Some Problems with Interpreting Prophecy
There are several points to be made about prophecy that will help us to understand it.
1. Visions – The first six chapters of the book of Daniel are purely historical, relating to the events
and conditions of the time in which he lived, but the last six enter into prophetical writing relating to
several visions that were given to Daniel which troubled him greatly. Even though interpretations of
the visions were given to him by angels, still he could not understand them. These symbolic visions
related to the future empires which would subjugate the people of Judah during their period of exile
and Diaspora i.e., their World-wide dispersion from the land of Canaan.
In seeking to understand the meaning of these visions and the entities that they relate to, I have come to
the conclusion that these visions were “separate” from one another, and were “complete” in themselves
– indeed the occasions when he received them were separated by years – and that in comprehending
them, even though they sometimes contain similar phrases, the details within each vision should not be
mixed or combined with any other, but that each vision should stand alone because they dealt with a
particular entity or entities that would arise out of a particular Empire, or part thereof. To treat each
vision in this way, avoids the confusion that ensues by assigning every reference to a “little horn” to
only one eschatological personage, and reveals that there are indeed “many anti-Christs” just as is
stated in 1 John 2:18.
2. Some Prophecy is Sealed -When we come to the prophetic book of Daniel, not only is the
prophetic word scattered throughout in the form of several visions, but we find a further complication;
the book was “sealed” until the “time of the end” i.e., it would not be understood until the right time in
history, when the prophecy was fulfilled and therefore “unsealed”.
The “time-of-the-end” is in itself an indefinite designation! Was Daniel referring to the end of a
particular stage in history; to the end of his vision; to the end of a particular Empire: or perhaps even to
the end of the age? Perhaps the only way we will know when we have arrived at the “time of the end”
is when Daniel’s prophecies relating to that “time” are fulfilled in history, whereby the book is
unsealed, and we understand it clearly.
Today, as we look at various prophecies which are scattered throughout the scriptures, we can
sometimes collate separate bits of individual scenarios piece by piece, and gain a better idea of parts of
the big-picture. Some would even say that we can see and recognize almost all of the end-time
“entities” but how they fit into the “big picture” time-line is very difficult.
Although the various “prophetic schools” of Biblical interpretation have their own special view of how
things are supposed to pan out in the future, I believe each “school” has only some of the truth, and
does not have all the “pieces” fitting in the right place. Without the “big picture on the lid of the
puzzle box” it is difficult to know what scenario fits where, and how the future time line is to function.
3. Past, Future or both – A further factor that contributes to the difficulty of understanding
prophecy is that the prophetic “jig-saw” puzzle, seen from our 21st Century perspective, is double sided
– one side of the puzzle deals with events which were fulfilled in the past, and the other side deals with
events yet to be fulfilled in the future.
It is difficult therefore to know which side of the puzzle piece we are looking at! Is the particular piece
to apply to the past or to the future? Throughout history prophecy scholars have studied and examined
scriptural alignments and possible scenarios with intense interest, postulating theories and setting dates
that have led to disappointments when they have not come to pass. Some groups have concluded that
all end-time prophecy was fulfilled during the early New Testament period and that it all happened in
the past, while others seem to completely overlook the historical fulfilment of even “well documented”
events, and “willy-nilly” allocate everything to a future cataclysmic denouement.
To make matters even worse, some prophetic events appear to have a “prototype” prior to the main
event. How then can we know which piece of the puzzle is a prototype with a future fulfilment to
come which will round out the picture? We can only judge what is really prophetic when it happens in
history. However, it is often difficult to identify the fulfilment of prophecies which relate to the past,
when the historical record is sometimes sketchy or non-existent.
4. Making Prophecy fit – In the last three centuries, especially since the invention of the “printing
press” various people have tried to make prophetic snippets fit according to the current geo-political
scenario in which they found themselves, and many of their ideas haven’t come to pass.
In my own lifetime, there has been intense interest in the formation of the European Economic
Community, created in 1957 by the Treaty of Rome. In some prophetic circles, this was the anticipated
beginning of a “10-horned, anti-Christ led, revived Roman Empire” as first of all six countries, then
nine, then ten, then twelve, then 15, and now 27 joined what has subsequently become the European
Union. Some peoples’ attention then switched to the Western European Union, presently a partially
dormant 10 member European defence/security organization.
Others have looked at the beginning of a one-world organisation, and focussed on the G7 Nations, then
to G8 with the inclusion of Russia, anticipating that more Nations will join until a 10-horned
intercontinental entity arises which will control the World. Yet others are looking at “trading blocks”
and see the World being divided into 10 “financial centres” for trade and currency.
Recently however, with the rise of Islamic fundamentalism and the Islamists’ intense hatred of Israel
and the West, some writers have made a connection between the Biblically portrayed “anti-Christ” and
Islam’s expected Mahdi (the 12th Imam). The Islamic Mahdi would fulfil the role of a
messianic/political/religious leader and his status would be equivalent to the Caliph of the Ottoman
Empire or successor to Muhammad.
