The Science of Interpreting the Scriptures

Study earnestly to present yourself approved to God, a workman that does not need to be ashamed, rightly dividing (Strong's: dissecting correctly)
the Word of Truth.
- 2 Timothy 2:15


In many places in the Scriptures, the believer is encouraged to study the written Word as the foundation for a holy, godly and fruitful life before God and man. But how are we to study this unified, but daunting, compilation of sixty-six books written by over forty authors between nineteen hundred and thirty-five hundred years ago in languages and cultures that may be totally foreign to us? Enter the science of hermeneutics.

To understand hermeneutical principles is to be equipped for an intelligent study of the Word of God, tending greatly to our approval before God as workmen that do not need to be ashamed.

Thus far in this series we've been treated to much sound instruction by Dr. David L. Cooper, founder of the Biblical Research Society, in interpreting Scripture, a critical skill to master, particularly in an age in which the Babel of interpretations is legion. With "Rules of Interpretation," a study that will span perhaps seventeen Shofars, let us continue to hone our skills in rightly dividing the Word of Truth that we might be clear and accurate voices for the Lord. To read or review prior studies, please see links in our Library. Let us now apply ourselves. - ed.


Dr. David L. Cooper

Part Three: Rules of Interpretation Proper

"The knowledge of certain rules of interpretation and the observance of these rules when studying the Scriptures is very important and helpful in arriving at a clear understanding of God's Word."


Parts I and II were covered in previous Shofars. We'll repeat the introduction here, and then present Part III. Here's the introduction:

The seventh law of interpretation is the LAW OF PARONOMASIA or A PLAY ON WORDS.

A. Paronomasia consists of our laying down beside one word or idea that has been used a similar one with a little variation.

B. The following are example of paronomasia:
1. In Amos 8:1,2 there is a play on the Hebrew word "kayits" (translated "summer fruit") and "kets" (translated "the end"). The radicals of each word are the same, with the exception of the "y."
2. In Micah 2:1-3 there is a play upon the word "evil." Daniel 9:24 has a play upon the words "seventy sevens."
3. There is a play upon ideas in Daniel 11:36ff - "the desire of women" (Messiah God in human flesh), vs. 37; and the "god of fortresses" (military power pictured as idol), vs. 38.

C. Exercises: Find the paronomasia in the following passages:
1. Isaiah 28:1-8;
2. John 3:5;
3. John 6:28,29.



THE PROPER UNDERSTANDING of Daniel 11:36-45 is absolutely imperative for the correct evaluation of that marvelous revelation found in II Thessalonians, chapter 2, which is of utmost importance to everyone who wishes to comprehend the prophetic word. Having the correct interpretation of Daniel 11:36-45 as a basis of II Thessalonians 2:1-12, we are now in a position to understand correctly, accurately, and grammatically the teaching of this marvelous message. At this juncture, may I state that, apart from the proper grasp of Daniel 11:36-45, it is impossible for one to see the truth of II Thessalonians, chapter 2.

