The Science of Interpreting the Scriptures

Study earnestly to present yourself approved to God, a workmanthat 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.

Interpreting Scripture properly is a critical skill to master, particularly in an age in which the Babel of interpretations is legion. We have been treated to much sound instruction in this regard by Dr. David L. Cooper, founder of the Biblical Research Society, with "Rules of Interpretation," a series that we featured prior to this one. Let us continue to hone our skills with "Messages Concerning the Laws of Interpretation" 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

messages concerning
the laws of interpretation

message 3:


All prophecies and predictive psalms must be examined carefully in order to determine the date when they are to be fulfilled. If this is not done, strange and foreign interpretations will be placed upon the Word of God.

Installment 1

THE SCRIPTURES give us a composite picture of things in the material world, past, present, and future. This is not to be a surprise to anyone who realizes that the Eternal God, the Creator of the universe, has - figuratively speaking - the blueprint of all the ages through which the physical universe passes. Since God is interested in His children and wishes them to cooperate with Him in the fullest way possible, naturally He has revealed to them secrets concerning the past, facts and principles in the present, and the future glories which are to be theirs throughout the ages of eternity.

Of the thirty-nine Books of the Old Testament sixteen of these are devoted to prophecy - prophecy in the correct meaning of the term. The prophets interpreted history as well as pointed out the future. They explained the future and pointed out the past course of history, for the enlightenment of the people of God.

The word in the original Hebrew meaning a prophet simply indicates a spokesman for God. If he was looking back into the past, he was interpreting for the edification of his hearers and readers the facts of the history. Often times the prophet looked at the present and, realizing that the past, present, and future are linked together by the law of causation, pointed out the salient, outstanding facts of the present and then delineated the future and interpreted its significance for us. In view of this broad meaning of prophecy we are not surprised to learn that, in the Hebrew Bible, such books as Joshua, Judges, Samuel, and Kings are correctly designated the "Former Prophets." Those, however, which we call Prophets, namely, Isaiah through Malachi, are called the "Latter Prophets."

In keeping with the significance of the terms, prophet and prophecy, we realize that the man who has delved into the Word of God, which records the past history of the universe and of the race, and who gives us the correct philosophy of history, is indeed a prophet - though he is uninspired and cannot lay claim to the infallible inspiration of the Holy Spirit as were the prophets of the Old and the New Testament. The teacher of God's Word who has, by diligent search and by the illumination of the Spirit of God been able to discover the great fundamental principles of God's moral government, and who is able to see and to discern in the present situation the application of said principles and of the trend of the present time is likewise, in the true sense of the term, a prophet. Also those men who study the Word of God and take it at its face value, believing that God said what He meant and meant what He said, and who, following the golden rule of interpretation* tell us exactly what the prophets said with reference to the things out ahead of us are likewise prophets in the correct sense. They are this in that they have discovered the mind of God as revealed in the Scriptures and are able to see, in the light of the continuity of events, the working of the invisible hand of the Almighty as He directs everything toward a great, glorious, and grand consummation, when He will head up all things in the dispensation of "the fullness of times" in Christ, namely, in the great Millennial Age.

As we learn in Hebrews 1:1f, God spoke to the fathers in different measures and in different manners. According to Numbers 12:7,8 He spoke to Moses face to face. In this intimate manner He did not speak to any of the other prophets after Moses. He spoke to them in dreams and in visions. At the same time, when God gave a revelation to His spokesman, often the Spirit simply inspired the thought and led the divine spokesman to choose or select the proper words and phraseology that would best convey the idea to his auditors or readers. We therefore read throughout the Word that "the word of the Lord came unto ..." In other words, God sent a spiritual communication to the prophets and they, as ambassadors for Him spoke forth the message, using the exact words and terminology that were given to them by inspiration. The Holy Spirit, as we learn from I Corinthians, chapter 2, gave not only the thought but the words by which those thoughts were expressed. In view of this fact, there is no wonder that the Apostle Paul spoke of the Scriptures as having been inspired by the Lord:

16. Every scripture inspired of God is also profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for instruction which is in righteousness: 17. that the man of God may be complete, furnished completely unto every good work.

