************ Sermon on Revelation 9:4-12 ************
By: Rev. Adrian Dieleman
This sermon was preached on August 10, 2008
"The Devil's Locusts"
I want to do something this evening I have not done in thirty years of ministry. I want to do a sermon on Satan. The reason I have never done this before is because my focus has always been on Christ – which is the way it should be. To focus on Satan is like focusing on the maid of honor at a wedding; she is real, she is alive and well, but she is not the star of the show – the bride is. Likewise, Satan is real, he is alive and well, but he is not the star of the show – Jesus is.
We don't ever want to make the mistake of denying the existence of Satan. He is a real and personal being. But he is also a created being. He is not self-existent like God. He does not have life in and with himself. Like everything else in all of Creation, he is dependent upon God for life and existence and being. Listen to how Paul puts this:
(Col 1:16) For by him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things were created by him and for him.This includes the Devil. He is part of God's creation.
We also don't ever want to make the mistake of living in dread of Satan. Yes, he hates us. Yes, he wants to destroy the church. Yes, he tempts us. Yes, he leads astray. Yes, he blinds people to the Gospel. Yes, he engages in warfare, hinders ministry, brings false doctrine, and divides the church. Yes, he is dangerous. But, he is like a caged lion at the zoo. He is confined behind the bars of God's omnipotence. Didn't God, already at the beginning of time, speak of Satan's defeat:
(Gen 3:15) "And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; he will crush your head, and you will strike his heel."At the cross and grave of Christ, didn't Satan go down in defeat?
We don't ever want to make the mistake of living in dread of Satan. But, we don't want to make the mistake of thinking he is harmless either. Remember what happened at the San Francisco zoo a number of months ago? A couple of young men taunted a tiger behind the wall and bars. It was locked up but still managed to kill and injure. Likewise, we need to respect the danger posed by Satan.
Let me recap for you where we are at in the Revelation. We've been watching Jesus as He opens the seventh seal of the scroll of destiny. Remember what happens? Seven angels are given seven trumpets. The first four angels blow their trumpets and judgment falls from heaven to earth. The fifth angel blows his trumpet, and judgment comes from below rather than above. We watched as Satan opened the Abyss, the place of devils and demons. We watched as locusts come out of the Abyss – but they aren't really locusts; they are devils and demons. We watched as these locusts/ demons are given power like that of scorpions.
Remember what we learned as we looked at this last time? We learned that Satan always serves God. Or, to put it another way, God is sovereign over evil! God gave Satan the key to the Abyss. God told the demons what they could and could not do.
Today, we want to finish looking at what happens at the blowing of the fifth trumpet.
I Their Marching Orders
A Satan opens the Abyss with the key God gave to him. Smoke pours out from the underworld.
(Rev 9:3-4) And out of the smoke locusts came down upon the earth and were given power like that of scorpions of the earth. (4) They were told not to harm the grass of the earth or any plant or tree, but only those people who did not have the seal of God on their foreheads.The locusts who are not really locusts "were given power." They "were told." We notice right away that they do not operate on their own authority. They operate only by the permission of the divine.
They were told not to harm anything green. Isn't that strange – telling locusts not to harm grass, plants, or trees? Isn't that what locusts do? Aren't they known for devouring the earth? Are the locusts "green"? Are they environmentally friendly? Is Al Gore in league with them? Remember, they aren't really locusts, nor are they scorpions. They are demons. And, their target isn't vegetation but people.
B The locusts/ scorpions/ demons target people. But not all people. Only a certain kind of people. Their target is "only those people who did not have the seal of God on their foreheads" (Rev 9:4).
Here is a reminder, as far as the Revelation is concerned, that there are only two kinds of people in this world. First, there are those with the mark of God. Remember, we saw this in Revelation 7? There, we saw the sealing of the 144,000 – which we said represented every true believer of all times and all places. These people are sealed – which means they receive the mark of God's protection and God's ownership. In Revelation 13 we see another kind of mark – the mark of the beast. To receive the mark of the beast means to receive the mark of the beast's protection and ownership.
You either receive the mark of God or you receive the mark of the beast. There is no neutral zone in the Revelation. There is no purgatory where you can hide out for a while. If you receive the mark of God, then you face the wrath of the beast. If you receive the mark of the beast, then you face the wrath of God. Whose wrath are you willing to face – the beast's or God's? That is what it comes down to.
The locusts/ scorpions/ demons target "only those people who did not have the seal of God on their foreheads" (Rev 9:4). In other words, unbelievers. Do you see what God is doing? God puts a bulls-eye on every single unbeliever and says to the locusts/ scorpions/ demons, "Go get them. They are yours." God declares open season on earth dwellers – people who live only for this world and the things of this world.