In I Thessalonians Paul spoke much of the return of the Lord and what is termed the rapture of the church. The classic passage on this point in this letter is found in 4:13-5:11. From all the data which we have, it seems that the Thessalonian Christians with whom Paul had sojourned only a short while, when he brought the gospel to them, were being disturbed by false teachings concerning prophetic matters. From Athens Paul wrote the Thessalonian letters. Moreover, it seems that, although the first letter had been received, there still was a grave necessity for his writing the second one to allay misapprehensions and to correct certain erroneous teachings which had been brought to them. In II Thessalonians 2:1,2 the Apostle was very eager that this church should understand the rapture of the saints and its relation to the day of the Lord. Thus he spoke of the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, and our gathering together unto him. Christ's coming and our being gathered together to Him can refer to nothing except the rapture of the church as set forth in the fourth chapter of the preceding Epistle. The Apostle wanted these Christians to understand this matter in order that they might not be quickly shaken from their mind in any way - either by someone's claiming to have a revelation by the Spirit, or by a special message, or by an epistle as from him and his co-workers. We gather from what he says that there was a grave likelihood that these Christians would be disturbed in some of the ways mentioned by those who were claiming that the day of the Lord had already come. The day of the Lord is a technical term used in the Old Testament to refer to the Tribulation Period, which is of seven years' duration. The present perfect tense is used in this verse and is translated in the Revised Version is just at hand; but the perfect tense here should be rendered has already come. Since Paul wanted them to understand clearly the doctrine regarding the rapture of the church and did not want them to be disturbed by the teaching that the day of the Lord had already come, it is clear that he wanted these Christians to understand that the rapture would occur before the Tribulation. If this was not his thought, there would be no point in their being disturbed regarding the rapture by the report that the day of the Lord had already come. If the church was to go through the Tribulation, or through the first half of it, the announcement that this period of wrath had already come would give them the assurance that, within a very short time, they would be caught up out of the world, and that all of their troubles would soon be over. But if, as taught in the Scriptures, the rapture occurs before the Tribulation, the teaching that the Tribulation had already begun, and that they had not been caught up in it, would be a matter of great concern. In that event, they would know that they were not pleasing to God, and that He had not taken them up out of this present evil world.

The Apostle continued his exhortation to these Christians by declaring, Let no man beguile you in any wise: for it will not be, except the falling away come first, and the man of sin be revealed, the son of perdition .... The words, it will not be, are in italics, which fact shows that they are supplied by the translator. The Greek text is elliptical here. These words must be supplied in order to convey to the reader's mind the meaning of the text. The question arising at this point is: What is the antecedent of it, which is here properly inserted? Naturally, since the day of the Lord is mentioned immediately preceding this statement, we would be inclined to take this phrase as its antecedent, or rather the word day. This is the natural construction. If this be the correct interpretation, Paul tells us that the Tribulation will not begin except two things first occur, the falling away and the man of sin be revealed. On the other hand, the possible antecedent of it is the coming of the Lord and our being gathered together unto Him to meet Him in the air—the rapture. This construction is altogether possible. It has much in its favor. Regardless of which thought was that of the Apostle, both are true. The rapture must, as is presented here by strong implication, occur before the day of the Lord. This position is absolutely confirmed by other Scriptures. Moreover, the falling away and the revealing of the man of sin must also come before the Tribulation. Thus in verses 1-3 the Apostle is talking about those things which must occur before the Tribulation.

WHAT is meant by the falling away? This word by derivation indicates a departure or a forsaking of one group with which those who are the subject of conversation have been associated. They apostatize or leave this group and go out from it. An illustration of this is seen in I John 2:19: They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would have continued with us: but they went out, that they might be made manifest that they all are not of us. Those of whom John was speaking had been associated with the Christians to whom the Apostle was writing. But not being born-again and not being Spirit-filled, they on some occasion walked out from the group, forsook it, and went, figuratively speaking, into another camp - that of the enemy of Christianity. Thus there was a deliberate, calculated departure on the part of those leaving. This apostasy, said Paul, must come first before the Tribulation. The second thing which, he affirmed, must also occur before the Tribulation is found in the same verse: the revealing of the man of sin, the son of perdition. The word reveal, in the original text, means to remove the cover. When the cover which has been over an object, and which has been hiding it from view, is removed, it can be seen. This is the primary signification of the word reveal. Thus the man of sin, the son of perdition, according to this prediction, is to be in the world but not be recognized at first. Then there will arise some circumstance or event that will make this one known. In other words, his identity will be revealed to the world. In this prediction Paul therefore affirms that the identification of the man of sin will become a known fact before the day of the Lord, before the Tribulation. Since the language is clear and explicit, there can be no doubt about this position.

