Hunting for Key Words the Inductive Way

May 3rd, 2014 | By | Category: Uncategorized

reverendechmMy first impression of hermeneutics in a Ph.D.’s structured college class wasn’t very good. I’d just finished two years of Charismatic institute studies before relocating with my wife Alisa to L.A. for Bible College, and the purely mental regiment of it all just cut across the grain. My historic and contextual understanding of the Old and New Testaments was relatively comprehensive. But I had never been directed to study the Bible through the dissection of its nouns, adjectives, adverbs, conjunctions, definite articles, and verbs.

The Word of God isn’t some piece of Elizabethan literature, I complained as I completed my assignments that first term of classes. And verily it did vex and aggravate me until I finally saw what we were doing in a later theology class. As we divided the local epochs of God’s interventions throughout the biblical record “wham!”it finally hit me. Key words and events observed in the discipline of biblical hermeneutics dotted the landscape of biblical history.
A few years later when I finally took the time to engage a systematic eschatology of the biblical texts, the same thing proved true. Key words led me back and forth in the Old and New Testaments connecting key prophetic events and figures, providing a general time frame and schematic of world history in advance. The same will be true for you.

Inductive Hermeneutics for Eschatology Today

To “whom” a biblical passage was directed, “what,” “when,” “where,” and “why” it was said is the inductive objective of the hermeneutic technique. Inductive reasoning involves logical analysis that draws conclusion from observable facts. The Word of God is a report, and God is its writer. So we must take it at face value if we believe what He says.

This is biblical scholarship’s study approach to every New Testament book , except Revelation. Stopping this nonsense is what Eschatology Today is all about. Those writing and teaching on the subject today have done an excellent job of opening these anointed passages of text to the church. But not many have approached the visions and revelations of John’s prophetic adventure with scholarship’s pen of logical, literal intent. So we will pick up the slack.

Some of the more confusing interpretive practices applied over the years have misread the literal nature of Revelation’s prophetic symbolism and replaced its chronological sequence throughout the text. Disassociating its coming woes from the work of God; rearranging chapters to fit particular perspectives; reversing to repeat the book’s message at chapter 12 (regardless of literal trumpet/bowl differences); and attributing its seven church letters to various church ages through which we have never historically passed, are all well written on prophetic perspectives.

If you were to rummage around most Bible bookstore shelves today, these views would jump out of most interpretive texts. They aren’t based on a purely literal interpretation of John’s prophecy and pay little, if any, attention to key words and key events. This is so because the interpreters themselves have no foundation of literal intent.

The greatest victory I experienced as a Christian publishing house editor was to get a certain prophecy author to remove his absolute statements on his interpretation of certain eschatological events. Statements like, “without a doubt the Bible teaches,” were replaced with his own wording of, “I believe this Scripture is saying this.” And by press time, the burden of his many free interpretations was placed on his own shoulders, where it belonged.

So let’s take a look at the principles of literal interpretation in the remainder of this article to provide you with the foundation necessary to intelligently interpret the Bible’s eschatological texts. Combining the information from this article with last issue’s interpretive piece, “Interpreting the Rules of Revelation,” will prepare you to intelligently engage this issue’s pre-, mid-, and posttrib rapture critiques.

The Principle of Literal Intent
Where the Word of God Is Bound, So Are We
Where It’s Not, We Are Free
(General maxim of biblical hermeneutics)

This first and most basic principle of hermeneutics maintains that God reveals Himself in the form of His printed word for the purposes of self disclosure. And that in every case of Scripture, prophetic revelation included, we are to interpret the Bible as literally as possible, assuming literal intent. This hermeneutic linchpin contends for the fact that it is not God’s nature to further frustrate man’s innate spiritual ignorance by making biblical contributions that add to our confused state.

