Image above in the public domain “The Adoration of the Golden Calf” by Nicolas Poussin.
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.
The last paragraph in Revelation 9 gives us the intent of the Fifth and Sixth Trumpet judgments —
The judgments of God even though severe are intended to bring men to repentance.
I. Mankind’s attempt to satisfy its desires apart from God and His ways ends up creating false religion.
Revelation 9:20-21 gives us a view of the religion of evil times. It affords us a rare look into the heathen society in which John lived in the First Century and the one in which we live in the Twenty-first Century.
False religion involves idolatry which is in reality the worship of demons — I Corinthians 10 —
18 Consider the people of Israel: are not those who eat the sacrifices participants in the altar? 19 What do I imply then? That food offered to idols is anything, or that an idol is anything? 20 No, I imply that what pagans sacrifice they offer to demons and not to God. I do not want you to be participants with demons. 21 You cannot drink the cup of the Lord and the cup of demons. You cannot partake of the table of the Lord and the table of demons. [ESV]
Colossians 3:5 underlines the same warning about substituting false gods for the worship of the true God —
5 Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed, which is idolatry. [NIV]
Behind an idol is a demon manipulating the circumstances of the worshiper.
The power of the idol is dependent upon the trust the person places in it. The worshiper will appease the idol and place trust in it to avert danger from his own life. All the while, the demon is making things happen to buttress the person’s confidence in the idol. It is a vicious cycle. In the West, the idols are wealth and materialism which create envy and greed.
This idolatry/demonic element is evident when visiting developing countries. Animistic practices bring about bondage to people who are not committed to Jesus Christ as Lord. In the West, we think we have outgrown such superstitions. Read the story of a Vietnamese family who turned to Christ.
After a [Vietnamese] friend shared Jesus with…Thuan* and his wife Hien*, they chose to also follow Jesus—at great risk. The couple lives in an area of northern Vietnam where believing in Jesus rather than traditional beliefs—including ancestor worship—is considered a betrayal not only to the family, but also to their whole ethnic identity.
A few days after Thuan and Hien became Christians, local authorities came to their home and told the couple they must return to ancestor worship, or they would be kicked out of the village. The authorities also pressured Thuan and Hien’s relatives to threaten the couple and try to convince them to leave their newfound faith.
But Thuan and Hien refused. As a result, the family now lives in isolation, shunned by their community after the village chief publicly denounced them and their new beliefs. Even children in the village are banned from interacting with Thuan and Hien’s kids. The family has lost everything because they have chosen to follow Jesus. On September, 30 a group of relatives, villagers and local authorities destroyed the family’s house, fruit trees and killed or stole their livestock. [See Open Doors, below.]
Idolaters hate those who worship the true God. However, “Their arms are too short to box with God.” James Weldon Johnson (pictured below) sought to capture in poetry the cadence and rhythms of gifted black preachers of the past in his book God’s Trombones: Seven Negro Sermons in Verse [African-American instead of “negro” is more acceptable today.] —
The Prodigal Son
Young man —
Young man —
Your arm’s too short to box with God. …
There comes a time,
There comes a time
When ev’ry young man looks out from his father’s house,
Longing for that far-off country [Babylon]. …
When you’re mingling with the crowd in Babylon —
Drinking the wine of Babylon —
Running with the women of Babylon —
You forget about God, and you laugh at Death.
Today you’ve got the strength of a bull in your neck
And the strength of a bear in your arms,
But some o’ these days, some o’ these days,
You’ll have a hand-to-hand struggle with bony Death,
And Death is bound to win.
Young man, come away from Babylon,
That hell-border city of Babylon.
Leave the dancing and gambling of Babylon,
The wine and whiskey of Babylon,
The hot-mouthed women of Babylon;
Fall down on your knees,
And say in your heart:
I will arise and go to my Father. [See Johnson, J. W., below]
I shared this poem with a class in the early 2000s. They said that they had wondered why people read that at Church during black history month. The church hadn’t explained the readings to the hearers. Tradition had become traditionalism. “Tradition is the living faith of the dead, traditionalism is the dead faith of the living. And, I suppose I should add, it is traditionalism that gives tradition such a bad name.” (see Pelikan below.) Modern preaching in both black and white mainline churches is not as it once was! Both have become a blind following of tradition wedded to the spirit of this age. Faithful preaching must always call for repentance and a return to God through Jesus Christ.
Jesus Christ is central in the lives of His people! He supplies all we need.
II. We are created by God to worship and serve Him alone.
St. Augustine of Hippo stated this well in his Confessions — “Thou hast formed us for Thyself, and our hearts are restless till they find rest in Thee.” [See St. Augustine below]
Mankind is incurably religious by nature. Blaise Pascal gives us this concept best —
What else does this craving [for God], and this helplessness, proclaim but that there was once in man a true happiness, of which all that now remains is the empty print and trace? This he tries in vain to fill with everything around him, seeking in things that are not there the help he cannot find in those that are, though none can help, since this infinite abyss can be filled only with an infinite and immutable object; in other words by God himself. [See Pascal below.]
What did Pascal mean? “As one can see, when God created humans, he wanted them to look around for Him and search for Him. This is one of God’s plans, and in doing so, He created this “hole” [in man’s soul] that cannot be filled by any other; in short, that ‘God-shaped hole’ was created by God for us to look for Him [to fill it].” [See God-shaped Hole, below.]
