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 J.C. Ryle on interpreting prophecy

J.C. Ryle (1816-1900). A Anglican beloved in his day who was the first archbishop of Liverpool and a man of God.

Concerning the vital subject of the destiny of Israel in Scripture he wrote:

1) Take up the subject because of the importance which it occupies in Scripture. Cultivate the habit of reading prophecy with a single eye to the literal meaning of its proper names. Cast aside the old traditional idea that Jacob, and Israel, and Judah, and Jerusalem, and Zion must always mean the Gentile Church, and that predictions about the Second Advent are to be taken spiritually, and first Advent predictions literally. Be just, and honest, and fair. If you expect the Jews to take the 53rd of Isaiah literally, be sure you take the 54th and 60th and 62nd literally also. The Protestant Reformers were not perfect. On one point, I venture to say, were they so much in the wrong as in rthe interpretation of Old Testament prophecy. Even our venerable Authorized Version of the Bible has many "tables of contents" which are sadly calculated to mislead, in the prophetical books. When the Revised Version comes out, I trust we shall see a great improvement in this respect.

Me: One thing that has helped me in trying to sort out what's what in prophecy is Brother Ryle's advice to keep in mind the literal meaning of the proper names one encounters in the Old Testament and prophecy. For so long I read and a understanding of sorts would come to me yet the real meaning still remained sort of ambigious to me. What was really being said? If prophecy referred to the Christian and Gentile church and not Israel proper then hey, what could be wrong with that? Wasn't that where things were headed anyway? Well yes, but within a certain context. Reading of Jacob and Israel and Judah and Jerusalem and Zion and seeing them as allegories for something other than they meant helped keep it vague and ambigious to me even though I didn't realize what was going on at the time. This way of interpreting even destroyed the meaning of the intended context of prophecy to be fulfilled in regard to national Israel. In many interpretation Israel returning to the land in the last days is allegorically seen as each individual returning to the faith. When you were young etc. you may have kept the faith of your father and mother but then you wandered but later returned to the faith so that is Judah or Israel returning to the land. That will preach of course in a allegorical manner but it is not what the original prophecies mean in regard to a return to the land in the latter days. It has even been passed down that the lion lying down with the lamb etc. is a metaphor for men's harsh temperments being tamed and some go so far as to suggest that it means Jew and Gentile learning to lie down and cooperate with one another at some time in the future. It comes from trying to replace the original meaning of prophetic language. So it has gone with the proper names - Jacob, Isarel, Judah, Jerusalem, Zion - and their "proper" interpretation." It's a keen observation in my opinion that if we insist on the literalness of Isaiah chapter 53 then why have chapters 54, 60, and 62 been spiritualized? What's good for one should be good for the other. I think that's part of what Ryle meant by spiritualizing things regarding the second advent since many of the things in places such as Isaiah chapters 54, 6o, and 62 will occur at the second Advent and they regard national Israel restored. Seeing prophecy literally has been a major help to me in getting away from a ambigious non clarity when reading prophecy. Why can't a literal fulfillment be the most spiritual fulfillment? Amen Mr. Ryle.


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David Winter

 2012/9/16 13:57Profile









 Re: J.C. Ryle on interpreting prophecy

Amen.

 2012/9/16 16:25
Areadymind
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Joined: 2009/5/15
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 Re: J.C. Ryle on interpreting prophecy

Well said Mr. Ryle.


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Jeremiah Dusenberry

 2012/9/16 18:17Profile
EverestoSama
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Joined: 2010/5/17
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 Re:

Looks like J.C. Ryle had the same outlook the first century Jews had on prophecy (which is a solid one to have). Good admonition for sure. The guy that I learned to study prophecy from spoke quite highly of J.C. Ryle. I can definitely see why now.

 2012/9/17 5:46Profile
twayneb
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Joined: 2009/4/5
Posts: 2007
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 Re: J.C. Ryle on interpreting prophecy

Amen Bro. Ryle.


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Travis

 2012/9/17 8:00Profile
ginnyrose
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Joined: 2004/7/7
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 Re: J.C. Ryle on interpreting prophecy

AMEN and AMEN!

Thanks for sharing this, docs.

ginnyrose


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Sandra Miller

 2012/9/17 10:09Profile









 Re: Some specific, some spiritual, some both and outside time.

If we take the Old Testament prophecies of Canon as God-breathed, which we must, then we must take the prophecies of the New Testament likewise; Those of Jesus, and those recorded from the Apostles, and especially the book of Revelation.

It would be an impossible task to consume Revelation literally; IE: It is either received symbolically and spiritually, or it cannot be received at all.

There are many, many prophecies that are literal; they came to pass to the jot and tittle, but there are some prophecies that seem to intertwine around the two, the spiritual and the natural immediate, timely circumstance.

