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If I Were Told the Future - Lesson 3

How to Study Prophecy

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Let’s pray together before beginning this lesson:

Our Father,

You have taught us that Bible prophecy plays an important role in the life of the Christian. Therefore we are anxious to probe the content of this prophecy.

We also know that Your Word can teach us the precise way to tackle Bible prophecy, in order to properly understand its meaning.

May Your Holy Spirit guide us, so that our study of prophecy bears good fruit. In Jesus Christ, we pray.


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Isaiah 29:11

The vision of all is become to you as the words of a book that is sealed, which men deliver to one that is learned, saying,

«Read this, I pray you:»

and he said,

«I cannot, for it is sealed.»


We frequently meet people who have glanced at Bible prophecies, and then have closed the book after only a few seconds, saying that these prophecies just cannot be understood...

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Habakkuk 2:2

And the Lord answered me, and said, «Write the vision, and make it plain on tables, that he may run that reads it.»


Revelation 22:10

And [the angel] said to me, «Seal not the sayings of the prophecy of this book: for the time is at hand.»


Nevertheless, the Word of God states positively that prophecy may well and truly be understood!

All we need is to put into practice the counsels the Bible gives us, in order to study prophecy in an effective way.

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John 16:13

When He, the Spirit of truth, is come, (...) He will show you things to come.


1 Corinthians 2:14

But the natural man receives not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness to him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned.


First point to remember to study prophecy in an effective way: we have to get on to the Holy Spirit’s wavelength, since He inspired prophecy.

In concrete terms, what does it require of us?

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Daniel 10:12

Then he said to me,

«Fear not, Daniel: for from the first day that you did set your heart to understand, and to chasten yourself before your God, your words were heard, and I am come for your words.»


For example, let us consider the prophet Daniel, to illustrate what it means to get on to the Holy Spirit’s wavelength.

Here the angel tells Daniel that his burning desire to understand and his humility give him access to the interpretation of the prophetic dream God gave him.

The student of prophecy must therefore show an open-minded attitude.

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Isaiah 29:11,13

And the vision of all is become to you as the words of a book that is sealed, which men deliver to one that is learned, saying, «Read this, I pray you:» and he said, «I cannot, for it is sealed.» (...)

Why the Lord said, «For as much as this people draw near Me with their mouth, and with their lips do honor Me, but have removed their heart far from Me, and their fear toward Me is taught by the precept of men.»


The student of prophecy must also develop and maintain a rich relationship with God, otherwise the vision will remain sealed to his eyes.

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John 7:17

If any man will do [God’s] will, he shall know of the doctrine, whether it be of God, or whether I speak of Myself.


A humble and open-minded attitude will bring the student of prophecy to acknowledge his inability to understand the Scriptures’ meaning on his own. This attitude will also drive him to establish a strong relationship with God.

And then, this genuine relationship will bring the student to seek to do God’s will. This is how he will distinguish himself from «the natural man», and then be able to understand prophecy which is inspired by the Holy Spirit.

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Daniel 9:22,23

[Gabriel] talked with me, and said,

«O Daniel, I am now come forth to give you skill and understanding.

At the beginning of your supplications the commandment came forth, and I am come to show you; for you are greatly beloved: therefore understand the matter, and consider the vision.»


When we admit that we need God’s help to understand the meaning of prophecy, then we just have to ask God for this help.

Let’s note the important part which Daniel’s prayer played: «At the beginning of your supplications the commandment came forth, and I am come to show you...»

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1 Peter 4:7

But the end of all things is at hand: be you therefore sober, and watch to prayer.


Mark 13:33

Take you heed, watch and pray: for you know not when the time is.


The importance of prayer, linked with the study of prophecy or in the context of the end times, is often emphasized in the Bible.

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Isaiah 8:19,20

And when they shall say to you,

«Seek to them that have familiar spirits, and to wizards that peep, and that mutter:»

should not a people seek to their God? For the living to the dead?

To the law and to the testimony: if they speak not according to this word, it is because there is no light in them.


And, of course, since only God knows the future, our prayers must be addressed to God, and to God alone.

