Locust / Scorpions

Revelation 8:13-9:12
13Then I looked, and I heard an eagle crying with a loud voice as it flew directly overhead, “Woe, woe, woe to those who dwell on the earth, at the blasts of the other trumpets that the three angels are about to blow!”
9:1And 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.
2He 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.
3Then from the smoke came locusts on the earth, and they were given power like the power of scorpions of the earth.
4They 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.
5They 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.
6And in those days people will seek death and will not find it. They will long to die, but death will flee from them.
7In 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,
8their hair like women’s hair, and their teeth like lions’ teeth;
9they had breastplates like breastplates of iron, and the noise of their wings was like the noise of many chariots with horses rushing into battle.
10They have tails and stings like scorpions, and their power to hurt people for five months is in their tails.
11They have as king over them the angel of the bottomless pit. His name in Hebrew is Abaddon, and in Greek he is called Apollyon.
12The first woe has passed; behold, two woes are still to come.

For most people, here is the point where Revelation turns weird and difficult. Up until now, it’s been “normal” things like horses and pestilence. We know about famine and natural disasters. We understand that tyrants will rise up and care more about power than they care about people. But with the three woes of the eagle (or possibly a vulture) we step into the bizarre; we go from natural disasters to demonic woes. “The eagle cries out “woe, woe, woe”, one woe for each of the three following scenes in this earthly vision” [Dr. Brighton] and for the remaining three trumpet angels.

The fifth trumpet angel sounds the blast and the forces of evil are unleashed onto the world. We now go from natural, earthly tribulation into spiritual demonic tribulation. Let’s examine the details.

"a star falls from heaven” – there a several mentions of Satan being cast from heaven like a star falling from the sky.

Isaiah 14:11-15
11Your pomp is brought down to Sheol, the sound of your harps; maggots are laid as a bed beneath you, and worms are your covers.
12“How you are fallen from heaven, O Day Star, son of Dawn! How you are cut down to the ground, you who laid the nations low!
13You said in your heart, ‘I will ascend to heaven; above the stars of God I will set my throne on high; I will sit on the mount of assembly in the far reaches of the north;
14I will ascend above the heights of the clouds; I will make myself like the Most High.’
15But you are brought down to Sheol, to the far reaches of the pit.

Luke 10:18
And Jesus said to them, “I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven.”

Clearly, this is Satan unleashed upon the earth. His demonic horde is allowed to attack and hurt the people of earth.

Smoke from the abyss: “The fallen star, the angel of the abyss, unlocks the depths of hell and from its hellish interior comes forth a smoke as from a large furnace of fire. The smoke is so widespread that the entire earth and its atmosphere are enveloped. It is so dense that the sun is unable fully to penetrate it and so appears darkened. The smoke and its darkness graphically portray the spiritual darkness that is perpetrated by the angel of the abyss, a darkness that covers the entire earth and its human population.”
Brighton, L. A. (1999). Revelation (p. 236). St. Louis, MO: Concordia Pub. House.

Locusts / Scorpions – these demonic creatures are unleashed onto the earth. They are not literal. These are creatures that attack the unbeliever in the spiritual. They are sent to inflict those who do not have the mark of God, granted to us in our Baptism, and then continuing in Holy Communion. Their attacks are short-lived (5 months – which is also the earthly lifespan of a locust) and cannot kill. The purpose for which God allows these attacks is to get the spiritual attention of the unbeliever. God is seeking repentance not destruction. While believers are not the subjects of these attacks we may suffer some of the fallout the world experiences.

On a personal note – My father tells of the locusts that swept through the Mid-West during the 1930s. These were terrible times as the locust swarms ate absolutely everything that the earth could produce. He noted that when they were so thick that the buildings were completely covered with locusts. There was not an empty spot on the sides of the buildings where they congregated. “There was not a place you could put your finger and touch the building. The locust blocked the entire building.” This is an apt description of the pervasiveness of these spiritual locusts as well. And they have been perpetrating this grief since Jesus ascended into heaven.

The description of these locust/scorpions is where we come into the bizarre. They resemble cavalry horses and as such they are ready for battle. They wear crowns that appear to be of gold as they are certain of their victory. But the gold is merely a ruse. They are not of God (albeit employed by God) and their bravado is false. They will not win. They have human faces and hair, thus indicating intelligence and cunning. With “lion like” teeth they will attack and attempt to devour but will be unsuccessful. They are dressed in armor, thus making them impervious to counter-attack. And they carry the ability to sting like a scorpion. The sting of a scorpion is terribly painful but generally not lethal to humans.

So, the fifth trumpet angel has sounded the warning and spiritual attack against those who would deny Christ has been unleashed into the world. For those in the faith, we must remember that this attack is not against us. While we might suffer some of the backlash, we are not the targets here. God’s sole purpose for allowing these spiritual creatures to attack is to open their eyes to the truth of God’s presence and His offer of salvation through Christ.