~ II Timothy 3:16,17 ~

Peter also spoke thus;

19. And we have the word of prophecy made more sure; whereunto ye do well that ye take heed, as unto a lamp shining in a dark place, until the day dawn, and the daystar arise in your hearts: 20. knowing this first, that no prophecy of scripture is of private interpretation. 21. For no prophecy ever came by the will of man; but man spake from God, being moved by the Holy Spirit.

~ II Peter 1:19-21 ~

When the Word of the Lord thus came to any of His messengers, they, accordingly as they were inspired, dealt with the past, the present, and the future - according to the needs of the ones to whom the message came. For instance, Moses, the great lawgiver, was led by the Spirit of God to give the historical account of the beginnings of the heavens and the earth and the great catastrophe that reduced the earth to a condition of desolation and wasteness. He likewise traced the history of the Patriarchs and finally came, in his discourse upon history, to the time of God's delivering His Chosen People from Egyptian bondage. When Israel was at Sinai, God delivered to her His Law. Moses applied the law to the life of the people to whom he was ministering. Interspersed in the historical and legal sections of the writings of Moses are some of the brightest jewels of prophetic utterance to be found anywhere in the Divine Revelation. When we come to the New Testament and consider the Four Records of the Gospels, we see that the inspired Evangelists wrote accounts of our Lord's life, giving samples of His teaching and of His works. Here likewise are interspersed in this material prophetic utterances in which our Lord, figuratively speaking, raised the curtain and gave us a glimpse into the future of the world and of the eternal state of bliss and felicity with God and the redeemed forever and ever.

On certain occasions, when the word of the Lord came to various prophets, God made graphic the message by presenting it in connection with some vision. Thus the spiritual eyes of the prophets were opened and there were presented to their startled gaze scenes of the spiritual world and also of things that had occurred in the past and things that were yet to come to pass. One of the earliest names given to these divine messengers was "seer." The word seer meant one who was granted a spiritual vision of truth and one who delivered in words chosen by the Spirit that which had been presented to his spiritual vision. From the history of the use of this word and from the fact that it was supplanted by the later word, prophet (a spokesman for God), we are logical in concluding that probably in the earlier stages of Israel's history visions were frequently granted to these ambassadors of the court of heaven. As the years passed by, there was not the need of the presentation in such graphic manner of these messages from God.

Toward the close of the monarchy, after the nation had gotten on the toboggan and was coasting with lightning speed toward destruction, the vision was again employed by the Lord in stirring up His people and warning them of the dangers into which they were headed and the glories that await the servants of God. In the writings of Ezekiel we see many visions. This prophet was in vision transported from his place among the captives in Babylon to Jerusalem itself and was shown the actual conditions that were to be found in Jerusalem and in Palestine. Thus in very clear, vivid, graphic language, Ezekiel portrayed the real situation back in the homeland to his fellow-captives. In keeping with this thought, Daniel, younger contemporary of Ezekiel, likewise was granted various visions. This type of revelation is called apocalyptic. There is no book in the Scriptures that prepares one for the understanding of the course of history from the Babylonian captivity unto the establishment of the kingdom of glory here upon earth as does the Book of Daniel. In chapter 2 appears the vision of the metallic image which symbolizes the four different world kingdoms to whom God would give global dominion. In chapter 7 the same four world empires are presented, but under different symbolism. The fourth of this series of kingdoms is followed by the fifth, namely, the kingdom of the Lord Jesus Christ, the Messiah of Israel and Saviour and Redeemer of the world. When the captives who wished to serve God returned under Zerubbabel, the governor of the house of Israel, and Joshua, the high priest, from Babylon to the Holy Land, God raised up two prophets - Haggai, an old man, and Zechariah, a young man - who stirred the returned exiles out of their lethargy and caused them to throw themselves wholeheartedly into the service of God. Haggai spoke the words of the Lord, giving evidence of having some privileges of vision; but Zechariah, the younger contemporary, was granted visions and he portrayed in the most vivid and graphic manner the future when Israel will return to God, Jerusalem shall become the capital of the world, and Israel, cleansed and purified, shall become the channel of world blessing. The Apostle John, in the Book of Revelation, likewise was led by the spirit to present his message just as he had received it in vision.

