by Herbert W. Armstrong (1892-1986)
The Prophecies of the Book of REVELATION are at last revealed! The closed, sealed prophecies are opened. Here is a startling, eye-opening booklet vividly picturing the catastrophic events soon to bring the END OF THIS AGE!
GOD's TIME has come! At last, the most mysterious, intriguing, never-before-understood Book of Revelation stands UNVEILED!
In this heretofore closed, sealed Book, the Eternal God now reveals, not only the wonderful world of PEACE—of PLENTY—of HAPPINESS and JOY soon to shine forth on this very present generation, but also the terrifying world-catastrophes this present world is first bringing on itself!
Science, technology and industry are producing more and more frightful weapons of mass destruction. Already they have produced the means to erase human life from the earth!
Meanwhile, immorality, crime, violence, poverty, sickness and disease, famine and starvation stalk the earth, in fast-increasing acceleration.
However, there exists a living God of love, mercy, compassion, wisdom, justice, of transcendent PURPOSE and of SUPREME POWER, very soon now to intervene, and BY FORCE to save humanity from itself. If He did not exist—then indeed the imminent end of the world would become also THE END OF HUMAN LIFE!
But the living GOD, happily, is VERY MUCH ALIVE!—alive to world trends—alive to the self-inflicted plight fast closing in on a humanity now caught hopelessly in the trap of its own rebellion—utterly helpless to extricate itself from its fast-approaching fate!
What's Coming First?
But this happy WORLD TOMORROW, under the government of Almighty GOD, will not come until man has actually reached the end of his rope! Not until man has proved beyond his last shadow of doubt that he is utterly incapable of ruling himself—not until he has been given his last chance!
The time has come when this world must be warned!
The present strife between major nuclear powers—the constantly accelerating international tensions—the internal upward spiral within nations of crime, race riots, violence of every sort—combining to plunge the world into a holocaust of destruction and death such as never happened before—and never shall again!
The God of Creation knows human nature and its inevitable END. Every gigantic step in world events from here is pictured in God's prophecies!
God's time has come to OPEN WIDE to human understanding the awesome prophecies of the BOOK OF REVELATION. Today this solemn warning is being thundered around the world, as a witness! Take warning yourself, while you may, and mark well this fact:
No PLAGUE NEED COME NEAR YOU! You may, if you heed and obey God, be accounted worthy to escape these things that shall certainly come to pass!
These Not Normal Times
It's time to wake up! These are not normal times! After nearly 6,000 years of comparative quiet, the whole world suddenly erupted in world-shaking VIOLENCE beginning in 1914. But we have seen NOTHING, yet, compared to what is soon coming!
Suddenly knowledge has increased. Scientific knowledge, technological development. Instantaneous communication, rapid transportation, frightening inventions have resulted. Man has learned at last the secret of the atom. Man has learned how to unleash powers and forces and energies of nature that can destroy human life from off this planet!
At this same time, God Almighty is opening up new knowledge. Mysteries of God, never before known or understood by man, are now revealed to God's true servants!
What Does All This Mean?
It all means that a purpose is being worked out here below! And the time has come for the Eternal—the Creator-RULER of the universe reveal to us HOW world events, from here, are going to work out the tremendous CLIMAX of that divine PURPOSE! The whole earth is now shaking with convulsions, preparatory to the mightiest happenings of earth's history!
We are now in the very CRISIS AT THE CLOSE of this present evil and unhappy world!
A Third of Bible Is PROPHECY
Approximately ONE THIRD of all the Bible is devoted to PROPHECY. Many whole Books of Scripture, especially in the Old Testament—Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, and all the so-called "minor" prophets—are devoted primarily to PROPHECY.
But the actual FRAMEWORK, or superstructure, of all the prophecies is found in two prophetic Books—one in the Old, the other in the NEW Testament—the Books of Daniel and the Revelation. And in the Book of Revelation, alone, do we find events of the various other prophecies correlated in order of TIME SEQUENCE.
While the Book of Revelation, itself, is a vital KEY to a large portion of the other prophecies, there are certain KEYS which open up this Book to understanding.
ONE important key is that in the Book of Revelation is a STORY-FLOW, relating one future event to another in time order—with occasional INSETS injected into the continuous story-thread.
Let us TURN to this Book that has appeared to many as the most mysterious and unfathomable of ALL prophecies. NOTHING could be more intriguing. NOTHING, in today's upset and jittery world, could be MORE IMPORTANT at this hour! For it describes this very HOUR in which we live—it draws back the curtain on the FUTURE!
A SEALED Prophecy
The Revelation was given as a mystic and CLOSED book, sealed with seven seals. Some of the prophecies revealed to and written by Daniel also were closed and sealed until this very time of WORLD-CRISIS at the close of this present age.
Daniel wrote, at the conclusion of his Book: "I heard, but I understood not"—that is, he heard what the angel had revealed, which Daniel wrote in his Book—but he himself did not understand the very prophecies he had been inspired to write. The angel said to Daniel: "The words are CLOSED UP, and SEALED till the time of the end"—and the Moffatt translation renders it "till the crisis at the CLOSE"—that is, till this world-crisis at the close of this age! (Daniel 12:8-9.) Again, verse 4: "But thou, O Daniel, shut up the words, and seal the book, even to the time of the end: many shall run to and fro, and knowledge shall be increased."
As the prophecies of Daniel were CLOSED and SEALED until this time of the END—this world-crisis at the close—this time of rapid transportation, men running to and fro—this time of INCREASED KNOWLEDGE—so also the prophecies of the Book of Revelation were SEALED!
Yes, they were sealed with seven seals, as we shall see!
But today we live in the dynamic, exciting, terrible "time of the END"—the world-crisis at the CLOSE of the age! The prophecies and mysteries of God, sealed until now, are today REVEALED to those whom God has chosen to carry His last Message to the world as a witness! Jesus Christ, Head of His Church, is the REVEALER! Christ has opened these mysteries to His servants!
The time has come for God's servants to open up to YOU—to lay bare before your startled eyes—these tremendous prophecies of the Book of REVELATION!
I want you, now, to look at this Book! We're ready, now, to come directly to the first chapter and first verse of this mysterious, exciting Book. We're ready, now, to see what it does say—and you have SURPRISES coming!
The REVEALING of CHRIST
The very opening verse says:
"The revelation of Jesus Christ . . . to show unto his servants things which must shortly come to pass."
The very word "Revelation"—the English word translated from the original Greek word "Apocalypse," as it is called in one version—means the REVEALING. Not the hiding, sealing, or closing up, but the REVEALING! Yet the prophecy of future world events in this Book was sealed with seven seals!
Of course! And absolutely NO ONE, except Jesus Christ, was able to strip off the seals, to open up, to REVEAL the meaning of the prophecies.
Now notice, GOD gave this prophecy to CHRIST. The first three verses form the introduction. Let us read them: "The Revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave unto him, to shew unto his servants things which must shortly come to pass; and he sent and signified it by his angel unto his servant John: who bare record of the word of God, and of the testimony of Jesus Christ, and of all things that he saw. Blessed is he that readeth, and they that hear the words of this prophecy, and keep those things which are written therein: for the time is at hand" (Revelation 1:1-3).
So notice, the prophecy first CAME from God the FATHER! It is the REVELATION—not the concealing, but the REVEALING—the EXPLAINING—the OPENING UP—of JESUS CHRIST, but God gave it to Him sealed!
Christ is the WORD—the SPOKESMAN. And He tells us plainly, in John 12:49 and elsewhere, that He spoke NOTHING of Himself, but only as the FATHER commanded Him! Christ is the WORD. Christ is the REVEALER. Now we come to another popular error of men.
John NOT the Revelator
We hear the expression so commonly—and erroneously—"John the Revelator." But John is not the Revelator. This is not the Revelation of John, it is the Revelation of JESUS CHRIST. It is CHRIST, not John, who does the explaining, the revealing. That is another vital KEY to understanding. So it originated with Almighty God the FATHER. God gave it to CHRIST. Christ sent and signified it by His angel unto His servant John—so John is merely a SERVANT, who BARE RECORD—that is, who RECORDED the Revelation in WRITING. He was merely the private secretary—the stenographer, so to speak—not the Revelator.
And now notice, John bare record—or recorded in writing—THREE THINGS: 1st, the Word of God; 2nd, the Testimony of Jesus Christ; and 3rd, all the things that he, John, SAW!
And so the Book of Revelation, like all Scripture, is the plain Word of GOD. But part of it is the direct saying, or quotation, of Jesus Christ—the very words of Christ Himself. If you have a "red-letter" Bible or New Testament, printing all the words in red which Christ spoke directly Himself, you'll find a good many passages in the Book of Revelation are printed in RED. And then, John recorded the things that he SAW, in VISION, or, as it is worded, in SPIRIT. Most of the actual PROPHECY of the Book is contained in the things that John SAW, in VISION—and most of these things are SYMBOLS.
And then, the third verse states: "Blessed is he that readeth, and they that hear the words of this prophecy, and keep those things which are written therein: for the time is at hand."
A BLESSING is pronounced on you for READING these words—provided you are submissive and obedient to KEEP those things which are written therein!
The beautiful salutation begins with verse 4, continuing through the remainder of the first chapter. The dominant keynote of the Book—its subject, its theme—is struck in the 10th, or MIDDLE verse of this chapter.
The THEME of the Book
And so here is the very KEYNOTE verse, sounding the THEME of the whole Revelation! And it is here that most people begin to stumble, and to misunderstand!
The theme is THE DAY OF THE LORD. Let us read it: "I was in the Spirit on the Lord's day, and heard behind me a great voice, as of a trumpet" (verse 10).
As this is not understood, endless controversy and strife and confusion have come from arguing as to whether the day of the WEEK on which John WROTE this message was Saturday or Sunday. John was NOT referring to any day of the week.
The day of the week on which this happened to be written—IF it could have been all written within one day—is not important, and that is not what this verse means at all. It does NOT refer to any day of the week—but to that prophetic period referred to in more than 30 prophecies as "The great and terrible DAY OF THE LORD."
As Greek scholar Adolf Deissmann wrote, the grammar and connection both favor the view "according to which 'the day of the Lord' here stands for the day of Yahwe: the day of Judgment" (Encyclopedia Biblica, article "Lord's Day"). New Testament and textual scholar F.J.A. Hort agrees that this meaning fits "best with the context" and "gives the key to the book" (The Apocalypse, pp. 15-16).
In spirit—in VISION—John was carried forward some 1900 years—projected into the DAY OF THE LORD—during the time which is now just AHEAD OF US, to occur in this present generation!
The "Day of the Lord" is described by the Prophet Joel as a time when God will send DESTRUCTION upon the unrighteous and sinning nations of the world. It is described by Zephaniah as the day of GOD's WRATH. It is described all through the Revelation as the time when God Almighty will soon, now, step in and supernaturally INTERVENE in this hellish strife and friction and destruction among men, and send PLAGUES upon the sinners of the earth! It is the time which FOLLOWS the Great Tribulation, and leads up to and CLIMAXES in the glorious SECOND COMING OF CHRIST!
The house of John is John's house. The Day of the Lord is the Lord's DAY. Listen to the translations of two Greek scholars and translators:
In the Rotherham translation: "I came to be, in Spirit, IN the Lord's Day." The Concordant version: "I came to be, in Spirit, IN the Lord's Day."
A Revelation for OUR Day
In Spirit, or in VISION, when John was shown the things of the prophecy—the thing which he SAW—he was projected into the period of OUR present, and the immediate future. The same thing happened to the Prophet Ezekiel, as chapter 8, verse 3 states: "And he put forth the form of an hand, and took me by a lock of mine head; and the spirit lifted me up between the earth and the heaven, and brought me in the visions of God to Jerusalem."
Ezekiel was not actually taken to Jerusalem, but the SPIRIT lifted him up and carried him IN VISION to Jerusalem. In like manner, John IN SPIRIT, was carried to see IN VISION the events of the DAY OF THE LORD—the events ALREADY, now, beginning to take place on earth—the events YOU AND I SHALL LIVE TO ACTUALLY SEE.
This vision is VITAL! The theme, or subject, of the prophecy is NOT the middle Ages—it is the teeming, chaotic PRESENT—this very time you and I are just now starting to LIVE THROUGH! GOD HELP US, then, to UNDERSTAND!
So the very purpose of this Book is to show US of this generation NOW LIVING, the coming world-shaking events of the DAY OF THE LORD—the time of God's JUDGMENTS at this age-END leading up to, and climaxing in, THE SECOND COMING OF CHRIST, and the happy, peaceful WORLD TOMORROW!
