The Study of Bible Prophecy
I believe most of the prophetic interpretations we hear on radio or see on television today are wrong. I do not make this statement carelessly or arrogantly for I accept the possibility that I too, could be wrong. In fact, I have been wrong in times past in my understanding of God’s Word and have published corrections indicating my errors. Of course, this admission bothers some people who think that religious views should be flawless and inerrant. This is nonsense. Who is flawless and inerrant on Earth? The only person on Earth to claim infallibility is the pope and according to the Bible, such a claim is false. God alone is infinite and true and everyone else is finite, including prophets and angels. (Do not forget, one-third of the angels were cast out of Heaven, so angels are not infallible either.) Knowledge ever advances and this is also true of our knowledge of God. If Henry Ford had known how to manufacture Lincoln Town Cars, would he have wasted his time manufacturing Model T’s? Of course not! I have found a consistent process at work during my 30 years of Bible study. In order for my understanding of God’s Word to grow, I have no other option than to let go of wrong ideas so that I can embrace more of God’s truth. The process of letting go of errors in order to gain more truth makes it impossible for me to belong to a religious denomination, because denominations have fixed creeds. Every denomination has certain nonnegotiable positions and these fixed positions prevent them from moving forward. The good news, though, is that salvation is not dependent on belonging to some denomination! Jesus Christ will save anyone who is willing to worship Him.
My studies have led me to conclude that the extremely popular “Left Behind” series is a gross distortion of what the Bible teaches about the Great Tribulation. Do not misunderstand. People are free to believe anything they choose to believe about the future and that freedom must not be restricted. However, what a person chooses to believe or not believe has no bearing on coming events (and this includes my conclusions as well). Almost everyone in Noah’s day refused to believe a flood was coming. What effect did their denial have on the promised event? Zero. Unfortunately, millions of people have been led to anticipate things that will never happen and when the predicted events of Revelation occur, everyone’s faith in God will be severely jolted. After the first four judgments take place and overwhelming destruction is everywhere, millions of people will be tempted to abandon their faith in God because they were unprepared. I am troubled that religious leaders are not informing and spiritually preparing their followers for the trying circumstances ahead! I believe many religious leaders are sincere, godly people, but are they searching for truth beyond denominational limits with due diligence? Bible truth is always unfolding, therefore Bible truth is always “outside the box.” If you follow wherever the Bible leads, you will eventually find yourself “outside the box” in no time! The Bible clearly says a testing time is coming upon the Earth. (Revelation 3:10) Every person, pastor and layman alike, should be concerned about this predicted event!
The Test of Prophetic Interpreters
Of course, no prophetic expositor can prove his or her predictions about the future. It is impossible to prove the accuracy of a conclusion before it happens. However, there are two ways to test a prediction for accuracy. The most direct method is to record the prediction before the event comes to pass. Then, when the predicted event occurs, ordinary people can judge the accuracy of the prediction. This simple procedure allows an impartial jury of observers to decide which predictions and interpretations are accurate by simply noting the presence or absence of events which have been predicted.
The other way to test predictions about the future is to use a valid set of methods (rules or hermeneutics) that are “self evident” within the Bible. The mention of “methods” might be a new thought for some readers. Methods of interpretation has become a catchall phrase that has a lot of significance in the study of Bible prophecy. Actually, the phrase “methods of interpretation” describes a set of ideas in a person’s head before he or she starts to study and interpret prophecy – ideas like religious views, spiritual presuppositions, scholastic assumptions and concepts about the role and authority of the Bible, prophets and church traditions. For example, a person from a particular religious persuasion might approach the study of Bible prophecy with a number of preconceived ideas, beliefs and traditions in his or her mind. His or her prophetic conclusions would naturally reflect these methods of interpretation. This is true for everyone from every walk of life. The point is that no one approaches the study of prophecy without some kind of intellectual or spiritual baggage in his or her head. This baggage is loosely defined as his or her “methods of interpretation.” So, how does one eliminate baggage that is faulty? How does a person arrive at the intended meaning of Bible prophecy? This is a very tough question and I have spent many years trying to resolve it and here is what I have concluded:
The book of Daniel was written about 26 centuries ago, but unlike the other 65 books in the Bible, some of the prophecies in the book of Daniel were 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.” (Daniel 12:9) What does “closed up and sealed until the time of the end” mean? It means that certain information in the book of Daniel remains “top secret” until the time of the end arrives. My study of Bible prophecy has brought me to the conclusion that we are living chronologically “at the time of the end.” If this conclusion is true, the time has come for the secrets of Daniel to be unveiled. (For a comprehensive study on the book of Daniel and other subjects, the reader is encouraged to examine materials offered on our web site www.wake-up.org or described at the end of this book.)
