Monumental events will soon shock the entire world! Great prophecies in the book of Revelation—in fact, the greatest in all the Bible—show how and when these catastrophic events will occur.
In this chapter comes understanding that will completely change your outlook on the near future. But you must have the keys that unlock it! And you must examine every scripture quoted—along with the entirety of Revelation. This stunning book of prophecy is opened, revealed and explained—at last!
Many think they understand prophecy—and this is possibly most true of at least some parts of the book of Revelation. Yet the most common human interpretations of this book, at best, border on ludicrous. Usually, a very little truth is mixed with much error! They are almost unbearable to read—yet major magazines report that great numbers do believe these dangerous, counterfeit scenarios.
World trouble will soon greatly increase—intensifying to staggering proportions. This will be followed by unexpected and cataclysmic events that will shake the whole world!
But God has not left mankind without a source of answers that reveals in detail what lies ahead. Tragically, believing things will eventually “work themselves out,” many take the ostrich approach and bury their heads in the sand, choosing to pursue pleasure and the accumulation of material goods. But world conditions will become much more serious than most realize.
God understands human nature and where it always leads when left to its own devices. This allows Him to know, and to guide, the awesome future events that will occur from now on!
We saw it has become God’s time to reveal what lies ahead. The stage is set and He has lifted the curtain on the future. Revelation describes terrible plagues and truly earth-shattering events!
Signs, seals, symbols, Satan, vials, visions, images, trumpets, thrones, plagues, angels, demons, destruction, beasts, heads, horns, women, witnesses, woes, wars, judgment, numbers, multitudes, messages and mystery! Revelation contains all of these terms. But what do they mean?
As we discussed from Isaiah in Chapter One, most believe the book of Revelation is sealed, closed from understanding. It is called a mystery book without meaning. Yet it is an entire book of important—vital—meaning. It is filled with answers. The above terms can be unlocked! They can be understood—and the next two eye-opening chapters contain the necessary keys!
You will be fascinated by the clarity of what can be known from Revelation. You can know that events are building to an unanticipated explosion!
Almost half the books of the Old Testament are included in the so-called “major” prophets (Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel) or “minor” prophets (Hosea, Joel, Amos, Jonah, Micah, etc.).
Paul explained that the New Testament Church was “…built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets” (Eph. 2:20). Recognize that, since the Church stands on the words of the prophets, Christians are expected to understand prophecy. Because God commands men to “live by every word of God” (Matt. 4:4; Luke 4:4; Deut. 8:3), He would not exclude the full third that is prophecy!
We read that Daniel spoke of a time and of events “the wise shall understand” (12:10). Jesus directly paraphrased Daniel in the Olivet prophecy, where He answered the disciples’ question about the sequence of events to occur at “the end of the age.” He reinforced Daniel’s statements about those events by saying, “Whoso reads, let him understand” (Matt. 24:15).
What are the wise to understand? Important keys exist, which open up Bible prophecies, but the world knows nothing of them! No wonder so many claim that the meaning of Revelation cannot be explained. How could they understand without the keys?
Imagine. Forty-two percent of Americans actually believe that they can consult the dead about matters involving the future. But mankind refuses to seek and consult GOD! Only He can reveal the future. Men cannot, through intelligence, human reasoning or scientific discovery, know or discern events to come. And many “religious” people believe the book of Revelation offers no help anyway, because it cannot be understood.
Revelation Means a Revealing
God reveals a basic framework for understanding future events. This framework is primarily laid out in Daniel and Revelation. Daniel, recorded over 600 years earlier, sets the stage for the larger and more detailed book of Revelation, which describes events found nowhere else in the Bible.
The Greek word apocalypse is translated “revelation.” A fuller look at this English word starts with to reveal—not conceal, hide, veil or close up. The actual definition of revelation is: “The act of revealing or disclosing; something revealed, especially a dramatic disclosure of something not previously known or realized” (American Heritage Dictionary).
We saw that Revelation closes with, “Seal not the sayings of the prophecy of this book: for the time is at hand” (22:10). Comprehend John’s words. The time for understanding Revelation IS now at hand!
We will see that this awesome revelation of future events was sealed with seven separate seals. It is crucial to understand another key point: The seven seals in God’s hand essentially span all but the last two chapters of the book! The seven seals are opened one by one, in sequence. Each reveals future events before they happen. Only Christ is qualified to remove the seven seals and open the book to understanding.
Revelation outlines a long series of events that relate to one another in a continuous flow—comprising an entire story. These occur in order of time sequence. (This chapter contains two overview graphs—an outline and a story flow—to which the reader may occasionally refer.) Also, Christ periodically insets certain events into the course of the Revelation. You now understand the first key to unlock the book!
Grasp this central, all-important point. While there are keys to understanding Revelation, the book itself is the single greatest key to understanding almost all other prophecies in the Bible!
An important point must be made. Many subjects in the book of Revelation that will be covered only briefly in the next two chapters command their own full chapter. Remember that the Table of Contents tells the reader which of these subjects reappear in greater detail.
The Signs of Christ’s Coming Parallel the Seven Seals
The basic rule of Bible study, that the Bible always interprets itself, is probably never truer than in the book of Revelation. This will be done as we progress through the opening of the seven seals.
Since John sees many symbols, we need to be able to understand the actual events that they represent. Otherwise, we will not know what is being described. How do we do this?
Mark 4:10-12 and Matthew 13:10-15 hold another key to understanding how Jesus teaches. In both places, He explained that He spoke in parables so that His servants would understand Him—but all others would not! Carefully read this: “And when He was alone, they that were about Him with the twelve asked of Him the parable [Jesus had just told the parable of the sower]. And He said unto them, Unto you it is given to know the mystery of the kingdom of God: but unto them that are without, all these things are done in parables: that seeing they may see, and not perceive; and hearing they may hear, and not understand; lest at any time they should be converted, and their sins should be forgiven them” (Mark 4:10-12).
Note exactly what Jesus said! Only His servants can understand His real meaning. Others might think they do—but they cannot!
Jesus never leaves His servants in the dark about matters He wants them to understand. But He does record them in ways that keep them hidden from the view of all others. This will help you see why so few understand a book that has been read by so many. Others may—and many do—sincerely seek to understand the many truths of Bible prophecy, but they are wasting their time. So says Christ.
Jesus explained, in plain, clear language, the key events of the last days preceding and leading to the time of His Second Coming. Central to your thinking and understanding is Jesus answering the disciples’ question, “…when shall these things be? And what shall be the sign of Your coming, and of the end of the [age]?” (Matt. 24:3; Luke 21:7).
