Rev Dr Edgar Mayer; Living Grace Toowoomba Church; Date: 2 December 2012
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Revelation 19 – Sealed Up Safe
In John’s vision of heaven, there was God and, in his hand, a scroll which would bring judgement onto the earth and establish God’s kingdom. However, it was sealed with seven seals which could not be opened until Jesus had paid the price for our redemption:
Revelation 5:9-10: ... You are worthy to take the scroll and to open its seals, because you were slain, and with your blood you purchased for God persons from every tribe and language and people and nation. You have made them to be a kingdom and priests to serve our God, and they will reign on the earth.
Revelation 5:12: ... Worthy is the Lamb, who was slain, to receive power and wealth and wisdom and strength and honour and glory and praise!
Jesus suffered judgement on our behalf but then – maybe surprising for us – as he breaks the seals on the scroll – he is the one getting ready to execute judgement – unleashing terrible wrath:
Revelation 6: I watched as the Lamb opened the first of the seven seals. Then I heard one of the four living creatures say in a voice like thunder, “Come!” I looked, and there before me was a white horse! Its rider held a bow, and he was given a crown, and he rode out as a conqueror bent on conquest.
When the Lamb opened the second seal, I heard the second living creature say, “Come!” Then another horse came out, a fiery red one. Its rider was given power to take peace from the earth and to make people kill each other. To him was given a large sword.
When the Lamb opened the third seal, I heard the third living creature say, “Come!” I looked, and there before me was a black horse! Its rider was holding a pair of scales in his hand. Then I heard what sounded like a voice among the four living creatures, saying, “Two pounds of wheat for a day’s wages, and six pounds of barley for a day’s wages, and do not damage the oil and the wine!”
When the Lamb opened the fourth seal, I heard the voice of the fourth living creature say, “Come!” I looked, and there before me was a pale horse! Its rider was named Death, and Hades was following close behind him. They were given power over a fourth of the earth to kill by sword, famine and plague, and by the wild beasts of the earth.
When he opened the fifth seal, I saw under the altar the souls of those who had been slain because of the word of God and the testimony they had maintained. They called out in a loud voice, “How long, Sovereign Lord, holy and true, until you judge the inhabitants of the earth and avenge our blood?” Then each of them was given a white robe, and they were told to wait a little longer, until the full number of their fellow servants, their brothers and sisters, were killed just as they had been.
I watched as he opened the sixth seal. There was a great earthquake. The sun turned black like sackcloth made of goat hair, the whole moon turned blood red, and the stars in the sky fell to earth, as figs drop from a fig tree when shaken by a strong wind. The heavens receded like a scroll being rolled up, and every mountain and island was removed from its place.
Then the kings of the earth, the princes, the generals, the rich, the mighty, and everyone else, both slave and free, hid in caves and among the rocks of the mountains. They called to the mountains and the rocks, “Fall on us and hide us from the face of him who sits on the throne and from the wrath of the Lamb! For the great day of their wrath has come, and who can withstand it?”
The last two weeks, we talked about God’s wrath and the question whether he was just. Gathering all the Bible information about God’s wrath against Jerusalem and his own people – culminating in the city’s destruction in 70AD – we came to the following conclusions:
God is always good. His wrath is deserved: a) Jesus suffered himself so that we would be spared judgement in eternity. b) Many a time he had tried to gather his people like a hen gathering its chicken but they were not willing, killed the prophets, Jesus and his disciples. c) Jesus wept over his people. d) Jesus kept warning his people. e) Dying on a cross, he prayed for his people – as did the disciples. f) Jesus delayed the coming of his wrath. g) He administered his justice in stages so that people could still repent in the early stages of wrath. h) For many years, Jesus endured opposition to his reign.
This morning, we want to come to some good news in the midst of wrath. (Good news in addition to God establishing his justice and reign.)
Revelation 7:1-8: 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 on 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 foreheads of the servants of our God.” Then I heard the number of those who were sealed: 144,000 from all the tribes of Israel ...
Revelation 9:3-6: And out of the smoke locusts came down on the earth and were given power like that of scorpions of the earth. They were told not to harm the grass of the earth or any plant or tree, but only those people who did not have the seal of God on their foreheads. They were not allowed to kill them but only to torture them for five months. And the agony they suffered was like that of the sting of a scorpion when it strikes. During those days people will seek death but will not find it; they will long to die, but death will elude them.
Revelation 16:2: The first angel went and poured out his bowl on the land, and ugly, festering sores broke out on the people who had the mark of the beast and worshiped its image.
[Compare God’s seal with the mark of the beast – Revelation 13:16-17: It also forced all people, great and small, rich and poor, free and slave, to receive a mark on their right hands or on their foreheads, so that they could not buy or sell unless they had the mark, which is the name of the beast or the number of its name. (See also Revelation 14:9-11; 20:4.)]
God put a seal of protection on his people so that they would not have to suffer the plagues which he was sending on earth. It was the same in the past when he rescued his people from slavery in Egypt. They were not harmed by the plagues which he sent upon the Egyptians:
Exodus 8:22-23: ‘But on that day I will deal differently with the land of Goshen, where my people live; no swarms of flies will be there, so that you will know that I, the LORD, am in this land. I will make a distinction between my people and your people. This sign will occur tomorrow.’
