STUDY ARTICLE 20
Revelation—What It Means for God’s Enemies
“They gathered them together to the place that is called in Hebrew Armageddon.”—REV. 16:16.
SONG 150 Seek God for Your Deliverance
1. What does the book of Revelation reveal concerning God’s people?
THE book of Revelation reveals that God’s heavenly Kingdom has been established and that Satan has been expelled from heaven. (Rev. 12:1-9) That expulsion brings relief to the heavens, but it creates challenges for us. Why? Because Satan’s anger is focused on those who faithfully serve Jehovah here on earth.—Rev. 12:12, 15, 17.
2. What will help us remain steadfast?
2 How can we remain steadfast in the face of Satan’s attacks? (Rev. 13:10) One thing that will help us is to know what the future holds. For example, in Revelation, the apostle John describes some of the blessings that we will soon enjoy. Among those blessings will be the elimination of God’s enemies. Let us now examine how Revelation describes these enemies and what will happen to them.
GOD’S ENEMIES DESCRIBED “IN SIGNS”
3. What are some of the signs portrayed in Revelation?
3 In the very first verse, Revelation tells us that the information we are about to read is being presented “in signs,” that is, in symbolic language. (Rev. 1:1) God’s enemies are described symbolically. We see a number of wild beasts. For example, there is “a wild beast ascending out of the sea.” It has “ten horns and seven heads.” (Rev. 13:1) That beast is followed by “another wild beast ascending out of the earth.” That beast speaks like a dragon and makes “fire come down out of heaven.” (Rev. 13:11-13) Then we see a different beast, “a scarlet-colored wild beast,” which is being ridden by a prostitute. These three wild beasts represent long-standing enemies of Jehovah God and his Kingdom. Therefore, it is important that we identify them.—Rev. 17:1, 3.
4-5. How does what is stated at Daniel 7:15-17 help us understand the meaning of these signs?
4 Before we can learn who these enemies are, we need to understand what this symbolic language means. The key to understanding it is to allow the Bible to explain itself. Many of the symbols found in Revelation are already explained in other books of the Bible. For example, the prophet Daniel had a dream in which “four huge beasts came out of the sea.” (Dan. 7:1-3) Daniel records their significance. These huge beasts represent four “kings,” or governments. (Read Daniel 7:15-17.) That clear explanation helps us understand that the beasts described in Revelation must also refer to political powers.
5 Let us now examine some of the signs described in Revelation. As we do, we will see how the Bible helps us identify what these signs mean. We will start with the series of wild beasts. First, we will identify whom they represent. Then, we will see what happens to these beasts. Finally, we will consider what these events mean for us.
THE IDENTITY OF GOD’S ENEMIES REVEALED
6. What is the meaning of the seven-headed wild beast mentioned at Revelation 13:1-4?
6 What is the seven-headed wild beast? (Read Revelation 13:1-4.) We notice that this beast has the general appearance of a leopard but the feet of a bear and the mouth of a lion, and it has ten horns. All of these are also features of the four beasts mentioned in Daniel chapter 7. Yet, here in the book of Revelation, these characteristics are combined into one beast, not four separate beasts. This wild beast does not represent just one government or world empire. It is spoken of as ruling “over every tribe and people and tongue and nation.” So it must be greater than any single national government. (Rev. 13:7) This wild beast, then, must represent all the political powers that have dominated humankind down through history.b—Eccl. 8:9.
7. What do each of the seven heads of the wild beast represent?
7 What do each of the seven heads represent? A clue is found in Revelation chapter 17, which describes an image of the beast mentioned in Revelation chapter 13. At Revelation 17:10, we are told: “There are seven kings: Five have fallen, one is, and the other has not yet arrived; but when he does arrive, he must remain a short while.” Of all the political powers that Satan has used, seven have stood out prominently as “heads.” These are the world empires that have had a considerable impact on God’s people. By the apostle John’s day, five of these had already appeared on the world scene: Egypt, Assyria, Babylon, Medo-Persia, and Greece. The sixth world power, Rome, was still ruling when John received the revelation. What would prove to be the seventh and final world power, or head?
