The Key to Unlocking Revelation

The book of Revelation is the most misunderstood book in the entire Bible. How could God allow this most important, prophetic, end-time book to be so confusing to so many people?

There are seven seals in the book of Revelation. They symbolize events to occur just before the return of Jesus Christ. These seals have been loosed, or unlocked, in this end time.

Only one key can unlock the book of Revelation. “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. And I wept much, because no man was found worthy to open and to read the book, neither to look thereon” (Revelation 5:2-4).

How can anyone read these verses and think that a man or a church or a particular denomination or any religious leader could possibly unlock the book of Revelation? It is simply impossible.

The one and only key to unlocking Revelation is revealed in verse 5: “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.”

“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. … And round about the throne were four and twenty seats: and upon the seats I saw four and twenty elders sitting, clothed in white raiment; and they had on their heads crowns of gold” (Revelation 4:1-2, 4).

The seven seals of Revelation are actually described in chapters 6 and 8, but God took time to set the stage. This is the glorious setting of God’s throne room, where the book of Revelation originated.

“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). Here we find the true source of revelation. Seven is the number of completion; the seven seals complete the message of Revelation to this world.

The book of Revelation opens with a description of the seven eras of God’s Church. The first three chapters prove that Revelation is meant to be understood by the loyal members of the one true Church. Chapter 5 presents a practical way to understand the entire book—a book we desperately need as Christ’s return draws near.

Look Elsewhere

In The Book of Revelation Unveiled at Last, Herbert W. Armstrong wrote:

[T]he 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! … Christ reveal[s] 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.

Why would God purposely put His revelation in symbols and hide it from human beings? He doesn’t want mankind to understand until they are ready to submit to Him. Until then, God reveals only to a small number of humble and childlike “babes” (Matthew 11:25). Mr. Armstrong continued:

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!

Christ spoke in parables so the multitude wouldn’t understand! (Mark 4:10-12). He wasn’t trying to convert the world back then, and He isn’t trying to convert the world today. But He does give a key to a little remnant that proclaims His message. That key is in another passage of Scripture.

We must look elsewhere besides Revelation to understand this book! Mr. Armstrong wrote:

[W]e find in this sixth chapter of Revelation a prophecy cloaked mysteriously in symbols which have hidden the true meaning from men these [1,900] 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.

The Olivet Prophecy

The synoptic Gospels contain a prophecy that Christ gave at the Mount of Olives. This prophecy—found in Matthew 24, Luke 21 and Mark 13—unlocks the seven seals of Revelation! Matthew 24 is the most complete version.

“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. 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” (Revelation 6:1-2).

This is the first seal. The horseman holds a bow, not a sword like Christ will when He returns (Revelation 19:15). The white horse symbolizes religious deception—religious messages about the person of Christ rather than the message He proclaimed (Matthew 24:3-5).

The first four seals are the four horsemen of the apocalypse (Revelation 6:3-8). Matthew 24 explains this very clearly. The first seal, as explained above, is religious deception. The second seal is wars and rumors of wars that will lead to World War iii. The third seal is famine. The fourth seal is pestilence and epidemics that will exterminate a third of all human life on the planet.

The fifth seal is the martyrdom of God’s rebellious people (Revelation 6:9-11). Matthew’s account foretells the destruction of God’s Church in the end time (Matthew 24:10-13), which leads to this martyrdom during the Great Tribulation.

The sixth seal is heavenly signs (Revelation 6:12-13; Matthew 24:29). This takes place immediately after the 2½-year Tribulation. The sky will go completely dark—no sun, moon or stars!

The seventh seal is seven trumpet blasts that announce seven plagues on the modern descendants of ancient Israel as punishment for their sins (Revelation 8; Matthew 24:30-31). In the past, trumpets announced war. War is coming to the Earth! After the Great Tribulation comes the Day of the Lord, when God will wreak more havoc on Earth than there has ever been! (Revelation 9:20). Sadly, this is what it takes for stubborn mankind to turn to God.

Christ will return just before man annihilates himself (Matthew 24:21-22). The short term brings tremendous suffering, but it all leads to good news! “And the seventh angel sounded; and there were great voices in heaven, saying, The kingdoms of this world are become the kingdoms of our Lord, and of his Christ; and he shall reign for ever and ever” (Revelation 11:15).

We can know the key to unlocking Revelation—to understanding the sequence of events leading to Christ’s return. What a faith builder! What a hopeful future!