1. DREAMS AND VISIONS
a. Why is prophecy so important, and how does telling the future identify Jehovah as our Creator? Amos 3:7; Isaiah 46:9, 10; 41:21–23.
“A revelation is something revealed. The Lord Himself revealed to His servant the mysteries contained in this book [of Revelation], and He designs that they shall be open to the study of all. Its truths are addressed to those living in the last days of this earth’s history, as well as to those living in the days of John. Some of the scenes depicted in this prophecy are in the past, some are now taking place; some bring to view the close of the great conflict between the powers of darkness and the Prince of heaven, and some reveal the triumphs and joys of the redeemed in the earth made new.”—The Acts of the Apostles, p. 584.
b. How does the Lord reveal Himself to His prophets, and how can we distinguish the true prophets from the false ones? Hebrews 1:1; Numbers 12:6; Deuteronomy 13:1–5; Job 33:15, 16.
“We shall encounter false claims; false prophets will arise; there will be false dreams and false visions; but preach the Word, be not drawn away from the voice of God in His Word.”—Selected Messages, bk. 2, p. 49.
2. INTEREST IN PROPHECY
a. What record do we have that men and women of God, even prophets themselves, took time to study the prophecies? Daniel 9:2. Besides the human race, who else is deeply involved in the study of prophecy? 1 Peter 1:9–12.
“Even the prophets who were favored with the special illumination of the Spirit did not fully comprehend the import of the revelations committed to them. The meaning was to be unfolded from age to age, as the people of God should need the instruction therein contained. . . .
“While it was not given to the prophets to understand fully the things revealed to them, they earnestly sought to obtain all the light which God had been pleased to make manifest. They ‘inquired and searched diligently,’ ‘searching what, or what manner of time the Spirit of Christ which was in them did signify.’ What a lesson to the people of God in the Christian age, for whose benefit these prophecies were given to His servants! ‘Unto whom it was revealed, that not unto themselves, but unto us they did minister’ (1 Peter 1:10–12). Witness those holy men of God as they ‘inquired and searched diligently’ concerning revelations given them for generations that were yet unborn. Contrast their holy zeal with the listless unconcern with which the favored ones of later ages treat this gift of Heaven. What a rebuke to the ease-loving, world-loving indifference which is content to declare that the prophecies cannot be understood!”—The Great Controversy, p. 344.
b. Why is the study of prophecy so important? Who gave these revelations to the godly men and women of old? 2 Peter 1:16–21.
“The prophecies which the great I AM has given in His word, uniting link after link in the chain of events, from eternity in the past to eternity in the future, tell us where we are today in the procession of the ages and what may be expected in the time to come. All that prophecy has foretold as coming to pass, until the present time, has been traced on the pages of history, and we may be assured that all which is yet to come will be fulfilled in its order.”—Prophets and Kings, p. 536.
“I AM means an eternal presence; the past, present, and future are alike to God. He sees the most remote events of past history, and the far distant future with as clear a vision as we do those things that are transpiring daily.”—The SDA Bible Commentary [E. G. White Comments], vol. 1, p. 1099.
a. Why does God speak in symbols and parables? Matthew 13:10–14, 16.
“Christ had truths to present which the people were unprepared to accept or even to understand. For this reason also He taught them in parables. By connecting His teaching with the scenes of life, experience, or nature, He secured their attention and impressed their hearts. Afterward, as they looked upon the objects that illustrated His lessons, they recalled the words of the divine Teacher. To minds that were open to the Holy Spirit, the significance of the Saviour’s teaching unfolded more and more. Mysteries grew clear, and that which had been hard to grasp became evident.”—Christ’s Object Lessons, p. 21.
b. How can we correctly understand the illustrations and symbols used in Bible prophecy? 1 Corinthians 2:13; Isaiah 28:9–13.
“The Pharisees of Christ’s day closed their eyes lest they should see, and their ears lest they should hear; therefore the truth could not reach their hearts. They were to suffer retribution for their willful ignorance and self-imposed blindness. But Christ taught His disciples that they were to open their minds to instruction, and be ready to believe. He pronounced a blessing upon them because they saw and heard with eyes and ears that believed. . . .
