October 30, 2019
Well-loved broadcasters David & Karen Mains launch their fifth podcast with a conversation about David’s insights into the book of Revelation particularly Chapter 7.
Revelation is a message that through the ages has emboldened the persecuted church in the world, and will continue to do so even during what is referred to as the end times. This clear word from Jesus himself has certainly caused Christians to be unusually bold, and it will continue to grant them courage even during the very worst of times.
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.
Karen: Hello friend. I’m Karen Mains and I’m here with my husband, David Mains and our podcast is called Before We Go.
David: And I should add that you’re looking very nice. I’m thinking you are in the mindset that we’re still doing television. We’re doing podcasting.
Karen: Thank you David. You’re very kind.
David: I know we’re in a series on Revelation. I’m ready with my part. That’s a little bit later. But I’m feeling the need to let listeners know us a bit more, okay. As part of the older generation, let me share with the people who are listening to us that we are kind of avid readers. How many books would you say you read in the course of a month, Karen?
Karen: Oh, David, I should count them out to about 30, 25 to 30. Now that sounds…
David: You must read a little…
Karen: Yeah, a little kids book. That counts the kids books I read to the grandchildren. But that’s because I’m generally in research projects. And then I kind of got going on reading Jags. I’ll find an area that interests me and then just read five, six, seven or eight books to get a broad view on whatever that topic is.
David: And I was going to be kind of impressed that I was able to read three to four books a month. But I know you read an incredible number of books.
Karen: David, I think you read more than that. And also, as a young woman, I was taught how to read speed readings. So not every book needs every word read. And as you’re going through books, you sort of have an instinct in what needs a close reading. And then I also, because I do writing and I want to get back and look at the things that meant something to me in the books I’ve read, I highlight and underline as I go. But I am a fast reader as well. So that has to be put into account.
David: You’ve had no pre-warning, but I would like us this time and next visit to say some of the favorite books we’ve read recently. And I’m ready with a couple of mine. Ok? Ron Chernow, that’s a name I didn’t know. He was the one who wrote Hamilton, which kind of inspired the musical.
Karen: And the country’s read Hamilton or seen Hamilton. We ourselves saw Hamilton. It was fabulous.
David: And I liked the book. But the book he wrote that I really liked was called just one name again. Grant, I didn’t know. I told you you should read it.
Karen: I should read it.
David: You haven’t yet, but I’ll continue to pester you. Okay. Grant was a figure I didn’t know that well. The first part he writes just about him as a general, and I thought, golly, I couldn’t put it down. It was incredible.
Karen: Well, and Grant has kind of had a bad reputation, but hasn’t been rated or ranked highly as a press center.
David: The second half of the book, he unfolds Grant’s life as a politician. It was even more interesting, so you will have to read it. I read a book just finished a week ago that you said I should read by Melinda Gates, The Moment of Lift. Yes. Great title. In fact, in the introduction, I think it is, she talks about how you’re on a plane and you’re going down the runway and all of a sudden you’re not on the runway. You want to get this lift and you can feel it even as you read.
Karen: Sort of her metaphor for her whole book. It’s kind of a biography, not of her entire life, but it’s a very personal book as far as what the Gates Foundation is doing around the world. It sounds like Melinda really has her hands on that steering wheel.
David: And she’s talking about lifting women around the world and how beneficial that will be for everyone. It’s a great book. And Karen, she is a woman of faith. She’s Catholic and was raised from that time she was young. And she lets her faith be exposed a little in the book.
Karen: It’s gracefully done. It’s not…
David: Thank you. That’s what I was wanting to say.
Karen: It’s not pushy. It’s not religious propaganda, but you can see that she’s devout and that informs her philanthropy, which I just thought she did a beautiful job with.
David: Yeah, it was exceptional. We’re letting it be known again that we are people of faith as well. I would like to include one book of faith. This absolutely impacted me in a way I wasn’t ready for. It was called The Cross and the Hanging Tree.
