CDPCKL · Gods and Monsters (Revelation 9:1-21)

Gods and Monsters (Revelation 9:1-21)

In the beginning, people thought of our physical cosmos as a massive ocean, a place of storms and terrifying destruction as titans the size of galaxies fought against one another in the darkness. 

And so, when we look at the creation myths of most ancient nations, what we often find are stories of an earth that is birthed out of violence, built out of the decaying body-parts of slain gods and monsters. As a result, many ancient nations lived in a constant fearful awareness of the fragility of our existence. 

To them, the earth is like the corpse of a whale floating half-submerged near the surface of the ocean. Below lies an abyss of darkness, crushing depths inhabited by titanic sea serpents and tentacled devouring monsters and crawling armor-plated creatures with claws suited for tearing the softened flesh from corpses. Above stretch the heavens, the home of the exalted gods. 

So, quite naturally, most of the religious lives of those ancient nations were centered around trying to keep our earth from sinking: using sacrifice to appease the monsters of the abyss below, to purchase the favours of the gods above. 

But then a new nation appeared on the world stage — about 3500 years ago now — and this nation had a very different idea of the universe. 

Yes, they saw the heavens as a place busy with gods. But they believed these “gods” are actually angels, literally “messengers” — that’s what the word “angel” means — serving one single Almighty God, the God who created everything. Sometimes this nation referred to angels as “the sons of God”, but there was no question in their minds that the heavens are inhabited by angelic beings who exist to serve the God who created them. 

They also saw the abyss as the realm of titanic sea-serpents, all-consuming monsters, and crawling things. But here, again, they did not fear these things or worship them as gods, they thought of them as mere creatures: beings created to serve the purposes of the Almighty God. 

They also agreed that the earth exists between these two realms. But in their account of creation, the earth was birthed out of silence, built out of the foundational elements of creation, framed by light. To them, our earth is like a temple carved from precious stones with pillars holding up a roof that is also the crystalline floor of heaven, and a floor set upon the firm foundation that is the ever-living Word of God, through which no creature from the abyss can ever break.

Now, I suspect most of you already know that this new nation with its radical new beliefs was the ancient nation of Israel. 

Their history as a nation really begins with them in hopeless slavery to the Egyptian empire — hopeless until, as a nation, they finally began to cry out to the Almighty God for help. God answered their cries by sending them a man named Moses, to whom he gave power to strike the Egyptians with plagues specifically designed to crash the empire’s economy and discredit the Egyptian gods until the time was right for God to lead his new nation out of the wreckage to a new world. 

The first few plagues did affect everyone equally, the Israelites along with the Egyptians. But as the plagues grew in their destructive power, God began to mark out a distinction between his people and everyone else. He was proving that he knows how to protect those who belong to him; he was also proving that he knows how to destroy those who do not. 

Still, the Egyptians ignored these warnings, they refused to humble themselves before the God of Israel. So then Moses summoned a countless army from the lands of the east. This army was a plague of locusts, giant grasshoppers that travel in massive swarms and eat everything green. But they did not touch anything that belonged to God’s people. 

Now, locusts were widely understood in those days to be some kind of judgement from the gods. And the Jewish commentators who came after Moses tell us that the Egyptians understood very well what this plague meant. They understood that their attempts to appease the gods of the abyss were no longer working; their spiritual defenses were beginning to break down, opening them up to attack. 

Still they clung to their faith in the gods of the heavens: the sun, the moon, the stars. So, next, Moses struck the land of Egypt with darkness, blotting out the sun, moon and stars, proving that even the gods of the heavens are nothing more than creatures, servants of the one true God. But again, darkness did not touch God’s people. 

Still the Egyptians refused to submit. So God made one final distinction between his people and the people of Egypt: he put a seal of lambs-blood on the doors of every Israelite household. Then the LORD himself passed through the land of Egypt to strike down all the firstborn, from the greatest to the least. But he did not “permit the destroyer to enter” any house with God’s seal upon it. 

