Rev. 9:20-21 … “The rest of mankind, who were not killed by these plagues, did not repent not of the works of their hands, so as not to worship demons, and the idols of gold and of silver and of brass and of stone and of wood, which can neither can see nor hear nor walk; and they did not repent of their murders nor of their sorceries nor of their immorality nor of their thefts.”
When man is confronted with the holiness of God, his appropriate response is repentance. Although the apostle Peter evidently had some idea of Jesus’ divinity, nevertheless, when Jesus produced a miraculous catch of fish, he was greatly astonished. He felt himself suddenly in the very presence of One whose holiness reached to heaven, and he was overwhelmed with a feeling of his own inferiority and sinfulness. We are told that, “When Simon Peter saw that, he fell down at Jesus’ feet, saying, ‘Go away from me Lord, for I am a sinful man! (Lk. 5:8). Isaiah the prophet had the same experience centuries earlier when he entered the temple one day to worship. The building was suddenly filled with smoke, and he saw seraphim, which seem to be special angels who accompany the very Presence of God. From within the smoke Isaiah heard the voice of God speaking to him. His response was the cry of repentance, “Woe is me, for I am ruined! Because I am a man of unclean lips,” (Isa. 6:5).
The Bible teaches us that, in cases like these of Peter and Isaiah, we should respond to the revelation of God’s holiness not only with repentance, but also with obedience to His explicit commandments.
Jesus proclaims that, “Unless you repent, you will all … perish!” (Lk. 13:3). And the Spirit through Peter requires us to “repent, and each of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of sins,” (Acts 2:38). Everyone who is conscientious and receives this particular message from God’s word with an open heart will indeed repent. The impression God’s holiness makes upon us through the Scriptures should reveal and emphasize our sinfulness and induce us to repent. Our urgent desire should then be to obtain forgiveness, rectify our life, and be clothed with the righteousness which God confers upon His saints, (Gal. 3:27).
The tragic and sad fact of human experience, however, is that only a small fraction of people take God seriously and submit penitently to His will. It is this awful, worldwide failure of man that is the subject of our featured text. In Revelation 8 and 9, in the apocalyptic imagery of the “trumpets of judgment,” God is seen inflicting His wrath upon one-third of sinful humanity, not only to punish them, but also to warn the other twothirds of what awaits them if they don’t repent and submit to His will. In the short space of this article we cannot expound upon this interpretation, but God’s judgments mentioned here seem to be a continuous process in this world throughout the Gospel Age until Jesus returns. During this time the Lord appeals to one generation after the other by these judgments to repent and conform their lives to the canon of His holiness. For His ultimate desire is to save and exalt everyone and not to destroy him, (II Pet. 3:9; I Tim. 2:3-4).
Our text, however, indicates that only a relative few in a generation listen to God and bother to subject their lives, as clay into the hands of the Master Potter, to mold them into vessels of honor, (II Tim. 2:20-22). Jesus stated the situation clearly when He declared, “Enter through the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the way is broad that leads to destruction, and there are many who enter through it,” (Mt. 7:13). And yet, the decision to repent and conform one’s life to God’s design is the greatest thing a person can ever do, because it leads the soul to a state of eternal welfare and joy. This option is granted to every person and is open as long as he lives and has a mind capable of discernment.