Items posted on 18 May 2011
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Revelation 9.13-21 – The fallen state of man
Posted: 18 May 2011 in Revelation

And the sixth angel sounded, and I heard a voice from the four horns of the golden altar which is before God, Saying to the sixth angel which had the trumpet, Loose the four angels which are bound in the great river Euphrates. And the four angels were loosed, which were prepared for an hour, and a day, and a month, and a year, for to slay the third part of men. And the number of the army of the horsemen were two hundred thousand thousand: and I heard the number of them. And thus I saw the horses in the vision, and them that sat on them, having breastplates of fire, and of jacinth, and brimstone: and the heads of the horses were as the heads of lions; and out of their mouths issued fire and smoke and brimstone. By these three was the third part of men killed, by the fire, and by the smoke, and by the brimstone, which issued out of their mouths. For their power is in their mouth, and in their tails: for their tails were like unto serpents, and had heads, and with them they do hurt. And the rest of the men which were not killed by these plagues yet repented not of the works of their hands, that they should not worship devils, and idols of gold, and silver, and brass, and stone, and of wood: which neither can see, nor hear, nor walk: Neither repented they of their murders, nor of their sorceries, nor of their fornication, nor of their thefts.

In the above passage, the refusal of men to repent after witnessing what they had just witnessed could hardly be described as rational. And yet, in that complete lack of rationality, there is revealed a picture of just how deeply sin is ingrained in the human species, and of its lamentable effects. There is more than a suggestion that we are actually incapable of real repentance without a special grace from God.

The language in Revelation is of course highly symbolic, and there might perhaps be a suspicion that it exaggerates the story just a little. However, Jeremiah 42-43 tells a similar tale, but this time in a concrete historical situation. Jerusalem has just fallen to the Babylonians, and a group of apparently chastened men come to Jeremiah saying that they will obey whatever God commands, if only he will intercede for them. So Jeremiah does intercede, and he makes God’s will known to them. But their immediate reaction is to reject the counsel of God, and go off to do what they always intended to do anyhow.

When men seem so incapable of acting even in their own best interests, it is difficult to overstate the woeful state into which men have fallen. If the above passage does anything, it ought to make us conscious of just how dependent we are upon the mercy of God and of his Christ.

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