October 02, 2019
Well-loved broadcasters David and Karen Mains launch their first podcast with a conversation about David’s insights into the book of Revelation.
Where are we headed? Can I say one other thing about the way you think we’ve been married for 58 years? And one of your greatest gifts is to take complicated situations or a complicated issue and reduce it to its most essential meaning. And I think that’s what you’ve done in your study of Revelation is taking a book that is fraught for many people with a lot of complications and you’ve reduced it to its essential message.
Intro: Welcome to the Before We Go Podcast featuring Dr. David Mains and his wife, noted author Karen Mains. Our subject for today, the last book in the Bible, The Book of Revelation. Here’s David and Karen Mains.
David: We are David and Karen Mains and after some two decades of not being in such a situation, we are once again in front of microphones in a studio setting. You comfortable, sweetheart?
Karen: I think I am not as comfortable as I should be. Was it really that long ago that we stopped radio broadcasting?
David: Yeah, 15 minutes daily was heard on some 500 radio stations across the country every Monday through Saturday.
Karen: And we did that together for 20 years.
David: As well as introducing a half-hour TV program called You Need to Know. That was on Monday through Friday, won the Programmer of the Year Award from the National Religious Broadcasters. I think that was in 1995. That was last century. We’re ancient. Okay?
Karen: Well, you can claim ancient, but I’m not going to claim ancient.
David: Well, I’m 83. Now you tell how old you are.
Karen: I’m very surprised. 73.
David: I would agree. That’s just the way it is. Let me explain why we’re once again embarking on something new. I kind of blame friends. Friends said “Not only do we miss your program, there’s something around that’s new and you need to think about it and it’s called podcasting”. And here are some of the advantages.
Karen: Well, some of the advantages to podcasting is we don’t have to do it every day.
Karen: And you don’t, you know, we were tied to a 10 to 15-minute format and that meant I think we stopped, according to the stopwatch, at 12 minutes, 37 seconds or something like that. I can’t remember because we had bumpers, what are called bumper notes, opening and closing that had to be put on them. So now we can talk as long as we want or as shortly as we want.
David: Yeah, and that was incredible pressure, really.
Karen: You had a funny joke about that. What was that joke? We had to, we had to stop at 12, 20 or Jim Dobson with focus on the family.
David: They’ve moved you right along. If you didn’t stop when you were supposed to, yeah, you were done. I think the big question to me in terms of where our friends were was, do we have anything relevant to say?
Karen: So, we took some time, we prayed about it and thought about it and realized that we have a lot we want to say. And I think those friends were right in encouraging us. Sometimes you need the people who know you to step along beside you and say you guys are not done yet.
David: No, and they very graciously put this studio together in our house. They gave us books to read, educators about podcasting and poof, all of a sudden here we are ready to go.
Karen: If someone has never heard of you, David, why would they be interested in what you have to say?
David: A good question. I think everybody is interested in the future.
Karen: What’s going to happen these days?
David: I tend to think prophetically. I don’t like that word. People have asked me on occasion, not all that much, but sometimes you think you’re a modern-day prophet. And I say I hope not because I know what the biblical prophets had to go through. They got beaten up.
Karen: One of them had to walk naked. Which one was that one? That was terrible. That would be awful.
David: I’m not sure that I’m comfortable saying I’m a prophet, but I do think future, I think maybe you could say prophetically.
Karen: Where are we headed? Can I say one other thing about the way you think we’ve been married for 58 years? And one of your greatest gifts is to take complicated situations or a complicated issue and reduce it to its most essential meaning. And I think that’s what you’ve done in your study of Revelation is taking a book that is fraught for many people with a lot of complications and you’ve reduced it to its essential message. I think it’s a, I don’t want to brag on you, but it’s a kind of brilliance actually that you can do that. Now some things you, you know, go over your head. You’re not interested in them. But I’ve watched you do this through 58 years of marriage as an extraordinary gift.
David: People have expressed appreciation often. You’re not necessarily prophetic in your thing. How would you describe yourself?
