These are the standards we will use in the interpretation and the reasons why we have adopted these.
The methodology is based on the way God interpreted Daniel.
- Basis of Authority. Let the Bible be its own interpreter. First look at similar uses of words phrases and imagery to determine the meaning of difficult passages. Especially prophecy, which is clearly full of symbolic images.
In comparing scripture to scripture give precedence or weight to the passage in the following order
I cannot answer doubts concerning how I know the author. None of us can go back in time to authenticate these facts.
But I can point to the overall accuracy of the prophecies as they spanned thousands of years.
There is sufficient evidence that words were written long before some of the predicted nations ever came into power.
- Source: Who spoke the words. Was it God. Was it a direct vision?
- Author: Who wrote the words. Was it God? Was it a known, respected prophet like Moses, Jeremiah, Daniel, John the beloved disciple or Elijah? Or was it from a second hand source?
- Time: How long after the event was the story written.?
- Preponderance of Evidence. If there is a dispute go with the most consistent use and give precedence to things that God said, wrote or instituted. Of these there are but a few things.
- He wrote and spoke the 10 Commandments to Moses
- The words Jesus spoke, the prophets he mentioned by name (Moses, Daniel, Elijah, Isaiah) and the people whose experience he held as fact (Jonah, Daniel).
- On a personal visit on Mt. Sinai He established a sanctuary building and service to be "patterned after the one in Heaven".
- On a personal visit on Mt. Sinai He established 7 important feasts and ceremonies.
- The words of the prophets clearly identified as "the word of the LORD".
- Established Methods. Follow the examples of previous prophets and God. How did they interpret visions and symbols. Use these same principles. Give precedence to how God himself interpreted the visions in Daniel.
- Patterns. Use principles or patterns established by God in his interpretation of Daniel. For example, a prophecy generally refers to the present or the future ( at the time the prophecy is given).
If a clear reference is made to the past it is used only to establish some fact about the object of the prophecy in the present or future.
For example, why is the beast judged in Revelation. Why does he deserve such punishment?
By studying Daniel and how God interprets it several patterns stand out:
- Repetition: The same prophecy is repeated in another vision using different symbols.
- Enlargement and Detail: A repeated prophecy usually brings out some aspect or event in greater detail.
- Chronological Order: The order of each unit of prophecy (vision or scene) is generally the order of the events in time.
Find the division or separation between each vision. See below for more details.
- Lessons Learned. Build on lessons learned in previous prophecy. Especially where God interprets it himself.
- Symbols. - We have a set of defined symbols. We also know that more than one symbol can represent the same idea, but the same symbol does not represent different ideas.
The symbols used in a single vision are also related (for example, the Nations are represented by different types of metals or different animals)
- Symbol Structure. - We learned one more thing from the interpretation of the symbols of the beast. That is, the picture of the beast represents a snapshot of
it's structure throughout time. For example, The leopard with four heads actually starts out with one head and then breaks up into 4 divisions. Sometimes the prophecy describes the transition (like the "notable horn" being broken into 4 horns) and sometimes it does not.
The detail may be given in a later repetition of the prophecy.
- Prophecy Structure. - The chronological order of the prophecy. While major groups are presented in order, we do find that within a single power, when details are given the
one who gives the prophecy can do several things:
How can we tell where a break in thought occurs and a new prophecy or different view of a prophecy is being given?
- Finishes a complete thought or description about a single part of the prophecy. In doing so the prophecy may cover a long time span, and may repeat all or part of that time span when it covers the next item.
So that several important points while summarized independently, may parallel each other at some points or follow in sequence.
For example, If you are talking about the accomplishments of your children you will start with one child from birth through college, then proceed to the other child.
If important events occur for each child at the same time you would then mention that separately or mention it while talking about one of the children.
This pattern is less confusing for the human mind.
- Might go back in time to justify claims about the entity in the present and since the structure of the power
will be different over the centuries, it chooses to define it in terms of one of its phases and then adds details about its activity.
The fact that this activity changes it slightly may or may not be outlined in a particular prophecy.
The focus might be what it is doing and its effect not how it is structured at any given point in time because
this is impossible when the activity being described covers such long periods of time.
