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Dual fulfilment of prophecy is also known as:

  • Double Reference

  • Duality in prophecy 

  • Present and future application 


This is the idea that some prophecies in the Bible have both a short-term and long-term fulfilment. Many prophecies in the Bible are dual. In such cases a prophet speaks under inspiration of God and a first fulfillment of the prophecy comes to pass. Then, later, often at the end of the age before the return of Christ, comes a final, ultimate fulfillment. 

There are a number of prophecies in the OT which have a primary application to the millennial kingdom or the eternal kingdom, but are fulfilled in part in the church age.  There are also prophecies which seem to focus on the immediate historical context of the prophet, yet have a more complete fulfillment later. This tendency to speak of events that are separated by time, as though they were not, is called the principle of dual fulfilment, or double reference.

The tendency of scripture to reveal God's plan by way of double reference is consistent throughout the OT. For example, the promise of a "son" and a "house" to David (II Sam. 7) is fulfilled in his son Solomon, but not wholly. The full effect of the promise is not realized until the "Son of Man" and his kingdom.

The Duality of Prophecy

Types of Dual Prophecy Fulfillment




Unforeseen Partial


Why is Dual Fulfillment Important? Babylon!

The Principle of Double Fulfillment in Interpreting Prophecy

Objections to Dual Fulfillment

The Duality of Prophecy by Earl L. Henn (1934-1997)
Forerunner, "Prophecy Watch," August 1995

Many people find the subject of prophecy to be the most fascinating aspect of Bible study, and they show an intense interest in it. Some scour the newspapers, books, magazines and television and radio news for the latest tidbit that fulfills their favorite prophecies. Unfortunately, few understand the vital keys to understanding the prophecies of the Bible, and thus, many of them are wildly misunderstood.

One of these keys to understanding prophecy is the fact that most prophecy is dual in nature. Throughout the Bible, we see duality in many things. God made a material creation and a spiritual creation (Genesis 2:1-4). The first Adam was physical, and the second Adam, Christ, is spiritual (I Corinthians 15:45-47). The Old Covenant was based on physical descent and physical blessings and cursings. It was followed by the New Covenant, which is spiritual (Hebrews 8). At the first coming of Christ, He came in the weakness of flesh; when He comes again, He will be a powerful spirit Being.

A list of everything in the Bible that demonstrates duality would be a very long list, indeed. So it is with the prophecies, most of which consist of two predictions: a type and an antitype. The type, usually a relatively minor event in history, symbolizes a major, often end-time event that will occur later. The major event is the antitype.

A Source of Confusion

One of the best examples of a dual prophecy is the Olivet Prophecy recorded in Matthew 24, Mark 13 and Luke 21. Many years ago, while studying this prophecy with the help of a commentary, I became very confused. At the time, neither I nor the author of the commentary understood the principle of duality. Thinking that this prophecy referred only to the destruction of Jerusalem, the commentator frankly admitted that he did not understand why Christ said that His coming would occur "immediately after the tribulation of those days" (Matthew 24:29).

Today, we understand that the destruction of Jerusalem in AD 70 was a type of the Great Tribulation which will occur in the time immediately preceding the second coming of Christ. We can see that He actually prophesied two events. Jerusalem's destruction was the type, and the Great Tribulation is the antitype.

This particular prophecy highlights how vital it is to understand the duality principle. Many early Christians did not understand that the Olivet Prophecy was dual and fully expected Christ to return after the destruction of Jerusalem. When He failed to appear, some were very disappointed and disillusioned. Some lost faith and stopped believing. This disappointment was a major factor in causing the church to fall into apostasy in the closing decades of the first century.

Failure to understand the duality of prophecy also played a role in the Jews' rejection of Christ. The Jews thought (and still think) the Messiah would come as a conquering, human king to restore Israel to its former wealth and power. This idea was based on the many prophecies in the Old Testament which are actually describing the second coming of Christ and His millennial reign. An understanding of this principle of duality, along with careful study of the many prophecies showing the suffering and death of the Messiah, may have prevented this tragic error.

The type often stops short of fulfilling the whole prophecy. Jesus pointed out a very clear example of this in Luke 4:16-21. On a Sabbath day in Nazareth shortly after He began His ministry, He publicly read from Isaiah 61:1-2, stopping abruptly after the first line in verse 2. He told the amazed audience, "Today this Scripture is fulfilled in your hearing." This portion of the prophecy was fulfilled, in type, during His earthly ministry. It will be completely fulfilled, as the antitype, throughout the whole world during His millennial reign. Had Jesus read any further, He would have spoken of events belonging exclusively to His second coming, so He did not claim to be fulfilling them. An astute Jew, upon hearing Christ's words, could have avoided the error that led them to reject and condemn Him to crucifixion.

Not All Prophecies

Not all prophecies are dual, however. God's predictions regarding the fate of ancient city-states such as Tyre, Sidon, Ashkelon and others do not appear to have an antitype. In general, it seems that God has chosen to use the duality principle in those prophecies which deal directly with His people Israel or with the church (spiritual Israel).

For example, ancient Babylon is one of the ancient city-states that does have an antitype. Under its greatest king, Nebuchadnezzar, Babylon conquered Judah and took the Jews into captivity between 604-585 BC (II Kings 24-25). In the New Testament, Babylon becomes a type of this world's society which persecutes God's church (Revelation 18:21-24), and its fate will be the same as that of ancient Babylon: a heap of ruins, never to be raised again (Isaiah 13:19-22).

The principle of duality in prophecy is especially important to God's church today. Many prophecies in the New Testament predicted the great apostasy which took place in the church toward the end of the first century (Acts 20:29II Thessalonians 2:3-12II Timothy 3:1-84:3-4Jude 3-4). All of these prophecies are dual. The falling away from the revealed truth of God that occurred in the first century is a type of what is happening today in the church. We are witnessing some of these prophecies being fulfilled! Duality in prophecy is being demonstrated in our lifetimes before our very eyes!

