When riveting Imagery and coded messaging make your Bible study difficult, remember this approach.
Why So Confusing?
It’s not uncommon for you, as a Bible reader to feel overwhelmed when you start reading and studying books of the Bible heavy with prophecy, like Ezekiel, Jeremiah, Isaiah, Daniel, or Revelation. Most—if not all—Bible readers wonder: “what’s up with all these symbols in the Bible? Why are they here? What do they mean? What are we supposed to do with them?!”
You may be anxious, fearful, and even discouraged because you’ve encountered prophecy, convinced that you won’t be able to make any sense out of it, but the truth is that yes, you can understand it. In fact, God promises you that if you are serious about understanding prophecy in the Bible, you will! With the right tools and guidance, the mysteries within can become clear. The ultimate goal of prophecy is for all of us to increase our faith in God, His Bible, and increase peace and hope in our lives.
“Hey, I’m Doing the Best I Can!”
The fact is that Bible writers had to use metaphors to describe the futuristic or divine, which is why some parts of prophecy sound like pages out of a fantasy novel or sci-fi movie. Many different authors from many different walks of life, with different experiences and levels of education. wrote the Bible. Imagine if you were a farmer or shepherd (like the prophet Amos) or a fisherman (like the prophet John)—it’s likely your level of sophistication and education were very low, and you might have been confused, and yes, even frightened when confronted with some of the prophecies. However, you would be obedient to God’s Holy Spirit, and share it as best as you could.
As a child, did you ever have a nightmare or strange dream and found it difficult to make sense of it, share it–or even to put it into words? As an adult, what if you saw amazing things of the future, or saw spiritual things usually only God can see; how would you attempt to describe it to others? Especially if the point of sharing is to send an important message to people around you?
There are different types of prophecy in the Bible and not all prophecy is fantastical dragon battles and horned monsters. In fact, some prophecy is more straightforward, meant only as a warning (like the Old Testament book of Jonah) or as a revelation of hope (like the Old Testament book of Jeremiah & Isaiah), even.
Reasons for Bible Prophecy
Here are six big reasons for Bible prophecy (but there are a lot more):
- It helps you more clearly understand what happened in the past
- prophecy helps you more clearly understand the present
- It helps you more clearly understand what will happen in the future
- prophecy increases and strengthens your faith in God, His character and His Word–the Bible
- It gives you peace and hope while living in this world
- It gives you guidance as you live today
Bible Prophecy at Cruising Altitude
Airplane pilots have a very unique view of the world. They spend more time seeing it from 35,000 feet rather than on the ground. This allows them a unique perspective on what, from the ground, may look like a jumble of streets, houses, sidewalks, highways, and traffic jams.
Well, as you read and study the Bible, it’s easy to get overwhelmed with the prophetic books. You’ve probably asked yourself if there’s some sort of “method to the madness” when it comes to prophecy? Is there some sort of way that I can see the Bible from 35,000 feet as well? And, there is! Simply put, prophecy provides the answer and that answer is: salvation, humanity’s salvation, to be specific.
You see, the entire Bible is one great, big, amazing, beautiful, complicated–and sometimes heartbreaking–story (prophecy included). It’s the story of how all of humanity—beginning with our first parents Adam & Eve, rebelled (sinned) against God. It tells us how God came looking for us to fix the problem. And, He came with an incredible solution. This meant coming to earth (the first time) as a human baby. He would give His own life, through His Son, Jesus. The perfect life, death, and resurrection of Jesus mean our salvation. He paid the penalty for our sin (death).
In a Nutshell
Through this process He made us perfect (justification). But He didn’t stop there. Most unbelievably, after Jesus left earth and returned to His Heavenly Home, He gave us access to Himself, in the form of His Holy Spirit. Wait, (it gets even crazier), and through the Holy Spirit’s power working in and through us, God gives every person who will accept His substitutionary death as their own, the motivation to want to be more like him (holiness/righteousness) and the power to do it (sanctification).
All of this will culminate in Jesus coming (His second one)—but this time, not as a frail, helpless human baby, but as God, the King of the Universe! When this happens all of His followers will be instantly changed to be like Him (glorification) and our bodies and minds will be changed from mortal (dying) to immortal (never dying)! Then, changed to immortal, we will actually live with God with Him forever! And humanity will never rebel again and their will never again be any more sin!
Understanding Prophecy 101
So what’s involved in basic interpretation of prophecy? How should you start the process of correctly understanding it? Well, with these four easy steps you can begin the process of overcoming your fear, well, ok, maybe not fear, but at least your lack of knowledge of Biblical prophecies.
Here are the steps:
- Pray First: don’t ever start any kind of reading or studying of the Bible without first praying. God promises—in the Bible—that if you ask Him to give you wisdom in understanding and applying it, He will.
- Use Your Common Sense: many prophecies use all sorts of weird, off-the-wall language. The bottom line is: if it sounds like something out of a sci-fi movie, then it’s very likely a symbol representing something real that has happened, is happening, or will happen. Come on now, when was the last time you saw a dragon or a beast, so these symbols must mean something else.
- Read in Context: the Bible is its own best interpreter. If you’re not sure about a symbol or allegory, don’t rush to judgment or give up. Keep reading and then find other spots in the Bible that mention those same symbols or allegories or situations. Also, nowadays most bibles have concordances or other interpretative study tools that can be used to help you understand what those symbols mean. You can find a ton of them online. One great one is https://www.amazingfacts.org
- Ask For Assistance: There is no shame in asking for help, especially when the stakes are as high as making sure you have a correct understanding of the Bible. Don’t know where to go? Sites that help explain the Bible, or connect you with people who study it, are great places to start.
Resources for Further Study on Bible Prophecy
If you are serious about wanting to learn more about how to study Bible prophecies or just simply want to learn more about what prophecies are in the Bible, then check out these great resources: