The times in which we live are times of escalating persecution. Anti-Christian hostility is on the rise globally, due mainly to Culture Change. This is true in the West, which is rejecting its own cultural foundations forcing Christians to become counter-cultural, and in the developing world where counter-cultural Christianity is viewed as divisive, offensive and an intolerable problem to be either controlled or eliminated.
Forces are rising against the Church the world over. Ultimately however, the LORD will be exalted -- not by might, not by power, but by the Spirit of the LORD of hosts (Zechariah 4:6) working in and through the Church that Christ is building.
We must never forget that "we do not wrestle against flesh and blood . . .
. . . With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people."
(from Ephesians 6:11-18)
"For though we walk in the flesh, we are not waging war according to the flesh. For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds." (2 Corinthians 10:3-4)
So may "supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way. This is good, and it is pleasing in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. (1 Timothy 2:1-4)
Father, we pray for . . .
• for religious freedom to become a reality, so that the remnant Church will be free to witness and grow, bringing hope, healing and life to Afghanistan’s oppressed and suffering millions.Until then, Lord, sustain, comfort and build your Church and provide her every need. May the LORD of hosts break through in Afghanistan.
• where the government's tenuous peace with Islamic fundamentalists depends in part on its willingness to restrict and repress Christianity. May the largely young, growing and now vulnerable church grow in faith and grace, trusting in the LORD in all circumstances and for all things. May Christ continue to build his church in Algeria.
• an authoritarian state threatened by the rise of intolerant fundamentalist Islam. Lord, give grace to the authorities that they may distinguish between good and bad, blessing and threat; so that the church need not be swept up in anti-terror measures that target 'non-traditional' and 'foreign' religion (i.e. jihadist and revolutionary Islam coming in from outside). Grant your people wisdom. May the church grow in faith and numbers.
• that the nation's secular roots will be preserved, along with liberty and rule of law. May Bangladeshi's reject the intolerant fundamentalist Islam that is flexing its muscles and bringing death and terror to the streets of Dhaka. May Bangladesh's persecuted Christian minority not lose hope. May they endure their trials and hardships as shining lights, with wisdom and grace. Lord, be their shield and defender, and add to their number.
• that these days of oppression under President Lukashenka might be redeemed, so the people might come to treasure liberty and hunger for truth. May the Church grow in faith, wisdom, grace and unity in the Holy Spirit (Ephesians 4:3) across denominational lines, ready for the future.
• where King Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuck (32) is leading the nation on a path of remarkable reforms. May God give him and the new parliament courage and conviction as they address the people's fears. May people grow in confidence that openness and liberty need not spell the end of that which is precious, good and beautiful in their culture. May the local church have wisdom, sensitivity and grace in all things; and may the Lord add to their number.
• that there will be a profound rejection of the intolerant, imperialistic, jihadist Islam that threatens liberty and peace. May true reconciliation emerge out of truth via repentance. May the church be a shining example of love and unity in the Holy Spirit (Ephesians 4:3) across denominational and ethnic lines, for the sake of the Gospel of Grace, which is Bosnia's only hope.
• that there will be an end to the racial (ethnic Burman) and religious (Buddhist) supremacy that is at the root of Burma's multiple internal conflicts. May peace and religious freedom be realised. Father, sustain your long-suffering, persecuted church and intervene on behalf of Burma's ethnic minority Christian peoples -- the Chin and the Kachin -- as well as the Karen (who have a large Christian minority).
• that God will sustain and preserve his church in face of the violent coup by Muslim rebels. May God shine his light into CAR to reveal the truth about whose 'interests' are being advanced at the peoples' expense. May CAR's Christians (76%) - especially church leaders - put their faith in the LORD as they negotiate this crisis.
• where authoritarian regimes are struggling against the trends of openness and of revolutionary and jihadist Islam. Lord, grace Central Asian leaders with a commitment to religious liberty and discernment in matters of national security. Bless and comfort your church Lord, especially those who have been imprisoned, fined or beaten for their worship or witness. Build and fortify your church in Central Asia, Lord, supply her needs and add to her number.
