4 Tips to Understanding Bible Prophecy
Admittedly, much of Bible prophecy can be intimidating due to its peculiar language and usage of symbols, metaphors, historical reflections, shadows of future events, double meanings, and so on. Therefore, it can be difficult to determine what is to be understood as literal, spiritual, metaphorical, or any combination of such.
Bible scholar Jacob B. Smith offers insight that simplifies the complexity of interpretation:
“If the literal sense makes good sense, seek no other sense…
Every other sense is usually nonsense. It is usually the case that if
words do not mean what they say, no one can say what they mean.”
1. Scripture Interprets Scripture
Certainly there are instances when Bible passages cannot be understood fully in the literal sense by the surface text alone because of heavy symbolic referencing or other literary devices employed by prophetic literature. In such instances, Scripture interprets itself through previous and/or later passages relative to the passage of study. In other words, Scripture interprets Scripture (a precept I find infallible).
Specifically concerning the book of Revelation, prior prophetic writings (such as Daniel, Jeremiah, Isaiah, Zechariah, Ezekiel, Joel, etc) are imperative toward attaining comprehension of what is being revealed, thus cross-referencing Scripture is a vital aspect of studying eschatology, wherein one encounters the rule of antecedent mention.
2. Antecedent Mention
Though the term may sound daunting, the concept is quite simple: When biblical prophets disclosed information concerning the future they utilized knowledge of earlier events, or prefaced the disclosure with relative events leading to the future event of focus. For example, when Daniel prepares to reveal the prescient details of Nebuchadnezzar’s dream he begins with personal details of Nebuchadnezzar himself so as to better inform the Babylonian king of his place in history in light of Almighty God’s sovereignty (Daniel 2). Antecedent mention is also a key to correct interpretation in that throughout Scripture one will find words and phrases repetitively mentioned, hinting at their utmost importance.
3. Know Your Bible
In reference to this it is impossible to soundly grasp the book of Revelation while ignorant of all prior Scripture, for there is a chronological and foundational logic concerning Revelation’s placement at the end of the biblical canon. Consider that the denouement of any story is only ever wholly realized and valued when the story itself is likewise wholly known.
The book of Revelation can truly bless the reader regardless of how acquainted with the Bible they are (Rev. 1:3); however, the primary key to unlocking the mysteries of Revelation is reading the rest of the story, i.e. the Bible in its entirety.
4. Understand the Beginning
Furthermore, there is great significance to Genesis being not only the book of origins, but the foundation to all of Scripture and biblical prophecy. What is restored in Revelation can only be properly understood by knowing what was lost in Genesis, and what is promised in Genesis can only be acutely known by its final establishment in Revelation.