Jehovah Is “a Revealer of Secrets”
“Truly the God of you men is a God of gods and a Lord of kings and a Revealer of secrets.”—DAN. 2:47.
HOW WOULD YOU ANSWER?
What details about the future has Jehovah revealed to us?
What do the first six heads of the wild beast represent?
What relationship do we find between the wild beast and the image seen by Nebuchadnezzar?
1, 2. What has Jehovah revealed to us, and why has he done so?
WHICH governments will be dominating the earth when God’s Kingdom brings an end to human rulership? We know the answer—it has been disclosed to us by the “Revealer of secrets,” Jehovah God. He enables us to discern the identity of those governments through the writings of the prophet Daniel and the apostle John.
2 Jehovah revealed to those men a series of visions involving a succession of beasts. He also told Daniel the meaning of a visionary dream depicting an immense metal image. Jehovah had those accounts recorded and preserved in the Bible for our benefit. (Rom. 15:4) He did so to strengthen our hope that soon his Kingdom will crush all human governments.—Dan. 2:44.
3. In order to understand prophecy accurately, what do we first need to comprehend, and why?
3 Taken together, the accounts of Daniel and John not only identify eight kings, or human rulerships, but also show the sequence in which those powers would appear. However, we can accurately understand those prophecies only if we comprehend the meaning of the very first prophecy recorded in the Bible. Why so? Because the outworking of that prophecy is the uniting theme of the Bible. It is, in a way, the cord on which all other prophecies hang.
THE SERPENT’S SEED AND THE WILD BEAST
4. Who make up the seed of the woman, and what will that seed do?
4 Soon after the rebellion in Eden, Jehovah made a promise that a “woman” would produce a “seed.” * (Read Genesis 3:15.) That seed would eventually bruise the serpent, Satan, in the head. Jehovah later revealed that the seed would come through Abraham, belong to the nation of Israel, be a Judean, and be a descendant of King David. (Gen. 22:15-18; 49:10; Ps. 89:3, 4; Luke 1:30-33) The principal part of that seed proved to be Christ Jesus. (Gal. 3:16) The secondary part of the seed is made up of the spirit-anointed members of the Christian congregation. (Gal. 3:26-29) Jesus and these anointed ones unite to form God’s Kingdom, the instrument with which God will crush Satan.—Luke 12:32; Rom. 16:20.
5, 6. (a) How many great powers do Daniel and John identify? (b) What do the heads of the wild beast of Revelation stand for?
5 That first prophecy given in Eden also stated that Satan would produce a “seed.” His seed would express enmity, or hatred, for the seed of the woman. Who make up the seed of the serpent? All those who imitate Satan’s hatred of God and oppose God’s people. Throughout history, Satan has organized his seed into various political movements, or kingdoms. (Luke 4:5, 6) However, only relatively few human kingdoms have exerted a major influence on God’s people, whether the nation of Israel or the congregation of anointed Christians. Why is this fact significant? Because it explains why the visions of Daniel and John describe a total of only eight such great powers.
6 At the close of the first century C.E., the resurrected Jesus gave the apostle John a series of stunning visions. (Rev. 1:1) In one of them, John saw the Devil, represented as a dragon, standing on the shore of a vast sea. (Read Revelation 13:1, 2.) John also saw a strange beast rise from that sea and receive great authority from the Devil. An angel later indicates to John that the seven heads of a scarlet beast, which is an image of the beast of Revelation 13:1, represent “seven kings,” or governments. (Rev. 13:14, 15; 17:3, 9, 10) At the time of John’s writing, five of those had fallen, one was currently in power, and one had “not yet arrived.” What is the identity of those kingdoms, or world powers? Let us consider each of the heads of the beast described in Revelation. We will also see how the writings of Daniel added detailed insights into many of these kingdoms, sometimes centuries before they came into existence.