We must briefly examine the critical Matthew 24 for vital clues, which explain the symbols that we will study in Revelation. Jesus gave a list of six different events that are to happen before His Second Coming. They precisely parallel what we will read beginning in Revelation 6.
First—false prophets and false christs (vs. 5). Second—wars (vs. 6) throughout the age, culminating in the end time with world war (vs. 7). Third—famines (vs. 7). Fourth—pestilences (vs. 7). It is at this point that Christ inserted a reference to the destruction of Jerusalem, in AD 70, because this was a forerunner, or type, of the yet future siege of Jerusalem and final “battle of Armageddon” (review Matthew 24:17-28 with Luke 17:30-37). Therefore, Matthew 24:9-28 (also Luke 21:12-24) applies to the period of AD 70—but only as a forerunning type of the final time of the end to which His warning refers literally!
Fifth, in Matthew 24:21-22, Jesus explains that the Great Tribulation occurs. Sixth are the heavenly signs (vs. 29)—when the stars fall and the sun and moon are darkened. The sign of Christ’s coming (vs. 30) occurs at this same time. His actual coming is right on the heels of it.
We will now examine Revelation, chapter by chapter.
Chapter 1: Christ the Revelator and the Book’s Theme
Understanding who is the true author of the Revelation—as well as the critically important theme, the centerpiece of the book—is vital. Without these two keys, many have bogged down either into arguments about whether “the Lord’s Day” (vs. 10) is a reference to Sunday—or whether John, instead of Christ, authored the book.
Why does almost everyone refer to this book as “The Revelation of St. John the Divine”? Nowhere does it refer to John as either divine or the Revelator.
Notice again: “The Revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave unto HIM…and He sent and signified it by His angel unto His servant John: who bare record of the word of God, and of the testimony of Jesus Christ, and of all things that he saw” (vs. 1-2).
The book of Revelation contains Jesus Christ’s words, as the Revelator, not John’s. John was merely a scribe—a secretary taking dictation. Sadly, modern commentators love to picture John as a deranged old man in exile on an island where he dreamed up lunatic visions that cannot be understood. These accusers do not realize that they are actually attacking Jesus Christ!—the book’s true Author.
Anyone who will even quickly examine the above passage will plainly see that the Revelation originated with God (the Father), who gave it to Christ. Christ sent and signified the Revelation by His angel, who then gave it to John, “Who bare record of the word of God, and of the testimony of Jesus Christ, and of all things that he saw” (vs. 2). John merely recorded these events, preserving them for the servants of Jesus Christ—His end-time Church.
As soon as the book was copied and canonized (circa AD 100), the founders of the developing universal church at Rome denied its origin. The highly authoritative and famous 11th edition of Encyclopaedia Britannica states, “Instead of this [Rev. 1:1] the Church substituted the name of the disciple through whom the message was delivered for that of his Master, and designated our Apocalypse ‘The Apocalypse of John.’ This title was familiar before the end of the 2nd century” (vol. 23, p. 212).
If the world’s best minds cannot even discern the book’s correct title—and Author—how could they possibly discern its MESSAGE?
Jesus Christ used John to “bare record of” (vs. 2)—write down—what He was revealing. In short, John wrote three things: (1) The word of God, (2) the direct testimony (words) of Christ, and (3) what he saw in vision.
With this background, you now understand the introduction to the book.
Most reputable scholars generally agree, and admit, that the term “the Lord’s Day” is, in fact, a reference to God’s coming day of reckoning, or judgment upon the world—the Day of the Lord!
Yet almost no one else understands this. Without this central point correct in one’s thinking, the entire book will make no sense. Reading Revelation becomes a fruitless exercise.
Now notice verse 10. It actually reveals the central focus or theme of the whole book. Understand that John lived 1,900 years ago—long before the events of this book were to be fulfilled. He wrote, “I was in the Spirit on the Lord’s day, and heard behind me a great voice, as of a trumpet.” Both the Rotherham translation and the Concordant version render this verse, “I came to be, in Spirit, in the Lord’s Day.”
Centuries of controversy have sprung from this reference, because people argue about to which day of the week John is referring. The presumption is that he is talking about Sunday, though the prophecy says nothing of the kind. This verse has nothing to do with Sunday—and is not a reference to any day of the week! The day of the week on which John may have received this prophecy is irrelevant.
The “Lord’s Day” is speaking of the time of God’s wrath. Over 30 different Old Testament prophecies refer to “the great and terrible day of the Lord .”
The prophet Joel speaks of it in detail. And he is graphic. Here is a small portion of how he describes the day: “Blow you the trumpet in Zion, and sound an alarm in My holy mountain: let all the inhabitants of the land tremble: for the day of the Lord comes, for it is near at hand; a day of darkness and of gloominess, a day of clouds and of thick darkness, as the morning spread upon the mountains: a great people and a strong; there has not been ever the like [again, this is shown to be part of the worst time ever], neither shall be any more after it, even to the years of many generations. A fire devours before them; and behind them a flame burns: the land is as the garden of Eden before them, and behind them a desolate wilderness; yes, and nothing shall escape them” (2:1-3).
The prophet Zephaniah is even more graphic: “Hold your peace at the presence of the Lord God: for the day of the Lord is at hand: for the Lord has prepared a sacrifice, He has bid His guests. And it shall come to pass in the day of the Lord’s sacrifice, that I will punish the princes and the kings’ children, and all such as are clothed with strange apparel. In the same day also will I punish all those that leap on the threshold, which fill their masters’ houses with violence and deceit. And it shall come to pass in that day...” (1:7-10).
A few verses later, Zephaniah gives more insight into just how terrible this time will be. Consider this sobering picture: “The great day of the Lord is near, it is near, and hastes greatly, even the voice of the day of the Lord : the mighty man shall cry there bitterly. That day is a day of wrath, a day of trouble and distress, a day of wasteness and desolation, a day of darkness and gloominess, a day of clouds and thick darkness, a day of the trumpet and alarm...And I will bring distress upon men, that they shall walk like blind men, because they have sinned against the Lord: and their blood shall be poured out as dust, and their flesh as the dung” (vs. 14-17).
This presents a horrible picture. Verse 18 refers to this time as “the day of the Lord’s wrath.” Verse 17 identifies the cause of God’s wrath: “because they [all mankind] have sinned against the Lord.”
Events depicted here are almost more awful and terrifying than words can describe. This day literally belongs to God—it is the “Lord’s Day.” Man’s conduct has made God angry. And He will soon intervene in the affairs of this world and send horrific plagues on a sinning mankind.
