the First Woe is to be a call to repentance, it appears to be a call which a few do not need, and most do not heed.
edit on 17-10-2010 by DISRAELI because: (no reason given)