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1. Stay faithful in service to God in light of this.

Luke 19:11-27 While they were listening to this, he went on to tell them a parable, because he was near Jerusalem and the people thought that the kingdom of God was going to appear at once. He said: “A man of noble birth went to a distant country to have himself appointed king and then to return. So he called ten of his servants and gave them ten minas. `Put this money to work,’ he said, `until I come back.’ “But his subjects hated him and sent a delegation after him to say, `We don’t want this man to be our king.’ “He was made king, however, and returned home. Then he sent for the servants to whom he had given the money, in order to find out what they had gained with it. “The first one came and said, `Sir, your mina has earned ten more.’ “`Well done, my good servant!’ his master replied. `Because you have been trustworthy in a very small matter, take charge of ten cities.’ “The second came and said, `Sir, your mina has earned five more.’ “His master answered, `You take charge of five cities.’ “Then another servant came and said, `Sir, here is your mina; I have kept it laid away in a piece of cloth. I was afraid of you, because you are a hard man. You take out what you did not put in and reap what you did not sow.’ “His master replied, `I will judge you by your own words, you wicked servant! You knew, did you, that I am a hard man, taking out what I did not put in, and reaping what I did not sow? Why then didn’t you put my money on deposit, so that when I came back, I could have collected it with interest?’ “Then he said to those standing by, `Take his mina away from him and give it to the one who has ten minas.’ “`Sir,’ they said, `he already has ten!’ “He replied, `I tell you that to everyone who has, more will be given, but as for the one who has nothing, even what he has will be taken away. But those enemies of mine who did not want me to be king over them-bring them here and kill them in front of me.’”

Matt 24:45-25:30 “Who then is the faithful and wise servant, whom the master has put in charge of the servants in his household to give them their food at the proper time? It will be good for that servant whose master finds him doing so when he returns. 47I tell you the truth, he will put him in charge of all his possessions. But suppose that servant is wicked and says to himself, `My master is staying away a long time,’ and he then begins to beat his fellow servants and to eat and drink with drunkards. The master of that servant will come on a day when he does not expect him and at an hour he is not aware of. He will cut him to pieces and assign him a place with the hypocrites, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.

25:1 “At that time the kingdom of heaven will be like ten virgins who took their lamps and went out to meet the bridegroom. Five of them were foolish and five were wise. The foolish ones took their lamps but did not take any oil with them. The wise, however, took oil in jars along with their lamps. The bridegroom was a long time in coming, and they all became drowsy and fell asleep. “At midnight the cry rang out: `Here’s the bridegroom! Come out to meet him!’ “Then all the virgins woke up and trimmed their lamps. The foolish ones said to the wise, `Give us some of your oil; our lamps are going out.’ “`No,’ they replied, `there may not be enough for both us and you. Instead, go to those who sell oil and buy some for yourselves.’ “But while they were on their way to buy the oil, the bridegroom arrived. The virgins who were ready went in with him to the wedding banquet. And the door was shut. “Later the others also came. `Sir! Sir!’ they said. `Open the door for us!’ “But he replied, `I tell you the truth, I don’t know you.’ Therefore keep watch, because you do not know the day or the hour.

14 “Again, it will be like a man going on a journey, who called his servants and entrusted his property to them. To one he gave five talents of money, to another two talents, and to another one talent, each according to his ability. Then he went on his journey. The man who had received the five talents went at once and put his money to work and gained five more. So also, the one with the two talents gained two more. But the man who had received the one talent went off, dug a hole in the ground and hid his master’s money. “After a long time the master of those servants returned and settled accounts with them. The man who had received the five talents brought the other five. `Master,’ he said, `you entrusted me with five talents. See, I have gained five more.’ “His master replied, `Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master’s happiness!’ “The man with the two talents also came. `Master,’ he said, `you entrusted me with two talents; see, I have gained two more.’ “His master replied, `Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master’s happiness!’ “Then the man who had received the one talent came. `Master,’ he said, `I knew that you are a hard man, harvesting where you have not sown and gathering where you have not scattered seed. So I was afraid and went out and hid your talent in the ground. See, here is what belongs to you.’ “His master replied, `You wicked, lazy servant! So you knew that I harvest where I have not sown and gather where I have not scattered seed? Well then, you should have put my money on deposit with the bankers, so that when I returned I would have received it back with interest. “`Take the talent from him and give it to the one who has the ten talents. For everyone who has will be given more, and he will have an abundance. Whoever does not have, even what he has will be taken from him. And throw that worthless servant outside, into the darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’

2. Have hope and assurance during these days on earth.

Titus 2:11-14 For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men. It teaches us to say “No” to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age, while we wait for the blessed hope-the glorious appearing of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ, who gave himself for us to redeem us from all wickedness and to purify for himself a people that are his very own, eager to do what is good.

