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Revelation 9:20

But the rest of mankind, who were not killed by these plagues
The two-thirds left from the population prior to the sounding of the sixth trumpet (Rev. Rev. 9:13+), representing less than half of the original population of the earth. See commentary on Revelation 9:15.

did not repent
The very reason that only one-third were killed was to provide a witness and opportunity for the remaining two-thirds to repent and turn to God. Like Jezebel of the church at Thyatira (Rev. Rev. 2:21+)—who is a type for the earth dwellers of the end—they fail to see God’s gracious mercy in giving them additional time to repent.

“Now, therefore,” says the LORD, “Turn to Me with all your heart, with fasting, with weeping, and with mourning.” So rend your heart, and not your garments; return to the LORD your God, for He is gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and of great kindness; and He relents from doing harm. (Joel Joel 2:12-13)

But, as we shall see, the earth dwellers continue to harden their hearts with the result that stays of judgment which indicate God’s mercy and forbearance are met with a continuance or even elevation of their sinful deeds (Rev. Rev. 16:8-11+).

This is the purpose of what Jesus described to the church at Philadelphia: “Because you have kept My command to persevere, I also will keep you from the hour of trial which shall come upon the whole world to test those who dwell on the earth.” [emphasis added] Much like the testing of Jesus in the wilderness following His baptism by John (Mtt. Mat. 4:1-11), this period is meant not so much to see how those being tested respond, but to demonstrate their unchanging character. The analogy of the Tribulation with its plagues to the deliverance of Israel from Egypt is found in the similarity of the character of the earth dwellers to Pharaoh: both refused to repent. In Pharaoh’s case, as the plagues continued to intensify, he continued to harden his heart (Ex. Ex. 7:13, Ex. 7:23; Ex. 8:15, Ex. 8:19, Ex. 8:32; Ex. 9:34). So will the hearts of the earth dwellers. And yet, through the mystery of God’s sovereignty, the continued opposition of the unrepentant will be used to bring Him great glory (Ex. Ex. 11:9; Rev. Rev. 19:1+). The proverb writer captured the spirit of the unrepentant: “Though you grind a fool in a mortar with a pestle along with crushed grain, Yet his foolishness will not depart from him” (Pr. Pr. 27:22). It is God’s specific purpose in the midst of judgment to bring repentance. Yet often, as here, men fail to respond to His correction:

O LORD, are not Your eyes on the truth? You have stricken them, but they have not grieved; You have consumed them, but they have refused to receive correction. They have made their faces harder than rock; they have refused to return. Therefore I said, “Surely these are poor. They are foolish; for they do not know the way of the LORD, the judgment of their God.” (Jer. Jer. 5:3-4)

“Also I gave you cleanness of teeth in all your cities. And lack of bread in all your places; yet you have not returned to Me,” says the LORD. “I also withheld rain from you, when there were still three months to the harvest. I made it rain on one city, I withheld rain from another city. One part was rained upon, and where it did not rain the part withered. So two or three cities wandered to another city to drink water, but they were not satisfied; yet you have not returned to Me,” says the LORD. “I blasted you with blight and mildew. When your gardens increased, your vineyards, your fig trees, and your olive trees, the locust devoured them; yet you have not returned to Me,” says the LORD. “I sent among you a plague after the manner of Egypt; your young men I killed with a sword, along with your captive horses; I made the stench of your camps come up into your nostrils; yet you have not returned to Me,” says the LORD. “I overthrew some of you, as God overthrew Sodom and Gomorrah, and you were like a firebrand plucked from the burning; yet you have not returned to Me,” says the LORD. “Therefore thus will I do to you, O Israel; because I will do this to you, prepare to meet your God, O Israel!” For behold, He who forms mountains, and creates the wind, Who declares to man what his thought is, and makes the morning darkness, Who treads the high places of the earth-The LORD God of hosts is His name. (Amos Amos 4:6-13)

Most frequently, men complain that if only they had more definite information, then they would repent and believe. Our experience has been that the needed information is more often a smokescreen for a rebellious and unrepentant heart which has no intention of submitting to God. For we have spent many an hour in discussions with such as these—providing information and answering objections—only to find that, having answered one objection, a new one quickly arises in its place! These stand in the place of the rich man who asked that someone from the dead be sent back with more evidence to his brothers so that they would accept the horrible truth of the judgment ahead:

Then he said, ‘I beg you therefore, father, that you would send him to my father’s house, for I have five brothers, that he may testify to them, lest they also come to this place of torment.’ Abraham said to him, ‘They have Moses and the prophets; let them hear them.’ and he said, ‘No, father Abraham; but if one goes to them from the dead, they will repent.’ But he said to him, ‘If they do not hear Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded though one rise from the dead.’ (Luke Luke 16:27-31)

Abraham recognizes that the problem is not one of evidence, but a hard heart. They already have enough evidence to believe, but choose not to. “The fool has said in his heart, ‘There is no God.’ ” (Ps. Ps. 14:1; Ps. 53:1). Paul catalogs the damning condition of the unregenerate man (Rom. Rom. 3:10-18). Even after this catastrophic intervention, men will continue to reject God because they desire independence from God:

The death of one-third of the earth’s remaining population will be the most catastrophic disaster to strike the earth since the Flood. Yet in an amazing display of hardness of heart, the rest of mankind, who were not killed by these plagues, did not repent. It is unimaginable that after years of suffering and death under the terrifying judgments from God, coupled with the powerful preaching of the gospel by the 144,000 Jewish evangelists (Rev. Rev. 7:1-8+), the two witnesses (Rev. Rev. 11:1-14+), an angel in the sky (Rev. Rev. 14:6-7+), and other believers (Mtt. Mat. 24:14), the survivors will still refuse to repent.1

Man’s basic sin is independence; it is not that he blatantly prefers Satan to God; it is just that he wishes not to be under God’s authority. But deep down man chooses Satan because he promises independence. However, this section reveals that Satan will never deliver on his promise, but instead delivers the most vicious form of bondage.2

the works of their hands
The problem is not men’s hands, but rather the will of men which motivates their hands. Their will is opposed to God and therefore what they produce by their hands does not glorify God, but rather reflects their own selfishness and sin. In the end, without God’s Holy Spirit, men become creative perverts, dangerous geniuses (Gen. Gen. 11:6), bent on creating their own hell in pursuit of what they incorrectly perceive to be wisdom and intelligence. “Professing to be wise, they became fools” (Rom. Rom. 1:22).3

The works of men’s hands include the very gods they bow down to (Deu. Deu. 4:28; 2K. 2K. 19:18; Ps. Ps. 115:4; Ps. 135:15; Isa. Isa. 2:8; Isa. 17:8; Isa. 37:19; Isa. 44:10-20; Jer. Jer. 1:16; Jer. 10:3-5; Jer. 25:6; Acts Acts 7:41; Acts 19:26). This is the thrust of the meaning here—that men continue in idolatry—giving honor and attention to everything except their Creator. Worshiping the creature (Rom. Rom. 1:25) and that which men have produced in the place of the one true God.

In the context of the Tribulation, the image of the Beast is the ultimate work of their hands since the False Prophet “deceives those who dwell on the earth . . . to make an image to the beast” (Rev. Rev. 13:14+). Thus, they themselves make the ultimate idol (icon) of their own worship! In the delusion which God sends upon the earth (2Th. 2Th. 2:11), men worship that which they themselves made rather than the God who made them.

worship demons
During the Tribulation, the ultimate devil and idol worship will take place. Men will worship the dragon (Satan) who gives authority to the beast, they will worship the beast, and even the image (idol) of the beast (Rev. Rev. 13:4+, Rev. 13:8+, Rev. 13:15+). 4 Scripture indicates that although idols themselves are lifeless, the inspiration to make and worship them is demonic in origin. To worship or sacrifice to an idol is to worship or sacrifice to demons (Lev. Lev. 17:7; Deu. Deu. 32:17). Lest the reader assume sacrifice to demons is a thing of darkened cultures of the past, we only ask how many lives are being offered up in abortion clinics in worship of the “god of convenience” in our supposedly “modern” cultures today? Not only that, but the continuance and even increase of pagan practices around the world clearly show the tendency of men apart from God. In the time of the end, it will only be worse. History records the descent of man, not his ascent.

idols of gold, silver, brass, stone, and wood
As one commentator entitled this section: “Stone Hearts and Stone Idols.”5 At the time of the end, men will worship idols made from the same basic materials as those praised by the men at Belshazzar’s feast (ca. 550 BC, Dan. Dan. 5:4, Dan. 5:23). Some readers will no doubt scoff at the notion of idol worship in the same sense as is recorded for ancient cultures. In reply we observe:

  1. Scripture makes plain that when men turn from God, there is virtually no limit to the depravity and ignorance to which they descend (Rom. Rom. 1:21-23).
  2. The vantage point of western “civilized” society, benefits from a strong Judeo-Christian foundation. Although that foundation is quickly eroding, we still enjoy benefits which lag behind the erosion. Our assessment of what is possible in false worship is limited by this perspective. God’s assessment is not.
  3. The very idolatry described here—where inanimate items are worshiped—is taking place today in many pagan cultures across the globe.
  4. Pagan belief is rapidly on the rise within our own culture, in the media, and on the internet. With pagan belief will come pagan worship, a return to the darkness of the past.
  5. It can take many generations for godliness to permeate a culture and to reap its benefits. This can all be lost in only one or two generations. Consider that at two times in history every person alive knew God directly: (1) at the time of Adam and Eve and, (2) after the flood. Now stop and consider the many “lost peoples” and cultures which have no notion of God. They are “lost” in the truest sense of the word. At one time their forebears had direct knowledge of the God of the Bible, but intervening generations walked away from Him and darkness now prevails.
  6. Worship of the work of men’s hands extends beyond basic idols of wood, stone, and precious metals. It includes everything that man produces which is not in the service of God. Items as diverse as weapons of war, computer technology, bioengineering and genetic tampering with the basic elements of life. It is not the items themselves that are so much the issue, but the way in which they are employed. In this regard, technology is a large mirror amplifying the fallen character of men. It can be used for good or for evil, but inevitably the evil use winds up dominating. Meanwhile, man persists in his refusal to recognize his depraved nature.
  7. With the rapture of the church, the descent into spiritual darkness will be hastened. “During the last century there has been a tremendous advance in what is called ‘spiritual’ but which is really spiritism or demonism. All this is to increase (until) after the believers have been removed at the rapture of the Church. It will be the predominating state of affairs after all the believers have been taken from the earth.”6

Commentators speak with one voice concerning the real possibility of demon-based worship becoming a reality for “modern man.”

Take Chicago: Arriving in this city at the close of 1893, (the former World’s Fair) I found nearly two pages of the Saturday issue of the newspaper were taken up with the announcement of services at the various churches, and the sermons were generally on solemn subjects by godly men. In 1935, four or five announcements, at most a half a dozen, invited to places where one’s soul would be safe to attend; while the announcements of Spiritualists, Theosophists, Christian Scientists, Unity followers, etc.—those cults that have direct traffic in Satan—ran into the scores. (Six orthodox, against 75 Satanic, in the Chicago Daily News of November 14, 1931.)7

Those sophisticates of western culture who had long deluded themselves in the unscientific sophistries of modern evolutionary humanism will quickly revert to more satisfying practices of ancient evolutionary polytheistic pantheism, acknowledging the demonic powers which operate in the earth and its atmosphere under “the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that now worketh in the children of disobedience” (Ephesians Eph. 2:2). This acknowledgment will be even easier for those multitudes who had been devotees of Asian and African cultures, for these already were either pantheistic or animistic or both. For many years prior to Christ’s return for His saints, there will have been a revival of occultism, astrology, spiritism, and kindred “doctrines of devils” (1 Timothy 1Ti. 4:1; 2 Timothy 2Ti. 3:13), even in western cultures, preparing the minds of men everywhere for a worldwide return to pagan idolatry in the final days of the cosmic rebellion. Great worship centers will then be erected, with grotesque images of modern art depicting the various cosmic and terrestrial forces and processes presumably controlled by the principalities and powers of the wicked one (Ephesians Eph. 6:12; 1 John 1Jn. 5:19), and these will become objects of worship, with men and women in effect worshiping those evil spirits which they portray and represent.8

It may appear too disparaging to understand of this enlightened age, to entertain the possibility of a return to the ancient worship of images. People may feel insulted at the thought. But the way for it is opening, and the process to effect it is already going on. The minds of anti-Christian religionists everywhere are fast relapsing into the old heathenish philosophies, and I know not what is to hinder their acceptance of the religions with which those philosophies are conjoined. Modifications of them may be made, to conform them somewhat to the requirements of an altered condition of the public mind and taste; but idol-worship will again become, as it is even now becoming, the religion of some who claim to be among the most enlightened and the very illuminators of mankind. Socrates had his demon-guide.9

which can neither see nor hear nor walk
An intentional contrast is made between the lifeless idols which men worship (Ps. Ps. 115:7; Isa. Isa. 46:5-7) and the true living God.10