I have taken time to explain this introduction and salutation—because it is the KEYNOTE of the whole prophecy—the THEME—the SUBJECT of the prophecy. It is IMPORTANT to get our bearings—to get off to a right START—to get the FUNDAMENTALS straight.
Message to the Churches
The first real message of the Book is contained in the second and third chapters—the messages to the Seven Churches. These messages come DIRECTLY FROM CHRIST—they contain the direct TESTIMONY OF JESUS CHRIST. If you have a red-letter Bible, you will find these letters in red. Here Jesus takes the actual spiritual condition and FUNCTIONING of these seven Churches, then existing in Asia Minor, as a PROPHECY of the spiritual condition and the works and accomplishments, in carrying out Christ's Great Commission, of the true CHURCH OF GOD during the SEVEN successive periods of time up until the END of this age and the second coming of Christ.
Men have never understood these seven messages! They have never known what to look for! These are not messages to the great, visible, PROFESSING churches in all their sectarian divisions and political organizations. These are messages from Christ, the living HEAD of His Church, to HIS OWN TRUE CHURCH in its seven successive eras of time from about 100 AD, until a period even YET future. Since these messages are not addressed to the public since they do not concern the PROFESSING organized churches—since they do not contain actual prophecies of present or future WORLD CONDITIONS, with one exception, we pass on over these two chapters, in this booklet.
And now we pass quickly on to the 4th and 5th chapters, where we find the PRELUDE—or the STAGE-SETTING for the MAIN PROPHECIES of the Book.
The Stage Is Set
John actually was on the Isle of Patmos, in the Mediterranean Sea. But in his VISION, he appeared to be taken up to heaven, to the very throne of God.
In the vision he saw God the Father sitting on His throne. Before the throne were to four living creatures, and the 24 elders. And in the midst of them, STANDING in front of the throne on which the Father was SITTING, was Jesus Christ. The Book of the Prophecy was in the right hand of the Father.
Notice the actual description of it: "After this I looked, and, behold, a door was opened in heaven: and the first voice which I heard was as it were of a trumpet talking with me; which said, Come up hither, and I will shew thee things which must be hereafter. And immediately I was in the spirit: and, behold, a throne was set in heaven, and one sat on the throne" (Revelation 4:1-2).
The remainder of this fourth chapter describes this heavenly setting which John saw in his vision. Around the throne were the 24 elders, seated on 24 smaller thrones, clad in WHITE garments, with golden crowns on their heads. On each side of the throne were the four living creatures—all worshipping God Almighty seated on His throne.
Here is a revelation at the very Throne of the Ruler of the Universe. Here is a glimpse of the seat of GOVERNMENT of all the Universe!
Now we come to the vital fifth chapter of the Book of Revelation. Notice: "And I saw in the right hand of him that sat on the throne a book written within and on the backside, sealed with seven seals" (Revelation 5:1).
A Mysterious Book
Here is the real BOOK of the PROPHECY. It is significant that this book was in God's RIGHT hand. But this was not the same kind of book we use today, made up of many pages bound together. This was a scroll, or a ROLL—one very LONG sheet of parchment, written on BOTH sides, rolled into a scroll, and SEALED with seven SEALS. That number is significant! Seven is God's number denoting COMPLETENESS. This Book of Prophecy, then, was sealed COMPLETELY—completely CLOSED UP, so it could not be seen or read, much less UNDERSTOOD.
The Book came originally from God the FATHER. As it came from God it was SEALED UP. And notice carefully, the seven seals cover the ENTIRE BOOK of prophecy.
Its meaning was sealed—completely HIDDEN. Now notice carefully! "And I saw a strong angel proclaiming with a loud voice, Who is worthy to open the book, and to loose the seals thereof? And no man in heaven, nor in earth, neither under the earth, was able to open the book, neither to look thereon" (verses 2-4).
I want you to NOTICE that!
This PROPHECY is SEALED! No MAN is worthy or able to OPEN UP this prophecy—to read its real and true MEANING!
Why haven't men read that plain and simple statement? No MAN can open up—no MAN can REVEAL the meaning of this great prophecy. IT'S SEALED—utterly, completely SEALED—totally closed! Why, then, have MEN been trying to tell the public they could read and reveal this amazing, this ASTOUNDING Prophesy?
John is not the Revelator. THIS is not the Revelation of JOHN, or of any modern man or church leader or religious sect or denomination! IT HAS BEEN SEALED from them all!
But NOTICE—HERE comes the KEY to unlock the doors of understanding! "And one of the elders saith unto me, Weep not: behold, the Lion of the tribe of Juda, the Root of David, hath prevailed to open the book, and to loose the seven seals thereof" (verse 5).
Who Will Open the Book?
THERE'S the key to this riddle! The Lion of the Tribe of Judah—the ROOT of David—is JESUS CHRIST! No MAN can interpret this momentous prophecy—but Jesus Christ—God the SON—here standing BEFORE the throne of God the Father—here standing at the very RIGHT HAND of God—is able to open these seals, and to REVEAL to us the meaning.
This is not the interpretation of Herbert W. Armstrong. This is what JESUS CHRIST reveals!
JESUS CHRIST is the Revelator! Not John, not some modern church leader, not any man, not any religious organization, sect, or denomination. THIS is the Revelation of JESUS CHRIST , which God the Father gave to HIM! And now notice: "And he came and took the book out of the right hand of him that sat upon the throne" (verse 7).
Now we are coming to the KEY that shall unveil this mystic prophecy that has confused and baffled all the religionists and the churches of this world for the past 1850 years. Jesus Christ is the Revelator who alone can open up the MEANING of this greatest of all prophecies, pertaining to WORLD EVENTS TODAY, and the tremendous world-happenings of these immediate years JUST AHEAD!
Before we come to chapter 6, where we see what's actually written in this mystic Book, as Christ begins one by one to strip off these SEALS, notice: "And they sang a new song, saying, Worthy art thou to take the scroll and to open its seals, for thou wast slain and by thy blood didst ransom men for God from every tribe and tongue and people and nation, and hast made them a kingdom and priests to our God, and they shall reign on earth" (Revelation 5:9-10, RSV.)
