On the spiritual view of prophecy
The prophecies of Daniel 7 and 8 each describe a little horn. The horn in each chapter appears in different beasts; the fourth beast in chapter 7 has ten horns, and is identified with the Roman empire; the male goat in chapter 8 has four horns that represent the hellenistic Greek kingdoms established after the conquests of Alexander. In both chapters the little horn is not numbered with the initial horns. The little horn that grows very tall in chapter 8 is connected with the Seleucid kingdom at Antioch, in Syria.
The little horn in chapter 7 has eyes like the eyes of a man, signifying a human point of view, which contrasts with the divine. In chapter 8 the statement “And his power shall be mighty, but not by his own power” implies a spiritual power. A “king of fierce countenance” arises who will “destroy wonderfully, and shall prosper, and practise, and shall destroy the mighty and the holy people.” [Daniel 8:24]
The Antichrist figure depicted in these prophecies is not a human individual, or the papacy, but the spirit that opposes the Spirit of Christ. In chapter 7, the little horn makes war with the saints; in chapter 8 the “king of fierce countenance” seduces them by various means; “he shall magnify himself in his heart, and by peace shall destroy many.”
The apostle John said that there were many antichrists. He wrote: “Little children, it is the last time: and as ye have heard that antichrist shall come, even now are there many antichrists; whereby we know that it is the last time.” [1 John 2:18]
Daniel says of the little horn in 7:25: “And he shall speak great words against the most High, and shall wear out the saints of the most High, and think to change times and laws: and they shall be given into his hand until a time and times and the dividing of time.” The real meaning of the phrase a time and times and the dividing of time, or “time, times and a half,” is no doubt one of the things that he attacks, and tries to obscure.
Those who say the time, times and a half or related prophetic periods represent a literal three and a half years of world-wide tribulation that is yet to begin, and who expect the church to flee to some mysterious place of safety, hiding themselves to escape from physical harm, disregard 1 John 2:18. They follow the traditions of men instead. John’s statement implies the present age is the “last time,” and the age of the antichrist, and the time of his destruction. They also disregard the teaching of Jesus: “For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: and whosoever will lose his life for my sake shall find it.” [Matthew 16:25]
The angelic messenger in Daniel 12:7 showed that the “time, times and a half” extends to the end of the age, when a resurrection occurs, and the whole world enters into judgment. Daniel wrote: “And I heard the man clothed in linen, which was upon the waters of the river, when he held up his right hand and his left hand unto heaven, and sware by him that liveth for ever that it shall be for a time, times, and an half; and when he shall have accomplished to scatter the power of the holy people, all these things shall be finished.”
In the time, times, and an half, Daniel wrote, the power of the saints will be scattered. This condition prevails today; they are scattered in tens of thousands of denominations, and sects, that believe and teach different things. This condition was also foretold by Ezekiel: “As a shepherd seeketh out his flock in the day that he is among his sheep that are scattered; so will I seek out my sheep, and will deliver them out of all places where they have been scattered in the cloudy and dark day.” [Ezekiel 34:12]
Christ is gathering his saints, and delivering them from shepherds who “feed themselves.” Ezekiel wrote: “Son of man, prophesy against the shepherds of Israel, prophesy, and say unto them, Thus saith the Lord GOD unto the shepherds; Woe be to the shepherds of Israel that do feed themselves! should not the shepherds feed the flocks?” [Ezekiel 34:2]
In Revelation 12:14, the church is represented by the woman who flees to the wilderness, where she is nourished for a time, times and a half, the same time period that is mentioned in Daniel 12:7. The woman is symbolic, the serpent who casts water out of his mouth, which threatens to carry away the woman is symbolic, and the time, times and a half, for which she remains in the wilderness, is symbolic; the two wings of an eagle given to her are symbolic; and the wilderness into which she flies is symbolic too. In the table below, the symbols in the prophecy are listed, and an interpretation is suggested for each.
|woman’s nourishment||biblical teaching|
|wilderness||when the saints escape from the world they experience trials in a spiritual wilderness|
|time, times and a half||the whole age of the church, or the remaining part of it|
|flood of water from the serpent’s mouth||deceptive interpretations|
|two wings of an eagle||understanding prophecy|
|earth or land||the saints’ promised spiritual inheritance|
Some claim that the woman in Revelation 12 does not represent the saints, or the church, but instead, she represents ethnic Jews. This was the view of John N. Darby, founder of dispensationalism. His opinions and interpretations are a fine example of the flood of water from the mouth of the serpent that threatens the woman. In his Synopsis of the New Testament, Darby wrote:
The first symbolical person, subject of the prophecy and result of all God’s ways in it, is a woman clothed with the sun, having a crown of twelve stars, and the moon under her feet. It is Israel, or Jerusalem as its centre as in the purpose of God (compare Is 9:6 and Psalms 87:6).
