“Happy is the one who reads aloud . . . the words of this prophecy.”—REV. 1:3.
SONG 15 Praise Jehovah’s Firstborn!
1-2. What is one reason why we should be interested in the book of Revelation?
HAVE you ever been invited to look through a photo album belonging to someone else? As you glance at the photos, you see mostly unfamiliar faces. One particular photo, however, catches your attention. Why? Because you are in that photo. As you study it, you try to remember when the picture was taken and where. You also try to identify everyone else in the photo. That photo is especially meaningful to you.
2 The book of Revelation is like that photograph. Why? For at least two reasons. First, this Bible book was written for us. In the very first verse, we read: “A revelation by Jesus Christ, which God gave him, to show his slaves the things that must shortly take place.” (Rev. 1:1) So, what is written in this book is not for people in general but for us, God’s dedicated servants. As God’s people, we should not be surprised to discover that we are sharing in the fulfillment of the prophecies found in this fascinating book. In other words, we find ourselves “in the photo.”
3-4. According to the book of Revelation, when would its prophecies be fulfilled, and what effect should that have on each one of us?
3 The second reason involves the time when these prophecies are to be fulfilled. The aged apostle John identified that time when he said: “By inspiration I came to be in the Lord’s day.” (Rev. 1:10) When John wrote those words in about 96 C.E., “the Lord’s day” was still far off. (Matt. 25:14, 19; Luke 19:12) But according to Bible prophecy, that day started in 1914 when Jesus was enthroned as King in heaven. From that year onward, the prophecies of Revelation, which involve God’s people, started to undergo fulfillment. Yes, we are now living in “the Lord’s day”!
4 Because we are living in this thrilling time, we are the ones who need to pay special attention to the loving counsel recorded at Revelation 1:3: “Happy is the one who reads aloud and those who hear the words of this prophecy and who observe the things written in it, for the appointed time is near.” Indeed, we need to ‘read aloud,’ to “hear the words of this prophecy,” and to “observe” them. What are some of these words that we need to observe?
MAKE SURE THAT YOUR WORSHIP IS ACCEPTABLE
5. How does the book of Revelation emphasize the need to make sure that our worship is acceptable to Jehovah?
5 Right from the first chapter of Revelation, we learn that Jesus is fully aware of what is happening in the congregations of his people. (Rev. 1:12-16, 20; 2:1) Jesus demonstrated such awareness in the messages he sent to seven congregations in Asia Minor. In those messages, he gave specific direction to help first-century Christians make sure that their worship was acceptable to Jehovah. Moreover, what is said in those messages applies to all of God’s people today. What is the lesson for us? Our Leader, Christ Jesus, is well-aware of our spiritual condition. We are under Jesus’ protective oversight; nothing escapes his eyes. He knows what we need to do in order to continue enjoying Jehovah’s approval. What direction did he give that we need to observe today?
6. (a) As highlighted at Revelation 2:3, 4, what fundamental problem was revealed in Jesus’ message to the congregation in Ephesus? (b) What lesson do we learn from this?
6 Read Revelation 2:3, 4. We must not lose our first love for Jehovah. Jesus’ message to those in the congregation in Ephesus indicated that they had shown endurance and that they had continued without letup to serve Jehovah in spite of various challenges. Even so, they had lost the love they had at first. They needed to rekindle that love—otherwise, their worship would not be acceptable. Likewise today, we need to do more than endure. We need to endure for the right reasons. Our God is interested in not only what we do but also why we do it. Our motives are important to him because he expects our worship to be based on our deep love and appreciation for him.—Prov. 16:2; Mark 12:29, 30.
7. (a) As shown at Revelation 3:1-3, what problem did Jesus see with regard to those in Sardis? (b) What do we need to do?
