For millennia, people have found its symbols and figures mysterious—and misunderstood. But the book of Revelation explains your future, and what you can do today to prepare for your part in eternity!
The book of Revelation contains mysterious symbols that only a few have understood. Can you unlock the secrets of Revelation? Can you know the future of our world—and your part in it?
The book of Revelation, sometimes called the Apocalypse, is one of the most important books in the world! Why? Because it reveals the future of humanity, and the future of planet earth! But it contains symbols and secrets that challenge us. What does this final book of the Bible mean—and how will it affect you and your future?
The Apostle John had been exiled to the island of Patmos, off the southwest coast of Turkey, which the Romans were using as a penal colony. John had already written three of the epistles that would become part of the New Testament when God inspired him, around 95ad, to write the book of Revelation.
God told John to write down what he saw, and pronounced a blessing on those who would study what John wrote: "Blessed is he who reads and those who hear the words of this prophecy, and keep those things which are written in it; for the time is near" (Revelation 1:3). Yes, Almighty God promises that He will bless you, if you follow His admonition to read and hear the words of Revelation; if you "keep"—take to heart—what is written in this vital book.
John sent the record of his vision to seven churches on a common mail route in Asia Minor. Those churches still have meaning for us today. They were Ephesus, Smyrna, Pergamos, Thyatira, Sardis, Philadelphia and Laodicea (see Revelation 1:11). Today, you can visit archaeological sites in these cities in western Turkey. The spiritual condition of these seven churches has been reflected in God's Church over the past two millennia.
The Revelator, Jesus Christ, tells us to learn lessons from each church. Seven times—once for each church—He tells us: "He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches." Do any of the descriptions of these churches describe your spiritual condition?
Jesus describes the church at Ephesus this way: "Nevertheless I have this against you, that you have left your first love" (Revelation 2:4). The heading in your New King James Version Bible labels Ephesus "The Loveless Church." Jesus warns the Ephesians: "Remember therefore from where you have fallen; repent and do the first works" (v. 5). Have you lost your "first love" as a Christian?
Smyrna is labeled "The Persecuted Church." Jesus states in Revelation 2:9, "I know your works, tribulation, and poverty (but you are rich)… Be faithful until death, and I will give you the crown of life" (vv. 9–10). Have you faithfully withstood suffering and persecution?
Pergamos, the third stop on the route, is labeled, "The Compromising Church." Pergamos tolerated doctrines leading to sexual immorality. Jesus warned: "Repent, or else I will come to you quickly and will fight against them with the sword of My mouth" (v. 16). Have you compromised with false doctrines?
Thyatira is labeled "The Corrupt Church." Jesus proclaimed: "I know your works, love, service, faith, and your patience; and as for your works, the last are more than the first. Nevertheless I have a few things against you, because you allow that woman Jezebel, who calls herself a prophetess, to teach and seduce My servants to commit sexual immorality and eat things sacrificed to idols.… Indeed I will cast her into a sickbed, and those who commit adultery with her into great tribulation, unless they repent of their deeds" (vv. 19–22). Have you fallen victim to corruption?
Sardis, the fifth church, is labeled "The Dead Church." Jesus warns: "I know your works, that you have a name that you are alive, but you are dead. Be watchful, and strengthen the things which remain, that are ready to die, for I have not found your works perfect before God. Remember therefore how you have received and heard; hold fast and repent" (Revelation 3:1–3). Do you have living faith?
Philadelphia is labeled "The Faithful Church." Christ promises the Philadelphians, "Because you have kept My command to persevere, I also will keep you from the hour of trial which shall come upon the whole world, to test those who dwell on the earth. Behold, I am coming quickly! Hold fast what you have, that no one may take your crown" (Revelation 3:10–11). Are you holding fast to the truth of God?
Laodicea, the final church on the mail route, is labeled "The Lukewarm Church." Jesus warns the Laodiceans: "I know your works, that you are neither cold nor hot. I could wish you were cold or hot. So then, because you are lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will vomit you out of My mouth" (Revelation 3:15–16). Has your faith become lukewarm?
Jesus wants us to listen to all seven of these messages. They reveal the changes we need to make in our lives. Seven times, He tells us: "He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches"—all seven of the churches.
Christ's seven messages also reveal the spiritual characteristics and attitudes of the Christian Church, from the time of Christ to the end of this age. We may live in a Laodicean era today, but individually we can have a Philadelphian approach to our Christianity—loving our brethren, and giving of ourselves to help God's warning message reach a world that will soon find itself in a time of unprecedented crisis before Christ's return.
In Revelation 4, John records his vision of heaven. He sees the very throne room of God Almighty, with a rainbow around the Father's seat of authority. How awesome and inspiring it is that our Father would describe to us His heavenly throne. Do you think of it when you pray? Christians can pray directly to God in heaven, through their Savior and High Priest, Jesus Christ. "Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need" (Hebrews 4:16). Thank God that you can come to Him in prayer. As you read Revelation 4, be sure to meditate on the majesty and the glory of God's throne.
Revelation 5 records John's vision of a scroll sealed with seven seals. In the first century ad, scribes wrote manuscripts on long strips of papyrus or parchment, which were kept rolled up. John writes: "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. Then I saw a strong angel proclaiming with a loud voice, 'Who is worthy to open the scroll and to loose its seals?'" (Revelation 5:1–2).
John then weeps, because there is no one worthy to open the scroll—until the Lamb of God, Jesus Christ, begins to open the seals. God reveals our awesome future when He tells us: "You [the Lamb, Jesus Christ] are worthy to take the scroll, and to open its seals; for You were slain, and have redeemed us to God by Your blood out of every tribe and tongue and people and nation, and have made us kings and priests to our God; and we shall reign on the earth" (vv. 9–10).
Jesus, the Lamb of God, shed His blood for the sins of every human being. Those who have truly repented of their sins, and who have demonstrated their faith through the baptism God's word commands, have been forgiven of their sins. They have been redeemed! Perhaps you have come to the place in your life where you realize the need for forgiveness. You realize the need to turn your life around and make a dramatic change. If you are really serious about making such a change, we invite you to counsel with a true minister of Jesus Christ. Just write to us at one of our Regional Offices, listed on page 30 of this magazine, or contact us online at www.tomorrowsworld.org.
Those who do repent and turn their lives around, obeying their Savior, can look forward to an awesome future. They will inherit the earth as immortalized, glorified children of God, and during the Millennium they will rule with Christ (Revelation 20:4–6)! God reveals our awesome and glorious future. Faithful Christians will inherit the earth and all things, including the universe (Revelation 21:7). If God is calling you now, you certainly do not want to miss out on that!
Revelation 6 features the first four seals of Revelation. These are the famous four horsemen of the Apocalypse (see box, "The Four Horsemen Ride!"). The four horses and their riders symbolize great devastation over the earth. But what is their meaning? Jesus, the Revelator, gave an outline of prophetic events in the Olivet prophecy found in Matthew 24, Mark 13 and Luke 21. These prophetic events explain the four horsemen in the book of Revelation. The famous four horsemen of the Apocalypse symbolize false Christs and false religion, war and its terrible effects, famines that normally follow on the heels of war, and the pestilences and disease that follow after famine.
Shocking times are ahead for the whole world. We need to be prepared. These four horsemen will cause devastation all over the earth. Yes, there have always been wars, famines, and disease. But the four horsemen will intensify their ride in the years ahead, and we will see record deaths and casualties. Not only will major wars cause devastation, but the evils of terrorism will increase against the Western nations unless they repent of their immorality and lawlessness. The time will come when the tragic events of September 11, 2001 seem minor compared to the awful terrors that will be visited on the American and other British-descended nations.