Let us remember that, though the revelation was given in the form of visions, these communications described spiritual realities. It is for us, therefore, to ascertain by hard study and by trustful praying the import of the message whether given in plain words or in the form of a descriptive vision. Let our prayer be,

Open thou mine eyes, that I may behold Wondrous things out of thy law (Psalm 119:18).

Installment 2

IN the preceding article of this series we have seen the real scriptural meaning of prophecy - that it refers to things past, present, and future. We have seen, moreover, that some of the revelations of God came in the manner indicated by the scriptural formula: "The word of Jehovah came unto ..." We have also seen that, by vision, the revelation was made more graphic in the case of many of the prophets. In the present study we wish to note several cases of predictive prophecy in order that we may learn just how to approach any utterance in regard to the future.

In John, chapter 8, we have a discussion or debate which the Lord Jesus had with the scribes and the Pharisees at Jerusalem, when He attended the last Feast of Tabernacles during His personal ministry. It became quite evident to all who were looking on that the leaders of Israel were bent and determined in their vigorous opposition to Jesus. He, with His penetrating divine vision, looked behind outward appearances and detected the presence of the great enemy of both God and man that was moving them on in their bitter opposition to Him. He therefore declared that His opponents were children of their father, the devil, since he was stirring them up and moving them to such unreasonable measures of opposition. In their discussion, they claimed to be the children of Abraham, but Jesus showed that they were not children of that venerable patriarch, though they had been born of Jewish parentage.

They had the Abrahamic blood, but they did not have the Abrahamic spirit. They had been blessed of the Lord, in that they were living at the very time when the Messiah would come and with their physical eyes were looking upon Him, yet they did not appreciate that fact, the reason being that they did not know Him nor the Scriptures which were read every sabbath in their synagogues. Even under the old covenant there was such a thing as knowing God in a personal manner. This fact is seen in the following quotation:

23. Thus saith Jehovah, Let not the wise man glory in his wisdom, neither let the mighty man glory in his might, let not the rich man glory in his riches; 24 but let him that glorieth glory in this, that he hath understanding, and knoweth me, that I am Jehovah who exerciseth loving-kindness, justice, and righteousness, in the earth; for in these things I delight, saith Jehovah.

~ Jeremiah 9:23,24 ~

The Apostle Paul told the Jews in Antioch of Pisidia that their brethren in Jerusalem fulfilled the Scriptures in condemning and crucifying the Messiah simply because they did not know Him nor the Scriptures. These facts show that, even though the spiritual blessings enjoyed by the Old Testament saints were far less than those we possess today, yet they could - and many of them did - know God and had spiritual discernment. But these Jews with whom the Lord clashed on this occasion should have rejoiced that they were living in Messianic Times, and that actually Messiah had appeared and was in their midst for the purpose of working out redemption's scheme. But no, instead of rejoicing in the great unparalleled spiritual blessings which were granted to them, they were actually, with all the force and power of their being, opposing the Messiah who was the Son of God, and who entered the world by miraculous conception and virgin birth.