EGYPT AND ASSYRIA—THE FIRST TWO HEADS
7. What does the first head represent, and why?
7 The first head of the beast represents Egypt. Why? Because Egypt was the first major power to express enmity toward God’s people. The descendants of Abraham—through whom the promised seed of the woman would come—grew numerous in Egypt. Then, Egypt oppressed Israel. Satan attempted to wipe out God’s people before the seed could arrive. How? By motivating Pharaoh to execute all male Israelite children. Jehovah thwarted that attempt and liberated his people from enslavement to Egypt. (Ex. 1:15-20; 14:13) Later he established the Israelites in the Promised Land.
8. What is the identity of the second head, and what did it attempt to do?
8 The second head of the beast represents Assyria. This mighty kingdom also attempted to wipe out God’s people. True, Jehovah used Assyria as his instrument to punish the ten-tribe kingdom for their idolatry and rebellion. However, Assyria then attacked Jerusalem. Satan may have had the goal of obliterating the royal line that would eventually lead to Jesus. That assault was not part of Jehovah’s purpose, and he miraculously delivered his faithful people by destroying the invaders.—2 Ki. 19:32-35; Isa. 10:5, 6, 12-15.
BABYLON—THE THIRD HEAD
9, 10. (a) What did Jehovah allow the Babylonians to do? (b) In order for prophecy to be fulfilled, what would have to happen?
9 The third head of the beast that John saw represents the kingdom of which Babylon was capital. Jehovah allowed the Babylonians to overthrow Jerusalem and to take his people into captivity. Before permitting this humiliation, though, Jehovah warned the rebellious Israelites that such a tragedy would strike them. (2 Ki. 20:16-18) He foretold that the line of human kings who were said to sit on “Jehovah’s throne” in Jerusalem would be removed. (1 Chron. 29:23) However, Jehovah also promised that a descendant of King David, one who had “the legal right,” would come and reclaim that authority.—Ezek. 21:25-27.
10 Another prophecy indicated that the Jews would still be worshipping at the temple in Jerusalem when the promised Messiah, or Anointed One, arrived. (Dan. 9:24-27) An earlier prophecy, written before Israel was taken captive to Babylon, stated that this person would be born in Bethlehem. (Mic. 5:2) If those prophecies were to be fulfilled, the Jews would have to be liberated from captivity, return to their homeland, and rebuild the temple. But it was not Babylon’s policy to release captives. How would that challenge be overcome? Jehovah revealed the answer to his prophets.—Amos 3:7.
11. The Babylonian Empire is pictured in what different ways? (See footnote.)
11 The prophet Daniel was among the captives taken to Babylon. (Dan. 1:1-6) Jehovah used him to reveal the succession of kingdoms that would follow that world power. Jehovah disclosed these secrets, using a number of different symbols. For instance, he caused Babylonian King Nebuchadnezzar to have a dream of an immense image that was made of various metals. (Read Daniel 2:1, 19, 31-38.) Through Daniel, Jehovah revealed that the gold head of the image symbolized the Babylonian Empire. * The world power after Babylon is pictured by the breasts and arms of silver. What would that power be, and how would it treat God’s people?
MEDO-PERSIA—THE FOURTH HEAD
12, 13. (a) What did Jehovah reveal about the defeat of Babylon? (b) Why is Medo-Persia fittingly depicted as the fourth head of the wild beast?
12 More than a century before Daniel’s time, Jehovah revealed through the prophet Isaiah details about the world power that would conquer Babylon. Jehovah disclosed not only the manner in which the city of Babylon would be defeated but also the name of the conqueror. That leader was Cyrus the Persian. (Isa. 44:28–45:2) Daniel received two other visions regarding the Medo-Persian World Power. In one, the kingdom was depicted as being like a bear that was raised up on one side. It was told to “eat much flesh.” (Dan. 7:5) In a separate vision, Daniel saw this dual world power symbolized by a two-horned ram.—Dan. 8:3, 20.
13 Jehovah used the Medo-Persian Empire to fulfill prophecy by overthrowing Babylon and restoring the Israelites to their homeland. (2 Chron. 36:22, 23) However, this same power later came close to eradicating God’s people. The Bible book of Esther records a plot hatched by the prime minister of Persia, a man named Haman. He arranged for the extermination of all the Jews who lived in the vast Persian Empire and set a specific date on which the genocide was to happen. It was only due to Jehovah’s intervention that His people were once again protected from the animosity of Satan’s seed. (Esther 1:1-3; 3:8, 9; 8:3, 9-14) Medo-Persia, therefore, is fittingly depicted as the fourth head of the beast of Revelation.
