“Then out of the smoke locusts came upon the earth. And to them was given power, as the scorpions of the earth have power. They were commanded not to harm the grass of the earth, or any green thing, or any tree, but only those men who do not have the seal of God on their foreheads. And they were not given authority to kill them, but to torment them for five months. Their torment was like the torment of a scorpion when it strikes a man. In those days men will seek death and will not find it; they will desire to die, and death will flee from them.” Revelation 9:3-6
Out of the vast, billowing, cloud of smoke that darkened the sky and caused panic among earth’s inhabitants, John saw a new terror emerge. Vile demons, taking on a visible form resembling locusts, swarmed out of the abyss to plague the earth. The imagery of smoke is a fitting depiction of a locust plague, since millions of the grasshopper-like insects swarm so thickly that they can darken the sky and blot out the sun, turning day into night. One swarm over the Red Sea in 1889 was reported to have covered 2,000 square miles. Yet these were not ordinary locusts, but demons, which, like locusts, bring swarming destruction. Describing them in the form of locusts symbolizes their uncountable numbers and massive destructive capabilities. But the devastating pain inflicted by these demons will be far worse than that of actual scorpions. In this judgment God brings demons into direct contact with the unrepentant people. Strict limitations were placed on the activities of this demonic host. This judgment, unlike the first four trumpet judgments, is not on the physical world. God forced the locust horde not to hurt the grass of the earth, nor any green thing, nor any tree. That again shows that they were not actual insects, since real locusts devour plant life. The damaged grass has grown again and is to remain untouched in this plague, indicating that enough time has elapsed for a partial recovery of the earth’s environment. Certainly Satan would want to kill all the unregenerate to keep them from repenting. But God, in His mercy, will give people torment for five months (the normal life span of locusts, usually from May to September), during which they cannot die but will be given the opportunity to repent and embrace the gospel. That five-month period will be one of intense spiritual and physical suffering inflicted on unbelievers by the judgment of God.