The Day of the Lord is the truly terrible time of God’s punishments, plagues and judgments at the culmination of mankind’s practice of sin for six millennia. Jesus Christ, through John, is revealing to His servants what occurs prior to—and through—His Return!
Ezekiel 8:3 gives some insight into how John could be transported 1,900 years into the future. Notice: “The spirit lifted me up between the earth and the heaven, and brought me in the visions of God to Jerusalem.” Like the prophet Ezekiel, John was in vision—“in the spirit”—from the Isle of Patmos, where he recorded the Revelation. God projected His servants (through visions) into important future events so that they could record them.
The book of Revelation does not speak to unknown events in the distant past in the Roman Empire, as many assert. It warns of colossal events that spring from world troubles affecting the masses of humanity alive now. Grasp that the Day of the Lord is the towering centerpiece of the entire book. Thus, it requires more explanation to understand what we will read in the balance of this and the following chapter.
In Revelation 1:3, God states, “…he that reads, and they that hear the words of this prophecy, and keep [obey] those things which are written” are “blessed.” What would be the point of this verse if God did not want the reader—the “hearer”—the “keeper” (obeyer)—to understand the book’s message? This is an important statement to all who read the book.
It means you!
Verses 14-16 are a direct description of Christ, as He now exists in full glory. This is an awe-inspiring picture. Take a moment to meditate on it—and how it is a far cry from the common image of the popular long-haired, sallow-complexioned, sad-faced, effeminate-looking, weakling false “Christ” of this world: “His head and His hairs were white like wool, as white as snow; and His eyes were as a flame of fire; and His feet like unto fine brass, as if they burned in a furnace; and His voice as the sound of many waters. And He had in His right hand seven stars: and out of His mouth went a sharp two-edged sword: and His countenance was as the sun shines in his strength.”
There are two symbols used in the first chapter of Revelation. One is mentioned in verse 12, where John saw “seven golden candlesticks.” Also, in verse 16, he saw “seven stars” in Christ’s hand.
Their meaning is explained by simply continuing to read the context: “The mystery of the seven stars which you saw in My right hand, and the seven golden candlesticks. The seven stars are the angels [messengers] of the seven churches: and the seven candlesticks which you saw are the seven churches” (vs. 20).
The Bible just interpreted itself! And we have now introduced the subject of chapters 2 and 3.
Chapters 2 and 3: The Seven Church Messages
Chapters 2 and 3 contain Christ’s messages to seven congregations—“churches”—in Asia Minor—today’s western Turkey. Together, these messages represent the first overall message of God’s book. They are directed to the seven successive eras, or stages, of the Church, and span the entire New Testament period—from the time Jesus built His Church (Matt. 16:18) in AD 31, until His Second Coming! God has chosen to work with His Church through sequential eras.
Each message contains Christ’s brief description of the spiritual condition of these seven consecutive Church eras.
These messages are not spoken to the many well-known, respected denominations of this world’s professing Christianity. They are directed to God’s one true Church. Men have never understood the messages because they have never recognized how to identify God’s Church.
All eras are described as having their own unique set of doctrinal and spiritual problems (Smyrna and Philadelphia are exceptions) that eventually lead to Christ raising up a new leader to establish the next era. The eras are Ephesus (2:1), Smyrna (2:8), Pergamos (2:12), Thyatira (2:18), Sardis (3:1), Philadelphia (3:7) and Laodicea (3:14).
These locations were actually seven cities lying close together (in this order) on a mail route. God knew that each city would reflect a corresponding attitude existing in the era it represents. Christ was able to use them to show a pattern that would span the 2,000-year history of His Church.
History demonstrates that most in each of these eras did not heed the warnings spoken to them by Christ. This is never truer than at the end of the age. While the Church has now progressed into the deplorable seventh (or last) era, known as Laodicea, the most faithful brethren in the Church of God today are a remnant of the sixth, the Philadelphian era. Doctrinally sound and more zealous in spiritual condition, they remain separate from the “lukewarm” condition of the seventh era. (The serious reader will want to study my book Where Is the True Church? – and Its Incredible History!)
Chapter 4: Before God’s Throne and the Twenty-four Elders
Chapters 4 and 5 represent the setting for the central part of the Revelation, which is to follow. They set the stage for unveiling the great prophecies explaining the theme of the book.
In verse 1, John describes a door opening in heaven and an invitation from a great voice to “come up” to be shown things “which must be hereafter.” Keep in mind that John was actually on a small island (Patmos) in the Mediterranean Sea and all of what he saw was occurring in vision. He was not literally in heaven.
In verse 2, John saw the Father on His throne. The verse introduces God and presents a magnificent picture of the setting in which He exists. Surrounding Him are 24 additional “seats” (lesser thrones), occupied by “twenty-four elders.”
It is important to study chapter 4 with chapter 5, because together they present a descriptive picture of four “beasts” (living creatures), as well as the twenty-four elders—and Jesus Christ, as the Lamb of God (5:6), standing before God’s throne.
This awe-inspiring setting pictures the environment—the magnificent beauty—of and around God’s throne. The description is simply stunning!
Chapter 5: Christ Unseals the Prophecy
Verse 1 pictures the Father holding the entire book of Revelation (with seven seals upon it) in His right hand. At this point, the book (actually a scroll or parchment) is still unopened—sealed—locked! Now notice: “And I saw in the right hand of Him that sat on the throne a book written within and on the backside, sealed with seven seals.”
Seven is God’s number of completeness—and, of course, the book was also completely sealed. This means that the explanation of the prophecy would remain hidden from view—unavailable to mankind until God’s appointed time! It has not even been possible to read it correctly in proper sequence, let alone understand it.
Here is the description: “And I saw a strong angel proclaiming with a loud voice, Who is worthy to open the book, and to loose the seals thereof? And no man in heaven, nor in earth, neither under the earth, was able to open the book, neither to look thereon. And I wept much, because no man was found worthy to open and to read the book, neither to look thereon” (vs. 2-4).
The account reveals that no man is qualified to open the book. If only people would simply believe God, there would not have been so many men, over the centuries, giving their interpretations of a prophecy that cannot possibly be understood. Like Daniel, who recorded a prophecy he did not understand, John was also unable to comprehend this prophecy. He actually cried because he did not see any way to open the book (vs. 4).
It is at this point that Christ, and Christ alone (not any human being), is deemed “worthy” to UNSEAL THE BOOK!
Understand this! The interpretation of the book of Revelation is not that of The Restored Church of God, or any person within it, including me. No man is capable of opening a single prophecy in this book.
