The Literal Fulfilment of Prophecy



By David Mc Millan.*



[*NOTE.This message was given at an S.G.A.T. meeting in London on March, 2006.  It was recorded and cassettes and CD’s can be obtained from the secretary.”)  In it David Mc Millan - (a member of the S.G.A.T. Council) - urges Christians not to allow their CROWN to be taken. 



It is of immense importance for regenerate Christians to see and understand that their position in Messiah’s millennial kingdom does “not come with price of Redemption but must be earned  Rev. 2: 27 & 28; Rev. 3: 21; 1 Cor. 9: 24-27.  This may refer to a total REJECTION (by the King), of some because of their disbelief, false interpretations, cowardly behaviour and by refusing to disclose Millennial Truths to others. – Ed.


See  also“The Difference Between Application and Interpretation” by Stephen A Toms.]




I would ask you to open the Scriptures at 1 Thessalonians 4: 15-17, “For this we say unto you by the word of the Lord, that we which are alive and remain* unto the coming of the Lord shall not prevent them that are asleep.  For the Lord Himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise**: then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord


[*For a description of those who will have previously been judged worthy to escape Antichrist’s end-time persecutions, see Luke 21: 34-36 & Rev. 3: 10.


** Strange words for Christians who believe they can ascend into Heaven immediately after the time of their Death - (one at a time) - and before the Resurrection of the holy dead (Rev. 20: 6), at Christ’s Second Advent!   See Matt. 12: 40; Luke 16: 23-31; Luke 23: 43; John 3: 13; 14: 3; Acts 2: 34; Rev. 6: 9, 11, etc.]



Two Major Problems



There are two major problems today that are connected with Bible prophecy and I would like at the commencement to emphasise these.



The first has to do with the consideration of Bible prophecy.  It is a sad thing to have to say but there are very few people today who have any interest in the study of Bible prophecy.  You only have to see this meeting that is held regularly, well advertised, and think of how few are interested in considering the study of the prophetic Scriptures.  And sadly, just to take that a step further, very few people feel the need to study the prophetic Scriptures.  They have the idea that that is a part of the Truth of God about which they do not need to concern themselves.  Peter said, “We have also a more sure word of prophecy” and then he added the words, “whereunto ye do well that ye take heed  I would like to emphasise that.  The prophetic part of the Word of God is an aspect to which we are exhorted to take heed.  We ought to consider and study these things.



The other problem with regard to Bible prophecy has to do with the interpretation; that is to say, the meaning of the prophetical passages in the Scriptures.  That is the question that concerns us especially in this meeting.  Think of the words to Timothy that we are to study to show ourselves approved to God.  That is an interesting statement.  We should give ourselves to study.  People do not like to study.  Life is made too easy for us today; we like the easy way out.  But we are to study, and that involves time and labour.  We are to do that, not to show off before men but so that we can shew [show] ourselves “approved unto God”.  If you have any doubts that labour is involved, he [the Apostle Paul] says, we need to be “a workman  There is to be work; you are to be a workman that needeth not to be ashamed; and sadly, many will be ashamed when they stand before the Lord to answer to Him for the things that they have taught.  Then he said, “rightly dividing the word of truth  And this concerns us, the interpretation or meaning of the prophetical passages in the Scriptures.  The sad thing is that much preaching on the second coming is not rightly dividing the Word of Truth.  It has to be said that it is wrongly dividing the words of Scripture.



Importance of Prophecy



Let me stress to you that this question of interpretation of prophecy is something which is vital, crucial.  Do not be mistaken into thinking that this is just a small issue, something to be thought about on the side.  That is far from being the case.  We come to the very heart of the subject as far as the study of the prophetic Scriptures is concerned.  Remember, not all believers have the same views with regard to the second coming of the Lord Jesus Christ.  There are various opinions, but there are three main views.  The post-millennial and a-millennial have great similarities.  In many respects one is the development of the other.  Those who were once the proponents of the post-millennial view felt that things were not unfolding as they anticipated, so they changed and that is how a-millennialism was born.



The Pre-millennial Position



Then there is the pre-millennial position to which we hold, and that we love so much.  We need to ask why there are differences of opinion among those who are Fundamentalists.  We are not talking here about people who do not believe the Bible.  There are differences even among evangelical believers.  Why is that?  The simple answer is because of principles of interpretation of the Bible.  Not all Christians interpret the Scriptures in the same way.  That is the reality.  It is very strange, but it is a reality that not all believers interpret the Bible similarly.  So let me make it clear that we hold to a literal interpretation of the Bible where that is possible.  We believe that the plain sense of a passage of Scripture is the best sense.  God does not talk in riddles and leave us wondering what He has actually said.  God means what He says and He says what He means.  It is as simple and as plain as that.



Now, we do not deny that there are passages in the Bible that use figurative and symbolic language.  In the opening chapters of the Book of Revelation, there is mention of the churches of Asia.  Those seven churches are represented by candlesticks and there are great lessons about the witness of the church that can be drawn from that.  There is a spiritual representation of the church in the prophetical Scriptures.  In Daniel 2. Nebuchadnezzar saw a great image in his dream, and that image represented four kingdoms.  So there is figurative language in the Bible.  We do not deny that fact.  We accept that there is a case, but let me stress that the figurative passages speak about literal events, and they speak about literal places, and literal people.  We do well to remember that.  Even though the truth is set forth in figurative language it is talking about something that is literal.  They were literal churches in the Book of Revelation although they were set forth figuratively under the image of a candlestick.  The kingdoms set forth in Daniel 2 under the representation of an image were none-the-less still real and actual kingdoms.



