"Then Is Finished The Mystery Of God"
The Opening of Seals Five and Six
DESCRIBING what "the Lamb," Jesus Christ, does with the mysterious scroll taken from God's right hand, the apostle John continues on to say: "And when he opened the fifth seal, I saw underneath the altar the souls of those slaughtered because of the word of God and because of the witness work that they used to have. And they cried with a loud voice, saying: 'Until when, Sovereign Lord holy and true, are you refraining from judging and avenging our blood upon those who dwell on the earth?' And a white robe was given to each of them; and they were told to rest a little while longer, until the number was filled also of their fellow slaves and their brothers who were about to be killed as they also had been." — Revelation 6:9-11.
At the opening of this fifth seal none of the four living creatures invites the apostle John to come and see. What he sees is not the result of the riding of the horsemen on the fiery-colored, black and pale horses. The slaughtered souls that John saw had met death from other causes than international war, famine, deadly plague and wild beasts of the earth. They had met death for sacrificial purposes, and that was why these souls were seen underneath God's altar. These souls were no ghostly, shadowy figures or forms underneath the altar. What the apostle John saw there was really the blood of faithful Christians who died "because of the word of God and because of the witness work that they used to have." By birth John
was a Jew and he knew that in the animal sacrifices offered to Jehovah God in the temple at Jerusalem the blood of the victims was poured at the base of the altar, thus onto the ground. Even if splashed against the side of the altar it would run down to the ground. This was according to God's laws given to the Jews through the prophet Moses. — Leviticus 3:2, 8, 13; 4:7.
We must remember what Jehovah God said to his prophets about human blood. To the prophet Noah he said, right after the global flood: "Only flesh with its soul — its blood — you must not eat." (Genesis 9:4) To the prophet Moses in the wilderness of Sinai God said: "The soul of the flesh is in the blood, and I myself have put it upon the altar for you to make atonement for your souls, because it is the blood that makes atonement by the soul in it." (Leviticus 17:11) In the light of this, the "souls" that John saw underneath the altar picture the blood of faithful Christians who had been slaughtered because of taking up the written Word of God and preaching it, and also bearing witness to Him and to his Son Jesus Christ. For this reason their undeserved violent death was considered as a sacrifice to God for the vindication of Jehovah God as the Universal Sovereign and for the sanctification of his name. The persecutor on earth, the one chiefly responsible for the shedding of the blood of these holy ones, was Babylon the Great, who is, in reality, the world empire of false religion that was founded in ancient Babylon on the Euphrates River.
Says John: "Upon her forehead was written a name, a mystery: 'Babylon the Great, the mother of the harlots and of the disgusting things of the earth.' And I saw that the woman was drunk with the blood of the holy ones and with the blood of the witnesses of Jesus." "Yes, in her was found the blood of prophets and of holy ones and of all those who have been slaughtered on the earth." — Revelation 17:5, 6; 18:24.
The all-seeing God is aware of the blood, representing the sacrificed human souls, at the base of his
altar, and he knows how the blood (their souls) got there. It calls for divine vengeance.
The blood of these innocent ones cries out loudly to Jehovah God for vengeance upon the shedders of blood. About four thousand years before John's vision the blood of God's first martyr cried out to him from the ground. It was the blood of Abel, whom his brother Cain slew over the issue of true religion. Cain tried to hide the blood of his murdered brother, but Jehovah God said to Cain: "What have you done? Listen! Your brother's blood is crying out to me from the ground. And now you are cursed in banishment from the ground, which has opened its mouth to receive your brother's blood at your hand." (Genesis 4:1-11; 1 John 3:12) In like manner the blood of the martyred Christians cried out from underneath God's sacrificial altar as long as that innocent blood of Christ's followers went unavenged. That is why the apostle John heard the souls underneath the altar cry out with a loud voice, "loud" because there were so many of them:
"Until when, Sovereign Lord holy and true, are you refraining from judging and avenging our blood upon those who dwell on the earth?" — Revelation 6:10.
