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Prophecy: more than one fulfillment

About one-third of the Bible is prophecy. Much of it has more than one fulfillment. Are there any principles which help us in seeing how a prophecy might be fulfilled more than once? Here are three ways in which Bible prophecies can be fulfilled more than once:

  1. A typical fulfillment first: Some Bible prophecies have their complete fulfillment in the long term, but in the short term there is a partial fulfillment in events which are types of the complete fulfillment. Example: The promises to David are quoted with reference to Solomon; cp 1Ch 17:12,13 with 1Ch 22:9,10. This is because Solomon's reign was a type of Christ's Kingdom; cp 1Ki 4:25 with prophecies of the Kingdom in Jer 23:6 and Micah 4:4. However, their complete fulfillment comes with Christ; see Luke 1:32,33 and Acts 13:33. Other examples. Mic 4; 5 was initially fulfilled by Hezekiah in relation to the Assyrian invasion, but will be more completely fulfilled by Christ setting up the Kingdom. Some features of Psa 72 were fulfilled by Solomon's kingdom, but the psalm will be completely fulfilled in the future reign of Christ.
  2. A typical fulfillment later: Some Bible prophecies are fulfilled completely initially but this fulfillment is typical of something greater to come. Example: Isa 17 was fulfilled in the Assyrian invasion in Hezekiah's time, culminating in the destruction of the Assyrian host (v 14). Yet this fulfillment is also typical of the host which invades the land at the time of Christ's return, and is destroyed. Other examples: Jer 50; 51 are prophetic of the overthrow of the kingdom of Babylon, but the extensive use of the language of these chapters in Rev 17; 18 shows that this overthrow was typical of the overthrow of another Babylon at Christ's return. Psa 41 (not strictly prophecy) is about David's experiences in the revolt of Absalom, but his betrayal by Ahithophel is typical of Judas's betrayal of Christ (v 9, quoted in John 13:18).
  3. Prophecies fulfilled on a number of occasions: Some Bible prophecies are fulfilled on several occasions because of situations which keep occurring. Example: Deu 28:49 prophesies of "a nation... from far" which God would send against Israel if they forsook Him. Note how the terms of this verse were fulfilled by Assyria (Isa 5:26; 33:19; Hos 8:1) and Babylon (Jer 4:13; 5:15) as well as Rome (Mat 24:28). Other examples: Cannibalism, prophesied in Lev 26:29, is recorded in both 2Ki 6:26-31 and Lam 4:10, and according to Josephus occurred in AD 70. The opposition to Christ by rulers foretold in Psa 2:1-3 occurred at his birth (Mat 2) and his crucifixion (Acts 4:25-28), and will occur at his Second Coming (Rev 17:12-14) and at the end of the Millennium (Rev 20:7-10).

Examples of Bible prophecy with more than one fulfillment:

Isa 2:10-22: (a) earthquake in Uzziah's day (Amo 1:1,2; Zec 14:5); (b) Last Days (2Th 1:9,19; Rev 6:16,19).

Isa 7:14: (a) birth of Hezekiah, son of Ahaz; (b) Mat 1:23.

Isa 34: (a) Edom and other nations hostile to Israel in Isaiah's day; (b) Final judgment on the wicked (Rev 14:10,11).

Jer 50; 51: (a) Destruction of Babylon, the great enemy of Jeremiah's day; (b) Destruction of "Babylon" in the Last Days (Rev 18; cp mg refs).

Hos 10:8 (and context): (a) Judgment on faithless Israel in Hosea's time; (b) Destruction of Jerusalem in 70 AD (Luk 23:30).

Mic 3:12: (a) Threatened fulfillment about 700 BC (Jer 26:18); (b) literal fulfillment in first century AD.

Psa 2: (a) David beset by enemies early in his reign (2Sa 8); (b) Hostility to Christ, the Son of David (Act 4:25-27; Rev 19:15).

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