Introduction to Bible Prophecy
This book is unlike any book you have read on the subject of apocalyptic prophecy because it is based on a discovery that revolutionizes prophetic interpretation. About thirty years ago, I concluded there were hundreds of different interpretations on Bible prophecy because down through the centuries, expositors have treated Bible prophecy as a work of art rather than a work of science. The essential difference between artwork and science is that artwork does not conform to natural laws. Artwork is subject to whim, bias, ability, and perspective. So, artwork is not easily reproducible. For example, if two artists were put in separate rooms and given verbal instructions, the possibility that the artists would produce identical artwork would be almost zero. On the other hand, if two scientists were put in separate rooms and given verbal instructions on conducting the same experiment, the possibility that their results would almost be identical would be very high. Because science conforms to natural laws that are self evident, science is methodical and reproducible. I have offered this comparison because I believe I have made a discovery that produces a whole new approach to prophetic study.
Why Bible Prophecy Experts Disagree
There is a simple reason for the confusion that besets Bible prophecy. Prophetic expositors arrive at different conclusions because there are as many different methods of interpretation as there are people. Methods of interpretation is a phrase that defines a controlling set of ideas or views that a person has in mind before he or she actually begins to interpret prophecy. Doctrinal beliefs, spiritual presuppositions, religious assumptions, concepts about the role and authority of Scripture, the use of external authority, and church traditions produce controlling ideas or parameters. Consider the influence that methods of interpretation actually have: A Catholic scholar, a Baptist scholar, and a Pentecostal scholar can read the same Bible verses and interpret them differently. Each scholar will form an opinion on prophecy that is in harmony with his doctrinal beliefs because everyone reads and understands the Bible with different biases and baggage. Bias and baggage can be called, “methods of interpretation,” “presuppositions,” “rules of interpretation,” or “hermeneutics.” Bias and religious baggage produce very strong paradigms and these paradigms build barriers that often keep people from having meaningful discussions. Perhaps the following parable will illustrate the controlling power that paradigms can exert.
The Parable of the Math Teacher
Once upon a time, there was a math teacher who surrendered his life to the Lord. Later, he felt called to serve as a missionary in a foreign land. Eventually, he was invited to teach math in a college in a distant city called Overspent.
During the first week of college algebra, the teacher discovered a puzzling situation. His students could not solve a single math problem correctly. In fact, all of the students gave identical answers for each math problem that he gave them. He asked the students to explain how they entered college – given the fact they did not have the skills necessary to resolve basic math problems. The students said their high school teachers did not require them to work through math problems because highly educated and spiritually guided math teachers long ago had solved all math problems and all that they needed to do was to memorize the answers.
The teacher was shocked.
The next day, the teacher set out to remedy the problem. He put this equation on the board: 3c + 5 = 20. He asked the students to solve for c. All of the students reported that c was equal to 3. When the teacher asked how they arrived at 3, they said they had always been taught that the variable c always equals 3. The teacher could not believe his ears. He demonstrated on the chalkboard how c was resolved, and he proved that c = 5 using simple rules of substitution. The students became angry. They were insulted by this “outsider” because he showed no respect for their high school elders and their traditional way of solving math problems.
The students told the teacher that if he had written 3e + 5 = 20, their answer would have been 5 because the variable e always equals 5. They had been taught that a always = 1, b always = 2, c always = 3, etc. The teacher responded by saying that when it comes to math, a variable’s name does not determine its value. It does not matter whether a variable is called “e,” “c”, or “x.” When it comes to resolving a math problem, the process must conform to valid rules or the answer will be erroneous. The students could not bear to hear any more of this heresy, so they rose up as one and stormed out of class. The math teacher was stunned. He wondered how he could help his students. They knew nothing about working through math problems or that math is controlled by the four self-evident rules of addition, multiplication, subtraction, and division. He thought to himself, “They think they have been properly informed, and they are afraid to consider answers that are contrary to the traditions taught by their elders.” Perplexed by their hostility, he wondered what he could do to get the students to put aside their traditions so that they could consider a mathematical process that would enable them to accurately resolve math problems.
The next day, the teacher plainly said to his students: “Please hear me out. You have been misled. Your knowledge of math is worthless. Memorizing the answer to a math problem is not a substitute for properly working through a legitimate process to reach the correct answer. If you follow the four rules that govern basic math, you can test and validate your answers in many different ways. More importantly, others who know nothing about you or your elders can also reach the same conclusions and they can test the validity of your answers because accurate math solutions are not a matter of opinion, they are a matter of fact. Accurate solutions are proven true when self-evident rules declare them to be true!” Once again, the students became hostile. The teacher had condemned their traditions and their beloved elders. He had insulted them and their high school teachers. They threw desks and chairs at the teacher. During the riot, they beat and kicked him until he died.
When the bell rang at the end of class, the students went away happy. They were relieved that the offending teacher had been silenced. They petitioned the dean of the college to provide a math teacher who would teach according to their elders and their wish was granted and the rest of the school year went very well.
Years later, many of these students graduated from Overspent City College and some of them went to work for the revered elders of the city. Later on, the city faced an enormous financial crisis and all of the elders and college graduates could not stop the city from going bankrupt. When the auditors showed up, no one in the accounting department could figure out what went wrong – literally.
There are four lessons to be learned from this silly parable. First, for most of us, religious traditions and the opinions of respected leaders are usually more important than truth itself. Traditions are familiar and predictable, whereas truth can be disruptive, humiliating, and socially divisive. Second, it is impossible to be “a defender of tradition” and at the same time, be “a seeker of truth.” These mind sets stand in opposition to each other. When a person is content with what he knows, leave him alone. There is nothing further that you can offer him. Third, if someone challenges the folly of a tradition, he or she will surely suffer for it. Last, if we reject or ignore the truth, failure cannot be avoided. We may arrogantly defend our ignorance, but ignorance will not save us from the outcome that truth demands.
The Bible Will Tell Us Things That We Don’t Want to Believe
Experts widely disagree on Bible prophecy because every expositor has a different paradigm. The essential problem, of course, is that false presuppositions and false doctrines cannot produce valid conclusions. A valid rule is a rule that is always true. For example, 2 + 2 always equals 4 because the laws of addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division demonstrate the answer is true. Similarly, a valid rule will not have an exception even in Bible prophecy. If there is an exception in math, no one can determine if the answer is true or false. If there is an exception to a rule in Bible prophecy, no one has the authority to speak for God and tell the rest of the world when the rule should be applied or ignored. To illustrate this matter, consider a rule which some people advocate:
“A day in Bible prophecy always equals a year.”
