8. How Not to Get Repentance—Revelation 8:2–10:10
[This is the eighth in a series of posts summarizing the message of the book of Revelation. I have been writing on Revelation off and on for a long time. My intent with this project is to write a new book applying Revelation’s message to our modern world.]
The standard interpretation of Revelation 8–10
We read in Revelation 8 of another series of terrible plagues. The first series of plagues in Revelation six, that had a kill-rate of one-quarter began when the Lamb broke the to the great scroll he had been given by the one on the throne. These were terrible things—wars, famine, disease. Just as the first plagues are initiated by the Lamb, it seems, this second series is initiated by God’s angels. What is God trying to do?
The trumpet plagues in chapter 8 continue with horrific and destructive locusts that torture people so badly that they seek death. Then comes more war. An army of 200 million that, with the locusts, brings death to one-third of humanity.
Then we get to the point—according to most interpreters. John writes: “The rest of humankind, who were not killed by these plagues, did not repent of the works of their hands or give up worshiping demons and idols of gold and silver and bronze and stone and wood, which cannot see or hear or walk. And they did not repent of their sorceries or their fornication or their thefts” (9:20-21). After all this judgment, stiff-necked, rebellious humanity still will not repent, turn from its idols and turn toward God. So, the text seems to imply, the reason God initiates these plagues is to try to get repentance. Thus, the text emphasizes how incredibly stubborn these unrepentant human beings are. Crazy. They see one-third of the earth destroyed and they won’t turn in faith toward the destroyer!
If this indeed is what the text means to say—those who remain rebellious richly deserve their fate.
Is Revelation 8–10 wrong?
If this is what the text says, let me suggest, the book is wrong. Why would I say this?