PROPER HERMENEUTICS FOR UNDERSTANDING BIBLICAL ESCHATOLOGY - Part 1
Michael F. Blume
© 2009 Michael F. Blume
Hermeneutics is the study of interpretation theory. Traditional hermeneutics - which includes Biblical hermeneutics - refers to the study of the interpretation of written texts, especially texts in the areas of literature, religion and law.
Many people challenge Kingdom eschatology with the accusation that it has bad hermeneutics, as though it arbitrarily picks and chooses which prophetic statement is allegory and imagery and which is literal and face-value. They claim we have no rule-of-thumb that is consistent with our method of interpretation. Although many attempts have been sporadically made by us to explain that this is not true, the accusations continue to fly. So, let us lay forth a concise and clear explanation of the Kingdom Eschatology Hermeneutic for everyone to read, showing that there is solid and biblical reasoning behind the claims we make about certain prophetic phrases being allegory and imagery whereas others are not.
Studying hermeneutics also involves the key factor of whether or not one uses EXEGESIS or EISEGESIS. Exegesis is interpreting what an author intended the original reader to understand. However, eisegesis is reading into the text something the author never intended anyone to receive from the writings. Each view usually accuses the contradictory view of using EISEGESIS, though they might not use that term. Also, a rule to always keep in mind when interpreting the bible passage you are reading is to ensure the plain and proper reading of that passage overrides any presupposed belief or mindset we might have.
The bible must be interpreted in precisely the same way we interpret any other form of writing. Obtain the most obvious and natural sense of the writing. When the bible does use a metaphor, we need to recognize it as a metaphor.
Accusations of critics abound saying we allegorize too many instances of prophetic statements in the bible. However, I will show this to be untrue, and explain how such an accusation is actually made from lack of awareness of identical Old Testament statements that simply must be understood as allegory due to the context and subject in which they are found.
Let me give an example of a couple of bible prophecies and compare the hermeneutics used by futurists and myself and determine which is more sound.
Critics of what I prefer to call Kingdom Eschatology, or Partial Preterism, do not literalize such statements as,
"Blessed is he that readeth, and they that hear the words of this prophecy, and keep those things which are written therein: for the time is at hand." (Rev. 1:3)."At hand" is taken and claimed to refer to proximity of time from God's perspective, who looks at one thousand years as one day! They claim our perspective would see this as two thousand years plus, but God sees it as "at hand." Was this what the writing intended us to understand when we read these words, or would the plain and natural sense of the passage require us to consider that God meant the time was literally "at hand" in John's day?
One might want the text to mean that this is to be taken from God's larger perspective of time in order to retain one's paradigm and prophetic mindset, knowing that a different interpretation would weaken one's form of belief. But this would be eisegesis -- reading into the text something in order to agree with one's present belief, which is a faulty hermeneutic.
Similarly, Daniel was told to seal the until the time of the end.
Daniel 12:4 KJV But thou, O Daniel, shut up the words, and seal the book, even to the time of the end: many shall run to and fro, and knowledge shall be increased.
Daniel 12:8-9 KJV And I heard, but I understood not: then said I, O my Lord, what shall be the end of these things? (9) And he said, Go thy way, Daniel: for the words are closed up and sealed till the time of the end.
Revelation 22:10 KJV And he saith unto me, Seal not the sayings of the prophecy of this book: for the time is at hand.Compare the two accounts. First of all, can we say the same general sealing of a book is spoken to both Daniel and John? Is this "book" the one and the same?
We already know Daniel and John both prophesied of the "end". And Daniel was told of many things John's writings include, especially the concept of kingdoms arising from the sea:
Daniel 7:2-3 KJV Daniel spake and said, I saw in my vision by night, and, behold, the four winds of the heaven strove upon the great sea. (3) And four great beasts came up from the sea, diverse one from another.Daniel saw the lion, bear, leopard and a terrible fourth beast. John only saw one beast but it had the qualities of what beasts Daniel saw:
Revelation 13:2 KJV And the beast which I saw was like unto a leopard, and his feet were as the feet of a bear, and his mouth as the mouth of a lion: and the dragon gave him his power, and his seat, and great authority.There are many more examples, but we can rest assured the reference to the sealing of a book would apply to the same "book" in both cases.
But what does it mean to seal the book? What does the rest of the Bible say about such a thing?
Isaiah 29:11 KJV And the vision of all is become unto you as the words of a book that is sealed, which men deliver to one that is learned, saying, Read this, I pray thee: and he saith, I cannot; for it is sealed:Isaiah was not referring to the one and the same sealed book that Daniel mentioned. But Isaiah shows what the concept of a sealed book implies in the Bible. There is no guesswork involved in referring to Isaiah's explanation of what a sealed book indicates. We are resorting to other writings in the Bible in order to understand what the concept of a sealed book might mean. Scripture does not contradict scripture, and neither does the context of Isaiah 29:11 depart from the concept of wanting to know what a vision of Daniel might mean, for both accounts refer to visions that are not understood, and associated with inability to understand them as one cannot open a sealed book. We determine the meanings of other vague concepts the bible proposes in prophetic writings in just the same way . If Isaiah was not representing a as a sealed book that cannot be understood, but rather to something other than a vision, we could not stand upon the mere reference of a "sealed book" and claim it explains what Daniel was told. Isaiah 29:11 must have more of a connection to the issue at hand in Daniel's case than simply the same term, "sealed book", used before we can claim it explains the meaning of sealing a book. Isaiah's verse needs to show that a sealed books symbolizes a state of lack of understanding just as we find in Daniel's question for understanding when told it was not for him and that he should seal the book.
Daniel 12 and the sealed book raises another point to consider. Whereas Daniel was told it was sealed until the time of the end, we read the following in John's day.