- The description of an element may be a snapshot of it in time.
For example, Although the beast with 10 horns eventually ends up losing 3 horns to the little horn (giving a total of 8 horns) subsequent prophecies still refer to the 10 horns.
Possibly, this simplifies identification and eliminates confusion. Once the power is identified at that crucial point
in history you should be able to see the rest of its activity in subsequent prophecies.
- By the language. "After these things I saw ..." could indicate a different prophecy or the continuation of a sequence
- Sequential (numbered events). For example, the 7 seals
- A physical break in the vision. This is obvious in Daniel but not in Revelation. Daniel received several visions years apart, revelation seems to be one long vision with many different scenes.
- Since we know from experience with Daniel that the same visions are introduced as totally different symbols and that there is constant repetition
we can assume that the same might occur in Revelation. Consequently, we can look at the clearer prophecies to shed light on the more difficult ones.
- Pattern Of Repetition And Enlargement - In Daniel this unfolds as
- Daniel 2 - The metal man - An overall view of the major political events from Daniel's time to the end
- Daniel 7 - Beasts - Same period of time but more information about the characteristics of the kingdoms
- Daniel 8 - Beasts - More characteristics about the kingdoms - powerful leaders are symbolized. Detail of the "little Horn" is introduced.
- Daniel 9 - A portion of the previous vision is explained in detail (the vision of the 2300 days that speaks about the Messiah)
- Daniel 11 - Very detailed history about the kingdom and its rulers that would rule when the Messiah appears. The recognition of the Messiah was so important that it describes in detail 3 successive Roman rulers up to His appearance and details of the political intrigues.
- Daniel 12 - The time of the end.
- Revelation - Gives details from John's time right up to the end. In Daniel, God's greatest detail was about identifying the Messiah and the "little Horn". In revelation, the greatest detail centers around the activities of the "little horn" at the end.
- Sanctuary. - Since the Sanctuary was an example that was both a "pattern of things in Heaven" which was also full of symbolism. We also focus on the sanctuary because the prophecies are filled with the Sanctuary imagery.
- Be Consistent. A symbol cannot have several different or opposing meanings.
- History. Use the history that God has explained and follow the leading powers to verify succeeding prophecies and events.
Because God himself gave full or partial interpretations to most of Daniel's prophecy we have a reliable starting point and a methodology of interpretation.
- Relevance. Recognize what is important to God, not what is happening everywhere in an historical period.
For example, Prophecy seems to center around the people of God, their behavior and the powers that control them.
Therefore a power is only significant because they have come in contact with God's people, not because of their size or strength when compared to other reigning powers in the same period.
This importance may be due to the fact that
- His people might benefit more from the revelation
- His people are the possessors of something the rest of the world needs (a knowledge of God) and this sets them at center stage
- Position of Safety. When beginning a search for God, start from a position of safety, "Just in Case". Both in the interpretation of prophecy and in the question of the existence of God.
Then make a prayerful decision after you have investigated the claims without prejudice.
At that point you cannot choose God "just in case". You must come to him with complete faith and trust
- For prophetic interpretation the safest position is the historicist view. This is the only view which states we have a message meant for us. Adopting any other view requires that you don't have to investigate anything because it doesn't matter. What if it does?
The futurist view assumes that nothing applies to us. Everything is in the future.
The preterist view assumes that this all occurred in the past and nothing applies to us.
The historicist view assumes that prophecy is unfolding throughout history, so each generation can find their place in the prophecies.
But the Bible itself does not support the futurist or preterist view. In the image of Daniel God clearly interprets the events as running from that time to the end. He also reserved some unfolding of prophecy at "the time of the end".
- For a belief in God the safest position is to assume that he exists. There is a wonderful philosophical argument that states: What will you have lost if you believe or choose not to believe.
- Hermeneutics. - Follow established principles in looking at a text, and provide information that might enlighten our understanding.
- The background and culture in which this was written. This might affect the meaning of words.
- Do not study a text in isolation. Look at the texts around it to understand what is being discussed and how they affect the verse you are studying.
- The author
- Use only literal translations that attempt to be true to the original language.
- If possible, make sure that alternate legitimate translations do not drastically change the meaning.