And again, later Jewish commentators tell us that “the destroyer” was actually an angel that accompanied the LORD. They call him the Angel of Death, and they point out that this angel is a prince over a deadly angelic army of his own. 

They also point out that this angel who holds the power of death is actually in rebellion against God, and tries to oppose God’s purposes at every turn! but without success. Just as in the plague of locusts and the plague of darkness, God allows the Destroying Angel to operate according to his nature — thus carrying out God’s purposes in judgement — but he will not allow Death to touch anyone who has the mark of the lamb. 

Well, I think we all know how the story goes after that: the nation of Israel is carried away into the wilderness, where they are sealed again by the blood of animals, counted, organized, and then called to march out on their final great journey home. 

But even as they traveled, Moses told them to keep on holding on to the God who had redeemed them. He warned them again and again that if they turned back to worship the false gods of Egypt — or any other nation — they would begin to experience the same plagues that fell upon Egypt. And if they still refused to repent, well: then the same final plagues would be released upon them. Things would get so bad that the survivors would go mad with despair! just in time for an invading army to come sweeping in from the east and bring their nation to an end. 

And, sure enough, every time the people of that generation rebelled against God’s leadership and tried to return to their slavery in Egypt, they did experience thirst, disease, defeat. So they knew God meant what he said! 

Even so, that generation refused to repent…and they died in the desert. Now, the next generation did finally arrive at their destination, but things did not really improve. They continued to worship and serve created things rather than the Creator. They enslaved themselves to a religious life centered around trying to appease the monsters of the abyss and the gods of the sky. 

Well, again and again God sent prophets to repeat Moses’ warnings: Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel…and all of these men talked about a day when a terrible army of armoured horsemen would come sweeping down like locusts from the north and the east, from the lands beyond the Euphrates river, to judge Israel and all the surrounding nations for their idolatry. 

The only comfort these prophets could offer was the promise that God would not completely destroy his nation: a few would be sealed and redeemed through the midst of those flooding judgements. And one day! one day Israel would finally have a king who would not lead her astray into slavery. 

This great king would lead the sons of God into battle against every rebellious angel in the heavens, casting them down to earth, or even binding them in the abyss beneath the earth. He would build a kingdom that lasts, walls that cannot be broken down, a living temple sealed like an ark against any attack from the creatures of the air or the abyss. 

Well, it happened just as the prophets foretold. The Assyrians swept through, then the Babylonians, then the Persians, then — even after the exile was completed — the Greeks, and finally the Romans. And it was during the time of the Romans that a man appeared in the eastern wilderness, claiming to be the long prophesied king. 

His name was Jesus of Nazareth, but his followers called him ”the Christ”, which means “the Anointed One”, a reference to how his kingship had been officially sealed and certified by the last Old Testament prophet, a man named John the Baptizer. And this Jesus insisted that he was destined to give God’s people rest from all their enemies. 

In fact, partway through his brief career he even went so far as to tell his disciples that, because of their preaching, he had just seen Satan fall like lightning from heaven. Then he went on to say, “I have given you authority to trample on snakes and scorpions and to overcome all the power of the enemy.” Basically, Jesus was telling them that, from now on, his followers were going to be safe from any attack from the heaven above or from the abyss below. “Nothing will harm you,” he said — 

…a promise that rang a little hollow a few weeks later when the Romans captured him and crucified him as a seditionist. The Angel of Death struck him down, thus proving that Jesus was not the Christ, not the sealed and anointed eternal king. 

But then — a time, times, and half a time later — Jesus rose from the dead, and his disciples finally understood what he meant when he said, “Nothing will harm you”: he did not mean they would never get hurt or die. He meant that, as long as their names were sealed in the great Book of Life by the blood of his sacrifice, they would no longer experience the tormenting despair and madness that accompanies the fear of Death. 

Basically, by submitting to death even though he was innocent, Jesus broke the power of the angel who holds the power of deaththat is, the devil! From now on, the Angel of Death might be able to kill the bodies of those who have the mark on their foreheads, but he cannot touch their souls. 

That is what Jesus had meant when he said that he saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven. 