David: You remember the author of that because you told me to read that one as well. See, I follow your suggestions.
Karen: Yeah, I have to get that grand book.
David: His name was James Cohn.
Karen: He’s an African-American theologian, I believe.
David: Yes, and the impact of that was profound because I had no idea. I mean, when you talk about the lynchings, I thought maybe you knew you were talking maybe 15, 20 of these.
Karen: At least.
David: And it became very personalized to me as far as trying to go back in my mind and say, what would it have been like to have been a part of those mobs as these things unfolded? And then in a very beautiful way we had the opportunity to go down to Alabama.
Karen: To Montgomery.
David: The capital there and see the new memorial.
Karen: The lynching memorial.
David: Do they call it that?
Karen: Well, it’s the Memorial to Peace and Justice, but I think the popular terminology is the lynching. There is a museum there. But the lynching memorial, I think it was 500 pillars, David, hanging with the names of those who’ve been.
David: It is a sacred place.
Karen: It is a sacred place. You could go in and lay on your face. It’s witness to that horror.
David: They say no smoking, no rowing, it’s anything.
Karen: It’s a sacred space.
Karen: Well, in his book, Cohn relates the cross to lynchings as far as being public humiliation and a way to intimidate populations. And he does just an extraordinary job with it. I read it too and just cried all the way through tears running down my cheeks.
David: Anyway, next time we get together, ask you what are some of the recent books you’ve read that have been really helpful to you or enjoyable if you want to go that way. Will you be ready?
Karen: Yep, I’ll be ready.
David: This is not the same. Revelation is not a long book. You can read it. One’s sitting, really. But I’ve spent literally years now studying it and coming to the place where I felt I could help people understand it.
Karen: It is in the genre of apocalyptic literature.
David: Yes, right.
Karen: So, it’s high in symbolism, high in metaphor.
David: Some people would say weird.
Karen: Weird, right. But because apocalyptic literature is weird. Although, David, we have a lot of those sorts of statements in the media today and contemporary modern media. And we need to pay attention to them even though there’s sort of a box office thing that is attached to many of those things. Because artists are often the prophets in our society.
David: That’s Francis Schaefer. He said that all the time.
Karen: Well, and there’s been other people who have made that.
David: Maybe he just quoted others.
David: Yeah, it doesn’t matter. But even when they’re not religious or of faith, they intuit and sense. That’s the artistic instinct and begin to write that out. So there’s a lot of apocalyptic sort of, you know, pandemics taking over and destroying the world. The seas are rising and picking up on climate change a lot in what we’re seeing in contemporary media.
David: This section we’re coming to now in Revelation is about martyrdom. It’s helpful to understand what is written. So again, we’ll stop talking now. Next time we get together, you have the opportunity to share some of your good books. Okay. But now we’re going to the book that is the last one in the Bible, The Revelation of Jesus Christ. Evidence that God’s spirit lives in someone can come initially in a variety of ways. Adult converts, who are often quite aware of their past sins, usually experience a great sense of relief. Some describe it as a burden being lifted from their shoulders. Others tell of indescribable joy. For them it’s like hearing the birds sing, seeing the sun shining brighter than before and feeling like all is right with the world. They simply delight in what’s transpired. Many say they sense being incredibly loved. For them it’s almost like being held in God’s warm embrace.
For me, I think relief is the word I’d use. The transaction had taken place. I was confident of it. And the assurance that God had answered my prayer was very settling. Nearly everyone testifies to a new sense of the Lord’s presence that takes over from day one. I’ve come to think of this as a highly sensitized conscience. Maybe your conversion prayer was made in the evening.
Well, the next morning you begin to see people in a totally new way. It’s almost like you’re looking at them through Jesus’ eyes. You want to express his love to them, but it’s not yet natural to you. Even so, whenever you act in a manner that isn’t loving, your sensitized conscience bothers you.
This is the Holy Spirit attempting to teach you the new lifestyle of loving God and others. It takes a while to get used to it, but I encourage you to learn to be obedient. Ephesians 4:30 reads, “And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God with whom you were sealed for the day of redemption.”
