No Repentance

Revelation 9:20-21
The End Times

In my last post, we began to explore Revelation 9:16-19 dealing with the Description of the Army.  In this post, we will conclude our exploration of Revelation 9 by examining verses 20-21 on the No Repentance.

“The rest of mankind, those who were not killed by these plagues, even then did not turn from what they had made with their own hands – they did not stop worshipping demons and idols made of gold, silver, bronze, stone, and wood, which cannot see or hear or walk. 21Nor did they turn [repent]from their murdering, their involvement with the occult and with drugs, their sexual immorality or their stealing. ~ Revelation 9:20-21 (CJB)

Continuing with Yochanan’s vision with half of humanity destroyed, all this has no effect on the survivors.  As the locusts in Joel 2:4-10 were intended to bring about repentance (Joel 2:11-14); likewise here, but the people refused.

Judgment in the early stages can lead to fear and terror (Revelation 6:16-17) but, when the hardening process reaches a certain point it provokes blasphemy (Revelation 16:8-10).  Perhaps this is the decisive point in the lives of many, the moment when they deliberately refused the last overtures of grace and threw in their lot finally with the beast. The idolatry (v. 20) and the immorality (v. 21) of their society was too much a part of their lives to allow them to see sin from God’s viewpoint that they might turn to the Lamb.

Even today we see a foreshadowing of that time, as false religions and cults are sweeping the globe like a tidal wave. This false religion not only condones but advocates the four big sins that are on the increase in today’s world.

  1. Murder. The crime of murder is increasing all over the world, not only by gangsters and terrorist but by fathers, mothers, teenagers and even children. Violence is indeed filling the earth. Where there is no godly influence, human life is cheap. People today are getting conditioned to the taking of life by such acts as abortion and euthanasia. Murder will be so common during the tribulation period that it will be left up to the individual to protect his family, his property and his very life.
  1. Involvement with the occult and with drugs. The word for sorcery in the Greek language is pharmakeion from which we get our word “pharmacy.” Drug use will continue to increase and be one of the major problems in the end time. Greek pharmakeia, usually translated “sorceries,” “witchcraft” or “magic arts,” is here rendered by this longer phrase to focus on the fact that using potions and drugs is an essential part of the word’s meaning – as is clear from the derived English words “pharmaceuticals” and “pharmacy.” The usual renderings suggest to many people a setting so removed from the fabric of their lives that the text does not speak to them.

Spiritually speaking, there are four distinct categories of drug misuse: (1) taking drugs to explore spiritual realms, (2) taking drugs to engage in “sorcery, witchcraft and magic arts” while under their influence, (3) giving drugs to other people in order to gain control over them, which is another form of “sorcery, witchcraft and magic arts,” and (4) taking drugs for pleasure. The last is a misuse because the drugs in question – besides whatever temporary enjoyment they provide, and apart from their adverse medical and psychological effects – open a person to supernatural or spiritual experiences; but these experiences are almost always demonic and not from God, since the Holy One of Israel reveals himself through his Word (Romans 1:16-17, 10:8-17), not through drugs.

So much for the Bad News. The Good News is that when a pride-filled, weak-willed, uncaring, despairing drug-user trusts Yeshua the Messiah, God can turn him into a person of faith and right action.

  1. Sexual immorality. One has only to look around to see how sex mad our world has become and how a continuing moral decline will play a role in that day.
  2. Stealing. With the absence of character and integrity; dishonesty, trickery, and irresponsibility become the norm for all relationships. A person’s word means nothing as contracts are broken at will. The thinking is to obtain whatever one wants no matter who may get hurt in the process.
Special Comparative Note on Chapter 9:20-21 [1]

Historicist Approach:

Historicists view these verses as speaking of the apostate Latin and Greek churches, particularly applicable to the papal church.

