October 09, 2019
Well-loved broadcasters David and Karen Mains launch their second podcast with a conversation about David’s insight into the Book of Revelation.
The intimidating Jesus expects each church to pay close attention to what his spirit is telling it. In like manner, the intimidating Jesus expects each individual to pay close attention to what he says. Or to use the words repeated by Jesus to each of the seven churches, those who have an ear to hear, let that church and its individual members hear, really hear what the Spirit says to them.
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: David Mains here. Karen, my wife is with me as well. We are beginning as podcasters and what are we calling this Karen?
Karen: We are calling this Before We Go.
David: And why are we calling that?
Karen: Well, it’s a wonderful phrase that happens in ordinary conversation. We hear ourselves saying, “Oh, before I go, I want to tell you about, or before I go, I want to ask you about”, you know.
David: People are going to say, before you go, I thought you guys died a long time ago.
Karen: Yes, so we have another reason for using that phrase. We’re in the last years of our life. We don’t know when we will go, but we know it’s sooner than it’s ever been. So, there are some essential things we would like to leave behind.
David: Some people might also ask, “Where have you been for 20 years? We’ve missed you.”
Karen: Well, it’s actually been lovely being out of public life. That imposes on you certain dimensions that most of us are not prepared for. I mean, we had a daily broadcast. You started a television show. We had our own publishing concern. I had 23 books in the marketplace, in the religious marketplace, and we ran pastors’ conferences all across the country. We worked with teams of pilot pastors.
David: So, those are all before. So, what you’re saying is we just rested for 20 years?
Karen: We wore out. We wore out.
David: You have to have something you can look back on. I’ve seen these last 20 years. Here’s what I’ve been doing.
Karen: Well, we’ve been married for 58 years. We have had the best years of our marriage, actually, in this interlude, because we’ve had time for one another. I served on a variety of international boards. It was an absolute delight. And I think our children, our adult children needed our attention in ways that they didn’t need, actually, when they were in high school and college. So, we’ve done that. We’ve enjoyed our grandchildren. What you have forgotten, too, yeah, we’ve enjoyed them.
David: And you also forgot that we have four children. Our youngest son died at age 42, which had a huge impact on how we were living. And we have become good grandparents during that time.
Karen: Yes, he left three little children at that time.
David: Yeah, a wonderful, wonderful wife.
Karen: Remarkable woman, now his widow. But we wanted to be present to her and to those children as much as we could be.
David: Yeah, so it’s not been as though we just fell off the end of the earth. Life took over, which was a whole different thing for us. We’re starting our podcast with a 12-part series on the Book of Revelation, which is kind of a strange book. It’s me kind of delivering my soul after many years of being able to study that on my own. This is how the Book of Revelation begins. I’m 83, the apostle John was probably in his 90s, and he had these strange visions.
Karen: Can I make a parenthesis here? I think this is the message of many octogenarians. I’m not sure what someone in his 90s is called, because we look back on the history of our lives and history of our culture, history of our world, and then we analyze where we are now, and then we project that if these trends continue, there’s going to be something that has to be reckoned with in the future. And you’ve done a beautiful job of drawing that out of Revelation.
David: Thank you. This is the first part. They’re actually opening sentences to the Book of Revelation. John writes, “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, who testifies to everything he saw.” If you’re starting a podcast, is that a good way to begin? Do you think, uh-oh, nobody wants to hear it anymore. Let’s get something else going.”
Karen: I think there is an uneasiness in our culture, be a hermit somewhere in the world, not to know that we have bad things forecasted for at least the states and for the entire world. Just the climate change discussion is terrifying when we look at it. So, I think there is a need to tell people that this was all foreseen long ago. These visions were given for our time. And I would say Revelation could be a book that tells us how to live in the later days and all the days leading up to it. And I think that’s what you’ve done with this.
David: What’s the topic you would like to talk about when we get done with these first 12?
Karen: Well, I’ve written a lot about hospitality. My concern for our culture is that we are not neighborly anymore. Some people are, but for the general trend of the American culture, most of us do not know our neighbors. I’m concerned about those people who are lonely. The statistics on loneliness are horrific. The statistics on suicide among males in their 50s is extraordinary and also, it’s growing in the younger set as well, the 20s, the later teens. And I think our culture with its emphasis on the internet and that includes everything we handle with a screen has separated people from one another. And so, I’m really working on understanding it and doing all kinds of things.
David: You’ve written articles about that.
Karen: I’ve written articles. I’ve done extraordinary…
David: Can we explore some of that together?
Karen: Yeah, we can. I just wanted to say I’ve done extraordinary research on it. I probably spent the last six months reading everything I could about loneliness in our culture, what’s caused it, on neighborliness and the lack of it, how those things need to be restored. So that’s where my passion is right at this point in time.
