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© by Rich Kelsey.  All rights reserved.  No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any way by any means—electronic, mechanical, photocopy, recording, or otherwise—without the prior permission of the copyright holder, except as provided by U.S. copyright law.  ISBN 1-57921-526-2 Library of Congress Catalog Card Number: 2002115819




Chapter Three  


"Hear this, you elders; listen, all who live in the land. Has anything like this ever happened in your days or in the days of your forefathers? Tell it to your children, and let your children tell it to their children, and their children to the next generation. What the locust swarm has left the great locusts have eaten; what the great locusts have left the young locusts have eaten; what the young locusts have left other locusts have eaten. Wake up, you drunkards, and weep! Wail, all you drinkers of wine; wail because of the new wine, for it has been snatched from your lips. A nation has invaded my land, powerful and without number; it has the teeth of a lion, the fangs of a lioness. It has laid waste my vines and ruined my fig trees. It has stripped off their bark and thrown it away, leaving their branches white. Mourn like a virgin in sackcloth grieving for the husband of her youth. Grain offerings and drink offerings are cut off from the house of the LORD. The priests are in mourning, those who minister before the LORD. The fields are ruined, the ground is dried up; the grain is destroyed, the new wine is dried up, the oil fails. Despair, you farmers . . ." (Joel 1:2–11)

What comes to mind when we think of locusts? Good things? Probably not. Locusts are part of the curse that man suffers. As they swarm they look hideous, like a dark plague moving through the air, making a buzzing noise and leaving destruction in their wake. When locusts swarm into the farmland, they devour everything in their path.

Envision a farmer’s wife looking out the window into the wheat fields, seeing a cloud of locusts approaching, and then crying out to her husband,

 “Honey, the locusts are coming, and there’s millions of them.”

 Do you think her husband would reply,

 “That’s nice, dear”?

Not in a million years! Locusts are a terror to farmers. They devour the wheat and corn.

Throughout Scripture there are illustrations in nature to teach us. Wheat[1] and corn in the natural fields of this earth depict people throughout their formative years as they develop spiritually. Locusts[2] are physical representations of a spiritual design,[3] too—an evil design. Figuratively speaking, they devour men: this is exactly what we see the locusts of Revelation do. We see them pushing through the spiritual veil into our physical realm to torment mankind.

“As I watched, I heard an eagle that was flying in midair call out in a loud voice: ‘Woe! Woe! Woe to the inhabitants of the earth, because of the trumpet blasts about to be sounded by the other three angels!’” (Rev. 8:13).

The locusts are released with the trumpet blast of the fifth angel.

“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” (Rev. 9:1).

As we have seen, this star falling from heaven to earth is Satan; he is allowed to open up a pit containing hideous beasts called locusts:

“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” (Rev. 9:2).

This last verse has connotations of spiritual darkness. As the angel opens this pit, smoke comes out and the sun is darkened. As we have noted, the sun in prophetic Scripture represents Jesus Christ in his Father’s glory:

“But for you who revere my name, the sun of righteousness will rise with healing in its wings” (Mal. 4:2).

The sun is our source of light. Demons blind men’s minds, keeping them in darkness—they keep men from the Sun of righteousness who is at their heart’s door waiting to heal them. Nevertheless, God can deliver the repentant man from gross darkness no matter how far the devil has brought him.

“And out of the smoke locusts came down upon the earth and were given power like that of scorpions of the earth” (Rev. 9:3).

The key to understanding what these locusts are is this: They “were given power.” The horsemen of the Apocalypse were also given power. Satan claimed that the power over the kingdoms of the world was delivered unto him. In the book of Job,

“The LORD said to Satan, ‘Very well, then, everything he [Job] has is in your hands’” (Job 1:12b).

The locusts,

“...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” (Rev. 9:4).

As we have seen previously, God seals 144,000 children of Israel on their foreheads with His very name before any trumpets sound, protecting all those who make up Israel (Christians) from this demon plague.

The locusts,

 “...were not given power to kill men, but only to torture mankind for five months. And the agony they will suffer is like that of the sting of a scorpion when it strikes a man. During these days men will seek death, but will not find it; they will long to die, but death will elude them” (Rev. 9:5–6, author’s paraphrase).

 The torment from the locusts will be so severe, many men would rather die than endure the pain.

“The locusts looked like horses prepared for battle. On their heads they wore something like crowns of gold, and their faces resembled human faces” (Rev. 9:7).

