Most of us are familiar with the plagues of Egypt. The people of Israel were in captivity in the land for 400 years until God called up Moses to “let my people go.” God told Moses to go to Pharaoh to ask for their release, but that God would harden Pharaoh’s heart so he would not let them go. God wanted to show Israel His great power to control the weather, animals, and life and so He would bring 10 plagues on Egypt to show His great might. These plagues were judgement upon Egypt for their cruelty. In the end, Pharaoh did let them go, but pursued them to their own ruin in the depths of the Red Sea. Today, we will talk about one of those plagues, the plague of the locusts, and we will relate it to when the locusts come again. As we’ve been learning, God always shows us multiple pictures in the Bible of a type of event so that we can see a foreshadowing of a future event. The plague of the locusts will foreshadow an event that few want to talk about because it is very scary, but we will attempt to tackle it today.
“Then the Lord said to Moses, “Stretch out your hand over the land of Egypt for the locusts, so that they may come upon the land of Egypt and eat every plant in the land, all that the hail has left.” “The locusts came up over all the land of Egypt and settled on the whole country of Egypt, such a dense swarm of locusts as had never been before, nor ever will be again. 15 They covered the face of the whole land, so that the land was darkened, and they ate all the plants in the land and all the fruit of the trees that the hail had left. Not a green thing remained, neither tree nor plant of the field, through all the land of Egypt. ” Exodus 10:12, 14-15
What are locusts and what do they do? We will look to Wikipedia to learn a bit about them so that we can get a more clear picture of their attributes and behaviors.
Locusts are a type of short-horned grasshopper that have a swarming phase. The insects are usually solitary and cause no harm by themselves as their numbers are usually quite low. However, under conditions of drought followed by a rapid growth in vegetation when the rains return, serotonin in their brains triggers a dramatic set of changes. They start to breed abundantly and quickly, and their appetites increase exponentially, almost like a frenzy in which they have no control over themselves. They multiply and form dense swarms to rapidly strip the vegetation almost instantly. A large swarm can consist of billions of locusts spread out over an area of thousands of square kilometres, with a population of up to 80 million individuals per square kilometre (200 million per square mile). Obviously, they cause complete damage to all crops as they consume everything to which they settle. Because of this, they are known to cause famines and human migrations as the land to which they settle is completely demolished. Though swarming behavior has decreased in the 20th century, the potential for swarms is still present when these suitable climatic conditions occur.
We will next look to Revelation to hear John’s vision about the future plague of locusts, which will be the execution of one of the final judgements upon the inhabitants of the earth. Jesus showed John about the last years of the earth in great detail. John had a limited vocabulary to describe what he saw, so he referenced what he knew already to try to describe what he saw in the future of things he had never known. So, in this case, when Jesus showed John this particular vision of what was coming to the earth at the end, all John could relate this to was a plague of locusts to which he was familiar. Let’s read what John saw.
“And the fifth angel blew his trumpet, and I saw a star fallen from heaven to earth, and he was given the key to the shaft of the bottomless pit.[a] 2 He opened the shaft of the bottomless pit, and from the shaft rose smoke like the smoke of a great furnace, and the sun and the air were darkened with the smoke from the shaft. 3 Then from the smoke came locusts on the earth, and they were given power like the power of scorpions of the earth. 4 They were told not to harm the grass of the earth or any green plant or any tree, but only those people who do not have the seal of God on their foreheads. 5 They were allowed to torment them for five months, but not to kill them, and their torment was like the torment of a scorpion when it stings someone. 6 And in those days people will seek death and will not find it. They will long to die, but death will flee from them. 7 In appearance the locusts were like horses prepared for battle: on their heads were what looked like crowns of gold; their faces were like human faces, 8 their hair like women’s hair, and their teeth like lions’ teeth; 9 they had breastplates like breastplates of iron, and the noise of their wings was like the noise of many chariots with horses rushing into battle. 10 They have tails and stings like scorpions, and their power to hurt people for five months is in their tails. 11 They have as king over them the angel of the bottomless pit. His name in Hebrew is Abaddon, and in Greek he is called Apollyon.[b]” Revelation 9: 1-11
So, we will ask ourselves was John really talking about actual locusts as what came in Exodus, was he talking about human armies, or was he talking about something else we’ve never seen? Read the passage again and then we will talk about what he saw…
John sees a fallen star which came from heaven to earth. Angels are called stars in the Bible, so we can tell that an angel from heaven was given a key to go to earth to let out something that had previously been locked up in a bottomless pit (wonder where this is on earth?). When the angel unlocked the door, smoke came out so much that the sky was darkened by the amount of soot. From the pit, there were things that were released unto the earth to torment but not kill people. So, we can conclude that since they were given the power to hurt people, that they were not people themselves. These things were not allowed to harm any of nature (which would be contrary to what locusts really do) and they were not allowed to touch the people who loved God and had given their lives to Jesus (they were sealed by God as what happened for the final plague at Egypt where they put the blood of the lamb on the door posts to seal them from destruction when the firstborns were killed). These things John is describing were as numerous as locusts and seemed to have human faces, long hair, super sharp teeth, strong chest plates, tails with painful stinging power, and could fly as they had wings that were super loud when they all beat them together. They also have a leader over them, and so they were organized, intelligent, and took orders from their leader.