Exodus 9:1-7: Then the Lord said to Moses, “Go to Pharaoh and say to him, ‘This is what the Lord, the God of the Hebrews, says: “Let my people go, so that they may worship me.” If you refuse to let them go and continue to hold them back, the hand of the Lord will bring a terrible plague on your livestock in the field—on your horses, donkeys and camels and on your cattle, sheep and goats. But the Lord will make a distinction between the livestock of Israel and that of Egypt, so that no animal belonging to the Israelites will die.’”
The Lord set a time and said, “Tomorrow the Lord will do this in the land.” And the next day the Lord did it: All the livestock of the Egyptians died, but not one animal belonging to the Israelites died. Pharaoh investigated and found that not even one of the animals of the Israelites had died. Yet his heart was unyielding and he would not let the people go.
Exodus 9:26: The only place it did not hail was the land of Goshen, where the Israelites were.
Exodus 10:22-23: So Moses stretched out his hand toward the sky, and total darkness covered all Egypt for three days. No one could see anyone else or move about for three days. Yet all the Israelites had light in the places where they lived.
Exodus 11:4-7: So Moses said, “This is what the Lord says: ‘About midnight I will go throughout Egypt. Every firstborn son in Egypt will die, from the firstborn son of Pharaoh, who sits on the throne, to the firstborn son of the female slave, who is at her hand mill, and all the firstborn of the cattle as well. There will be loud wailing throughout Egypt—worse than there has ever been or ever will be again. But among the Israelites not a dog will bark at any person or animal.’ Then you will know that the Lord makes a distinction between Egypt and Israel.
Before God sent the worst – the last – plague on the Egyptians, he also sealed his people. In John’s vision – in the book of Revelation – the seal was invisible but in the past the seal was visible and a prophetic reminder that blood – (the sacrifice of animals foreshadowing Jesus – the Lamb that was slain – for us) – was shed for our redemption.
Exodus 12:1-28: The Lord said to Moses and Aaron in Egypt, “This month is to be for you the first month, the first month of your year. Tell the whole community of Israel that on the tenth day of this month each man is to take a lamb for his family, one for each household. If any household is too small for a whole lamb, they must share one with their nearest neighbour, having taken into account the number of people there are. You are to determine the amount of lamb needed in accordance with what each person will eat. The animals you choose must be year-old males without defect, and you may take them from the sheep or the goats. Take care of them until the fourteenth day of the month, when all the members of the community of Israel must slaughter them at twilight. Then they are to take some of the blood and put it on the sides and tops of the doorframes of the houses where they eat the lambs. That same night they are to eat the meat roasted over the fire, along with bitter herbs, and bread made without yeast. Do not eat the meat raw or boiled in water, but roast it over a fire—with the head, legs and internal organs. Do not leave any of it till morning; if some is left till morning, you must burn it. This is how you are to eat it: with your cloak tucked into your belt, your sandals on your feet and your staff in your hand. Eat it in haste; it is the Lord’s Passover.
On that same night I will pass through Egypt and strike down every firstborn of both people and animals, and I will bring judgment on all the gods of Egypt. I am the Lord. The blood will be a sign for you on the houses where you are, and when I see the blood, I will pass over you. No destructive plague will touch you when I strike Egypt.
This is a day you are to commemorate; for the generations to come you shall celebrate it as a festival to the Lord—a lasting ordinance. For seven days you are to eat bread made without yeast. On the first day remove the yeast from your houses, for whoever eats anything with yeast in it from the first day through the seventh must be cut off from Israel. On the first day hold a sacred assembly, and another one on the seventh day. Do no work at all on these days, except to prepare food for everyone to eat; that is all you may do.
Celebrate the Festival of Unleavened Bread, because it was on this very day that I brought your divisions out of Egypt. Celebrate this day as a lasting ordinance for the generations to come. In the first month you are to eat bread made without yeast, from the evening of the fourteenth day until the evening of the twenty-first day. For seven days no yeast is to be found in your houses. And anyone, whether foreigner or native-born, who eats anything with yeast in it must be cut off from the community of Israel. Eat nothing made with yeast. Wherever you live, you must eat unleavened bread.”
Then Moses summoned all the elders of Israel and said to them, “Go at once and select the animals for your families and slaughter the Passover lamb. Take a bunch of hyssop, dip it into the blood in the basin and put some of the blood on the top and on both sides of the doorframe. None of you shall go out of the door of your house until morning. When the Lord goes through the land to strike down the Egyptians, he will see the blood on the top and sides of the doorframe and will pass over that doorway, and he will not permit the destroyer to enter your houses and strike you down.
Obey these instructions as a lasting ordinance for you and your descendants. When you enter the land that the Lord will give you as he promised, observe this ceremony. And when your children ask you, ‘What does this ceremony mean to you?’ then tell them, ‘It is the Passover sacrifice to the Lord, who passed over the houses of the Israelites in Egypt and spared our homes when he struck down the Egyptians.’” Then the people bowed down and worshiped. The Israelites did just what the Lord commanded Moses and Aaron.
The seal – the blood on the door posts – Jesus’ blood now – kept them safe and keeps us safe. Judgement may come – destruction may reign on the earth: locusts, hail, darkness, frogs, death – but God’s people are safe because God protects them. He distinguishes between people – those who belong to him and those who do not.
Is this the case even now? Can we pray for protection and can we do so with faith – an expectation based on promises? Do we have grounds for feeling safe?
The answer is “yes” and “no”. The bad news first: There is one source of suffering which will not be kept from us. On the contrary, Jesus told us to expect what he suffered himself: persecution, confiscation of property, injustice, bad reports, beatings, prison and (possibly) death.
