Revelation 9:20–21

Sermon preached on January 25, 2013 by Laurence W. Veinott. © Copyright 2013. All rights reserved. Other sermons can be found at

Unless otherwise noted, quotations are from The Holy Bible: New International Version (NIV). Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan Publishing House.

I come from Nova Scotia and I love the people there. In certain ways they're unique and mostly it's in very good ways. But some of them also have quirks about them and these quirks are so predicable that I sometimes find them hard to take. For example, last summer Marg and I stopped in a little town there for the night and when we were checking into a motel about 9:30 at night we asked the clerk if there were any restaurants nearby. We hadn't eaten so we were ready for a bite to eat. So he started to tell us about the restaurants nearby. He said something like,

"There's Smitty's two blocks that way, but it closed at 7:00. There's a diner a half mile that way, but it closed at 7:30. There's a family restaurant on the next block, but it closed at 8:00."

He went on and on listing all the restaurants that were closed. Usually in a situation like that Marg and I wouldn't dare look at each other because one of us might burst out laughing, but he went on for so long that we just had to look at each other and smile.

As we were checking in I also asked the clerk if they had Internet. He was a guy about my age and he said proudly,

"Yes, we have Internet."

But then he added that it was not working. Now, I can be somewhat bad at times like that. It's because I knew exactly how he was going to respond if I pressed him on it. So I decided to have a little fun and so I said,

"So you don't have Internet."

And he did exactly what I expected. He replied,

"We have Internet but it's not working at the moment."

Now my definition of having Internet includes having a 'working' Internet connection. But what I found amusing about the motel clerk is that there was no way he was going to say that they didn't have Internet—even though it wasn't working and no one could use it! To me that's nonsense. It would be like him saying,

"We have free continental breakfast tomorrow morning but we don't have any food because it wasn't delivered."

If you didn't have any food you wouldn't insist that you had a free continental breakfast. But that's the way they are down there.

In a situation like that I don't like to let them get away with such nonsense—so I turned to Marg and say loudly,

"They don't have Internet!"

The clerk was incorrigible. He refused to budge—according to him they had Internet. He wasn't going to change.

A refusal to change when you should is a bad thing. Perhaps I need to change the way I deal with people like that. Maybe the motel clerk thought that about me. I certainly thought it about him.

Change is hard but when you're wrong, you should change. But when you're sinning—it's on a whole different level. Then it's absolutely vital that you change, that you repent and turn from your sin. Yet in our society, repentance is basically a 'no go zone'.

In the aftermath of the horrific school shooting in Connecticut last month, the media was filled with discussion about the shooting. I watched numerous interviews with people who were trying to come to grips with the causes and the lessons we could learn from it. They also discussed ways we could possibly prevent it from happening again. Some of the interviews were excellent. I saw one in particular where one person was answering the question,

"Where was God that day?"

He talked about how we have systematically removed God from the schools over the past few decades and when something like this happens we ask where God was. That was just one of many good interviews with Christian leaders and others.

But one thing none of them mentioned or even alluded to was God's judgment and the need for people to repent. There may have been Christian leaders who did mention it, but of all the interviews I saw, none of them went near it. Of course if any of them had done so the press would have gone ballistic. They would have had a field day with such comments and used it to mock Christianity. Some of them have such an anti-Christian bias that they would taken it out of context and used it to imply that Christians were hate mongers and uncaring and unfeeling people. So perhaps the reason many Christian leaders didn't mention it was because they took to heart Jesus' command not to cast pearls before swine.

The fact is that many people think that God doesn't have the right to judge the world. They think that God, if he has any role at all, is to make us happy and protect us from disasters like the tragedy in Connecticut. If you bring God's judgment into any discussion of tragedy—they will be insulted and react in a negative way. They think it's totally inappropriate. Not only do they think it's inappropriate, the whole concept of God's judgment seems foreign to their way of thinking. For example, I read an article on CNN's Web site this past week called, "Why I Raise My Children Without God". At one point, the author accuses God of being illogical. She wrote,

"If there is a good, all-knowing, all-powerful God who loves his children, does it make sense that he would allow murders, child abuse, wars, brutal beatings, torture and millions of heinous acts to be committed throughout the history of mankind? Doesn't this go against everything Christ taught us in the New Testament?"

I don't know what part of the New Testament she's referring to, but she chose to totally ignore Christ' teaching about the seven seals, the seven trumpets and the seven bowls of God's wrath in Revelation. The idea of God's judgment is foreign to their thinking. They reject such notions. To think that God has the right to judge the world—that's preposterous to them. God, if He's supposed to do anything at all—is to prevent bad things from happening to people. They last thing they will admit is that they need to change.