The book of Revelation has been available in English since the King James Version was translated from the original Greek in 1611. So, on the surface, this is a difficult point to understand because, of course, many have opened the Bible to this book and read all of its 22 chapters. But they have not correctly understood it. This is because they have not believed chapter 5—that Jesus Christ has sole authority to unseal the book. Endless differing, competing, humanly devised “interpretations,” creating much confusion, have floated around for almost 2,000 years. Popular modern novelists have only made this worse.
Do not be confused about who alone can open this book to correct understanding. And remember, Daniel’s book is a companion to all the main prophecies of Revelation, and his book was “sealed till the time of the end” (12:9).
But Christ reveals the meaning of these prophecies: “And He came and took the book out of the right hand of Him that sat upon the throne” (Rev. 5:7).
The Twenty-four Elders Explained
Let’s notice something else about the twenty-four elders—and clear up a misunderstanding that has existed about who and what they are.
First read an additional reference to them in chapter 5: “And when He had taken the book, the four beasts and four and twenty elders fell down before the Lamb, having every one of them harps, and golden vials full of odors, which are the prayers of the saints. And they sung a new song, saying, You are worthy to take the book, and to open the seals thereof: for You were slain, and have redeemed us [them] to God by the blood out of every kindred, and tongue, and people, and nation; and have made us [them] unto our God kings and priests: and we [they] shall reign on the earth” (vs. 8-10).
Some claim the twenty-four elders are taken from saved human beings. This idea comes from a mistranslation of the italicized words “us” and “we.” They should be replaced by the words in brackets. See the Revised Standard Version, and also the margin of the New King James Version. Both render them correctly.
These elders are spirit beings created by God to be His counselors. They were probably created before the physical creation, along with the cherubim (Michael, Gabriel and Lucifer—who became Satan), the seraphim, the four living creatures and the billions of other angels (vs. 11) that serve God.
It is impossible for the twenty-four elders to be resurrected saints. Jesus said, “And no man has ascended up to heaven, but He that came down from heaven, even the Son of man which is in heaven” (John 3:13). Only when Jesus returns to Earth will Christians be given immortality (I Cor. 15:23)!
The twenty-four elders rule with God in heaven, having an obvious advisory role to Him. The resurrected saints will rule on Earth (Rev. 20:4; Matt. 5:5; Dan. 7:27). Though the vision that John saw is unsealed in heaven, it reflects events that will occur “on the earth.”
Chapter 6: The Seals Are Opened
We now come to the critically important chapter 6—and the beginning of Christ’s one-by-one removal of each of the seven seals. Watch end-time events unfold in sequence.
First, again understand that, beginning with chapter 6, unsealing the seven seals spans the next 15 chapters of the book. But since chapter 6 explains six of the seven seals, obviously they do not individually receive a large amount of space. The seventh seal is so important—and so multi-faceted—that God devotes much space to its complete explanation. Most of the remainder of Revelation is devoted to just the seventh seal!
This is another key to understanding the whole book.
The world sees the Apocalypse as a mystic, cryptic message of doom! The first four seals are represented by four riders, on four different-colored horses. Of course, much has been said and written about them. But the “Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse,” as they are commonly referred to, are still viewed as mysterious, unexplained horrors to be unleashed upon the world without warning. Again, only briefly explained now for context, each horse and rider receives its own chapter later in the book. But it is still important that we lay enough foundation here regarding the meaning of these horses and riders that you comprehend what is happening as the unveiling of Revelation progresses.
To clearly understand the first seal of Revelation 6:2, we must accept a basic fact. Recall, the Greek term apocalypse simply means “revelation.” So let’s now explain what is to be revealed—the seven seals.
We will read the description of each seal before discussing it. Remember, God wants His servants—“the wise”—to understand!
The First Seal—FALSE CHRISTIANITY
Let’s now examine the first seal: “And I saw when the Lamb opened one of the seals, and I heard, as it were the noise of thunder, one of the four beasts saying, Come and see. And I saw, and behold a white horse: and he that sat on him had a bow; and a crown was given unto him: and he went forth conquering, and to conquer” (vs. 1-2).
What John records is written in symbols. He does not speak in plain language. It is impossible to understand these symbols by merely rereading Revelation 6 over and over until their correct meaning sort of “pops into your head.”
It is also absolutely critical to recognize that a list of human interpretations is available for what this horse and its rider, and the others, represent. But, once again, the Bible interprets the Bible. We must permit Christ to explain what He is unsealing! No one else has authority to speak for what God gave to Christ—and authorized only Him to reveal!
Jesus reveals the meaning of the white horse. Recall that His disciples asked Him, “…when shall these things [the destruction of the Temple] be? and what shall be the sign of Your coming, and of the end of the world?”
Understand that Christ is speaking in both Matthew 24 and Revelation 6. He is addressing the very same questions in both chapters. He answers His disciples by listing, in time sequence and order, the events and trends that precede the end of the age—and thus His Coming.
Now notice the exact parallel between Revelation 6:1-2 and Matthew 24:4-5: “And Jesus answered and said unto them, Take heed that no man deceive you. For many shall come in My Name, saying, I am Christ [that Christ is Christ]; and shall deceive many.” That’s right! Christ warned that the many will be deceived by those who claim to represent Him—not the few.
The white horse that John described represents false “christs.” Here is proof. The one sitting on this horse is actually a counterfeit of the true Christ and a counterfeit of His Second Coming, described in Revelation 19:11-16. There, the real Christ wields a sharp two-edged sword, while the false christ is represented as carrying a bow. Do not overlook this critical difference!
Here is a partial description of the true Jesus Christ returning in great power and glory. While it does show Him riding a white horse, the rest of the description is very different from Revelation 6: “And I saw heaven opened, and behold a white horse; and He that sat upon him was called Faithful and True, and in righteousness He does judge and make war...And out of His mouth goes a sharp sword, that with it He should smite the nations: and He shall rule them with a rod of iron: and He treads the winepress of the fierceness and wrath of Almighty God” (19:11, 15).
Consider for a moment. Most who study Revelation believe that the white horse of the first seal pictures the true Christ coming before war, famine and disease strike the earth. How ridiculous! Such ignorance and misunderstanding has clouded the timing of the glorious Return of Jesus Christ described in Revelation 19:11-16. This is but one more way Satan’s ministers have deceived false Christianity—the other white horse.
Before proceeding, let’s read more of Christ’s answer to His disciples in Matthew 24. It will prepare us to see further the precise parallel between it and Revelation 6.
