Reading In Instead of Reading Out
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One of the most common errors is for the student to replace inductive Bible study (exegesis: where meaning is pulled from the Bible) with deductive Bible study (eisegesis: where meaning is pushed into the Bible). The difference between the two lies in the fact that while inductive Bible study (that which is promoted throughout this document) seeks to glean knowledge from the Bible, deductive Bible study attempts to use the Bible to support a previously made conclusion. Inductive Bible study allows the Bible to lead the student. Deductive Bible study has the student leading the Bible. One of the greatest examples of the deductive method causing Christians to mis-understand the Bible centres upon the following passage:
After these things I looked and saw a door opened in heaven, and the first voice that I heard, like a trumpet speaking with me, was one saying, “Come up here, and I will show you the things which must happen after this.”
This passage is interpreted by many Christians to symbolize the rapture of the Church prior to an event known as “The Great Tribulation” at the time of the second coming of Jesus Christ. Though in order for this interpretation to be valid the following must be true:
1 - John must be defined as a type of the Christian Church in order for his call into Heaven to be symbolic of the rapture
2 - The fact that John was called into Heaven to see the things that would happen "after this," not be a participant in them must be addressed
3 - The trumpet must be defined as the last trump of which the apostle Paul speaks in 1 Corinthians 15:52
4 - Christ must be seen as returning to gather up His followers as must occur at the time of the rapture
5 - Adequate explanation must be made why the almost identical statement in the passage below does not also refer to the rapture as it seems to more appropriately satisfy the weaknesses mentioned in points 1, 2 and 3; although it fails to satisfy point 4:
I heard a loud voice from heaven saying to them, “Come up here!” They went up into heaven in the cloud, and their enemies saw them.
It may be argued that each of the preceding points has been successfully dealt with, yet they must be explained away while the simplest and most natural interpretation seem to show that these points are neither supported by this passage nor by any passage which follows it. What seems to be most readily apparent is that John has been called by God to spiritually enter Heaven in order to see “things which must be hereafter.” Those who deduce the rapture into this passage must overlook the last half of the verse which clearly refers to John as an individual granted the special privilege of seeing with his own eyes what the end of the world will look like and to write about it so that his fellow believers may also know. Facts are being read into the Bible that are not there and facts which are there are being overlooked.
(Please note that in this short discussion I am not arguing against the pre-Tribulation rapture of the Church but against the incorrect interpretations of Scripture used to support this, or any other, doctrine. The actual timing of the rapture is beyond the scope of this document to address, though I personally believe that the Church will exist on the earth during the tribulation and will be raptured at the return of Jesus Christ when He defeats the beast and the false prophet and establishes His Millennial kingdom upon this present Earth after which the dragon will raise a new army of rebellion and be utterly and finally defeated.)
It is possible to deduce a correct interpretation as well. It is critical that the student makes a conscious attempt to prevent their preconceptions from interfering with their interpretation. We must remember that God is speaking to us through the Bible as well as through His Spirit, we must allow Him to speak and be guided by Him rather than by our own desires. We must be willing to discard a favoured belief if our Bible study shows it to be in error. We must be unwilling to discard a belief that is supported by the Bible even when “wiser minds” inform us to believe otherwise.