As an introduction to the study of Bible prophecy, there are three things we must understand:

1.  The origin of Scripture: All Scripture is given by inspiration of God…(2 Tim. 3:16).

2.  The purpose of Scripture: …and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness…(2 Tim. 3:16):

3.  The results of studying Scripture: That the man of God may be perfect [complete], thoroughly furnished unto all good works (2 Tim. 3:17).

You Must Be Born Again

        God has written the Bible for men to profit: in doctrine, reproof, correction, and in how to be in right standing with Him. Like any father, the heavenly Father of fathers wants His instructions—His Word—to be understood. He’s not holding things back, but has hidden the Wisdom of the ages for us in His Word.

        Jesus said, …[T]he words that I speak unto you, they are spirit, and they are life (John 6:63). The Bible is a spiritual book that the natural mind cannot fully comprehend, because spiritual things are foolishness to it.

1 Corinthians 1:27 But God hath chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise; and God hath chosen the weak things of the world to confound the things which are mighty; 1:28 And base things of the world, and things which are despised, hath God chosen, [yea], and things which are not, to bring to nought things that are: 1:29 That no flesh should glory in his presence.

1 Corinthians 2:9 But as it is written, Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him. 2:10 But God hath revealed [them] unto us by his Spirit: for the Spirit searcheth all things, yea, the deep things of God. 2:11 For what man knoweth the things of a man, save the spirit of man which is in him? even so the things of God knoweth no man, but the Spirit of God. 2:12 Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the spirit which is of God; that we might know the things that are freely given to us of God. 2:13 Which things also we speak, not in the words which man's wisdom teacheth, but which the Holy Ghost teacheth; comparing spiritual things with spiritual. 2:14 But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know [them], because they are spiritually discerned.

        According to First Corinthians 2:9 and 10, above, it is the Spirit of God that reveals to the born again spirit the mysteries, or hidden wisdom, which God has prepared for them who love Him. Jesus told a Pharisee and ruler of the Jews named Nicodemus that unless he be born again, he could not even see the kingdom of God—much less understand its wisdom (John. 3:1-3). Jesus then proved this fact by immediately discussing several spiritual principles of the kingdom, which this highly educated master of Israel could not understand (vs. 9-10). There was even enough of the Wisdom of God hidden in the Old Testament Scriptures—the only Bible that existed in Jesus’ day—that if Satan and his crowd had understood it, they would have never crucified the Lord of Glory (1 Cor. 2:6-8).

        In short, it is the Holy Spirit—living on the inside of every believer—that is given to teach the spiritual truths contained in the Scriptures (John 16:13-15; 1 Cor. 2:14, 16; 6:19-20). With this as a foundation, listed below are 24 simple but unalterable rules to follow as one studies the Bible. These kinds of rules are necessary in order to understand what God is actually saying in His Word. They must be applied consistently, throughout both the Old and New Testaments. They must be applied to one’s favorite passages, and also to passages where their application forces [or should force] one to change his understanding on what God is revealing in the text under consideration. One must be willing to change in order to grow in the things of God. For the man or woman who is not yet born again, keep reading. God will show enough of Himself to you to let you understand without a doubt that He is real, and that He wants you in His family.

25 Rules for Understanding Bible Prophecy

1.  Read the Bible as if God—the Father of fathers—is talking directly to you, because He is.

2.  Expect the Holy Spirit to give you understanding. He is called the Spirit of Truth and is sent to guide believers into all the truth (John 14:26; 16:13).

3.  Revelation knowledge or knowledge revealed to the spirit of a man concerning what God actually saying in His Word comes from the Father (Matt. 16:17).

4.  Revelation knowledge is sequential: you must believe what God is saying in the passage under consideration before you can fully comprehend the subsequent passages He will bring to you on that same subject.  Stated differently, the Bible is a book of progressive revelation: to him that has ears to hear what God is revealing in His Word shall more be given (Mark 4:24-25).

5.  One must fit his or her theology to the revelation that comes from a diligent application of oneself to the study of God's Word (2 Tim. 2:15). Do not try to make the Bible say what you want it to say or what is being taught in "your group."  Stay with the plain and simple truths that God will reveal when you study his Word.

6.  To continue to ignore what a passage of Scripture clearly states will lead into an area of strong delusion, in which you will eventually believe a lie (2 Thes. 2:11).

