Bible Prophecy and You: How You Can Correctly Understand God’s Prophecies and Promises

You are here

Bible Prophecy and You

How You Can Correctly Understand God’s Prophecies and Promises

Login or Create an Account

With a UCG.org account you will be able to save items to read and study later!

Sign In | Sign Up

×
Downloads
MP3 Audio (25.04 MB)

Downloads

Bible Prophecy and You: How You Can Correctly Understand God’s Prophecies and Promises

MP3 Audio (25.04 MB)
×

Welcome to the fourth study in the “Bible Prophecy and You” series.

The better we can understand Bible prophecies, the more we will feel inspired by their amazing accuracy and reliability. The prophecies that have not already been fulfilled will be fulfilled perfectly.

The next step is to learn how to correctly interpret and understand God’s prophecies. In today’s media circus, one can hear countless nonbiblical predictions plus countless misinterpretations of Bible prophecies. Jesus Christ and many of the prophets and apostles warned us to be very careful that we not be deceived. Remember that just as a counterfeit dollar bill is worthless even though it closely resembles a real dollar bill, counterfeit prophecies are likewise worthless and can even lead you in a wrong direction! In this study we’ll look at some valuable keys for correctly understanding Bible prophecy.

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.

A person in the state of Washington who now embraces the Bible in its entirety 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 feels 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 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 ‘whole story’!”

Let the Bible interpret the Bible!

One awesome proof that the Bible is divinely inspired is its perfect harmony and consistency all the way through, even though it was penned by about 40 different writers over a span of 1,500 years! The Bible never contradicts itself. Even passages that at first glance appear to contradict others 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. When you encounter a symbol, try to determine what it is symbolizing.

These days you can hear many people quoting Bible verses in espousing certain points of view, but often they are twisting the meaning as people did even in Peter and Paul’s day (see 2 Peter 3:15-16 2 Peter 3:15-16 15 And account that the long-suffering of our Lord is salvation; even as our beloved brother Paul also according to the wisdom given to him has written to you; 16 As also in all his letters, speaking in them of these things; in which are some things hard to be understood, which they that are unlearned and unstable wrest, as they do also the other scriptures, to their own destruction.
American King James Version×
). Instead, when we are trying to understand a prophetic scripture, we should look for the same subject or similar wording 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. A prophecy could have been fulfilled to a certain degree in the past and still await a more complete fulfillment in the latter days. And studying the Bible and history to see how God fulfilled a prophecy in the past can give us a better understanding of how He 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 [the risen Jesus] said to them [His disciples], ‘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” (Luke 24:44-45 Luke 24:44-45 44 And he said to them, These are the words which I spoke to you, while I was yet with you, that all things must be fulfilled, which were written in the law of Moses, and in the prophets, and in the psalms, concerning me. 45 Then opened he their understanding, that they might understand the scriptures,
American King James Version×
).

“‘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’” (Luke 10:22-24 Luke 10:22-24 22 All things are delivered to me of my Father: and no man knows who the Son is, but the Father; and who the Father is, but the Son, and he to whom the Son will reveal him. 23 And he turned him to his disciples, and said privately, Blessed are the eyes which see the things that you see: 24 For I tell you, that many prophets and kings have desired to see those things which you see, and have not seen them; and to hear those things which you hear, and have not heard them.
American King James Version×
).

The focus of Bible prophecy is Jesus the Christ (the Messiah). The Bible has many prophecies of His first appearance to become our Savior and His second coming as glorified King of Kings (1 Timothy 6:15 1 Timothy 6:15Which in his times he shall show, who is the blessed and only Potentate, the King of kings, and Lord of lords;
American King James Version×
). 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’” (Mark 1:14-15 Mark 1:14-15 14 Now after that John was put in prison, Jesus came into Galilee, preaching the gospel of the kingdom of God, 15 And saying, The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand: repent you, and believe the gospel.
American King James Version×
).

“But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness …” (Matthew 6:33 Matthew 6:33But seek you first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added to you.
American King James Version×
).

“… 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” (Acts 1:3 Acts 1:3To whom also he showed himself alive after his passion by many infallible proofs, being seen of them forty days, and speaking of the things pertaining to the kingdom of God:
American King James Version×
).

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 1 Corinthians 15:50Now this I say, brothers, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God; neither does corruption inherit incorruption.
American King James Version×
). The entire Bible ultimately points toward the Kingdom of God that would come through Christ.

Can we determine exactly when prophesied events will happen?

“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” (Matthew 24:3 Matthew 24:3And as he sat on the mount of Olives, the disciples came to him privately, saying, Tell us, when shall these things be? and what shall be the sign of your coming, and of the end of the world?
American King James Version×
; Matthew 24:32-36 Matthew 24:32-36 32 Now learn a parable of the fig tree; When his branch is yet tender, and puts forth leaves, you know that summer is near: 33 So likewise you, when you shall see all these things, know that it is near, even at the doors. 34 Truly I say to you, This generation shall not pass, till all these things be fulfilled. 35 Heaven and earth shall pass away, but my words shall not pass away. 36 But of that day and hour knows no man, no, not the angels of heaven, but my Father only.
American King James Version×
).

Jesus Himself plainly tells us that we cannot know in advance exactly when prophesied events will take place. Trying to predict exactly when prophetic events will happen is not a productive use of time. Instead we are to 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 Matthew 24:44Therefore be you also ready: for in such an hour as you think not the Son of man comes.
American King James Version×
).

Do we need to learn about the origins and identities of major nations?

“And Jacob called his sons and said, ‘Gather together, that I may tell you what shall befall you in the last days. Reuben … unstable as water, you shall not excel … The scepter shall not depart from Judah … Zebulun shall … become a haven for ships … Dan shall be a serpent by the way … Joseph is a fruitful bough … his branches run over the wall … The blessings of your father … shall be on the head of Joseph …’ All these are the twelve tribes of Israel” (Genesis 49:1-28 Genesis 49:1-28 1 And Jacob called to his sons, and said, Gather yourselves together, that I may tell you that which shall befall you in the last days. 2 Gather yourselves together, and hear, you sons of Jacob; and listen to Israel your father. 3 Reuben, you are my firstborn, my might, and the beginning of my strength, the excellency of dignity, and the excellency of power: 4 Unstable as water, you shall not excel; because you went up to your father’s bed; then defiled you it: he went up to my couch. 5 Simeon and Levi are brothers; instruments of cruelty are in their habitations. 6 O my soul, come not you into their secret; to their assembly, my honor, be not you united: for in their anger they slew a man, and in their self-will they dig down a wall. 7 Cursed be their anger, for it was fierce; and their wrath, for it was cruel: I will divide them in Jacob, and scatter them in Israel. 8 Judah, you are he whom your brothers shall praise: your hand shall be in the neck of your enemies; your father’s children shall bow down before you. 9 Judah is a lion’s whelp: from the prey, my son, you are gone up: he stooped down, he couched as a lion, and as an old lion; who shall rouse him up? 10 The scepter shall not depart from Judah, nor a lawgiver from between his feet, until Shiloh come; and to him shall the gathering of the people be. 11 Binding his foal to the vine, and his ass’s colt to the choice vine; he washed his garments in wine, and his clothes in the blood of grapes: 12 His eyes shall be red with wine, and his teeth white with milk. 13 Zebulun shall dwell at the haven of the sea; and he shall be for an haven of ships; and his border shall be to Zidon. 14 Issachar is a strong ass couching down between two burdens: 15 And he saw that rest was good, and the land that it was pleasant; and bowed his shoulder to bear, and became a servant to tribute. 16 Dan shall judge his people, as one of the tribes of Israel. 17 Dan shall be a serpent by the way, an adder in the path, that bites the horse heels, so that his rider shall fall backward. 18 I have waited for your salvation, O LORD. 19 Gad, a troop shall overcome him: but he shall overcome at the last. 20 Out of Asher his bread shall be fat, and he shall yield royal dainties. 21 Naphtali is a hind let loose: he gives goodly words. 22 Joseph is a fruitful bough, even a fruitful bough by a well; whose branches run over the wall: 23 The archers have sorely grieved him, and shot at him, and hated him: 24 But his bow stayed in strength, and the arms of his hands were made strong by the hands of the mighty God of Jacob; (from there is the shepherd, the stone of Israel:) 25 Even by the God of your father, who shall help you; and by the Almighty, who shall bless you with blessings of heaven above, blessings of the deep that lies under, blessings of the breasts, and of the womb: 26 The blessings of your father have prevailed above the blessings of my progenitors to the utmost bound of the everlasting hills: they shall be on the head of Joseph, and on the crown of the head of him that was separate from his brothers. 27 Benjamin shall shred as a wolf: in the morning he shall devour the prey, and at night he shall divide the spoil. 28 All these are the twelve tribes of Israel: and this is it that their father spoke to them, and blessed them; every one according to his blessing he blessed them.
American King James Version×
).