If this rule has no exception, the 1,000 years in Revelation 20 should be translated as 365,242 years. (365.242 days per year x 1,000 years = 365,242 years)
The day/year rule cannot be always valid because it puts the Bible in a state of internal conflict. Certain time periods in Daniel and Revelation must be translated as a day for a year (for example, the seventy weeks of Daniel 9 must be translated into 490 years), but there are other time periods like Revelation 13:5 where the rule “a day for a year” is not valid.
Faulty rules can produce unrealistic hopes and reality can produce bitter disappointment. Logic and reasonableness do not alone ensure prophetic validity. The Baptist preacher William Miller believed that Jesus would return in 1844, but his followers were bitterly disappointed. Many Christians believe that a pre-tribulation rapture is imminent, but as you read this book, you will learn that a pre-tribulation rapture cannot occur. Valid rules of interpretation will not support a pre-tribulation rapture and they do not support the idea that a rapture is necessary so that all Israel can be saved. The Bible teaches that after the cross, the Israel of God is no longer biological! Every believer in Christ has been made an heir of Abraham and the the book of James teaches that the twelve tribes consist of believers in Christ!
For thousands of years, people believed Earth stood still and the Sun orbited the Earth. After all, everyone could plainly see that the Sun traveled across the sky! Then, along came an obscure mathematician who said that the Sun stood still. Even though Copernicus proved that the Sun was not moving, he was severely punished for speaking out against the traditions of the elders and telling the truth. History declares that advocates of advancing truth are frequently punished. (Even Jesus was crucified for speaking the truth.) Nevertheless, God’s truth never stands still. The honest in heart always experience great joy whenever they find or receive more truth! The ongoing discovery of truth is a process that enables the Bible to reveal to us what we do not know and things we do not want to believe – at first. Unfortunately, many Christians do not want additional truth. Many people are content with their traditions (the familiar and predictable) and they are quick to discredit anything that is different before carefully analyzing it. Perhaps the greatest problem that human beings face today is that we cannot predict what our response to truth will be until more truth arrives and challenges our thinking and traditions.
No Escape: Faulty Interpretations until Daniel is Unsealed
The book of Daniel contains 533 sentences. Daniel wrote the book about twenty-six centuries ago, but unlike the other sixty-five books in the Bible, the book of Daniel was sealed up “until the time of the end.” The angel, Gabriel, said to Daniel, “. . .Go your way, Daniel, because the words are closed up and sealed until the time of the end. The phrase, “Closed up and sealed until the time of the end” means that God hid something in the book of Daniel that would remain “top secret” until the time of the end arrived. I am convinced that the book of Daniel has been unsealed and the time of the end has arrived.
The secret information that God encoded into the book of Daniel is something like the “Rosetta Stone.” French soldiers accidentally discovered and unearthed a stone in 1799 near Rosetta, Egypt. The stone bore a message written during the second century B.C. The message was written in two forms of Egyptian script – demotic and hieroglyphic. When archeologists examined the rock, they were thrilled because the inscriptions would help solve a very perplexing mystery. Prior to 1799, archeologists could not read many clay tablets that had been unearthed because no one could decipher the hieroglyphics. When the Rosetta Stone was discovered and translated, the demotic inscriptions on the stone enabled Thomas Young (1773-1829) and J.F. Champollion (1790-1832) to decipher the hieroglyphics of ancient Egyptians.
In a similar way, God buried a set of four self-evident rules in the book of Daniel 2,600 years ago. By God’s grace, I accidentally stumbled into this buried treasure. (Of course, the passage of time will prove or disprove the validity of my claim.) These four rules of interpretation shattered my prophetic thinking and I believe in due time they will shatter centuries of prophetic exposition and tradition. Because these four rules have been discovered, I believe that most previous prophetic interpretations are faulty and incomplete. In fact, after I began to personally apply the four rules in my study, they destroyed my own prophetic understanding which was faulty and incomplete. (Even after many years of study and effort since my discovery of the four rules, my conformity to the four rules remains a work in progress.) The four rules buried in the book of Daniel govern four prophetic components: God’s use of time, language, chronology, and fulfillment. I believe God put these rules in the book of Daniel to dethrone the traditions and errors that the final generation maintains are true. A revelation of greater truth is God’s gift to the honest in heart.
Predictable results go with the discovery of greater truth. The arrival of greater truth separates people who exalt tradition from people who love truth. When greater truth appears, the honest in heart rejoice to see it, while those defending the traditions of their elders will rise up and punish those who embrace it. Jesus said to His disciples, “They will put you out of the synagogue; in fact, a time is coming when anyone who kills you will think he is offering a service to God. They will do such things because they have not known the Father or me.” I know the parable of the math teacher is silly, but the moral of the story is consistently true. Jesus said, “Remember the words I spoke to you: ‘No servant is greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will persecute you also. . .”
Three Levels of Information
As you might expect, God buried His secrets within the book of Daniel very well. However, when God wants truth to be revealed, He enables ordinary men and women to discover the extraordinary things He has hidden. Through the ages, we find this discovery process at work: On or about the time of fulfillment, elements of prophecy are understood. For example, when the day came to understand the timing of Christ’s birth, wise men from the East figured it out.
The apostle Paul also noticed the phenomenon of advancing truth. Consider his words: Surely you have heard about the administration of God’s grace that was given to me for you, that is, the mystery made known to me by revelation, as I have already written briefly. In reading this, then, you will be able to understand my insight into the mystery of Christ, which was not made known to men in other generations as it has now been revealed by the Spirit to God’s holy apostles and prophets. This mystery is that through the gospel the Gentiles are heirs together with Israel, members together of one body, and sharers together in the promise in Christ Jesus.”
