The importance of context in interpreting revelation.


When interpreting prophecy or dreams the importance of the context in which the subject of the revelation is placed is very important.

Jesus told a number of parables involving seeds. Each of these has a different interpretation which can be discovered by looking at the context of the parable.

The parable of the mustard seed:

Matthew 13:31-32 “He presented another parable to them, saying, ‘The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed, which a man took and sowed in his field; and this is smaller than all other seeds, but when it is full grown, it is larger than the garden plants and becomes a tree, so that the birds of the air come and nest in its branches.’”

In this parable the context and hence the interpretation, is that the smallest seed can grow into the largest plant in the garden. Jesus applies this to faith. The interpretation is later confirmed in Matthew’s gospel when he says:

“For truly I say to you, if you have faith the size of a mustard seed you will say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move; and nothing will be impossible to you.” Mt 17:20

The parable of the tares among the wheat:

“The kingdom of heaven may be compared to a man who sowed good seed in his field. But while his men were sleeping, his enemy came and sowed tares among the wheat, and went away. But when the wheat sprouted and bore grain, then the tares became evident also. The slaves of the landowner came and said to him, ‘Sir, did you not sow good seed in your field? How then does it have tares?’ And he said to them, ‘An enemy has done this!’ The slaves said to him, ‘Do you want us, then, to go and gather them up?’ But he said, ‘No; for while you are gathering up the tares, you may uproot the wheat with them. Allow both to grow together until the harvest; and in the time of the harvest I will say to the reapers, ‘First gather up the tares and bind them in bundles to burn them up; but gather the wheat into my barn.’” Mt 13:24-30

In this parable the seeds represent people. The good seeds are people who are for God and His kingdom. The bad seeds are people who are for the devil and his kingdom. Jesus states this when He interprets the parable for His disciples.

“The one who sows the good seed is the Son of Man, and the field is the world; and as for the good seed, these are the sons of the kingdom; and the tares are the sons of the evil one; and the enemy who sowed them is the devil and the harvest is the end of the age; and the reapers are angels. So, just as the tares are gathered up and burned with fire, so shall it be at the end of the age.” Mt 13:37-40

The parable of the sower:

“Behold, the sower went out to sow; and as he sowed, some seeds fell beside the road, and the birds came and ate them up. Others fell on the rocky places, where they did not have much soil; and immediately they sprang up, because they had no depth of soil. But when the sun had risen, they were scorched; and because they had no root, they withered away. Others fell among the thorns, and the thorns came up and choked them out. And others fell on the good soil and yielded a crop. Some a hundredfold, some sixty, and some thirty. He who has ears, set him hear.” Matthew 13:3-9

The interpretation of this parable is that the seed represents the “word of the kingdom.”

“Hear then the parable of the sower. When anyone hears the word of the kingdom and does not understand it, the evil one comes and snatches away what has been son in his heart. This is the one on whom seed was sown beside the road.” Matthew 13:18-19

We can see from the above that there can be many meanings of a simple symbol like a seed. The implication of this is that if we take the meaning of a symbol for granted, because of its previous meanings, we will misunderstand the whole of the revelation.

Harvest field almost ripe with some heads of grain bowed and some still upright
Tares remain upright but wheat bows its head when the harvest is ready

A good example of someone misinterpreting context was when a friend of mine approached me with a dream he was struggling to interpret, for someone in another church. In the dream there was a mouse which was quietly showing the person things around the church and how he could help by praying for healing etc. My friend had looked up the meaning of a mouse in a dream interpretation book. The book listed a mouse as being a negative, destructive force - something which brings a plague (from 1 Sam 6:4) and gnaws through things, destroying food etc. He had become fixed upon this interpretation and was convinced that the meaning behind the mouse in the dream was a negative one. I prayed about the dream and God brought to my mind the saying 'as quiet as a church mouse.' It seemed to fit with how the mouse was behaving in the dream in a positive but quiet way. I related it back to my friend, who said that it fitted the church situation perfectly, as there were a number of very loud people who were dominant in the church and behaving in a self-exalting manner. This is obviously opposite what scripture encourages (James 3:17; 4:10) and God was addressing this issue in the dream.

Click here for a message on sowing and reaping

1. Introduction.
2. God is the only one who can interpret.
3. Bible is the best source.
4. Circumstances and knowledge can help.
5. Don't jump to conclusions.
6. Art or science? It'is only in part.
7. Ask for more.
8. Remembrance of the past can help.
9. How to interpret symbols correctly.
10. The importance of context
11. Don't add or subtract.
12. All prophecy must witness.
13. What if the opposite happens.
14. Dream interpretation.
15. Preparing to bring a prophecy.
16. How to bring a prophetic word.
17. Judging prophecy.
Please sign the guestbook