In my next point we will look at a description of the locusts/ scorpions/ demons. They are scary – let there be no mistake about that. However, they are scary only if your are an unbeliever, an earth dweller, someone without the seal of God on your forehead. "Christian, do not tremble, do not be downcast." You are not the one who is the target of these locusts/ scorpions/ demons.
C Not only does God restrict the target of this judgment, but He also seems to restrict its intensity in two ways. Listen to verse 5:
(Rev 9:5) They were not given power to kill them, but only to torture them for five months. And the agony they suffered was like that of the sting of a scorpion when it strikes a man.
First, the locusts/ scorpions/ demons were not allowed to "kill" the unbelievers. But is this a restriction? Look at verse 6:
(Rev 9:6) During those days men will seek death, but will not find it; they will long to die, but death will elude them.More than once I have had to minister to someone who was in so much pain they wished they could die. That is the case with the unbelievers. God does them no favor when He does not permit the locusts/ scorpions/ demons to kill them.
Likewise with the second restriction. We are told that the locusts/ scorpions/ demons were given power to torture or torment the unbelievers "for five months." Five months! How long do locusts live? They live for five months. So, the time of torment is the same as the life span of the locusts/ scorpions/ demons. How long is that? Well, demons do not die. So, the afflictions of the demonic tormenters last for the whole time between the first and second comings of Jesus Christ.
But, remember, this is nothing for Christians to fear. It is unbelievers who wish they could die. It is unbelievers who are tormented by the demons for the whole time between Christ's two comings.
D The locusts/ scorpions/ demons are given power to "torture" unbelievers. It is compared to the sting of a scorpion. John is purposely drawing upon the language of Exodus. At that time, Israel wandered through the wilderness for forty years. What did they encounter?
(Deut 8:15) He led you through the vast and dreadful desert, that thirsty and waterless land, with its venomous snakes and scorpions.Did you hear that? In the wilderness, Israel encountered snakes and scorpions. A scorpion isn't big – maybe five inches long. It has a stinger at the end of its tail that injects poison in its victim in much the same way that a snake injects poison through its fangs. It rarely is fatal but the pain is excruciating.
The demons were given power to "torture." The word for "torture" can also be translated as "torment, severe distress, violent harassment." So what is in mind for unbelievers? What is God giving demons permission to do to earth dwellers? Remember the demons of Matthew 8? They ask if Jesus has come to torment them before the appointed time (Mt 8:29). Remember what Peter said about Lot in Sodom?
(2Pt 2:8) for that righteous man, living among them day after day, was tormented in his righteous soul by the lawless deeds he saw and heard ...In Revelation 11 we are told about two witnesses to God and Christ and the Gospel. These two prophets are killed by the beast because they "tormented those who live on the earth" (Rev 11:10).
Unbelievers are being tormented by the Gospel. Their torment is that of unbelief and unrepentance and hardness of heart. The demons of Matthew 8 know Who Jesus is. They know they need to bow down and worship. But they can't and they won't.
Didn't the same thing happen with Pharaoh at the time of the Exodus? He saw sign after sign, plague after plague, which demonstrated God's power and might. Did he repent? Did he submit? What does Scripture say? "Pharaoh hardened his heart" (Ex 8:15,19,32; 9:34. That was the work of the locusts/ scorpions/ demons. They made it impossible for Pharaoh to respond to the Gospel. And, they were given this authority by God Himself. So, God made it impossible for Pharaoh to repent and believe. In fact, when we look at the language of Exodus we notice a subtle change in the text. Over and over again we are told "Pharaoh hardened his heart" but we are also told that "the Lord hardened Pharaoh's heart" (Ex 4:21; 10:1; 11:10; 14:4,8).
It is God Who gives the locusts/ scorpions/ demons the power to torture and torment unbelievers. Unbelievers are kept in darkness in spite of their overwhelming misery. They seek for God but cannot find Him. They are groping for the truth but never grasping. They are longing for something better but never possessing. Don't forget, these are people who willingly have the mark of the beast. They are earth dwellers who live for this world and adopt the vain philosophies of this world. They have no interest in serving God. So, Satan's locusts torture and torment them, by the sovereign permission and command of God.
E I want you to imagine the whole picture – remember, the Revelation is meant to be seen, to be imagined. God gives Satan a key. Satan unlocks the Abyss and releases his demonic hordes. The demons come pouring out of the Abyss like a plague of locusts. And, who do they torment? Who are they given permission to torment? Satan's own followers! Satan's allies. Those who are marked as belonging to Satan!