David: We’ll get to that. Okay, I feel a little bit selfish taking these first 12 sessions on my own with these lectures on revelation.
Karen: What revelation has to say should push us as sensitive listeners to saying, “Okay, how can we be prepared and how can we create the networks that need to be in place when our electrical grid gets hacked and everyone says it will be.” And things like that happening and revelation actually speaks to some of those things, not in particular, but in kind.
David: Lot to talk about.
Karen: Lot to talk about.
David: Let’s take a break and we’re going into session two, just this reminder from me. Don’t just listen. I make assignments at the end. They’re not that hard to do. Take them to heart. Make them a part of your life. I think it will bring this series alive in a special fashion. The term apocalyptic literature refers to a specific type of Jewish writings, the bulk of which came into being roughly 200 years before the birth of Christ and continued for a hundred or so years following his crucifixion. Their purpose was to offer a word of hope during especially difficult times. You see in all apocalyptic literature, evil is ultimately destroyed in good triumphs. This general writing category into which revelation in many ways fits, regularly involves trances, dreams, visions and visits to heaven. These are also highly symbolic compositions and are usually disconnected from the immediate history in which they were composed. By way of contrast, today’s assigned text, Revelation chapters one, two and three, is addressed to seven specific congregations in what was then known as Asia Minor. And the writer, John the Apostle, had a pertinent word from the Lord for each of these churches. I should add that unlike the Revelation of John we are now studying, extra-biblical apocalyptic books usually erroneously carried an author byline of a long-gone religious figure like Enoch, Abraham, Moses, or even Isaiah. And incidentally, although John refers to numerous Old Testament texts, never once does he reference a single non-biblical Jewish apocalyptic writer.
Quickly let me again give an overview of what Jesus inspires John to say through the whole of the book of Revelation. History doesn’t just continue on indefinitely. It is moving inexorably toward a final global showdown between the forces of good and evil, light and darkness, God, and Satan, which evil wins. However, only temporarily. Then with the return of Christ, momentary defeat is swallowed up in permanent and eternal victory. What a relevant message this was not only for these seven congregations but for the early church everywhere, and its recipients took it to heart. Though this spiritual conflict was long and bloody. In time our early brothers and sisters in Christ literally took over the Roman Empire. Really. With the eventual rise of Constantine in 312 AD, the church moved from what respected church historian Bruce Shelley refers to as, quote, “the seclusion of the catacombs to the prestige of palaces. The movement started in the fourth century as a persecuted minority. It ended the century as the established religion of the empire”, close quote. Quite amazing. In Revelation’s initial target was the early church. A second audience down through the ages has been the persecuted church. In places where and times when tyrants have taken out their wrath on the righteous, believers have frequently testified that Revelation was their favorite book of the Bible. And I also believe Revelation has to be. Here’s target audience number three, a prophetic word from Jesus himself to his followers who live through what is often referred to as the end times. So this unique book will once again prove a great source of strength in the last days when the thick cloud of darkness descends and the entire earth groans under the short but awful reign of the Antichrist in his cool conspirator, the false prophet. To live as though this will never happen is to blindly ignore specific warning signs given to us by none other than our Lord himself.
Who do you think these words were written about? To him who loves us and has freed us from our sins by his blood, and has made us to be a kingdom and priest to serve his God and Father, to him be glory and power for ever and ever. Amen. The answer, of course, is that the words are about Jesus. Have you committed this short praise paragraph to memory like I encourage you to do? I hope so. What about this verse? 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. I loved those words. I cried while I was learning them by heart. Have you made them your own yet? How would you like it if Jesus was the guest speaker at your church some Sunday? What an incredible privilege that would be. Arrangements would have to be kept highly secretive. I mean, if the news got out the number of visitors would be staggering. The situation we find in Revelation chapters 2 and 3 is close to this, but not quite the same as what I’m suggesting. Instead of our Lord visiting these seven congregations in person and delivering the Sunday morning sermon, He sends each of them a short letter evaluating how they are doing. We’ll analyze what He has to say to each of them. From what we know, John, as the delivery person, would have been intimately acquainted with all these congregations.
This is session 2 in a series of 12 messages based on the final book of the Bible. Last time together I told you that the picture of Jesus presented in most of Revelation is much more, and I use the word terrifying, is much more terrifying than we in the church are generally accustomed to. And I believe I did a good job of illustrating my point. This visit I’m going to use a slightly different word when talking about the Christ. It’s close to but not quite the same as terrifying. Instead, I’m going to refer to Jesus as intimidating, which means to make afraid. In our present study the full force of Christ’s fury will not be seen for a number of chapters, but it’s important to bring this up now because what chapters 2 and 3 are about is Jesus writing seven short but powerful sermons. And this is not like when He gave His famous sermon on the Mount. Instead, if you please, this is now the Intimidator speaking, before whom even the great apostle John fell at His feet like a dead man. For example, whose words are these to the church in Ephesus? “These are the words of Him who holds the seven stars in His right hand and walks among the seven golden lampstands.” Whose words are these to the church in Smyrna? “These are the words of Him who is first and last, who died and came alive again.” Whose words are these to the church in Pergamum? “These are the words of Him who has the sharp double-edged sword.” What about Thyatira? “These are the words of the Son of God whose eyes are like blazing fire and whose feet are like burnished bronze” and so on.