If some people say otherwise, «there is no light in them».

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1 Thessalonians 2:13

For this cause also thank we God without ceasing, because, when you received the word of God which you heard of us, you received it not as the word of men, but as it is in truth, the word of God, which effectually works also in you that believe.


Our success in studying prophecy also depends upon our attitude toward the Bible.

We must believe that this Book is really the Word of God, and as such, we must be willing to conform our life to its teachings, to put into practice what is written in it.

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Acts 17:11

[The Jews from Berea] were more noble than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness of mind, and searched the Scriptures daily, whether those things were so.


Just like the Jews from Berea, we must retain the Scriptures as our only infallible reference, our only source of truth.

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Revelation 22:18,19

For I testify to every man that hears the words of the prophecy of this book,

«If any man shall add to these things, God shall add to 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.»


We must study prophecy with the greatest respect for the integrity of the Word of God.

We must avoid putting aside any portion whatever, even if its content displeases us or confronts us.

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Revelation 3:10

Because you have kept the word of My patience, I also will keep you from the hour of temptation, which shall come on all the world, to try them that dwell on the earth.


Revelation 14:12

Here is the patience of the saints: here are they that keep the commandments of God, and the faith of Jesus.


The study of prophecy will also require perseverance: perseverance in our relationship with God, and also in our obedience to God.

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Revelation 22:14

Blessed are they that do His commandments, that they may have right to the tree of life, and may enter in through the gates into the city.


Acts 5:32

And we are His witnesses of these things; and so is also the Holy Ghost, whom God has given to them that obey Him.


But why be obedient to God?

In order to demonstrate our sincere desire to follow God, but also because it is God’s condition for granting us the continuous presence of His Holy Spirit, who will guide our study.

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2 Peter 1:20

Knowing this first, that no prophecy of the Scripture is of any private interpretation.


Now that we know which attitude the student of prophecy must adopt, let’s see some of the keys needed to unlock its content.

Key number 1: We must let Bible prophecy interpret itself.

In fact, many people fall into the trap of giving a personal interpretation of prophecy, without any strong biblical basis. Yet the Word of God itself provides us with the key to its own symbolism.

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Revelation 17:1

Come here; I will show to you the judgment of the great whore that sits on many waters.


Revelation 17:15

The waters which you saw, where the whore sits, are peoples, and multitudes, and nations, and tongues.


For example, let’s look at the prophecy describing a harlot sitting on waters. A few verses later, the Bible clearly explains what the waters symbolize.

There is therefore no place for arbitrary human interpretation!

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Daniel 8:5,7

A he-goat came from the west (...); and the goat had a notable horn between his eyes. (...)

[He] smote the ram, and broke his two horns.


Daniel 8:20,21

The ram which you saw having two horns are the kings of Media and Persia.

And the rough goat is the king of Grecia: and the great horn that is between his eyes is the first king.


Another example: what do the ram, the goat and his large horn symbolize?

Here again, the Word of God itself gives us a very precise answer.

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2 Timothy 3:16

All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness.


Isaiah 28:10

For precept must be on precept, precept on precept; line on line, line on line; here a little, and there a little.


Key number 2: The whole Bible is essential for the study of prophecy.

We must be like detectives, always on the look-out for clues which could be hidden anywhere in the Word of God, «here a little, and there a little».

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Psalm 73:16,17

When I thought to know this, it was too painful for me; until I went into the sanctuary of God.


Key number 3: Prophetic symbolism often refers to the sanctuary, to its articles, and to the religious services that were performed in it.

So it will be important to familiarize ourselves with this subject, otherwise it will be difficult to understand many aspects of prophecy.

To illustrate this, the following verses, all taken from the book of Revelation, show the liberal mention of the sanctuary and the things related to it.

