Introduction to Bible Prophecy

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This book is unlike any book you have read on the subject of apocalyptic prophecy because it is based on a discovery that revolutionizes prophetic interpretation. About thirty years ago, I concluded there were hundreds of different interpretations on Bible prophecy because down through the centuries, expositors have treated Bible prophecy as a work of art rather than a work of science. The essential difference between artwork and science is that artwork does not conform to natural laws. Artwork is subject to whim, bias, ability, and perspective. So, artwork is not easily reproducible. For example, if two artists were put in separate rooms and given verbal instructions, the possibility that the artists would produce identical artwork would be almost zero. On the other hand, if two scientists were put in separate rooms and given verbal instructions on conducting the same experiment, the possibility that their results would almost be identical would be very high. Because science conforms to natural laws that are self evident, science is methodical and reproducible. I have offered this comparison because I believe I have made a discovery that produces a whole new approach to prophetic study.

Why Bible Prophecy Experts Disagree

There is a simple reason for the confusion that besets Bible prophecy. Prophetic expositors arrive at different conclusions because there are as many different methods of interpretation as there are people. Methods of interpretation is a phrase that defines a controlling set of ideas or views that a person has in mind before he or she actually begins to interpret prophecy. Doctrinal beliefs, spiritual presuppositions, religious assumptions, concepts about the role and authority of Scripture, the use of external authority, and church traditions produce controlling ideas or parameters. Consider the influence that methods of interpretation actually have: A Catholic scholar, a Baptist scholar, and a Pentecostal scholar can read the same Bible verses and interpret them differently. Each scholar will form an opinion on prophecy that is in harmony with his doctrinal beliefs because everyone reads and understands the Bible with different biases and baggage. Bias and baggage can be called, “methods of interpretation,” “presuppositions,” “rules of interpretation,” or “hermeneutics.” Bias and religious baggage produce very strong paradigms and these paradigms build barriers that often keep people from having meaningful discussions. Perhaps the following parable will illustrate the controlling power that paradigms can exert.

The Parable of the Math Teacher

Once upon a time, there was a math teacher who surrendered his life to the Lord. Later, he felt called to serve as a missionary in a foreign land. Eventually, he was invited to teach math in a college in a distant city called Overspent.

During the first week of college algebra, the teacher discovered a puzzling situation. His students could not solve a single math problem correctly. In fact, all of the students gave identical answers for each math problem that he gave them. He asked the students to explain how they entered college – given the fact they did not have the skills necessary to resolve basic math problems. The students said their high school teachers did not require them to work through math problems because highly educated and spiritually guided math teachers long ago had solved all math problems and all that they needed to do was to memorize the answers.

The teacher was shocked.

The next day, the teacher set out to remedy the problem. He put this equation on the board: 3c + 5 = 20. He asked the students to solve for c. All of the students reported that c was equal to 3. When the teacher asked how they arrived at 3, they said they had always been taught that the variable c always equals 3. The teacher could not believe his ears. He demonstrated on the chalkboard how c was resolved, and he proved that c = 5 using simple rules of substitution. The students became angry. They were insulted by this “outsider” because he showed no respect for their high school elders and their traditional way of solving math problems.

The students told the teacher that if he had written 3e + 5 = 20, their answer would have been 5 because the variable e always equals 5. They had been taught that a always = 1, b always = 2, c always = 3, etc. The teacher responded by saying that when it comes to math, a variable’s name does not determine its value. It does not matter whether a variable is called “e,” “c”, or “x.” When it comes to resolving a math problem, the process must conform to valid rules or the answer will be erroneous. The students could not bear to hear any more of this heresy, so they rose up as one 9 Introduction Jesus’ Final Victory man and stormed out of class. The math teacher was stunned. He wondered how he could help his students. They knew nothing about working through math problems or that math is controlled by the four self-evident rules of addition, multiplication, subtraction, and division. He thought to himself, “They think they have been properly informed, and they are afraid to consider answers that are contrary to the traditions taught by their elders.” Perplexed by their hostility, he wondered what he could do to get the students to put aside their traditions so that they could consider a mathematical process that would enable them to accurately resolve math problems.