III. God’s intransigent opponents refuse to repent and worship Him, the true and living God.
Their Lack of Repentance — In vs. 20, the sin is idolatry. Now John catalogues the sins which flow from idol worship in verse 21. Idolatry always leads to a sinful lifestyle.
… In the ancient world, religion involved the use of drugs to cast spells, to poison, and to make potions. All this darkness is preferred by sinful men over the light of God. Some men will never repent. These ones God reserves for the last judgment. However, even at this time, God is still trying to persuade men to repent. He is a gracious God. “But when God’s works and words are persistently rejected, only judgment remains.” [see Johnson, A. F. below.]
Henry Van Til summed this up in his oft-quoted definition —”Culture is simply the service of God in our lives; it is religion externalized.” (see Van Til, p. 200, below.)
The Greek word for “sorceries” (pharmakôs) is the one from which we derive the English word “pharmacy.” In the NT it refers to a purveyor in witchcraft. Potients were widely used to bring people under a spell, e.g. a love potient.
Drugs have been used to alter person’s behavior for the worse. Drug use was widespread at all levels of the Nazi regime —
In his bestselling book, The Total Rush — recently published in English as Blitzed — Norman Ohler found that many in the Nazi regime used drugs regularly, from the soldiers of the Wehrmacht (German armed forces) all the way up to Hitler himself. The use of methamphetamine, better known as crystal meth, was particularly prevalent. A pill form of the drug, Pervitin, was distributed by the millions to Wehrmacht troops before the successful invasion of France in 1940.
When it came to Nazi leaders, Ohler’s research suggested, they all favored their own particular drugs of choice. In an interview, … Ohler clarified: “Not all of them took every drug. Some more, some less. Some of them were on methamphetamine — for example, Ernst Udet, the Chief of Aircraft Procurement and Supply. Others were on strong anesthetics, like Göring, whose nickname was actually ‘Möring,’ from morphine.” [see Nazi Drug Use below.]
We ought to be careful about the use of controlled substances (apart from legitimate doctor-issued prescriptions for our health issues). Drugs have been used in the past to capture men and women’s minds and rewire them to do the will of evil men.
The current anarchy at work in our society seems to be drug-fueled. For instance a recent Tweet states — “Drug use among [anarchist organization] members is rampant. 81% report using an illegal substance on a semi-regular or regular basis. Cocaine and heroin are the top drugs of choice while meth is a close 3rd place.” Another person in response tweeted — “This is crazy. I take Ritalin and have a medical marijuana card.” (Obviously, this is an illegitimate use of prescription drugs.) A last response hit the nail on the head — “Mind control is real.”
All I can conclude is, “what a waste of young lives in our time!” If you doubt, watch the “Frontline Report” 2020 on “Opioids, Inc.” on PBS. [see Opioids, Inc., below for the link to the Article and the film.]
I can leave you with the only hope I know — turn away from evil and embrace Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior!
This chart below summarizes the application of the ninth chapter.
Next time, on to chapter ten!
Bible quotations from https://www.biblegateway.com [ESV and NIV]
God-shaped Hole. (2014). “Where does the concept of a “God-shaped hole” originate?” Accesssed 23 July 2020 from https://christianity.stackexchange.com/questions/2746/where-does-the-concept-of-a-god-shaped-hole-originate
Johnson, A. F. (1982). Revelation in Expositor’s Bible Commentary, ed. Gaebelein. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.
Johnson, J. W. (1927). “The Prodigal Son”, poem in God’s Trombones. Accessed 23 July 2020 from https://docsouth.unc.edu/southlit/johnson/johnson.html
Open Doors. (2020) “New believers lose home, family, community to follow Jesus in Vietnam.” Accessed 23 July 2020 from https://www.opendoorsusa.org/christian-persecution/stories/new-believers-lose-home-family-community-to-follow-jesus-in-vietnam/ [* true names were changed to obscure their hiding place from ancestor worshiping persecuters.]
Opiods, Inc. (2016). “How Bad is the Opioid Epidemic?” Webpage article. Accessed 23 July 2020 from https://www.pbs.org/wgbh/frontline/article/how-bad-is-the-opioid-epidemic/ The Film version is available at https://www.pbs.org/wgbh/frontline/film/opioids-inc/
Nazi Drug Use (2017). Inside the Drug Use That Fueled Nazi Germany. Accessed 23 July 2020 from https://www.history.com/news/inside-the-drug-use-that-fueled-nazi-germany
Pascal, B. (1662). Pensees, Book VII, ¶ 425. Accessed 23 July 2020 from https://www.gutenberg.org/files/18269/18269-h/18269-h.htm
Pelikan, J. (1983). From ” The Vindication of Tradition: The 1983 Jefferson Lecture in the Humanities.” Accessed 25 July 2020 from https://www.goodreads.com/work/quotes/713639-the-vindication-of-tradition
St. Augustine of Hippo. (ca. AD 400) Confessions, 1,1.5. Accessed 23 July 2020 from http://www.vatican.va/spirit/documents/spirit_20020821_agostino_en.html
Van Til, H. (1972). The Calvinistic Concept of Culture. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker.
© 2020 C. Richard Barbare All Rights Reserved