For this reason, we must be keenly aware of this important principle of understanding God's Word. We must be constantly on our guard, watching prophesied world events, as well as those unfolding in the church, lest we be caught unawares. Listen to the urgent warning that Jesus Christ gave to all of us who are living in the end time:

Watch therefore, for you do not know when the master of the house is coming—in the evening, at midnight, at the crowing of the rooster, or in the morning—lest, coming suddenly, He find you sleeping. And what I say to you, I say to all: Watch! (Mark 13:35-37)

The Duality of Prophecy


There are four different kinds of double references that can be distinguished in Scripture: Type, Gap, Type-Gap, Unforeseen Partial



In the case of a type, or a typical prediction, the prophet describes an event, person, or institution ("type") and later Scripture reveals the prophetic significance of this event, person, or institution ("anti-type"). The seer's eyes are fixed on the closer of the two events exclusively – in other words, details of the prophecy are completely satisfied by the earlier event or person. Yet scripture states (either in the original passage or elsewhere) that there is also a subsequent event or person foreshadowed by the prediction.

Daniel 8:17-26 – Gabriel Interprets the Vision

Dan 8:17 So he came near where I stood, and when he came I was afraid and fell on my face; but he said to me, “Understand, son of man, that the vision refers to the time of the end.”

18 Now, as he was speaking with me, I was in a deep sleep with my face to the ground; but he touched me, and stood me upright. 19 And he said, “Look, I am making known to you what shall happen in the latter time of the indignation; for at the appointed time the end shall be. 20 The ram which you saw, having the two horns—they are the kings of Media and Persia. 21 And the male goat is the kingdom of Greece. The large horn that is between its eyes is the first king. 22 As for the broken horn and the four that stood up in its place, four kingdoms shall arise out of that nation, but not with its power.

23 “And in the latter time of their kingdom, When the transgressors have reached their fullness,
A king shall arise, Having fierce features, Who understands sinister schemes.
24 His power shall be mighty, but not by his own power;
He shall destroy fearfully, And shall prosper and thrive;
He shall destroy the mighty, and also the holy people.

25 “Through his cunning He shall cause deceit to prosper under his rule;
And he shall exalt himself in his heart. He shall destroy many in their prosperity.
He shall even rise against the Prince of princes; But he shall be broken without human means.

26 “And the vision of the evenings and mornings Which was told is true;
Therefore seal up the vision, For it refers to many days in the future.”

The Bronze Serpent – Numbers 21:9; John 3:14-15

  • Numbers 21:9 So Moses made a bronze serpent, and put it on a pole; and so it was, if a serpent had bitten anyone, when he looked at the bronze serpent, he lived.

  • John 3:14 And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up, 15 that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life. 

Types of Dual Prophecy


This happens when the prophet predicts two dissimilar events, widely separated by time, are presented as though they were one event. So one event or person is followed, without notice by a reference to a later event or person. It should be noted that the predictive material referring to the later event will not fit the earlier event. Neither will the description of the earlier event fit the later event. There are very few pure gap prophecies.

Isaiah 11:1-5 – The Reign of Jesse’s Offspring

Is 11:1 There shall come forth a Rod from the stem of Jesse, And a Branch shall grow out of his roots.
2 The Spirit of the Lord shall rest upon Him, The Spirit of wisdom and understanding,
The Spirit of counsel and might, The Spirit of knowledge and of the fear of the Lord.

  • Refence to the First Coming


3 His delight is in the fear of the Lord,
And He shall not judge by the sight of His eyes, Nor decide by the hearing of His ears;
4 But with righteousness He shall judge the poor, And decide with equity for the meek of the earth;
He shall strike the earth with the rod of His mouth, And with the breath of His lips He shall slay the wicked.
5 Righteousness shall be the belt of His loins, And faithfulness the belt of His waist.

  • Refence to the Second Coming



Isaiah 61:1-9 – The Good News of Salvation

Is 61:1  “The Spirit of the Lord God is upon Me, Because the Lord has anointed Me To preach good tidings to the poor;
He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted, To proclaim liberty to the captives,
And the opening of the prison to those who are bound;
2 To proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord, And the day of vengeance of our God; To comfort all who mourn,

  • Refence to the First Coming

  • Confirmed by Jesus

Luke 4:17 And He was handed the book of the prophet Isaiah. And when He had opened the book, He found the place where it was written: 18 “The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me, Because He has anointed Me To preach the gospel to the poor; He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted, To proclaim liberty to the captives And recovery of sight to the blind, To set at liberty those who are oppressed; 19 To proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord.” 20 Then He closed the book, and gave it back to the attendant and sat down. And the eyes of all who were in the synagogue were fixed on Him. 21 And He began to say to them, “Today this Scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.” 

Is 61:3 To console those who mourn in Zion, To give them beauty for ashes,
The oil of joy for mourning, The garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness;
That they may be called trees of righteousness, The planting of the Lord, that He may be glorified.”

4 And they shall rebuild the old ruins, They shall raise up the former desolations,
And they shall repair the ruined cities, The desolations of many generations.
5 Strangers shall stand and feed your flocks, And the sons of the foreigner Shall be your plowmen and your vinedressers.
6 But you shall be named the priests of the Lord, They shall call you the servants of our God.
You shall eat the riches of the Gentiles, And in their glory you shall boast.
7 Instead of your shame you shall have double honor, And instead of confusion they shall rejoice in their portion.
Therefore in their land they shall possess double; Everlasting joy shall be theirs.

8 “For I, the Lord, love justice; I hate robbery for burnt offering;
I will direct their work in truth, And will make with them an everlasting covenant.
9 Their descendants shall be known among the Gentiles, And their offspring among the people.
All who see them shall acknowledge them, That they are the posterity whom the Lord has blessed.”

  • Refence to the Second Coming


Daniel 2 - Daniel Explains the Dream (Nebuchadnezzar’s Dream)

Dan 2:40 And the fourth kingdom shall be as strong as iron, inasmuch as iron breaks in pieces and shatters everything; and like iron that crushes, that kingdom will break in pieces and crush all the others. 41 Whereas you saw the feet and toes, partly of potter’s clay and partly of iron, the kingdom shall be divided; yet the strength of the iron shall be in it, just as you saw the iron mixed with ceramic clay. 42 And as the toes of the feet were partly of iron and partly of clay, so the kingdom shall be partly strong and partly fragile.

