Cataclysmic environmental changes—a nuclear World War—the rise and fall of governments—food shortages and pestilences run amok! These and other nightmarish events are foretold in the final book of the Bible. Yet few understand the good news contained within it.
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Imagine the typical Hollywood “doomsday” film: The hero awakens to a post-World War III apocalyptic nightmare of decimated cities, defunct governments and tiny pockets of desperate survivors struggling to stay alive.
Millions view the book of Revelation the same way. Even those who have never read Revelation are, to varying degrees, aware of the horrific future it depicts.
Many read about the “four horsemen” (Rev. 6:2-8) and speculate as to what these symbols represent. They take note of prophetic descriptions such as the sun becoming “black as sackcloth” and the moon red “as blood” (vs. 12) and the “stars of heaven” falling to the earth (vs. 13), and wonder what these heavenly signs mean. They are taken aback at the depiction of future war machinery, described as “locusts…like unto horses prepared unto battle; and on their heads were as it were crowns like gold, and their faces were as the faces of men,” with “hair as the hair of women” and “teeth…as the teeth of lions,” protected with “breastplates, as it were breastplates of iron; and the sound of their wings was as the sound of chariots of many horses running to battle. And they had tails like unto scorpions, and there were stings in their tails: and their power was to hurt men five months” (9:7-10).
The symbols and timing of events detailed in this mysterious book are confusing. Down through the centuries, religionists and other thinkers have promoted their personal ideas and biblical interpretations—all in vain! The Bible interprets itself: “No prophecy of the scripture is of any private interpretation” (II Peter 1:20).
Like a giant jigsaw puzzle, the teachings and prophecies of God’s Word on any one subject are scattered throughout Scripture. Notice: “Whom shall He teach knowledge? And whom shall He make to understand doctrine [teachings]?…For precept must be upon precept, precept upon precept; line upon line, line upon line; here a little, and there a little” (Isa. 28:9-10).
Verses must be carefully “pieced together” to grasp the full picture of spiritual understanding regarding any biblical topic. This includes the symbolic imagery and prophetic chronology described in the book of Revelation.
As with all Scripture, this prophetic book has long been hidden under a mysterious fog, clouding the thinking of most—especially when it comes to the good news it announces.
Centuries of speculation have generated common misconceptions regarding the contents of Revelation. Here are just a few:
• “Revelation shrouds the meaning of prophetic events”: Just the opposite! The very title, “Revelation,” which is apokalupsis in the original Greek, means “appearing, coming, lighten, manifestation, be revealed, revelation” and “laying bare, a disclosure of truth, instruction, concerning things before unknown” (Thayer’s Lexicon).
The purpose of this prophetic book is to reveal knowledge of the future, not hide it! Notice the first verse in the book: “The Revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave unto Him, to show unto His servants things which must shortly come to pass” (1:1).
This is the same Jesus who says to His disciples, “You are My friends, if you do whatsoever I command you. Henceforth I call you not servants; for the servant knows not what his lord does: but I have called you friends; for all things that I have heard of My Father I have made known unto you.” (John 15:14-15).
To understand Revelation, one must serve—obey—God: “Blessed is he that reads, and they that hear the words of this prophecy, and keep those things which are written therein” (Rev. 1:3).
Psalm 111:10 states, “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom: a good understanding have all they that do His commandments.”
• “The book foretells the end of the world (the earth) and mankind”: Revelation and other prophetic passages in the Bible speak of the end of this age, not the earth and all its inhabitants. While human beings will witness worldwide suffering as never before seen, mankind will not wipe itself from existence—in fact, God will not allow it! (More on this later.)
• “Armageddon will be an apocalyptic showdown between East and West”: People have long believed that a future World War III will arrive that will be a “winner take all” face-off between the U.S.-led democratic nations of the West (including Europe) and communist Russia, and perhaps China, all ending in “Armageddon”—the end of civilization.
From Genesis to Revelation, the Bible generally focuses on the nations of Israel—ancient, modern and future—with the city of Jerusalem being its main focal point. God’s Word gives past and prophetic descriptions of other nations in relation to the area of Israel and Jerusalem. The Bible describes future military campaigns and conquests of the nations of the East, North and South (from Jerusalem’s standpoint)—but not of the West. Why?
Numerous passages throughout the Bible show that the nations of the West—largely the British and American peoples—will already have been removed from the scene. (To discover what will happen to them, read our crucial and fascinating book America and Britain in Prophecy, freely available at rcg.org.)
A time of global upheaval will come upon all nations, described in the first three books of the New Testament—Matthew 24, Mark 13 and Luke 21. In these chapters, the disciples privately asked Jesus Christ about “the sign of [His] coming, and of the end of the world [age]” (Matt. 24:3).
Jesus warned that false religious leaders would claim to represent Him, “and shall deceive many” (vs. 4-5), through “false apostles, deceitful workers, transforming themselves into the apostles of Christ” (II Cor. 11:13)—religionists who “pervert the gospel of Christ” (Gal. 1:7-9) by preaching “another gospel” (II Cor. 11:4).