8. Whom does the seventh head of the wild beast represent?
8 As we will see, the prophecies in the book of Daniel help us identify the seventh and final head of the wild beast. What world power has been ruling during this time of the end, during “the Lord’s day”? (Rev. 1:10) It is the combination of the United Kingdom and the United States of America, in other words, the Anglo-American World Power. We may therefore conclude that it is the seventh head of the wild beast mentioned at Revelation 13:1-4.
9. What is represented by the wild beast with “two horns like a lamb”?
9 Revelation chapter 13 goes on to tell us that this seventh head, the Anglo-American World Power, also acts as a wild beast with “two horns like a lamb, but it began speaking like a dragon.” This beast “performs great signs, even making fire come down out of heaven to the earth in the sight of mankind.” (Rev. 13:11-15) Revelation chapters 16 and 19 describe this wild beast as “the false prophet.” (Rev. 16:13; 19:20) Daniel mentions something similar, namely, that the Anglo-American World Power would “bring terrible destruction.” (Dan. 8:19, 23, 24, ftn.) That is exactly what happened during World War II. The two atomic bombs that played a decisive role in ending that war in the Pacific were the results of a joint effort by British and American scientists. The Anglo-American World Power, in effect, made “fire come down out of heaven to the earth.”
10. What does “the image of the wild beast” represent? (Revelation 13:14, 15; 17:3, 8, 11)
10 Next we see another wild beast. This one looks almost the same as the seven-headed wild beast with the exception that it is scarlet-colored. It is called “the image of the wild beast” and is described as “an eighth king.”c (Read Revelation 13:14, 15; 17:3, 8, 11.) This “king” is spoken of as coming into existence, then going out of existence, and later reappearing. How well this description fits the United Nations organization, which promotes the interests of the worldwide political system! It existed first as the League of Nations. Then it went out of existence during World War II. It later emerged again in its present-day form.
11. What do the political beasts stir up, and why do we have nothing to fear from them?
11 By means of their propaganda, the political beasts stir up opposition to Jehovah and his people. Symbolically, they gather “the kings of the entire inhabited earth” together to the war of Armageddon, which is “the great day of God the Almighty.” (Rev. 16:13, 14, 16) But we will have nothing to fear. Our great God, Jehovah, will react swiftly to save all those who support his rulership.—Ezek. 38:21-23.
12. What will happen to all the beasts?
12 What happens to all the beasts? Revelation 19:20 answers: “The wild beast was caught, and along with it the false prophet that performed in front of it the signs with which he misled those who received the mark of the wild beast and those who worship its image. While still alive, they both were hurled into the fiery lake that burns with sulfur.” So while they are still functioning, these political enemies of God will be destroyed forever.
13. What challenge confronts Christians because of the world’s governments?
13 What does this mean for us? As Christians, we must be loyal to God and his Kingdom. (John 18:36) To do so, we need to remain neutral with regard to this world’s political affairs. Such neutrality can be extremely difficult, though, because the world’s governments demand our full support, both in word and in deed. Those who succumb to their pressure receive the mark of the wild beast. (Rev. 13:16, 17) Any who receive that mark, however, will incur Jehovah’s disapproval and lose out on everlasting life. (Rev. 14:9, 10; 20:4) How important it is, then, for each one of us to maintain strict neutrality, no matter what pressure is put on us to do otherwise!
AN INGLORIOUS END FOR THE GREAT PROSTITUTE
14. What surprising thing does the apostle John next see, as described at Revelation 17:3-5?
14 The apostle John mentions that he “was greatly amazed” by something else he saw. What was it? A woman riding one of these ferocious beasts. (Rev. 17:1, 2, 6) She is portrayed as a “great prostitute” and is called “Babylon the Great.” She commits “sexual immorality” with “the kings of the earth.”—Read Revelation 17:3-5.
15-16. Who is “Babylon the Great,” and how do we know?
