How the Bible Interprets Itself
In The Context
[This is An Advanced Teaching]
Knowing this first, that no prophecy of the scripture is of any private interpretation. -- II Peter 1: 20
Since we are continuing with the How the Bible Interprets Itself series, we are beginning this new teaching with the same Scripture because it not only applies to ‘in the verse’, but also In The Context.
II Peter 1: 20 declares, "Knowing this first, that no prophecy [none of that which is foretold or forthtold in the Word of God] is of any private interpretation." Since I dare not interpret it, or you, or any other person in the world, all Scripture must interpret itself either in the verse or in the context or in the previous usage. We are now covering the second concept which is In The Context. We have so far studied the first point that Scripture interprets itself in the verse where it is written. For these Scriptures we noted that the verses not only interpreted themselves, but that (1) the words in the verses must be interpreted according to the meaning of the words at the time of the translation, (2) that any one verse must always be in harmony with all Scripture relating to the identical subject and (3) that one Scripture may not tell all the details; other Scriptures may add to it without contradicting each other. If you haven’t already, you should study the two teachings that pertains to how the Bible interprets itself IN THE VERSE.
Now we will get to how Scripture interprets itself in its context. If Scripture does not interpret itself in its own verse, then read the verse in its context. The context is that which makes up the whole story, the enveloping idea.
For an example read Psalms 2: 8. Missionaries have often used this text when talking about winning the heathen for the Lord Jesus Christ.
Ask of me, and I shall give thee the heathen for thine inheritance, and the uttermost parts of the earth for thy possession. – Psalms 2: 8
Isn't this a tremendous missionary sermon? Not if it is read in its context. Read the next verse.
Thou shalt break them with a rod of iron; thou shalt dash them in pieces like a potter's vessel. – Psalms 2: 9
Psalms 2: 8 does not make a good missionary sermon because in context the verse is, to say the least, inappropriate.
In Matthew 22 is a verse of Scripture that is frequently used at the memorial service for a saint of God who has worked diligently for the local church. This person was a fine influence in the community and, having passed away, the minister selects Matthew 22: 32 as his text at the funeral. This verse is an excellent example of why we need to study the context of a chapter to understand the Word of God rightly divided. Let’s take a look at the verse.
I am the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob? God is not the God of the dead, but of the living. -- Matthew 22: 32
... God is not the God of the dead, but of the living.
The saint's body is lying in the casket, he is dead; but somehow or other, we say he is not dead, he is living. Why not check the context? What is Matthew talking about when he says that "God is not the God of the dead, but of the living"? The twenty-third verse says the following.
The same day came to him the Sadducees, which say that there is no resurrection, and asked him, -- Matthew 22: 33
Now let’s look at Matthew 22: 31
But as touching the resurrection of the dead, have ye not read that which was spoken unto you by God saying, -- Matthew 22: 31
What is the context? The context is talking about the resurrection, not about death. Death and resurrection are far removed subjects. Let us read the whole story from Matthew 22: 23 - 29
The same day came to him the Sadducees, which say that there is no resurrection, and asked him,
Saying, Master, Moses said, If a man die, having no children, his brother shall marry his wife, and raise up seed unto his brother.
Now there were with us seven brethren: and the first, when he had married a wife, deceased, and, having no issue, left his wife unto his brother:
Likewise the second also, and the third, unto the seventh.
And last of all the woman died also.
Therefore in the resurrection [This is the subject] whose wife shall she be of the seven? for they all had her.
Jesus answered and said unto them, Ye do err, not knowing the scriptures, nor the power of God. -- Matthew 22: 23 - 29
Jesus said to those Sadducees, who did not believe in the resurrection, "Ye do err, not knowing the scriptures, nor the power of God." This is exactly why we are still so confused regarding the coming of the Lord, the resurrection and the gathering together. The teaching that when one dies he is really not dead because he is alive someplace else is error. To believe this shows that we don’t know the Scriptures nor the power of God.
For in the resurrection they neither marry, nor are given in marriage but are as the angels of God in heaven.
But as touching the resurrection of the dead, have ye not read that which was spoken unto you by God, saying,
I am the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob? God is not the God of the dead, but of the living. -- Matthew 22: 30 - 32
When is God not the God of the dead but of the living? Not now, but at the time of the resurrection. Where is Abraham now according to the Word of God? The Bible says he is dead. Where is Isaac? He is dead. Where is Jacob? He is dead. How long will they remain dead? Until the resurrection, and the resurrection has not yet come. At the time of the resurrection, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob will be made alive. This is the true Word when read in its context.