Yes, the VISION appears in HEAVEN—but it portrays EVENTS to occur here ON THE EARTH. They sang a glorious SONG—saying that those whom Christ has REDEEMED are to RULE—they are to REIGN WITH HIM as kings, and to MINISTER to SAVE people as PRIESTS—where?—up in heaven?—NO! Observe this carefully—"THEY SHALL REIGN ON THE EARTH!"
Jesus Christ said, "If I go"—and He went to the right hand of God the Father—to the FATHER'S throne, in heaven—but He said if He WENT, I will COME AGAIN! And He is coming AGAIN to rule all the EARTH as the KING of kings, and the LORD of lords! The very last words of this Book of Revelation are: "He which testifieth these things saith, Surely I come quickly. Amen! Even so, calm, Lord Jesus!"
We now come to the sixth chapter of Revelation—the REVELATION PROPER.
The SEVEN SEALS
One by one, Jesus OPENS these seals. SIX of the entire seven seals are opened in this sixth chapter alone. Only ONE chapter is devoted to the first SIX of the seven seals. Doesn't that strike you as peculiar? VERY little space is devoted to each of these first SIX seals—so little that SIX of the seven are condensed into one single chapter. There remain yet SIXTEEN WHOLE CHAPTERS in the Book. And since the SEVEN seals cover the ENTIRE PROPHECY—all of its remaining 17 chapters—we are left with 16 chapters for the events of that SEVENTH SEAL ALONE!
As we come to this pivotal SIXTH chapter of the Book of Revelation, REMEMBER the stage-setting—it is recording the VISION of John; and although John himself actually was on an island in the Mediterranean Sea, here on the EARTH, he appeared, in the vision, to be taken up to the very heaven of GOD'S THRONE. The BOOK OF PROPHECY, in the form of a ROLLED SCROLL, is in the RIGHT HAND of God the Father, sitting on the throne. And Jesus Christ, here pictured as the LAMB of GOD, is STANDING before His father's throne.
Christ, the Revelator, now TAKES the Book of prophecy out of the right hand of God the Father, and one by one He strips off the SEALS which SEALED the prophecy.
The PROPHETIC portions of this writing of John are contained in the things that John SAW, in VISION. Notice, now, the first verse of chapter 6: "And I saw when the Lamb opened one of the seals, and I heard, as it were the noise of thunder, one of the four beasts saying, Come and see."
John is recording for us what he SAW, in the vision. He SAW the Lamb, Jesus Christ the Messiah, opening the first of the seven seals. And the four living creatures invited him to come and SEE what was under that first seal. "And I saw, and behold, a white horse: and he that sat on him had a bow; and a crown was given unto him: and he went forth conquering, and to conquer" (verse 2).
The Revelation Is in Symbols!
And right HERE begins the real MYSTERY. What is this WHITE HORSE? It is merely a SYMBOL. And mark well this fact!—SYMBOLS are susceptible of MANY DIFFERENT INTERPRETATIONS! For generations men have been putting their own HUMAN interpretations on these SYMBOLS. This white horse has been interpreted many different ways.
But let's read on: "And when he had opened the second seal, I heard the second beast say, Come and see. And there went out another horse that was red: and power was given to him that sat thereon to take peace from the earth, and that they should kill one another: and there was given unto him a great sword.
"And when he had opened the third seal, I heard the third beast say, Come and see. And I beheld, and, lo, a black horse; and he that sat on him had a pair of balances in his hand. And I heard a voice in the midst of the four beasts say, A measure of wheat for a penny, and three measures of barley for a penny; and see thou hurt not the oil and the wine.
"And when he had opened the fourth seal, I heard the voice of the fourth beast say, Come and see. And I looked, and, behold, a pale horse: and his name that sat on him was Death, and Hell followed with him. And power was given unto them over the fourth part of the earth, to kill with sword, and with hunger, and with death, and with the beasts of the earth" (verses 3-8).
And THERE are the well-known FOUR HORSEMEN OF THE APOCALYPSE.
That word "apocalypse" is not an English word. It is a GREEK word. The Apostle John wrote this Book of Revelation in the GREEK language. Translated into the English language that Greek word apocalypse simply means, REVELATION, or REVEALING, or OPENING UP, or UNFOLDING. Some English translations of the Bible have left the word "apocalypse" untranslated, and have used the original GREEK word for the caption of this entire book. It all means the same thing, whether we use the Greek word apocalypse, or the English word, REVELATION. So the famous FOUR HORSEMEN OF THE APOCALYPSE are merely these four prophetic SYMBOLS of the Book of Revelation.
But what are these mystic four horsemen? What do these symbols represent? Who has the right interpretation? The answer is that no man, no organization of men, whether religious or otherwise, has any power or ability to reveal this meaning. Only JESUS CHRIST was found worthy, and able, to make this meaning known. JESUS CHRIST is the Revelator! This is the Revelation of JESUS CHRIST—not of John—not of any human religious leader, not of any sect, church, or religious society or organization!
When Jesus Christ stepped forward, in John's vision, and stripped off the first four of the seven SEALS that sealed this prophetic roll, John merely sees what is written there! And the writing is in SYMBOLS. And God uses symbols to HIDE the meaning from men, until that meaning is revealed BY NONE OTHER THAN JESUS CHRIST HIMSELF!
And so mark well this situation! Here in these first eight verses of chapter 6, we find the description of Jesus Christ revealing the writing, which is in mystic SYMBOLS; but Christ, who alone is the Revelator, does not at this time and place open up the meaning! He has here merely opened up the words, in symbolic form, but not here the MEANING.
The KEY to the SEVEN SEALS
To whom shall we look for the true MEANING? Why, to the true REVELATOR, of course. And since Jesus Christ the Revelator does not reveal the meaning in this particular passage of Scripture, WE MUST LOOK ELSEWHERE, to find when and where Jesus Christ does explain the meaning of these symbols!
That is the paramount key to the Book of Revelation! That ought to make plain to you WHY the men of this world—religious leaders or church denominations—have not been able to open to you the true and significant meaning of these four horsemen!
Now keep in mind two things: first, Jesus Christ is called in the very first verses of John's gospel, the WORD of God—God's SPOKESMAN. Jesus, in Person, 1900 years ago, was the personal, living WORD OF GOD. But today we have the written Word of God—the Holy Bible. The entire BIBLE is the WORD OF GOD. Its real divine Author, then, is JESUS CHRIST—the whole BIBLE is His written WORD!
