Revelation 9:20-21 (ESV)
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.
Chapter 9 of Revelation is one of those terrifying pieces of apocalyptic literature. We see demons, death, and destruction. Not all of it is easily understood, though I certainly believe that there is a principle that God wants us to get from the passage.
I say that this is not all easy to understand because figurative creatures and apocalyptic language is tough. Some would argue that, at some point in the future, God will actually unleash the horrifying monsters of the chapter on the world and allow them to torment those who have rebelled against him. Others would say that these afflictions are figurative. However, we need to recognize that, should these things be figurative, they will still be terrible. Biblical language does not use figurative language to paint pictures that are bigger than reality. If the monsters of Revelation 9 are images of judgment, the judgment itself will be at least as bad as if the monsters were literally real.
Discussions of demonic attackers aside, as I said, there is a big lesson to learn. After major calamity comes upon the earth as the trumpets are blown, we read what is written in verses 20-21. No matter how big was the judgment of Revelation chapter 9, no matter how bad were the events depicted in the horrifying six trumpets, rebellious mankind refuses to turn away from the sins that they had been committing that brought upon them the judgment of God.
See, then, that we are a stubborn people. Though we think that, if God took an active role and really showed us that he is there and that we need to cut out our foolishness, we would respond, the truth is, mankind is notorious for refusing to listen to the Lord, no matter how clearly he speaks. We are not good at letting our hurts and hardships remind us that God is there, that God is holy, and that we need to be under his mercy. In fact, often, when we face any sort of pain, we act as though God has wronged us by not preserving us from hardship.
What shall we learn then? First, see the tendency that we have to double-down on our sin when we hurt. God has designed us to live in his presence and for his glory. When our sin throws our lives into pain and chaos, often we will try one of two alternatives. We may try to do really hard work to fix our own lives—a process that never actually works because we are too weak. Often, however, we double-down on our sin, which is what the people do in Revelation 9. We find our lives messed up in rebellion and brokenness, and we just do more of the same, wallowing in our fight against God until he finally judges us. We need hope. We need help. The only path out of a life of brokenness is through the finished work of Jesus.
Second, if you are not under the grace of God, if you have not yet come to Jesus and sought his forgiveness and turned from your sin, today would be a great day to do so. God is real. God’s judgments are real. I do not know about what the judgments of God will really look like, but I know that, for those who do not have his grace, the judgment of God will be horrible. Turn from any sort of rebellion against God, stop thinking you get to run your own life, repent, and trust in Jesus as your only hope. The beautiful truth is, no matter how broken your life has become, whether it is your own doing or the results of what others have done to you, God has mercy, grace, and healing for you in Jesus.
Finally, if you know Christ, realize that the judgment of God will come on this world. Yet, also realize that such judgment will not change the hearts of those who are intent on rebelling against God. Mankind does not respond to God out of their own hearts. We are dead in sins and transgressions. Thus, if you have responded to God, it is only the grace of God that has brought you there. You would not have learned on your own. So, thank God for his amazing grace on you. Thank God for making your heart able to see what the people here in Revelation 9 did not see. Worship God, and take his message of grace to a world desperately in need of salvation.