John the Journalist
The principle of literal intent also acknowledges that what Revelation’s prophet was granted to witness during his privileged spiritual adventure was equally inspired throughout his text. In other words, that which John saw and wrote, as a Spirit-led journalist, he simply saw and wrote. There is no need to read anything else into it. Hail and fire mixed with blood, means hail and fire mixed with blood. Hail stones and earthquakes from heaven, mountains burning with fire, and locust-like creatures with scorpion like tails, mean just exactly that (if you want to say they’re helicopters, own the interpretation). Poison means poison, blood means blood, one third means one third, and all means all. To interpret John’s revelation soundly, you must be able to distinguish the difference between the visual revelation gifts (word of knowledge, word of wisdom) and the parabolic display of prophetic visions and dreams. We deal with this thoroughly in “Parables, Anointings, Visions, and Dreams.”

The Principle of Chronological Ascent
Complementing and paralleling God’s mindset of literal intent is His systematic coherence of chronological ascent. Chapter 2 comes after 1, 13 after 12, and 22 after 21, with each of their respective revelations building to an orderly sequence of events.

This hermeneutic principle contends for the simple intent of forward motion in the progression of John’s Revelation. Chapters were inserted by scholars for the sake of man’s convenience. Chronological ascent maintains that they should never be reversed or replaced from their inspired order of sequence. This, after all, is only common sense.

Rightly Dividing Revelation’s General and Local Truth

2 Timothy 2:15 (KJV)
15 Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.

As with any biblical book study, a working understanding of its historic background is important. When studying the Book of Revelation particularly, it is important to distinguish the three separate directions of John’s prophetic text.

A simple observation of “who” was being spoken to in the prophecy’s opening chapter shows it to be the writer himself. Commanded by Jesus in verse 11 to record and send out his revelation to seven local churches, John was next directed to write down three distinct events:

Revelation 1:19
19 Write therefore the things which you have seen, and the things which are, and the things which shall take place after these things.

The Things Which You Have Seen
The things which John “had seen” up to that point of his prophetic encounter consisted of his magnificent vision of the resurrected Jesus, the seven golden stars, and seven lamp stands. The stars and lamp stands are revealed in verse 20 as being the seven congregations and their seven respective angels to which John’s first-century letter was to be addressed.

The Things Which Are

06c The Mighty Angel Saying

The things “which are” at that point of John’s vision consisted of the local historic problems confronting these seven local churches. Contained within their letters are many GENERAL principles applicable to any century’s church. But the LOCAL truth of their individual messages was for their personal first-century welfare.

Revelation 3:21
21 He who overcomes, I will grant to him to sit down with Me on My throne, as I also overcame and sat down with My Father on His throne.

The Things Which Shall Take Place After These Things

Finally, those things John was commanded to write that would “take place after these things” consisted of the future’s revelation contained in the rest of the book.

Looking for Key Eschatological Figures, Key Words, and Key Events

Now to the meat of these principles. By providing certain key descriptive words in the Bible’s prophetic record, God has laid down an eschatological road map of recurring words, ideas, and events. This foundational hermeneutic principle of grammatical observation is an undeniable key to Bible study in general, eschatology included.

As the student of biblical eschatology keeps an eye out in the Old and New Testament prophets for KEY words, prophetic figures, and eschatological events, KEY words such as, “first,” “last,” “mystery,” “coming,” “trumpet,” “three and one half,” “seven,” and “blood” will perceptively repeat themselves. So will KEY periods in days, weeks and months, and KEY events such as “resurrection,” “Abomination of Desolation,” “Day of the Lord,” “tribulation,” and “Great Tribulation.”

The Word of God is, after all, the verbs, nouns, pronouns, adjectives, and adverbs of God. The principles of hermeneutics presupposes, and rightly so, that each one owns an important communicative purpose in their individual biblical placements. The interpretive process then purposes to know through studied observation why God breathed them into text.

In the case of the Rapture they provide a roadmap to the general timing of the event, which most “prophecy experts” discount or leave out.