John 15:18-25: If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first. If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own. As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world. That is why the world hates you. Remember what I told you: ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will persecute you also. If they obeyed my teaching, they will obey yours also. They will treat you this way because of my name, for they do not know the one who sent me. If I had not come and spoken to them, they would not be guilty of sin; but now they have no excuse for their sin. Whoever hates me hates my Father as well. If I had not done among them the works no one else did, they would not be guilty of sin. As it is, they have seen, and yet they have hated both me and my Father. But this is to fulfil what is written in their Law: ‘They hated me without reason.’
Matthew 5:11-12: Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.
Mark 13:9-13: You must be on your guard. You will be handed over to the local councils and flogged in the synagogues. On account of me you will stand before governors and kings as witnesses to them. And the gospel must first be preached to all nations. Whenever you are arrested and brought to trial, do not worry beforehand about what to say. Just say whatever is given you at the time, for it is not you speaking, but the Holy Spirit.
Brother will betray brother to death, and a father his child. Children will rebel against their parents and have them put to death. Everyone will hate you because of me, but the one who stands firm to the end will be saved.
2 Timothy 3:10-13: You, however, know all about my teaching, my way of life, my purpose, faith, patience, love, endurance, persecutions, sufferings—what kinds of things happened to me in Antioch, Iconium and Lystra, the persecutions I endured. Yet the Lord rescued me from all of them. In fact, everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted, while evildoers and impostors will go from bad to worse, deceiving and being deceived.
Hebrews 10:32-36: Remember those earlier days after you had received the light, when you endured in a great conflict full of suffering. Sometimes you were publicly exposed to insult and persecution; at other times you stood side by side with those who were so treated. You suffered along with those in prison and joyfully accepted the confiscation of your property, because you knew that you yourselves had better and lasting possessions. So do not throw away your confidence; it will be richly rewarded.
Hebrews 12:1-4: ... let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart. In your struggle against sin, you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood.
However, we do not suffer persecution outside of God’s plan and wisdom. God measures the pain and only allows what serves his purpose:
Jesus could not be arrested before his time had come – Luke 4:28-30: All the people in the synagogue were furious when they heard this. They got up, drove him out of the town, and took him to the brow of the hill on which the town was built, in order to throw him off the cliff. But he walked right through the crowd and went on his way.
John 18:3-6: So Judas came to the garden, guiding a detachment of soldiers and some officials from the chief priests and the Pharisees. They were carrying torches, lanterns and weapons. Jesus, knowing all that was going to happen to him, went out and asked them, “Who is it you want?” “Jesus of Nazareth,” they replied. “I am he,” Jesus said. (And Judas the traitor was standing there with them.) When Jesus said, “I am he,” they drew back and fell to the ground.
God allowed King Herod to kill James but, at the same time, (miraculously) rescued Peter – Acts 12:1-25: It was about this time that King Herod arrested some who belonged to the church, intending to persecute them. He had James, the brother of John, put to death with the sword. When he saw that this met with approval among the Jews, he proceeded to seize Peter also. This happened during the Festival of Unleavened Bread. After arresting him, he put him in prison, handing him over to be guarded by four squads of four soldiers each. Herod intended to bring him out for public trial after the Passover.
So Peter was kept in prison, but the church was earnestly praying to God for him. The night before Herod was to bring him to trial, Peter was sleeping between two soldiers, bound with two chains, and sentries stood guard at the entrance. Suddenly an angel of the Lord appeared and a light shone in the cell. He struck Peter on the side and woke him up. “Quick, get up!” he said, and the chains fell off Peter’s wrists.
Then the angel said to him, “Put on your clothes and sandals.” And Peter did so. “Wrap your cloak around you and follow me,” the angel told him. Peter followed him out of the prison, but he had no idea that what the angel was doing was really happening; he thought he was seeing a vision. They passed the first and second guards and came to the iron gate leading to the city. It opened for them by itself, and they went through it. When they had walked the length of one street, suddenly the angel left him.
Then Peter came to himself and said, “Now I know without a doubt that the Lord has sent his angel and rescued me from Herod’s clutches and from everything the Jewish people were hoping would happen.”
When this had dawned on him, he went to the house of Mary the mother of John, also called Mark, where many people had gathered and were praying. Peter knocked at the outer entrance, and a servant named Rhoda came to answer the door. When she recognized Peter’s voice, she was so overjoyed she ran back without opening it and exclaimed, “Peter is at the door!”
“You’re out of your mind,” they told her. When she kept insisting that it was so, they said, “It must be his angel.” But Peter kept on knocking, and when they opened the door and saw him, they were astonished. Peter motioned with his hand for them to be quiet and described how the Lord had brought him out of prison. “Tell James and the other brothers and sisters about this,” he said, and then he left for another place.
In the morning, there was no small commotion among the soldiers as to what had become of Peter. After Herod had a thorough search made for him and did not find him, he cross-examined the guards and ordered that they be executed.
Then Herod went from Judea to Caesarea and stayed there. He had been quarrelling with the people of Tyre and Sidon; they now joined together and sought an audience with him. After securing the support of Blastus, a trusted personal servant of the king, they asked for peace, because they depended on the king’s country for their food supply.
On the appointed day Herod, wearing his royal robes, sat on his throne and delivered a public address to the people. They shouted, “This is the voice of a god, not of a man.” Immediately, because Herod did not give praise to God, an angel of the Lord struck him down, and he was eaten by worms and died. But the word of God continued to spread and flourish ...