But God's providences should be driving us to repentance. Jesus told us to put them to that use. In Luke 13 Jesus was told about the Galileans who blood Pilate had mixed with their sacrifices. Jesus said, (verses 2–3)

"Do you think that these Galileans
were worse sinners than all
the other Galileans because
they suffered this way?
I tell you, no!
But unless you repent,
you too will all perish."

One of the great truths that we see in Revelation 8 and 9 is that

the judgments of the trumpets come from Jesus Christ in His role of judge of the earth.

Our text says,

"The rest of mankind that 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.
Nor did they repent of their murders,
their magic arts,
their sexual immorality or their thefts."

One of the things that is clear from Revelation is that

Jesus does these things.

Jesus judges the earth. It is Jesus who opens the seals. It is Jesus who sends the angels with their trumpets. Verse 1 tells us that these angels stand before God and they were given seven trumpets. This is on God's command.

The first verses of Revelation 9 tell us that a star was given the key to the shaft of the Abyss. Jesus is the one who has control over the Abyss. He sends an a star to open the Abyss from which comes a demonic horde of locusts. Verses 13 and 14 also tell us that the angels receive their orders from God. The whole context is about God judging through these seven angels.

Jesus is the great judge. In John 5:22 Jesus said that the Father has entrusted all judgment to the Son. Jude 14-15 tells us that Enoch the seventh from Adam, prophesied,

"See, the Lord is coming
with thousands upon thousands
of his holy ones to judge everyone,
and to convict all the ungodly
of all the ungodly acts they have
done in the ungodly way,
and of all the harsh words ungodly
sinners have spoken against him."

Jesus created all things. Colossians 1:16 tells us that all things were made by Him and for Him. All things owe Him allegiance and obedience. Yet human beings have rebelled against Him. In Romans 3:5-6 the apostle Paul states that God is not unjust in bringing His wrath on us. God can judge the world in righteousness. In 2 Thessalonians 1, in the context of Jesus judging the world and punishing those who do not know God and do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus—Paul emphatically states that God is just.

This means that you should fear God's judgment on your sin so much that you repent and turn from your sin. We should be asking God to work repentance in our lives so that we would be more holy and pleasing to Him.

The second thing would should understand about this judgment of God is that

it results in a refusal of unbelievers to repent.

There are two things to note here.

First we should see

how deeply sin is embedded in human hearts!

Even after these terrible judgments they still did not repent. Grant Osborne tells us that the 'not' in the phrase 'not repent' is emphatic. (Revelation, p. 385) They were adamant in their refusal to repent. Consider the fifth trumpet. How horrible it's effects. In Revelation 9:3–6 we read,

"And out of the smoke locusts
came down upon the earth
and were given power like that
of scorpions of the earth.
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.
They were not given power to kill them,
but only to torture them for five months.
And the agony they suffered was like
that of the sting of a scorpion
when it strikes a man.
During those days men will seek death,
but will not find it;
they will long to die,
but death will elude them."

Yet they refused to repent. Robert H. Mounce writes, (Revelation, NICNT, p. 198)

"Once the heart is set in its hostility toward God not even the scourge of death will lead people to repentance."

We also see in Revelation 9 that the effect of the 6th trumpet was that a third of mankind was killed by the three plagues of fire, smoke and sulfur that came from the horses and their riders. Yet, even with a third of mankind dying—the rest of mankind did not repent.

Many see the locusts as representing demonic activity. Yet, even after all the harm that the locusts inflict on mankind, some people still worship demons. It's incredible. Robert H. Mounce writes, (Revelation, NICNT, p. 198)

"Although one-third of humankind is massacred by the demonic cavalry, those that remain continue to worship the very malignant forces that are bringing about their destruction. Such is the delusion of sin."

Today's society is like that. They emphatically refuse to repent.

Consider the murders in the world. God's Word tells us that human life is sacred. Yet in our country there are approximately 3300 abortions performed each and every day for a total of around 1.2 million per year. Worldwide, it is estimated that between 30 and 50 million abortions are performed.

If you talk to those who are in favor of abortion one of the things you will find is that they are unrepentant. They stand up proudly to defend this great sin—they will talk about a woman's right to choose. They will talk about how it helps women economically. How it is liberating to them.

But it's not just abortion that is a problem in our world. In some parts of the world genocide and ethnic cleansing are common place. Again, those who do so are unrepentant. Former Bosnian Serb army commander Ratko Mladic, 70, is charged with the murder of 8000 Muslim men and boys. At his court appearance last May for his genocide trial he looked confident, flashed a thumbs-up and clapped his hands as he entered the courtroom. Now, I'm not sure he's guilty and I don't know the outcome of his trial—but my point is that his behavior is typical of those who have committed genocide and ethnic cleansing.

