December 18, 2019
Well-loved broadcasters David & Karen Mains launch their 16th podcast with a conversation about David’s insights into the book of Revelation, Chapters 21-22.
So, there is this repeated challenge to live with what’s ahead always in mind, the triumphant return of our Lord. He is the one who also let us know that history is moving inexorably toward a global conflict, a conflict between the forces of good and evil, light and darkness, God and Satan, which the Antichrist wins, but only temporarily, where this in mind Christians need to prepare themselves accordingly.
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: Can you stick around for a half hour or so? We’re David and Karen Mains and our podcast is called…
Karen: Before We Go.
David: I think you’ll find the time well spent. This is part 12 of 12 in a series on the book of Revelation. Question for you, Karen. How much do you think about heaven?
Karen: A lot more now than I’m in my 70s. And I think of it with great joy and wonder and a feeling of extraordinary anticipation. I’m not dreading dying because if heaven is realized, we believe it is. What’s there to be distressed about? Leave me things behind you, but it’ll be such a short time before everyone joins me if I go before you go.
David: I was thinking I would go before you go. I’m older than you by about seven years.
Karen: Yeah, that’s true.
David: What’s the main attraction of heaven for you?
Karen: Harmony. A place of harmony. And the other thing I think of, of his unity being one with. There was a young theologian who said, “We really don’t understand heaven because people asked the question. It was asked in Christ time. Will we marry in heaven? Or whose husband or wife will this one be when they’ve had multiple marriages because of death?” And the response was, “…you really don’t understand what heaven is about.” And this young theologian said, “No! The truth is we’re going to all be married to one another. Everyone.”
David: You know, you surprised me when you answered my question the way you did because when I think of heaven, first thing I think of, we’ll see Jeremy again.
Karen: Yeah, such I…
David: He was 42 when he died…
Karen: … seven years ago.
David: Yeah, I miss him a lot. Not careful.
Karen: Chewing up right now. Right?
David: So, I look forward to seeing him. I look forward to seeing my folks.
David: I look forward to seeing my brother-in-law, you know. And all those people we knew through these years…
David: …were a big part of our lives. I look forward to that. I would like to say, but it’s probably not totally honest. More than anything else, I want to see Jesus.
David: I truly want to see him.
David: You know, but for some reason, that’s not what comes first in my mind.
Karen: Well, I think Christ isn’t abstract, but it’s more abstract. Because we have a theological reality and then often experience his real presence through the mediation of the Holy Spirit. But the people we’ve known and lived with day in and day in, they are more real to a certain extent. But I do think when I say to myself, well, how do you feel about the very thing seeing the Lord Jesus Christ? It’s almost so overwhelming.
Karen: I thought that I can’t really enter into it. But yes, of course, that would be the major benefit of being in heaven.
David: I asked last time we met together about people in other lands, do they think about heaven more than we do? And they probably do. We have a certain heaven on earth living in the United States of America.
Karen: You know, I was just reading up on martyrdom, I had to do a research project in the early centuries. And I had not really realized what a slaughter went on in the early…
Karen: 2 to 300s, after Christ, after Christianity started. And the phrase that touched me was that martyrdom wasn’t looked upon as slaughter by those who were being murdered. But the way they died, they understood as a witness to the reality that they would be in heaven and meet Christ there. So, they went into it willingly. In the testimony about them, from non-believer, there was something there because of the way they were not afraid of death.
David: They not only knew how to live, they knew how to die…
Karen: …not only knew how, they knew how to die. But that was a witness. That posture was a witness to the watching world at that time. And that that reality is lasted through the history of the centuries,
David: …including our own,
Karen: Including our own, where martyrdom is going on all the time around the world. I mean, we here, in the States or in the Western world, really do not know how the church is suffering worldwide.
David: I think that there are wonderful ministries that try to make us aware of this. But again, we’re now moving into the last of the series of 12 messages I gave in the book of Revelation. I kind of hate to leave it.
