Interpreting Bible Prophecy

Bible End Times is a popular theme to study today. And approximately one quarter of the Bible was prophetic of future events at the time it was written. Some of these prophecies concern the nation of Israel, some the Gentile nations, and some the church of Jesus Christ. Some have to do with individual believers and unbelievers, others concern angels and demons. Some relate to the first coming of Christ described in the New Testament, and others to His promised return. Roughly half of the prophetic Scriptures have been fulfilled already. A look at how they were fulfilled (precisely, and literally) gives us the expectation that the remaining half will be fulfilled a similar way.

In fact, most of the disagreements over God's prophetic calendar relate to this issue. Some, who interpret the rest of the Bible literally, abandon this method when it come to prophecy, saying it is largely symbolic. So, can we expect the Bible's view of the future to be literally fulfilled? Or are the words of the prophets simply symbolic of some spiritual truth hidden beneath the surface? (The latter view, called allegorizing, or spiritualizing, leaves the true meaning a mystery. The solution is left to the whim of the interpreter, leading to a great deal of inconsistency and uncertainty.)

In response to the above questions, the proper way to deal with all of Scripture is to interpret it literally. Consistently to treat the language of the Bible as we would that in a letter from a friend (which, in a sense, the Bible is). The Bible does make use of poetic, picture language from time to time (for example, "the Lord is my shepherd," or Jesus saying "I am the bread of life"), but these pictures depict a specific, literal reality that is not difficult to discern when we compare Scripture with Scripture. Dealing with such figures of speech is a normal part of handling any language. (Just as when that letter from a friend says it was "raining cats and dogs," or his son's baseball team "slaughtered" the competition).

Literal Interpretation gives each word its plain, natural sense, as when employed in writing, speaking, or thinking, and it determines the meaning intended by the author according to the normal, customary usage of language, taking into account its original setting.

That is how God designed language to be used, and it is the proper way to handle the Scriptures. As someone has said, "If the plain sense makes good sense, seek no other sense--or the result will be nonsense!" God intends us to proclaim His Word as being literally true. It is not surprising, then, that the Reformation, and all the great revivals in history were rooted in this kind of preaching. For men like Luther and Wesley, the Bible was the inspired Word of God and its message was to be understood literally. Also, the great missionary movements of the 19th century and the evangelical Bible schools that came into being during the early 1900's followed this method.

If you are interested in studying Bible prophecy, check out the study on this website called Heaven. There are also many good books available. One that is recommended is The Final Drama by Dr. John Walvoord. He provides "14 Keys to Understanding the Prophetic Scriptures." Another extremely useful book is Charting the End Times by Tim LaHaye and Thomas Ice. Called "A Visual Guide to Understanding Bible Prophecy," it provides dozens of helpful charts, with explanatory text.