The last book of the Bible is, to many, its most mysterious. Often ignored or misunderstood, the book of Revelation is rich with prophetic understandings for those to whom God reveals its secrets! You can understand this essential end-time message from God
It is one of the greatest books ever written, but it is a mystery to most people. Even many Christians do not bother to read it, because they feel unable to make any sense out of it. What is this great book? It is the book of Revelation—also known as the Apocalypse—the very last book in your Bible.
In one sense it is tragic that the vast majority of humanity is ignorant of the importance of this great book. Yet we know that the deep meanings of Revelation are, by design, obscured and hidden rom those who are spiritually blinded—which means most of the world. It is an astounding but fundamental truth that, spiritually speaking, the world is almost completely blind except for a relative few. The Apostle Paul also emphasized this truth when he wrote: “But even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing, whose minds the god of this age has blinded, who do not believe, lest the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine on them” (2 Corinthians 4:3-4).
If the world is generally blinded and deceived, how can you understand? Only through the Light of the world can one gain spiritual light and understanding. We know from John 8:12 that Jesus Christ is the Light of the world, so it is through Him that we can gain understanding. Jesus told His followers: “If ye continue in my word, then are ye my disciples indeed; and ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free” (John 8:31-32, KJV).
Throughout the Bible we are reminded that in order to understand its mysteries, we must practice the precepts and instructions it contains. In the Psalms, we read: “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom; a good understanding have all those who do His commandments. His praise endures forever” (Psalm 111:10). Notice! If you are willing to study the Bible to see what God wants you to do—if you will practice and continue in His word and instructions—God will open your mind to understanding!
To deepen our understanding of this mysterious book, let us begin at the beginning. The book begins with the words: “The Revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave Him to show His servants; things which must shortly take place. And He sent and signified it by His angel to His servant John, who bore witness to the word of God, and to the testimony of Jesus Christ, to all things that he saw” (Revelation 1:1-2).
The very first fact we learn in this book is that it is the revelation of Jesus Christ—not of the Apostle John (or “St. John the Divine” as some Bibles title the book). We also notice the purpose of Jesus’ revelation—to show His servants things which must shortly take place. The purpose of this hard-to-understand book is not to hide the truth, but rather to reveal events leading up to Christ’s return! You need to know what those events are, and how they came to be known to the “beloved Apostle.”
John wrote down the inspired words of God while exiled to the island of Patmos off the southwest coast of Turkey in the Aegean Sea. Patmos was used as a Roman penal colony in the first century ad. John wrote: “I, John, both your brother and companion in the tribulation and kingdom and patience of Jesus Christ, was on the island that is called Patmos for the word of God and for the testimony of Jesus Christ” (Revelation 1:9).
Most scholars set the time of John’s writing at the end of the first century, about 95ad. In a vision, John was shown the end-time events surrounding Christ’s return and the establishment of the Kingdom of God on earth. He saw the events leading up to the seventh trumpet in the prophetic time period known as the Day of the Lord. John thus wrote: “I was in the Spirit on the Lord’s Day, and I heard behind me a loud voice, as of a trumpet.” John was not speaking of a day of the week as some commentators wrongly teach! John was projected in the spirit and in vision to the time of the Lord’s Day—also known in scripture as the Day of the Lord, which is mentioned in more than 30 prophecies in your Bible.
What is the key event revealed in Revelation? It is Christ’s return to the earth! We are told: “Behold, He is coming with clouds, and every eye will see Him, even they who pierced Him. And all the tribes of the earth will mourn because of Him. Even so, Amen” (Revelation 1:7).
Yes, a time of judgment is coming. But the good news is that those who look forward to Christ’s return will rejoice when all the world’s kingdoms submit to the King of kings and Lord of lords, Jesus Christ, at the seventh, the last, trumpet: “Then the seventh angel sounded: And there were loud voices in heaven, saying, ‘The kingdoms of this world have become the kingdoms of our Lord and of His Christ, and He shall reign forever and ever!’ And the twenty-four elders who sat before God on their thrones fell on their faces and worshiped God, saying: ‘We give You thanks, O Lord God Almighty, the One who is and who was and who is to come, because You have taken Your great power and reigned’“ (Revelation 11:15-17).
Remember, it is Christ Who gives us this revelation, through the Apostle John. John saw the throne of God in a vision; he wrote: “And I saw in the right hand of Him who sat on the throne a scroll written inside and on the back, sealed with seven seals” (Revelation 5:1).
John cried upon learning that no one was worthy to open the scroll. He continues: “But one of the elders said to me, ‘Do not weep. Behold, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has prevailed to open the scroll and to loose its seven seals’“ (Revelation 5:5). The Lion of the tribe of Judah is Jesus Christ—here He begins to open the scroll that had been sealed with seven seals.
“Now I saw when the Lamb opened one of the seals; and I heard one of the four living creatures saying with a voice like thunder, ‘Come and see.’ And I looked, and behold, a white horse. He who sat on it had a bow; and a crown was given to him, and he went out conquering and to conquer” (Revelation 6:1). Thus begins Revelation 6, in which six of the seven seals are described. The first four seals are the famous four horsemen of the apocalypse. What do these seals mean? Christ is the Revelator, so we look to Him for the interpretation. One basic key to understanding the Bible is the principle “the Bible interprets the Bible” and we will find in Matthew 24 Jesus Christ’s own explanation of the signs of the end of the age, and the seals’ significance.
Some commentaries wrongly interpret the first seal to mean that Christianity will evangelize the world and conquer it spiritually. But when we examine Christ’s words in Matthew, we come to a very different conclusion. Jesus warns his followers: “Take heed that no one deceives you. For many will come in My name, saying ‘I am the Christ,’ and will deceive many” (Matthew 24:4). Compare this to Revelation 6 and we can see that the first horse and its rider represent false Christs and false religion.
Notice the difference between this first horse and its rider, and the description of the true Christ at His return. The first horseman of Revelation 6 carries a bow, and wears one crown. By contrast, Revelation 19:15 describes Jesus Christ returning to this earth with a sharp sword, and Revelation 19:12 pictures Him as wearing many crowns. Clearly, the man on the white horse in Revelation 6 is not the true Christ. We must heed Jesus Christ’s warning to beware of false Christs, false messiahs, and counterfeit religion.
Jesus’ words in Matthew go on to describe the second horseman: “And you will hear of wars and rumors of wars. See that you are not troubled; for all these things must come to pass, but the end is not yet. For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. And there will be famines, pestilences, and earthquakes in various places” (Matthew 24:7).
The second horseman of Revelation 6 rides a red horse. We read: “Another horse, fiery red, went out. And it was granted to the one who sat on it to take peace from the earth, and that people should kill one another; and there was given to him a great sword” (Revelation 6:4). The parallel with Christ’s words in Matthew is clear.
The third seal of Revelation 6 depicts a rider on a black horse revealing famine in the world. The fourth seal presents a rider who is given the name “death.” He rides a pale horse indicating the pestilence following on the heels of famine. Yes, these are the same famines and pestilences of which Jesus Christ spoke in Matthew 24:7!
The effects of these four horsemen are devastating: “And power was given to them over a fourth of the earth, to kill with sword, with hunger, with death, and by the beasts of the earth” (Revelation 6:8). One-fourth of the earth’s population will die! These are realities few people are willing to face! But your Savior wants you to know what lies ahead—He wants you to be able to prepare, for your own good and indeed for your salvation!
The fifth seal, in Revelation 6:9, depicts the martyrdom of the saints and the persecution of Christians. This is a historical fact—in the first century after Christ, the Roman empire under Nero persecuted thousands of Christians and put them to death—but it also refers to a future revival of the Roman Empire that will again persecute true Christians!
After the Great Tribulation, the sixth seal will be opened—a series of heavenly signs. The Apostle John wrote: “I looked when He opened the sixth seal, and behold, there was a great earthquake; and the sun became black as sackcloth of hair, and the moon became like blood. And the stars of heaven fell to the earth, as a fig tree drops its late figs when it is shaken by a mighty wind. Then the sky receded as a scroll when it is rolled up, and every mountain and island was moved out of its place” (Revelation 6:12).
Do you appreciate the magnitude of this seal? The earth will convulse with a great earthquake. People will be terrified of meteorites and asteroids streaking through the sky. God will physically shake the earth to get our attention!
In the face of this great show of God’s power, even dictators and despots will be humbled. We read: “And the kings of the earth, the great men, the rich men, the commanders, the mighty men, every slave and every free man, hid themselves in the caves and in the rocks of the mountains, and said to the mountains and rocks, ‘Fall on us and hide us from the face of Him who sits on the throne and from the wrath of the Lamb! For the great day of His wrath has come, and who is able to stand?’“ (Revelation 6:15-17)
These terrifying signs introduce the dramatic Day of the Lord. And what is that day called? “The great day of His wrath.” The Lamb, Jesus Christ, will be wrathful! Some professing Christians may find it hard to accept that Jesus will be angry, but we see it clearly here—He has the power and the right to judge rebellious nations. These nations and alliances will quickly learn that their military and political strengths are weak and worthless against the divine power of God! This power will be demonstrated not only during the sixth seal, but during the final, seventh seal—the great day of God’s wrath, the Day of the Lord.
We must understand the major prophetic events that give us a framework for understanding the events of the book of Revelation, and the events leading up to the return of Jesus Christ. Our framework begins with the Great Tribulation prophesied by Jesus Himself: “For then there will be great tribulation, such as has not been since the beginning of the world until this time, no, nor ever shall be. And unless those days were shortened, no flesh would be saved; but for the elect’s sake those days will be shortened” (Matthew 24:21-22).
To this day, the world has not eliminated the danger of nuclear war and even nuclear terrorism, and it will not be able to eradicate this threat. At the same time, humanity is facing ever-increasing danger from biological and chemical weapons of mass destruction!
This is a fact not just known by top military and political strategists; the January, 1999 edition of Reader’s Digest featured an article entitled, “Are We Ready for Bioterror?” The article explained that the United States is unprepared for such attacks, and quoted United States Secretary of Defense William Cohen openly acknowledging that a biological attack on the U.S. “is not a remote possibility but a real probability in the present. Imagine the horror.”
This Great Tribulation is a time unlike any other in human history. The prophet Jeremiah described its uniqueness and severity: “Alas! For that day is great, so that none is like it; and it is the time of Jacob’s trouble, but he shall be saved out of it” (Jeremiah 30:7). This will be the time of God’s punishment on the United States, Canada, Great Britain, Australia, New Zealand and the British-descended peoples. The Great Tribulation is the time of Jacob’s trouble!
We need to be prepared for that time and alert to its coming. As Jesus said: “Watch therefore, and pray always that you may be counted worthy to escape all these things that will come to pass, and to stand before the Son of Man” (Luke 21:36). As we wait, we need to remain close to God and to His Son Jesus Christ! How can we do this? As Jesus tells us in this verse, we must “pray always.”
If you are not already in the habit of daily prayer, you will find that reading the Bible can help you to pray. What should you pray to God about? Jesus gave the answer in Luke 11, where he gave the disciples the “model prayer” as an outline of the areas in which we should communicate with God.
The Psalms, too, can be an aid to your prayer. Many of the Psalms are themselves prayers, and as you read them you will find that they touch on your own heartfelt thoughts toward God, as well as your shortcomings, anxieties and other aspects of your intimate, personal relationship with your Creator! If you follow Jesus’ admonition, and pray always, you will develop a relationship with Him that will sustain you even as the seven seals of Revelation unfold, and the Day of the Lord approaches.
That seventh seal, the Day of the Lord, contains seven “trumpet judgments” or plagues. “When He opened the seventh seal, there was silence in heaven for about half an hour. And I saw the seven angels who stand before God, and to them were given seven trumpets” (Revelation 8:1). These trumpets are trumpets of warning, announcing impending plagues or judgments.