7.  Any passage of Scripture that can have a natural application must have a natural application. Look for it; God wants to reveal it to you.  

Example and proof: Jesus tells a story of a certain rich man and  a certain beggar named Lazarus, both of whom died, one carried to a place of torment [hell] and the other carried to a place of comfort.  This is not a parable but a story Jesus told to a group of Pharisees [who undoubtedly knew both men] to illustrate the truth of the eternal reality of both heaven and hell (Luke 16:14, 19-31). 

8.  Look first to a natural or literal understanding of a passage before lifting out of it a spiritual principle (1 Cor. 15:46). People who spiritualize everything in the Bible never get truly grounded in the truth of God’s Word.  

Example and proof: In Mark's version of the Great Commission, Jesus said those of His disciples who believed in His Name would cast out devils and lay their hands on the sick and the sick would recover (Mark 16:15-18).  For the believer who, in faith,  acts upon these promises: devils flee and the sick recover.  Likewise, for those who believe that these things have passed away, for them it has.

9.  Because truth is parallel, eternal spiritual truth and even spiritual laws that govern the kingdom of God may often be lifted out of a passage.  Be careful, however, not to bend or distort God’s Word in order to fit the Bible to the point you are trying to make.

Example: John 3:16 For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.

Proof: A spiritual truth contained in the first nine words of this passage: God is love; God is a giver—He lives to love and to give.

10.  Many passages of Scripture have a double reference. This is known as the law of the double reference: which requires one to gain an understanding of the passage in each of its applications or settings. This law is most prevalent in prophetic passages.

Example: Malachi 4:5 Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the LORD: 4:6 And he shall turn the heart of the fathers to the children, and the heart of the children to their fathers, lest I come and smite the earth with a curse.

Proof: Jesus in His earthly ministry said that John the Baptist had the same spirit [Anointing] as the prophet Elijah [Elias], and that he would have fulfilled the requirements of Malachi 4:5 had the Jewish nation accepted Him as its Messiah in His first Advent (Luke 1:17, 7:27; Matt. 11:14; 17:10-13). This did not occur.  Malachi’s prophecy will now be literally fulfilled when Elijah returns as one of the two witnesses of Revelation 11. [We know for certain that Elijah is one of the two witnesses because Heb. 9:27 says that…it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment. Elijah is one of only two men the Bible records as having never died (2 Kings 2:11). Therefore, he has to be one of these two witnesses. Enoch, obviously, has to be the other (Gen. 5:24; Heb. 11:5).]

11.  Both the Old Testament (written in Hebrew and Chaldean) and New Testament (written in Greek) contain hidden within them the law of the first use. This law simply put is that the first usage or translation of a word in either testament governs its subsequent usage throughout the rest of that testament. This does not mean that original language words cannot be variously translated under the rules of the particular language. In problem passages, however, if one always returns to the first translation of the particular word and be guided by it, error will not creep into one’s understanding of what God is saying in the passage under consideration. The proof of the existence of the law of the first use is to first believe that it may exist, and then prove it by use (see #12, below).

12.  Use of word studies—tracing the meanings and usage of Bible words—is a must for the proper understanding of Scripture. As such, a portion of one’s Bible study must be done in the King James Version of the Bible, using the numbering system of words in Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance(1). In his concordance, Dr. Strong assigned a number to every original language Bible word. He then cross-referenced these numbers to every English word used in the King James Bible. By so doing, he made it quite easy to trace and compare the various translations of the Hebrew, Chaldean and Greek words used in the Bible by the number he assigned to them. This ability is invaluable in gaining an in-depth understanding of what the Holy Spirit is saying in any passage under consideration.

13.  Some passages of the prophetic Scriptures have a split-fulfillment.

Example: Isaiah 61:1 The spirit of the Lord GOD [is] upon me; because the LORD hath anointed me to preach good tidings unto the meek; he hath sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to [them that are] bound; 61:2 To proclaim the acceptable year of the LORD, and the day of vengeance of our God; to comfort all that mourn…. In this passage, Isaiah prophesies of the ministry of Jesus, 700 years before He was born.

Proof: Luke 4:17 And there was delivered unto him the book of the prophet Esaias [Isaiah]. And when he had opened the book, he found the place where it was written, 4:18 The Spirit of the Lord [is] upon me, because he hath anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor; he hath sent me to heal the brokenhearted, to preach deliverance to the captives, and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty them that are bruised, 4:19 To preach the acceptable year of the Lord. Jesus finds Himself in the Book of Isaiah, He reads to the people in His hometown of Nazareth.