There is an equivalent story in the Old Testament about these same locusts in the prophetic book of Joel 1 & 2 as Joel is also describing what he saw at the Day of the Lord (or the final judgements on the earth). Note that it states that parents are to wake up up and warn their children and grandchildren for all generations of these things. I know for sure that we haven’t been listening to Joel as I’ve never heard about this until recently. Obviously, this warning has been hidden, lost, or just disregarded. It would appear that both of these related passages refer to a literal event and not just an analogy because of the other events in Revelation that are talked about. Those are literal events of asteroids, earthquakes, floods, eclipses, famines, diseases, wars, financial collapse, and more, so let’s go to Joel to learn more about these locusts.
“Hear this, you elders; give ear, all inhabitants of the land! Has such a thing happened in your days, or in the days of your fathers?
3 Tell your children of it, and let your children tell their children, and their children to another generation.4 What the cutting locust left, the swarming locust has eaten. What the swarming locust left, the hopping locust has eaten, and what the hopping locust left, the destroying locust has eaten. 5 Awake, you drunkards, and weep, and wail, all you drinkers of wine, because of the sweet wine, for it is cut off from your mouth. 6 For a nation has come up against my land, powerful and beyond number; its teeth are lions’ teeth, and it has the fangs of a lioness. 7 It has laid waste my vine and splintered my fig tree; it has stripped off their bark and thrown it down; their branches are made white. 8 Lament like a virgin[a] wearing sackcloth for the bridegroom of her youth. 9 The grain offering and the drink offering are cut off from the house of the Lord. The priests mourn, the ministers of the Lord. 10 The fields are destroyed, the ground mourns, because the grain is destroyed, the wine dries up, the oil languishes.” Joel 1: 1-10
6 Before them peoples are in anguish; all faces grow pale. 7 Like warriors they charge; like soldiers they scale the wall. They march each on his way; they do not swerve from their paths. 8 They do not jostle one another; each marches in his path; they burst through the weapons and are not halted. 9 They leap upon the city, they run upon the walls, they climb up into the houses, they enter through the windows like a thief. 10 The earth quakes before them; the heavens tremble. The sun and the moon are darkened, and the stars withdraw their shining. 11 The Lord utters his voice before his army, for his camp is exceedingly great; he who executes his word is powerful. For the day of the Lord is great and very awesome; who can endure it?” Joel 2:1-11
So what then are some additional traits of these locusts from Joel 1 & 2
- Nothing has every happened like this before in all of the days of the earth nor will ever again
- No one has ever seen these locusts before
- They have a fire before them and after them, so possibly this confirms that they destroy everything
- They come into a beautiful and abundant land, but when they are done, the land is desolate
- Nothing can escape them
- They are strong and fast like horse, so nothing can can outrun them
- They can jump as high as mountains
- They are loud
- They cannot die as they are immortal
- A nation of these things will come against the earth, who are powerful and beyond number.
- They have the teeth of lions
- All people fear them greater than anything ever
- They are like soldiers, so they are trained for battle, have intelligence, listen to orders and are organized, they do not give up their focus
- They can run up walls and climb into windows of houses
- The ground shakes as they run on the ground
- The sun and moon are darkened, probably because of their vast quantity and the smoke that came out of the pit they were released from
So, I believe these things are literal and will be coming at the very end to execute judgement on all who don’t believe in Him and for those not covered by the blood of Jesus.
I do see some hope in these verses in spite of the terrible description of these things if it is an actual event as described in both Joel & Revelation. For those who are God’s people, you will be protected and unharmed as they will not be allowed to touch you, for you who are saved by God & have His Word which is more powerful than these hideous, indestructible monsters.
“4 They were told not to harm the grass of the earth or any green plant or any tree, but only those people who do not have the seal of God on their foreheads. ” Revelation 9:4
“…he who executes His word is powerful…” Joel 2:11
“Oh give thanks to the Lord, for he is good, for his steadfast love endures forever! 2 Let the redeemed of the Lord say so, whom he has redeemed from trouble[a]” Psalm 107: 1-2
“16 So we have come to know and to believe the love that God has for us. God is love, and whoever abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him. 17 By this is love perfected with us, so that we may have confidence for the day of judgment, because as he is so also are we in this world. 18 There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love.” 1 John 4:16-18
“10 and to wait for his Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead, Jesus who delivers us from the wrath to come.” 1 Thessalonians 9:10
“9 For God has not destined us for wrath, but to obtain salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ, ” 1 Thessalonians 5:8
Father God, We cannot image what the time of the end will be like as we’ve never seen anything like this before. We can understand earthquakes, diseases, tidal waves, volcanoes erupting, wars, and even meteors, but, like John, we cannot imagine what you are talking about in these passages. Whatever these things are, we are very thankful that you are in control and have given them boundaries to not hurt any of your children and that they will only be allowed to reek havoc for 5 months. If we are here during this time, give us strength, peace, security, and shelter to be able to hide from and withstand the punishment that you are sending on those who do not love or obey you. In the mighty name of our Savior Jesus. Amen.
“Then Death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. Revelation 20:14