Very seldom do I look at only one verse for an entire post, and yet last time we looked at Revelation 9:1. Today, I want to attempt to go through the whole of the fifth trumpet. If we were to look at Revelation 9 as a whole, we see that there is language borrowed for both the fifth and sixth trumpets from the book of Joel. We have seen previously that there are also many parallels between the trumpets and the bowls of wrath, and they both also parallel some of the Egyptian plagues.
This fifth seal, we see in verse 2, begins with smoke arising from the Abyss, and for even some of the sun and sky to be darkened by the smoke. We saw in the fourth seal that a portion of the sun, moon, and stars were darkened, and now here we find that these “locusts” (verse 3) darken the sky. The language used here is borrowed from Joel 2:10, and also seems to parallel the idea of the smoke rising from Sodom in Genesis 19:28.
The locusts are specifically from Joel 1:4. They do not form the cloud, but come out from it. Locusts were the eighth Egyptian plague, and just as those locusts did not harm Goshen, these also are not allowed to harm anyone with the seal of God upon their foreheads. However, unlike the Egyptian plague, these locusts specifically attack humanity, and not the trees or greenery.
For the understanding of what this trumpet represents, we need to go back to Joel. We find Joel 1:4 speaking of these locusts that are devouring everything. Yet, the prophet calls them in verse 6 “a nation” that has “invaded My land”. As we continue, we find that because of this nation, “grain offerings and drink offerings are cut off from the house of the Lord (Joel 1:9). This sounds an awful lot like Daniel 8:13, where the Antichrist figure stops the sacrifices at the temple. Then, in case we thought it might be the Day of the Lord, we’re told in Joel 1:15 that it is “near”. So, something is happening here before the Day of the Lord, and yet the devastation is drastic like many of the prophecies concerning the Day of the Lord.
What could it possibly be? We see in 2:6 that nations are in anguish, and not only Israel. This gives us credence to believe that even though this is most likely the march of the Antichrist to capture Jerusalem that this army is also devastating the other surrounding nations. This would also fall in line with Daniel 11:23-25, where the Antichrist is invading many lands, and waging war against the kingdom of the south. In our timeline, we’re further in the progression than Daniel 11:25 (we should be around verse 31), but there is no reason to believe that this cannot be an army that has already been devastating the earth.
Once again in Joel 2:11, even though it says that this is God’s army, and that God is the leader, it is not to be mistaken as when God comes with all of His holy ones (Zech 14:5), because Joel 2:20 is when God drives this same army “far from you”. Thus we conclude that what John is expressing here is the Antichrist army marching on Jerusalem, but in classic Hebrew apocalyptic fashion, he is explaining much more than just this one event. Isaiah 33:4 also comments on this army that plunders the nations, identifying them with “locusts”.
As for this plaguing army, some have considered it to be demonic, because these locusts come out of the Abyss. However, the Hebrew parallel would be tehom. Tehom is used in Genesis 1:2, Jonah 2:6, Proverbs 8:27, Psalm 104:6, 71:20, etc. Most instances refer to watery depths, but not all (Psalm 71:20, for example). Something like Genesis 7:11 may be in our author’s mind. “In the six hundredth year of Noah’s life, on the seventeenth day of the second month – on that day all the springs of the great deep burst forth…” Luke 8:31 records demons begging not to be cast into the Abyss. Jesus drove them into pigs, who then ran into the sea (please note the irony). I don’t see any support that just because the demons didn’t want to be cast into the bottomless pit that it requires these trumpets to be demonic. After all, it is the angels who blow the trumpets, and God’s judgment that is being effected by them.
They torture men for five months. Which, locusts are typically only alive for about 5 months (from spring to fall). This comes up again in verse 10.
We can compare verse 6 with Jeremiah 8:3, “Wherever I banish them, all the survivors of this evil nation will prefer death to life, declares the Lord Almighty.” Also, we find Job 3:21 being a sort of parallel, “…to those who long for death that does not come…”
The description of the horses (Rev 9:7) is found in Joel 2:4-5, “They have the appearance of horses; they gallop along like cavalry. With a noise like that of chariots, they leap over mountaintops, like a crackling fire consuming stubble, like a mighty army drawn up for battle.” The teeth like lion’s teeth in verse 8 parallels Joel 1:6. The sound in verse 9 is found in Joel 2:5.
Finally, in verse 11 we have mention of “abaddon”, or “apollyon”. In Hebrew, abaddon is used almost exclusively in the wisdom literature. We find it in Job 26:6, 28:22, 31:12, Proverbs 15:11, 27:20, and Psalm 88:11. Isaiah 30:28 uses the Greek appolyon. Most likely this is the Antichrist, comparing 11:7, 13:1, and 17:8. Others think it is Satan. Latter Day Saints believe this to be Jesus. Others reference Exodus 12:23 and say that this is God’s destroying angel. We’ll investigate with Revelation 13:1 the connection between the Antichrist and Satan, because there does seem to be a mystery taking place here.
In regard to answering some critics who would claim that my stance is rather implausible, the reasoning for my position is not based upon only a couple of parallels, and a handful of verses, but upon a plethora that describes this time of Jacob’s Trouble and the march on Jerusalem. In the Old Testament, the way that we distinguish between a time in history and an ultimate climax of the age is by the result of the judgment. There are certain judgments that have their fulfillment in the exile. Yet, there are many that claim God will establish a shepherd for Israel, will redeem Israel, that He will be their God and they His people, that the nations will come to know God because of this, and so on. When did this take place in history? The rebuilding of Jerusalem in Nehemiah doesn’t cut it. We either throw those verses away as unfulfilled prophecy – the prophet got it wrong – or we claim there must be a future time where they will be fulfilled.
If this be future, the redemption and restoration of Israel, then we must take seriously the judgment that leads to this redemption and restoration. Because Joel is used quite explicitly here in Revelation 9, I go to Joel. Yet, behind Joel is inescapable amounts of prophecy concerning the future of Israel. We simply go to any of the prophets and find that they speak of a future time of judgment upon Israel, and Ezekiel 38:17 would seem to indicate that there is specifically one future individual who is being prophesied about (and it isn’t Nebuchadnezzar).