Making Sense of the Tormenting Locust in Revelation 9

cri-blog-hanegraaff-hank-rev-9-6-locust“During those days men will seek death, but will not find it; they will long to die, but death will elude them (Rev. 9:6)”1

After the fifth trumpet blows there is five months were these locust creatures are tormenting people and the people cannot die (Rev. 9:1-12). Can these people die like if somebody shot them? Is it just because of the locusts? What happens to believers can they die? 

What’s really important when you get to apocalyptic language is that you learn to read apocalyptic language in the sense in which it is intended; otherwise you end up with all kinds of nonsense. This is a way of speaking and it’s very familiar to people who read through the Old Testament. It’s a familiar way of talking about how horrible judgment is going to be when apostate Israel is judged. This judgment is going to be horrendous.

The way of talking about how horrible is to say that death would be preferable to life in this kind of condition. Again, you have this kind of language used by Jeremiah, who prophesied, “Wherever I banish them, all the survivors of this evil nation will prefer death to life, declares the Lord Almighty” (Jer. 8:3). So it’s familiar language

What is so important when you get to the Book of Revelation is this: Once you go down the path of trying to take apocalyptic judgment language and read literal meanings into it you are going to end up like Tim LaHaye or Hal Lindsey. For example, Lindsey thinks Revelation14:20 tells us that “so many people will be slaughtered in the conflict that blood will stand to the horses’ bridles for a total distance of 200 miles northward and southward of Jerusalem.”2 There isn’t that much blood on the face of the earth. Now a lot people realize the force of that but they want to take this literally. LaHaye’s solution is to say, “Hailstones weighing ‘a talent [ca. 100 pounds]’ will fall from heaven (Rev. 16:21) which, with the blood of this massive army, will create a river of blood that reaches up to the horses’ bridles.”3 You know this again is failing to recognize that this is a judgment metaphor.

Interestingly enough, by the way, if you read first century extrabiblical literature, you will find it is a common judgment metaphor, such that when we say, “It’s raining cats and dogs,” that is just as common today as the judgment metaphor as the blood to the horses’ bridle was in the first century. For example, 1 Enoch 100:3 states, “The horse shall walk through the blood of sinners up to his chest; and the chariot shall sink down up to its top.”

Here is the point: This is going to be horrible time of judgment when people will want death but death will elude them. In other words, life is so traumatically painful, and judgment so severe that the idea of death seems more palatable than continuing in this existence.

—Hank Hanegraaff

For further related study, please see the following:

Was Revelation Written Before or After the Destruction of the Temple in AD 70? (Hank Hanegraaff)

What Does it Mean to Interpret the Bible Literally? (Hank Hanegraaff)

Who are the 144,000 of Revelation? (Hank Hanegraaff)

Who are the two witnesses of Revelation? (Hank Hanegraaff)

Who is the Antichrist? (Hank Hanegraaff)

What is the Meaning of 666? (Hank Hanegraaff)

Is the Mark of the Beast a Microchip? (Hank Hanegraaff)

Who or What is the Great Prostitute of Revelation 17? (Hank Hanegraaff)

Who Wrote Revelation? (Hank Hanegraaff)

Apocalypse When? Why Most End-time Teaching Is Dead Wrong. (Hank Hanegraaff)

The Perils of Newspaper Eschatology (Elliot Miller)


  1. All Scripture cited from The Holy Bible: New International Version (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1984), unless noted.
  2. Hal Lindsey, The Late Great Planet Earth (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1970), 165-166.
  3. Tim LaHaye, ed. Time LaHaye Prophecy Study Bible (Chattanooga, TN: AMG Publishers, 2000), 1040.

* Blog adapted from “What are the locusts in Revelation and why can’t those who are bitten by them die?