How to read Bible Prophecy.
Since much of the Old Testament is drenched in prophecy and Jesus, Paul and John often spoke of the future, it would be a great idea to have a firm foundation when it comes to reading (or for that matter FINDING!) prophecy in your Bible.
I offer you three keys to reading the Bible as prophecy.
1. Prophecy declares the omniscience of God.
When God “brags” about Himself one of the facts He touts is that He knows the future:
I am God, and there is no one like Me, Declaring the end from the beginning, And from ancient times things which have not been done, Saying, ‘My purpose will be established, And I will accomplish all My good pleasure’ (Isa. 46: 9-10)
When God “taunts” false gods He asks them to prove their greatness by predicting the future.
Declare the things that are going to come afterward, That we may know that you are gods; Indeed, do good or evil, that we may anxiously look about us and fear together. Behold, you are of no account, And your work amounts to nothing; (Isa 41)
Our All-Knowing Father knows the future as well as He knows the past. He who knows “the very hairs of your head” (and numbers them!) will bring this present age to an end; not global warming, nuclear war or population overgrowth.
Rest assured that only one Being in the universe knows the future, and what is more, He has written it down in a book for us to know it as well! Let’s be confident in approaching the books of Zechariah, Revelation, Joel, Ezekiel, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Daniel, Hosea… Our Father wrote them down for us! Don’t let Satan rob you of what is rightfully yours.
2. Old Testament writers divided the history of this planet into two parts: “this age” and “the age to come”.
This age consists of life as we know it from Adam (after the Fall) to the present moment, which has now gone on for over 6000 years. “This age” will be overtaken one day by “the age to come” when the “Messiah of Israel shall take to Himself His great power and reign (Dan. 7:14; Rev. 11:15) and Jerusalem, the city of the great King, will be made the centre of the Earth for government, instruction, and blessing.” (B.W. Newton, Thoughts on the Whole Prophecy of Isaiah)
For a practical example of these two ages I want to turn your eyes to Isaiah 2. Right away you should be clued in that the writer, at the beginning, is NOT writing about “this present age” but about Judah and Jerusalem “in the last days”.
The word which Isaiah the son of Amoz saw concerning Judah and Jerusalem.
Now it will come about that in the last days
The mountain of the house of the Lord
Will be established as the chief of the mountains,
And will be raised above the hills;
And all the nations will stream to it.
And many peoples will come and say,
“Come, let us go up to the mountain of the Lord,
To the house of the God of Jacob;
That He may teach us concerning His ways
And that we may walk in His paths.”
For the law will go forth from Zion
And the word of the Lord from Jerusalem.
And He will judge between the nations,
And will render decisions for many peoples;
And they will hammer their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks.
Nation will not lift up sword against nation,
And never again will they learn war. (Isa 2:1-4)
Folks, in case you haven’t heard it yet, THIS is the Millennium! Sadly, many evangelicals don’t see it or are even the least bit aware that the prophet slipped out of “this age” (Isa 1:1-23) and is now writing about “the age to come” (Isa 2: 1-4).
But think for a moment: Can you really say that in this age “all nations will stream” to the house of the Lord?
Or that the people will “hammer their swords into plowshares” and “never again learn war”? Is that what you are expecting? Then you will be waiting a long time…
In Isaiah 2:1-4, we are NOT seeing the present age or a “symbolic” place of the church but we are seeing “the age to come”, what has become to be known as “the 1000 year reign of Christ” (Rev 20), when Jesus Himself is sitting on HIS throne in Jerusalem (no longer sitting at the right hand of His father) ruling the nations with a rod of iron. (Ps. 2, Mtt 19, Lk 1)
“He who overcomes, I will grant to him to sit down with Me on My throne, as I also overcame and sat down with My Father on His throne.” (Rev 3:21)
3. Old Testament prophets (and to some extent NT writers) weave in and out of “the present age” and “the age to come” without a word of warning.
Here in Isaiah 2 we find a great example of this.
At the beginning of the vision (vs. 1-4),before we read of the terrible destruction of the earth when God comes to “make the earth tremble”,we find that Isaiah records the blessing of the Millennium (what the NASB subtitled God’s Universal Reign). Isaiah later follows that by a “flashback” to the present age (vs. 6-9) and the horrible national sins of Judah which God must judge by raising up an adversary, King Nebuchadnezzar, who will one day bring about the complete ruin of Jerusalem.
To continue the vision (for it doesn’t end until the end of Ch. 5) God allows Isaiah to record the awful events of the Second Advent (vs. 10-22) and the conditions on earth when Christ comes again, the second time, to have HIS Day of Reckoning!
For the LORD of hosts will have a day of reckoning,
Against everyone who is proud and lofty,
And against everyone who is lifted up,
That he may be abased…
Men will go into caves of the rocks,
And into holes of the ground,
Before the terror of the LORD,
And the splendor of His majesty,
When He arises to make the earth tremble. (Isa 2: 12,19)
Only the intelligent, faithful student of the Word, led by the Holy Spirit, can make his or her way through Bible prophecy. We CANNOT do it on our own or with various commentaries. In case you haven’t noticed, commentaries often contradict each other. I don’t say they aren’t helpful but allow God to lead you to the right one and then stick with that!
When you see the words “in that day” get out your highlighter because more than likely you have moved on from this present age and now you are being led into the wonderful and exciting “age to come”. Isaiah (40 times) and Zechariah (19) are especially full of this terminology. Our adversary, the devil, well knows this and does all he can to hide the Millennium or pervert the interpretation of God’s Holy Word to mean “just about anything to anybody”!
“Therefore, be on the alert—for you do not know when the master of the house is coming, whether in the evening, at midnight, or when the rooster crows, or in the morning— in case he should come suddenly and find you asleep. What I say to you I say to all, ‘Be on the alert!’” (Mark 13:35-37)
Yours for the Name!