Over time you should become more and more like your Lord and Master. Paul writes in 2 Corinthians 1-12, Our conscience testifies that we have conducted ourselves in the world and especially in our relations with you in the holiness and sincerity that are from God. Spending quality time in Scripture is certainly advantageous. Here we find objective truth as to how God would have us live. These lessons are then applied subjectively in everyday life as the Holy Spirit programs our conscience to react in the proper way in each given circumstance.
For example, you might come from a long line of worry warts. Then you read in Philippians 4:6, Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and petition with Thanksgiving, present your request to God. A worrisome circumstance arises that would normally trigger an anxious response. Now instead of getting distraught, you thank the Spirit for the reminder of what you read, and you proceed to act in the new way you learned from the Bible.
More specifically, you commit the situation to God and ask Him to give His attention to the matter and you leave it there. In truth this learning process can be something that’s quite stretching, but it’s also exciting to sense that you are becoming more and more Christlike. No doubt there will be times when you feel like I’m getting tired of always attempting to be like Jesus. Where I come from turning the other cheek is not an admirable trait. Once in a while I’d rather punch somebody out. Or being surrounded by selfish people all the time. Maybe so often I’d like to have a wild week when I’m allowed to be overwhelmingly self-centered just to get it out of my system. Hey, if you’re a new Christian, this next lesson could be a tough one. It’s about martyrdom.
Before exploring this topic let me give you the reading assignment for our next session. Revelation chapters 8, 9, 10, and 11. It’s about the time of the Trumpets. Revelation chapters 8-11. I’m told that large numbers of Muslims throughout the Middle East are turning to the Lord. I don’t know how to verify that, but I do know that historically speaking the spread of Christianity has often been more pronounced during times of fire as compared to those of favor. The periods of intense persecution have contrasted to those of relative security.
The huge church in China today, much of it underground, is a good example. From seven extended visits I have made to India, I know firsthand about the opposition there from extremist Hindus. But in many parts of that great nation, I can also verify that the Indian church is experiencing wonderful times of authentic revival. My belief is that during what is commonly referred to as the end times, or the intense satanic opposition we will soon see in our present and future studies of Revelation, the message of the Gospel will still go forth with power.
In fact, I have a conviction that the threatened church will then know some of her best days ever. Possibly it will even experience for the first time something that has always excluded it. Revival that is worldwide. A factor that could fuel such breathtaking spiritual advances is the topic we will look at this visit. This is talk 5 of 12 and our text is Revelation chapter 7.
Here are verses 1 to 4 of Revelation chapter 7, today’s text. After this I saw four angels standing at the four corners of the earth holding back the four winds of the earth to prevent any wind from blowing on the land or the sea or on any tree. Then I saw another angel coming up from the east having the seal of the living God. He called out in a loud voice to the four angels who had been given power to harm the land and the sea, do not harm the land or the sea or the trees until we put a seal on the four heads of the servants of our God. Then I heard the number of those who were sealed, 144,000 from all the tribes of Israel, plus, in the next paragraphs, a multitude of Gentiles no one could count.
A couple of quick matters to note here. These people were just identified in verse 3 as servants of God. So, they’re believers. Put a seal on the foreheads of the servants of our God. The reason they’re marked this way is explained in Revelation chapter 9, which we will get to in detail next visit. But a quick peek there reveals that a terrible demonic attack is to be released on the earth. These beings have a scorpion-like sting.
Their victims will suffer terribly, and the text reads that for five months they will long to die, but death will elude them. But hear me, these beings can only attack, chapter 9, verse 4, those people who do not have the seal of God on their foreheads. So now we know that this seal is a protection of sorts.
Here’s more details about the seal and what it reads. When Revelation chapter 14 starts, it’s said it is in heaven. Verse 1, Then I looked in there before me was the lamb, that’s of course Jesus, and with him 144,000, verse 3, who had been redeemed from the earth.