So in this issue we will apply them to this key eschatological doctrine which was presented in our last issue by Hilton Sutton, Paul Benware, and Pat Roberson. And we will do so by the emphasis each position places on two very key timing words breathed into Scripture: last, and trumpet.

But first, in concluding this article, let’s examine the mind-boggling prophetic event.

The Eschatology of Deathlessness

We get the word, “rapture,” of all places, from the antiquated Latin Vulgate. “Raptura” is the Latin word translated from the Greek word, harpazo, that our English Bible translates “caught” in 1 Thessalonians 4:15-18. It means; to seize, catch up, snatch away, carry off.

Jesus Himself experienced the redemptive event when He was raptured before His disciples eyes at the end of His post-resurrection time with them on earth.

Jesus was caught up into heaven before His disciple’s watching eyes. He was “raptured” as we say, while His followers looked on.

vv. 10,11
10 And as they were gazing intently into the sky while He was departing, behold, two men in white clothing stood beside them;
11 and they also said, “Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking into the sky? This Jesus, who has been taken up from you into heaven, will come in just the same way as you have watched Him go into heaven.”

This angelically delivered promise of the aerial return of Christ was the foremost expectation of the early church. It was also the reason Paul’s earliest epistles included explanations concerning the dead who wouldn’t be present to see it.

1 Thessalonians 4:13-18
13 But we do not want you to be uninformed, brethren, about those who are asleep, that you may not grieve, as do the rest who have no hope.
14 For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so God will bring with Him those who have fallen asleep in Jesus.
15 For this we say to you by the word of the Lord, that we who are alive, and remain until the coming of the Lord, shall not precede those who have fallen asleep.
16 For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trumpet of God; and the dead in Christ shall rise first.
17 Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and thus we shall always be with the Lord.
18 Therefore comfort one another with these words.

Two key eschatological events and groups of people are prophesied by Paul in this eschatological passage:

1.  The Resurrection and the dead.

2.  The living and the Rapture.

First the prophet explains:

1. Those dying “in the Lord” previous to His coming were not to be grieved. Why? Because…the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout with the voice of the archangel, and with the trumpet of God; and the dead in Christ shall rise first? (v. 16).

So Paul first reminds the church of the well-known Old Testament promise of a coming resurrection with the New Testament church?s prophesied Rapture event.

Isaiah 27:19
Your dead will live; their corpses will rise…

He next describes a mind-boggling heavenward snatching of the living that will happen in sync with the resurrection when he reveals:

2. The members of Christ’s body who will be alive during this eschatological period will be “caught up” together with the resurrected saints to meet the Lord in the air, and along with them, “always be with the Lord (v.17).

Both groups, Paul prophesies, the dead rising first, along with those physically alive “in Christ” at this coming redemptive juncture, will be jointly snatched upward, seized, carried off; to meet the Lord in the air.

No Longer A Mystery
Paul’s “mystery” of the New Testament gospel includes this epochal event again in Corinthians 15, disclosing an even more graphic physical description of what take place.

1 Corinthians 15:50-52
50 Now I say this, brethren, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God; nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable.
51 Behold, I tell you a mystery; we shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed,
52 in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet; for the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we shall be changed.

Allaso is the Greek word translated “changed” here, and simply means, “to make other than is.” The change is further explained in verses 53 and 54:

53For this perishable must put on the imperishable, and this mortal must put on immortality.
54 But when this perishable will have put on the imperishable, and this mortal will have put on immortality, then will come about the saying that is written, “Death is swallowed up in victory.”
First Corinthians 15:52 contains the hermeneutic key that generally times the Rapture event. The apostle writes the heavenward snatching of the living will happen, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet; for the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperish-able, and we shall be changed.

I’d read this passage many times before I finally approached the doctrine as a directed study. When I did, the key words contained in it jumped out at me in purple and red. I started looking for “last trumpets” everywhere. And so should you. So let’s do some looking. Click on now to “Rapture, Right or Wrong; Are You a Pritribber?” and let’s start applying these principles to the Bible’s eschatological texts.

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