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Announcing God's Plagues (5)

Revelation 9:13-16
The sixth angel sounded his trumpet, and I heard a voice coming from the four horns of the golden altar that is before God. It said 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 kept ready for this very hour and day and month and year were released to kill a third of mankind. The number of the mounted troops was twice ten thousand times ten thousand. I heard their number. (NIVUK)

The sixth trumpet was sounded by the sixth angel. These herald messengers were appointed by God to dramatically introduce the scenes of forthcoming judgement. John saw these graphic images in his vision as the Lord Jesus entrusted terrible future events to him, for John to write down. The purpose was to prepare the church for the time when God takes obvious command of the wheel of history, steering humanity towards His mercy through what might be called plagues. Like the intransigent Pharaoh in Egypt, rebellious humanity seems incapable of reading the signs of the times (Matthew 16:3), vainly asserting its puny will and power against God (Acts 4:25).

Paradoxically the sixth trumpet player was commanded to release four angels who are bound at the Euphrates river. Who are they? The angels of God are not bound; they are free to do God's will and otherwise surround His throne (Revelation 7:11). The only bound angels are those who have rebelled, the demons who are restrained by God's Word. They have been held by God for the purpose of bringing a plague of death on the world. In the same way that Satan was allowed to test Job to bring him to willing and humble submission to His Maker (Job 1:8-12), so these demons were allowed to do their worst.

That may seem strange. However, most of the time, evil is not seen in its true colours, with all the horror of hell exuding from it. But now God removes His restraints, allowing those who believe that they need no Sovereign God and no Saviour to experience the full force of undiluted wickedness over which they have no control. It seems that there is a date in God's diary which is marked for a dreadful military conflict. A third of the people left alive after previous 'plagues' would now be killed. The army is locust-like, some two hundred million all motivated by these four demons who report to the Destroyer, Apollyon - Satan himself (Revelation 9:11). John heard the number, it was impossibly large to count.

It looks as though God is letting evil have its way, as though God has lost or ceded control to Satan. Far from it. He knows exactly what these four demons will do, and He lets them do it. But He is still in charge. He is demonstrating that evil can only lead to death; but Jesus will lead those who trust Him into life. He is demonstrating His kindness in wanting people to repent, and giving them good reasons to do so (Romans 2:4). That is true for us too. Although the pressures of life may not be apocalyptic, or have reached a crescendo of pain, the Lord is allowing each circumstance to shape and mould us into the likeness of Christ, trusting Him, depending on His wisdom and power instead of our own. The words of Jesus in Luke 13:5 ring true, 'But unless you repent, you too will all perish.'

Father God. Thank You for Your great kindness in allowing difficulties and even pain, so that I may realise that I cannot continue to live my own way without full submission to You. Forgive me for the time when I have refused to accept Your way, and yet how kind You have been in giving me repeated opportunities to repent. Please give me the courage to stop listening to evil lies and hear Your command to repent and trust You fully. In Jesus' Name. Amen.
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© Dr Paul Adams