Today’s reading: Revelation 9
In today’s reading, we see some of the plagues and punishments released on the world. The firth trumpet blows and the fiery pit is open. In reading, the chapter we are given fantastic descriptions of the “locusts” that spread across the earth. What are these fantastic creatures? I think it is fair to infer that they are armies. I would argue that they represent both ancient and modern armies.
The most important clue is the text as to what these locusts are is that we are told:
They have as king over them the angel of the bottomless pit; his name in Hebrew is Abad′don, and in Greek he is called Apol′lyon. Revelation 9:11
It turns out that the 15th Roman legion was called Apollinaris. It was first formed in 41/40 BC and is known to have fought in first Jewish revolt from AD 66-73. They had as their emblem the pagan god Apollo. The appearance of the locusts are described as, “horses ready for battle” and their armor is described as similar to the armor of Roman soldiers. During the Jewish revolt, Jerusalem was surrounded and put under siege. The fire and smoke described in the chapter sound very much like Roman siege weapons. Thus, I think this chapter can be fairly attributed to the events of the Jewish revolt.
One specific verse also makes me think that the chapter also describes modern armies. The verse is:
For the power of the horses is in their mouths and in their tails; their tails are like serpents, with heads that inflict harm. Revelation 9:19
Obviously, modern armies will not be riding on literal horses, so what can this be? What has power both at the front end and the back end? To me, this sounds like a missile. The back end has the rocket engine that projects a tongue of fire that narrows to a point and leaves behind a twisting tail of smoke. The exhaust from a rocket could fairly be described as a “serpent”. The front of the missile carries the warhead, obviously designed to inflict harm. Thus, I see here an allusion to modern armies and a great future war.
Finally, there is a key passage that corresponds to some of the events of the great Jewish revolt and the sacrament of Confirmation. During the war, there was a power struggle back in Rome. The Roman general in command of the 15th was vying to become emperor. As the situation played out he felt he needed more troops and he ordered the army to abandon the siege of Jerusalem and return to Rome. When the army left, the Christians realized that these events were prophesied by the Lord and they took the opportunity to leave the city. Just then, the power struggle in Rome was won and the general, now emperor, ordered the legion to turn back around and resume the siege. They did so and ended up starving the city into surrender and sacking it. Only the Christians made it out because they left when they had the chance. Now notice what this passage says:
Then from the smoke came locusts on the earth, and they were given power like the power of scorpions of the earth; they were told not to harm the grass of the earth or any green growth or any tree, but only those of mankind who have not the seal of God upon their foreheads… Revelation 9:3-4
As Catholics, we know that initiation into Christianity comes with baptism and confirmation. This is clearly seen in Acts 8:
Now when the apostles at Jerusalem heard that Samar′ia had received the word of God, they sent to them Peter and John, who came down and prayed for them that they might receive the Holy Spirit; for it had not yet fallen on any of them, but they had only been baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. Then they laid their hands on them and they received the Holy Spirit. Acts 8:14-17
So in Acts 8, we see the Apostles laying hands on recent converts and sealing them with the Holy Spirit. To this day Bishops say, “Be sealed with the Gift of the Holy Spirit” when conferring Confirmation onto people. Here, we see that it is that seal which prevents the “locusts” from including the Christians in the destruction.
Tomorrow: Revelation 10