Today’s post is a little bit shorter than usual because concluding Chapter 9 actually took more words than I was anticipating, so I divided that original one post into two pieces.

There is a lot to think about in John’s last words of this chapter. He delivered a sad eulogy concerning the people who survived the six trumpets.

But the rest of the people, the ones not killed in these plagues, certainly did not repent from the works of their hands, so that they will not worship the demons and the idols: the gold ones and the silver ones and the copper ones and the stone ones and the wooden ones, all these not able to see nor to hear nor to walk around.

And they did not repent from their homicides, nor from their drugs or sorceries, nor from their porn, nor from their robberies.

Revelation 9:20-21

As you are no doubt anticipating, commentators have very different ideas about how to understand John’s assessment.

L0016466 Freeing the four angels from the Euphrates, Army of horsemen Credit: Wellcome Library, London. Wellcome Images Sixth trumpet, freeing the four (armed) angels from the Euphrates – Army of horsemen (horses with tails like serpenst) kills one third of man kind; seven thunders Ink and Watercolour Circa 1420-30 MS 49 Apocalypse, (The), [etc.]. Apocalypsis S. Johannis cum glossis et Vita S. Johannis; Ars Moriendi, etc.; Anatomical, medical, texts, theological moral and allegorical ‘exempla’ and extracts, a few in verse. Published: – Copyrighted work available under Creative Commons Attribution only licence CC BY 4.0


Scholars who see fulfillment throughout history understand the survivors as the apostate church after the Crusades. Here, largely Protestant commentators condemn the church of that time for

  • Idolatry, the use of images during worship.
  • Homicide, the murders of hundreds of thousands religious dissenters during the twelfth and thirteenth centuries.
  • Porn, the often open and public sexual immorality of leaders in the church, even at the highest levels. Documented affairs with both women and men, of adultery, and even bestiality, and of many illegitimate children who were later appointed coveted posts in both the church and state offices, fill history books on the church.
  • Robbery, the selling of “indulgences” as tantamount to theft of gullible supplicants. As an aside, according to the Encyclopedia Britannica, it was believed that with repentance must also come penance in the form of good works. “Indulgences” could be purchased, however, to pay off some of the debt of penance to God.


It is the impenitence of the first century Jews living in Jerusalem and Judea these expositors point to. In the four years of Rome’s siege, Jewish factions murdered each other, stole food from each other, destroyed food supply, resorted to cannibalism to stave off starvation, and suffered the crucifixion of fellow Jews by sometimes as many as five hundred daily. Yet, after all these horrors, Josephus wrote:

A false prophet was the occasion of these people’s destruction, who had made a public proclamation in the city that very day, that God commanded them to get upon the temple, and that there they should receive miraculous signs of their deliverance.

Now there was then a great number of false prophets suborned by the tyrants to impose on the people, who denounced this to them, that they should wait for deliverance from God; and this was in order to keep them from deserting, and that they might be buoyed up above fear and care by such hopes.

Now a man that is in adversity does easily comply with such promises; for when such a seducer makes him believe that he shall be delivered from those miseries which oppress him, then it is that the patient is full of hopes of such his deliverance.

… Thus were the miserable people persuaded by these deceivers, and such as belied God himself; while they did not attend nor give credit to the signs that were so evident, and did so plainly foretell their future desolation, but, like men infatuated, without either eyes to see or minds to consider, did not regard the denunciations that God made to them.

Flavius Josephus, The Wars of the Jews, Book V, Section 2 and Book VI, Chapter 5, Section 3
By Wenceslaus Hollar – Artwork from University of Toronto Wenceslaus Hollar Digital CollectionScanned by University of TorontoHigh-resolution version extracted using custom tool by User:Dcoetzee, Public Domain


Theologians who look to the future see a prophecy in Paul’s description of those who obdurately miss the truth.

Now this I affirm and insist on in the Lord: you must no longer walk as the gentiles walk, in the futility of their minds

  • they are darkened in their understanding,
  • alienated from the life of God
  • because of their ignorance and hardness of heart. 
  • They have lost all sensitivity
  • and have abandoned themselves to licentiousness, greedy to practice every kind of impurity.
Ephesians 4:17-19 (NRSV)

There is an alertness to the rise of these elements in societies around the earth because they are harbingers to the condition of humankind when the “end times” will arrive.

Such scholars will say the more we hear of mass shootings, of robberies that go unchallenged by the law, of increasing misuse of both recreational and prescription drugs, of the relaxation of sexual boundaries, and expanding rejection of God or experimentation with various spiritualities, the closer we are to the days of the Apocalypse.


Taken as allegory for the spiritual state of people in general, spiritual interpreters note how even the intensity of these trumpet warnings fail to bring people to repentance. A famous C. S. Lewis quote speaks to the increasing suffering God presents in these warnings:

“We can rest contentedly in our sins and in our stupidities; and anyone who has watched gluttons shoveling down the most exquisite foods as if they did not know what they were eating, will admit that we can ignore even pleasure. But pain insists upon being attended to. God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks in our conscience, but shouts in our pains: it is His megaphone to rouse a deaf world.”

C. S. Lewis, The Problem of Pain, p. 93

But, according to John, even when that pain is a deafening roar, when nothing but horror and terror fills our lives, even then, we human beings are capable of “throwing good money after bad,” believing the impossible lie that the works of our hands, and the spiritual forces that have aligned themselves against Almighty God, will bring some kind of victory in the end.

All this prepares us for the strange events preceding the sounding of the seventh trumpet.

The four perspectives taken from Revelation: Four Views A Parallel Commentary, edited by Steve Gregg

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