The book of Daniel offers three levels of knowledge. They are:
- Dramatic stories of faith
- Visions revealing God’s plans
- Apocalyptic architecture
The Book Unsealed
The first (and easiest) level of knowledge found within the book of Daniel contains dramatic stories of faith in God. These stories of faith and loyalty to God were recorded to benefit all generations. However, Earth’s final generation will benefit the most from these stories of courage since the fiery trials in the first chapters of the book of Daniel are mini-parallels of coming events. For example, in Daniel 3 we read about Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego facing the mandatory worship of a golden image which the king of Babylon set up. In Revelation 13:15, we read about the inhabitants of the world facing the mandatory worship of an image which the king of modern Babylon will set up. God placed these parallels and their outcomes in the book of Daniel for our encouragement.
The second (and more difficult) level of knowledge within the book of Daniel concerns the meaning of the visions found there. God gave King Nebuchadnezzar and Daniel visions that faithfully predicted the passage of time and the fulfillment of all that would occur. Students of prophecy have generally understood Daniel’s visions for hundreds of years, so we cannot say that Daniel’s visions were sealed up until “the time of the end.” However, an element within the book of Daniel was sealed for the final generation and that element uniquely applies to the people who will live at the end of the world.
The third (and deepest) level of knowledge found within the book of Daniel is the architecture of apocalyptic prophecy. The prophecies in Daniel conform to a structure or pattern that controls their timing and meaning. This structure also exists in Revelation! In other words, when we understand how the architecture of Daniel functions, we will immediately understand how the architecture in Revelation functions!
Daniel’s architecture produces four self-evident rules. These four rules are like a combination to a safe. When the four rules are properly applied, the door to understanding swings open and the prophecies make perfect sense! This point is extremely important. Portions of Daniel and much of Revelation have been a mystery for centuries. Now that the rules are available, both books make sense just as they read.
When the four rules found in Daniel are applied to Daniel and Revelation, a comprehensive story unfolds that is completely harmonious with everything the Bible reveals about God’s love, character, and ways. Even more fascinating, all of the details in each prophecy perfectly harmonize and they synchronize with other prophecies describing the same event. The four rules force all of the prophecies in Daniel and Revelation into a huge matrix that organizes events in an orderly, timely, and predictable manner.
To visualize this matrix, think of the seventeen prophecies in Daniel and Revelation as a wedding cake having seventeen layers. The foundation pieces are the largest pieces and naturally, they are found at the bottom of the cake. Smaller layers are stacked on top of the larger layers. In Daniel and Revelation, the toothpicks that hold the seventeen layers of the cake together represent specific events that hold and align the seventeen layers. The “toothpick events” are important because two or more prophecies often describe the same prophetic event. Because the same event is described in two different ways within two different layers (prophecies), a precise alignment of the prophecies is not only possible, but also essential for understanding the big picture.
I consider an interpretation of prophecy which does not conform to valid rules as a “private interpretation.” The word “private” as used in this context does not mean obscure. Millions of people believe and endorse a private interpretation. A private interpretation is an interpretation that cannot be tested with valid rules. Of course, every person is free to believe whatever he wants to believe, but our beliefs have nothing to do with God’s actions. Most of the world did not believe it would rain in Noah’s day, but it had no affect on God’s action.
The joy of every Bible student is to search for “the whole truth and nothing but the truth!” Even if we have valid rules of interpretation, we have no guarantee that we will correctly apply them. Said another way, it is one thing to know the laws that govern algebra, but it is another matter to correctly solve algebraic problems. When valid rules of interpretation are used, the prophecies in Daniel and Revelation will make sense just as they read, because the Bible is its own interpreter. On the other hand, a private interpretation requires a promoter, an interpreter – someone having superior knowledge or authority. A private interpretation produces a layer of explanation that separates the student from the Bible. Valid rules do not require an interpreter and allow the Bible to speak for itself.
Consider again the difference between art and science. A private interpretation (art) makes it all but impossible for people to independently arrive at the same conclusion without the coaxing of a guide or interpreter. A valid set of rules (science) enables people to arrive at a similar conclusion without knowing anyone else or listening to an expositor. Many Christians believe whatever their leaders say about prophecy without actually validating the conclusions for themselves. Lay people usually “go along” because they have no solutions of their own, and their church organization endorses a particular view which aligns with church doctrines and paradigms. Because the average Christian does not study prophecy and the subject of Bible prophecy is complicated, it is just easier to play “follow the leader.”
What do you think? Should the Bible speak for itself or should it have an interpreter? I have concluded after many years of study that the Bible does indeed speak for itself and the Bible is its own interpreter. I do not accept the idea that external authority exists or that it is even necessary.
Who but God Has the Authority to Declare Chronological Order?
The visions within Daniel behave in a predictable way. Once this behavior is detected, it keeps us on track. It helps us decipher prophecies and enlightens us with information that we could not otherwise know. For example, one consistent behavior that occurs throughout the book of Daniel is that each prophecy has a beginning point and an ending point in time, and the events within each prophecy occur in the order in which they are given. This chronological behavior may sound simple, but it has profound ramifications. Consider the results of violating this behavior. If the events given within a particular prophecy do not occur in the order given, who has the authority to declare the order of events? Does anyone other than God have the authority to change the order that He created?
The chronological behavior found in Daniel’s prophecies is the basis for Rule One. I have distilled this behavior into the following words (rule): Each apocalyptic prophecy has a beginning point and an ending point in time and the events within each prophecy occur in the order they are given. Be assured, I am not inventing a rule. I am expressing a consistent behavior that recurs without exception throughout the book of Daniel (as well as the book of Revelation).
When the fulfilled elements in Daniel and Revelation are aligned with widely published historical records, the validity of Rule One proves true every time! The prophecies in Daniel began unfolding more than 2,600 years ago. Some of the prophecies in Revelation began unfolding 2,000 years ago. These lengthy periods of time contain a sufficient sample to validate the four rules that spring from Daniel’s architecture. The book of Daniel also provides a historical foundation for some of the prophecies in Revelation. Since prophecies in Revelation run parallel to prophecies in Daniel we can link them together and establish the timing of events mentioned in both books. So, the use of Daniel’s architecture, like the hieroglyphics on the Rosetta Stone, enables us to resolve many prophetic mysteries that would otherwise be impossible to resolve.