In showing the Jews, with whom He was arguing, that, though they did have Abrahamic blood, they did not have the Abrahamic spirit, Jesus declared to them Your father Abraham rejoiced to see my day; and he saw it, and was glad (John 8:56). What is the significance of the term, Abraham rejoiced to see my day; and he saw it, and was glad? In view of the trend of the thought the facts of the context show that the day to which Jesus referred was the very time when He was present with them, that is, the time of His first coming. These opponents, though they were Jews - yet they were not in the true sense because they did not know God and recognize His Messiah - should have been rejoicing in the fact that they were living at that time when God had graciously, in the person of Jesus Christ, left heaven and had come to this earth in order to work out their redemption and that of the world. The fact that they did not rejoice to see Him and His time - to observe the miracles which He performed and to hear the words of grace which proceeded from His lips - was proof positive that they were not real Israelites in the correct and true sense of the term. In marked contrast with them and their attitude, Jesus said Abraham, whom they claimed to be their father, rejoiced to see His day, Christ's day - that time when He appeared on earth the first time. Evidently from this language Abraham was given a promise by the Lord that He would in vision see the day when Messiah would appear upon earth in order to work out human redemption. When this vision was shown to him he saw, doubtless crystal clear, the Lord Jesus Christ, the Babe of Bethlehem the Man of Galilee, the Man of sorrows, throughout His entire career. He saw the agonies of the Saviour in the Garden; he saw Him suspended upon the cross as He suffered the death-throes of one of the crudest methods of the execution of a criminal possible; he saw Him lying cold in death in the tomb; he saw the spirit of Jesus descending to Hades and making the announcement concerning the completion of redemption's scheme. He saw His spirit come forth from Hades and re-enter that body which was then glorified. He saw Him walking out of the tomb, the conqueror over all the forces of satanic power, thus bringing life and immortality to light through the gospel. Finally, after the forty days, following the resurrection, He saw Him ascend to glory and sit down on the right hand of the majesty on high. Thus Abraham in spirit was carried forward from his day and time, which was approximately two thousand years before Christ, to the time when the Babe of Bethlehem was born. And he saw the entire life of our Lord and His glorious triumphant conquest over Satan and the perfecting of the plan of redemption.

Yes, we have every reason to believe that Abraham not only saw Messiah at His first coming and rejoiced in the redemption which He purchased for mankind, but he saw Him when He will rend the heavens, descend to this earth, mount the throne of David, lift the curse, and establish a reign of righteousness from sea to sea and from the river to the ends of earth. We are logical therefore in believing that Abraham, in vision, was thus carried forward over the span of two thousand years of history to the first coming of Christ, and that he likewise surveyed all Messiah's redemptive career, including the Age of Grace and the great consummation when He returns in glory and power to reign in righteousness for one thousand years.

Isaiah lived and engaged in his ministry in the days of Uzziah, Jotham, Ahaz, and Hezekiah, the latter half of the eighth century before the Christian Era. In the year that King Uzziah died, the prophet was granted a vision of the Lord Jesus Christ as He will sit in the great millennial Temple and will reign over a peaceful world. This is seen in Isaiah 6:1-5:

1. In the year that king Uzziah died I saw the Lord sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up, and his train filled the temple. 2. Above him stood the seraphim: each one had six wings; with twain he covered his face and with twain he did fly, 3. And one cried unto another, and said, Holy, holy holy, is Jehovah of hosts; the whole earth is full of his glory. 4. And the foundations of the thresholds shook at the voice of him that cried, and the house was filled with smoke. 5. Then said I, Woe is me! for I am undone; because I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; for mine eyes have seen the King Jehovah, of hosts.