Second, a symbol is a good deal like a PARABLE. A symbol is a FIGURE or a THING, used to represent something else; and a parable is an experience employed to represent something else.
And now I want you to realize a most important FACT, bearing on our problem, which most of you never realized before. Haven't you supposed, along with nearly everyone else, that Jesus spoke in PARABLES in order to make His meaning clearer—as a sort of illustration, so that people would better understand His meaning? Well, you have supposed WRONG! On the contrary, believe it or not, Jesus spoke in parables to cover up, to hide the true meaning from the crowds that constantly followed Him! This knowledge puts in our hands the KEY that will unlock these symbols of the Book of Revelation.
Notice the parable of the sower and the seed:
"And when he was alone, they that were about him with the twelve asked of him the parable. And he said unto them, Unto you it is given to know the mystery of the kingdom of God: but unto them that are without, all these things are done in parables: that seeing they may see, and not perceive; and hearing they may hear, and not understand; lest at any time they should be converted, and their sins should be forgiven them" (Mark 4:10-12) . . . and then Jesus proceeded to explain in plain language the meaning of the parable to His disciples!
UNDERSTAND THIS! Jesus used parables to conceal the true meaning from those He did not intend to understand! He did not, at that time and place, reveal the meaning of the parable. But, later, He did explain in plain language the true meaning, to His disciples.
And in exactly the same manner, we find in this sixth chapter of Revelation a prophecy cloaked mysteriously in SYMBOLS which have HIDDEN the true meaning from men these 1850 years! And so, if we want to really UNDERSTAND, we must do as those disciples did—we must go to Jesus, who alone is the true Revelator—and since His message to us of this day is now the WRITTEN WORD OF GOD—the Bible—we must look to see where in His written Word, this same Jesus explains to us, in plain language, the same identical events which are represented by these symbols.
Did Jesus, then, in plain language, explain these same events of this world crisis at the close of this age—these turbulent world-war days leading to the DAY OF THE LORD, and the Second Coming of Christ?
He did! When His disciples came to Him on Mt. Olivet—when they to whom He revealed His parables—they to whom it was given to know these mysteries—came to Him privately, and asked Him: "Tell us, when shall these things be? and what shall be the Sign of thy coming, and of the end of the world?" Jesus gave, in plain language, a startling prophecy of these very world conditions of TODAY, and our immediate future!
What DO the SEALS Mean?
Here, then, is the explanation of the SYMBOLS of Revelation 6!
Here is the KEY that opens up the meaning of the seals!
This tremendous Olivet prophecy is recorded in Matthew 24, Mark 13, and Luke 21. And here Jesus outlined in plain language exactly seven things to occur! Here in PLAIN LANGUAGE Jesus Christ the Revelator reveals the true meaning of the seven seals that covered the entire prophecy of the Revelation!
And now, from Matthew's account, let us read the first four stages of events Jesus foretold:
"And Jesus answered and said unto them, Take heed that no man deceive you. For many shall come in my name, saying I am Christ; and shall deceive many. And ye shall hear of wars and rumors of wars: see that ye be not troubled: for all these things must come to pass, but the end is not yet. For nation shall rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom: and there shall be famines, and pestilences, and earthquakes, in divers places. All these are the beginning of sorrows" (Matthew 24:4-8).
HERE IS THE HIGH-SPOT SUMMARY OF WORLD NEWS FROM 31 AD UNTIL NOW!
Notice this consistent principle: Once a condition which Jesus predicts sets in, it REMAINS CONTINUOUS up until His very second coming!
I want you to notice a consistent principle in this prophecy of Matthew 24, and of the 6th chapter of Revelation. SEVEN successive things, or events, are to occur. As an example: The very first condition Jesus foretells is that of FALSE PREACHERS, misleading and deceiving, not the few, but the many!
That condition set in almost immediately. The Apostle Paul wrote of it, and said this spirit of iniquity was already working, even as HE wrote! And it has never relaxed or ceased, but rather has developed in intensity, until the whole world, as distinctly prophesied, has become deceived and misled as to these Bible truths of God!
And so the next thing Jesus said would occur was WARS, and rumors of wars. There were wars in those days. But wars have not stopped. They have grown progressively worse and worse, more and more horrible and destructive, until today, we face the question of whether human life can survive the next atomic and hydrogen bomb war! Yes, as Scripture says truthfully, SIN and sinful men wax worse and worse—and not better and better, as men like to believe!
And so Jesus named these four things:
1st, FALSE TEACHING about Christ, doing away with His true Gospel.
2nd, wars, climaxing at this crisis at the close of this age in WORLD WARS—nation against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. We are now in the second recess between stages of WORLD WAR!
3rd, FAMINE, and 4th, PESTILENCE, or epidemics of DISEASE which follow in the wake of great famines and wars.
And that's where we are, right now! And this is just the beginning of the colossal WORLD EVENTS prophesied for this 20th century AD
The first two world wars have occurred. Rumors of wars will continue. Next to strike the earth are famine, disease epidemics and World War III—all of such staggering magnitude as this world has never dreamed!
But now compare that with the first four seals of Revelation 6. Here is the revelation of Jesus Christ. Here is Jesus' own interpretation, in plain language, of these mystic symbols of the four horsemen.
The Amazing Comparison
The first was a WHITE HORSE. Many men, using human interpretation, have looked over into the 19th chapter of Revelation, where we find the description of the glorious return of Christ pictured as coming on a white horse, and have made the great error of deciding that this first seal, then, since it is a white horse, pictures the second coming of Christ. But CHRIST'S OWN revealing of the meaning is that this white horse of the first seal pictures exactly the opposite—those preaching a FALSE Christ, different from the Christ of the New Testament! It refers to this GREAT DECEPTION that has descended like a dark cloud to cover the earth and hide from it the glorious truth of God!
All war is the result of violating the supreme spiritual Law of God, which Jesus lived and taught! The false teaching of doing away with the LAW of God, and the GOVERNMENT of God, and endorsing the ways of men, led inevitably to WARS, which have grown progressively more frightening and colossal in scale, until it is now questionable whether the world can survive another war, unless God Almighty steps in supernaturally to intervene!
And so the second seal pictures a RED horse—the color of blood—and this horseman, as Jesus Himself reveals, is WAR. "And there went out another horse that was red: and power was given to him that sat thereon to take peace from the earth, and that they should kill one another: and there was given unto him a great sword" (Revelation 6:4).
And in like manner the third horse is the FAMINE: "And when he had opened the third seal, I heard the third beast say, Come and see. And I beheld, and, lo, a black horse; and he that sat on him had a pair of balances in his hand. And I heard a voice in the midst of the four beasts say, A measure of wheat for a penny, and three measures of barley for a penny; and see thou hurt not the oil and the wine" (Revelation 6:5-6).
And, fourth, following in the wake of famine, DISEASE EPIDEMICS: "And I looked, and, behold, a pale horse: and his name that sat on him was Death, and Hell [the grave] followed with him. And power was given unto them over the fourth part of the earth, to kill with the sword, and with hunger, and with death, and with the beasts of the earth" (Revelation 6:8).
THERE IS CHRIST'S OWN EXPLANATION of the four horsemen! But this brings us to the fearful PRESENT. This is only the very beginning of the prophecy!
Now let us come immediately to the very next prophesied event that will rock this world to its foundations!
The GREAT Tribulation
Literally dozens of prophecies in both Old and New Testaments describe this colossal world event. To explain all that is written about it, in the Bible prophecies, would require the full length of many articles.
It is mighty important to know—and to be prepared—for you need have no fear, if you heed and seek the protection of God!
Back quickly to Matthew 24. Remember, we are now in the time of the second intermission of world war. Famines and disease epidemics have increased in magnitude in recent years, but the final GREAT worldwide famine and disease epidemic has not yet struck. These events brought us to verse 8. We are already INTO these events, but we haven't reached the final FURY of them. So notice, now, what is said of THESE things: "All these are the beginning of sorrows" (Matthew 24:8).
Yes, THESE things, even, are only the BEGINNING of sorrows—or, more properly translated—of TRAVAIL, or TRIBULATION!
Yes, when we come to the full FURY of the famine and disease epidemics, and what undoubtedly will be the continuance of world war, THAT will be the very BEGINNING of the MUCH-prophesied GREAT TRIBULATION! And THAT is now the NEXT event that God Almighty WARNS this world is coming!
Let us notice exactly how Jesus explained this FIFTH world-shaking event in PLAIN language. "Then shall they deliver you up to be afflicted, and shall kill you: and ye shall be hated of all nations for my name's sake" (Matthew 24:9).
Notice, Jesus used two pronouns—"THEY," and "YOU." Then THEY shall deliver YOU up to be afflicted, and shall KILL you." Remember this: In New Testament Bible language the pronoun "YOU," unless otherwise clearly defined, refers either to truly converted CHRISTIANS, or to NUTSHELL Israel or Judah or to both Christians and Judah or Israel. If it is speaking spiritually and individually, the pronoun "YOU" refers to those who are truly begotten children of God. If the context is speaking nationally, it refers to Israel, or Judah, or both.
In this particular case, comparison with the account in Mark 13 and Luke 21 makes it very evident that Jesus used this pronoun in the DUAL sense, including BOTH Spirit-begotten CHRISTIANS, and flesh-born Israelites as nations!
Right here we have to explain another KEY to nearly all prophecies. There is a DUALITY in nearly everything in God's PLAN in working our His purpose here below! There was the first Adam, and Christ the second Adam. There was the Old Covenant, and there is the NEW. This duality runs through the entire plan of God. It runs also through the prophecies. There is usually a former, typical, and then a final antitypical fulfillment of many prophecies. Not understanding this vital KEY, many are in total error in their attempts to understand or explain prophecies.
This tribulation did actually occur, in the typical forerunner sense, to the nation Judah, in 70 AD But that was merely the early type, and forerunner of the great NATIONAL invasion and captivity YET to occur.
This is described more plainly in the modern English of the Moffatt translation of Luke's account of this same prophecy. Luke 21:23-24: "For sore anguish will come upon the land and wrath on this people; they will fall by the edge of the sword, they will be carried prisoners to all nations, and Jerusalem will be under the heel of the Gentiles TILL the period [Times] of the Gentiles expire."
That is speaking of WAR—of NATIONAL invasion and captivity. That actually did happen to JUDAH in 70 AD But that was merely the typical fore-runner. The climactic major event of this prophecy is yet to occur, just shortly before the coming of Christ!
ALSO a Religious Persecution
Turn again to Matthew 24: "And then shall many be offended, and shall betray one another, and shall hate one another. And many false prophets shall rise, and shall deceive many. And because iniquity shall abound, the love of many shall wax cold. But he that shall endure unto the end, the same shall be saved . . . For then shall be great tribulation, such as was not since the beginning of the world to this time, no, nor ever shall be . . . For there shall arise false Christs, and false prophets, and shall shew great signs, and wonders; insomuch that, if it were possible, they shall deceive the very elect" (Matthew 24:10-13, 21, 24).
This is also speaking individually of truly Spirit-begotten CHRISTIANS who have become so lukewarm, so out of prayerful contact with God, that they will not be accounted worthy to escape all these things. And that phase of this Great Tribulation is very clearly brought out in the opening of the fifth seal of Revelation 6: "And when he had opened the fifth seal, I saw under the altar the souls of them that were slain for the word of God, and for the testimony which they held: And they cried with a loud voice, saying, How long, O Lord, holy and true, dost thou not judge and avenge our blood on them that dwell on the earth? And white robes were given unto every one of them; and it was said unto them, that they should rest yet for a little season, until their fellow servants also and their brethren, that should be killed as they were, should be fulfilled" (Revelation 6:9-11).
NOTICE that! Here is the GREAT TRIBULATION! And this fifth seal pictures it as a time of martyrdom of saints—of truly converted, begotten children of GOD!
Notice, verse 9. Those that were slain, in a former and a typical Tribulation—actually millions were slain many centuries ago—are crying out, "How LONG, O God, before you shall avenge our blood on the powers that martyred us?" They knew that GOD said, "Vengeance is mine." They knew that in the terrible DAY OF THE LORD, God is going to take vengeance by sending His plagues on the persecuting powers! And those plagues of the DAY OF THE LORD—the time of God's vengeance upon this great persecuting power—will occur at the precise time of the second coming of Christ!
NOTE IT. NOTE IT CAREFULLY! These martyrs that were killed, centuries ago, allegorically are asking how long before the second coming of Christ and the end of this age? And HERE'S the tremendous answer! It shall not occur until another Great TRIBULATION—another martyrdom of saints—until their fellow-servants and their Spirit-begotten brethren in the Lord shall be killed, as they were.
