What does Revelation 9:21 mean?
ESV: nor did they repent of their murders or their sorceries or their sexual immorality or their thefts.
NIV: Nor did they repent of their murders, their magic arts, their sexual immorality or their thefts.
NASB: and they did not repent of their murders, nor of their witchcraft, nor of their sexual immorality, nor of their thefts.
CSB: And they did not repent of their murders, their sorceries, their sexual immorality, or their thefts.
NLT: And they did not repent of their murders or their witchcraft or their sexual immorality or their thefts.
KJV: Neither repented they of their murders, nor of their sorceries, nor of their fornication, nor of their thefts.
NKJV: And they did not repent of their murders or their sorceries or their sexual immorality or their thefts.
Verse Commentary:
This verse informs us that unbelievers who are not killed by the plagues of this chapter refuse to repent of their evil deeds. This follows a pattern clearly established in the Bible: human beings, in general, are stubbornly disobedient and sinful. Even when facing consequences, the natural human response is to cling to sin and selfishness.

In the tribulation, crimes such as murder will rise to unprecedented figures. As Jesus predicted, "lawlessness will be increased" in the tribulation (Matthew 24:12).

The unrepentant also refused to abandon their "sorceries." This is an interesting term, and one easily misunderstood in the modern world. For those raised in modern western culture, the term "sorcerer" evokes the idea of a magic-user or a spell-caster. There is a sense in which that kind of magic—or attempts at it—are part of man's rebellion against God. When Paul preached at Ephesus, converts to the gospel burned their books of magic arts worth fifty thousand pieces of silver (Acts 19:19). However, the Greek root word translated here as "sorceries" is pharmakeia. We get the modern English words "pharmacy" and "pharmaceuticals" from this term. As such, this is a reference to drugs, poisons, potions, and other illicit substances. Ancient "sorcerers" were those who controlled the minds or actions of others, often by use of such chemicals. It's reasonable to think drug use, abuse, and trafficking will reach huge proportions in the tribulation.

Sexual immorality will also abound in the tribulation. Despite all signs that God is judging humanity for their sin, those who indulge their sexual passions in illicit ways refuse to abandon their vile habits. Nor will they stop stealing and robbing. The unwillingness of these offenders to repent illustrates the desperate wickedness of the human heart (Jeremiah 17:9). It speaks to the justice of God's wrath on earth.
Verse Context:
Revelation 9:13–21 provides further insight into the assault by the northern invader. Earlier in chapter 9 we read about a horde of demonic locusts ascending from the bottomless pit. Now we read about two hundred million heavily armed cavalrymen, whose horses have heads like those of lions and tails like those of snakes. Four angels residing at the Euphrates allow the demonic army to advance across the river. The swarm of locusts described earlier may control or even possess these two hundred million cavalrymen. What follows is the annihilation of one third of humanity. However, the rest of humanity refuse to repent of their evil deeds, idolatry, murders, sorceries, or sexual immorality. Joel 2 and Ezekiel 38 also prophesy this northern army's invasion of Israel. Revelation 10 will provide another interlude between the judgments.
Chapter Summary:
Revelation 9 tells us that under the fifth trumpet judgment John sees a star fall from heaven to earth. This ''star'' is Satan, and he is given the key to the bottomless pit. Using this key, Satan unleashes a plague of supernatural demons resembling locusts. They torment unbelievers for five months with such pain that people seek death unsuccessfully. They appear like horses prepared for battle, and they have a king, whose name is Apollyon, meaning ''Destroyer.'' Under the sixth trumpet judgment John sees four angels released from the Euphrates river. Their release coincides with a horde of two hundred million demonic mounted troops that kill a third of mankind. However, the survivors refuse to abandon their idolatry and to repent of their evil deeds.
Chapter Context:
The ninth chapter of Revelation continues the report of what happens when the seven angels blow their trumpets. Chapter 8 described the first four trumpet judgments; chapter 9 reports the fifth and sixth. The events in chapter 9 are much more severe than those which came before. The severity of judgments increases dramatically with each trumpet blast. These judgments precede the final series of events, called the bowl judgments. Revelation chapters 15 and 16 will reveal what happens under these judgments.
Book Summary:
The word ''revelation'' means ''an unveiling or disclosure.'' This writing unveils future events such as the rapture, three series of judgments that will fall on the earth during the tribulation, the emergence of the Antichrist, the persecution of Israel and her amazing revival, as well as Jesus' second coming with His saints to the earth, the judgment of Satan and his followers, and finally, the eternal state. This content, combined with the original Greek term apokalypsis, is why we now refer to an end-of-the-world scenario as ''an apocalypse.''
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