The secret information coded into Daniel 2,600 years ago turns out to be something like the “Rosetta Stone.” The Rosetta Stone was accidentally unearthed in 1799 near Rosetta, Egypt, by French soldiers. The marvelous thing about this buried rock is that it bears a message that was written during the second century B.C. in both forms of Egyptian script, demotic and hieroglyphics. When archeologists discovered this ancient rock, they were able to solve a very perplexing mystery. Prior to 1799, archeologists had unearthed many clay tablets containing Egyptian hieroglyphics, but the tablets could not be deciphered because no one could read hieroglyphics. When the Rosetta Stone was discovered and translated, the demotic inscriptions on the Rosetta Stone enabled Thomas Young (1773-1829) and J.F. Champollion (1790-1832) to decipher the hieroglyphics of the ancient Egyptians for the first time. In a similar way, I believe God embedded four secrets in the book of Daniel a long time ago. These secrets have remained buried within the text of Daniel for almost 26 centuries. Now that we have come to the time of the end, it is time for the secrets of Daniel to be “unearthed.” By God’s grace alone, I believe my studies have led me to stumble into the secrets that were sealed up in the book of Daniel. (The passage of time, of course, will prove or disprove the validity of this claim.) If true, the discovery of these four secrets ruins two thousand years of prophetic exposition since, All prophetic conclusions based on the book of Daniel have to be faulty until the time of the end when the book of Daniel is unsealed! In other words, no one can know the truth about Daniel’s prophecies until all of the necessary information is unsealed. Said another way, the book of Daniel was sealed up until the time of the end; therefore, only those people who live at the time of the end can know the truth about Daniel’s prophecies.
Three Secrets Hid in the Book of Daniel
As a person might expect, God buried His secrets deeply in the book of Daniel. However, when God wants to bring understanding to the forefront, He enables ordinary men and women to discover what He has hidden. Through the ages we find this process at work: On or about the time of fulfillment, elements of prophecy are understood. For example, when it came time to understand the timing of Christ’s birth, the wise men from the East figured it out. (Matthew 2:2) The apostle Paul also noticed this phenomenon. 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.” (Ephesians 3:2-6)
What did God hide in the book of Daniel? The answer to this question requires a little background explanation. The book of Daniel has three levels of understanding which are:
- Dramatic stories of faith
- Visions revealing God’s plans
- Apocalyptic architecture
The first level (or easiest) level of information in Daniel contains dramatic stories of faith in God. These stories of faith and loyalty to God were recorded to benefit all generations, but the generation that will benefit most from these displays of courage will be Earth’s final generation. For example, the fiery trials found in the first chapters of Daniel are miniature parallels of coming events. In Daniel 3, we read about Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego facing a mandatory requirement to worship a golden image set up by the king of Babylon. In
Revelation 13:15 we read about the inhabitants of the world facing a mandatory requirement to worship an image set up by the king of modern Babylon. These dramatic stories of faith were recorded in Daniel to benefit all generations, but especially for the final generation!
The second level (or more difficult level) of information concerns the content and meaning of the visions in the book of Daniel. The visions God gave to King Nebuchadnezzar and Daniel faithfully predict the passage of time and the fulfillment of all that God predestined to occur. Even more, the visions reveal what God planned to do before He told Nebuchadnezzar or Daniel of His plans. Because students of prophecy have understood (more or less) the meaning of Daniel’s visions for hundreds of years, we cannot say the meaning of Daniel’s visions were sealed until “the time of the end.” However, one element within the book of Daniel was sealed up and uniquely applies to those people who live at the end of the world. What is it?
Rules that Unseal the Book of Daniel
The third level (and deepest level) of information found in Daniel is the architecture of apocalyptic prophecy. This may sound strange at first, but the prophecies in Daniel conform to a structure or pattern that controls the meaning of the visions given in Daniel. The exciting point about this structure is that the same structure also exists in Revelation! In other words, when you understand the architecture of Daniel, you also understand the architecture of Revelation. The architecture of apocalyptic prophecy produces four rules (methods of interpretation) that govern the interpretation of this type of prophecy. These four rules are like combinations to a safe. When the four rules are applied to the interpretation of the prophecies of Daniel, as well as Revelation, a marvelous result occurs. The prophecies can be understood just as they read! This is not a casual matter. Consider that certain elements in Daniel (and Revelation) remained a mystery for 2,600 years until one day, the words make sense just as they read! What makes the sudden difference? It is the understanding of how the architecture is constructed.
When the four rules found in Daniel are applied, a comprehensive story unfolds that is completely harmonious with everything the Bible has to say about the ways of God. Furthermore, all of the details God gave in the prophecies of Daniel and Revelation are in perfect harmony and synchrony with each other. The four rules force all of the prophecies in Daniel and Revelation to form a matrix of events that are chronological in nature. To visualize this matrix, think of the prophecies in Daniel and Revelation as 18 pieces of plywood of varying lengths that are stacked on top of each other. The longer pieces are at the bottom of the stack and the shorter pieces are cut to precise lengths so that they neatly fit within the dimensions of the longer ones. The nails that hold the 18 pieces of plywood together are the events that unite the 18 prophecies in Daniel and Revelation into one grand story. Often, two or more prophecies describe the same event. Because of this, precise alignment of the prophecies is not only possible, but essential to understanding the big picture.
Rules are Important in Bible Prophecy
Daniel’s prophecies (and the elements within them) behave in a predictable way every time. This consistency allows us to understand certain things about the operation and meaning of apocalyptic prophecy that would be otherwise unknown. For example, we can say that all of Daniel’s prophecies have a beginning point and an ending point in time, and the events in each prophecy occur in the order in which they are given. This concept may sound simple, but it has profound ramifications. Look at the down side of this rule: If the events within each prophecy are not fulfilled in the order given, then who or what has the authority to tell us the order of events that have not happened? In other words, if the Bible cannot be understood on the basis of what it says, then who has the truth on this matter? This is the ultimate question: Does the Bible speak for itself or must it have an interpreter? After many years of study, my mind is settled regarding this issue. I believe the Bible speaks for itself and the Bible is its final interpreter. The constant and predictable architecture within Daniel’s prophecies is the basis for rule one. In my words the rule says, “Each apocalyptic prophecy has a beginning point and an ending point in time and the events within each prophecy must occur in the order they are given.” Keep in mind that I am not fabricating this rule of interpretation. Rather, I am merely expressing in my own words a consistent behavior that I have found in the architecture of Daniel.
All Bible Students Follow Rules
Knowingly or unknowingly, each student of prophecy implements “a method of interpretation” to support his or her prophetic conclusions. The problem, of course, is that invalid rules cannot produce valid results. For example, some people believe this rule to be valid: “A day in Bible prophecy always equals a year.” Advocates of this rule reason that if the seventy weeks of Daniel 9 represent 490 years (and they do), then all time periods in Daniel and Revelation have to be interpreted according to this rule. (A rule cannot have an exception, for if it does, it becomes impossible to determine when the rule should or should not be applied.) If the day/year rule is always true as some say, then the 1,000 years mentioned in Revelation 20 would be 365,242 years in length because there are 365.242 days per year. For many reasons, the day/year rule stated above is not valid, but this illustration does demonstrate how rules force people into making conclusions about prophecy. If all of the 18 prophetic time periods in Daniel and Revelation have to be interpreted according to the day/year rule, then timing issues will interfere with otherwise plain statements. If the rules are flawed or inadequate, prophetic expositors have to resort to some kind of nonsensical logic or extra biblical authority to convince others their conclusions are correct.
Valid rules of interpretation should accurately reflect the divine architecture which God created. Fortunately for us, we have had 26 centuries of fulfillment that we can use to test our conclusions about fulfilled and unfulfilled events. If the rules are not valid, then there will be no consistency in the interpretation. Every student of prophecy should test his or her conclusions with something other than a private interpretation or religious bias. Consider this: If the methods used are not valid, prophetic interpretation becomes like “a nose of wax” which can be manipulated to our satisfaction for political, religious or personal reasons. If this were the case, how could the Bible reveal to us things we do not want to hear? How could the Bible tell us things we do not want to believe?