    4:20 And he closed the book, and he gave [it] again to the minister, and sat down. And the eyes of all them that were in the synagogue were fastened on him. 4:21 And he began to say unto them, This day is this scripture fulfilled in your ears.  Note, however, that the bold-typed portion of Isaiah 61:2 concerning the day of God's vengeance was not fulfilled by Jesus in His earthly ministry, but will be fulfilled by Him at His second coming to judge the world.

14.  Believe the Bible. Do not try to interpret it. Ask the Spirit of God for an understanding, He will give it to you.

15.  Obey what you do understand; God will give you more (Mark 4:23-24).

16.  Understanding the Bible comes precept upon precept, precept upon precept; line upon line, line upon line; here a little, and there a little (Isa. 28:13). It is good to read the Bible; but, we are admonished to study it (2 Tim. 2:15). Its proper study comes only by precept upon precept, precept upon precept; line upon line, line upon line; here a little, and there a little (Isa. 28:13). This cannot be accomplished solely by a promise box or daily schedule to read the Bible through in a year—both of which are good—but must be supplemented with a more structured study if real spiritual understanding is to be achieved.

17.  Read the Old Testament as a picture or shadow of the New. It is far more than a history lesson of the Jewish nation. The Bible says…all these things happened unto them [the Israelites] for ensamples [examples]: and they are written for our admonition, upon whom the ends of the world are come (1 Cor. 10:11).

Example and proof: The Law given by Moses was only a shadow of good things to come, as was the tabernacle in the wilderness but a shadow of heavenly things, which God has now revealed to us in the New Testament (Heb. 8:5; 10:1). In reading the Old Testament, begin to see Jesus in the pictures of what God was teaching through the Law of Moses and through the recorded historical accounts of the children of Israel.

18.  The Bible speaks of three groups of people: the Jews, the Gentiles [those without God], and the Church (1 Cor. 10:32). Israel will exist forever on the earth as an eternal nation (Isa. 9:6-7; Luke 1:32-33); and the Old Testament is full of promises of God to the nation Israel that will be fulfilled in the Millennium and beyond. It is error, however, to attempt to make all of the numerous promises of God to Israel apply to the Church—unless their application validly fits into a double reference passage that includes the Church.

Example and proof: God promised Abraham that He would give to him and his seed the land that Israel now occupies, plus a great deal more territory that the nation has never possessed: including Jordan even as far away as unto the Euphrates river—modern day Iraq (Gen. 13:14-15, 17; 15:18-21; Josh. 1:2-4). To Israel God has given and earthly hope—the land. To the Church God has given a heavenly hope—a city, which is the New Jerusalem (Rev. 21:2-3; Rev. 21:9-10).

19.  The Book of Daniel is the prophetic mold into which one pours the prophecies of the Book of Revelation. Without an understanding of both the fulfilled and unfulfilled prophecies that God gave to Daniel, the Book of Revelation can only be partially understood...seen through a glass darkly (1 Cor. 13:12).

20.  The Book of Revelation is written in a circular reference code. It contains details, details and details—usually given is a series. There are over 100 separate and distinct facts in its first chapter alone. If one is not meticulous in the tracking of these details, in their re-ordering, and when they have omissions or additions thereto, it is easy to be lulled to sleep by their repetition and become hopelessly lost in the actual ordering and sequence of events set forth in the Book.

Example and proof: There are similarities between the 7th seal, 7th trumpet judgment and 7th vial of the wrath of God. It is in the plotting of their differences, however, that 3 separate events in 3 different time periods emerge.  

21.  Most of the symbols used in Revelation are explained somewhere else in the book, usually in a nearby verse. Once the definition is obtained, substitute the definition for the symbol and re-read all passages where the symbol is used.

Example and proof: The great whore of Rev. 17:1-3 is defined in Rev. 17:18 as that great city which reigneth over the kings of the earth. The waters on which she sits in verse 1 are revealed in Rev. 17:15 to be peoples, multitudes, nations and tongues. Reading the chapter using these definitions rather than the symbols will immediately remove much of its mystery.

