John is describing an attack by evil spirits upon the people of this world. He gives three different descriptions of those evil forces.
Firstly, in verses 3-4, they are like the insects called locusts. That is, they come in vast numbers to carry out their attack.
However, locusts do not hurt people. So, in verse 5, John compares them to the small animal called the scorpion. Scorpions have poison in their tails, and they can use that poison to hurt people.
Some kinds of scorpion can cause very severe pain when they attack. The poison can affect the heart and can make it difficult for the person to breathe. For a time, the person may lose control over every part of his body. However, adults do not often die as a result.
Scorpions do not usually attack people on purpose, except to defend themselves. Perhaps that is why John gives a third description of these evil forces; they are like horses (verse 7). Horses were the main animal that armies used in battles. They are bold, strong animals.
So, people will suffer very much when this attack happens. However, we may ask whether their pain will be in their bodies, or merely in their minds. John has given a powerful description of the pain, but possibly he could intend it as a word-picture for mental strain.
The likely answer is that the pain will affect not just the mind, but also the body. In the Bible, evil spirits affected mainly a personís mind and spirit (for example Mark 5:2-4). However, the result was often severe pain for the personís body (Mark 5:5).
Certainly, this attack will be very terrible (9:6). Only the people who have trusted God to save them will be safe from these evil spirits (verse 4).
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© 2016, Keith Simons.