November 27, 2019
Well-loved broadcasters David & Karen Mains launch their 13th podcast with a conversation about David’s insights into the book of Revelation, Chapters 17-19:10.
What I’m telling you, and myself as well, is that we need to make a new connection here. From now on, let thunder be for us a reminder that the enemy will not prevail indefinitely. God will have his day.
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: How good to have this time to talk, and the meal was delicious. Before we go, can we help with the dishes? Or before we go, could we read a portion of scripture with you? Or before we go, let us pray for you. When you’re around ministry people, that’s an expression that gets used a lot. Before we go.
Karen: And we are David and Karen Mains, and that phrase, before we go, takes on additional meaning when you have already lived a long life, and you still have things you want to talk about before you are gone from this earthly world.
David: Okay, well that’s where we are. Our voices aren’t real creaky yet. I think we sound a lot like we used to. No?
Karen: You’re hoping we do.
David: Anyway, that’s what the podcast is always about before we go. At present, we’re in a rather serious talk about the book of Revelation. It’s the last book of the Bible. What’s a takeaway for you so far in this series, Karen?
Karen: Well, I think it’s to take my face seriously. And I think that in my life, I have so many to-dos to not let my life be run by the to-dos, but to be run by the things that are most important. And for me, that would be spending more time in prayer, intercessory prayer, I think, not just…
David: What does that mean?
Karen: That’s praying for others, praying for the world, praying, standing in the place of these people.
David: It’s not saying, God, here are my needs.
Karen: Yeah, I do a lot of that kind of pray “God help me” kind of prayers. But I think you are great at this, Dave. I want to commend you for the time you’ve given to really become a man of prayer in these last years, actually, since we were broadcasting on radio. And so I think that before we go, that’s something I want to effectuate more in my life. To become more of a person of prayer. It’s difficult in your old age, in a way, when you’re still so active. I mean, I’m basically healthy. I’m vital. I’m doing more now, probably, than I did when I was younger physically. So I just have to build this in. I have to build that into my life more in my senior years here than I… Because you start to think that when you get older, you won’t be so active. I’ve just gotten more active. So I just have to intentionally build those things into my life.
David: I remember a fellow saying to me about my age. He said, “This retirement is something I start the day and I have nothing to do. And when the day is over, I haven’t gotten half of it done. I’m so busy.” So every age has things that tend to consume you.
Karen: Yeah, demands and things that claim you.
David: Has the study made you depressed at all? Or is it…
Karen: No, no, it’s given me more of a sense of urgency. Which I think that you and I have lived with partly because we are not so much local thinkers as we are global thinkers. We’ve always said what in the world is going on and meant it deeply. Not just as a toss-off phrase in what has got doing in his world. That’s the second question of import. But I think reading Revelation and being an observer of our times and saying what are the distinctives in this age that make the prophecies in Revelation more possible, more plausible. I’m finding that those things are there in our culture, in our world, in our time, in our history. And so they are sort of the signs of the times and we need to be paying more attention to them. So it has made me feel more that urgency more.
David: If I have a takeaway that comes to my mind right away, it would be for my children and more than that our grandchildren. We have nine grandchildren. What can I give them? I said this in one of the lectures that I prepared is that I can pray ahead for them. Nobody can stop me from doing that.
Karen: Yeah, Right!
David: And I’ve come to the place where every day I have prayer in the morning then I have prayer again in the evening. Not just before I go to bed because I’m a little bit sleepy then, but in the evening. And I go through my grandchildren and I say, “God I’m praying ahead for them. They’re going to have problems that I never had. And so I bring to you Annalise, she’s such a beautiful young girl.”
Karen: She’s that littlest one.
David: Yeah, she’s a little.
David: Yeah and I may not be around but I’m stacking these prayers up. And I believe in prayer. And I believe that you are not bound by time, Lord, and you can take my prayers from this day and you can apply them to my granddaughter in the days to come. Days that may be dark. And then I pray for Nehemiah. All of his skills that he’ll be a man of God. You know, I pray for Eliana and I go through the kids. I pray for Elias. And I’ve not come to the place where I find this repetitious or, you know, routine to me. I find it very meaningful and I may be wrong that prayers don’t last but I don’t think they go away. And I’m saying that’s one of the great inheritances I can give to these children.
Karen: I think that’s beautiful.
David: I don’t do it just thinking that it’s beautiful. I just do it as a huge privilege that I can invest in their lives.
Karen: That’s great, honey.