I know some people that would ask why we hold to a literal interpretation of the Scriptures.  They will ask what grounds or warrant do we have for interpreting the Scriptures that way.  Well, we need to remember that Scripture interprets Scripture.  The Bible gives us more than information about God and about salvation.  The Bible will teach us how to understand its meaning if we study it carefully.  The Bible itself gives us examples if how to interpret what is found within it and that is something we need to think about very carefully indeed.  There is a principle in the Bible that by the mouth of two or three witnesses every word shall be established, and there are two main witnesses in the Scriptures.  If we listen to those two witnesses, they will teach us how to interpret the Bible, and they will teach us that we should understand it literally.



The Historical Witness



Let me tell you who those two witnesses are.  There is the historical witness.  Think of the story of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden.  Think of the tree in the Garden of Eden.  Think of the tree in the garden and of Adam and Eve stepping forth to eat the fruit of the tree.  Think of the story of Noah’s ark.  Noah built that great vessel far from the seashore way back in the days when there was no rain, and he built it over a long period of time; no doubt he was ridiculed, scorned, and laughed at.  All kinds of animals went into that vessel, and one day the clouds came, and the heavens opened and the rain fell.  Think of the story of Balaam’s ass  Balak called Balaam to pronounce a curse upon the people of God, and because God did not want him to do that, He set obstacles in the way; and the animal was wiser than Balaam.  You think of the story of Jonah running away from God and His will, running away from preaching the gospel.  He went on to a ship and sailed into the Mediterranean; the storm arose and the only way to escape that storm was for the sailors to throw him overboard into the sea, where a special fish prepared by God swallowed him.  Think of Daniel, the man of prayer, who prayed three times every day.  Others hated him and the position that he had and they produced a law which they anticipated would get Daniel into trouble, and as a result of it, Daniel was cast among the lions.



Those are some of the best known stories in the Bible, and I ask you, do we not view them all literally?  Is that not the case with all evangelical Christians?  They say that those stories are true.  They tell us that they actually took place just as they were recorded in the Scriptures.  Persons would be viewed as liberals or heretics if they wanted to “spiritualize” any of those passages, or seek to explain them away in any shape or fashion.  And the reality is this, if the historical passages are literal, then so too are prophecies relating to the future.  Our position is consistent.  We interpret the whole Bible in exactly the same way.  We interpret the whole Bible following the same principles right through.  We do not apply one principle of interpretation to history and then a different principle to prophecy.  So that is the first witness that we have to teach us that we should explain this Bible literally, the historical witness.



The Prophetical Witness



But there is also a prophetical witness.  Remember that many prophecies in the Bible have already been fulfilled, and that should be of interest to us.  That will be a clear guide to us as to how the prophesies of the second coming of Christ will be fulfilled.



There is what is known as “the law of first mention  You should always look for the first mention of any subject in the Scriptures, and study that very closely, because that is the key that will open that subject for you and give you great light as you study throughout the Scriptures.



The first prophecy in the Bible is found in the words, “In that day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die” (Genesis 2: 17).  And the simple question is, how was that fulfilled?  It was fulfilled literally.  Adam really died.  He died spiritually the moment that he ate the fruit, and he died physically.  Although he lived to the ripe old age of 930, he died none the less.  And what was true of Adam is true of all his posterity.  Whenever a person dies, we are continually reminded that God literally and actually fulfils the prophecies of the Scriptures.  We have the witness of prophecy.  The first prophecy gives us the key, the answer as to how God deals with all the prophecies of His Word.



Think of the prophecies about the first coming of the Lord Jesus, for although we are thinking especially of His second coming, you cannot divorce the two.  Were the prophecies of the first coming of Christ literal in their fulfilment?  The answer is, of course, they were.  Micah said, “And thou, Bethlehem Ephratah, though thou be a little among the thousands of Judah, yet out of thee shall He come forth unto Me that is to be Ruler in Israel  We have Micah’s prophecy, but where was Jesus Christ born?  He was born in literal Bethlehem.



Think of the words of Zechariah.  He said, “Behold thy King cometh unto thee: He is just, and having salvation: lowly, and riding upon an ass, and upon a colt the foal of an ass  I ask, did Jesus Christ ride upon an ass?  The answer is, yes, He did.  Everybody knows that is true.  It was actually fulfilled.



So I stress that if anybody asks why we interpret the Bible literally, what warrant have we, we reply that Scripture interprets Scripture, history and prophecy are witnesses to the fact that the Bible is to be understood plainly and literally, just as it is found upon the pages of God’s Word.



A Major Obstacle



There is one major obstacle to a literal interpretation of the Bible, and sadly, it is found throughout evangelicalism.  That is unbelief.  That is the major sin among Christians today especially in the study of the second coming of Christ.  People do not believe God’s promise.  They do not believe what God “had promised, He was able also to perform” (Romans 4: 21).  Incidently, that was literal as well, both the promise that he was given and the fulfilment of it.  He believed what God had said, and that God could actually do it.



The sad thing is that when Christians look at some of the prophecies in the Scriptures today they respond that that could never happen, that could never be true in a literal sense.  Why?  It is because they do not believe it.  They do not believe the promises or the power of God.  Not only did Abraham believe the promise, he believed that God had the power to fulfil His Word.



The question is, if, in the past God caused all the animals to sit down quietly and peacefully in the Garden of Eden, why can He not repeat that in a future day?



What the church of Christ needs to pray is that the Lord will increase our faith (Luke 17: 5).  We need to pray that Christians will have a greater faith in the words of the Book that they hold in their hands, and that they will have a greater faith in the power of God.  Be in no doubt, Bible prophecy is to be interpreted literally, and that is so of what the Bible says about the [Lord’s coming] kingdom.  There is going to be an actual [millennial] kingdom.  It is going to be a literal kingdom upon this earth that will be the longest kingdom this world has ever known, that will run for a thousand years.  The kingdom is literal.  The period is literal.  There will be an actual King.



