We are just shy of the 1/3 of the way through our study of Revelation having gone through 8 of the 27 lessons. Lesson nine starts a new section talking of the 7 trumpets, so I thought this would be an appropriate time to answer a couple of questions that have been submitted.
The first question is relatively simple, yet has a rather interesting answer. The question is, what is prophecy? The second question is similar in nature. The book of Revelation was written 60 or more years after Christ was crucified, so it was written largely about things that were to come to pass. The question is, how can we know what has or has not come to pass?
Both are very good questions. Let’s start by addressing the first question: What is prophecy?
The simple answer is: Prophecy is the telling in advance things that will eventually or actually take place in the future. I enjoy baseball and my favorite baseball team is the Minnesota Twins. Please don’t laugh, they really are my favorite team. Mainly because I grew up watching them. I could boldly predict that Twins will win the World Series the fall of 2015. It is possible, they could, but it is highly improbable that they will. I can certainly make this prediction and this could happen because it is predicting something that could happen and it could happen in the future. If I hadn’t put the qualifier of “In the fall of 2015” and just stated that sometime in the future, the twins will win the world series, the probability of my prediction actually happening increases. If the Twins were in first place with one week left in the season and also had the best record in baseball, it would also improve but not guarantee my prediction would come true.
This is simplistic example of someone predicting something in the future that might happen. We all do it every day. We look at a set of facts and try to predict what will happen or what we hope will happen in the future.
But the Bible is different for it doesn’t predict on a human scale. Instead, it predicts based on what is being told to the writer of the prophecy. II Peter 1:21 states it so well: “For prophecy never came by the will of man, but holy men of God spoke (and wrote) as they were moved by the Holy Spirit.” II Timothy 3:16 states: “All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness.” I like adding verse 17 as well. It completes the thought started in verse 16. “That the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work.”
Bible prophecy was inspired by the Holy Spirit and given to men (prophets) who wrote down in their own language using signs and symbols that were familiar to them and the audience they were writing to about the things that were shown to them by the Holy Spirit.
We have a sequence of this in Revelation 1:1, 2 where it says: “The Revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave Him to show His servants – things which must shortly take place. And He sent and signified it by His angel to His servant John, 2 who bore witness to the word of God, and to the testimony of Jesus Christ, to all things that he saw.”
This brings us to the second question, which really ties back into the first question. The second question was: The book of Revelation was written 60 or more years after Christ was crucified, so it was written largely about things that were to come to pass. The question is, how can we know what has or has not come to pass?
The answer is, Prophecy is the telling of history in advance.
A few paragraphs earlier we touched on the fact that the Holy Spirit gave to the prophets the message they wrote down. The prophets in turn, spoke and wrote in a language that was familiar to them, using signs and symbols that the people living in their time could easily understand.
This is also how we are to understand scripture as well. Although written many centuries earlier and in a different language, we can look through the pages of the Bible and begin to see that certain images or symbols are used to represent certain things. We see this use of the word “Gold” in Revelation. Gold stands for True riches of heaven, faith and the scripture. A careful study of scripture would show Psalm 19:7-10; Galatians 5:6; James 2:5; and Job 23:10 that explain what the symbols of God would represent.
So the writer would often use symbols of his time to tell the story of something that he was told would happen in the future. The word prophecy means to foretell, to proclaim something that is coming. If something is coming it is said to be in the future. But the Bible also has prophecies that have already come true.
An example would be the prophecy given to Noah that the world would be destroyed by a flood. Genesis chapters 6-9 give us the story of this prediction, fulfillment and result of that prediction. Also in Genesis we have the very first prophesy that was given to our first parents in Genesis chapter three. Those tragic events that resulted in each of us having to suffer today. Genesis 3:14-15 is just a small part but also the biggest part of this prophecy that was given to our first parents. There is symbolism involved in this prophecy. So the Lord God said to the serpent: “Because you have done this, You are cursed more than all cattle, and more than every beast of the field; on your belly you shall god, and you shall eat just all the days of your life. 15 And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your seed and her Seed; He shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise His heel.”
Interestingly enough from this point forward the word serpent is often used to represent Satan. The crushing of the serpents head is representative of the final destruction of sin and bruising of the heel was Christ death upon the cross. It was not a fatal blow that of Jesus dying on the cross, painful certainly, fatal no, for Christ rose again from the grave, but it was the sinless life of Christ who died upon the cross which sealed the fait that Satan will eventually have his head crushed when sin is totally removed and planet earth is completely remade as if sin had never happened.
There is one more symbols and that is the word seed. The woman’s seed, was a prediction that one of her offspring down through the ages would come and have the power to completely crush the serpent’s head. What a wonderful promise and this is what we see playing out upon the pages of sacred history.
As we have seen, symbols are used to help predict events which will someday take place and the pages of the Bible are filled with prophecies that have already been fulfilled.
Prophecy as we have discovered is the telling of history in advance so the symbols and figures used in Revelation are symbolically or literally helping us understand events that have taken place or will certainly take place in the future.
Although it is best to use the Bible to interpret itself, there are time one must see if there are events in history that match the events foretold in Bible prophecy. God told Noah to prophecy there would be a flood. Though many want to disprove it, science and all ancient civilizations have a flood story.
Genesis chapter 3 prophesied there would come someone to crush the serpent’s head and it is a historical fact that a man by the name of Jesus was put to death upon a cross.
Revelation is prophecy of events that in John’s day had barely begun to be fulfilled. Today we live in the time of the 6th seal. The pages of history have shown that what God has shown to John was to take place has happened, just as he said it would. Should we wonder and question if the future events foretold in Revelation will happen.
If God took the time to tell us his intentions, we should best head the warning he has given us all.