Karen: Well, I’ve learned that I’m a strategic thinker. I’m also an idea intrapreneur, which makes you say, oh Karen, don’t come up with any more ideas.
David: I’m listening to you.
Karen: In those 20 years where we’ve been off broadcasting, I’ve served on some really wonderful international boards with great people and sometimes we have unconscious competencies and they would say, boy, you’re really, really good at that. One is to bring harmony out of conflicted situations. That’s a gift. But the other is to think strategically, and I really never knew that because we’ve always worked as a team when outside people who you’ve not worked with begin to affirm those capabilities. You say, well, what is that? And I would say that I’m a really good strategic thinker, but not necessarily prophetic one, but a good analyzer of the situation at hand.
David: I think that’s good self understanding and it will come out many times in the podcast we do in the future. Right now, we’re moving toward the first of 12 sessions in the book of Revelation. Did you get a chance to listen to those tapes at all?
Karen: I listened to some of them, but I reread your manuscript. Read the first three chapters. And again, I came up with this. Wow, David, you don’t get lost in the things that some other expositors get lost in. This is the basic theme of the whole book of Revelation. You reduce it to like a sentence. And then you take us through that. So, I was again impressed with your capability. I think everyone should study your notes and we need to make them, your written notes, we need to make them available in some way so people can have group studies on Revelation with you, leading it with your particular gifts.
David: This is the first of 12 times I went into the studio. I didn’t want to do this in a church setting. It’s a little preacherly or something then. It does and I don’t want it to sound that way. So, I said I’m most comfortable being in a studio all alone, talking one on one, not taking on a preacher voice.
Karen: But you’re very conversational and you communicate intimately as though you’re in the room through this vehicle of podcasting or broadcasting.
David: Okay, let’s listen to the first of these. And again, there are 12 at all and we’ll be talking about them more in future podcasts.
Reduce to its essence. Here’s what I believe the final book of the Bible is about. In Revelation, none other than Jesus himself informs us that history is moving inexorably toward a global conflict between the forces of good and evil which the Antichrist wins, but only temporarily. Why is Christians prepare themselves accordingly? This significant truth isn’t revealed immediately in Revelation, but it is a bottom-line message of the book. That’s why I wanted to state it right up front.
The world doesn’t just continue on indefinitely. Its trajectory is one where the battle of good against evil, light versus darkness, the forces of God opposing those of Satan, eventually comes to a head and the villainous side wins, but only for a relatively brief period of time. Even so, such information is significant, and believers need to be prepared for this inevitable occurrence.
Revelation 13.7-9 reads, He, the beast or the Antichrist, was given power to make war against the saints and to conquer them. He was given authority over every tribe, people, language, and nation. All inhabitants of the earth will worship the beast. All whose names have not been written in the book of life belonging to the Lamb that was slain from the creation of the world. He who has an ear, let him hear. To make sure you caught it, let me repeat what was previously said.
In Revelation none other than Jesus himself informs us that history is moving inexorably, there’s no stopping it, toward a global conflict between the forces of good and evil which the Antichrist wins, but only temporarily. Wise Christians prepare themselves accordingly. It was said to the early filmmaker Cecil B. DeMille that his spectacular movies began with an earthquake and built toward a climax. In a sense, maybe that’s what I have just done with my beginning. However, this was not an attempt on my part to be sensational. Instead from the outset I felt I needed to underscore the magnitude and the importance and the relevance of this material being studied. Chapter 1 of Revelation starts us on our way. In it we immediately learn that this is a message of great significance because it is from the risen and glorified Christ to His beloved Apostle John. Note the opening verse. The revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave him to show his servants what must soon take place. He made it known by sending his angel to his servant John.
Understand the use of the word revelation to mean the revealing of divine truths that human beings wouldn’t know on their own. This is privileged information the Father is sharing by way of the Son so He can inform people like us regarding what the future holds. The verse could just as easily have been translated as the apocalypse of Jesus Christ. That’s because the Greek word translated as revelation is apocalypsis. The way the word apocalypse is popularly used today, it involves events that mark the end of the world as we know it.
