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PROPHECY

Introduction

3 MAJOR METHODS OF INTERPRETATION

ALLEGORICAL

According to this method the literal and historical sense of Scripture is completely ignored, and every word and event is made an allegory of some kind either to escape theological difficulties or to maintain certain peculiar religious views. It takes away the authority of Scripture, leaves us without any basis on which interpretations may be tested, reduced Scripture to what seems reasonable to the interpreter, and, as a result, makes true interpretation of Scripture impossible. To my knowledge, there is only one example of Scriptural allegory, and that is Galatians 4:21-31.

LITERAL

The literal method gives to each word the same exact basic meaning it would have in normal, ordinary, customary usage, whether employed in writing, speaking or thinking. Inasmuch as God gave the Word of God as a revelation to men, it would be expected that His revelation would be given in such exact and specific terms that His thoughts would be accurately conveyed and understood when interpreted according to the laws of grammar and speech.

SYMBOLICAL

A symbol is a token of identity, it stands for something else by reason of relationship or association. It is a visible sign of something invisible. This type of interpretation differs from the Allegorical method in that it is based on Scripture for its interpretation. For example, the ram with two horns in Daniel 8:2-4 is known to be symbolical of the kings of Media and Persia because of the interpretation given by the angel in Daniel 8:20.

3 MAJOR POSITIONS ON PROPHECY

FUTURIST

The futurist believes that most or all prophecy is yet to be fulfilled. They also feel that many of the prophecies relating to the nation of Israel will actually be fulfilled by the church.

HISTORIST

This point of view believes that most of the prophecies relating to both Israel and the church have already been fulfilled.

REALIST

The realist combines the two previous viewpoints in that they believe much has been fulfilled and much is still to be fulfilled. They add to this the belief that prophecy is in the process of currently being fulfilled, and that it may be fulfilled more than once during the course of history.

METHODS OF INTERPRETATION

No question facing the student of Prophecy is more important than the question of the method to be employed in the interpretation of the prophetic Scriptures. The fact that the Word of God cannot be correctly interpreted apart from a correct method of and sound rules for interpretation gives the study its supreme importance.

RULES IN UNDERSTANDING PROPHECY

 1. The only way to know how God will fulfill prophecy in the future is to ascertain how He has done it in the past.

2. In 2 Peter 1:20-21, the author affirms that no prophecy is of "private interpretation." Prophecy must be interpreted in harmony with the whole prophetic program. The idea intended by the apostle is that no prophecy of the Word is to be interpreted solely with reference to itself but all other portions of the prophetic revelation are to be taken into account and considered. Every prophecy is part of a wonderful scheme of revelation.

3. OBSERVE the perspective of prophecy. Events which bear some relationship to one another and are parts of one program, or an event typical of another so that there is a double reference. This is particularly true of the predictions of the so-called major prophets where many times prophecies concerning the Babylonian captivity, the events of the day of the Lord, the return from Babylon, the world wide dispersion of Israel, and their future regathering from all the corners of the earth, are grouped together seemingly almost indiscriminately.

4. OBSERVE the time relationships. Events that are widely separated as to the time of their fulfillment may be treated within one prophecy. This is particularly true in the prophecies concerning Christ, where events of the first and second advents are spoken of together as though taking place at the same time. The prophet may view widely separated events as continuous, or future things as either past or present.

5. Interpret prophecy Christologically. The central theme of ALL PROPHECY is the Lord Jesus Christ. His person and His work is the grand theme of the prophetic story. Peter writes:

Of which salvation the prophets have inquired and searched diligently, who prophesied of the grace that should come unto you; Searching what, or what manner of time the Spirit of Christ which was in them did signify, when it testified beforehand the sufferings of Christ, and the glory that should follow. I Peter 1:10-11 See Rev. 19:10

6. Interpret prophecy Historically. Before one can interpret one must know the historical background of the prophet and the prophecy. A study of history is the ABSOLUTE FIRST starting point in any study of prophecy. This historical background will include the full meaning and significance of all proper names, events, geographical references, references to customs or material culture. This is not referring to the "Historist" viewpoint referenced on page 1. If we are to try to understand Bible prophecy then we must go back to the past and see just how God fulfilled prophecy in the Scriptures (an example of this can be seen on page 4 of this study).

7. Interpret prophecy grammatically. The strict rules that govern grammatical interpretation must be applied to this field of study with no less care. In other words, the Scriptures must be taken in their common meaning, unless such meaning is shown to be inconsistent with other words in the sentence, with the argument or context, or with other parts of Scripture.

8. Interpret prophecy according to the law of double reference. In a prophecy there may be a near view and far view. The near view may have been fulfilled and the far view await fulfillment, or both may be in the realm of fulfilled prophecy... Again there may have been a double reference to two events of similar character, both of which were in the distant future.

9. Interpret prophecy according to the manner of Language used:

FIGURATIVE LANGUAGE John 1:29 "Behold the Lamb of God"
Luke 13:32 "that fox"
PARABOLIC LANGUAGE Matthew 13:24 "The kingdom of heaven is likened unto"
man sowed good seed
grain of mustard seed   (13:31)
leaven   (13:33)

Note: Matthew 13:10-15

QUESTION - "Why do you speak to the people in parables?"

ANSWER - He replied, "The knowledge of the secrets of the kingdom of heaven has been given to you, but not to them. Whoever has will be given more, and he will have an abundance. Whoever does not have, even what he has will be taken from him. This is why I speak to them in parables:

EXPLAINATION - "Though seeing, they do not see; though hearing, they do not hear or understand. In them is fulfilled the prophecy of Isaiah: " You will be ever hearing but never understanding; you will be ever seeing but never perceiving. For this peopleís heart has become callused; they hardly hear with their ears, and they have closed their eyes. Otherwise they might see with their eyes, hear with their ears, understand with their hearts and turn, and I would heal them."