Now, as we return to our reading in the Book of Revelation, we can see how all this Old Testament background has already been woven into the structure of John’s visions: 

Just like the ancient nation of Israel, Christianity has exploded onto the pages of history as a whole new kind of people defined by a whole new radical set of beliefs about the nature of the universe. 

And just like the ancient nation of Israel, the history of Jesus’ nation has begun in slavery under the greatest empire of the age: the Roman empire that has recently committed itself to wiping out Christianity. 

And just like the nation of Israel in Egypt, Jesus’ Church has begun crying out to God for deliverance, asking, “How long until you judge the inhabitants of the earth and avenge our blood?” 

And just like the nation of Israel in Egypt, Christians have begun to witness, with their own eyes, God’s answer to their prayers: the four deadly horsemen, the four deadly winds, the four fiery judgements…all of these plagues were released upon the Roman empire as soon as Jesus finished sealing his people with his blood — and those judgements have been operating steadily throughout the world ever since. 

But over the last few weeks we have also learned that Christians are not immune to the effects of these judgements, just as the nation of Israel was not immune from the effects of the first plagues that fell upon Egypt. 

And this lesson really came home to us last week when we realized that John’s current vision is about the collapse of an empire that rules over one third of the earth’s surface. We discovered that, while we do rejoice to see all that corrupted power taken away and scattered to the winds, it is also sobering to think about the terrible fallout that accompanies the collapse of a great civilization: how the innocent and the guilty alike suffer when God moves to restore a proper balance upon the earth. 

That can be discouraging! And then, when look back at the Book of Exodus and see that God did eventually make a distinction between the people of Israel and the people of Egypt, well then we wonder: when is he going to do that for us? 

Our answer begins here, in Chapter 9, verse 1: The fifth angel sounded his trumpet, and I saw a star that had fallen from the sky to the earth. The star was given the key to the shaft of the Abyss. [2] When he opened the Abyss, smoke rose from it like the smoke from a gigantic furnace. The sun and sky were darkened by the smoke from the Abyss. 

So, right away it is clear that this fifth trumpet is related somehow to the trumpets that came before: 

Last week we saw how the collapse of this unnamed empire resulted in a spiritual crisis, which resulted in the defeat of a demonic Prince — symbolized as a falling star named Wormwood. In his bitterness, this fallen star embittered all the sources of God’s Word in the territories once ruled by his empire — symbolized by the embittering of every river and spring. 

Now, in scripture, God’s Word is also symbolized by the concept of ”light”, and so — quite naturally — the poisoning of the light of God’s Word resulted in a deep spiritual darkness that covered the third of the earth once ruled by that empire. 

Here, again, we find a profound darkness at work. 

But now we have questions, don’t we? For instance: is this meant to be the same darkness we saw during the fourth trumpet? This meant to be the same fallen star we saw during the third trumpet? Is this fifth trumpet meant to be a more detailed explanation for how the fallen star from Chapter 8 embittered the waters and darkened the earth? 

Let’s go on and see if these questions are answered: 

[3] And out of the smoke locusts came down on the earth and were given power like that of scorpions of the earth. 

Okay. So this darkness actually comes from a plague of locusts that are also like scorpions somehow. And we remember — from the Old Testament prophets and from Jesus’ comments — that scorpions and other crawling, stinging creatures on this earth often symbolize the darker and more powerful creatures that inhabit the abyss beneath the earth. 

Except that this plague of scorpion-locusts has actually been released directly from the Abyss! which means these are not physical, earthly creatures, these are the originals, these are the true denizens of the deep, these are super-natural scorpion-locusts. 

And their super-natural qualities are confirmed in verse 4: 

They were told not to harm the grass of the earth or any plant or tree, but only those people who did not have the seal of God on their foreheads. 

Natural locusts eat up every green thing in their way, so clearly these are supernatural locusts. And natural scorpions sting everybody in their path, they would not distinguish between God’s citizens and the empire’s citizens — so clearly these are supernatural scorpions. 