  • Refence to the 1st Roman Empire


43 As you saw iron mixed with ceramic clay, they will mingle with the seed of men; but they will not adhere to one another, just as iron does not mix with clay. 44 And in the days of these kings the God of heaven will set up a kingdom which shall never be destroyed; and the kingdom shall not be left to other people; it shall break in pieces and consume all these kingdoms, and it shall stand forever. 

  • Refence to the Revived Roman Empire

Daniel 7 - Vision of the Four Beasts and the Ancient of Days

Dan 7:7 “After this I saw in the night visions, and behold, a fourth beast, dreadful and terrible, exceedingly strong. It had huge iron teeth; it was devouring, breaking in pieces, and trampling the residue with its feet. It was different from all the beasts that were before it, and it had ten horns. 8 I was considering the horns, and there was another horn, a little one, coming up among them, before whom three of the first horns were plucked out by the roots. And there, in this horn, were eyes like the eyes of a man, and a mouth speaking pompous words.

  • Refence to the Beast during the Tribulation period


9 “I watched till thrones were put in place, And the Ancient of Days was seated;
His garment was white as snow, And the hair of His head was like pure wool.
His throne was a fiery flame, Its wheels a burning fire;
10 A fiery stream issued And came forth from before Him.
A thousand thousands ministered to Him; Ten thousand times ten thousand stood before Him.
The court was seated, And the books were opened.

11 “I watched then because of the sound of the pompous words which the horn was speaking; I watched till the beast was slain, and its body destroyed and given to the burning flame. 12 As for the rest of the beasts, they had their dominion taken away, yet their lives were prolonged for a season and a time.

  • Refence to the Beast during the Judgment



Often, type and gap are combined. In this case, the prophet predicts two similar events or people widely separated. The first event foreshadows the later event (in most cases the later event concerns the end of the age). In this case, the prediction of the earlier event or person is typical of the later, but the description of the later event or person does not completely fit the earlier event.


Luke 23:28-31 – The King on a Cross

Lk 23:28 But Jesus, turning to them, said, “Daughters of Jerusalem, do not weep for Me, but weep for yourselves and for your children. 29 For indeed the days are coming in which they will say, ‘Blessed are the barren, wombs that never bore, and breasts which never nursed!’ 30 Then they will begin ‘to say to the mountains, “Fall on us!” and to the hills, “Cover us!” ’ 31 For if they do these things in the green wood, what will be done in the dry?”

  • Refers both to the Destruction of Jerusalem in 70 AD and to the end of the world.


OTHER EXAMPLES: Is. 13; Dan. 11:20-45; Joel

Unforeseen Partial

In the final kind of double reference, the prophet's focus is exclusively on the later event. The prophet predicts aspects of God's kingdom at the end of the age. New Testament authors subsequently reveal that there is also an earlier event which, although unforeseen, is a real, but incomplete fulfillment of the prophecy. Frequently, the unforeseen event concerns the Church Age, which was not clearly revealed to the Old Testament prophets.

God’s Spirit Poured Out – Joel 2:28-32, Acts 2:16-21

Joel 2 :28 “And it shall come to pass afterward That I will pour out My Spirit on all flesh;
Your sons and your daughters shall prophesy,
Your old men shall dream dreams, Your young men shall see visions.
29 And also on My menservants and on My maidservants I will pour out My Spirit in those days.

30 “And I will show wonders in the heavens and in the earth: Blood and fire and pillars of smoke.
31 The sun shall be turned into darkness, And the moon into blood,
Before the coming of the great and awesome day of the Lord.
32 And it shall come to pass That whoever calls on the name of the Lord Shall be saved.
For in Mount Zion and in Jerusalem there shall be deliverance,
As the Lord has said, Among the remnant whom the Lord calls.


Acts 2:16 But this is what was spoken by the prophet Joel:

17 ‘And it shall come to pass in the last days, says God, That I will pour out of My Spirit on all flesh;
Your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, Your young men shall see visions, Your old men shall dream dreams.
18 And on My menservants and on My maidservants I will pour out My Spirit in those days; And they shall prophesy.
19 I will show wonders in heaven above And signs in the earth beneath: Blood and fire and vapor of smoke.
20 The sun shall be turned into darkness, And the moon into blood,
Before the coming of the great and awesome day of the Lord.
21 And it shall come to pass That whoever calls on the name of the Lord Shall be saved.’


  • Peter quotes this prophecy being fulfilled in Acts 2:16-21, yet the "sun turned to darkness and the moon to blood" is a specific reference to the last days, which had yet to be fulfilled.

    • Rev 6 12 I looked when He opened the sixth seal, and behold, there was a great earthquake; and the sun became black as sackcloth of hair, and the moon became like blood. 


A New Covenant – Jeremiah 31:31-34; Hebrews 8:7-13 Hebrews 10:16-18

Jer 31:31 “Behold, the days are coming, says the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah— 32 not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers in the day that I took them by the hand to lead them out of the land of Egypt, My covenant which they broke, though I was a husband to them, says the Lord. 33 But this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, says the Lord: I will put My law in their minds, and write it on their hearts; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people. 34 No more shall every man teach his neighbor, and every man his brother, saying, ‘Know the Lord,’ for they all shall know Me, from the least of them to the greatest of them, says the Lord. For I will forgive their iniquity, and their sin I will remember no more.”

Heb 8:7 For if that first covenant had been faultless, then no place would have been sought for a second. 8 Because finding fault with them, He says: “Behold, the days are coming, says the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah— 9 not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers in the day when I took them by the hand to lead them out of the land of Egypt; because they did not continue in My covenant, and I disregarded them, says the Lord. 10 For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, says the Lord: I will put My laws in their mind and write them on their hearts; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people. 11 None of them shall teach his neighbor, and none his brother, saying, ‘Know the Lord,’ for all shall know Me, from the least of them to the greatest of them. 12 For I will be merciful to their unrighteousness, and their sins and their lawless deeds I will remember no more.” 13 In that He says, “A new covenant,” He has made the first obsolete. Now what is becoming obsolete and growing old is ready to vanish away.