I have arbitrarily made the rule governing chronology “Rule One” because establishing the chronological order in each prophecy eliminates a great deal of speculation and aligning the seventeen prophecies in Daniel and Revelation is “Job One.” The importance of this rule cannot be overstated. Draw a time line on a big sheet of paper and place all of the events specified in Daniel and Revelation on this time line. If you attempt this, you will immediately confront the question of chronological order. Rule One is deceptively simple. It is also incredibly powerful. It demolishes two thousand years of prophetic speculation and tradition. Think about this: If God has not declared the chronological order of events within each apocalyptic prophecy, there is no chronological order in apocalyptic prophecy. If there is no order, apocalyptic prophecy remains in the realm of art. On the other hand, if God has declared chronological order, apocalyptic prophecy becomes a science and there is prophetic certainty (“the more sure word of prophecy”) instead of endless chaos and cancelling views.
If apocalyptic prophecy is art, everyone has the same license and authority. Everyone is permitted to define and create whatever prophetic order and interpretation they want. This ongoing process has produced a cloud of confusion and as a result, many Christians treat prophecy with contempt. Worse, there is no general agreement among Christians on the next prophetic event.
When apocalyptic prophecy is regarded as art, church groups will turn to some external authority in an attempt to clarify their prophetic understanding. This authority can be the writings of founding fathers, a prophet, or even church tradition. Like the math teacher, Jesus confronted the traditions of His people and He was considered a blasphemer because the Jews put their religious traditions (art) above God’s Word (authority)!
Because there is chronological order within apocalyptic prophecy, we can determine which prophetic event has been fulfilled and what prophetic event will come next. We have twenty-six centuries of prophetic progression and fulfillment since the book of Daniel was written. Looking backwards from our day, world history proves there is chronological order in the prophecies of Daniel and Revelation. This is good news because the final generation can know and understand prophecies that previous generations could not discover! Remember, God’s greatest gift to the honest in heart is greater truth. This gift will never end throughout eternity! During the Great Tribulation God will swing a powerful magnet of truth over a junk pile called Earth and the honest in heart will be attracted and captured by its power and the rest of mankind will feel nothing. This is how the sheep will be separated from the goats.
What about the Other Three Rules of Apocalyptic Interpretation?
Please consider the remaining three rules.
- Rule Two: A prophecy or prophetic element within a prophecy is not fulfilled until all of the specifications are met. This includes the order of the events given within the prophecy. (Fulfillment)
- Rule Three: Apocalyptic language can be literal, symbolic, or analogous. To reach the intended meaning of a passage, the student must consider (a) the context, (b) the use of parallel language in the Bible, and (c) a relevant text that defines the symbol if an element is thought to be symbolic. (Language)
- Rule Four: The presence or absence of the Jubilee Calendar determines how God measures time. If a prophetic time period occurs during the operation of the Jubilee Calendar (1437 B.C. – 1994), time is translated as a day for a year; otherwise, translation is not permitted. (See Appendix A for further study of the Jubilee Calendar.) (Timing)
Issues and Answers
Because apocalyptic prophecy involves many facets, several issues need to be addressed before we jump into this study. Please take a few minutes and thoughtfully consider each of the following issues. Later on, as you near the end of this book, I also hope you will review these matters again. I have identified these issues before you begin reading in hopes they will accelerate your investigation and pique your interest in apocalyptic prophecy.
1. This Book Is a Commentary, Not a Paraphrase or a Translation
According to the dictionary, a paraphrase is an attempt to clarify the meaning of an author’s words by restating the author’s original idea with different words. On the other hand, a translation is quite different. A translation is a direct conversion of the equivalent sense from one language to another. I mention this distinction so that you will understand that this book is not a paraphrase or a translation. This book is a commentary. This book contains only my current understanding of Daniel and Revelation.
Through the years, I have experimented with different teaching techniques such as translating, paraphrasing, and interlacing. (Interlacing is the practice of inserting words within brackets [attempting to make the Bible text read more easily].) Some people dislike interlacing because they feel that I am distorting the integrity of the text. My response (attempting to be humorous) has been, “What difference does it make if I distort the text before you read it or after you read it?” When it comes to Bible commentaries, all commentaries stem from human opinion and none have divine authority, for if they did, they would not be commentary. As far as I am concerned, the Bible does not have or require external authority. It stands on its own. As Christians, we do not worship the Bible, we worship God the Father, Jesus Christ, and the Holy Spirit, who are one in purpose, plan, and action. Since there are distinct differences between a translation, a paraphrase, and a commentary, please regard this book as a commentary.
This commentary has not been designed to thoroughly prove every point. Rather, it was designed to increase your interest in Daniel and Revelation and your faith in God. Above all else, we cannot forget this: Soon, everyone on Earth will witness the amazing fulfillment of Daniel and Revelation. Once the Great Tribulation begins, it will be very easy for ordinary people to determine which commentaries on Daniel and Revelation were based on valid rules of interpretation and which were not. The truth will be self-evident and speak for itself.
The better we understand God’s Word, the more clearly we comprehend God’s love, ways, and plans. Contrary to what many people think, the primary objective of apocalyptic prophecy is not future telling. The primary objective of Bible prophecy is to understand God and how He operates. I have no intention of corrupting the intended meaning of Bible prophecy. I take the warning given in Revelation 22:18,19 very seriously. I understand that God will deal harshly with anyone who knowingly and willingly corrupts the message in Revelation by adding to it or taking away from it. On the other hand, like any other human being, I am fallible and I appreciate the promise in Revelation 1:3 which says that everyone who studies and tries to understand what Revelation means will be blessed. So, consider this commentary a stepping stone. It was written by one Bible student to help other Bible students understand the prophecies in Daniel and Revelation as quickly as possible.
The study of apocalyptic prophecy is somewhat like math. Both are additive in nature. Algebra I precedes Algebra II for good reason. So, please read this book in chronological order. Do not jump around looking for answers to your questions until you clearly understand the operation of the rules of interpretation that I am following and the chronology of the elements within the prophecies. When you find a conclusion in this book with which you disagree or that is different from what you have believed, it is important that you refer to the apocalyptic chart on pages 4 and 5 and note the prophecy and chronological time of the event under consideration. Compare my conclusions with other events in other prophecies that occur at the same time. In fact, you should often refer to the chart so that you can see how each story progresses chronologically. Once you see how all seventeen prophecies connect and align with each other, you will then see the intricate relationships that exist between the prophecies.