These slaughtered Christian souls will not have cried out in vain. Jesus Christ assured them of that. He said: "Shall not God cause justice to be done for his chosen ones who cry out to him day and night, even though he is long-suffering toward them? I tell you, He will cause justice to be done to them speedily." (Luke 18:7, 8) Tens of thousands of these Christian souls had been slaughtered up till the end of the Gentile Times in the year 1914. But the due time for God to avenge their blood was not immediately after those Gentile Times ended in that year when World War I broke out. God's due time for such vengeance will be at his appointed time for destroying the bloodstained Babylon the Great and also at the battle of Armageddon, which promptly follows her destruction. Then the cry will ring out in heaven: "Praise Jah, you
people! . . . For he has executed judgment upon the great harlot who corrupted the earth with her fornication, and he has avenged the blood of his slaves at her hand." (Revelation 19:1, 2) Her destruction is still future, but it is getting nearer.
Amid the persecutions during World War I of 1914-1918 there were anointed Christians who thought that the world war was going to lead right on into world revolution and an Armageddon of anarchy.* To their great surprise, World War I came to an abrupt end on November 11, 1918, and yet Babylon the Great still stood and the battle of Armageddon had not come. They wondered why, and saw the need to search the Holy Scriptures for an explanation. Under guidance of God's holy spirit they were led to see that there was a tremendous worldwide work yet to be done before the complete end of this wicked system of things would come in the "war of the great day of God the Almighty" at Armageddon. (Revelation 16: 14-16) So the faithful remnant of anointed Christians saw that, after Jesus Christ had predicted the "beginning of pangs of distress" in the form of international war, food shortages, earthquakes and pestilences, he pointed to a worldwide work that would be done before the system of things fully ended. He said:
"And this good news of the kingdom will be preached in all the inhabited earth for a witness to all the nations; and then the end will come." — Matthew 24: 14; Mark 13:10.
Certainly, then, time needed to be provided for by God in order for this foreordained work to be done. Because of taking on a worldwide scope, the work was so great, and yet the faithful anointed remnant was so small as to numbers. How much time God had allotted for this vast work to be accomplished, the anointed remnant that had survived World War I did not know. Those of this remnant were the ones
* See the book The Finished Mystery, published in July of 1917, pages 3, 4, 257. Also, The Watch Tower, dated November 1, 1914, pages 327, 328; also, the issue dated February 1, 1918, pages 35, 36; also February 15, 1918, page 55.
anointed with God's holy spirit to do this preaching of the "good news" of God's newly established kingdom in the hands of his crowned, enthroned King Jesus Christ. They were to do this preaching in spite of being "objects of hatred by all the nations" on account of Christ's name. (Matthew 24:9) This was certain to mean further persecution for them, and doubtless a number of these Christian brothers, anointed fellow slaves, were bound to be killed, just as their earlier Christian brothers, "fellow slaves" of Jehovah God, had been down till the end of World War I in 1918. — Revelation 6:11; 2:10.
Inasmuch as the preaching of "this good news of the kingdom" precedes the "end" of the system of things, it must be that we have been living in the "time of the end," or in the "conclusion of the system of things," since God's Messianic kingdom was established in the heavens at the close of the Gentile Times in 1914 C.E. (Daniel 12:4; Matthew 24:3) In explaining his illustration of the wheat and the weeds (tares), Jesus said: "The harvest is a conclusion of a system of things." During this harvesttime the counterfeit weedlike Christians are separated under angelic direction from the faithful wheatlike Christians, and finally the weedlike Christians are destroyed as in a fiery furnace, when Babylon the Great is destroyed. (Matthew 13:39-42) All these operations require that the "harvest" be a period of time of quite some duration after the Gentile Times ended in 1914, and particularly from the year 1918 onward. Consequently, the destruction of bloodguilty Babylon the Great was not due by the end of World War I in 1918.
The "harvest" separation of the weedlike Christians from the wheatlike Christians was to be followed by another separating work as a climax. In his prophecy on the "conclusion of the system of things" Jesus illustrated the judging of his professed Christian "brothers," and then, in a closing illustration, he said: "When the Son of man arrives in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit down on his
glorious throne. And all the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate people one from another, just as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. And he will put the sheep on his right hand, but the goats on his left." — Matthew 25:14-33.