Heb 10:16 “This is the covenant that I will make with them after those days, says the Lord: I will put My laws into their hearts, and in their minds I will write them,” 17 then He adds, “Their sins and their lawless deeds I will remember no more.” 18 Now where there is remission of these, there is no longer an offering for sin.

Unforeseen partial
Why Dual Fulfillment is Important


There are many prophecies that point to the first exile to Babylon.  Do these apply to the end times?  I believe that they do, and I will explain why.

The original derivation of the name Babylon is the same as Babel. Remember the Tower of Babel?  Immediately following the account of Noah’s Great Flood is the account of the Tower of Babel.

Genesis 11:1-9 – The Tower of Babel

Ge 11:1 Now the whole earth had one language and one speech. 2 And it came to pass, as they journeyed from the east, that they found a plain in the land of Shinar, and they dwelt there. 3 Then they said to one another, “Come, let us make bricks and bake them thoroughly.” They had brick for stone, and they had asphalt for mortar. 4 And they said, “Come, let us build ourselves a city, and a tower whose top is in the heavens; let us make a name for ourselves, lest we be scattered abroad over the face of the whole earth.” 5 But the Lord came down to see the city and the tower which the sons of men had built. 6 And the Lord said, “Indeed the people are one and they all have one language, and this is what they begin to do; now nothing that they propose to do will be withheld from them. 7 Come, let Us go down and there confuse their language, that they may not understand one another’s speech.” 8 So the Lord scattered them abroad from there over the face of all the earth, and they ceased building the city. 9 Therefore its name is called Babel, because there the Lord confused the language of all the earth; and from there the Lord scattered them abroad over the face of all the earth.


Flavius Josephus wrote the following in the Antiquities of the Jews – Book I, Chapter 4:

Concerning the Tower of Babylon, and the confusion of Tongues.

2. Now it was Nimrod who excited them to such an affront and contempt of God. He was the grandson of Ham, the son of Noah: a bold man, and of great strength of hand. He persuaded them not to ascribe it to God, as if it was through his means that they were happy; but to believe that it was their own courage which procured that happiness. He also gradually changed the government into tyranny; seeing no other way of turning men from the fear of God, but to bring them into a constant dependence on his own power. He also said, “He would be revenged on God, if he should have a mind to drown the world again: for that he would build a Tower too high for the waters to be able to reach; and that he would avenge himself on God for destroying their forefathers.”


3. [About 2520] Now the multitude were very ready to follow the determination of Nimrod, and to esteem it a piece of cowardice to submit to God: and they built a Tower; neither sparing any pains, nor being in any degree negligent about the work. And, by reason of the multitude of hands employed in it, it grew very high, sooner than anyone could expect. 


As we can see, the one-world government idea that finds its fulfillment in the book of Revelation reaches back millennia!  And it has always been an affront to God.

To most people the name Bavel (or Babel) is only known to us as the name of the city where God confounded the languages. Therefore its name was called Babel, because there the LORD confused the language of all the earth; and from there the LORD scattered them abroad over the face of all the earth. (Genesis 11:9). Whenever a Hebrew name is given in the text and followed by the word "because", the text is providing the connection between the name and the reason for the name. In this case the word "confused" is the Hebrew word בלל (balal) meaning to be mixed up and it was here that God "mixed up" the languages. Interestingly the name בבל (babel) is a mixing up of the letters from the word בלל (balal).

While we may only be familiar with this place name as Babel as found in Genesis, this name is used 262 times throughout the Biblical text. But, instead of translating this name the same way all the time, the translators have chosen to translate it as "Babylon" in all its other occurrences. Yes, Babel and Babylon are one and the same place; Babylon is the place of confusion.  Fast forward to Babylonian exile.

Habakkuk 1:1-11 – The Prophet Questions God’s Judgments

Hab 1:1 The burden which the prophet Habakkuk saw.

The Prophet’s Question

2 O Lord, how long shall I cry, And You will not hear?

Even cry out to You, “Violence!” And You will not save.
3 Why do You show me iniquity, And cause me to see trouble?
For plundering and violence are before me; There is strife, and contention arises.
4 Therefore the law is powerless, And justice never goes forth.
For the wicked surround the righteous; Therefore perverse judgment proceeds.

[Anybody feel like that now?]


The Lord’s Reply

5 “Look among the nations and watch—Be utterly astounded!
For I will work a work in your days Which you would not believe, though it were told you.
6 For indeed I am raising up the Chaldeans [Babylonians], A bitter and hasty nation
Which marches through the breadth of the earth, To possess dwelling places that are not theirs.
7 They are terrible and dreadful; Their judgment and their dignity proceed from themselves.
8 Their horses also are swifter than leopards, And more fierce than evening wolves.
Their chargers charge ahead; Their cavalry comes from afar; They fly as the eagle that hastens to eat.

9 “They all come for violence; Their faces are set like the east wind. They gather captives like sand.
10 They scoff at kings, And princes are scorned by them.
They deride every stronghold, For they heap up earthen mounds and seize it.
11 Then his mind changes, and he transgresses; He commits offense, Ascribing this power to his god.”


  • God tells Habakkuk that He is bringing Babylon (confusion, one-world affront to God) against His people as judgement for their lifestyles. OK – So that makes sense for what happened thousands of years ago, but what does this have to do with the end time prophecies of today?  Babylon is long gone, right?  Nope – Babylon is specifically named in the end times.


Revelation 14:8 – The Proclamations of Three

Rev 14:8 And another angel followed, saying, “Babylon is fallen, is fallen, that great city, because she has made all nations drink of the wine of the wrath of her fornication.”


Revelation 16:19 – Seventh Bowl: The Earth Utterly Shaken

Rev 16:19 Now the great city was divided into three parts, and the cities of the nations fell. And great Babylon was remembered before God, to give her the cup of the wine of the fierceness of His wrath. 


Revelation 17-18

The Scarlet Woman and the Scarlet Beast

The Fall of Babylon the Great

Finality of Babylon’s Fall


Isaiah 13 – Proclamation Against Babylon

Is 13:1 The burden against Babylon which Isaiah the son of Amoz saw.