Finally, if you disagree with my conclusions, do not waste precious time arguing with me. Direct your energy toward the ultimate prophetic challenge: Write your own commentary. Present your conclusions to the world. Post your rules of interpretation openly so that everyone can test your rules as well as your fidelity to them! Distribute several thousand copies of your book. See what happens! If your message is true, the Lord will bless you. Hurry – Jesus is coming soon. If you think His return is as near as I do, then share the good news!
2. Five Prophecies in Daniel and Twelve Prophecies in Revelation
All apocalyptic prophecies have a special characteristic – “Each prophecy has a beginning point in time, an ending point in time, and the events within each prophecy are listed in the order in which they will occur.” According to Rule One, there are seventeen apocalyptic prophecies in the books of Daniel and Revelation. When the five prophecies in Daniel and the twelve prophecies in Revelation are correctly aligned, they produce one time line of clearly discernable events that occur in chronological order. The beauty of this time line is that we can easily determine our chronological position in God’s plan for man’s salvation.
Some of the seventeen prophecies began centuries ago. Nine sequences will begin in the near future and six are currently underway. All seventeen prophecies interlock with each other and together, they form a solid matrix that might be compared to a homemade car ramp constructed of layers of planks. As we move forward in time, we rise higher and higher on the ramp. To better visualize this ramp, consider this illustration: A man wants to change the oil in his car, but he cannot get to the oil pan because the car sits too low to the ground. He needs two ramps to elevate the front wheels of his car. To make a ramp, the man cuts seventeen pieces of timber of varying lengths. He sorts the planks so that the longest piece will be on the bottom and the shortest will be on the top. Then, he takes the longest board and nails the next longest board to it so that the second board lays a few inches away from the leading edge of the first board. The man continues to stack and nail the boards together until he has created a ramp of seventeen boards. After making two such ramps, he drives his car up the ramps and changes the oil!
The point in this illustration is threefold: First, when the ramps are completed, each group of seventeen boards work together as one unit. Similarly, the books of Daniel and Revelation produce one cohesive story. Second, the seventeen boards are deliberately arranged so that the man’s car rises higher and higher as he drives forward up the ramp. In other words, each board increases the height of the ramp because they are stacked on top of each other. Similarly, as we near the end of time, our understanding of God’s plans become brighter and clearer. Finally, the nails that hold the seventeen boards together are indispensable. The nails keep the boards properly aligned. So it is with the seventeen prophecies in Daniel and Revelation. They are “nailed together” by prophetic events. A prophetic event in one prophecy will align with a description of the same event in another prophecy, and soon, by “nailing” all of the prophecies together, nothing can move. The end result is that we have a solid platform (the more sure word of prophecy) that can withstand the full weight of scoffers and critical investigation.
According to the Merriam Webster Dictionary, an apocalypse is a divine or glorious revelation. For this reason, the last book of the Bible is often called The Apocalypse or The Revelation. The title given to the last book in the Bible suggests something will be revealed to the world that is otherwise unknown. This “something” is Jesus Christ. Jesus Christ is far different from the icon that most Christians talk about. Jesus is much larger and more complex than most Christians understand. During the Great Tribulation, Jesus Christ will be fully revealed to the world in truth and righteousness and this is why the last book of the Bible is called “The Revelation of Jesus Christ!”
In a sense, all sixty-six books of the Bible qualify as a “revelation,” because they are inspired. The Bible as a whole reveals wonderful things about God and His love for mankind that would otherwise be unknown. Daniel and its counterpart, Revelation, are unlike the other books in the Bible, because they were reserved for the final generation. They are special because they contain new information about Jesus Christ and His forthcoming actions. They tell the conclusion of a story that began thousands of years ago in Heaven. Jesus’ ministry on Earth is a part of the story, but it is only part of the story! Think of it this way: If Christ’s death on the cross is “the greatest story ever told,” then what is revealed when Christ brings an end to sin and gathers His children must be the grandest story that can be told!
3. Five Types of Prophecy Are in the Bible
Many Christians are confused about Bible prophecy in general because there is so much of it. Consider this: The Bible contains five distinct types of prophecy and each type must be interpreted according to its own rules. The five types of Bible prophecy are:
A. Messianic Prophecies
These prophecies are associated with the work and ministry of Jesus. There are more than 450 Messianic statements or prophecies in the Bible. Some prophecies concern His first advent and others, His second advent. Here are a few examples: Isaiah 53, Psalm 22, Matthew 26:64, John 14:1-3, and 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18.
B. Judaic Prophecies
The covenant between God and the ancient nation of Israel contained many promises and prophecies. Contrary to the beliefs of many people today, these promises and prophecies were conditional. God’s covenant with Israel was contingent on Israel’s behavior. Bible history shows that Israel repeatedly rebelled against God and broke His covenant. This behavior explains why God destroyed Jerusalem and the temple in A.D. 70. Many people believe that God will fulfill all of the prophecies and promises that He gave to ancient Israel, but a careful study of Daniel will reveal that this is not possible. The unconditional nature of apocalyptic prophecy proves that the conditional promises made to ancient Israel have been abolished and they cannot be fulfilled! (See Appendix B.)
God’s covenant with ancient Israel ended with the expiration of the seventy weeks in A.D. 33. Over the centuries, Israel would not cooperate with God, therefore God annihilated the nation of Israel in A.D. 70. Knowing this would be the case, Jesus initiated a new covenant that redefined Israel prior to His death on the cross. The new Israel of God now consists of believers in Christ. God redefined Israel during the seventieth week so that He could fulfill the promises that He made to Abraham. The end result is that Abraham’s descendants are no longer biological. According to the new covenant, those who live by faith, as Abraham did, are Abraham’s “seed” (the Greek word for seed is sperma). A study of Deuteronomy 28, Galatians 3, Ephesians 2, Romans 9-11, and Hebrews 4 confirms that God never fails to keep His word, even if He has to cut off the dead branches and “graft in” another group of people to fulfill His promises. A good example of a Judaic prophecy is found in Deuteronomy 28. Judaic prophecies are important today because they help us better understand the new covenant which contains “better promises” and prophecies.
