Understanding 
The Book of Revelation

The Three Great Woes Page 1

The Great Tribulation Part II

From the Main Message of

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Since in the following pages a very unusual scenario is presented for the Great Tribulation, based on the Book of Revelation, it is necessary to present something about how it is understood as a foundation for this part of the Main Message.

The Basis

The Book of Revelation must be viewed as the final Word - yes, "Word" - on Prophecy, literally and figuratively. There are a number of reasons why this is so, but the primary reason is that it was given by Jesus in His glorified state, about 65 years after the Ascension. It is the Revelation of Jesus Christ, not the "Revelation of John" as it is often called. This in itself shows that the Revelation has supreme importance. As He himself said in Matthew 24:35; "Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will never pass away."
 
Also, the Greek word "apocalypsos", translated "Revelation", means 'an uncovering' or 'a revealing'. This indicates that the Book contains prophetic information that even Jesus in His earthly existence did not know. That He didn't know all of it is demonstrated in Matthew 24:36 when He said that He didn't know the day and hour of His Coming. When He gave the Revelation, He did know.

Finally, only the Book of Revelation presents a complete scenario of the events related to the Second Coming. True, there are “bits and pieces” elsewhere in the Bible. But trying to build a scenario from sources other than Revelation is like trying to put a jigsaw puzzle together without a picture to go by, with some of the pieces missing, and with pieces present that don’t belong. For example, verses like Daniel 9:27, definitely, and 11:45, probably, are pieces that don’t belong. The guiding principle must be “Is it in the Book of Revelation?” If an idea relevant to Prophecy is not there, it probably isn't true. Using any contrary approach to interpreting the Prophecies will guarantee error.

Therefore, the Book of Revelation must take precedence in our thinking about Prophecy in the same way that the Gospel of Jesus Christ takes precedence over the Law of Moses.

The Problem

Whatever really happens in connection with the Second Coming will absolutely be other than what many Christians expect. There have been so many different interpretations of the Book of Revelation offered, plus lines of teaching on the Second Coming that are not based on the Revelation, so many different doctrines, that most of them have to be at least partially wrong. This writer realizes that his views are probably no exception. However, he is quite confident, as he has stated elsewhere, that his views are more in accord with both the Bible and reality than much of what has been taught previously, and is still being taught elsewhere.

Again, there have been many interpretations offered. Long have been the hours that scholars have pondered over the Book of Revelation trying to discern what it means. Some scholars have despaired of understanding it, to the point of claiming that it is just eschatological folklore, and doesn't really belong in the Bible. It has been included only because of the consensus of testimony by the Early Church Fathers that it was in fact written by St. John.

This writer's own father, an ordained minister, believed in the Second Coming, but to his recollection his father never preached or taught on it. He did not believe that it was possible to understand the Book of Revelation, and used this little parable to express his view of this issue:

"A soldier far from home in the army received a letter from his father that seemed to be very important. But his father had so filled it with metaphors and figures of speech that the soldier, for all he tried, could not  figure out what his father was trying to say. After pondering it for some time, he gave up, put the letter in his duffel bag, and said to himself, 'I'll just have to wait until I get home and ask my father what he meant.' "

This was this writer's father's attitude toward the whole topic of Second Coming Prophecy, and the Book of Revelation in particular. This writer is convinced that this was the wisest and safest view for Christians to hold. Until quite recently.

Understanding the Prophecies - Daniel 12

In the 12th chapter of the Book of Daniel (the only chapter in the Book that is definitely about the Second Coming) is the Scriptural basis for an important idea that seems to have only recently been noticed by students of prophecy. In fact, this writer noticed it from his own study before he heard anyone else teach it. Recently, he has seen it in exactly one Christian book on Prophecy, and several Prophecy - related Web sites. He has also heard it from several individuals. But it may still be a little known Biblical truth.

First we must understand that it was the Lord Jesus Christ who spoke to Daniel in that chapter, and in chapters 10 & 11. The three chapters are one long vision. The speaker in this vision is never actually named. We know it was Jesus from the fact that Daniel calls him Lord. Also, the speaker is described in Daniel 10:5-6. The only other place in the Bible that there is a similar description of a person is in Revelation 1:13-16. The person described there is the Lord Jesus Christ in His ascended, glorified state. This places this vision on a level of authority equal to the Revelation.