Carefully notice the rest of Jesus’ answer: “And you shall hear of wars and rumors of wars: see that you be not troubled: for all these things must come to pass, but the end is not yet. For nation shall rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom: and there shall be famines, and pestilences, and earthquakes, in various places. All these are the beginning of sorrows” (vs. 6-8).
Christ gives a direct answer to a direct question. The events He describes require no interpretation. In fact, they are Christ’s interpretation of Revelation 6. By having them in mind as we read the opening of the remaining seals, we have Christ telling us in advance what we are viewing—and what the symbols mean. All mystery is stripped away. This is most crucial to see!
The same Christ would not give two different versions of what happens immediately prior to His Return. He would not tell one thing to His disciples of the first century, and give an entirely different explanation to His servants of the twenty-first century! This should be obvious.
But, it is important to understand that only relatively recently, after almost 2,000 years, has the book of Revelation been opened up to plain understanding for all those who will heed. The words have always been there, but, as with Daniel’s prophecy, their meaning has been “sealed till the time of the end.”
Grasp what you have just read! In effect, Jesus has given an advance newscast—newspaper headlines—of events now lying just ahead, and increasingly already around us today. Jesus’ greatest single prophecy, the entirety of Matthew 24, Mark 13 and Luke 21 contain much more information than just Matthew 24:3-8. But we are not yet ready to discuss it.
In John 1, Jesus Christ is referred to as “the Word.” Compare verse 1 and verse 14. “The Word” is translated from the Greek word logos, meaning “Spokesman.” Actually, Jesus not only inspired Matthew 24 and Revelation 6, but also the entire Bible! (I Cor. 10:4, among other places, reveals that Jesus Christ is in fact the God of the Old Testament. However shocking this is to most, it is true and easily provable!)
For those with “eyes to see and ears to hear,” in Matthew 24, Jesus is revealing in plain language the true meaning of the symbols recorded in Revelation 6.
Understanding the last sentence is the single biggest key to understanding the entire book of Revelation!
Parables are much like symbols. Both are different from the actual things or figures being described. As explained, while most believe that Jesus spoke in parables to illustrate His meaning, He said otherwise in Mark 4 and Matthew 13, when discussing the parable of the Sower and the Seed. The real reason Jesus spoke in parables was to HIDE His meaning. The same is true of symbols! It is the use of these symbols in Revelation 6 that kept the prophecy locked—sealed!
If you read the account in Mark, you will find that Jesus explains the Parable of the Sower, but only privately to His disciples. This is exactly what He did in Matthew 24. He explained privately to His disciples then—“and His disciples came to Him privately”—and for His disciples of the end time, the meaning of the Revelation 6 symbols.
When the disciples wanted to understand the events that would precede Christ’s Return, they asked HIM, not some uninformed churchman or theologian who could have no idea what he was talking about.
You can do the same. Christ is “the same yesterday, today and forever” (Heb. 13:8). What He revealed to the disciples long ago is just as true for us today! And the events are foretold to occur in our time. So, if the first-century disciples desired to know the answer to their question of Matthew 24:3, how much more should today’s disciples want to plainly understand what will directly affect their lives?
Understand one final point about Christ’s explanation of the opening of the seals. Each represents a prophetic trend that begins and remains continuous from the moment it is opened, all the way to His Second Coming.
In II Corinthians 11:13-15, Paul recorded how false ministers (or false christs) do their work—deluding, deceiving and causing vast numbers of people to accept counterfeit christs (vs. 4). While this has been happening for 2,000 years, all but the few—to whom Christ is revealing His precious truth—are completely oblivious! This includes deceitful misrepresentation of the entire book of Revelation. You will later learn this in stunning detail.
False ministers and deceivers were prophesied to delude the “many”—not the few.
Almost immediately after Jesus’ death and Resurrection, false ministers and deceivers entered His true flock. This is the very reason He warned His Church, in each of its seven eras of chapters 2 and 3, with separate messages.
The Second Seal—WAR
When the second seal opens, a red horse appears: “When He had opened the second seal, I heard the second beast say, Come and see. And there went out another horse that was red: and power was given to him that sat thereon to take peace from the earth, and that they should kill one another: and there was given unto him a great sword” (Rev. 6:3-4). As with Christ in Revelation 19, the sword is here shown as an instrument of war and killing.
This horse and rider “take peace from the earth.” The opposite of peace is war. When peace is removed, war is what remains. This pictures the “wars and rumors of wars” that Christ referenced in Matthew 24:6.
Wars have continued and grown steadily worse since the time of Christ’s prophecy. But this part of John’s astounding vision has the gravest implications for all alive on Earth today.
This horseman represents the dreadful destruction of world war. In the Matthew 24 parallel prophecy, war immediately follows false Christianity. By the end of the age, the potential for devastation in war has become so great that it holds the power to take peace not just from two or more nations, but now “from the earth.”
Only in the modern age have such terrible weapons of mass destruction been available. The twentieth century saw the two most devastating wars in history, with World War II far more destructive than World War I.
We are now in the last recess—intermission—preceding the time of the truly greatest war, prophesied to exceed anything in the last century. A sinning, rebellious humanity will soon reach the end of its rope. We have reached a time when war’s potential cannot grow worse, because it can now erase all life from Earth in one final blast of complete destruction—if Christ did not intervene and cut events “short” (vs. 22). You will also later learn much more about this.
But the pattern of history is that famine always follows war. This is why famine (the third seal) follows on the heels of war (the second seal).
The Third Seal—FAMINE
The third seal opens and a black horse, a symbol of famine, appears: “And when He had opened the third seal, I heard the third beast say, Come and see. And I beheld, and lo a black horse; and he that sat on him had a pair of balances in his hand. And I heard a voice in the midst of the four beasts say, A measure of wheat for a penny, and three measures of barley for a penny; and see you hurt not the oil and the wine” (Rev. 6:5-6).
This pictures extreme worldwide famine—a widespread lack of food beyond anything civilization has ever seen—and any student of history knows that it has seen a great deal. This devouring condition is seen to be seizing the entire world in an extraordinary way. Famine is now far worse than most imagine. Again, much more will follow later in a separate chapter.
The Fourth Seal—DISEASE
The opening of the fourth seal reveals a pale horse, which represents pestilence or disease: “And when He had opened the fourth seal, I heard the voice of the fourth beast say, Come and see. And I looked, and behold a pale horse: and his name that sat on him was Death, and Hell followed with him. And power was given unto them over the fourth part of the earth, to kill with sword, and with hunger, and with death, and with the beasts of the earth” (vs. 7-8).