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In his vision of heaven, John often saw the articles of the sanctuary:

«I saw seven golden candlesticks.» (Revelation 1:12)

«There were seven lamps of fire burning before the throne.» (Revelation 4:5)

«And another angel came and stood at the altar, having a golden censer; and there was given to him much incense, that he should offer it with the prayers of all saints on the golden altar.» (Revelation 8:3)

«And the temple of God was opened in heaven, and there was seen in His temple the ark of His testament.» (Revelation 11:19)

«And after that I looked, and, behold, the temple of the tabernacle of the testimony in heaven was opened.» (Revelation 15:5)

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Jeremiah 51:29

The land shall tremble and sorrow: for every purpose of the Lord shall be performed against Babylon, to make the land of Babylon a desolation without an inhabitant.


Revelation 14:8

Babylon is fallen, is fallen, that great city, because she made all nations drink of the wine of the wrath of her fornication.


Key number 4: Prophetic symbolism also refers to the places found in the Old Testament.

The litteral and local dramas which happened in those places become symbolic and universal in prophecy.

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1 Kings 21:25

But there was none like to Ahab, which did sell himself to work wickedness in the sight of the Lord, whom Jezebel his wife stirred up.


Revelation 2:20

Notwithstanding I have a few things against you, because you suffer that woman Jezebel, which calls herself a prophetess, to teach and to seduce My servants to commit fornication, and to eat things sacrificed to idols.


Key number 5: Prophetic symbolism also refers to the characters of the Old Testament, to their attitude toward God, to their past deeds.

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Revelation 4:4

And round about the throne were four and twenty seats: and on the seats I saw four and twenty elders sitting.


Revelation 21:17

And he measured the wall thereof, an hundred and forty and four cubits.


Revelation 14:1

And I looked, and, see, a Lamb stood on the mount Sion, and with Him an hundred forty and four thousand.


Key number 6: In prophecy, numbers express more than just a quantity.

All the numbers above, 24, 144 and 144000, are multiples of 12. Now, 12 is a number playing an important part in the Bible. We will have to study it.

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Hebrews 5:13,14

Every one that uses milk is unskillful in the word of righteousness: for he is a babe.

But strong meat belongs to them that are of full age, even those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil.


And finally, Key number 7: We must study simple prophecies first, then complex ones.

In fact, another common mistake is to jump immediately to prophecies rich in symbols, without having understood the meaning of simpler prophecies that actually serve as basis for the more complex prophecies.

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John 16:12

I have yet many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now.


The principle «from the simple to the complex» is so important that it is one of the touchstones of this prophecy study guide.

This is why we insist so much that you go through the lessons in the suggested order, going as far as to set up a system verifying your understanding in order to encourage you to follow this principle.

What would you think of a man who builds a house beginning with the roof and ending with the foundations...?

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2 Peter 3:15,16

And account that the long-suffering of our Lord is salvation; even as our beloved brother Paul also according to the wisdom given to him has written to you; as also in all his letters, speaking in them of these things; in which are some things hard to be understood, which they that are unlearned and unstable wrest, as they do also the other Scriptures, to their own destruction.


The Word of God is clear: an untaught and unstable person can, knowingly or not, twist the meaning of the Scriptures, among which prophecy...

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2 Corinthians 2:17

For we are not as many, which corrupt the word of God.


2 Timothy 2:15

Study to show yourself approved to God, a workman that needs not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.


... but the student who shows an attitude that gets him on to the Holy Spirit’s wavelength, and who has the keys which open the doors of Bible prophecy, will discover the truth.

He will then be able to share it with others.

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The student of prophecy needs an attitude, in seven points, that gets him on to the Spirit’s wavelength

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The student of prophecy needs the seven keys that open the doors of prophecy

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Revelation 1:3

Blessed is he that reads, and they that hear the words of this prophecy, and keep those things which are written therein.

For the time is at hand.


May we apply all the elements of this lesson, in order to realize one of the most satisfying studies ever in the fascinating world of Bible prophecy!

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Let’s end this lesson by thanking God:


We come near You, grateful for this Holy Book You gave us. Not only it holds the precious prophetic word, but also the keys which enable us to probe its content.

However we know that we must also adopt an attitude that gets us on to the Holy Spirit’s wavelength, in order to understand prophecy.

This is why we humbly ask you to accomplish this work within us, replacing our heart of stone with a heart of flesh willing to follow You always, even to the end.

In Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.


The test of Lesson 3 is waiting for you!

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