Did you ever notice those words that Paul wrote to Timothy?  He said the Lord Jesus Christ “shall judge the quick and the dead at His appearing and kingdom” (2 Timothy 4: 1).  It is interesting that [His judgment precedes His appearing,* and] the kingdom follows the appearing.  I think that is very interesting indeed; first [His judgment of the dead, then] His appearing, and then His kingdom.  And the Bible says “the LORD shall be King over all the earth” (Zechariah 14: 9).  That has never been so.  It is still to take place.  The prophecies of the Bible are true and literal with regard to the [Messiah’s millennial] kingdom.


[* See Heb. 9:27.]



And I want to emphasise that not only is the Bible literal in what it says about the [promised] kingdom, but it is also literal in what it says about Christians.  We use the term “eschatology” to apply to the second coming of the Lord Jesus Christ, but, strictly speaking, eschatology is the study of last things and it is a much broader study.  There are many things in eschatology that apply to the Christian and to the unbeliever as well, and I want to emphasise some things that will literally be fulfilled as far as the Christian is concerned, and we have them in 1 Thessalonians 4: 15-17.



A Literal Resurrection



One is that we are going to be raised.  The passage speaks of believers who will die before the coming of the Lord Jesus.  The Scriptures tell us we will not all die, but those who do, will be raised again from the dead.  The Bible teaches the resurrection of Christ and also the resurrection of the believer.  The Lord Jesus is the firstfruits and then those who are Christ’s at His coming.  You know, the New Testament speaks about the Sadducees, and they do not believe in the resurrection.  There are many “Sadducees” in professing Christendom today, people who do not believe in resurrection [or fully understand what the Lord Jesus teaches about resurrection; or about those who will be resurrected at His Second Advent]!  But this is taught in the Scriptures.  At the end of verse 16, it says, “the dead in Christ shall rise first and that will be the first resurrection.



Job said, “I know that my Redeemer liveth, and that He shall stand at the latter day upon the earth: and though after my skin worms destroy this body, yet in my flesh shall I see God  Job was thinking far beyond his own day, on to the second coming of Christ.  He was a fundamentalist. He believed in the return of the Lord Jesus.  Before the first advent [of Messiah Jesus] Job was thinking of the second.  “He shall stand in the latter day upon the earth: and though after my skin worms destroy this body, yet in my flesh shall I see God He was thinking of the resurrection.  He knew that he was going to be raised even though he would die and even though worms should destroy his body.  (There is a hint as to how your body should be dealt with after you die.  It should not be destroyed by fire.  It should be destroyed by worms, placed in the ground and buried).  He said, “yet in my flesh, I shall see GodHow [and when] could that take place? Well, there is going to be a resurrection [when Jesus returns (1 Cor. 15: 23; 1 Thess. 4: 16, R.V.)].  It is a glorious truth.



Think of Lazarus.  The Lord Jesus stood at his tomb (John 11), and the Bible tells us He called him forth.  Did it actually happen?  Is it true?  Do we believe it to be literal?  It actually took place.  It was a literal event.  The Lord Jesus called him forth, and one day it is going to happen to us, if we die before His return.  He will call us forth from [“Hades”], the grave and from the tomb.  Death will not have the victory.  That is the great difference in what we call a ‘Christian’ burial.  At the graveside of one who has died in Christ, we have the hope* of the [first] resurrection unto eternal life.


[* Note: The Resurrection of all the remaining dead after “the thousand years,” is not a hope but a certainty! (Rev. 20: 13, 15, R.V.).]



Death, in the Bible, is likened to a sleep.  In verse 13, it says, “I would not have you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning them which are asleep  Let me emphasise that it is [a general statement embracing all the dead, and not] only for the Christian, that death is described as a sleep.  He says, “Concerning them which are asleep  Do you think of the grave as being like a bed where [your body will] lie down to rest?  Death is like a sleep, and what happens after you have a sleep?  You rise.  You awake from that sleep of death.  That is one reason why atheists favour cremation, because they think if their body is given over to the flames and consumed to ashes they will never be able to have it raised again from that condition.  But the God who first formed man from the dust is able to rise him from dust or ashes.



The resurrection is literal and actual, and will take place in the bodies of those believers who have died, when the Lord Jesus comes again.  The Bible teaches us there are two [future] resurrections.  In Revelation 20 [: 6] it talks about the first resurrection.  There is a resurrection of the just, that is, those who are [righteous and] in Christ; and [“when the thousand years are finished” (Rev. 20: 7, R.V.)] the resurrection of the unjust [or unrighteous], that is, those who are in Christ; and the resurrection of the unjust, those who die out of Christ.  And I take the opportunity to say, a person needs to be saved [and “accounted worthy” (Lk. 20: 35, R.V.)] if he is to experience the resurrection of the just.*


[* See also Matt. 5: 20; 7: 21. cf. Lk. 14: 14; 22: 28-30; Heb. 11: 35b; 1 Thess. 2: 12; 2 Thess. 1: 4-5; Rev. 3: 21, R.V.)]



I remember being in a coach with Dr. Paisley and a party that was travelling to the World Congress in the USA in 1986.  We passed by a massive cemetery in New Your City, probably the biggest cemetery that I have seen.  And the comment Mr. Paisley made in his booming voice so that everybody on the bus could hear was, “I wonder how many people will rise to eternal life from that graveyard  The resurrection, for the [obedient and persevering]* believer will be the first resurrection, the resurrection to eternal life, a literal event at the coming of Christ.