Reading through Revelation 8, we see that as the first four angels sound their trumpets, terrible ecological devastation ravages the earth, and frightening signs are found in the heavens. Vegetation is burned, sea turns to blood and ocean life dies, bitter waters cause many to die, and the sun and moon are obscured.
After these first four plagues, we reach the final three, called “woes”—exclamations of grief. We read: “And I looked, and I heard an angel flying through the midst of heaven, saying with a loud voice, ‘Woe, woe, woe to the inhabitants of the earth, because of the remaining blasts of the trumpet of the three angels who are about to sound!’“ (Revelation 8:13).
Revelation 9 describes the first woe, or the fifth trumpet plague. The fifth angel sounds a trumpet that triggers a five-month-long military action. The Apostle John, though living in a time before modern military hardware, used the language and symbolism of his day to evoke an eerily accurate picture of a modern military battle.
The second woe, or the sixth trumpet plague, is depicted with symbols of horses and horsemen. It illustrates the horrendous results of a massive counterattack after the first woe: “So the four angels, who had been prepared for the hour and day and month and year, were released to kill a third of mankind. Now the number of the army of the horsemen was two hundred million; I heard the number of them. And thus I saw the horses in the vision: those who sat on them had breastplates of fiery red, hyacinth blue, and sulfur yellow; and the heads of the horses were like the heads of lions; and out of their mouths came fire, smoke, and brimstone. By these three plagues a third of mankind was killed; by the fire and the smoke and the brimstone which came out of their mouths” (Revelation 9:15-18).
Yes, the book of Revelation plainly shows that this phase of the final world war will kill billions of human beings—a full one-third of all the people on the earth!
Finally, after six trumpets announcing terrible devastation, the seventh trumpet sounds, announcing good news to God’s people, his faithful servants: “Then the seventh angel sounded: and there were loud voices in heaven, saying, ‘The kingdoms of this world have become the kingdoms of our Lord and of His Christ, and He shall reign forever and ever!’“ (Revelation 11:15).
With this final trumpet, the year-long Day of the Lord ends in the wonderful announcement that Jesus Christ is coming to take over all the kingdoms and governments of this world. That is the good news that all Christians look forward to hearing.
But how will the nations of the earth respond? Will the majority of humanity receive Christ with open arms? No! Incredibly, these foolish nations will fight against Christ at His coming: “The nations were angry, and Your wrath has come, and the time of the dead, that they should be judged, and that You should reward Your servants the prophets and the saints, and those who fear Your name, small and great, and should destroy those who destroy the earth” (Revelation 11:18).
The nations will be angry that Christ is returning—and they will even fight against Him when He descends from heaven with His army! But the earth’s nations will be defeated completely, so much so that their blood will rise like a river (cf. Revelation 14:19-20).
By contrast, those who are the faithful servants of Christ will receive their reward and inheritance. What is that reward? We read that “they lived and reigned with Christ for a thousand years” (Revelation 20:4).
Yes, those who have served Jesus Christ faithfully in this age will serve Him in His thousand-year reign on earth, which we call the Millennium or “Tomorrow’s World.” His reign will mean peace on earth. It will mean righteousness and justice, healing and reconciliation.
If God is calling you, you can look forward to Christ’s return and the resurrection of His followers. As the Apostle John wrote: “Blessed and holy is he who has part in the first resurrection. Over such the second death has no power, but they shall be priests of God and of Christ, and shall reign with Him a thousand years” (Revelation 20:6).
The book of Revelation, though misunderstood by many, unlocks these amazing truths for those to whom God has granted understanding. Reading this important book shows us that many events must first occur before Jesus Christ returns, and makes it clear that the real “Millennium” will not start in the year 2000 or even 2001. The Millennium that Jesus Christ’s followers await is much more meaningful—it will be a passage into an era of God’s perfect rule on this earth, as explained by this mysterious and wonderful book!