This horse is depicted as pale because it is sickly. It obviously represents disease—pestilence! Invariably, war leads to famine—and resulting malnutrition invites a host of diseases. New diseases, or old ones grown worse, seem to be appearing almost daily. The death toll from disease around the world is staggering—now over 82,000 die every day!
Disease is a subject tremendous in size, and the topic of an endless number of entire books. As with the fulfillment of the other seals, far more information is available about it than could begin to fit in this short section. Yet again you are left to prepare for a fuller picture later.
The Fifth Seal—THE GREAT TRIBULATION
The opening of the fifth seal does not reveal a horse. Instead, it introduces and briefly overviews the soon-to-come worst time of world trouble in history (Matt. 24:21; Jer. 30:7; Dan. 12:1)—the Great Tribulation!
Again, many prophecies in both the Old and New Testaments explain and describe this period. This world-changing event will be truly colossal in nature—and thoroughly explaining all elements of it involves far more than the space available in this chapter.
Of course, the most terrible wars, famines and diseases still lie ahead. And these will greatly intensify before the Great Tribulation begins. Even so, remember that, after Jesus had described the first four seals, plus earthquakes, He concluded, “All these are the beginning of sorrows [travail or tribulation]” (Matt. 24:8). They are far from the end of matters.
The first thing to follow these beginning events and conditions is the Tribulation. We will shortly prove this.
But first we need to explain another important aspect of what the Tribulation means.
Here is what Jesus told His disciples would occur next: “Then shall they deliver you up to be afflicted, and shall kill you: and you shall be hated of all nations for My Name’s sake” (vs. 9).
Now understand something. Two different pronouns appear in this passage—“they” and “you.” Jesus did this for a very specific reason. Whenever Jesus was describing true Christians, He spoke of “you.” Those who were deceivers and not of the truth—the many who are falsely converted—are generally referred to in Scripture as “they” or other similar pronouns.
Sometimes the term “you” can also refer to national Israel or national Judah, or to these and to true Christians. Whenever the passage is speaking nationally, it is either referring to Israel or Judah, or both. When coupled with Mark 13 and Luke 21, it is obvious that Jesus is referring to both in Matthew 24.
Final Martyrdom of Saints
Before continuing with more of Christ’s explanation in Matthew 24 about the Tribulation, we need to read John’s description of the fifth seal: “And when He had opened the fifth seal, I saw under the altar the souls of them that were slain for the word of God, and for the testimony which they held: and they cried with a loud voice, saying, How long, O Lord, holy and true, do You not judge and avenge our blood on them that dwell on the earth? And white robes were given unto every one of them; and it was said unto them, that they should rest yet for a little season, until their fellow servants also and their brethren, that should be killed as they were, should be fulfilled” (Rev. 6:9-11).
The fifth seal portrays the martyrdom of true saints (along with vast numbers from national Israel and Judah). This occurs during the Tribulation. Verse 11 is a symbolic instruction to the martyrs of the Middle Ages to await this latter martyrdom of the end time.
The context develops with the souls asking God a question.
Some cite these verses to validate both the immortal soul doctrine and that the saved go to heaven—and thereby miss the whole point of what Christ is revealing. They obviously also do not put this verse with Christ’s Matthew 24:9 explanation, which again is seen to be His interpretation of its meaning.
This description is not literal, but rather is symbolic, as is much of Revelation. No one believes that the four horses, or their riders, are literal. It is obvious that they are symbolic and part of a vision. A consistent standard must be used, without randomly picking and choosing which passages are literal and which are part of the vision.
In vision, John was shown a preview of a future event (“hereafter,” Rev. 4:1). Since John was “in the spirit” as the seals were opened (vs. 2), the events he witnessed were not actually occurring when he saw them. They were heavenly previews of things that would happen later on Earth.
Upon the opening of the fifth seal (Rev. 6:9), John “saw under [at the base of] the altar the souls of them that were slain.”
Remember, in the vision, John was shown the future. A long period of martyrdom had taken place (up to and through the Middle Ages). A later one (the Great Tribulation) is yet to happen in our time. The souls who were already “slain” were martyred Christians throughout the ages. These earlier martyrs were told to “rest yet for a little season, until their fellow servants also and their brethren, that should be killed as they were, should be fulfilled” (vs. 11).
Many of God’s people in the end time have partially drifted away from being as close to Him, or as on fire for His truth and His Work as they should. They have not been praying, studying, fasting, meditating and seeking Him on a daily basis as they should. This has allowed many to be deceived, and to fall into various false doctrines. Only the Tribulation will awaken these brethren—and even then only about half (Matt. 25:1-12)!
During the Tribulation, there will be a great religious persecution. Jesus was very specific about this in Matthew 24: “And then shall many be offended, and shall betray one another, and shall hate one another. And many false prophets shall rise, and shall deceive many. And because iniquity [lawlessness, occurring worldwide] shall abound, the love [Rom. 13:10; I John 5:3] of many shall wax cold. But he that shall endure unto the end, the same shall be saved...For then shall be great tribulation, such as was not since the beginning of the world to this time, no, nor ever shall be...For there shall arise false Christs, and false prophets, and shall show great signs and wonders; insomuch that, if it were possible, they shall deceive the very elect” (vs. 10-13, 21, 24).
The elect must remain on guard!
This is a very specific prophecy about tremendous deception that seduces “many.” The “souls under the altar” await God’s punishment of the great governmental power that persecuted them, when God “avenges [their] blood.”
All true but lukewarm Christians will have to suffer this final martyrdom (Rev. 3:14-22). Those faithful Christians who were previously killed must continue to “rest” (remain “asleep” in their graves—Eph. 5:14; I Cor. 11:30) until others join them through martyrdom.
The “souls” (dead saints) crying “avenge our blood” (Rev. 6:10) is akin to Abel’s blood (his life—note Leviticus 17:14) crying to God from the earth (Gen. 4:10) after Cain’s murder of his brother. Since neither blood nor the dead talk (Psa. 115:17; Ecc. 9:5, 10), the meaning is symbolic, not literal.
So then, in Matthew 24:9-10 Jesus was actually describing a final martyrdom yet to occur among His people. Therefore, the “souls under the altar” represent those awaiting a future martyrdom of lukewarm saints—“their brethren.” These are of the seventh and last era, Laodicea, described in Revelation 3:14-22.
Invasion and Captivity
The Tribulation will also include the invasion and captivity of the “ten lost tribes” of the modern-day descendants of Israel, and Judah (the modern nation of Israel).
Recognize that God often works prophetically through the principle of duality. Many prophecies work in this way. For instance, I Corinthians 15:21-22 shows that Adam was a type of Christ, and vice versa (a problem for those who believe there was no literal Adam and Eve).
