I would like to ask you a question this morning. What is prophecy? Did you know the Bible defines everything that it talks about? You do not necessarily need lexicons, Bible dictionaries, or concordances. Those are helpful aids and I recommend them, but if you only have a Bible, you can make it. The Bible is self-defining, self-interpreting, and self-commenting.
The Bible tells us what prophecy is, and to understand prophecy we need a complete revelation from God. For example, you cannot understand the book of Leviticus without the book of Hebrews. You cannot understand Isaiah without the gospels. You cannot understand Daniel without the book of Revelation. So, we need the complete revelation of God to have a complete understanding of the things God is talking about in the Bible. This becomes clear when one reads in the Bible that the very prophets who wrote the Bible really did not understand it: They did not have the complete revelation.
Types of Language
The Bible uses three types of language. It uses a figurative language. An example of figurative language is when Jesus said, Let the dead bury the dead (Mt. 8:22), and you know that corpses do not go around burying other corpses. That is figurative language He was using. Also, the meaning of figurative language is always clear from the context where you find it.
Then there is the symbolic language. The Bible uses thousands of symbols, and these symbols always represent something else. For example, the four beasts in the book of Daniel, we are told, represent kingdoms. The symbols that are found are always explained in the context where they are found or somewhere else in the scripture.
Every symbol in the Bible is explained somewhere in scripture. People say, “Well, you cannot understand the Book of Revelation.” I had a Sunday School teacher (not you John) tell me one time that he wished they would take “Revelation” out of the book, because, he said, no one can understand it anyway. He was only showing his stupidity. Every symbol in Revelation is explained somewhere in the Bible, and most of them are found in the book of Revelation itself.
Finally, the most commonly used language in the Bible is literal language. If you can take it literally, that is the way you need to take it. If the plain sense makes sense, then don’t look for any other sense. The Bible means what it says, where it says, and how it says it. People try to change it around because they are smarter than God. Let me give you an example. I am a firm believer in context. But people can take that too far sometimes. God loved Jacob and He hated Esau. Well, if you keep it in context…. When I hear someone using that term more than they should, do you know what that tells me. It tells me they do not believe what the Bible said.
There is no mistaking when the Bible is literal. I’ve had this happen and you probably have too: When all you do is read someone a passage of scripture and they do not like it, they say, “Well, that is your interpretation. If they don’t say that that they say “Well, you can take the Bible and teach anything that you want to teach.” They know what it means, but they are rejecting it. You ought to take everything in the Bible literal if you can take it that way. It means exactly what it says. There is no fooling around with God. If you do not believe in the Authority of the Bible, you will not believe the Bible.
We need to avoid allegorizing scripture. We need to avoid spiritualizing scripture. There are people who would spiritualize the whole Bible away until it did not really mean anything when they were through with it. There are three things we need to avoid when we are handling the Word of God:
One of these is misinterpretation. For example, if I told you to open your Bible to John 3:5, and it says, Jesus answered, verily, verily, I say unto thee, except a man be born of water and of the spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God. But I say, “Except a man be born of water and the blood, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God.” Then I said, “You see there, you have got to be baptized to be saved.” That is a misinterpretation. John 3:5 is not talking about baptism at all. There are no baptisms within 20 verses of John 3.
Then, there is a misapplication of scripture. Acts 2:38 does not apply to you. You are not a Jew in Jerusalem. You are a Gentile, and that passage does not apply to you at all. This verse is the foundational verse for the charismatic movement, and it is a misapplication of scripture.
Most importantly, the trouble is that people are not willing to let the Bible say what it says, where it says it. People are not willing to do that. They want to change it, and want to correct it, wishing to interpret it. Some want to do ‘this and that’ instead of letting it say what it wants to say.
Look at the verse on the screen. So, Study to shew thyself approved unto God (If you are a Christian who never studies the Bible, you are not approved; your life is unapproved.), a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth. The problem is that people do not take the time and the effort to study out and rightly divide the Word of Truth. Finally, it is really amazing the number of Christians who want to be spoon-fed.
Seems like, if this is what you want, you are a baby. If you are too lazy to get the food out, take the lid off the jar yourself, get the spoon out, and eat it, you are a baby. Even more, there are too many Christians that way. They never study the Bible. They want to be spoon fed everything about it.
Using God’s Word
Therefore you should develop the habit that when you have a question about the scripture, first of all, you do everything you can to find the answer before you ask someone else. Finally, use the Word of God in a sensible way. See how to get around in it. Learn how to use concordances. se whatever you need to get the answers to your questions. Then if you cannot find it, go ask someone. The trouble is that people do not let the scriptures say what the scriptures want to say. They want to interpret them.
First of all, there are four things we have to know if we want to rightly divide the word of truth. 1. We have to know, first of all, who is speaking in any given passage. Is God talking? Is it Moses or the apostle Paul? Who is it that is speaking? 2. Secondly, to whom is that person speaking? Is the verses speaking to Israel nationally? What about talking to a church? Or speaking to an individual Christian, Gentiles or the heathen? To who is he directing this message. Third, what is he talking about in the scripture? It is amazing that an individual Christian will pick up his bible, read two or three chapters and say that he has read his bible today.
Well, what was it about? ‘I do not know’ is the usual response. Christians have devotion in the morning and by 9:00 at night they have forgotten what it was they have read about. They do not know what it is about. Ask yourself some questions while you are reading the Book. Find out what it is doing and what it is talking about.
Fourth, find out when it is taking place. What dispensation is it? Ask yourself, does this apply to the church age? Or does it apply to the Tribulation Period? Does it apply to Israel in the land? Or does it apply to Israel in their dispensation? What dispensation is he talking about in the scripture?