So the earthly lives were over. They are now with the lamb in heaven, and it’s the exact same group as back in Revelation chapter 7. Now note verse 1 of Revelation 14, who had the lamb’s name and his father’s name written on their foreheads. So that’s what the seal reads.
Question, were the names of the father and the lamb literally written on all their foreheads? Probably not. My guess is that this seal was something similar to the way new believers today, at conversion, are sealed by the Holy Spirit. To be sure it’s real, but it’s not something others can see with their two eyes. Anyway, back now to today’s text in Revelation 7, 144,000 Jewish believers received this seal, plus verse 9, a multitude of Gentiles too great to try to count from every nation, tribe, people and language standing before the throne and in front of the lamb. Who are these people? That’s the question one of the elders asked John in verse 13.
These in white robes, who are they and where did they come from? Look at John’s hesitant response in verse 14. Sir, you know, he said, you’re the elder, you please tell me. Verse 14, and he, this heavenly elder, said, these are they who have come out of the great tribulation. They have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the lamb. Therefore, they are before the throne of God and serve him day and night in his temple, and he who sits on the throne will shelter them with his presence. Never again will they hunger, never again will they thirst. The sun will not be down upon them nor any scalding heat for the lamb at the center of the throne will be their shepherd. He will lead them to springs of living water and God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.
Though it’s not stated precisely, the assumption of Bible scholars has always been that these are martyrs. I would concur.
Last session, when we were in Revelation chapter 6, you recall that when seal 5 was broken, these were the souls, quote, of those who had been slain because of the word of God and their testimony of mankind. They called out in a loud voice, how long, Sovereign Lord, holy and true, until you judged the inhabitants of the earth and avenged our blood. Then, listen, each of them was given a white robe. And they were told to wait a little longer, until the number of their fellow servants and brothers who were killed as they had been was complete. Well, this word picture here in Revelation chapter 7, now let’s just know what that number looks like. And it’s big. But why two lists, you ask? That’s probably an accommodation to the initial hearers of this book of Revelation. You have to remember that the church of the first century was initially Jewish. We picked up that flavor when reading the messages to the seven churches back in chapters 2 and 3. An example of that Jewishness would be these words to the church at Pergamum.
I know the slander of those who say they are Jews, or one of us, and are not but are a synagogue, not a church, but a synagogue, of Satan. What those early Jewish Christians would probably have had trouble within today’s passage, Revelation chapter 17, would be this second list with a vast multitude no one could count from every nation, tribe, people, and language standing before the throne. I’m sure those early Jewish Christians had no idea how massive the Gentile church would become and how many of its Gentile members would also be laying down their lives for the faith.
Anyway, both these lists in Revelation chapter 7 are about martyrs. The much smaller number of Jews, 144,000, has to be symbolic rather than exactly 12,000 from each of the 12 tribes. The truth be known, martyrdom is all through the Scriptures. I think of these familiar words from Hebrews 11. Others were tortured and refused to be released so that they might gain an even better resurrection. Some faced jeers and flogging, while still others were chained and put in prison. They were stoned, they were sawed in two, they were put to death by the sword. So even before Revelation was penned, there was already this long history of godly people whose lives were snuffed out because of their faith.
In the New Testament the first Christian martyr was Stephen. He’s written about in the book of Acts. He was killed by stoning. We now have an idea of how violent such a death is because of seeing videos graphically capturing what’s happening even today to targeted women in the Arab world. At King Herod’s command, James, the brother of the writer John here in Revelation, was the first of the twelve apostles to be killed. That regarding the twelve apostles, if you remember how after the suicide of the traitor Judas, Matthias was chosen to fill his spot. Well, eleven of those original twelve apostles would be martyrs. The exception was John. God still had work for him to do. The apostle Paul was martyred. Later on in our study of Revelation when we learn about the great horror or prostitute in chapter 17, she will be described as being drunk with the blood of those who bore witness to Jesus.
These multitudes include countless individuals we hardly recognize because all we know is their names. They’re like Antipas. One line back in Revelation 2 about the seven churches reads regarding Pergamum, you did not renounce your faith for me even in the days of Antipas, my faithful witness who was put to death in your city. The only information we have about Antipas is from that given verse. Down through the years that’s how it’s been with most Christian martyrs. We don’t know most of their names, much less their stories. I do recall reading but can’t put my hands on the source that the early believers not only knew how to live well they also knew how to die well. What a great compliment.
John Fox who died much later in 1587 is best known for his book, Fox’s Christian Martyrs of the World. Consider these words that testify to the reality of people who down through the ages had given up their lives for their faith. Fox writes, appalling as some of these accounts of man’s inhumanity to man may be, yet it is only by their preservation that we who live in happier times can properly appreciate the blessings we enjoy in being able to compare our present freedom with the tyranny of earlier days. But a few hundred years ago the most cruel punishments were inflicted not merely upon criminals dangerous to the state, but upon innocent men and women, the best and noblest people of their time whose only offense was a refusal to renounce their faith in a religion dearer to them than life.
Yet Fox himself very likely did not anticipate that the worst of such times was still to come. Ponder these words from James and Marty Hefley in their book By Their Blood. It appears likely that Dr. Paul Carlson was correct when he told Congolese believers before his martyrdom that more believers had died for Christ in this century than in all the previous centuries combined.
Of course, there is no hard evidence to prove this since the records of most martyrdoms before the 20th century are lost in the names of countless martyrs in that century. Those in the Soviet Union and China for example are not available. Christians in nations which have religious freedom should thank God every day for this blessing which has denied their brothers and the sisters elsewhere.
Even today when national believers are killed in a church that has been set on fire by rebels somewhere in Central Africa, who keeps a detailed record of it? When Protestant bishops Latimer and Ridley were burned at stake at Oxford, England back in 1555, the drama of that scene as well as the final words of the men was carefully recorded, but throughout history such detailed accounts are rare.
As dreadful as persecution is, it is still true that the church usually manifests the life of Jesus Christ better under fire than under favor. It’s also true that some martyrs have had their stories widely told. I know as a college sophomore I was influenced by the Life Magazine coverage of the five relatively young male missionaries martyred in the jungles of Ecuador and South America. For you who are older like me, that was in early January of 1956, over 60 years ago. I was 19 years old.
Later the books came out about their lives that are still worth reading. Through Gates of Splendor, Shadow of the Almighty, Jungle Pilot. These are moving accounts of modern day heroes of the faith who were called on to sacrifice their lives. Might it be to your advantage to read more on this topic? To find a book that speaks to your heart to invest the hours needed to learn from a brother or sister in the Lord. I promise it will be time well spent. Right about now some of you may be thinking Reverend your challenge is about as far removed from where I’m living as I can imagine. Can we get past this? But that wouldn’t be people’s attitudes if I were preaching this series in for example Nigeria. It’s the largest country in Africa population-wise. It’s also the seventh most populated nation in the world. Nigeria has more people than Mexico or Japan or Russia. Here’s the list of the top seven. China, I’m pretty certain Christians in five of those countries would be very interested in this series of sermons. Those five would be China, India, Indonesia, Pakistan, Nigeria.
I’m certain in many places in those five countries believers would be thinking possibly we’re already in the end times and we’re listening intently to your words Reverend. The reason I singled out Nigeria is because I was there with a videographer in November of 2012. I was in charge of a documentary being shot for Medical Ambassadors International about the devastation to the church caused by Boko Haram. That’s the radical Islamic group that hit the world news when they kidnapped some 276 schoolgirls in April of 2014.
Let’s listen to a few short testimonies from the documentary we shot. They attacked the police headquarters, bombed the place, killed more than 50 policemen and from there they moved to churches. They burnt over 10 churches that evening. I went around to see the essence of damages but I don’t want to be told I want to see for myself what has really happened. I went and counted the churches and I went to the mortuary where they kept some of the dead bodies.
I ran to hide in the bush and then on Sunday I came back home. I was in the pastor’s house and I saw the bodies of the people who had been killed lying there on the floor. A Fulani Muslim man came into the house and saw me and told me to get out. Then he asked me if I had anything on me like money. I told him that the only thing I had on me was about three dollars and 27 cents. He told me to give it to him so I took out the money and handed it over to him. Then he told me to lie down so I did. He picked up a big rock and threw it on my head. I fell unconscious. He must have thought I was dead because when I woke up he was gone.
So, what does a preacher say to people like this? For me in the new and awkward role of documentary film director it was thank you so much. Thank you. Thank you. Next, That’s because there were numerous people wanting to tell their stories. For them I believe it was cathartic just to have someone listen and record the trauma they had just days before gone through. But I’m primarily a minister. I have been all my adult life. Ordained well over 50 years ago now. So, what kind of message would be appropriate in a horrendous setting like this where the church must contend with mass burials? In my lifetime I’ve conducted numerous funerals and people have thanked me for my words of comfort. But this was different. All there’s to say, believe me, I’ve wrestled with this question even as ordained men and women in many, many parts of our globe. I’m sure I have prayed “Oh God please help me know what to say. So many have died.”
Eventually your mind goes back to that question you’ve asked so many times in your calling “What would Jesus say”? That’s what our role is to be a Christ substitute. When we are at our best as clergy, we speak what we think Jesus would say in any given situation. We strongly identify with the Apostle Paul’s words in 2 Corinthians 2:14-17, “Through us God spreads everywhere the fragrance of the knowledge of him. We are to God the aroma of Christ among those who are being saved and those who are perishing. The one where the smell of death to the other the fragrance of life.” Who is up to such a task? Unlike so many we do not peddle the word of God for profit. On the contrary, in Christ we speak the word of God with sincerity, like men sent from God.
We are not peddlers of nice religious sounding platitudes. So, what would Jesus say in a setting where many of his followers have been killed? Then I remember that our Lord had a message for a church going through just such a time as back in Revelation chapter 2. “To the angel of the church in Smyrna, write, I know your afflictions and your poverty, yet you are rich. Do not be afraid of what you are about to suffer. I tell you the devil will put some of you in prison to test you, and you will suffer persecution for ten days. Be faithful even to the point of death, and I will give you a crown of life. He who overcomes will not be hurt by the second death.” That second death is defined later in Revelation chapter 20, start at verse 4. Kind of wait for it.
“And I saw the souls of those who had been beheaded because of their testimony about Jesus. And because of the word of God, they had not worshiped the beast or its image, and had not received its mark on their foreheads or their hands. They came to life and reigned with Christ a thousand years. The rest of the dead did not come to life until the thousand years were ended. The second death has no power over them.” In verse 14, the lake of fire is the second death. Again, he who overcomes will not be hurt by the second death.
Listen. Revelation is a message that through the ages has emboldened the persecuted church in the world, and will continue to do so even during what is referred to as the end times. This clear word from Jesus himself has certainly caused Christians to be unusually bold, and it will continue to grant them courage even during the very worst of times. That includes when Jesus said, “If those days had not been cut short, no one would survive. But for the sake of the elect, those days will be shortened.” So, what would Jesus say? To those targeted for martyrdom, Jesus says, “Do not be afraid. Be faithful even to the point of death.”
I grant you it’s me, David Mains, living in safe for now America who’s speaking, but understand that it’s on behalf of the one I serve, the anointed of God, the Christ, Jesus, the one who walked this same valley of the martyrs. Nobody else could walk it for him. He had to walk it all alone. Now he’s there to walk it with you, or to walk it with me if that’s someday be our calling. And all who have such a destiny when that day comes, I’m sure he will personally speak to you if you will listen closely. Don’t be afraid. Be faithful even to the point of death. And I will give you the crown of life.
Outgo: You’ve been listening to the Before We Go podcast. If you enjoy this podcast please remember to rate, review, and share an apple podcast 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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