Karen: You’ve spent a lot of time in this book.
David: I lived with that for so many years. And it was a good study. So, I trust that some of what I was able to experience, as I put those hours and hours in, I would say, that probably spent 15 years in this book. Not all the time, obviously.
Karen: But it was a study that extended over 15 years.
David: And it was in my mind all the time.
David: And now I get this opportunity to share it with other people, which I’m glad for. But heaven is how it all ends up. So, this wonderful…
Karen: Good ending. Happy ending.
David: That’s right. And we’ll leave it there and we’ll go to the broadcast that we’re made.
Our son Jeremy succumbed to an aggressive lymphoma or cancer at age 42. He was the youngest of our four children. It’s been said that all parents should die before any of their offspring do. I understand the reason for that saying.
Jeremy went to be with the Lord when his three children were quite young. Now they are 11, 9, and 6. Their incredible mom, Angela, our daughter-in-law, is not only a marvelous single parent. She’s employed full-time and has recently earned her doctorate.
During those busy years of hers, as one of two sets of grandparents, we were able to spend quality time with Eliana, Nehemiah, and Annalise. The difference in ages between these three and their papa, that’s me, is over 70 years. And I confess that sometimes I have a hard time trying to get into their mindsets to explain things. For example, why isn’t it OK when papa has all three of them in a big store like a Walmart for any of them to just kind of wander off on his or her own? To them it’s no big deal. I mean, each is excited to see the toys at his or her age level. But for papa, not to always know where all three of them are, that’s panic time.
I have a feeling that God had a somewhat similar problem, maybe, when coming to the end of the revelations he would show John. How was he to describe the wonders he had planned for the spiritual children he loves? The gap between his perspective, his experience, his wisdom compared to ours was so vast, to do justice to that future would require more than the seven short paragraphs we will now examine. But then would 70 paragraphs be sufficient? What about 700?
Anyway, that’s the main agenda for this visit as we come to the end of our series based on Revelation.
Chapter 21 begins, “Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away.” Verse 2, “I saw the holy city, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. So, two verses and already we have a new heaven, a new earth, and a new Jerusalem. This scene comes after the white throne judgment and the other events of Revelation, Chapter 20.
Verse 3, “And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, ‘Now the dwelling of God is with men, and he will live with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God.”
Sounds very good. Now listen to this. “He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the older things have passed away.” Death, crying, pain. My personal association with those words has not been all that pleasant. What about yours?
No more death or pain or crying. That’s wonderful. Praise the Lord. Nothing more is necessary, God. I’m sold.
Now here’s the guarantee. Verse 5, “He who is seated on the throne said, ‘I am making everything new. Write this down, John, for these words are trustworthy and true.” Hey, the text could stop right here, and I’m satisfied. My comment is, that’s a new earth, all right. A wonderful new earth. Take away death, and I guess there’s really no need for the old heaven anymore, either. Nothing has even been mentioned yet about the wonderful prospect of being united with our loved ones who died as believers.
Golly, it will be good to see you again, Jeremy. Verses 6 and 7. “He said to me, ‘It is done. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning, and the end. To him who is thirsty I will give to drink without cost, from the spring of the water of life. He who overcomes…’” Take note of this… “… will inherit all this, and I will be his God, and he will be my son.” Overcomes seems to be a favorite word of John’s. You find it in his Gospel, his first epistle and often here in Revelation.
I didn’t mention this before because we hadn’t yet come into our studies to what it was that needed to be overcome. Now, with a great tribulation perspective, let me return back to Revelation chapters 2 and 3. Those chapters contain the seven short sermons from Jesus to the churches in what was then Asia Minor.
Now I’ll listen again to how the people in each of those congregations were challenged to be overcomers. Ephesus. “To him who overcomes, I will give the right to eat from the tree of life which is in the paradise of God.” We’ll get to that tree before long today.
