The fifth angel poured out his bowl upon the throne of the beast, and his kingdom became darkened, and they gnawed their tongues on account of the pain. And they blasphemed the God of heaven because of their pains and their sores, and they did not repent of their works. Rev 16:10-11.
My children constantly remind me that I’m becoming an “older person.” One of the things I have noticed about “older people” is that they become more and more like whatever they have been before. The person who has spent a lifetime being sweet and blessing others tends to become a really, really sweet old person. On the other hand, a person who has lived for self and felt the world owed him or her a living will become more and more selfish and difficult as the years wind down toward the end.
I remember bringing my wife along on a pastoral visit to an older woman one day. The woman was bedridden that day and asked if my wife could feed her something. My wife agreed and put some hot cereal together. She then began to spoon the cereal into the lady’s mouth. The lady was hungry and ate with enthusiasm. But at one point my wife didn’t get the food to the woman’s mouth as fast as she expected it and so she bit my wife harshly on the wrist for her troubles!
I remember telling my brother about the incident and saying, “I want to get rid of all my hangups as soon as possible. I don’t ever want to become like that when I get old!” As we age, we tend to become more and more what we have been all along. This has implications for what happens on earth after the close of human probation.
In the face of the overwhelming judgment in this text, one would expect everyone to repent. But that is not the way it will be at the end of time. One survivor of a plane crash recounts that he always expected people who were dying to cry out to God for mercy in their final moments. Instead, as the plane was heading downward, out of control, he heard many respond with cursing. In their “last moments” they were merely following habits that they had spent their lives developing.
It doesn’t matter if God responds with judgment or mercy, some will refuse to believe, refuse to repent, refuse to bless the name of the Lord (Rev 16:9, 11, 21). They are like the wicked in Sodom who laughed at Lot when he warned them of judgment to come. And so in the end the wicked die unrepentant in the face of God’s judgments. In this they reveal a deep-seated obstinacy and a depth of human rebellion against God.