The Book of Revelation with commentary by Dr. Henry M. Morris and paintings by Ramona Lowe
The paintings are a work in progress and the finished pieces are highlighted in red on Page 2

Page 67

Flying Scorpions from Hell

Revelation 9:3.     And there came out of the smoke locusts upon the earth: and unto them was given power, as the scorpions of the earth have power.

     The first time in Scripture where smoke is seen is found in Genesis 19:28.  There, when God sent fire from heaven to destroy Sodom and Gomorrah, Abraham observed the awful holocaust from afar and to him it seemed the whole country was afire, with smoke ascending like “the smoke of a furnace.”  Here, once again, this time near the very end of the age, smoke ascends like the smoke of a great furnace, and spreads across the whole world.

     As if this were not sufficiently terrifying, out of the smoke the inhabitants of the earth see emerging wave after wave of hideous flying creatures like locusts.  John is the one who describes the scene for us, from his vantage point in the heavenly places, and his description breathes amazement.  Never were such creatures seen before on earth, though the prophet Joel had apparently seen them in a vision (Joel 1:6; 2:25).  John must call them locusts – there were no other comparable creatures in his vocabulary – but they were not locusts in the entomological sense.  They swarmed and darkened the sky like locusts, they had emerged from the earth like locusts, and they left misery in their wake like locusts.

     But they had emerged from Hades itself.  The center of the earth is hardly a breeding place for locust larvae, and the strange appearance and even stranger activities of these locust-like hordes prove their demonic character.

     How long these creatures wreak their vengeance on men is not revealed, though it was presumably long enough for all to feel their vicious stings.  For, unlike ordinary locusts, they had received the ability to inflict tormenting stings on men, stings so painful they could only be compared to scorpion bites.  There are a number of varieties of scorpions, with some more poisonous than others, but the scorpion of the mideastern deserts is said to produce the most painful sting known to man.

     Historical interpreters of Revelation have had great sport with these locusts, as with the other judgments recorded herein.  They have imagined them to be everything from the armies of the Saracens to a plague of false teachers in the church.  Such interpretations only serve to prove that Revelation was not written to tell us about church history.  They can hardly be newly formed creatures.  God does not create creatures that are not good. (Genesis 1:31), not even as vehicles of judgment and, even if He had, He would not then place them under satanic jurisdiction.  Satan would not have created them, because he is not the Creator, and therefore cannot create anything.  They are obviously not real insects, because of their unique source and abilities.

     There seems no escaping the conclusion that these locusts from hell are, indeed, demonic spirits, long confined in the pit of the abyss but now released for a little season perhaps so men would understand the fearful consequences of the choice they were making by continuing to reject God’s great salvation.  Men surely knew by now that Christ was in heaven, the raptured saints were in heaven, the holy angels had even been seen by them flying through heaven, and they knew the wrath of the Lamb was being visited on earth.  Yet they persisted in their hatred of God, choosing Satan instead, and so God would allow them to experience a little direct fellowship with their future coinhabitants of the lake of fire.

     Whether these “locusts” are the fallen sons of God of Genesis 6 or some other cache of demons confined because of venturing beyond God’s permitted bounds is not revealed.  If the former, they had already heard Christ’s proclamation of victory when He descended into Hades after His death on the cross.  There He had “preached [literally “heralded”] to the spirits in prison, which sometime were disobedient, when the longsuffering of God waited in the days of Noah” (1 Peter 3:19, 20).  That Christ actually had descended into this same abyss is clearly implied in Romans 10:7, where Paul asks the rhetorical question:  “Who shall descend into the [abyss]? (that is, to bring up Christ from the dead).”  Christ alone can do this, of course, and that He did, freeing the captive saints, heralding His victory to the imprisoned rebellious angels and returning with all the keys to Hades and death.

     The malignant swarm knew all this as they surged forth from their prison.  Possibly they hoped, with Satan, that they could still somehow gain victory over their own divine tormentor, but in any case they eagerly seized the opportunity to vent their long-pent-up rage by tormenting men as long as He would allow them.  Whether or not they could once again control the bodies of men by possessing them, as they had long ago, they could at least torment their bodies and perhaps even destroy them before Christ could save them.