3. Live a holy life now, and keep growing in God’s grace.

2 Peter 3:11-15, 18 Since everything will be destroyed in this way, what kind of people ought you to be? You ought to live holy and godly lives as you look forward to the day of God and speed its coming. That day will bring about the destruction of the heavens by fire, and the elements will melt in the heat. But in keeping with his promise we are looking forward to a new heaven and a new earth, the home of righteousness. So then, dear friends, since you are looking forward to this, make every effort to be found spotless, blameless and at peace with him. … But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To him be glory both now and forever! Amen.

Prophecy composes about 20% of the Bible, so correct interpretation of it is important. Many prophecies have already been literally fulfilled, so we know the remaining ones will be fulfilled literally. For example, the destruction of Babylon, Assyria, Philistia, Moab, Damascus, Cush and Egypt in Isaiah 13-21 have been literally fulfilled.

All scripture is to be taken in its normal, literal sense. The language of Scripture is no different than any other written or spoken language. All language is full of figures of speech. Similes, metaphors, etc., about when we talk, but that doesn’t mean we interpret everything as symbolic. When Jesus said “I am the door,” everyone knew what He meant. The use of figures of speech doesn’t take away from literal interpretation.

This is especially true in Revelation. No one expects an eagle to rescue a pregnant woman and fly her to the desert (Revelation 12:13-17). The symbols represent another reality either in the past (from our perspective) or yet to occur in the future. We need to be careful how we interpret the meaning of the symbols. It is doubtful that the eagle represents the United States, as someone once suggested, in spite of the fact that the eagle is our national symbol. We need to interpret the symbolism in terms of how it would have been understood by its original readers. Since the interpretation of this kind of prophetic symbolism is so difficult, it is probably best not to hold on to a given interpretation with unbending certitude. Even though we can’t understand all the details of a symbolism, those alive when it happens will recognize it clearly. We can know the general interpretation: a person/nation who gives birth to someone else is rescued from those trying to kill it. That part is clear and is enough to work with.

It is important to put yourself in the position of those who first read the Scripture. What would they have thought? How would they have taken the meaning? After all, it was written first to them then, not just to us now. Therefore it is important to know the historical context of the passage. What were the readers experiencing? What was happening in their lives? Why did the writer say what he did? How would he have assumed they would have taken what he wrote. You see, prophecy must be understood the same normal communication.

To interpret prophecy in its normal meaning, we must take it in context of what is written before and after it. Look at the sentence, paragraph, chapter, book and whole Bible. Let the context interpret the prophecy. Scripture should witness to scripture. Contradictions are never acceptable. Since God’s Word is inerrant (I Timothy 3:16, etc.) it cannot be self-contradictory. It two passages seem to contradict, truth has not yet been discovered.

Remember that some prophecies have a near (immediate) and far (future) fulfillment (SEE APPENDIX K). Quite often a prophet would prophecy something that was to happen in his lifetime as well as the far future. Isaiah 7:14 about a virgin/young woman giving birth was fulfilled in Isaiah’s day and also by the Messiah Jesus (Matthew 1:23). Dan 9:27; 11:31; 12:31 about the “abomination of desolation” had a near fulfillment (Antiochus Epiphanes in 167 BC) and far fulfillment (Antichrist in Tribulation).

God has not made prophecy hard to understand – He WANTS us to know what He is saying or He wouldn’t say it! (Amos 3:6-8; Isaiah 55:8-11; Mark 13:23). He wants us to study and understand it, so He doesn’t hide His truths from us. He sends His Spirit to teach us His truths (John 16:12-15). Pray and ask for guidance as you study prophecy, and read it like you would any literature, and He will make it clear to you. It’s His plan for us!

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