2 “Lift up a banner on the high mountain, Raise your voice to them; Wave your hand, that they may enter the gates of the nobles.
3 I have commanded My sanctified ones; I have also called My mighty ones for My anger—Those who rejoice in My exaltation.”

4 The noise of a multitude in the mountains, Like that of many people! 
A tumultuous noise of the kingdoms of nations gathered together! The Lord of hosts musters The army for battle.
5 They come from a far country, From the end of heaven—The Lord and His weapons of indignation, To destroy the whole land.

6 Wail, for the day of the Lord is at hand! It will come as destruction from the Almighty.
7 Therefore all hands will be limp, Every man’s heart will melt,
8 And they will be afraid. Pangs and sorrows will take hold of them;
They will be in pain as a woman in childbirth; They will be amazed at one another; Their faces will be like flames.

9 Behold, the day of the Lord comes, Cruel, with both wrath and fierce anger,
To lay the land desolate; And He will destroy its sinners from it.
10 For the stars of heaven and their constellations Will not give their light;
The sun will be darkened in its going forth, And the moon will not cause its light to shine.

11 “I will punish the world for its evil, And the wicked for their iniquity; 
I will halt the arrogance of the proud, And will lay low the haughtiness of the terrible.
12 I will make a mortal more rare than fine gold, A man more than the golden wedge of Ophir.
13 Therefore I will shake the heavens, And the earth will move out of her place, 
In the wrath of the Lord of hosts And in the day of His fierce anger.
14 It shall be as the hunted gazelle, And as a sheep that no man takes up; 
Every man will turn to his own people, And everyone will flee to his own land.
15 Everyone who is found will be thrust through, And everyone who is captured will fall by the sword.
16 Their children also will be dashed to pieces before their eyes; 
Their houses will be plundered And their wives ravished.

17 “Behold, I will stir up the Medes against them, Who will not regard silver; And as for gold, they will not delight in it.
18 Also their bows will dash the young men to pieces,
And they will have no pity on the fruit of the womb; Their eye will not spare children.
19 And Babylon, the glory of kingdoms, The beauty of the Chaldeans’ pride, Will be as when God overthrew Sodom and Gomorrah.
20 It will never be inhabited, Nor will it be settled from generation to generation; 
Nor will the Arabian pitch tents there, Nor will the shepherds make their sheepfolds there.
21 But wild beasts of the desert will lie there, And their houses will be full of owls;
Ostriches will dwell there, And wild goats will caper there.
22 The hyenas will howl in their citadels, And jackals in their pleasant palaces. 
Her time is near to come, And her days will not be prolonged.”


The context of Isaiah 13 is “the day of the LORD,” the most common Old Testament term for our more widely known term of “the tribulation”. Babylon has indeed been conquered in the past, but never has she been destroyed cataclysmically (i.e., “as when God overthrew Sodom and Gomorrah”). Revelation 18:16, 19 echoes such a sudden destruction from the hand of God, “‘Woe, woe, the great city, . . . for in one hour she has been laid waste!’” There are said to be about 500,000 people living in Babylon today.


Dr. Arnold Fruchtenbaum declares, “the prophecies regarding the city of Babylon have never been fulfilled in the past, as any encyclopedia article on Babylon will make quite clear. In order for these prophecies to be fulfilled, it will require the rebuilding of the city of Babylon in the same general area. Ancient Babylon is in present day Iraq.” Thus, Babylon has a great future role in history, but will be utterly destroyed in a moment of future history.


So, as you’re reading prophecies concerning Israel’s judgment, read them in the light of a dual fulfillment.  In other words, the details of the prophecy are completely satisfied by the earlier event. Yet there is also a subsequent event that is foreshadowed by the prediction.

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DAVID JEREMIAH Pastor. Blackhawk Baptist Church Fort Wayne. Indiana

The controversy over the principle of "double-fulfillment" in the interpretation of prophecy is not a new theological development. As far back as Theodore of Mopsuestia, there were conflicting opinions as to the validity of applying one prophetic passage to more than one situation. Theodore (350-428 A. D.), who was labeled "The Exegete" by his contemporaries, refused to accept any prophetic interpretation that approached duplicity.


In Frederick Farrar's History of Interpretation, Theodore of Mopsuestia is mentioned in connection with Zechariah 9:8-10. Farrar says:


In the ninth chapter of Zechariah, Theodore thought it an instance of frigid and foolish interpretation to apply one clause historically and another allegorically to refer one to Zerubbabel, the next to Christ, and then to go back again to Zerubbabel. He refuses to read the latest revelations into the earliest utterances  . . .


Time has not solved the problem. Today there are good men on both sides of the debate. Perhaps Dwight Pentecost has stated the case in favor of the "double-sense" principle better than any other:


Few laws are more important to observe in the interpretation of prophetic Scriptures than the law of double reference. Two events, widely separated as to the time of their fulfillment may be brought together into the scope of prophecy.


Other men who have agreed with Pentecost as to the legitimacy of this principle are: Berkeley Mickelsen, Bernard Ramm, C. L. Feinberg, Charles Ryrie, and John Walvoord.


The other side of the issue is championed by Milton S. Terry. He has devoted several pages in his book on Hermeneutics to the objections which he has to the "law of double reference." Some of these objections will be answered later, but perhaps this statement by Terry will open the door to debate:


 . . . the moment we admit the principle that portions of Scripture contain an occult or double sense, we introduce an element of uncertainty in the Sacred Volume, and unsettle all scientific interpretation.


Terry also quotes Owen and Ryle, in that order: "If Scripture has more than one meaning, it has no meaning at all." "I hold that the words of Scripture were intended to have one definite sense and that our first objective should be to discover that sense, and adhere rigidly to it."


Obviously this article will not settle a question that has been the source of heated battle for many years. It is the writer's objective to clarify the terminology used and the issues involved. For some this may add fuel to the fire of disagreement. If we can understand the basis of our agreement or disagreement, we will have accomplished our objective. For this reason, the first part of the study will be taken up with the setting forth of some definitions and distinctions.


The second part will try to answer the question, "Why the double reference principle?" By this time we hope to have answered some of the objections to this principle of interpretation, and to have prepared the way for an examination of the passages of Scripture which contain the double references.


