Angelic Messages for Our Day
“God . . . sent forth his angel and presented it in signs.”—REVELATION 1:1.
1. What misunderstanding is there about the name Apocalypse, and what does Revelation reveal about the future?
APOCALYPSE. How often has that name been heard in this 20th century—but how woefully misunderstood! In the Biblical sense, it does not refer to the annihilation of all mankind in a nuclear holocaust. Rather, this Greek word means “unveiling.” By prophetic pictures, the Bible book Apocalypse, or Revelation, unveils developments that climax in the dawning of an age of eternal happiness for humanity. Thus, Jesus’ apostle John introduces Revelation with the words: “Happy is he who reads aloud and those who hear the words of this prophecy, and who observe the things written in it; for the appointed time is near.”—Revelation 1:3.
2, 3. Why is this such an unhappy world, and what does Jehovah purpose to do?
2 The world today is not happy. The reason for its unhappiness is stated in a song that Moses composed some 3,460 years ago: “They have acted ruinously on their own part; they are not [God’s] children, the defect is their own. A generation crooked and twisted!” (Deuteronomy 32:5) How well those words fit the modern generation, whose values are so twisted and warped! For example, the foreword of World Military and Social Expenditures 1987-88 states bluntly: “Lives of all nations are warped by the arms race. The United States and the Soviet Union together spend about $1.5 billion a day on military defense. Yet the United States ranks eighteenth among all nations in infant mortality, the USSR forty-sixth. The developing countries spend almost four times as much on arms as on health care of their people. Yet hundreds of millions in those countries are hungry; 20 percent of their children die before their fifth birthday.”
3 Other factors add to this ruinous course—the breakdown in morals and in the family unit, the crime and terror that stalk the earth, the lovelessness and lawlessness of the present generation. How happy we can be that Jehovah purposes “to bring to ruin those ruining the earth”! (Revelation 11:18) In thrilling detail, the Bible book of Revelation, in a series of 16 visions, describes how he will accomplish this.
“Angels” and “Signs”
4. How are angels involved in Revelation, and how do the visions depict the most prominent angel?
4 Revelation sheds light on the Bible’s first prophecy, at Genesis 3:15, showing how enmity between Satan and God’s womanly organization, and between their two ‘seeds,’ is resolved. It discloses Jehovah’s judgment of his enemies and of those who love him and support his sovereignty. Revelation is conveyed to John “in signs” by an angel. Other angels, or messengers, share in making known and acting out those signs. The most prominent angel is introduced at Revelation 1:5 as “Jesus Christ, ‘the Faithful Witness,’ ‘The firstborn from the dead,’ and ‘The Ruler of the kings of the earth.’” The “signs,” or visions, depict him also as a “Lion,” as a “Lamb,” as “Michael,” and several times as a mighty angel.—Revelation 5:5, 13; 9:1, 11; 10:1; 12:7; 18:1.
5. What is featured in the first vision of Revelation, and how does it involve us?
5 The first vision, at Revelation 1:10–3:22, features stirring messages that the glorified Jesus conveys to the “angels,” or overseers, of seven Asian congregations that picture the entire global congregation of Jehovah’s Witnesses in “the Lord’s day.” So the messages are for us today! We should be diligent to “hear what the spirit says to the congregations,” for these warnings and admonitions are for our encouragement, that we may be faithful—approved because of our deeds and our “love and faith and ministry and endurance.”—Revelation 1:10; 2:7, 10, 19.
6. How can we benefit from each of the messages sent to the seven Asian congregations?
6 Like the congregation at Ephesus, we may have labored loyally and hated the deeds of sectarian apostates, but if our own love has dimmed in any way, let us return repentantly to our first love, with all its fire of enthusiasm! Like the spiritually rich Christians in Smyrna, let us fearlessly strive for the reward, proving ourselves “faithful even to death,” should that be necessary. Like those tried by Satan in Pergamum, we should repent of any past idolatry, immorality, or sectarianism. The Thyatirans were called on to guard against similar enticements, especially Jezebel-like influences. We too must be on guard! Any who have become dead spiritually, like the Christians in Sardis, must awaken before it is too late. An opened door of service is set before us, as it was before the Philadelphians; may we have power to conquer in the hour of test, as they did! If any of us have become lukewarm like the Laodiceans, we must wake up to our spiritual nakedness and repent. Jesus stands knocking at the door. May all of us welcome him and enjoy an ongoing spiritual meal with him in our 55,000 congregations around the globe!—Revelation 1:11; 2:7, 10, 11, 17, 29; 3:6, 13, 22.