The twenty-four elders of Revelation 4 cast their crowns before the Lord, and the living creatures of that same chapter have faces like men; they also have wings. The twenty-four elders and the living creatures are symbolic of the sons of God in their glorified state. These locusts are a symbolic illustration of angels in a fallen state.

Please notice that these demons were viewed as “horses prepared for battle.” This illustration is similar to the four horses of the Apocalypse. These locusts wear gold crowns, as do God’s glorified sons. Therefore the locusts have been in heaven at one time; the crowns they have tell of the divinity they once shared with God. In fact, the crowns point to them being sons of God just like Satan, whose fellow spirits ride like horsemen through the earth, bringing destruction and death.

“Their hair was like women’s hair, and their teeth were like lions’ teeth. 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” (Rev. 9:8–9). The saying, “They had breastplates like breastplates of iron,” means this is an illustration that should not be taken literally; these creatures do not have literal breastplates of iron. This illustration of armor shows that these locusts are geared for battle. “They had tails and stings like scorpions, and in their tails they had power to torment people . . .” (Rev. 9:10).

The symbolism depicting locusts in Revelation is pointing to demonic activity. Millions of demonic spirits will be swarming after receiving permission from the courts of heaven to torment men.

“They are spirits of demons performing miraculous signs, and they go out to the kings of the whole world, to gather them for the battle on the great day of God Almighty” (Rev. 16:14).

Christians will not be dodging missiles at the time of the first woe. Building hardened bunkers is not what will protect men from the woes in this prophecy. This plague has to do with a spiritual, invisible, battle involving an enemy rarely seen.

Woe No. 2

The first woe is past; two other woes are yet to come.

"The sixth angel sounded his trumpet, and I heard a voice coming from the horns of the golden altar that is before God. It said to the sixth angel who had the trumpet, “Release the four angels who are bound at the great river Euphrates.” 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. The number of the mounted troops was two hundred million. I heard their number.

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. A third of mankind was killed by the three plagues of fire, smoke and sulfur that came out of their mouths. 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." (Rev. 9:12–19)

This is highly figurative language. The sixth angel is blowing a trumpet, a voice is heard from the horns of the golden altar, four angels are loosed from the great river Euphrates, then we have a vivid description of an army of horsemen. While John undoubtedly saw these things, we must keep in mind that these are only symbols pointing to a more profound meaning.

The Mystery of the Altar Explained

The Temple in the Old Testament was a house where God dwelled. Obviously, that earthly temple was only an illustration of a spiritual design—even the heavenly temple is merely a facsimile that God is using to teach us. An altar with four horns is not unusual: when God commanded Moses to build the Tabernacle (which was a portable temple), he also told him to make several instruments that would be used within. Among these instruments were seven golden lampstands and an altar with four horns. We have already noted that each of the lampstands represents a church, such as the church of Laodicea, consisting of multitudes of people. Because the temple’s seven-branched lampstand represents seven assemblies of God’s faithful, we should seriously consider this heavenly altar might also represent multitudes of faithful men, women, and children as well.

The Shadow of the Altar in Heaven

In the days Israel was traveling in the wilderness, God com­manded Moses:

"Build an altar of acacia wood, three cubits high; it is to be square, five cubits long and five cubits wide. Make a horn at each of the four corners, so that the horns and the altar are of one piece, and overlay the altar with bronze. Make all its utensils of bronze—its pots to remove the ashes, and its shovels, sprinkling bowls, meat forks and firepans. Make a grating for it, a bronze network, and make a bronze ring at each of the four corners of the network. Put it under the ledge of the altar so that it is halfway up the altar. Make poles of acacia wood for the altar and overlay them with bronze. The poles are to be inserted into the rings so they will be on two sides of the altar when it is carried. Make the altar hollow, out of boards. It is to be made just as you were shown on the mountain." (Exod. 7:1–8)

The Hebrew word used for “horn” in our text is qeren from the primary root qaran, meaning “to shoot out horns”; a horn as projecting; a corner (of the altar); a peak (of the mountain); figurative of power.

An animal’s power is in its horns. Horns also grow. They “shoot out.” Throughout Scripture this word horn is used in correspondence with people. Here are a few examples:

“I will cut off the horns of all the wicked, but the horns of the righteous will be lifted up” (Ps. 75:10).

“My faithful love will be with him, and through my name his horn will be exalted” (Ps. 89:24).

Revelation’s Lamb has seven horns;[4] Revelation’s beast has ten.[5] It’s written that the beast’s horns are crowned and they are ten kings.[6] Kings brandish power over nations, especially in time of war; kingdoms also shoot out and encompass the earth. This is what the book of Revelation is about—war over earth’s domain between the armies of heaven[7] and the Antichrist’s evil[8] empire.

