Duality in Bible Prophecy

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Prophetic statements sometimes apply to more than one fulfillment, a principle called duality. A prime example of duality is Christ's first coming to atone for our sins and His second coming to rule on earth as King of Kings.

Hand on top of a Bible
Source: Photos.com

Also, the Bible speaks of someone's descendants as his "seed." In some passages the word seed implies both an individual (the Messiah) and multiple descendants ( people of Israelite descent, the children of Israel ).

Such dual themes are common in Scripture. The apostle Paul, for example, wrote about "the first man Adam [becoming] a living being" and "the last Adam [becoming] a life-giving Spirit"

(1 Corinthians:15:45). Paul noted that physical circumcision was evidence of God's covenant with Abraham's offspring, but God defined spiritual circumcision—a converted heart—as the key to a Christian's relationship with God (Romans:2:27-28). Paul wrote of the spiritually circumcised—the Church, rather than a physical race of people—as being the "Israel of God" (Galatians:6:16).

Jesus Christ specifically alluded to the dual application of some prophecies in Matthew:17:11-12). Asked about the prophecy of "Elijah," who would precede the coming of the Messiah (Malachi:4:5), Christ responded: "Indeed Elijah is coming first and will restore all things. But I say to you that Elijah has come already." The disciples understood that the prophesied "Elijah" who had come already was John the Baptist (Matthew:17:13). But Christ's clear implication was that another "Elijah" would precede His second coming.

Another prophecy with dual application is Jesus' Olivet Prophecy (Matthew 24; Mark 13; Luke 21), so named because He gave it to His disciples on the Mount of Olives, overlooking Jerusalem. Many conditions described in this prophecy existed in the days leading up to the Romans' siege and destruction of Jerusalem in A.D. 70. But Christ makes it clear that similar conditions would prevail shortly before His future return to the earth.

In the Olivet Prophecy, Jesus spoke of an "abomination of desolation." Daniel's prophecy about this abomination was fulfilled almost 200 years earlier by forces of the Greek Syrian ruler Antiochus Epiphanes, but Christ pointed out that this prophecy would have a future fulfillment (Matthew:24:15-16). For a more complete explanation of this and other fundamentals of biblical prophecy, read the Bible study aid booklet You Can Understand Bible Prophecy .

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