God’s Throne, a Scroll, and a Question
7. What praises are sung in the second vision, and how do you react?
7 In the second vision John sees Jehovah’s glorious celestial throne. Our magnificent God appears amid transcendent splendor, attended by four cherubs, hosts of angels, and the resurrected Christian conquerors. How soul-stirring is their song of praise: “You are worthy, Jehovah, even our God, to receive the glory and the honor and the power, because you created all things, and because of your will they existed and were created”! Jehovah hands a scroll to the One worthy to open it—the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the slaughtered Lamb who becomes our Redeemer. All creation praises Jehovah and the Lamb.—Revelation 4:11; 5:2-5, 11-14.
8. What do we see in Revelation’s third vision, and how does it relate to our day?
8 Now for the third vision! The Lamb proceeds to open the scroll’s seven seals. What do we see? First, the newly crowned Jesus rides forth in the heavens on a white horse, depicting righteous warfare. Next, the rider of a fiery-red horse engulfs the earth in total warfare. Then comes the black horse of famine, and after it the pale horse of pestilence, whose rider is named Death! Hades follows, to gobble up millions of victims. All of this begins with the “pangs of distress” that struck mankind in 1914-18 and that surviving oldsters of that generation well remember. (Matthew 24:3-8) Those horsemen continue to gallop! And with the opening of the fifth and sixth seals, events move toward ‘the great day of the wrath of Jehovah and of the Lamb.’ The question is asked: “Who is able to stand?”—Revelation 6:1-17.
Those “Able to Stand”
9. What thrilling disclosure is made in the fourth vision?
9 The fourth vision unfolds, showing who will survive the day of God’s wrath, and why. Angels hold back four winds of destruction from the earth so that the sealing of spiritual Israel—the 144,000—may be completed. “After these things,” the vision expands into an awe-inspiring panorama: “Look! a great crowd, which no man was able to number, out of all nations and tribes and peoples and tongues, standing before the throne [of God] and before the Lamb, dressed in white robes; and there were palm branches in their hands. And they keep on crying with a loud voice, saying: ‘Salvation we owe to our God, who is seated on the throne, and to the Lamb.’” (Revelation 7:1-10) Do you see yourself in this picture?
10. (a) What does a comparison of the Memorial reports for 1935 and 1987 indicate as to the fulfillment of the fourth vision? (b) What question now involves each of us, and why?
10 In 1935 attendance worldwide at the Memorial observance of Jesus’ death was 32,795. Of these, 27,006 partook of the emblems as being the remaining ones on earth of the 144,000, whose hope is heavenly. Later in that same year, the identity of the great crowd flashed clearly into view. These meek persons, who look forward to life eternal on a paradise earth, also exercise faith in Jesus’ shed blood; they come to Jehovah in dedication, submit to baptism, and serve God zealously with the happy prospect of passing alive through “the great tribulation.” At the Memorial of 1987, attendance was 8,965,221, with only 8,808 partakers. This indicates that millions today either are of the great crowd or are interested in becoming of that number. Will you be “able to stand” as one of these during ‘the great day of the wrath of Jehovah and of the Lamb’? It means your survival to take steps to that end.—Revelation 6:15-17; 7:14-17.
Trumpeting God’s Judgments
11. What judgments are trumpeted forth in the fifth vision, and how do these relate to our day?
11 The seventh seal is opened! Into view flashes the fifth vision of Revelation. Seven angels stand before God. They are given seven trumpets, and with these they sound forth proclamations that have been echoed earth wide by Jehovah’s people since 1922. The first four announce judgments upon “a third” of mankind, evidently those living in Christendom. These “trumpets” indicate that Christendom’s part of “the earth” (Satan’s seemingly permanent system of things) and of “the sea” (the restless masses of mankind), as well as her ‘rivers and fountains of waters’ (the doctrines and philosophies of Christendom) and her darkened luminaries (the clergy, devoid of spiritual light), are all targets of God’s wrath. A flying “eagle,” picturing an angel, next appears in midheaven, announcing that the three trumpet blasts yet to come will mean “woe, woe, woe to those dwelling on the earth.”—Revelation 8:1-13.