In verse 4 the Apostle identifies the man of sin from the prophetic standpoint. He does this by telling us that this one is he that opposeth and exalteth himself against all that is called God or that is worshipped; so that he sitteth in the temple of God, setting himself forth as God. All reputable commentators with whom I am acquainted take the position that Paul by this language tells us that this man of sin is the very one of whom Daniel, in 11:36-45, was speaking. In other words, this man of sin of our passage is the willful king of Daniel 11:36ff. The reason for his being identified as this one is that he does the very things that Daniel said the willful king will do. He is living at the same time, namely, in the end time - in the Tribulation. As we have seen, Daniel's willful king, opposing all that is called God and that is worshipped as God, prepares for a war of aggression against the world, which precipitates a global conflict. In carrying out his plan, he is successful; for, he shall prosper till the indignation be accomplished. The term indignation signifies the Tribulation Period and its judgments. But he shall come to his end, and none shall help him. From the time of this titanic struggle until the indignation is accomplished and he comes to his end, is a period, as we have already seen, of three and one-half years, which culminates with the coming of the Lord to establish His reign of righteousness upon the earth. Paul's man of sin, the son of perdition, who opposes and exalts himself above all that is called God or that is worshipped, is slain by the Lord Jesus Christ with the breath of his mouth, and is brought to nought by the manifestation of his [Christ's] coming (II Thess. 2:8). The facts of both passages are clear and definite and identify the willful king of Daniel's prophecy as the man of sin of Paul's prediction. But Daniel discusses only the actions of the willful king in his opposition to idolatry and to the worship of the true God, which precipitates a war of aggression, and his prospering in this one particular enterprise until he is brought to nought at the end of the Tribulation. Since Daniel's willful king does not launch his campaign of aggression until the middle of the Tribulation, and since Paul identifies the man of sin with Daniel's willful king by calling attention to what he does in the middle of the Tribulation, it is clear that Paul in II Thessalonians 2:4 has moved in his thinking from the days prior to the Tribulation in verse 3 to the middle of the Tribulation in verse 4. That the reader may see this more clearly, I shall again quote these two verses: Let no man beguile you in any wise: for it will not be, except the falling away come first, and the man of sin be revealed, the son of perdition, 4 he that opposeth and exalteth himself against all that is called God or that is worshipped; so that he sitteth in the temple of God, setting himself forth as God.

It is of the utmost importance that we recognize the fact that verse 4 describes the events of the middle of the Tribulation, and that Paul is dealing in it with the willful king's aggressive action against idolatry and his attempt to seize supreme power. But by reading verse 4 in the light of its background in Daniel 11:36-45, a person cannot possibly avoid seeing that this verse is beyond all controversy referring to the events of the middle of the Tribulation.

The next step forward which we must take in the study of this passage is to examine carefully verses 5-7: Remember ye not, that, when I was yet with you, I told you these things? 6 And now ye know that which restraineth, to the end that he may be revealed in his own season. 7 For the mystery of lawlessness doth already work: only there is one that restraineth now until he be taken out of the way. In verse 5 Paul began by reminding his readers of the fact that, when he was with them, he told them these things. The things here referred to can be none other than the things mentioned in verses 1-4; namely, the rapture of the church, the apostasy, the revealing of the man of sin before the Tribulation, and finally the opposition of this willful king to all idolatry and his exalting himself above everything that is called God, in the middle of the Tribulation, which things are mentioned in verse 4. Thus with verse 4 the Apostle stops momentarily in his advancing thought when he has reached the middle of the Tribulation. He wants his readers to recall the things which he had taught them when he was present with them, and which were in perfect alignment with what he was then writing in the Epistle.

After his question in verse 5 he stated that the Thessalonians knew that which restraineth, to the end that he may be revealed in his own season. Since he had taught them thoroughly, in regard to these matters, they knew exactly what he meant. That which restrains is in the neuter gender. That which restrains is used of God to keep back and to prevent the coming forth of this willful king, this man of sin, the son of perdition, until the time arrives which is here designated as in his own season. From this language we see that there is some force or power which is used of God in preventing and hindering the appearing of the man of sin before his time really comes. The reason why God in His providence has that restraining force or power preventing the coming of this man of sin before his own season is stated in verse 7, which is For the mystery of lawlessness doth already work: only there is one that restraineth now, until he be taken out of the way. That which is called the mystery of lawlessness is the thing that is being kept back or hindered by that which restraineth. When that restraining power is removed, this mystery or secret of lawlessness will bring forth this willful king or man of sin, who will play the role that is foretold of him in Daniel 11:36-45 and parallel passages. What is this mystery of lawlessness? In the words of this passage it is that which will eventually bring forth the man of sin. But, according to verse 9, the coming of this man of sin is due to the working of Satan. When we take these two statements into consideration, it seems quite plausible that the mystery of lawlessness is Satan's working in an underhanded, hidden way in his attempt to bring forth the man of sin.