GREECE—THE FIFTH HEAD
14, 15. What details does Jehovah reveal about the ancient Greek Empire?
14 The fifth head of the wild beast of Revelation represents Greece. As Daniel had revealed earlier when he interpreted Nebuchadnezzar’s dream, this same power is symbolized by the copper belly and thighs of the image. Daniel also received two visions that provide remarkable details both about the nature of this empire and about its most prominent ruler.
15 In one vision, Daniel saw Greece depicted as a leopard with four wings, indicating that this empire would conquer swiftly. (Dan. 7:6) In another vision, Daniel described how a goat with a prominent single horn quickly kills a two-horned ram, Medo-Persia. Jehovah told Daniel that the goat symbolized Greece and the large horn depicted one of its kings. Daniel further recorded that the large horn would be broken and four smaller horns would grow in its place. Even though this prophecy was written hundreds of years before Greece became dominant, every detail came true. Alexander the Great, the most prominent king of ancient Greece, led the charge against Medo-Persia. This horn was soon broken, though, the great king dying at the height of his power and at only 32 years of age. Then, his kingdom was eventually divided among four of his generals.—Read Daniel 8:20-22.
16. What did Antiochus IV do?
16 After conquering Persia, Greece ruled over the land of God’s people. By this time, the Jews were resettled in the Promised Land and had rebuilt the temple in Jerusalem. They were still God’s chosen people, and the rebuilt temple was still the center for true worship. However, in the second century B.C.E., Greece, the fifth head of the wild beast, attacked God’s people. Antiochus IV, one of the heirs to Alexander’s divided empire, placed a pagan altar on the grounds of the temple in Jerusalem and made practicing the Jewish religion a crime punishable by death. What an act of hatred by part of Satan’s seed! Soon, though, Greece was supplanted as the world power. What would be the sixth head of the wild beast?
ROME—THE SIXTH HEAD, “FEARSOME AND TERRIBLE”
17. The sixth head played what key role in fulfilling Genesis 3:15?
17 Rome was the dominant power when John received the vision of the wild beast. (Rev. 17:10) This sixth head played a key role in the fulfillment of the prophecy recorded at Genesis 3:15. Satan used Roman officials to deliver a blow that temporarily crippled the seed, bruising it “in the heel.” How so? They tried Jesus on the false charge of sedition and had him executed. (Matt. 27:26) But that wound soon healed because Jehovah resurrected Jesus.
18. (a) What new nation did Jehovah choose, and why? (b) How did the serpent’s seed continue to express animosity toward the seed of the woman?
18 The religious leaders of Israel conspired with Rome against Jesus, and the majority of the nation also rejected him. Thus, Jehovah abandoned natural Israel as his people. (Matt. 23:38; Acts 2:22, 23) He now chose a new nation, “the Israel of God.” (Gal. 3:26-29; 6:16) That nation was the congregation of anointed Christians made up of both Jews and Gentiles. (Eph. 2:11-18) After Jesus’ death and resurrection, the seed of the serpent continued to express animosity toward the seed of the woman. On more than one occasion, Rome attempted to wipe out the Christian congregation, the secondary part of the seed. *
19. (a) How does Daniel describe the sixth world power? (b) What will another article consider?
19 In the dream that Daniel interpreted for Nebuchadnezzar, Rome is depicted by the legs of iron. (Dan. 2:33) Daniel also saw a vision that well describes not only the Roman Empire but also the next world power that would grow out of Rome. (Read Daniel 7:7, 8.) For centuries, Rome appeared to her enemies to be “fearsome and terrible and unusually strong.” However, the prophecy foretold that “ten horns” would grow from this empire and one in particular would gain prominence. What are these ten horns, and what is the identity of the small horn? In what way does the small horn correspond to the description of the giant image seen by Nebuchadnezzar? The article on page 14 will consider the answers.
THE WATCHTOWER—STUDY EDITION