The number of martyrs is measured – Revelation 6:9-11: When he opened the fifth seal, I saw under the altar the souls of those who had been slain because of the word of God and the testimony they had maintained. They called out in a loud voice, “How long, Sovereign Lord, holy and true, until you judge the inhabitants of the earth and avenge our blood?” Then each of them was given a white robe, and they were told to wait a little longer, until the full number of their fellow servants, their brothers and sisters, were killed just as they had been.
Martyrdom will not become before we have finished our assignment – Revelation 11:3-12: And I will appoint my two witnesses, and they will prophesy for 1,260 days, clothed in sackcloth.” They are “the two olive trees” and the two lampstands, and “they stand before the Lord of the earth.” If anyone tries to harm them, fire comes from their mouths and devours their enemies. This is how anyone who wants to harm them must die. They have power to shut up the heavens so that it will not rain during the time they are prophesying; and they have power to turn the waters into blood and to strike the earth with every kind of plague as often as they want.
Now when they have finished their testimony, the beast that comes up from the Abyss will attack them, and overpower and kill them. Their bodies will lie in the public square of the great city—which is figuratively called Sodom and Egypt—where also their Lord was crucified. For three and a half days some from every people, tribe, language and nation will gaze on their bodies and refuse them burial. The inhabitants of the earth will gloat over them and will celebrate by sending each other gifts, because these two prophets had tormented those who live on the earth.
But after the three and a half days the breath of life from God entered them, and they stood on their feet, and terror struck those who saw them. Then they heard a loud voice from heaven saying to them, “Come up here.” And they went up to heaven in a cloud, while their enemies looked on.
What is more, Jesus encouraged us to stand tall in persecution and – on a regular basis (so it seems) – expect supernatural protection:
Mark 16:17-18: And these signs will accompany those who believe: In my name they will drive out demons; they will speak in new tongues; they will pick up snakes with their hands; and when they drink deadly poison, it will not hurt them at all; they will place their hands on sick people, and they will get well.
Testimonies abound of God confirming his active care and protection of his people in persecution:
Carlos Annacondia: Listen To Me Satan, Lake Mary: A Strang Company 1998, p124: In one of our crusades in the city of San Justo, in Buenos Aires, from a vacant lot next to the site of the crusade a man with a sniper rifle was aiming at me with the intention of killing me. Later on, he himself told me that every time he aimed at me, a fog covered the platform, preventing him from focusing on the target and shooting. He could see a figure that came and covered me. This happened several times. He also said that each time he did try to shoot, the bullet didn’t exit the rifle. When he aimed somewhere else and tried the rifle, it would work. But the moment he aimed at me, the same thing would happen again. After several attempts, he ended up in the tent of deliverance receiving ministry.
Such things still happen in different meetings I attend, here in Argentina and also in other parts of the world ...
Carlos Annacondia: Listen To Me Satan, Lake Mary: A Strang Company 1998, p126-127: There is a shantytown in Argentina called “Itati.” It’s the biggest and most dangerous shantytown in the area. When we held a crusade there, a lot of people were being saved every day. One day, it had rained a lot, and the streets were all muddy. It was impossible to drive the car into the area, so I decided to leave it in a nearby area and walk. I had a very old Citroen; it was very light and very easy to move around. A group of bandits decided to cover it with gas, light a match, and set it afire. But something astounding and supernatural happened that night. Every time one of them tried to come near to the car, he fell to the ground. When they managed to come close enough to it to push it, the license plate was burning and they couldn’t touch it.
Something similar happened one night when a couple of guys broke into the tent where we held our meetings and stole some chairs and other things. Some of our assistants were very angry. They couldn’t figure out how something like this could have happened, so we prayed for God to intervene.
A few days later, the same thieves returned with the chairs and other items. They told us that they were sorry for what they had done. They also said that those objects had something weird about them – every time they tried to sit on the chairs, they were burning. Strange things happened with the other stolen objects as well. They were very scared and thought that the things were bewitched. But it was God’s supernatural power ...
Persecution may cost us. For the sake of our faith and our Lord, we may have to pay a price in suffering, loss and death – and this is a great privilege (Acts 5:41: “The apostles left the Sanhedrin, rejoicing because they had been counted worthy of suffering disgrace for the Name”) – but God also makes sure that nothing happens to us before our time. Moreover, our protection in the face of persecution is often a sign for unbelievers to lead them to repentance: “And these signs will accompany those who believe: In my name they will drive out demons; ... and when they drink deadly poison, it will not hurt them at all ...” (Mark 16:17-18). “About midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the other prisoners were listening to them. Suddenly there was such a violent earthquake that the foundations of the prison were shaken. At once all the prison doors flew open, and everyone’s chains came loose. The jailer woke up, and when he saw the prison doors open, he drew his sword and was about to kill himself because he thought the prisoners had escaped. But Paul shouted, ‘Don’t harm yourself! We are all here!’ The jailer called for lights, rushed in and fell trembling before Paul and Silas. He then brought them out and asked, ‘Sirs, what must I do to be saved?’ They replied, ‘Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved—you and your household’” (Acts 16:25-31).
In times of persecution, we can count on both: a measure of suffering and a measure of God’s protection. We are safe in his hands but – in persecution – we are not promised a pain-free life. However, God’s judgements on earth are a different matter. Here it seems that he makes a distinction between his people and those that are disciplined by plagues and catastrophes. God’s wrath is one source of suffering which we do not have to endure. As God spared his people from the plagues in Egypt and as he spared the faithful (by putting a seal on them) in the book of Revelation, so will he spare us when he is going to shake the world.