As alluded to previously, most Bible students are unaware that some prophecies have first a former, then a typical and, lastly, a final great fulfillment. This causes big problems for those trying to understand and explain such prophecies. The results are always mixed up and confused.
In Matthew 24:2, Jesus prophesied that the Temple would be completely destroyed, with not “one stone” remaining. So would Jerusalem be destroyed. This occurred in AD 69-70 to the nation of Judah, as an early type of a final, infinitely greater fulfillment at the end of the age.
Here is how Christ described this final fulfillment of national invasion, war and captivity: “But woe unto them that are with child, and to them that give suck, in those days! For there shall be great distress in the land, and wrath upon this people. And they shall fall by the edge of the sword, and shall be led away captive into all nations: and Jerusalem shall be trodden down of the Gentiles, until the times of the Gentiles be fulfilled” (Luke 21:23-24).
This describes a time of truly great fear and real horror for the modern peoples and nations descended from Israel. (America and Britain in Prophecy covers in detail where these peoples are now, and why they are foretold to go through such national punishment.)
We must now examine an inset of the prophecy that precedes and leads up to the Great Tribulation. We briefly covered it earlier: “And this gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in all the world for a witness unto all nations; and then shall the end come” (Matt. 24:14).
Remember, the true gospel is about the kingdom of God. Men have devised many false gospels, but Christ preached a message about a divine, world-ruling supergovernment to be established at His Return. God’s Church is preaching this marvelous truth, and about how His perfect spiritual Law will soon be established in all nations. This is the wonderful good news referenced earlier—the word “gospel” means good news. When our task is complete, “then shall the end come”! (Look forward to the full chapter on this subject, which makes plain the gospel truth in its component parts!)
Though there is still time for announcing God’s kingdom, it will soon run out. Some few will yet turn to God as a result of this Work. May you “hear and understand” while there is yet time!
The Sixth Seal—HEAVENLY SIGNS
Next comes the sixth seal—the heavenly, or astronomical, signs: “I beheld when He had opened the sixth seal, and, lo, there was a great earthquake; and the sun became black as sackcloth of hair, and the moon became as blood; and the stars of heaven fell unto the earth, even as a fig tree casts her untimely figs, when she is shaken of a mighty wind” (Rev. 6:12-13).
How do we know that the heavenly signs come directly on the heels of the Great Tribulation? Here are Christ’s words: “Immediately after the tribulation of those days shall the sun be darkened, and the moon shall not give her light, and the stars shall fall from heaven, and the powers of the heavens shall be shaken” (Matt. 24:29).
This is an almost verbatim, phrase-by-phrase description of Revelation 6:12-13. The parallel is unmistakable. Jesus has again interpreted the sixth seal, and its timing, for us. The phrase “immediately after the tribulation” removes all doubt about when the heavenly signs occur.
The arrival of the heavenly signs heralds a tremendous overall change in the direction—and speed!—of events. This is understood by continuing in Revelation 6, a few verses later. Let’s read: “For the great day of His wrath is come; and who shall be able to stand?” (vs. 17).
There it is in plain English. The Day of the Lord, or Day of God’s Wrath, follows the sixth seal. Heaven and Earth are shaken! This time reveals God’s awesome power! It is comparable to nothing that has ever happened before, or ever will again.
The prophet Joel was speaking of this time when God’s tremendous power and great wrath will be displayed when he said, “The sun shall be turned into darkness, and the moon into blood, before the great and dreadful Day of the Lord come” (2:31).
Some have claimed that these signs have already occurred. This is impossible! Matthew 24 makes plain that they all follow—not precede—the Tribulation. In addition, when they occur, they are either immediately followed by or accompany the sign of Christ’s Coming (vs. 29-30).
The terrible period of God’s wrath is foretold to last an ENTIRE YEAR—after the initial two and a half years of the Tribulation. Here is how Isaiah described it: “For it is the day of the Lord’ s vengeance, and the year of recompenses for the controversy of Zion” (34:8). Jeremiah refers to this period as “the year of…visitation” (11:23; 23:12—also see Ezek. 4:6 and Num. 14:34).
A Great Earthquake
Notice verse 12 of Revelation 6 speaks of a “great earthquake.” This earthquake occurs after the fifth seal, upon the opening of the sixth seal. The terrible time of the fifth seal involves the military invasion and the captivity of the peoples of the modern nations (which are merely ancient tribes grown larger) of Israel. This includes the two and a half years of unparalleled suffering and tribulation—unrivaled in history. It is coming on this generation—soon!
By its very timing and context, this earthquake proclaims the end of the Tribulation and the beginning of signs that appear in the heavens.
Revelation 6:12 states, “And I beheld when He had opened the sixth seal, and, lo, there was a great earthquake; and the sun became black as sackcloth of hair, and the moon became as blood.”
This event was also covered in Matthew 24:29. Reread it: “Immediately after the tribulation of those days shall the sun be darkened, and the moon shall not give her light, and the stars shall fall from heaven, and the powers of the heavens shall be shaken.”
Luke 21:25-26 describes this same event, adding more: “And there shall be signs in the sun, and in the moon, and in the stars; and upon the earth distress of nations, with perplexity; the sea and the waves roaring [tsunamis]; men’s hearts failing them for fear, and for looking after those things which are coming on the earth: for the powers of heaven shall be shaken.”
This earthquake will be of such awesome magnitude that “every mountain” and “every island” will be shaken out of position (Rev. 6:14).
Remember, this is the time of God’s great wrath! This earthquake will be worldwide in scope. But all the earth’s topography will not necessarily be changed by one final earthquake. This process appears to take place in stages. God will bring it about in such a way as to preserve life on the earth, with each of five final earthquakes contributing to some aspect of the transformation.
If only one cataclysmic earthquake did this, it could threaten all life on Earth. Still, only a fraction of humanity will survive into the Millennium. Again, this earthquake announces the sixth seal—the heavenly signs.
Notice Isaiah’s description of this time: “In that day a man shall cast his idols of silver, and his idols of gold, which they made each one for himself to worship, to the moles and to the bats; to go into the clefts of the rocks, and into the tops of the ragged rocks, for fear of the Lord, and for the glory of His majesty, when He arises to shake terribly the earth” (2:20-21). This compares with Revelation 6:15-16.
All of Revelation 6:14-17 shows that this sign is the heavens rolling together like a scroll. This time will be so awful that John records people, in sheer terror, hiding themselves in caves and rocks and crying out to die. Verse 17 asks, “...and who shall be able to stand?” The masses fear facing the full wrath of the One they have disobeyed!
