Bible prophecy. Can the ordinary every day pew warming Christian understand these passages of Scripture that make up one third of the Bible’s text? “No,” so many prophetic “experts” seem to say. Their allegorical commentaries that have flooded Christian airwaves and bookstores over the years read and sound like parroted last-days Rapture squak.
“Go away, don’t bother me with it, anyway,” you say. “My pastor’s favorite expert is good enough for me. It’ll all pan out.
“Besides, I get lost in the Laodicean church age thing in Revelation 3. And I’ve been trying to get through Ed Eschaton’s latest book, 2013 to Infinity, since I received it as TCN’s monthly gift offer last Rosh HaShanna. I’m finally to the planet alignment chapter that talks about the nuclear plant meltdowns and Feast of Trumpets A-bomb disasters he spoke about on the air. And I’m still confused about how they fit into Ebola virus and AIDS.”
If this sounds like you…if you’re one of the thousands of browbeaten Christians who’ve been numbed by the many broken-record Tribulation, Antichrist, EEC, and or Gog watch ministries…. If the cacophony of confusing views flooding our Christian airwaves and bookshelves have convinced you that no one…especially you…can understand Bible prophecy…knock it off. If you can read, the Bible itself can unlock many of its amazing eschatological secrets, just for you. Because God’s omniscience is transcendent and so often inexplicable, much of what we see in the prophetic scriptures is seen through a glass darkly. But with the help of the Holy Spirit, we can “get the gist” of the parables, anointings, visions and dreams that make up the prophetic movie contained in the Bible’s texts. It is only in the blood covenant chronicles of Old and New Testament scripture that predictive revelation is fulfilled and stretches out. No human “religious” book can even fabricate that.
There is an exciting new adventure awaiting you in the prophets Isaiah, Daniel, Ezekiel, Micah, Joel, Zephaniah, Zechariah, Paul, John, the Lord Jesus Christ, and many more. That is, if you’re interested, if you believe the Bible literally means what it says, and you can read.
But first, unribbon your Scoffield, Dakes, or Brother what’s-his-name’s special margin note prophecy edition Bibles. Then go ahead and shelf 2016 to Infinity, Revelation Made Easy, Revelation Made Easier, Doomsday for Dummies, Rapture, Right or Wrong, and all of your other favorite expert prophecy books.
Because of their inherent potential to supplement your spiritual curiosity for prophetic understanding at the expense of personal time in the Scriptures. You can come back to them later. Then take an hour to read Daniel 7 and 11; 1 Corinthians 15; 1 Thessalonians 4; 2 Thessalonians 2; and Revelation 13 and 17. Once you do, you will be ready to ask yourself the following eschatological questions:
“What relevance do the Antichrist, the Rapture, and the Great Tribulation have in conjunction with God’s over-all redemptive plan?”
“Why are they God’s will, and where do they fit into His sovereign sequence of other prophetic figures and events?”
And, “How should this truth affect me now?”
These are important thinking Christian questions. Because as the global politics prophesied by Daniel and John thousands of years ago make the news of our day (Daniel 7; 11; Revelation 13; 17), Jerusalem is readier than ever to fulfill its eschatological role as the stumbling stone of Christ’s enemies and the place of His rapidly approaching return (Zechariah 12:3; 14:4). And you should want to know what the Bible has to say about all of this in God’s prophetic end-of-the-age plan.
When you take the time to “ponder” you will find that the message of Bible prophecy has little to do with the whether-or-not’s of the church’s presence during the Tribulation. Or whether Henry Kissinger or King Juan Carlos will be the Antichrist.
What you will discover is that God’s ultimate aim of mankind’s redemption has been slowly moving us away from what we became through Adam’s death (Genesis 3:19) back into the God ordained image of what Adam originally was [whatever that was] before he fell (Revelation 21:3; 22:3,4). That is, if you’re willing to study. And if you’re willing to let the Bible, not cut and paste allegory, interpret the Bible itself.
Where the Word of God Is Bound, So Are We; Where It’s Not, We Are Free
So if you’re ready to uncrack those sticky pages in the middle and back of your Bible, of first importance in your very own prophecy study will be a working understanding of the Holy Spirit’s teaching methods of prophetic symbolism and literal intent.
This foundational principle on which every application of Bible interpretation rests maintains that God reveals himself in the form of His printed Word for the purposes of self-disclosure. And that in every case of biblical revelation we are to interpret the Bible as literally as possible. Including those peculiar, prophetic visions recorded throughout Revelation’s text.
Lights! Camera! Action!