During the Tribulation, Satan will empower the false prophet to produce an idol which comes as close to emulating life as is possible apart from God: “He was granted power to give breath to the image of the beast, that the image of the beast should both speak and cause as many as would not worship the image of the beast to be killed” (Rev. Rev. 13:15+).11 Since history demonstrates the willingness of men to worship inanimate objects, this lifelike image will be irresistible to the earth dwellers—they will worship both the beast and his image. They will be all-the-more willing because God will send them strong delusion, that they should believe the lie, for “they did not receive the love of the truth, that they might be saved” (2Th. 2Th. 2:10-11).

If you do not yet know God and believe it preposterous that you would worship an idol, animate or otherwise, beware! For Scripture records that aside from the protection of the Holy Spirit, those who do not know God will not be able to resist the delusion which is sent from God Himself! See commentary on Revelation 13:15.


Notes

1 John MacArthur, Revelation 1-11 : The MacArthur New Testament Commentary (Chicago, IL: Moody Press, 1999), Rev. 9:20.

2 Monty S. Mills, Revelations: An Exegetical Study of the Revelation to John (Dallas, TX: 3E Ministries, 1987), Rev. 9:6.

3 This passage explains why some members of the “North American Man-Boy Love Association,” which advocates sex between adult men and young boys, are among the academic elite.

4 Demons is in the accusative, which Wallace believes may be an indication of an inability to have a true personal relationship with as a false deity. “It may be significant that usually in the NT, the dative direct object is used with προσκυνέω [proskyneō] when true Deity is the object of worship (cf. Mtt. Mat. 14:33; Mat. 28:9; John John 4:21; 1Cor. 1Cor. 14:25; Heb. Heb. 1:6; Rev. Rev. 4:10+; Rev. 7:11+; Rev. 11:16+; Rev. 19:10+; Rev. 22:9+). The implication, in part, may be that God is a true God—one with whom human beings can have a personal relation. And usually, when false deity is worshiped, the accusative direct object is used (cf. Rev. Rev. 9:20+; Rev. 13:8+, Rev. 13:12+; Rev. 14:9+, Rev. 14:11+; Rev. 20:4+).”—Daniel B. Wallace, Greek Grammar Beyond the Basics - Exegetical Syntax of the New Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House and Galaxie Software, 1999, 2002), 172.

5 Henry Morris, The Revelation Record (Wheaton, IL: Tyndale House Publishers, 1983), Rev. 9:20.

6 Donald Grey Barnhouse, Revelation (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 1971), 177.

7 William R. Newell, Revelation: Chapter by Chapter (Grand Rapids, MI: Kregel Publications, 1994,c1935), Rev. 9:20.

8 Morris, The Revelation Record, Rev. 9:20.

9 J. A. Seiss, The Apocalypse: Lectures on the Book of Revelation (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 1966), 214.

10 Concerning God as living: Ex. Ex. 3:6; Deu. Deu. 5:26; Jos. Jos. 3:10; 1S. 1S. 17:26, 1S. 17:36; 2K. 2K. 19:4, 2K. 19:16; Ps. Ps. 42:2; Ps. 84:2; Isa. Isa. 37:4, Isa. 37:17; Jer. Jer. 10:10; Jer. 23:36; Dan. Dan. 6:20, Dan. 6:26; Hos. Hos. 1:10; Mtt. Mat. 16:16; Mat. 22:32; Mat. 26:63; John John 6:69; Acts Acts 14:15; Rom. Rom. 9:26; 2Cor. 2Cor. 3:3; 2Cor. 6:16; 1Ti. 1Ti. 3:15; 1Ti. 4:10; 1Ti. 6:17; Heb. Heb. 3:12; Heb. 9:14; Heb. 10:31; Heb. 12:22; Rev. Rev. 7:2+.

11 It would appear that the ability to give life to that which is inanimate is essentially that of God alone: Gen. Gen. 2:7. Therefore, the breath given to the image of the beast must in some sense be a proximate duplication of that which God alone can do. A “lying wonder” (2Th. 2Th. 2:9).

Read Revelation 9:20