Foundations for the Study of Prophecy (Revelation)
In the study of any book of the Bible or any topic of Scripture, a certain amount of ground work is needed for understanding, orientation, and motivation. This is particularly so with the Book of Revelation or prophecy in general. Revelation is a book that has been called everything from a hodgepodge of nonsense to a masterpiece. Because it contains a large amount of symbolism and because of the faulty approaches or methods of interpretation applied to its study, many have a difficult time grasping its meaning. It has become a book which is the object of the widest possible divergence of interpretation.
Regardless, God promises blessing to the student of this book (Rev. 1:3). In fact, Revelation is a book in which all the great themes, seed plots, lines of doctrine and Bible prophecy find their fulfillment. It is in this book that the victory of God as the God of history is seen in the culmination of the ages and the establishment of the eternal state.
The Purposes of Prophecy
It Is Not Designed to Make Us Prophets
God did not give us prophecy so we could become a prophet or the son of a prophet and thereby predict the future. It is not given so we can predict who the Man of Sin or the Antichrist or the beast will be, nor is it given so we can predict the precise day and hour when the Lord will return.
History is full of those who thought they knew who the Antichrist would be or was. Men have said it was Napoleon, others Mussolini, others that it was Hitler, others John F. Kennedy because of the head wound by which he died. Some have said it would be Henry Kissinger because he was from one of the countries of the Old Roman Empire and because he was so involved in seeking peace between the Israelis and Arabs a few years ago.
From the Bible we can see the alignment of nations that will occur in the last days and we can see how our world is fitting into the pattern of those conditions morally, politically, religiously, and economically that will exist in the last days and in the days often referred to as the Tribulation or more accurately, Daniel’s Seventieth Week.
From this we may take warning and encouragement from the Scripture, but we need to be careful about making predictions. It is only logical that the ‘last day’ conditions will undoubtedly exist or begin to fall into place before the Tribulation begins in preparation for the terrible days that lie ahead. God will obviously be placing the props on the stage of human history and putting the actors in the wings ready to come on the stage of this great drama. We may see those who possess characteristics consistent with the key players we see revealed in Scripture, but we need to be careful about making predictions.
This means that when we see such conditions developing, we can know that those days could be near, that conditions appear to be rapidly marching toward the events of the last days which could mean suffering for the body of Christ, the church, in the form of greater persecution. Though I believe in the blessed hope, the pre-tribulation rapture, the unfolding of these events in preparation for the Tribulation period also means we should take the necessary precautions and prepare as well as we can for difficult times since we could see them before the Lord returns for the church.
But we should also know that these conditions can wax and wane like the moon to some degree so we can never be sure as to the time. All we can say is that this is like what will happen or that the present world affairs are growing and shaping up as we see them in the prophetic Word.
It Demonstrates the Accuracy of the Bible
In all the writings of the world, the accuracy of biblical prophecy is unique and stands as one of the great evidences of the God-breathed nature of the Bible. The cults are basically silent on the future and when they are not, they end up with egg on their face.
The test for any prophecy and the authenticity of its source is fulfillment, and hundreds of Bible prophecies have been fulfilled in minute detail. This is true of prophecies fulfilled in Old Testament times, in the life of Christ (birth, life, death, and resurrection), and in relation to even the shaping of world events of our day. Compare Deuteronomy 18:20-22; Jeremiah 28:9; but also Deuteronomy 13:1-5.
Note that a false prophet’s prediction might very well come to pass. The determination of whether he was a true or false prophet was not made on this basis but on whether or not he led the people away from God. The success of false prophets was permitted in order to test God’s people (vs. 3).2
The ultimate issue for all prophecy is its spiritual impact on the lives of God’s people. Does it cause men to follow the Lord or turn them away from Him?
Ezekiel’s Prophecy concerning the city of Tyre is an illustration (Ezek. 26:1-5). About 350 years before Christ, Philip of Macedonia dreamed that one day he would throw off the Persian yoke. His son, who had already shown an ability for military logistics and leadership, had a falling out with his father at about the age of 15 and became a playboy on the Mediterranean. Later Philip was murdered, some even accused Alexander, but he returned to Macedonia. At age 21 he formed a military force and began conquering one country after another. He never lost a battle and he stopped his conquest at India only because his men were homesick.