“Understand, son of man, that the vision refers to the time of the end … The male goat is the kingdom of Greece. The large horn that is between its eyes is the first king. As for the broken horn and the four that stood up in its place, four kingdoms shall arise out of that nation, but not with its power. And in the latter time of their kingdom, when the transgressors have reached their fullness, a king shall arise, having fierce features, who understands sinister schemes” (Daniel 8:17-23 Daniel 8:17-23 17 So he came near where I stood: and when he came, I was afraid, and fell on my face: but he said to me, Understand, O son of man: for at the time of the end shall be the vision. 18 Now as he was speaking with me, I was in a deep sleep on my face toward the ground: but he touched me, and set me upright. 19 And he said, Behold, I will make you know what shall be in the last end of the indignation: for at the time appointed the end shall be. 20 The ram which you saw having two horns are the kings of Media and Persia. 21 And the rough goat is the king of Grecia: and the great horn that is between his eyes is the first king. 22 Now that being broken, whereas four stood up for it, four kingdoms shall stand up out of the nation, but not in his power. 23 And in the latter time of their kingdom, when the transgressors are come to the full, a king of fierce countenance, and understanding dark sentences, shall stand up.
American King James Version×
).

“For they have consulted together with one consent; they form a confederacy against You: the tents of Edom and the Ishmaelites; Moab and the Hagrites; Gebal, Ammon, and Amalek; Philistia with the inhabitants of Tyre; Assyria also has joined with them; they have helped the children of Lot” (Psalms 83:5-8 Psalms 83:5-8 5 For they have consulted together with one consent: they are confederate against you: 6 The tabernacles of Edom, and the Ishmaelites; of Moab, and the Hagarenes; 7 Gebal, and Ammon, and Amalek; the Philistines with the inhabitants of Tyre; 8 Assur also is joined with them: they have helped the children of Lot. Selah.
American King James Version×
).

Yes, to understand what is being talked about here, we do need to know about the historical and prophetic identities of various peoples. End-time Bible prophecy refers to nations by their ancient and tribal names that are seldom or never used today. There is great 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 (see Acts 26:7 Acts 26:7To which promise our twelve tribes, instantly serving God day and night, hope to come. For which hope’s sake, king Agrippa, I am accused of the Jews.
American King James Version×
; James 1:1 James 1:1James, a servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ, to the twelve tribes which are scattered abroad, greeting.
American King James Version×
). Jesus even made it clear that they will have a prominent role after He returns (Matthew 19:28 Matthew 19:28And Jesus said to them, Truly I say to you, That you which have followed me, in the regeneration when the Son of man shall sit in the throne of his glory, you also shall sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel.
American King James Version×
).

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 study guide The United States and Britain in Bible Prophecy traces the biblical and historical origins of these important modern nations.

Are prophecies often conditional?

“Now it shall come to pass, if you diligently obey the voice of the Lord your God, to observe carefully all His commandments which I command you today, that the Lord your God will set you high above all nations of the earth. And all these blessings [that follow in the prophecy] shall come upon you and overtake you, because you obey the voice of the Lord your God …

“But it shall come to pass, if you do not obey the voice of the Lord your God, to observe carefully all His commandments and His statutes which I command you today, that all these curses [that follow] will come upon you and overtake you” (Deuteronomy 28:1-2 Deuteronomy 28:1-2 1 And it shall come to pass, if you shall listen diligently to the voice of the LORD your God, to observe and to do all his commandments which I command you this day, that the LORD your God will set you on high above all nations of the earth: 2 And all these blessings shall come on you, and overtake you, if you shall listen to the voice of the LORD your God.
American King James Version×
; Deuteronomy 28:15 Deuteronomy 28:15But it shall come to pass, if you will not listen to the voice of the LORD your God, to observe to do all his commandments and his statutes which I command you this day; that all these curses shall come on you, and overtake you:
American King James Version×
, emphasis added throughout).

