9:3, 7-9 THE LOCUST ARMY
“And there came out of the smoke locusts on the earth; and to them was given power, as the scorpions of the earth have power…and the appearance of the locusts was like horses prepared for battle; and on their heads were as it were crowns like gold, and their faces were as the faces of men. And they had hair as the hair of women, and their teeth were like the teeth of lion. And they had breastplates like breastplates of iron, and the sound of their wings was as the sound of chariots, of many horses running to battle” (Revelation 9:3, 7-9).
Notice that John uses the comparative words “like” and "as" to describe the locusts—"like horses prepared for battle…hair as the hair of women,…their teeth were like lion’s teeth,…the sound of their wings was as the sound of chariots.” The use of simile is also found in the description of the horses in verse 17. This contrasts with scenes in other chapters, for example, the “woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet, and on her head a garland of twelve stars” (Revelation 12:1), which are obviously symbols. The use of the comparative in chapter 9 shows that John was not using symbols, but instead he was trying to describe something literal, and having never seen anything like it before, he had to use simile. This, along with the chiastic pairing of the trumpet plagues with the literal seven last plagues of chapter 16, show that this chapter is depicting real events rather than highly symbolic metaphors (see 8: Are The Trumpets Literal or Symbolic?).
But real does not mean familiar. The fact that the locusts come out of the bottomless pit suggests that there is something demonic about them since the bottomless pit is not just chaotic conditions of the earth, but is also the prison of demons. Both Peter and Jude reveal that “the angels who did not keep their proper domain, but left their own abode, He has reserved in everlasting chains under darkness for the judgment of the great day” (Jude 6, 2 Peter 2:4). Apparently during the seven trumpets the demons will be released from their chains (come out of the bottomless pit) and will add their maddening influence to the horrors of the trumpet war. The demons who possessed the two demoniacs from Gadarenes begged Jesus not to send them into the abyss. When He allowed them to enter a herd of swine their maddening influence caused the swine to plunge over a cliff to their death (Luke 8: 26-33). This kind of influence will affect the locust army as they are goaded on by the demons that will be released from the bottomless pit. As we will see below, the locust army is a real army, but there is a demonic element and intensity involved in their attack on “those men who do not have the seal of God in their foreheads” (Revelation 9:4).
The war that is described is the most extensive and the most destructive of all time. As we will see in the sixth trumpet, it will involve 200 million soldiers and a third of mankind will be killed. We would expect that a war of this magnitude which takes place during the last days would be mentioned in other prophecies, and this is the case. Daniel tells the story of a war that lasts for 2,500 years.<![if !supportFootnotes]><![endif]> The last battle takes place during “the time of the end” when “the King of the South shall attack [the King of the North], and the King of the North shall come against him like a whirlwind, with chariots, horsemen and with many ships, and he shall enter the countries, overwhelm them, and pass through” (Daniel 11: 40).
The prophet Joel also describes a war that takes place in the last days, the invasion of a locust army. A careful comparison shows that the army of the final King of the North, the locust army in the book of Joel, and the locust army of the fifth trumpet are the same. First of all, the locust army that John saw in Revelation 9 and the locust army in the book of Joel are one and the same.
LOCUST ARMY OF REVELATION 9:3-11
LOCUST ARMY OF JOEL
The fifth angel sounded [his trumpet] (v.1).
Blow the trumpet in
There came out of the smoke locusts (v.3).
The swarming locust…My great army (2:25).
The appearance of the locusts was like horses (v.7).
Their appearance is like the appearance of horses (2:4).
Their teeth were like lions’ teeth (v. 8).
His teeth are the teeth of a lion (1:6).
The sound of their wings was as the sound of chariots, of many horses (v 9).
Like swift steeds, so they run, with a noise like chariots (2:5).
Their power was to hurt men…their torment was as the torment of a scorpion when it strikes a man (vs. 10, 5)
Before them the people writhe in pain (2:6).
From the description in Joel it is obvious that these are not literal locusts, but rather an army which the prophet saw but could not adequately describe with the vocabulary of the time.
“For a nation has come up against my land” (Joel 1:6).
“A people come, great and strong” (2:2).
“The locust….my great army, which I sent among you” (2:25).<![if !supportFootnotes]><![endif]>
“Over mountaintops they leap, with a noise of a flaming fire that devours the stubble, like a strong people set in battle array…They run like mighty men, they climb the wall like men of war; every one marches in formation, and they do not break ranks. They do not push one another; Every one marches in his own column. Though they lunge between the weapons, they are not cut down…the earth quakes before them, the heavens tremble (Joel 2:5-10).
Continue to next section: 9:4-6 A REAL WAR
<![if !supportFootnotes]>  <![endif]> The vision of Daniel 11 begins with the “kings of
<![if !supportFootnotes]>  <![endif]> Locusts are used elsewhere to symbolize armies, see for example Jeremiah 51:17,22.
<![if !supportFootnotes]>  <![endif]> God calls them His army, even though they are agents of Satan, just as he did the Babylonians who, though controlled by Satan, accomplished God’s purpose of chastening His people who had fallen into idolatry (Jeremiah 25:9, 51:7).