Three World Events
Understand! The Tribulation and the Day of the Lord are not synonymous! These are completely separate, different events. The heavenly signs come between the Tribulation, which precedes them, and the Day of the Lord, which follows them. (Although only Matthew 24:21, 29 and Revelation 7:14 use the term “Great Tribulation,” at least 30 scriptures speak of it.)
The religious leaders of this world are in almost complete ignorance of how these three earth-shattering events come—in what order they appear. Most believe them to be synonymous. They are not!
The Tribulation comes first. “Immediately after the tribulation” (Jesus recorded) come the heavenly signs. These introduce the Day of the Lord (God’s wrath), which is a separate period of events. We have seen how Joel, Zephaniah and Matthew have explained what Jesus revealed in vision to John in the Revelation. By now, these great events should be clear.
Jesus also taught His disciples, “...in vain do they worship Me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men. For laying aside the commandment of God, you hold the tradition of men...” (Mark 7:7-8). There are many “traditional,” but incorrect, views of prophecy.
More and more people are writing of prophecies they know nothing about. They ignore what God says, in order to promote time-honored, empty theories—or even newer, more far-fetched ideas. I have just reviewed an article in a national magazine about much of what has been covered so far in this and the two previous chapters. It demonstrates appalling ignorance of even the most basic facts of scriptures pertaining to end-time prophecies. Yet the article shows that almost three out of five Americans (scores of millions) believe that the mixed-up jumble of ideas it references about Revelation will soon come true, but only in some inexplicable, mysterious way. Millions of other professing Christians, no doubt because they either do not care or are confused, reject anything to do with prophecy! Either way, people remain ignorant.
I repeat: The great majority of people believe the Tribulation, heavenly signs and Day of the Lord are identical—one and the same. Anyone who cannot distinguish between these obviously separate events has no hope of understanding what God has prophesied.
Here is an important distinction: The Day of the Lord reflects the wrath of God. The Tribulation is actually the wrath of Satan the devil. It is a sobering thought to realize that this time sees the unleashed wrath of the second most powerful force in the universe. This fallen angel is well aware that he has but a short time to remain the god of this world (II Cor. 4:4), deceiving the nations (Rev. 12:9). His time is almost up (vs. 12).
The Tribulation is also Satan’s final persecution and martyrdom of many of God’s true servants in a lukewarm condition. If they return to and remain close to God, Satan cannot deceive them—so he is furious.
If you seek God, you need not worry about events soon to strike all nations. Take a moment to review Luke 21:36. It is a reassuring promise from Christ that requires you to “Watch...and pray...that you may be accounted worthy to escape all these things...and to stand before the Son of man.” Then remember Christ’s sobering description in the preceding verses in Luke of how these events will strike a completely unsuspecting world—billions of people—“like a snare.”
The goal of a Christian is to stand before Jesus Christ at His Return, and rule with Him when the kingdom of God is established!
Chapter 7: Why God’s Wrath Temporarily Held Back
Right before the Day of the Lord, an angel temporarily holds back the four winds, which Revelation 8:7-12 explains are the first four trumpet plagues of the seventh seal. Now notice: “And after these things I saw four angels standing on the four corners of the earth, holding the four winds of the earth, that the wind should not blow on the earth, nor on the sea, nor on any tree. And I saw another angel ascending from the east, having the seal of the living God: and he cried with a loud voice to the four angels, to whom it was given to hurt the earth and the sea, Saying, Hurt not the earth, neither the sea, nor the trees, till we have sealed the servants of our God in their foreheads. And I heard the number of them which were sealed: and there were sealed an hundred and forty and four thousand of all the tribes of the children of Israel” (7:1-4).
This is a dramatic scene. Four winds are about to “hurt the earth”—devastate its landscape! (Though symbolic in language, the plagues they bring will be most real to all who suffer them.) God’s wrath, which is the beginning of His direct intervention in world affairs, is poised to appear. But it is temporarily restrained. Something must happen first before this can occur.
These winds are held back so that the well-known (but little understood) 144,000 can be sealed—and the great (innumerable) multitude—each the subject of later chapters—stand before the throne of Christ wearing white robes.
First, most briefly, the 144,000 are sealed (7:4-8) with the Father’s Name (14:1)—and represent 12,000 from each of the twelve tribes of Israel. Revelation 14 adds more about this group (vs. 1-5). These are obviously converted people. They are sealed with the Father’s Name (and the Holy Spirit “in their foreheads”) because this is how Christ prayed, in John 17:11, that the Father would “keep” His servants. This world’s churches are named after men, doctrines, locations, etc. God’s Church (in 12 places in the New Testament) is always named after Himself—Church of God!
The innumerable multitude is comprised of those who are drifting along, not heeding God’s instruction now, though some may know His commands. These “came out of the great tribulation” (7:14).
John records the following: “After this I beheld, and lo, a great multitude, which no man could number, of all nations, and kindreds, and people, and tongues, stood before the throne, and before the Lamb, clothed with white robes, and palms in their hands...And one of the elders answered, saying unto me, What are these which are arrayed in white robes? And whence came they? And I said unto him, Sir you know. And he said to me, These are they which came out of great tribulation, and have washed their robes, and made them white in the blood of the Lamb” (vs. 9, 13-14).
Many know the truth today but are either not acting on it, or are only responding to it in a limited way. Hundreds of millions heard the voice of Herbert W. Armstrong during his 52-year ministry. He boldly proclaimed the true gospel of the kingdom of God, and restored many true doctrines to the sixth era (Philadelphia) of God’s Church. The vast majority did not heed. They were “choked by the cares of the world.”
Some will finally wake up during or after the Tribulation, after experiencing the terror of the heavenly signs—and after much suffering. These stupendous events will sober and awaken many before it is too late. In complete submission, they will repent and turn to God.
Why God Sends Plagues
A loving God never punishes people before He warns them. Proverbs 3:11-12 states, “…despise not the chastening of the Lord; neither be weary of His correction: for whom the Lord loves He corrects; even as a father the son in whom he delights.” (A later chapter describes in graphic detail why God plans such severe correction and chastening.)
These are the plain words of God about how He works with people. Theologians and ministers focus almost solely on God’s love. They ignore such verses as Proverbs 3:11-12, or others like “Behold...the goodness and severity of God” (Rom. 11:22), among many others.
We are about to read of terrible plagues to be poured out on a God-hating, truth-rejecting, self-willed, rebellious world. This punishment is coming for a reason. Six thousand years of ignoring God have come to the full—and God is filled with wrath...