Summary: Introduction to a series on the prophecies found in the book of Daniel. Also an in depth look at dispensationalism.
Correctly Handling the Word of God
I asked you to pray for me last week as I went about preparing for a new teaching series based on the prophecies found in the book of Daniel. And I thank you for your prayers and help. Next week we will actually start reading and studying and interpreting the prophecies of Daniel, and in preparation for that I encourage you to take the time this week to read Daniel chapter 2. Today, however, I wanted to give you a foundation upon which Biblical prophecy and indeed the entire Bible can be understood and interpreted correctly.
If you’ve ever done any studying or reading of Bible prophecy you know how confusing and difficult it can be to understand. And if you’ve read many works by scholars on the topic of Bible prophecy you’ve probably noticed that there are just about as many different interpretations of those prophecies as there are scholars.
I. Correctly Interpreting The Word of God
So, how then can we determine what is the correct way to interpret passages of Scripture which are difficult to understand? This is the topic I want to cover today in preparation for next week. And the Apostle Paul gives us an answer to this question in his second letter to his young protégé, Timothy. Read with me if you will 2 Timothy 2:15 (NIV).
“Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a workman who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the word of truth.” The KJV says who “rightly divides the word of truth.”
This passage tells us that the student of the Bible is a workman. A workman is someone, who in order to do his/her work, must follow a plan. He/she must have drawings, blueprints, specifications in order to do their work correctly. Therefore, a student of God’s Word must understand God’s Plan and purpose for the ages or there will be confusion when we try to correctly interpret the Scriptures.
We can correctly interpret Scripture when we understand God’s Plan. And we can understand God’s Plan when we correctly handle the word of truth or rightly divide the word of truth.
You see God’s Word is written for all people and for our learning. However, it is not addressed to all people in general. Part of the Bible is addressed to the Jews, part to the Gentiles, and part to the Church. These three classes make up the entire human race. You are either a Jew, a Gentile or a member of the church. Some of us are both Gentiles and members of the church. Paul confirms this in 1 Corinthians 10:32 when he tells the Corinthians, “Do not cause anyone to stumble, whether Jews, Greeks [Gentiles] or the church of God -.”
So, while the whole Bible was written for the instruction of the Church, it is not all written about the Church. This is where a lot of prophecy scholars and Bible teachers get into trouble when interpreting Scripture. They take portions of Scripture, which were clearly written about and to the Jews, and spiritualize it by saying that it is really talking about the Church or believers.
For example, did you know the Church is not mentioned at all in the Old Testament. The Old Testament centers almost entirely around the Jewish race. The prophets of the Old Testament couldn’t see the church or the church age. The church was a mystery hidden to them until the Apostle Paul revealed it in the New Testament book of Ephesians. Another example is the book of Isaiah in the Old Testament. Teachers have applied large portions of its prophecies to the Church. But if you read the very first verse of Isaiah it declares that it is a, “vision concerning Judah and Jerusalem…”
Then if you look in the New Testament you find that the books of Hebrews and James are Jewish as well. James 1:1 says that it is specifically addressed “to the twelve tribes scattered among the nations.” Therefore, the prayer of faith found in James 5:13-16 for the sick is not primarily a promise to the Church but to Israel, though doubtless it will be answered for all whom comply with the conditions. In the book of Hebrews many Christians stumble at the words “fall away” (Hebrews 6:4-6), and “if we sin willfully” (Hebrews 10:26). But these words do not apply to Christians. They were spoken to apostate Jews who professed Christianity but who had never been born again.
All Scripture is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction, (2 Timothy 3:16), and what happened to Israel was written for our benefit as examples and warnings (1 Corinthians 10:11), but we must not apply to the Church what does not belong to it. When we misapply Scripture we are not handling the word of truth correctly, we are robbing the Jews of what are exclusively theirs, and confusion, error and false interpretations occur.