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C. Marvin Pate
Thoughts on Dictionary of Biblical Prophecy and End Times

Categories Theology

Patec The purpose of The Dictionary of Biblical Prophecy and the End Times is to introduce the reader to all things prophetic in the Bible. From "A" to "Z", major topics related to biblical prophecy and the end-times are covered in this volume: Antichrist, Amillennialism, Christ, Destruction of Jerusalem, Dispensationalism, Millennium, Premillennialism, Postmillennialism, Rapture, Second Coming, Zion, to name only a few. This dictionary treats all major views of biblical prophecy fairly, pointing out both strengths and perceived weaknesses in each approach. Indeed, at times the three authors themselves did not share the same view when they wrote on their respective topics.

But the authors did agree on one fundamental fact, namely, biblical prophecy and end-time predictions should be interpreted according to sound hermeneutical principles. That is, that the texts containing prophecy should be analyzed historically, culturally, and grammatically, leading the interpreter to the proper meaning of the passage. For example, knowing the historical setting of Daniel’s seventy weeks (Dan. 9:24-27) helps one not to jump too far in the future too fast for its fulfillment, since a partial fulfillment occurred in the Maccabean revolt against Antiochus Epiphanes from 171 to 164 B.C. That historical background may well then point to a future Antichrist rising up against the people of God at the end of time. The historical background also points to an overarching theme in biblical prophecy: there can be an immediate, partial fulfillment and then a distant ultimate fulfillment for prophetic texts. Daniel 9:24-27 is a case in point. Isaiah 7:10-14 may also be another example of this two-fulfillment dynamic. The "Immanuel" predicted by Isaiah was a child born in ca. 735 B.C. (it may have been Hezekiah or an un-named child) who, before he was weaned from his mother, God defeated the Syro-Ephraimite coalition in defense of Judah, the southern kingdom of the Jews. Every time Jews in Judea saw that child they would exclaim "Immanuel"—God is with us, for he rescued Jerusalem from its enemies. That was the immediate, partial fulfillment of the "Immanuel" prophecy. But according to Matthew 1:23, the distant, final fulfillment of Isaiah 7:14 was Jesus Christ who was born of the Virgin Mary.

The cultural background is also vital to interpreting biblical prophecy. Thus the book of Revelation fits into three types of genre, each of which taps into a particular milieu. Revelation is apocalyptic literature, much like Jesus’ Olivet Discourse in the Gospels or like Jewish apocalypses in the first century (4 Ezra, 2 Baruch, for example). Revelation is also prophetic material much like the Old Testament prophets. And then Revelation is a letter, which shares some of the components of ancient letters, not to mention the New Testament epistles.

Finally, biblical prophetic texts need to be examined grammatically, which includes the study of words and how those words are related to each other in a sentence. This will prevent readers from inappropriately reading contemporary meanings of words back into the Bible. Thus one will avoid reading "rosh" in Ezekiel 38:1-2 as "Russia", since "rosh" is a generic Hebrew term for "prince" not a proper name. Based on this grammatical fact, one need not subscribe to the theory that Russia is the nation from the north who will attack Israel in the last days.

But whatever one’s view of eschatology, God’s word of assurance rings forth from biblical prophecy assuring Christians that they are on the winning side, the kingdom of God!

C. Marvin Pate (M.A. Wheaton: PhD, Marquette University) taught for thirteen years at Moody Bible Institute. Now he is chair, department of Christian theology, professor of theology at Ouachita Baptist University. He co-authored the Dictionary of Biblical Prophecy and End Times with J. Scott Duvall and J. Daniel Hays, and is also the author of The End of the Age has Come: The Theology of Paul.

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