Listen to some testimonies:
Brother Yun with Paul Hattaway: The Heavenly Man, London: Monarch Books 2002, p118-121: One morning the time came for the prisoners to go to the toilet, and they all lined up. I was so weak that I couldn’t stand, so the guards made me lean against the wall.
I recalled the night I was arrested, when Brother Zhang, Brother Zhen and the other co-workers had lovingly washed my feet. I remembered the beautiful scarf Zhang gave to me, saying, “This scarf will keep you warm from the cold.”
I felt as if my dear brothers and sisters were always with me, even in prison. I took great comfort as I thought about their sweet fellowship. I still had the scarf Brother Zhang had given me. I wrapped it around my waist to keep warm. In this way I felt I was still bound together with the believers.
That day I was left alone alongside the wall until sunset. Then Brother Li was told to pick me up and carry me back to the cell. When I entered I found the guards had not finished with me yet. They tore the scarf from around my waist. I had a small porcelain teacup from my family, which I had tied to the scarf. Many small blue crosses were painted on the teacup. It had given me strength for a long time. It reminded me of the cross of Jesus and also of my family’s love.
The prisoners untied the teacup and threw it into the urinal. They also threw my scarf into the human excrement.
I felt such pain and anger. Struggling with all my strength, I crawled into the waste to retrieve my teacup. The prisoners urinated on my cup and on my hands. I grabbed my teacup and hugged it closely to my chest. I was so angry that they had tried to take away the last remaining earthly possession that was precious to me.
I wanted to strike back at them with my words, but the Lord stopped me and told me, “Do not repay anyone evil for evil ... Do not take revenge, my friends, but leave room for God’s wrath ... Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.” Romans 12:17,19,21.
I repented for the way I felt. I started to bless my fellow prisoners, especially those who insulted me the worst.
Less than two days later, God’s wrath fell upon my cell mates and they started to itch from scabies. Their skin itched all over, so badly that it drove them crazy.
Brother Li and I were the only prisoners spared. Even though I had lain in human waste and been subjected to the vilest unsanitary conditions, the Lord made sure I wasn’t afflicted by this disease.
The guards took every opportunity to watch me for a sign of weakness, but they saw I just lay there on my back and said and did nothing.
The prison authorities discovered that Brother Li had been secretly taken care of me in many ways. He had lovingly prevented the other prisoners from doing more harm to me, and had encouraged them to treat me kindly. Consequently, Brother Li was transferred to another cell. Now I was alone, without the fellowship of any other believers.
The guards took me and again threw me into the urinal. The prisoners urinated on my face. I wanted to cry out. Now I felt so alone. “Scorn has broken my heart and has left me helpless; I looked for sympathy, but there was none, for comforters, but I found none.” Psalm 69:20.
The next morning the other prisoners awoke to find their bodies covered with red welts! They had a condition known as pustule. They couldn’t bear the irritations. They scratched their welts until pus oozed out.
The afflicted prisoners couldn’t sleep or lie down because they were so tormented by their need to itch.
The guards came to examine me. They tore off my undergarments to see if I had the disease. They thought the disease had originated from me because I’d spent so much time lying in human waste. They found I was the only prisoner free of the affliction!
My cell mates left me alone for a while and concentrated on relieving their discomfort. The leader of the cell was the most badly infected. His whole body was covered in spots, even his face. The other prisoners were afraid to go near him.
Because I was disease free, my cell mates moved my bed from next to the urinal to alongside the cell leader, to increase my chances of catching the parasites from him. It infuriated the prisoners and the guards that I wasn’t suffering the same affliction as the others.
One cell mate named Yu had watched me closely for many weeks. He came to me and lovingly covered my body with a blanket and was kind to me. He was a God-given replacement for Brother Li.
One night Yu came over to cover me. I reached out and took hold of his arm. I was so weak that my voice was almost unintelligible. He lowered his head to hear me whisper, “Yu, you must receive Jesus Christ as your Lord and Saviour.” Right then, Yu silently received the Lord’s salvation.
The leader of the cell, who had suffered so much from the disease, hated me even more when he saw I’d escaped the affliction. He took my blanket and used it for himself. In its place, he wrapped me in his own disease-ridden blanket, covered in blood, dirt and pus that had oozed from his sores. But the Lord protected me, and I still did not contract the disease.
The devil had attacked and threatened me through many evil men, but the Holy Spirit had made me strong in Jesus, even though my outer body was almost totally destroyed. My enemies had all been confounded.
The prisoners discussed among themselves how much longer I would live ... but I didn’t die ... I was no longer living by my own strength, but by the grace of God. [Brother Yun was spare the suffering of God’s judgement but not the suffering of persecution.]
M. Basilea Schlink: Nature Out Of Control, Darmstadt: Kanaan Publications 1994, p58-61: According to eye-witness reports, the bushfires often stopped inexplicably right at the fences, back doors or windows of people’s homes. Sometimes the trees next to the houses were ablaze, whereas the houses themselves were not touched.
After a long, futile battle against the fires, the Police Minister of New South Wales said that if in the next seventy-two hours they lost ‘only’ 2000 or 3000 houses, they would be doing very well, for they had given up fighting fires. They were concentrating now on saving lives and property. In view of that official prognosis, it was miraculous that a mere 200 or so houses were actually destroyed.