Serving as the sort of kingdom parables Jesus taught when relating His message to the surrounding landscape (only these with moving pictures and sound tracks), God’s prophetic movies in Scripture were revealed and meant to be interpreted, with His literal intent.
Ezekiel’s “Valley of Bones” [the restoration of Israel to her land] (Ezek. 37); Daniels beasts and horns [the historic interplay of nations and last days figures] (Dan. 7; 9; 11; Rev. 17); John’s pictorial view of the resurrected and sacrificial Christ (Rev. 1:12-17; 4:6); of Satan, the Church, Israel (Rev. 12); the False Prophet, and the Antichrist (Rev. 13; 17) all serve to instruct the Bible’s student in a way that only a picture can provide. One truly good one really is worth a thousand words. Especially from God’s movie studio.
Burnished bronze (judgment); hair like wool (righteousness); sharp two-edged swords (the power of God’s spoken Word);beasts (despots and kingdoms); horns (authority); virgins (Israel and the church); and dragons (Satan) present a cinematic view of those in Scripture they are displayed to represent. Projected upon God’s screen of prophetic revelation, these prophetically symbolic movies and snapshots released in Scripture were often shot with verbal captions to specifically explain who or what they were symbolically connected with. In those few instances where an accompanying sound track isn’t supplied, a knowledge of Scripture can fill in the blanks.
So line-out the “apocalyptic literature” camp mantra you’ve been parroting in Dr. what’s-his-name’s book that claims the prophetic texts in Scripture weren’t meant to be taken literally. In fact, why don’t you just toss the sorry thing out. The box office is open and the film is threaded. Take a seat.
The Word of Wisdom, Word of Knowledge, and Discerning of Spirits
In other revelations of John’s prophecy, he was graced with the charismatic gifts of the word of wisdom, word of knowledge, and the discerning of spirits (1 Cor. 12:8,10) to “literally” visit God’s throne room in 96 AD and see 2,000 years into the future
Interpreted literally, God’s throne room appears as John visited it in the first century.
Great Tribulation trumpet and bowl judgments are viewed as they will actually appear.
Hail and fire mixed with blood means hail and fire mixed with blood.
One third means one third.
All means all.
And there’s no need to read two hundred million Chinese or nuclear war into any of it. Those who do simply need to read the Book of Exodus to understand God as capable of such cataclysmic events without the incompetent assistance of sinful man.
General and Local Truth
Next, be aware of the hermeneutic principles of general and local truth. Think journalism’s 5 W’s of news reporting. Who a passage of scripture was addressed to; What was actually said; When it was said; and Where it was said will often lead to the fifth provocative W every editor wants to know; Why it was said.
This important news gathering technique will put some historic meat on the bones of your Revelation study. It will show you that the seven churches addressed by John in the book’s opening three chapters were, in fact, seven local congregations under his first century apostolic care.
Much of the counsel given these churches in the midst of their local history can of course be generally applied. Their various needs of repentance and many overcoming promises should be heeded by all. But because literal Bible study consistently interprets any given passage within its historic, or local, context, we can also understand the problems of these churches to whom John wrote were, local, or “private” first-century mail.
Applying these important principles of context to your intelligent text analysis will keep you out of the allegorical quagmire of interpreting John’s letters (as so many have) as various “church ages” through which we have and have yet to pass. Neither the context of Scripture nor the testimony of church history bears these ages out.
And it will provide you with a cohesive timeline when examining the rest of John’s book. The “things he had seen” (the prophetic vision of Jesus and the Asia minor church [Rev. 1:12-16]); the “things which are” (local conditions of the seven churches John was commanded to address [Rev.1:12-16 19]), and “the things that must take place after these things” (Rev. 4-22), can be as intelligently interpreted through this working understanding of general and local truth.
Key Words and Events
Finally, familiarize yourself with the content of the Old and New Testament prophets. Make a new commitment to study Psalms, Isaiah, Ezekiel, Daniel, Micah, Joel, Zephaniah, Zechariah, John, Paul, Peter, and Jesus Himself. As you do, keep an eye out for key words, key prophetic figures, and key prophesied events. Key words and events such as “Coming,” “Mystery,” “Trumpet,” “First,” “Last,” “Abomination of Desolation,” “Day of the Lord,” “Tribulation,” “Great Tribulation,” “Earthquake,” “Half,” “One Third,” “All,” “Then,” and “Now,” will perceptively repeat themselves throughout Scripture to define and even time key eschatological events. Look for them!
Because as every generation before us, we should be looking for Christ’s coming. So shouldn’t we be doing it for ourselves?
Eschatology Today Publisher, Mark Norris MA