7 Read Revelation 3:1-3. We must continue to remain awake and alert. The members of the congregation in Sardis had a different problem. Even though they had been spiritually active in the past, they were becoming lax in their service to God. Jesus therefore told them to “wake up.” What is the warning lesson for us? Of course, Jehovah will not forget our work. (Heb. 6:10) Still, we cannot rely merely on what we have done in the past in Jehovah’s service. Though we may have more limitations than before, we need to keep busy in “the work of the Lord,” remaining awake and alert right to the end.—1 Cor. 15:58; Matt. 24:13; Mark 13:33.
8. What lesson do we learn from the words that were directed to the brothers in Laodicea, as found at Revelation 3:15-17?
8 Read Revelation 3:15-17. We must be zealous and wholehearted in our worship. Jesus’ message to those in Laodicea highlighted yet a different problem. They were “lukewarm” in their worship. Because of their apathy, Jesus told them that they were in a “miserable and pitiful” state. They needed to display fiery zeal for Jehovah and his worship. (Rev. 3:19) What is the lesson for us? If we have lost a measure of our zeal, we must stir up our appreciation for the spiritual riches we have. (Rev. 3:18) Never would we want to allow the pursuit of a comfortable lifestyle to distract us, causing us to relegate spiritual activities to second place.
9. As indicated in Jesus’ messages to Christians in Pergamum and Thyatira, what danger do we need to avoid?
9 We must reject the teachings of apostates. Jesus reproved some in Pergamum for promoting divisions and sects. (Rev. 2:14-16) He commended those in Thyatira who had steered clear of the “deep things of Satan,” and he urged them to “hold fast” to the truth. (Rev. 2:24-26) Weak Christians there who had allowed themselves to be seduced by false teachings needed to repent. What about us today? We must reject any teaching that is opposed to Jehovah’s thinking. Apostates may have “an appearance of godliness,” but they prove “false to its power.” (2 Tim. 3:5) It is easier to identify and reject false teachings when we are diligent students of God’s Word.—2 Tim. 3:14-17; Jude 3, 4.
10. What further lesson can we learn from what Jesus said to the congregations in Pergamum and Thyatira?
10 We must not engage in, tolerate, or condone any form of immorality. There was yet another problem in Pergamum and Thyatira. Jesus condemned some in those congregations for not rejecting immorality. (Rev. 2:14, 20) What is the lesson for us? We cannot expect Jehovah to excuse any immoral activity on our part, even if we have served him for many years and presently enjoy a number of privileges. (1 Sam. 15:22; 1 Pet. 2:16) He expects us to maintain his high moral standards no matter how much the world’s standards plummet.—Eph. 6:11-13.
11. What have we learned so far? (See also the box “Lessons for Us Today.”)
11 How can we summarize what we have learned so far? We have seen the need to make sure that our worship is acceptable to Jehovah. If we are doing something that could make our worship unacceptable, we need to take immediate action to make things right. (Rev. 2:5, 16; 3:3, 16) Jesus, however, highlighted something else in his messages to the congregations. What is it?
BE WILLING TO ENDURE PERSECUTION
12. What did Jesus say to the brothers in Smyrna and Philadelphia that should be of interest to us today? (Revelation 2:10)
12 Let us now consider Jesus’ messages to the congregations in Smyrna and Philadelphia. He told Christians there not to be afraid to suffer persecution, since their faithfulness would be rewarded. (Read Revelation 2:10; 3:10) What is the lesson for us today? We must expect persecution and be willing to endure it. (Matt. 24:9, 13; 2 Cor. 12:10) Why is this reminder important?
13-14. How are God’s people affected by the events described in Revelation chapter 12?
13 The book of Revelation informs us that God’s people would be persecuted in our day—“the Lord’s day.” Revelation chapter 12 mentions that war breaks out in heaven immediately following the birth of God’s Kingdom. Michael—the glorified Jesus Christ—and his armies fight against Satan and the demons. (Rev. 12:7, 8) As a result, those enemies of God are defeated and cast down to the vicinity of the earth, bringing untold suffering to the earth and its inhabitants. (Rev. 12:9, 12) But how does this development affect God’s people?