However, there is a broad consensus among students of Bible History that chapter 11 was fulfilled in the Seleucid Wars, which were fought between the Seleucid kingdom of Syria and the Ptolemaic Kingdom of Egypt circa 300-100 BC, and especially the reign of the tyrant Antiochus IV Epiphanes, who reigned circa 175-164. His actions provoked the revolt of the Maccabbees. He was the King of the North. Chapter 11 has been fulfilled. Only chapter 12 is about the Second Coming. This is obvious because it contains, in verse 2-3, the clearest prophecy of the Resurrection of the Saints in the Old Testament.

Several verses in Daniel 12 add up to saying that the Prophecies of the Second Coming will not be able to be understood until they are about to be fulfilled. The basis for this begins in Daniel 12:4, where Jesus tells Daniel,

"But you, Daniel, shut up the words, and seal the book until the time of the end...."

Then, in Daniel 12:8, he, himself, not understanding the visions he had seen, asked the Lord what they meant. The Lord's answer, in verse 9, was actually a mild rebuke:

"Go your way, Daniel (He might as well as have said, "Mind your own business, Daniel".) for the words are closed up and sealed till the time of the end".

Then, in verse 10, the Lord made a final remark relevant to this idea:

"...none of the wicked shall understand, but the wise shall understand".

This poses a question: "The wise shall understand what?" The Prophecies, of course, when the time has come for them to be fulfilled; when the time has come when the righteous need to know what they mean. Then, in accordance with Amos 3:7, God will give true understanding of the Prophecies to those He chooses, and they will share what they have learned with the rest of God's people. This is a Biblical pattern.

Jesus' statement, "Many shall run to and fro, and knowledge shall increase" at the end of verse 4 can be understood as a "signs of the times" prophecy that will tell us when we are in the Time of the End. As shown in the "BABEL RISING!" pages, this prophecy is being fulfilled before our eyes. We are in the Time of the End now. The Prophecies of the Second Coming can now be understood.

That's what this Web site is about.

The Millennium Bible

But a serious part of this concept is that the older an interpretation of Prophecy is, the less likely it is to be true. Correct understanding will be given only in the "time of the end". Which is why so many expositors of Prophecy have already been proven wrong by history, which you can see if you really examine what they say in the light of history.

There was a book first published back in the 1920's, and reprinted several times since, called "The Millennium Bible". It isn't really a Bible, but rather an exhaustive study of all the interpretations of all the prophetic passages of the Bible that had been offered up to the time it was first published. If you are well informed on the subject of history, you would not have to read much of The Millennium Bible to see that most of the ideas presented in it were wrong.

Where most Scriptural truth is concerned, there is an old saying, "If its new, it ain't true." Although this is a good rule of thumb for teaching on any other Biblical topic, the exact opposite is true of teaching on Prophecy. "If it ain't new, it ain't true!"

The Understanding Presented Here:

This writer, in his humble opinion, and saying this with trepidation, seriously believes that he has been given new understanding. What follows is a foundation for what is presented in the rest of this part of this site.

Symbolism

One thing that must be discussed is that many of the passages have been understood to be symbolic. Considering the idea that the Prophecies won't be understood until the Time of the End, consider this: The interpretations of the Book of the Revelation in the pages that follow are based on information from science, history and current events. Much of this information was not known to anyone until less than a century ago, and some of it is still not well known. On the other hand, most of the symbolic interpretations originated over a hundred years ago. The interpreters could not have known that the passages could be interpreted literally. This fact makes them at least suspect, if not totally invalid. A newer, literal translation is more likely to be right than an older symbolic one.

The Visions

The Book of Revelation is either one long vision, or a series of shorter ones, the latter possibility being the more likely. Some of these visions are of things that occur in Heaven. Others are of things that occur on earth. If looked at without any basic frame of reference, this is all very confusing. This is one reason why there is so much difference of opinion about what it all means. This writer has found something in the Book of Revelation that gives a framework for working out a very concrete scenario of the events on earth. It is assumed that events in the visions that take place in Heaven do not happen at any particular time, except as they directly relate to events on earth. But there is, again, a specific order given to the events on earth. This is so clear that this writer cannot understand how it is that other students of Prophecy appear to have overlooked it.

The Three "Woes"

The key to understanding the order is found in exactly three verses of the Book of Revelation. They are as follows:

  • Revelation 8:13; "And I looked, and heard an angel flying through the heaven, saying with a loud voice, 'woe, woe, woe to the inhabitants of the earth, because of the remaining blasts of the trumpet of the three angels that are about to sound' ".
  • Revelation 9:12; "One woe is past. Behold, still two more woes are coming after these things".
  • Revelation 11:14; "The second woe is past. Behold, the third woe is coming quickly".

