A key to understanding the Bible is learning how to properly interpret it through the guidance of the Holy Spirit. He guides us to principles of Bible interpretation. Sounds simple. However, cultural traditions and personal biases complicate our efforts. Another barrier arises from the biblical concept that there are three realms of existence: our physical world, God’s heavenly realm, and a spiritual realm that bridges the other two. This multi-realm structure can create paradoxes where something is true in one realm but may seem contradictory in another realm. Passages that seem contradictory are possible to harmonize by identifying their relationship to these separate realms. But we will be frustrated and confused if we try to force all passages into merged realm context. The kingdom of heaven’s interaction on earth is a good example that will be thoroughly explored.
As discussed in the Introduction and Appendix 1, biblical prophecies can utilize literal or figurative language while referring to the physical, heavenly, or spiritual realm.[footnote]This creates six possible combinations: Literal/Physical, Literal/Heavenly, Literal/Spiritual, Figurative/Physical, Figurative/Heavenly, and Figurative/Spiritual.[/footnote] Knowing the point of reference in a given passage will untangle many complex paradoxes found in Scripture. The big picture and complete context of the Bible will start to come together as you sort the paradoxical puzzle pieces according to their categories. With proper perspective comes correct insight.
If this sounds like a lot of work, don’t blame God for making it difficult for us to understand the Bible in its original context—the fault belongs to our own culture and traditions. Our experiences and biases obstruct our efforts to interpret passages objectively. Depending on tradition or preconceived notions, a person generally falls into one school of interpretation and follows along with others in that grouping:
- A belief that the Bible is primarily focused on the spiritual realm and our mystical enlightenment;
- A belief that the Bible is concerned with our welfare in both the physical and spiritual realms;
- A belief that the Bible is primarily concerned with the physical realm and our bodily welfare.
People within the first camp do not necessarily give every passage a spiritual interpretation. They acknowledge that there are actual historical events mentioned in the Bible. But they predominantly view the language of the Bible as metaphorical, analogical, symbolic, or allegorical. This approach allows us to make Bible passages mean whatever we want to believe. Interpretation becomes a subjective matter—but this book is about objective approaches to the Bible. If you yourself tend to read the Bible through a purely spiritual lens, this book will present some interpretations you perhaps have not considered before. I challenge you to read with an open mind.
Likewise, people in the third camp do not necessarily interpret every passage literally. There are obvious metaphors (figurative language) in the Bible, but for the most part, this person believes in the history of the Bible, the miracle accounts, the existence of Satan, and the fulfillment of prophecies. People in this camp believe that prophesied events that have not yet occurred will be fulfilled on earth; they are not focused on spiritual fulfillment.
A 2016 Barna study found that about 7 percent of Americans fall into this third camp. Most proclaimed Christians fall into Camp 2.[footnote]“The State of the Church 2016.” Barna Group, 2016. Accessed on April 30, 2019, at www.barna.com/research/state-church-2016/ – Note: this link may be broken. Other trends are found in the 2019 survey here – https://www.barna.com/research/state-of-the-bible-2019/.[/footnote]
Camp 2 is the hardest perspective to nail down because there is room for numerous belief systems between the extremes of the physically focused and spiritually focused camps.
