do I begin studying prophecy?
Rev. Bill Lee-Warner
is comprised of 66 documents (or books), authored by some 40 different
persons over a period of 1,500 years. One of the major subjects
addressed in the Bible is future things, particularly the first
coming of the Messiah and His future second coming. The common word
applied to the subject of future things as written in Scripture
is the word prophecy.
us that "no prophecy of Scripture is a matter of one's own interpretation,
for no prophecy was ever made by an act of human will, but men moved
by the Holy Spirit spoke from God." (2 Pet. 1:20-21) Prophecy then,
is the work of God for the benefit of mankind.
to J. Barton Payne, prophecy comprises approximately twenty percent
of Scripture. Certain essentials are needed if a responsible and
careful study is to be made of this important subject. The following
"essentials" are offered the student of prophecy for consideration:
Certain editions of the Scripture are more useful in studying an
involved subject like prophecy than others. Paraphrases and editions
designed more for devotional reading do not focus on the importance
of the consistency of word usage, something that is critical for
close and comparative study. Every translation of Scripture has
a stated purpose and aim, usually printed in the forward of the
book. That purpose should be consulted when deciding which translation
to use. It is strongly recommended that a translation dedicated
to a faithful and consistent rendering of the original languages
be selected. One translation that lends itself for close study is
the New American Standard Bible, produced by the Lockman Foundation
and published by various publishing houses.
After selecting a good translation of the Bible, the next most important
resource the student of prophecy should have at his disposal is
an exhaustive (complete) concordance. A concordance will provide
a "birds eye" view of where words are used throughout Scripture
for expanded study and greater comprehension of a subject. There
are several good printed concordances as well some computer generated
ones on CD-ROM.
Good Greek/Hebrew Word Study Source
The original Scriptures were written in three languages: Hebrew,
Aramaic, and Koine Greek. It will be essential at times to understand
the words of the original language if one is to properly interpret
what he reads in his English edition of the Bible. One source providing
a good beginning understanding of the original words is Strong's
Exhaustive Concordance. It combines both the resource of a concordance
(#2 above) and the original words behind the English translation.
The Views of Others
An additional resource beyond the previous three is to consider
what others have written on the subject. There are many books "out
there" that could be suggested. Before the student begins immersing
himself in what others have written, consideration of the following
should be examined:
method of Biblical interpretation does the author employ? Does
the author faithfully adhere to the time-honored and critical Biblical
face value study method of:
Scripture at face value - understanding it for what it says, unless
it is clearly a figure of speech which is usually clarified in
Scripture in context - realizing that any text taken out of context
can be made to be a proof text for an errant position,
Scripture with Scripture - noting how words and phrases are used
elsewhere in the Bible, particularly in prophetic literature,
the impossibility of contradictions - which, if there seem to
be some, will require further study in order to arrive at the
in prophetic literature, near/far applications - where the prophecy
has an application relatively close at hand and another fulfillment
in the "latter days".
of using the above face value Bible study method focuses on: "What
position does the author take on the Millennium?"
20, is it understood that the Millennium is a literal 1,000 year
period on earth over which Christ will rule? That understanding
necessitates that Christ returns before the 1,000 years begin
(Premillennial). Or, is the Millennium to be understood as an
undetermined period of time between the ministry of Christ until
a future time when He returns (Postmillennial)? Or, is it to be
understood as some kind of spiritualized reality, something exclusively
of the heart (Amillennial)?
one takes is predicated upon what Biblical method of interpretive
process he adopts: a face value method, an allegorical method
or perhaps a mixture of both?
is to be mined from the Scripture, a face value Biblical study
method needs to be used faithfully and consistently. When applying
a face value study method, the best approach is to let the Scripture
speak for itself. Since God is the ultimate Author, He clearly
had in mind a message He wanted to communicate. Once examination
of what has been written is done, the student is then in a position
to come to conclusions. This is known as an inductive approach.
It is examining the facts or particulars in order to arrive at
an understanding. Any other method will skew one's understanding
of what he reads and that of course will dramatically affect his
conclusions. It is the student's responsibility to discover what
God has recorded, never for him to determine in advance, or assume
what God's word is saying. The latter is usually the result of
one's predisposition, arrived at for one reason or another or
by one means or another. It is essential that the student of the
Word come to the Word of God with an open mind and a teachable
heart, seeking what God has written and letting the Word dictate
what God has declared rather than allowing a bias to color ones
interpretation in advance.
teaching is scattered throughout the Bible. There are however, certain
passages that are "basic" if one is to grasp an understanding of
the return of Christ. They are:
Prophecies of Daniel
Of particular importance, is the 70 Weeks of Daniel, recorded in
Daniel 9:24-27. This passage gives us the general time frame for
the fulfillment of God's plan of the ages from Daniel's time forward.
It identifies when the 70 weeks begin, what will happen during the
70th Week and what will happen after the completion of the 70th
Week. It also informs us of some critical information that will
take place during the 70th Week. When one realizes that 69 of those
weeks have already transpired, it is more than interesting to note
that the world is rushing toward that day in the future when Christ
will return and history as we know it will conclude.
It was the Lord, Jesus Christ, who taught about the sign of His
second coming on the Mount of Olives during the final week of His
life on earth. What He said ought to parallel what the Scripture
teaches in other places, since Christ is the author of the visions
of Daniel (cf. Dan. 10:5-6; compare with Rev. 1:13-16), the instruction
in the Olivet Discourse (Matt. 24:1:1ff) and the book of Revelation
(cf. Rev. 1:1ff). When the sequence in Matthew 24:3-31 is examined,
it will be found to parallel what Paul taught in I Thessalonians
4-5 and II Thessalonians, particularly chapters one and two, and
what we read in Revelation.
It is Paul who gives us some detailed information regarding the
moment when Christ returns for His own. Paul tells us that what
he teaches is "by the word of the Lord" (I Thess. 4:15). The information
he gives us perfectly parallels what Jesus taught in the Olivet
Discourse and in the book of Revelation.
Book of Revelation
If Daniel gives us the time frame for the end times and the Olivet
Discourse gives us a thumbnail sketch of the sequence of the end
times, then Revelation gives us the details.
passages are essential to an understanding of the end times. God
has given the church all the information she needs in order to understand
His unfolding plan. Using the study tools referred to above and
saturating the heart and mind in prayer and as God's plan of the
ages continues to unfold in history, the clarity of our understanding
of Biblical revelation will become sharper and more distinct.