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End Times Prophecy (Eschatology)
Prophetic Symbols: Introduction
Prophetic Symbols: Daniel 2
Prophetic Symbols: Daniel 7 (Part
Prophetic Symbols: Daniel 7 (Part
Prophetic Symbols: Daniel 8 (Part
Prophetic Symbols: Daniel 8 (Part
Before we get into our study, it is first necessary to provide
some background that will help us understand why we are studying
this topic and why we are approaching it in the way we are
approaching it. We'll start with the basics.
17 of the 39 books of the Old Testament are prophetic in nature.
Only one book in the New Testament is prophetic in nature,
the Book of Revelation. Together, roughly one fourth of all
the books of the Bible deal with prophecy.
Therefore we have two factors, which compel us as believers
to study Bible prophecy. One is the many specific indications
in the scripture that exhort us to pay attention to Bible
prophecy. The other is the shear quantity of God's Word devoted
to it. From these two things we must conclude that God wants
us to be aware of and to understand prophecy, both how it
was fulfilled in the past and how it will be fulfilled in
the future. We might also note that common misunderstandings
about prophecy were in no small part responsible for the failure
of so many of Jesus' contemporaries among God's people to
recognize that he was the Messiah.
We might think of prophecy as a record of history told before
it occurs. In a Biblical sense this story is not told in one
book alone, but is woven into many books. But where should
In prophecy, God has given us many details, some specific
and some general. Sometimes we are informed of specific figures
and their activities, and sometimes we are given general historical
or geopolitical information about the time in which these
figures will emerge and work.
We can begin to sort out this information by starting with
the general information and working our way to the more specific
details. In this way we will create a framework, which will
serve as a guide as we get more involved. And this is necessary
since only by understanding the greater context can we accurately
understand the finer points. An illustration may help us understand
why this approach is necessary.
We could compare interpreting prophecy to getting directions
for how to get to a friend's home for a party that is being
held there. Imagine that we have never visited before and
are coming from somewhere else in the country. Our friend
would want to make sure that we don't get lost, but are able
to arrive safely at the desired destination on time for the
party. When they give us the directions they instinctively
understand that they must start with the most general information
first and work down to the particulars.
In the case of driving directions we would first want to know
the state we were heading to, then perhaps the city. We would
want to know the major roadways that we should take get to
the state and city that our friend lives in. With each step
in the driving directions our friend would provide more and
more specific details as to which direction we needed to travel
in, which exits to get on and off at, and how many miles we
would need to go on a specific roadway. As we get closer to
our friend's home the directions would be even more specific
- Green Hills Subdivision, turn left on Pine Street, the house
is a one story white house, it is the third house on the left,
the house number is 438, etc.
But what if in following the directions we read the steps
out of order? What if we skipped and ignored some of the early
instructions? What if we only looked at the last few steps
telling us what kind of house we were looking for? Would we
be able to find our friend's home? We would arrive on time
or even at all?
Surely not, we might find a lot of white, one-story houses.
We might even find some that are the third house on the left
on their street. Or we might find some houses numbered 438
on Pine Street. But it would be unlikely to find a white house,
third on the left, numbered 438 on Pine Street. And it would
be especially unlikely that we would find such a house with
our friend in it and a party going on unless we drove to the
right state, the right city, and took the right roads to the
right subdivision, etc. In skipping important general information
and focusing in on the specifics without the proper context
(city, state, subdivision, etc.) it would become increasing
likely that we would get lost and either not arrive at all
or arrive late for the party.
It is the same way with prophecy. If we want to understand
accurately what God has told us in His Word we must start
first with the general information and work our way to the
specific. Without doing this we will fail to grasp the proper
context for the more specific aspects and really not understand
where they are or where we are in relation to the prophesied
events. Each step is critical, and it is critical that we
start with the most general steps first otherwise we may get
lost and not understand the crucial information that God has
provided us so that we can arrive prepared for the kingdom
of God when it comes.
With regard to prophecy the most general information would
involve history itself. Major signposts of history would be
events, which are the most significant on a worldwide scale.
These events would be known and recognizable to the widest
audience. Once we have found our bearing with regard to these
larger events we will then be able to grasp more specific
So this is the approach we will take to end times prophecy.
We will start with examining the most general information
and work our way to the specific. And we will see that God
has provided just such a road map in the Bible, recording
the backdrop of history and then placing more specific details
within that backdrop.
We will start with the Book of Daniel and the Book of Revelation.
Daniel records for us God's revelation of human history through
several visions or dreams. Similarly, John's vision, recorded
in the Book of Revelation, contains several chapters, which
follow the same pattern that God uses in Daniel. We can take
a look at these visions from Daniel and John and develop a
Biblically consistent system of interpretation for how God
reveals human history through visions and symbols. We can
then use the picture this study creates in order to understand
how the more specific details fit together. What we will see
first is that God is recording through both Daniel and John
the development of human history that will eventually unfold
into the end time figures and events that precede the return
of Christ and his millennial kingdom on earth.
If we return again to the illustration of a map, we know that
all maps employ symbols to designate certain features of the
landscape, etc. Likewise, Bible prophecy uses symbols as well.
By looking at history and prophetic precedent found in such
Old Testament books as Daniel, we can get a grasp of what
common prophetic symbols mean. In this way, we can construct
a sort of map legend for Bible prophecy. This map legend will
then serve as an interpretive template for helping us to understand
prophetic passages regarding events that have not yet occurred
(such as found in the book of Revelation.) By looking at this
prophetic map legend, we will then know what a symbol stands
for every time we see find it in scripture.
For example, every time we see a black dot on a map, we can
look at a map legend and discover that black dots represent
cities. Knowing this would prevent us from asking "what does
this black dot mean?" every time we see one on the map and
from interpreting each black dot differently from one another.
Biblical symbols are the same way with regard to prophecy.
Every time we see a certain symbol, we should be able to know
what that symbol represents based upon a single, uniform pattern
or symbol legend.
This will alleviate widespread and unsubstantiated speculation
over what symbols stand for in the book of Revelation. Remember
that already fulfilled prophecy from Old Testament books such
as Daniel is the key to proper interpretation. To interpret
symbols properly from this point forward, we must compare
those symbols to how they were used in the past prophetic
passages and to what they depicted in past history.
This prophetic mapping of history has two important purposes.
The first is that we might understand how prophetic figures
and events will emerge in human history. And the second is
that we be able to keep an eye on where we might be in relationship
to these figures and events, just as Jesus told us to keep
The first part of our study will focus on the Book of Daniel
in order to develop an interpretive precedent (map legend)
from his use of symbols, which we will then apply to John's
vision as well. What will emerge is a clear and simple depiction
of human history, much of which is in the past and is confirmed
by history. By understanding Daniel and John's use of symbols
and comparing them to recorded history we can construct a
reliable interpretive method (map legend), which will provide
an accurate understanding of the portions of the history that
they describe, which are still yet to occur.
Historic Map Series
7 Heads of the