Yet how can an altar’s horns illustrate power or shooting out, as in the lineage of men and women? Living things die in front of an altar and are consumed by fire upon one. Death is what an altar is about. This altar’s four horns are symbolic of death on a worldwide scale. Looking from a natural perspective, a dying man is powerless and no longer able to produce seed.

However, spiritually speaking, this is not the case—a dying man’s body is a seed.

“The body that is sown is perishable, it is raised imperishable; it is sown in dishonor, it is raised in glory; it is sown in weakness, it is raised in power” (1 Cor. 14: 42–43). 

Speaking of a dying man, Jesus said, 

“Unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed” (John 12:24).

Souls under the Altar

What significance does an altar have? It implies sacrifice. In the book of Revelation it also implies martyrdom—the killing of the innocent. The Apostle John “saw under the altar the souls of those who had been slain because of the word of God and the testimony they had maintained. They called out in a loud voice,

" 'How long, Sovereign Lord, holy and true, until you judge the inhabitants of the earth and avenge our blood?’ Then each of them was given a white robe, and they were told to wait a little longer, until the number of their fellow servants and brothers who were to be killed as they had been was completed' " (Rev. 6:9–11).

What John saw was martyrs throughout history—these saints were unwilling to deny their faith at any price, and they were call­ing out for vengeance. God told them to wait for the sacrifice of their brothers and sisters to come under Antichrist’s regime as we have read: “wait a little longer” for the rest[9] to be killed. This huge crowd of martyrs is one facet of God’s Church.

A Typological Analogy of Sacrifice

During the Old Testament dispensation, the bodies of goats and lambs were consumed by fire on the altar, and the smoke from the sacrifice would well up as a sweet savor to God. However, without people’s faith in the covenant, the ceremony would have meant nothing and God would not have been pleased. God is not interested in the sacrifices of animals—He never has been. What God desires and what these sacrifices represent has to do with heartfelt commitments from His faithful children. In one sense, our flesh is to be consumed by fire daily so that only the gold (deity) remains. It’s our lives that need to be laid upon the altar in an act of sacrifice to God every day, not some animal’s flesh! When our lower nature is burned away (figuratively speaking), what comes up from the ashes is a consecrated soul. In like manner during the resurrection we will see that the same thing has occurred—our lower nature along with all of our imperfections will have been purged in death.

The Prayers of All the Saints

“Another angel, who had a golden censer, came and stood at the altar. He was given much incense to offer, with the prayers of all the saints, on the golden altar before the throne. The smoke of the incense, together with the prayers of the saints, went up before God from the angel’s hand. Then the angel took the cen­ser, filled it with fire from the altar, and hurled it on the earth.” (Rev. 8:3–5)

What is beautiful about this passage is that the altar is shown before the throne. This passage teaches us that God cares about His faithful children. He rejoices over the faith of those who would rather die than deny His name. They are in His presence day and night and He hearkens to their pleas—many of the final plagues in Revelation are a direct result of the martyrs’ cries. As John saw the final bowls of God’s wrath being poured out, he

“heard the altar respond: ‘Yes, Lord God Almighty, true and just are your judgments’” (Rev. 16:7).

A voice from the altar sets the destroying angels in motion, telling an angel to release four angels who are bound at the great river Euphrates. And the four angels were released to kill a third of mankind. Once more, I believe the number four in our text is pointing to a worldwide application to some aspects of this plague. Otherwise, we might ask, why would only four angels participate in an event of this scale? While it may be possible for merely four angels to stir up millions of human troops, we should consider that this is the devil’s last season to wreak havoc on the earth before Christ comes. He is determined to destroy all that which Jesus is going to obtain by succession. It seems ironic that out of the millions of fallen angels that are hell-bent for destruction, only four would participate. What are the rest of them doing?

We see that two hundred million horsemen are involved in this plague. One popular teaching on this subject is that these horse­men represent the Chinese military because China can muster an army of this size. However, these horses are identical to the locusts that come from the bottomless pit and also the four horses that come from the presence of the Lord. So, it’s very likely the forces John spoke of here are Satanic influences behind human factions.




[1] Matt. 13:38 

[2] Joel 2:25 

[3] “Appoint a commander against her; send up horses like a swarm of locusts” (Jer. 51:27). 

[4] Rev. 5:6 

[5] Rev. 13:1 

[6] Rev. 17:11 

[7] Rev. 19:14 

[8] Rev. 16:13–14 

[9] Rev. 20:4