Saturday, 25 March 2017 22:30

58. The fifth trumpet: tormenting poison * Revelation 9:1-12 - Part 2 of 4

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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 who have not the seal of God in their foreheads.

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 it strikes a man.

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.

 

Part 2 - Revelation 9:4-6

 

*** The command not to hurt the green vegetation ***: Revelation 9:4 starts with a command. The locusts mentioned in Revelation 9:3, which came out of the pit, are ordered not to do what locusts do best: hurt the green and live vegetation. We saw the mention of grass, trees, and green things back in the first trumpet (Revelation 8:7 - study #52). In the first trumpet, God had allowed one-third of the vegetation to be burned up. Here, in the fifth trumpet, He is not allowing any green thing to be hurt. If there was any doubt that the trees, grass, and green things were a symbol for God’s people (Jeremiah 17:7-8), the end of Revelation 9:4 can remove it completely. In this verse, the ones without the seal of God stand in contrast to the grass, trees, and green things. The ones with the seal of God are protected during the attacks of the locusts, which we read about in the beginning of the fifth trumpet (study #57). On the other hand, the dead vegetation represents the ones without the seal of God and they can be hurt.

*** Not to be killed but tormented for five months ***: Verses 4 and 5 of Revelation 9 start in a similar way: “it was commanded” and “it was given”. These orders, stated in the passive tense, actually started in Revelation 9:3, when the locusts received scorpion powers. As we saw in study #57, God is the One who allows the enemy to show the world his own evil character. Just as in the story of Job, God places limits as to how far He will allow Satan and his angels to proceed with their demonic activities. During Satan’s first attack on Job, God set a limit. Satan could harm anything Job had, but he could not touch Job (Job 1:12). A series of calamities in Job’s life followed, particularly the loss of all of his possessions and all of his children. God was not attacking Job. Satan was. This is the case in this passage of Revelation as well. God is the One setting the boundaries, telling the locusts the sealed people of God are off limits. Beyond that, the people without God’s seal are not to be killed either, but they should feel the effects of the satanic activities for a limited time. The locusts could use their scorpion powers to torment the non-sealed people for five months. There are two interesting five-month periods mentioned in the Bible. The first one happened after Elizabeth conceived: she hid for five months. She was pregnant with John the Baptist, the man who would come and cry out in the wilderness “Make straight the way of the Lord” (John 1:23). In Elizabeth’s 6th month of pregnancy, Gabriel announced to Mary the conception of Jesus (Luke 1:24-27). The announcement of Jesus’ first coming came after a faithful woman was done being secluded for a period of five months. The other passage including a period of five months is in the story of Noah and the Flood. This event seems to be of great significance for the understanding of the five-month period in Revelation. Back then, the way that the Jewish people counted time and months, followed the lunar cycle. The months had 30 days, for a year of 360 days. Ever so often, they would have an extra month to compensate. The period of 150 days is a period of five months of 30 days each.

 

The Flood

The locust attack in the 5th trumpet

Springs of water broke from the deep, the rain poured and flooded the Earth, to harm the earth (Genesis 7:11)

Out of the bottomless pit, came locusts that would harm the earth (Revelation 9:2-4)

Noah, his family, and all the living things in the Ark were protected during the flood (Genesis 7:23)

Those who have the seal of God are safe from the locust attack (Revelation 9:4)

The pouring of the harmful waters lasted for 150 days (5 months) (Genesis 7:24; Genesis 8:3)

The torment the locusts will inflict will last for 5 months (Revelation 9:5; Revelation 9:10)

 

Just as we see in Genesis, the period of five months is mentioned twice in Revelation as well. Unlike the text in Genesis, the beginning and the end of the five-month period in Revelation is not well defined in terms of precise dates. This suggests that the specific knowledge of when the five months begin or end is not the focus. The point of the text seems to be on the fact that this is a temporary period. Like in the story of Noah, God’s faithful people in the time of the fifth trumpet will also be protected from the locust attack. After Jesus told His followers He watched Satan fall from Heaven (Luke 10:18), He gave them a special power: “Behold, I give unto you power to tread on serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy: and nothing shall by any means hurt you.” (Luke 10:19).

*** People will want to die, but they won’t be able to ***: The torment will be so severe during the five months that those without the seal will seek death. The state of mental stress would be so deep during this time, that people would actively wish to die. The text indicates that people would voluntarily look for ways to kill themselves, to end the suffering by their own powers. They would want to take matters into their own hands. To say someone would seek death is a very strong statement. This desperate state of mind reminds us of Job. He wished he could find death and end it all at once (Job 3:21). In fact, he wished he had never been born (Job 3:11-13). But is the text in Revelation speaking literally? Are the people looking for physical death? We must think about the prophetic aspect of all the trumpets. And when we do that, we realize there was never a moment in history when people were not able to die, be killed, or take their own lives. The torment in Revelation seems to be more significant on a spiritual level. The locusts are allowed to attack only the dead and dying vegetation, the people who do not have the seal of God. The “vegetation” under attack is already spiritually infected and afflicted (3rd and 4th trumpets). This means that this torment is a deepening of a problem they already had. Jeremiah 8:3 talks about how the people who are not part of God’s family prefer to choose death rather than life. It is so common to see people making poor choices in many aspects of life that are known to be detrimental. Complete spiritual death on a global scale at that point was not within the boundaries of God’s parameters.

*** Torment of a scorpion, when it strikes a man ***: In study #57 we saw that the locusts coming out of the pit had scorpion powers (Revelation 9:3). In Revelation 9:5, we understand that the torment the locusts inflict is that of a scorpion, “when it strikes a man”. Scorpions use their tails to insert venom in their victims. Oftentimes, scorpion venom is less than deadly to adult humans, with a few exceptions. But that doesn’t mean there is no suffering for the human involved. The demonic activities represented by the locust attack seems to be aimed at poisoning people at an intensity even greater than the one seen during the poisoning of the waters with wormwood (3rd trumpet, study #54). Isaiah 9:14,15 tells us: “Therefore the LORD will cut off from Israel head and tail, palm branch and reed, in one day. The elder and honorable, he is the head; and the prophet that teaches lies, he is the tail.” The tail of the red dragon, Satan, deceived a third part of the angels, as well as the whole world (Revelation 12:4,9). The “torment of a scorpion, when it strikes a man”, in Revelation 9:5, happens because of its tail, which is a symbol for false teachers, stinging people with false information and guiding them to a deadly path.

*** Overview ***: When the locusts came out of the pit and moved on to attack the Earth, God limited how far they could go. The locusts represent the satanic activities that aim to further keep people from reaching the Truth. Those who have already truly accepted the Truth are immune to this attack because they seek to be in constant connection with the Lord. Those who are not connected to God still feel the need to connect to something, and they encounter the scorpion-like tail of the locusts, which aim to torment those people with false teachings and philosophies that are contrary to God’s truth. This torture will go on for some time, but it will come to an end. The period of five months serves to remind the reader that the faithful people of God will not be harmed, just as Noah was protected inside the Ark. It is important that we remember: Noah still felt the Ark move and shake with the violent storm outside. God did not keep Noah from having the experience altogether, but He kept Noah safe as he lived through the Flood. If God is the One we serve, then we do not need to be afraid. The main message is: there is no space for the venomous tail of the enemy’s lies to attach to us when we are completely surrounded by God’s truth and protected by His seal.

   
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