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Unrest grows daily around the world. Terrorism is mounting. And bad news increases, while good news is scarce. Conditions worsen almost daily!
Man has tapped the power of the atom. Science and technology have run amok, producing more horrific new inventions. More and more countries possess weapons of mass destruction. This danger is compounded because mistrust and strife between nations has never been greater.
Also, human decadence and immorality, poverty, famine, disease, ethnic rivalries, crime and violence are exploding. Where are these trends leading? Will human life survive?
What does the future hold? Everyone wants to know. Many have opinions, but few recognize where to find the answers. Others think they understand the prophecies of the Bible—including the book of Revelation. Yet all popular human interpretations of this book, at best, border on ludicrous. They are a complete jumble of ideas in which a little truth is mixed with much error! Some are almost painful to read—yet major magazines report that great numbers do believe these dangerous, counterfeit scenarios.
What is the truth about prophecy? Sobering world conditions make this question loom larger than ever. Nothing that has occurred over the past 6,000 years even remotely compares to what is yet to come upon this world!
The Bible does foretell a time of world peace, happiness, abundance and universal prosperity. Many may think there is no hope for this world—but there is! Wonderful good news lies beyond today’s bad news. The great Creator will soon intervene and save humanity from itself. But just beforehand, and lasting through the initial phase of the intervention, world trouble will greatly increase—eventually intensifying to staggering proportions. Unexpected and cataclysmic events will shake the entire world! Civilization will change forever.
But understand: Contrary to the assumptions of millions of people who do not understand Revelation, the next time of trouble—which Christ described as “great tribulation, such as was not since the beginning of the world to this time, no, nor ever shall be” (Matt. 24:21)—is not the time described in Revelation! Virtually no one knows this. The prophet Jeremiah calls this imminent time that of “Jacob’s trouble” (Jer. 30:7). Jacob consists of the modern tribes of Israel (Gen. 32:28)—primarily the English-speaking peoples of the West. (My book America and Britain in Prophecy offers extensive proof regarding national identities.)
While all nations are involved—the awesome power and deception of the antichrist worldwide is what will come first. Jacob’s punishment is God’s focus beginning immediately after. It will be the worst time of all time for a specific group of nations. Almost no one knows there are two great times of punishment coming, with the first centered on those descended from the patriarch Jacob with punishment soon after on all nations. The second overall time of punishment is entirely on all nations of the world. Revelation clearly shows events that strike the whole world from the beginning. This will become plain.
God has not left mankind without a source of answers that reveals in detail what lies ahead. Tragically, believing things will eventually “turn out all right,” many hide their eyes, ignore God’s words, and choose to pursue pleasure and the accumulation of material goods. But for the short-term, things will not turn out all right. World conditions are—and will become—far more serious than any could 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!
It has become God’s time to reveal what lies ahead—short- and long-term. The stage is set—and He has lifted the curtain on the future. Revelation describes terrible plagues and Earth-shattering events!
But careful study reveals they follow a long period of God’s Kingdom on Earth. A just God would not bring such undiluted punishment on an entire mankind who did not first have opportunity to learn and practice His way of life.
After the above-described “great tribulation” afflicting the modern descendants of ancient Israel, the territory of God’s Kingdom will spread to encompass the whole Earth, ushering in unprecedented worldwide peace in our time. (My booklet How God’s Kingdom Will Come – The Untold Story! makes clear God’s Kingdom arrives long before the events of Revelation.)
During His Kingdom, God will give mankind everything—peace, prosperity and happiness. But after generations of reaping these blessings, vast numbers will choose their own way, turning their backs on God. The punishment detailed in Revelation results, and sweeps away all rebels ahead of the next phase of God’s plan—His 1,000-year (millennial) reign (Rev. 20:4).
However, terrible times do now lie just ahead, again, first descending on all nations through the rise of a counterfeit god called the Man of Sin. (See II Thessalonians 2:3-12 and all of Habakkuk 2.) But make no mistake! The monstrous antichrist is not punishment on the scale of Revelation.
With this in mind, recognize that the events of Revelation described in this Personal are far in the future. But they can be understood now!
Signs, seals, symbols, vials, visions, trumpets, thrones, plagues, angels, beasts, heads, horns, witnesses, woes, wars, numbers, multitudes, messages and mystery! Revelation contains all of these terms. But what do they mean? Crucial background is necessary to set up all there is to be learned.
Most believe Revelation is sealed, closed from understanding. It is called a mystery book without meaning. Yet it is filled with meaning and answers.
You will be intrigued—even fascinated—by the clarity of what can be known from Revelation. Its terms can be unlocked—if you have the necessary keys!
One-third of the Bible is prophecy—the future written in advance! The Bible is approximately 750,000 words, with about 250,000 devoted to many, many prophecies. Almost half the books of the Old Testament are included in either the so-called major or former prophets (Isaiah, Jeremiah and Ezekiel) or the minor or latter prophets (Daniel, Hosea, Joel and 10 others).