The prophet declares that he saw the Lord sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up, and his train filled the temple. The question immediately arises, "What temple?" There have been several Temples, and there will yet be two more. Solomon built the great Temple of Israel upon his accession to the throne and power in Israel. This sacred edifice was destroyed by Nebuchadnezzar at the time of the Babylonian captivity. Seventy years later, when the exiles who wished to serve God, went back to the land of their fathers under the leadership of Zerubbabel and Joshua, they built the Temple which is known in history as Zerubbabel's Temple. This structure was insignificant in comparison with that which had been erected by Solomon. When Herod the Great, by conniving and by political maneuvering at Rome, obtained authority over Judaea, he had a mania for building. He therefore, in 20 B.C. began to tear down the Temple at Jerusalem piecemeal and began to rebuild it upon a more magnificent and grander scale. The work which was thus begun in 20 B.C. was completed, according to the very best accounts we have, around A.D. 64. But in A.D. 70, when Titus captured Jerusalem, this Temple was destroyed, the Jewish nation was overwhelmed, and the survivors of that catastrophe were sold in the slave marts of the world, into bondage. In the very time of the end, according to prophetic prediction, the Jews will rebuild their Temple, which will be standing during the time of the Tribulation. Isaiah the prophet, chapter 66:1-5, foretold that it would be built. Psalm 74 sees its being destroyed in the Tribulation. Jesus assumed its standing in the middle of the Tribulation, as we see in Matthew 24:15ff. Paul likewise assumed its existence in the middle of the Tribulation (II Thessalonians 2:1-12). John in the Book of Revelation, chapter 11, likewise described it. But, as just stated, this Jewish Temple, will be destroyed. But when Jesus comes back to this earth, being invited by the penitent remnant of Israel to return, He will rebuild the Temple and will sit upon His throne, wearing a double crown, that of royalty and that of priesthood (Zechariah 6:9-15). This Temple is the one which is described very fully in the last section of Ezekiel, chapters 40-48.

Which of these Temples is the one that was shown to Isaiah in the passage which we have under consideration? The third verse of this chapter gives the keynote; And one [seraphim] cried unto another, and said, Holy, holy, holy, is Jehovah of hosts: the whole earth is full of his glory. Let us remember that these verses give us a vision, a vision of Jehovah in His Temple. The prophet therefore sees Jehovah seated upon the throne. At that time the earth is full of God's glory. This statement gives us the time when this vision will be fulfilled, the era of the great millennial kingdom.

Since we know that this is a vision of Christ in His glory, which position is confirmed by John 12:41, we know that Isaiah was carried forward in vision, from the latter part of the eighth century when he lived, across the centuries to the glorious second coming of our Lord.

In concluding this special phase of study, let us look at Jeremiah 4:23-26:

23. I beheld the earth, and, lo, it was waste and void; and the heavens, and they had no light. 24 I beheld the mountains, and, lo, they trembled, and all the hills moved to and fro. 25 I beheld, and, lo, there was no man, and all the birds of the heavens were fled. 26 I beheld, and, lo, the fruitful field was a wilderness, and all the cities thereof were broken down at the presence of Jehovah, and before his fierce anger.

Jeremiah had a vision in which he saw the heavens as black as ink and the earth reduced to a state of chaos, wreckage, and ruin. Was the prophet carried backward in vision to the catastrophe recorded in Genesis 1:2, or forward into the future? A very important question. When a person reads verse 27 which follows our quotation immediately, he will see that Jeremiah declared that this vision will be fulfilled yet in the future, in the day of Jehovah - the time of the Tribulation. Thus it is clear from these facts that Jeremiah was likewise carried forward in vision by the Spirit and saw the wrecked earth. It is hoped that from this short study the reader may be able to see the importance of ascertaining the proper point of view from which to view the prophecies of the Scriptures. Unless a person discovers this proper perspective, he cannot interpret prophecy aright.

Installment 3

WE HAVE already seen in this series that the word "prophecy" as used originally in the Scriptures was applied to the narration of past events, present circumstances, and future out looks. In other words, the prophets were inspired when they narrated past events, and when they evaluated the present and revealed the future. The inspiration of the Holy Spirit was just as essential for them when they were recalling the past - as they did in the most accurate manner, which proposition has been absolutely proved by archaeological discoveries - as when they foretold the future.