David: Yeah. Well, let’s go to Revelation once again and see what the Lord has to say to us through these, their kind of sermons or lectures or presentations. I think of them probably because I was in it for so long as programs.
Karen: Legal practice.
David: Yeah, that’s what it’s like. And I’m sitting there one to one and I’m not sure who’s listening, but someone is. And this is important for that person to hear as I feel even now as we listen once again.
The word prostitute doesn’t come up all that often in my sermons. But this message will be an exception. Your assigned passage was Revelation chapter 17-18 in verses 1-10 of chapter 19.
Chapter 17 begins, one of the seven angels who had the seven bowls. The seven bowls of God’s wrath, we looked at last session, came and said to me, “Come, I will show you the punishment of the great prostitute who sits on many waters.” As you know, a prostitute is a woman who grants sexual favors for money and this woman is called the great prostitute.
In verse 15 the angel later explains to John that the “waters you saw where the prostitute sits are peoples, multitudes, nations and languages.” So this is big picture stuff, macro not micro. This tough woman is sitting in the power position over the peoples of the world.
Consistent with that, we’re told three verses later, verse 18, “the woman you saw is the great city that rules over the kings of the earth.” Back now to verse 2, “with her the prostitute”, which again is the great city of the Antichrist. The kings of the earth committed adultery and the inhabitants of the earth were intoxicated with the wine of her adulteries. We said the nations entered into commerce with her and shared in her great wealth. In doing so, they also embraced her vices and values. The values of the Antichrist, in fact, were intoxicated by them. So we’re going to be taken to see this great city that rules over the peoples of the world.
Next paragraph. “Then the angel carried me away into the spirit into a desert. There I saw a woman sitting on a scarlet beast that was covered with blasphemous names and had seven heads and ten horns.” Hey, you say that sounds like the same beast we identified as the global kingdom of the Antichrist back in Revelation chapter 13. Right.
Verse 4, “The woman was dressed in purple and scarlet and was glittering with gold, precious stones and pearls. She held a golden cup in her hand filled with abominable things and the filth of her adulteries. This title was written on her forehead. Mystery. Babylon the Great.”
In the Old Testament, Babylon was the personification of wickedness. Babylon would always be like a fishbone stuck in the throats of the Jewish people. It was the military power that destroyed Jerusalem and brought the southern kingdom of Judah to an end. Now John usurps that symbolism and applies it to this future city of the Antichrist. Her title also includes the mother of prostitutes and of the abominations of the earth. I saw, Rice John, that the woman was drunk with the blood of the saints and the blood of those who bore testimony to Jesus. So we have this picture of a whore, and she’s not only repulsive but wicked and totally anti-Christian. In reality, however, we are looking at a despicable city. “When I saw her”, writes the apostle, “I was greatly astonished. Then the angel said to me, Why are you astonished? I will explain to you the mystery of the woman, and of the beast she rides, which has seven heads and ten horns.”
In Scripture, horns are always symbols of power. So we have now been introduced to the main topic of these assigned chapters for you to have read on your own. That subject is this scandalous city, which the early church undoubtedly saw as Rome. I’m suggesting that for us, it’s the future capital of the Antichrist power. Though I’m sure many would picture this city as modern and beautiful, those in the know are repulsed by it.
However, for the next seven verses, verse 8 through verse 14, the subject is suddenly going to change. It will switch to that of the beast this woman is sitting on. The beast that has the seven heads, the ten strong horns, and is the final global kingdom that’s ruled over by the Antichrist. You have to keep straight in your mind that the beast is the evil kingdom, and the woman sitting on the beast is the capital city.
Before I proceed, let me give what I believe are some helpful thoughts. What I’m about to share is how I personally make sense of the upcoming verses which are some of the most difficult in all of Revelation. That’s because these next seven verses are prophecy and not history. And no one can know for certain what’s being told us by John until the actual events take place.
Am I convinced that what I’m about to suggest is right? I’m not convinced beyond any doubt, but do I have a possible explanation? Yes.
