The study of Bible prophecy is not as hard as it seems. Here are a few principles of study that you should know:
- 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) Trust that God is able to protect His Word until the end of time.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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: If you listen and obey Me, I will not harm you, but you will not listen to Me.
- Jeremiah 29:4-14: Go to Babylon for 70 years and make peace with the city.
- Jeremiah 25:12: After 70 years, I will punish the King of Babylon for his iniquity.
- Daniel 5: Belshazzar, King of Babylon, defiled the temple vessels (Dan. 5:3), praised false gods (Dan. 5:4), drank wine and lifted himself up against the Lord of heaven (Dan. 5:23). In that very hour God passed judgment on the king for his iniquity and wrote on the plaster of the wall: “You are weighed in the balances and found wanting.” (Dan. 5:25-28) That very night Belshazzar was slain and the kingdom was given to the Medes. (Dan. 5:30-31)
- God has given us these 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)
- 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.
- Numbers and timing. Sometimes God uses days to equal a number of years. Or 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 . . .