The Woes of Evil – 18
I would rather learn from others’ mistakes than from my own. What about you?
“We have a great need to see evil for what it is.” “As we study John’s vision and observe the armies of darkness battling in the future, we can better understand how similar spirits of wickedness try to torment us today.” As we look to the future, we need to let it affect us today.
God is sovereign over evil. God allows evil, and uses evil for good purposes, but he doesn’t cause evil. We will see this more throughout this message, but it is true throughout the Bible, it is true throughout the world, and it is true in your life.
This passage refers to Satan and his actions. The statement in verse 1 is similar to Luke 10:18 where Jesus says, “I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven.” Danny Akin says about this, “Lucifer, the star of the morning, son of the dawn (Is 14:12), the anointed cherub (Ezek 28:14), was cast out to God’s presence and heaven’s glory when sin was found in his heart. Now as we move toward history’s climax, he is allowed a diabolical freedom on the earth that he was previously denied.” Since Satan is so prominent here and going forward, we need to see some things about him. He’s been mischaracterized over the years. He’s seen as this big red man will horns and a pitchfork who rules over hell and is in a back-and-forth battle with God since the beginning. That’s not reality.
Satan is not all-powerful. God has to give him the key to the bottomless pit, just like God had to allow him permission to afflict Job (Job 1:12). God dictates what Satan and other demons are allowed to do and not to do. There is a limitation on what they can do. They can torment, but they can’t kill. And we see in these passage a limitation on their time—five months.
“The normal life span of a locust was approximately from May to September, or five months.” These locusts that come out from the abyss are likely demons. And they flood the earth, causing harm, tormenting mankind “spiritually, physically, and in every other way conceivable.”
Satan is not to be followed. If you don’t follow God, you follow Satan. That sounds harsh, but it’s biblical. When the Apostle Peter was saying he won’t let Jesus be killed, Jesus shouted at him, “Get behind me, Satan!” (Matt 16:23). Jesus says earlier, “Whoever is not with me is against me” (Matt 12:30).
Satan inflicts those without the mark of God on their foreheads. I love how Jim Hamilton explains this:
“Back in 7:3 it was the servants of God who were sealed, and we see in the letters to the seven churches in chapters 2, 3 the kinds of things the servants of God suffer. But no matter how bad it gets, when the scorpion-like locusts show up, you want to be among the servants of God! You want to have the seal of God on your forehead. Satan will try to counterfeit this seal with the number of the beast, and he’ll try to make life miserable for those who don’t have the mark of the beast (13:16-18). Revelation shows us that we definitely want the seal of God on our forehead, not the mark of the beast. God makes the servants of Satan miserable in chapter 9, and Satan makes the servants of God miserable in chapters 2, 3. God will comfort and sustain his servants, but Satan will only abuse and abhor his. You don’t want to serve Satan.”
We need to see the woes of evil and its harsh judgments in order to fuel our fight against those evils now.
Can you imagine being tortured so severely that you seek to die but can’t? Listen to how John MacArthur paints a picture of the magnitude of what will happen.
“So intense will be the torment inflicted on unbelievers that in those days (the five months of v. 5) men will seek death and will not find it; they will long to die, and death flees from them. All hope is gone; there will be no tomorrow. The earth people have loved and worshiped will have been utterly devastated, the land ravaged by earthquakes, fires, and volcanoes, the sea filled with the putrefying bodies of billions of dead creatures, much of the fresh water supply turned into bitter poison, the atmosphere polluted with gases and showers of heavenly debris. Then, worst of all, will come foul smoke from the pit of hell as the demons are released to spiritually and physically torment wicked people. The dream of a worldwide utopia under the leadership of the Antichrist (the best of 13:1) will have died. Driven mad by the filth and vileness of the demon infestation, people will seek relief in death—only to find that death has taken a holiday. There will be no escape from the agony inflicted by the demons, no escape from divine judgment. All attempts at suicide, whether by gunshot, poison, drowning or leaping from buildings will fail.”
Satan is the destroyer and brings destruction. He is the king mentioned here in verse 11, and Abaddon is the Hebrew word for “destruction.” Apollyon is the Greek counterpart, meaning “destroyer.” All of that is just the “first woe” from the fifth trumpet. There are still two more “woes” to come.
Since we hear this voice coming from the altar before God, it should remind us that God is in control of these judgments.
God is in control of the times. Even when things seem like they are falling apart, they are really falling into place. Verse 15 shows us that these angels have been prepared for this very hour, day, month, and year…this exact moment.
If God is in control of such events at the end, we should be all the more certain that he is in control right now. Even when bad things happen, we can trust him.
