How to Study Bible Prophecy


The study of Bible prophecy is not as hard as it seems. Here are a few principles of study that you should know:

  1. Know that the Bible is the inspired Word of God, written and interpreted through men, but inspired and guided by the Holy Spirit. “Know this first, that no prophecy of Scripture is of any private interpretation, for prophecy never came by the will of man, but holy men of God spoke as they were moved by the Holy Spirit.” (2 Peter 1:20-21) It is God’s word, so we must trust that He is able to protect His Word until the end of time.
  1. The Book of Revelation is the “testimony of Jesus.” Revelation 1:1-2 This means it is His story—what He is doing. When Paul preached he gave his testimony—he told his story. So the book of Revelation tells us about the experience of Jesus as He works out our salvation. We should keep this context in mind as we read. Revelation is not about wars among nations. It is about the great controversy between Christ and Satan.
  1. Biblical Feasts. The Biblical Feast Days were given as the road map to the plan of salvation. They explain the work that Jesus is doing from His First Coming in humility until His Second Coming in glory. Since they tell of His work, and Revelation is about His story, the Feasts are going to explain a lot of the timing and symbolism of Revelation.
  1. Context and careful reading of the text will increase your understanding. Look carefully at what the text is saying and do not just pick up a word or two and then guess at the meaning. Here are a couple of examples:
    • Daniel 7:13“I saw in the night visions, and, behold, one like the Son of man came with the clouds of heaven, and came to the Ancient of days, and they brought him near before him.” Many people have seen this as the Second Coming of Christ because they know that He will come back to earth in the clouds. But this text actually refers to His arrival in Heaven after His First Coming. When the disciples watched Jesus ascend into Heaven in Acts 1:9, they saw Him go into Heaven in the clouds. “And a cloud received him out of their sight.” This text in Daniel 7:13 is showing Him going to the Ancient of Days after His First Coming.
    • Daniel 8:13-14 “. . . How long will the vision be, . . . giving both the sanctuary and the host to be trampled underfoot?” The context of this question is regarding the Little Horn. He comes out of the final kingdom on earth and persecutes the saints until the Second Coming.
  1. The Book of Daniel was sealed until the time of the end. Daniel 12:4 The Book of Revelation is the continuation of Daniel, this time giving more details of the end-time events. These books need to be studied together. Since Daniel was sealed “until the time of the end” it is possible that past teachers have not fully grasped its meaning. In Revelation 10 the book of Daniel is at last unsealed when the Lion of Judah declares there should be no more delay. Then we are told that we must “prophesy again.” We must be willing to lay our preconceived ideas down on the table and pick back up only what is true. Look for new revelations of truth to come out of the book of Daniel.
  1. The Book of Revelation is the final chapter of the entire Bible. It needs to be seen as the completion of the entire story, just as the last chapter of a novel is the culmination of the rest of the book.
  1. Daniel and Revelation are written in symbolic language like the parables used by Jesus. When the disciples asked Jesus why He spoke in parables, Jesus answered them, “Because it has been given to you to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it has not been given.” Matthew 13:10-11 These things need to be understood with the help of the Holy Spirit. Just like it says in Daniel, “None of the wicked shall understand,… but the wise shall understand.” Daniel 12:10) And Jesus said, “If any man will do His will, he shall know concerning the doctrine.” John 7:17 Always begin your study with prayer. You are not going to get anywhere without God’s help.
  1. The Bible will explain its own symbolism. If you don’t understand something, go back into the Bible to find the explanation of it.
    • For example: Revelation 14:8 talks about the “fall of Babylon.” If we are paying attention to the text, we will realize that Babylon must have been noble before it fell. When we look back in Scripture, we will find that God sent His people into Babylon to protect them. This nation was supposed to be a haven for God’s people, but when it fell to the sins of worshiping false gods, promoting the wine of false doctrine, exalting itself above God and defiling God’s temple vessels, then Babylon “fell.” This story will help us understand what is happening in Revelation when the cry goes out, “Babylon has fallen.” (Jeremiah 25:3-7, 12; Jeremiah 29:4-14; Daniel 5:25-28)
  1. God has given us prophetic words so that we will know before it comes to pass. “Surely the Lord GOD does nothing, unless He reveals His secret to His servants the prophets.” (Amos 3:7) “And now I have told you before it comes, that when it does come to pass, you may believe.” (John 14:29)
  1. Sometimes little words are important.
    • “I was watching ‘til” = time passes. In this case a significant amount of time. (Dan 7:4)
    • He was making war with the Saints and prevailing against them “until” the Ancient of Days came = The little word “until” tells us this thug lives at the end of earth’s history right before the Second Coming. (Dan 7:21-22)

