In our last discourse on the end times, we looked at Jesus’ dialogue with His disciples about the same subject in Matt 24:27-39 and Luke 17:26-30 where He likened the time of His second coming to the days of Noah and Lot. And we explored seven characteristics of that time in relation to the current time in which we live.
Today we are going a step further in our study to look at considering seven principles on how to approach biblical prophecies about the end times. It is pertinent to note at this juncture that about 1/4 of the scriptures are predictive prophecies.
Apostle Peter in 2 Pet 1:19 enjoins us that we should take heed to biblical prophecies “…as unto a light that shineth in a dark place until the Daystar arises in our hearts”. This was particularly vivid to the Apostle because at certain times of the year in the Middle East the sky suddenly becomes luminous that one would think that it was the sun rising, but it is the Daystar or Morning Star or Aurora. Immediately after this, the sun rises in the sky. This implies that when we see the luminous signs or “Daystar” rising in our hearts), the coming of Jesus – the sun of righteousness- Mal 4:2- is imminent.
God has given us the prophetic scriptures as light in this world of thick darkness so as to guide us and prevent us from groping in the dark.
What are the purposes of the prophetic scriptures?
They are to make us aware of the coming of the Lord Jesus as an imminent reality- Heb 9:27-28. According to verse 28, Jesus will appear a second time for those who eagerly wait for Him.
7 things to note when interpreting and applying end time prophecies
According to Deut 29:29, there are two kinds of things:
1. There are SECRET THINGS – Deut 29:29a
Most of the teaching about the end times by bible expositors and teachers is focused on trying to unravel the secret things. And if God has kept anything secret by His sovereignty, it is a sheer waste of time trying to find them out.
Note: Anyone who claims he can reveal the secret things of God is a false prophet.
For instance, the day and the hour of the coming of the son of man are only known to God the Father Mark 13:32; Acts 1:7. No angel or man, not even Jesus, knows the day or the hour of His coming but we can know the times and the seasons (1 Thes 5:1-5).
2. There are REVEALED THINGS
– Deut 29:29b.
Most times we focus on trying to unravel the secret things but there are things that scriptures clearly reveal about the end times and the second coming of Christ. Our attitude to the revealed things in the scriptures should be to act on them. When God reveals things to us and we obey them, He will reveal more to us, but if we act otherwise, He is not obliged to reveal anything further to us but the devil may show us a great deal.
Note: Revelation is conditional upon obedience.
3. Many prophecies are given for a specific time and situation– Jer 30:3-7.
It is crucial to note that if we don’t come to the time or situation, we may not be able to understand the prophecy. In the above scripture, God envisaged that the people of Israel will one day in history occupy a geographical area and become a sovereign nation (fulfilled in 1948) before this prophecy will be fulfilled.
Jeremiah 30:7c says that he will be saved out of the time of Jacob’s trouble. God allows us go through things and saves us out of them but not from going through them.
Daniel and Jeremiah also confirm this third principle when they were both told that the prophetic utterances they were given would only be understood at the time of the end (Jer 30:24c; Dan 12:8-9).
4. It is to guide us in what we can do and can’t do in order to avoid wrong prayer or action
– Matt 24:9-12, 19-20; Rev 6:9-11, 2 Tim 3:1-9, 1 Tim 4:1-3.
The above scriptures reveal that at the end times that there will be great persecutions, martyrdom, antisemitism, apostasy and false demonic doctrines and sometimes Christians will have to flee. These things will certainly happen and our prayers cannot change them.
Note: We can only pray and act within the parameters of revealed prophecies in scriptures.
5. All biblical prophecies FOCUS ON AND REVEAL JESUS – Rev 19:10.
The above scripture reveals that “testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy”. Prophecies that glorify men are not from the Holy Spirit (John 16:13-14).
Note: Many moves of God all through the ages were quenched because men put themselves in the centre stage and grieved the Holy Spirit thereby making Him leave.
6. Give words their plain meaning and don’t try to spiritualize the interpretation of end-time prophecies – 2 Pet 1:20, 1 Cor 14:33, Ps 131:1-2, 2 Cor 11:3, Isa 28:10-13.
Most prophecies concerning the first coming of Christ were fulfilled literarily. He was literarily born of a virgin, not a spiritual virgin (Isa 7:14; Luk 1:26-31; Matt 1:18-25), He healed the sick (Isa 35:4-6; Isa 53:4-5; Matt 8:16-17), He was crucified (Ps 22:12-21; Matt 27:35-38), He rose from the dead (Ps 16:8-11; Matt 28:5-9), He ascended (Ps 68:18; Acts 1:9). Just as most of the prophecies concerning the first coming of Christ were fulfilled literarily so will the ones concerning His second coming will be fulfilled with shocking literal accuracy.
It is crucial to note that when interpreting end time prophecies where the Bible uses symbolisms and allegories, we should interpret those allegorically and where it gives plain interpretations, we should do the same. For instance, Daniel allegorically describes the kings of Media and Persia as a ram with two horns (Daniel 8:3, 20-21) and the king of Greece as a rough goat (Dan 8:5, 21). No one supposes that the kings of Media and Persia and king of Greece are rams and rough goats respectively, but they’re merely allegories.
In the same vein, Jesus says plainly that there will be literal wars, persecutions, martyrdom, false Christ’s earthquakes, famines and pestilences (Matt 24:4-12). In prophecies concerning the end times, Israel is also interpreted as Israel and the church as the church.
7. Bear in mind God’s total sovereignty and supremacy – Ps 22:28, Gen 18:22-33, Dan 2:20-22, Dan 4:34-35).
God is always righteous, just and right. God expects our attitude to be that of acknowledging and bowing before His sovereignty when we interpret end-time prophecies in scriptures and see the same unravel right before our eyes.
We would continue our study next time.