And so this is where we realize that this darkness is different from the darkness in Chapter 8: 

That spiritual darkness affected everyone who lived in that collapsing empire. Which makes sense: if we were living in a nation where all the sources of God’s living water turned bitter, we would certainly suffer. We would be out there desperately searching for some good source of life, some faithful church somewhere. And many Christians in many nations in our world right now are suffering that kind of thirst. 

But this spiritual darkness is specifically targeted at those who are not searching for sources of living water. The bible tells us in other places that those who have the seal of God on their foreheads hunger and thirst for the source of righteousness, they will sell everything they have to seek it out! But those who do not have the seal of God don’t care if the water is bitter, they don’t care if the teaching is distorted or false. In fact, they prefer it that way: if they are offered fresh water, they reject it! They are slowly poisoning themselves and they don’t even know it. 

This darkness here is related to the darkness that began in Chapter 8; but it is a development, a deepening of that darkness. This plague is simply the next natural intensification of judgement for people who refuse to recognize that they are spiritually dehydrated. 

Verse 5: the scorpion-locusts were not allowed to kill them but only to torture them for five months. And the agony they suffered was like that of the sting of a scorpion when it strikes. [6] During those days people will seek death but will not find it; they will long to die, but death will elude them. 

The natural locust “season” in Palestine — the dry season — is five months long. So, apparently, this supernatural locust season is also five months long. But that also means that these must be supernatural months: it feels like a long season to those who are going through it, but it is actually a strictly limited period of spiritual time. 

It is also interesting to notice that five months is very close to half a year long: half a time long. Is that significant? Maybe. If it is, then I think we can trust the Book of Revelation to make that clear later on, so stay tuned… 

Now the agony of a natural scorpion sting feels like a fire in the flesh, extremely painful but not fatal. So, apparently, the agony of a supernatural scorpion sting feels like a fire in the human spirit: extremely painful but not spiritually fatal. For the first time in their lives, perhaps, the victims of these locusts will be made desperately aware of their spiritual famine, their spiritual thirst. They will begin to long for salvation from their agony, but they will not know where to find it. They will even begin to long for death, but something within them will not let them go, will not let them rest from the incessant, staggering, desperate search for fresh water. 

In other words: just like people who die of thirst in the desert, the last spiritual “hours” — or ”months” — of these citizens’ lives will turn into an agony of madness, hallucinations, despair, their spirits driven on mercilessly and mindlessly through the burning wilderness of their lives. 

And what exactly is this force that drives them like slaves without rest? 

[7] The locusts looked like horses prepared for battle. On their heads they wore something like crowns of gold, and their faces resembled human faces. [8] Their hair was like women’s hair, and their teeth were like lions’ teeth. [9] 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. [10] They had tails with stingers, like scorpions, and in their tails they had power to torment people for five months. 

This is the supernatural force that drives the inhabitants of the earth onward, ever onward, toward their fate. 

And there is a deliberate irony here in John’s description of these locusts: 

Scorpions and locusts, as animals, as created things, do not have authority to rule over mankind. But their supernatural representatives here wear false crowns of gold: they pretend to have authority. They do not possess human reason or human glory, but here they wear false human faces, false human hair. They do not have the power to kill, but they wear false lions’ teeth. They are not invincible, but they make a big show of armour and overwhelming sound. 

In short: these are living creatures from the waters under the earth, and so — unlike the four living creatures in heaven who do not want to be worshiped — these creatures from the Abyss do want to be worshiped, and they use a mixture of deception and fear to enslave the inhabitants of the earth. 

 They promise their victims a share in their false authority, their false wisdom, their false glory, their false power over death — but the sting is in the tail. The fine print is hidden on the other side of the contract. And once the hook of false worship has been well and truly set…the slave-driving torment begins. The false gods of the abyss, who pretended to be appeased for a while, suddenly turn against those who worshiped them, and drag them down into the darkness. 

And what is, perhaps, especially ironic, is that these creatures promise people freedom, while they themselves are slaves: 

[11] They had as king over them the angel of the Abyss, whose name in Hebrew is Abaddon and in Greek is Apollyon (that is, Destroyer). 