This is an important question because:

(1) It involves a great number of Old Testament passages.

(2) It is one of the bones of contention between Premillennialists and Amillennialists.

(3) It is misunderstood by many who would fight for its validity.

(4) It is an often mentioned, but little-defined, principle.

(5) It involves, if carefully understood, a proof for, not against, the literal interpretation of the Scriptures.



The following definitions have been given by various authors and theologians: Horne:


J. Edwin Hartell defines double reference as:

. . . the peculiarity of the writings of the Holy Spirit, by which a passage applying primarily to a person or event near at hand is used by him at a later time as applying to the person of Christ, or the affairs of His kingdom.


A. H. Strong puts it this way:

Certain prophecies apparently contain a fulness of meaning which is not exhausted by the event to which they most obviously and literally refer. A prophecy which had a partial fulfillment at a time not remote from its utterance, may find it's chief fulfillment in an event far distant. Since the principles of God's administration find ever recurring and enlarging illustration in history, prophecies which have already had a partial fulfillment may have whole cycles of fulfillment yet before them. 


Another standard definition is from the pen of Thomas Hartwell

The same prophecies frequently have a double meaning, and refer to different events, the one near, the other remote; the one temporal, the other spiritual or perhaps eternal. The prophets thus having several events in view, their expressions may be partly applicable to one and partly to another, and it is not always easy to make the transitions. What has not been fulfilled in the first, we must apply to the second; and what has already been fulfilled, may often be considered as typical of what remains to be accomplished.  


Charles Feinberg points out that the law of double reference,

. . . may assume anyone of several forms. Two or more events of a like character may be described by a common profile. . . . Future events placed side by side in the prophecy, may have great gaps between them in their fulfillment. 


Charles Ryrie has taken the liberty of separating the two aspects of this one law into two distinct laws. The one he calls The Law of Double Reference, and the other he has named The Law of Time Reference.  It is much easier to separate these two laws in a theology book than it is in the Scripture. Whenever one finds the first part in operation, he is almost sure to find the second. For that reason it seems best to consider them together.


From the definitions and statements of the above-mentioned theologians, we may make the following observations:


  • In double reference prophecy, the first fulfillment of the prophecy usually is found in a person or event close in time to the prophetic utterance.

  • In double reference prophecy, the first fulfillment is usually only a partial fulfillment of the total prophetic message.

  • In double reference prophecy, the ultimate fulfillment is usually found in the person of Christ or the affairs of His kingdom.

Double fulfillment is particularly true of the predictions . . . concerning the Babylonian Captivity, the event of the day of the Lord, the return from Babylon, the world-wide dispersion of Israel, and their future regathering from all the corners of the earth . . .

  • In double reference prophecy, the first fulfillment is usually temporal, whereas, the ultimate fulfillment may be spiritual or eternal.

  • In double reference prophecy, part of the prophetic message may be fulfilled close at hand, and that fulfillment in turn becomes another prophecy. A. J. Gordon says, "Prophecy has no sooner become history, than history in turn becomes prophecy."

  • In double reference prophecy, two or more prophecies may be grouped together in one area of vision, although they are really at different distances in fulfillment.

  • In double reference prophecy, the last two observations are usually found to be working in the same passage.

There are many other terms beside "double reference" which are used by various writers and theologians to describe what has been set forth in the seven observations we have just discussed. In most cases, the following terms are used interchangeably with "double reference" and may be understood to stand for any or all of the parts of the law: Near and Far View, Double Sense, Multiple Fulfillment, Gap Prophecy, Foreshortening, and several others.


There are two terms which need special mention here.

"Compenetration" is a term used by Catholic writers to define what they understand by this law of double reference. "In an Old Testament passage, the near meaning and the remote meaning for the New Testament so compenetrate that the passage at the same time and in the same word refers to the near and the remote New Testament meaning." 


The other term comes from the writing of Beecher. It seems to stand for the second aspect of double reference prophecy, the "time-reference" application. Beecher used the term "Generic Prophecy" in this way:


A generic prophecy is one which regards an event as occurring in a series of parts separated by intervals, and expresses itself in language that may apply indifferently to the nearest part, or to the remoter parts, or to the whole -- in other words. a prediction which, in applying to the whole of a complex event, also applies to some of the parts.


The one fact that is obvious as one studies the material available on this subject is that each writer seems to have his own idea as to the meaning of this law of interpretation. It is because of this wide variety of understandings that so many have rejected the right and legitimate use of a principle which is necessary to the proper exposition of prophetic Scripture.




Distinguish Between the Early and Later Meaning of "Double Reference"


The law of double reference seems to have undergone somewhat of an evolution since its early mention. Early expositors seemed to have held that "double fulfillment" was one literal fulfillment in the immediate context of the prophecy, and a second or multiple fulfillments which were not literal, but were referred to as allegorical or mystical fulfillments.

T. H. Horne's comment on Hosea 11:1 will serve to illustrate:

This passage in its literal sense, was meant of God's delivering the children of Israel out of Egypt; but in its secondary and mystical sense, there can be no doubt that an allusion was intended by the Holy Spirit to the call of the infant Christ out of the same country.


Today's writers would not express themselves this way. A double fulfillment prophecy loses not one bit of its literalness when it is fulfilled the second or third time. This would violate our basic system of hermeneutics. "Double fulfillment is literal fulfillment and therefore consistent with basic rules of interpretation."

Distinguish Between Interpretation and Application

The law of double reference is not the Pandora's Box of Biblical Hermeneutics as some opponents would claim. It is the failure of many to distinguish application from interpretation that has caused such an accusation to be leveled at the principle. To accept the law of double reference as a legitimate tool for interpretation of prophecy is not to open the door to all kinds of fanciful notions as to the hidden and allegorical meanings that might be alluded to in a prophetic passage.


To speak of the law of double reference is to speak of interpretation, not application. Double reference is not one interpretation and manifold applications. It is one message for two audiences separated in time.


Ryrie's example is sufficient to show why we must be careful to make this difference:


Psalm 122:6, may well be used as an example of the proper distinction between interpretation and application. The verse reads:

'Pray for the peace of Jerusalem: they shall prosper that love thee.'