The inevitable happened and he met Darius the Persian at the headwaters of the Tigris/Euphrates in the Battle of Isis. Darius and his men were put to riot by this upstart Greek. Alexander’s men being flush with victory wanted to pursue Darius back to Babylon and fight the final campaign. Alexander said, “No.” He felt that the time was not right because they didn’t have the proper supply lines. The Phoenicians would come in and help Darius. Instead, Alexander said, “Let’s go down to Tyre. Let’s defeat it and then the Phoenicians will throw in with us.”
Well, how much do you know about Tyre? Though besieged many times, no one was ever able to capture the city. Years before Alexander decided to go down to Tyre, Nebuchadnezzar went after Tyre himself. He besieged the city for 13 years. As it happened, both Nebuchadnezzar and the people of Tyre decided to quit about the same time. The people of Tyre decided to make one last effort. They picked up all they could load in boats and at midnight, they went out and camped on a large rock-like island about 300 yards from the shore and reestablished themselves. Nebuchadnezzar made one last attack against the city, but when he found the city vacant, he left in disgust.
Because of the success of this move, Tyre built an impregnable fortress and city there on the rock some 900 feet from the mainland. Now, years later, Alexander said, “We will go up against the great fort on the rock and it will fall as other cities have. So he did. He commandeered boats, and attacked the city, but he was repulsed time and again. He was upbraided by his men and their argument was, “You can’t fight over 900 feet of water.” So Alexander took the dust, the rubble and the ruin from the old city of Tyre and poured it into the sea. It took seven months, but he built a causeway out to the rock and the city fell in one day. After that the site of the old city became nothing more that a flat rock where fishermen spread their nets. And what had Ezekiel prophesied years before Alexander’s time?
Now it came about in the eleventh year, on the first of the month, that the word of the Lord came to me saying, 2 “Son of man, because Tyre has said concerning Jerusalem, ‘Aha, the gateway of the peoples is broken; it has opened to me. I shall be filled, now that she is laid waste,’ 3 therefore, thus says the Lord God, ‘Behold, I am against you, O Tyre, and I will bring up many nations against you, as the sea brings up its waves. 4 And they will destroy the walls of Tyre and break down her towers; and I will scrape her debris from her and make her a bare rock. 5 She will be a place for the spreading of nets in the midst of the sea, for I have spoken,’ declares the Lord God, ‘and she will become spoil for the nations …’” (Ezekiel 26:1-5)
Why begin our study of Revelation here? God said this about Tyre 2000 years ago, but the Hebrew prophet spoke these words 350 years before Alexander the Great.
It Reveals the Power and Wisdom of God
As just demonstrated, prophecy shows how God continues to control the affairs of this world in spite of the great and constant opposition of both Satan and man to the purposes of God (read Isa. 10:5-19). Though Assyria boastfully acted on her own initiative as an enemy of Israel (vs. 7), she was but an instrument of God’s wrath against a rebellious Israel. God was always in charge and through Isaiah the prophet, He prophesied that He would destroy Assyria so completely that a child could easily count the number of leaders that remained (vs. 19). Assyria fell between the fall of Nineveh in 612 B.C. and the battle of Charchemish in 605.
It Reveals the Plan and Purposes of God
In the process of this study we will see this plan unfold along with some of God’s purposes. We will see God’s purpose for Israel, why they were cut off from the place of blessing, what God is doing today with the nation of Israel and with the Gentiles, and we will see God’s purposes for the church, for the Tribulation, and for the millennial reign of Christ.
It Protects Believers from Satan’s Counterfeits
Understanding prophecy can also protect Christians from the counterfeit strategies of Satan and the world system that lies under his control. As an example, one of the ancient counterfeits and one that will be a key note of his last day strategies, a strategy already prominent today, is the belief in one world government which is portrayed as a utopia and the last final hope for mankind. Nationalism will be hated and internationalism praised as the answer. Another illustration is the postmillennial belief that the church will be able to bring in the kingdom by the efforts of God’s people in concert, of course, with God. But an understanding of prophecy which warns of Satan’s attempts to bring the world together under his last-time leader (an anti-God, anti-Christ figure) warns us not to fall for any kind of one world movement.