12. Who opens the pit of the abyss, and how in modern times has a swarm of “locusts” stung the clergy?
12 So the fifth angel sounds his trumpet. Behold! “A star”—the Lord Jesus—opens the smoky pit of the abyss, and a horde of locusts swarms forth. Strikingly, this depicts Jesus releasing God’s anointed witnesses from inactivity in 1919. With divine authority, these devastate the pastures of the clergy, exposing their false teachings and hypocrisy “five months”—the normal life span of a locust. This confirms that the generation of modern-day locusts “will by no means pass away” until Jehovah and Christ will have completed judging the nations. Already, the locust band have left with the people thousands of millions of Bible-based publications, with fiery judgment messages that sting like scorpion tails. John comments: “The one woe is past. Look! Two more woes are coming after these things.”—Revelation 9:1-12; Matthew 24:34; 25:31-33.
13. (a) Who are pictured by the four angels that are released from the vicinity of the Euphrates River, and what work do they have? (b) Who are the myriads of cavalry, and how is it that their authority is “in their mouths and in their tails”?
13 The sixth trumpet sounds, introducing the second “woe.” Four angels are released from the vicinity of the Euphrates River, aptly picturing the release in 1919 of God’s anointed witnesses from Babylonian captivity. They have been prepared to “kill a third of the men,” making known that Christendom’s clergy are dead from Jehovah’s viewpoint. But help is needed to expand this witness work, and Jehovah provides this by bringing in a great crowd of fellow workers. The anointed witnesses and these helpers charge forth together as the innumerable cavalry, “two myriads of myriads.” Their authority is “in their mouths” in that they speak Jehovah’s judgment messages at the people’s homes, and it is “in their tails” in that they leave behind them Bible literature proclaiming his fast-approaching day of vengeance.—Revelation 9:13-21; Acts 20:20, 21.
14. (a) Who is the “strong angel” in the sixth vision, and what does he do and say? (b) What is denoted by the little scroll’s tasting “sweet as honey” and yet ‘bitter to the belly’?
14 Now the sixth vision unfolds. We behold a “strong angel,” evidently the Lord Jesus in a special role. He has a little scroll in his hand. Voices and thunders are heard, and then the angel swears by our Grand Creator: “There will be no delay any longer; but in the days of the sounding of the seventh angel, when he is about to blow his trumpet, the sacred secret of God . . . is indeed brought to a finish.” John is told to take the little scroll and eat it. In his mouth it is “sweet as honey,” just as the Kingdom message, with its promised blessings of “a new heaven and a new earth,” is so delectable to the anointed John class and its companions today. But, by contrast, the commission to declare God’s day of vengeance “with regard to peoples and nations and tongues and many kings” is hard for some to stomach. Take courage, though! Be strong in faith that Jehovah will provide the needed strength as you proclaim his day of vengeance.—Revelation 10:1-11; 21:1, 4; 1 John 5:4; Isaiah 40:29-31; 61:1, 2.
The Seventh Trumpet and the Third Woe
15. (a) What happens when the third woe is announced and the seventh angel blows his trumpet? (b) In what way is the Kingdom proclamation a woe?
15 After foretelling the enemy’s attempt in 1918 to “kill” God’s witnesses, and after describing how remarkably “spirit of life from God” revived them in 1919 to give a global witness, John writes: “The second woe is past. Look! The third woe is coming quickly.” In what way? The record continues: “And the seventh angel blew his trumpet.” So the third woe is linked with the sounding of that last trumpet. And listen! “Loud voices occurred in heaven, saying: ‘The kingdom of the world did become the kingdom of our Lord [Jehovah] and of his Christ, and he will rule as king forever and ever.’” This is God’s Kingdom by Christ Jesus, who with his 144,000 joint heirs brings God’s sacred secret to a finish, vindicating the eternal sovereignty of Jehovah God, the Almighty. Is this Kingdom proclamation a woe? To the wicked, yes! For it shows how God will “bring to ruin those ruining the earth.”—Revelation 11:1-19.
16. What dramatic disclosures are made in the seventh vision?
16 The seventh vision now flashes into view! See, there, God’s dutiful heavenly organization, his “woman.” She is pregnant and in agony to give birth to a long-awaited child. For the first time—but not the last—in Revelation, a fiery-colored dragon, “the original serpent, the one called Devil and Satan, who is misleading the entire inhabited earth,” appears, poised to devour the child at birth. The foretold “enmity between [the serpent] and the woman” moves toward a showdown! The woman gives birth to “a son, a male,” who is immediately caught away to God’s throne.—Revelation 12:1-6, 9; Genesis 3:15; Daniel 2:44; 7:13, 14.