[* See Luke 22: 28-30; 1 Tim. 4: 8; 2 Tim. 12, 13; 2 Pet. 1: 10, 11; 3: 17; 1 John 3: 24, etc. R.V.]



A Literal Change



Something else that will take place when the Lord Jesus comes, something that is literal, we are going to be changed.  I Corinthians 15: 51 says, “We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed  What type of change will this be?  It is going to be bodily.  Paul said, “this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality” (verse 53).  We are to be given a new body, one that is [immortal and] glorified, a body that is sinless, just like the body that Adam had when he was created, a body that is free from the corruption of sin.  Paul could say that He will change “this vile body” (Philippians 3: 21).  That is a glorious thought.



Think of the illnesses that afflict us, so many people sick, afflicted with infirmity, hindered by the limitations of this mortal frame.  Think of the sinfulness of our flesh, and the glorious truth is that it is not always to be like that because the Bible says we are going to be changed.  You know, there is a sense in which redemption is not yet complete.  We rightly talk about the finished work of Christ, and our souls have been redeemed, but our bodies are still to be redeemed.  Paul refers to Romans 8: 23 to “the redemption of out body” which will take place at the coming again of our Lord Jesus Christ.  When He comes we are to be changed into His likeness.  This vile body is to be made into His glorious body.  That is a tremendous prospect.



We were thinking earlier of death being like a sleep.  The Psalmist said “I shall be satisfied, when I awake, with thy likeness” (Psalm 17: 15).  That is the way we are to be raised from the dead.  We are going to be raised so that we are like Christ.  “When He shall appear, we shall be like Him; for we shall see Him as He is” (1 John 3: 2).  What a change that will be!



The story is told of C. H. Spurgeon and Andrew Bonar who were in correspondence about the book that Mr. Bonar had written on Leviticus; and Mr. Spurgeon had enjoyed that volume very much indeed.  (And if you would like help with the Book of Leviticus, Mr. Bonar’s commentary is one which you should secure and study very carefully).  Stories are told in various ways, but I understand it was Mr. Bonar who asked for a signed copy photograph of Mr. Spurgeon.  This was sent with a little note attached, which had words to the effect that if he had waited a little longer he would have had a better likeness, and then there were these words, “when He shall appear, we shall be like Him; for we shall see Him as He is  That fact should encourage you to look and pray for the return of the Lord Jesus Christ.



A Literal Judgment



So we are to be literally raised and literally changed; and there is going to be a literal judgment.  It is a sobering thought that there will be a day of reckoning.  It will be a day of actual accounting, of actual answering to God.  Paul said in 2 Corinthians 5: 10, “we must all (that includes every believer) appear before the Judgment Seat of Christ  He said when writing to the Romans that “every one of us shall give an account of himself to God” (14: 12).  We are going to be judged.  When will that event occur?  It will occur [before the first resurrection (Heb. 9: 27; Luke 20: 35, R.V.),] at the Second Coming [of Jesus / Messiah].



But remember that for the unsaved it will be different.  When we stand before the Judgment Seat of Christ, there will be no unconverted people present.  They will be judged one thousand years later at the Great White Throne spoken of in Revelation 20.



Paul says, “I charge thee … before God, and the Lord Jesus Christ, Who shall Judge the quick and the dead and by His appearing and His kingdom” (2 Timothy 4: 1, R.V.).  The saviour is coming to Judge.  We speak of two advents of Christ and there is a different purpose for these advents.  At His first advent He came as a Saviour but at the Second Advent He is coming as a Judge.  He will not judge our state or standing before God.  He is coming to judge our service.  He will judge how we have used our lives and talents, as Paul said in 2 Corinthians 5: 10, it is the deeds that are done in the body for which we will have to answer as believers.



God will not be interested in that day on how much money you have made.  He will not be interested in how far up the corporate ladder you were able to climb.  He will not be concerned with how popular you were, or how famous.  The question in that day will be, what did you do for Me?  How did you use the wealth, the gifts, the money with which I blessed you?  How have you used all the things that I have afforded to you in this life?  Think of it; you are going to have to answer for all that you gave done; and I urge you, do not waste your life.  Do not throw away the opportunities of service that God gives you.  Seek to redeem the time with which you are blessed here upon this earth.  We are going to be judged.*


[* See 1 Cor. 15: 58. cf. 2 Tim. 2: 3-13; Phil. 3: 15-16, R.V.).]



A Literal Reward



One more thing to be mentioned is that we are going to be rewarded.  This is closely related to the previous thought.  In Revelation 22: 12 we are told, “Behold, I come quickly; and My reward is with Me  Not only is He coming to judge but the Saviour is coming to reward.  If you think of it, He is a good master.  He wants to reward His [obedient] people.  In this life, we are ridiculed, persecuted, abused, and mocked but we are going to be rewarded when He comes again.  The reality is, as we read in Hebrews 11: 35, we [hope we] are going to have “a better resurrection,” one of those things that will make that resurrection better is that He is coming to reward us for all that we have done for Him in this life.*


[* Rev. 22: 12; 20: 6. R.V.).]



A soldier does not get his medal for his bravery in the middle of the battle.  Nobody steps out into the battlefield to call the battle to a halt and say, here is a soldier that has fought valiantly, we will just give him a medal here in the middle of the battle.  The soldier waits till the battle is over, until the war has come to a conclusion and then there is the medal ceremony.  That is how it is with the Christian.  When the struggles of this life are over, when this [evil] age has come to a close, it is then that we shall be rewarded for all that we have sought to do in the name of Christ.



The Saviour said that a cup of cold water given in the name of a disciple will not go without its reward (Matthew 10: 42).  The least act of hospitality will be rewarded.  What is less than giving somebody a cup of cold water?  That should encourage you to do the least task in the Name of the Saviour in the cause of the gospel.