• that China's new leaders -- President, Xi Jinping and Premier Li Keqiang -- will heed the call for religious freedom so that China's Christians may worship freely without fear or danger; so that Bibles and theological studies may be accessible to all who desire them; and so China's evangelists may witness freely and safely across the nation and throughout the world. We pray for an awakening, so that the Chinese might realise that materialism neither guarantees happiness nor addresses the problem of corruption and sin.
• that the church may continue to grow in grace and number in spite of oppression and suffering. Lord, raise up more pastors and evangelists to meet the enormous demand (Matthew 9:37-38). Be a shield and fortress to those courageous believers who, despite the threat of beatings and imprisonment, witness for Christ and gather to worship and pray for their nation. Bless China's imprisoned believers: heal their physical and emotional wounds, and may the ever-present Holy Spirit comfort, counsel and uplift their hearts.
• May the laogai (gulag) – a network of some 1000 prisons where dissidents are 're-educated through labour' – finally be closed. The new leadership has promised reform, but it will be exceedingly difficult to implement. As State run slave labour, the laogai is integral to the economy.
• May grace be granted to this profoundly divided nation that has suffered betrayal and Islamic violence at the behest of Western nations pursuing Western 'interests'. May truth, repentance and a longing for equity and peace lead to justice and reconciliation. May there be revival reminiscent of the days of William Wadé Harris who baptised over 100,000 converts (10 percent of the population) during 1913-14. May the Spirit of the Lord return with healing in his wings (Malachi 4:2). Father, send out workers into your harvest field (Matthew 9:38) and may two million converts (10 percent of the population) be baptised during 2013-14.
• that tentative steps towards reform would continue so that Cuba's long-suffering, faithful and growing church might soon know real freedom.
• a nation transformed by amazing revivals in the 20th century, but now suffering from endless conflict on account of greed and occultism. Lord, sustain your church as she seeks to serve and heal. Be a shield and fortress to every mission station. Protect your children from the appalling violence of armed militias and occultists. May DR Congo know revival again, and may the power of the evil one be broken.
• that Egyptians might awaken to the reality that Islam is not the solution to corruption, immorality and economic malaise; and that fundamentalist Islam leads only to increased repression and regression. May Egyptians seek and find the truth that will set them free and bring healing to their land.
• Lord, be a shield and fortress to the long-suffering, persecuted Copts (Egypt's indigenous Christians) in these days of escalating intolerance, diminishing security, great vulnerability and shameful impunity. May Coptic and Arab believers lean on the LORD for wisdom, strength, protection and comfort. May they fix their eyes upon Jesus; hold on to promise (Isaiah 19:16-25), and never lose hope.
• a violently repressive nation of secret prisons and torture where some 3000 Christians are imprisoned because of their faith. Intervene, O Lord, for the sake of your people. Liberate Eritreans by your own hand (Isaiah 59:14-19), ending the rule the cruel totalitarian despoit, Isaias Afewerki. Until then, sanctify your church and redeem her suffering. May she grown in faith, grace and unity in the Holy Spirit across denominational lines to emerge from this trial refined and glorious.
• may the government be graced with wisdom and conviction in these days of rising Islam and regional instability. May justice and rule of law prevail in Muslim majority areas for the sake of church. May religious liberty be preserved and the Church united across tribal and denominational lines, especially for the purpose of mission and prayer.
• that Europeans will remember the Lord and "return", so that the battle might be turned back at the gate (Isaiah 28:5-6) before judgment falls upon them (Deuteronomy 8:11-20). As degradation, Islamisation, repression and conflict loom large as a consequence of Culture Change, please O Lord, grace Europe with a fresh outpouring of your Holy Spirit for awakening, revival and reformation. May Europe's Christians look to the LORD rather than to human works and worldly means for the fostering of peace and transformation of society.
• that Indians will reject Hindu nationalism (Hindutva) and the perpetuation of caste privilege, recognising that these only bring sectarian conflict, racism and shame, while inhibiting growth and prosperity. We pray for a breakthrough with the upper castes, especially the seemingly impenetrable high caste Brahmins (priestly caste), for whom egalitarian (casteless) Christianity is nothing but a threat to their inherited privilege.