Smyrna. “He who overcomes will not be hurt by the second death.” The second death again is the lake of fire. Pergamum. “To him who overcomes, I will give some of the hidden manna.” Thyatira. “To him who overcomes and does my will to the end, I will give authority over the nations just as I have received authority from my father.” Sardis. “To him who overcomes will be dressed in white. I will never blot out his name from the Book of Life but will acknowledge his name before my father and his angels.” Philadelphia. “To him who overcomes, I will write on him the name of my God and the name of the city of my God, the New Jerusalem which is coming down out of heaven from my God.” Laodicea. “To him who overcomes, I will give the right to sit with me on my throne just as I overcame and sat down with my father on his throne.
Back once again now to Revelation chapter 21:7. “He who overcomes will inherit all this. The new heaven, the new earth, the new Jerusalem plus I will be his God and he will be my son.” Verse 8 is a contrast. “But the cowardly”, or if you please the “non-overcomer, the unbelieving, the vile, the murderers, the sexually immoral, those who practice magic arts and idolaters and all liars, their place will be in the fiery lake of burning sulfur.”
Now we have a new paragraph and a shift in the narrative. What’s described next is the new Jerusalem which John is shown by an angel. Verses 10 and 11. “And he carried me away in the spirit to a mountain great and high and showed me the holy city Jerusalem coming down out of heaven from God. It’s shown with the glory of God and its brilliance was like that of a very precious jewel like a jasper, clear as crystal.” The city is then described and it’s not only beautiful, it’s huge. Twelve thousand stadia in length were about a thousand four hundred miles.
In air travel that’s about the distance from Chicago to Phoenix. Big place, huh? Think of a city that’s a square of a thousand four hundred miles on each side except that this city is a cube. One thousand four hundred miles in length, width and height.
Verses 18 and the start of 19. “The city wall was made of jasper and the city of pure gold as pure as glass. The foundations of the city walls were decorated with every kind of precious stone and these precious stones are listed.” Verse 21 “the twelve gates were twelve pearls. Each gate is made of a single pearl. The great street of the city was pure gold like transparent glass.”
I’m aware that this picture is not in sync with the way some modern Americans think about personal luxury. They would probably opt for an impressive high-end property with an Olympic-sized pool, a great home theater system, a couple freezers full of Omaha stakes and at least one Lamborghini in the garage. But John’s corporate description made close to 2,000 years ago is going to impress most people on the earth down through the centuries, including even the majority of those alive today.
New paragraph, verses 22 and 23. “I did not see a temple in the city because the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are its temples. The city does not need the sun or the moon to shine on it, for the glory of God gives it light, and the Lamb is its lamp.
Skip to chapter 22. “Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life, as clear as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb down the middle of the great street of the city. On each side of the river stood the tree of life, bearing twelve crops of fruit, yielding its fruit every month, and the leaves of the tree are for the healing of the nations. No longer will there be any curse.” No curse. Wow. Just keeps getting better and better.
One last short line at the end of verse 5, “and they will reign forever and ever.” I’m not going to comment further on these verses. I believe they speak for themselves. Are they to be taken literally or symbolically? As far as I’m concerned, either way, not only do they sound really good, they prompt in me the response of, I really don’t want to miss out on all this.
What about you? Here’s one final key theme from our studies. The new heaven and the new earth and the new Jerusalem were created for those who overcome. I’m sure you noticed that I carefully worded that sentence. My intent was not to delineate who is cast into the lake of fire and who gets to enjoy such remarkable benefits. That’s a different subject calling for a different response. But evangelism is not the main theme of Revelation. The book is addressed first and foremost to believers and is an encouragement to persevere, to hang in there during really tough times, to be, if you will, overcomers. And I believe God’s desire in sharing these future wonders was to say to his hard-hit followers, it will be worth it all. You have my word. Be encouraged. The new heaven and the new earth and the new Jerusalem were created for those who overcome.