The literal interpreter understands this verse in a twofold sense:

(1) The primary reference is to the city of Jerusalem, and that for which it, as the capital, stands representative, that is, the nation Israel and the land.

(2) There is also a secondary application, but not an interpretation, allowed, that is, an expression of the general truth that in all generations divine blessing has rested upon all who forwarded the work of those identified with the Lord. The application, however, does not in any way take the place of the interpretation . . .


If the above example would have had reference secondarily to a specific event or person, it would have been within the boundaries of the double reference principle. It does not, however, so it is one statement with unlimited applications, not one prophecy with two literal fulfillments.


Distinguish between Reference and Fulfillment


Some writers are very careful to make it known that double reference is unacceptable to them, but that double fulfillment is a valid principle. This seems to be more a matter of semantics than anything else, but a word of explanation might help. The reason that some enemies of this law reject its use is that they just cannot accept the idea that the Holy Spirit had more than one intention when the prophetic message was given. They will concede however, that once the message was given, it could have found fulfillments outside the original scope of the prophecy. It is for this reason that they prefer fulfillment over reference or sense.


This distinction has not been followed in writing this paper. It seems to this writer that if the difference is made for the reason given above, we are left with the horrid thought that the Holy Spirit Himself is surprised with the ultimate fulfillment of His original prophecy.




Why, in studying the Scriptures, should we expect to find some prophecies that are fulfilled more than once? Is it the purpose of the Almighty to confuse His people by making the understanding of His Revelation difficult? Certainly not! It is His desire that all who read might understand. It is also true, however, that there were humans involved in the writing of the Scripture, and our doctrine of inspiration holds that God used their personalities so that they were not simply secretaries taking down dictation. If we are to understand the writings of these men, we must understand not only the men themselves, but also the circumstances that surrounded their predictive statements, and the nature of Old Testament prophecy as well. In other words, we must be careful not to read into prophecy, especially Old Testament prophecy, all of the characteristics of prophetic revelation which we now understand because of the fuller message of the New Testament.


Why is the double reference principle part of the Word of God? These reasons seem to stand out:

  • Because of the Unchronological Character of the Old Testament Prophecy


Not a few writers have observed this phenomenon. Raud says:

God uses spiritual order in writing prophecy. For example, the second chapter of Isaiah may be divided into three sections.

(1) The vision of the Gentile nations flocking to Jerusalem when Christ reigns there, to worship Him and learn His laws. (v 2-4)

(2) A rebuke to idolatrous Israel. (5-11)

(3) A warning of judgment upon all pride and idolatry in the Day of the Lord. (12-22)


If we should arrange this chapter to suit the time order of its fulfillment we should have (2), (3), and (1). But then we would lose the force of the rebuke which the Lord administered to His wayward nation by, (1) Pointing to the future submission of the Gentiles to Him, (2) Denouncing the Jews idolatry, and (3) Warning the Jews that His judgment is certain and final.


Feinberg quotes Kellogg:

. . . because two events are spoken of together or in close sequence, is no proof that these events will take place simultaneously or even in immediate succession, unless the Scripture specifically affirms so.


Stanley Leathes agrees:

. . . needless to say, it is contrary to the analysis of the prophetic Scriptures to suppose that because events are mentioned in immediate juxtaposition that they must certainly come to pass in immediate chronological order. 


The fact that the prophet was both a foreteller and a forthteller is significant here. Unlike many of our ideas of prophecy, the most important aspect of the prophecy to the prophet was the immediate not the future. He was interested in his generation and hoped, by the prediction of things to come, to cause them to repent and return to the God who was able to do such tremendous things as the prophet foretold. One should not be surprised to find two widely separated events referred to in the same chapter or verse, for the Holy Spirit enabled the prophet to bring these events together because they had a special meaning to his own situation.

This is much like the character of the New Testament Gospels. As the predictive history of the Old Testament is often given according to moral or spiritual order, so the actual history of the Gospels:


We have every reason to believe that where there is a difference of order in the presentation of events in the Gospels, it is because moral and spiritual considerations are given precedence over the chronological.


One illustration of this is the Sermon on the Mount, which is given by Matthew as one connected discourse, but in Luke is found in about twenty different places.

  • Because of the Limited Perspective of the Prophet

"In dealing with the predictive aspect of prophecy, we must remember that when God spoke to and through His servants, He did not give them unlimited vision. Instead they were confined within a divinely limited perspective. "


A. H. Strong has given several illustrations of this principle from various avenues of life. Perhaps he goes a little overboard with his word pictures, but all have helped in the explanation of this rule to others. They are simply listed here without his replete explanations:

  • As in Japanese pictures, the near and the far appear equally distant.

  • As in dissolving views, the ultimate and immediate future melts into a future immeasurably far away.

  • The candle that shines through a narrow aperture sends out its light through an ever-increasing area.

  • Sections of a triangle correspond to one another, but the more distant are far greater than the near.

  • The chalet on the mountainside may turn out to be only a black cat on the woodpile, or a speck upon the window pane.

  • A hill which is seen to rise close behind another is found on nearer approach to have receded a great way from it.

  • The painter by foreshortening, brings together things or parts that are relatively distant from each other.

Alva J. McClain refers to the limited perspective of the prophet Daniel as he prophesied the seventy weeks determined upon the nation of Israel:

. . . he saw events together on the screen of prophecy which in their fulfillment were separated by centuries of time. This curious characteristic, so strange to Western minds, was in complete harmony with the Oriental mind, which was little concerned with a continuous chronology . . . the Oriental was interested in the next important event, not in the time that might intervene. The Bible is an Oriental book, humanly speaking.


There is an interesting verse of Scripture in I Peter which seems to shed light on this from the prophets' viewpoint. Peter tells us that after the prophets had written, they actually sat down and tried to figure out the time element involved in their own prophecies:


Searching what, or what manner, of time the Spirit of Christ who was in them did signify, when he testified beforehand the sufferings of Christ, and the glory that should follow. (I Peter 1:11)


If the prophets could not understand the time element in their prophetic messages, it is proper and true to say that their perspective was limited. This does not in any way detract from the truth of their statements, since no one would insist that a statement be understood in order that it be true, literally true.

