Bible Study With Jairus – Revelation 9
God’s Great Love for the Lost, Hidden Within the End-Times Plagues
As God unveils the fifth and sixth trumpet judgments in Revelation 9, the plagues are becoming increasingly serious. In the fifth trumpet judgment, locusts torment people on Earth for five months. The pain is so severe that people wish for death, yet death flees from them. In the sixth trumpet judgment, after the angels are released from the River Euphrates, they kill a third of the human race. But people still do not repent of their idolatry and other sins.
Anyone in their right mind would feel that these plagues were very cruel, and may even wonder why God is so “cruel.” But in fact, hidden within these disasters is God’s great love for the lost. Jesus said that the Father loves us just as a shepherd loves his sheep. “What man of you, having a hundred sheep, if he has lost one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the open country, and go after the one that is lost, until he finds it? And when he has found it, he lays it on his shoulders, rejoicing. And when he comes home, he calls together his friends and his neighbors, saying to them, ‘Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep that was lost” (Luke 15:3-6). Jesus said, “Just so, I tell you, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance” (15:7).
The purpose of these judgments is to get the attention of sinners! Many people repent and come to know the Lord as a result of hard times. Revelation 9:20-21 indicates that God’s purpose in sending the judgment was that people would repent. Therefore, we need to look at the trumpet judgments from the perspective of love. God wanted to wake up sinners, show them their sins, and help the lost sheep return home. This is why he hits them so hard. He spares no effort to get their attention, hoping his lost sheep will return to their heavenly home.
The Angel’s Trumpet Brings the Jews Back to the Fold
Currently, most Jews do not trust in Jesus. Their eyes are not open to Jesus as their Messiah, and they have fallen into sin and worldliness. But the Bible promises that in the last days, His chosen people will return to Him from all four corners of the earth. In Matthew 24, when speaking to a Jewish audience about the end times, Jesus said the sun would be darkened, the moon would not give its light, the stars would fall from heaven, and the powers of the heavens would be “shaken” (24:29). These are the same disasters described in the fourth trumpet judgment (Revelation 8:12). In Matthew 24:31, Jesus goes on to say, “He will send out his angels with a loud trumpet call, and they will gather his elect from the four winds, from one end of the heaven to the other.”
After the trumpet is sounded, will God’s chosen people return all at once? Or will the Israelites, who have been scattered all over the world, return gradually to God? I believe that this will be a gradual process.
No one wants to leave their native land, and people have a strong sense of loyalty to their birthplace. I grew up in China, and Chinese people have a strong sense of locality. Many Chinese people would rather die than leave their hometown. In the same way, the Israelites have gotten used to living far from the Promised Land, and are unwilling to leave the places where they live. During World War II, the tragic and brutal suffering that the Jews endured nonetheless motivated many Jews to return to the Land of Israel. In the last days, the final return of the remaining remnant of Israel may take place under similar circumstances during the seventh trumpet judgment. Between the sixth and seventh trumpet judgments, we read about a vision in which many Jews were sealed. Then the seventh trumpet judgment takes place. The plagues’ increasing intensity forces the scattered Jews to leave their temporary homes and return to Israel. This is the work of God’s hand. I believe these disasters motivate the Jews to continue to return. They also motivate the lost sheep of the Gentiles to repent.
My eldest aunt lives in a village near my home. The village lies next to a river, so it has a long sandy beach. Sandy soil is perfect for growing peanuts. During harvest, it was impossible to harvest every last peanut. Some peanuts remained in the sandy soil, and others were accidentally dropped on the sand. People in the neighboring villages who did not have the conditions to grow peanuts would arrive to gather the leftover peanuts after the owner had already finished harvesting. Because the owners had already finished their harvest, they did not care about the remaining peanuts. Meanwhile, as the gleaners dug through the sand to harvest the remaining peanuts, they helped plow and aerate the soil. This benefited the farmers, and they were happy for the gleaners’ help. When I was young, I went there with my aunt and some others to gather peanuts. The countless people on the river beach looked like a swarm of locusts. Each of them took a shovel and a bag, turned over a shovelful of sandy soil, and picked up the peanuts left behind on the beach. After a day’s work, my aunt and I filled a large bag with peanuts. I still remember this scene vividly.
I believe the fifth plague is a “gleaning” like I described above. The firstfruits have already been harvested (sealed Jews and a large number of saved Gentiles). However, in God’s love and mercy, he continues to search for the remaining unbelievers. He gathers those who are still left behind. These locusts from the bottomless pit—whether they are evil spirits or fallen angels—are instruments in God’s hands to bring in the harvest. We cannot look at the book of Revelation simply from the perspective of punishment and disaster; we must look at Revelation from the perspective of harvest.