An article entitled “Miracle amid the storm’ described a couple’s experience in the badly hit Blue Mountains. They saw the firestorm suddenly tear over the ridge. In one-and-a-half minutes it reached their house, and they felt the searing heat, outside the windows as it passed over. All around them was burnt, black and smoking, but somehow they and their house were safe ...
... believers in particular have experienced many wonderful instances of deliverance and can tell of the Father’s infinite love and mercy.
From our sisters in Australia we learnt that a young woman who regularly held Bible studies at home was in actue danger when a firestorm came suddenly. She and her husband lived in a narrow gully, which acted like a funnel, drawing the flames straight through with incredible speed and force as if in a wind tunnel. The noise was terrific – like a jumbo jet landing in the backyard. But when she cried to the Lord, she could sense His presence and felt very protected. It was like being in an ark, while the fire repeatedly cricled around before it diverted from its path, leaving the house untouched.
A Christian family, who entrusted their home to the Lord before fleeing the flames, later found it unscathed. God had heard their prayers and the fire stopped six inches in front of the house ...
A Christian radio station in California was wonderfully protected during the catastrophic fires of October 1993. On the first day 100 foot flames were coming straight towards the station. An emergency call to prayer was immediately issued to a large circle of friends. The fire struck swiftly and the heat was so intense that a fire engine rushing to protect the station burnt up on the way. But it was as though angels were suddenly positioned around the station. The fire was unable even to touch one inch of the property, and the burning stopped five to ten feet on every side. Beyond all doubt, we have a God who answers prayer.
God protects us when his judgements discipline the world but this does not mean that we are completely detached from what happens to our city and nation. We still suffer some consequences. For instance, Jesus warned his disciples to flee Jerusalem when foreign armies lay siege to the city. It will be destroyed. With this piece of advice, Jesus saved the disciples’ lives but not all of their property – their businesses, homes and furniture: “When you see Jerusalem being surrounded by armies, you will know that its desolation is near. Then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains, let those in the city get out, and let those in the country not enter the city. For this is the time of punishment in fulfilment of all that has been written. How dreadful it will be in those days for pregnant women and nursing mothers! There will be great distress in the land and wrath against this people. They will fall by the sword and will be taken as prisoners to all the nations.” (Luke 20:20-24). [See also Jeremiah 45:1-5: “... This is what the Lord, the God of Israel, says to you, Baruch: You said, ‘Woe to me! The Lord has added sorrow to my pain; I am worn out with groaning and find no rest.’ The Lord said, ‘Say this to him ... I will overthrow what I have built and uproot what I have planted, throughout the land. Should you then seek great things for yourself? Seek them not. For I will bring disaster on all people ... but wherever you go I will let you escape with your life.’”]
God – many a time – performed miracles – commissioned angels – to protect and rescue his people in times of judgement and wrath (and how much more so when the devil wanted to thwart his plans). What about you now? Will God keep you safe? Can you pray for protection and can you do so with faith – an expectation based on promises? If you are still not sure – if the testimonies so far (from the Bible and modern life) are not enough to make you trust in God doing the same for you – then consider Psalm 91: the most solid Bible promises on God’s protection for you.
Psalm 91: Whoever dwells in the shelter of the Most High will rest in the shadow of the Almighty. I will say of the Lord, “He is my refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust.” Surely he will save you from the fowler’s snare and from the deadly pestilence. He will cover you with his feathers, and under his wings you will find refuge; his faithfulness will be your shield and rampart.
You will not fear the terror of night, nor the arrow that flies by day, nor the pestilence that stalks in the darkness, nor the plague that destroys at midday. A thousand may fall at your side, ten thousand at your right hand, but it will not come near you.
You will only observe with your eyes and see the punishment of the wicked. If you say, “The Lord is my refuge,” and you make the Most High your dwelling, no harm will overtake you, no disaster will come near your tent. For he will command his angels concerning you to guard you in all your ways; they will lift you up in their hands, so that you will not strike your foot against a stone. You will tread on the lion and the cobra; you will trample the great lion and the serpent.
“Because he loves me,” says the Lord, “I will rescue him; I will protect him, for he acknowledges my name. He will call on me, and I will answer him; I will be with him in trouble, I will deliver him and honour him. With long life I will satisfy him and show him my salvation.”
This Psalm has become real in the lives of many Christians:
http://www.sidroth.org/site/News2?page=NewsArticle&id=6479&abbr=art_&news_iv_ctrl=0 (by Linda Joseph): ... Peggy Joyce Ruth is cheerful, warm-hearted and motherly, but she wasn’t always such a happy camper. For eight long years she was miserable. She was tormented by fears and depression until God showed her how to find safety in the 91st Psalm. She says, “I believe that God gave me this answer because I needed to tell others how to be protected from all the horrible things coming on the earth.” Here is Peggy Joyce’s story in her own words.
I used to be a fearful person, and I had reached a point where fear literally controlled my life. One day, when my fears were at a peak, I lay down on my bed, and I asked God, ‘Is there any way to be protected from all this danger, or do we just have to take what comes?’
Although my heart posed this question, I didn’t actually expect an answer. I was just emotionally exhausted. I fell asleep and then I had a vivid dream. In my dream, I was standing alone in a huge open field. I again asked God, ‘Is there any way to be protected from the evil coming on this earth, or do we just have to take what comes?’ After a few moments, I heard a powerful, authoritative voice say, ‘In your day of trouble call on Me, and I will answer.’
