You might be forgiven for thinking that things have gone a bit strange at this point. There is smoke, darkness and locusts that look like horses with teeth like lions. What on earth does it all mean?
This kind of writing in the Bible is called apocalyptic. It’s not meant to be considered as an exact prophecy of what is going to happen, word for word. But through pictures, it describes something of the reasons why things are going to be happening.
Locusts have a few other star appearances in the Bible. One is being a plague of locusts that destroy Egypt’s crops and help persuade Pharaoh to let the Hebrew slaves go free. Another is that the prophet Joel writes about a land devastated by swarms of locusts. Another comes a few times – armies are described as swarms of locusts. They bring about great suffering. They completely destroy all the crops and leave nothing behind them. And they are pretty irritating and noisy too.
These locusts are clever too. They know who to attack and who to leave alone. They aren’t supposed to attack any who follow Jesus, just those who don’t. Sometimes, we find this sort of separation unfair and difficult to understand. We want to be tolerant towards other people, even if they might not believe exactly what we believe.
The suffering continues as the 6th angel sounds his trumpet and angels go out on a killing spree. Not fun. Many die (again, unbelievers) and still, people don’t turn away from their sin. It’s serious.
The thing is, it is quite clear from this passage that this action is not sent by God. We don’t talk much about spiritual warfare, but this is a case where it seems the Devil has control of things (he doesn’t really, as we’ll soon find out.) It looks like he is having his way amongst those who have chosen to worship him, doing terrible and horrible things. But we must remember – this is a picture. No one real has died in it, even though it sounds destructive. It’s all another battle in the war between good and evil. The main thing to remember is to make sure that you’re on the winning side – the one that Jesus is on.
Lord God, help us to understand difficult passages like this one. Thank you that you defeated evil, once and for all on the cross. Thank you that you will never let us go. Amen.