Then comes the fifth seal. "When He opened the fifth seal, I saw under the altar the souls of those who had been slain for the word of God and for the testimony which they held" (Revelation 6:9). Here is described the martyrdom of the saints—true Christians. In the first century, the Roman emperor Nero severely persecuted Christians and put them to death. The fifth seal also indicates a major end-time persecution of the saints (see Matthew 24:9).
Then Jesus opens the sixth seal, revealing the heavenly signs that will shock people all over the earth. What are those signs? "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 6:12–14). Yes, Bible prophecy tells of a time when frightening asteroids and meteors will streak through the heavens. Massive earthquakes will also shake the ground beneath us. We have experienced strong earthquakes and tsunamis in recent years, but the ones to come will be far more severe, displacing every mountain and island.
Those heavenly signs introduce the seventh seal, known as the Day of the Lord—the time of God's wrath and judgment on an unthankful and rebellious world, when Jesus Christ, the Lamb, will execute God's righteous judgments. The Day of the Lord is also called "the great day of His wrath!" (v. 17).
When the seventh seal is opened, we find that it comprises seven judgments. "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 8:1–2). With their trumpets, the angels announce plagues that will ravage the earth.
These plagues will cause immense suffering to those who live through this time of tribulation, except for a tiny handful God will protect in a place of safety. But there is good news! Just beyond the Day of the Lord is the glorious Kingdom of God which Jesus Christ will establish on this earth! Yes, Jesus Christ will return with great power and love to usher in a thousand years of His millennial rule over planet earth.
As we have seen, God promises a blessing to those who study His word and strive to live by it. You do not want to miss out on God's blessing. Read the book of Revelation, knowing that God will bless you as you strive to understand and practice His way of life. Our world today is in danger and confusion. Bible prophecy warns of more and greater earthquakes, droughts, floods, hurricanes, volcanic eruptions, and other natural disasters. Even scientists and geopoliticians are now predicting a tremendous increase in environmental disasters and military conflicts as the 21st century unfolds.
There are terrible times ahead. But the book of Revelation also reveals God's merciful intervention during the Day of the Lord, and the return of the Prince of Peace, Jesus Christ, at His Second Coming. We look forward to the seventh trumpet bringing us good news: "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).
Genuine Christians will rejoice at that announcement, but the deceived nations and military powers will not rejoice—they will be angry. Notice: "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. 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" (vv. 17–18).
The King of kings, Jesus Christ, will win the war against the immense combined military might of rebellious humanity. Then Christ will judge the evil world powers which are symbolized by the beasts of Revelation 13 and 17. Who is the leopard-like seven-headed, ten-horned beast of Revelation 13, having feet like a bear and a mouth like a lion? Who is the beast with two horns, appearing like a lamb but speaking like a dragon? Who is the woman riding the beast of Revelation 17? Write for your free copy of our booklet, Revelation: The Mystery Unveiled!—it will explain their meaning and identity, and what this means for your future and the future of the world.
After "the battle of that great day of God Almighty" (see Revelation 16:14), the Prince of Peace will rule all nations. For the first time in human history, mankind will begin to enjoy genuine world peace. "And the Lord shall be King over all the earth" (Zechariah 14:9). The saints will rule on earth with Christ for a thousand years (Revelation 20:4–6), and then on into eternity.
The book of Revelation reveals that we can look forward to the coming Kingdom of God. As we watch and wait, we should pray daily: "Your kingdom come!" Soon after the thousand years of Christ's Millennial rule on earth are completed, the New Jerusalem will come to a renewed heaven and earth (Isaiah 65:17; Revelation 21). God will once and for all have put away Satan the devil, and the universe will enjoy glorious peace for all eternity. Dangerous times are ahead, but the book of Revelation shows us the hope that awaits—the time when God's faithful people will inherit the earth, and ultimately the whole universe. Thank God for the glory He will bestow on us and His creation!