Unleash The Demonic Horde - Part Two
Scripture: Revelation 9:1–21
Unleash the Demonic Horde-PartTwoRevelation 9:1-21
Sunday, November 29, 2015
Pastor Randy Smith
When the Lord gives you a platform, do you take advantage of it? When you are talking to that refrigerator repair man or doing an interview for the local newspaper or working with children in the church or writing an assignment for English class or adding a post to social media, you never know how your desire to mention your faith in Jesus will have an impact on someone's life.
Most of you know I did not grow up in a Christian family. I can only recall one time in my life that all of us as a family attended a church of any kind. Often I am asked how God got ahold of my heart soon after college. Personally, I can't think of anyone ever sharing with me a formal Gospel presentation, rather I believe it was the little things along the way that simply added up.
Some things still stand out to me. When I was in second grade living in New York, I attended a children's Bible Study in a neighbor's home. When I twenty and playing in a Rugby tournament at Louisiana State, I remember seeing a sign at Marti Gras that read, "Are you really living for Jesus?" When I was bouncing in downtown Chicago I met and began to hang out with a professional volleyball player from the Chicago Breeze. Much of it went over my head, but looking back I remember her talking about Jesus. When I managed a large aquatic facility, two of my lifeguards refused to work on Sunday mornings because of the priority they had to attend church. And when the Los Angeles Dodgers won the 1988 World Series, pitcher Orel Hershiser used the platform to shine the spotlight on his faith in Christ. All these things and I'm sure many more were used by God and stuck with me until the point came at age 24 when I requested a meeting with a pastor (who was the father of one of my students) and formally began to follow our Savior.
I say this to encourage you to take advantage of every opportunity you have to show and share the Lord with others.
Yet there was also one other occasion that still keeps ringing in my head. When I was young there was an evening documentary I watched on the growing fascination with Satan worship. I couldn't understand why someone who choose to worship evil over good. Even as an unbeliever, I had this feeling that God was going to win out in the end. I remember the commentator interviewing people who had come out of the occult and the common response was along the lines of I gave Satan everything and he betrayed me.
As we finish Revelation chapter 9 we are going to see biblical picture of that. We'll see the result of worshipping anything or anyone other than God. We'll see how all those who worship idols, which are inspired by demons, will be betrayed by those demons when God judges the world. We'll see the hope that comes from being aligned with Jesus Christ.
1. The Hardness of God's Wrath
Just prior to the return of our Lord, the Bible teaches us that God will pour out His wrath on unbelieving humanity. In 2 Thessalonians 1 for example we read, "For after all it is only just for God to repay with affliction those who afflict you, and to give relief to you who are afflicted and to us as well when the Lord Jesus will be revealed from heaven with His mighty angels in flaming fire, dealing out retribution to those who do not know God and to those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus. These will pay the penalty of eternal destruction, away from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of His power, when He comes to be glorified in His saints on that day, and to be marveled at among all who have believed" (2 Thes. 1:6-10). All believers will have been either been raptured or sealed by God when this just wrath is poured out. In Revelation, the wrath is referred to as the seven trumpet and seven bowl judgments.
The Fifth Trumpet
Last week we discussed the fifth trumpet found in verses 1-12 of chapter 9. There we learned how God specifically chose to bring His wrath through fallen angels, or as we commonly call them, demons. Those fallen angels kept contained in the abyss under God's judgment are to be released to bring about God's judgment on the world. Here we see God using evil to punish evil.
A couple interesting thoughts: First is what I mentioned in the introduction. All those who refuse to worship the true God choose or create a false god as their source of worship. These idols are simply anything we love, cherish, think about, find our hope in, use for joy, serve and invest in more than God. The Bible says the source behind all idols is demons (1 Cor. 10:20). So we all are worshippers. The only question is which god are you worshipping? Reject the living God and you are choosing demons - the very demons that will betray your allegiance and be used by God to bring about your destruction.
Second is God's absolute control over evil. Clearly, Satan and his demonic minions do not win out in the end. Here in Revelation 9 we see them under the control of God's sovereign hand to be used for His purposes. Interestingly we see this in the book of Job. Satan needed to request God's permission to afflict Job and could only do to Job what God permitted. With only two sides in this cosmic conflict, it's certain who wins out in the end. As Jesus said, "He who is not with Me is against Me" (Mt. 12:30). Whose side are you on?
We learned Revelation 9 describes and compares the arrival of these demons to the arrival of locusts. To the average citizen living in the Middle East at the time of this writing, locusts were synonymous with destruction. As recent as the 1950's a locust swarm devoured every growing thing for several hundred thousand square miles in the Middle East.
The first time locusts were mentioned in the Bible was Exodus chapter 10 when Moses described the eighth plague on Egypt - judgment by literal locusts. Then in the prophetic book of Joel, written about 800 years before Christ, we read that God was going to judge Israel through literal locusts as well in their near future unless they repent and turn back to the Lord. But when you continue reading in Joel, you notice that there was also a far reaching element to the prophecy when Joel refers to the "Day of the Lord" (Joel 2:1, 11, 31) when there will be locusts announced with a trumpet (Joel. 2:1, 15). And that is exactly what we see here in Revelation 9 - God's judgment again on those who refuse to repent, God mentioning locusts again with this fifth trumpet. But here in Revelation 9 we learn that they are not literal locusts. The literal locusts pointed to these end-time demons that are referred to as locusts in Revelation 9, verses 3 and 7. And of these demons, verse 5 says, "And they were not permitted to kill anyone, but to torment for five months; and their torment was like the torment of a scorpion when it stings a man."
And the response from the people? Verse 6, "And in those days men will seek death and will not find it; they will long to die, and death flees from them."
So how can someone seek death because of the pain but not be able to die? As I mentioned last week, this has led me to believe that these demon-locusts inflict not only physical, but psychological pain.
Locusts devour vegetation by stripping away. Likewise, I believe these demonic creatures will strip away all the false gods that people have depended on to prop them up. They will come to the awful realization that their life counts for nothing from an eternal perspective. When they are stripped naked (so to speak) from their idols and it's only God and them, they will see utter emptiness. There is nothing to show and at that point nothing left in their own power to save. It will become crystal-clear that they have rejected God, and now they are about to be rejected by God.
Hell awaits them, the place they have chosen for themselves, the sad but fitting destination because their own desire was to be separated from God and devoted to emptiness. So they want to die, but know death for them will only make it worse. In their hopeless state "death flees from them" (Rev. 9:6).
There are so many clear pictures here to teach us this. The demons emerging from the abyss in smoke is compared to a "great furnace" in verse 2 symbolizing the bringing of hell (which is God eternal wrath) on those who refuse Him.
Or how about the darkness that surrounds these demonic beings? Clear imagery of those who love spiritual darkness and refuse the One who is the "Light of the World." The seal of God repels these demons from the children of the light, and they swarm to fellow slaves of darkness with the same sentence of eternal darkness upon them.
Or how about the comparison of these demons to locusts. Literal locusts would strip vegetation oftentimes resulting in massive famines. Did not Jesus say in speaking of His return, "When the Son of Man comes, will He find faith on the earth?" (Lk. 18:8). The end-time demonic-locusts may not bring the spiritual famine, but they arrive when the proclamation of the Word of God is rare and moreover, not desired and the world is suffering from a famine of the soul. Amos 8:11 predicted, "'Behold, days are coming,' declares the Lord GOD, 'When I will send a famine on the land, not a famine for bread or a thirst for water, but rather for hearing the words of the LORD." Like an anorexic, people will (as so many do even now) foolishly starve themselves of God's Word thinking it is in their best interest. And God's judgment on them will be the shortage of pastors who truly teach God's Word because at best most people, even in churches, just want to have their ears tickled (2 Tim. 4:3).
The Sixth Trumpet
Our time is fleeting and we still need to cover the new material from the sixth trumpet found in the second half of Revelation 9. Let's go there now.
Verses 13-15, "Then the sixth angel sounded, and I heard a voice from the four horns of the golden altar which is before God, one saying to the sixth angel who had the trumpet, 'Release the four angels who are bound at the great river Euphrates.' And the four angels, who had been prepared for the hour and day and month and year, were released, so that they would kill a third of mankind."
Same as the previous trumpet. We are talking about demonic beings, again ones that were once bound, now being used by God to deliver His judgment. The only primary difference is that that angels of the fifth trumpet could only torment, whereas these angels of the sixth trumpet were permitted to kill a significant number of people.
Verse 16, "The number of the armies of the horsemen was two hundred million; I heard the number of them." These four demonic angels that were released appear to have the power over a massive demonic cavalry as we'll see in a moment.
Was it literally a force of two hundred million? Perhaps, but again we see most numbers in Revelation used symbolically. A myriad was 10,000. This is a double myriad, 10,000 times 10,000, representing an incalculable host of demons now released on a mission of destruction.
The description of these demons is similar to the description we read about last week regarding the demons mentioned in verses 7-10. Here in verse 17 we read, "And this is how I saw in the vision the horses and those who sat on them: the riders had breastplates the color of fire and of hyacinth and of brimstone; and the heads of the horses are like the heads of lions; and out of their mouths proceed fire and smoke and brimstone."
Once again we see them as fierce beings. And once again we see the powerful symbolism of judgment, wrath and hell when we read that "out of their mouths proceed fire and smoke and brimstone."
Ever hear someone say, "I don't go to church because most pastors just preach "fire and brimstone." You know, I've been here almost 15 years and I can't recall using those words from the pulpit. So let's make up for lost time! I just want you to see the biblical reality of these words.
Revelation 14:9-10, "Then another angel, a third one, followed them, saying with a loud voice, 'If anyone worships the beast and his image, and receives a mark on his forehead or on his hand, he also will drink of the wine of the wrath of God, which is mixed in full strength in the cup of His anger; and he will be tormented with fire and brimstone in the presence of the holy angels and in the presence of the Lamb.'"