You’ve probably watched movies that deal with this theme. My guess is that familiar landmarks were being destroyed. Scenes of this sort portray without words that catastrophic changes are in the offing. Though apocalypsis has become a popular word of late, I believe the translator’s choice of revelation was a better one. The revelation of Jesus Christ, or the revealing of divine truths that human beings wouldn’t know on their own, which God gave him to show his servants what must soon take place.
Have you ever had an experience like this? You’re attending a convention and a stranger sits beside you in an empty space at the cafeteria table. You make casual conversation. He gives his name, Bill. You mention your first name. He shows interest in your work. You pleasantly chat about your family and the location where you live. He loves the Lake Country around your city. He mentions his own family and says that he’s involved in third-world development projects. Nidharani exclaims as he soon gets up to leave, speaking at the next session. With that he’s gone.
A friend at the other end of the table slides his tray beside yours. Do you know who that was? You shake your head and know all you remember is that his name was Bill. Bill exclaims your friend. That’s Bill Gates. As in the co-founder of Microsoft, one of the richest men in the world, and the director along with his wife of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.
Well, the truth is that whereas some people are not what they initially seem to be, others are much, much more than they seem to be. To understand the last book of the Bible, we need to open our minds to a picture of Jesus that will differ from the one presented in the Gospels. Oh, it’s the same person, but as in the case of my Bill Gates story, in Revelation Jesus is much, much more than he initially seemed to be. Sort of to fully comprehend this book, we need to open our minds to a picture of Jesus that differs from the one presented in the Gospels.
This new revelation is, what word can I use? It’s almost terrifying. I chose that word carefully, but Revelation describes a Jesus who almost makes one’s knees knock in fright. That’s hardly the way the Gospel writers describe it.
Back in the Old Testament book of Daniel, when that remarkable man of God who had the supernatural openly revealed to him, he recorded these words. I said to the one standing before me, “I’m overcome with anguish because the vision, my Lord, and I’m helpless. How can I, your servant, talk with you, my Lord, my— My strength is gone, and I can hardly breathe.” Now note how similar this is to John’s words in Chapter 1 of Revelation. As a Roman prisoner being held captive on the penal island of Patmos because of his Christian testimony, John heard a voice like a trumpet.
When he turned around to see who it was, he took in something absolutely astounding. A powerful man was standing among seven golden lampstands, dressed in a robe reaching down to its feet, and with a golden sash around his chest, his head and his hair were white like wool as white as snow. Now pay attention, his eyes were like blazing fire. His feet were like bronze glowing in a furnace, and his voice was like the sound of rushing waters. In his right hand he held seven stars, and out of his mouth came a sharp double-edged sword. His face was like the sun shining in all its brilliance. When I saw him, I felt at his feet as though dead.
That’s what we would have done also. Falling at the feet of this one who called to us, I know my heart would have been pounding rapidly. I doubt that it would have slowed down even if, as the text read, he placed his right hand on me and said, “Do not be afraid.”
Do not be afraid. I am the first and the last. I am the living one. I was dead and behold, I am alive, forever and ever, and I hold the keys of death and Hades. I am afraid it’s still beating pretty fast, Jesus. This was obviously an encounter of great magnitude. But don’t worry. This will never happen to any of us. It was a one-time, never-to-be-repeated experience.
The message was unique, and so was the servant who was singled out to hear it. In the Gospels, the closest one comes to an account like this was on the Mount of Transfiguration. Here’s Mark 9: 2-6.
After six days, Jesus took Peter, James, and John with him and led them up a high mountain where they were all alone. There he was transfigured before them. His clothes became dazzling white, whiter than anyone in the world could bleach them, and there appeared before them Elijah and Moses who were talking with Jesus. Peter said to Jesus, Rabbi, it’s good for us to be here. Let us put up three shelters, one for you, one for Moses, one for Elijah.
