Christian eschatology is a major branch of study within Christian theology. Eschatology is the study of end things, whether the end of an individual life, the end of the age, the end of the world and the nature of the Kingdom of God. All end time biblical prophecy is considered a study in eschatology.
Hermeneutics is the theory, principle, and method of text interpretation. When applied to the interpretation of biblical texts it is the study of how to understand the bible. Here are some basic principles for Hermeneutics
- Seek to understand the author’s meaning. Don’t seek to put meaning into the text. You should pull meaning out of the text.
- All Scripture must be taken in its proper context. The culture of the time the book was written, the time frame the scripture is referencing, the author’s intent, and the scripture surrounding the verses you are quoting are all taken into account when you determine the meaning.
- Always compare scripture with other scripture. There is a certain way scripture fits together. You cannot force a scripture with one meaning into another scripture that has a different meaning and is talking about something entirely different. This is why Isaiah says line upon line precept upon precept.
- Determine the literal references of figures of speech. When the bible is speaking in an allegoric sense it will let you know. Words such as like, as, or as it were, are used to convey allegory. Just because some scripture is allegoric does not mean all scripture is allegoric. Rev 6:12 “and the moon became as blood” means the moon turned red in color. It does not mean the moon became a giant mass of blood.
There are no contradictions! I have found that if you think you have a contradiction then you have the wrong Hermeneutic.
7 Key Concepts
Here are the 7 key concepts that we will put into practice to help us in our understanding of biblical prophecy
- The bible interprets itself
- Bible prophecy came by visions and dreams or by spoken word
- Some prophecies come by visions but not all visions are prophetic
- Don’t separate the book of Revelation from the rest of the bible
- The bible is not subject to private interpretation
- You need to have an understanding of history
- Israel is at the center of all bible prophecy
Let’s Explore these 7 concepts in a little more detail
1. The Bible Interprets Itself
This is an important one. Whenever you see a scripture that you don’t understand just mark it in your mind and keep reading. Let me give you an example. In the book of Daniel chapter 2 Daniel reveals a dream that Nebuchadnezzar had. then he gives the interpretation
Dan 2:36 This is the dream; and we will tell the interpretation thereof before the king. -KJV
This same thing happens throughout scripture. Prophetic visions are given followed by interpretation. Sometimes the interpretations for visions might be found in another book.
2. Bible prophecy came by visions and dreams or by spoken word
There are two main ways we received prophecy in the scriptures. First by vision or dreams
Dan 7:1 In the first year of Belshazzar king of Babylon Daniel had a dream and visions of his head upon his bed: then he wrote the dream, and told the sum of the matters.
Dan 8:1 In the third year of the reign of king Belshazzar a vision appeared unto me, even unto me Daniel, after that which appeared unto me at the first. -KJV
Prophecy also comes by spoken word
Luk 21:5 And as some spake of the temple, how it was adorned with goodly stones and gifts, he said,
Luk 21:6 As for these things which ye behold, the days will come, in the which there shall not be left one stone upon another, that shall not be thrown down. -KJV
Here we see Jesus speak of the literal destruction of the temple that happened in 70 AD under Titus.
3. Some Prophecies come by visions but not all visions are prophetic
It is true that some prophecies come by visions. But that does not mean every vision in the bible foretells a future event. Look at the vision Isaiah had
Isa 6:1 In the year that king Uzziah died I saw also the Lord sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up, and his train filled the temple.
Isa 6:2 Above it stood the seraphims: each one had six wings; with twain he covered his face, and with twain he covered his feet, and with twain he did fly.
Isa 6:3 And one cried unto another, and said, Holy, holy, holy, is the LORD of hosts: the whole earth is full of his glory. -KJV
Here we see a vision that reveals the glory of God. This is not some future glory, this is here and now! The point is this. We need to look at the vision carefully and decide if it is meant to describe a future event or is it meant to reveal a hidden truth of some sort.