The apostle Paul explained that the New Testament Church was “built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets” (Eph. 2:20). Since the Church stands partly on the words of the prophets, Christians are to understand prophecy. If God commands men to “live by every word of God”—and He does (Matt. 4:4; Luke 4:4; Deut. 8:3)—He would not exclude a third of it!
The prophet Daniel spoke of a time when “many shall run to and fro, and knowledge shall be increased” (12:4). This has happened! Speaking of the end time, he wrote, “…the wise shall understand” (vs. 10).
Understand. God has opened up—revealed!—to His servants what lies ahead. He may want you to understand. He does not want those who obey Him confused, ignorant or fearful of the future.
So then we ask: What are the wise to understand? What keys open up the Bible? The world knows nothing of them! Thus, millions claim the meaning of Revelation cannot be explained. How could they understand without the keys?
Imagine. 42 percent of Americans actually believe they can consult the dead about matters involving the future. But mankind refuses to seek and consult God. Only He can reveal the future. Mankind 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.
God is working out a Master Plan involving every human being. But Daniel adds, “none of the wicked shall understand” (12:10). God will not reveal His plans to those who do not obey Him!
Psalm 111:10 states, “A good understanding have all they that DO His commandments.” God only gives understanding to those who do what He says!
After recording the prophecy, Daniel asked God to explain what it meant. While used to record the book, even Daniel did not understand it. Notice: “I heard, but I understood not” (Dan. 12:8). God told him, “Go your way…the words are closed up and sealed till the time of the end” (vs. 9). Moffatt’s translation renders “till the time of the end” as “till the crisis at the close.”
While Daniel could not understand, those who live in the time of the end can! And the wise DO!
Let’s now begin understanding Revelation. This awesome picture 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! They are opened one by one, in sequence. Each reveals events before they happen. Only Christ is described as qualified to remove the seals and open the book to understanding.
The Greek word apocalypse is translated “revelation.” This English word actually means to reveal—not conceal, hide, veil or close up. The dictionary definition is: “The act of revealing or disclosing; something revealed, especially a dramatic disclosure of something not previously known or realized.”
In the book’s very first verse, the apostle John recorded Christ’s words, “The Revelation of Jesus Christ…to show unto His servants things which must shortly come to pass.” Near the book’s end it adds, “Seal not the sayings of the prophecy of this book: for the time is at hand” (22:10)—the time to understand Revelation is NOW!
God reveals a basic framework for understanding future events. This framework is primarily laid out in Daniel and Revelation. Daniel—recorded 600 years earlier—sets the stage for the larger and more detailed book of Revelation, which describes many events nowhere else in the Bible.
Also, by naming the book “Revelation,” God makes clear it is not a review or a reiteration. It is not merely retelling what can be learned in the Old Testament, or elsewhere in the New Testament. The book contains elements of God’s Plan that were revealed decades after the rest of the Bible was recorded. All the apostles but John knew nothing about it because they died decades before John received it.
Its 22 chapters stand on their own. Treating Revelation exactly as God intended—as a book that contains different, additional prophecies, largely separate from those previously recorded in His Word—is the first great key to unlocking the book!
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. (Two graphics included in this Personal—an outline and a story flow—bring the big picture.) Also realize Christ periodically insets certain events into the course of Revelation. This is the second key to unlocking the book!
Now a third all-important key! Revelation explains many things that happen deeper into God’s Plan that would be lost to the understanding of billions if we did not have this book. Endless speculation would arise over what God was going to do in His Plan’s next phases. He would have to reveal these things.
One of the basic rules of Bible study is to always let the Bible interpret itself. This is probably never truer than in Revelation. Since John sees many symbols, we need to be able to understand the actual events 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 a fourth key to understanding how Jesus teaches. In both places, Jesus explained that He spoke in parables so His servants would understand Him—but others would not! Carefully read these verses: “When He was alone [with only the disciples], they that were about Him with the twelve asked of Him the parable. And He said unto them [not to others, or to the world as a whole], 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” (Mark 4:10-12). Note exactly what Jesus said! Only true Christians can see His real meaning. Others might think they do—but they cannot!
Christ never leaves His servants in the dark about matters they need to know. But He does record them in ways that keep them hidden from the view of all others. This is why so few understand a book read by so many.
We have already touched upon the principle that the unrighteous do not understand events lying just ahead. But those who have God’s Spirit will understand. (Read Acts 5:32 and John 16:13.) Only through God’s Spirit leading those who are obeying Him can they understand the truth. If you remember nothing else, remember this. Recognizing and accepting these two verses is vital to every reader of Revelation. All who do not seek to obey God, even if they sincerely seek to understand the many truths of prophecy, are wasting their time.
Jesus explained—in plain, clear language—the key events of the last days preceding and leading to the time of His second coming to Jerusalem. Jesus’ disciples asked Him privately, “Tell us, when shall these things be? And what shall be the sign of Your coming, and of the end of the world [age]?” (Matt. 24:3; Luke 21:7).
First, recognize God often employs the principle of duality. Early events can be types or forerunners of latter fulfillments. As previously noted, Christ returns and establishes His Kingdom well ahead of the events of Revelation. But there are parallels between His next coming, just ahead, and the run-up to His later, 1,000-year reign. Keeping this principle of duality in mind, note the unmistakable similarities between what is described in the gospels—which speak of our time—and the much later time of Revelation.