Let me ask you a strange question: Who does Satan hate? Yes, he hates God. Yes, he hates the church. But in our passage tonight, do you see who else he hates? He also hates his own followers. He must hate them because he afflicts and torments and tortures them. Do you see how wicked Satan is? He doesn't reward his own followers; rather, he afflicts and torments and tortures them.
II Their Description
A In verses 7-11 John digs out his magnifying glass and takes a close look at the locusts/ scorpions/ demons. He starts with the head and moves to the tail.
There is a key word we need to keep in mind as we listen to John's description of these demonic tormenters. That word is "like." The locusts looked "like" horses. They wore something "like" crowns of gold. Their faces "resembled" – that is, were "like" – human faces. Their hair was "like" women's hair. Their teeth were "like" lions' teeth. They had breastplates "like" iron breastplates. The sound of their wings was "like" the thundering of many horses. They had tails and stings "like" scorpions. The word "like" is repeated eight times.
Like. Like. Like. Like. Resembles. Why is John so repetitious? What is his point? What John sees defies human categories. Notice the mixing of the species: locusts, women, lions, scorpions. John can't say for sure what he sees; he can only say what it is like. What John describes is not insect, not bird, not fish, not beast, not man – but it is like them in some ways. What John sees is something altogether different – it is devils and demons, from the Abyss.
Like. Like. Like. Like. Resembles. What is important is NOT the appearance but what the appearance tells us about these demonic tormenters. I want you to notice that John highlights nine features for us.
B 1. The first feature the Revelation mentions is the head: "The locusts looked like horses prepared for battle" (Rev 9:7). Why does John describe them like horses? Because, the head of a locust resembles a horse.
The language of Revelation here comes from the prophecy of Joel. Now, Joel anticipates the invasion and destruction of Jerusalem by the Babylonians, whom he likens to an army of locusts. As in Revelation, the judgment is announced with a trumpet blast and is God's judgment upon an idolatrous people, upon earth dwellers. Listen to what Joel says (Page 1414; notice the heading of the chapter):
(Joel 2:1-11) Blow the trumpet in Zion; sound the alarm on my holy hill. Let all who live in the land tremble, for the day of the LORD is coming. It is close at hand-- (2) a day of darkness and gloom, a day of clouds and blackness. Like dawn spreading across the mountains a large and mighty army comes, such as never was of old nor ever will be in ages to come. (3) Before them fire devours, behind them a flame blazes. Before them the land is like the garden of Eden, behind them, a desert waste--nothing escapes them. (4) They have the appearance of horses; they gallop along like cavalry. (5) With a noise like that of chariots they leap over the mountaintops, like a crackling fire consuming stubble, like a mighty army drawn up for battle. (6) At the sight of them, nations are in anguish; every face turns pale. (7) They charge like warriors; they scale walls like soldiers. They all march in line, not swerving from their course. (8) They do not jostle each other; each marches straight ahead. They plunge through defenses without breaking ranks. (9) They rush upon the city; they run along the wall. They climb into the houses; like thieves they enter through the windows. (10) Before them the earth shakes, the sky trembles, the sun and moon are darkened, and the stars no longer shine. (11) The LORD thunders at the head of his army; his forces are beyond number, and mighty are those who obey his command. The day of the LORD is great; it is dreadful. Who can endure it?
This is ominous. The demonic tormenters are like horses, ready for battle (cf Job 39:19-25). Their target has been pointed out to them. They have received their marching orders. Now, like a cavalry line of horses drawn up for battle, they wait for only one thing – the word to attack, the signal to charge. Like Big Brown, who was barely restrained before this year's Kentucky Derby, these demonic tormenters are chomping at the bit to lurch forward and inflict, torment, and torture.
2. The second feature the Revelation mentions is the crown: "On their heads they wore something like crowns of gold" (Rev 9:7). Some think this means the demonic tormenters are royalty, rulers, kings. We need to realize that the Greek language has two words for "crown". The first word is a "diadem" – this is what kings and rulers wear. The second word is "stephanos" – this is the crown or wreath of victory worn by athletes and gladiators. It is this crown that is worn by the demonic tormenters.
Do you know what this tells us? What would you say if American swimmer Michael Phelps showed up at the Bejing Olympics wearing eight gold medals? You would think him cocksure, arrogant, proud, acting as if he won before he swam a single lap. The demonic tormenters wear crowns of victory as if there is no doubt they will be successful in their mission.
3. The third feature mentioned by the Revelation is the face: "their faces resembled human faces" (Rev 9:7). John doesn't see the impassive face of an animal or insect. Rather, John sees the expressive face of a human. This implies intelligence, cunning, ability, knowledge.
