The Grand Theme of the Bible
Interpreting the Scriptures The mysteries locked up in the book of Revelation have for long baffled sincere students of the Bible. In God’s due time, those secrets had to be unlocked, but how, when, and to whom? Only God’s spirit could make known the meaning as the appointed time drew near. (Revelation 1:3) Those sacred secrets would be revealed to God’s zealous slaves on earth so that they would be strengthened to make known his judgments. (Matthew 13:10, 11) It is not claimed that the explanations in this publication are infallible. Like Joseph of old, we say: “Do not interpretations belong to God?” (Genesis 40:8) At the same time, however, we firmly believe that the explanations set forth herein harmonize with the Bible in its entirety, showing how remarkably divine prophecy has been fulfilled in the world events of our catastrophic times.
1. What is Jehovah’s grand purpose?
A BIBLE proverb says: “Better is the end afterward of a matter than its beginning.” (Ecclesiastes 7:8) It is in the book of Revelation that we read of the dramatic culmination of Jehovah’s grand purpose to sanctify his name before all creation. As God declared time and time again by one of his earlier prophets: “They will have to know that I am Jehovah.”—Ezekiel 25:17; 38:23.
2. What satisfying knowledge does Revelation, along with earlier books of the Bible, help us attain?
2 Just as Revelation spells out the triumphant end of matters, so their beginning is described for us in earlier books of the Bible. By examining this record, we are enabled to understand the issues involved and get an overall view of God’s purposes. How satisfying this is! Further, it should rouse us to action, so that we may share in the marvelous future that awaits mankind. (Psalm 145:16, 20) At this point, it seems appropriate to discuss the background and theme of the entire Bible, in order that we may have in mind the paramount issue that now faces all humankind, as well as God’s clearly stated purpose to resolve that issue.
3. What prophecy in the book of Genesis sets the theme for the whole Bible, including Revelation?
3 The Bible’s first book, Genesis, tells of “the beginning” and describes God’s creative works, including his crowning earthly creation, man. Genesis also sets out the first divine prophecy, uttered by God himself in the garden of Eden some 6,000 years ago. A serpent had just been used to deceive the first woman, Eve; she in turn had persuaded her husband, Adam, to join her in violating Jehovah’s law by eating from “the tree of the knowledge of good and bad.” In passing judgment on the sinful couple, God said to the serpent: “I shall put enmity between you and the woman and between your seed and her seed. He will bruise you in the head and you will bruise him in the heel.” (Genesis 1:1; 2:17; 3:1-6, 14, 15) That prophecy sets the theme for the whole Bible, including Revelation.
4. (a) After God uttered the first prophecy, what happened to our first parents? (b) What questions arise concerning the first prophecy, and why do we need to know the answers?
4 Immediately after uttering the prophecy, God expelled our first parents from Eden. No longer could they look forward to everlasting life in Paradise; they would have to live out their lives in the unprepared earth outside. Under sentence of death, they would produce sin-laden children. (Genesis 3:23–4:1; Romans 5:12) What, though, does the Edenic prophecy mean? Who are involved? How does it link up with Revelation? What message does it have for us today? In order to gain personal relief from the effects of the tragic event that led to Jehovah’s uttering that prophecy, it is of vital concern that we know the answers to these questions.
The Principals in the Drama
5. When the serpent deceived Eve, what developed regarding God’s sovereignty and his name, and how will the controversy be resolved?
5 The prophecy of Genesis 3:15 was addressed to the serpent that had lied to Eve, suggesting to her that she would not die for her disobedience but that she would become independent, a goddess. The serpent thus made Jehovah out to be a liar and insinuated that humans could improve their lot by rejecting His supreme rulership. (Genesis 3:1-5) Jehovah’s sovereignty was challenged and his good name besmirched. The book of Revelation describes how the righteous Judge, Jehovah, uses the Kingdom rule of his Son, Jesus Christ, to vindicate his sovereignty and clear all reproach from his name.—Revelation 12:10; 14:7.
6. How does Revelation identify the one who spoke to Eve through a snake?
6 As for that term “serpent,” does it apply only to a literal snake? Not at all! Revelation identifies for us the infamous spirit creature that spoke through that snake. It was “the great dragon . . . , the original serpent, the one called Devil and Satan, who is misleading the entire inhabited earth,” that “seduced Eve by its cunning.”—Revelation 12:9; 2 Corinthians 11:3.