All seven churches are reminded that the sermon is not from John the apostle as powerful as that would be, but it’s the Intimidating Christ of Revelation chapter 1 who’s bringing the message, the very one before whom John fell prostrate. If you like short sermons, you will appreciate that the Intimidating Jesus gets right to the point. No confusing parables here like in the Gospels. Instead in little over two pages a copy he said everything he wants to all seven churches and in every case his message is incredibly clear and direct. If you read the first three chapters in Revelation as I requested in Study 1, you might have had questions about some details in chapters 2 or 3 such as, Who were the Nicoliatans? What’s hidden manna mean? Or can someone please explain the term, Pillars in the Temple of My God? But none of these are essential to an overall crystal-clear understanding of the main point to each church to which Jesus wrote. It’s also true that scholars can provide a lot of interesting backgrounds, say, on the seven cities where these churches were located. But none of that information has all that much of a bearing on the clear bottom-line message in each case. Instead, these seven challenges are all quite understandable and convicting. So, where our Lord says at the end of each of these mini sermons,” He who has an ear let Him hear what the Spirit says.” We know with no confusion what that message is. I’m now going to give you a brief summary of each of these seven short but intimidating sermons.
Let me illustrate this process by reading all of sermon one from the Biblical text and then sharing my condensation. After that I’ll give you my summaries of the other six sermons without reading the full text from the Scriptures. Now you can understand why I’ve encouraged you to read these chapters on your own ahead of time. Incidentally, your next assignment is to read Revelation chapters 4 and 5 before we get together again. Repeated, in preparation for our next meeting, read Revelation chapters 4 and 5. Now here’s Revelation chapter 2, verses 1 to 7. “To the angel of the church in Ephesus write, These are the words of him who holds the seven stars in his right hand, He walks among the seven golden lampstands. I know your deeds, your hard work, your perseverance. I know that you cannot tolerate wicked people, that you have tested those who claim to be apostles but are not and have found them false. You have persevered and have endured hardships for my name and have not grown weary, yet I hold this against you. You have forsaken the love you had at first. Consider how far you have fallen. Repent and do the things you did at first. If you do not repent, I will come to you and remove your lampstand from its place. Once you have this in your favor, you hate the practices of the Nicoliatans which I also hate. Wherever has ears let them hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To the one who is victorious I will give the right to eat from the tree of life which is in the paradise of God.”
Here’s my short summary. The challenge from Jesus to the church at Ephesus is basically this: Return to your first love relationship. Now here are the other six summary sentences. To Smyrna: Don’t be afraid to suffer for my sake. To Pergamum: Beware of compromises that sidetrack you spiritually. To Thyatira: Stop tolerating sexual immorality. To Sardis: Wake up spiritually. You’re almost dead. To Philadelphia: Keep on keeping on. To Laodicea: Face reality. You’re not as great as you think. There is no question about what Jesus was addressing seven different congregations. They were all in the country we today call Turkey. But these churches were also representative of the kind of congregations found throughout the world at just about any time. So, a relevant and fair question would be, which of these seven messages from Jesus seems to be appropriate for say – the 21st century church in the United States? If Jesus were to preach today by radio and television to the churches of America, in your opinion, which of these seven messages would be most appropriate? I’ll go through the seven topics again. So which one pops in your mind as being most on target, generally speaking, for the churches in the U.S.? Return to your first love. Don’t be afraid to suffer for my sake. Beware of compromises that sidetrack you spiritually. Stop tolerating sexual immorality. Wake up spiritually. You’re almost dead. Keep on keeping on. Face reality. You’re not as great as you think. Just as an interesting observation, when I have done this exercise in various groups, the one that consistently comes out on top is face reality. You’re not as great as you think. Christ’s message of great importance given to the apostle John was initially for the early church, but like the rest of the New Testament, we should let these scriptures also shape our lives. So, let’s reduce the scope of my inquiry. Instead of the country, make it your local church. Which of these seven messages do you think Jesus would preach to the congregation you’re a part of? I’ll slowly go over them again, and you listen for what you sense our Lord’s sermon might be. To Ephesus, return to your first love relationship. Jesus wants his church to be characterized by the wonderful sense of joy and enthusiasm that first marked us as believers. Is that what he would preach to your local church? To Smyrna. Don’t be afraid to suffer for my sake. No normal person purposely chooses a life of persecution or suffering, but someday that could be our lot. If so, we’re to be faithful even to the point of death. Pergamum. Beware of compromises that sidetrack you spiritually. Basic spiritual