Revelation 22:10 KJV And he saith unto me, Seal not the sayings of the prophecy of this book: for the time is at hand.Critics have told me that Rev. 22:10 again speaks from God's larger perspective of time, allowing Him to consider thousands of years as but a short time, whereas this is not the case from mankind's perspective. However, Daniel lived about 530 years before John and to be consistent, we would have to say God should have told Daniel the time was at hand, as well, if it was "at hand" in John's day. If this was not to be fulfilled until at least 2,000 years after John wrote, God's larger perspective of time would not cause Him to consider that a mere 400 hundred years added to the time since John's day was necessary to distinguish the length of time from John and from Daniel in the way we read those two references. God told Daniel the fulfillment was too far away from Daniel's time for him to understand, and four hundred years later He told John that was not case, and the book should not be sealed. Why would God look at 2,000 years as "at hand" and then consider another mere 530 years, making it 2,530 years, was not "at hand"? If God felt 2,000 years was "at hand", then adding a mere 530 years is not going to change that exact same opinion, and 2,530 years would be as much "at hand" as 2,000 years. What's so great a contrasts between 2,000 and 2,530 by adding a mere 1/6 to the figure?
Why was Daniel told to seal the book because 2,530 years was too far away from the time of the end for the meaning to be of any significance to him? The plain and obvious answer would be that Daniel would not experience the time of the end for him to have to know about the meanings of the visions that represented events that would occur then. Then we can ask ourselves why John was told to not seal the book? Why was it that the visions were not meant to be hidden from him only 400 years after Daniel wrote? If Daniel was not informed about the meanings because he would not be alive when their fulfillments would come to pass, does this mean John would be alive when they would come to pass? Here is where a futurist might insist that this cannot be the meaning. Why this insistence? Obviously, if this were the intended meaning, then futurists have to abandon their belief that none of these things were to occur until at least 2,00 years after John died. This would be an act of eisegesis, though! It would be abandonment of the plain and obvious meaning and lead to a search for an alternative meaning that does not conflict with futurism's claims.
The futurist might consider that John was informed of the meaning of the visions because he was in the church, and only church members should know about these things. Daniel died before the church age began. Think about it, though. Why would someone be given clearance to understand the visions on the sole basis that they were alive in the church age, even though the same man would not be alive when those things would come to pass?
What other reasoning might futurists derive for Daniel's forbiddence to know the meanings and John's allowance? This is the sort of question that occurs in the mind of people who are bent to hold onto their beliefs at any cost rather than accept the plain and obvious conclusion of the picture and have to change entire belief systems about eschatology. Even though the answer may not even be as yet known to the futurist, the futurist is not going to accept the more plain and obvious conclusion. However, if the writing intended us to understand something other than the most readily plain and obvious conclusion, because there is a factor involved that may not be readily known to a 21st century reader that was readily known to the first century reader, then everything is changed. Such factors may include cultural manners of speaking that we are not familiar with that would easily cause us to overlook what might have been quite plain and obvious to the first century reader.
However, I have heard of no other explanation for the differences between the instructions to Daniel and John concerning the sealing of the book other than one that does not even mention Daniel's case and claims "at hand" to God might not literally be "at hand" to John. Such a "hermeneutic" is trying to state that we must consider God's perspective of time, which includes 1,000 years being considered one day. Is that the hermeneutic we should use? Consider what this hermeneutic requires. It requires us to conclude that God does not speak in terms that relate to our perspective when He gives us prophecy. But such a hermeneutic is seen to be severely flawed when considering Daniel's case. If that hermeneutic is required in reading John's situation then we must use the same hermeneutic to explain Daniel's. But this wreaks havoc of any sense. the only way it could be consistent in Daniels' case is to conclude that Daniel could not have lived a mere 530 years before John, but something more like another 2,000 years before John at least! It is reasonable to conclude that 4,000 years is too far away even if 2,000 years is not.
We do know that both men would never hope to see the events come to pass. Informing these men of the meaning of the visions would mean they would live to experience these things. For what other reason would God not want Daniel to know the meaning of the visions?
Furthermore, Daniel was told it would be unsealed in the time of the end. If John was told to not seal it for the time was at hand, then obviously the plain reading of a comparison of the two texts would inform us that John was in the time of the end.
Matthew 24 is often referenced as the single big chapter which is interpreted drastically different by futurists and fulfilled proponents. We claim Jesus used metaphors. I will show why we claim that and how there is a proper and consistent hermeneutic for us to do so.
What is a metaphor? It is an implied comparison that claims a word or phrase is understood as something it does not literally represent. Jesus used parables, which were basically metaphorical stories. He spoke of a seed representing the Word of God and soil representing the heart of a person:
Luke 8:11 KJV Now the parable is this: The seed is the word of God.Jesus used this following picture...
Luke 8:5 KJV A sower went out to sow his seed: and as he sowed, some fell by the way side; and it was trodden down, and the fowls of the air devoured it.He then explained the meaning as follows:
Luke 8:12 KJV Those by the way side are they that hear; then cometh the devil, and taketh away the word out of their hearts, lest they should believe and be saved.And before he explained the parable, He gave us this insight about metaphors and parables.
Luke 8:10 KJV And he said, Unto you it is given to know the mysteries of the kingdom of God: but to others in parables; that seeing they might not see, and hearing they might not understand.In other words, figurative language actually enhances the point Jesus tried to relate moreso than by not using a parable and speaking of the point without figurative language. Jesus explained that what understanding you do have about any given issue (whosoever hath) is enhanced (to him shall be given) so that you actually receive more of that truth by way of the parable (and he shall have more abundance).
Continued... (click here).
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