Remember, you may lose your reward, but you cannot lose your [eternal] salvation.  That is secure.  The Book of the Revelation says, “Hold that fast which thou hast, that no man take thy crown” (3: 11).  I want to encourage you not to be careless.  The Bible encourages us to take heed to ourselves.  Sometimes we can be so busy we forget about our own life and conduct.  Take heed to thyself.  Walk circumspectly.  Be careful about the way you live, so that carelessness does not cost you a crown on that day.*


[* 2 Pet. 3: 8.]


Think of those people in the Bible, and someone else had the same name.  There were two Sauls in the Bible.  The Old Testament Saul lost his kingdom, but the Lord raised up another Saul in the New Testament, who was a mighty man of God.  There are two with the name Ananias.  In the early church, Ananias and Sapphira lost their lives because of their conduct, but the Lord raised up another Ananias, a man in Damascus, used of God.  It was that Ananias that came to the young Saul of Tarsus and put his hands on him.  There are at least two called Judas in the New Testament.



Brethren and sisters, be careful how you live lest someone else takes your reward.  There is encouragement here for us to serve the Lord, to work for the Master.  It is an encouragement to carry on in your labours if you understand the fact that He is coming with the reward for your service.  What will that reward be?  Well, one of the rewards is we are going to reign over cities.  The Book of Revelation says specifically, “we shall reign on the earth” (5: 10.)  He will reign but we [if “accounted worthy”] are to reign with Him.  We are to share in His kingdom.  That is part of the reward of the believer, and that is literal; it is actual.



Some will reign over ten cities, some will reign over five, and Mr. Paisley says that he would be happy to reign over Dublin and Rome; that he would be satisfied with just those two!  The Saviour said, “Thou hast been faithful in a very little, have thou authority over ten cities to another, “five” (Luke 19: 17-19).  That is part of the reward.  But the great truth is, we are going to be rewarded for our service.  It is a literal reward.* It is something we will actually have.


[* Note:  Rewards depend upon our works - whether they are good or bad.  “Do not mistake; God is not to be mocked.  For whatever a man may sow, this also he will reap: 8 because the one sowing for his flesh {“his sinful nature,” N.I.V.}, will from the flesh reap corruption; but the one sowing for the Spirit {“who sows to please the Spirit,” N.I.V.} will from the Spirit reap life age-lasting {Gk. “aionian Life”}. 9 Therefore we should not become weary in doing good; for we shall reap at the proper season, if we do not give up. 10 So then, as we have opportunity, we should do good to all, but especially to the members of the family of the faith:” (Galatians 6: 7-10).]






So this is something of the way in which the prophetical Scriptures will be literally fulfilled for the Christian.  As we said a little earlier, they will be literally fulfilled as far as the kingdom and as far as Christ is concerned.  But they will also be literally fulfilled for us as believers.  These things are actual, and if we are consistent in our interpretation of the Bible, then what follows on from these things is actual as well.  These things will lead us into the millennium, the reign of Christ.



*       *       *



The Difference Between Application and Interpretation



By Stephen A Toms






Our subject is an important one as so many professing Christians seem to think that if they apply to their own lives what they read in the Holy Scriptures, they have understood all that God intended them to know.  We ought to be aware that whilst application of the Scripture is a very vital aspect of ministry, we should always seek to take heed to what the Word of God is actually teaching.  I have just two headings, one giving a definition of the terms, and the other a declaration of the truth.



The Terms Given in Our Subject



The terms are, of course, ‘application and interpretation  I used a dictionary to see what definitions were given to these two words.



Application:  I found that amongst several explanations of the word ‘apply’ some meanings were ‘to devote’ or ‘to suit  On referring to Cruden’s Concordance I found that this word ‘apply’ occurs a few times in Scripture.  One of the most well known texts can be found in Psalm 90: 12, “So teach us o number our days, that we may apply our hearts to wisdom  The earlier verses remind us that our lives are comparatively short in the light of eternity, and so Moses teaches us to pray that we may view things rightly and live accordingly.  Our earthly lives are so soon over that we are wise if we seek to live with eternity in view.  That seems to me to be a very good explanation of the word ‘apply  As we understand the truth about our time here below, so we apply that knowledge to our manner of life.  The ungodly know, whether they like to think of it or not, that they must die, but they do not apply this knowledge if they continue to live as if they were to be here always.



You may well expect Solomon to use this word.  In Proverbs 2: 2 he said, “Apply thine heart to understanding  He had been exhorting his son to listen to his instruction and apply that in his life.  There are similar thoughts in Proverbs 22: 17; and 23: 12.  Solomon also uses the word in Ecclesiastes, explaining that he himself had applied his heart to knowledge and wisdom.  We can read this in 7: 25; 8: 9 and 16.



The word can also be found in the margin of Hosea 7: 6.  In this verse, Ephraim (Israel) are described as applying their hearts “like an oven,” as they were resisting, by the lives they lived, the ways of God.  Other verses in the chapter describe this.



These are the only verses in which I could find the word “apply,” but they teach us that we should use the information gained in order to live in a certain pattern.  That is application.  There is much that we are taught [privately by the Holy Spirit] from the Holy Scripture which we should seek to apply to our own lives, and there is nothing wrong with that.  That is what Christians ought to do. 



Interpretation:  This word is found more frequently in the Bible.  The word “interpret” is one which I do not like, but it is, of course, a word God has used.  It is, I believe, a word which is often misused.  In my dictionary, the explanation given is ‘to explain, unfold or present the meaning of, to translate into intelligible words  It seems to me therefore that the correct meaning is that something which cannot be intelligibly understood is made intelligible.  In the Bible, the word is most frequently used for the interpretation of dreams, or of names.



