The Bible is a unique handbook for life. For example, it intends to:
Series 1 aims to primarily provide answers to questions concerning point 1.
- show us through its instruction the way to a right relationship to God and our fellow man,
- warn us through its history of salvation so as to not make the mistakes of others,
- give us hope for the future through its prophecies for both life and eternity. God will fulfill that which he has promised through his prophets for our time.
Series 2 in its mini and mid-size texts, gives a corresponding overview of the history of salvation and the future.
Series 2 in its maxi-text, which follows below, aims to primarily help us to better be able to understand our current situation and our future, with the help of the prophecies. The text mainly follows the chapter outline of the book of Revelation, with clarifying sections inserted where needed.
1. Various viewpoints on the prophecies
Regarding the overall views of different people on the prophecies of the Bible,
I would like to caution against the three following extremes:
Examples of the last incorrect position were the scribes in Jesus' time. They knew well the prophecies about the promised Messiah, but they were so blinded by their own interpretations that they could not recognize Jesus Christ as their Messiah:
- To carelessly reject all prophecies.
- To unreservedly accept every interpretation just because it sounds attractive or sensible.
- to definitely believe the prophecies, but to so rigidly hold to indoctrinated models of interpretation that one becomes completely incapable of recognizing reality.
- They expected a political savior who would free the Jews from the Roman Empire.
- In contrast, with the help of the Holy Spirit, two simple persons, Simeon and Hannah, could recognize the Messiah in the infant Jesus, even though he was only 8 days old.
2. How do we try to correctly understand the prophecies?
The principle rules for correctly understanding the prophecies are: (according Dan. 12:4, 9-10)
- that many will remain sealed and therefore incomprehensible until the end times; that is, they will not be fully understandable until their fulfillment occurs.
- that knowledge will then increase as many in the end times begin to eagerly study them, but
- that in spite of this, no prophecy can be correctly interpreted only with a person's own understanding. We need the help of the Holy Spirit, in the same way that the writers needed it. (II Pet. 1:19-21)
- we are equally incapable of correctly interpreting the signs of the times with our own understanding; that is, to know where humanity currently finds itself in the prophetic timetable. (Matt. 16:3,4)
- On the more important questions, what matters is that our interpretation should harmonize with the Bible's overall picture, or at least be supported by 2-3 other Bibles passages. Also, it must not contradict any other unambiguous Bible passage.
The Apostle Peter says concerning this, "And we have the prophetic word made more sure. You will do well to pay attention to this as to a lamp shining in a dark place, until the day dawns," that is, until Christ's second coming. (II Pet. 1:19)
The Bible therefore calls people "noble and understanding" who not only listen, but who also attend so closely to what they hear, that through Bible study and prayer for the leading of the Holy Spirit, they themselves strive to test the truthfulness in what is said. (Acts 17:11,12)
Therefore, I do not believe at all that everything I now say in this illustrated series is completely correct. But I hope:
- that the illustrations and text are so easy to understand that they can serve as a foundation for many individuals and groups in Bible study, with the goal
- of inspiring them to great works for the spreading of the kingdom of God during the last great revival of our time, and
- to instill in the readers a deep trust in the Savior Jesus Christ, that it is he who has the absolute authority, and not the Devil or wicked men, no matter how bad things look for the moment.
3. The prophetic perspective
A useful tip towards this end is the prophetic perspective. When a prophet describes his vision, it is as if he stands on a mountain in the Alps and tries to describe the mountain tops which he sees. In this, it is:
- not at all certain that he sees all the peaks which lie on the terrain in front of him. A smaller peak can of course lie hidden behind a larger one. The smaller one could perhaps be found in another prophet's vision.
- Finally, both for the prophet and for us, it has proven to be very difficult to correctly understand the time perspective. It is as difficult as attempting to correctly estimate the distance between two mountain tops.
- Sometimes, the final goal is shown first, and afterwards follow several detailed descriptions of the way there.
This concept clearly exists in the book of Revelation, and was earlier used by the prophet Isaiah in his book. In Isaiah 11 the promise of the Savior and his millennial kingdom is given first. Then Isaiah describes later in the same chapter that the way there goes via the gathering of the Jews to Israel from their dispersion over the whole earth. This scattering occurred in the years 70-135 A.D., and the ingathering is ongoing at best. Not until chapter 53 is the sacrificial death of Jesus on the cross described in detail, in spite of the fact that it took place almost 2000 years earlier than the ingathering of our time.
The Maxi-text mainly follows the chapter outline of the book of Revelation, with clarifying sections inserted where needed.
Longer explanatory sections are found in the Prophetic/Technical supplement.