To be an overcomer implies prevailing over whatever a given obstacle might be. In our study of Revelation, it certainly means refusing to submit to the antichrist. That’s why martyrdom is the ultimate victory. Such people say in essence, “even if you threaten my very life, I will not do what you say.” During the end times, I believe it will be obvious who the overcomers are.
The early church grew rapidly in spite of sometimes fierce opposition from the anti-Christian Rome. Most of us have seen artist renderings of small groups of various aged Christians huddled together in the great Roman Coliseum, coming up from the cages below or the lions. Even as a young boy, I recall wondering, “What would I do if I was put to such a test?” Throughout history, in settings where evil has gotten the upper hand, overcoming has taken on different forms.
In the time of the Second World War, Corrie Ten Boom was part of a Dutch Christian family that hid Jewish people from the Nazis. They did this in their homes and shops. She was an overcomer who lived to tell about it. At the same time Dietrich Bonhoeffer, a highly respected German Lutheran pastor and theologian, eventually felt led to become part of a plot to kill Hitler. It failed, and his involvement was discovered. Bonhoeffer paid for this with his life. I believe the church agrees that both of these individuals were overcomers.
Here in the U.S., our lives to date anyway, have been much less complex. We enjoy the fruits of freedom. We’re not threatened because of our faith. But that also means overcomers are less easily identified.
So, what about it? Are you an overcomer? I didn’t ask if you were a well-known Christian. If you’re on your church staff or have served on one of the boards, maybe. Not how many years have you been a believer or how much you give in the offering each week. What I asked was whether you are an overcomer. As present tense. Not where you were at one time an overcomer, but are you one now? My guess is that many of us would be hard pressed to give testimony regarding an obstacle or person that we found impeding our relationship with the Lord. And in the past year we consciously entered into a spiritual battle related to this situation. But now praise the Lord. We have made great strides or even permanently won the victory regarding that matter.
Then again I may be wrong. Maybe there have been victories galore. I would be most pleased if my analysis was off. Finish this sentence by filling in the blank. All right. If God said to you, here is the area blank where I would like to see you learn to be an overcomer. What do you think would be the matter he wants you to come to grips with? Would it be about your tongue? What about your money? Your thought life? A habit? How about a relationship? A negative attitude maybe.
Here’s an area that says the Lord let me prompt you by my spirit to fill in the blank with where I would really like to see you learn to be an overcomer. Not just for my sake has gone but for yours as well. I mean you would feel so much better for getting the victory in this area for being an overcomer. Would you like some time to quiet down and think about it? Well I can give you a little time. Okay. Something that’s impeding you spiritually speaking, and you need with God’s help to learn to overcome. There’s that key word again to overcome it. Usually, it doesn’t take the Lord very long to bring that to mind.
Do not seal up the words of the prophecy of this book because the time is near. It says an angel to John in verse 10 of the final chapter. In essence this final short section serves as a reminder that these are incredibly important truths given by Jesus to John. The apostle is not to keep to himself what he’s been shown but rather to make these visions widely known.
History doesn’t just go on forever but is moving toward the showdown between the forces of good and evil which evil wins but only temporarily. The struggle between the early followers of Christ and anti-Christian forces certainly expressed itself in the conflict between church and state when Rome was the reigning world power. So, there’s no question but what these writings were highly relevant during that era. In fact, they remain fitting whenever and wherever anti-Christian totalitarian forces manifest themselves.
But do you believe revelation is also a prophecy that reaches beyond that early time even to our modern era and down to the very end of history as we know it. You should be knowledgeable enough by now to make an informed decision on your own. Whatever your answer I suppose the majority of people are still curious about the future. How come? Probably because seeing ahead helps them know how to plan. If the weather report says it’s going to rain all day Saturday, most likely they shouldn’t schedule a picnic in the park for that day. If they hear that a certain company is in serious discussions about possibly filing for bankruptcy, they would be wise not to put their money into that stock. How much confidence is invested in such predictions depends on the reliability of the forecaster. Are the weather reports usually accurate? What about the news source that reported on those supposed bankruptcy talks? And for that matter, how trustworthy is Jesus? Or the angel who reported our Lord’s message to John? Or the beloved disciple? Or our earlier brothers in the faith, who somewhere along the line decided that the apocalypse was worthy of a place in the biblical canon?
For my part, I’m willing to believe that Revelation is a most beneficial briefing initiated by none other than Jesus himself to help his people be prepared for a yet to come incredibly tough time that could be closer than we think. If that’s true, what a gracious gift this is from our Lord and Savior. Does giving guidance like this seem consistent with Jesus’ character? I believe so. He thoughtfully and lovingly and carefully prepared the Twelve for his crucifixion, didn’t he?
Now our Lord is once again saying, to those I love, I leave a clear description of what the end times will be like. Walking by faith in the best of times is one thing. Staying loyal to me when all the world seems enamored with the enemy is something else. To still get the better of the devil in that kind of a setting could require additional insight and encouragement. Just be aware that I want those for whom I died to prevail or overcome even when the enemy is strutting his stuff.
So, our great leader and friend who already knows both the beginning and the end of this spiritual saga has given us enough of an understanding about the future to surmount whatever difficulties we might have to someday face. How incredibly thoughtful of him. How comforting to know that he will return at just the right time. How exciting to be aware that we are on the winning side. How satisfying to rest assured that God remains in complete control. All this sounds so very good. You may have forgotten the bad side.
Allow me to quickly review some of those very real negatives. When you’re unable to buy essentials like food, gasoline, or heating oil because you can’t show the mark of the beast, how do you provide for those who look to you to meet their needs? When the basic rights of citizenship enjoyed by everyone else are stripped from you because of your faith, how do you keep from being bitter? When all bibles are to be turned in and owning one is a capital offense, how do you feed yourself spiritually? When your most valuable possessions are confiscated by the government, how do you pray for those who persecute you? When your children are denied an education, what do you tell them? When your church building is torched, where do you and your fellow believers meet? When Christians are constantly maligned in the media and facts are twisted to support these lies, how do you maintain your sanity? When well-known religious personalities speak out in support of the beast, how do you not question your convictions? When your home is no longer a place of safety because a knock on the door could mean your children are taken from you or a family member is arrested on false charges, how do you get information as basic as where this person is being held? When you’re forced to live in deplorable, grossly overcrowded, get-hold conditions, how do you even find a time and a place to be alone with the Lord? When you see loved ones shot before your eyes and for no justifiable reason, how do you keep from turning to violence and revenge?
Hitler’s hatred of the Jews was a second level priority. That’s because he had a war to fight, but the Antichrist will have already conquered the world and making war against the saints will be numero uno on his list. What about the possibilities of good people helping to hide you?
Well, when the Nazis discovered a Jew-hider, they lined up the helping family outside their home and shot them all in the head, including children and infants. No question. No trial. Just bang, bang, bang, bang, bang, bang. Do you imagine the troops of the Antichrist will be any less cruel? Will any believers survive? Probably a significant number will.
Three and a half years is not forever, but it won’t be easy. Whatever country you attempt to run to, wherever you try to hide, I’m sure there will be plenty of bounty hunters wanting to make a profit from your death. What I’m pointing out is that no one wants to be hated and humiliated, much less hunted down. It’s terrifying to think of yourself and those you love as targets for torture, government-sponsored assassins, or goon squads happy to be involved in the systematic extermination of Christians.
Enough said, but none of this should take people by surprise. We’ve been forewarned. That’s what Revelation provides. With this helpful briefing from Jesus himself regarding what’s to come, all his followers can still be expected to overcome. That’s the bottom line. We can live each day decidedly Christian. We are not the gullible whose lives are wasted on trivial matters. We can defeat the despicable enemy. We can even surmount those end-time difficulties. Fortunately, we can win. That’s encouraging because it’s the overcomers who inherit what’s described in Revelation 21 and 22. Fortunately, you don’t have to be a genius to figure everything out. If you didn’t know what to expect, you might be overwhelmed, but you do know. We do know. It’s all quite clear. And that knowledge becomes a marvelous resource.