This explains, in part, why these demonic tormenters are so successful. Neither God nor Satan has to write a "A Handbook for Demonic Dummies." These demonic tormenters are so utterly intelligent. They are more than able to harden human hearts, blind people to the light of the Gospel, and fill minds with false religions. Paul talks about the work of these demonic tormenters:
(1Tim 4:1) The Spirit clearly says that in later times some will abandon the faith and follow deceiving spirits and things taught by demons.Where does false religion come from? Why are there so many sects and cults? What accounts for all the strange theology people come up with? Why are so many church members so easily led astray by false doctrine? Why does our age welcome all religions and say all paths lead to God? This is all the result of these demonic tormenters. They are highly intelligent and possess great powers of cunning and deceit.
4. The fourth feature mentioned by the Revelation is the hair: "their hair was like women's hair" (Rev 9:8). We are talking about locusts/ scorpions/ demons. So, are we talking about some hair-dresser who has gone wild with weird colors and perms? Are we talking about a female punk rocker with wild hair? In Bible times, the one feature of a woman's hair that stood out was its length. Women had long hair. Now, when you think of long hair, who comes to mind? Samson, Israel's mighty judge. Absalom, a mighty warrior. The demonic tormenters have long hair – a symbol of their vitality and strength. They will not, they cannot, be resisted by those they torment.
5. The fifth feature mentioned by the Revelation is the teeth: "their teeth were like lions' teeth" (Rev 9:8). What do we know about lions' teeth? Lions are hungry animals who use their teeth to tear apart their prey. They are voracious, insatiable, ravenous. This, too, is language borrowed from the prophecy of Joel (Pg 1413; notice the heading above verse 2):
(Joel 1:6) A nation has invaded my land, powerful and without number; it has the teeth of a lion, the fangs of a lioness.What is the result? Listen, as Joel continues:
(Joel 1:7-12) It has laid waste my vines and ruined my fig trees. It has stripped off their bark and thrown it away, leaving their branches white ... (10) The fields are ruined, the ground is dried up ; the grain is destroyed, the new wine is dried up, the oil fails. (11) Despair, you farmers, wail, you vine growers; grieve for the wheat and the barley, because the harvest of the field is destroyed. (12) The vine is dried up and the fig tree is withered; the pomegranate, the palm and the apple tree-- all the trees of the field--are dried up. Surely the joy of mankind is withered away.
Like lions, the demonic tormenters are never satisfied, always wanting more, more, more. Like lions, they don't simply kill their victims but also thoroughly devour them. Their goal is the complete devastation of the people they torment.
6. The sixth feature of the demonic tormenters is the breastplate: "They had breastplates like breastplates of iron" (Rev 9:9). This is a piece of armor that covers the front and back of the chest. In a day and age when most soldiers had breastplates of bronze or copper, these demonic tormenters were covered with iron. Which means that any hope of fighting against an enemy so well protected is mostly hopeless. But, remember what Joel said:
(Joel 2:8-9) They do not jostle each other; each marches straight ahead. They plunge through defenses without breaking ranks. (9) They rush upon the city; they run along the wall. They climb into the houses; like thieves they enter through the windows.They can't be stopped. They can't be resisted.
7. The seventh feature is their wings: "the sound of their wings was like the thundering of many horses and chariots rushing into battle" (Rev 9:9). For the ancient foot-soldier entering battle, nothing was more terrifying than the sound of hundreds of chariots pulled by teams of horses. Horses and chariots were the tanks of the Ancient World. How many billions of locusts, all beating their wings, would it take to replicate this sound? What's the point? The point is this: like the angels of heaven, the demonic tormenters must be countless in number. Listen to how Joel describes this:
(Joel 1:4,6) What the locust swarm has left the great locusts have eaten; what the great locusts have left the young locusts have eaten; what the young locusts have left other locusts have eaten ... (6) A nation has invaded my land, powerful and without number; it has the teeth of a lion, the fangs of a lioness.The immensity of their number suggests they are inescapable. You can't hide from them.
8. The eighth feature is their tails: "they had tails and stings like scorpions, and in their tails they had power to torment people for five months" (Rev 9:10). I don't have to say anything more about this feature.
9. The ninth feature is their leader: "They had as king over them the angel of the Abyss, whose name in Hebrew is Abaddon, and in Greek, Apollyon" (Rev 9:10). Abaddon. Apollyon. Both names mean the same thing: exterminator, destroyer, terminator. This is his name because this is what he does. He ruins. He devastates. He destroys. He harms. He exterminates. He devours. He hurts. He murders. He lies.
And now, let me tell you the worst thing: "The first woe is past; two other woes are yet to come" (Rev 9:12). Do you hear what John is saying? The worst is yet to come. Two more trumpets still have to be blown.
We don't focus much attention on Satan, because he is not the star of the show. However, he is real. He is dangerous. But, if you are a Christian, he is nothing to fear.
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