In our society our criminal justice system often lets murderers out to murder again—and many of them do. All their blood is crying out to God. (Genesis 4:10) The people that let them out are unrepentant. Two years ago, Marlon Ricks was released from prison in after serving time murdering his stepfather by shooting him in the head, and also for assaulting his girlfriend. He was paroled from prison in Ohio after parole officials ruled he was 'very unlikely' to re-offend. Police are now calling him their 'most dangerous' fugitive after the body of Ricks' girlfriend was found stabbed 14 times last March.

Sexual immorality is also rampant in our society. God's word tells people not to engage in sin outside of marriage. It tells people not to commit adultery. It tells people not to practice homosexuality. Yet today's society celebrates it. They have Gay Pride parades. They glory in their sin. Not long ago actress Jody Foster came out of the closet and proclaimed that she was gay. A headline in the paper read, (

"Jodie Foster's 'coming out' speech was glorious…"

In the speech she said she was

"just going to put it out there, loud and proud…"

How hardened the will of man is against God. How much people love sin. How true it was when Paul said that the gospel is foolishness to those who are perishing.

This also means that whenever you find yourself repenting of sin, you should be filled with praise and thanksgiving to God. How wonderful God is to you when He gives you repentance.

The second thing to note about this refusal of unbelievers to repent is that

this is God's judgment on them.

Some commentators believe that the purpose of these trumpet judgments is to get unbelievers to repent. But there are things in our text that point to something very different.

For instance, the judgments of the trumpets are related to the prayers of the saints. In the opening of the 5
th seal we saw the martyred saints under the altar asking God how long until He avenged their blood. At the beginning of chapter 8 we again saw a reference to the prayers of the saints which went up to God after which the angel took the censer, filled it with fire from the altar and hurled it on earth. It was after this that the trumpets sounded. So the context suggests that the judgments of the trumpets are retributive. Their primary purpose is not redemptive with the purpose of getting unbelievers to repent.

The Old Testament background also suggests this. The first five trumpets are patterned after five of the plagues inflicted on the Egyptians when Pharaoh refused to let the Israelites go. We usually think of the plagues as attempts by God to convince Pharaoh to let the Israelites go. But much more than that was involved. As G. K. Beale writes, (Revelation, p. 465)

"God's overall intention in the plagues was to harden Pharaoh's heart so that he would not release Israel (Exod. 4:21) and to give himself the opportunity to perform his plague signs (Exod. 7:3; 10:1–2). These signs were not intended to coerce Pharaoh into releasing Israel but functioned primarily to demonstrate Yahweh's incomparable omnipotence to the Egyptians (Exod. 7:5, 17; 8:10, 22… 9:16, 29; 10:1–2). God continued to harden Pharaoh's heart so that he could multiply his signs. Otherwise Pharaoh would have let Israel go, and God would not have had occasion to demonstrate his omnipotence through the performance of the signs. The exodus plagues also served to demonstrate the hardness of heart in Pharaoh and the majority of the Egyptians. In this light, the plagues are also judgments executed against the Egyptians for their hardness of heart, for their idolatry, and for persecuting God's people."

The parallel to the plagues in Egypt thus suggest that the trumpets are not mainly warnings, but punishments for unrepentant persecutors and idolaters. (Beale's conclusion, p. 467)

So what does all this mean?

First, for unbelievers, it means that there will come a time when it will be too late for you to repent.

In 2 Corinthians 6:2 the apostle Paul said,

"I tell you,
now is the time of God's favor,
now is the day of salvation."

You need to take this seriously. You're obviously not persecuting Christians, so that part doesn't apply to you. But the judgments here also relate to idolaters, those who put other things in place of God.

The point is that you need to repent while you can. You need to turn from your sin and turn to Jesus.

Secondly, for all of us, this means that

whenever we see the judgments of God, they should draw us to repentance.

This world is full of God's judgment. We see it everyday all around us. You should use these judgments to work repentance on yourself. Ecclesiastes 7:2 says,

"It is better to go to a house of mourning
than to go to a house of feasting,
for death is the destiny of every man;
the living should take this to heart."

We all need to use God's judgments with sin as opportunities to repent. We need to turn from our sin and be more devoted to God.


how precious, how wonderful repentance is!

It's one of the means through which God saves us. Without it we would be lost.

How we should value repentance. How we should love repenting. How we should rejoice that God gives us the grace to repent! How wonderful Jesus is!