• Lord, grant Christian leaders great wisdom as they dialogue with the government over oppressive Hindu nationalist policies including anti-conversion laws, and seek protection from Hindutva violence, forced conversions and impunity. Lord, protect the courageous pastors and evangelists who risk life and liberty to witness and lead worship and prayer, and to baptise new believers in this hostile, incendiary environment. Sanctify your Church O Lord, ridding her of any ingrained caste discrimination. Bless every courageous act of witness, for the glory of the LORD in India.
• Lord, sustain, protect and bless your church in Indian-administered Kashmir as fundamentalist Islam rises and persecution increases. Give your church boldness along with great wisdom in this increasingly dangerous environment, and bless all witness.
• that Indonesians will profoundly and loudly reject intolerant, fundamentalist Islam. May religious liberty be preserved, treasured and advanced. Lord, frustrate the ways of the wicked (Psalm 146:9) and protect your churches, pastors, evangelists and worshippers during these days of Islamic radicalisation and terrorist threat. Sustain and sanctify your church. May she shine as a beacon with a message of hope for millions of disillusioned, still wonderfully open Indonesian Muslims.
• Lord, we pray against the racists and Islamist imperialism that poses an existential threat to the ethnic Melanesian Christians indigenous to Papua (formerly Irian Jaya / West New Guinea). Lord, intervene in Papua that the slow, systematic genocide of your people might cease; that cruelty and racial-religious hatred might cease. Lord, clear the way for Papua's Church to blossom in security and liberty, in all grace. Sustain and protect those courageous Papuan voices, including many church leaders, who risk much to speak out for justice, righteousness and liberty. Bless and comfort your people; may they not lose hope. May they look to the LORD of hosts for deliverance from tyranny.
• a most strategic nation, rich in history and culture, now captive to revolutionary Islam and a belligerent theocracy. Intervene, Lord, for the sake of your church and for Israel. Liberate this nation so your church might bring your message of salvation and healing to a people desperately in need yet brimming with potential. Meanwhile, sustain and preserve your persecuted and threatened church, adding to their number daily those who are being saved. Protect and bless Iran's pastors and evangelists, her Christian prisoners and her new believers (apostates) for whom life is tenuous.
• where war has left the people polarised along racial and sectarian lines; where the future of the indigenous Christian Assyrian-Chaldean community is tenuous; and where the threat of new wars looms large. Lord, sustain and protect your churches, pastors, evangelists and believers from Islamist attack and lawless violence. Comfort your people and anoint the church with strength from the Holy Spirit, so she may endure and be "salt" to Iraq and "light" to the Iraqi people.
• where traditional hospitality is under threat on account of demographics (a restless Palestinian majority) and regional conflicts. Lord, as Islamic zeal and restlessness escalate, may your church grow in faith and unity in the Holy Spirit across ethnic and denominational lines. May she lean on you and trust in you through these days of uncertainty. May openness and religious liberty survive – for the sake of your gospel in the region.
• where thriving churches are being targeted for violence, as intolerant fundamentalist Islam grows and spreads; as coastal Muslims call for independence; as radical Muslims reject anti-terror laws; and as jihadists enact revenge for Kenyan military counter-terror operations in Somalia. Lord, be a shield around every church and a fortress to every believer. Grace the government with clarity and conviction to uphold religious liberty and rule of law. Awaken Muslims and frustrate the way of the wicked (Psalm 146:9b).
• where many decades of pro-Albanian, anti-Serb policies – initially under the Turks, later under Tito and eventually under NATO – have resulted in this province, the historic heartland of the Serbian nation and Orthodox Church, being colonised by Albanian Muslims and separated from Serbia. Lord, as churches are destroyed and Serbian Christians flee, comfort the remnant Serbian church. May the mostly Protestant Albanian church reach out to her, demonstrating love and unity across ethnic and denominational lines, for the future of Kosovo and the glory of God.
• where the Communist regime has vowed to "eliminate" Christianity, deeming it a "foreign religion" that threatens national security (Communist control) and local harmony. Lord, intervene in Laos to end cruelty and tyranny and bring justice and liberty. Lord, sustain and protect your sorely persecuted church. Bless those who have been dispossessed, beaten, imprisoned and tortured on account of your name; comfort them and supply their every need. Bless their witness and build your Church.