7. What indicates that the woman of Genesis 3:15 belongs to the spirit realm?
7 Genesis 3:15 speaks next of “the woman.” Was this Eve? Possibly she thought so. (Compare Genesis 4:1.) But a long-lasting enmity between Eve and Satan became impossible when Eve died more than 5,000 years ago. Further, since the Serpent addressed by Jehovah is an invisible spirit, we should expect that the woman also belongs to the spirit realm. Revelation 12:1, 2 confirms this, indicating that this figurative woman is Jehovah’s heavenly organization of spirit creatures.—See also Isaiah 54:1, 5, 13.
Two Seeds in Opposition
8. Why should we be deeply interested in what is now said about two seeds?
8 Two seeds appear next at Genesis 3:15. We should be deeply interested in these, for they are related to the great issue of rightful sovereignty over this earth. This involves each one of us, whether young or old. Which of these seeds do you favor?
9. What does the seed of the Serpent surely include?
9 First, there is the seed, or offspring, of the Serpent. What is this? It surely includes those other spirit creatures who joined Satan in his rebellion and who were finally “hurled down with him” to the realm of the earth. (Revelation 12:9) Since Satan, or Beelzebub, is “the ruler of the demons,” it is apparent that they make up his invisible organization.—Mark 3:22; Ephesians 6:12.
10. How does the Bible identify others as part of Satan’s seed?
10 Further, Jesus told Jewish religious leaders of his day: “You are from your father the Devil, and you wish to do the desires of your father.” (John 8:44) By their opposition to God’s Son Jesus, those religious leaders showed that they too were Satan’s offspring. They were part of Satan’s seed, serving him as their figurative father. Many other humans throughout history have similarly identified themselves by doing Satan’s will, particularly in opposing and persecuting the disciples of Jesus. Collectively, these humans may be described as making up Satan’s visible organization on earth.—See John 15:20; 16:33; 17:15.
The Seed of the Woman Identified
11. Over centuries of time, what did God reveal concerning the seed of the woman?
11 The prophecy at Genesis 3:15 refers finally to the seed of the woman. While Satan was developing his seed, Jehovah was preparing for his “woman,” or wifelike celestial organization, to produce a seed. For some 4,000 years, Jehovah progressively revealed to obedient God-fearing humans details related to the coming of the seed. (Isaiah 46:9, 10) Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and others could thus build faith in the promise that the seed would appear in their genealogical line. (Genesis 22:15-18; 26:4; 28:14) Satan and his henchmen often persecuted such servants of Jehovah because of their unswerving faith.—Hebrews 11:1, 2, 32-38.
12. (a) When and with what event did the principal part of the seed of the woman arrive? (b) Jesus was anointed for what purpose?
12 At last, in the year 29 of our Common Era, the perfect man Jesus presented himself at the Jordan River and was baptized. Jehovah there begot Jesus with holy spirit, saying: “This is my Son, the beloved, whom I have approved.” (Matthew 3:17) Jesus was there identified as having been sent forth from God’s spiritual organization in heaven. He was also anointed as the King-Designate of the heavenly Kingdom that would restore rulership over the earth in Jehovah’s name, thus settling once and for all the issue involving government, or sovereignty. (Revelation 11:15) Jesus, then, is the principal One of the seed of the woman, the foretold Messiah.—Compare Galatians 3:16; Daniel 9:25.
13, 14. (a) Why should it not surprise us to learn that the seed of the woman would not be just one prominent person? (b) How many has God selected from among mankind to become the secondary part of the seed, and what kind of organization do they make up? (c) Who else serve in unity with the seed?
13 Would the woman’s seed be simply one prominent person? Well, what of Satan’s seed? The Bible identifies Satan’s seed as including a host of wicked angels and God-dishonoring humans. It should not surprise us, then, to learn of God’s purpose to select 144,000 integrity keepers from among mankind to become priestly corulers with the Messianic Seed, Jesus Christ. Revelation refers to these when it says that the Devil, in his enmity toward God’s womanly organization, “went off to wage war with the remaining ones of her seed.”—Revelation 12:17; 14:1-4.
14 In the Bible, anointed Christians are called Jesus’ brothers, and as his brothers, they share the same Father and the same mother. (Hebrews 2:11) Their Father is Jehovah God. Hence, their mother must be “the woman,” God’s wifelike celestial organization. They become a secondary part of the seed, Christ Jesus being the primary part. The congregation of these spirit-begotten Christians on earth make up God’s visible organization that serves under his womanlike organization in the heavens, where they will be united with Christ Jesus at their resurrection. (Romans 8:14-17; Galatians 3:16, 29) Though not part of the seed, millions of other sheep out of all nations are being united to serve with God’s organization on earth. Are you one of these other sheep? Then your happy hope is everlasting life in a paradise earth.—John 10:16; 17:1-3.
