As we come to the end of Revelation 9 we have vicariously witnessed the destruction of half of the Earth's population; the first quarter under the four horses of the apocalypse and now a third of the remainder under the sixth trumpet. We have seen massive decay in the urban infrastructure and have now witnessed a third of nature, as we know it, destroyed combined with movements in the cosmos that seriously threaten the remainder. We know from Rev 6:16 that man is by now well aware that God exists and Rev 8:13 suggests that they are even aware of what is about to cause the three woes we are seeing. Yet man repents not.
At first sight this is unbelievable. Man is experiencing the awesome power of God first hand and yet chooses to continue in his own way. There is nothing rational in this behavior, yet there are a number of factors in the condition of man and the environment of the tribulation that can explain what we see. The purpose of this essay is to study some of these factors.
Modern day sociologists like to explain deviance as the result of errant nurture. However the Bible starts within: with the heart. Although the conditions were less severe than in revelation Jeremiah was dealing with a similar situation where the Jew was about to suffer calamity at the hand of the Babylonians. Reading through the early parts of Jeremiah we are struck again and again by the reference to the evil heart. In fact God defines some of the blessing that will eventually come as being a time when man doesn't follow his evil heart.
Thus we find man naturally rebels against God by instinct; although it is worthy of note too that in most of the verse cited in Jeremiah it doesn't just talk about an evil heart; it talks about the imaginations of an evil heart. In Jeremiah 17:9 we read about the heart being desperately wicked and deceitful above all things. We may think this to be a declaration that man lies. But to whom is he lying? This is not talking about a tongue or the lips; it is talking about the heart, the seat of our emotions and will.
I suggest the heart is not lying to others: it is lying to us. Hence we get the expression the 'imaginations of an evil heart'. What was happening in Jeremiah's time was that people were going against reason and believing what they wanted to believe. Their emotions and will were getting the better of the reality that their minds would otherwise have acted upon.
Thus my only real answer to why men will not repent of their deeds during the tribulation is "man doesn't want to". This is actually the same line as that taken by the apostle Paul during the dispensation of grace, "so that they are without excuse."
Having laid the blame squarely upon the individual we should note certain factors that are certainly going to encourage men in their iniquity.
Firstly there is going to be widespread deception. We saw in the rider of the white horse one that goes forth at a political level based upon lying. We know that during the church age there are going to be lying and seducing spirits around and we should assume the same are prevalent during the tribulation also. We know too that the church will be absent along with the Holy Spirit so the testimony of truth will be severely restricted.
We know also from the second horse the violence will be the norm and thus people will persuade themselves that murder is required for survival. The third horse also shows economic oppression that will encourage theft. In fact the Bible even goes as far as to suggest that theft is less despicable when you are hungry.
It is possible that the text itself gives us an important clue to at least one of the factors affecting the minds of those enduring the trumpets. In verse 21 it refers to sorceries, the Greek word is pharmakeia that literally means medication. I wonder if this isn't referring to some for of narcotic substance abuse. There are many people that resort to substance abuse to 'take their mind off' their problems. It is not at all inconceivable that a malicious dictatorship could remove willpower from a vast proportion of the populace by legitimizing and making readily available various addictive substances. Especially during the torture of the locusts it is easy to imagine painkiller addiction becoming widespread. With the weakening of the mind the evil heart would have free reign, and we would probably get what we see here.
I am sure that when we look down from heaven and witness these events we will find many 'modern professionals' able to justify the behavior of everyone that chooses to defy God. However the wrath will keep coming, because there is no justification.
It will be tempting then, as now, to simply sit back and shake our heads in disgust. Yet we must not be complacent: there but for the grace of God go we.
Eph 2:3 Among whom also we all had our conversation in times past in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind; and were by nature the children of wrath, even as others.