At the same time, do not get hung up on little words.

    • Daniel 8:8, the word “toward” is not actually in the text. This text literally reads: “Four notables arise, four winds of heaven.” Later in the text (Dan. 8:22) we are told these are four notable “kingdoms” just like the four in Daniel 7:1-7.
    • Another example is in Daniel 8:11-13. The word “sacrifice” does not appear in the original and does not belong in these three verses.
  1. Numbers and timing. Sometimes God uses days to equal a number of years. Or at other times He might use years to represent a number of days. If He wants you to translate a year-for-a-day, He will tell you, as in Numbers 14:34 and Ezekiel 4:6. But mostly these numbers mean exactly what they say.
    • Here is an example. In Daniel 9:24 there is a time prophecy pointing to the coming of Messiah. It says, “Seventy weeks” in most Bible translations. Some people have applied the year-for-a-day principle to get to 490 using this method: “A week is seven days, each day represents a year, 7 years times 70 = 490 years.”

    But the truth is that there is an entirely different way to look at this verse. The word “weeks” is actually a Hebrew word that means “seven.” Here is the simple answer: Seventy sevens = 490. And this is not referring to “days” “weeks” or “years.” It is referring back to the fact that God said to keep a Sabbatical every seven years. (Leviticus 25) So it actually reads, “Seventy Sabbaticals.” This is also in context with the topic of the coming of Messiah. After 7 Sabbaticals came the Jubilee when the slave would go free. Jesus came to this world after 70 Sabbaticals to “preach deliverance to the captives… and to set at liberty those who are oppressed.” (Luke 4:18) It is also in context with the rest of Chapter 9—Daniel is praying for the deliverance of his people from their captivity in Babylon.

    • Here is another example. Daniel 8:14 says, “For two thousand three hundred days, then the sanctuary shall be cleansed.” The word “days” in Hebrew is: ereb boqer which means “evening-morning.” These are the exact same words found in Genesis 1:5, 13, 19, 23, 31 when God created the earth.  “The evening and the morning were the first day.” This literally means days: The sun goes down, the sun comes up = day. Scholars will point out that this phrase is backwards in the original Hebrew and they do not understand why. It is because we will be counting down: 2300, 2299, 2298 . . .

  1. The Sequence of Events might surprise us. We cannot expect the events of Revelation to all be in sequential order.
    • Sometimes Revelation gives us summaries of events and then backs up in time and starts over, the second time revealing the details of that event. In this case, the Feasts can sometimes help us understand the proper order of events.

    A good example of this is found in Revelation 8. In the Feasts, the Feast of Trumpets falls 10 days before the Day of Atonement. In fact, the Trumpets come as an announcement that the judgment and final probation are coming. So, when we see in verse 2 that it says, “I saw the seven angels who stand before God, and to them were given seven trumpets,” followed by verse 3 saying, “Then another Angel, having a golden censer, came and stood at the altar,” we can see the same pattern as in the Feasts—the Feast of Trumpets is followed by the Day of Atonement. But why does verse 6 then say, “So the seven angels who had the seven trumpets prepared themselves to sound?”

