Revelation 9:4 Parallel Verses [⇓ See commentary ⇓]

Revelation 9:4, NIV: They were told not to harm the grass of the earth or any plant or tree, but only those people who did not have the seal of God on their foreheads.

Revelation 9:4, ESV: They were told not to harm the grass of the earth or any green plant or any tree, but only those people who do not have the seal of God on their foreheads.

Revelation 9:4, KJV: And it was commanded them that they should not hurt the grass of the earth, neither any green thing, neither any tree; but only those men which have not the seal of God in their foreheads.

Revelation 9:4, NASB: They were told not to hurt the grass of the earth, nor any green thing, nor any tree, but only the people who do not have the seal of God on their foreheads.

Revelation 9:4, NLT: They were told not to harm the grass or plants or trees, but only the people who did not have the seal of God on their foreheads.

Revelation 9:4, CSB: They were told not to harm the grass of the earth, or any green plant, or any tree, but only those people who do not have God's seal on their foreheads.

What does Revelation 9:4 mean? [⇑ See verse text ⇑]

Prior verses described Satan being given a key to a bottomless pit. Using this key, he releases a swarm of demonic creatures first compared to locusts. In the ancient world, massive swarms of locusts could devastate crops and obliterate food supplies. These creatures are not insects, however, and they have a much different purpose. They are described as having a power like that of scorpions, known for their sting, and later verses expound on their terrible appearance.

We learn from this verse that the locust-like demons John saw were told not to target vegetation but only unbelievers, those who do not have the seal of God on their foreheads. God protects His children. Psalm 91 declares this truth. The psalmist writes: "He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High will abide in the shadow of the Almighty…For he will deliver you from the snare of the fowler and from the deadly pestilence" (Psalm 91:1–3). In verses 9–10, the psalmist writes: "Because you have made the Lord your dwelling place—the Most High, who is my refuge—no evil shall be allowed to befall you, no plague come near your tent."

Of course, a believer may experience illness, injury, and even death, but only if the Lord allows it. When He does allow adversity and death, it always works for the believer's good. "And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose" (Romans 8:28). From prison the apostle Paul testified: "For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain" (Philippians 1:21).

The specific mission of these creatures, and the narrow effect they have, is one challenge to interpreting later descriptions as a reference to modern war machines.