men will seek death
They will be gripped with incredible fear (Luke Luke 23:30; Rev. Rev. 6:16+), experience intense pain (Joel Joel 2:6), and wish to die (Jonah Jonah 4:8). Job described the anguish of those who suffer and long for death:
Why is light given to him who is in misery, and life to the bitter of soul, who long for death, but it does not come, and search for it more than hidden treasures; who rejoice exceedingly, and are glad when they can find the grave? (Job Job 3:20-22)
So that my soul chooses strangling And death rather than my body. I loathe my life; I would not live forever. Let me alone, for my days are but a breath. (Job Job 7:15-16)will not find it
Not is οὐ μὴ [ou mē] , a double negative emphasizing the impossibility of death. This is perhaps the most puzzling verse in the chapter. It would seem from the sixth verse that there is an intimation of suicide attempts which are frustrated by God.1
they will desire to die and death will flee
They will desire is ἐπιθυμήσουοσιν [epithymēsouosin] , an intense desire, elsewhere translated by lust. To die is ἀποθανεῖν [apothanein] , present tense infinitive. The pain of the locusts is so intense that their continual desire will be to find release through death. But they will not find relief because death will flee (φεύγει [pheugei] , present tensecontinually flee). Joel was given a glimpse of this intense fear and pain: Before them the people writhe in pain; All faces are drained of color (Joel Joel 2:6).
We have record in the gospels of the degree to which demons control their victims:
Then they brought him to Him. And when he saw Him, immediately the spirit convulsed him, and he fell on the ground and wallowed, foaming at the mouth. So He asked his father, How long has this been happening to him? And he said, From childhood. And often he has thrown him both into the fire and into the water to destroy him. But if You can do anything, have compassion on us and help us. (Mark Mark 9:20-22)
And when He stepped out on the land, there met Him a certain man from the city who had demons for a long time. And he wore no clothes, nor did he live in a house but in the tombs. When he saw Jesus, he cried out, fell down before Him, and with a loud voice said, What have I to do with You, Jesus, Son of the Most High God? I beg You, do not torment me! For He had commanded the unclean spirit to come out of the man. For it had often seized him, and he was kept under guard, bound with chains and shackles; and he broke the bonds and was driven by the demon into the wilderness. (Luke Luke 8:27-29)Perhaps part of the tormenting assigment of the demons is not only to sting their victims, but to ensure they remain unable to take their own lives.
We are not told what will make man unable to commit suicide (Rev. Rev. 9:6+), but can speculate that these demonic creatures, anticipating a mans actions, by simply stinging him at the crucial moment, will prevent him from suicide. What excruciating torture; driven to the point of suicide, but prevented from taking the final step by the very same torment that drives a man to the resolve to take his own life. Man will seek death by any means, even the tormenting locusts, yet they will not be permitted to kill (Rev. Rev. 9:5+).2
2 Monty S. Mills, Revelations: An Exegetical Study of the Revelation to John (Dallas, TX: 3E Ministries, 1987), Rev. 9:6.