To talk of people dying and then their being alive and in heaven can lead one into many devious fields such as the so-called research and learning in extrasensory perception, in parapsychology and in subjects dealing with survival after death. I have studied these fields in which masses of people believe and which is becoming increasingly popular. The so-called gift of prophecy is being promoted. Some people knew ahead of time that President Kennedy was going to be killed. What good was it to know ahead of time since he was still killed? When God talked to a prophet and told him that the army from the north was going to come to Israel at a certain place, God did not reveal this knowledge and yet have all the people slaughtered. God told the prophet, the prophet told the king, the king activated his army, and Israel was protected against attack. There was profit gained from God's warning. There is always a profit in the revelation if it comes from the right source. The reason that Satan is having such a grand picnic is that few people believe in Satan or in devil spirits. They all say there is only one God. The Bible says there are two. One is the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ; the other is the god of this world who is Satan. Devil spirits possess minds, they control, they give information. Many times the information from the devil spirits is accurate because if it were always inaccurate nobody would believe them. This is like evil; evil is a parasite and could not exist without truth upon which to feed. Devil spirits, evil spirits, wrong sources of information which possess people, could not exist if it were not for the true God. Just because somebody takes a Bible and holds it up and says, "I read the Bible," does not mean that he is not a counterfeit. Even Satan knows the Word of God; he can even quote (misquote out of context) the Word.
The Bible says that when a man dies, he is dead and he stays dead until the return of Christ and the resurrection. Nobody who has died is living with the exception of the Lord Jesus Christ, whom the Bible declares God raised from the dead. All the rest are waiting the return of Christ. If the Church would teach this accurate Word, the spiritualists would be out of business. If the dead are alive and in heaven now having such a glorious time, then the spiritualists are not producing counterfeits when they bring back the so-called dead into manifestation in ectoplasmic or other forms. Ectoplasmic forms are merely deceiving spirits; they are counterfeits.
The reason spiritualists keep propounding the counterfeit is that the accuracy of the Word of God has never prevailed in our time in the Protestant or the Roman Catholic Church. Most groups have taught that when one dies, he is not really dead; somehow or other he goes to heaven or paradise, as they call it. The Bible says that when one dies, he stays dead until he is raised. Why should there be a raising of the dead if a person is already alive? The reason we have to have people raised is that people are dead. Some people say to me that God has to bring one's spirit back and reunite it with his body. How silly. If a person got along for a hundred years without a body, why should he take time to come back and pick one up? You see, we have gotten into this mess because of the error in wrongly dividing The Word regarding the dead.
Where are the dead? They are dead. How long are they going to stay dead? They are going to stay dead until Christ returns.
People try to confuse the accuracy of God's Word by giving the example of Moses and Elijah who appeared to Jesus and three of his disciples on the Mount of Transfiguration and with whom Jesus talked. The Word of God says that they saw Moses and Elijah in a vision. A vision is not producing the men themselves.
Unknowing people say Enoch was such a good man that he never saw death because God translated him. Let us read the record in context.
By faith Enoch was translated [transported] that he should not see death; and was not found, because God had [transported] him: for before his [transportation] he had this testimony, that he pleased God. – Hebrews 11: 5
"By faith Enoch was translated," The word "translated" is the word "transported," meaning "taken from one place to another." He was not taken from one spot up to another place; he was taken from one place over to another" ... that he should not see death." The word "see" is eidon, which means to "look at with actual perception with one's eyes" or literally "to see someone die." In checking the Old Testament, we discover that Enoch had never seen anybody pass away. He pleased God all the time for which God so loved him that God took him from the place where Enoch's loved ones would die and put him at a place where he should not see death. Enoch did not see anyone else die, but he himself died. The Bible says so in Hebrews 11: 5. "By faith Enoch"; verse 8 says, "By faith Abraham"; verse 11 says, "By faith Sara .... " Then in verse 13, after listing Enoch, Abraham, and Sara, Hebrews 11: 13 says, "These all died .... " All without exception died. If they all died, then Enoch is dead. That is what The Word says and that is what it means.
Sensitives or mediums or spiritualists who want us to believe we are surrounded with a great cloud of living witnesses continue to misquote the Word by using Hebrews 12: 1.
Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us. -- Hebrews 12: 1
These people who wrongly divide The Word say that the "cloud of witnesses" is composed of believers who died and are living in heaven. That is not what it says. The cloud of witnesses are the people listed in chapter 11 of Hebrews who believed God and of whom the Word of God says, "These all died ... " Still we are surrounded with their examples of believing. Their believing gives us incentive to trust and believe also.
Contortionists of The Word also come with the reference from Philippians 1: 21 where Paul says:
For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain. – Philippians 1: 21
It does not say that the gain is immediate. Paul says that the return of Christ is better than living or dying; for when Christ returns the mortal shall put on immortality.
Skeptics talk about the rich man and Lazarus in Abraham's bosom; they talk about Saul and the Witch of Endor. Not one person in the Bible is living except the Lord Jesus Christ, and God raised him from the dead. All the rest are dead. In a small book entitled Are The Dead Alive Now?, this subject is covered extensively and all the Scriptures that deal with the Bible regarding this subject have been examined, studied and made extensively clear. All segments of the Lord’s return and his resurrection have been examined. The accuracy of God's Word shows that the dead are dead and will remain dead until Christ comes back. Also, a book of interest on this topic is The Challenging Counterfeit by Raphael Gasson, who at one time was heavily involved in spiritualism. He relates in this book what God in His Word has already told us. Spiritualism is counterfeit. Yet nations are run by it, governmental men are used by it as are people in any occupation or economic group who seek information from sensitives. Sensitives do give information that will be right at some places; but just when a person needs sound knowledge, the sensitives' information breaks down and the person seeking knowledge breaks too. You should get your hands on both of these books and study them – work them. They will blow your mind. You will never have doubts again as to whether there is a devil are not. Both books are outstanding and if you are interested in learning more and more pertaining to the spiritual realm, you should not hesitate to find and purchase and study both of these books.
