Revelation 9:13-21: Unrepentant.

“13 The sixth angel sounded his trumpet, and I heard a voice coming from the four horns of the golden altar that is before God. 14 It said to the sixth angel who had the trumpet, ‘Release the four angels who are bound at the great river Euphrates.’ 15 And the four angels who had been kept ready for this very hour and day and month and year were released to kill a third of mankind. 16 The number of the mounted troops was twice ten thousand times ten thousand. I heard their number.17 The horses and riders I saw in my vision looked like this: their breastplates were fiery red, dark blue, and yellow as sulphur. The heads of the horses resembled the heads of lions, and out of their mouths came fire, smoke and sulphur. 18 A third of mankind was killed by the three plagues of fire, smoke and sulphur that came out of their mouths. 19 The power of the horses was in their mouths and in their tails; for their tails were like snakes, having heads with which they inflict injury.20 The rest of mankind who were not killed by these plagues still did not repent of the work of their hands; they did not stop worshipping demons, and idols of gold, silver, bronze, stone and wood – idols that cannot see or hear or walk. 21 Nor did they repent of their murders, their magic arts, their sexual immorality or their thefts.” NIV

As you read these verses, remember this truth about God:

‘’He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance’’ (1 Peter 3:9b).

When the plagues fell on Egypt, clearly manifesting the presence and power of God and His anger against sin, what did Pharaoh do? He hardened his heart – and more than once at that. As we have seen, in this section of ‘Revelation’ there are are echoes of the Egyptian plagues. But Pharaoh’s response is typical of mankind’s general attitude towards God (20, 21). Whenever God sends His judgments on the world, it is intended to bring people to repentance. But we humans repeatedly turn our backs and dig in our heels (20,21).

‘’The remaining men and women who weren’t killed by these weapons went on their merry way – didn’t change their way of life, didn’t quit worshiping demons, didn’t quit centring their lives around lumps of gold and silver and brass, hunks of stone and wood that couldn’t see or hear or move. There wasn’t a sign of change of heart. They plunged right on in their murderous, occult, promiscuous, and thieving ways.’’ ‘The Message’.

I need to say again that we may not fully understand all these symbols and images now. Somebody put it like this: it’s as though John is saying, ‘Imagine your worst nightmares; then double them, and realise these things must happen for evil to be fully exposed and finally defeated.’

The reference to ‘’the golden altar that is before God’’ (13) reminds us of the cries of the martyrs in heaven (6:9, 10), and the prayers of the saints on earth (8:4, 5). In all that is going to happen, God is going to work His purposes out, in answer to the prayers of His people.

Commenting on these verses G.B.Caird suggested ‘that the powers of evil have an immense reserve army, from which they can be steadily reinforced, so that no earthly order can find security from attacks from beyond the frontier, except in the final victory of God. In a world in which evil is virulent and tenacious, the programme of the gospel must not be expected to produce a steady whittling away of Satan’s power, until he is reduced to impotence, but rather a steady hardening of resistance, leading inexorably to a last great battle.’

PRAYER: Lord, there is much I do not understand. But this I do know: You are in control: you answer prayer: you want people to repent; and evil will not have the final say in human history. ‘’Hallelujah! For our Lord God Almighty reigns.’’ (Revelation 19:6b)