At the dawn of Christianity, believers mostly fell into either a Hebrew way of thinking (an eastern perspective) or a Greek (western-centric) mindset. Within 100 years after the time of the apostles, each viewpoint had its champions—such as Irenaeus (eastern)[footnote]Irenaeus believed the revelation received by the Hebrew apostles was sufficient for modern instruction: “But Polycarp also was not only instructed by apostles, and conversed with many who had seen Christ, but was also, by apostles in Asia…always taught the things which he had learned from the apostles, and which the Church has handed down, and which alone are true. To these things all the Asiatic Churches testify, as do also those men who have succeeded Polycarp down to the present time” (Against Heresies, III.3.4, III.4.3).[/footnote] and Clement of Alexandria (western).[footnote]Clement believed the Greek cultural mindset could lead a person to righteousness: “Accordingly, before the advent of the Lord, philosophy was necessary to the Greeks for righteousness. And now it becomes conducive to piety; being a kind of preparatory training to those who attain to faith through demonstration” (Stromateis 1.5).[/footnote]
At the turn of the 5th Century, Augustine of Hippo arrived on the scene. In his book City of God, he argued for the amillennialist view that the thousand-year reign of Jesus on earth as described in Revelation 20[footnote]The passage reads as follows: “Then I saw an angel coming down from heaven, holding in his hand the key to the bottomless pit and a great chain. And he seized the dragon, that ancient serpent, who is the devil and Satan, and bound him for a thousand years, and threw him into the pit, and shut it and sealed it over him, so that he might not deceive the nations any longer, until the thousand years were ended. After that he must be released for a little while. Then I saw thrones, and seated on them were those to whom the authority to judge was committed. Also I saw the souls of those who had been beheaded for the testimony of Jesus and for the word of God, and those who had not worshiped the beast or its image and had not received its mark on their foreheads or their hands. They came to life and reigned with Christ for a thousand years. The rest of the dead did not come to life until the thousand years were ended. This is the first resurrection. Blessed and holy is the one who shares in the first resurrection! Over such the second death has no power, but they will be priests of God and of Christ, and they will reign with him for a thousand years” (Revelation 20:1–6).[/footnote] should not be interpreted literally.[footnote]St. Augustine. City of God, Book XX, Chapter 7. Accessed on April 30, 2019, at www.newadvent.org/fathers/120120.htm[/footnote] His argument, using a Camp-2 hybrid approach, was predominantly accepted for most of western Church history up through the Reformation and Protestant periods. Since the post-Reformation period, several Protestant groups have shifted to more literal interpretations within the modern premillennial movement (which argues that the millennial kingdom described in Revelation 20 will literally come to pass).
Let’s try to group the primary perspectives on Revelation 20 according to whether they interpret the passage literally or figuratively, and whether they look for fulfillment in the physical, heavenly, or spiritual realm.
- New Age/Gnostic[footnote]Gnostics believe the physical world is an evil, inferior realm. The soul is trapped within the body and must be set free through “gnosis,” or spiritual knowledge. Gnostics see no value in any sort of earthly millennial kingdom.[/footnote]—this camp expects a figurative fulfillment in the spiritual realm, focused on the mystical implications.
- Amillennial/postmillennial[footnote]Amillennialists do not believe the passage refers to a literal thousand-year reign. Postmillennialists believe this refers to a victorious reign of the church on earth before Christ’s second coming.[/footnote]—these viewpoints differ on whether the language of the passage is literal or figurative.
- Premillennial[footnote]Premillennialists interpret this passage literally, expecting Christ to reign for a thousand years on earth upon his second coming.[/footnote]—this camp expects a literal fulfillment in the physical realm.
If you don’t feel like your own view is represented by one of these labels, don’t worry; we’re merely looking to simplify discussion for now. I myself do not intend to rigidly argue for one of these labels over another—except to recommend against the extreme represented by the Gnostics and the mystics. I appreciate the premillennial’s insistence on looking for literal fulfillment of prophecy, but some adherents can be too rigid in their focus on the physical realm
In the Introduction, I shared my perspective that God has a single plan of redemption, and if I were to adopt a single label, it would represent that belief. I believe that God has been using the same plan from Genesis 3 onward to redeem all mankind. He rolls it out in stages, but there is only one plan.
Because God does not change His nature over time, we can study the interwoven biblical passages to discover an objective interpretation of God’s progressing plan. From Old Testament to New Testament, every passage of Scripture unfolds. We can easily follow the progression of the covenants God made with Abraham, with the nation of Israel, and with David—and finally the new covenant.
The main point of Scripture in this view is that there is only one plan of redemption for all people throughout all history. As we look at various passages throughout this book, this is the lens I will be using. To illustrate the book’s perspective by way of contrast, let’s look at one of the labels of interpretations—preterism.
One of the primary beliefs of preterism is that Christ’s kingdom has already begun in full revelation. Preterism holds that Christ came in AD 70 to establish his current kingdom—which is spiritual, not a physical reign over any earthly territory. Preterists are unable to claim any physical observation of the second coming, but point to the destruction of the Temple in that same period as evidence. The cessation of Temple worship finalized God’s judgment on Israel, and the Spirit now resides in the souls or “temples” of all true believers.
Full preterism depends on a figurative interpretation of Acts 1:11, which quotes an angel as saying, “Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking into heaven? This Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will come in the same way as you saw him go into heaven.” Had Christ returned to earth physically in AD 70 on any scale, it would have been reported by the early Church and historians. But since preterism looks to a spiritual kingdom and not an earthly one, isn’t it reasonable to argue for an already fulfilled spirit-only return of Christ to fulfill second advent prophecies?