We must always go to the Scripture and its context and find out exactly what it says before we make any other statement or we shall be led into confusion by the wrong dividing of the Word.
Matthew 13 contains another excellent example of how Scripture interprets itself in its context.
Another parable put he forth unto them, saying, The kingdom of heaven is likened unto a man which sowed good seed in his field. -- Matthew 13: 24
Let’s say I ask the members of a Biblical class, "What is the good seed?" One student says, "I think the good seed is the Word of God." And 1 say, "Wonderful, wonderful!" Then I ask another student “What is the good seed?” And they say, ”I think the good seed is Christ." And I say, "Great." Then I ask another student what they think and he says “ I think that the good seed represents the good works of man." What is wrong with finding out what the Word means by questioning my students? "Knowing this first, that no prophecy of the scripture is of any private interpretation." All three students guessed. Each one offered private interpretation. Quit thinking and guessing; say what the Word says. Matthew 13: 24 simply says, " ... The kingdom of heaven is likened unto a man which sowed good seed in his field." What is the good seed? That verse does not tell us; and if a verse does not tell us, we do not know. It is no disgrace not to know; it is a disgrace to indicate we know when we do not know or when we are guessing. When we don't know, we had better continue reading.
But while men slept, his enemy came and sowed tares among the wheat, and went his way. -- Matthew 13: 25
What are the tares? We don't know so we just keep on reading until some place, somewhere, sometime, the meaning is going to be explained. If it is not explained, we will never know.
But when the blade was sprung up, and brought forth fruit, then appeared the tares also.
Does this verse explain the tares? No.
So the servants of the householder came and said unto him, Sir, didst not thou sow good seed in thy field? from whence then hath it tares?
He said unto them, An enemy hath done this. The servants said unto him, Wilt thou then that we go and gather them up?
But he said, Nay; lest while ye gather up the tares, ye root up also the wheat with them.
Let both grow together until the harvest: and in the time of harvest I will say to the reapers, Gather ye together first the tares, and bind them in bundles to burn them: but gather the wheat into my barn. -- Matthew 13: 26 - 30
Has The Word explained what the good seed is, what the field is, what the tares are? No, so we do not know. The parable ends with verse 30 and another parable begins.
Another parable put he forth unto them, saying, The kingdom of heaven is like to a grain of mustard seed, which a man took, and sowed in his field: -- Matthew 13: 31
Read the next four verses up to verse 36.
The next four verses, after the above four, continue this parable about the kingdom of heaven and finally give you the answers that you are looking for.
Then Jesus sent the multitude away, and went into the house: and his disciples came unto him, saying, Declare unto us the parable of the tares of the field. --Matthew 13: 36
How wise they were. The disciples did not guess. They did not say, "I think it is this" or "I think it is that." They went to the Master and they said, "Declare unto us the parable of the tares of the field."
He answered and said unto them, He that soweth the good seed is the Son of man.
So the sower is the Son of man, no guesswork.
The field is the world; the good seed are the children of the kingdom; but the tares are the children of the wicked one;
The enemy that sowed them is the devil; the harvest is the end of the world; and the reapers are the angels. -- Matthew 13: 37 - 39
Could this be made any simpler or more plain? This parable is interpreted in its context. We need guess no longer.
The book of Revelation is considered by many people to be a very difficult book. The reason it has been difficult is that we have never allowed it to interpret itself in the verse or in the context. Things in Revelation which are symbolic have been taken literally, and things that are literal have been taken symbolically.
And I turned to see the voice that spake with me. And being turned, I saw seven golden candlesticks. -- Revelation 1: 12
Does that verse tell what the seven golden candlesticks are? No, it just says, "I saw seven golden candlesticks." Before looking for the interpretation of this verse, look at verse 16.
And he had in his right hand seven stars: and out of his mouth went a sharp two edged sword: and his countenance was as the sun shineth in his strength. -- Revelation 1: 16
The twelfth verse talked about the seven golden candlesticks and the sixteenth spoke of the seven stars. What are the seven golden candlesticks, and what are the seven stars? That verse does not tell us so we continue reading.
The mystery of the seven stars which thou sawest in my right hand, and the seven golden candlesticks. The seven stars are the angels [messengers] of the seven churches: and the seven candlesticks which thou sawest are the seven churches. -- Revelation 1: 20
There is the answer. This is how the Scripture interprets itself in its context. The next and final lesson regarding How The Bible Interprets Itself will be referred to as “In Its Previous Usage”.
Although I’ve studied these methods for many years, you may have to reread these lessons at least twice before you can absorb what God is trying to teach you. I thank you all for staying with me because the last few teachings I am going to categorize as advanced teachings. Only the believers who have sold out completely in their heart to God Almighty and His rightly divided Word of God will be able to understand and apply what is being taught. God bless you. You are the best.