As we have already seen from verse 6, Paul speaks of that which restraineth, but in verse 7 of one that restraineth now. That which restraineth, as stated above, is in the neuter gender. One that restraineth is in the masculine gender. That which is an impersonal force in verse 6 is spoken of as a person in verse 7; therefore the expression, he that restraineth, appears here. Such a personification of an impersonal force is appropriate. From all the facts of this context, it would appear that God is using some force or power during the present age to keep back the coming forth of this man of sin, who will play the role that is foretold of him in the Old Testament, as well as in this statement of Paul and others of the New Testament writers.

WHAT is this restraining power, or who is he? Various answers are given. Some excellent Bible teachers assert that this restraining power is the Holy Spirit in the church and that, when the church is removed from the earth by the rapture, the Holy Spirit goes with it and departs from the world. On the other hand, there are those who take a different view of this situation. They are convinced that the restraining power is none other than civil governments led by man. In support of this proposition they call our attention to the fact that when the maneuvers and preparations for war of this willful king in the middle of the Tribulation precipitate a global conflict, he is successful. Three of the ten kings represented by the ten horns of the fourth beast of Daniel, chapter 7, are put down. The other seven become simply subservient to this world dictator, represented by the little horn which comes up after them, and which becomes so much more powerful than they. The other seven, as factors to be reckoned with, cease to be. There is then no civil government whatsoever, that can any longer hinder or retard the coming forth of this man of sin as he is energized by Satan. Thus the restraining power headed up by the ten kings or dictators is removed in the middle to the Tribulation. Only when this is done, does this man of sin, the son of perdition, show his real character. Prior to this time he has been a smooth-speaking, suave flatterer, who seeks to win the favor of all. On the other hand, when all civil governments have been crushed and he alone is supreme in the world, he walks forth upon the stage of human activity as the absolute one who has complete control and power throughout the earth.

There doubtless is truth in both interpretations of this prophecy. When, however, due consideration is given to the latter, it seems most highly probable that the latter one is the correct one; for it meets all the conditions set forth by Daniel and the facts presented by Paul. One should read the explanation of Hogg and Vine in their Commentary on II Thessalonians on this subject.

From our study of verses 5-7 we see that Paul is simply reminding his readers concerning his former teaching to them regarding the rise to absolute dictatorial power of the willful king, the man of sin. When he in this war seizes complete control in the middle of the Tribulation, there is no one to resist him. Thus these verses do not advance the thought of verse 4, but rather explain it. Verses 5-7 are therefore parenthetical.

In view of these facts we see that verse 8 picks up the thought that was advanced in verse 4 and develops it. Thus in verse 8 Paul declares, And then shall be revealed the lawless one .... The adverb then of this verse ties his thought to the action expressed by verse 4, which we have already seen refers to the events that occur in the middle of the Tribulation. By his bold action this man of sin will enter a new stage of his career. He reveals at that time his real self. Figuratively speaking, he lays aside his mask and manifests to the world his true character of lawlessness. The revealing of the man of sin in the middle of the Tribulation is entirely different from his being revealed as mentioned in verse 3, which we have already noted. This latter revealing occurs before the Tribulation. It makes his identity known, but the revealing mentioned in verse 8, which occurs in the middle of the Tribulation, unmasks this monster of hideousness who then acts according to his real character and the promptings of Satan.

Having mentioned the fact that this lawless one is revealed in the middle of the Tribulation, the Apostle asserts that the Lord Jesus will slay him with the breath of His mouth and bring him to nought by the manifestation of His coming, which event occurs at the end of the Tribulation (vs. 8). This thought, at this stage of Paul's unfolding of this future drama, simply by way of anticipation tells the doom which awaits this wicked one at the second coming of our Lord.