These verses show, so plainly that no "interpretation" is needed, that the Great Tribulation is made up of three "woes". The Greek word translated "woes" is the same word translated "alas" in the phrase, "Alas, alas, that great city, Babylon..." (Revelation 18:10). It is ouai, transliterated, "ouai", and pronounced "oo-ah hee". Wherever it occurs in the New Testament, it refers to the effect of Divine judgment.

The use of these words in the Book of Revelation, combined with the references in which they occur, reveal that:

The Great Tribulation will be composed of three consecutive great outpourings of God's wrath, each of which is different in form, intensity and duration from the other two.

(Special Note: This writer is so certain that this is true that he could just as soon believe that the whole Bible isn't true as believe he is wrong about this. Especially since he also believes he understands what will happen during the three "woes".)

The following pages will show just what these three "woes" are.

Many interpreters of Prophecy have seen the Great Tribulation as being made up of two 3 1/2 year periods, based on Daniel 9:27. However, it has been shown long since that the Prophecy of the Seventy Weeks, in Daniel 9:24-27, points directly to the First Coming of Christ, not the Second Coming. Some scholars are of the opinion that Daniel 9:27 was completely fulfilled when Jerusalem was destroyed by the Romans in 70 AD. This writer concurs. In fact, the context supports this view rather than the idea of it referring to the Tribulation. 

The Prophets Themselves Didn't Understand

In explaining this understanding of what happens during the "woes", we must first understand some significant truths about Bible Prophecy:

First, the Prophets themselves often, like Daniel, did not understand what they wrote. They only knew that the Lord was telling them to write it, and that what they said was true. The fact that they didn't understand what they wrote is exemplified by the fact that we often find Prophecies lumped together in the Bible, many of which have been fulfilled, but which have little direct relevance to each other. The classic example of this is Micah 5:1-4. Here we find a series of prophecies that all came true more or less in connection with the life of Christ.

Notice that in verse 1, it is said that "they will strike the judge of Israel with a rod on the cheek". We find the literal fulfillment of this in Matthew 27:30, in the story of Jesus' trial.

But then in verse 2, we find this:

"But thou, O Bethlehem Ephratah, are not least to be among the clans of Judah, for out of thee shall He come forth unto Me who is to be governor in Israel, whose goings forth are from of old, from the days of eternity."

(Note: this reading may not agree with your Bible, but it is faithful to the Hebrew.)

This, of course, is a prophecy about where Jesus would be born, as we know from Matthew 2:5 & 6. It also prophesies the Incarnation, a truth that is seldom recognized.

Yet there is no coherent succession of ideas in this passage, which would not likely be the case if Micah had understood what he wrote. And we only understand them by hindsight.

Another example is Isaiah 11, which contains prophecies of both the First and Second Comings of Christ, plus the Millennium, all lumped together.

Have you ever noticed that no one in the New Testament recognized Jesus as Messiah on the basis of the fulfillment of prophecy (with one notable exception; see below)? When Peter recognized Jesus for who He was in Matthew 16:16, it was by Divine inspiration. It was only by hindsight that even the Apostles were able to understand the Prophecies. As it says in John 12:16 (NIV)
 
"At first his disciples did not understand all this. Only after Jesus was glorified did they realize that these things had been written about Him and that they had done these things to Him".

It was Jesus Himself who first did the interpreting. See Luke 24:25-27 & 44.

Therefore, the Prophecies are only correctly understood by divine revelation or by hindsight. To interpret Prophecy accurately before the fulfillment, you have to be a Prophet of God yourself. This is shown in Genesis 41 and Daniel 2, especially verses 27 & 28.

For many Christians, true understanding of Second Coming Prophecy may only come when the Great Tribulation has begun. For some, that will already be too late.

Secondly, when a prophet saw a vision, he often did not have the right words to describe what he saw. So he had to make do with whatever words he had at his disposal. For example, Ezekiel's description of his vision in Ezekiel 1 does not make visual sense. This was in accordance with God's will as shown above from Daniel 12. It was the way God wanted it at the time. And this applies to what John saw in his visions in the Book of Revelation. For example, when he saw "something like a great mountain burning with fire", he didn't know what it was. Unfortunately, it has recently become possible for us to understand what he saw, and it is terrifying. Which brings us to an important question:

Can Science and History Interpret the Book of Revelation?

In the following pages we will use science and history as tools for understanding what happens during the Three Great Woes. This may be a totally new idea to some readers, and therefore quite upsetting, especially the science part. So we must ask a serious question: Is it Biblically right and acceptable to use science, and extra-Biblical truth otherwise as tools for interpreting the Bible? There can't be an absolute "yes" or "no" answer, because science as we know it didn't exist when the Bible was written. But there are Biblical precedents for a highly probable "yes".

One is in Acts 17:28, in St. Paul's famous sermon on Mars Hill in Athens. He appealed to pagan Greek poets (i.e. philosophers) to support his doctrines of the fatherhood and omnipresence of God. Truth is truth, no matter where it comes from.

But a second, more compelling precedent is in the story of the Wise Men in Matthew 2. The Wise Men were not just learned men, they were astrologers. We know this from the Greek word magoi, (from which we get the word "magi") translated "wise men". The same word, in the singular, is translated "sorcerer" in Acts 13:8. The astrologers of that time were also primitive astronomers. In fact, it has only been in the last few centuries that astronomy and astrology became separate disciplines. So they were the scientists of their day. They had some real, though limited, knowledge of the night sky. They came to see the Baby Jesus because they were able to conclude from their own knowledge and reasoning that the Messiah had come.

They were the only ones in the New Testament that did so. Neither the priests, nor the shepherds, nor Anna and Simeon, (Luke 2:25-38) nor, later, even the Disciples, were able to do this. (See Matthew 16:13-17).

The scientists did.

Modern science is much more likely to tell us the truth, in the material, factual sense, than pagan Greek poets and ancient astrologers. So if the Greek poets were able to come up with truth worthy of inclusion in the Bible, and the Wise Men knew about the First Coming of Christ, it should not surprise or offend us if modern science can tell us something about the Second Coming.

History as a Tool for Understanding Prophecy

A person who wants to interpret Prophecy must also have real knowledge of history. For example, it is widely recognized by students of both History and Prophecy that much of the Book of Daniel was fulfilled during the Seleucid Wars, circa 300 - 100 BC, that followed the breakup of the Empire of Alexander the Great. You can read about these wars, as they affected Israel, in the Books of Maccabees in the Apocrypha. (Old Testament in Catholic Bibles) But many Christians don't even know that these wars happened, and that includes some interpreters of Prophecy. Only Daniel 12 is absolutely about the Second Coming. This again, is why our interpretations of Prophecy must be based mainly on the Book of Revelation.

Also, it is a little known fact that some Old Testament Prophecies have been fulfilled since the time of Christ in ways that have nothing whatsoever to do with the Second Coming. For example, there is a little-known Prophecy in Isaiah 19:18 about a time when there would be five cities in Egypt that would "speak the language of Canaan and swear by the Lord of hosts." The verse says, in the KJV, that one will be called "The City of Destruction", which is probably a mistranslation. There has never been such a city in Egypt. But there is an alternate reading; "The City of the Sun" (Septuagint, etc.). If this is considered to be the correct reading, which it probably is, then the Prophecy was literally fulfilled circa 600 AD, when the ancient Egyptian city of Heliopolis - literally, "The City of the Sun"- was a center of Coptic Christianity.

The result of ignorance of history on the part of expositors of Prophecy is that they have often read Prophetic ideas (including numbers) that have nothing to do with the Second Coming into their scenarios. This is one of the reasons for all the confusion, including erroneous date-setting. But if a student of Prophecy is also a student of History, as this writer is, then he will be able to see things that those who are ignorant of History will not see, and thus avoid serious errors. Again, some of the relevant historical knowledge wasn't generally available to the public until within the past century. And even now, you have to do some looking to find much of what you need to know.

A major aspect of interpretation of Second Coming Prophecy has been attempts to identify who "the Antichrist" is, and what "Mystery Babylon" is. It is quite obvious to this writer that some of the erroneous ideas relevant to these issues that have been put forward are the result of the interpreters not knowing the history of the world since the time of Christ. Especially in the United States, there are too many students of Prophecy who have obviously not taken major historical issues into consideration in arriving at their conclusions. These issues will be taken into consideration in the following pages.

What Happens During The "Woes"?

This section of the Main Message is, again, based on history and on scientific knowledge, some of which has been generally available to the public for less than twenty five years. Some of it still isn't well known. But this writer has "done his homework" on this, and continues to do it. You can take his word for what is said here. Through this knowledge, things in the Book of Revelation that have long been regarded as symbolic have suddenly come to appear terrifyingly literal. One major part of this has recently become well known to the secular public. It is beginning to be recognized by Christians all over the world. Yet many Christians have not heard of it, and some who have heard it still refuse to believe it. We will discuss this in the following page:

A Mountain Burning With Fire

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Contact Author, William D. Brehm