We must briefly examine the critical Matthew 24 chapter for vital clues, which explain the symbols found in Revelation. Jesus gave a list of six events to occur before His return to Jerusalem. They largely parallel the seals—including the four horsemen—of Revelation 6. God so often does important things in prophecy twice!
First, deceivers arise among God’s people (Matt. 24:5). Second comes wars (vs. 6) throughout the age, culminating in the end time with world war (vs. 7). Third are famines and fourth pestilences (both also vs. 7).
It is at this point that Jesus 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. Therefore, Matthew 24:9-28 (and 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, Christ explains that the Great Tribulation occurs. Sixth are 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 to Jerusalem is right on the heels of it.
The colossal seventh seal—which is the seven trumpet plagues—is conspicuously absent in the gospels. The events of Matthew are for our time and merely parallel the much later time of Revelation when the whole world receives the kinds of things found in Matthew 24. Studying this early type provides insight about the later time.
Understanding who is the actual author of Revelation—and understanding the critically important theme, the centerpiece of the book—is vital. Without these keys, many have bogged down into either arguments about whether “the Lord’s Day” (1:10) is referring to Sunday—or whether John, instead of Christ, authored the book.
Almost everyone refers to this book as “The Revelation of Saint John the Divine.” Why? Nowhere does it describe John as either divine or the revelator. So the primary purpose of chapter 1 is to establish Jesus Christ as the book’s Author. Notice: “The Revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave unto Him, to show unto His servants things which must shortly come to pass; 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).
Did you notice that the book of Revelation contains Jesus Christ’s words, as the Revelator, not John’s? John was merely a scribe—a kind of secretary taking dictation.
Anyone who carefully examines this verse will plainly see that Revelation originated with God (the Father), who gave it to Christ. Christ sent and signified it 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 Christ’s servants—His end-time Church. So it came from the Father to Christ to an angel to John, and finally to Jesus’ servants—and no one else. These are not my words, but the Bible’s.
Some background: As soon as the book was copied and canonized (about 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.”
A towering question arises. If the world’s best minds cannot even discern the book’s correct title—and Author—how could they discern its message?
Jesus used John to “bare record of”—write down—what He was revealing. In short, John wrote three things: (1) The word of God, (2) the direct testimony (the words) of Christ, and (3) what he saw in vision.
You now understand the introduction to the book.
Many scholars claim that “the Lord’s day” is, in fact, a reference to the Day of the Lord of the Old Testament. But it is not! Almost no one understands this. Without this central point correct in one’s thinking, the entire book will make no sense. Reading Revelation becomes a fruitless exercise.
Revelation 1:7 describes the nations “wailing” at Christ’s return to Jerusalem. Mere basic comparison to Matthew 24:30 where they “mourn”—the same word translated “wailing” in Revelation 1:7—proves this is the same day Christ descends into Jerusalem.
Now notice verse 10. It actually reveals the central focus or theme of the whole book. Understand that John lived over 1,900 years ago—long before the events of this book were to be fulfilled. He recorded, “I was in the Spirit on the Lord’s day, and heard behind me a great voice, as of a trumpet.”
Centuries of controversy have sprung from this reference because people argue about which day of the week John is referring to. The presumption is that he is talking about Sunday. But this verse has nothing to do with Sunday—it does not reference any day of the week! The day of the week John received this prophecy is irrelevant.
The Lord’s Day is here speaking of Christ’s return to Jerusalem. This is very different from the term “Day of the Lord” found throughout the Old Testament. What happens on that day—which comes somewhat later—is also horrific.
The prophet Joel speaks of this day. Here is a small portion of what the book says: “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…” (2:1-2).
This is the day that lies in the near future. And it has nothing to do with the events of Revelation, which so many think will come next.
The prophet Zephaniah is even more graphic than Joel: “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 among 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 truly 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—God’s time of punishment—are almost more awful and terrifying than words can describe. This day literally belongs to God. Man’s conduct has made God angry. And He will soon intervene in the affairs of this world.
These prophecies precede and type the truly terrible time of God’s punishments, plagues and judgments when Revelation is fulfilled at the end of the Kingdom of God. Jesus, through John, is revealing to His servants what occurs after the Kingdom! It is a graphic description of world punishment on peoples who did not appreciate God’s Kingdom after it had been present for many centuries.
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 Ezekiel, John was in vision—“in the spirit”—from the Isle of Patmos where he recorded Revelation. In the past, God has projected His servants through visions into crucial future events so they could record them.
We are in the time of the end, when God wants His people to understand the last events preceding the return of Christ. The book of Revelation speaks neither to unknown events in the distant past or things just ahead. It warns of colossal events that will affect the masses of humanity long into the future after the Kingdom.
This is but an introduction to the book of Revelation. You will want to read our eye-opening booklet Revelation Explained at Last! It includes much more to help you grasp the big picture within Revelation.
Do not get lost in the cacophony of ideas and endless speculation surrounding this “mysterious” book. It has been revealed and you can understand it!