Unfortunately for the preterists, a majestic, physical return of Christ is very clearly spelled out in many passages that heavily convey if not demand a literal interpretation. Acts 1:11 speaks to the logistics that of Christ’s return, comparing it to the ascension the disciples had just witnessed. Other passages state that all people on earth will see his physical return.[footnote]See Matthew 24:30; Revelation 1:7.[/footnote]
So preterism’s hyper-focus on the spiritual realm holds up under a stubborn insistence on viewing passages through a figurative lens. While preterists do not go to the extremes of the Gnostics in this regard, the method of biblical interpretation is similarly flawed. I won’t be discussing any purely spiritual interpretations of the Bible. This cannot help us in our goal to pursue objective interpretations of prophetic passages that refer to events within the physical realm. Of course, some prophetic passages do indeed relate to events in the heavenly or spiritual realms, so we will need to apply discernment. Clearly understood passages like Acts 1:11 help us narrow down possible meanings of more difficult texts after we realize Christ is coming back to earth physically. Once a big picture starts to develop, our interpretive work becomes much easier.
In other words, we will be using a literal interpretive method that takes literal or figurative language and places it into a realm. Even figurative language in the Bible often speaks to an event that will certainly happen in the heavenly realm or spiritual realm, so it ends up “literally” occurring. This approach allows objective meanings to be derived in any realm.
Throughout this book we will be exploring various amillennial and premillennial viewpoints and how they relate to the gospel. I’m narrowing the focus to these two perspectives as they are by far the most popular schools of end-time thought in Christianity.
When the Bible mentions the kingdom of God, the language often makes particular reference to our earthly realm; other passages specifically refer to a heavenly kingdom (“the kingdom of heaven”). It is important that we recognize these two different types of kingdom passages, noting which realm is relevant to each specific verse.
In the majority of end-time views of interpretation, a physical realm (where we reside) and a heavenly realm (where Christ is ruling from right now) are acknowledged. They both work “in parallel” with each other—in other words, the dual realms interact. Without an understanding of dual-realm interaction in spiritual language, we are bound to come up with confusing interpretations or private interpretations, subjectively selecting which passages speak literally of the physical realm on earth and which speak figuratively of another realm.
Many passages in the Bible mention events going on in heaven and on earth at the same time, describing how spiritual warfare quietly affects earthly events. This dual interaction concept explains many end-time events.
We tend to focus on our preconceived beliefs when interpreting difficult verses, either leaning toward a physical or spiritual implication. But the Bible states both realms work in parallel, the seen and the unseen together.[footnote]For examples of multiple realms interacting, see Job 1:6–12; Daniel 10:10–14; Luke 22:31–32; 2 Corinthians 10:3–4; Galatians 5:17; Ephesians 6:12; Colossians 1:16; and Hebrews 9:19–26.[/footnote] This will help us to understand end-time prophecies.
Galatians 4:6 shows all three realms interacting: “God sent forth the Spirit of his Son into our hearts.” This is a merger of spiritual activity sent from the heavenly realm into our physical body.[footnote]Note that “heart” is a clearly understood metaphor found in the Bible; it refers to our mind, conscience, or inner being, not a pumping organ.[/footnote] Two realms interact in the Holy Spirit.
This verse in Galatians demonstrates the spiritual realm meeting our physical body in our inner being. There are numerous passages like this (see also the examples from the Introduction about God pouring out his Spirit). Does the verse describe an actual event taking place, or are we supposed to derive some mystical meaning? If we take the multi-realm approach and a literal interpretation, we know the verse refers to something that God does in the physical realm.
The idea of one realm touching another can be difficult to grasp. We may find it hard to fully understand how our inner being meets the Holy Spirit. But God can simply send forth “the Spirit of his Son” in the form of a Bible verse entering our consciousness.
As confusing as they may be to us, the spiritual aspects of the Holy Spirit living in us and the battles between the physical and heavenly realms are far easier for us to understand than the prophecies of future events. This is because we do not always know if a prophecy passage is speaking to a vision of the heavenly realm or the future physical realm; after all, the event hasn’t happened yet.
