Thrilling Visions That Strengthen Faith
Highlights From Revelation
JEHOVAH’S servant John is on the small island of Patmos, off the west coast of Asia Minor. There this aged apostle beholds wonderful things—symbolic, often startling, and significant indeed! He comes to be in the Lord’s day, running from Jesus’ enthronement in 1914 till the end of His Millennial Rule. Though John sees events that will take place during mankind’s darkest hour, how splendid is his foreview of Christ’s Thousand Year Reign! What blessings obedient mankind will then enjoy!
John recorded these visions in the Bible book of Revelation. Penned in about 96 C.E., it can strengthen our faith in the God of prophecy, Jehovah, and in his Son, Jesus Christ.—For details, see the book Revelation—Its Grand Climax At Hand!, published by the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society of New York, Inc.
Christ Gives Loving Counsel
Early in the revelation from God through Christ appear letters to seven congregations of Jesus’ fellow Kingdom heirs. (1:1–3:22) Overall, the letters offer commendation, identify problems, provide correction and/or encouragement, and cite blessings resulting from faithful obedience. Though the Ephesians had endured, they had left the love they had at first. The spiritually rich Smyrna congregation is encouraged to remain faithful amid tribulation. Persecution has not overcome the Pergamum congregation, but it has tolerated sectarianism. Despite increased activity by Christians in Thyatira, a Jezebel influence exists there. The Sardis congregation needs to wake up spiritually, the one in Philadelphia is urged to hold on to what it has, and the lukewarm Laodiceans require spiritual healing.
What fine words for training future heavenly kings—in fact, all Christians! For instance, have any of us become lukewarm? Then take action! Become as refreshing as a cup of cold water on a hot day but also begin to display hot zeal for Jehovah and his service. —Compare Matthew 11:28, 29; John 2:17.
The Lamb Opens a Scroll
Jehovah is next beheld on his throne in splendor. (4:1–5:14) He is surrounded by 24 elders and four living creatures. A scroll sealed with seven seals is in his hand. Who can open the scroll? Why, the Lamb, Jesus Christ, is worthy to do so!
Dramatic events unfold as the Lamb opens six of the seals. (6:1–7:17) As the first seal is opened, Christ appears on a white horse, receives a crown (in 1914), and goes forth conquering. As three more seals are opened, other horsemen bring war, famine, and death to mankind. With the opening of the fifth seal, those martyred for Christ cry out for the avenging of their blood, and each one is given “a white robe,” signifying a righteous standing related to their resurrection to be immortal spirit creatures with royal privileges. (Compare Revelation 3:5; 4:4.) When the sixth seal is opened, the day of wrath of God and of the Lamb is heralded by an earthquake. But “the four winds of the earth,” symbolizing destructive judgment, are held back until the 144,000 slaves of God are sealed. When they are anointed with God’s spirit and adopted as his spiritual sons, they receive an advance token—a seal, or pledge—of their heavenly inheritance. Only after testing will the sealing become permanent. (Romans 8:15-17; 2 Corinthians 1:21, 22) And how amazed John must be to see “a great crowd” out of all nations—a multitude with the hope of eternal life in an earthly paradise! They come out of “the great tribulation,” a time of unparalleled distress for mankind.
What startling events occur as the seventh seal is opened! (8:1–11:14) A half-hour silence, allowing the prayers of the holy ones to be heard, is followed by the hurling to the earth of fire from the altar. Then seven angels prepare to blow trumpets announcing God’s plagues on Christendom. The trumpets are sounded throughout the time of the end until the great tribulation. Four trumpets herald plagues on the earth, the sea, freshwater sources, and the sun, moon, and stars. Blowing the fifth calls forth locusts that picture anointed Christians swarming forth to do battle from 1919 onward. With the sixth trumpet blast, a cavalry attack takes place. In fulfillment, anointed ones, reinforced since 1935 by the “great crowd,” proclaim tormenting judgment messages against Christendom’s religious leaders.
John next eats a little scroll, denoting that the anointed accept their assignment and draw nourishment from the portion of God’s Word containing expressions of divine judgments they declare against Christendom. The apostle is commanded to measure the temple sanctuary, signifying the certain fulfillment of Jehovah’s purposes regarding the temple arrangement and that divine standards be met by those associated with it. Then God’s anointed “two witnesses” prophesy in sackcloth, are killed, but are raised. This points to 1918-19, when their preaching work was rendered almost dead by foes, but Jehovah’s servants were miraculously revived for their ministry.
The Kingdom Is Born!
The sounding of the seventh trumpet announces the birth of the Kingdom. (11:15–12:17) In heaven a symbolic woman (Jehovah God’s heavenly organization) gives birth to a male child (God’s Kingdom with Christ as King), but the dragon (Satan) tries in vain to devour it. Climaxing the war in heaven following the Kingdom’s birth in 1914, victorious Michael (Jesus Christ) casts the dragon and its angels down to the earth. There the dragon continues to wage war against the anointed remnant of the heavenly woman’s seed.