I think from John’s point of view, the seven heads of the beast were past, present, and future kingdoms or superpowers. And specifically, I see them as 1) Egypt, which has always been large in biblical history, as was Israel’s exodus from Egypt. 2) Assyria, the aggressive nation that defeated the ten northern tribes of Israel. And then deported the people into so many different places they no longer had a national identity, and now are referred to as the ten lost tribes of Israel. 3) Babylonia, later conqueror of the two southern tribes and the superpower that marks survivors of Jerusalem’s collapse into captivity far away from their home. 4) Persia, the military powerhouse that defeated the Babylonians and by doing so automatically became the new rulers of the Jews in exile. And under whom a remnant was allowed to return to their homeland. 5) Greece, the home of Alexander the Great. Then, at his early death, his vast, conquered territories were split into thirds. And in one of those divisions unfolded the fierce Jewish conflict with the early anti-Christ type figure: Antiochus Epiphanes. I talked about him in detail in an earlier study. 6) Italy or the Romans. The world rulers during the life of our Lord and of his beloved disciple John. Also the power that destroyed Jerusalem in 70 AD and scattered the Jewish people to ever so many places of the world. Then, 7) Will be the future global kingdom of the anti-Christ.
Again, it’s 1) Egypt, 2) Assyria, 3) Babylonia, 4) Persia, 5) Greece, 6) Italy or the Romans, and then 7) the future kingdom of the anti-Christ.
Now next, I believe it helps us with our understanding if we identify these first six former world empires by the names the countries are called today.
Obviously, their present geography and military influence won’t be the same as during their heydays. I know that. But in today’s terms we’re talking about the first six sequential heads of the beast being 1) Egypt, 2) Syria, 3) Iraq, 4)Iran, 5) Greece, and 6) Italy, and 7) the anti-Christ.
Verse 8, “The beast which you saw, the one with the prostitute, the capital city of the anti-Christ, the prostitute sitting on it, once was, now is not, and will come up out of the abyss and go to his destruction. The inhabitants of the earth whose names have not been written in the book of life from the creation of the world will be astonished when they see the beast.”
Why are they astonished? It’s because this seventh beast once was, now is not, and yet will come.
On the list of those kingdoms that in John the Apostle’s time once were, now were not major powers anymore, and yet presumably could someday come back to world prominence even after a fatal head wound are the first five: Egypt, Syria, Iraq, Iran, or Greece.
Now for the sake of time, let us just pick Iran. At present in my mind, it’s the most plausible of the group regarding possible future power. Syria has been decimated. Greece and Egypt don’t seem to be the best examples to choose. Could be. Today’s Iran is certainly more powerful than Iraq. Again, I’m just looking for an example of what could be a scenario that’s plausible. That’s in contrast to me saying to you, here is precisely what this scripture means.
So, for the sake of illustration, let’s say that present day Iran is the kingdom or superpower that once was, now is not, that’s in John’s time, and yet will come. Ancient Persia, or what is Iran today, once was the pinnacle of world power.
In the Old Testament Persia was the empire that sat atop the nations during the time of Queen Esther. Verse 1 of the book of Esther reads, “…this is what happened during the time of Xerxes.” The Xerxes who ruled over 127 provinces stretching from India to Kush, or from India to the upper Nile region of Egypt, as a lot of territory. Like all powers, Persia was eventually defeated. But just say it were to once again, rise to world prominence as Iran. Maybe become a nuclear power, whatever. That would be like the former number four head of the beast experiencing a miracle rebirth and subsequently becoming the yet future number seven head of the beast. Do you grasp what I’m saying? And again, this is only an illustration of how these verses could make sense.
Having come to a place of understanding that the passage does have possible solutions, I don’t feel the need to press the issue any further. Verse 9, this calls for a mind of wisdom. The seven heads of the beast are also seven hills on which the woman sits.
When reading Revelation, we have to ask not only what does this mean to us today, but what did this mean to the early church? To them, my belief is that seven hills was an obvious reference to Rome. She was an early version of the great prostitute who ruled over a mighty empire.
So, as we come to chapters 18 and 19 of Revelation about the fall of Babylon the Great, those words applied first to Rome even as they will also someday apply to the future capital city of the Antichrist.
As was true of the Old Testament prophets, so it is now with John. And the Revelation that the prophetic perspective is often double or multi-focused. It relates to the prophets in media time and also to eschatological events, or events of the last days. These are kind of held in tension. Actually, we saw this earlier with Christ’s prophetic words in the Olivet discourse. Remember?
We attempted to figure out what comments related to the immediate present when Christ spoke to them. And which to sometime in the near future like 70 AD. And then which to the actual end times. The prophetic scriptures are not concerned with a sequential timetable as much as sharing information as it relates to both present and future events. and we are expected to somehow sort all this out. Tough job.
