"The locusts looked like horses prepared for battle. . . ." - Revelation 9:7
It can be tempting to skip over this section in Revelation. Its message is troublesome. The swarm of locusts rising up from the Abyss, grotesque in appearance and ruthlessly determined to torment as many people as they can, are creatures we would rather avoid.
I think this fifth-trumpet scene applies the same technique Jesus used in parts of his Sermon on the Mount. This is hyperbole—the use of exaggerated pictures that are not meant to be taken literally. Consider, for example, what Jesus says in Matthew 5:29-30 (NRSV): "If your right eye causes you to sin, gouge it out. . . . If your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off. . . ." One of my church-education students responded to this passage by saying, "Wow! Jesus asks a lot."
She understood. She knew that Jesus was not saying we should literally harm ourselves, but she could see that he does call us to resist sin. The fifth-trumpet story says a lot about evil and the terrible pain it brings into people’s lives, and we need to resist it. With God’s protection we can do that, but we must see evil for what it is. What the Bible calls sin and evil is what we might define as "doing what I want, when I want."
Sin may look and taste like candy. But God wants us to see sin’s real cavity-creating rot. Perhaps this truth is best brought home in the name of the driver-king who comes out of the Abyss. His name is Destroyer.
Who is your king?
Lord, deliver us each day from the evil one, the Destroyer. In Jesus’ name, Amen.