Natural locusts have no king. Clearly these are supernatural locusts. 

But what is it like, do you think, to be driven into battle by a king named The Destroyer? 

What we are seeing here is slavery layered upon slavery: a defeated and enslaved star with a key who drives forth a slave-king named Destroyer, who drives forth a slave-army of creatures from the Abyss, who torment the inhabitants of the earth with the despairing madness of false worship. 

What we are starting to see here is a blasphemous mockery of the beautiful patterns of redemption: Father crowning his Son, who leads angels into battle, who ride forth with their commander to rescue the children of God on earth. And the Book of Revelation will develop this theme further a little later on, so stay tuned for that. 

In the meantime, however, we still have some unanswered questions, and more questions to add on: who exactly is this fallen star that was given the key to the Abyss? And who is this angel of the Abyss, whose name is Destroyer? Is this the same destroyer that swept through Egypt on the last night before Israel’s exodus? Or is this Satan that Jesus said he saw falling from heaven? 

…I am so sorry, but we don’t really have enough information to answer those questions right now. I strongly suspect that John’s visions are going to fill in those gaps over the next few chapters, so: keep coming back. 

But there is one very vague hint here as to the identity of this unnamed collapsing empire. 

See, the Greek word Apollyon — Destroyer — is the root word that lies behind the name Apollo. Apollo was the Greek god of pestilence, and one of his symbols was the locust. He was a prince, a king over countless armies of locusts, which he would turn loose against his own worshipers if they were not worshiping enough, sacrificing enough, showing enough loyalty and devotion. That is why the Greeks feared him and named him “The Destroyer”, and the Romans nick-named him “The Tormentor”. 

Now, Old Testament prophets taught that demonic princes are often represented on earth by human princes. 

Well, guess which set of human princes during John’s day claimed to be the earthly incarnations of the god Apollo? 

That’s right: the Roman emperors. Especially the emperor Domition, who is right now — during John’s lifetime — turning his own armies against his own people in order to torment everyone who does not show enough loyalty and devotion to his empire: he is forcing people to worship him. 

Very, very interesting! 

So: does that mean John is actually witnessing the collapse of the Roman empire here? 

…again, I am so sorry, we don’t really have enough information yet to say for sure. The Apollo/Roman emperor connection is fascinating…hopefully John will give us some clearer hints later on, so: keep coming back! 

But anyway: last week, the eagle promised three more trumpet judgements. [12] The first woe is past; two other woes are yet to come. 

And now: [13] The sixth angel sounded his trumpet, and I heard a voice coming from the four horns of the golden altar that is before God. [14] It said to the sixth angel who had the trumpet, “Release the four angels who are bound at the great river Euphrates.” 

Oh, boy. Four more angels are being released now? First it was four horsemen, then four “wind“ angels, then four fiery judgements; now these are, what: four river angels? 

And I guess we are supposed to realize that these four river angels are somehow related to those other sets of four: not exactly the same, but not exactly different either? 

And I guess that means these four river angels must also be fallen angels, just like the other sets of four? 

Let’s find out: 

[15] And the four angels who had been kept ready for this very hour and day and month and year were released to kill a third of mankind. 

Well, that confirms it: these are bad angels, demons who were defeated and imprisoned at some point in unspecified ages past, but — just like the horsemen and the winds — deliberately preserved for this moment, so that their natural murderous cravings could be released to serve God’s purposes. 

But here’s a question: why were they bound at the Euphrates river in particular? 

Well, in the Old Testament, the Euphrates river is first mentioned, right at the very beginning, as a river that flows out of the land of Eden. Later on, God tells Abraham that one day the eastern border of his land will be the Euphrates in the east. Also, the worst invasions of God’s land always came from the north and the east, from across the Euphrates river. So in the Old Testament, the Euphrates river came to symbolize the border between God’s land — the garden of Eden — and the terrible wilderness outside. 