Before ushering the sheeplike people into the earthly blessings under God's Messianic kingdom, the enthroned Son of man, Jesus Christ, reminds them that some of his Christian or spiritual brothers had been in prison during the "conclusion of the system of things" and these sheeplike people had brought them relief. On the other hand, before sending off into everlasting destruction the cursed goatlike people, the enthroned Jesus Christ reminds them that they had failed to relieve those of his spiritual brothers who were in prison. (Matthew 25:34-46) This mention of "prison" foretold that his anointed spiritual brothers, the remnant of them on earth, would be persecuted, even to the death in some cases, during the "conclusion of the system of things." Thus, after 1918 C.E., there were to be other "brothers," "fellow slaves" of God, who would be killed for "the word of God" and for "the witness work," the same as the Christian souls whom John saw under the altar. — Revelation 6:9-11.
Hence there would have to be "a little while longer" for those slaughtered "souls" "to rest" before the Sovereign Lord Jehovah would avenge their blood upon religious Babylon the Great and her political accomplices. However, this resting would not necessarily mean their remaining dead, asleep in death. (1 Corinthians 15:17-20) Those "souls" under the altar were to rest a little while longer as to the satisfaction of justice in their case. For "a little while longer" they were not to press for the avenging of their blood. They were to refrain from insisting that their blood be avenged there in 1918. They should "rest" by letting the account against the bloody slaughterers go unsettled for "a little while longer," until God's own chosen time to settle accounts.
A WHITE ROBE GIVEN TO EACH
However, though they were asked to wait until the time interval of "a little while longer" was ended, something was done for them in 1918. What? Revelation 6:11 says that "a white robe was given to each of them." This doubtless refers to their resurrection from the dead at that time and their entrance into the heavenly kingdom of Christ which had already been born or established. It would hardly be fitting for those slaughtered souls to receive these white robes while still remaining under the altar. White robes would be most inappropriate down there in such a place as "underneath the altar" of sacrifice. How could long flowing robes be kept "white" down there? Jesus Christ had promised white robes as a reward for faithfulness in overcoming this wicked world. (Revelation 3:4, 5) Such an outer garment as a white robe would be a mark of honor and a symbol of their innocence, of God's favorable judgment toward them. It would be appropriate to wear such white robes in the heavenly throne after their resurrection from the dead. (Revelation 4:4) But, although resurrected back there in 1918, they would still rest as to being avenged.
What, though, was to happen to their spiritual brothers yet alive on earth during that "little while longer" that they were to rest until being avenged? Revelation 6:11 indicates this by saying "a little while longer, until the number was filled also of their fellow slaves and their brothers who were about to be killed as they also had been." That meant more persecution upon faithful Christians. That meant more slaughtering of true Christians on earth in addition to the number of Christian souls that had been slaughtered down till 1918 by Babylon the Great and her political paramours. The full number of 144,000 who taste of a sacrificial death with Jesus Christ had not been filled by the year 1918. There was yet a remnant that needed to be added to complete the required number of 144,000 heirs of God's kingdom.
Many of this remnant "were about to be killed" as
earlier ones of "their fellow slaves and their brothers" had been down till 1918. The persecution of Christ's true footstep followers was not to be ended by 1918; there was more to follow after the close of World War I in that year. Was this not also what Jesus Christ foretold in his prophecy on the "conclusion of the system of things" as another of the evidences that he was present in his heavenly kingdom? Yes. He said, right after predicting international war, famine and pestilences:
"Then people will deliver you up to tribulation and will kill you, and you will be objects of hatred by all the nations on account of my name. Then, also, many will be stumbled and will betray one another and will hate one another. And many false prophets will arise and mislead many; and because of the increasing of lawlessness the love of the greater number will cool off. But he that has endured to the end is the one that will be saved. And this good news of the kingdom will be preached in all the inhabited earth for a witness to all the nations; and then the end will come." — Matthew 24:9-14; Luke 21:12-19.
Those prophetic words of Jesus Christ have been fulfilled, as history shows, since the end of the Gentile Times in 1914 and down till today. Thus down till the close of World War I in 1918 there had been the unrighteous shedding of the blood of genuine Christians who were "slaughtered because of the word of God and because of the witness work that they used to have," and after 1918 a faithful surviving remnant of "fellow slaves" have taken up the word of God and have been giving the witness in all the inhabited earth, preaching the good news of God's newborn kingdom to all the nations. Some of these have been slaughtered because of this, and others will yet be slaughtered before "the end" of this system of things comes. Till the full number have been slaughtered and thus till Babylon the Great and her political accomplices have filled up the measure of their bloodguiltiness, God will refrain from avenging the blood of his
Christian slaves. When God finally executes his vengeance, it will be for all the Christian blood that has been shed, all at one time. Till then the souls that John saw under the altar must rest in hope.
SIXTH SEAL BROKEN
The breaking of the fifth seal revealed further proof that the Rider of the white horse had been crowned King and was riding victoriously with his bow to the completing of his conquest. What will take place when he completes his conquest in the not distant future? This is disclosed when the Lamb Jesus Christ breaks the sixth seal of the mysterious scroll that he took from the right hand of Jehovah God. What did the Christian apostle John see?
"And I saw when he opened the sixth seal, and a great earthquake occurred; and the sun became black as sackcloth of hair, and the entire moon became as blood, and the stars of heaven fell to the earth, as when a fig tree shaken by a high wind casts its unripe figs. And the heaven departed as a scroll that is being rolled up, and every mountain and every island were removed from their places. And the kings of the earth and the top-ranking ones and the military commanders and the rich and the strong ones and every slave and every free person hid themselves in the caves and in the rock-masses of the mountains. And they keep saying to the mountains and to the rock-masses: 'Fall over us and hide us from the face of the one seated on the throne and from the wrath of the Lamb, because the great day of their wrath has come, and who is able to stand?'" — Revelation 6:12-17.
The "great earthquake" that the apostle John witnessed was not a mere local one. It shook the whole earth. Back in the year 33 C.E. John had heard Jesus predict the occurrence of literal earthquakes as something to mark the opening part of the "conclusion of the system of things," saying: "earthquakes in one place after another. All these things are a beginning
of pangs of distress." (Matthew 24:7, 8; Mark 13:8) But the "great earthquake" occurring in the vision after the opening of the sixth seal is evidently a symbolic earthquake. It symbolizes a great upheaval in the human earthly system of things, everything man-made not having God's approval and blessing being terribly shaken, yes, shaken down, flattened, all around - our terrestrial globe. Hence any man-made thing out of harmony with God and the Lamb would provide no proper covering for men, such not being habitable, not providing the comforts of home, nor being safe to live in. The whole earthly system becomes uninhabitable; men are forced to move out, seeking safety.
Oftentimes when there are great earthquakes there are also celestial and atmospheric phenomena. When a literal earthquake occurs, many persons cry heavenward, appealing to God, even if they have never called upon him before. When that "great day" for the executing of divine wrath upon disobedient mankind arrives, men will look skyward. But will there be any indication of heaven's favor toward them in their direst distress? Says the prophetic vision: "The sun became black as sackcloth of hair, and the entire moon became as blood, and the stars of heaven fell to the earth, as when a fig tree shaken by a high wind casts its unripe figs." (Revelation 6:12, 13) What could such heavenly phenomena symbolize?
As a whole, the people under God's wrath would have nothing from heaven to brighten the situation for them. The daytime would be dismal, mournful, as if the sun had been blacked out, not by a tremendous cloud of dust particles in outer space, but as if cloaked over by black sackcloth made of the hair of black goats and worn in times of grief and mourning. Having refused the spiritual light from God's inspired Word, the Bible, people would mourn during the daytime. And at night? No silvery moon to shine down benignly upon them! Not silvery rays, but bloody rays, with no life-giving light. Bloodshed will be rife throughout the earth by night, if not also by day.
Blood will mark the night. But certainly the billions of stars will offset this bloodstained appearance of the moon! No! Have you ever seen a fig tree caught in a high wind and whipping down its unripe winter-grown figs? That is the way the stars will drop from the skies. Drop where? Not down to the earth, but out of sight. They will give no glimmer of heavenly light or serve as guides to travelers in the night. So by day or by night men will have nothing to brighten the scene.