14 Revelation next tells us how Satan reacts. He no longer has access to the heavenly realm, so he focuses his anger on the remnant of anointed ones, who are the earthly representatives of God’s Kingdom and who “have the work of bearing witness concerning Jesus.” (Rev. 12:17; 2 Cor. 5:20; Eph. 6:19, 20) How has this prophecy been fulfilled?
15. Who are represented by the “two witnesses” mentioned in Revelation chapter 11, and what happened to them?
15 Satan instigated an attack on the anointed brothers who were taking the lead in the Kingdom-preaching work. Prominent ones among them were the figurative “two witnesses” spoken of as being killed. * (Rev. 11:3, 7-11) In 1918, eight of the responsible brothers were convicted on false charges, and each was sentenced to a long term of imprisonment. From a human standpoint, it appeared as if the work of these anointed ones had been “killed.”
16. What surprising development took place in 1919, but what has Satan continued to do since that time?
16 The prophecy in Revelation chapter 11 also stated that the “two witnesses” would be brought back to life after a short period of time. In the fulfillment, something surprising happened in the very next year of their imprisonment. Early in 1919 those anointed brothers were released from prison, and later the charges were dropped. The brothers immediately got back to work—Kingdom work. But that did not stop Satan’s attacks on God’s people. Since that time, Satan has directed “a river” of persecution against all of God’s people. (Rev. 12:15) Truly, “this is where it calls for endurance and faith” on the part of each one of us.—Rev. 13:10.
BE FULLY INVOLVED IN THE WORK JEHOVAH HAS GIVEN US
17. What unexpected help have God’s people received, even though they have been the target of Satan’s attacks?
17 Revelation chapter 12 then indicates that God’s people would receive some help from an unexpected source. It would be as if “the earth” swallowed up “the river” of persecution. (Rev. 12:16) This is exactly what has happened. At times, the more stable elements of Satan’s world, such as certain judicial systems, have come to the rescue of God’s people. Time and again, Jehovah’s servants have won court cases that have allowed them a certain measure of freedom. How have they used this freedom? They have made full use of any opportunities to do the work Jehovah has given them. (1 Cor. 16:9) What does this work include?
18. What is our primary work during these last days?
18 Jesus prophesied that his people would declare the “good news of [God’s] Kingdom” throughout the earth before the end would come. (Matt. 24:14) In so doing, they benefit from the support of an angel, or a group of angels, described as having “everlasting good news to declare to those who dwell on the earth, to every nation and tribe and tongue and people.”—Rev. 14:6.
19. What other message must be preached by those who love Jehovah?
19 The good news of the Kingdom is not the only message that God’s people are to declare. They also need to support the work of the angels who are described in Revelation chapters 8 through 10. These angels announce a series of woes for those who reject God’s Kingdom. Thus, Jehovah’s Witnesses have been declaring a judgment message, likened to “hail and fire,” revealing God’s judgments on the various elements of Satan’s wicked world. (Rev. 8:7, 13) People need to know that the end is near so that they can make drastic changes in their lives and survive Jehovah’s day of anger. (Zeph. 2:2, 3) But this message is not popular. Declaring it calls for courage on our part. During the great tribulation, the final judgment message will become more hard-hitting.—Rev. 16:21.
OBSERVE THE WORDS OF THE PROPHECY
20. What will we consider in the next two articles?
20 We truly need to observe “the words of this prophecy” because we are included in the fulfillment of what we read in the book of Revelation. (Rev. 1:3) But how can we faithfully endure persecution and continue to do our part in boldly declaring these messages? We will be strengthened by two things: first, by what the book of Revelation reveals about God’s enemies and, second, by the future blessings we will receive if we remain faithful. We will consider those subjects in the next two articles.
SONG 32 Take Sides With Jehovah!
^ We are living in exciting times! Prophecies found in the book of Revelation are being fulfilled today. How do those prophecies affect us? This article and the two articles that follow will give us an overview of the book of Revelation. They will show us how we can keep our worship acceptable to Jehovah God by observing the things that are written in that book.