PRINCIPLES OF PROPHETIC INTERPRETATION
APOCALYPTIC AND NON-APOCALYPTIC PROPHECY
There are two general types of prophetic writings: non-apocalyptic prophecy, as found in Isaiah and Jeremiah, and apocalyptic prophecy, as found in Daniel and the Revelation. These differing types have different characteristics:
(a) Non-apocalyptic prophecy addresses God’s people: apocalyptic is more universal in scope.
(b) Non-apocalyptic prophecy often is conditional in nature, setting forth to God’s people the alternatives of blessing for obedience and curses for disobedience; apocalyptic prophecy emphasizes the sovereignty of God and his control over history.
(c) Non-apocalyptic prophecy often leaps from the local crisis to the end-time day of the Lord; apocalyptic prophecy presents the course of history from the time of the prophet to the end of the world.
(d) Time prophecies in non-apocalyptic are generally stated in long periods, eg. 400 years of Israel’s servitude (Genesis 15:13) and 70 years of Babylonian captivity (Jeremiah 25:12). Time prophecies in apocalyptic prophecy are phrased in short terms, eg. 10 days (Revelation 2:10) or 42 months (Revelation 13:5). Apocalyptic time periods stand symbolically for longer periods of actual time. Apocalyptic prophecy is highly symbolic.
Principles or Biblical Laws of Prophetic Interpretation
The principles listed below are not found in a specific location in the Scriptures but are observed as one compares Scripture with Scripture. In other words you do not read a "Thus saith the Lord" in a specific text on how to interpret apocalyptic prophecy but as one studies the word of God these principles stand out over and over again. The Bible is a book written in code. God expects us to compare scripture with scripture, text with text, in order to correctly interpret His words. 2 Timothy 2:15; Isaiah 28:9,10.
John Knox, the famous Scottish reformer, was once accused by Queen Mary, Queen of Scots, of heresy to which he replied:
"The word of God is plain in itself; and if there appear any obscurity in one place, the Holy Ghost, which is never contrary to Himself, explains the same more clearly in other places, so that there can remain no doubt but unto such as obstinately remain ignorant!"
A video slide presentation has been added to each principle for clarity.
Principle #1 - THE BIBLE IS ITS OWN INTERPRETER
Principle #2 - PROPHECY IS ALWAYS CHRIST-CENTERED AND EVERY INTERPRETATION MUST REVEAL JESUS CHRIST
Principle #3 - REPEAT & ENLARGE: PROPHECIES ARE REPEATED AND THE REPETITION CONTAINS AN EXPLANATION WITH ADDED INFORMATION
Principle #4 - THE LITERAL AND SYMBOLIC: WHAT WAS LITERAL IN THE OLD TESTAMENT BECOMES SYMBOLIC OR SPIRITUAL IN THE NEW TESTAMENT
Principle #5 - THE LOCAL AND UNIVERSAL: WHAT WAS LOCAL IN THE OLD TESTAMENT BECOMES UNIVERSAL OR WORLD-WIDE IN THE NEW
Principle #6 - THE SIGNIFICANCE OF BIBLE NAMES AND NUMBERS: PEOPLE, PLACES AND THINGS WERE GIVEN NAMES ACCORDING TO QUALITIES OR CHARACTERISTICS. NUMBERS ALSO HAD MEANINGS—ESPECIALLY IN THE BOOK OF REVELATION
Principle #7 - FIRST USAGE: HOW A NAME, NUMBER OR PLACE IS USED OR DEFINED IN ITS FIRST USAGE IN THE BIBLE TENDS TO BE THE SAME THROUGHOUT