The first time it occurs is in Genesis 40, where we read of Pharaoh’s butler and baker having their dreams.  The dreams were only a picture and could not be taken literally, but the word “interpret” comes seven times in the chapter, and it is true that the interpretation given through Joseph was fulfilled [in God’s time, literally and] precisely.  Then in the next chapter there is the record of Pharaoh’s dreams.  Joseph was called to give the interpretation and the word comes seven times in that chapter.  Again, the dreams were only a picture, but the interpretation was fulfilled precisely.  We have a similar incident in the story of Gideon.  In Judges 7: 15 we are told about the dream of the Midianite and what his fellow said.



Daniel uses the word more than any other writer of Holy Writ.  In chapter 2 the word is found twelve times.  That chapter tells us of Nebuchadnezzar’s dream of the image made of gold, silver, brass, iron, and clay.  Daniel not only told the king his dream but he said that God had shown him that there would be four great world empires, of which Babylon was the first.  Then in chapter 4 we are told of another dream Nebuchadnezzar had.  It was of the great tree which was hewn down.  Again, Daniel gave the interpretation.  In that chapter, the word “interpret” is used eight times.



We also have a vision that Daniel himself had.  This is recorded in chapter 7, and we read in verse 16 that the interpretation was given to him.  For each of these dreams and also for this vision, the picture was only a picture but the fulfilment of the interpretation was to be literal.



Also in Daniel, we find in chapter 5 the account of the writing on the wall at Belshazzar’s great feast.  Daniel was called to tell the king what it meant.  We have the word “interpret” nine times in that chapter.



The word is also used in connection with the interpretation of a proverb (Proverbs 1: 16).  Twice we read of the interpretation of a language.  In Genesis 42: 23 we find that Joseph had an interpreter when he spoke to his brothers.  In Ezra 4: 7 there is reference to a letter written in Syrian being interpreted.



The New Testament uses the word in regard to the interpretation of names: “Emmanuel” means “God with us” (Matthew 1: 23); “Talitha cumi” means “Damsel, I say unto thee arise” (Mark 5: 41); “Golgotha” means “The Place of the Skull” (Mark 15: 22); “Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani” means “My God, My God, why hast Thou forsaken Me?” (Mark 15: 34); “Rabbi” means “Master” (John 1: 38); “Messias” means “Christ” (John 1: 41); “Cephas” means “A stone” (John 1: 42); “Siloam” means “Sent” (John 9: 7). “Barnabas” means “The son of consolation” (Acts 4: 36); “Tabitha” means “Dorcas” (Acts 9: 36). “Elmas” means “sorcerer” (Acts 13: 8); “Melchisedec” means “King of righteousness;” and “King of Salem” means “King of peace” (Hebrews 7: 2).



The word occurs twice in 1 Corinthians 12 and five times in chapter 14 in connection with the interpretation of tongues.  The last reference (14: 28) reminds us that it is better [forbidden] not to speak thus unless someone can explain what is being said.



In 2 Peter 1: 20, we are told that “no prophecy of the Scripture is of any private interpretation  It seems to me that the meaning of this phrase is that those who were moved by the Holy Ghost could not give their own thoughts when writing the Scripture.  The words were all given by inspiration of God and that is one reason why it is important not to use versions which change the words.  God is very jealous over His Word.  In Jeremiah 23: 16, the Lord emphasises that we ought not to hearken to those who proclaim their own words, out of their own heart.  If God was so careful in the giving of the words, it seems reasonable that we should not give our own interpretation of those things He has said.  So, however you understand this verse in 2 Peter, surely it must include the thought that we are not to give an interpretation of His plain words.* This may explain why I do not favour the word “interpretation


[* In other words, when God speaks of the “Church,” He does not mean “the Kingdom”!  When he speaks of “Death,” He does not mean “Resurrection”!  When He speaks of “the First Resurrection” He does not mean Regeneration!  When He speaks of “Sheol” or “Hades,” He does not mean “Heaven” or “the lake of fire”!  When He speaks of a “Reward,” He does not mean “the Free Gift”!  When He speaks of “Work,” He does not mean “Faith”!  When He says “a Thousand Years,” He does not mean “Etenity”!]



Incidently, the Hebrew word “luts” translated as “interpreter” in Genesis 42: 23 and Job 33: 23 is given in 2 Chronicles 32: 31 as “ambassador and in Isaiah 43: 27 as “teachers  The ambassadors and teachers described in these passages were not faithful interpreters.



Whenever we read of the interpretation of dreams, visions, writing, proverbs, languages, names, or tongues, we should take God’s interpretation literally.  The first chairman of the S.G.A.T., liked to emphasise that the best preaching was expository.



Exposition:  My dictionary describes the word ‘expound’ as to ‘lay open the meaning in detail  This is really what we are called to do, expound God’s holy word.  Application is quite right, but it is not sufficient.  The truth that God has given to us by revelation has to be understood, believer, and stated.



The Truth Given in the Scripture



There are examples in the Bible where application of truth is made.  On the day of Pentecost, some accused the disciples of being drunk.  Peter stated that this was not so, but they were witnessing something spoken by Joel.  He did not say it was the fulfilment of Joel’s prophecy.  A common phrase in the New Testament is “that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophet  But Peter did not use these words; he said, “this is that  Anyone looking at Joel 2 will know that it was not the fulfilment.  Pentecost was a picture, a foretaste of what will happen when Joel 2 is fulfilled, that is, when the Lord returns.  It is the Second Coming that is described in Joel 2, a time when Israel “shall never be ashamed  Verse 28 tells us that it is “afterward” that the prophecy will be fulfilled.  Thus in Acts 2: 17-18, Peter includes the word “of,” which does not appear in Joel.  At [Messiah’s] Second Coming, apart from the other things mentioned by the prophet, God will pour out His Spirit, not merely “of” His Spirit.



