An Awesome Mystery Solved
1. (a) How does John react at seeing the great harlot and her fearsome mount, and why? (b) How does the John class today react as events unfold in fulfillment of the prophetic vision?
WHAT is John’s reaction at seeing the great harlot and her fearsome mount? He himself answers: “Well, on catching sight of her I wondered with great wonderment.” (Revelation 17:6b) Mere human imagination could never conjure up such a sight. Yet, there it is—away out in a wilderness—a debauched prostitute perched on a gruesome, scarlet-colored wild beast! (Revelation 17:3) The John class today also wonders with great wonderment as events unfold in fulfillment of the prophetic vision. If people of the world could see it, they would exclaim, ‘Incredible!’ and the world’s rulers would echo, ‘Unthinkable!’ But the vision becomes a startling reality in our day. God’s people have already had a remarkable share in the vision’s fulfillment, and this assures them that the prophecy will move right on to its astounding climax.
2. (a) In response to John’s amazement, what does the angel tell him? (b) What has the John class had revealed to it, and how has this been done?
2 The angel notices John’s amazement. “And so,” John continues, “the angel said to me: ‘Why is it you wondered? I will tell you the mystery of the woman and of the wild beast that is carrying her and that has the seven heads and the ten horns.’” (Revelation 17:7) Ah, the angel will now unravel the mystery! He explains to the wide-eyed John the various facets of the vision and the dramatic events that are about to unfold. Likewise, as it serves under angelic direction today, the watchful John class has had revealed to it the understanding of the prophecy. “Do not interpretations belong to God?” Like faithful Joseph, we believe that they do. (Genesis 40:8; compare Daniel 2:29, 30.) God’s people are placed, as it were, center stage as Jehovah interprets to them the meaning of the vision and its impact on their lives. (Psalm 25:14) Right on time, he has opened up to their understanding the mystery of the woman and of the wild beast.—Psalm 32:8.
3, 4. (a) What public talk was given by N. H. Knorr in 1942, and how did it identify the scarlet-colored wild beast? (b) What words spoken by the angel to John were discussed by N. H. Knorr?
3 From September 18 to 20, 1942, at the height of World War II, Jehovah’s Witnesses in the United States held their New World Theocratic Assembly. The key city, Cleveland, Ohio, was tied in by telephone with more than 50 other convention cities, for a peak attendance of 129,699. Where wartime conditions permitted, other conventions repeated the program around the world. At the time, many of Jehovah’s people expected that the war would escalate into God’s war of Armageddon; hence the title of the public talk, “Peace—Can It Last?,” aroused much curiosity. How could the new president of the Watch Tower Society, N. H. Knorr, presume to talk about peace when the very opposite seemed to be in store for the nations?* The reason was that the John class was paying “more than the usual attention” to God’s prophetic Word.—Hebrews 2:1; 2 Peter 1:19.
4 What light did the talk “Peace—Can It Last?” throw on the prophecy? Clearly identifying the scarlet-colored wild beast of Revelation 17:3 as the League of Nations, N. H. Knorr went on to discuss its stormy career on the basis of the angel’s following words to John: “The wild beast that you saw was, but is not, and yet is about to ascend out of the abyss, and it is to go off into destruction.”—Revelation 17:8a.
5. (a) How was it that “the wild beast . . . was” and then “is not”? (b) How did N. H. Knorr answer the question, “Will the League remain in the pit?”
5 “The wild beast . . . was.” Yes, it had existed as the League of Nations from January 10, 1920, onward, with 63 nations participating at one time or another. But, in turn, Japan, Germany, and Italy withdrew, and the former Soviet Union was dropped from the League. In September 1939 the Nazi dictator of Germany launched World War II.* Having failed to keep peace in the world, the League of Nations virtually plunged into an abyss of inactivity. By 1942 it had become a has-been. Neither before this nor at some later date—but right at that critical time—did Jehovah interpret to his people the full depth of meaning of the vision! At the New World Theocratic Assembly, N. H. Knorr could declare, in line with the prophecy, that “the wild beast . . . is not.” He then asked the question, “Will the League remain in the pit?” Quoting Revelation 17:8, he answered: “The association of worldly nations will rise again.” That is just how it proved to be—in vindication of Jehovah’s prophetic Word!
Ascending out of the Abyss
6. (a) When did the scarlet-colored wild beast climb out of the abyss, and with what new name? (b) Why is the United Nations actually a revival of the scarlet-colored wild beast?
6 The scarlet-colored wild beast did indeed climb out of the abyss. On June 26, 1945, with noisy fanfare in San Francisco, U.S.A., 50 nations voted to accept the Charter of the United Nations organization. This body was “to maintain international peace and security.” There were many similarities between the League and the UN. The World Book Encyclopedia notes: “In some ways, the UN resembles the League of Nations, which was organized after World War I . . . Many of the nations that founded the UN had also founded the League. Like the League, the UN was established to help keep peace between nations. The main organs of the UN are much like those of the League.” The UN, then, is actually a revival of the scarlet-colored wild beast. Its membership of some 190 nations far exceeds that of the League’s 63; it has also taken on broader responsibilities than its predecessor.