The crowning proof of the inspiration of the messages of the prophets and Apostles is seen in the fact that they alone properly diagnosed human nature and described the infallible cure for the sickness of the soul of man. Their prescription works! When the scriptural analyses of man's condition and his needs are compared with the views and prescriptions that are offered by ordinary men, the emptiness and the shallowness of such human theories become apparent. The uncovering of the future by the prophets, as seen from their point of view, has been proved, by the course of history, to have been infallibly guided by the Spirit of God. We have every reason, therefore, to place absolute and unqualified confidence in every utterance of Moses, the prophets, and the Apostles.

We have also seen that, in order for anyone to understand predictive prophecy properly, he must note well whatever time element may be given in any specific prophecy before he can interpret correctly the prediction. Sometimes checks are postdated. By a person's doing this, he is telling the bank not to honor the check until that future day arrives. Thus it is with the prophecies. They are good only when the time arrives that is indicated by the chronological data that thus stamps them as to when they are to be fulfilled. On this point let us study minutely two psalms.

Psalm 90

Psalm 90, written by Moses and possibly the oldest one in the book, is indeed very illuminating. It sweeps forth from eternity in the past through the ages that intervene between Genesis 1:1 and Genesis 1:2, and comes flashing to the time of the creation of Adam, then onward to the day of Moses. The Eternal God, as set forth in verses 1 and 2, existed from all eternity in the past. The last clause of verse 2, Even from everlasting to everlasting, thou art God, properly rendered and studied in the light of the context, should be translated this way: Even from age to age, thou wast God. The correctness of this interpretation is seen when one realizes that in verse 2 the prophet is still looking back toward the past and is speaking of a time prior to the creation of the universe. As the Hebrew is translated in our English versions, all eternity - before the creation of the universe, the time during which the material cosmos is in existence, and ages of the ages of all future eternity - is by this translation thrown back prior to the creation of the universe. This position is of course an absurdity. In contrast to God's having existed throughout all eternity, Moses refers to the longevity of the human family prior to the Flood. A glimpse at Genesis, chapter 5, shows that the antedeluvian patriarchs' lives approximated a thousand years. But that civilization was wiped out by the Flood, a catastrophic Judgment.

In verses 7-11 Moses comes to his own day and time, and speaks of God's having dealt in wrath and indignation with His Chosen People, whose span of life has been reduced to threescore years and ten, Or even by reason of strength fourscore years. The best commentary on God's dealings with the generation of Moses is the Book of Numbers.

Thus having reviewed the judgment of the Flood disaster and of God's strokes upon Israel in the wilderness wanderings, Moses is carried forward in his thinking out to the time when the nation again sins against God. On account of this rebellion the stroke of judgment falls. Clearly he saw the situation and, identifying himself with his brethren, he prayed that the Lord would lead the nation to "get us a heart of wisdom," that they might evaluate their situation, see their mistake, and recognize that their only hope is to pray for Jehovah, against whom they sin when He appears, to return to them and bring deliverance. This is set forth in verses 12-17.

In this last section of this psalm it is quite evident that Moses was carried in vision out beyond the time when Jehovah comes to His people. The prophets constantly spoke of the time when Jehovah would come to His people, and they would reject Him and thus sin against their own souls. Recognizing this fact, and seeing that the solution of Israel's problem lay in their repudiation of the national sin and praying to Jehovah, who alone can solve their problems, to return, Moses thus leads his nation in this penitential confession and prayer.

The face meaning of these verses must be accepted. The information presupposed in this passage must be gathered from related ones. When I recognize this fact, and when I look at such a passage as Isaiah 53:1-9, I immediately recognize that this petition is the same one as that which is set forth in Isaiah 53:1-9.