    This makes it seem as though the Seven Trumpets sound after the Day of Atonement. But, since we recognize the Feasts as the road map, it helps us see that the narrative must have backed up in time and is now going to show us how all those Seven Trumpets will lead up to the end of the Day of Atonement. And sure enough, when we get to Revelation 11:15-19, we can see that the 7 Trumpets end when Christ is given the kingdom. By verse 19 we know that the entire work of the High Priest is completed because the sanctuary is open in heaven.

    “And the seventh Angel sounded, and there were loud voices in heaven, saying, ‘The kingdoms of this world have become the kingdoms of our Lord and of His Christ.…'” “Then the temple of God was opened in heaven, and the ark of His covenant was seen in His temple.”

    • Other times the Bible will say something like, “After these things I saw.…” This does not mean that the next event follows after the the event before it. It might just mean that after John saw the one scene, then the next scene was presented to him.

    An example of this can be found in Revelation 4:1. This phrase does not mean that the ancient worship scene that we see in Chapter 4 comes after the time of the messages to the Seven Churches that are found in Chapters 2 and 3.

    • Sometimes an entire chapter is given to us so that we can see the contrast in the next chapter. This happens in Revelation 4 and 5. In Chapter 4 there is a worship scene that is ongoing from year to year. This chapter is shown to us so that we can see the change in heaven when the human Jesus enters in Chapter 5. Then all the worship in heaven changes.
    • Sometimes a whole series of chapters will work to give us a picture of the event that is being explained.

    One of the places where this happens is in the battle that occurs in Revelation 14 in which the Three Angels give us 3 heavenly messages which are the events of the final conflict. Before that battle happens, we are given all the characters who play a role in that battle and their back stories (or their histories.) We find this history in Revelation 12 which ends with a cliff-hanger, leaving the final remnant people at risk of being destroyed by Satan. Then Revelation 13 gives us the details of Satan’s army and his attack strategy. And Revelation 14:1-5 shows us what God’s army looks like. All this back story is given to us before the battle of Revelation 14:6-13 takes place.

It is good for us to remember that Daniel is giving us the sequence of kingdoms that lead down in time to the last days, along with many details of the final kingdom. Then Revelation, though it might contain some historic accounts, is all about the final conflict of the last days. And that conflict is between Christ and His people and Satan and his army, as they struggle over the salvation of the rest of the people of the world. And let us never forget that everything Christ is doing, though some of it may seem harsh, is for the purpose of saving the lives of as many people as He can. In the end, He will rid the world of sin and make all things new.

“Then comes the end, when He delivers the kingdom to God the Father, when He puts an end to all rule and all authority and power. For He must reign till He has put all enemies under His feet. The last enemy that will be destroyed is death.” 1 Corinthians 15:24-26


  1. Would like to know the education and background of author. Sounds like something I heard from Ray Cottrell before he died. I read the error about 2300 d prophecy this am makes a lot of sense thanks. Phyllis Henderson

    • Hi Phyllis. Thank you for your comment and question.

      All four of my grandparents were Catholic immigrants to America at the turn of the century. I am a second-generation Seventh-day Adventist and credit my love for God, open mind and hunger for truth to my beloved father and paternal grandmother.

      My formal education is in pre-med, languages, art and psychology, while my career path took me into technical writing, editing and graphic arts. I was last employed as Managing Editor for a large corporation before being called to work for the Lord. Currently I am working on four books pertaining to the Law of God, the Biblical Feasts and Bible Prophecy. Soon to be published is the first of these titled: The Feasts of the Lord—the Controversy Ended.

      I was torn about writing the article “The Truth Behind the 2300 Days and 1844” because I do not want to criticize the church, but more importantly I do want to exonerate Truth. And error on this topic stands in the way of our understanding of end-time prophecy

      I credit my understanding of Scripture to John 6:45 (Isaiah 54:13): “It is written in the prophets, ‘they shall all be taught of God.’” It sounds that perhaps Mr. Cottrell was learning from the same Teacher.

      May God bless you too Phyllis in your own search for truth.

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