There are principles which underly serious interpretation of the Old Testament prophecies. All too often there is a tendency to accept the written word as strictly literal - a forecast of destined future events. The words are accepted without any regard to the contemporary background of the writer, or the limitations imposed by his day and age. As often as not he is laying down, in symbol and metaphor, the principles of the event that is to be, and this leaves the generation experiencing that event to perceive the aptness of his analogy in the current signs of the times. The prophetic Scriptures are often written as symbols. There is poetry, metaphor and analogy. Moreover, the Old Testament prophets were not primarily foretellers of future events but expounded the consequences whether the people violated or upheld the Divine law. Such expositions had to be framed in the language and knowledge of the prophet's own day, using symbols drawn from the everyday life with which he was acquainted.
In the foreknowledge of God, the inevitable consequences, at the end of the Age, of the general course of mankind throughout history are accurately foreknown. So the Holy Spirit through the agency of the prophets and within the limits of their language and vision has provided us in the prophetic writings with a delineation of things to come, but in the terms and pictures of long ago. These can be recognised by the serious student as they come upon the stage of world history.
When the prophet says the Lord will turn the earth upside down he does not mean to infer that this planet is to be inverted on its axis; he does mean that the world social order is to be overturned. The sword with which the Heavenly Rider comes to smite the nations is not a material offensive weapon but the Word of God, which is capable of an equally devastating effect against evil things but in a different sphere. Ezekiel's vision of the whole world arrayed against Israel is much more understandable when a glance at the map shows how little of the earth's surface was known, and constituted "all the world", to Ezekiel and his fellows, and how fully the few nations he names represented that world.
It is along these lines that the study of prophecy can be made to yield its most rewarding fruits.