Revelation 9:4.     And it was commanded them that they should not hurt the grass of the earth, neither any green thing, neither any tree; but only those men which have not the seal of God in their foreheads.

     This command makes it still more clear that these are not any kind of locusts which men have ever seen before.  It is precisely the trees and grass and green things that ordinary locusts ravage, but these locusts must scrupulously avoid such things.  A third of the grass and the trees had already been burned under the first trumpet judgment, and the earth’s vegetation was to be spared for a time as it tried to reestablish its growth.

     The mission of the locusts was single.  They were to hurt men only, and this assignment they were more than willing to undertake.

     However, those men whom they most desired to destroy, the witnessing servants of God, they were forbidden to touch.  This proscription doubtless infuriated them still more, but they knew from long and bitter experience the folly of transgressing the bounds set by God on their activities, and so they carefully discriminated between the saved and unsaved in their attacks.

     God’s 144,000 special servants had been specifically marked in some way for this very purpose (Revelation 7).  But what about the great multitude that had been won to Christ through their witness?  It would hardly seem that God would allow these to be so grievously injured either.

     It is possible that these latter will be caught up to heaven in a new “rapture,” or, more likely, that they may all have been martyred by this time.  Still more probably, though the Scripture does not say, they also may have been so sealed in virtue of their faith.

Revelation 9:5.     And to them it was given that they should not kill them, but that they should be tormented five months: and their torment was as the torment of a scorpion, when he striketh a man.

     It had been given to these demons that they could torment men and they had been given an ability to impose excruciating scorpionlike stings for this purpose.  But it was also given to them (that is, a commandment was given to them) that no man must be killed by such stings.  This was, no doubt, another grievous restriction, but they were powerless to act beyond their authority.  Whether they were compelled by God only to inject so much poison as would torment without killing, or whether their venom was so compounded by God, we are not told.

     Furthermore a five-month limitation was placed on their freedom.  Presumably, when the five months had expired, they would be swept back down to their deep prison to be locked up again until the last great judgment.  Five months (150 days) was, significantly, the duration of the rising Flood waters in the days of Noah (Genesis 8:1).  Men had once suffered and all died during this former five-month judgment.  Now, as in the days of Noah, men would again suffer five months, but none would die.  In both cases, the agents of their suffering were these rebellious sons of God.  Formerly, no doubt, they had appeared as “angels of light” (2 Corinthians 11:14).  But this time they appeared in a manifestation more appropriate to their character, as agents of cruelty, locusts of darkness, scorpions of torment, striking men with their stings instead of deceiving men with their lies.

Revelation 9:6.     And in those days shall men seek death, and shall not find it; and shall desire to die, and death shall flee from them.

     Five months will be ample for men to experience this awful judgment.  They will flee to the mountains, to the seas, to the deserts; they will bar the windows, cringe in cellars.  But there is no escape.  These are spirit beings and not even solid walls deny them access.  In their fury, they swarm over the earth, penetrate fortresses, swooping on men and women wherever they can flee, and none escape.

     The plague is so dreadful and the pain so fearful that people will utterly despair.  They will even seek death, futilely hoping that the grave might relieve their suffering, even though they surely know by now that hell is waiting for them, and these very creatures of torment will be there too.  But they can’t even commit suicide.  Guns misfire, knives slip from their grasp, poisons lose their potency; men cripple and injure themselves but somehow they can’t kill themselves.  And before they can try again, they must suddenly flee another of these ubiquitous pursuing locust-like demons.

     One can hope that some of these tormented men and women will finally break down and repent and call on God for forgiveness and salvation.  God’s long-suffering desire for their repentance (2 Peter 3:9) is probably the very reason He will not allow them to die during this unspeakable five months.

     More likely, however, Satan, that old serpent, that most subtle of all creatures, will use this judgment to gain converts of his own.  When he cannot deceive men for his own ends, he will frighten them into submission.  By this time, people will all have come to realize that Satan is a real being as well as Christ, and they will understand something of the real nature of the cosmic conflict between the Serpent and the Savior.  Christ is still calling men to repentance through His judgments, but Satan is seeking active recruits, completely committed to him, to join his armies in the soon-coming battle of Armageddon.