How Enmity Developed
15. (a) Describe the development of Satan’s human and angelic seed. (b) What happened to Satan’s seed during the Deluge of Noah’s day?
15 Satan’s human seed began to be manifested very early in mankind’s history. For example, there was Cain, the first human born, “who originated with the wicked one and slaughtered his brother” Abel. (1 John 3:12) Later, Enoch spoke of Jehovah’s coming “with his holy myriads, to execute judgment against all, and to convict all the ungodly concerning all their ungodly deeds that they did in an ungodly way, and concerning all the shocking things that ungodly sinners spoke against him.” (Jude 14, 15) Moreover, rebellious angels joined Satan and became part of his seed. These “forsook their own proper dwelling place” in the heavens in order to materialize fleshly bodies and marry the daughters of men. They produced a superhuman hybrid offspring of bullies. That world became filled with violence and badness, so that God destroyed it in the Deluge, faithful Noah and his family being the only human flesh to survive. The disobedient angels—now demons under Satan’s control—were forced to abandon their doomed human wives and hybrid children. They dematerialized, returning to the spirit realm where they await God’s fast-approaching execution of judgment on Satan and his seed.—Jude 6; Genesis 6:4-12; 7:21-23; 2 Peter 2:4, 5.
16. (a) What tyrant appeared on the scene after the Deluge, and how did he show he was part of Satan’s seed? (b) How did God thwart the would-be builders of Babylon’s tower?
16 Shortly after the great Deluge, a tyrant named Nimrod appeared on earth. The Bible describes him as “a mighty hunter in opposition to Jehovah”—truly part of the Serpent’s seed. Like Satan, he showed a spirit of rebellion and built the city of Babel, or Babylon, in defiance of Jehovah’s purpose to have mankind spread out to fill the earth. Babylon’s centerpiece was to have been a great tower “with its top in the heavens.” God thwarted the would-be builders of that tower. He confused their language and “scattered them from there over all the surface of the earth” but allowed Babylon itself to remain.—Genesis 9:1; 10:8-12; 11:1-9.
Political Powers Appear
17. As mankind multiplied, what corrupt feature of human society came to the fore, and as a result, what huge empires arose?
17 In Babylon there appeared features of human society that developed in defiance of Jehovah’s sovereignty. One of these was political. As mankind multiplied, other ambitious humans followed Nimrod’s example in seizing power. Man began to dominate man to his injury. (Ecclesiastes 8:9) During the days of Abraham, for instance, Sodom, Gomorrah, and nearby cities fell under the control of kings from Shinar and other far-distant lands. (Genesis 14:1-4) Eventually, military and organizational geniuses carved out huge empires for their own enrichment and glory. The Bible refers to some of these, including Egypt, Assyria, Babylon, Medo-Persia, Greece, and Rome.
18. (a) What attitude do God’s people take toward the political rulers? (b) How have political authorities sometimes served God’s interests? (c) How have many rulers shown themselves to be part of the Serpent’s seed?
18 Jehovah tolerated the existence of those political powers, and his people rendered relative obedience to them when they lived in lands under their control. (Romans 13:1, 2) Sometimes, political authorities even served for the furtherance of God’s purposes or as a protection for his people. (Ezra 1:1-4; 7:12-26; Acts 25:11, 12; Revelation 12:15, 16) Nevertheless, many political rulers have viciously opposed true worship, showing themselves to be part of the seed of the Serpent.—1 John 5:19.
19. How are world powers portrayed in the book of Revelation?
19 For the most part, man-rule has failed miserably to bring happiness to us humans or to solve our problems. Jehovah has permitted mankind to experiment with every form of government, but he does not approve of corruption or the way governments have misruled the people. (Proverbs 22:22, 23) Revelation portrays oppressive world powers as making up a proud and monstrous wild beast.—Revelation 13:1, 2.
Selfish Commercial Traffickers
20, 21. What second group must be included with the “military commanders” and “strong men” as belonging to Satan’s wicked seed, and why?
20 Closely allied to political leaders, there came into view dishonest traffickers in material goods. Records unearthed in the ruins of ancient Babylon show that business transactions exploiting the unfortunate circumstances of fellow humans were very much in vogue back there. The world’s merchants have continued to work for selfish profit down to this present day, when in many lands a few have become very rich while the majority of the population languishes in poverty. In this industrial age, the merchants and manufacturers have made great gain by supplying the political powers with stockpiles of devilish military weapons of destruction, including the weapons of mass destruction that are now a great cause for concern. Such greedy business magnates and others of their kind must be included with the “military commanders” and “strong men” as belonging to Satan’s wicked seed. They are all part of the earthly organization that God and Christ judge as deserving of execution.—Revelation 19:18.
21 To corrupt politics and greedy commercialism there must be added a third element of human society that merits God’s adverse judgment. What is that? You may be surprised by what Revelation says about this well-known global structure.
Babylon the Great
22. What kind of religion developed in ancient Babylon?
22 The building of the original Babylon was more than a political enterprise. Since that city was established in defiance of Jehovah’s sovereignty, religion was involved. Indeed, ancient Babylon became a fountain of religious idolatry. Its priests taught God-dishonoring doctrines, such as the survival of a human soul after death and that the hereafter is a place of eternal horror and torment presided over by demons. They fostered the worship of creatures and of a multitude of gods and goddesses. They fabricated myths to explain the origin of the earth and man upon it and performed degrading rituals and sacrifices, supposedly to ensure fertility in childbearing and crop raising, and victory in war.
23. (a) In spreading out from Babylon, what did the people take with them, and with what result? (b) By what name does Revelation refer to a world-embracing empire of false religion? (c) Against what has false religion always fought?
23 As the various language groups from Babylon spread out over the earth, they took Babylonish religion with them. Thus, rites and beliefs similar to those of ancient Babylon flourished among the original inhabitants of Europe, Africa, the Americas, the Far East, and the South Seas; and many of these beliefs persist to this day. Appropriately, then, Revelation refers to the world-embracing empire of false religion as a city named Babylon the Great. (Revelation, chapters 17, 18) Wherever it has been sown, false religion has sprouted oppressive priesthoods, superstition, ignorance, and immorality. It has been a powerful tool in Satan’s hand. Babylon the Great has always fought fiercely against the true worship of the Sovereign Lord Jehovah.
24. (a) How was the Serpent able to bruise the Seed of the woman “in the heel”? (b) Why is the bruising of the woman’s seed described as only a heel wound?
24 As a most reprehensible part of the seed of the Serpent, the scribes and the Pharisees in first-century Judaism took the lead in persecuting and finally murdering the primary representative of the seed of the woman. Thus, the Serpent was able to “bruise him [the “seed”] in the heel.” (Genesis 3:15; John 8:39-44; Acts 3:12, 15) Why is this described as only a heel wound? It is because this wounding touched him only briefly here on earth. It was not permanent because Jehovah resurrected Jesus on the third day and exalted him to spirit life.—Acts 2:32, 33; 1 Peter 3:18.
25. (a) How has the glorified Jesus already taken action against Satan and his angels? (b) When will there be a removal of Satan’s earthly seed? (c) What will it mean when the Seed of God’s woman bruises Satan, the serpent, “in the head”?
25 The glorified Jesus Christ now serves at God’s right hand, judging Jehovah’s enemies. He has already taken action against Satan and his angels, hurling them down and confining their activity to this earth—which accounts for the multiplying of woes in our day. (Revelation 12:9, 12) But there will be the foretold removal of Satan’s earthly seed when God executes judgment on Babylon the Great and all other segments of Satan’s organization on earth. Finally, the Seed of God’s woman, Jesus Christ, will bruise Satan, that wily old serpent, “in the head,” and that will mean his complete annihilation and his total removal from the affairs of mankind.—Romans 16:20.
26. Why is it most important that we examine the prophecy in Revelation?
26 How will all of this come about? That is what is unveiled for us in the Bible book of Revelation. It is revealed to us in a series of visions, highlighted by striking signs and symbols. Eagerly, let us examine this powerful prophecy. Happy, indeed, are we if we hear and observe the words of Revelation! By so doing, we will share in bringing honor to the name of the Sovereign Lord Jehovah and inherit his eternal blessings. Please read on and wisely apply what you learn. It can mean your salvation at this time of climax in mankind’s history.
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Ancient cuneiform records of business transactions
The book Ancient Near Eastern Texts, edited by James B. Pritchard, lists almost 300 laws compiled by Hammurabi in Babylonian times. These show that it was necessary to proscribe the blatant dishonesty that apparently pervaded the commercial world in those days. To take one example: “If a seignior has purchased or he received for safe-keeping either silver or gold or a male slave or a female slave or an ox or a sheep or an ass or any sort of thing from the hand of a seignior’s son or a seignior’s slave without witnesses and contracts, since that seignior is a thief, he shall be put to death.”