A Guide to Revelation

+ Larger Font | - Smaller Font

The Creation Concept


On the chiastic structure of Revelation


Joel's locusts

Joel's prophecy about the devastating locust plague must have some connection with the church, because the apostle Peter referred to Joel's prophecies on the day of Pentecost, on the day that the disciples received the holy Spirit. I think these locusts can be understood as a description of the church, which is scattered among thousands of denominations and sects. The time specified by Joel is in the day of the Lord.

Joel said the locusts appear like horses, [Joel 2:4] and in Psa. 32:9, horses are compared with people who have no understanding. "Be ye not as the horse, or as the mule, which have no understanding: whose mouth must be held in with bit and bridle, lest they come near unto thee." Or, in Jer. 5:8, people who are carnally minded are also compared with horses: "They were as fed horses in the morning: every one neighed after his neighbour's wife." These scriptures provide an interpretation of the symbol of horses in several prophecies, and especially Joel 2:4, where locusts appear like horses.

Many lack understanding, and may also exhibit the other characteristic of horses that was mentioned by Jeremiah, and so they fit Joel's prophecy of the great locust plague that occurs in the day of the Lord. [Joel 2:1]

When the Israelites came out of Egypt, after they received the law at Sinai, Moses sent out twelve spies to survey the promised land they were to inherit. They all reported that it was a fruitful land, but ten of the spies said that there were giants living there, who were so big, they seemed like grasshoppers in comparison! [Numb. 13:27-33]

Num. 13:33
And there we saw the giants, the sons of Anak, which come of the giants: and we were in our own sight as grasshoppers, and so we were in their sight.

Because the Israelites were afraid to enter the promised land, after hearing the report of the spies, they were doomed to wander in the wilderness for the rest of their lives. They did not enter the promised land until that entire generation had died in the desert. Of those who came out of Egypt, only those under 20 years old, and Joshua and Caleb, who were men of faith, entered the land of promise.

In the prophecy of Rev. 12, the woman, who represents the church, flees to the wilderness, where she is nourished for 1,260 days, and for "a time, times and a half," which are both symbolic of the entire age of the church. Paul showed, in his letter to the Corinthians, that the experience of the Israelites was an example for the church. He wrote:

1 Cor. 10:1-6
1 Moreover, brethren, I would not that ye should be ignorant, how that all our fathers were under the cloud, and all passed through the sea;
2 And were all baptized unto Moses in the cloud and in the sea;
3 And did all eat the same spiritual meat;
4 And did all drink the same spiritual drink: for they drank of that spiritual Rock that followed them: and that Rock was Christ.
5 But with many of them God was not well pleased: for they were overthrown in the wilderness.
6 Now these things were our examples, to the intent we should not lust after evil things, as they also lusted.

I suppose many Christians today consider themselves to be mere "grasshoppers" in comparison to their teachers and leaders, who founded the various denominations and sects, and compared to the interpreters of prophecy who they follow, and who they regard as spiritual "giants." They forget that Jesus promises us his holy Spirit!

The experience of the Israelites in the wilderness provides several figures for the benefit of the church, as Paul showed. In Rev. 12:6 the church is depicted as a woman who flees to the wilderness.

The prophet Joel foretold the desolate state of the church, which he compared to the locust plague, as the Israelites under Moses had identified themselves as locusts, and so that theme is applied to Christians, in both the Old and New Testaments.

Paul warned about lusting after evil things, fornication, tempting Christ, and murmuring or complaining, which brought God's wrath upon the Israelites. The author of Hebrews also mentions their disbelief.

Heb. 3:15-18
15 While it is said, To day if ye will hear his voice, harden not your hearts, as in the provocation.
16 For some, when they had heard, did provoke: howbeit not all that came out of Egypt by Moses.
17 But with whom was he grieved forty years? was it not with them that had sinned, whose carcases fell in the wilderness?
18 And to whom sware he that they should not enter into his rest, but to them that believed not?

Misguided locusts are described in Rev. 9:1-11 as a great "woe" or plague in the earth, as Christians who lack faith in God certainly are, and have been throughout the history of the church.

Locusts in Joel and Revelation 9 compared

The locusts of the prophecy of Joel, which are portrayed as a destructive plague, are mentioned in Joel 1:4; 2:5-7,25. In the New Testament, a corresponding prophecy about locusts is Rev. 9:1-11, and they are called a great "woe."

There are many parallels between Joel's prophecy, and the prophecy of the blowing of the 7 trumpets in Revelation 8 and 9.

Joel's prophecy includes several calls for repentance, in Joel 1:5,13,14; 2:12-17. John's statement that men did not repent as a result of the previous six trumpet plagues, Rev. 9:20-21, seems to imply that the plagues must represent the unsuccessful efforts by some to bring others to repentance.

Joel's prophecy speaks of the destruction of vegetation, in Joel 1:7,10-12; 2:3. The destruction of trees and green grass is connected with the first trumpet, Rev. 8:7.

The vegetation that is destroyed is symbolic; it is the pasture of the sheep; representing the spiritual food of the people of God.

Joel's prophecy declares the nearness of the day of the Lord in Joel 1:15; 2:1,11,31; 3:14. This corresponds to the day of God's wrath, mentioned in Rev. 6:17.

Joel speaks of a devouring fire in Joel 1:19-20; 2:3,5,30. We also find a fire mentioned in Rev. 8:7-8. Jeremiah said, "Is not my word like as a fire? saith the LORD" [Jer. 23:29]

Joel refers to the blowing of trumpets; Joel 2:1,15. Trumpets are mentioned in Rev. chapters 8 & 9 repeatedly.

Darkness, clouds, and gloom are described in Joel 2:2,10,31; 3:15; darkness is also mentioned in Rev. 8:12; and 9:2.

Joel's locusts are compared to horses, Joel 2:4,5,7. Locusts that are like horses are described in Rev. 9:7-11; 9:16-19. Horses represent people with no understanding, Psa. 32:9.

Joel refers to people leaping upon mountains, and the sound of fire consuming stubble, Joel 2:5. A burning mountain is mentioned in Rev. 8:8. Jer. 51:25 indicates the burning mountain represents Babylon.

People in anguish or pain are described in Joel 2:6; people suffering anguish are also pictured in Rev. 9:5-6.

The sanctuary, and altar are mentioned in Joel 2:17; they are also mentioned in Rev. 8:3-5; 9:13-14.

Heavenly signs, the sun becoming dark, and the moon turning to blood, are described in Joel 2:30-31; 3:15. Similar heavenly signs are mentioned in Rev. 8:12. The stars represent the saints; the sun represents the gospel. (The sun clothes the woman in heaven in Rev. 12:1.) The sun turning black pictures the gospel message being obscured, and perverted, and turned to darkness.

Blood and fire are mentioned in Joel 2:30-31. Blood and fire are mentioned in Rev. 8:7-9. God's word is like fire, but it has become as unappetizing to people, as blood. [The promotion of literal interpretations is one of the reasons for this, IMO.]

Joel speaks of God's judgment at the valley of Jehoshaphat, in Joel 3:2,12. God's judgment is also the theme of John's prophecy of the 7 trumpets.

God's Kingdom is established in Joel 3:18,21, and God's Kingdom is established in Rev. 11:15-18.

A desolate church

Joel 2:17 says the reproach of God's heritage is that the heathen rule over them.

In Rev. 11:1-2, John shows the same thing. John was given a reed like a rod, to measure the temple; the court outside was to be left out, as it was given to the Gentiles, who trample the holy city underfoot.

Here, John's imagery depicts the saints as the temple itself, and the holy city. They are those who are circumcised in heart, spiritual Israel; while those who occupy the outer court are Gentiles spiritually.

Chapters 1 and 2:1-11 of Joel's prophecy describe the effects of the locust plague, which corresponds to the church in the modern age, the day of the Lord. [Joel 2:1,11] It is called a great and strong people, unique in history [Joel 2:2].

Several things in Joel's prophecy indicate the sorry state of the church at this period in its history. It is a time of darkness, clouds, and gloom [Joel 2:2,10,31; 3:15]; the harvest is perished [Joel 1:11]; beasts groan, as there is no pasture [Joel 1:18,20]; fruit trees are withered [Joel 1:12]; joy and gladness are lacking [Joel 1:12,16]; meat is cut off [Joel 1:16]; the seed becomes rotten under the clods, corn is withered, barns are broken down [Joel 1:17]; the trees are burned [Joel 1:19]; the rivers of waters are dried up [Joel 1:20].

All of these have a spiritual significance for the church. The "harvest" represents people believing the gospel and coming into the church, which has dwindled to few; the beasts groaning for lack of pasture refers to the lack of spiritual nourishment for the sheep of Christ's flock; fruit trees that are withered represents the lack of the fruits of the Spirit among Christians; seed rotting under the clods means the word of God is not believed by the people who hear it; rivers of water having dried up pictures the true gospel not going out to the world, as it should.

In Rev. 8-11 the events corresponding to this are included in the trumpet plagues. In Rev. 11:2, the Gentiles trample the holy city, and the miserable conditions described by Joel develop.

The two witnesses, the Spirit and the Word of God, are eventually killed, and their corpses are left unburied in the street. [Rev. 11:8] The great city, which John calls Sodom and Egypt, does not refer to Jerusalem, but mystical Babylon, or the world. Jesus was crucified outside Jerusalem [Heb. 13:12].

The great promise to the church in Rev. 11:11 is that these two witnesses will revive. This is evident in Joel's prophecy too. Joel calls for repentance.

Joel 2:12-13
Therefore also now, saith the LORD, turn ye even to me with all your heart, and with fasting, and with weeping, and with mourning:
And rend your heart, and not your garments, and turn unto the LORD your God: for he is gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and of great kindness, and repenteth him of the evil.

The blessing promised to the church corresponds to events described in the last part of chapter 2. The flourishing economy pictured here is a metaphor for spiritual blessings if we heed the message of the prophet Joel. The years that the locust has eaten are restored, and the great army is removed. [Joel 2:25]

Copyright © 2010, 2011, 2013 by Douglas E. Cox
All Rights Reserved.