Preterist Approach:

Preterists view this applying to the Jews shortly prior to the fall of Jerusalem in 70 CE.  It seems God had given them over to a debased mind, so repentance was no longer among their option.  (Given the repeated call of repentance by Jeremiah before the subsequent Babylonian exile and the exponential growth of the Messianic community before the fall, it is impossible for me to accept their interpretation.)

Futurist Approach:

Futurists view these verses as an informative glimpse into the religious and moral conditions curing the Tribulation.  (In our society today, murder [including abortion], involvement with the occult and drugs, sexual immorality and basic decency are daily headlines.)

Idealist Approach:

Idealists view the seven shofars as warning intended to bring men to repentance, and they intensify as the end approaches, but they fail to produce the desired results as hearts are hardened.

In my next post, we will begin to explore Revelation 10We will unpack Revelation 10:1-4 on the issue of The Little Scroll and Seven Thunders.

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[1] Material in this section is taken from “Revelation: Four Views, Revised & Updated” by Steve Gregg. The notations in parenthesis are my comments.

Description of the Army

Revelation 9:16 -19
The End Times

In my last post, we began to explore Revelation 9:13-15 dealing with the Sixth Shofar.  In this post, we will continue to explore Revelation 9:16-19 on the Description of the Army.

“… and the number of cavalry soldiers was two hundred million! — I heard the number. Here is how the horses looked in the vision: the riders had breastplates that were fire-red, iris-blue and sulfur-yellow; the horses’ heads were like lions’ heads; and from their mouths issued fire, smoke and sulfur. It was these three plagues that killed a third of mankind — the fire, smoke and sulfur issuing from the horses’ mouths. For the power of the horses was in their mouths — and also in their tails, for their tails were like snakes with heads, and with them they could cause injury.”~ Revelation 9:16-19 (CJB)

 Oliver Greene writes: [1]

And what a description! The riders of the horses had breastplates of fire, and of jacinth, and brimstone. The riders undoubtedly will be super-human, and probably demented… a great army of demons out of hell. The heads of the horses were as the heads of lions (the lion is king of the beasts). The riders are mounted upon horses that cannot be stopped, cannot be conquered. Out of the mouths of the horses issue, fire, smoke and brimstone! Verse 18 further describes them by saying, “by these three” (fire, smoke and brimstone) one-third of all men shall be killed. The army of locusts did not kill men—they only tormented them. But this army leaves one-third of earth’s population dead.

As I mentioned in my last post, a possible explanation of the identity of this massive army could be a military force, such as China. That giant nation can easily put together an army of two hundred million soldiers. They also can move across the continent to the middle-east.

The number of these cavalry soldiers is truly astounding. It is not a human estimate but, a divinely-communicated count. While beyond our understanding, is the divine count of an invading force from the east.

We have confronted again the same interpretative problem faced with these horses as arose with the locusts ~ the relationship between what is symbolic and what is literal. The symbols must be interpreted within the context of scripture and within their cultural background. To read modern weaponry into the expressions is to tread on the shifting sand of technology which changes from age to age. The main emphasis in the vision is manifestly the horses. The horse in scripture is ever the symbol of natural strength (Job 39:19) and natural speed (Psalm 33:17). This strength and speed need a controlling hand (Psalm 32:9) if it is to be usefully employed. It is not surprising that when men rebel against God, they should use the horse in military action against their fellows. In Scripture, the horse is almost always linked with warfare. (The one exception to this rule is found in Isaiah 28:28.)

Here is how the horses looked in the vision: the riders had breastplates that were fire-red, iris-blue and sulfur-yellow; the horses’ heads were like lions’ heads; and from their mouths issued fire, smoke and sulfur. That the horses are symbolic is clear from the description given. Even cross-breeding and genetic engineering will hardly produce a horse with the head of a fire-breathing lion. Based on the most recent data, the entire horse population of earth is 58 million; it would require a huge population explosion amongst horses to produce two hundred million! Any idea that warfare in the future will revert to cavalry charges is simply imagination. The symbol depicts the natural strength of nations harnessed militarily to put on the battlefield the mightiest invasion earth has ever seen.