FOUR CLASSIFICATIONS OF PROPHECIES

1.    THOSE CONCERNING CHRIST

Birth Mt. 1:23; 2:6; Jn. 7:42
Called out of Egypt Mt. 2:15
The Incarnation Heb. 2:5-8; 10:5-9
SonshipActs 13:33; Heb. 1:5; 5:5
Hating sin Heb. 1:9
Christís trust in God Heb. 2:13
Triumphal entry Mt. 21:5, 9
Betrayal Mt. 27:9-10

... also the Trial, Reproach, Smitten, Suffering Crucifixion, Numbered with transgressors, Casting lots at cross, bones not broken, piercing, resurrection etc,etc.

2.    THOSE CONCERNING ISRAEL.

Gospel rejected Mt. 13:14-15
Unbelief Jn. 12:38,40
Conversion rejected Mt. 13:15

 3.    CONCERNING INDIVIDUALS

Peterís death Mt. 1:21
Judas' judgment Mt. 26:24
Dumbness of Zacharies Lk. 1:20

4.    MISCELLANEOUS PROPHECIES

Salvation from sin Jn. 21:18
Spirit baptism for all Mt. 3:11
Drought of Roman Empire Acts 11:28

 For an example of a prophecy historically fullfilled, see Isaiah 45:1 -

"Thus saith the Lord to his anointed, to CYRUS, whose right hand I have holden, to subdue nations before him......."
A. He was named by God over 150 years before he was born, or about 200 years before he made the decree to rebuild Jerusalem and the temple Ezra 1:1-8; 3:7; 4:3-5
B. God answered this Prophecy clearly and brought it to pass.

"I have surnamed thee, though thou hast not known me. I am the Lord, and there is none else, there is no God beside me: .......there is none beside me. I am the Lord, and there is none else. I form the light, and create darkness: I make peace, and create evil: I the Lord do all these things." Isaiah 45:4-7

GENESIS FINDS ITS COMPLEMENT IN THE BOOK OF REVELATION

Genesis and Revelation "the first and last" books of the Bible, are inseparably linked together. Genesis is "the beginning" and Revelation the ending of the written Word, even as the Lord, the Incarnate Word, spoke of Himself (See Revelation 21:6; 22:13). Revelation is the complement of Genesis. Either without the other would be unintelligible. Genesis 1-2 finds its correspondence in Revelation 21-22.

GENESIS REVELATION
Genesis, the book of the beginning. Revelation, the book of the end.
The Earth created (1:1) The Earth passed away (21:1)
Satanís first rebellion Satanís final rebellion (20:3,7-10)
Sun, moon and stars for Earthís government Sun, moon, and stars connected with Earthís judgment
    (1:14-16). (6:13; 8:12; 16:8).
Sun to govern the day (1:16) No need of the sun (21:23)
Darkness called night (1:5) No night there (22:5)
Waters called seas (1:10) No more sea (21:1)
A river for Earthís blessing (2:10-14) A river for the New Earth (22:1,2)
Man in Godís image (1:26) Man headed by one in Satanís image (13)
Entrance of sin (3) Development and end of sin (21:22)
Curse pronounced (3:14,17) No more curse (22:3)
Death entered (3:19) No more death (21:4)
Cherubim, first mentioned in connection with man (3:24) Cherubim, finally mentioned in connection with man (4:6)
Man driven out from Eden (3:24) Man restored (22)
Tree of life guarded (3:24) Right to the Tree of Life (22:14)
Sorrow and suffering enter (3:17) No more sorrow (21:4)
Manís religion, art, and science, resorted to for enjoyment,
   apart from God (4)
Manís religion, luxury, art, and science, in their full glory,
   judged and destroyed by God (18)
Nimrod, a great rebel and king, and hidden anti God, the
   founder of Babylon (10:8,9)
The Beast, the great rebel, a king, and manifested anti-God,
   the reviver of Babylon (13-18)
A flood from God to destroy an evil generation (6-9) A flood from Satan to destroy an elect generation (12)
The Bow, the token of Godís covenant with the Earth
   (9:13)
The Bow, betokening Godís remembrance of His covenant
   with the Earth (4:3;10:1)
Sodom and Egypt, the place of corruption and temptation
   (13:19).
Sodom and Egypt again: (spiritually representing Jerusalem)
   (11:8)
A confederacy against Abrahamís people overthrown (14) A confederacy against Abrahamís seed overthrown (12)
Marriage of first Adam (2:18-23) Marriage of last Adam (19)
A bride sought for Abrahamís son (Isaac) and found (24) A Bride made ready and brought to Abrahamís Son (19:9)
  . See also Matt. 1:1
Two angels acting for God on behalf of His people (19) Two witnesses acting for God on behalf of His People (11)
A promised seed to possess the gate of his enemies (22:17) The promised seed coming into possession (11:18)
Manís dominion ceased and Satanís begun (3:24) Satanís dominion ended, and manís restored (22)
The old serpent causing sin, suffering, and death (3:1) The old serpent bound for 1,000 years (20:1-3)
The doom of the old serpent pronounced (3:15) The doom on the old serpent executed (20:1-3)
Sun, moon, and stars, associated with Israel (37:9) Sun, moon, and stars, associated again with Israel (12)

 Forward to the Next Section:  Introduction to Daniel

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