Learning the ABCs of prophecy.
What if someone we loved suddenly lost their ability to speak via a car accident or cancer? Wouldn’t we quickly make any and every adjustment to communicate with them? Our #1 task would be to learn sign language so that we could directly communicate with one another.
Well dear Church, Someone we love has chosen to communicate to us about the future using symbolic and figurative language called prophecy! It is our task to learn the “ins and outs” of prophetic language, the ABCs, so that we can receive God’s communication to us, written down in advance, in the Bible.
Rather than hide behind the age old “It’s too complicated for me” excuse, let’s roll up our sleeves, put on our work clothes and get to work.
A. Realize that veiled, highly symbolic language keeps the future a mystery.
One reason that God describes the future in veiled language is that He wants to protect us from knowing too flippantly or too lightly the future.
By hiding the obvious truth behind dragons, harlots and horns, God pulls us into the future with remarkable accuracy but only for those willing to pay the price and learn the new language.
Lest you think this is only found in the “strange” book of Revelation, please think again! Consider the books of Daniel, Isaiah, Zechariah and many other Old Testament prophets.
“Then I desired to know the exact meaning of the fourth beast, which was different from all the others, exceedingly dreadful, with its teeth of iron and its claws of bronze, and which devoured, crushed and trampled down the remainder with its feet, and the meaning of the ten horns. (Daniel 7: 19-20)
Author and lawyer Philip Mauro (1859-1952), a member of the bar of the Supreme Court of the US and one of the foremost patent lawyers of his day, writes about the mystery of prophesy this way:
“Prophetic events are often described in veiled language and highly figurative terms, so that it is a matter of much difficulty to identify the fulfillment of them.”
B. Recognize the strong spiritual warfare that attends prophetic truth.
Satan can’t change the end of the Book but he can keep saints out of it using fear and skepticism! Is there any one singular book that is less read or less agreed upon than the last book in the Bible?
One of the main reasons I believe that the book of Revelation lies shrouded in a fog of uncertainty is that in this book there is an exact unfolding of Satan’s future demise: 1000 years in the pit and then thrown alive in to the lake of fire to be tormented there forever!
No other area comes under such satanic deception and attack as that of prophetic truth that unveils his future.
Incredibly, according to modern scholarship there are four equally acceptably versions to interpret the book of Revelation, and you and I are left to choose one!
In a nutshell these are:
a. Past – the events of Revelation and Daniel have already happened in the past at the destruction of Jerusalem 70 AD. Believe it or not proponents of this view must argue for an early date of the book of Revelation to fit their interpretation.
b. Present – the events of Revelation and Daniel have happened during the recent past in the present lives of the great Reformers and that the papal system and the Pope were the mystery Babylon and the antichrist.
c. Future – the events of Revelation and Daniel are yet future and that we are awaiting a future antichrist, 10 nation federation and the revealing of the Son of Man in the clouds.
d. Symbolic – the events of Revelation and Daniel are all symbolic and do not pertain to any age, but rather are symbols and metaphors to better understand spiritual life.
If we were to use such “scholarship” in interpreting the crucifixion or the virgin birth of Christ the church would not have a leg to stand on today!
FYI, I believe the only acceptable interpretation is that the end time events of Matthew 24-25, I and II Thess., Revelation, Daniel, Joel , Amos, Ezekiel, etc. are future.
C. Be aware of the significance of the short phrase “in that day”.
If I could leave you with just one tool for speaking the language of prophesy it would be to understand the significance of these three words: “In that day”. When we read that phrase in the Old Testament most of the time we have flown forward through to the Last Days, a.k.a. “the day of the Lord” or often as in Daniel “until the time appointed”. (Daniel 7:25; 9:27; 11:27,35; 12:4,9,13)
An classic Old Testament example:
In that day His feet will stand on the Mount of Olives, which is in front of Jerusalem on the east; and the Mount of Olives will be split in its middle from east to west by a very large valley… In that day there will be no light; the luminaries will dwindle. For it will be a unique day which is known to the LORD, neither day nor night, but it will come about that at evening time there will be light. And in that day living waters will flow out of Jerusalem, half of them toward the eastern sea and the other half toward the western sea… And the LORD will be king over all the earth; in that day the LORD will be the only one, and His name the only one. (Zech 14: 4-9)
In the New Testament we find this expression also:
“Many will say to Me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name, and in Your name cast out demons, and in Your name perform many miracles?’ “And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me…’ (Matt. 7:22-23)
English pastor John Gill (1697 – 1771) who pastored for over 50 years the church that would later give C.H.Spurgeon his pulpit, sheds light on this phrase from Mtt 7 — “on that day”
That is, in the last day, the day of judgment, the great and famous day, fixed by God, unknown to angels and men, which will be terrible to some, and joyful to others; the day in which the faithful ministers of the Gospel shall be owned by Christ, and received into the kingdom of heaven. (Gill’s Exposition of the Entire Bible)
Here is a short suggested reading list to help you locate the phrase “in that day”: Joel 3, Zech. 12-14, Isa. 24-27, Amos 8-9, 1 Corinthians 1:8; 3:12-13, 2 Tim. 1:12,18
In the future there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day; and not only to me, but also to all who have loved His appearing. (2 Tim. 4:8)
Yours on behalf of all who have loved His appearing,