• a state of many sects and peoples, the peace of which is gravely threatened by local and regional sectarian tensions. Lord, grace Lebanon's leaders with cool heads, wisdom and discernment. May Christian leaders have wisdom from above to lead the Church in the way of the LORD. May they look to you and trust in you amidst insecurity and existential threat. Protect, sustain and preserve your people O Lord. Sanctify your Church and forge unity in the Body.
• that the long-repressed church might shine as an example of peace, joy, love and unity in this devastated and profoundly divided, tribal nation. With fundamentalist Islam now free to make its presence felt, might the church have wisdom and courage as she serves the nation in the name of Jesus. O Holy Spirit, bless all witness and may Christ build his Church in Libya.
• a melting-pot of Asian cultures where harmony is sometimes tested by racial and religious tensions. May Malaysian Muslims reject the intolerant fundamentalist Islam that threatens peace, in preference for diversity with freedom which advances prosperity. Lord bless the Malaysian church; may there be unity in the Holy Spirit across racial and denominational lines. May your Church shine as an example of the harmony that is achievable through Jesus Christ. Grant church leaders wisdom as they face the effects of advancing Islamisation.
• where a glorious tropical island setting hides a cruel, repressive, Islamist reality. Lord, we pray for an awakening amongst Maldivian Muslims and an empowering of reformist voices, so that Maldivians might profoundly reject intolerant fundamentalist Islam. Lord, shield the long-suffering and imperiled church. Bless and comfort them and supply all their needs while adding to their number.
• that issues of poor governance will be rectified; that legitimate Tuareg grievances will be addressed; and that al-Qaeda-linked jihadists will be eliminated, so that liberty and security might be restored and hundreds of thousands of displaced Malians might return to their homes. Bless and comfort displaced believers, supplying their every need. May churches and ministries see fruit for their labour and sacrifice as they risk militant attacks to serve the people in the name of Jesus.
• where intolerant fundamentalist Islam is ascendant, fueling Islamic hatred and Muslim supremacy, leaving Christians, who are indigenous to the region, fearing there will soon be no place for them at all. Lord, sustain and preserve your threatened Church in this the birthplace of the Church. Send out more workers into this most dangerous of harvest fields and awaken the lost to their need of a Saviour who can not only forgive sin, but radically transform the individual and society. Add Jews and Muslims to your church daily as they are being saved. Bless, comfort and encourage your people – may they never lose hope. May Jesus be praised all across the Middle East and may peace reign for the glory of God.
• that Moroccan openness, tolerance and progress will not be thwarted by advances in political Islam. Lord, grace King Mohammed VI -- the driving force behind reforms -- with discernment and conviction, that he might be an instrument in the hand of God to do good for all Moroccans. May Islamists not be permitted to set the agenda and may true religious freedom be observed in practice. Bless the church with wisdom and strength for endurance, adding to her number daily.
• where forces for openness and liberty are struggling against Hindu nationalist elements and politicians prepared to play the race or religion card for political gain. Grant wisdom and boldness to Christian leaders who advocate that Nepal's recently embraced religious liberty be retained despite calls for restrictions including anti-conversion legislation. Bless the Church Lord, as she serves the nation in the name of Jesus.
• that the LORD will enable a breakthrough against Boko Haram, Muslim aggression and Islamic imperialism. May jihad and intolerant fundamentalist Islam be rejected. May peace return to Nigeria. May those who have harboured hatred towards the church repent in shame and sorrow.
• Lord, generously anoint Nigeria's pastors and evangelists with the Holy Spirit of power to lead many to Christ, especially in the troubled Muslim north where Christians are severely persecuted and threatened. In this land of immense spiritual warfare, raise up more workers and send them out into the harvest field. Bless the churches and Bible colleges, as well as the courageous believers who continue to witness and worship despite threats of violence and terrorism. Be their shield and fortress. Frustrate the ways of the wicked: may their plots come to nothing! May the Lord be praised throughout all Nigeria!
• that God will intervene to bring justice and liberty to this land of severe oppression and unspeakable suffering. May the cruelty, hunger and totalitarianism come to an end; may the prisoners be released; may the nation open up; may the King of Glory come in (Psalm 24). Reverse the fortunes of North Korea, O LORD, so that Pyongyang may once again be a city where the Lord is worshipped and praised. And may deliverance come quickly (Psalm 31:2).