Then in parentheses the text reads, He did not know what to say. They were so frightened. That’s because this was a hair-raising experience. If we had been there, I’m sure we would have been scared spitless. Mark reports further, then a cloud appeared and covered them, and a voice came from the cloud. “It is my son whom I love, listen to him.”
Matthew’s account of the event adds, when the disciples heard this, they fell down to the ground terrified. They just dropped flat. Faces down. Terrified. That’s the word I used earlier when I suggested that the picture of Jesus in Revelation is almost terrifying. It’s like you suddenly find your heart in your mouth.
Hear me on this matter because the Jesus in Revelation will also later be pictured as being dressed in a robe dipped in blood. The armies of heaven follow him. Out of his mouth comes a sharp sword with which to strike down the nations which he rules over with an iron scepter. In Revelation Jesus also opens the books and judges all of mankind. If someone’s name isn’t found in the book of life, that person is thrown into the lake of fire.
Again, all of this is quite a contrast to the gospels that begin with the baby Jesus being born and then placed in a humble manger somewhere outside the tiny town of Bethlehem. Are you feeling the difference yet? As I stated earlier, Revelation allows us to see Jesus in a way that wasn’t possible in the earlier books. This one we finally observe him as the omnipotent or all-powerful Jesus. The risen and glorified Christ, who’s decided that enough is finally enough and the time has now come for every knee to bow, and every tongue confess that he is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. It’s important to see in Revelation, this warrior side of Jesus, for no other reason if you please than to fill out his bio.
He is the Messiah or the Christ in the full sense of that term. Messiah means anointed one, and we associate that word Messiah with the Hebrews. Christ is the English form of the Greek “Christos”, which also means anointed, so for us the two words Messiah and Christ are essentially synonymous. Hear me now.
In his time, Jesus the Christ will fulfill the earlier expectations of the Jews of the New Testament, what they were looking for from a leader, and much more. The narrative of when this happens is only found in Revelation. It completes the scriptures. Nothing additional needs to be added.
Let’s consider the human to whom this Revelation was given as being unique in his own right. Apparently, people didn’t start using last names until around the time of the Crusades, so in Revelation 1, verse 1 reads, He, Jesus, made it, His revelation, known by sending His angel to His servant John. It prompts scholars to ask, John who? To me, it only makes sense that if Jesus wanted to give a more detailed and authoritative account of His triumphant church, and also the persecution it would someday face, He would entrust this critical information to someone who was highly respected by all believers. John the Apostle was just such a man, and the only one of the twelve still alive, described as the disciple whom Jesus loved. Years before, He stood at the cross when Jesus was crucified. He was the one to whom Jesus entrusted the care of His mother, Mary.
He was also John, who, along with Peter, discovered the tomb of His Lord was empty. There are respected contemporary scholars, however, who say the vocabulary and writing style of John’s Gospel and his three epistles are markedly different from that of Revelation. Therefore, this must be some other John whose identity we can no longer trace. But would Jesus entrust this incredibly important message to someone no one today has ever heard of? That seems rather strange. That’s also a factor into the discussion that at the time of receiving these visions, John was a Patmos prisoner serving time in that Roman penal colony.
So there probably wasn’t a lot of opportunity to polish the words he used. It’s also likely that John was dictating to someone, a fellow prisoner maybe. Even the eloquent apostle Paul did that, you can note that in Romans 16-22, and the involvement of a second person could explain some of the language differences.
By the time of his incarceration John was also getting up in years, so this exile to Patmos was probably rough on him. Most likely it was put to hard labor in the island’s quarries. Patmos is a barren volcanic outcropping in the Aegean Sea about ten miles long and six miles wide. In fact, the island is inhabited today. The large monastery of St. John founded in 1088 remains active.
From my money, when Revelation refers over thirty times to Jesus as the Lamb, It sounds very much like the Apostle John in his earlier Gospel, Behold the Lamb of God, and so on. Be aware also that only in the fourth Gospel in Revelation is Jesus called the Logos, the Word. In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. That’s the Gospel of John, chapter 1 verse 1. That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked at, and our hands have touched, this we proclaim concerning the Word of Life. That’s 1st John 1:1. He is dressed in a robe dipped in blood, and his name is the Word of God. Revelation 19:13.