17. (a) Who is Michael, and how has he lived up to his name since 1914? (b) Distinguish between the ‘three woes’ and the “woe for the earth” of Revelation 12:12.
17 This is the man-child Kingdom, established in the heavens in the historic year 1914. Its King, Christ Jesus, is also called Michael, which means “Who Is Like God?” He answers that question without delay by warring with Satan and hurling that old dragon and his demons down to the earth. Since 1914, it has been “woe for the earth and for the sea, because the Devil has come down to you, having great anger, knowing he has a short period of time.” So this woe, reflected in the sorry condition of mankind today, is not to be confused with the ‘three woes’ that Jehovah brings on the wicked in judging them.—Revelation 12:7-12.
18. (a) What woe did Satan the Devil try to make for Jehovah’s loyal slaves before and during World War II? (b) What is the Devil still determined to do, and what will the remaining visions reveal?
18 The Devil has tried to make woe also for Jehovah’s loyal slaves on earth. Before and during World War II, he spewed forth a deluge of persecution in an effort to drown out the work of “the remaining ones” of God’s womanly organization—those of the 144,000 still serving among mankind. Jehovah saw to it that the earth, Satan’s own system of things, swallowed up that flood. However, a wrathful Satan is still bent on waging war against Jehovah’s Witnesses. (Revelation 12:13-17) What will the final outcome be? Nine visions are yet to come, and these will tell us!—Habakkuk 2:3.
QUESTIONS FOR REVIEW
□ How did Jehovah use angels with regard to the book of Revelation?
□ How should Jesus’ messages to the seven congregations affect us?
□ What has resulted from the blowing of the seven trumpets?
□ What is depicted by the swarm of locusts and the innumerable cavalry?
□ Why is the birth of God’s Kingdom linked to “the third woe”?
[Box on page 14]
CHAPTERS AND VERSES OF EACH VISION:
□ 1ST VISION 1:10–3:22
□ 2ND VISION 4:1–5:14
□ 3RD VISION 6:1-17
□ 4TH VISION 7:1-17
□ 5TH VISION 8:1–9:21
□ 6TH VISION 10:1–11:19
□ 7TH VISION 12:1-17
□ 8TH VISION 13:1-18
□ 9TH VISION 14:1-20
□ 10TH VISION 15:1–16:21
□ 11TH VISION 17:1-18
□ 12TH VISION 18:1–19:10
□ 13TH VISION 19:11-21
□ 14TH VISION 20:1-10
□ 15TH VISION 20:11–21:8
□ 16TH VISION 21:9–22:5
[Box/Pictures on page 15-18]
THE 16 APOCALYPTIC VISIONS—SOME HIGHLIGHTS
1 Jesus, in midst of seven congregational lampstands, sends loving messages through seven stars, the anointed overseers
2 Before Jehovah’s celestial throne the victorious Lamb receives a scroll of judgment messages
3 Christ Jesus rides forth to the conquest, as other horsemen afflict mankind and God’s day of wrath approaches
4 As angels hold back the great tribulation, gathering of the 144,000 and of the great crowd is completed
5 Angels trumpet forth judgment messages, and Jehovah’s Witnesses swarm forth like locusts in exposing false religion
6 At the blowing of the seventh trumpet, God’s “witnesses” are revived to announce the incoming Kingdom of Jehovah and his Christ
7 Following the birth of the Kingdom in 1914, Christ hurls Satan and his demons down to the earth
8 Two wild beasts appear, and the second political beast breathes life into an image of the first, the UN combine
9 Those of mankind who “fear God and give him glory” are reaped for everlasting life, others for destruction
10 The pouring out of seven bowls of God’s anger culminates in the execution of all who are motivated by Satan’s polluted “air”
11 The great harlot, false religion, is unseated from the political “beast,” which then devastates her
12 Following the destruction of Babylon the Great, preparations are finalized for the marriage of the Lamb and his bride, the 144,000
13 After the great harlot’s demise, Jesus leads the heavenly armies in destroying the rest of Satan’s earthly system
14 The abyssing of Satan opens the way for the Thousand Year Reign of Christ and his bride, the 144,000
15 Under the “new heaven” of Christ Jesus and his bride, the “new earth” society of mankind will enjoy untold blessings from Jehovah
16 God’s provisions of healing and life for mankind flow forth through the glorious New Jerusalem