out of the smoke locusts came upon the earth
As the smoke arose, other creatures arose with it. They are said to be locusts. We encounter another similarity between the judgments sent upon the earth dwellers in the Tribulation and the plagues of Egypt (Ex. Ex. 10:12-15). Unlike the locusts which descended upon Egypt, these locusts are not allowed to harm the grass of the earth, or any green thing, or any tree (Rev. Rev. 9:4+). Since the bottomless pit was previously locked and is evidently of a great temperature, natural locusts would neither find entry nor be able to survive in the pit. But these are not normal locusts, as other factors in this passage make plain.
Isaiah describes a noise of tumult at which the people shall fleein response to the Lord rousing Himself. His plunder is said to be As the running to and fro of locusts, He shall run upon them [emphasis added] (Isa. Isa. 33:4). Notice that the judgment of the people, compared to the ravaging of locusts, is said to be the work of God. In the same way in which a natural locust plague is under the control of Gods sovereign will (Joel Joel 2:25), so too is this demonic horde of locusts. Joel also saw this end-time locust-like army of the Lord.1
The earth quakes before them, the heavens tremble; the sun and moon grow dark, and the stars diminish their brightness. The LORD gives voice before His army, for His camp is very great; for strong is the One who executes His word. For the day of the LORD is great and very terrible; who can endure it? (Joel Joel 2:10-11) [emphasis added]
Now in this second chapter, Joel is going to give a blending of the plague of locusts together with the threat of the Assyrian army and then look down the avenue of time into the future and the Day of the Lord. Of course the liberal theologian would say this refers simply to the locust plague and the local situation. He would like to dismiss a great deal of meaning from the Word of God. The other extreme view is to say this refers only to the Great Tribulation Period. I think we need to see that in Joel there is a marvelous blending. He moves right out of the locust plague to the Day of the Lord which is way out yonder in the future.2
The prophet adopts the vantage point of the ultimate day of the Lord, and from that position he looks back to the present locust plague.3The Day of the Lord (Joel Joel 1:15-Joel 2:11) and eventually gives way to the judgment of the nations (Joel Joel 3:1-17). Then the blessings of the Messianic Kingdom (Joel Joel 3:18-21). This matches the order of events in the book of Revelation. The demonic plagues of this chapter are the first of these three stages.
It is therefore with diffidence that we suggest, without being dogmatic, that they are, most likely, fallen angels now imprisoned in Tartarus. . . . these infernal locusts issue from the well of the Pit, an expression occurring nowhere else in Scripture, and only the locusts are said to come from there. So also the term Tartarus is found nowhere but in 2Pe. 2Pe. 2:4. It seems likely, then, that the well of the Pit may be only another name for Tartarus (with which only fallen angels are connected), just as the Lake of Fire is only another name for Gehenna. . . . 2Pe. 2Pe. 2:4 simply says [fallen angels] are reserved unto judgment, and we believe this means that God is holding them in Tartarus until His time comes for Him to use them as one of His instruments of judgment upon an ungodly world. The time when God will thus use them is stated in Jude Jude 1:6 - it will be in the judgment of the great day (compare Rev. Rev. 6:17+ for the great day. Confirmatory of this, observe that in Joel Joel 2:11 the Lord calls the supernatural locusts His army, then employed to inflict sore punishments on apostate Israel.5to them was given power
as the scorpions of the earth have power
Here is another hint that these are not normal locusts because they are given power as the scorpions of the earth. This phrase implies not only that these are not scorpions (being locusts), but that neither are they of the earth. Their origin is not of the earth. Originally, they were angels of heaven, but chose to follow Satan in his rebellion, and eventually committed the serious offense which led to their confinement. Now, they are of the abyss (Rev. Rev. 9:11+). Their similarity with earthly scorpions is found in their ability to inflict a painful sting (Rev. Rev. 9:5-6+). Jesus mentioned serpents and scorpions as representative of the power of the enemy (Luke Luke 10:19).
1 How different is the identification of Joels army when related passages of Scripture are allowed to speak than that which is often promoted by those who hold to dominion theology who frequently identify Joels army as the Church!
4 A. R. Fausset, The Revelation of St. John the Divine, in Robert Jamieson, A. R. Fausset, and David Brown, A Commentary, Critical and Explanatory, on the Old and New Testaments (Oak Harbor, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc., 1997, 1877), Joel 2:4.