     There is no more time for deception, the old “angel of light” routine.  People through the centuries, particularly in the animistic religions, have found it more expeditious to placate the spirits who infest their lives than to serve a far-off high God of whom they are only vaguely aware.  This may well become Satan’s strategy here.  The diabolical locusts may promise to leave their victims alone if they will only sell their souls to Satan.  Whether such a stratagem is employed, or how successful it proves, is obviously a matter of speculation.

     That people are today being prepared for an irruption of demons, however, seems very probable.  The plethora of movies, television programs, and books with demonic themes, along with the latter-day mushroom growth of occult religions and practices, are all surely conditioning men to a widespread belief in Satan and his demons.  Furthermore, none of this is driving men to refuge in Christ, as one might at first suppose it would.  Rather, it accentuates a morbid fear complex and drives them further away from Christ.  It no longer seems at all far-fetched to suppose that fear of demons will eventually drive multitudes of men and women into satanic slavery.

Revelation 9:7.     And the shapes of the locusts were like unto horses prepared unto battle; and on their heads were as it were crowns like gold, and their faces were as the faces of men.

     The historical school of interpretation and even many of the futurist school have produced many strange and wonderful ways of identifying these locusts and their remarkable appearance.  What do these “horses” and “crowns” and “manfaces” represent?  Interpreters grope here for possible meanings to these symbols.

     But these are not written as symbols.  The text does not say that the locusts were horses with human faces and golden crowns on their heads.  Such a statement might indeed initiate a search for hidden meanings, since it could not possibly be taken literally.  John, however, is merely describing what he saw, and seems almost to be searching for words capable of conveying the amazing sight to his readers.  The demon locusts were shaped like battle horses; there were appendages on their heads that looked like crowns; their faces had humanlike features, thus expressing the intelligence and purpose in their malignant behavior.  These were not merely a strange new variety of insects that had swarmed out from some hitherto unknown breeding ground but demon spirits from hell.

     The prophet Joel had long ago had a vision of devouring locusts (Joel 1:4) which had apparently a partial fulfillment in his own time in an actual plague of locusts.  However, many Old Testament prophetic visions merge such near fulfillments with distant fulfillments, and Joel’s vision may well have also gradually shifted its focus, ultimately coming to rest on the distant invasion seen here by John.  Note Joel’s dire warning:

     “A day of darkness and of gloominess, a day of clouds and of thick darkness, as the morning spread upon the mountains: a great people and a strong, there hath not been ever the like, neither shall be any more after it, even to the years of many generations.  The appearance of them is as the appearance of horses; and as horsemen, so shall they run” (Joel 2:2, 4).

     The demonic invaders can fly like locusts, can run like horses and sting like scorpions.  The terror which such creatures could generate is easily imagined.  No wonder men seek death.

Revelation 9:8.     And they had hair as the hair of women, and their teeth were as the teeth of lions.

     John continues the amazing and fearsome portrait. The creatures had manlike faces and womanlike hair (if this were all, one might be tempted to think of the male hair styles of the current generation, but the rest of the description goes far beyond this).  Evidently they could rend with their teeth as well as sting with their tails. Joel also, in his doublevision had noted these lionlike teeth. “For a nation is come up upon my land, strong, and without number, whose teeth are the teeth of a lion, and he hath the cheek teeth of a great lion” (Joel 1:6).

Revelation 9:9.     And they had breastplates, as it were breastplates of iron; and the sound of their wings was as the sound of chariots of many horses running to battle.

     Again compare John’s graphic pictorialization to that of Joel.  “Like the noise of chariots on the top of mountains shall they leap, like the noise of a flame of fire that devoureth the stubble, as a strong people set in battle array” (Joel 2:5).  The army is invincible, immune to weapons.  “When they fall upon the sword, they shall not be wounded” (Joel 2:8).