principles should never be surrendered because it opens believers to great endangerment. Thyatira. Stop tolerating sexual immorality. One would think that your churches would be places immune to sexual temptation, but obviously they’re not. Hopefully scandals are the exception rather than the rule, because when they surface they do incredible harm. Sardis, wake up spiritually. You’re almost dead. This is a revival message, like an alarm clock in the morning that says, time to get up. Jesus sends a wake-up call to this church. Philadelphia. Keep on keeping on. In spite of pressing problems, these Christians continue to grow spiritually, and that positive characteristic is not missed by Jesus in his evaluation of this church. Laodicea, Face reality. You’re not as great as you think. Some people in the church are too hard on themselves. These believers were just the opposite. They assumed they were terrific when in reality they weren’t anywhere near as phenomenal as they thought. Now I’ll give you just a little while. Which of these seven messages would be most appropriate for the church with which you identify? What I’m saying is that the intimidating Jesus expects each congregation to pay attention to what his spirit is saying. I believe the terrifying Jesus, before whose feet even the great apostle John fell like a dead man, also has an appropriate word that your body of believers needs to hear. Quite possibly the exact theme he would preach was expressed as I read through our Lord’s seven powerful sermon topics.
Now let me take us through this representative list one final time. And as I do, you are to listen for the voice of Jesus being straightforward with you as an individual. What does he want to say to you? So, you are asking into “Which of these seven groups would you put me, Lord? I have slightly rearranged the order. The most positive messages of the seven come first and the last is least positive. I felt this sequence of kind of best to worst would make it easier for you to work through. So, let’s review them once again.
Keep on keeping on. You’re not perfect, but then you never will be. What Jesus likes is your desire to keep growing spiritually, even when to do so calls for great resolve. This is a good quality, he affirms. Don’t be afraid to suffer for my sake. Being unafraid to suffer for Jesus’ sake is used to learn over a period of time. This quality is developed by choosing to take a stand in a series of smaller matters until doing so becomes a practiced way of life. Return to your first love relationship. People can usually remember the first person they had a crush on. Most everybody can also identify with the term first love as it relates to their spiritual walk. Though the intensity of the relationship fades with time, first love is still a good way to measure where you are spiritually speaking. Beware of compromises that sidetrack you spiritually. Can you remember a time when you made an unwise spiritual compromise? If we’re smart, we can learn as much through our spiritual practice as we can. mistakes as we do through our successes. One way or the other, beware of compromises that sidetrack you spiritually. Stop tolerating sexual immorality. Sex is a wonderful gift from the Lord. It was designed by your Creator so you could enjoy your marriage partner and also have precious children of your own. All kinds of problems surface when God’s guidelines are violated. Wake up spiritually. You’re almost dead. Hate to say it, but the spiritual drifting has been more devastating than you’re aware. The truth be told Jesus no longer holds a priority place in your life and that’s a dangerous position to be in. Wake up! shouts the intimidating Jesus. Face reality. You’re not as great as you think. Some people are too hard on themselves. The people of this Laodicean congregation were just the opposite. They assumed they were terrific Christians when in reality they weren’t anywhere near as phenomenal as they thought. That’s the list. Now, I’ll be quiet for a while as you work through these sermon themes asking the Holy Spirit which category comes closest to the one in which he says you fit.
What a huge honor to come to this time together and have like a one-on-one private meeting with the Spirit of Jesus or the Holy Spirit. In closing, let me personalize what I said earlier. My comment was that the intimidating Jesus expects each church to pay close attention to what his spirit is telling it. In like manner, the intimidating Jesus expects each individual to pay close attention to what he says. Or to use the words repeated by Jesus to each of the seven churches, those who have an ear to hear, let that church and its individual members hear, really hear what the Spirit says to them. I believe the Spirit has spoken to each of you in an intimate way. And you need to take seriously what you heard and how you are going to fashion your life accordingly. That’s your assignment for between now and next we meet. So, you probably need to get away from your cell phone, your iPad, radio, television. It’s just you and Jesus sometime, preferably today, one-on-one for a half hour or so quiet. Understand? When Jesus takes the time to personally speak to you as a member of his church, take the heart of what he says.
Outgo: You’ve been listening to the Before We Go Podcast. And if you would like to write to us, please send us an email at the following address: email@example.com. That’s all lower-case letters: firstname.lastname@example.org. If you’ve enjoyed this podcast, please remember to rate, review, and share 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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