With all that's happening in the world today, many people are starting to pay attention to biblical prophecy for the first time. What they're discovering is a teeming universe of diverse theories and opinions, dominated by a few well-established groups claiming to have it all figured out, with conveniently prepackaged dogma that fits their perspective. I urge caution and arms-length investigation of the various claims until you have had the chance to test them against each other, and against the Scripture itself, before you buy in to any of them.
If you have already been indoctrinated in a particular perspective, I urge you to remember the biblical admonition to "work out your own salvation [meaning sanctification, not justification] with fear and trembling." That's a rule to live by in every aspect of theology because you are created in God's image, which image includes the intellectual functions of reason and rationality. You are accountable to God for the conclusions you adopt and are expected to be diligent in truth-seeking, actively seeking the guidance of the Holy Spirit in the process, and not just accepting someone else's conclusions as your own. In relation to Christ we are all sheep, but in relation to other human beings we are intended to be kings and priests: independent thinkers capable of serving as His agents in this world, with all that entails.
I awoke to the topic of prophecy around 2005 and got serious about studying it in 2011, so I know the terrain pretty well by now and have had the advantage of never having been denominationally oriented, or a "joiner" to established groups, but instead have been first and foremost a loyalist to the Bible and a seeker of "objective truth" wherever it may be found. I don't claim to have all the answers, but I do have confidence in my approach to truth-seeking in the area of prophecy, which I would like to share with you in this article, which draws from the Foreword to my book "The Prodigal Son Prophecy."
Advertisement - story continues below
First, be humble. There have been many spectacular failures in the field of prophecy, most of which involve setting dates for the return of Christ or some other key end-times milestone. From William Miller in the mid-1800s to Hal Lindsey and Harold Camping in more recent decades, the trail is littered with examples of what we might charitably call bad guesses – except most of these "guessers" spoke with certainty about their predictions. We can avoid those pitfalls by 1) freely confessing that we could be wrong on any number of facts or speculations, 2) not pretending that the things we've learned from other are our own ideas, and 3) scrupulously avoiding the deadly mistake of claiming to speak for the Lord without absolute certainty that He has instructed us to do so (which is in fact a capital offense under the Mosaic code per Deuteronomy 18:20).
Second, think like a judge, not a lawyer. Lawyers are often paid big money for their skills in advocating for their clients because they specialize in championing one point of view against all opposing views. Judges on the other hand are expected to be impartial and to hear all the evidence before rendering an opinion on a matter. In studying prophecy we should not only think like judges – holding our conclusions lightly and remaining open-minded as we go – but we should also be very hesitant to draw firm conclusions because so much of the evidence before us is necessarily speculative. How could it be otherwise when many of the events we're considering haven't happened yet?
Third, stay biblically grounded. I believe in the absolute authority of the Bible in all matters of doctrine and theology and in a contextual interpretation of its meaning consistent with the holistic totality of all the Scripture. One glaring fault shared by many prophecy teachers today is the problem of selective editing of the Bible. Beware of teachers who rely heavily on Scriptures that support their theories and ignore, dismiss or spin passages contradictory to them. I strongly believe that if one can't reconcile the apparent "contradictions" in the text of the Bible – in a manner that flows smoothly and naturally – then one doesn't yet understand the truth being conveyed.
Fourth, follow a Hebrew rather than a Hellenic perspective. Every word of the Holy Bible was written down before the end of the first century by those who either received the teaching of the Judean Messiah, Jesus Christ, personally or secondhand via one of His Hebrew disciples. The Bible is thus best understood from the Hebrew cultural perspective they shared, not the Hellenic (Greco-Roman) perspective of the generations that followed.
Advertisement - story continues below
As Paul emphasized, the Gospel of Christ was only a "stumbling block" to the Jews (our spiritual first cousins) but was "to the Greeks, foolishness" (1 Corinthians 1:23). "Greeks" in this context refers to all the various enthnicities and nationalities of the Roman Empire, whose culture was adopted from the Greek Empire it had conquered and supplanted. The presuppositions of the "Greeks" regarding God specifically, and spiritual matters generally, were far different from those of Jews and the Christians of the Apostolic era.
Likewise, the study of prophecy is a minefield for those who study it from a Greek perspective, and they are invariably forced to "spiritualize" (and thus confuse) concepts, symbols and events that make perfect literal sense from a Torah-literate Hebrew perspective.
Neither does "Hebrew perspective" in this context mean "Jewish perspective" since modern Talmudic Judaism does not necessarily hold the Hebrew perspective of the first century, which was Torah-based (what Jesus called "the law and the prophets" in Matthew 5:17). Thus, the legitimacy of the various Jewish sources today must be measured by their faithfulness to the Torah, not the Talmud, just as Christian sources must be measured by their faithfulness to the Bible, not denominational leaders or doctrines.
To clarify, then, I define "Hebrew perspective" as "The New Testament interpreted primarily through the teachings of the Old-Testament-as-read-literally, supplemented by the writings of the first century disciples of the Apostles, who may be presumed to know better than anyone else what Jesus and the Apostles meant by the things they said, and for whom the subtleties and nuances of the parables, metaphors and symbols employed in Scripture were understood as present-day cultural references."
If this approach to prophecy appeals to you, email me at [email protected] and I would be happy to send you a sample of the text version of "The Prodigal Son Prophecy" and to add you my list to receive the segments of the video version as I begin releasing them later this week. I also welcome your questions, which I may address separately in my "sunrise commentary" series on my YouTube channel.