John next beholds a wild beast to which a disgusting image is made. (13:1-18) This seven-headed, ten-horned political wild beast arises from “the sea,” the turbulent masses of mankind from which human government springs. (Compare Daniel 7:2-8; 8:3-8, 20-25.) What is this symbolic creature’s source of authority? Why, none other than Satan, the dragon! And just imagine! To this political monstrosity a two-horned beast (the Anglo-American World Power) is seen to make an “image,” now known as the United Nations. Many are coerced to worship the wild beast and accept its “mark” by doing things its way and letting it rule their lives. But Jehovah’s Witnesses staunchly reject the demonic mark of the wild beast!
Jehovah’s Servants Take Action
Various servants of God are seen in action as seven bowls of his wrath are poured out. (14:1–16:21) Listen! On heavenly Mount Zion, John can hear the 144,000 singing as if a new song. An angel flying in midheaven has everlasting good news to declare to earth’s inhabitants. What does this show? That Jehovah’s Witnesses have angelic help in proclaiming the Kingdom message.
John must be astounded to see the vine of the earth reaped and entire nations crushed as the winepress of God’s anger is trodden. (Compare Isaiah 63:3-6; Joel 3:12-14.) At Jehovah’s command, seven angels next pour out seven bowls of divine wrath. The earth, the sea, and freshwater sources, as well as the sun, the throne of the wild beast, and the Euphrates River, are affected at the pouring out of the first six bowls. Imagine John’s excitement as he notes that demonic propaganda is gathering human kings to God’s war of Har–Magedon. And the results are devastating as the seventh bowl is poured out upon the air.
Two Symbolic Women
Surely, John is thrilled to witness the end of Babylon the Great, the world empire of false religion, and to observe the joyous events that follow her destruction. (17:1–19:10) Drunk with the blood of holy ones, she is seen astride a scarlet-colored wild beast with seven heads and ten horns (the League of Nations and its successor, the United Nations). Ah, but what devastation she suffers as the horns turn against her!
Heavenly voices are heard praising Jah for the destruction of Babylon the Great. And what thunderous praise heralds the marriage of the Lamb and his bride, the resurrected anointed ones!
Christ Triumphs and Rules
John next beholds the King of kings as he leads heavenly armies in destroying Satan’s system of things. (19:11-21) Yes, Jesus, “The Word of God,” wages war against the nations. The apostle sees the wild beast (Satan’s political organization) and the false prophet (the Anglo-American World Power) being hurled into “the fiery lake,” symbolic of complete, eternal destruction.
What next? Why, John observes the abyssing of Satan. There follows a foreview of Christ’s Thousand Year Reign, during which Jesus and his resurrected corulers judge mankind, lifting obedient ones to human perfection! (20:1-10) It is now time for a final test. Released from the abyss, Satan will set out to mislead perfected mankind, but destruction will end the careers of all demon and human rebels against God.
Backtracking in time, how enthralled John must be to see all of those in death, Hades (mankind’s common grave), and the sea resurrected and judged before God, who is seated upon a great white throne! (20:11-15) And what relief the upright will enjoy when death and Hades are cast into the lake of fire, never again to claim victims!
As John’s visions come to an end, he beholds New Jerusalem. (21:1–22:21) That governmental city is coming down from heaven and bringing illumination to the nations. Flowing through New Jerusalem is “a river of water of life,” picturing Scriptural truth and every other God-given provision based on Jesus’ sacrifice for recovering obedient humans from sin and death and granting them everlasting life. (John 1:29; 17:3; 1 John 2:1, 2) On each bank of this river, John sees trees with healing leaves, picturing part of Jehovah’s provision for giving eternal life to obedient mankind. Concluding messages from God and Christ are followed by an invitation. How wonderful it is to hear the spirit and the bride invite everyone thirsting to ‘come, take life’s water free’! And as we read Revelation’s closing words, doubtless we share the fervor of John’s exclamation: “Amen! Come, Lord Jesus.”
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Stay Awake: Amid prophetic words about God’s war of Har–Magedon (Armageddon), it is said: “Look! I [Jesus Christ] am coming as a thief. Happy is the one that stays awake and keeps his outer garments, that he may not walk naked and people look upon his shamefulness.” (Revelation 16:15) This may be an allusion to the duties of the overseer, or officer, of the temple mount in Jerusalem. During the watches, he went through the temple to see whether its Levite guards were awake or asleep at their posts. Any guard found sleeping was struck with a stick, and his outer garments might be burned as shameful punishment. With Armageddon now so near, the anointed remnant of the “royal priesthood,” or “spiritual house,” are determined to stay spiritually awake. So must their associates, the “great crowd,” with earthly hopes, for they are also rendering sacred service to God at the temple. (1 Peter 2:5, 9; Revelation 7:9-17) Especially should Christian overseers remain on the watch against the development of bad conditions in the congregation. Because they stay awake, all loyal worshipers at God’s spiritual temple keep on their “outer garments,” denoting their honored service as Witnesses of Jehovah.