The idea here is that these four fallen angels have been imprisoned outside, in the wilderness, restrained from invading God’s territories…until this moment. 

And as these angels surge across the border, we discover that — just like Apollyon the Destroyer — they are also great kings over countless armies: [16] The number of the mounted troops was twice ten thousand times ten thousand. I heard their number. 

Now, 10,000×10,000×2=200 million. But this is a symbolic number. Because, in those days, the word for “ten thousand” was also the word for “almost infinity”, roughly equivalent to the number that modern mathematicians have named “googol”. It is a limited number, but even with a supercomputer it would take many billions of years to count that high; so, practically speaking, it is an infinite number. 

Basically, John is saying, the number of the mounted troops was uncountable times uncountable times two. Which is yet another way of saying: God only knows. 

And again, this uncountable demonic army is a blasphemous mockery of God’s uncountable angelic army, which — John told us back in Chapter 5 — also numbers “thousands upon thousands, and ten thousand times ten thousand.” 

[17] The horses and riders I saw in my vision looked like this: Their breastplates were fiery red, dark blue, and yellow as sulfur. The heads of the horses resembled the heads of lions, and out of their mouths came fire, smoke and sulfur. [18] A third of mankind was killed by the three plagues of fire, smoke and sulfur that came out of their mouths. [19] The power of the horses was in their mouths and in their tails; for their tails were like snakes, having heads with which they inflict injury. 

So this is the fulfillment of all those prophecies from the Old Testament: the warnings that one day a terrible army of horsemen will sweep down like locusts from the north and the east, from the lands beyond the Euphrates, to judge and destroy Israel and all the surrounding nations for their idolatry. 

Now, are we supposed to understand this as a literal invasion by literal horsemen from the east? 

That was one of the great paranoias of the Roman empire, and it seems that this imagery is designed to tap into those fears and scare the crap out of any Roman citizen who reads John’s book and takes it literally. 

But…no. This is a demonic army. Not just because it is uncountable, but also because we are told — three times in a row, just for emphasis — that the power of these creatures is primarily in their mouths, which belch out fire, smoke and sulfur. 

But, again, this is not literal fire, smoke and sulfur. 

And we know this because, back in Chapter 1, John saw a sharp, double-edged sword coming out of Jesus’ mouth, which was an obvious symbol for the clean, surgical Word of God, which divides truth from falsehood — and it would be very odd for us to take that image literally. 

So, in an equal but opposite way, the fire coming from the mouths of this army is also a symbol for their words, except that their words lead to condemnation: that is what the smoke and sulfur symbolize. These are words of deception and destruction, designed to cloud the senses and confuse the listeners. Just like the locusts, these horsemen rule through deceit and terror — and once again the sting is in the tail. But where the stings of scorpion tails produce only agony without death, the stings of the horses’ serpent tails finally do bring death. 

In short: this army of demonic horsemen is God’s final judgement upon a civilization that decided they would prefer to drink bitter water rather than fresh, they would prefer to silence God’s people rather than listen to them. In the end, the citizens of this empire get exactly what they wanted. The pure, life-giving Word of God is taken away and replaced by the billowing smoky darkness of false teaching, which leads inevitably to eternal darkness. These citizens have been longing for death as a release from the despairing torments of life; finally they receive what they have been longing for, only to discover that it is not the merciful escape they thought it was: the despairing torments of this life roll right over into the despairing torments of eternal death. 


Now, we are going to pause here for a moment to notice that the descriptions of the fifth and sixth trumpets actually contain parallels with the fifth and sixth seals: 

Back in Chapter 6, the fifth seal revealed the souls of those who had been slain by the inhabitants of the earth, and those souls were praying for God’s judgement to avenge their blood. Well, here, the fifth trumpet is God’s distinct answer to those prayers. But in the greatest kind of poetic irony, we find that those who killed God’s children and ended their torments on earth…are now not permitted to die themselves and escape the torments of their own lives on earth. 

