As an introduction to the study of Bible prophecy, there are three things we must understand:
You Must Be Born Again
God has written the Bible for men to profit: in doctrine, reproof, correction, and in how to be in right standing with Him. Like any father, the heavenly Father of fathers wants His instructions—His Word—to be understood. He’s not holding things back, but has hidden the Wisdom of the ages for us in His Word.
Jesus said, …[T]he words that I speak unto you, they are spirit, and they are life (John 6:63). The Bible is a spiritual book that the natural mind cannot fully comprehend, because spiritual things are foolishness to it.
According to First Corinthians 2:9 and 10, above, it is the Spirit of God that reveals to the born again spirit the mysteries, or hidden wisdom, which God has prepared for them who love Him. Jesus told a Pharisee and ruler of the Jews named Nicodemus that unless he be born again, he could not even see the kingdom of God—much less understand its wisdom (John. 3:1-3). Jesus then proved this fact by immediately discussing several spiritual principles of the kingdom, which this highly educated master of Israel could not understand (vs. 9-10). There was even enough of the Wisdom of God hidden in the Old Testament Scriptures—the only Bible that existed in Jesus’ day—that if Satan and his crowd had understood it, they would have never crucified the Lord of Glory (1 Cor. 2:6-8).
In short, it is the Holy Spirit—living on the inside of every believer—that is given to teach the spiritual truths contained in the Scriptures (John 16:13-15; 1 Cor. 2:14, 16; 6:19-20). With this as a foundation, listed below are 24 simple but unalterable rules to follow as one studies the Bible. These kinds of rules are necessary in order to understand what God is actually saying in His Word. They must be applied consistently, throughout both the Old and New Testaments. They must be applied to one’s favorite passages, and also to passages where their application forces [or should force] one to change his understanding on what God is revealing in the text under consideration. One must be willing to change in order to grow in the things of God. For the man or woman who is not yet born again, keep reading. God will show enough of Himself to you to let you understand without a doubt that He is real, and that He wants you in His family.
25 Rules for Understanding Bible Prophecy
11. Both the Old Testament (written in Hebrew and Chaldean) and New Testament (written in Greek) contain hidden within them the law of the first use. This law simply put is that the first usage or translation of a word in either testament governs its subsequent usage throughout the rest of that testament. This does not mean that original language words cannot be variously translated under the rules of the particular language. In problem passages, however, if one always returns to the first translation of the particular word and be guided by it, error will not creep into one’s understanding of what God is saying in the passage under consideration. The proof of the existence of the law of the first use is to first believe that it may exist, and then prove it by use (see #12, below).
12. Use of word studies—tracing the meanings and usage of Bible words—is a must for the proper understanding of Scripture. As such, a portion of one’s Bible study must be done in the King James Version of the Bible, using the numbering system of words in Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance(1). In his concordance, Dr. Strong assigned a number to every original language Bible word. He then cross-referenced these numbers to every English word used in the King James Bible. By so doing, he made it quite easy to trace and compare the various translations of the Hebrew, Chaldean and Greek words used in the Bible by the number he assigned to them. This ability is invaluable in gaining an in-depth understanding of what the Holy Spirit is saying in any passage under consideration.
13. Some passages of the prophetic Scriptures have a split-fulfillment.
14. Believe the Bible. Do not try to interpret it. Ask the Spirit of God for an understanding, He will give it to you.
15. Obey what you do understand; God will give you more (Mark 4:23-24).
16. Understanding the Bible comes precept upon precept, precept upon precept; line upon line, line upon line; here a little, and there a little (Isa. 28:13). It is good to read the Bible; but, we are admonished to study it (2 Tim. 2:15). Its proper study comes only by precept upon precept, precept upon precept; line upon line, line upon line; here a little, and there a little (Isa. 28:13). This cannot be accomplished solely by a promise box or daily schedule to read the Bible through in a year—both of which are good—but must be supplemented with a more structured study if real spiritual understanding is to be achieved.
17. Read the Old Testament as a picture or shadow of the New. It is far more than a history lesson of the Jewish nation. The Bible says…all these things happened unto them [the Israelites] for ensamples [examples]: and they are written for our admonition, upon whom the ends of the world are come (1 Cor. 10:11).
18. The Bible speaks of three groups of people: the Jews, the Gentiles [those without God], and the Church (1 Cor. 10:32). Israel will exist forever on the earth as an eternal nation (Isa. 9:6-7; Luke 1:32-33); and the Old Testament is full of promises of God to the nation Israel that will be fulfilled in the Millennium and beyond. It is error, however, to attempt to make all of the numerous promises of God to Israel apply to the Church—unless their application validly fits into a double reference passage that includes the Church.
19. The Book of Daniel is the prophetic mold into which one pours the prophecies of the Book of Revelation. Without an understanding of both the fulfilled and unfulfilled prophecies that God gave to Daniel, the Book of Revelation can only be partially understood...seen through a glass darkly (1 Cor. 13:12).
