The Revelation – Demonic Locusts – Rev. 9

This week we are reading through Revelation 8-9. In these chapters, the seventh seal of the Divine scroll is opened. This email is available online and on Facebook.

The Falling Star:

The fifth (of seven) trumpets sounds, and a star falls to earth and is given the key to the bottomless pit. The star is the King of Babylon (i.e. Satan). Isaiah prophesies destruction against the king of Babylon (Isa. 14:3-23) where he writes: “How you are fallen from heaven, O Day Star (Heb. Lucifer), son of Dawn! How you are cut down to the ground, you who laid the nations low! . . . But you are brought down to Sheol, to the depths of the Pit.” (vv. 12, 15). By this time in Jewish thought, Isaiah is talking about the adversary of God. (See, Luke 10:18). And, of course, for John, Babylon is the primary adversary in his vision. We will revisit Satan’s plummeting to earth later in Revelation 12:9.

The Abyss:

The abyss to which the star falls goes back to the abyss of Genesis 1:2 and is also used concerning the waters of the sea (Isa 63:13) or under the earth (Ezek. 31:15). These waters are often associated with God’s judgment (Psalm 36:6) or death itself (Lam. 3:55). By the time of the New Testament, the abyss is equated with our conception of a place of punishment or confinement for the wicked. (Luke 8:31, 2 Peter 2:4, 1 Enoch 18:11-14).

Demonic Locusts:

The impact of the star falling into the abyss causes smoke to blot out the sun and from that smoke come demonic locusts. This is similar to the eighth plague of Exodus 10 where the locusts are so numerous that they darken the earth. These locusts, however, do not eat grass or other vegetation like normal locusts, rather they sting people like that of a scorpion (or if John was Southern, like that of a fire ant). The locusts, however, do not touch those who have the seal of God upon their forehead, rather, the locusts will pass over (Exodus 12) them. (As an aside, the earliest complete baptismal rite that we have (c.215) speaks of the newly baptized being sealed on the forehead (Apostolic Tradition 21:3), and this tradition is still present in our own prayerbook (1979 BCP 308.))

These stinging locusts are not mere insects. In his further description of the locusts, John draws from the prophet Joel. The locusts are like war horses (Joel 2:4) with the teeth of lions (Joel 1:6) and arrayed like soldiers (Joel 2:7). These locusts are led by the Destroyer (Heb: Abaddon). This place is not merely the abode of the dead, but a place of consuming fire (Job 31:12). The Destroyer, the Fallen Star, leads the army of the demonic locusts.

The Sixth Trumpet:

The sixth and penultimate trumpet sounds. This releases the destroying angels that have gathered at the Euphrates. Throughout the Old Testament, the great conquering empires of Mesopotamia always arose on the other side of the Euphrates. The Assyrians who wiped out Israel (Isa. 8:7) or the Babylonians who conquered Judea (Jer. 46:6) all had to cross the Euphrates. And during John’s life, the Euphrates separated the Roman Empire from their adversary the Parthian Empire. An army on the banks of the Euphrates was always an existential threat. Six seals followed by six trumpets have all led up to this point.

John is placing the literal fear of God in his audience. However, this fear of God has not caused the intended response of repentance. Like Pharoah in Exodus 8, all of the people’s hearts were hardened and they did not heed the signs. They did not repent.

Context:

As we continue through the violent part of this vision (ch.6-20) remember the vision is taking place within the context of Revelation 4-5. John is in the forever present before the Throne of the One and of the Lamb. All of the vision is taking place within the context of worship  (Rev.1:10), and specifically in the worship of the One and the Lamb. Worship is an act of violence and an act of War in which we choose one side or the other. (Cf., Eph. 6:10-20). Also, remember that in this battle, the saints are armed with only the Blood of the Lamb and the Word that issues from its mouth. (Rev.1:16). The plagues themselves come from evil (and the angels merely announce their occurrence) and judge evil. We, the saints, are not the ones that rain down hell on God’s enemies.

Dinner is at 6:30. The menu is Chinese Chicken salad. Discussion about 7:15. Hope to see you here.

Sheol and Abaddon are never satisfied,
    and never satisfied are the eyes of man.

Proverbs 27:20

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