Demon Locusts of Revelation 9 Demystified
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This article is going to be very controversial. The vast majority of Christians today are futurists in regard to Revelation. A futurist believes in a literal fulfillment of the book of Revelation sometime in the (near) future. By contrast, a preterist believes that all of the prophecies have already taken place in the first century a.d. These are the two main viewpoints of the prophecies of the book. There is a third view that is less popular today than it was during the Reformation, that is the view of historicism.
I subscribe to historicism, though I have studied very little of it in-depth. Historicism calls for a much more consistent hermeneutic than do the other two viewpoints. It utilizes the same interpretive method for revelation as for Isaiah and Daniel. The language of Revelation is symbolic, not literal, in the historicist interpretation. The identities of the characters (Two Witnesses, for example) within Revelation are subject to much debate among historicists; they only agree on the identity of the Antichrist (succession of Popes) and the Whore of Babylon (Roman Catholic Church itself).
Historicism is the belief that the events of history, beginning with the fall of the Roman Empire and proceeding to the present day have fulfilled the prophecies of Revelation. If you think about it, that makes the most sense of the three interpretations. It means God hasn’t been waiting in the wings for 2000 years with no prophetic words from above. It means that He has been working in history, and allows us to know that He is with us in history by proper reading of Revelation (hence the blessing to all who read it and understand it).
Since many people have found this site looking for an answer to the demon locusts of Revelation 9, I thought I would provide an explanation for what I think that this passage really means. This entry is really a summary of this article. It is in accordance with the typical historicist view of Revelation.
Of the demon locusts, Scripture says this:
And 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. He 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. Then from the smoke came locusts on the earth, and they were given power like the power of scorpions of the earth. They 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. They 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. And in those days people will seek death and will not find it. They will long to die, but death will flee from them. (Rev 9:1-6)
Protestant scholars of the nineteenth century saw with amazing unanimity the rise and spread of Islam in this passage. Why? First consider where the locusts came from. They came from the “Abyss.” One of the finest Islamic scholars of the twentieth century, Abul A’la Mawdudi, wrote a book to introduce the English-speaking world to Islam. His subtitle called Arabia, the center of Mohammed’s activities, the “Abyss of Darkness.” The phrase “bottomless pit” in the above passage is actually the word for “abyss” in Greek. This prominent scholar used the exact words of the Bible when describing the center of Mohammed’s activity.
Why locusts? Because of the Arabs’ connection to the locust. The Ismaelites, forerunners of the modern Muslim, have as their national insignia a locust in the Bedoween romance “Antwar.” There is also a story of Mohammed that has locusts falling into his hands bearing the inscription “We are the Army of the Great God.” So here are two connections, but it doesn’t stop there.
Consider the appearance of the locusts:
The locusts looked like horses prepared for battle. On their heads they wore something like crowns of gold, and their faces resembled human faces. Their hair was like women’s hair, and their teeth were like lions’ teeth. They had breastplates like breastplates of iron, and the sound of their wings was like the thundering of many horses and chariots rushing into battle. They had tails and stings like scorpions, and in their tails they had power to torment people for five months. They had as king over them the angel of the Abyss, whose name in Hebrew is Abaddon, and in Greek, Apollyon. (Rev 9:7-11)
The Arabs were widely renown for their skill with a horse; according to Adam Clarke it was as if the horse and the rider were one. The Muslim wore a yellow turban as a crown, according to the poem “Antwar.” As for the face and the hair, according to Scripture a man is not to shave his beard (Lev 19:27), and the long hair of a woman is her glory (1 Cor 11:15). Arabs of the day were described as having shoulder-length hair and beards. The teeth of the lion probably represented their ferocity in battle. The breastplate reminds us of the Koran’s statement that “God hath given you coats of mail.”
The tails and the stings of the scorpion were likely references to the Muslims’ ability to shoot backwards accurately while in full retreat. The power of their tails probably represented the poisonous doctrines of Islam that they were spreading to the world.
Now, the Muslims tortured the world for more than five months. This, of course, is five prophetic months, based on the formula of one day = one year (cf. Num 14:34, Ez 4:6, and Dan 9:24). That means that the Muslim invasion lasted 150 years, which we see from history, is the exact time that the Muslims continued to invade territories. After a century and a half of conquest, they turned their attentions to literature and science, leaving the Christian world at peace.
What of the other limitations placed on the army? They couldn’t harm vegetation. The Koran commands the Muslims to leave the vegetation in invaded territories alone. Muslim armies were also commanded to leave the monks in the monestaries alone and monestaries were not to be burned. These people, the Muslims thought, had God’s seal of protection on them. The Muslims were not allowed to kill the church, only torture it. That is, they couldn’t destroy the church, but they did set a series of calamities on it for five prophetic months.
For further reading on this topic, I recommend historicst.com. There is a wealth of articles dealing with the fulfillment of the Revelation prophecies in historic events.