15 Who is “Babylon the Great”? This woman cannot represent a political organization because she is spoken of as committing immorality with the world’s political leaders. (Rev. 18:9) In fact, she endeavors to control these rulers, symbolically riding them. Additionally, she cannot represent the greedy commercial elements of Satan’s world. These are portrayed separately as “the merchants of the earth.”—Rev. 18:11, 15, 16.
16 In the Scriptures, the term “prostitute” can refer to those who claim to serve God but engage in some form of idolatry or in some other way become friends of the world. (1 Chron. 5:25; Jas. 4:4) By contrast, those who faithfully worship God are referred to as being “chaste” or as “virgins.” (2 Cor. 11:2; Rev. 14:4) Ancient Babylon was a center of false worship. So, then, Babylon the Great must represent all forms of false worship. In fact, she is the world empire of false religion.—Rev. 17:5, 18; see the Web article on jw.org “What Is Babylon the Great?”
17. What will happen to Babylon the Great?
17 What will happen to Babylon the Great? Revelation 17:16, 17 answers that question this way: “The ten horns that you saw and the wild beast, these will hate the prostitute and will make her devastated and naked, and they will eat up her flesh and completely burn her with fire. For God put it into their hearts to carry out his thought.” Yes, Jehovah will motivate the nations to use the scarlet-colored wild beast, that is, the United Nations, to turn on the world empire of false religion and completely destroy it.—Rev. 18:21-24.
18. How can we make sure that we have nothing to do with Babylon the Great?
18 What does this mean for us? We need to maintain “the form of worship that is clean and undefiled from the standpoint of our God.” (Jas. 1:27) Never would we want to allow ourselves to be influenced by the false teachings, the pagan celebrations, the lax moral standards, and the spiritistic practices of Babylon the Great! And we would continually call out to people to “get out of her,” so that they can avoid sharing in her guilt before God.—Rev. 18:4.
THE JUDGMENT ON GOD’S GREATEST ENEMY
19. Who is the “great fiery-colored dragon”?
19 The book of Revelation also describes “a great fiery-colored dragon.” (Rev. 12:3) This dragon fights against Jesus and his angels. (Rev. 12:7-9) It attacks God’s people, and it gives power to the political beasts. (Rev. 12:17; 13:4) Who is this dragon? It is “the original serpent, the one called Devil and Satan.” (Rev. 12:9; 20:2) He is the one behind all the other enemies of Jehovah.
20. What will happen to the dragon?
20 What happens to the dragon? Revelation 20:1-3 explains that an angel will hurl Satan into an abyss, which represents a prisonlike confinement. During that confinement, Satan will “not mislead the nations anymore until the 1,000 years [have] ended.” Finally, Satan and his demons will be destroyed once and for all, represented by their being hurled into “the lake of fire and sulfur.” (Rev. 20:10) Just imagine a world without Satan and his demons. What a wonderful time that will be!
21. Why can we be happy about what we have read in the book of Revelation?
21 How encouraging it is to understand the meaning of these signs that are recorded in the book of Revelation! Not only have we been able to identify the enemies of Jehovah but we have also seen what will happen to them. Yes, “happy is the one who reads aloud and those who hear the words of this prophecy”! (Rev. 1:3) But once God’s enemies have been removed, what blessings will faithful mankind enjoy? We will discuss that in the final article of this series.
SONG 23 Jehovah Begins His Rule
a The book of Revelation uses signs to identify God’s enemies. The book of Daniel helps us understand what those signs mean. In this article, we will compare some of the prophecies in Daniel with similar prophecies in Revelation. In this way, we will be able to identify God’s enemies. Then we will consider what will happen to them.
b Another indication that the seven-headed beast represents all the political powers is that it has “ten horns.” The number ten is often used in the Bible to denote completeness.
c Unlike the first wild beast, the image does not have crowns, or “diadems,” on its horns. (Rev. 13:1) This is because it “springs from the seven” other kings and is dependent on them for its authority.—See the Web article on jw.org “What Is the Scarlet-Colored Beast of Revelation Chapter 17?”