4. Don’t separate the book of Revelation from the rest of the bible
This is a mistake a lot of people make. I saw this play out in a few different bible prophecy books. For every scripture in Revelation there is another scripture somewhere else in the bible that unlocks the meaning. Many scriptures in the Old Testament really explain what revelation is all about. Revelation is the number one book on prophecy for our time. To unlock its meaning we must look to other scripture outside of Revelation.
Let me give you an example. Let’s compare Isaiah chapters 13 and 14, Jeremiah Chapters 50, and 51 to Revelation chapters 17 and 18.
I do not believe Revelation in a total allegoric sense. I believe parts of this book are describing actual events in the literal sense that will take place. The biggest mistake people make about this book is assuming the whole thing is allegoric simply because they don’t understand its meaning! There are some things that are allegoric in Revelation, but so much of this book is literal.
5. The bible is not subject to private interpretation
Isa 28:10 For precept must be upon precept, precept upon precept; line upon line, line upon line; here a little, and there a little: -KJV
I remember a church in northern California that claimed to be the man child spoken of in Revelation 12:5. They claimed they were going to be the ones to rule all nations with a rod of iron. This church claimed to be the man child written in scripture.
I was in a chat room on one occasion and there was this person in there that claimed to be one of the two prophets from the book of Revelation. She was going around blessing the members of the chat room proclaiming to be this prophet. When I challenged her she got defensive. When I started posting scripture to prove my point she left.
You can’t pull a scripture out of context without knowing the meaning and claim that your church or this person is a fulfillment of prophecy. You can’t take prophecies that describe global events and use them for your own personal interpretation. The scripture was never meant for this. It is your job to find the meaning, not make one up. You cannot interpret even one scripture according to your own use and personal feelings.
There is a certain way scripture fits together. It won’t go any other way. Imagine a jigsaw puzzle on a table. Each piece is a scripture. That one scripture can only be surrounded by other pieces that fit. That will bring a clear part of the picture into view. If you force pieces together any way you want then you will wind up with a distorted picture that makes no sense. You can’t take a border piece of the puzzle and force it to go with a piece from the middle of the jigsaw puzzle.
This is how biblical prophecy works. line upon line. precept upon precept. each verse is another piece of the puzzle. Unfortunately there are a lot of distorted pictures that wind up in books giving a wrong view of biblical prophecy. This makes a lot of people write off biblical prophecy as hokum and superstition.
6. You’ve got to have an understanding of history
Imagine you are at a huge shopping mall. You’re looking for directions. You come across a huge map that is hard to make out. You are trying to get a fix on your location but you don’t know where you are. All of a sudden you see a little red dot that says you are here. Now the map begins to make sense. You know where you need to go and now you know the route to get there. Now imagine this same scenario, but this time the only thing on the board is a red dot with the words you are here. The outline of the mall is missing. That is what understanding bible prophecy without a basic understanding of history is like.
You really can’t tell where we are going until you see where we are. You can’t tell where you are until you see where you have been. When you get a fix on your location in the time line then you will have a better understanding of prophecy. You will see more clearly where we are going. This is the role history plays in biblical prophecy.
This is the reason why I will layout certain things that are already fulfilled. I will talk about the events that happened in the last 100 years first before I tell you what is coming. A general knowledge of history will lead to a better understanding of biblical prophecy.
7. Israel is at the center of all bible prophecy
The nation of Israel is the focal point of a lot of prophecy. This is why you need to have an understanding of Israel’s history, not only in biblical times, but also in the last 150 years. Prophecies are directed toward the nation of Israel, the Jewish people, or the church. You need to know what group the prophecy you’re reading addresses.
Different Views on Revelation
When it comes to the book of Revelation there are different points of view. I am just going to lay them all out here and we will cover this in more detail as we go. Chapters 1 through 19 have four main views.