Jesus also spoke of “wars and rumors of wars,” escalating between and within nations, along with acts of terrorism, increasing national insecurity and fear (Matt. 24:6-8). Christ foretold religious persecution, famines, various disease outbreaks and pandemics, earthquakes and other environmental disasters. All these events would increase over the next 2,000 years until our time now.
And as the world continues to degenerate socially and morally, and day-to-day events threaten to spiral out of control, “This gospel,” Christ declared, “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).
Christ’s true gospel IS being preached—and published (Mark 13:10)—to every nation and territory on earth, via The Real Truth (archived at rcg.org/realtruth) and The World to Come program, presented by David C. Pack, publisher/editor-in-chief of this magazine.
But with billions claiming to be Christians today, why would Christ need to warn about religious deception?
Because this world—its cities, nations, economies, governments, educational systems, entertainment, politics and international affairs—do not belong to God. On the contrary, they belong to “the god of this world” (II Cor. 4:4), whom the Bible also calls “the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that now works in the children of disobedience” (Eph. 2:2) through broadcasting wrong thoughts, attitudes and motives. This great being, “that old serpent, called the Devil, and Satan…deceives the whole world” (Rev. 12:9).
Of course, to the secular mind the existence of Satan is preposterous. Only the ignorant masses would believe there is a devil, secularists—and even some professing Christians—conclude.
Yet, if a being is so masterful at his craft that he is able to “deceive the whole world,” would not his grand deception include deceiving “intelligent” people of his very existence? (To understand more on this subject, you may wish to read the booklet Who Is the Devil?)
Even those who have yet to blow the dust off their Bibles have heard of the Second Coming of Jesus Christ. Matthew 4 and Luke 4 describe a titanic battle of wills between Christ and the devil, in which Jesus overcomes His adversary—and thus qualifies for world rulership over the kingdoms and governments of men, which actually belong to Satan.
The book of Revelation, along with other passages, foretells Christ’s Second Coming—a time when the nations of the world are on the brink of committing global genocide: “For then shall be great tribulation, such as was not since the beginning of the world to this time, no, nor ever shall be. And except those days should be shortened, there should no flesh be saved [alive]: but for the elect’s sake those days shall be shortened” (Matt. 24:21-22).
“Shortened” by the Return of Jesus Christ!
Think of the troubles, evils and degenerating conditions assaulting mankind. Then envision all these ills being erased by an unprecedented utopia soon to come.
Gone are all forms of war and armed conflict—border skirmishes, civil unrest, government take-overs, terrorism (religious or otherwise). With the disappearance of war and terrorism will come economic security; financial upheavals will become a thing of the past. Also, no more crime. All theft, robbery, fraud, deceit or assaults of any kind—non-existent! Language barriers and the resulting confusion and misunderstandings, brought down and swept away, replaced by a single “pure language,” as foretold in Zephaniah 3:9. The endless cycle of poverty from generation to generation wiped clean. The environment and its natural resources properly used and conserved. No more religious deception and confusion. No more unwanted pregnancies, or government corruption and bureaucratic absurdities, or environmental waste and destruction.
When Christ returns, He will establish one government, one religion, one way of life—that of selfless, outgoing concern for neighbor—all administered from Jerusalem, the future worldwide capital of God’s supergovernment.
But why doesn’t Jesus Christ return today—at this very moment—to set up the government of God?
“Because”—as influenced by the “prince of the power of the air”—“the carnal mind [human nature] is enmity [hostile] against God: for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be” (Rom. 8:7).
You can see mankind’s natural hostility toward law and order: rioting, police killings, road rage, etc. And this increasing hostility is even worse when it comes to the Law of God!
Human beings want to be happy. They want to enjoy success and prosperity. Yet “the way of man is not in himself: it is not in man that walks to direct his steps” (Jer. 10:23). Of himself, man is incapable of discovering the true purpose for life and achieving lasting joy. He needs help from his Maker.
For example, a man can excel at physical tasks, such as starting a business and turning it into a Fortune 500 company—all while suffering through the agony of divorce, triggered by adultery. A marriage is shattered. Parents and children are split apart. And the family unit—the essential building block of every thriving society—crumbles.
Human beings know about cause and effect in relation to the physical laws of nature, such as gravity—but are utterly ignorant of the spiritual causes that produce horrific effects when spiritual laws are broken.
Yet the average person is convinced he can “find his own way” through life. He “doesn’t need help from his Creator” to distinguish right from wrong. “All the ways of a man are clean in his own eyes” (Prov. 16:2), and he does not want the God of the Bible to tell him otherwise.
Man is not ready to admit he cannot direct his life. He is not prepared to submit to God’s rule—at least not yet.
The governments and societies of men are like a condemned building waiting to be knocked down. While people scramble to save it with charity drives, peace summits, coalitions, treaties and such, this “building”—the culmination of 6,000 years of men ruling themselves—vibrates and sways back and forth by the “winds” of increasing poverty, economic insecurity and the growing threat of mutually-assured mass destruction.
Yet the “building” will collapse and be replaced by the government of God—bringing lasting peace (Isa. 9:6-7).
This is the untold good news of the book of Revelation!