Among those who have never read the Holy Bible, probably most have heard of “the book of Revelations.” In fact, most people think they know what’s in the book (though I would argue that they don’t).
Before launching my own spin on Bible prophecy, I feel compelled to clarify what it is and isn’t: Bible prophesy isn’t all “gloom and doom.”
Many people emphasize the catastrophic events depicted in prophesy and ignore everything else. For the unbelievers and those who have refused to accept the free pardon from divine judgement: the death, destruction and suffering should be terrifying. For those who have accepted the pardon, though, the ultimate message of prophecy is one of great victory. Through it we know we will have eternal peace, freedom and joy. There will be no more death, suffering or sadness and the mystery of God will be completed.
I know and care for people, including some family members, who feel it is wrong to study, discuss or try to understand prophecy. This is an unbiblical attitude (Rev. 1:3) and probably exists within many Christians partially because of overemphasis on the gloom and doom. Part of the problem is probably also a failure by many self-described Christians to understand and revere what the Word of God is (2 Tim. 3:16).
Bible prophecy isn’t all about the “last days.” Most of it is, but some of it has already been fulfilled. Take the Messianic prophecies, for instance: Centuries before the fact, many details of the life (and death) of Jesus were prophesied. Obviously those prophecies were fulfilled. Yet what frustrated the Jews during the time of Jesus’ earthly ministry is that there are far more prophecies about His second coming. It was easy to overlook the fewer prophecies about his first coming, partly because a Messiah who would suffer and die was less appealing than one who would take the planet by force and conquer Israel’s enemies. Both divine missions are prophesied, but like so much Bible prophecy, careful scholarship is required.
The Bible is brimming with prophecy, even in books you wouldn’t consider prophetic like the Psalms, Ruth or Paul’s letter to the Romans. And all of it ultimately points to Jesus the Messiah, starting with Genesis 3:15 (the “seed of the woman” is a biological oxymoron since, in human reproduction, the “seed” is in the man. However, this curious phrase hints at the virgin birth of the one who will ultimately defeat the “seed of the serpent” at the conclusion of history).
The Book of Revelation is the most famous prophetic book. I see it as the membrane connecting all other prophecies. Conversely, the other prophetic texts within the Bible contain the codebreaking info for Revelation.
You might hear about 2 different “camps” or schools of thought within Christianity–those who “take the Bible literally,” and those who dismiss most of it as allegory or symbolic moral lessons. I identify more with the former, but must qualify that: I believe the Bible is true from cover to cover, yet frequently uses parables or symbolism to convey literal truth.
For instance: I don’t believe Jesus is literally a young sheep, though He is referred to as “the Lamb” in scripture.
Symbolism was used, understood and accepted throughout biblical times. If not, Joseph wouldn’t have angered his family by sharing his dreams (Gen. 37:5-10). Jesus used symbolism prolifically in his parables. So I must differ with those who take “literalism” to extremes that render prophcies irrelevant and ridiculous. When terms like “the 4 corners of the earth” are used in the Bible (or at least some English translations), you are not required to believe that the earth is a flat square. “The winepress of God’s wrath” is not a literal vat of grapes somewhere in the Valley of Jehosephat.
The other extreme is far more dangerous (and more popular). I’ve even heard some evangelical Christians on the radio try to allegorize what is obviously literal. When John writes about a remnant of Israelite men, numbering 144,000, sealed by God to survive the coming wrath, then bothers to list the 12 tribes that each contribute 12,000 of these men (Rev.7:4-8; 14:1-5), neither he, nor the Holy Spirit inspiring him, used this description as a “symbol” for 92 televangelists; or 361 Rabbis; or 54,000 devout Jews; or 144,000 men, women and children; or 144,000 Jehovah’s Witnesses; or whatever. When the great tribulation/second half of Daniel’s “70th Seven” is described as “times, time, and half a time” (Dan. 7:25; 12:7; Rev. 12:14); then as 42 months (Rev. 11:2); then as 1,260 days (Rev. 12:6); what is being prophesied is not a “symbol” for some different period of time.
If you have trouble distinguishing between literal text and symbolic imagery depicting literal truth, I believe my pages can help you.
So welcome to Seven Thunders. More blogs to follow.