We tend to declare a Bible passage as figurative or spiritually oriented when a literal meaning within our physical realm would be difficult to comprehend or believe. This is a reasonable impulse. It would be a very difficult task to arrange literal interpretations of end-time prophecies into a coherent sequence of events. The imagery of Revelation doesn’t fit neatly into a timeline. But that doesn’t totally let us off the hook, as many end-time prophecies do refer to physical events. How do we practically discern and interpret all these passages? In our case herein, we first need an understanding of God’s master plan that is to be continually carried out until the last day—the end of this age as we know it.
The difficult passages become clearer if we keep in mind the common thread throughout the Old and New Testaments. We can compare passages for coherency with the rest of Scripture. Self-evident passages of Scripture interpret difficult passages of Scripture.
Many people read difficult passages, then utilize a preconceived notion to achieve an interpretation that “makes sense.” This is wrong. We should instead put our opinions on hold, go read other passages that provide more clarity, then return to the difficult passage to make sure it fits with the rest of Scripture.
Let’s start with an easy comparison. Here are two examples of spiritual resurrections using figurative language:
“If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ who is your life appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.”
“But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved—and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.”
Notice both passages speak to being “raised” in the past tense, referring to a spiritual type of resurrection. Later, in both passages, there is a switch to a future tense (“will appear” and the “coming ages”).
The word “raised” in these passages comes from a Greek root word that means “lifted” or “wakened.” This root differentiates from other resurrection passages that use a “standing up” root-word meaning. Passages that denote a physical or bodily resurrection to show the action of a dead body rising use the “standing up” root. In contrast, both passages above are easily recognizable as spiritually “raised” language, not physical “lifting” to heaven language. “Raised” is a metaphor, but it refers to an event that actually took place: a believer was born again, becoming baptized by the Spirit.
It would be nice if we could always spot the difference between physical and spiritual prophecies so easily. The same interpretive principles always apply—first look at root-word usage and its usage in other passages—however, prophecy is a more complicated endeavor for the reason previously stated: we don’t always know what realm the writer is referencing. If a given passage doesn’t clearly indicate a specific realm, then we can only go to other passages to see if there are already established meanings of similar words, phrases, or concepts.
To begin examining end-time prophecies, we should first read literally, then make an initial attempt to place these passages within a realm. This placement should be informed by our knowledge of the context of identical terms used in similar passages. If literal fulfillment proves impossible within the physical realm or heavenly realm, then we are left to treat the language figuratively in an attempt to obtain spiritual meaning. In any case, all interpretations found in this book will fit into this key idea: God doesn’t change. He has one single continuing plan for redemption, and prophecies of the second advent will realize the same literal fulfillment on earth that first-advent prophecies enjoyed.
Old Testament passages that were literally fulfilled at the first advent sometimes contain additional prophecies about the second advent. We should evaluate these passages first, establishing whether figurative or literal language is used. Logic maintains that if a first-advent prophecy realized literal fulfillment, then the second half of the passage should not switch to a mystical meaning regarding the second advent.
If we are going to offer opinions about our own spiritual interpretations of non-essential topics, just make sure that they do not undermine unity in the Body of Christ per Romans 14. We are offered many freedoms in Christ relating to many topics. These are nonessential issues. However, we are expected to have Christian unity in the gospel as only one gospel message is correct. If our end-time opinions begin to contradict the gospel, we need to promptly reevaluate our beliefs.
Is the gospel based on physical salvation, spiritual salvation, or both? We often fixate on spiritual salvation, but the gospel also promises a future bodily resurrection upon the merger of the earthly and heavenly realms.
We need to be aware that some end-time labels of interpretation present contrary gospel messages. You may find this hard to believe, presuming that the gospel is incredibly simple, but there are certainly different gospel messages being promoted today. Before we tackle this topic, let’s look at how some people fall into misinterpretations.
Pre-conceived notions and private interpretive methods have led to the development of numerous dubious end-time interpretations. For example, Matthew 24:36 says that no person can know “the day and the hour” of Christ’s second advent. Many inflate the concept of imminence to mean that Christ’s return will be a total surprise to believers. This inflated concept then adjusts all other passages about timing, insisting that the entire timetable is unknowable. The entire concept of a pre-tribulational rapture is built upon this imminence foundation. Private interpretation of this one verse has built a whole industry of end-time beliefs.
