As we continue our reading of the book of Revelation today, let me remind you again that this is apocalyptic literature where numbers and symbols and dramatic events all have a larger meaning. You will remember we also said that the rest of the Bible gives us the means to decipher the “code” and understand what John is saying. In addition to these two principles, we also we need to remember the context in which John was writing (more on that in a moment).
Today’s verses are part of the graphic depiction of God’s response to the prayers of his saints that was pictured for us in chapter 8: 1-5. As we have already noted, the trumpet plagues which continue here recall the Exodus plagues. Those plagues were not for the purpose of punishment, but penitence. They were not designed simply to make Pharaoh suffer, but to change his mind.
A locust army also recalls the first two chapters of Joel. Interestingly enough, those chapters sound a call to repentance as well.
When these verses were written, the church was being persecuted by Rome much like their ancestors were persecuted in Egypt. The meaning of these verses, therefore, is clear: God once again calls for the people of the earth to repent.
But when they don’t—when they square off with God, in bold opposition to Him (notice the locusts only attack those who do not bear the seal of God upon their foreheads), the result is terrible (with the word “terror” very much in focus). The day will come where the people of the earth who are hostile to God and his purposes will face the consequences of their actions even as Pharaoh did before them.
What is the message for us?
One is certainly the power and importance of prayer. Are we praying for the world? For the church? For the people around us?
But second, I think, is this graphic picture of a life lived at odds with God and his ways. It is not a pretty picture.
Is God speaking to us about areas of our life where we need to repent? If so, we would do well to listen, to bring our life into line with His life so that we bear the seal of God upon our forehead (an image of life lived in harmony with God’s ways; our thoughts in harmony with His thoughts). It is infinitely preferable to the sting of locusts!