When the risen Lord Jesus appeared to John on the island of Patmos, He commissioned John to write prophetic visions to the churches (Revelation 1-3). The messages to the churches encouraged them to remain steadfast and endure their Christian difficulties so that they could partake in the reward of eternal life. Just as Jesus endured the cross according to God’s will—and was rewarded (Revelation 4-5)—so too John’s audience could be assured that their endurance would grant them participation in His reign and eternal life in His presence. The seal and trumpet judgements that followed were meant to encourage John’s audience to persevere in their testimony to Christ. John’s use of Old Testament imagery and figures in Revelation 9-11 confirmed for John’s audience that he was recording the fulfillment of God’s plan to redeem His people and dwell with them forever.
(1) In Rev 9:7-8, at the sounding of the fifth trumpet, John saw a vision of destructive locusts, echoing the eighth plague of the exodus and the prophecy of Joel. In the eighth plague, the Lord sent locusts over the land of Egypt to consume all the vegetation that was not destroyed by the hail thrown to the earth in the seventh plague (Exod 10:12-15). John saw locusts coming out of the Abyss to torment those that did not have God’s seal upon them. The locusts looked like horses having gold crowns, the faces of men, and teeth like lions’ teeth (Rev 9:7-8). The appearance of the locusts resembled Joel’s description of the army invading Israel in Joel 1:6; 2:4.
(2) In Rev 9:20, John used Old Testament imagery of idolatry to describe the idols of those who escaped the plagues. In Exod 32:1-6, Israel constructed a golden calf and worshipped what they had made. In his final message to Israel, Moses chastised Israel for sacrificing to gods they had not known (Deut 32:17). Isaiah confronted Israel for worshipping the work of their own hands and prophesied that on the day of judgement those idols would be worthless, thrown to moles and bats (Isa 2:8, 20). Jeremiah reminded Israel that idols are the work of men’s hands; even if gold was carved or cast, the idol it produced had no life in it (Jer 10:14-15). At the conclusion of the sixth trumpet, those who had not been killed by the preceding plagues continued to worship demons and idols of gold and silver, the work of human hands (Rev 9:20).
(3) In Rev 10:9-10, John was given a scroll to eat, recalling Ezek 2:8-3:3. When the Lord called Ezekiel to prophetic ministry, the Lord told him to receive and eat a scroll the Lord prepared for him. The Lord unrolled the scroll and Ezekiel saw words of dread and mourning. Written on the scroll was the judgement God had planned against His people and the nations, words sweet to Ezekiel’s taste. In John’s vision of the angel standing on the land and the sea, John was told to take the small scroll from the mighty angel and eat it. John said that it was sweet as honey to the taste but bitter in his stomach. John was told, “You must prophesy again about many peoples, nations, languages, and kings” (Rev 10:11).
(4) In Rev 11:1, John was given a measuring reed and told to measure God’s sanctuary and the altar, just as Ezekiel saw an angel measuring the sanctuary in his vision of the new temple. After describing the destruction the Lord would bring upon the nations, Ezekiel prophesied of Israel’s restoration to God and the temple they would dwell in with God. Ezekiel watched as an angel measured the temple (Ezek 40:3, 5; 42:15-19). John was given a measuring reed and told to measure all but the courtyard because it would be trampled by the nations for a time (Rev 11:2).
(5) In Rev 11:6, John saw two witnesses who had powers like Elijah and Moses. During the reign of King Ahab, Elijah confronted Israel’s idolatry and prophesied that it would not rain (1 Kgs 17:1). It did not rain in Israel until after the Lord showed His greatness over Baal on Mount Carmel (1 Kgs 18:40-46). The first plague the Lord empowered Moses to perform before bringing Israel out of Egypt was the Nile turning to blood when Aaron’s rod struck the waters (Exod 7:17-21). John said that the two figures testifying of God to the nations would have power to stop rain from falling and the ability to turn water to blood (Rev 11:6).