The symbolic nature of the horses is clear by the fact that Yochanan sees their heads like lions’ heads. This symbol allies the strength of the horse with the sovereignty of the lion, the king of beasts. The teeth of the lion (Revelation 9:8) spoke of ferocity; here the head indicates a claim to the majesty that would defy the King of kings. This army is Satan’s great attempt to deny to Yeshua the sovereignty of earth. The mouth speaks of the ravenous appetite of the Lion (Daniel 6:21; 1 Kefa 5:8), and it is fitting that these symbolic lions should spew forth fire and smoke and sulfur.  “Adonai caused sulfur and fire to rain down upon S’dom and ‘Amora from Adonai out of the sky” Genesis 19:24 (CJB). The symbol describes the offensive weaponry that wreaks havoc amongst men. It is futile to attempt to identify these with different kinds of weapons whether conventional artillery or tactical nuclear weapons. What God rained on Sodom and Gomorrah in righteous judgment Satan copies in his forces. The carnage on earth is unimaginable.

It was these three plagues that killed a third of mankind — the fire, smoke and sulfur issuing from the horses’ mouths. For the power of the horses was in their mouths — and also in their tails, for their tails were like snakes with heads, and with them they could cause injury. The repetition of the death-toll from this satanically inspired invasion from across the Euphrates river re-emphasizes the awful carnage that results. The mention again of the fire and smoke and sulfur lays new stress on the death-dealing weaponry that is used by this invading army. That the massacre occurs by the mouths of these lion-headed horses gives added significance to the fact that the invasion wreaks immediate destruction as soon as it strikes. The colossal numbers of this mighty army and the character of their terrible weapons bring appalling death and destruction. Under the fifth trumpet men sought death and could not find it; now they have trouble escaping from it.

As Yochanan had no point of reference in describing modern war weapons, he used the first-century knowledge he had. A full-scale nuclear war could easily account for one-third of the world’s population being killed. Whatever one’s interpretation at this point, the results are the same. The death toll staggers the imagination.

Special Comparative Note on Chapter 9:16-19 [2]

Historicist Approach:

According to Historicists, the term two hundred million can be translated as “two myriad myriads” which can refer to an indefinite number. (This is supported by Strong’s Greek Dictionary.)  That interpretation supports their position that this refers to the Turks who used myriads to number their troops.  The Turks also had breastplates for their horses similar to that described in this passage.  They also credit the Turks with artillery that could produce fire, smoke and sulfur.

Preterist Approach:

Preterists don’t believe the two hundred million is a literal number. (Remember, that they believe that this incident refers to the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 CE.  It’s doubtful that Rome could muster 200 hundred million soldiers.)

Futurist Approach:

Among Futurists, there are two main camps concerning the identification of theses bizarre cavalry soldiers.  First, they are demonic spirits.  Secondly, they are a literal army described in figurative language probably from the Orient.  The three plagues that killed a third of mankind can certainly be linked to modern warfare technology.  Lindsey, of course, compares it to thermonuclear war.

Idealist Approach:

Some Idealists believe that the Fifth and Sixth Shofars are related in that the former describes the internal corruption of a wicked culture and the latter tells of external forces that bring down such a decayed society.  A commonly held position contrasts the locust invasion of the previous woe with this onslaught of horses. The former unleashed spiritual armies of demons against the wicked; the latter brought physical, human armies as a punishment and warning upon rebellious humankind.  The number two hundred million should not be understood literally.

In my next post, we will continue to unpack Revelation 9We will unpack Revelation 9:20-21 on the issue of No Repentance.

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[1] A Layman’s Commentary on Revelation by Don Jones.

[2] Material in this section is taken from “Revelation: Four Views, Revised & Updated” by Steve Gregg. The notations in parenthesis are my comments.