Lesson 4: How You Can Correctly Understand God's Prophecies and Promises!
God created us with a desire to look ahead and to wonder about our future. So it's exciting to study and learn Bible prophecy! We will recommend many valuable resources to guide you to a good understanding. This lesson will be a good start.
Bernita of Washington tells this story:
As a child, I faithfully attended church services every Sunday with my
parents and siblings. We were taught many of God's truths and I tried
to obey them and my parents.
When I was 15 years old, I developed rheumatic fever, and it required
many weeks of bed rest and medication to regain my health. During this
time, I read many books, one of which was the Bible. One day, as I was
reading the book of Isaiah, I realized that my church never had studies
or sermons to explain how these wonderful and beautiful words applied
to all of us. I wondered, when would the world be such a wonderful place
when all people would dwell safely together in peace and the wild animals
would be tamed and all diseases would be healed? I felt I wasn't being
taught the "whole story" of the Bible.
Answers to these questions did not come until I was 28 years old and
married with four young children. Through much study and repentance and
baptism, I finally understood that the whole Bible needs to be accepted
as God's truth and that I cannot just believe and accept what I felt was
convenient to me or limit the truth to what I was taught as a child.
Only then did I begin to understand the promises and prophecies of Isaiah
and other prophetic books of the Bible. Finally, I knew that God has wonderful
promises that He will keep, prophecies that tell of Christ's return to
this earth, when He will begin a time of restoration and peace and healing
and set up His Kingdom on this earth! Then, at last, I finally knew the
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Let the Bible Interpret the Bible!
One awesome proof that the Bible is divinely inspired is its perfect harmony and consistency all
the way though, even though it was penned by about 40 writers over a span
of 1,500 years! The Bible never contradicts itself! Even places that
appear at first glance to be contradictions are found, through more thorough
study, to not be contradictory after all.
Many people dismiss most prophecy as being merely allegorical or symbolic.
An important general rule is to take everything the Bible says as literally
true except where it is clearly symbolic. And remember that everything in
the Bible is important. If there is a symbol, then try to determine what it
These days you can hear many people quoting Bible verses trying to support
a point of view, but often they are twisting the meaning as people did even
in Peter and Paul's day (2 Peter 3:15-16). Instead, when we are trying to
understand a prophetic scripture, we should look for the same subject in other
parts of the Bible and never accept an interpretation that is contradictory.
For example, we are able to understand much about the book of Revelation by
comparing it with the book of Daniel, Jesus' Olivet Prophecy and other parts
of the Bible.
You've probably heard the saying, "History tends to repeat itself." That's
true partly because human nature stays the same and partly because God chooses
to repeat His actions in the ways He deals with mankind. Thus Bible prophecy
is often dual. Even when a prophecy was fulfilled in most ways
in the past, it often has another and more complete fulfillment
in the latter days. Therefore, by studying the Bible and history
to see how God fulfilled a prophecy in the past, we can better understand
how God will likely fulfill it in the future.
Now let's take a look at some other keys for understanding Bible prophecy.
What is the number one focus of Bible prophecy?
Then He said to them, "These are the words which I spoke to you while I was
still with you, that all things must be fulfilled which were written in
the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms concerning Me." And He
opened their understanding, that they might comprehend the Scriptures.
"All things have been delivered to Me by My Father, and no one knows who the
Son is except the Father, and who the Father is except the Son, and the
one to whom the Son wills to reveal Him." Then He turned to His disciples
and said privately, "Blessed are the eyes which see the things you see;
for I tell you that many prophets and kings have desired to see what you
see, and have not seen it, and to hear what you hear, and have not heard
It is Jesus the Christ (the Messiah). The Bible has many prophecies of His
first appearance to become our Savior and His second appearance as glorified
King of kings (1 Timothy 6:15). During His earthly ministry, His example and
His message also revealed what God the Father is like.
When Jesus preached about prophecy, what was His number one focus?
Now after John was put in prison, Jesus came to Galilee, preaching the gospel
of the kingdom of God, and saying, "The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom
of God is at hand. Repent, and believe in the gospel."
…to whom He also presented Himself alive after His suffering by many infallible
proofs, being seen by them during forty days and speaking of the things
pertaining to the kingdom of God.
The word "gospel" means good news. The primary message that Jesus
and the apostles preached was "the gospel of the kingdom of God." That included
God's offer of eternal life so that we can "inherit the kingdom of God" (1
Corinthians 15:50). Indirectly, the entire Bible is pointing toward the Kingdom
Can we determine exactly when prophesied events will happen?
Matthew 24:3, 32-36
Now as He sat on the Mount of Olives, the disciples came to Him privately,
saying, "Tell us, when will these things be? And what will be the sign of
Your coming, and of the end of the age?"…
"Now learn this parable from the fig tree: When its branch has already become
tender and puts forth leaves, you know that summer is near. So you also, when
you see all these things, know that it is near—at the doors! Assuredly, I
say to you, this generation will by no means pass away till all these things
take place. Heaven and earth will pass away, but My words will by no means
pass away. But of that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven,
but My Father only."
No! Trying to predict exactly when prophetic events will
happen is a waste of time. Focus on what and why, more than when. We
live in a dangerous and unpredictable world, so we need to always focus on
being spiritually "ready" to meet our Maker, whether at our death or at His
coming (Matthew 24:44).
Do we need to learn about the origins and identities of major nations?
To this promise our twelve tribes, earnestly serving God night and day, hope
to attain. For this hope's sake, King Agrippa, I am accused by the Jews.
James, a bondservant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ, to the twelve tribes
which are scattered abroad: Greetings.
Yes, we do. End-time Bible prophecy refers to nations by their ancient and
tribal names that often are not used today. There is value in learning history,
especially Bible history. We soon learn that tribes of people that are assumed
to be "lost" are not really lost! Paul and James knew where "the twelve tribes"
of Israel were located. Jesus even made it clear that they will have a prominent
role after He returns (Matthew 19:28).
Bible prophecy is largely focused on the end time, so we should expect the
Bible to have prophecies of past and present superpowers like Britain and
the United States. Our well-researched free booklet The
United States and Britain in Bible Prophecy traces the biblical and
historical origins of these important modern nations.
Are prophecies, especially ones about individuals, often conditional?
"I call heaven and earth as witnesses today against you, that I have set before
you life and death, blessing and cursing; therefore choose life, that both
you and your descendants may live; that you may love the Lord your God,
that you may obey His voice, and that you may cling to Him, for He is your
life and the length of your days; and that you may dwell in the land which
the Lord swore to your fathers, to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, to give them."
Yes, what happens to you and me depends on whether we choose to obey or disobey
God. God said, "I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing;
therefore choose life" (emphasis added).It's a matter of cause and
effect. God lets us choose what to sow, but we will reap what we sow (Galatians
What necessary change in the nature of man does prophecy point to?
"I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; I will take
the heart of stone out of your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. I will
put My Spirit within you and cause you to walk in My statutes, and you will
keep My judgments and do them."
By nature we have a "heart of stone." We tend to be hard-hearted, stubborn
and "stiff-necked" (Deuteronomy 9:6). That has to change. Once God has opened
our minds, He helps us with His Spirit to see ourselves as we really are.
He leads us to repent of our sins so He can forgive us. He helps us to become
spiritually converted. After conversion, a person begins to have a "heart
of flesh"—a soft, humble and teachable heart. Then God's promise is fulfilled:
"I will put My law in their minds, and write it on their hearts" (Jeremiah
What are some things to consider to have a spiritually balanced interest
"But take heed; see, I have told you all things beforehand."
Then one of them, a lawyer, asked Him a question, testing Him, and saying,
"Teacher, which is the great commandment in the law?" Jesus said to him,
"'You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul,
and with all your mind.' This is the first and great commandment. And the
second is like it: 'You shall love your neighbor as yourself.' On these
two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets."
Some people mostly ignore Bible prophecy and miss out on its benefits—the
biblical worldview, the motivation and the comfort it can give us. Concerning
His prophetic teaching, Jesus said to "take heed." Other people dwell too
much on technical aspects of Bible prophecy like trying to figure out exact
dates and neglect matters much more important like loving God and loving other
When you are reading prophetic sections of the Bible, be sure to meditate
on the spiritual lessons that go with it. For example, many people assume
that the book of Revelation is all predictions. In actuality, it is full of
valuable spiritual teaching.
For a good introduction to the book of Revelation, read Revelation 1:3.
People will be blessed if they read this book, if they hear and
pay attention to it and if they keep (obey) its spiritual lessons!
If you have a red-letter Bible, you will notice that much of the first three
chapters of this book are quoting the very words of Jesus Christ.
Then read Revelation 22:12-14. This very last chapter of the Bible gives
a grand overview. Think of how simple and clear this is. The Bible is consistent
all the way through. God wants His people to show their love by obeying
Him—for our own good!
What will you do today to show God that you love and obey Him?
Next Lesson: How Some Amazing Examples of Prophecies Already Fulfilled!
Questions about this lesson? Feedback about
Fundamentals of Bible Prophecy
The United States and Britain in Bible Prophecy
Keys to Unlocking Understanding of the Bible
Beyond Today video: The Book Nobody Knows
The Book of Revelation: Is It Relevant Today?