Instead of looking up the source of “the day and the hour” from a Hebrew perspective, some people just assume this to mean that Christ could come back at any moment. The element of complete surprise seems necessary. But the expression may come from a Hebrew idiom that refers to spotting the new moon; the general timing is known but not the exact timing until it is actually witnessed. More specifically to end times, the phrase refers to a bridegroom coming for his bride at the end of the betrothal. The father of the groom sets the exact time for when the couple’s dwelling place will be ready. This means the bride knows the general timing (or season) but not the details. The bride and her family only know the groom is coming in about one year, so they can prepare themselves generally for the arrival. This idiom should not dictate any theology or lead us to make assumptions about Christ’s advent timing.
Another view based on a more correct English translation is that no one “perceives” the day and the hour; in the perfect-tense use of the word, nothing has happened yet. Knowledge comes by perception (of the signs). The signs are to come first, and then we can know or perceive. The angels don’t know when the signs will start either.[footnote]See Matthew 24:36; Mark 13:32.[/footnote]
Other views based upon Matthew 24 and Mark 13 state that while unbelievers will be unaware of Christ’s return, believers should look for signs, such as the fig tree example, to be aware of the general season of the second coming. Nobody knows when the signs will appear and thus initiate the end of the age. The start of the end could come as a surprise at any moment under this view, but then become obvious to believers only.
Noah knew judgment was coming prior to the moment when wrath was poured out on earth. The flood was a surprise to unbelievers but not Noah. The Father gave the timing of the first advent of Christ to prophets, priests, magi, and shepherds. And so we may infer that the elect will know the general timing of the second advent. We should look to other clearer passages to understand more.
There are many interpretations of this one short statement from Christ, but the reality is that only one of them is correct (or another view is correct that is not popular or well known). Instead of forcing our opinion on the passage or making this statement fit our beliefs, we can simply put it on hold, go to other passages to see what can be learned, then return to find meaning in “the day and the hour.”
A similar concept is found in 1 Thessalonians 5:2, which says “the day of Lord will come like a thief in the night.” At first glance, we may assume this supports the imminence interpretation of the “day and the hour” passage regarding the timing of Christ’s second advent. However, a couple of lines later in verse 4, Paul states that believers will not be surprised (unprepared) that day. As shown in numerous passages, we the bride must be prepared; this is a key concept.
An entire belief system about end times tries to justify itself based on isolated verses like Matthew 24:36 or 1 Thessalonians 5:2. Another verse used as support is Revelation 22:20 where Jesus says, “Surely I am coming soon.” Preterists point to this verse, and a possible pre-AD 70 publication date, as evidence for a quiet second coming. But “soon” could also be translated “quickly,” thus referring to the manner of his return and not its imminence. In other words, it will be a fast process when he does come, not a long, drawn-out process of arrival, with judgment and salvation swift on his heels.[footnote]See Hebrews 10:37 and Romans 9:27–28.[/footnote]
Ezekiel 12:23–28 demonstrates that the ancient world did not share our modern concept of terms like “delay,” “quickly,” or the general timing of future events. The ancient concepts seem confusing to us. See for instance Ezekiel 12:27; God speaks about distant events, but in the following verse states that there will be no delay in these future events occurring. When we take these and all related passages together, we can safely infer that Christ will assuredly come again, and it will be a fast process. If we try to infer more than that, we’re on shaky ground.
The apostles and Christ himself stated that he would certainly come back, and meanwhile we are to be patient as referenced in the Old Testament prophecy of Habakkuk 2:3.[footnote]“For still the vision awaits its appointed time; it hastens to the end—it will not lie. If it seems slow, wait for it; it will surely come; it will not delay.”[/footnote] The main point from all these related passages is to provide confidence and patience that Christ will surely come again and that he will act swiftly when he does.
Matthew 24:34 states that this “generation” will not pass until statements (prophecies) made by Christ in that chapter are realized. If one is biased toward an interpretation that he would come back to earth in a 30 to 40-year generational period—that the people standing next to him listening to the prophecy firsthand would see the second coming—in this case, he certainly must have returned by AD 70. Other people interpret “generation” to mean “people” or “Israelites,” while still others believe that Jesus’ audience would live to see signs pointing to Christ’s return (but not the return itself).
If we use Matthew to interpret Matthew, we notice that the word “generation” appears several times. Matthew 23:36 is a good example: “Truly, I say to you, all these things will come upon this generation.”