Our text then reads, “The seven heads of the beast are also seven kings.” And I would suggest kings or kingdoms. That’s because in scripture it is not uncommon for kings and kingdoms to be used interchangeably. Example. In Daniel chapter 2, when interpreting the monarch’s dream about the enormous statue he saw, remember? Daniel doesn’t say to Nebuchadnezzar, “The head is the Babylonian kingdom”, which would have been consistent with his interpretation. Rather he says “…you, Nebuchadnezzar, are the head of gold.” In other words, he just casually switches the kingdom with the king. It’s like the two were inseparable, the ruler and that over which he ruled.
Continuing. Five, I’m saying kingdoms have fallen. One is the Roman Empire. The other has not yet come, the future kingdom of the Antichrist. But when it does come it must remain for a little while. Three and a half years isn’t all that long. Makes sense?
The beast who once was and now is not, Iran, is an eighth king or kingdom. Resaid, a modern-day military power like Iran, will combine forces with the Antichrist beast to make head number seven of the beast. It belongs to the seven and is going to his destruction. It’s a possible way to make sense of what’s being said here.
Verse 12. The ten horns you saw are ten kings. In my mind that says that the seven heads of the beast were kingdoms and not kings. Now we’re talking ten horns and they are kings. They have one purpose, verse 13, to give their power and authority to the beast or the global kingdom of the Antichrist. They, these ten kings, will make war against the lamb or Christ. Verse 14, but the Lamb will overcome them because He is Lord of lords and King of kings. And with Him will be His call, chosen, and faithful followers.
The Lamb’s victory will be our main topic next visit. So, you need, incidentally, to read ahead chapter 19, verses 11 through 21. Again, that’s Revelation 19, 11 through 21. That’s your reading assignment for this coming session.
Now we come in verse 16 of Revelation chapter 17 to something really strange and unexpected.
The beast, the future global kingdom of the Antichrist, and the ten horns you saw, or the ten kings, will hate the prostitute, the capital city of the Antichrist. That’s peculiar. Didn’t see that coming. They will bring her to ruin and leave her naked. They will eat her flesh and burn her with fire, for God has put it into their hearts to accomplish His purpose, by agreeing to give the beast their power to rule until God’s words are fulfilled.
Again, toughest section in all of Revelation. Before looking at the rest of today’s assigned text, Revelation chapter 18 and verses 1 to 10 of chapter 19, let me just say that contemporary North American believers, including me, won’t presently feel emotionally what’s in these passages, the same way persecuted Christians will in many parts of the world. That’s because North Americans have known long years of incredible freedom of worship. Thank the Lord for this.
How much longer it will be the case? I can’t say, but we have been greatly privileged in this regard. As the last days unfold, however, let me make it clear that Satan’s desire has never been peaceful coexistence with the forces of righteousness. His purpose is to smash the church everywhere. To kill all believers and to rid the planet of any memories whatsoever of Jesus.
Living under a dictator like Stalin, or Mao, who ruled during my lifetime, was for Christians in those lands to fear as a constant companion. Trying to raise a Christian family under such human devils was incredibly difficult, if not impossible. But Americans didn’t tremble because of such leaders or numerous lesser tyrants.
However, we won’t always be exempted. The days will come when American churches will be torched. When believers here become the brunt of jokes. When lies are printed about Christ’s followers in state-run media. When church men and women will be mugged or beaten by thugs for no apparent reason, save that they are non-Christians. And none will be charged for those crimes.
When our belongings are stolen, and our bank accounts robbed. When restrictions will make it difficult, if not impossible, to get the health care we need as believers. When seemingly innocent remarks we make will be reported to authorities resulting in arrests. When education has denied our sons and daughters. When believing doctors and lawyers and teachers and scientists, etc., are no longer allowed to practice their skills. When we start checking our homes and places of work for hidden microphones. When our young children will be taken and made wards of the state because we are deemed unfit parents. When family members are taken captive in the night and no trace of them is ever made available. When the daily atmosphere is one of fear and tension and suspicion and terror.
Such patterns are not new. They’ve been worked elsewhere repeatedly. This will not be dystopian literature that’s read for thrills and then tossed aside in relief, because in the end the good guys always come out on top. No movie to get caught up in for an hour or two with a quick return to the real world of freedom and security. It’s where history is headed in this real-life battle of the two great superpowers, good and evil, light versus darkness; God and the devil who will have his day even though it will be brief.
Anyway, what the next chapter and a half is about is the fall of the capital city of the dark empire. For the early church, that was Rome. For our generation, it’s the eventual collapse of the antichrist great urban headquarters. To use the picture presented in Revelation 17, it’s the punishment of the great prostitute.
