by R. S. Neaville
In these days the subject of biblical prophecy has become more of an industry that an area of serious study. So-called prophecy teachers and televangelists sell their speculations and musings for big money. Whether we are talking about Hal Lindsey, Grant Jefferies, Tim LaHaye, Jack Van Impe, or any other of a number of prophecy hucksters it all comes out to the same thing: guessing games instead of clear scriptural teaching.
The truth is biblical prophecy is governed by very clear rules according to Scripture. I believe that it is high time that these rules are defined for God's people with clarity so that we are no longer made merchandise of by these cash driven super salesman and their disregard for scriptural integrity. I do not use any of these adjectives lightly. Nor am I trying to be disrespectful or flippant. The men I have mentioned and many others too numerous to mention are guilty of misleading the people of God no matter what their intentions may have started out as. This is a fact that I believe will be made clear with remedy from the holy writ of the word of God. It is high time that all of us who claim to be Christians begin to live in the sober awareness of true biblical prophecy and its purpose as designed by God himself.
Rule number one: God never uses speculation. Never in all of the 66 books of inspired Scripture did a single Bible teacher, prophet of God, or writer of Scripture, ever engage in speculation as to what God would do or would not do were prophecy was concerned. The writers of Scripture spoke only what God gave them to say. Never once did a man of God guess as to how God would fulfill any prophecy. In the relationship between God and prophet interpretation was always in God's purview not in a man's. Never once has a man figured out God's intentions.
2 Peter 1:20 Knowing this first, that no prophecy of the scripture is of any private interpretation.
21 For the prophecy came not in old time by the will of man: but holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost.
God never spoke in terms of maybe this will happen or maybe that. God always speaks in the absolute. Never once did God ever encourage men to speculate on what his will was. Man was always dependent upon what God himself chose to reveal. God can not be figured out with the guessing games of carnal minds.
Isaiah 55:9 For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts.
Rule number two: prophecy was never recognized or understood as to how would be manifested before it began to be fulfilled. In all of Scripture not a single prophecy that was fulfilled was recognized until it began to be fulfilled. No man has ever known before hand exactly how God's will would be manifested. We can use the prophecies concerning Jesus Christ as an example it wasn't until after John the Baptist began preaching and Jesus began to do his work that the prophecies referring to him were recognized in him. The coming of the Messiah the well-documented throughout Scripture in the old covenant and yet the whole of the nation of Israel was caught flat-footed when he arrived on the scene.
John 1:10 He was in the world, and the world was made by him, and the world knew him not.
This is the true nature of prophecy. You recognize it as it's been fulfilled. So prophecy is not so much focused on giving you knowledge of what will happen before it does but it rather it warns you and pinpoints the hour of God's visitation and confirms dramatically you can place your trust in God. A simple survey of the Scriptures will verify this in very stark terms.
Rule number three: You cannot place contemporary meanings on ancient symbols and figures in the Bible. If you'll notice many prophecy teachers do this. They try to interpret symbols in a modern context. They try to line up today's newspapers with the metaphor of ancient Scripture. In the process they twist the Scriptures to mean something totally different than what they were meant to. This is reading their own ideas and culture upon the text. The symbology and metaphor of Scripture is ancient. The Bible has already generated its own meanings for the symbology. Let me give you an example: Some prophecy teachers have looked at the bear mentioned in Daniel chapter 7. As being Russia because in modern times bears have become a symbol of Russia. But Daniel chapter 7 and 8 tell us very clearly that the bear is a reference to the ancient kingdom of Medo- Persia. So you see the identity of the bear has already been established and Scripture. They cannot be interpreted with a modern slant. Another example- Hal Lindsey in his books compares the locusts of Revelation Chapter 9 as being cobra helicopters. Now even he acknowledges that this is pure speculation yet this is become the most popular interpretation of the entities described in this verse. Again we see the substitution of contemporary understandings placed upon ancient symbols. Locusts are an ancient understanding of plague and the curse that can fall upon the land. This is the meaning that is applicable in Revelation chapter 9. While I do not want to get in to the full meaning of this chapter I think you begin to see the tone of what I'm trying to relate. These prophecy mongers are adept at inserting their own meanings and coloring the tone of Scripture while doing great damage to the text. Prophecy was never meant to be a guessing game, to be speculated over, or to be sold as merchandise. This is yet another area in which those who claim to be Christian must wake up.
There are more rules than the above mentioned that govern the use of prophecy in Scripture. These are only three that will help you see the need for greater understanding in this realm of study. I hope this is helpful. You can find more on this subject on my website www.propheticjournal.net
in Jesus, R.S.Neaville