In my dream, I felt so excited that I started leaping for joy. The next thing I knew, many, many other people had appeared and they were all celebrating and laughing and rejoicing with me over this answer to the question that I had asked. I felt so overjoyed by those words, and long after I awoke, I continued to ponder what it meant.
The next day I overheard someone mention the 91st Psalm. I felt strongly compelled to look it up. My heart leaped when I read in verse 15 the same words that I had heard in my dream. ‘In your day of trouble call on Me, and I will answer.’ Then I realized that my dream had been sent by God. I knew that the 91st Psalm was exactly the answer for which I had been looking.
I spent the next six months intensively studying the 91st Psalm. I found that it makes some astonishing promises. It offers a covenant of protection from every kind of harm that can befall a person sickness, accidents, war, natural disasters there is nothing that is not covered. If I could believe the words of the Psalm, there was nothing on earth that could harm my family or me.
It seemed almost too good to be true. My rational mind rejected it. I thought, ‘This was written more than 2600 years ago. It does not apply to me. I can’t believe this.’ However, something inside kept telling me that this was the answer. Then, one day God led me to the Scripture in Romans 3:3-4 that says, ‘For what if some did not believe? Will their unbelief make the faithfulness of God without effect? Certainly not! Indeed, let God be true but every man a liar.’ That settled it.
I had to make up my mind that either the Word of God was trustworthy or it was not. I had to choose. I chose to believe it, but it was a belief I had to work for. It did not come easily.
Then I started talking about it with my friends and family members. The more I talked about it, the more I understood and believed it. It is true that faith comes by hearing, even if you are hearing your own voice speak God’s Word. As I told others about it, I found many who began to put it into practice in their lives. One of these was my brother, Dr. James Crow, who later relied on the 91st Psalm to save his daughter’s life.
One morning, my brother’s eleven-year-old daughter, Julie, was thrown from a horse. As she fell, the horse kicked her in the back of the head, cracking her skull like an eggshell. It was bad. They sent her immediately from our local hospital to a larger hospital, and when we got there the swelling of her face was so severe that we could not even recognize her. All of her vital signs had stopped, and the doctors could not revive her at first. They told us that her injuries were so serious that she might die at any minute, and that she could not possibly live through the night.
My brother put his full trust in the 91st Psalm. He told the doctors, ‘I will not accept your prognosis. We have a covenant of protection with God. I believe God will heal her.’ I think the medical staff thought we were religious nuts. However, as a family we were all in agreement, praying the 91st Psalm for Julie, and miraculously, her vital signs came back, but she was still unconscious.
Her doctor did not seem impressed. He said, ‘Even if she does live through the night, she will be brain damaged and suffer severe hearing and sight loss due to the location of the injuries.’ He tried to present the facts to us and explained that her optic nerve had been damaged, that the bones in her ears were shattered, and that her brain had severe trauma. It was true that she had been injured beyond recognition.
However, my brother knew the 91st Psalm, and he refused to let go of his covenant of protection. We all kept confessing that Psalm over Julie, and repeatedly told the medical staff, ‘We have a covenant, and she will be OK.’ To make a long story short, nine days later she walked out of that hospital with no hearing loss, no loss of eyesight and no brain damage—totally healed.
Throughout her recovery, nurses and doctors kept coming to her room saying, ‘Here is the miracle girl.’ I know my niece would not be normal today, and probably not alive, if my brother had not stood firm on his covenant with God. Today she is a dental assistant for one of the leading dentists in San Antonio, Texas.
There are promises of protection all through the Bible, but the 91st Psalm is unique in that it is the only place where all of the protection promises are gathered together in one place, creating a covenant or a contract for divine protection. God revealed it to me because I asked Him to show me how to be safe in this world. I believe that He gave me this answer because I needed to tell others how to be protected from all the horrible things coming on the earth.
Peggy Joyce explains that this covenant of protection is not automatic. There are things we must do ourselves to obtain protection. As we read the first two verses, we see that we must dwell in the secret place of God, that place of confidence and restful trust. In addition, we must continually say of the Lord, ‘He is my refuge and my fortress—My God in whom I will trust.’ We must do both of these things to have all the covenant protections.
We are told in Psalm 91:4 that we may seek refuge under His (God’s) Wings. The Lord gave me a very vivid picture of what it means to seek refuge under His Wings. We live in the country and one spring our old mother hen hatched a brood of baby chicks. One afternoon when the little chicks were scattered all over the yard, I suddenly saw the shadow of a hawk overhead. Then I noticed something that taught me a lesson I will never forget. That mother hen did not run to those little chicks and jump on top of them to try to cover them with her wings.
Instead, she squatted down, spread out her wings, and began to cluck. And those little chicks, from every direction, came running to her to get under those outstretched wings. Then she pulled her wings down tight, tucking every little chick safely under her. To get to those babies, the hawk would have to go through the mother.
In the same way it is under His wings that we may seek refuge—but we have to run to Him. He does not run here and there, trying to cover us. He has made protection available. And when we run to Him in faith, the enemy will have to go through God to get to us. It is important to understand this.
Peggy Joyce has taught many about our covenant of protection. One young mother was particularly glad she had learned it. Her four-year-old son, Skylar, went over the side of a cliff after his bicycle got out of control. When his mother found him he was tangled in the wheel of the bicycle and lying on his stomach with his chin turned around over his shoulder. The situation was so urgent, that they could not wait for the ambulance, so the mother and her sister drove him to the nearest hospital. As they drove, they prayed aloud the promises of Psalm 91.
