Look: “The rest of mankind who 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.” (Revelation 9:20-21)
As the end times unfold, God allows Satan and his demons to do their worst to the whole human race not yet marked for salvation. By three different plagues, a third of the human race is destroyed.
Yet we see here that the survivors don’t repent and, in fact, continue their unrepentant living: worshiping idols, murdering, relying on dark arts, committing sexually immoral acts, stealing.
For them, eluding the torments of the devil and the wrath of God endows them with a feeling of invincibility, I think. Since they haven’t yet experienced the consequences of their selfishness and idolatry, they seem to think that no consequences will ever occur.
They refuse to repent. They are apparently unmoved either by Law or Gospel. They put their trust in themselves and in their “idols that cannot see or hear or walk.” They think everything is OK. But just because I'm OK, it doesn't mean I'm OK.
Listen: In some ways, these untouched survivors are like the idols they worship. Like the idols, they seem incapable of seeing or hearing. They are insensitive to what God and life and the demons are all telling them: Their numbers are up. They are vulnerable. They are mortal. And nothing in this world will save them as this world hurtles toward death. Only Christ can save them. Jesus says in Luke 12:56: “Hypocrites! You know how to interpret the appearance of the earth and the sky. How is it that you don't know how to interpret this present time?”
When we’re chasing after the things we want, even if they’re contrary to the will of God, we can be facile in shielding ourselves from all that God tells us through His Word, experience, the input of friends, and the pangs of our conscience. We ignore those signs. We easily become dumb (like our idols) to the signs of God’s displeasure with our sin We hypocritically pursue our own selfish ends, ignoring the clearly-revealed word of God. We follow the ways of death instead of the one way of life (John 14:6; Matthew 17:13-14).
The people in Revelation 9 are completely deluded. They are oblivious to their own vulnerability and need of God because nothing bad has happened to them yet. They see themselves as being in a different class from those who have been tortured by the plagues discussed in the chapter. They don’t think, “If something like that were to happen to me, I would need God.” Instead, they seem to think, “I am protected from such evil because I and the things I rely on are stronger than anything. I’ll just keep living the way I have been. God is irrelevant. God is a fantasy. I need to look out for myself.”
I used to think like these people and am sometimes tempted to do so even now. I even sometimes allow myself to be deluded by my sinful nature into thinking that if I do a sin it must not really be a sin because I’m a good person.
But I’m not a good person. I’m a saved person, saved by the grace God gives to sinners who daily turn from sin and daily trust in Christ above all.
When God’s Spirit incites me to confess again that Jesus is my Lord, God come to earth, I’m set free again from these delusions. In this confession, I am confessing Him as the only One Who can save me from my sins and the only One Who can give me life with God. Jesus is the name above all names (Philippians 2:9).
“For those who are led by the Spirit of God are the children of God. The Spirit you received does not make you slaves, so that you live in fear again; rather, the Spirit you received brought about your adoption to sonship. And by him we cry, “Abba, Father. The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children. Now if we are children, then we are heirs—heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory. (Romans 8:14-17)
“...no one who is speaking by the Spirit of God says, ‘Jesus be cursed,’ and no one can say, ‘Jesus is Lord,’ except by the Holy Spirit.” (1 Corinthians 12:3)
Respond: Lord, by the power of Your Holy Spirit, help me to remember how much I need You and the life that only comes through Jesus. I know that more today than I did yesterday. Events of the past twenty-four hours have shown me that again. If I yield to any thought or action of utter self-sufficiency today, Lord, rein me in. It is in You that I live and move and have my being. Forgive me my sins. Guide me. Show me the way. Give me Your wisdom. You alone are God. You are my God, no matter what the devil or the world may do to me or tempt me with. In Jesus’ name. Amen[I'm the pastor of Living Water Lutheran Church in Centerville, Ohio.]