Dear Student of the Word,
I am a few days late on my self-imposed timetable to edit my Revelation studies in preparation for publication. This week's installment focuses on Revelation chapter 9, which is full of imagery and symbolic language that many have tried to interpret literally, which is a mistake. I emphasize again and again in this study that unless Revelation interprets images literally, we must avoid the temptation to do so, instead seeing general patterns of God's work throughout history. In this week's study, this is what I wrote about Revelation 9:20-22 (you can download the entire study of chapter 9 below):
20The rest of mankind who were not killed by these plagues still did not repent of the work of their hands; they did not stop worshiping demons, and idols of gold, silver, bronze, stone and wood—idols that cannot see or hear or walk. 21Nor did they repent of their murders, their magic arts, their sexual immorality or their thefts.
9:20 – How far man fell when Adam and Eve sinned! We lost our ability to see God, and now we blame God for our problems, when it is our sin that has caused the problems. We see in this verse the purpose for the plagues and catastrophes that had been previously described: They came so people would repent. Those catastrophes were part of God’s mercy, not His judgment. Yet the sinful heart of man attributes them to God’s cruelty and they do not turn to Him, but reject His overtures of mercy for those who come to Him.
We should not be surprised that people do not repent or change when calamity strikes. The hardness of man’s heart does not allow him to turn to God. Human history is full of examples of men redoubling their efforts to avoid God when God has revealed His power and judgment. They do not see God reaching out to them, but rather interfering with their independent ways.
9:21 – The Church must continue to preach to a world that has not only ignored God, but has rejected Him outright. It took me some time to get accustomed to the idea that some people don’t ignore God, they hate Him! They despise what He stands for and actively work against His purposes and consequently hate His people.
The fact that these verses report that men did not repent leads me to believe that the fearful events described were allowed for men to repent and turn to God when they saw His awesome judgments. Paul wrote: “This is good, and pleases God our Savior, who wants all men to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth” (1 Timothy 2:3-4).
While judgment is released from time to time, God wants all men to know Him. Therefore, what He does occurs to bring men to a saving knowledge of His grace. The Church must avoid rhetoric that portrays God as someone who is angry all the time. Yes, we must tell the world that His patience has an end, but we must continue to point to God’s love and appeal for men and women everywhere to repent and accept God’s loving salvation in Christ, even in the midst of “acts of God” that cause suffering and distress.
As always, I welcome your comments to this week's study. For additional Bible studies, check out my website archive, which contains a complete collection of all my verse-by-verse New Testament studies, along with the daily devotional entitled Your Life Matters: Daily Reflections from the Book of Psalms. Thank you and soon I will begin sending you my edited studies from James' epistle. After that, we will only have the book of Revelation to complete before the entire New Testament is on the site where this study is posted.