7. (a) In what way have earth’s dwellers wondered admiringly at the revived scarlet-colored wild beast? (b) What goal has eluded the UN, and what did its secretary-general say in this regard?
7 At first, great hopes were expressed for the UN. This was in fulfillment of the angel’s words: “And when they see how the wild beast was, but is not, and yet will be present, those who dwell on the earth will wonder admiringly, but their names have not been written upon the scroll of life from the founding of the world.” (Revelation 17:8b) Earth’s dwellers have admired this new colossus, operating from its imposing headquarters on New York’s East River. But true peace and security have eluded the UN. For much of the 20th century, world peace was maintained only by the threat of “mutual assured destruction”—MAD, as it is abbreviated—and the arms race has continued to escalate astronomically. After almost 40 years of effort by the United Nations, its then secretary-general, Javier Pérez de Cuéllar, lamented in 1985: “We are living in another age of fanatics, and we don’t know what to do about it.”
8, 9. (a) Why does the UN not have the answers to the world’s problems, and what will shortly happen to it according to God’s decree? (b) Why do the UN’s founders and admirers not have their names recorded in God’s “scroll of life”? (c) What will Jehovah’s Kingdom successfully accomplish?
8 The UN does not have the answers. And why? Because the Giver of life to all mankind is not the UN’s life-giver. Its life span will be short, for according to God’s decree, “it is to go off into destruction.” The UN’s founders and admirers do not have their names recorded in God’s scroll of life. How could sinful, mortal men, many of whom mock God’s name, achieve through the UN what Jehovah God has declared he is about to accomplish, not by human means, but through the Kingdom of his Christ?—Daniel 7:27; Revelation 11:15.
9 The UN is actually a blasphemous counterfeit of God’s Messianic Kingdom by his Prince of Peace, Jesus Christ—to whose princely rule there will be no end. (Isaiah 9:6, 7) Even if the UN were to patch up some temporary peace, wars would soon erupt again. This is in the nature of sinful men. “Their names have not been written upon the scroll of life from the founding of the world.” Jehovah’s Kingdom by Christ will not only establish eternal peace on earth but, on the basis of Jesus’ ransom sacrifice, raise the dead, the righteous and the unrighteous who are in God’s memory. (John 5:28, 29; Acts 24:15) This includes everyone who has remained steadfast despite the attacks of Satan and his seed, and others who have yet to show themselves obedient. Obviously, God’s scroll of life will never contain the names of die-hard adherents of Babylon the Great or of any who continued to worship the wild beast.—Exodus 32:33; Psalm 86:8-10; John 17:3; Revelation 16:2; 17:5.
Peace and Security—A Vain Hope
10, 11. (a) What did the UN proclaim in 1986, and what was the response? (b) How many “religious families” assembled at Assisi, Italy, to pray for peace, and does God answer such prayers? Explain.
10 In an effort to bolster the hopes of mankind, the United Nations proclaimed 1986 to be an “International Year of Peace,” with the theme “To Safeguard Peace and the Future of Humanity.” Warring nations were called upon to lay down their weapons, at least for one year. What was their response? According to a report by the International Peace Research Institute, as many as five million people were killed as a result of wars during 1986 alone! Though some special coins and commemorative stamps were issued, most of the nations did little about pursuing the ideal of peace in that year. Nevertheless, the world’s religions—always anxious for a fine rapport with the UN—set about publicizing the year in various ways. On January 1, 1986, Pope John Paul II praised the work of the UN and dedicated the new year to peace. And on October 27, he assembled the leaders of many of the world’s religions at Assisi, Italy, to pray for peace.
11 Does God answer such prayers for peace? Well, to which God were those religious leaders praying? If you asked them, each group would give a different answer. Is there a pantheon of millions of gods that can hear and grant petitions made in many different ways? Many of the participants worshipped Christendom’s Trinity.* Buddhists, Hindus, and others chanted prayers to gods without number. In all, 12 “religious families” assembled, being represented by such notables as the Anglican Archbishop of Canterbury, Buddhism’s Dalai Lama, a Russian Orthodox metropolitan, the president of Tokyo’s Shinto Shrine Association, African animists, and two American Indians decked out in plumed headdresses. It was a colorful group, to say the least, making for spectacular TV coverage. One group prayed unceasingly for 12 hours at one time. (Compare Luke 20:45-47.) But did any of those prayers reach beyond the rain clouds that hovered over the gathering? No, for the following reasons:
12. For what reasons did God not answer the prayers for peace of the world’s religious leaders?
12 In contrast with those who “walk in the name of Jehovah,” not one of those religionists was praying to Jehovah, the living God, whose name appears some 7,000 times in the original text of the Bible. (Micah 4:5; Isaiah 42:8, 12)* As a group, they did not approach God in the name of Jesus, the majority of them not even believing in Jesus Christ. (John 14:13; 15:16) None of them are doing God’s will for our day, which is to proclaim worldwide God’s incoming Kingdom—not the UN—as the real hope for mankind. (Matthew 7:21-23; 24:14; Mark 13:10) For the most part, their religious organizations have been involved in the bloody wars of history, including the two world wars of the 20th century. To such, God says: “Even though you make many prayers, I am not listening; with bloodshed your very hands have become filled.”—Isaiah 1:15; 59:1-3.
13. (a) Why is it significant that the world’s religious leaders should join hands with the UN in calling for peace? (b) The cries for peace will culminate in what divinely foretold climax?
13 Further, it is deeply significant that the world’s religious leaders should join hands with the United Nations in calling for peace at this time. They would like to influence the UN to their own advantage, especially in this modern age when so many of their people are abandoning religion. Like the unfaithful leaders in ancient Israel, they call out, “‘There is peace! There is peace!’ when there is no peace.” (Jeremiah 6:14) No doubt their cries for peace will continue, rising in support of the climax concerning which the apostle Paul prophesied: “Jehovah’s day is coming exactly as a thief in the night. Whenever it is that they are saying: ‘Peace and security!’ then sudden destruction is to be instantly upon them just as the pang of distress upon a pregnant woman; and they will by no means escape.”—1 Thessalonians 5:2, 3.
14. What form could the cry of “Peace and security!” take, and how can one avoid being misled by it?
14 In recent years, politicians have used the phrase “peace and security” to describe various human schemes. Do such efforts by world leaders constitute the beginning of the fulfillment of 1 Thessalonians 5:3? Or was Paul referring only to a specific event of such dramatic proportions that it will claim world attention? Since Bible prophecies are often completely understood only after they are fulfilled or in the course of fulfillment, we will have to wait and see. Meanwhile, Christians know that whatever peace and security the nations may appear to have achieved, basically nothing will have changed. Selfishness, hatred, crime, family breakdown, immorality, sickness, sorrow, and death will still be here. That is why no cry of “peace and security” needs to mislead you, if you remain awake to the meaning of world events and heed the prophetic warnings in God’s Word.—Mark 13:32-37; Luke 21:34-36.
J. F. Rutherford died on January 8, 1942, and N. H. Knorr succeeded him as president of the Watch Tower Society.
On November 20, 1940, Germany, Italy, Japan, and Hungary signed up for a “new League of Nations,” followed four days later by the Vatican’s broadcasting a Mass and a prayer for a religious peace and for a new order of things. That “new League” never materialized.
The Trinity concept stems from ancient Babylon, where the sun-god Shamash, the moon god Sin, and the star god Ishtar were worshipped as a triad. Egypt followed the same pattern, worshipping Osiris, Isis, and Horus. Assyria’s chief god, Asshur, is portrayed as having three heads. Following the same pattern, images are to be found in Catholic churches depicting God as having three heads.
Webster’s Third New International Dictionary of 1993 defines Jehovah God as “a supreme deity recognized and the only deity worshiped by Jehovah’s Witnesses.”
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The “Peace” Paradox
Though 1986 was proclaimed by the UN to be the International Year of Peace, the suicidal armaments race escalated. World Military and Social Expenditures 1986 supplies these sobering details:
In 1986 global military expenditures reached $900 thousand million.
One hour’s global military expenditure would have sufficed to immunize the 3.5 million that died annually from preventable infectious disease.
Worldwide, one person in five lived in gnawing poverty. All these starving people could have been fed for one year at the cost of what the world spent for armaments in two days.
The explosive energy in the world’s stockpile of nuclear weapons was 160,000,000 times greater than that of the Chernobyl explosion.
A nuclear bomb could have been delivered having an explosive power more than 500 times as powerful as the bomb dropped on Hiroshima in 1945.
Nuclear arsenals contained the equivalent of more than one million Hiroshimas. They represented 2,700 times the explosive energy released in World War II, when 38 million people died.
Wars had become more frequent and more deadly. War deaths totaled 4.4 million in the 18th century, 8.3 million in the 19th century, 98.8 million in the first 86 years of the 20th century. Since the 18th century, war deaths have increased more than six times faster than the world’s population. There were ten times as many deaths per war in the 20th century as in the 19th.
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As prophesied about the scarlet-colored wild beast, the League of Nations was abyssed during World War II but was revived as the United Nations
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In support of the UN’s “Year of Peace,” representatives of the world’s religions offered up a babel of prayers at Assisi, Italy, but not one of them prayed to the living God, Jehovah