“At thy right hand there are pleasures for evermore” (Ps. 16:11)
“And the shapes of the locusts were like unto horses prepared unto battle; and on their heads were as it were crowns like gold, and their faces were as the faces of men. And they had hair as the hair of women, and their teeth were as the teeth of lions. And they had breastplates, as it were breastplates of iron; and the sound of their wings was as the sound of chariots of many horses running to battle. And they had tails like unto scorpions, and there were stings in their tails: and their power was to hurt men five months. And they had a king over them, which is the angel of the bottomless pit, whose name in the Hebrew tongue is Abaddon, but in the Greek tongue hath his name Apollyon. One woe is past; and, behold, there come two woes more hereafter” (Rev. 9:7–12).
So these demonic locust-like creatures were released from the Abyss, but they are not like actual locusts in certain key respects. I take them for demons, released to wreak havoc in the streets of Jerusalem during the last five months of the siege. They are like locusts, but here are some differences. First, the grass, the trees, and every green thing is protected from them. Actual locusts devour the greenery. Second, their macabre appearance indicates intelligence (men’s faces), effeminate transvestitism (women’s hair), apparent invulnerability (iron breastplates), real ferocity (lions’ teeth), and venomous malice (scorpion-like sting in the tail). And third, these had a king (v. 11), and locusts have no king—“The locusts have no king, Yet go they forth all of them by bands” (Prov. 30:27).
The demons imparted their characteristics to the men they came to possess, the demon-possessed tribe of Jerusalem’s defenders. Just as a deaf and dumb spirit results in a deaf and dumb man, and an unclean spirit results in an unclean man, dwelling among the tombs, so also this bizarre demon army created a vile army within the holy city. The demons descended, not upon the green things, and not upon the servants of God who had His mark, but on the men without such a mark.
Here is part of Josephus’ description of what happened then.
“With their insatiable hunger for loot, they ransacked the houses of the wealthy, murdered men and violated women for sport; they drank their spoils with blood, and from mere satiety and shamelessness gave themselves up to effeminate practices, plaiting their hair and putting on women’s clothes, drenched themselves with perfumes and painting their eyelids to make themselves attractive. They copied not merely the dress, but also the passions of women, devising in their excess of licentiousness unlawful pleasures in which they wallowed as in a brothel. Thus they entirely polluted the city with their foul practices. Yet though they wore women’s faces, their hands were murderous. They would approach with mincing steps, then suddenly become fighting men, and, whipping out their swords from under their dyed cloaks, they would run through every passerby” (Wars 4.9.10).
Their authority could be flexed, and was, but it was a spurious authority. They wore crowns, but the crowns were not genuine gold, but were rather were something that just looked like gold. This passage is the only one in Revelation where the word stephanos, the word for crown, is used for the ungodly.
All of this is beyond horrific, and it still just the first woe.