• that God will give the Pakistani government the strength and resolve it needs to pursue justice and security for all Pakistanis regardless of religion. Lord, awaken Pakistani Muslims to the reality that intolerant fundamentalist Islam brings nothing but conflict, repression and pain, while inhibiting growth and development. May those who have hated and persecuted Christians without cause be ashamed. May Pakistan experience a miraculous reversal of direction.
• Lord, bless, sustain, protect and comfort your sorely persecuted and gravely imperilled Church. Be with those who are in prison or in hiding because hostile Muslims have persecuted them, threatening them with violence and/or accusations of 'blasphemy'. Lord, preserve their lives. Be with those have been displaced by violent Islamic pogroms. Lord, grant them justice and recompense. Be a shield and defender to all Pakistan's suffering and imperilled believers. Supply all their needs and empower their witness as they seek to follow you, to serve their nation and to lead disillusioned Pakistanis to the peace that is found only in Jesus Christ.
• that the government would have great wisdom as it seeks to negotiate a just peace on Mindanao in the south. May the Moro Islamic insurgency come to an end without appeasement that would negatively impact the constitutional rights Philippinos. Bless those who risk much to witness and serve amongst the Muslims of the south; may their sacrificial labours not be in vain.
• that God will graciously restore the years that the locusts have eaten (Joel 2:25) by bringing revival and reformation to the Russian Church. O Holy Spirit, bring conviction of sin and deep repentance to those who have been complicit in evil or insensitive to needs. May God's love be shed abroad in the hearts of Russian Christians enabling unity in the Holy Spirit across racial and denominational lines, so that together they might tackle Russia's immense social problems -- the fruits of decades of brutally enforced atheism -- in the name of Jesus. Lord, grace Russia's leaders with wisdom as they tackle the jihadist threat. Embolden and fortify the church for mission and spiritual warfare.
• where the Spirit of God is at work proving that nothing will be impossible with God (Luke 1:37). We praise you LORD that the crucified and risen Christ is being worshipped, albeit secretly, in the heartland of the Arabs and of Islam. Lord our fortress, place your protective hand over each precious Saudi Christian, for their lives are gravely imperiled. Lord our shepherd, lead each Saudi convert in your light and wisdom. May they live and grow in faith and in number; and may "justice roll down like waters, and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream" (Amos 5:24).
• a traumatised, war-ravaged land of new believers, secret believers, persecuted believers and martyrs. O Lord, sustain, protect, bless and comfort your remnant church. O Creator God, speak order into the chaos and light into the darkness. O Holy Spirit: awaken this devastated nation to the truth that can set them free.
• that the Lord would bless this newest of nations, restoring the years that the locusts have eaten (Joel 2:25). Lord, grace her leaders with wisdom and discernment. May this war-weary people be blessed with peace and unity in spirit across tribal lines. May this war-ravaged land be blessed with fruitfulness, aid and development. May the church that grew through years of war, now grow amidst peace with thankfulness.
• that Sri Lanka's political leaders the wisdom and strength to resist the political temptation to play the race-religion card and appease Sinhalese Buddhist nationalists at the cost of religious freedom. May there be genuine reconciliation based on truth and justice. Lord, bless and protect your church as she serves the nation in the name of Jesus and models peace, love and unity before a war-weary, suspicious and divided people.
• that President Omar el Bashir's reign of racist and Islamist terror will come to an end and that ethnic cleansing, Islamic jihad and persecution of the church will cease. O Lord intervene and reverse Sudan's direction so that justice, equity and liberty might be realised and so hundreds of thousands of refugees, presently languishing in camps in South Sudan, can return to liberty and security with hope for the future. (Psalm 10)
• Lord, comfort and bless your imperiled church. Guide and protect her as she faces a proliferation of obstacles and escalating persecution. Lord build your Church; may the gates of hell not prevail against it (Matthew 16:18).
• where Christians face the prospect of a drawn-out sectarian war and Islamic jihad. Lord, in your mercy, intervene to rescue your gravely imperiled church. Assure believers of your loving presence (Romans 8:35-39). May they look to you for all things in all circumstances. Comfort and encourage them and supply all their needs. Lord, quiet the tumult of the peoples (Psalm 65:7) and bring the counsel of the nations to nothing (Psalm 33:10), that the will of the LORD may prevail.