To me that term, the Word has John’s signature all over it. The abundant uses 7’s in Revelation as echoes of the 7 I Am’s in John’s Gospel, and the 7 miracles are on which John lays out his account of the life of Christ. John is also the only New Testament writer to use the term Antichrist in his epistles. Of course, the huge contrast between a Gospel or epistle and the apocalyptic style of Revelation has to also be taken into account. Finally, the early church assumed John the Apostle was the I John of Revelation, chapter 1, verse 9. It wasn’t until much later, when Dionysus, Bishop of Alexandria, AD 190 to 264, first raised authorship queries that anyone actually questioned this early church assumption.
I want you to imagine momentarily that you are Jesus. The first century is coming to a close as you watch from heaven, in spite of hardships your new church is growing rapidly. Focusing on the big picture battle between the kingdoms of light and darkness, you want to both encourage your followers and warn them about burdensome days that are not that far off. To complicate matters, you also know that your words will need to remain relevant to Bible readers for not only hundreds but thousands of years to come. Would you have come up with speaking your truth by sharing a series of visions we will soon be looking at in our study? Sharing these highly imaginative word pictures will over the years be subject to all kinds of wild interpretations, but they will also merit careful study by the finest of biblical scholars.
To my way of thinking, what Jesus pulled off was beyond genius. His apocalyptic-like approach was a style the early church understood. Moderns can also appreciate the complications involved if our Lord attempted to be too literal in his approach. For example, how does one refer to a country like the United States or a religion such as Islam when neither of these had yet come into being? What Jesus did was craft a message that was applicable to the early church, the church through the various ages, and even the church of this modern day.
His words will be especially appropriate for Christians in all settings and times where persecution exists. Then again, even fortunate people who have experienced peace all their lives will also gain much from the study of what Jesus tells us. Parts of what our Lord revealed in this book still remain a mystery. Even so, Revelation is an encouraging word from Jesus, the Christ, to his followers to demonstrate patient endurance and faithfulness even during burdensome times, including when the world is under the relatively brief reign of the Antichrist. But how can I be calm, you ask, if the Jesus of Revelation is terrifying, like you say? Do you recall how in the Narnia Tales C. S. Lewis uses Aslan the Lion as a Christ figure? The children love to romp with him, feel his great mane, hug him even. But they are to forget that in some ways he’s not what you would think of as a tamed lion. Just as roaring as frightening.
He also has great powers. So, you certainly don’t want to do something that offends him. Much less anger him. Well maybe that’s what Jesus should be seen as like in Revelation. Stay close to him. Be grateful that you are his and that he is yours. Maintain a close friendship and you’ll have nothing to fear from this all-powerful Jesus. Not even during frightening times. Why? Because the omnipotent Jesus wants his servants to rest assured that even during fearful times, like what’s described later on in Revelation, he is the one who is totally in charge. As an assignment, before we meet again, I want you to read chapters 1 through 3 of Revelation. Some of you may feel uncomfortable doing so because you’ve heard that the book will give you bad dreams. I don’t think so.
But I need you to follow with me the narrative of this book. So, before we meet again, read chapters 1, 2 and 3 once or twice. The material is not all that difficult to understand. See if what I’ve already told you is helpful and in line with your own initial impressions.
When we get together, I will talk about Revelation chapters 2 and 3. Chapter 1 sets up the messages of Jesus to the seven specific churches we will look at on our next visit. Those congregations are told in Revelation 1:3 that they will be blessed when they “take to heart what is written,” and especially because the time is near. What time? What’s implied is that more difficult days were soon coming. Which was true for a good part of the early church and certainly for some of the churches referred to in the next two chapters. So near were these hard days that Revelation 1:1 reads that the time was quote, “soon to take place.” But that warning also had a future or more distant application.
