Bible Prophecy Scorned
While most Christians believe that the prophecies of the Bible are impossible to understand or a distraction from more important areas of study or ministry, Iâ€™ve become convinced that Bible prophecy has an undeserved bad reputation. Itâ€™s clear from the statements of Jesus and the apostles that we should be just as learned in the roughly 1/3 of the Bible that is prophecy as the rest of the Bible. Further, I believe that we can even know for sure if we understand it properly, by following certain guidelines that amount to â€œrightly dividing the word.â€ In my latest blog post Iâ€™m sharing one such guideline.
Without a doubt there is a lot of confusion on Bible prophecy. There seem to be as many interpretations as there are would-be interpreters. You can listen to one and it sounds good until you hear the next one that contradicts it yet also is appealing. Which one is right? How can you know for sure? Itâ€™s enough to turn anyone off from studying prophecy.
Face Value Reading – Not Breaking Scripture
What if there was a way to understand Bible prophecy and to know that you understand it correctly? There is a way and you already know how to do this. The trick is to read the prophecies just as you would any other verse. You must take them at face value and resist the temptation to try to assign a different, contradictory meaning to them when the face value does not make sense to you yet. Sounds too easy? Well it is actually very difficult to do this, as evidenced by all the many interpetations out there. It requires patience and high Bible literacy, because each verse can still have several face value readings because of the limits of language so each of these must be tested against every other related verse of the Bible.
The only way that so many interpetations are possible is because interpretors allow themselves to assign almost any imaginable meaning to the words of the prophecies which break not only its face value meaning, but of also other scriptures elsewhere in the Bible that they are simply not aware of or have similarly misread. They habitually break this rule because they believe that Bible prophecy is primarily symbolic and must be interpreted, rather than having the symbolism on top of the primary plain meaning. They thus usually go too far by coming up with meanings to the symbols that negate the primary plain, literal, or face value meaning of the words.
In other words, the common approach forgets what Jesus instructed in John 10:35 that the plain meaning of â€œScripture could not be broken.â€ He reminded his hearers of this when refering to Psalm 82:6 where it astonishingly says, â€œYe are godsâ€ because they had accused him of blasphemy merely for saying he was the son of God. How can that verse literally say that men are gods and make sense? Well this is a good example of a verse having multiple possible face values. The word there for â€œgodsâ€ is elohim which is not strictly used to refer to supernatural deities but also â€œjudgesâ€ (Ex 21:6; Ex 22:9) or Godâ€™s representatives. Jesus required his hearers to accept this face value meaning of the verse in defense of himself also being an elohim or son of God. Of course reading it to say that men are literally deities would break many plain verses, so that meaning could not be what is intended
Here are some other examples of where this principle could be used:
Other Examples of Face Value Contradictions
- Revelation 12â€™s Woman with the twelve stars crowning her head and moon at her feet: Yes, this image clearly conveys to us the meaning of Israel as Josephâ€™s similar vision was clearly interpreted to mean (Gen 37:7-10). But John said he saw this in the heavens. And the moon and stars happen to reside in heaven. As does a constellation of a woman called Virgo or Betula, the Virgin, in Hebrew. As it happens, this exact scene John saw was visible in the sky or heavens when Jesus was born on September 11, 3 B.C.E. It literally came to pass just as written.
- Ezekiel 38â€™s Gog Magog attack on Unwalled Israel: It is popular to try to say that this does not refer to literally unwalled villages of Israel as it plainly says but to unwalled cities of America today or to Israel today symbolically with no defense politically. However if you compare Ezekiel 38 with Revelation 20:7-10 we will find the same Gog-Magog attack on Israel after the 1000 years of peace during the Millennium during which we are told the weapons of war are burned and converted to peaceful use (Eze 39:9; Isa 2:4; Joel 3:10; Mic 4:3). Israel will literally have no weapons and no means of defense at the end of the Millennium when the attack comes. Therefore it is invalid to try to apply this prophecy to any other nation or Israel at any other time than that, or you break scripture.
- Ezekiel 37â€™s my servant King David: The Sages of Judaism and Christianity both like to interpret â€œDavidâ€ to mean Messiah. However why canâ€™t David be David? If you read the passage carefully it explicitly confirms the resurrection. David is considered one of the righteous who is expected to be in the First Resurrection (Rev 20) of the righteous to rule for the Millennium. The passage says heâ€™ll be king of the restored and united Israel. Thatâ€™s fine since the Messiah will be King over all the Earth and needs kings over individual nations and cities. Therefore what gives anyone the right to say that David is not David here (or in Eze 34:23) when it does not say it is a parable and it makes sense fine once you understand a little about the timing of the resurrection.
- Star Wormwood is Nuclear Plant Chernobyl: Or some other idea that what is described is not a star at all as Revelation says. If Star Wormwood is not what Revelation says, then Iâ€™m hard pressed to explain the sequence of impacts starting at the 6th seal and ending with the 3rd seal.
- The 144,000: Youâ€™ll often hear that these are not really all twelve tribes from all Israel but just Jews (which is only one or two tribes), or that they are a certain Christians denomination or not even 144,000 actual people at all. Once again there is no basis to change the face value when there is a good explanation to be found simply by studying the twelve and seventy-two(!) that Jesus sent out as a type of the literal 144,000
How You Become Sure
If you strictly adhere to this principle of taking verses at face value and not letting any interpetation of prophecy break the face value of any verse, you will be on your way to rightly dividing the word of God. It will certainly take more time than coming up with what you subjectively think it represents. However, in time if you keep it up you will eventually arrive at the right understanding. And you will have the confidence to know that you are right.
Why? Because you are not playing any tricks to explain a verse. The meaning you arive at takes the face value of the words and fits it in the consensus of the face value of all the other verses in the Bible. If there are no verses read at face value that contradict how you are understanding a passage then you can be sure you are right. Of course, arrving at this point takes a high degree of Bible literacy and enough time usually to do several iterations of eliminating each of the possible face value meanings that most verses may have as other verses are brought to your attention which contradict your present understanding. Through the process of elimination the true intent of each verse fitting in the context of the whole bible will eventually be arrived at.
By the way, this principle of not breaking the face value of Scripture applies to all Bible study. Many of the popular Christian doctrines that are commonly taught break the face value of some astonishingly plain verses. However, Iâ€™ll leave it to you to discover which ones yourself rather than risk roasting anyoneâ€™s sacred cow . Just know that if you apply this principle in all your Bible study you may end up having to renounce some of the doctrines you have been taught by religion but you will find comfort in knowing that the Bible is making sense like never before.