• where an increasingly radical Muslim minority is becoming more agressive and assertive. Lord we pray for a revival in the Tanzanian church so the land might be re-evangelized; and for an awakening amongst the political leadership -- may they realise what is at stake. May the authorities have courage and conviction to reject appeasement and uphold rule of law.
• once the most open and free of all Arab states, now Islamising rapidly in the wake of the "Arab Spring". Lord we pray for the Tunisian church that has long worshiped in relative freedom and peace, but must now navigate new realities. Father, grant your church great wisdom and boldness from the Holy Spirit in these volatile days as liberty and security hang in the balance. May the church shine ever more brightly as the "Arab Spring" yields repression, violence, injustice and disillusionment. May there be an awakening amongst Muslims and a turning to Christ as the Gospel is recognised as truth.
• which boasts of being a model of Muslim democracy, when in reality it is a repressive and belligerent emergent Islamic state. Lord, may the voices of thousands of anti-Islamist, pro-secular dissidents, imprisoned on false charges of conspiracy, still be heard. Grant your church wisdom as she navigates her steadily Islamising environment. May there be an awakening amongst Turkey's disillusioned Kemalist Muslims that leads them to Jesus Christ. Lord, sustain, protect, encourage and bless your church, adding to her number daily.
• that she will remember the Lord and 'return', before God's judgment falls upon her (Deuteronomy 8:11-20). In mercy, O Lord, pour out your Spirit and embolden your church with zeal for your truth, for mission and for prayer. Bless, sustain and encourage faithful Christians whose livelihoods, reputations and even security are being threatened on account of Culture Change. May the church embrace your call to be counter-cultural, so she might shine rather than fade through these days of deepening darkness. May the Spirit who worked in and through William Wilberforce to transform Britain once before, move through the UK again with awakening power that the battle might be turned back at the gate (Isaiah 28:5-6).
• that the Spirit of God who transformed America through Great Awakenings, would, in mercy and grace, transform America again. Instead of burning with zeal for "religion" and "rights", may the hearts of Americans burn with humbling love for the Lord Jesus Christ. Bless, sustain and encourage faithful Christians whose livelihoods, reputations and even security are being threatened due to Culture Change. In this increasingly godless age, as selfishness, materialism, indulgence, corruption and violence escalate, may the church embrace your call to be counter-cultural, so that she might shine as beacon, exalting the LORD of hosts and turning back the battle (Isaiah 28:5-6). May America remember the Lord and 'return', before God's judgment falls upon her (Deuteronomy 8:11-20).
• that the Vietnamese would reject totalitarianism and racism and be able to discern Communist propaganda from truth. May the masses develop a hunger for justice, righteous, equity and truth. Lord, raise up more courageous Christian leaders, pastors and advocates and bless their service in the name of Jesus. Sustain and comfort those who are in prison on account of their faith, ministry and advocacy. Redeem these sufferings and sanctifying your Church that she might emerge refined and united in the Holy Spirit across ethnic and denominational lines.
• for God to deal with those who persecute the church for political and personal gain; may injustice, violence and looting cease. May the forthcoming referendum and elections be transparent, fair, decisive and free of violence. May the results be respected and may God's will be done. May the nation be liberated from despots who exploit racism, hatred and greed to advance their own ends: may their end be their downfall. Reverse Zimbabwe's fortunes Lord, cultivating a desire for peace and unity. May the church be in prayer and may praises and thanksgiving resound across Zimbabwe in 2013.
"[Lord], we do not present our pleas before you because of our righteousness, but because of your great mercy. O Lord, hear; O Lord, forgive. O Lord, pay attention and act. Delay not, for your own sake, O my God, because your city and your people are called by your name." (from Daniel's prayer in Daniel 9)
"So now, O Lord our God, save us from [our enemy's hand], that all the kingdoms of the earth may know that you alone are the Lord." (from Hezekiah's prayer in Isaiah 39)
Now unto him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen." (Ephesians 3:20-21)
"Salvation belongs to our God who sits upon the throne, and to the Lamb." (the chorus from heaven: from Revelation 7:9-12)