  • Because of the Christological Orientation of the Scriptures


Another reason for expecting double reference in prophecy concerns the Christological orientation of the entire Word of God. When Christ was speaking to the two disciples on the road to Emmaus, He instructed them concerning Himself, and His text was the writings of Moses, and all the prophets. Later on in the same chapter we read:


These are the words which I spake unto you while I was yet with you, that all things must be fulfilled, which. were written in the law of Moses, and in the prophets, and in the psalms concerning me


According to Christ's own words, the message of the Old Testament was the coming Messiah. We should not be surprised then to discover that the prophets looked first at their own situation, but ultimately at the coming Messiah. (We have already observed that double reference prophecy is usually fulfilled ultimately in the person of Christ or the affairs of His kingdom.)

  • Because of the Necessity of Future Assurance


Yet another provision was made to confirm men's faith in utterances which had regard to the far future. It frequently happened that prophets who had to speak of such things were also commissioned to predict other things which would shortly come to pass; and the verification of these latter predictions in their own day and generation justified men in believing the other utterances which pointed to a more distant time. The one practically a 'sign' of the other, and if the one proved true, the other might be trusted.


Perhaps one of the best illustrations of this dimension in double reference prophecy is found in Gabriel's words to Mary recorded in Luke 1 :30-33. Gabriel told Mary the following things:

  1. She was to conceive in her womb and bring forth a son.

  2. She was to call his name Jesus.

  3. He was to be great.

  4. He was to be called the Son of the Highest.

  5. The Lord was to give unto him the throne of his father David.

  6. He was to reign over the house of Jacob forever.

  7. And of his kingdom there was to be no end.

The first four parts of this prophecy were fulfilled literally in the earthly ministry of Jesus Christ. There is no way, however, that the last three parts can be said to have been fulfilled. They are yet future. They will yet be fulfilled in Christ. Feinberg's words are pertinent:


According to the angel's words, Mary literally conceived in her womb; literally brought forth a son; His name was literally called Jesus; He was literally great; and He was literally called the Son of the Highest. Will it not be as literally fulfilled that God will yet give to Christ the throne of His father David, that he will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and that of His glorious kingdom there shall be no end?




Not one passage was examined under this title that did not have a dispute connected with it. To examine every passage that might possibly contain double reference prophecy would exceed the limitations of space imposed upon this paper. The passages of Scripture that have been listed on the charts which follow have been used because they represent the different aspects of this principle, and also because they represent the different types of prophecy.


Certain general rules seem to suggest themselves to one who has studied the literature available on this subject. How can you tell if a prophetic statement has more than one fulfillment? These suggestions may help:


  • Determine if the prophecy has been fulfilled in its literal and complete meaning.


Elsa Raud makes the following comment: We can know whether or not the law of double reference applies to the prophecy we are reading by ascertaining whether it has been fulfilled completely and literally. Genesis 12:3 says that "in thee shall all families of the earth be blessed." All the families of the earth have not yet experienced the blessing in Christ which the promise declares . . . Only a comparatively few Jews and Gentiles have thus been blessed in Him. The prophecy in Genesis 12:3 will be fulfilled for all the families of the earth in the Day of the Lord.


  • If the prophecy seems to have a double or wider meaning, examine that meaning only after you have carefully worked out the primary interpretation of the prophecy. What you understand by the first fulfillment will color your understanding of the second or ultimate fulfillment.

  • Look for some interpretive comment from the New Testament writers to aid your interpretation of the secondary or ultimate meaning.

  • If the understanding you get from the ultimate fulfillment is not completely in accord with that which is directly revealed concerning the person or event, reject it. Start over! In no case does our knowledge of a future event or person depend solely on the information contained in a double reference prophecy.

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Isaiah 7:14 - Christ & Mahershalalhashbaz

Isaiah 14 King of Babylon & Satan

II Samuel 7:12-16 - David & Christ

Isaiah 9:6 - Historical & Eschatological

Micah 5:2 - Historical & Eschatological


Many of the Messianic Psalms would have to be proven to have had an historical fulfillment before they could be conSidered in the double reference category.



The Bible does contain some prophecies that are fulfilled in more than one situation. Eventually every Bible student says that, though he may not say it in those words. When we understand the reasons for our discovery of double reference prophecies, we will not be so concerned about what to call them, as we are about how to apply them. Since the Bible is a miraculous book, we may expect to find some miraculous things in it. Double reference prophecy is one of God's miracles.

Objections to Dual Fulfillment


The main objection to dual fulfillment comes from those espousing the Covenant Theology view/hermeneutic.


  • Dispensationalists see a "future" fulfillment in the Restoration of Israel, and the subsequent prophesies, given from a 'literal' (plain reading) of the text.

    • The golden rule of interpretation – If the plain sense makes sense, look for no other sense, lest you end up with nonsense.

    • Dispensationalists contend there is a "future" fulfillment of both OT and NT prophecies concerning Christ, the end times, and His Plan for the Restoration of Israel. They contend that the 'plain reading of the text', without any 'covenant' lens means that one ‘sees’ a "Dual Reference/Fulfillment".


  • Replacement Theology (Covenant Theology) 'sees' these prophecies as having already been 'fulfilled' in Christ (covenant of grace) and therefore the church (the Israel of God), has already received every benefit, not needing any other 'prophetic fulfillment'.

    • They 'see' Joel's prophecy as already fulfilled

    • Christ's prophecy concerning Jerusalem 'fulfilled' in 70AD

    • And any OT prophecy concerning Israel's Return (Deut. 30:1-7) as already fulfilled by the church.

    • Since Covenant Theology is also a 'hermeneutic', one must 'translate or symbolize':

      • Israel as being "Israel of God"

      • Children of Abraham as "children of Abraham by faith"

      • Abraham's seed has a 'singular' meaning "Christ"

      • "Covenant of grace" only refers to those after 70AD – to those who have made their commitment to Christ

      • The thought that any 'grace' was extinguished concerning the 'physical' nation of Israel.

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