And that is speaking of the final GREAT Tribulation. It will be a time of WAR and national invasion and captivity of God's nation ISRAEL! Not Judah! These prophecies refer to the so-called Lost Ten Tribes of Israel.
Notice, this Tribulation—this MARTYRDOM OF SAINTS—must occur and be completed before God pours out the vials of His Wrath—His PLAGUES—at the second coming of Christ.
When Will the END Come?
The disciples had asked Jesus when His Coming would occur, and the end of the world—the end of this AGE! The false preaching was not the end. The wars and rumors of wars were not the end. But in Matthew 24:14, Jesus interrupted to tell them WHEN the end shall come—after the very event now taking place—yes, actually taking place this minute. "And this gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in all the world for a witness unto all nations; and then shall the end come."
THERE is Jesus' answer. He had warned them of false prophets deceiving the MANY—saying that Jesus was the Christ—but doing away with His message—His Gospel—which was the KINGDOM OF GOD—the government of God—the RULE of God. God rules by HIS LAWS—and the whole world has been deceived into transgression, which is SIN, by believing that God's LAW and God's RULE over our lives is done away! Men have been deceived into believing they could hold to the traditions of men, and by WORSHIPPING CHRIST, still be saved. But Jesus Himself said (Mark 7), "IN VAIN do they worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men . . . making the Word of God of none effect through your TRADITION."
But, just before the END Jesus said: "THIS gospel OF THE KINGDOM"—the announcement of the government of God—the RULE of God—the COMMANDMENTS of God—the same Gospel that JESUS PREACHED—shall go to all the world for a witness unto all nations—and THEN shall the end of this world come.
And THAT'S the world event of this very hour!
THIS HOUR IS THIS SCRIPTURE FULFILLED BEFORE YOUR EYES!
He that hath an ear to hear, let him hear!
If we are to bring you the REVELATION OF JESUS CHRIST, we certainly cannot bring you the popular interpretations you have been hearing from men—from the great religious leaders of this world.
The great men of this world have confused the Great Tribulation that is coming, with that period revealed in more than 30 prophecies in the Bible as the DAY OF THE ETERNAL—or, the Day of the Lord.
Now turn to Matthew 24:29.
Notice carefully. Read with your own eyes what the great religious leaders of THIS world seem never to have learned: "Immediately after the tribulation of those days shall the sun be darkened, and the moon shall not give her light, and the stars shall fall from heaven, and the powers of the heavens shall be shaken" (Matthew 24:29).
There are to be signs in the sun, moon, and stars. But these heavenly signs occur—WHEN? Did you catch it?—IMMEDIATELY AFTER THE GREAT TRIBULATION.
The Great Tribulation, which Jesus describes here in Matthew 24, is His PLAIN-LANGUAGE explanation of the fifth SEAL of Revelation 6. I want to give you further details of this, both from Matthew 24, and from Revelation 6, a little later; but right now I want you to notice in Revelation 6 what immediately follows the Great Tribulation of the fifth seal.
Turn quickly, now, to Revelation 6. Read it in your own Bible.
"And I beheld when he had opened the sixth seal, and, lo, there was a great earthquake; and the sun became black as sackcloth of hair, and the moon became as blood; and the stars of heaven fell unto the earth, even as a fig tree casteth her untimely figs, when she is shaken of a mighty wind" (Revelation 6:12-13).
. . . and THEN WHAT?
"For the great day of his wrath is come; and who shall be able to stand?" (Verse 17.)
NOTICE it! Will you read it with your own eyes, in your own Bible? Here in this 6th chapter of Revelation, as these six seals are opened, we have 1ST, false preachers; 2ND, wars climaxing in world wars; 3RD, famines; 4TH, disease epidemics; 5TH, GREAT TRIBULATION—martyrdom of saints; 6TH, the heavenly signs, in the sun, moon, and stars. And then WHAT NEXT—what is to follow this sixth seal?
THE GREAT DAY OF GOD's WRATH—and that, as I shall show you, is the great DAY OF THE LORD!
Now quickly turn to the prophecy of Joel in the Old Testament. "The sun shall be turned into darkness, and the moon into blood, before the great and terrible day of the Lord come" (Joel 2:31).
THERE IT IS! In Matthew 24:29 you read in your own Bible that the heavenly signs in the sun, moon, and stars would occur immediately after the Great Tribulation. In Revelation 6 you saw with your own eyes that the heavenly signs in the sun and moon of the sixth seal follow immediately AFTER the Great Tribulation, or the martyrdom of the saints, of the fifth seal. Also you saw there, that following these heavenly signs of the sixth seal was to come the terrible day of GOD's WRATH.
Now here in Joel 2:31 we see that these heavenly signs in the sun and moon must occur before the great and terrible DAY OF THE LORD!
Tribulation Is NOT the Day of the Lord
So here we have three successive world-shaking events to come—first, and, now, next to occur in possibly this decade or the next, THE GREAT TRIBULATION. Second, immediately after the Tribulation, the heavenly signs in the sun and moon and stars. Third, following the supernatural signs in the heavens, the terrible DAY OF THE LORD!
Now what IS that great and terrible DAY OF THE ETERNAL? Before you turn away from Joel's prophecy, notice how Joel was inspired to describe it: "Alas for the day! for the day of the Lord is at hand, and as a destruction from the Almighty shall it come" (Joel 1:15).
Now notice how God inspired the Prophet Zephaniah to describe it: "The great day of the Lord is near, it is near, and hasteth greatly, even the voice of the day of the Lord: the mighty man shall cry there bitterly. That day is a day of wrath, a day of trouble and distress, a day of wasteness and desolation, a day of darkness and gloominess, a day of clouds and thick darkness . . . And I will bring distress upon men, that they shall walk like blind men, because they have sinned against the Lord: and their blood shall be poured out as dust, and their flesh as the dung" (Zephaniah 1:14-15, 17).
THIS is the time of GOD's wrath. THIS is the time of GOD's PLAGUES sent upon the sinners of this world. God says HE will bring this distress upon defiant and sinful men who hate truth and peace, and love evil. THIS is the time of the Plagues God shall send—but this is not the Great Tribulation, as men have supposed!
