THE SIGN, THE EVENING GLOW,
AND THE CONSUMMATION OF THE AGE

Chapter 1

Introduction To Prophetic Study


In some quarters there is an aversion to the study of the prophetic Word--an attitude that, while deplorable, is not wholly without justification. Both now and in the past, many earnest men of God have, in an unscientific and superficial manner, studied the predictions of the Word of God that relate to the future. Drawing hasty conclusions, they have proclaimed their unsound deductions as being the very Word of God, even to making out the "order of events" and setting a time schedule for the Lord to follow. It is needless to say that the Almighty does not run the affairs of His universe according to man-made timetables.

When dates are set and the Lord does not fulfill these unscriptural expectations the credulous, in bitter disappointment, are thrown into a stupor of despondency and skepticism. In many instances this has proven disastrous to large numbers of people and done untold harm to the cause of our Lord. The reactions of disappointment and disillusionment which always follow have caused many people to reject all studies of unfulfilled prophecy.

Numerous modern-day prophets warn of the evident and impending crisis toward which we are rushing with the passing of each day. Unfortunately, in certain circles at least, it appears that the more spectacular the teaching concerning coming events the better it is received. Some who have a mere acquaintance with the prophecies are pushing forward to satisfy this morbid curiosity and to prey upon the credulity of the uninformed.

When people are stirred by fantastic, speculative teachings, they become accustomed to such thrills. The sober, plain and logical exposition of the prophecies cannot satisfy their abnormally developed curiosity. Desiring to delve into the mysteries of the future concerning which God has made no revelation, they constantly bring forth new and strange doctrines of a still more spectacular character to meet this unnatural craving. In such cases there is justification for the criticism that students of prophecy often cease to be students and turn prophets themselves.

Being unacquainted with the established facts and unable to differentiate between wild speculations and the sane sober teachings of those who have made a thorough and scientific investigation of the prophecies, many earnest people conclude that no one can understand the unfulfilled prophecies and that all who attempt to teach them are merely guessing and speculating. They then place all such teachings in the same category--usually it is the black list!

Acknowledging with regret that there have been many fantastic, unscriptural speculations relative to prophetic matters and that at the present time a volume of wild, fanciful and unreasonable teaching pours forth daily to confuse the minds of the untaught, I earnestly ask the reader not to classify all students of prophecy as "fanatics" and to refrain from dubbing them with some opprobrious name.

According to church history, all of the outstanding men in the church of the first three centuries were students of prophecy. I admit there was some speculation among these giant defenders of the faith in the early developing church, but they were the exception and not the rule.

In all fields of inquiry men seem to have to grope their way at first. History shows that in all of the sciences those who have blazed the way toward better things have at times yielded to the subtle influence of theory and speculation. But as time passes they begin to plant their feet upon the solid rock of facts and recognized truth. The same is true with reference to the study of unfulfilled prophecy.

Those of us who have labored in this field sincerely desire to profit by the mistakes of the past and to give forth that which is supported by the plain declarations of the Word of God. That being true, we request the reader to dismiss from his mind any errors he has been exposed to and approach these articles with one object in view--to know what the Lord has said on the subject presented and to ask, as David did, that the Lord open his eyes so that he might behold the wonderful things in the Word of God.

The principles of interpretation of language that are well established and widely recognized have been followed and the Scriptures approached with the absolute conviction that they are the inspired Word of God. I believe the Lord said what He meant and meant what He said--that every word has its own inspired significance.

The first principle of understanding any language is what I call the "Golden Rule of Interpretation": "Take every word at its primary, ordinary, usual, literal meaning unless the facts of the context indicate otherwise." This rule is recognized by logicians, grammarians and rhetoricians as the true criterion by which one must be governed. When guided by this principle, one cannot go far afield, but if it is ignored, one roams at will and can never know whether he has interpreted the Word of God correctly.

There are other principles of interpretation which are of vital importance to correct Scriptural exegesis that will be noted whenever they apply.


Footnotes:

 See "Laws of Interpretation"