Revelation 9 and the Depth of Depravity

Monday Sermon Reflection

(For the message from Sunday, May 30, 2021: “God’s Judgment Unleashed on Unrepentant Humanity.” You can view this sermon by clicking HERE.)

We continued our study through the book of Revelation yesterday at Westwood as we walked together through the very difficult text of Revelation 9. What makes this such a difficult text is that it is firmly entrenched in the apocalyptic genre and rich in symbolism and imagery. Passages like this have elicited so many different interpretations. But as we walked through the passage, Pastor Gerald made a remark that made me write this in my journal as I took notes:

God did not give us the book of Revelation for the benefit of our sight, but for the benefit of our faith!

Walking away from this passage and our study through it on Sunday, I shutter not at the image of creatures described by John with imagery of locusts and scorpions, nor at the unbelievable carnage described as left in their wake, but rather at the depths of depravity seen in the hardened hearts of those who would continue to refuse to repent and bow their knee to God in response to all of it. What marks my heart the most from this chapter is the way it closes in verses 20 & 21:

[20] 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, [21] nor did they repent of their murders or their sorceries or their sexual immorality or their thefts. (ESV)

In this passage we see the pervasive hopelessness and blindness of unbelief. This passage reminds us that outside of Christ a person is dead in their trespasses and sins (Ephesians 2:1). We are reminded that “no one seeks for God” (Romans 3:11), not even in response to his terrible judgment on sin as portrayed in Revelation 9.

This dreadful picture should drive the church to its knees. Lostness is a spiritual condition, and spiritually dead people need to be brought to life. As we look forward to the day, and even hasten the day for Christ’s return, we should at the same time proclaim boldly the message of salvation to those who are outside of Christ and who are destined to this future if they continue to reject him as Lord. We should be fervent and urgent in prayer for the Spirit to do the work that only he can do in regenerating hearts so that they may respond in faith and find rescue in him.

Do we have this compassion? Are we compelled in this way by his love? Are we fervent in prayer in this way? Are our lives saturated by thankfulness and worship in response to the work that his Spirit has done in our own hearts to transfer us out of darkness and into the Kingdom of Christ and into his marvelous light (Colossians 1:13, 1 Peter 2:9)?

Pastor Gerald urged us to consider a few implications of this passage for the believer on Sunday.

First, we need to be reminded of the demonic enemy we have and that absolutely exists. The Scriptures exhort us as Christians to be sober-minded to this threat (1 Peter 5:8), to remember the essence of this threat as not flesh and blood but as principalities and spiritual forces of the dark (Ephesians 6:12). We need to be aware of this spiritual battle raging all the time.

Second, Gerald urged us to remember that “soft hearts characterize the saints.” We should be quick to repentance when confronted with sin, as repentance is the chief fruit of salvation. As we walk with the Lord and continue to press more deeply into him, our hearts should get softer and softer. The goal is not to get to a place where we no longer need to repent, but rather to get to the place where repentance marks our lives more naturally to the Spirit’s work of grace in our hearts.

Third, we must guard our hearts from envying the world for the very things for which God brings judgment and wrath. As we walk with the Lord our hearts should change. As our hearts change, our desires should change. Our lives should be more and more marked with love that accords with his character and purposes. To tie this with the statement above, we should remember that confession (as John uses it in 1 John 1:9) is a compound word that conveys the meaning of coming into agreement with God. Confession includes a desire for God to align our hearts with his, to hate what he hates and to love what he loves.

Praying Through This Text

  • We should spend time begging God for a work of the Spirit to bring to life those who are outside of Christ.
  • We should pray that God would help us to root ourselves deeply into the gospel so that we will grow to live in rhythm with it in all we do.
  • As situations seem out of control and chaotic around us, we should ask God to help us to rest in his sovereignty, and that the end that he has revealed, although we wish we had greater understanding, would give rest to our souls through a deep and abiding trust in him.
  • We should remember that the task that he has called us to is not one of condemnation and wrath, but of love and salvation. Pray that God would make us bold in that, despite what that sort of posture will cost us.
  • Pray for a work of the Spirit to soften our hearts, to help us to respond to our own sin with quick repentance and confession.
  • We should be overwhelmingly thankful for the gift of faith and the rescue we have in Christ from the judgment to come.
  • We should ask God to guard our hearts from envy toward the very things that will ultimately bring his judgment.
  • We need to pray that God would continue to do a work as we abide in him of making us sober-minded to the spiritual reality around us. We need to pray and ask the Spirit of wisdom and revelation to illuminate the eyes of our hearts in this way, that we would know the spiritual realities that are ours in Christ, and to be sober to the ongoing story of God as it unfolds according to his sovereign plan.

What do you think? I would love to hear your thoughts!

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