Methods of Interpretation
“Methods of interpretation” is a catch-all phrase that has a lot of bearing on the interpretation of Bible prophecy. The phrase “methods of interpretation” describes a set of ideas or a particular view in a person’s head before he starts to study and interpret prophecy. Methods of interpretation include religious views, spiritual presuppositions, scholastic assumptions and concepts about the role and authority of the Bible, the authority of prophets, and church traditions. For example, a Catholic scholar will approach the study of Bible prophecy with Catholic beliefs and traditions in mind, and his prophetic conclusions will reflect ideas and views that were in his mind before he began to study. Similarly, a Baptist scholar will approach the study of Bible prophecy with methods of interpretation that are very different than his Catholic counterpart, and the Baptist scholar will arrive at very different conclusions than the Catholic scholar because their methods of interpretation are different. Obviously, no one approaches the study of prophecy without some kind of intellectual and religious baggage. This baggage is loosely called “methods of interpretation” or hermeneutics.
The book of Daniel was written about 2,600 years ago, but unlike the other 65 books in the Bible, the book of Daniel was sealed up “until the time of the end.” (Daniel 12:9) That means that God placed certain information in the book of Daniel that remains “top secret” until the time of the end arrives. Has the time of the end arrived? I believe it has, based on fulfilled prophecy and an understanding of God’s timing. The time has come for the secrets in Daniel to be unveiled.
What did God hide in the book of Daniel? Understand that the book of Daniel offers three levels of knowledge. They are:
- Dramatic stories of faith.
- Visions revealing God’s plans.
- Apocalyptic architecture.
The first [and easiest] level of knowledge in Daniel contains dramatic stories of faith in God. These stories of faith and loyalty to God were recorded for the benefit of all generations. Earth’s final generation will benefit the most from these stories of courage since the fiery trials in the first chapters of the book of Daniel are mini-parallels of coming events.
The second [and more difficult] level of knowledge in Daniel concerns the meaning of the visions in the book of Daniel. Because students of prophecy have understood something of Daniel’s visions for hundreds of years, we cannot say the visions were entirely sealed up until “the time of the end.” However, something in the book of Daniel was sealed up, and that something uniquely applies to the people who live at the end of the world. What is it?
The third [and deepest] level of knowledge found in Daniel is the architecture of Apocalyptic Prophecy. The prophecies in Daniel conform to a structure or pattern that controls their meaning. This structure is also present in Revelation.
This architecture produces four rules [methods of interpretation] that govern the interpretation of Daniel and Revelation. When these four rules are applied to the interpretation of the prophecies in Daniel as well as Revelation, the prophecies make perfect sense just as they read! This point is extremely important because portions of Daniel and Revelation have been a mystery for 2,600 years. What causes this change to occur? When the architecture of Daniel is understood, the contents of Daniel can be understood.
When the four rules found in Daniel are applied to each line of prophecy in Daniel and Revelation, a comprehensive story unfolds that is completely harmonious with everything the Bible has to say about the ways of God. Furthermore, ALL of the details God gave in the prophecies of Daniel and Revelation are in perfect harmony and synchrony with each other.
The four rules force all the prophecies in Daniel and Revelation into a chronological matrix of layers that are orderly in nature.
To visualize this matrix, think of the seventeen prophecies in Daniel and Revelation as a wedding cake of seventeen layers. The larger pieces are at the bottom of the stack and the smaller pieces are on top. The “toothpicks” that hold the seventeen layers together are events that unite and align the seventeen layers in Daniel and Revelation into one grand story.
The toothpicks are necessary because two or more layers can describe the same prophetic event. Because the same event is described in two different ways — in two different layers — a precise alignment of the prophecies is not only possible, but essential to understanding the big picture!
Rule One: Consider the results of violating this self-evident rule. If the events given within each prophecy of Daniel do not occur in their given order, how, then, is the order of events determined? Does the Bible speak for itself or must it have an interpreter? I find the Bible has to speak for itself and the Bible has to be its own interpreter. The constant and predictable architecture within Daniel’s prophecies is the basis for Rule One.
In short, valid Rules of Interpretation allow Bible prophecy to say all that it has to say, and they help us listen to God’s truth so that we might learn of His plans.
Toothpicks that hold the prophecies together:
- Head 9. Legs
- Lion 10. Monster
- Chest 11. Jerusalem Destroyed
- Bear 12. Feet
- Ram 13. Ten Horns
- Thighs 14. Little Horn
- Leopard 15. Toes
- Goat 16. Little Horn boasting