The 5th Trumpet: Locusts From Hell
The 5th trumpet is blown. These passages contain a vision of swarm of locusts released from Hell and powered by demon forces.
In verse 1, John heard the blowing of a trumpet and saw a star fallen from heaven to earth. The picture is of an angel, symbolized by the star, fallen from heaven. “Fallen” is in the perfect tense in Greek, meaning the falling had already occurred. John did not see the angel fall, but saw the fallen angel.
This reminds us that when the disciples told Jesus the demons were subject to them in his name, Jesus said “I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven”. (Luke 10:18) In his vision, John sees Satan.
This theme recurs in chapter 12 where Satan, this time portrayed as a dragon, is thrown down from heaven.
This angel has the authority, the key, to unlock a shaft to the pit.
Jesus has already said he has the key to Hades. (Revelation 1:18) Therefore, Satan only has the authority allowed to him by Jesus. We see this in the limitations of the attack to follow. It is only against unbelievers. It is only for a limited time.
This was true in the book of Job also. God gave Satan authority to test Job, but limited the scope of that authority. Initially, God did not allow Satan to afflict Job physically. Later, he allowed a physical attack, but not death.
When the shaft of the pit was unlocked and open, smoke rises up into the air, darkening the sun. This is to give us the clue that the pit is hell.
The smoke from its fires is so intense it darkens the day. We have seen how darkening of the sun and other cosmic events are described to show a judgment is coming. This is used in both Exodus and Joel.
Following the smoke is a huge swarm of locusts. (3) But these are no ordinary locusts. They have the power to sting like a scorpion. The cause a torment of pain so bad it makes people want to die. But they cannot die. (5-6) They must endure their torment for 5 months.
The appearance of the locusts was disturbing. John said they looked like horses prepared for battle. (7) Then he went on to describe them. They wore head pieces that looked like crowns of gold. They had faces like humans and hair like women’s hair. These humanoid characteristics indicate that the locusts are demons. Their teeth were like lion’s teeth. They wore breastplates.
They had wings like normal locusts. But the sound of their wings, being a great number of them, was loud like many horse drawn chariots going into battle. Worst of all, they had stingers like scorpions.
The scorpions had a leader, or king. He was the angel of the bottomless pit. He was the devil himself. John said his name was “Abaddon” in Hebrew and “Apollyon” in Greek. These words both translate as “Destroyer”.
The locusts had a specific target: those who do not have the seal of God on their foreheads. (4) They could not attack plant life or those who had the seal of God.
So, you have the sovereign God using the powers of hell to torment unbelievers on earth. Those who are sealed to God are not hurt. You will know who the unbelievers are because they will suffer these torments. You also see that the power of Satan is limited by the power of Christ. Would not Satan rather attack believers, his enemies? Of course he would. But Christ does not allow this.
There are two Old Testament precursors for this scene. The first is the plague of locusts God sent on Egypt in Exodus 10. When Pharaoh refused to humble himself before the Lord, he sent locusts on the land to eat all the plants. They covered the land, the sky was darkened, and all the plants were eaten.
The second is Joel 2. Joel prophesies the coming of the Day of the Lord in terms very similar to the 5th trumpet of Revelation. In Joel 2, a trumpet is blown in Zion. This trumpet unleashes a powerful people to attack Judea. There is darkness. There is fire. They leave everything desolate as they pass. They have the appearance of war horses and sound like the running of chariots. All of the people suffer anguish at their coming. It is the army of the Lord and the outpouring of his wrath. But, if we look back to chapter 1 of Joel, we see this mighty army is portrayed as a swarm of locusts. So, the locusts look like horses and symbolize an army of people.
It seems there are 2 possibilities here. One is that these creatures are literally locusts who sting and cause physical pain. The other is that God allowed Satan to unleash an unprecedented outflow of demons upon the earth. Being demons, they could not harm believers. But to unbelievers, they brought great spiritual and mental torment. The torment was so great that the victims wanted to die, but could not.
Ironically, Satan rewards his followers with torment.
In Revelation, the plants are not harmed, but the unbelievers are. Still, they suffer only 5 months and are not killed. Again the judgment is partial and points to greater judgment.
That greater judgment is eternal (forever). It will be applied to those who do not believe in Jesus. If you have not committed your life to Jesus, repent of your sins and confess your belief that he is the Son of God who died for you and rose again.
If you are a believer, thank and praise God that you will not suffer the final and eternal judgment because Jesus died to pay the penalty for your sins.