Refusing To Repent
The escalating tribulations, which God promised to unleash on the world in the Last Days, as shown by Jesus to John in the vision, were truly dreadful. From 'natural' disasters to cosmic events and global warfare, the catalogue was woeful. The word 'woe' (used in Revelation 8:13; 9:12; 11:14; 12:12; 18:10; 18:16; 18:19) is used to mean 'this will have a horrible end, so be alert, watch out!' So far, in the series of dramas John has described, half of the world's population has died – and God is implicitly speaking to those still alive.
The message could not have been clearer. Mankind in its arrogance, with all its wealth and power, engineering and communication skills, is no match for the disasters the Lord can bring (Micah 2:3). Nor can they protect themselves against the deadly plagues He will allow to savage them. Logic would dictate that they would submit to the overwhelming Sovereign power of the Lord, accept His right to reign, repent, seek forgiveness, and learn to live as disciples of Jesus Christ. But sinful pride has its own logic. It believes that it will win against every authority – even God.
That is exactly what John sees in his vision. They 'did not repent of the work of their hands' – creating their own gods. In so doing they were actually worshipping demons. Having lost sight of God and the kingship of Jesus, they became their own authority (Romans 1:21-25). They killed other people, made decisions according to occult or mystical fantasies, indulged their 'sexual needs' and took whatever they wanted from others. They had no thought of being accountable to God. They had 'no understanding, no fidelity, no love, no mercy' (Romans 1:31); and were 'lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, without love, unforgiving, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not lovers of the good, treacherous, rash, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God' (2 Timothy 3:2-4).
Every Christless society develops these traits in times of prosperity, but to refuse to wake up when God brings disaster is malignantly arrogant. And yet we find the seeds of such haughtiness in ourselves, sometimes preferring to side with demons than submit to Jesus. We look to what we can achieve to give us confidence. We erect standards of excellence, which we think we can attain, as accountability targets. We satisfy ourselves, at the expense of others, instead of pleasing the Lord. The way of the world has all too often become the agenda for the church. We even dare to worship God according to how well He has satisfied our needs. Whatever may be the final death-throes of the world, we need to wake up now (Ephesians 5:14-16) and repent - so that we can turn to love God and other people with all we have, submitting to His mercy and grace. As Jesus spoke to the church in Ephesus (Revelation 2:4), it is the same for the church in every age: we must repent and return to our first love. Then we can tell the world that God is also calling them to repent of rejecting Him and His Word (Hebrews 12:25), and receive His grace.
© Dr Paul Adams