My belief is that like the first generation of Christians, this final generation will also be outstanding in every way. From Africa, Asia, Australia, South America, North America, they will make the Lord proud by their endurance and their faithfulness. I may still be here, but my time is running short. Maybe some of my children will be around, possibly my grandchildren or their sons and daughters.
Anyway, I felt strongly prompted by the Lord to put these materials together. I have always been aware of God’s presence as I have prepared various studies, but this was a far more keen sense of God directing me than normal. My purpose was to send a clear warning about the satanic superpower revealed in the Apocalypse of John.
Because of a deep concern for my grandchildren and realizing Papa might not live long enough to personally study Revelation with each of them, once they are old enough to understand what it teaches, I still wanted each precious grandson or granddaughter to receive my loving input. I was also concerned for all believers who haven’t had the privilege of investing the same number of hours and days and months and years I have in prayerfully studying these matters.
My intent has been to capture for you the essence of John’s message without getting bogged down in the many details. One of the great stories unfolding during my lifetime has been that of the Civil Rights Movement. In many ways it’s been an account of church people, predominantly black Christians, but not exclusively, saying that together we need to take a stand against a terrible wrong. For the most part it’s been a nonviolent movement, at least on the part of those insisting that their rights be granted to them.
Watching a video series like Eyes on the Prize or films like Selma still brings tears to my eyes. at the commitment and the sheer bravery of those involved. These were not perfect people, but they were truly amazing people, and together they won incredible victories.
Back in the 1960s, as a Chicago pastor of an interracial church, I remember attending various black or black-white functions, and what struck me in those encounters was the singing. I soon came to a belief that whites don’t know how to sing like blacks do. One of the songs that made my hair stand on end was, We Shall Overcome. We Shall Overcome. We Shall Overcome Someday. Oh, deep in my heart, I do believe we shall overcome someday.
Those memories bring tears to my eyes even now. I don’t know if that movement would have accomplished what it did without the music, and I know the task of the Civil Rights Movement is not finished, but then neither has the singing stopped. Arm in arm they marched and sang the words, We Shall Overcome. How powerful!
Maybe there will be a similar song that will emerge during the end times that the church will sing as a testimony of their love for their great King and of his incredible promises regarding the future. I’m told that down through the generations, martyrs often sang as they faced their execution. I don’t know. We’ll have to see. As for now, I really like We Shall Overcome for overcomers. That word overcome gives an Apostle John feel to the song. Maybe black friends will kindly allow fellow Christians for now anyway to add our meaning to theirs. I’d like that because we need something to give us the guts our black brothers and sisters showed to do what they did.
I’m wondering, can you say today, God, I haven’t been the overcomer spiritually speaking that I should be. I’ve allowed other matters to become priorities in my life, but you certainly have my attention. I also understand what you have in mind as to where I need to see changes in my behavior, and I’m making plans today to be an overcomer. It may take me a while, but with your help I’ll get there. You wait and see. Good.
The epilogue of Revelation is brief. 16 verses. In it we find this admonition three times. “Behold, I am coming soon. Behold, I am coming soon. He who testifies to these things says, yes, I am coming soon.”
So, there is this repeated challenge to live with what’s ahead always in mind, the triumphant return of our Lord. He is the one who also let us know that history is moving inexorably toward a global conflict, a conflict between the forces of good and evil, light and darkness, God and Satan, which the Antichrist wins, but only temporarily, where this in mind Christians need to prepare themselves accordingly. Resaid, with our eyes on the prize, we are determined to live even now as overcomers. That’s a challenge I’m committed to. It’s deep in my heart. What about you?
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.
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