“The instant I speak concerning a nation and concerning a kingdom, to pluck up, to pull down, and to destroy it, if that nation against whom I have spoken turns from its evil, I will relent of the disaster that I thought to bring upon it. And the instant I speak concerning a nation and concerning a kingdom, to build and to plant it, if it does evil in My sight so that it does not obey My voice, then I will relent concerning the good with which I said I would benefit it” (Jeremiah 18:7-10 Jeremiah 18:7-10 7 At what instant I shall speak concerning a nation, and concerning a kingdom, to pluck up, and to pull down, and to destroy it; 8 If that nation, against whom I have pronounced, turn from their evil, I will repent of the evil that I thought to do to them. 9 And at what instant I shall speak concerning a nation, and concerning a kingdom, to build and to plant it; 10 If it do evil in my sight, that it obey not my voice, then I will repent of the good, with which I said I would benefit them.
American King James Version×
; compare Jonah 3:1-10 Jonah 3:1-10 1 And the word of the LORD came to Jonah the second time, saying, 2 Arise, go to Nineveh, that great city, and preach to it the preaching that I bid you. 3 So Jonah arose, and went to Nineveh, according to the word of the LORD. Now Nineveh was an exceeding great city of three days’ journey. 4 And Jonah began to enter into the city a day’s journey, and he cried, and said, Yet forty days, and Nineveh shall be overthrown. 5 So the people of Nineveh believed God, and proclaimed a fast, and put on sackcloth, from the greatest of them even to the least of them. 6 For word came to the king of Nineveh, and he arose from his throne, and he laid his robe from him, and covered him with sackcloth, and sat in ashes. 7 And he caused it to be proclaimed and published through Nineveh by the decree of the king and his nobles, saying, Let neither man nor beast, herd nor flock, taste any thing: let them not feed, nor drink water: 8 But let man and beast be covered with sackcloth, and cry mightily to God: yes, let them turn every one from his evil way, and from the violence that is in their hands. 9 Who can tell if God will turn and repent, and turn away from his fierce anger, that we perish not? 10 And God saw their works, that they turned from their evil way; and God repented of the evil, that he had said that he would do to them; and he did it not.
American King James Version×
).

Yes, what happens to nations, and to each of us personally, 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” (Deuteronomy 30:19 Deuteronomy 30:19I call heaven and earth to record this day against you, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing: therefore choose life, that both you and your seed may live:
American King James Version×
). It’s a matter of cause and effect. God lets us choose what to sow, but we will reap what we sow (Galatians 6:7-8 Galatians 6:7-8 7 Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatever a man sows, that shall he also reap. 8 For he that sows to his flesh shall of the flesh reap corruption; but he that sows to the Spirit shall of the Spirit reap life everlasting.
American King James Version×
).

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” (Ezekiel 36:26-27 Ezekiel 36:26-27 26 A new heart also will I give you, and a new spirit will I put within you: and I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh, and I will give you an heart of flesh. 27 And I will put my spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes, and you shall keep my judgments, and do them.
American King James Version×
).

By nature we have a “heart of stone.” We tend to be hard-hearted, stubborn and “stiff-necked” (Deuteronomy 9:6 Deuteronomy 9:6Understand therefore, that the LORD your God gives you not this good land to possess it for your righteousness; for you are a stiff necked people.
American King James Version×
). Indeed, “the heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked” (Jeremiah 17:9 Jeremiah 17:9The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it?
American King James Version×
). 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 31:33 Jeremiah 31:33But this shall be the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel; After those days, said the LORD, I will put my law in their inward parts, and write it in their hearts; and will be their God, and they shall be my people.
American King James Version×
).

What are some things to consider to have a spiritually balanced interest in prophecy?

“But take heed; see, I have told you all things beforehand” (Mark 13:23 Mark 13:23But take you heed: behold, I have foretold you all things.
American King James Version×
).

“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’” (Matthew 22:35-40 Matthew 22:35-40 35 Then one of them, which was a lawyer, asked him a question, tempting him, and saying, 36 Master, which is the great commandment in the law? 37 Jesus said to him, You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind. 38 This is the first and great commandment. 39 And the second is like to it, You shall love your neighbor as yourself. 40 On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.
American King James Version×
).

Many 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.” On the other hand, some dwell far too much on the technical aspects of Bible prophecy, such as trying to figure out exact dates, while neglecting matters much more important, like loving God and loving other people.

When you are reading prophetic sections of the Bible, be sure to meditate on the spiritual lessons they convey. For example, many people assume that the book of Revelation is all predictions. In actuality, it is full of valuable spiritual teaching.

Apply now

For a good introduction to the book of Revelation, read Revelation 1:3 Revelation 1:3Blessed is he that reads, and they that hear the words of this prophecy, and keep those things which are written therein: for the time is at hand.
American King James Version×
. People will be blessed if they read this book, if they hear and pay attention to it and if they keep (obey) its spiritual directives! If you have a red-letter Bible, you will notice that much of the first three chapters of this book is direct quotation from Jesus Christ.

Then read Revelation 22:12-14 Revelation 22:12-14 12 And, behold, I come quickly; and my reward is with me, to give every man according as his work shall be. 13 I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end, the first and the last. 14 Blessed are they that do his commandments, that they may have right to the tree of life, and may enter in through the gates into the city.
American King James Version×
in the King James or New King James Version. 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? Will you search His Word to learn what He wants you to do and then begin doing it?