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Guidelines for Prophetic Interpretation


 

I thought I'd write out some guidelines as to how I interpret prophecy.

1. HISTORICISM
I believe the futuristic and preterist methods were methods of interpretation developed to "leap over" the truth to conceal the warnings of what these prophecies are telling us.

The historicist interpretation sees the timelines starting from the prophet's time until the end. It is the interpretation that makes the most contextual sense.
It includes a "recapitulation" of the various visions in Revelation and Daniel which go over the same ground

Daniel gives sets the pattern for "historist" interpretation"--
--the image in chapter 2, from the head of Babylon to final destruction of earthly kingdoms.
--the beasts of chapter 7, starting again with Daniel's Babylon, and ending with the earthly kingdoms destroyed and the saints inheriting the earth.

2. SCRIPTURE TO BE IT'S OWN INTERPRETER

When dealing with symbolic language we must look to the scriptures themself for the meaning. The closer to the actual original setting the definition is found, the more likely it is to be the definition intended.

For instance: if Revelation one says the stars represent angels, I'm not going to go to Genesis and say stars represent descendants.

3. MIRRORING-- or FEATURES OF CONTRAST

This principle mirrors truth with the counterfiet. This is especially prevalent in Revelation where we see almost everything that God does, being mimicked by the forces of evil in their counterfeit worship system.
Examples--
pure woman-- harlot woman
Great city New Jerusalem--great city Babylon
Name of New Jerusalem on forehead--name of Babylon on forehead

4. VERTICAL CONTINUITY

This principle is very important to me. It means seeing heavenly activity in connection with earthly activity. Both Daniel and Revelation portray Christ as the king/priest working out the details of the covenant between God and man and moving forward to ultimate restoration of all things.

Prophecy reveals the battle between spiritual forces not just physical history.

5. The NO GAP THEORY

Prophetic timelines cannot be dissected and broken apart into ancient and future fulfilment with a large gap in between.

6. THE EFFECT--CAUSE--EFFECT principle

This is crucial to understanding the prophecies. To force continual "sequence" on the prophecies leads to distortion. The Prophetic writers regularly state the EFFECT, then go back and give the CAUSE or leadup to the EFFECT and then state the effect once more.

Example is Rev. 11:17-19
EFFECT: The kingdoms of man have become the kingdom of our Lord and of His Messiah, and He will reign forever and ever.
CAUSES: Nations were angry
Time of judgment declared,
Time reward faithful, and punish destroyers

7. PRIORITY OF NEW TESTAMENT Another rule I myself follow is that the New Testament is to be used to understand OT prophecies.

While OT prophecies "build a foundation" for NT prophecies, yet we must look to the NT for the final meaning in understanding them.

That rule is especially essential when dealing with the "Israelie" prophecies, which MUST be understood in light of the NT events and prophecies or we have "temples needing to be built in Old Jerusalem, sacrificial systems needing to be restored, and people still expecting an "earthly Messiah", etc.etc. The principle of understanding the Old Testament THROUGH New Testament eyes, should be used consistantly.

8. The principle of "RECAPITULATION"

Recapitulation does not imply mechanical repetition of content, but recapitulation becomes the occasion for new emphases.
(That sentence was by Gerhard Krodel, in his commentary on Revelation, by the way)

In Daniel we see Visions given to Daniel-- each one covering the same time period, but each providing NEW EMPHASIS.

Therefore, what I see in Revelation is that the first THREE SEVENS-- the seven churches, seven seals, seven trumpets, are three different "recapitualtions" of GOD'S dealings with the church (woman) in the Christian era.
While the three seven headed beasts are THREE different "recapitulations" of Satan's counterfeiting activity during the same Christian era.

All cover the period from Christ's life upon earth to the end of time.

When Dealing with Old Testament Prophecies

1. First look at the PRIMARY APPLICATION
Also keep in mind that— all prophecies should first be set in their immediate application before any other application is applied. That means we need to see what the prophecy meant to the people to whom it was given.

2. First look to see who is speaking, when he is speaking, to whom the message is addressed and the circumstances that call it forth.
Discover what the message meant to the people of that time.

(Daniel's prophecies contain exceptions, for the scope of his message was not directed specifically for people in his day, but was sealed for the time of the end.)

3. Discover if this is a conditional prophecy, and what conditions are to be met.

4. See how the rest of the Bible deals with the prophecy.

5. Search the New Testament to see how the shift from literal Israel to spiritual Israel affect the flow of God's purposes through His people.

Many of the Old Testament prophecies have a "spiritual fulfilment" outlined in the New Testament.

6. Conditional promises made to literal Israel will fall into three main categories

A. They were fulfilled to Israel, wholly or partially depending on the conditions.

B. .Some promises will never be fulfilled. They were conditional and limited in scope and the conditions were not met.

C. Many others will be fulfilled in principle to Spiritual Israel, but not necessarily in every detail, owing to the fact that many details of prophecy were concerned with literal Israel as a nation situated in the literal land of Palestine. (The new testament which speaks of spiritual Israel does not uphold the literal, to the letter, fulfillment of prophecies made to Israel, in a literalistic strictness to detail, yet gives many references to their being fulfilled in principle and purpose and MUCH GREATER AND ETERNAL GLORY)