Thursday, November 3, 2016

Revelation 9:12-21

Revelation 9:12-21
The first woe has passed; behold, two woes are still to come.  Then the sixth angel blew his trumpet, and I heard a voice from the four horns of the golden altar before God, saying to the sixth angel who had the trumpet, “Release the four angels who are bound at the great river Euphrates.” So the four angels, who had been prepared for the hour, the day, the month, and the year, were released to kill a third of mankind. The number of mounted troops was twice ten thousand times ten thousand; I heard their number. And this is how I saw the horses in my vision and those who rode them: they wore breastplates the color of fire and of sapphire and of sulfur, and the heads of the horses were like lions' heads, and fire and smoke and sulfur came out of their mouths.  By these three plagues a third of mankind was killed, by the fire and smoke and sulfur coming out of their mouths. For the power of the horses is in their mouths and in their tails, for their tails are like serpents with heads, and by means of them they wound.  The rest of mankind, who were not killed by these plagues, did not repent of the works of their hands nor give up worshiping demons and idols of gold and silver and bronze and stone and wood, which cannot see or hear or walk, nor did they repent of their murders or their sorceries or their sexual immorality or their thefts.

Thoughts for Today

First Thought:

Many commentaries say that this set of verses are some of the most difficult to understand in the book of Revelation.  To be fair, most of those commentaries that make this claim also look at the book of Revelation solely as a book about the end times.  What we can know for certain is that there is certainly imagery being borrowed from Joel, and for those familiar with it, the book of Enoch.  Joel talks about a plague of locusts coming against God’s people.  Enoch talks about angels of punishment, whose job was to wait until God declared a person or group of people worthy of punishment and then administer whatever punishment God decreed.  As I consider these sources, there is one thing that I can say for certain.  The idea of God handing our righteous judgment and wrath is not foreign to the Bible.  It is certainly not a topic reserved for the end of time.  The reality is that God is watching and discerning.  God does come and use judgment to teach a lesson to us, to get our attention, and to give us an opportunity to repent and return to the Lord.

Where have you come under God’s judgment and repented?  Why is it best to avoid judgment in the first place?  Would you rather serve a God who uses appropriate righteous judgment to bring about repentance or one who lets you do whatever you want without considering judgment and wrath?  Why? 

Second Thought:

Once more, I think that it is important to look into John’s day and consider what might have inspired this imagery.  Remember that much of John’s critique of humanity in this book has been directed at the Roman Empire, its persecution of Christians, and its immoral approach to life.  In this light, we are smart to look at some of the major enemies of the Roman Empire.  In the time of John, there was one major nation that was a perpetual thorn in the side of the Roman Empire.  These people were called the Parthians, and they were the natural descendants of the Persians.  You remember the Persians, hopefully.  They were the nation that defeated Babylon and allowed the Jews to return to their homeland.  As we talk about the Parthians, look for similarities between them and the angels of punishment that we read about in this chapter.  The Parthians were an incredibly feared cavalry, a cavalry that on many occasions defeated the Roman legions in battle.  They were feared archers, killing from afar and not needing to always engage in hand-to-hand combat.  When they fought, because of their skill, they were known to leave large swaths of dead in their wake as their cavalry moved on.  I feel that as John is speaking symbolically to the people around them, he is using the inspiration of the Parthians to talk about how God can bring judgment upon the sinful and unrepentant.

Who does God use in your life to convict you?  Do you appreciate that conviction or not?  What make you appreciative?  What makes your resentful and unlikely to repent?

Third Thought:

What is John saying in this lengthy passage?  Notice that even in the face of judgment, the people do not repent.  Even in the face of death, the people do not repent.  They continue on in their sin, worshipping other gods and following the desires of their own heart.  John is telling us that human beings have a deep vein of sinfulness within us.  Not all people want to repent.  Not all people want to live according to God’s ways.  Some people won’t repent regardless of what we say or do or what is done to them.  That doesn’t mean we don’t try.  God continues to try in this passage, that’s why He sends the angels to them.  He tries to get their attention.  But even God doesn’t succeed in getting their attention.  We can learn two things from this.  First of all, we need to be careful about ourselves and make sure that our hearts are always willing to repent.  Second, we need to understand that not everyone we try to reach will respond to God’s call to them.  That’s just human nature.

What is the condition of your heart?  Are you willing to repent?  How do you deal with times in your life where you try to reach out to people but they don’t respond?

Passage for Tomorrow: Revelation 10:1-7
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