No, this day of the Eternal's plagues shall not come until after the heavenly signs in the sun and moon. And those startling supernatural heavenly signs shall not come until immediately after the Great Tribulation!
If you would know what is going to happen NEXT in the world—if you would know what is as sure as the rising and setting of tomorrow's sun—what is coming in your lifetime—what you are going to live through—it is vital to understand the distinction between the Great Tribulation and the Day of the Eternal.
You have probably heard a great deal about the Great Tribulation—if you have heard any preaching about prophecy at all. But you probably have heard very little or nothing about the DAY OF THE ETERNAL—and yet, this DAY OF THE LORD is described in more than 30 different prophecies scattered through both Old and New Testaments. But the Great tribulation is spoken of by this term: the Great Tribulation, only in Matthew 24:21, 29!
WHY? Religious leaders have SUPPOSED that all these prophecies about the Day of the Eternal—the time of GOD'S WRATH—of the PLAGUES—are identical with the Great Tribulation. They have SUPPOSED that the Great Tribulation is GOD'S wrath—GOD'S plagues upon the sinners of the world.
The Great Tribulation is not the wrath of God—just the opposite. This is the wrath of SATAN THE DEVIL. He knows that he has but a short time. When God intervenes—when God's PLAGUES fall- -when CHRIST returns to this earth as the KING of kings and the LORD of lords, to rule the earth, Satan knows full well he will be through. The Great Tribulation, as I shall show you—if you will just keep both your mind and your Bible open—is Satan's last persecution and martyrdom against the true begotten sons of GOD whom he can't deceive, as he has deceived the world as a whole!
The "Day of the Lord"
Now turn again to Revelation 6. Those of the former great martyrdom of saints are told that the JUDGMENTS OF GOD—the plagues which lead up to, and occur at the time of CHRIST'S return to earth—cannot come until their fellow-servants and their brethren—other Spirit-begotten Christians—should be killed as they were! Here is the Great Tribulation—another coming martyrdom of God's people! And what follows? The sixth seal, we have seen, will mark the beginning of the intervention of God in world affairs—the terrifying signs in the heavensand then men shall cry out, "The terrible day of GOD's WRATH is come!"
"And the heaven departed as a scroll when it is rolled together; and every mountain and island were moved out of their places. And the kings of the earth, and the great men, and the rich men, and the chief captains, and the mighty men, and every bond man, and every free man, hid themselves in the dens 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 that sitteth on the throne, and from the wrath of the Lamb: For the great day of his wrath is come; and who shall be able to stand?" (Revelation 6:14-17.)
This is the DAY OF THE ETERNAL, bringing us, at last, the RETURN OF CHRIST to earth in ALL power and glory, to RULE the peoples of earth, and to bring us PEACE!
YOU NEED NOT FEAR OR WORRY over the things coming on the earth in the meantime. In this same prophecy of Jesus as reported by LUKE, regarding the world disturbances now ahead—regarding the Great Tribulation and the DAY OF THE LORD—Jesus ended His Olivet prophecy with these assuring words: "Watch ye therefore, and pray always, that ye may be accounted worthy to escape all these things that shall come to pass, and to stand before the Son of man" (Luke 21:36).
May God help you to be one of those studying the prophecies, watching world events as they fulfill them, and praying always that you may be accounted worthy to escape all these things, and to stand before Christ at His coming!
WHY These Plagues
Notice! For 6,000 years God has sent His loving messages to mankind. In love God revealed His Law—His WAY of life that would lead to everything good and desirability our first parents, Adam and Eve. God has sent all His prophets with HIS message of PEACE, revealing to mankind the WAY to peace and happiness—but men have rejected the message, and killed the prophets.
They put to death God's SON who brought the GOOD NEWS of the KINGDOM OF GOD—which is the WORLD TOMORROW—they martyred Jesus APOSTLES who went out into the world with the message of God's way of life, and GOD'S RULE over our lives.
All these men of God have pleaded with this rebellious world in love. They have brought a message of PEACE, of LOVE, of MERCY and compassion. Through them God has pleaded with this stiff-necked and self-willed world for 6,000 years. God has warned the world of where its own ways and devices will finally lead—to the total annihilation of human life from off this planet!
In love and in tender mercy, God has given this stubborn, misguided human race every chance for 6,000 long years, to save itself from a self-imposed destruction. But men would not heed. THEY WILL NOT HEED TODAY. They continue, even now, to devise forces of destruction that will result in the suicide of the human race, unless God does intervene.
But God is about to step in and speak to this rebellious and hell-bent world in the only language the world will heed—God will now punish this world for its evil! As any loving parent punishes his child who will not listen to kind and loving admonition, so now God is going to punish this world with just judgments—with PLAGUES so terrible that the world will at last be forced to turn from its wicked ways and to seek God and HIS WAYS that lead to peace and everything good. God will prevent the suicide of humanity. He will save this evil world from itself. And that is the period coming, described in more than 30 different prophecies scattered through both Old and New Testaments, as THE DAY OF THE LORD, which shall lead directly into the Second COMING OF CHRIST, to bring us, at last, WORLD PEACE!
God's Wrath Restrained
But, as we begin the 7th chapter of the Book of Revelation, we find that the DAY OF THE ETERNAL—the time of these terrible plagues God shall send—is to be held up temporarily, until a certain other event of GOD'S doing takes place.
Notice the introduction of chapter 7 of this greatest prophecy ever written: "And after these things I saw four angels standing on the four corners of the earth, holding the four winds of the earth, that the wind should not blow on the earth, nor on the sea, nor on any tree. And I saw another angel ascending from the east, having the seal of the living God: and he cried with a loud voice to the four angels, to whom it was given to hurt the earth and the sea, Saying, Hurt not the earth, neither the sea, nor the trees, till we have sealed the servants of our God in their foreheads. And I heard the number of them which were sealed: and there were sealed an hundred and forty and four thousand of all the tribes of the children of Israel" (Revelation 7:1-4).
Now consider carefully a few important points. First, the preceding words show that the judgments of the DAY OF THE LORD have come at this exact juncture. But God holds it back. Notice that just as the DAY OF THE LORD is about to strike, John sees in his vision four angels, holding back the four winds which are about to blow on the earth. You will see, a little later, that these winds blow the seven TRUMPETS which are to follow. These, of course, are symbols, but they represent things this world will find are very real. But they are restrained until the SERVANTS OF