When you put on dark glasses, things will get dark. Rose ones make the world rosy. The same is true in the realm of ideas. The presuppositions we bring to the table can hinder clear interpretation. When it comes to Bible prophecy there are a few presuppositions we may bring to the table that cloud interpretation.
1. I have no presuppositions. Being that the very idea that you have no presuppositions is a presupposition, it is even more imperative that we concede that we have them and be willing to deal with them. In the very least, one’s culture and historical context will influence one’s interpretation of Biblical prophecy. For instance, people interpreted prophetic passages of Scripture in the Middle Ages differently than the generation just prior to WWII. In the realm of modern interpretation, WWII changed everything. This does not mean that because we have contextual and cultural presuppositions that we should not study Scripture and believe things strongly. Rather it means that we should recognize that Biblical prophecy can be vague and we use our presuppositions to fill in the vague spots. Therefore, we should be open to adjust our positions, welcome the views of others, and most importantly, realize that we will probably never have it all right until it actually happens.
2. The end happens suddenly. It is true that there are elements of prophecy that are to be fulfilled suddenly, but recognize that those events are very few in number to the relative whole. Biblical prophecy happens suddenly/slowly. The end is not so much an event as it is a chapter. Big things happen in the chapter, but it is an ever lengthening chapter. It is like turning 30. Turning 30 happens in a day (suddenly), but it takes 30 years (slowly). “The end” happens suddenly/slowly. Give it time.
3. A.D. 70 means nothing. Within one generation of Jesus’ ascension the Temple in Jerusalem was desecrated and destroyed as the climactic act of a long siege led by Titus. Without recognizing this event it is difficult to appreciate and interpret prophetic passages like Mark 13. Those who do not account for this important event are forced to do hermeneutical cartwheels to reconcile their interpretations. When we allow A.D. 70 to have its place in the eschatological calendar it helps us to realize that Biblical prophecy is not as much about what “will happen” as it is about “what is already happening.” As stated in point 2, the end is a chapter, not an event.
4. Jesus said it. I will chart it. That settles it. Prophecy is not about getting it right, it is about me and you being right. The theme of prophetic Scripture is “be ready.” This is the message that is too often ignored. When you read the passages in which Jesus teaches His followers about the end, He does it in a way that totally disarms any attempts to date, chart, or systematize the final chapter of human history (Mark 13:32-37). His greater concern is to equip and encourage His followers to be faithful and vocal during the last days. There is no excuse for compromise or cowardice no matter the intensity of the times. Danger is an expectation not an exception.
There are probably other ideas that shade our interpretations. In the end we glory in the revelation of His Word through His Son Jesus and in the Holy Scriptures. His message is clear. There is an end. Reality as we know it will change almost beyond recognition. We should be alert, aware, and ready.