“Woe to the inhabitants of the earth because of the remaining blasts of the trumpet of the three angels who are about to sound.”
Two more judgments are to begin and as with the others, the intent is bringing those to repentance who stand against God’s chosen.
The locust (v.1-12): This plague or torment is likened to swarms of locust. But, these are also locust prepared for “war.” In appearance these are fearsome warriors, but have only power to torment, not kill. One thing is certain; these are led by “the destroyer.” This destroyer is likened to Satan, or simply is the agent of Satan due to the description given (v.1 and 11). Various commentaries offer a very wide variety of interpretations. These range from simple identifications with the invading forces of Rome in Palestine up to the locust representing modern day helicopters in some really challenged ideas of the so-called battle of Armageddon. No battle – no Armageddon: this will be explored when it appears ( and we’re not there yet).
Question: How did locust torment? Answer: They came in mass consuming everything (grain, fields and food stock) in their way? This is exactly as locusts are portrayed in Joel 1. Some think that this is a clear sign of the advancing legions of Rome under first Vespasian and then under Titus (who was called “the Destroyer of Jerusalem”). Now, how straightforward is that?
I suggest that it is another repetition of the same type – indicating that spiritual conditions continue to deteriorate feeding attendant physical calamity to the point that souls will be destroyed by ever increasing numbers. To identify the person or persons “in charge” is irrelevant. Yet, I also believe that (like most everything else) this is pointing in the near term directly to the siege and destruction of Jerusalem in 67 – 69, whether or not it identifies Vespasian or Titus.
The four angels bound at the river Euphrates (v.13-21): The purpose of the unleashing of the forces restrained by these angels is different of that of the locusts, as these are to kill a third part of mankind (a large portion, but not the majority). (v.15). These forces have been prepared for a definite period (“the hour and day and month and year”) and kept prepared by God for some time to be used to support this work. It seems they issue from Persia (a storehouse of false religions and worship then as today), and are a large and mighty force as indicated by the number (v.16). Many refer this to the support of the Legions through the eastern nations where Rome had conscripted forces and forged new alliances. The killing is accomplished by the plagues that issue from the horses’ mouths.
This is more of the same. If you are on foot and the bad guys are armed and on horseback, and right on top of you — do you stand a chance? So, what is this about? Again: Who can get out of the way of a cavalry charge? I simply view it exactly as I have viewed all the others – these are spiritual descriptions of attributes (plagues) that worsen as time goes on, against those who have turned away from God, worshipping idols and mortal kings, and all who do not repent. You either support God and His Word or you support the killers of men and their false gods. All will receive their just reward; and there is no escape without God and Christ. As with the rest, this refers to the events preceding the coming destruction of Jerusalem; and you simply cannot escape the Roman Legions. Once again, the plagues do not bring repentance (v.21). It is easy to miss that time for repentance is given throughout, but the window does not remain open indefinitely. The connection between what takes place and the rejection by these in turning away from God, is missed by most on every page where it is repeated. As has been the case… if repentance was the issue, (which the text clearly states that it was), then this is another admonition to the effect that the signs signify worsening spiritual conditions preceding and predicating physical calamity. They are the forces driving events and include the physical punishment for ignoring God’s Will. Jesus told his apostles and disciples, “Repent or you shall all likewise perish.” (Luke 13:3 and 5).