Millions of people make the mistake of merging old covenant promises and prophecies with new covenant promises and prophecies, and the result is total confusion. The promises and prophecies God gave to ancient Israel had to be abandoned because Israel became obstinate. After 1,400 years of dealing with Israel, God abandoned biological Israel and created a new Israel. The books of Daniel and Revelation are based on the new covenant. This is one reason why Daniel was sealed up until the time of the end. God gave the information in the book of Daniel while His covenant with ancient Israel was still intact. If Israel had properly responded to God’s grace during the seventy weeks and if Israel had embraced Messiah and ushered in the kingdom of God when Jesus appeared on Earth, the prophecies given in the books of Ezekiel, Jeremiah, and Isaiah would have been fulfilled as promised. If Israel had embraced Messiah, there would not have been a new covenant or even a New Testament, but sadly, Israel rebelled and God had no choice but to start over with a redefined Israel. (Please see Appendices B and D.)
C. Day of the Lord Prophecies
Many “Day of the Lord” prophecies are scattered throughout Scripture. These prophecies predict the end of wickedness and the vindication of God’s people. Elements within these prophecies are often general enough that we can find parallels at different times in human history. For example, Isaiah 24 and Ezekiel 7 predict the destruction of Israel which parallels the destruction of Earth at the end of Earth’s history. Matthew 24 is a “Day of the Lord” prophecy. This prophecy has components in it that deal with the destruction of Jerusalem (A.D. 70), as well as the end of the world. Statements about each time period are given in one prophecy because there are obvious parallels between the two events. However, the Day of the Lord prophecies do not have multiple fulfillments. The words of Jesus in Matthew 24 that pertained to the fall of Jerusalem have been fulfilled and statements that pertain to the end of the world will be fulfilled.
D. Local Prophecies
Local prophecies apply to specific people, places, and times. For example, the prophecy concerning Nineveh (Jonah 1) is a local prophecy. Local prophecies require a messenger to explain or proclaim the prophecy. In Nineveh’s case, Jonah was the messenger. Before the flood, God chose Noah as a local messenger. At the time of the First Advent, God chose John the Baptist as a local messenger. Even though the messages of local prophets belong to specific times and places, timeless principles sustain their value. Since the behavior of God is constant, local prophecies also offer important parallels for our consideration. Jesus said, “As it was in the days of Noah, so it will be at the coming of the Son of Man.”
E. Apocalyptic Prophecies
Only the books of Daniel and Revelation contain apocalyptic prophecies. These prophecies are chronological in nature, that is, these prophecies outline a specific sequence of events that occur in their order over time. An apocalyptic prophecy is identified by two elements: First, there is a beginning point and an ending point in time. Second, the events given in each prophecy occur in the order given. This never fails. The fulfillment of apocalyptic prophecy is unconditional. All that God has said under the new covenant will surely come to pass. An easy to understand example can be found in Daniel 2. King Nebuchadnezzar’s vision outlines a sequence of seven kingdoms which would rise to power in their order.
Sometimes, the sequence or structure of apocalyptic prophecy is defined by numeric order. This helps to keep everything in chronological order. For example, in Revelation 8, the second trumpet occurs after the first trumpet. Chronological order is always maintained in apocalyptic prophecy, otherwise no one can determine the order of events. Think about this: If God has not declared the order of events in each prophecy, who on Earth has the authority to tell the rest of the world the order that God intended?
I have introduced the five types of prophecy in the Bible for this compelling reason: Each type of prophecy has a unique set of rules and considerations. Each type requires distinctive treatment. When different types of prophecy are mixed or merged together, the Bible becomes unstable, internally conflicted, and impossible to understand because each type of prophecy requires a different set of rules to reach its intended meaning.
4. Valid Rules of Interpretation Are Essential
Rules of interpretation have nothing to do with a person’s religious beliefs. Valid rules of interpretation are derived from self-evident patterns that are observed within apocalyptic text. Patterns exist in every science. For example, Dr. Georg Ohm discovered a distinct set of patterns within electricity and he quantified his observations by writing down a set of rules which we call “Ohm’s law.” Dr. Ohm did not invent electricity or the patterns he observed; rather, he merely discovered the architecture and behavior of electricity and Ohm’s law has proven to be very helpful ever since!
Rules such as the law of gravity or Ohm’s law are not explicitly stated in nature. In fact, the only laws explicitly stated and written by God in the history of fallen man are the Ten Commandments! Valid rules are derived from careful research and observation. When a pattern is detected that has no exception, the pattern becomes a rule. When it comes to solving the unknown in science, valid rules are required.
Consider one more example: Sir Isaac Newton researched the effects of gravity through different experiments. After observing that objects always fall at the same rate of speed, Sir Newton developed a mathematical formula expressing his discovery. Sir Isaac Newton did not make up the rule that governs gravity. Sir Isaac Newton merely discovered what God had made and he expressed the behavior of gravity in a manner that allowed others to calculate and understand the effects of gravity. I have belabored the importance of valid rules because this commentary is based on four rules of interpretation. If these four rules are valid, one harmonious story will unfold from the books of Daniel and Revelation. The Bible is not internally conflicted. One part of Scripture does not cancel another part of Scripture. Truth is proven by the harmony that comes from the sum of all its parts – if we are willing to dig deep enough to resolve the apparent conflicts that veil truth.
5. God’s Timing Is Not Arbitrary
Some people argue that God’s sovereignty is eliminated if we say that certain prophetic events must be fulfilled before the Second Coming occurs. This argument has no merit if we understand that God Himself is the source of apocalyptic prophecy. He has declared what will come to pass and the order as well! God has set the time for the end of sin according to His own authority. God has revealed this schedule to the final generation through the book of Daniel and we can be sure that with God, timing is everything! Some people argue that the urgency expressed by ancient prophets should not be taken seriously. They say, “With God, a day is as a thousand years and a thousand years as a day.” They bolster their argument saying that words like near and soon should be understood from God’s perspective. They conclude that a thousand years can exist between two verses because with God, time is nothing. Again, this argument has no merit because God has placed eighteen segments of time within the seventeen prophecies so that students of prophecy may align them and understand the timing of His plans. When the time arrives for the fulfillment of a prophecy, words like “near” and “soon” mean exactly what they say.