22.  Interpreting a symbol without symbolic language will lead to compounded error.  When a symbol is being discussed in the Bible, the accompanying language will indicate a symbol of something is being referenced. These indicators are usually the words "like" or "as." Be unalterable in following this rule to take a passage literally unless symbolic language is present.  This is most critical in studying the Book of Revelation.

Example and proof: Great theological arguments have been provoked by attempting to make the Apostle John in Rev. 4:1-2 or the 24 elders in Rev. 4:4 "represent" something other that what or who they are—the Church for example. A thousand times, No! There is no symbolic language in either of these passages. John is John, and the 24 elders are the 24 elders. To make either into something other than what they are will only compound the error of one's understanding.  [Strict adherence to this simple rule will force many sincere believers in the Word of God to rethink the rapture of the Church and to find where it actually occurs in the Book of Revelation.]

23.  Unless one reads the prophetic Scriptures—the whole Bible for that matter—with a determined discipline to let God do the talking (and not our theology or denomination), then one can make the Bible say almost anything.

Example and proof: Jesus said, That thou does, do quickly (John 13:27).  Mary said, Whatever he saith unto you, do it (John 2:5).  Judas...went and hanged himself (Matt.27:5).  Jesus again said, Go and  do thou likewise (Luke 10:37).

24. There is no Scripture in the entire Bible that speaks of a "7-year tribulation period." The last 7 years of this the dispensation of the grace of God (Eph. 3:2) is The Antichrist Covenant Week of Years (Dan. 9:24-27, notes). It is divided into 3½ years of the tribulation that comes from Satan, and 3½ years of the wrath which comes from God. In His crucifixion, the body of Jesus experienced a period of time (3 hours) when He endured the great tribulation brought by Satan.  Immediately thereafter He suffered a subsequent period of time (3 hours) during which He was made to be sin and the wrath of God fell upon Him (Mark 15:25, 33-37; 2 Cor. 5:21). For the body of Christ, it will experience its great tribulation—literally, the tribulation, the great (Rev. 7:14)—during the first 3½ years of the Antichrist Covenant week. But, as God has promised, the Church shall be delivered from the wrath of God, which falls during the last 3½ years of the Antichrist Covenant week (which is also the last half of Daniel’s 70th week), and in the 75 days thereafter (1 Thes. 1:10; 1 Thes. 5:9; Rom. 5:9; Rev. 3:10; Dan. 12:11-12).

25. In the understanding of the Bible and Bible prophecy, the basic rules of language and grammar are in application.  For instance, in the English language the word “he” or “him” must have a reference object.

Example and proof:  Daniel 9:26 And after threescore and two weeks shall Messiah be cut off, but not for himself: and the people of the prince that shall come shall destroy the city and the sanctuary; and the end thereof shall be with a flood, and unto the end of the war desolations are determined. 27 And he [the Antichrist] shall confirm the covenant with many for one week: and in the midst of the week he shall cause the sacrifice and the oblation to cease…

The “people of the prince that shall come” is generally considered to be a reference to the Roman General Titus that destroyed Jerusalem and the temple in A.D. 70.  But cannot possibly refer to Titus if the “he” in Daniel 9:27 refers to the Antichrist: as commentators are in general agreement with. The prince that shall come” in verse 26 is, therefore, a reference to the Antichrist; and the people of the prince” refers to the armies of the Antichrist (see Zechariah 13:8-9; and 14:1-2).

Let Us Get Started

        Although we could list other rules for studying the Bible, these are enough to keep us on track as we study The Coming Events In Bible ProphecyThe Chronological Order of Revelation, and the accompanying articles in this Web site.

Walter James Taylor


1. Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance, by James Strong, Baker Book House, Grand Rapids, Michigan 49506, reprinted 1981. See also the companion volumes of Baker Book House which are geared to Dr. Strong’s numbering system: The Englishman’s Greek Concordance of the New Testament, by George V. Wigram, 1979; The Englishman’s Hebrew and Chaldean Concordance of the Old Testament, by George V. Wigram, 1980; and Gesenius’ Hebrew-Chaldean Lexicon to the Old Testament, by H. W. F. Gesenius, 1979. For definitions of New Testament words, we recommend, The Expanded Vine’s Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words, by W. E. Vine, John R. Kohlenberber III, Editor, Bethany House Publishers, Minneapolis, Minnesota 55438, 1984, which is also coded to Dr. Strong’s numbering system.

© 1997-2009 Walter J. Taylor, Walter James Taylor

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