The next day, the teacher plainly said to his students: “Please hear me out. You have been misled. Your knowledge of math is worthless. Memorizing the answer to a math problem is not a substitute for properly working through a legitimate process to reach the correct answer. If you follow the four rules that govern basic math, you can test and validate your answers in many different ways. More importantly, others who know nothing about you or your elders can also reach the same conclusions and they can test the validity of your answers because accurate math solutions are not a matter of opinion, they are a matter of fact. Accurate solutions are proven true when self-evident rules declare them to be true!” Once again, the students became hostile. The teacher had condemned their traditions and their beloved elders. He had insulted them and their high school teachers. They threw desks and chairs at the teacher. During the riot, they beat and kicked him until he died.

When the bell rang at the end of class, the students went away happy. They were relieved that the offending teacher had been silenced. They petitioned the dean of the college to provide a math teacher who would teach according to their elders and their wish was granted and the rest of the school year went very well.

Years later, many of these students graduated from Overspent City College and some of them went to work for the revered elders of the city. Later on, the city faced an enormous financial crisis and all of the elders and college graduates could not stop the city from going bankrupt. When the auditors showed up, no one in the accounting department could figure out what went wrong – literally.

There are four lessons to be learned from this silly parable. First, for most of us, religious traditions and the opinions of respected leaders are usually more important than truth itself. Traditions are familiar and predictable, whereas truth can be disruptive, humiliating, and socially divisive. Second, it is impossible to be “a defender of tradition” and at the same time, be “a seeker of truth.” These mind sets stand in opposition to each other. When a person is content with what he knows, leave him alone. There is nothing further that you can offer him. Third, if someone challenges the folly of a tradition, he or she will surely suffer for it. Last, if we reject or ignore the truth, failure cannot be avoided. We may arrogantly defend our ignorance, but ignorance will not save us from the outcome that truth demands.

The Bible Will Tell Us Things That We Don’t Want to Believe

Experts widely disagree on Bible prophecy because every expositor has a different paradigm. The essential problem, of course, is that false presuppositions and false doctrines cannot produce valid conclusions. A valid rule is a rule that is always true. For example, 2 + 2 always equals 4 because the laws of addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division demonstrate the answer is true. Similarly, a valid rule will not have an exception even in Bible prophecy. If there is an exception in math, no one can determine if the answer is true or false. If there is an exception to a rule in Bible prophecy, no one has the authority to speak for God and tell the rest of the world when the rule should be applied or ignored. To illustrate this matter, consider a rule which some people advocate:

“A day in Bible prophecy always equals a year.”

If this rule has no exception, the 1,000 years in Revelation 20 should be translated as 365,242 years. (365.242 days per year x 1,000 years = 365,242 years)

The day/year rule cannot be always valid because it puts the Bible in a state of internal conflict. Certain time periods in Daniel and Revelation must be translated as a day for a year (for example, the seventy weeks of Daniel 9 must be translated into 490 years), but there are other time periods like Revelation 13:5 where the rule “a day for a year” is not valid.

Faulty rules can produce unrealistic hopes and reality can produce bitter disappointment. Logic and reasonableness do not alone ensure prophetic validity. The Baptist preacher William Miller believed that Jesus would return in 1844, but his followers were bitterly disappointed. Many Christians believe that a pre-tribulation rapture is imminent, but as you read this book, you will learn that a pre-tribulation rapture cannot occur. Valid rules of interpretation will not support a pre-tribulation rapture and they do not support the idea that a rapture is necessary so that all Israel can be saved. The Bible teaches that after the cross, the Israel of God is no longer biological! Every believer in Christ has been made an heir of Abraham[1] and the the book of James teaches that the twelve tribes consist of believers in Christ![2]

For thousands of years, people believed Earth stood still and the Sun orbited the Earth. After all, everyone could plainly see that the Sun traveled across the sky! Then, along came an obscure mathematician who said that the Sun stood still. Even though Copernicus proved that the Sun was not moving, he was severely punished for speaking out against the traditions of the elders and telling the truth. History declares that advocates of advancing truth are frequently punished. (Even Jesus was crucified for speaking the truth.) Nevertheless, God’s truth never stands still. The honest in heart always experience great joy whenever they find or receive more truth! The ongoing discovery of truth is a process that enables the Bible to reveal to us what we do not know and things we do not want to believe – at first. Unfortunately, many Christians do not want additional truth. Many people are content with their traditions (the familiar and predictable) and they are quick to discredit anything that is different before carefully analyzing it. Perhaps the greatest problem that human beings face today is that we cannot predict what our response to truth will be until more truth arrives and challenges our thinking and traditions.

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