     As stressed before, there is no way that these can be understood as mere insects, however fierce.  Neither can they be allegorized away as some human army of the past or future.  They can only be hordes of demonic spirits, released from a deep cavern in Hades, yet somehow embodied in these fearful locustlike, horselike, lionlike, scorpionlike, womanlike, manlike forms.

     Though this seems the only possible meaning (John is merely describing what he sees) such a meaning is not easily appropriated.  Are these strange bodies real bodies or ghostly apparitions?  If only spectres, induced in the minds of their victims by hypnosis or drugs or witchcraft, how do they inflict tormenting stings?  But if they are real physical bodies equipped with true sacs of venom, whence was their creation?  Only God can create – not even Satan can manufacture living bodies for his angels to indwell, and surely God would not oblige Satan with this convenience.

     Or would he?  After all, this invasion was initiated as a deliberate judgment of God on wicked and rebellious men, called forth by the sounding of a trumpet by His holy angel.  Satan may hope to turn it to his own ends and may gain many victims, but God will overrule as always.  There seems no alternative to concluding that God, satisfying the age-long desire of those wicked spirits to possess bodies of their own, has created bodies for them, bodies appropriate in demonic appearance to the character of their demonic inhabitants.

Revelation 9:10.     And they had tails like unto scorpions, and there were stings in their tails: and their power was to hurt men five months.

     Assuming that the strange bodies of these creatures had indeed been specially created by God for this particular judgment, it is easy enough to understand one other peculiar attribute.  Their venom, inflicted through their tails in the same manner as used by real scorpions, was able to cause extreme pain but was never fatal.  They were to hurt men, but not to slay men.

     Furthermore the plague was to endure for five long months, but no longer.  The grotesque stinging locusts were to vanish as suddenly as they had come, giving mankind still another brief respite in hope that some would repent.  As in the ancient plagues on Egypt, however, this would merely result in most people “hardening their necks” more stiffly than ever when the demons departed, forced back presumably into their infernal pit.

     Like the legion of demons permitted by Christ to enter the bodies of the two thousand swine (Mark 5:13), who then proceeded to destroy the very animals they possessed, these wicked spirits will no doubt destroy the hideous bodies of the giant insects they were using, as soon as the holy angel terminated their authority to use them.  Perhaps the scientists of the world had been desperately attempting to develop an exterminating pesticide to cope with the invading creatures but, if so, nothing availed until their time was up.  Then, as suddenly as they had appeared, their winged attacks ceased, and their carcasses littered the ground.  Joel possibly refers to the results: “His stink shall come up, and his ill savour shall come up, because he hath done great things” (Joel 2:20).

Revelation 9:11.     And they had a king over them, which is the angel of the bottomless pit, whose name in the Hebrew tongue is Abaddon, but in the Greek tongue hath his name Apollyon.

     The bodies of the invading army of demon locusts may have perished but the spirits themselves are destined for residence in the “everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels” (Matthew 25:41).  And so they must for the time be herded back into the abyss.  This particular host of fallen angels is under the command of one mighty angel named Abaddon or Apollyon (both the Hebrew and Greek names meaning “the destroyer”).  Many have thought he was Satan himself, but it must be remembered that Satan commands a hierarchy of “principalities” and “powers” (Ephesians 6:12; Colossians 2:15).  Satan’s present domain is not in Hades, but in the heavenly places.  He is the “prince of the power of the air” (Ephesians 2:2).

     Abaddon, on the other hand, with all the bevy of wicked spirits under his command, has apparently been incarcerated with them in their abyssal prison ever since their presumptuous attempt to destroy mankind in the days of Noah (the phrase used in this verse is not “pit of the abyss,” as in verse 1, but merely “abyss,” or “the place without bottom,” which is thus evidently the abode of Abaddon.

     That he and his angels were already locked in Hades at the time of Job, soon after the great Flood, is implied in Job 26:6: “Hell [i.e. “Hades”] is naked before him, and destruction [i.e. “abaddon”] hath no covering.”  Abaddon is evidently the chief of those fallen spirits already in prison (1 Peter 3:19, 2 Peter 2:4), but even he can only be “uncovered,” when God so orders.

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