Darby famously denied that Israel represents the church. There are thousands of denominations and ministries that promote his doctrine.
Others say that the woman represents some particular group or sect. This belief is flawed as well; the saints are individuals known to God, whose names are written in heaven. The church in prophecy is not a human oganization, but the body of Christ, and consists of believers of all nations, in every age, who are raised up in Christ, and who “sit together in heavenly places.” [Ephesians 2:6]
The flood of water from the mouth of the serpent is a false substitute for the water of life that flows from God’s throne; it is a flood of human opinions, that are opposed to the truth and to the gospel. Jesus is the source of the waters of life. He said, “He that believeth on me, as the scripture hath said, out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water.” [John 7:38]
The wilderness to which the woman flies is not a literal wilderness, but a spiritual one. The woman’s escape to the wilderness is featured twice in the chapter, and each is significant. In the first, in verse 6, she escapes from the dragon, into the wilderness, where she is nourished. The early Christians separated from the Jewish and pagan societies, and were persecuted by them. Jesus taught, “Woe unto you, when all men shall speak well of you! for so did their fathers to the false prophets.” [Luke 6:26] They were nourished by the apostles, and the ministers appointed by them.
Christ’s church is not some powerful denomination, because how can a great denomination flee to the wilderness?
In her second escape to the wilderness, in verse 14, the woman is given the two wings of a great eagle, which represent the gift of understanding prophecy. With its powerful wings, the eagle is able to easily soar high above the earth, and the wings of an eagle given to the woman signifies a divine perspective on things, that comes from God, which includes understanding prophecy. This contrasts with her first escape to the wilderness, where her point of view was earth-bound. In her second flight to the wilderness she possesses a high and lofty spiritual perspective on the prophecies of scripture.
Hebrews 12:22 says that the saints have come to mount Zion, and the heavenly Jerusalem, and to Jesus the mediator of the New Covenant. Jesus showed that he had obtained power and authority over all things by sending gifts to the disciples in the early church. They spoke with tongues, and performed miracles. They were given gifts of prophecy. They spread the gospel around the world.
In Luke 21:20, Jesus said, “when ye shall see Jerusalem compassed with armies, then know that the desolation thereof is nigh.” When armies surround Jerusalem, its destruction is imminent. This could be said of any city; why else would armies be gathered there? But Jesus was speaking of the heavenly Jerusalem. The armies are spiritual ones; they are the source of “spiritual wickedness in high places.” [Ephesians 6:12]
The context of Jesus’ statement about Jerusalem being compassed with armies in Luke’s account is the prophecy that Matthew puts upon the mount of Olives. Instead of saying “when you see the abomination of desolation,” as Matthew says, Luke says “when ye shall see Jerusalem compassed with armies.” Armies of deceived people cause the desolation of the church.
Jesus referred to Jerusalem as “the city of the great King.” [Matthew 5:33-36] He was not speaking of the earthly city, but the heavenly one, which is the church.
Some argue that Jesus meant Christians should get ready to flee, in order to escape physical harm, and to preserve their lives. But that could not have been what Jesus meant, as it would contradict his saying, “Whosoever shall seek to save his life shall lose it; and whosoever shall lose his life shall preserve it.” [Luke 17:33] This warning is repeated in each of the synoptic gospels.
The simple truth that in his prophecies, Jesus spoke of the heavenly Jerusalem, the church, is hidden from the world. Paul said the natural man can’t understand the things of the Spirit: “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.” [1 Corinthians 2:14]
This is one of the reasons why there is much disagreement about prophecy. Men apply prophecies about Jerusalem to the earthly city, rather than to the heavenly city, and overlook the spiritual significance of many prophecies.
In Zechariah 14:2, God said, “I will gather all nations against Jerusalem to battle.”
God gathers the nations against Jerusalem, and in Ezekiel 38, God brings forth the armies of Gog and Magog against “the mountains of Israel,” and against “the land brought back from the sword,” and against “the land of unwalled villages.” All of these have a spiritual meaning; it is not about the literal land of Canaan. Verse 17 says they come against “the prophets of Israel.” No military force would do that.
The “land of unwalled villages” cannot be the modern Jewish state in Palestine, as there is a prominent wall there, separating Jewish areas from Palestinian land. The wall is more than 700 km long and up to 8 m high, with sniper towers, like the walls of a huge prison.
In Revelation 20:8-9, the prophecy of Ezekiel about Gog and Magog is interpreted as an assault upon the church. But there are some who suppose John was speaking of an entirely different event. The prophecy in Ezekiel, they say, is about an invasion of the Jewish state in Palestine, and does not apply to the church. And so they are identified as having the mind of a “natural” man, unenlightened by God’s Spirit.
In Isaiah, Jerusalem, and the mountain of the Lord’s house, are raised up, and established in the tops of the mountains, and exulted above the hills. [Isaiah 2:2] In a similar prophecy, Jerusalem is lifted up, and the surrounding land becomes a plain. [Zechariah 14:10]
Jerusalem is located in heaven in the New Testament. [Galatians 4:26; Hebrews 12:22] Paul said the saints are raised up together, and sit together in heavenly places, [Ephesians 2:6] which fulfills Isaiah’s prophecy. Jerusalem was raised up, when Jesus ascended to heaven, and he is the builder of the heavenly city. These prophecies show that there is a continuity between the prophecies of the Old Testament about Jerusalem, and the church of the New Testament, to which they apply. The church is Jerusalem raised up. It is the city that Abraham looked for. [Hebrews 11:8-10]
The city of the great king, where Jesus reigns, and which he is now building, is the heavenly Jerusalem. It is the camp of the saints, and the beloved city. [Revelation 20:8-9] People from all parts of the earth, who are deceived, come against it. These invaders do not understand prophecy; they come against the prophets of Israel. [Ezekiel 38:17] They usually misinterpret prophecy. They are blind to the fact that the Jerusalem of Zechariah’s prophecy is the heavenly city, not the earthly one.
Zechariah said that living waters will go forth from Jerusalem, in summer and in winter; this refers to the gospel going forth to the world.
In Joel 3:18, water that flows from the throne of God waters the valley of Shittim, located on east of the Jordan River. It is where the Israelites camped before entering the promised land. These waters represent the truth of the gospel.
As for the invaders, a plague affects their flesh, eyes, and tongue. [Zechariah 14:12] Horses, asses, mules, camels are also affected with plague. Horses represent people who lack understanding. [Psalm 32:9] Horses may also represent carnally minded people. [Jeremiah 5:8]
The invaders fight one another. Many examples could be mentioned; preterists vs. dispensationalists; Calvinist vs. Lutheran; reformed vs. dispensationalist; the armies include denominations, sects, ministries, individuals. Other prophecies say that the armies gather at Armageddon. False teachings, theories, flawed interpretations of prophecy are spiritual enemies of the saints; we “wrestle against spiritual wickedness in high places.” [Ephesians 6:12]
Some of the saints are taken captive by the enemy. Jesus warned, “Take heed that no man deceive you.” [Matthew 24:4] False teachers include people who are blind to spiritual truth. Jews who rejected Christ were blind to the gospel; similarly blindness is prevalent among all groups and individuals who oppose the truth, who are Gentiles in spirit.
Houses are rifled; [Zechariah 14:2] the saints are the victims. They are deprived of spiritual blessings; their spoil, which refers to spiritual things that belong to them, is divided amongst the invaders. [Zechariah 14:1]
The Mount of Olives is cleaved in the midst. [Zechariah 14:4] The two halves go in opposite directions, to the north and to the south. [Zechariah 14:5] The prophecy Jesus gave on the mount of Olives, called the Olivet Discourse, is interpreted in two opposite ways by preterists and dispensationalists. Zechariah said, flee to the valley between, “the valley of the mountains.” The mountains represent promises, and in this case the promise is: “the Lord my God shall come, and all the saints with thee.” [Zechariah 14:5]
This is actually a prophecy about the spiritual anointing of the church, which is parallel to Daniel 9:27. When we apply the prophecies of Scripture to the church in the present age, rather than the Jews of the first century, and the Jews in a future tribulation, we are in agreement with all the prophets.