Revelation 18, 1-3. “After this I saw another angel coming down from heaven. He had great authority, and the earth was illuminated by his splendor. With a mighty voice he shouted, ‘Fallen, fallen is Babylon the great. She has become a dwelling for demons and a haunt for every evil spirit. For all the nations have drunk the maddening wine of her adulteries. The kings of the earth committed their adultery with her, and the merchants of the earth grew rich from her excessive luxuries.” Verses 9 and 10, “When the kings of the earth who committed adultery with her and shared her luxury see the smoke of her burning they will weep and mourn over her. Terrified at her torment they will stand far off and cry, ‘Whoa, whoa, oh great city, oh Babylon city of power, in one hour your doom has come.”
Verses 16 and 17. “Whoa, whoa, oh great city, dressed in fine linen purple and scarlet and glittering with gold, precious stones and pearls. In one hour, such great wealth has been brought to ruin.”
Verse 20. “Rejoice over her, O heaven, rejoice saints and apostles and prophets. God has judged her for the way she treated you.”
Chapter 19. Verses 6 and 7. “Then I heard what sounded like a great multitude, like the roar of rushing waters and like loud peals of thunder shouting, ‘Hallelujah, for our Lord God Almighty reigns. Let us rejoice and be glad and give Him glory, for the wedding of Lamb has come and his bride has made herself ready’.”
The scene in this chapter takes place in heaven and it follows the condemnation of the great prostitute. It includes a progression of four hallelujahs, which is a Hebrew expression meaning praise ye Jehovah.
Can you sense the joy on the part of ever so many in the feelings of finally after all these years of waiting and suffering, justice has been served? The great whore got what she had coming. Hallelujah.
I said earlier, I am of a unique generation of North American believers who have had it too good. But I rejoice on behalf of my brothers and sisters and the Lord around the world who have endured the worst the dragon could do to them. And they still remained true to the Lord for them especially.
It has to be a wonderful day when the great prostitute finally gets what’s coming to her. And the celebrity roar is sounded in heaven like a roar of rushing waters and like loud peals of thunder.
Let me try to reduce all these thoughts to a sentence. Here’s what I’m saying. Let us learn to participate even now in the celebrity roar of the great multitude in heaven when the city of the Antichrist receives its just due.
Here’s how I believe we can begin to do this. Back in Genesis 9, after God destroyed the earth with a flood, he set a rainbow in the sky as a sign of a new covenant. Genesis 9:15, “…’never again will the waters become a flood to destroy all life. Whenever the rainbow appears in the clouds, I will see it’, says God. And remember the everlasting covenant between myself and all living creatures of every kind on the earth.” And the Lord has held true to His word. So, God uses nature as a reminder to Himself and to us.
I want to use nature once again as a reminder. I don’t know how to reproduce the sound of the roar of the great multitude in heaven shouting, cheering. Scripture says in Revelation 19:6 that this roar is like loud, it is a thunder.
So, it’s a sound that’s larger than life. Instead of letting thunder alarm me, from now on I’m going to make that noise a reminder that the enemy won’t always have his way. And someday there will be an even greater roar coming from the heavens when the multitudes, who were wronged, will all cheer because the enemy has fallen. The lamb has been victorious, and they share in his triumph.
As a lifelong student of revivals, I know that the sound of rain is a biblical picture of times of blessing and spiritual awakening. He writes about the showers of blessing that the Lord sends. While we have contrast, he also writes of a land that because of God’s disfavor has had no rain or showers. So, if God can make rains and rainbows a natural reminder of his involvement in our lives, is it conceivable to put thunder in that same category? I mean, beside this reference in Revelation 19:6, “…then I heard what sounded like a great multitude, like the roar of rushing waters and like loud peels of thunder shouting, hallelujah, for our Lord God Almighty reigns.” There are ten other times in this book of Revelation when thunder is mentioned.
What I’m telling you, and myself as well, is that we need to make a new connection here. From now on, let thunder be for us a reminder that the enemy will not prevail indefinitely. God will have his day. We will hear more about that in Revelation messages yet to come. But from this day on, let that majestic sound of thunder be for us a declaration of the victory of the Lamb. A victory in which we all will someday share. You can hardly wait for the next stormy night.
I hear the rolling thunder. I power throughout the universe displayed, and sings my soul, my Savior God to thee. How great thou art! How great thou art!
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 Fox 30, Wheaton, Illinois 60189.
Get a copy of David Mains’ The Remarkable Revelation – Sermon Series.
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