I think of the "Abomination that makes desolate."...and how so many have pegged Antiochus Epiphanes as the fulfillment of Daniel 11; which it appeared so, but Daniel 11, and the very same event, is obviously going to happen at the advent of the Great Tribulation..[ Daniel 12].

So, how can the two be reconciled? We cannot be adamant, in an either or situation about prophecies, and frankly I do not care how the Jews interpret prophecy. The Holy spirit must enlighten a man, or the mind, or it will be wrong, or at best shallow. God may have 100 different insinuations in a prophecy, that ring like a bell weather through time...and when we see it, we will be amazed.

I want to say this about the Jews...Yes, there have been many specific prophesies to the Jews that must not! be spiritualized as to the Gentiles....but...The church HAS been grafted into ONE VINE.

"Not as though the word of God hath taken none effect. For they are not all Israel, which are of Israel:

Neither, because they are the seed of Abraham, are they all children: but, In Isaac shall thy seed be called."

and to the Galations who were plagued by Messianic Jews supposed superiority and elitism, PAUL wrote:


"For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision availeth any thing, nor uncircumcision, but a new creature.

And as many as walk according to this rule, peace be on them, and mercy, and upon the Israel of God."

I am as much a part of God's heavenly family as any natural Jew, and ALL of the promises and prophetic proclamation to them, as a matter of faith, apply to me as well as any Hebrew ever. In this I tend to disagree with Ryle's seeming maxims.





 2012/9/17 14:08
ginnyrose
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Joined: 2004/7/7
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 Re:

I have seen people dismiss Revelation as being totally irrelevant, that it is all spiritual. One person went even so far as to ridicule the idea of streets being paved with gold! He believed he would get tired walking on streets of gold all day! I say he may be lucky to even get the opportunity to do so...SIGH Needless to say, I have no regard for any of his spiritual opinions.

Another lady one time read in Revelation the prophecy of the thousand year reign. She was utterly surprised and dumbfounded, "did you know this was there?" "Yes, madam!" I was appalled at her ignorance.

May I also suggest that this mindset spills over in how the rest of scripture is interpreted. For example, another person from this church scoffed at another for their sensitivity to the Spirit's leading in everyday affairs. As I consider these people's faith it is more a lack of it. They live by [some] law and psychology. What is not logical under their mindset is to be discarded and eschewed. Scripture is irrelevant if and when it conflicts with their theories.

'Nuff said.

In Bible School we were taught one should allow scripture to interpret itself. If there is confusion, question about something, just keep looking and you find the answer to your questions. Obviously some is hyperbole, sarcasm, allegorical, prophetic and literal but the context will inform the reader how it is to be understood.

God bless.


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Sandra Miller

 2012/9/17 14:36Profile









 Re: J.C. Ryle on interpreting prophecy

Quote:
I want to say this about the Jews...Yes, there have been many specific prophesies to the Jews that must not! be spiritualized as to the Gentiles....but...The church HAS been grafted into ONE VINE. Brother Tom



Whilst this is undoubtably true Tom it is important to remember that at the same time as the branch of the Gentiles was grafted into the one vine, the branch of Israel was cut off. Therein lies a separation. Not just God choosing Israel, but God cutting Israel off. Both make for a separation. Both make for prophetic distinction. One to Israel one to the Gentiles.

 2012/9/17 14:53
docs
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Joined: 2006/9/16
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 Re: Reply to amrkelly

You said,

"Whilst this is undoubtably true Tom it is important to remember that at the same time as the branch of the Gentiles was grafted into the one vine, the branch of Israel was cut off. Therein lies a separation. Not just God choosing Israel, but God cutting Israel off. Both make for a separation. Both make for prophetic distinction. One to Israel one to the Gentiles."

I'm not quite sure what you mean by "the branch of Israel was cut off." I guess I wonder because so many take that so far as to make it seem as if the holy root of the vine is no longer Jewish and that isn't so. That may not be what you meant and I'm trying to be careful with my comments to you.

1 - I say then, God has not rejected His people has He? May it never be!...

2 - God has not rejected His people whom He foreknew...
(Romans 11:1-2)

God has cut off individual Jewish branches because of unbelief but He hasn't rejected His people or His covenant with them. It's still outstanding even as the contoversy that surrounds it regarding the yet blind and enstranged nation is still outstanding. The final eschatological outworkings of that covenant are still ahead. I don't know exactly which prophetic distinctions between Jew and Gentile you refer to but I'm more comfortable seeing myself saved and a fellow-heir because I was allowed to enter into a covenant made with THEM (the Jews). Yet God remains restless and won't rest until the final remanant of the natural branches are grafted in again and in my non-allegorical opinion that involves a literal nation also.

Thanks bro.

Blessings.





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David Winter

 2012/9/17 17:46Profile





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