One silly argument often used to diminish the importance of apocalyptic prophecy is this: “The last days of Earth’s history began at Calvary; therefore, we have been living in the last days since Jesus was on Earth.” This 2,000 year old argument makes no sense. The book of Daniel was not unsealed at the cross. If Daniel had been unsealed at the cross, the apostles would have understood important dates like 1798 and 1844. We know from their writings that they had no idea that 2,000 years would pass before Jesus returned. Jesus kept them in the dark on this matter. He said, “I have much more to say to you, more than you can now bear. But when he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all truth. He will not speak on his own; he will speak only what he hears, and he will tell you what is yet to come.”
From time to time, people accuse me of being a false prophet, a kook, a cultic leader, etc., because I insist, on the basis of apocalyptic prophecy, that we are living in the last days of Earth’s history. History says that twenty-one civilizations have come and gone, and the fact that our present civilization is in shambles does not prove that Jesus is coming soon. Even though it is a fact that civilizations come and go, the rise and fall of civilizations have nothing to do with God’s predetermined timetable for this planet. Outside of apocalyptic prophecy, it is impossible to know God’s plan for planet Earth.
Rightly understood, apocalyptic prophecy is a firm foundation. Through the centuries, many people have declared prophecies to be fulfilled, but many such claims have proven to be false. Remember, a fulfillment requires two affirming actions: First, all of the specifications concerning the event must be met, and second, the event must occur in the order given in the prophecy. If this system of checks and balances is ignored, the result will be prophetic confusion and uncertainty.
6. Differences between Prophetic Truth and Prophetic Faith
There is a distinct difference between prophetic truth and prophetic faith. Prophetic truth refers to those prophecies or those portions of a prophecy that have been fulfilled. Prophetic faith, on the other hand, anticipates events that are yet to be fulfilled. Since no one can prove that a particular interpretation will come to pass, our prophetic faith must be carefully built upon valid rules of interpretation. Let me state this again. Until prophecy is fulfilled and prophetic faith becomes prophetic fact, our prophetic faith must be built upon valid rules of interpretation.
How can we know if an apocalyptic prophecy has been fulfilled? By definition, a fulfillment is a full-filling of the specifications. A fulfillment only occurs when all of the specifications of a prophecy are met. Every specification must be satisfied before a prophecy can be declared fulfilled, including the chronological order stated in the prophecy. For example, some people claim the fourth trumpet of Revelation 8 has been fulfilled. If this claim is valid, not only would the advocates of this assertion have to demonstrate how the specifications of the fourth trumpet were met but they would also have to demonstrate how the specifications on the first three trumpets were fulfilled! Remember, Rule Two states a prophecy or prophetic element within a prophecy is not fulfilled until all of the specifications are met. This includes the order of the events given within the prophecy.
7. Additional Information Is Included
The books of Daniel and Revelation also contain information besides apocalyptic prophecy. They include historical information, discussion regarding the visions, and stories of personal experiences. For example, we learn why Daniel was taken to Babylon and how his three young friends were tested to the point of death for refusing to bow down to a golden image. In the book of Revelation, we also find information that is not apocalyptic such as historical data, information about Jesus, reasons why John was on the isle of Patmos, the condition of the seven churches in Asia Minor at the time of John’s exile (See Appendix C.), and commentary on various aspects of John’s visions. Even though the books of Daniel and Revelation contain information other than apocalyptic prophecy, only the portions that have a beginning point in time and an ending point in time, with a sequence of events between these two points, qualify as apocalyptic prophecy.
8. Five Essential Bible Doctrines
To appreciate all that apocalyptic prophecy offers, you also need to have a basic understanding of five essential Bible doctrines. If you do not correctly understand these doctrines, Revelation’s story will be difficult to grasp. In fact, I have found that prophetic divergence between church groups is largely caused by something other than prophecy itself! The culprit is doctrine.
Many scholars and pastors prefer to keep the books of Daniel and Revelation shrouded in mystery by claiming these are books of symbolism. In other words, they are theological putty. While the books of Daniel and Revelation do contain a few symbols, there is no mystery. When God uses a symbol He always defines the symbol with a relevant text so that there is no confusion or arguing about the meaning of the symbol! Think about this: If every student of prophecy is free to define symbols as desired, we are back to private interpretation and total confusion. Competing views only cancel out each other. On the other hand, if a symbol is clearly defined, God has spoken and there is no room for confusion. This is the basis for Rule Three which states apocalyptic language can be literal, symbolic, or analogous. To reach the intended meaning of a passage, the student must consider (a) the context, (b) the use of parallel language in the Bible, and (c) a relevant text that defines the symbol if an element is thought to be symbolic.
“Experts” often manipulate symbolism into whatever form they need or want and poorly informed laymen will accept this manipulation if it generally agrees with what they already believe. Rule Three removes the “silly-putty” from symbolism. When God declares something is symbolic, He declares the meaning of the symbol. This simple fact enables the Bible to speak for itself and it defeats the age-old argument that Daniel and Revelation are just books of symbols that no one can understand. If more people understood Rule Three, the Bible would be understood with greater clarity and authority.
Bible doctrines can assist or resist our efforts to reach the intended meaning of apocalyptic prophecy. Suppose a student of prophecy embraces this popular doctrine: When a person dies, he goes immediately to Heaven or hell to spend eternity. If the student embraces this doctrine, Revelation 20 will not make any sense because by using this logic, Cain, the first murderer, has been burning in hell ever since his death. Why would God resurrect Cain at the end of the 1,000 years (according to Revelation 20) only to throw him back into the lake of fire? Taking this one step further, why are the wicked resurrected at the end of the thousand years if they are already burning in hell? Even more perplexing is this question: “How could Cain be sent to hell before Judgment Day arrived?” The Bible teaches that God has appointed a specific time for human beings to be judged. Finally, what about this question: If the wages of sin is burning in hell throughout eternity, how could Jesus pay the penalty for our sins when He was resurrected after spending only three days in the tomb? We see from these questions that a correct interpretation of Revelation 20 requires a correct position on what happens at death, the judgment of mankind, and the penalty for sin. The matter of doctrine has been presented because the books of Daniel and Revelation build upon five essential Bible truths. These five truths are:
- The enduring nature and sovereignty of God’s law (The Ten Commandments)
- The return of Jesus and the destruction of the wicked (The Second Coming of Jesus)
- God’s use of parallel temples (Services in the earthly temple shadow services in Heaven’s temple)
- The terms and conditions of salvation (Salvation through faith in Christ alone)
- The condition of man in life and death (At death, the soul ceases to exist. There is a pre-Advent judgment. The righteous will be resurrected at the Second Coming and the wicked will continue to “sleep” until the end of the 1,000 years.)