Here’s chapter 1 verse 19. Right therefore what you have seen, what is now and what will take place later. Finally, along with my reading assignment, I want you to memorize one of two short passages from this initial chapter. The first is verse 7. “Look, he is coming with the clouds, and every eye will see him, even those who pierced him, and all peoples of the earth will mourn because of him. So shall it be. Amen.” Revelation 1:7.
As you commit those 34 words to heart, let the Holy Spirit reveal to you their importance as a reminder about the future return of our great King. “Look, he’s coming with the clouds, and every eye will see him, even those who pierced him, and all peoples of the earth will mourn because of him. So shall it be. Amen.”
A second choice is the last part of chapter 1 verse 5 plus verse 6. It’s a doxology that’s just a bit longer. A doxology is a brief statement of praise. Like the greater doxology, “Gloria in excelsis Deo” is Glory to God in the highest. Recall the chorus of the Christmas Carol “Angels we have heard on high.” Gloria in excelsis Deo, and it’s repeated. Well, what it means is Glory to God in the highest. A lesser doxology begins “Gloria Patri, Glory to the Father.” Well, this is a short doxology of only 42 words. Let me just say it for you to give you a feel.
“To him who loves us and has freed us from our sins by his blood. and has made us to be a kingdom and priests to serve his God and Father to him be glory and power for ever and ever. Amen.”
These words are addressed to Jesus the Christ. Once memorized I believe you’ll find any number of uses for them. When you don’t know what to say in prayer before a meal try this one out. “To him who loves us and his freedom from our sins by his blood and has made us to be a kingdom and priests to serve his God and Father to him be glory and power for ever and ever. Amen”. When you come to the close of a prayer time either alone or with your mate say “To him who loves us and his freedom from our sins by his blood and made us to be a kingdom and preach to serve his God and Father to him be glory and power for ever and ever. Amen”. When you’re asked to say a closing prayer after a church or committee meeting of some kind make it short by using these words said in a meaningful way “To him who loves us and his freedom from our sins by his blood and has made us to be a kingdom and preach to serve his God and Father to him be glory and power for ever and ever. Amen”. Even when you say a bedtime prayer with a grade school child. Finish it on occasion with these words “To him who loves us and has freed us from our sins by his blood and made us to be a kingdom and preach to serve his God and Father to him be glory and power for ever and ever. Amen.” I believe there’s a certain settling or calming factor to these words. I even imagine them as appropriate.
If the time were to come when your freedom or your life was to be sacrificed because of your Christian faith, I envision these words as giving a person great peace either in prison or in those final moments before the sword comes down. Revelation 1, 5 and 6 to him “Jesus who loves us and his freedom from our sins by his blood made us to be a kingdom and priest to serve.”
I’m thinking that between the choosing of which one you memorize and the reading and the memorizing of a sign we’re talking about maybe two hours of your time maximum. Memorizing will be the harder part, but you can do it. Write the verses on a 3 by 5 card or a small sheet of paper. Put the prayer in your cell phone, whatever. It takes a while to master the line so I’m not talking about two hours at one sitting but all told.
However, these incredible words can be yours. Free of charge. Marvelous prayers direct from the sacred scriptures. What did I want you to understand and hold on to this opening presentation in this series? That revelation is a message of great importance. It’s from the risen and glorified Christ to his beloved Apostle John not to some unknown first-century person with that name and that all believers should as the text reads take to heart what is written in it. And I believe one time honored way of doing this, of taking these words to heart, is by memorizing a short part of what has been passed down through the centuries to us which we believe is a message from the risen and glorified Christ himself to his beloved Apostle John and then shared by him with common folk like us through the sacred word. Therefore, we will quote “take to heart what is written.”
Outgo: You’ve been listening to the Before We Go podcast. If you enjoyed this podcast please remember to rate, review and share on Apple podcasts or on whatever platform you listen. This podcast is copyright 2019 by Mainstay Ministries, Post Office Box 30, Wheaton, Illinois 60189.
Get a copy of David Mains’ The Remarkable Revelation – Sermon Series.
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