“Only he who receives the Scriptures as the voice of God speaking to himself is a true learner. He trembles at the word; for to him it is a living reality. He opens his understanding and his heart to receive it. . . .
“A knowledge of the truth depends not so much upon strength of intellect as upon pureness of purpose, the simplicity of an earnest, dependent faith. To those who in humility of heart seek for divine guidance, angels of God draw near. The Holy Spirit is given to open to them the rich treasures of the truth. . . .
“Merely to hear or to read the word is not enough. He who desires to be profited by the Scriptures must meditate upon the truth that has been presented to him. By earnest attention and prayerful thought he must learn the meaning of the words of truth, and drink deep of the spirit of the holy oracles.
“God bids us fill the mind with great thoughts, pure thoughts. He desires us to meditate upon His love and mercy, to study His wonderful work in the great plan of redemption.”—Ibid., pp. 59, 60.
4. WIND AND SEA
a. What does wind often represent in prophecy? Jeremiah 25:32, 33; 4:13.
“We hear now of earthquakes in divers places, of fires, of tempests, of disasters by sea and land, of pestilence, of famine. What weight do these signs have upon you? This is only the beginning of what shall be. The description of the day of God is given through John by the Revelator. The cry of the terror-stricken myriads has fallen upon the ear of John. ‘The great day of His wrath is come; and who shall be able to stand?’ (Revelation 6:17). The apostle himself was awed and overwhelmed.
“If such scenes as this are to come, such tremendous judgments on a guilty world, where will be the refuge for God’s people? How will they be sheltered until the indignation be overpast? John sees the elements of nature—earthquake, tempest, and political strife—represented as being held by four angels. These winds are under control until God gives the word to let them go. There is the safety of God’s church. The angels of God do His bidding, holding back the winds of the earth, that the winds should not blow on the earth, nor on the sea, nor on any tree, until the servants of God should be sealed in their foreheads. The mighty angel is seen ascending from the east (or sunrising). This mightiest of angels has in his hand the seal of the living God, or of Him who alone can give life, who can inscribe upon the foreheads the mark or inscription, to whom shall be granted immortality, eternal life. It is the voice of this highest angel that had authority to command the four angels to keep in check the four winds until this work was performed, and until he should give the summons to let them loose.”—Testimonies to Ministers, pp. 444, 445.
b. We often find different prophetic illustrations around some sort of water or sea. What do these represent? Revelation 17:1, 15.
“The great kingdoms that have ruled the world were presented to the prophet Daniel as beasts of prey, rising when ‘the four winds of the heaven strove upon the great sea’ (Daniel 7:2). In Revelation 17 an angel explained that waters represent ‘peoples, and multitudes, and nations, and tongues’ (Verse 15). Winds are a symbol of strife. The four winds of heaven striving upon the great sea represent the terrible scenes of conquest and revolution by which kingdoms have attained to power.”—The Great Controversy, pp. 439, 440.
5. BEASTS AND WINGS
a. We learned in the previous quarter that when God wants to enlighten His people, He uses angels or something glorious to represent them. What does God use to represent earthly kingdoms or empires? Daniel 7:17, 23.
“Earthly governments prevail by physical force; they maintain their dominion by war; but the founder of the new kingdom is the Prince of Peace. The Holy Spirit represents worldly kingdoms under the symbol of fierce beasts of prey; but Christ is ‘the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world’ (John 1:29). . . . Christ implants a principle. By implanting truth and righteousness, He counterworks error and sin.”—Christ’s Object Lessons, p. 77.
b. Often a prophet would see beasts flying with wings—totally contrary to the natural likeness of the animal. What do these wings symbolize? Habakkuk 1:6–10.
“The world needs men of thought, men of principle, men who are constantly growing in understanding and discernment. There is great need of men who can use the press to the best advantage, that the truth may be given wings to speed it to every nation, and tongue, and people.”—Gospel Workers, p. 25.
PERSONAL REVIEW QUESTIONS
a. How does a holy God communicate His will with lost, sinful, human beings?
b. Holy men of God in the past received divine illumination. Why were they also interested in what God revealed through others before them?
c. Why does God use parables and symbols, and how is it possible to have a correct understanding of their intent?
d. What is the meaning of the winds and the sea in Bible prophecy?
e. How do beasts and wings depict the actions of nations?