“At thy right hand there are pleasures for evermore” (Ps. 16:11)
“And the rest of the men which were not killed by these plagues yet repented not of the works of their hands, that they should not worship devils, and idols of gold, and silver, and brass, and stone, and of wood: which neither can see, nor hear, nor walk: Neither repented they of their murders, nor of their sorceries, nor of their fornication, nor of their thefts” (Rev. 9:20–21).
We sometimes like to imagine that the damned in Hell would gladly repent, if only given the ghost of a chance. But yet here we have a harbinger of Hell, a hell-on-earth, and though you might think that would be an inducement to repentance, it turns out that repentance is a gift of the sovereign God. There really is a mystery to lawlessness, rebellion that makes no sense whatever.
The survivors of the previous plagues should have taken the fierce reality of those plagues into account—but did not. Notice that it says that they refused to repent of the works of their own hands. They crafted their own sinfulness; it was handmade idolatry. This is another place in the New Testament where idolatry and devil worship go together. “But I say, that the things which the Gentiles sacrifice, they sacrifice to devils, and not to God: and I would not that ye should have fellowship with devils” (1 Cor. 10:20). Sacrificing to idols is sacrificing to demons, and sacrificing to demons is having koinonia-fellowship with demons.
The material that is used to fashion the idols can vary—gold, silver, brass, stone, or wood—but the immaterial substance being invoked is always the same, which is devilish and demonic. John tells us that those these idols are made from many different materials, but it does not matter. None of them are alive. They cannot see, hear, or walk. And because those who make them have become like unto them (Ps. 115:4-8), it follows that these idolaters cannot see, hear, or walk either.The sinners will not let the sin go, and the sins will not let the sinners go.In what sense? They cannot see righteousness, they cannot hear righteous commands, and they cannot walk in righteousness. There is the idol in the material world, gold, silver, and so on. Then there is the spiritual idol behind the matter, which is the demon. And there is also the invisible idol in the idolaters’ hearts—the things they would have to surrender were they to repent. And these sins include murder, sorcery, fornication, and thievery. These heart sins are their “precious,” and they will not let them go. The sinners will not let the sin go, and the sins will not let the sinners go.
Remember that the bloodguilt of murder would include the bloodguilt of abortion, a sin common in the first century as it is in ours. The word for sorcery is pharmakia, from which we get the word pharmacy. The occultism here is related to drug use, and when drug use becomes rampant, occultism is never far behind. Fornication would include the same kind of corrupt desires that we celebrate on the Internet. And they governed their lives with thievery in their hearts, just as we do. And Scripture teaches that having your world collapse around you will not by itself bring repentance. In order for that to happen, the gift of God must be given (Acts 5:31; 2 Tim. 2:25).