Trumpet after trumpet sounded the judgment and wrath of God. With the fifth trumpet John saw in his vision the fury of demonic power released from the bottomless pit. For five straight months death was taken away from the earth, and in its place came the torment of the ages. Devils unleashed the most savage tortures upon mankind, and all the nations writhed in distress at the stings of demonic devices.
As the fifth month ended, it seemed as though a respite had finally come. The devils had been given a limit to their persecution. They could only harm and torment mankind for five months, but after that, their terrors must abate. However, when the fifth month ended, there was no rejoicing. As John’s vision continued, there was a new unleashing of horror. With the sixth trumpet, a second wave of demonic terrors began. From the Euphrates River were released four demonic beings who led 200 million satanic beings in an onslaught against mankind.
With faces like lions, and mouths of destruction, these beings roared across the planet leaving unbridled carnage in their wake. For five months men had been tormented, but they had not been killed. Now, the demonic forces were given power over the lives of those who were still living on earth. None could escape, all were in danger of the devastating and deadly fire of these demons. God’s judgment was being unleashed in the most terrifying manner on all of mankind. Eventually, a third of the earth was killed.
What was the response of the people on earth in the face of such dire circumstances? John tells us in verse 20, that those who were not killed by this terrible annihilation turned further away from God. Instead of repenting of their sin and acknowledging the grace of God in sparing their lives, those who survived this onslaught continued in sin and debauchery. Seeing the terrors of God unleashed frightened them for a season, but their sin was too enticing and they returned back to idolatry, sexual sin, and immorality.
The terrors of the Almighty had left them unchanged. They were not fazed by destruction. Instead, they gathered to themselves more sin, and rejected the gospel message that they had heard. They did not want God’s salvation, they wanted to have one more moment of pleasure while they still could. They refused to believe that what God offered was better than what they could fulfill with their own sinful desires. But this should not be surprising, rather, this is simply the nature of fallen man since the Garden. The sinful heart always beholds the truth of God with a skeptical eye.
What John saw in his vision is not isolated to the future day of God’s wrath. Many do this today. Hearing of the impending destruction of God on them, many turn in mockery and scorn. At times, we imagine that when God shows His power, they will believe on Him. This text teaches us a much greater truth. In the depravity of the human heart, mankind is not convinced of the truth of God by merely being tormented. Only the Holy Spirit can accomplish the transformation necessary in a man for him to become a repentant believer in the gospel of Jesus Christ. Without the Holy Spirit doing His incredible work of regeneration and conversion in these last inhabitants of the earth, they merely become blasphemers and further disbelieve their need for repentance. It takes the supernatural work of the Spirit to transform men, not simply Divine terror.
Reflect: Reread v.15. What does the phrase, “which were prepared for an hour, and a day, and a month, and a year,” tell us about the Sovereignty of God?