The rest of the people who were not killed by these plagues still did not repent of the work of their hands … nor did they repent of their murders, their magic arts, their sexual immorality or their thefts. Revelation 9:20-21

God isn’t willing that any should perish (2 Peter 3:9) and he will stop at nothing to encourage people to repent. We may want to see people relieved of their temporary suffering but God wants to see their soul saved from hell. So while the plagues in this chapter of Revelation are horrific, their object is to convince people to repent.

To our modern minds, the plagues described here are completely unimaginable—vicious locusts and malicious horses. Yet it’s important to remember John has been given the unenviable task of describing things he has never seen before. He hasn’t seen anything mechanical, not a car, not a plane or a military tank. He hasn’t seen the warfare, we see on our TV screens. He hasn’t witnessed a world war or seen a terrorist attack or seen the effects of chemical warfare. He’s forced to describe warfare with only a small vocabulary so he resorts to things he knows—locusts and horses.

John also has the task in the book of Revelation of describing a vast landscape of events. Where to start? If you were describing a vast painting you might start from the left and move to the right. Or perhaps you would start with the foreground and move to the background. John isn’t giving us a chronological narrative of events but rather describing a vast landscape of many events.

Through it all though, John’s message is clear, God is in charge of all things and his unrelenting desire is that people would come to him.