When a person thus runs the gamut of the ages that are surveyed in this psalm, he recognizes the fact that Moses was viewing the great disasters that have come, first to mankind in general in the days of Noah; secondly, to the Hebrew people in the days of Moses; and thirdly, to the Jewish people in this age when they, not having wisdom, reject Messiah at His first coming. Moses - seeing that the time will come in the history of Israel when the nation will, in genuine repentance, repudiate its national sin and pray for Him to return and deliver them - introduces this petition by the words, Return, O Jehovah; how long? Thus the latter part of Psalm 90 is dated at the time when convicted and penitent Israel will plead for Jehovah to return. On this point the reader should carefully study Hosea 5:14-6:3.

Psalm 95

Psalm 95 is a most important portion of the revelation of God. No one can properly understand the Hebrew Epistle of the New Testament (possibly the most profound portion of the entire Word of God) who does not properly understand Psalm 95.

From a general knowledge of the Word we understand that Psalm 95 was spoken by King David (Hebrews 3:7-11,15; 4:7). The historical background of this psalm is to be located at the time of the giving of the law (Exodus, chaps. 19-24). When the Lord spoke from the heights of Sinai the Ten Commandments, the frightened hosts of Israel pleaded with Moses that God would no more speak to them, but that He should deliver His messages to the great leader and lawgiver, and that he in turn should relay them to the children of Israel. The hosts of Israel made every kind of promise that they would be obedient to the heavenly voice. Keeping this experience in mind, the Lord promised that He would raise up to Israel a prophet saying, I will put my words in his mouth, and he shall speak unto them all that I shall command him (Deuteronomy 18:16-19). Since Israel did not want God to speak to her directly, the Almighty promised that He would raise up a prophet, a spokesman for Himself, who would deliver His message to her.

David, who was inspired by the Spirit of God, and who knew this promise of God's speaking to Israel through this future prophet, uttered the prediction found in Psalm 95. David lived approximately five hundred years after Moses made the original prediction. But he was carried out from his day and time to the time when God would raise up this prophet who would speak to her. This prediction, viewed in the light of the Gospel Records, quite obviously referred to the first coming of our Lord, who made His advent in the first century of the present era - a thousand years after David uttered Psalm 95.

Being thus transported into the future in vision to the first century, the king, as God's spokesman, viewed the situation in Palestine of the first century and saw this prophet through whom the Lord would speak, as He engages in His ministry. Thus David called to his brethren of a thousand years hence to come and accept this one without hesitation and to render the worship and the praise due to Him. He insisted on their doing this because Jehovah is a great God, And a great King above all gods, who is the Creator of the material universe, and who is the Shepherd of His people Israel.

In the second half of the psalm (7b-11) David began his oracle with the word, "To-day." What is the meaning of this term? Obviously it refers to the time of Jehovah's coming to earth in fulfillment of Deuteronomy 18:15-18 and this present prediction. It therefore means the time when Messiah comes to be with His people. When we read this in the light of Hebrews, chapters 3 and 4, we know that this word, today, refers to the time of our Lord's first appearance upon earth.

King David - in vision seeing Messiah at His first corning therefore pleaded with the Jewish people of the time of our Lord not to harden their hearts when they would hear God speaking in the person of Jesus Christ. It is clear therefore, that the word "To-day," dates the prophecy and its fulfillment at the time of Messiah's first coming. Knowing the proper perspective, a person is in a position to interpret the psalm.

All prophecies and predictive psalms must be examined carefully in order to determine the date when they are to be fulfilled. If this is not done, strange and foreign interpretations will be placed upon the Word of God.

* "When the plain sense of Scripture makes common sense, seek no other sense; therefore, take every word at its primary, ordinary, usual, literal meaning unless the facts of the immediate context, studied in the light of related passages and axiomatic and fundamental truths indicates clearly otherwise.


Reprinted by permission of the Biblical Research Society, where other outstanding studies by Dr. Cooper may be found. Links to the "Rules of Interpretation" series
and the "Messages Concerning the Laws of Interpretation" series
may be found at
A brief biography of Dr. Cooper may also be found
on the Biblical Research Society home page.

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