The Great Throne Visions ~ The Second Cycle ~ The Locusts

Home  /  apocalypse  /  Current Page

The Great Throne Visions ~ The Second Cycle ~ The Locusts

The Great Throne Visions ~ The Second Cycle ~ The LocustsThe Creatures from the Abyss ~ The Significance of Their Appearance.

As the entranced Seer watched, the choking smoke slowly began to clear. Suddenly, before his astonished eyes, a swarm of hellish “locusts” emerged from the Abyss. Fabulously formed, and terrible to behold, they must have stuck a note of terror in the heart of the Prophet. This imagery, which can only be described as nightmarish, has led both the commentators and the illustrators a merry chase.

The locusts have inspired a wide range of illustrations across the centuries. From the calm, composed, classical figures of the Trier Manuscript (C. 500 AD), where very little emotion is displayed, to the violently explosive etchings of Albrecht Dürer (C. 1500 AD), which superseded everything prior to it, the drawings of the Christian artists reflected the beliefs and superstitions of their time. This is especially true of those mediaeval artists who attempted to portray the locusts. Although a few, such as the famous Anjon Tapestry (C. 1370 AD) are absolutely magnificent, the majority are grossly literal and highly unbelievable characterizations.

The St. Sever Apocalypse, the best-known and most complete specimen of the Beatus Cycle (C. 1000-1200 AD), and quite possibly the most famous of all Romanesque manuscripts, depicts the scene of their emerg­ence thusly.

“The screaming locusts, thick tufts of’ hair flopping out of their diadems, display open mouths full of triangular teeth. The poor little trowsered wretches, stung on the head by their scorpions tail, squirm and wriggle, touching their tormented skulls in spasms like the throes of tetanus. Abaddon, who commands the vermin, is a grimacing red-haired, wasp-­waisted, carbuncle-eyed demon, with a loin cloth as sinister as his dirty yellow skin.” The Great Throne Visions ~ The Second Cycle ~ The Locusts

 Because these “locust” possess such an otherworldly strangeness, many of the commentators believe them to be entirely fictitious and imaginary. Does not John constantly use the comparative words “like”, and “as it were”? “Such language cannot be taken literally”, they say, “it must be interpreted metaphorically.”

“Their characteristics are in part taken with fantastic exaggeration from those of natur­al locusts: some of these features are not im­probably derived from mythological fancies pre­served in popular tradition.”

Isbon T. Beckwith goes on to cite an Arab saying, undocumented, to the effect that “the locust has a head like a horse, a breast like a lion, feet like a camel, a body like a serpent, and antennae like the hair of a maiden.” He believes that this “likeness in appearance” between the head of a natural locust and the head of a horse has been exaggerated by John into the fanciful monsters described in the vision.

As the reader can see, the combined imaginings of those who interpret the locust in this manner are capable of rendering the vision meaningless. In order to avoid the quagmire of the metaphorical interpreters and the quicksand of allegory, we need to tread a careful path at this point. This means we must seek the significance of these creatures first of all in the Scriptures.

The Locust from the Abyss: The Roots of Johns Vision

Locust were one of the most dreadful scourges of the East, and they are often pictured as an instrument of Gods anger. In the Scriptures they are always a harbinger of the dark and dreadful Day of the Lord. In Christian symbolism a plague of locusts represents the forces of destruction, “a symbolism that can be traced back to the Hebrew tradition of the plagues of Pharaoh.” This fundamental truth is foundational to any correct interpretation of the vision.

The figures in the vision, as we continually see in the Apocalypse, are lifted from a passage in the Old Testament found in the prophecy of Joel. Rich in apocalyptic imagery and strongly eschatological in tone, the prevailing theme of Joel’s visions is the Day of the Lord.

In Joel’s prophecy a terrible invasion of locusts had just ravaged Judah.

The Great Throne Visions ~ The Second Cycle ~ The Locusts“What the crawling locust left, the swarming locust has eaten; and what the swarming locust left the hopping locust has eaten; and what the hopping locust has left, the stripping locust has eaten.”

 Joel 1:4. The Amplified Bible.

 The scourge was preternaturally frightening, and had never been equaled in the lifetime of Joel’s generation, or in the lifetime of his ancestors. But this plague was only the forerunner of a far greater catastrophe. The locusts were merely a faint symbol of the coming Day of the Lord, the harbingers of an army that is yet to arise and overrun the nation.

The parallels between Joel’s vision and one we are presently analyzing are so numerous that the link cannot be denied.

But there is also an obvious difference. John has completely transform­ed the nature and activity of the locusts. We are not dealing with a terrifying natural disaster, nor are we dealing with the cruel and brutal army of the Assyrians. We have left the “natural” world altogether, and are about to enter the hellish regions of the insane.

 

 

Leave a Reply