In Acts 15: 15, when there was a question about the inclusion of Gentiles, James quoted from Amos 9.  He did not say that the prophecy was fulfilled, but he took the words of the prophet and applied them to the discussion.  He said “to this agree the words of the prophets  He reminded the church that the reference to the tabernacle of David being built again (at the Second Coming) also spoke of Gentiles calling on God’s Name.  There was no suggestion of the fulfilment of the prophecy but the application was not incorrect.  No doubt you will think of other such words in the books of the prophets.



There is a sense in which God’s words in Joshua 1: 5, “As I was with Moses, so I will be with thee” were an application.  Things were not the same for Joshua as they were for Moses, but in all his experiences he knew that the same God was with him.  And we can, of course, apply that to ourselves if we are truly God’s people.  For God is always with such even unto the end of the age.



Someone once wrote a letter in a magazine saying that I should read Galatians 4.  The reason for that was that it says in verse 24, “Which things are an allegory  Well, of course, Ishmael’s teasing of Isaac is an allegory, but Sarah and Hagar, and their sons were all literal people.  The ungodly do persecute believers, so that there is an allegory, or an application, but that does not mean that the incident was not a literal happening.



Thinking about the interpretation, or rather, exposition, it seems to be that it would be helpful to consider the words of George T Hunt, a previous editor of Watching and Waiting.  He wrote, many years ago, ‘In reading prophecy, remember that Israel means Israel and not Believers; Jerusalem means Jerusalem and not Heaven; Zion means Zion and not the Church; Babylon means Babylon and not Rome; Egypt means Egypt and not The World  It is a good idea to have those words placed somewhere inside the pages of your Bible.



Israel:  I recently heard a preacher refer to the new covenant spoken of in Hebrews 8: 8 as if it were a covenant with Gentiles.  It may not be wrong to apply it to Gentiles, but God specifically says with whom the covenant is.  I once heard Mr. Fromow ask a minister, who was inclined to a-millennialism, why the apostle had quoted the Jeremiah prophecy in full.  The words “with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah” had not been deleted.  The minister could not give a reason, and, as far as I know, never did.  This scripture speaks of a time when it will not be necessary to tell others to know the Lord.  Surely that is not now!  We read here of a time [yet future and upon this present earth] when both kingdoms of Israel will be blessed in fulfilment of God’s unconditional covenant with them, not a covenant based on works as was the Sinaitic one.



There are those who would tell us that Israel means all believers and they point to Romans 9: 6 and 2: 28.  But in neither of these verses are we told that Gentiles are Israel or Jews.  A right exposition is that some of Israel, or of the Jews, are not regenerate.  To read the words “believers” or “the Church” every time the words “Israel” or “the Jews” are found in the Book of Romans is a stupidity.  The same people will also speak of Galatians 6: 16.  But the word Israel in this verse means Israel, Gentile believers being previously included in those who are a new creature.



In Ezekiel 34: 11, we read of Jehovah seeking out His sheep.  It is not wrong to apply that to all those saved by sovereign grace, but the passage [as initially stated by our Lord Jesus, was directed to and] refers to Israel.  In verse 26, we read of the showers of blessing.  It is not wrong [for believers of the Gentiles] to seek such from the Lord, but the passage [was directed to Jews and] refers to Israel.  In verse 37, we are specifically told that Israel will have to pray for the blessings promised in the chapters.  Ezekiel 37 is often used to explain God’s dealing with sinners.  That is not a wrong application but the passage states that it refers to “the house of Israel” (verse 11).  There are many similar prophecies.



Jerusalem:  Isaiah 1: 1 tells us that the prophecy is a vision he “saw concerning Judah and Jerusalem  The same words are in chapter 2: 1.  So Isaiah is a book about Judah and Jerusalem.  Mr. James Payne used to say that if you were writing a history of England you would include reference to France and Germany, etc.  So, although Isaiah mentions many other nations, God says that the subject is Judah and Jerusalem.  Either God is telling the truth or He is not.  I recently heard a preacher refer to Isaiah 40: 9, and he made much emphasis of the word Jerusalem saying that it meant all Christians, and not only preachers, were to lift up their voices.  The application may be right but it is not what the verse says.



In Revelation 21: 2 we read of “new Jerusalem, coming down from God out of heaven” and in Hebrews 12: 22 of the “heavenly Jerusalem  Bishop Thompson said at one of our meetings long ago that worldly people sing, there will always be an England, but that is not strictly true.  He added that there will always be a Jerusalem.  There is to be a millennial Jerusalem on the earth, God means what He says.  The earthly Jerusalem may be a type of Heaven, but it is still Jerusalem, the city that we know here below.



When Mr. W. K. Puttnam spoke at a S.G.A.T. meeting some years ago on Zechariah 8, I remember Mr Fromow saying afterwards that verse 5 tells us that the boys and girls will be fit to play in the streets of Jerusalem, and the streets will be fit for the children to play in.  And the previous verse reminds us that old people will be there as well as the young.  There are many such wonderful prophecies about Jerusalem.



Zion: Zechariah 8: 3 speaks about Zion, which is, of course, in Jerusalem; it is described as “the holy mountain  Zion certainly is a type of the Church, for in Psalm 125: 1-2 it speaks of Mount Zion, “which cannot be removed but abideth forever.  And as the mountains are round about Jerusalem, so the LORD is round about His people



I know a man who frequently, in prayer, thanks God He has set His King on His holy hill of Zion, as if it is something which has already happened.  But Psalm 2 refers to the future, to the end of this [evil] age with nations raging and people imagining vain things; of kings and rulers against the LORD.  God’s answer to all this will be to set the Lord Jesus, at His Second Coming, here on the earth, at Zion.



