My dog, Flash, is fun but dumb. Whenever I try and get him to fetch, I point at the ball. But Flash won’t look at the ball–he only looks at my finger. And then licks it. He gets infatuated with the pointer, and misses the point.
Revelation 9′s description of these demonic locusts may well lead us to play the dog. Many commentators have been caught up in trying to ascertain who the locusts are—Saracens? Parthians? Modern enemies of America?—but all of these suggestions miss the point, as do fanciful postulations like “maybe John saw Apache helicopters?!”
The ancient Hebrews had several words for locust: shearer, swarmer, galloper, creaker, swallower, and finisher. Simply put, when a swarm of locusts came through—in columns a hundred feet deep and four miles long—it was the single-most devastating visitation in the world. For example, after a locust infestation in Algiers in 1886, 200,000 people starved to death due to the famine that followed. Normally, locusts eat all the region’s vegetation and are harmless to people; but here, John tells us that the locusts are re-directed toward people and instructed to leave the vegetation alone. They are like scorpions, proverbially the most hostile pest to humankind.
So what’s the point?
Simple: repentance. The trumpets blow to call the people of the world to repent. The trumpets sound to shake them to penitence.
But they miss the point. No one repents.
Let’s not make the same mistake.