Symbolically speaking, would not those heavenly bodies all disappear when the further part of the vision as released by the sixth broken seal takes place? Yes! "And the heaven departed as a scroll that is being rolled up." Men have used the heat and light rays from the sun in power projects. They have harnessed the tides that are caused by the gravitational pull of the moon, and have used that same gravitational pull in order to bring a manned spacecraft from the earth into orbiting around the moon. They have used the stars as guides to travel at night. They have cast astrological horoscopes by reference to stars and planets and zodiacal signs. More than that, they have worshiped star gods and planetary gods. They have worshiped the moon as a god or a goddess. They have worshiped the sun as a companion god or goddess.
In this manner the "heaven" with its bodies in outer space has represented powers higher than man and wielding controlling influence over man. The real heavenly forces, or forces higher than man, are invisible to him. They are Satan the Devil, who has been worshiped as the sun, and also all his demon angels, who have been worshiped as stars or constellations, lesser deities. These must now go!
For millenniums these unseen demon rulers of mankind have written their record on the pages of human history. Now it is time for a new page to be written in human affairs. Hence those symbolic heavens must depart, their page in human history disappearing as when a papyrus or calfskin scroll is rolled up around
its central stick, hiding what has been written within the scroll. (Luke 4:20; Daniel 12:4) At the day of divine wrath the time has come for new and righteous heavenly powers to take control over human affairs. Those new righteous heavens established by Almighty God will never be rolled up like a scroll and put away in a bin. They will remain forever for the blessing of God-fearing men.
VISIBLE EARTHLY CHANGES DUE
Not alone will there be changes in the invisible heavenly realm, but there will be necessary changes in the visible earthly scene. Revelation 6:14 continues on to say: "And every mountain and every island were removed from their places." This betokens something for the political governments of this system of things, for, in the Holy Scriptures, mountains are used to picture ruling governments. In the coming day for executing God's wrath neither the height of prestige and power nor the isolation of any government as on an island surrounded by water will be of any protective use. As parts of the present system of things they will all be removed because of being no part of God's kingdom. They will not be transformed from despotic, dictatorial, autocratic forms of governmental rule to popular, democratic forms of government, thus merely undergoing a change of structure, but remaining selfishly human. They will be removed into destruction.
Such things were also foretold in the Revelation to occur at the time when the seventh plague is poured out by God's angel. The account of this is given in Revelation 16:18-21, in these words: "And lightnings and voices and thunders occurred, and a great earthquake occurred such as had not occurred since men came to be on the earth, so extensive an earthquake, so great. And the great city split into three parts, and the cities of the nations fell; and Babylon the great was remembered in the sight of God, to give her the cup of the wine of the anger of his wrath.
Also, every island fled, and mountains were not found. And a great hail with every stone about the weight of a talent descended out of heaven upon the men, and the men blasphemed God due to the plague of hail, because the plague of it was unusually great." This prophetic vision is a confirmation of what is due to take place as a result of the opening of the sixth seal of the mysterious scroll.
All classes of persons who are a part of this system of things will be affected, "the kings of the earth and the top-ranking ones and the military commanders and the rich and the strong ones and every slave and every free person." Then they will all realize that they have come to the end of this system of things. The continual failure of their selfish schemes to preserve this old wicked system will force them to see that they do not have heaven's favor upon them, the favor of the enthroned God of the universe nor the favor of the Lamb of God, Jesus Christ, whom Christendom has claimed to serve and follow. The time will then have come for the prayer of Psalm 83:18 to be answered: "That people may know that you, whose name is Jehovah, you alone are the Most High over all the earth." Yes, the time will have come for this Most High God to carry out his declaration repeatedly made through his prophet Ezekiel: "People will have to know that I am Jehovah. . . . and the nations will have to know that I am Jehovah." — Ezekiel 39:6, 7; 6:7, 10, 13, 14; 7:4, 9, 27.