It is Designed to Give Comfort
When we hear of wars and rumors of wars or hear of the problems of the Middle East or Russia, or we see the condition our country is in and the way it is in the control of the ‘one worlders,’ the knowledge of prophecy can give comfort by reminding us of God’s plan and that He is still on the throne, in control, and carrying out His purposes and plans (note that the purpose of these verses is to bring comfort John 14:1-3; 1 Thess. 4:18; 5:11; 2 Thess. 2:2).
It is Designed to Promote Holiness
The greatest purpose of the prophetic Word, as designed by God, is the pursuit of holiness by His people. This is everywhere evident in one prophetic passage after another. Check all the passages dealing with the return of the Lord and you will find that, almost without exception, our Lord’s return is used as a basis for an exhortation to godliness. This includes living as aliens in His service, living for heavenly treasure, and finding comfort in the midst of suffering and persecution through the assurance of Christ’s return.
Philippians 3:15-21 Let us therefore, as many as are perfect, have this attitude; and if in anything you have a different attitude, God will reveal that also to you; 16 however, let us keep living by that same standard to which we have attained. 17 Brethren, join in following my example, and observe those who walk according to the pattern you have in us. 18 For many walk, of whom I often told you, and now tell you even weeping, that they are enemies of the cross of Christ, 19 whose end is destruction, whose god is their appetite, and whose glory is in their shame, who set their minds on earthly things. 20 For our citizenship is in heaven, from which also we eagerly wait for a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ; 21 who will transform the body of our humble state into conformity with the body of His glory, by the exertion of the power that He has even to subject all things to Himself.
Colossians 3:1-5 If then you have been raised up with Christ, keep seeking the things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. 2 Set your mind on the things above, not on the things that are on earth. 3 For you have died and your life is hidden with Christ in God. 4 When Christ, who is our life, is revealed, then you also will be revealed with Him in glory. 5 Therefore consider the members of your earthly body as dead to immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and greed, which amounts to idolatry.
1 John 2:28-3:3 And now, little children, abide in Him, so that when He appears, we may have confidence and not shrink away from Him in shame at His coming. 29 If you know that He is righteous, you know that everyone also who practices righteousness is born of Him. 1 See how great a love the Father has bestowed upon us, that we should be called children of God; and such we are. For this reason the world does not know us, because it did not know Him. 2 Beloved, now we are children of God, and it has not appeared as yet what we shall be. We know that, when He appears, we shall be like Him, because we shall see Him just as He is. 3 And everyone who has this hope fixed on Him purifies himself, just as He is pure.
Titus 2:9-15 Urge bondslaves to be subject to their own masters in everything, to be well-pleasing, not argumentative, 10 not pilfering, but showing all good faith that they may adorn the doctrine of God our Savior in every respect. 11 For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation to all men, 12 instructing us to deny ungodliness and worldly desires and to live sensibly, righteously and godly in the present age, 13 looking for the blessed hope and the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Christ Jesus; 14 who gave Himself for us, that He might redeem us from every lawless deed and purify for Himself a people for His own possession, zealous for good deeds. 15 These things speak and exhort and reprove with all authority. Let no one disregard you.
1 Peter 1:13-17 Therefore, gird your minds for action, keep sober in spirit, fix your hope completely on the grace to be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ. 14 As obedient children, do not be conformed to the former lusts which were yours in your ignorance, 15 but like the Holy One who called you, be holy yourselves also in all your behavior; 16 because it is written, “You shall be holy, for I am holy.” 17 And if you address as Father the One who impartially judges according to each man’s work, conduct yourselves in fear during the time of your stay upon earth;
As we see how prophecy has been fulfilled, as we see it being fulfilled, as we contemplate the fulfillment of future events and their ramifications, and as we remember and live in the light of the coming Judgment (Bema) Seat of Christ, prophecy should have a special message and appeal for us to live now in the light of the sure and blessed hope of the future.
It is Designed to Unfold the Loveliness of Jesus
Revelation 19:10 And I fell at his feet to worship him. And he said to me, “Do not do that; I am a fellow servant of yours and your brethren who hold the testimony of Jesus; worship God. For the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy.”
Prophecy is designed to reveal truth concerning the person and work of the Lord Jesus. This is nowhere more evident than in the book of Revelation.
Dangers in the Study of Prophecy
The Danger of Sensationalism
Two passages are particularly pertinent here:
Acts 17:21 Now all the Athenians and the foreigners who lived there spent their time in nothing except telling or hearing something new. (RSV)
2 Timothy 4:3 For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own likings, … (RSV)
The Athenian philosophers were always ready to hear or tell some ‘new thing,’ but Paul warns us that this idea did not die with the Athenian philosophers. It is still with us today among Christians and non-Christians alike who often run from one prophetic conference or prophetic teacher to another, but in the process, they often show no real interest in other areas of Bible study. Why? Because they are looking for something sensational, novel, exciting, and entertaining, or because they are simply curious.
Prophecy was not meant to be sensationalized. It was meant to instruct believers according to certain clear-cut purposes of the Word that we have studied. Prophecy is fascinating and can be exhilarating, but should we be any more interested in it than in any other major tenet of Scripture? I think not.
Of course we should look expectantly for the return of the Lord and the blessed hope, but we need all of Scripture to do that effectively. Furthermore, reality reminds us that 2000 years have passed since the promise of His coming. This does not minimize the certainty of His return, but it should provide us with balance so that we live and anticipate His coming as though He will return today, yet work and serve as though He will not come for another 1,000 years!
The Danger of Ignoring Prophecy
Of course the opposite of the above, ignoring Bible prophecy, is also a danger. Prophetic teaching was strong in the ’50s, ’60s, and ’70s, but began to decline in its popularity in the ’80s. I think this was so partly because it was sensationalized, which, after a while, had a deadening affect.
I remember hearing comments by well-known prophetic speakers that we could expect the Lord’s return within twenty years, at least by the ’70s or ’80s. The idea was that in view of the shaping of world events, they didn’t see how it was possible for the return of the Lord to be delayed any longer than that. Many times this would be followed by disclaimers like, “Now, no one knows the day or the year of the Lord’s return, but …” Another common statement was something like this, “We have more reason to believe the return of the Lord for the church will be in our day than any other generation in history since the early church.”
Though world events were still moving toward the picture we see in Revelation and prominent passages like Daniel 9, still things on the surface seemed much the same. Israel became a state in 1948, thousands of Jews began to flock back to their land, and there was all the news and talk about peace in the Middle East. But the fact the Lord did not return within that twenty-year period, as many expected, seemed to lull the church into a kind of prophetic sleep. Add this to the fact that in the ’80s we moved into a time known as the ‘age of consumerism’ and we can see how the church surely began to forget about the return of the Lord and began to look more and more like the world.
Our need is to maintain the biblical balance. We should be looking for the Lord’s return as One who might come tomorrow with the impact that should have on us from the standpoint of heavenly treasure and living as aliens. At the same time, from the standpoint of ministry and involvement in our society, we should live as though He will not return for years to come.
The Danger of Pride
In 1 Corinthians the Apostle reminds us that knowledge without love makes us arrogant (2 Cor. 8:1) and pride is, of course, a danger we all face in some area of our lives. But, for some reason, people tend to become more puffed up over their knowledge of prophetic truth than in other areas.
Prophecy is a complicated area of Scripture with many divergent viewpoints even within the same prophetic scheme of things. As a result, people often view the knowledge of prophecy as a sign of maturity, great intelligence, or spiritual insight. The tendency is to think that if someone knows a lot about prophecy, that person is something close to the incarnation of the Apostle Paul. You often notice a tendency in this direction in some of the well-known speakers who specialize in prophecy. And though by-in-large they are godly and well-meaning in their purpose, pride nevertheless still comes out in some of the comments and attitudes displayed. There is a kind of arrogance, an attitude like, ‘you better come and hear what I have to say, or get my monthly newsletter and get the latest scoop, because I have it all figured out.’
The Danger of Imbalance
Imbalance is a problem in any area of life. One of the unique things about the Lord Jesus is the fact of His balance. The Apostle John described Him as One who was “full of grace and truth” (John 1:14). He was and is perfectly balanced. But what happens to us? We tend to become overly occupied with one area of doctrine or truth to the exclusion of others. We find a ‘hobby horse’ and ride it to death. This is especially true with the study of prophecy, especially from the standpoint of coming events and world affairs.
Of course we need to be alert and aware of world events, and we need people who are on top of these things, but our tendency is to so focus on them that we neglect other important areas of truth—principally the heart of all prophecy—the person and work of the Lord Jesus which includes His second coming. This doesn’t mean one cannot have a specialty, an area of doctrine in which they specialize such as the family, or the church, or prophecy. We need those specialists who devote much of their time to such studies, but we all still need balance and to need to know the whole counsel of the Word.
The Lord Jesus and His coming form the heart of all Scripture and especially in the passages on prophecy. The great hope of the church and mankind is the personal and visible return of the Savior. The last book of Scripture is called “The Revelation of Jesus Christ” and much of its content deals with “the things which must soon take place.” The visible return of Christ in all His glory is the prominent note or theme of this book (Rev. 1:7, 8; 19:10; see also 1 Thess. 4:13f; 2 Thess. 2:8f; Tit. 2:13f; Phil. 3:19-20) so we would never deny the importance of prophecy, but the appeal here is for balance.
Until then there will be the rise of one false hope after another—utopias, world leaders, and false messiahs, but none will be able to deal with man’s problems. Only the Lord Himself can do that.
The Danger of Discouragement
If you are new at the study of prophecy, don’t become discouraged if at first the study of prophecy seems like a large puzzle. Keep in mind the purposes of prophecy. In time, it will begin to fit together as you pick up the pieces one by one, but never expect to have all the answers to all the questions.
Prophecy and the Terms
Used for King and Kingdom
In Bible prophecy or prophetic passages of Scripture, God often uses the same language to describe both the king and the kingdom. Why? Because the kingdom takes on the characteristics of the king. As a result, it is sometimes difficult to distinguish one from the other in a prophetic passage since they both represent each other. Point: Is the passage talking about the king (the ruler), or the kingdom of the ruler, or both? Let’s note a couple of illustrations.
(1) Daniel 7:17-19 calls the four beasts “kings,” but in verse 23 the fourth beast is called the fourth kingdom.
(2) In Revelation 13:1-3, the system of the beast, which many believe is the revived imperial form of the Roman empire of the future, is clearly in view because of the ten horns and the seven heads. It is a reference to a ten-nation confederation of ten kings that come together to form the revived Roman empire. But in verses 4-7, the king, the one who emerges as the ruler of this last day system, seems to be in view. Sometimes a clear distinction is made, other times it is not.
Kinds of Fulfillment in Prophecy
Double Reference Fulfillment (Near and Far)
Bible prophecy may have both a near and a far fulfillment. “Two events widely separated as to the time of their fulfillment, may be brought into the scope of one prophecy. This was done because the prophet had a message for his own day as well as for a future time.”3
In addition, the fulfillment of the near often became the assurance of the fulfillment of the far.
(1) The Abrahamic promises had their ultimate goal in the coming of Messiah through whom all the families of the earth could be blessed, but the promise and birth of Isaac under the most adverse conditions would help Abraham to believe that in his seed all the families of the earth should be blessed.4
(2) Daniel 8:9-11 and 23-27 provides another example. The little horn of these two passages were prophecies of Antiochus Epiphanes of Greece who, in 175 B.C., plundered the temple in Jerusalem and desecrated it by offering a pig on the altar, but many believe that this passage ultimately anticipates the character and actions of the last day ruler of the Revived Roman Empire or the antichrist.
Dual or Partial Fulfillment
A prophetic passage may totally look to the remote future for its fulfillment, but at the same time there is often a dual fulfillment in the future with part of the prophecy to be fulfilled before the rest of the prophecy.
The prophet would be given a vision of future events which would appear together like great mountain peaks in the distance, but in actuality they were separated by a valley of time, a parenthetic period that would come between the fulfillment of the two parts of the prophecy.
(1) Isaiah 9:6a: The prophecy of the birth of Messiah, refers to the first advent though some often also see an immediate fulfillment in the birth of Isaiah’s son but the context favors the remote view. This was remote and looked to the future. But Isaiah 9:6b-7, the prophecy of the government that will rest on His shoulders, looks at the second advent. Like a valley that separates two mountain peaks, the two events are separated by hundreds of years and the church age.
(2) Isaiah 11:1-5: The shoot that will spring from the stem of Jesse, refers to the first advent, and 11:6-10f, the wolf that will dwell with the lamb, looks to the results of the second coming in the millennial reign of Christ.
(3) Compare Isaiah 61:1-3 with Luke 4:17-20: The Lord quoted Isaiah 61:1-2a, but He stopped abruptly in the middle of verse 2, put down the book, and then stated that “Today this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.” Why did He leave out verses 2b and following? Because they must wait until the second advent for fulfillment.
(4) Another passage that adds insight to this issue is 1 Peter 1:10-12. In these verses Peter tells us that the salvation about which he has been writing is the subject of Old Testament prophecies. The content of these prophecies embraced both the sufferings and glories of Messiah (vs. 11). But he also shows that though the prophets spoke by the Spirit of Christ within them, they did not always understand their own utterances, especially as to the time (or times) of these things, so they diligently searched as did Daniel to find this out (Dan. 8:27; 12:8). The perplexity lay in the two mountain peaks—the sufferings and the glories.
- They knew they were speaking of the future and in that, they were serving not themselves, but those who would live in the days of Messiah in the far future. “Serving” is the Greek diakoneo, to serve, minister. It reminds us that the writing and teaching of the Word is a service, a ministry to others, specifically today, the church.
- The prophets knew that God would bless the Gentiles, that grace would come to them (vs. 10).
- They saw the sufferings (Isa. 53 for example) and the glories (Isa. 11 for example), but they could not see the valley, the interim between the two. They could not fully understand the relationship of the sufferings of Messiah to His glory. They could not see that the sufferings related to His first advent and the glories to His second advent.
Single or Complete Fulfillment
Some prophecies look only to one historic fulfillment. This may be reasonably near or very remote, but once accomplished, it is done, fulfilled. Some illustrations are:
(1) The destruction of Tyre (Isa. 23; Ezek. 26) and Nineveh (Nah. 1:15f and Zeph. 2:13).
(2) The birth place of Messiah in Bethlehem (Mic. 5:2).
(3) Daniel’s Seventieth Week (Dan. 9:24-27), the unprecedented time of trouble coming upon all the inhabitants of the earth (Rev. 3:10).
Historical Fulfillment as Prophetic Foreshadows
A Bible prophecy may have its foundation in some event in biblical history, yet at the same time be a prophecy in the form of a type, a picture, or foreshadow of a future event.
As mentioned earlier, the prophecy regarding the antichrist of the abomination of desolation (Dan. 8) may be foreshadowed in the person and actions of Antiochus Epiphanes (Dan. 8:9, 21-25).
Psalm 22 undoubtedly had its origins in some event in the life of David, yet it goes far beyond anything David experienced, and the Psalm became a miraculous prophecy of the crucifixion, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ.
Several of the fulfillment quotations in the gospel of Matthew fall into this category:
(1) Matthew 2:15, the life of Israel and their deliverance was used by Matthew as a type of deliverance of God’s Son from Egypt to protect Him from Herod.
(2) Matthew 2:17, the wailing of Israel at the time of the exile, is used as a prophetic shadow of the time of the slaughter of the young children after the birth of Christ.
(3) Matthew 12:39, the experience of Jonah in the belly of the great fish, also became a foreshadow of the resurrection.
Prophecy and the Time Element
Length of a Prophetic Year
In Bible prophecy, time consists of 30 days in a prophetic month, but it consist of 360 days to a prophetic year, not 365. God’s prophetic calendar year is calibrated on 360 days. Thus, promises like that of Daniel 9:25 are to be figured on a calendar year of 360 days.
When this is done, beginning in 445 B.C., the time of the decree to allow Israel to return to restore and rebuild Jerusalem to the time of Messiah, we are brought precisely to the birth or the triumphal procession of Christ.
Daniel 9:24 shows us that God would finish His dealings with Israel in 70 weeks of years, or 70 x 7, i.e., 490 years. That this prophecy is dealing with 70 weeks of years and not days is clear from two things: (a) Daniel was thinking of years and not days in verse 2 of this same chapter in relation to the 70 years of captivity, and (b) in 10:2-3, when days were in view, the Hebrew text makes this clear by adding “days” to the word “weeks.” Literally, the Hebrew text reads “weeks of days.”
At the beginning of the 70th week of years, or the last seven years (Dan. 9:27), a Roman ruler, i.e., ‘the prince of the people who would destroy Jerusalem,’ would come on the scene and make a covenant with the nation of Israel for one week or seven years, the 70th week. How do we know he will be a Roman? By his description in verse 27. It was the Romans who destroyed Jerusalem and he is their prince.
Midway through that 70th week, after 3 1/2 years, he would break his covenant, stop the sacrifices in the rebuilt temple (either just before or perhaps during the first 3 1/2 years), desecrate this temple, demand to be worshipped himself, and it would be a terrible time of desolation and anti-Semitism as never before in history.
Revelation 6-19 deals with this same period of time of seven years and defines half of this period, 3 1/2 years, in terms of specific numbers of days and months. This shows us that the length of God’s calendar is 360 days. How? The last half (3 1/2 years) is defined as 1260 days and as 42 months (Rev. 11:2-3 and 12:6, 14). When this is calculated (i.e., divide 1260 days by 3 1/2), you get a year of 360 days, not 365. Or multiply 3 1/2 times 360 days to get 1260 days.
Problem of the Order of Events in Prophecy
Prophecy does not always keep to a chronological order in the unfolding of events. This means as future events are described they are revealed in God’s own order for His own emphasis, but not necessarily in the order of their occurrence.
While Prophecy is for instruction and understanding, it is also for comfort and warning. The comfort or warning is usually more important than the chronological order. The comfort and warning challenges our way of life, the chronological order (which we can do nothing about anyway) often serves only to satisfy our curiosity.
Let’s ask a basic question. Which comes first, the day of God’s wrath, the day of reckoning in judgment, or the millennial reign, the time of peace and Messianic prosperity? The answer is obvious. Before the Lord will reign, He must put down His enemies. But when we compare Isaiah 2:1-22 we find the order reversed. Verses 1-4 describe the blessings of the millennial kingdom as a means of comfort and motivation, but this is followed in verses 5-11 by a description of Israel who had failed to walk in the light of the Lord. As a result, verses 12-22 describe a day of reckoning, the judgment aspect of the Day of the Lord that must come upon the nation before she will turn from her rebellious ways.
When reading or studying Revelation, people often assume that each section is chronological so that the next chapter or series of events naturally follows the preceding, but that is not the case. Rather, a number of sections in Revelation are parenthetical and the chronological order is halted in order to develop in more detail some aspect of this end-time period like a key person(s), or event(s), or condition(s).
(1) Chapter 7 stops the chronological progress begun in chapter 6 and forms an interlude which gives us information about the 144,000 and about multitudes who will be saved during the Tribulation. The six seals are described in chapter 6, but the trumpet judgments don’t begin until chapter 8 which constitutes also the seventh seal. Six of these trumpet judgments occur chronologically and are described through chapter 9. The seventh trumpet is not sounded, however, until 11:15.
(2) So again the story of the progress of judgment on earth is halted and we have another parenthesis from 10:1-11:14. Here a vision is given concerning the little book, concerning the no delay once the seventh trumpet is sounded, and concerning the two witnesses.
(3) Revelation 11:15 picks up the chronological process again and the seventh trumpet is sounded. Other sections which are somewhat parenthetical regarding persons and systems are chapters 12, 13, and 17-18.
Prophecy and the Church
In Old Testament prophecy, the church is omitted because it was a mystery that was not revealed until New Testament times (Eph. 3:1-5, 9; Col. 1:25-26; Rom. 16:25-26). The Old Testament prophets saw the coming of the Savior, His birth, death, life, resurrection, etc. The Old Testament spoke of the salvation and blessing of the Gentiles, but not in terms of the church where Jew and Gentile become one in Christ and coequal. The Old Testament illustrates truth for us that is applicable to the body of Christ in many ways, but the church as an institution is simply not there.
Likewise, you will not find the church mentioned in Revelation 6-18 because this portion of the book is dealing with Daniel’s 70th week and the resumption of God’s program for Israel. The church and the term church is mentioned repeatedly in chapters 1, 2, and 3, but it is not mentioned again until Revelation 19 in the symbolism of the bride and in connection with the return of Christ to earth. There He is seen coming with His bride who has been prepared for the wedding supper of the millennium. If the church is to go into the period described by chapters 6-18, why isn’t it mentioned? Because it is not there. Instead, the church is even given a special promise that it will be kept out of this time of testing for those who dwell on the earth (Rev. 3:10).
Related Topics: Prophecy/Revelation