The language of a seer22-01-2020 - Posted by Andre Piet
Last week in the review of the book “Revelation,” I arrived at the fifth and sixth trumpets, as described in Revelation 9. It is part of the series of trumpets announcing the jubilee year, the commencement of the great Millennium (Revelation .20), the Sabbath day for this world.
the setting of ‘the trumpets’
While blowing the trumpets, the land of Israel has since come into the possession of the sole owner, namely “the Lamb that has been slaughtered” but stands, in other words “the Lion of Judah”. The twelve tribes have also been gathered from all nations and the throne is established in Jerusalem (Rev. 7). From this throne, the Kingdom will then be expanded throughout the world of nations. The seven trumpets that will sound from then on are just as many judgements over the nations; ever increasing in intensity.
the first six trumpets
The first four trumpets (Openb.8) ‘only’ indirectly affect humanity:
- the first trumpet: 1/3 of the vegetation affected;
- The second trumpet: 1/3 of the sea is affected;
- the third trumpet: 1/3 of the rivers and springs are hit;
- Fourth trumpet 1/3 of the celestial space obscured.
However, in the fifth and sixth trumpet (Rev. 9), people are directly affected. During the fifth trumpet, 1/3 of people undergo pain for five months compared to a scorpion bite. But the judgment of the sixth trumpet goes beyond that, because then 1/3 of the people are killed.
The description of what will happen during the blowing of the fifth and sixth trumpets seems partly realistic. This applies to the pain that people undergo during the fifth trumpet, but also to the period in which this will take place. The description of the sixth trumpet is, however violent, partly recognizable. This applies to the designated location from which the disasters will occur (near the Euphrates River) and to the nature of the disasters that people will succumb to: fire, smoke and sulfur.
the ‘grasshoppers’ at the fifth trumpet
But as realistic as the above is, the painting of the ‘locusts’ (at the fifth trumpet) and the ‘horses’ (at the sixth trumpet) is very surrealistic. To start with the ‘locusts’: they come forth from the smoke of a water reservoir from the abyss (: 2,3). I leave this intriguing fact alone here and limit myself to the description of the locusts as such:
- the shape of the locusts resembled horses (: 7);
- on their heads, laurel wreaths like gold (: 7);
- their faces as human faces (7);
- They had hair like the hair of women (; 8);
- Their teeth were like teeth of lions (: 8);
- They had chest harnesses like iron chest harnesses (: 9);
- the sound of their wings was like the sound of many chariot horses (: 9);
- They have tails that look like scorpions and stings in their tails (: 10).
One thing may be clear: these are no ordinary grasshoppers. This is also confirmed by the fact that these locusts have a king over them, who also comes out of the abyss (9:11) while ordinary locusts, also according to the Bible, have no king (Proverbs 30: 27). The remarkable thing is that John speaks of “locusts” while their shape resembles horses and that they also have teeth like lions and tails that resemble those of scorpions but have the faces of humans. What does John see here? Realize that John did not experience a nightmare or an LSD trip here, but got to see a vision from God.
One could get rid of the question by saying that since this is a vision, we should not take such a language literally. But that would be an early conclusion. That John sees these locusts in a vision is correct, and that is also explicitly stated in 9:17. But does it follow that the description is therefore symbolic? You can easily say that, but can you also tell what these symbols mean? Why should we take the five months and the pain literally and not the rest of the description? Just because we cannot yet explain certain phenomena?
Also note that John in his description of the ‘locusts’ tells what he sees and not what it is. John does not recognize the phenomenon and therefore expresses himself in comparisons to which the various things make him think. This is generally important in order to understand the language of a seer. Try to imagine how a person from the first century would describe things when he was allowed to take a look in the twenty-first century. He would see countless things that he cannot identify or name at all. He would have arrived in a magical world, completely unreal! He does not know the term ‘plane’ and could describe it as a giant, glistening, smoke-producing bird. And how would he describe television, radio, electric light, helicopters, rockets, drones, telephones, computers and the internet? Since he does not know all these phenomena and their names, he is therefore forced to use words which those things remind him of, expressed in the language of the time in which he lives.
Now, John has made such a journey and has been moved from the first century to “the day of the Lord” (Rev. 1:10). He has seen things that will be reality at that time. Even readers in 2020 cannot identify the locusts of Revelation 9. In our experience, it is most reminiscent of bio-robots or genetically manipulated beings. But I am hurrying to say that I could also be completely wrong. Because the time of the sixth trumpet is at least another decade away from us. In the meantime, so much can still be discovered but also so much developed. Things that we don’t know yet. It’s not for nothing that the book is called the ‘Apocalypse’ – it describes the time when things that were previously hidden appear.
the ‘horses’ at the sixth trumpet
Just like the ‘locusts’, the ‘horses’ in Revelation 9 seem very unreal to us. Below a brief description:
- The heads of the horses were like the heads of lions
- fire and smoke and sulfur came from their mouths;
- the horses’ license is in their mouths and in their tails;
- Their tails look like snakes with heads which cause injury.
As Johannes does not recognize these ‘horses’, we still do not do so in the year 2020. Although … in one respect the description is now easier for us to understand than for John at the time. Because the remarkable thing is that the danger does not come from those who drive the ‘horses’, but from the ‘horses’ themselves. Traditionally the riders were dangerous in the cavalry. The horses were only used for transport. But in modern warfare that has changed: not the drivers but the vehicles such as tanks, planes and drones are the danger. That is also the case with the ‘horses’ at the sixth trumpet: from their ‘mouths’ comes destructive fire, smoke and sulfur. And the ‘riders’ only control these horses.
Let us not dismiss the language of the ‘Apocalypse’ as symbolism too quickly. John has recorded what he has seen. Specific. Some things can only be understood by the time the prophecies are fulfilled. It is only since a relatively short time that we can understand that the whole world can see “the two witnesses” to be dead for three and a half days in the temple square (11: 9). TV and internet make that possible and are now even self-evident. Also think of the sign on the forehead or on the right hand which makes it possible to buy and sell (Rev. 13). Since the development of computer chips and bio-metric technology, we are aware that this development can become a reality in the foreseeable future. In short, the book “Revelation” is ultra-realistic and confronts us with things that even we, in 2020, are often not ready for!