And then, back in Chapter 6, the sixth seal revealed kings, princes, generals, the rich, the mighty — and everyone else — praying for death to come and save them from God’s judgement. We were not told then how exactly they met their judgement. But we are going to notice now that those terms in Chapter 6 were military terms, especially “generals” and “the mighty” — commanders and soldiers. The sixth seal was hinting to us that, just before the great earthquake of God’s arrival on earth, the empires of our world will have already mobilized their armies to resist some great threat. 

Well, here, the sixth trumpet has very explicitly used military terms: a great demonic army is released against a great empire that rules over one third of the earth, and the demonic army wins: a third of mankind was killed. Is this demonic army the great threat that the kings of the earth will mobilize their armies against just before the dawn of Judgement Day? 

…again, so sorry: we do not have enough information yet to answer that question. But we could be seeing the beginnings of a pattern: the idea that during the last moments of the earth’s existence, there will be some kind of great, global, military operation taking place. 

I guess, if that pattern is true, it will be confirmed later…so: keep coming back! 

In the meantime, however, John closes with this comment: despite the catastrophic collapse of this great empire, [20] the rest of mankind who were not killed by these plagues still did not repent of the work of their hands; they did not stop worshiping demons, and idols of gold, silver, bronze, stone and wood—idols that cannot see or hear or walk. [21] Nor did they repent of the fruits of their false worship: their murders, their magic arts, their sexual immorality or their thefts. 

This is also an old story, isn’t it: the refusal to learn from the failures of others? 

Over the last two chapters, John has been witnessing the collapse of one particularly powerful empire in history. That collapse was designed by God as a judgement upon that particular empire for the way it rejected God’s Word, abused God’s children, and practiced the false worship of creation, with all of the horrible injustices that result from it. But that collapse was also designed as a warning to the rest of the nations: do not do what this empire did, or you will suffer the same fate! 

It is obvious to us, 2000 years later, that John’s prophecy has been continuously fulfilled ever since: the rest of mankind that survived the fall of that unnamed empire has not heeded the warning contained in its fall. How do we know? Because every earthly empire from John’s day until now has followed the same predictable, self-destructive patterns of rejection and abuse and false worship. Just like the ancient Egyptian empire, the nations of our world still refuse to humble themselves before the Lord. They are still engaged in trying to appease the gods of the Abyss below and the heavens above. And as a result, every earthly empire from John’s day until now has suffered — will suffer — the same tormented fall into darkness. 


Okay. So, as we try to do every week, we have to ask: what does this passage have to do with us? 

And, it’s funny, you know, because — for once — the answer is: nothing. This passage has nothing to do with us. Because, through these plagues, God has made an absolute distinction between his people and the inhabitants of the earth. 

It is just as Jesus told his disciples: “I have given you authority to trample on snakes and scorpions and to overcome all the power of the enemy.” The Angel of Death might be able to kill our bodies — we will learn more about that in Chapter 11 — but no matter what, he cannot defile our souls, nor can he keep us from worshiping the true God. These plagues of demonic locusts and horsemen have been released again and again against various civilizations of the earth over the last 2000 years…but they have never been permitted to even touch anyone who has been sealed on their foreheads with the blood of Jesus Christ. 

So, listen, if you are here today and you are not a Christian, and if you are tired of being tormented by the gods you worship, if you are tired of being driven like a slave by a religion that hates you — come to Jesus. Let him seal you, and you will be safe from every evil spirit, every false god or enslaving religion. 

Now, for the rest of us who are already safely sealed within the ark of Jesus’ kingdom…we are going to close without a specific application, except to say this: listen now to this blessing, our benediction —and rest in it! This is our Father’s promise to us, his beloved people, taken from Joel’s prophecy about the army of locusts: 

[25] “I will repay you for the years the locusts have eaten—the great locust and the young locust, the other locusts and the locust swarm—my great army that I sent among you. [26] You will have plenty to eat, until you are full, and you will praise the name of the Lord your God, who has worked wonders for you; never again will my people be shamed. [27] Then you will know that I am in Israel, that I am the Lord your God, and that there is no other; never again will my people be shamed. 

And all God’s people said: Amen! 

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