Revelation 19:20, "And the beast was seized, and with him the false prophet who performed the signs in his presence, by which he deceived those who had received the mark of the beast and those who worshiped his image; these two were thrown alive into the lake of fire which burns with brimstone."
Revelation 20:10, "And the devil who deceived them was thrown into the lake of fire and brimstone, where the beast and the false prophet are also; and they will be tormented day and night forever and ever."
Back to chapter 9, verses 18-19, "A third of mankind was killed by these three plagues, by the fire and the smoke and the brimstone which proceeded out of their mouths. For the power of the horses is in their mouths and in their tails; for their tails are like serpents and have heads, and with them they do harm."
2. The Hardness of Man's Heart
Now, as we move to the second point, how do you think the people on earth experiencing these judgments from God will respond? I mean, it is one thing to reject a God you can't see that has exhibited extreme patience with the unbeliever. But now, people are in agony and His presence clearly is on display. Without a doubt common sense tells you that this would be enough to turn the most hardened heart to the Lord for forgiveness and deliverance. Right?
Once again, so similar to the Egyptian plagues. When God brought the ten plagues on the Egyptians, not only was His judgment poured out, but He was also revealing His superiority over the false gods that the Egyptians worshipped. Each plague was customized to show the futility of their gods. So when the plagues hit, you'd have to believe they'd abandon their false gods and turn to the One who can truly save. Right?
Yet we know how the story goes. When the plagues hit and they came in a series, increasing in intensity one after another, remarkably, Pharaoh did not repent. Sure he showed fear and anxiety over God power. "Then Pharaoh hurriedly called for Moses and Aaron, and he said, 'I have sinned against the LORD your God and against you. Now therefore, please forgive my sin only this once, and make supplication to the LORD your God, that He would only remove this death from me'" (Ex. 10:16-17; cf. 9:27-28). But we know he never repented. He never turned to God in wholehearted allegiance. Even after he let the Israelites go, he following them only to be destroyed with his army in the Red Sea. Despite God's wrath, his heart did not get softer. His heart was only hardened.
The same will be the case when the world comes to a close. You just heard about these trumpet judgments. People will be alive to experience these judgments. And how will they respond? Verses 20-21, "The rest of mankind, who were not killed by these plagues, did not repent of the works of their hands, so as not to worship demons, and the idols of gold and of silver and of brass and of stone and of wood, which can neither see nor hear nor walk; and they did not repent of their murders nor of their sorceries nor of their immorality nor of their thefts."
So to all those people who say, "If God would just prove Himself to me, I'd believe." Perfect evidence that even when God appears in judgment (of all the times you'd think someone would turn to God!), the hardness of man's heart is never more evident.
The text says in verse 20 they "did not repent." To repent means to turn from sin and turn to God. They still remained dedicated to their idols, all these false gods they adopted that they depend on to get them through life.
You know, we think we have it all worked out in this day and age, yet the folly of the hardened human heart. Here we see people are being afflicted by demons and verse 20 says that people do not turn from their "worship [of] demons." Their allegiance to the idols they have erected takes precedence to their allegiance to God. And the worship of idols, inspired by demons (1 Cor. 10:20), betrays them and they still refuse to bow the knee in surrender to Jesus Christ. One third of all humanity is massacred and the rest continue to worship the forces that will bring about their own destruction. How can anyone question God's justice?
One commentator said, "Once the heart is set in its hostility toward God not even the scourge of death will lead men to repentance" (Robert Mounce, Revelation, p. 204).
This is the danger so often mentioned in Scripture, that those who reject worshipping the living God will create false gods, idols to fill the void. We are created to be worshippers. We will depend either on the true God or idols. But these idols are the mere works of man's hands as verse 20 says. They are dumb and lifeless. And Psalm 115:8 declares, "Those who make them will become like them." We become what we worship. Worship Christ and it produces Christlikeness. Worship idols and we become like idols - lifeless, ignorant and spiritually unresponsive.
Idols draw people into increasing darkness. And in the darkness there becomes an increasing desire for darkness. The idol worshipping heart is the root sin responsible for other vices. You can see in verse 21 that despite the warnings from God who is light and holy and righteous, people "did not repent of their murders nor of their sorceries nor of their immorality nor of their thefts." Another reference to the Exodus as this list contains commandments six, seven and eight in the same order as found in the Ten Commandments (cf. Rom. 13:9).
It's been said, the human heart is an idol factory. And there are so many idols to choose from here in America. There's so much to worship with your affections, trust, time passion, money and allegiance. But these idols, inspired by demons, do not deliver what they promise and what we seek in them. They betray us and harden our hearts toward God. They inspire us to turn to the very behavior that God hates.
Back to the introduction, this is what we are up against when we share Christ. Yet thankfully, God is able to break through a dead heart. This passage makes it clear that we can't save people. Moreover, people can't save themselves. God needs to perform a miracle and when He does that, people repent and trust Him with all their hearts. As Paul said of the Thessalonian believers, they "turned to God from idols to serve a living and true God, and to wait for His Son from heaven, whom He raised from the dead, that is Jesus, who delivers us from the wrath to come" (1 Thes. 1:9-10).