Chapter 13 of Matthew specifically says, “The harvest is the end of the age, and the reapers are angels” (13:39). Perhaps the reapers are not only the good angels, but also the evil “locusts” of the fifth trumpet judgment. Because all things work together for good for those who love God (Romans 8:28), God could even use evil angels to accomplish his purposes. The plague of “locusts” will continue God’s harvest and bring back the remaining lost sheep of Israel, as well as the lost sheep of the Gentile nations.
God Continues to Harvest After Revelation 10
Since locusts are used for God’s harvest, the purpose of their painful stings is to motivate people to seek God and repent of their sins. Though this purpose is not explicitly mentioned in this plague, it is mentioned during another plague in this chapter. During the plague of the horseman, God specifically says that “the rest of mankind, who were not killed by these plagues, did not repent of the works of their hands nor give up worshiping demons and idols of gold and silver and bronze and stone and wood, which cannot see or hear or walk, nor did they repent of their murders or their sorceries or their sexual immorality or their thefts” (9:20-21). God wants to save those who have not yet repented. He hopes that his severe judgment and discipline will motivate them to return to him in repentance. For this reason, his judgment continues to increase in intensity.
At the beginning of chapter 9, the Bible says, “The first woe has passed; behold, two woes are still to come” (9:12). The first woe refers to the fifth trumpet. The locusts will torment men for five months, and men will seek death and not find it. The other two plagues refer to the sixth trumpet, in which a horseman killed one-third of mankind, and the seventh trumpet, which unlocks the seven bowls. Between the sixth and seventh trumpets, God gives John a vision to encourage His people (10:1-6). At the beginning of the seventh trumpet, the mystery of God will be fulfilled (10:7). This mystery is the gospel that God announced to His servants the prophets (10:7). This gospel is that Jesus Christ will become the salvation of mankind and bring about the restoration of all things. John is given a small scroll and a prophecy (10:11) and he measures the temple (11:1-2). Then two witnesses rise up and fight the beast that rises up from the bottomless pit, and the beast conquers and killed them. But God raises them up, and this resurrection demonstrates the truth and the power of God. In addition, the earthquake kills 7,000 people, and “the rest were terrified, and gave glory to the God of heaven” (11:3-13). Through these events, God continues to harvest souls for his heavenly kingdom. The earthquake is the second woe, and the third woe is coming soon (11:14). A voice from heaven says, “The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of His Christ, and He shall reign forever and ever” (11:15). Why? The woman in Revelation 12 is about to give birth to a male child. The male child typifies the overcomers, who are the body and bride of Christ. It is God’s will for believers to become His bride. So the male child is caught up to God and to His throne (12:6), and the devil and his angels are cast down from heaven (12:9). This is the prelude to the plagues of the last three and a half years of the tribulation. This is the turning point of Revelation. Harvest and judgment are two themes that run through the book of Revelation. God’s work in the book of Revelation is a process of continuous harvest and judgment, and the purpose of judgment is to harvest more souls.
Are the Locusts and Horsemen Really Locusts and Horsemen or Evil Spirits?
We know that Revelation is full of pictorial symbols and eschatological types. This raises a valid question: Are these locusts and horsemen really locusts and horsemen, or do they represent evil spirits? These locusts are certainly not ordinary locusts, because they are not allowed to harm grass, green things, or trees of any kind, but only those who do not have the seal of God on their foreheads (9:4). They are not like the locusts we see on earth. Instead, they are unique locusts that come up from the bottomless pit during this plague. And the horses in this passage are not ordinary horses, either. They have power in their mouths and tails; their tails are like serpents with heads; their tails can inflict wounds (9:19). Even if these are real horses with human riders, they are certainly not normal horses and normal humans.
This reminds me of the contest between Yahweh and the false Egyptian gods and between Moses and the magicians. When Moses led the Israelites out of Egypt, Aaron’s rod turned into a snake. The magicians could also turn their rods into snakes, but Aaron’s rod swallowed their rods. Just like the contest between the snakes represented the contest between God and the false gods, these locusts may represent evil spirits fighting against God. The red dragon in Revelation 12 and the two beasts in Chapter 13 represent a similar contest between Satan and God. I personally believe that the locusts and the horses are not ordinary locusts and horses, and the horsemen are not necessarily human. I don’t rule out the possibility that the horsemen are human beings, but I know for sure that they are not ordinary people.
As we work to understand these symbolic images, we must have a supernatural perspective. As the end times approach, both righteous and evil people on earth will draw on the supernatural power of their deity, either God or Satan, to give them strength to fight their enemies. Even though this may seem fantastical, we must believe it by faith. Although we did not personally witness Aaron’s rod turn into a snake and swallow the snakes that the Egyptian magicians’ rods turned into, we still believe that the biblical record is correct. Similarly, in the last days, believers will gain supernatural powers, and the wicked will also gain supernatural powers. The two witnesses in Revelation 11, and the male child in Chapter 12 who is caught up to God and to His throne to rule all the nations with a rod of iron, both have supernatural powers. The two witnesses even have the authority to shut up the sky so that no rain may fall. They also have power over the waters, to turn them into blood, and to strike the earth with every kind of plague (Revelation 11:6). The mention of turning water into blood reminds us again of the ten plagues in Exodus.
The events of Revelation must be understood through the lens of the supernatural. The things that happen in Revelation are things we have never seen before. We will only truly understand them when they happen in the future. We should not make assumptions based on our present understanding. We should not conclude that the 200 million horsemen represent China just because China is in the east and has a large population. Many Bible scholars in history have said this, but I think this is incorrect. God is raising up a great revival work in China. God has revealed to me on many occasions that China’s revival and evangelization will have a huge impact on the world. I firmly believe that China will become a Christian country full of sheep, not goats. If this happens, China will not become the birthplace of the 200 million future horsemen.
God’s Principles of Dealing with Man
We cannot fully understand the many things that will happen in the future. But this does not keep us from understanding God’s principles of dealing with mankind which are revealed through these events. If we recall how God dealt with Pharaoh, we see an important principle: God hardened Pharaoh’s heart so he could multiply His signs and wonders (Exodus 7:3), so that His power would be manifested, and so His name would be proclaimed in all the earth (9:16). This principle also appears in Revelation 9. Despite seeing God’s powerful and devastating signs, the people are still hard-hearted and refuse to repent. Why is this? Because even though God has judged the evil spirits in their lives, they have not received Jesus’s Holy Spirit to replace the evil in their hearts. As a result, they are filled with even worse evil spirits.
The Lord Jesus Himself gave a good example to illustrate this principle. The Lord Jesus told a story in Matthew 12. He said, “When the unclean spirit has gone out of a person, it passes through waterless places seeking rest, but finds none. Then it says, ‘I will return to my house from which I came.’ And when it comes, it finds the house empty, swept, and put in order. Then it goes and brings with it seven other spirits more evil than itself, and they enter and dwell there, and the last state of that person is worse than the first. So also will it be with this evil generation”(Matthew 12:45).
When we were studying Deliverance Ministries, our teachers often told us that if a person is not willing to accept Jesus Christ as Lord, it is best not to carry out deliverance on him. If we temporarily drive out evil spirits from a person who is not filled with Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit, the spirits may return. I have personally witnessed some people accepting Jesus Christ and repenting of their sins when they received deliverance, and when we prayed for them to be filled with the Holy Spirit, we could actually see the spirits coming out of them. The first time I saw a spirit cast out of a sister in Christ, I was amazed. She kept coughing, and then we prayed for the Holy Spirit to fill her, and she was eventually filled with the Holy Spirit and fell to the ground.
The plagues in the book of Revelation are like a large-scale deliverance. God is judging evil spirits and demons through the various plagues, and judging those who to a certain degree are possessed by these evil spirits and demons. His purpose is that they would repent of their sins and accept the salvation of Jesus Christ and the filling of the Holy Spirit. If men repent of their sins and accept salvation, demons will be cast out of them permanently. If they refuse to repent, the demons will return, bringing worse spirits with them.
This principle reveals how God works in people’s hearts, and how He deals with evil spirits. Is God the one who is sending worse evil spirits to torment people? Or is it men’s unrepentance that is providing opportunities for evil spirits to torment them even more? God is good (Mark 10:18), and God does not tempt (James 1:13). It is man’s lack of repentance that is making things worse. Now we can better understand why the Lord said that He hardened Pharaoh’s heart. It’s not just that God hardened Pharaoh’s heart. If Pharaoh had repented, God’s mercy would have fallen upon him. But when Pharaoh refused to repent, it brought an even harsher judgment from God. This is the same principle at work in the judgment of the last days.