If you will answer those questions while you are studying any given passage, you will not get into heresy. It is impossible to rightly divide the word of truth without doing these things. If you are not doing them, it will lead to every kind of heresy there is. Every single false teaching that is found comes from not rightly dividing the word of truth. Do not ever try to make the B
Most importantly, what is Prophecy? Let us allow the Bible to tell us what prophecy is from the Book of Revelation. Re:1:1: The Revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave unto him, to shew unto his servants things which must shortly come to pass; and he sent and signified it by his angel unto his servant John:
Re:1:2: Who bare record of the word of God, and of the testimony of Jesus Christ, and of all things that he saw.
Re:19:9: And he saith unto me, Write, Blessed are they which are called unto the marriage supper of the Lamb. And he saith unto me, These are the true sayings of God.
Re:19:10: And I fell at his feet to worship him. And he said unto me, see thou do it not: I am thy fellow servant, and of thy brethren that have the testimony of Jesus: worship God: for the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy.
Finally, the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy. “I am like you are, John. You are a prophet and I am a prophet. And what we are ordained to do is give testimony of Jesus.”
Prophecy is the testimony of Jesus Christ. That is all it is according to the definition given in scripture. Re:22:8: And I John saw these things, and heard them. And when I had heard and seen, I fell down to worship before the feet of the angel which shewed me these things. Evidently, the one John is bowing to is one of the prophets. The prophet tells John that he needs to stay with the testimony of Jesus, and His testimony is the spirit of prophecy.
Therefore, if prophecy is the testimony of Jesus, we must conclude that the entire Bible is in the testimony of Jesus Christ, from Genesis to Revelation.
1Pe:1:6: Wherein ye greatly rejoice, though now for a season, if need be, ye are in heaviness through manifold temptations:
1Pe:1:7: That the trial of your faith, being much more precious than of gold that perisheth, though it be tried with fire, might be found unto praise and honour and glory at the appearing of Jesus Christ:
1Pe:1:8: Whom having not seen, ye love; in whom, though now ye see him not, yet believing, ye rejoice with joy unspeakable and full of glory:
1Pe:1:9: Receiving the end of your faith, even the salvation of your souls.
Suffering and Glory
First of all, notice the two great themes of prophecy.
The sufferings of Christ, the first advent.
- The glory that should follow, the Second advent. Those are the two themes of prophecy – the first coming of Jesus Christ and the Second coming of Jesus Christ. The testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy.
2 Pe:1:18: And this voice which came from heaven we heard, when we were with him in the holy mount.
2Pe:1:19: We have also a more sure word of prophecy; whereunto ye do well that ye take heed, ( The more sure word here is the written Word of God, and what he has been referring to in the last few verses has been the mount of transfiguration from Mt. 17, on which Peter, James, and John went up with Jesus.
And Peter is saying here that with this written Book, you have a more sure word of prophesy than if you heard a voice from heaven. By the way, you are not going to hear a voice from heaven. If you hear voices, you better check it out because it is not coming from God.) as unto a light that shineth in a dark place, until the day dawn, and the day star arise in your hearts: (This is a reference to the rapture)
2Pe:1:20: Knowing this first, that no prophecy of the scripture is of any private interpretation.
So, what did they speak about? Jesus. They wrote about the sufferings of Christ and the glory that should follow. So, the prophetic scriptures from Genesis to Revelation are the testimony of Jesus Christ. They speak of His sufferings and His glory.
Hence, the Old Testament prophet did not quite have the perspective that we have today. He is standing in the distant past and he is prophesying of two things. What is the first thing? The sufferings of Christ are the first thing. And what else? The glory that should follow is the second (that is a crown.) What does the prophet see? He does not see the valley between the sufferings of Christ and the glory that should follow, which is the church age.
You do not find the church age clearly given in the Old Testament. The OT prophet sees the sufferings and he sees the glory, but he cannot reconcile the two. He cannot understand them. We read that in 10 – 1Pe:1:11: Searching what, or what manner of time the Spirit of Christ which was in them did signify,
Old Testament Visions
Let us get an example in Isa. 61 of the Old Testament prophets not being able to see quite as clearly. Isaiah did not see the comma that he put in a verse, but Jesus did see it. And it comes out very clearly. Not only is every jot and tittle important, but the punctuation as well. There is one comma here that divides both advents in the same verse, and you can find similar occurrences often in scripture.
Isa:61:1: The Spirit of the Lord GOD is upon me; because the LORD hath anointed me to preach good tidings unto the meek;
Another scripture says in Isa:61:2: To proclaim the acceptable year of the LORD, and the day of vengeance of our God; to comfort all that mourn; Can you see the two advents? Where are they? They are in verse 2: First advent – to proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord. (comma); and the Second Advent – the day of vengeance of our God.
Jesus reading scripture
(Jesus quotes this until the first comma and then stops because the Second Advent will not apply when He is here the first time, although Isaiah did not know this when he prophesied.) Lu:4:16: And he (Jesus) came to Nazareth, where he had been brought up: and, as his custom was, he went into the synagogue on the sabbath day, and stood up for to read.
Lu:4:17: And there was delivered unto him the book of the prophet Esaias. And when he had opened the book, he found the place where it was written,
Lu:4:18: The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he hath anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor; he hath sent me to heal the brokenhearted, to preach deliverance to the captives, and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty them that are bruised, (v. 19 is found in Isa. 61:2)
Lu:4:19: To preach the acceptable year of the Lord.
Lu:4:20: And he closed the book, and he gave it again to the minister, and sat down. And the eyes of all them that were in the synagogue were fastened on him.
Lu:4:21: And he began to say unto them, This day is this scripture (up to the comma) fulfilled in your ears.
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