20. The Book of Revelation is written in a circular reference code. It contains details, details and details—usually given is a series. There are over 100 separate and distinct facts in its first chapter alone. If one is not meticulous in the tracking of these details, in their re-ordering, and when they have omissions or additions thereto, it is easy to be lulled to sleep by their repetition and become hopelessly lost in the actual ordering and sequence of events set forth in the Book.
21. Most of the symbols used in Revelation are explained somewhere else in the book, usually in a nearby verse. Once the definition is obtained, substitute the definition for the symbol and re-read all passages where the symbol is used.
22. Interpreting a symbol without symbolic language will lead to compounded error. When a symbol is being discussed in the Bible, the accompanying language will indicate a symbol of something is being referenced. These indicators are usually the words "like" or "as." Be unalterable in following this rule to take a passage literally unless symbolic language is present. This is most critical in studying the Book of Revelation.
Example and proof: Great theological arguments have been provoked by attempting to make the Apostle John in Rev. 4:1-2 or the 24 elders in Rev. 4:4 "represent" something other that what or who they are—the Church for example. A thousand times, No! There is no symbolic language in either of these passages. John is John, and the 24 elders are the 24 elders. To make either into something other than what they are will only compound the error of one's understanding. [Strict adherence to this simple rule will force many sincere believers in the Word of God to rethink the rapture of the Church and to find where it actually occurs in the Book of Revelation.]
23. Unless one reads the prophetic Scriptures—the whole Bible for that matter—with a determined discipline to let God do the talking (and not our theology or denomination), then one can make the Bible say almost anything.
Example and proof: Jesus said, That thou does, do quickly (John 13:27). Mary said, Whatever he saith unto you, do it (John 2:5). Judas...went and hanged himself (Matt.27:5). Jesus again said, Go and do thou likewise (Luke 10:37).
24. There is no Scripture in the entire Bible that speaks of a "7-year tribulation period." The last 7 years of this the dispensation of the grace of God (Eph. 3:2) is The Antichrist Covenant Week of Years (Dan. 9:24-27, notes). It is divided into 3½ years of the tribulation that comes from Satan, and 3½ years of the wrath which comes from God. In His crucifixion, the body of Jesus experienced a period of time (3 hours) when He endured the great tribulation brought by Satan. Immediately thereafter He suffered a subsequent period of time (3 hours) during which He was made to be sin and the wrath of God fell upon Him (Mark 15:25, 33-37; 2 Cor. 5:21). For the body of Christ, it will experience its great tribulation—literally, the tribulation, the great (Rev. 7:14)—during the first 3½ years of the Antichrist Covenant week. But, as God has promised, the Church shall be delivered from the wrath of God, which falls during the last 3½ years of the Antichrist Covenant week (which is also the last half of Daniel’s 70th week), and in the 75 days thereafter (1 Thes. 1:10; 1 Thes. 5:9; Rom. 5:9; Rev. 3:10; Dan. 12:11-12).
25. In the understanding of the Bible and Bible prophecy, the basic rules of language and grammar are in application. For instance, in the English language the word “he” or “him” must have a reference object.
Example and proof: Daniel 9:26 And after threescore and two weeks shall Messiah be cut off, but not for himself: and the people of the prince that shall come shall destroy the city and the sanctuary; and the end thereof shall be with a flood, and unto the end of the war desolations are determined. 27 And he [the Antichrist] shall confirm the covenant with many for one week: and in the midst of the week he shall cause the sacrifice and the oblation to cease…
The “people of the prince that shall come” is generally considered to be a reference to the Roman General Titus that destroyed Jerusalem and the temple in A.D. 70. But cannot possibly refer to Titus if the “he” in Daniel 9:27 refers to the Antichrist: as commentators are in general agreement with. The “prince that shall come” in verse 26 is, therefore, a reference to the Antichrist; and the “people of the prince” refers to the armies of the Antichrist (see Zechariah 13:8-9; and 14:1-2).
Let Us Get Started
Although we could list other rules for studying the Bible, these are enough to keep us on track as we study The Coming Events In Bible Prophecy, The Chronological Order of Revelation, and the accompanying articles in this Web site.
Walter James Taylor
1. Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance, by James Strong, Baker Book House, Grand Rapids, Michigan 49506, reprinted 1981. See also the companion volumes of Baker Book House which are geared to Dr. Strong’s numbering system: The Englishman’s Greek Concordance of the New Testament, by George V. Wigram, 1979; The Englishman’s Hebrew and Chaldean Concordance of the Old Testament, by George V. Wigram, 1980; and Gesenius’ Hebrew-Chaldean Lexicon to the Old Testament, by H. W. F. Gesenius, 1979. For definitions of New Testament words, we recommend, The Expanded Vine’s Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words, by W. E. Vine, John R. Kohlenberber III, Editor, Bethany House Publishers, Minneapolis, Minnesota 55438, 1984, which is also coded to Dr. Strong’s numbering system.
© 1997-2009 Walter J. Taylor, Walter James Taylor