What we see happen here at the end is a great army…of 200 million…bring death to 1/3 of mankind. Some people think these armies are demons, others think they are armies of man. It could be either or both…demons influencing man. Time Magazine did note more than 50 years ago that Chine claimed to have an army of 200 million (May 21, 1965). Whatever it is, it is completely devastating, and the death toll will be unlike what we have ever seen.
Some people think John is using his own language and understanding to explain something he can’t understand, like tanks and helicopters. Others think he is being symbolic, which I think is likely due to this being an apocalyptic writing and majority of the other details in the book are symbolic. Again, we need to major on the majors and minor on the minors. What we do know and see for certain is this: God’s judgment is coming, and it is painful and terrifying.
What do you do when judgment comes? When you get in trouble for something, what do you do? Do you double down and make excuses? Do you brush it off and keep living the way you’re living? Do you recognize what you did wrong and seek to change?
What is the purpose of judgment for us? If your parents get on to you for breaking certain rules…or you get in trouble at school…or you have to face the consequences of the law? It’s so we won’t do that thing again. We’re not supposed to do the thing we did for a reason, for our good.
We need to feel the evil of sin so that we will be convinced that God’s commands are good.
If judgment this severe came upon you and you were given an opportunity to say, “I’m sorry. I was wrong. I shouldn’t be living this way. I now see I need to follow you, God…” would you? Or would it make you madder that you are being punished? Will you seek repentance, or will you continue in the very wickedness you are being judged for?
The unrepentant refuse to turn from the very things that ruin their lives. They are breaking the two great commandments. Instead of worshiping God, they are worshiping idols. Is that you? Lifeway Research just came out with a study that shows 67% of pastors say the number one idol that their congregation worships is comfort. Close behind it is control and security, money, approval, and success. We often worship idols of gold and silver and bronze and stone and wood, rather than worshiping the God who came, took on flesh, lived the perfect life that we can’t, died a sacrificial death in our place, and rose from the dead so that we can have life. And we keep going back to our idols, even when they keep not satisfying.
They also broke the second greatest commandment. Rather than loving their neighbors, they murder, manipulate through magic, commit adultery, and steal. The “sorceries” is the Greek word pharmakon, and could be the use of drugs in divination practices. “Sexual immorality” is the Greek word porneia, and it refers to all forms of sexual sin that occurs outside of the marriage relationship between a man and a woman. And yes, that includes pornography.
We so often keep going back to the very things that hurt us. The very things God has told us are bad for us. Listen to what the Apostle Peter says about these things and see if you are living this way.
2 Peter 2:18-22 – 18 For, speaking loud boasts of folly, they entice by sensual passions of the flesh those who are barely escaping from those who live in error. 19 They promise them freedom, but they themselves are slaves of corruption. For whatever overcomes a person, to that he is enslaved. 20 For if, after they have escaped the defilements of the world through the knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, they are again entangled in them and overcome, the last state has become worse for them than the first. 21 For it would have been better for them never to have known the way of righteousness than after knowing it to turn back from the holy commandment delivered to them. 22 What the true proverb says has happened to them: “The dog returns to its own vomit, and the sow, after washing herself, returns to wallow in the mire.”
“Once the heart is set in its hostility toward God, not even the scourge of death will lead people to repentance,” Mounce says.
As we look to the end, we should let it affect us right now. As we look to the horrific judgments that are befalling humanity because of sin, it should cause us to take inventory of our lives and our pursuit of sin. As we see the unrepentant continuing in their sinfulness, and not seeing God’s ways as good or worth pursuing, it should cause us to repent of our waywardness and seek to follow God’s ways.
God is not withholding good from us. He is calling us to trust him.
And we can. The end is controlled by him. So is right now. And this judgment hasn’t befallen you. Jesus took your judgment. He is giving you a chance to repent and believe and follow him. Will you?
 James M. Hamilton, Jr., Revelation, Preaching the Word (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2012), 209.
 Charles R. Swindoll, Insights on Revelation (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2011), 133.
 John MacArthur, Revelation 1-11 (Chicago: Moody, 1999), 254-57.
 Daniel L. Akin, Exalting Jesus in Revelation, Christ-Centered Exposition Commentary (Nashville: B&H, 2016), `80.
 Akin, Exalting Jesus in Revelation, 181.
 Luke 8:31; 2 Peter 2:4; Jude 6; Romans 10:7
 Akin, Exalting Jesus in Revelation, 180.
 Hamilton, Jr., Revelation, 213.
 MacArthur, Revelation 1-11, 261-62.
 Hamilton, Jr., Revelation, 216.
 Akin, Exalting Jesus in Revelation, 187.
 Robert H. Mounce, The Book of Revelation, Revised Edition (Grand Rapids: W.B. Eerdmans, 1997), 198.