The verses directly preceding Matthew 23:36 speak to fathers and sons over a very long time period, not just the people listening to Christ at that moment. In this case, “generation” refers to those who killed the prophets throughout the nation’s history. So we see that “generation” in the book of Matthew does not have to mean a 30 to 40-year cluster of people, but refers to a group of people over a vast period. Matthew 24:34 should not be used to calculate timing; a likelier interpretation is that the people of Israel will continue to exist until the end times. To confirm our supposition, we need to move on to clearer passages.
Almost any meaning can be manufactured if one spiritualizes a passage subjectively. Let’s take care not to do so intentionally. The Bible never promotes private interpretation. We rely on the work of the Holy Spirit to form one collective Body. One faith, one baptism, one Church, one God (Ephesians 4:4–6). Although we are individually gifted to share the gospel in distinct ways, we are not free to subjectively interpret what the gospel message is. If there is one Spirit, there can only be one core message. Prophets were not even allowed to opine on what they were given. Does God invite us to develop different gospels or different end-time interpretations? No. Yet we find many gospels today.
“For we did not follow cleverly devised myths when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we were eyewitnesses of his majesty. For when he received honor and glory from God the Father, and the voice was borne to him by the Majestic Glory, ‘This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased,’ we ourselves heard this very voice borne from Heaven, for we were with him on the holy mountain. And we have the prophetic word more fully confirmed, to which you will do well to pay attention as to a lamp shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts, knowing this first of all, that no prophecy of Scripture comes from someone’s own interpretation. For no prophecy was ever produced by the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit.”
In the above passage, Peter describes the Transfiguration event in which he had a vision of the second “coming” (parousia in the N.T. Greek). The full account in Matthew 17 shows how he became confused; thinking it was a real-time event, he urged his fellow disciples to help him make physical shelters for Moses and Elijah. Peter also had trouble with a supernatural event in prison (Acts 12:6–9), and he did not know if it was really happening or if it was a vision. Peter was confused both times. However, he was sure that true revelation and prophecy comes from the Holy Spirit. The prophet cannot muster up his own inspired words.
Also take note of the line about a “prophetic word more fully confirmed.” Peter had read passages from the prophets about the second coming, but his vision provided extra confirmation that these passages were true. He not only read about the glory of Christ, but he saw it in a vision. It felt so real that he thought it was coming to pass at that very moment. When he saw the vision of the future, he knew with absolute certainty Christ would come back to earth in great glory, as described by the prophets. The description of bright robes and a radiant face is what was written in the Old Testament and matches the Transfiguration vision that Peter saw.
There are many additional difficult passages we could explore, but I don’t want to look at these for now.[footnote]If you’re curious, there are numerous books and papers that explore opposing viewpoints of controversial end-time passages. Here are a few links to get you started.Pre-wrath rapture: Chris White. “The Pre-Wrath Rapture Explained.” November 23. 2011. bibleprophecytalk.com/bpt-keeping-a-consistent-hermeneutic-with-the-rapture. Accessed June 3, 2019.Pre-tribulation rapture: “What is the End-Times Timeline?” Got Questions. www.gotquestions.org/end-times-timeline.html. Accessed June 3, 2019.Post-tribulation rapture: “Post Tribulation Rapture Belife.” Post Tribulation People. www.posttribpeople.com/Post-Tribulation-Belief.html. Accessed June 3, 2019.[/footnote] Instead, let’s proceed by examining clear passages that can speak for themselves and provide for a general understanding of what God has in store.
As we assemble the crystal-clear passages, a big picture will develop, allowing other prophecies to fill in the gaps. This is similar to how most people assemble a jigsaw puzzle: start with the border pieces to set the parameters, and save the most difficult pieces for last.
When considering complex passages with unknown meanings, the key is that they must not conflict with known interpretations of other clear passages. They cannot conflict with each other since there is one Spirit who has inspired the totality of God’s Word. All Scripture must be in unison. The Holy Spirit weaves only one core message throughout the Bible, as is revealed within the literal interpretive method.
Understanding what the kingdom of God or kingdom of heaven means is crucial to understanding end-time events yet to be fulfilled. All other passages fall into line once we understand the differences between the coming kingdom and the current kingdom that has already been established. The kingdom is a case of “now and not yet.” The kingdom is established now, but it is not yet fully established; a paradox to us.
Before a future kingdom can be established, there is a piece of land to consider, as any kingdom must be built upon some foundation. But is this foundation made of earth, spiritual bedrock, or both?