However, for some reason they do not seem to be able to connect this view to the prophetic writings in
the Bible. This “connection” is thoroughly explored in Book 1 of this series.
5. Sign Posts -However, for many bible scholars, the re-establishment of the Nation of Israel in
1948 in the Holy Land after eighteen centuries of exile has been a “sign-post” or starting point for the
fulfilment of further end-time prophecies. The re-possession of East Jerusalem and the Temple Mount
in June 1967, by the Israeli Defence Force is a further interesting “sign-post” drawing our attention to
the “end-times” in which we are living. These two events, more than any others have fulfilled ancient
Biblical prophecies (especially Ezekiel’s vision of the valley of dry bones) regarding the re-gathering of
Israel, and have created a resurgence of interest in Biblical end-time prophecies.
The attack on the Twin Towers and the Pentagon, by Islamic terrorists on September 11th 2001 could be
seen as another sign that we are in the “end-times”. On that infamous date the future suddenly looked
ominous and a new sense of foreboding settled across the Western World.
Israel’s withdrawal from Gaza in September 2005 was followed by the subsequent “democratic”
election of the terrorist group Hamas to positions of government. Their expulsion of Fatah and the
Palestinian leadership to the West Bank in June 2007 brought the subsequent Israeli blockade of the
The 33 day war with Hezb’allah in Lebanon in July 2006, also brought the situation in the Holy Land to
the forefront of World headlines, where it has remained. The continuing influence of Iran and Syria in
the “democratic” processes in Gaza and Lebanon is gradually eroding Western “leverage” in Israel’s
neighbouring States, whilst allowing embedded proxy Shiite factions to pursue their Anti-Israeli
Israel’s enemies continue to pressure her from all sides to give up her land and return to pre-1967
borders in exchange for peace; the Western World’s collusion in the process can only lead to disaster.
6. Getting the Big Picture -One particular prophecy which has caused a great deal of angst
between prophetic schools of thought is the prophecy of Daniel’s 70 Weeks.
Interpretations have been wide and varied as to the chronology, personality, and historicity of the
“entities” it refers to. Perhaps the biggest mystery of all surrounds the phrase “he shall confirm the
covenant with many for one week” Dan 9:27. People have asked -who “confirms the covenant” what
is “the covenant” -who are “the many” -and has “one week” been fulfilled? This, particular
prophecy, of all the prophecies in the Bible, seems to have polarized more Bible students into opposing
“camps” than any other.
If there is a “particular prophecy” on which all end-time prophetic interpretation hangs, then it would
have to be Daniel’s prophecy of 70 weeks. I consider it to be the “core” piece of the end-time prophetic
jig-saw puzzle. The two principal views of this prophecy are totally divergent, leading to completely
different eschatological expectations. One group concludes that most of Daniel’s vision has been
fulfilled, whilst another group’s ideas lead to a completely future end-time scenario with a totally
It should be obvious that the different components of end-time events must flow together logically to
make a comprehensive and full picture, without any pieces of the “end-time” puzzle being
compromised to “make them fit”. In other words, there should be no additional “constructions” of
events or personalities outside of what scripture clearly gives us. The big picture must therefore
accommodate many pieces, e.g. if you remove one “end-time” entity or prophecy and say it has been
fulfilled, where do you place it in the past? Does history support it?
6. Knowledge gap -As I have studied the Bible over a period of 50 years, and read many
prophetic authors’ books etc., I have found that what has been taught regarding Daniel’s prophecy of 70
Weeks has, in many instances, been based on theologians’ speculative interpretations founded in the
17th , 18th and early 19th Centuries.
Their understanding of history did not include the warfare of the late 19th and 20th Centuries, nor did it
include knowledge of Israel’s return to their ancestral lands in 1948 and the unification of Jerusalem in
1967. Because the book of Daniel had a “seal” on it, and the imagery used makes it somewhat obscure;
efforts to decipher it prior to the point in history when the “seal” was released by historical fulfilment
have led to wrong conclusions. Unfortunately some of those wrong conclusions have been carried
over into modern prophetic writing, apparently without recourse to the relevant scriptures and clear
It is my belief, that there is a “big picture” of end-time events, which is quite contrary to what has been
generally taught in the past, and these parts do indeed form an end-time scenario where all the parts fit
together naturally, without constructing extraneous pieces which are not corroborated by scripture. To
allow for such a different end-time scenario, it is necessary to clear away “wrong suppositions” and to
reposition some pieces of the puzzle from the future to the past and correct some chronological
In the final analysis, if we get our interpretation of Daniel’s prophecy of the 70 weeks wrong, then other
prophecies will be misaligned and won’t fit; and our prophetic “world view” will be out of kilter with
the eventual reality that future events inflict upon us.
Because Daniel’s prophecy of 70 weeks is pivotal to our understanding of end-time events, this booklet
is a necessary part of a series of topics about end-times prophecy that I have written.
The booklets are not intended to be comprehensive in nature, nor do they give endless quotes from
other authors; rather they are to be used as a Bible study “anchor”, giving a particular “end-time” focus
on which other end-time prophecies will hang naturally, without having to “construct” extra-biblical