An attack by locusts is one of the most severe problems that farmers ever have to deal with.
Locusts are insects that gather into vast groups. At first sight, they appear like great clouds of smoke. Then the insects land in great numbers on the plants. They eat up all the leaves on every kind of plant. They destroy all the crops. They do this across a vast area. Frequently, whole regions and whole countries suffer from these terrible attacks (see Exodus 10:13-15). The result often is that people starve. Joel 1:2-12 describes such an attack.
In Joel, the attack by locusts is a word-picture for an attack by an enemy army. Here in Revelation, it seems to describe something even worse. This attack comes from hell itself (verse 2); it seems to be an attack by evil spirits upon the people on earth. Unlike locusts, these spirits attack people, and not plants. God does not permit these spirits to kill anyone (verse 5); instead, they cause people to suffer terribly.
At the time of these terrible troubles, God will separate his people from the people who do not serve him (see Revelation 7:3-4). That happened at the time of Moses, during the plagues (terrible troubles) that affected Egypt (for example, Exodus 9:26). God protected his people so that they did not suffer those troubles.
Usually, of course, God does not protect his people from the troubles that affect people generally. So when he does, that should give an important message to other people. God is warning that there is a real difference between his people and other people. He knows his own people and he is able to defend them. He is more powerful than any trouble that is in this world. Not even the worst spirits in hell can stop Godís love for his people (Romans 8:38-39).
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© 2016, Keith Simons.