Any interpretation of prophecy which does not conform to a stated set of valid rules is classified as a “private interpretation.” The word “private” does not mean obscure. Millions of people can believe and endorse a private interpretation. A private interpretation is an interpretation which has no external means of validation. In other words, a private interpretation is any interpretation that cannot be tested and validated with a set of stated rules. This brings us back to the need for understanding the apocalyptic architecture in Daniel. There is only one architecture in Daniel and Revelation and there is only one truth and one accurate interpretation of the prophecies. Even if we have the right rules of interpretation, our chances of getting to the intended meaning are not guaranteed, but they are greatly improved! (It is one thing to have the right set of rules, but it is another to correctly apply the rules and reach God’s intended meaning.)
Validating a Conclusion in Science or Prophecy
When it comes to solving the unknown, we have no other choice than to rely upon consistent rules that conform with what is known to be true! This is true in every science. For example, the simple equation 2xT + 3 = 13 is solved by using rules of algebra. Since the rules of interpretation for apocalyptic prophecy are not written in the Bible (no rules are declared in nature or any science), the rules must be derived and proven true with careful research and observation. This statement is critical: Rules are not invented; rather, man may only discover the presence or operation of rules by repeatedly testing the architecture which God created. We detect the presence of a rule when we recognize a consistent behavior or architecture. After finding the presence of a rule, it becomes necessary to carefully state the rule so that the behavior can be independently validated by others.
Consider this example: Sir Isaac Newton researched the effects of gravity. He studied the behavior of gravity using different experiments. After observing that gravity behaved in certain consistent ways, he developed an algebraic formula expressing its operation. Sir Isaac Newton did not make up the rule that governs gravity. God did that. However, Sir Isaac Newton was able to discover the rule by which gravity operates because the behavior of gravity is constant. Then, Newton expressed the rule of gravity in a manner that allowed others to understand and calculate the effect of gravity. The study of apocalyptic prophecy is very similar to the study of gravity. We have to study and understand “the known” before we can solve “the unknown.” Before any conclusions can be trusted, the student has to demonstrate the validity of a set of rules which methodically explain the historical fulfillment of the prophetic elements in Daniel that have already been fulfilled.
Four Rules of Apocalyptic Prophecy
Many Christians accept what their leaders say about the fulfillment of prophecy without closely studying the prophecy for themselves. This acceptance is not based on intellectual confirmation. Instead, Christians tend to believe their leaders because they do not know anything else to believe. Of course, the mysteries surrounding Bible prophecy will ultimately vanish during the Great Tribulation because the evidence of what is written in prophecy will be clearly observed. Until the Great Tribulation begins, however, we have to follow the rules. If our rules are valid, the books of Daniel and Revelation will form one unified story. In fact, I have found a comprehensive drama that is in perfect harmony with all of Scripture! The prophetic conclusions presented in this book were produced using the following four rules:
3. Apocalyptic language can be literal, symbolic or analogous. To reach the intended meaning of a prophecy, the student must consider: (a) the context, (b) the use of parallel language in the Bible, and (c) relevant statements in the Bible that define that symbol if an element is thought to be symbolic.
4. God reckons apocalyptic time in two ways:
(a) a day for a year, and (b) as literal time. The presence or absence of the Jubilee calender determines how God measures time.
I realize a discussion about rules and methods may not seem important or even necessary, however, the basis for the views presented in this book are more than figments of my imagination. I believe the views presented in this book conform to the four rules above. Do not forget this important point. God sealed up the book of Daniel (hid the keys, the four rules) until the time of the end because the message in Daniel and Revelation belongs to the final generation. I believe ours is the generation that will experience the Great Tribulation. When it begins, we will be caught up in a horrific contest between good and evil. For this reason, God has unsealed the book of Daniel so that we can understand His plans before He exercises His wrath. When it comes to Bible prophecy, religious affiliation has no bearing. Whether a person is Catholic, Protestant, Jew, Hindu, Moslem or Atheist, everyone who lives during the time of the tribulation will see and experience the truth contained in God’s Word. The Bible means what it says, and says what it means. So in the final analysis, prophetic truth is not, nor has it ever been, dependent on the approval or even the understanding of any man (and this includes me).