Prophecy has several rules to it. These rules at face value may not seem to be important to the understanding of prophecy, except they are, and are very important indeed. The mind must remember not to overstep these while in study.
One rule is simple prophecy is future tense to the time it was given. The bible speaks of these things as signs, signifying, things to come, things which shortly come to pass, prophecy, and the word of God, and the hidden mystery of God, and also as secrets. Prophecy is called signs, are sometimes limited to the immediate future, but not always, and some last for a very long time.
The second rule though not easy to prove is part of the Polyfulfillment of Prophecy article. While there may be multiple references to the bible to a certain even in the history of the world to happen, once the event happens the prophecy is completed. There is no “multiple fulfillment of prophecy”, this idea trips up a great many scholarly students and causes a confusion and frustration in understanding to develop by students and scholars alike.
The third is, those who believe in Jesus as the Messiah and Son of God have a more sure word of prophecy, and prophecy is not of private interpretation. In other words prophetic interpretation is not limited to clergy or other church organizers, or even limited to a specific church or sect of Christians. However those who are not Christians will have a much harder time understanding prophecy. Sadly this limits practitioners of Judaism in their ability to comprehend these things, though with much greater effort they can still at times understand. Those even further from God have an even harder time.
2 Peter 1:17 to 21 For he received from God the Father honour and glory, when there came such a voice to him from the excellent glory, This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased. And this voice which came from heaven we heard, when we were with him in the holy mount. We have also a more sure word of prophecy; whereunto ye do well that ye take heed, as unto a light that shineth in a dark place, until the day dawn, and the day star arise in your hearts: Knowing this first, that no prophecy of the scripture is of any private interpretation. For the prophecy came not in old time by the will of man: but holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost.
1 Corinthians 14:22 Wherefore tongues are for a sign, not to them that believe, but to them that believe not: but prophesying serveth not for them that believe not, but for them which believe.
John 16:13 Howbeit when he, the Spirit of truth, is come, he will guide you into all truth: for he shall not speak of himself; but whatsoever he shall hear, that shall he speak: and he will shew you things to come.
The fourth is a condition which sometime is placed on prophecy. Some prophecy is signified, or sealed, and is given in symbols almost in its entirety, and is only understandable after given condition, or time frame has been met. While other prophecy is not signified, and can be easily understood by anyone who has read it. The entire book of Revelation for instance was signified, Revelation 1:1. While on the other hand the prophecy of Nebuchadnezzar’s Image was not signified, and the interpretation is given in the bible with the prophecy, Daniel 2. The difference is signified prophecy is not interpreted for us and must be understood as symbols for things to come.
Revelation 1:1 The Revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave unto him, to shew unto his servants things which must shortly come to pass; and he sent and signified it by his angel unto his servant John:
The last rule, rule number 5, is when as a writer, I wear the captain obvious cap. When the bible gives an interpretation for a prophecy as is the case in Daniel, and in other places. Then the only legitimate interpretation is the one given in the bible. There may be cases where more specifics have been understood because the course of time has shown the history of the prophecy to be completed in whole or in part, but no interpretation can ever contradict the one given in scripture and be correct. To give an example of this read Isaiah 14.
Isaiah 14:4 & 12 & 22 That thou shalt take up this proverb against the king of Babylon, and say, How hath the oppressor ceased! the golden city ceased! … How art thou fallen from heaven, O Lucifer, son of the morning! how art thou cut down to the ground, which didst weaken the nations! …For I will rise up against them, saith the LORD of hosts, and cut off from Babylon the name, and remnant, and son, and nephew, saith the LORD.
Now the book of Isaiah was never sealed except for a given set of people. This only happened to those who honored the teachings of men, using loopholes to worm man’s logic to overcome God’s words and intent. The previous example of the book of Isaiah concerning Lucifer is shown because there are a lot of Christians who have faith this verse is about the devil. The context of the prophecy is about the King of Babylon, and the fall of Babylon. This is a prime example of forcing an idea which we as men thing upon a passage of prophecy. The context of the prophecy does matter, context reveals the intentions of Yahweh. The most obvious reason why this is a bad interpretation is this, the kings of Babylon all lived on the earth, the devil, satan, accuser, dragon, serpent, are not mention at all in this prophecy. The thought of Lucifer as the devil does not work, because there is no direct link between Lucifer and satan, symbolically, or direct statement. This is a person who went down to hell, the grave, and the pit. The grave, and worms are spoken of in this passage, and if Lucifer were to be the devil, then he would not have been alive at the time of Jesus to be nailed to the cross. He would have died at the fall of Babylon, hundreds of years before.
Isaiah 29:11 to 13 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: And the book is delivered to him that is not learned, saying, Read this, I pray thee: and he saith, I am not learned. Wherefore the Lord said, Forasmuch as this people draw near me with their mouth, and with their lips do honour me, but have removed their heart far from me, and their fear toward me is taught by the precept of men:
The book of Isaiah is only sealed to those who choose the teaching of mankind before the word and intent of the Almighty. So biblical context is important, while secular thoughts, ideas, interpretations, and views, are not. As people who understand and interpret prophecy it is a must to remember the next 2 verses.
Revelations 22:18 to 19 For I testify unto every man that heareth the words of the prophecy of this book, If any man shall add unto these things, God shall add unto him the plagues that are written in this book: And if any man shall take away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God shall take away his part out of the book of life, and out of the holy city, and from the things which are written in this book.
Deuteronomy 4:2 Ye shall not add unto the word which I command you, neither shall ye diminish ought from it, that ye may keep the commandments of the LORD your God which I command you.
Proverbs 30:5 to 6 Every word of God is pure: he is a shield unto them that put their trust in him. Add thou not unto his words, lest he reprove thee, and thou be found a liar.
There is another slight idea to think about. Prophecy as with the rest of the bible requires hard facts to prove. What is meant by this is the information drawn from the secular world must be limited to things which are not opinion. Examples are, archeology where city names are found of buildings, or other identifying features are found. Histories written of old times which can be substantiated by observing evidence of war. Things like the crusades, the fall of Tyre, the existence of Rome, Athens, Jerusalem, some physics, math, chemistry, and behaviors of animals. All these deal with substances or known operations of the world which support history. These are hard facts, real science. Ideas which do not require “If” statements or guesses to prove. These facts are not the philosophy of men, which introduced “he said, she said” arguments, and If/then thought patterns, or maybe it’s possible. The bible is not a book of maybes, not a book of Ifs, it is a book of sincerity, and truth.
1 Timothy 6:20 O Timothy, keep that which is committed to thy trust, avoiding profane and vain babblings, and oppositions of science falsely so called:
Phillipians 1:10 That ye may approve things that are excellent; that ye may be sincere and without offence till the day of Christ;
2 Corinthians 2:17 For we are not as many, which corrupt the word of God: but as of sincerity, but as of God, in the sight of God speak we in Christ.
2 Corinthians 4:1 to 3 Therefore seeing we have this ministry, as we have received mercy, we faint not; But have renounced the hidden things of dishonesty, not walking in craftiness, nor handling the word of God deceitfully; but by manifestation of the truth commending ourselves to every man’s conscience in the sight of God. But if our gospel be hid, it is hid to them that are lost: