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Literal Interpretation of Bible Prophecy: Help or Hindrance?

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About the time of the End, a body of men will be raised up who will turn their attention to the prophecies, and insist upon their literal interpretation in the midst of much clamor and opposition. 
-Sir Isaac Newton 

Dr. John Walvoord was asked about a year ago "what do you predict will be the most significant theological issues over the next ten years?" His answer includes the following: "the hermeneutical problem of not interpreting the Bible literally, especially the prophetic areas. The church today is engulfed in the idea that one cannot interpret prophecy literally."1 While millions of evangelicals still believe and practice literal interpretation of the Bible, including prophecy, there is nevertheless, a noticeable trend by some who are "engulfed in the idea that one cannot interpret prophecy literally." 

CLAMOR AND OPPOSITION 

The last few years have witnessed the rise of a new growth industry within evangelicalism relating to Bible prophecy. There has been an ever- increasing wave of materials warning evangelicals against the literal interpretation of Bible prophecy and perceived implications that could follow from such practice. Increasingly, from outside the church (and some from within), those who believe in the literal interpretation of Bible prophecy are being pictured as a danger and threat to the progress of modern society. In the past, those who took Bible prophecy seriously were often ignored, since it was believed that their views did not impact in any significant way society at large. However, a reassessment by some secularists appears to attach great significance and blame to such beliefs. 

The recent assassination of Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin has set off a new flurry of criticism in the media of conservative religious beliefs that the Bible gives Israel a divine right to the land. Since many evangelicals share this view, I expect some will attempt to link this ungodly act with a literal belief in Bible prophecy. The last decade has increasingly seen an attempt by some to link a literal interpretation of the Bible to extremism. Some critics have tried to blame such activities as the threats of nuclear war, Islamic terrorism, American cult extremists, and the bombing in Oklahoma City, as all identical in nature and inflamed by a literal interpretation of the Bible. Such false linkage is then presented as proof that beliefs of this kind are a dangerous threat to society and that steps must be taken to control such views and preempt supposed actions that might follow from them. 

SECULAR PROPHECY PHOBIA 

Since they reject the Bible as a whole, especially the supernatural implication required for fulfillment, secularists have always thought that belief in Bible prophecy was weird, In recent years a number of books and articles have appeared attempting to explain to secularists biblical prophecy beliefs in an attempt to assess the impact of such beliefs on the thinking of society in general. Some of the books include: Apocalypse: On the Psychology of Fundamentalism in America by Charles Strozier; Naming the Antichrist: The History of an American Obsession by Robert Fuller; and the most widely-heralded When Time Shall Be No More: Prophecy Belief in Modern American Culture by Paul Boyer.2 

Why, apart from pure academic exercises, would secularists (who believe that life should be lived apart from religious influence) be interested in the prophetic beliefs of biblical literalists? Apparently some secularists believe that one is not properly enlightened if he or she is ignorant of the prophetic beliefs of a large segment of the common people. In this way, Robert Fuller speaks of "my insistence that religion can and should be made the subject of intellectual inquiry."3 Likewise, Paul Boyer contends that "Much evidence (some direct, some inferential) suggests that, despite gradual erosion in the twentieth century, prophetic belief remains deeply rooted in the United States as the century ends."4 

The December 19, 1994 issue of U.S. News & World Report ran a cover-story on Bible prophecy. Interestingly,it was run not in the religious section, but in the science and society section, and entitled "Waiting for The Messiah: The new clash over the Bible's millennial prophecies."5 This article reduces belief in biblical prophecy as the fulfillment of a psychological drive to find meaning in life, even though it is said to have great "destructive potential" (p. 71). What is interesting about the article is its focus on a departure by some evangelicals from the literal interpretation of prophecy and a new openness to less literal alternative approaches. The tone of the article seems to be that finally, even some of those crazy literalists are waking up and realizing that Bible prophecy cannot be taken literally in these enlightened and modern times

 

By:  Thomas Ice.


For the complete article: http://www.raptureready.com/featured/ice/tt5.html


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All Bible prophecy is fulfilled literally.

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