There are many psalms which tell about Zion but perhaps Psalm 48 is worthy of a special thought as it recalls some of the blessings of the millennium.  “Great is Jehovah, and greatly to be praised in the city of our God, in the mountain of His holiness.  Beautiful for situation, the joy of the whole earth, is mount Zion, on the sides of the north, the city of the great King.  God is known in her places for a refuge” etc.



Babylon:  A preacher said recently in my hearing that he could not understand why Christians are so worried about Islam as when he read his Bible he understood that Rome is the system which should cause concern.  Well, there is nothing more in the Bible about Papal Rome than there is about Islam.  The truth is that they both, with many others, emerge from the Babylon of Nimrod and will return to the Babylonish system.  Bishop Thompson used to say that Babylon is the mother of harlots and Rome is one of the daughters; he considered Rome to be the worst daughter, but only a daughter.  When we read in the Bible of the Babylonish system, it includes Papal Rome, but it also includes Islam and many other false religions.



The Babylon chapters go in pairs – Genesis 10 and 11, Isaiah 13 and 14, 46 and 47, Jeremiah 50 and 51, Zechariah 5 and 6, Revelation 17 and 18.  It is not reasonable to say that the Babylon in Revelation is a different place from that in the rest of the Bible.  I would suggest that it is a weakening of our Protestant position, as if Babylon in the New Testament means Rome, Peter must have gone to Rome.  Surely that is a compromise to the Papacy who falsely claim Peter to be the first pope.  In fact, he went east and wrote from Babylon (1 Peter 5: 13).



Egypt: Egypt is a type of the world, and we have a lot to learn from that.  But Egypt means Egypt.  I remember a minister speaking from Isaiah and in dealing with the early chapters he said that Egypt meant the world.  I asked him what he would say when he reached chapter 19.  He did not reach it, and I never received an answer to my question.  Verse 25 says, “Blessed be Egypt My people  God has a purpose for Egypt as we are told in verse 12, and that is an ultimate purpose of blessing.



Application is good, but to say that the Scripture does not mean what it says is nonsensical.  We need to believe what the Bible states.  We do not profess to understand everything, but it is right to believe what we do understand.






“How readest thou? (Luke 10: 26.)


“Blessed is he that readeth (Revelation 1: 3.)



“Each must judge for himself what best meets his need.  Many holy men of God have found blessing and food for their souls, and power for life and service, as they have read right through the Scriptures within a short period.  Others again have stilled their hunger by giving themselves to prolonged, deep meditation of shorter passages in the Word. … Genuine hard work at conquering difficult passages always brings its reward an fruit and blessing.  The one great essential is always that we should, whenever possible, find some practical expression in our lives for that which we have read, so that we become doers of the Word, and not hearers only (or speakers) only.  The Scripture revelation of the will of God must be the plumb-line of our actions, and the guiding star of our lives.  Every question, great or small, must be settled in the light of the Word of God, and every circumstance of our lives find its interpretation there.” - Sister Eva.



I supposed I knew my Bible,

reading piecemeal, hit and miss,

Now a bit of John, or Matthew,

now a snatch of Genesis,

certain chapters of Isaiah,

certain Psalms (the twenty-third).

Yes, I thought I knew the Word.



But I found that thorough reading

was a different thing to do,

and the way was unfamiliar

when I read the Bible through.

We who like to scan the Bible,

dip and dabble here and there,

just before we kneel a-weary,

and yearn through a hurried prayer.



We who treat this crown of writings

as we treat on other book,

just a paragraph disjointed,

with a bored impatient look.

Try a worthier procedure,

try a broad and steady view;

we will kneel in very rapture,

when we read the Bible through!


                                                                                                       - Amos R. Wells.



God’s revelation is unique in that it answers two great questions - where man and the world came from, and what the destiny of all things will be.  No other book has ever given definite replies to these questions as the Bible.  And it is with this query regarding destiny … [that we are above] concerned.  Just as Scripture gives satisfactory information as to creation and assigns the source of all things to God, so it sheds light upon the final consummation.  According to the Bible the end of this world system will be signalized by the Second Advent of the Lord Jesus Christ.  Nineteen hundred years ago He came in humiliation; ‘despised and rejected of men,’ (Isa. 53: 3).  He offered Himself as the atoning sacrifice for sin.  But equally with this First advent the prophets [of God] proclaim His second coming.  In fact, the Second Advent has more a fuller mention than the First.  For every Bible reference to Christ’s coming in humiliation, there are ten references to His return in glory.  Naturally enough, this principle is exclusively a prophetic one.  It exhibits to a wonderful degree the omniscience of God.  Only One from nothing is hid, who has perfect understanding and knows the end from the beginning, could reveal so explicitly the facts relating to the consummation of all things in ‘the glorious appearing of the great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ,’ (Titus 2: 13). …



The fact of the matter is that no amount of perfunctory, thoughtless reading, reading merely to perform a pious duty, is of spiritual help.  Nor can it lead to spiritual insight into Scripture.  A verse or chapter of the Bible read with a wandering attention of a mind worn out by the strenuous activity of study, business, or the frenzied pursuit of pleasure simply does not register upon the spiritual faculties.  The fact that the words are Holy Scripture is of no avail.  God wants the undivided attention to the reader of His book, and true reverence demands that it be read with alert mind.  It is for this reason that the morning is so far preferable to the night as the time of Bible study.  Surely God’s Word is deserving of a few moments at the time of day when the mind is keenest and the power of concentration most vigorous.”


                                                                                                          - Frank E. Gaebelen.