To preserve their lives through the greatest tribulation of all human history men will run for cover. But where? They may make desperate cries to God for help, but they will still put their real trust in their own organizations, and not in God's Word and in his heavenly kingdom. They have all along trusted in their governments and political organizations, which dominate the earth like lofty mountains, as backbones of the present system of things. So Revelation 6:15, 16 tells us in figurative language that they "hid themselves in the caves and in the rock-masses of the
mountains. And they keep saying to the mountains and to the rock-masses: 'Fall over us and hide us from the face of the one seated on the throne and from the wrath of the Lamb, because the great day of their wrath has come, and who is able to stand?' "
Men will want then, not to die, but to be buried out of sight. Jesus Christ foretold such human behavior when he predicted the destruction and desolation of Jerusalem and Judea during the years 66 to 73 C.E. On his way to death on a stake at Calvary, he stopped and said to tenderhearted women who bewailed him: "Stop weeping for me. On the contrary, weep for yourselves and for your children; because, look! days are coming in which people will say, 'Happy are the barren women, and the wombs that did not give birth and the breasts that did not nurse!' Then they will start to say to the mountains, Tall over us!' and to the hills, 'Cover us over!' " (Luke 23:26-30) The Jewish historian Josephus describes in great detail what the inhabitants of Judea and Jerusalem, in fulfillment of Jesus' prophecy, did in 63-73 C.E. Judea's last stronghold, Masada, fell in 73 C.E.
Among the events that are due to take place during "the final part of the days" the prophet Isaiah was inspired to say: "And the haughtiness of the earthling man must bow down, and the loftiness of men must become low; and Jehovah alone must be put on high in that day. And the valueless gods themselves will pass away completely. And people will enter into the caves of the rocks and into the holes of the dust because of the dreadfulness of Jehovah and from his splendid superiority, when he rises up for the earth to suffer shocks. In that day the earthling man will throw his worthless gods of silver and his valueless gods of gold that they had made for him to bow before to the shrewmice and to the bats, in order to enter into the holes in the rocks and into the clefts of the crags, because of the dreadfulness of Jehovah and from his splendid superiority, when he rises up for the earth to suffer shocks." "Enter into the rock
and hide yourself in the dust because of the dreadfulness of Jehovah, and from his splendid superiority." — Isaiah 2:1, 2, 17-21, 10.
Divine prophecy will inevitably be fulfilled. We are fast approaching the day for the final expression of the wrath of God and of his Lamb Jesus Christ to be made against this system of things. Already the political rulers of this earth are dismayed because the prayers of the religious leaders of Babylon the Great fail to gain heaven's help for the preservation of their national governments and commercial, social, and peace-keeping institutions. The "great day of their wrath" will come shortly when the preaching of "this good news of the kingdom" has been done earth wide to the extent that God wants the witness to be given to all the nations. (Matthew 24:14) Then the vital ques-
tion to be answered by those who are not on the side of the kingdom of God but who are part of this doomed system of things will be: "Who is able to stand?" (Revelation 6:17) These people will then know they will not be able to stand; otherwise, why would they seek to hide from God and the Lamb rather than joyfully welcome them and the promised heavenly kingdom? One's standing approved means being spared from destruction and entering into God's perfect new order.
Heart-gripping, therefore, are the once mysterious things revealed by the opening of the first six of the seven seals that had locked up the contents of the scroll in the right hand of the One seated on the throne of the universe. What the apostle John revealed in cryptic symbols we see in understandable modern-day fulfillment. Especially from the year 1930, when, in September, the Bible-study aid entitled "Light," in two volumes, was published generally, have dedicated Christian witnesses of Jehovah God come to an understanding of prophetic symbols disclosed by the Lamb's breaking those six seals that kept secret the contents of the scroll. No longer do we weep with the apostle John, but we rejoice with him at the disclosure of the sealed-in things. We exult with unspeakable joy at the pictures that were acted out after the breaking of the first five seals proving that God's Messianic kingdom has been born in the heavens, that its King rides to final conquest.
We are grateful that we today can discern the modern fulfillments of those prophetic tableaus seen by the apostle John. Wisely we prepare ourselves to be found worthy "to stand" when the "day of their wrath" arrives to remove forever this wicked system of things in the foretold "great tribulation." Till then we continue on, despite persecution, in preaching "this good news of the kingdom" in "all the inhabited earth for a witness to all the nations." — Matthew 24:14; Mark 13:10.