- 1. Preterism: Believes that many of the prophecies in Revelation have already occurred. This view believes a 1st-century fulfillment concerning the literary text. Every event has already been fulfilled. Some of the events listed in Revelation could be symbolic of other past events, thus taking a symbolic interpretation of certain scripture. This view breaks down into two types. Partial Preterism and Full Preterism
- Partial Preterism: Believes that most prophecies of Revelation were fulfilled in the 1st century. The “thousand years” in most cases spans from the 1st century up to the second coming. this often requires applying an allegorical interpretation.
- Full preterism: Believes that every prophecy in Revelation has already been fulfilled in the 1st century. This also includes the second coming and the last judgment. Many Full preterists apply an “Eternal State” to this present time.
- 2. Historicism: Interprets the scripture as currently being fulfilled during the duration of Christian History. Scripture is sometimes taken as symbolic of real events instead of being literally true.
- 3. Futurism: believe that many of the prophecies in Revelation will be fulfilled in the future. They believe in real physical events. Biblical literalism is emphasized and in some cases scripture might have an imminent fulfillment concerning the literal text.
- 4. Idealism: In this belief an allegorical interpretation is emphasized. It presents a continual fulfillment of symbolical or literary text.
Revelations Chapter 20 Millennium and the Rapture- Three Main Viewpoints
- 1. Premillennialism: Christ’s Second coming is before a literal one thousand-year period. This is also known by some as a thousand-year Sabbath. This thousand year reign of Christ is preceded by a gradual deterioration of human behavior and civilization as evil expands through an end time one world government or kingdom. This school of thought can be divided into three main interpretations. Pre-Tribulation, Mid-tribulation/Prewrath, and Post-Tribulation.
- Pre-tribulation: Believes the rapture of the church occurs just prior to the seven-year tribulation. Christ returns for his saints and He meets them in the air. This is immediately followed by the 7 year tribulation, the rise of the Antichrist to world-rule, and the battle of Armageddon. All of this leads to the return of Christ on the Mount of Olives. This is followed by a literal 1000-year millennial reign of the Messiah.
- Prewrath/Mid-tribulation View: Believes the rapture of the church occurs in the midst of the seven-year period. Mid-tribulation view holds that the rapture occurs about halfway through. Prewrath holds firm to the belief that the rapture occurs some time in the midst of the tribulation in the latter 3.5 years, They believe that God’s wrath is poured out upon the nations after this point.
- Post-Tribulation View: Believes the rapture of the church happens after a period of great tribulation. It ends with the church being caught up to meet Christ in the air and the true body of believers will accompany him to earth to share in his literal or figurative thousand year reign.
- 2. Postmillennialism: Believes Christ’s Second coming is seen as occurring after the one-thousand years. Many that hold to this thought believe it is ushered in by the church. This view is also divided into two sub-schools of interpretation Revivalist Postmillennialism and Reconstructionist Postmillennialism
- Revivalist Postmillennialism: Believe the millennium represents an unknown period of time starting with a gradual Christian revival. This is followed by widespread evangelism and conversions. After these events the return of Christ is expected.
- Reconstructionist Postmillennialism: Believe the Church increases its influence through conversion, evangelism and expansion. The final outcome is establishing a theocratic kingdom of 1,000 years in duration. This can be literal or figurative and it is followed by the return of Christ.
- 3. Amillennialism: This is a Non-literal belief where the thousand years is viewed as a long age between Christ’s first and second comings. The millennial reign of Christ as pictured in the twentieth chapter of Revelation is viewed as Christ reigning at the right hand of the Father.
So now we can see there are many different points of view. There are those who think that all scripture that deals with biblical prophecy is allegoric. Then there are those who feel that all scripture regarding prophecy is literal. The truth is some prophecy is allegoric and some prophecy is literal. There are those who feel that all biblical prophecy has already been fulfilled, but some believe that most biblical prophecy is foretelling a future event. The truth is some prophecy is foretelling future events and some prophecy has already come to pass.
We are going to use the 7 Key concepts and proper hermeneutics to explore what scriptures regarding biblical prophecy really mean. As we study prophecy you will learn how to put these tools into practice.