The local hospital found an obvious break in the C-1 vertebra, so he was immediately airlifted to Cook’s Children’s Hospital in Fort Worth, Texas. The situation seemed grim. However, the two sisters never stopped claiming their protection covenant of Psalm 91 as doctors attended the little boy. Finally, the doctor at Cook’s Hospital came out of the room with a strange look on his face. He had the X-rays from the first hospital in one hand and the new X-rays that had just been taken in the other hand, and his words were, ‘We don’t know how to explain this, but we find no head trauma and no C-1 fracture.’
These two sisters had trusted God completely and believed what He said in Psalm 91: ‘No evil will befall you, nor will plague or calamity come near your household.’ Since the day they left the hospital, Skylar has been a perfectly normal, healthy little boy with no side effects, whatsoever, from the accident.
A young friend of ours, Julee, was getting ready for church when someone knocked on her door. As she opened the door, a strange man shoved his way in and attacked her. Remembering that God said in Psalm 91: 5-7, ‘You will not be afraid of the terror [what another person can do to harm you]…it will not approach you,’ Julee started quoting the Word of God to him as her defence.
It took forty-five minutes of spiritual battle as the man came at her time after time, but her persistence in quoting these words brought confusion and immobility on him—thwarting every attempted attack. During one of those times when he had temporarily lost his focus, she was able to get out the door and escape unharmed.
Later, after he was apprehended, she found that he had sexually assaulted numerous young women, and she was the only one of his victims who had been able to escape without harm.
Once a tornado was headed for our house. A teen club was meeting at our house, and their vehicles were parked below the house while the members watched the tornado which had touched down and was headed in our direction. The sky was dark and had a peculiar, greenish glow. We could see a large funnel cloud headed straight for our house, way off in the distance.
I’m sure a lot of people were rushing for their storm cellars at that moment, but my husband got us outside, speaking the promises of Psalm 91 directly to the storm as we marched around our house. When we went back inside, the radio announcer was just making the statement, ‘It is a miracle! The tornado which was headed south of the country club has suddenly disappeared.’ God gave us our miracle. Psalm 91 is our covenant we speak in the face of destruction (the category of evil over which man has no control).
On another occasion the Lord saved our property from fire after relying on the promise in this 91st Psalm. My husband and our son, Bill, were burning brush in the back pasture of our ranch when an old underground gas well exploded. Fire raced across the field toward other houses. They fought the fire, but it was hopelessly out of control. There was little expectation that a fire truck could get there in time to do any good, but my husband raced off to the house to call them anyway. When he returned from calling the fire truck, to his surprise, the fire was out. One minute it was out of control; the next minute it was out! Jack said, ‘Bill, how did you do it?’ Remembering our covenant, Bill had called on God, and God had miraculously put the fire out.”
In Psalm 91, God lists all the things from which we are protected, and we can easily see that it covers all of the evils of humankind. It includes all the evils that come through another person, such as robbery, murder, terrorism or rape. It also includes epidemics and deadly diseases, and all natural disasters such as tornadoes, floods, hurricanes and other things that man has no control over. Verse seven plainly says, ‘A thousand may fall at your side, and ten thousand at your right hand, BUT IT SHALL NOT COME NEAR YOU.’ He even has angels standing by us to help us. This is God’s Covenant of Protection ...
Psalm 91 backs up God’s intent to protect us from his wrath when judgement comes to earth. Dare to hang on to the promises:
Psalm 91: ... You will not fear the terror of night, nor the arrow that flies by day, nor the pestilence that stalks in the darkness, nor the plague that destroys at midday. A thousand may fall at your side, ten thousand at your right hand, but it will not come near you.
You will only observe with your eyes and see the punishment of the wicked ...
However, will these promises always work? What if I pray and still suffer loss? This is the same old predicament of many promises – E.g.: What if I pray for healing and nothing happens? What if I believe for my daily bread and still go hungry? What if I pray for spiritual gifts and none seem to be given to me? – but only one answer can be given. God is faithful and we will not lower the standard of his promises to the level of our current experiences. We dare to exercise faith and plead his promises with boldness.
Then, we will again pay attention to the Psalm and recognize our own responsibilities:
Psalm 91: Whoever dwells in the shelter of the Most High will rest in the shadow of the Almighty. I will say of the Lord, “He is my refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust.” ... If you say, “The Lord is my refuge,” and you make the Most High your dwelling, no harm will overtake you, no disaster will come near your tent ...
“Because he loves me,” says the Lord, “I will rescue him; I will protect him, for he acknowledges my name. He will call on me, and I will answer him; I will be with him in trouble, I will deliver him and honour him. With long life I will satisfy him and show him my salvation.”
Shelter in him – get as close to God as you can (which means turning your back on everything that distracts you from him) – speak out his promises and protection and love him. Express your faith by calling upon him. Make God your first priority – shelter in him – to find protection and see what God is going to do for you.
This is spiritual work. Rise up in times of trouble and keep declaring his promises. Don’t descend into depression and self-pity because these emotions come from unbelief. God loves you. Expect protection. Consider the many promises and testimonies. If there is a setback – if something happens that we do not understand – try again next time – (as we keep praying for the next sick person according to God’s promises). Unless God speaks to you clearly, do not come under condemnation. We don’t have to understand everything. We only know that God can be trusted and even death is not the end of his protection – Revelation 21:1-4: “Then I saw ‘a new heaven and a new earth,’ God himself will be with them and be their God. ‘He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death’ or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.”
Don’t worry. God has put a seal of protection on you. Amen.