The coming of this willful king, this man of sin, is "according to the working of Satan with all power and signs and lying wonders, 10 and with all deceit of unrighteousness for them that perish ..." (vss. 9-10). This quotation is still speaking of the coming forth of this man of sin in the middle of the Tribulation. When he reveals his true character, Satan will back him up and inspire him, thus enabling him to perform every kind of super-natural sign and wonder in order to confirm his false claims of being God himself. The message of verse 9 should be studied very carefully in the light of Revelation, chapter 13, which gives in detail the information concerning his coming. We read also in Revelation 17:8 of this same event: The beast that thou sawest was, and is not; and is about to come up out of the abyss, and to go into perdition. And they that dwell on the earth shall wonder, they whose name hath not been written in the book of life from the foundation of the world, when they behold the beast, how that he was, and is not, and shall come. In this struggle the willful king receives the death stroke. His spirit goes down to Hades where he remains a very short time; then is brought up by Satan. His spirit re-enters his body. Then Satan takes possession of him and performs unprecedented signs and wonders through him in the presence of the people. This display of miraculous power will be the greatest demonstration of superhuman (diabolical) energy that will ever be witnessed by mortal man.

Satan will perform these mighty wonders through the Antichrist, who, at that time, will have been raised to life, in order to deceive those who received not the love of the truth, that they might be saved. There will be a certain portion of the human family for whom Satan and this willful king put on this demonstration of superhuman power. They will have had an opportunity of receiving truth in order that they might be saved, but they do not avail themselves of it - they believe not the truth, but have pleasure in unrighteousness. But this is in the Tribulation and the church will have been taken out of the world prior to the beginning of that period of judgment. How will the entire world have an opportunity of hearing and receiving the truth at that period? The answer is to be found in Revelation, chapter 7, which tells of the great ministry of the 144,000 Jewish evangelists who conduct this mightiest of all revivals at which time there will be a turning to God on the part of countless millions, which no man can number.

AS WE give Israel the truth at the present time, it is like sowing seed in a vast dry field with moist spots here and there. That seed which falls in the moist places germinates and produces immediately. But that which falls upon the dry ground will remain where it falls until it is watered by the showers later. Thus the showers of the judgments of the great Tribulation will water the seed which is now being sown in the indifferent hearts of the Jewish people. Then there will spring forth from that seed-sowing the 144,000 Jewish servants of God, evangelists like the Apostle Paul, who will conduct that mightiest of all revivals, in which multiplied millions will come to a saving knowledge of the truth. They wash their robes and make them white in the blood of the Lamb. This revival continues throughout the first half of the Tribulation. But hosts of men will not turn to the Lord then. After these have had full opportunity to receive the truth, but reject it, God will allow the world dictator, energized by Satan, to perform the great wonders and signs, mentioned in II Thessalonians, chapter 2 and in Revelation, chapter 13, in the sight of the people of the world. Not having loved the truth but having had pleasure in unrighteousness, and being blinded by Satan, they will be confirmed in the belief that the Antichrist is God. They will then worship him and receive his mark upon their foreheads and on their right hands.

A WORD by way of recapitulation: The proper interpretation of the expression, the god of fortresses, unlocks the door for the correct understanding of the marvelous passage concerning the willful king and his victorious struggle against the entire world and the elimination of all rulers as potential rivals for imperial authority and power. Thus the proper understanding of the passage in Daniel gives us a basis upon which to stand as we study the marvelous prediction in II Thessalonians 2:1-12. These two passages show very vividly and forcefully the importance of our understanding the figure of speech known as paronomasia.

Part IV of "The Law of Paronomasia" will be continued in our next Shofar.


Links to prior studies in the "Rules of Interpretation" series may found in our Library.

Reprinted by permission of the Biblical Research Society, where other outstanding studies by Dr. Cooper may be found. Links to the entire "Rules of Interpretation" series may be found at http://www.biblicalresearch.info/page7.html.
A brief biography of Dr. Cooper may also be found
on the Biblical Research Society home page.

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