How are we to understand Jesus' statement in verse 34? Did the generation who heard him utter his prophecies experience what he predicted? The concept of duality helps explain his predictions. The generation who heard Jesus speak DID experience a type or smaller fulfillment of the events yet to occur in the End Time. Forty years after Jesus' death in 30 A.D., the total destruction of Jerusalem and its temple took place. The Jewish historian Josephus writes that the city suffered a protracted siege by the Romans (known as the First Jewish-Roman War). During the siege, the Empire cut off access to Jerusalem, causing it to endure severe famine and starvation. The Romans crucified anyone found escaping, with the victims of such torture put on a hill and made to face the city as they suffered. When its walls were finally breached in 70 A.D., the city was sacked then burned to the ground. Survivors of the war became Roman slaves. According to Josephus, the war cost the Jews the loss of more than one million people.
Often, the Bible uses symbols to express thoughts and ideas. For example, water (John 3:5; Ephesians 5:26; 1John 5:6, etc.), fire (Acts 2:3; 1Peter 1:7), and wind (John 3:8; Acts 2:2) are used to represent God's Holy spirit. Sometimes the explanation of a symbol is found verse close to where it appears, as seen in the below verses where Jesus is talking prophetically to John.
"'Write the things that you saw, and the things that are, and the things that shall take place hereafter. The mystery of the seven stars that you saw in My right hand, and the seven golden lampstands, is this: the seven stars are the angels of the seven churches; and the seven lampstands that you saw are the seven churches.'" (Revelation 1:19-20).
Many other symbols are in the scriptures. A mountain can represent a kingdom or authority (Isaiah 2:2; Daniel 44, 45; Revelation 17). Dragons represent the devil (Ezekiel 29:3; Revelation 12:3, 9). A person's forehead can represent their beliefs and choices (Revelation 7:3, 13:16). Keys can symbolize power and authority (Isaiah 22:22; Revelation 1:18), light is symbolic of truth (Isaiah 8:20, Matthew 4:16, etc.) and thrones symbolize the seat of government power (Psalm 122:5; Daniel 7:9, Revelation 4).
For more information on Bible symbolism, please see our article on the symbolic meaning of Biblical words.
Understanding Time Sequences
God gives certain, specific keys to understanding Biblical time sequences. Notice:
"And your sons shall be shepherds in the wilderness forty years, and bear the brunt of your infidelity, until your carcasses are consumed in the wilderness. According to the number of the days in which you spied out the land, forty days, for each day you shall bear your guilt one year, namely forty years, and you shall know My rejection." (Numbers 14:33-34).
God plainly tells us that the number of days in which the advance scouts of the nation of Israel searched out the promised land would represent the number of years in which they would wander in the land of Sinai.
Let us take a look at another time sequence example. Ezekiel is told to portray a map of the city of Jerusalem on a tile, as a "sign to the House of Israel." He was to depict, like a child playing in the sand, a walled fortified city, depict armies advancing against it, with all of the siege mechanisms of the day, and then to lie first on one side and then on the other to depict the number of years Israel would bear their iniquity.
"'Lie also on your left side, and lay the iniquity of the house of Israel upon it. According to the number of the days that you lie on it, you shall bear their iniquity. For I have laid on you the years of their iniquity, according to the number of the days, three hundred and ninety days; so you shall bear the iniquity of the house of Israel. And when you have completed them, lie again on your right side; then you shall bear the iniquity of the house of Judah forty days. I have laid on you a day for each year.'" (Ezekiel 4:4-6).
To see a practical application of this important key in understanding Bible prophecy, turn to Revelation 12 and 13. Here, you see the woman (symbolic of God's true church) given "two wings of a great eagle" (a symbol of God's protection), that she might fly into the wilderness, into her place, where she is nourished for a time, and times and half a time, from the face of the serpent (Revelation 12:14). Later in the thirteenth chapter, we read that the duration of this persecution under the false prophet and the beast is "forty and two months" (Revelation 13:5). Yet, in Revelation 12, the same period is referred to by a number of days.
"Then the woman fled into the wilderness, where she has a place prepared by God, that they should feed her there one thousand two hundred and sixty days." (Revelation 12:6)
Simple arithmetic shows us, using the key that a day stands for a year in fulfillment, that there was, in fact, a period of one thousand two hundred and sixty years during the Middle Ages when God's true church experienced terrible persecution. Is also tells us a prophetic year consists of three hundred and sixty days of thirty-day months! Thus, for prophetic purposes, we can come to understand the meaning of the Biblical "time."
A time is a year in Bible prophecy. Thus, "time, times and half a time" means exactly three and one-half years. Three and one-half years consists of forty-two months of thirty days each. Thus, we have twelve hundred and sixty days, forty-two months, or three and one-half years.
Categories of prophecy
In order to minimize confusion when studying prophetic events, it helps to place each prophecy in its proper category. The following is a list of major categories and sub-categories:
The House of Israel
The House of Judah
Individual tribes of Israel
- The punishment, destruction, repentance, and blessings of people and nations
Predictions specific to individuals and certain prophets in the end of the age
Prophecy concerning the Father's elect
The dangers that face the elect of God
The fate of God's elect for failing to make correct decisions
Punishment, protection, and rewards
End of this Age (Punishment and Destruction of nations and people)
The Kingdom of God and its coming rule
The Various Resurrections
The tribes of Israel
If one is to understand prophecies concerning world events, one must understand them in the context of how each one relates to ancient Israel. This is because the tribes of Israel are at the focal point of God's plan for the salvation of humanity. the House of Israel, the House of Judah, and God's past, present, and future purpose for their existence,
Prophecies that deal with national Israel, the Houses of Israel and Judah, and the individual tribes are separate categories. If you understand this, it makes many past, present, and future prophetic events much more clear. When studying prophecies concerning the End Time, the House of Judah primarily refers to the Jewish nation of Israel comprised of the tribes of Judah, Levi, and Benjamin. The House of Israel refers to the people who are commonly called the lost ten tribes of Israel.
There are also prophecies about the impact of individual tribes and other nations regarding world events as they interact with the various countries composed primarily of the descendants of Israel. Please see our short article on the modern location of the Lost Tribes.
The following are the main problems most people have in comprehending Biblical prophecy.
Prophecy is important from the aspect of proving that God exists and that his plan of salvation for all is on schedule. If its study, however, is not kept in perspective it can be easily lead a person astray by false doctrines or false prophets (Ephesians 4:14).
Believing the interpretation of others instead of doing the research themselves
Not being well versed in the basic plan of God for humanity
Not knowing which prophecies are or are not relevant to daily life
Not having access to creditable historical and other resources
Not considering God reveals some prophecies only one a "need to know" basis
There are MANY more important aspects of being a Christian than an in depth knowledge of prophetic Bible events. The apostle Paul taught about the relative importance of understanding prophecy to one's Christian life.
"Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I have become sounding brass or a clanging cymbal.
"And though I have the GIFT OF PROPHECY, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, but have NOT love, I AM NOTHING. And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, but have not love, IT PROFITS ME NOTHING." (1Corinthians 13:1-3)
If we do not love, no matter how wise concerning Bible prophecy we may be, we have gained NOTHING. The development of Godly character is far more valuable than a collection of facts our Father can grant us at any time.