These five themes can be examined at length in my book, Jesus: The Alpha and The Omega. This book can be freely downloaded from the internet at www.wake-up.org or a printed copy can be purchased.
9. Ignore Chapter and Verse Designations
The original manuscripts of Daniel and Revelation did not include chapter and verse designations. Translators appended these “numerical helps” later to facilitate Bible study. Translators reasoned that students could quickly locate a sentence or group of sentences for further investigation if chapters and verses were added to the text. These well-intentioned numbers can create a minor problem. Most people think of a chapter in the Bible as a complete unit; therefore, it is easy to overlook the actual layout of the seventeen prophecies. Do not be confused with the fact that prophecies can begin and end anywhere within a chapter or that they can begin in one chapter and continue several verses into the next chapter. Apocalyptic prophecy ignores the chapter and verse designations inserted by translators.
10. Some Big Points and Little Points
No one can accurately explain every detail in Daniel and Revelation – and this includes me. I have had to change my thinking several times in my quest to understand these two books and I expect I will have to change my thinking in the future. No human being can know everything there is to know about God or His Word. So, we should never stop moving toward a better understanding of God’s truth. To the scholars who scoff at the idea that ordinary people can correctly understand God’s Word, I ask, “If it is impossible for ordinary people to correctly understand the Word of God, why did He give it to us?”
Prophetic truth has several dimensions with which to grapple. For example, we may correctly identify the timing of the fifth trumpet before it happens, but wrongly interpret the event. Conversely, we may correctly interpret the event and wrongly calculate the time of its occurrence. Nevertheless, we may be sure that when the time comes, God will see to it that every person hears and understands His truth. God will accomplish this amazing feat during the Great Tribulation through His 144,000 servants. A person cannot refuse to love the truth and be saved if he does not first have the clearest evidences of truth set before him.
We do not have long to wait before we know whether we live at the appointed time of the end. I believe the Bible makes it clear that events of global consequence will soon take place. Obscure prophetic matters will soon become clear as the noon day sun when final events begin to unfold. Life as we know it is about to make an abrupt turn, and on that day, the majesty and sovereign authority of Jesus Christ will begin to dawn on this planet. God’s plan for the termination of sin can be understood in advance because the purpose of apocalyptic prophecy is the revelation of Jesus Christ. God wants His people to understand Him and His actions. We cannot love someone we do not know and cannot understand. When we see and experience the fulfillment of apocalyptic prophecy, our faith in God will be strengthened, not destroyed, even though the times will be very difficult. Jesus said, “I have told you now before it happens, so that when it does happen you will believe.”
Reach Your Own Conclusions
As you read through this commentary, keep in mind that my conclusions are a work in progress. Therefore, if you determine the four rules to be valid, let your interpretation of Daniel and Revelation be your own. If this volume proves to be helpful, great! If you can prove the four rules are false and you have a better set of rules, please share them with me. I would like to review them and the story they produce. After all, you and I will soon face the same common denominator regardless of what we believe. His name is Jesus Christ.
No prophetic conclusion is complete until all of the pieces of the puzzle have been included and properly assembled. This is perhaps the most difficult part of prophetic study: The student has to understand all apocalyptic prophecies to be confident about the synthesis of his conclusions. The amount of information involved in this endeavor is huge and because of this, I am often accused of stating ideas without substantiation. I freely confess that this occasionally happens because some of my conclusions are substantiated by other facts not directly involved with the matters at hand. Given the breadth of some themes, it is not helpful to explore supporting tangents at the time of presentation. If all tangents on a given topic are explored, the matter becomes so tedious or expansive that the volume of information can be overwhelming.
There are three ways to investigate this huge story. First, you can read and reread this volume. The second and third reading will be much more helpful than the first reading because the initial threshold for understanding the harmony of these concepts is quite high. Second, you can freely download numerous companion materials from our website at www.wake-up.org or you can purchase them in printed form if you wish. Last, if you are not able to make sense of the material presented in this volume, there is solace in knowing that God will soon reveal these matters to the world anyway. However, given the dramatic events that are going to soon occur, some exposure to the prophecies right now is far better than the hysteria and terror that will surely overtake the world when God’s wrath begins. Understanding part of God’s plans and purposes for the Great Tribulation is a privilege. Take advantage of it! Remember, the apostle Paul said, “Do not treat [Bible] prophecies with contempt.”
I hope that you will find this book helpful. Be sure to test my conclusions against the rules. Once you see the architecture in Daniel and Revelation and understand how God designed the seventeen prophecies, you will no longer need this commentary to help you understand what the prophecies say. With a little effort on your part, you will be able to help others see the wonderful story that now shines from the books of Daniel and Revelation.
- Galatians 3:28,29 Return
- James 1:1; 2:1 Return
- Daniel 12:9 Return
- John 16:2,3 Return
- John 15:20 Return
- Matthew 2:1,2 Return
- Ephesians 3:2-6, italics mine Return
- Mark 7:8,9 Return
- John 5:22,23 Return
- John 10:30 Return
- Revelation 1:1 Return
- Exodus 19:5; Leviticus 18:28, 26:3; Deuteronomy 7:12 Return
- Matthew 23:38; 24:2; Luke 21:23; 1 Thessalonians 2:14-16 Return
- See Appendix B. Return
- Galatians 3:28,29 Return
- Hebrews 8:6 Return
- Matthew 24:37 Return
- Exodus 20:3-17 Return
- Daniel 8:19; 11:27,29; Acts 1:7 Return
- Psalm 90:4; 2 Peter 3:8 Return
- John 16:12,13 Return
- 2 Corinthians 5:10; Ecclesiastes 12:14; Acts 17:31; Daniel 7:9,10 Return
- 1 Corinthians 15:4 Return
- John 16:13 Return
- 2 Thessalonians 2:10 Return
- John 14:29 Return
- 1 Thessalonians 5:20, insertion mine Return