Multiple Fulfillments in Bible Prophecy

fulfillments in Bible Prophecy

I published an article comparing Bible prophecy to the world’s largest jigsaw puzzle. I argued in that article that working with Bible prophecy is much harder than completing a jigsaw puzzle, including the world’s largest jigsaw puzzle. I mentioned that one of the major challenges when working with Bible prophecy is that many verses can be applied to multiple subject areas. For example, recall that Daniel 9:27 can be applied to at least three different areas since it covers three different time periods: the start of the seventieth week of Daniel, the middle of the seventieth week of Daniel, and the end of the desolate (Antichrist):

And he shall confirm the covenant with many for one week: and in the midst of the week he shall cause the sacrifice and the oblation to cease, and for the overspreading of abominations he shall make it desolate, even until the consummation, and that determined shall be poured upon the desolate.” (Daniel 9:27)

In this article, I will discuss another challenge which makes working with Bible prophecy more difficult than working with a conventional jigsaw puzzle: working with passages that have multiple fulfillments.

The following are some examples where future events will parallel events that previously transpired:

Antiochus Epiphanes IV and the Antichrist

The Book of Daniel predicted the coming of Antiochus Epiphanes IV and the coming of the Antichrist. The prophecies about Antiochus Epiphanes IV and the prophecies about the Antichrist are so similar that some view Antiochus Epiphanes IV as a forerunner of the Antichrist and some believe we can glean information about the Antichrist by studying Antiochus’s career. For instance, Antiochus established an abomination that causes desolation during his time while the Antichrist will establish an abomination that causes desolation in the future.

Daniel 11:31-32 (Antiochus): (31) And arms shall stand on his part, and they shall pollute the sanctuary of strength, and shall take away the daily sacrifice, and they shall place the abomination that maketh desolate. (32) And such as do wickedly against the covenant shall he corrupt by flatteries: but the people that do know their God shall be strong, and do exploits.
Daniel 9:27 (Antichrist): And he shall confirm the covenant with many for one week: and in the midst of the week he shall cause the sacrifice and the oblation to cease, and for the overspreading of abominations he shall make it desolate, even until the consummation, and that determined shall be poured upon the desolate.

Ancient Babylon and End Times Babylon

Some people believe that Jeremiah 50, Jeremiah 51, and other prophecies concerning the destruction of Babylon are prophecies that have fulfilled completely. For instance, some point to Jeremiah 50:17 and Jeremiah 51:34 as evidence that Jeremiah 50 and Jeremiah 51 pertain to the past since Nebuchadnezzar is mentioned.

“Israel is a scattered sheep; the lions have driven him away: first the king of Assyria hath devoured him; and last this Nebuchadrezzar king of Babylon hath broken his bones.” (Jeremiah 50:17)

“Nebuchadrezzar the king of Babylon hath devoured me, he hath crushed me, he hath made me an empty vessel, he hath swallowed me up like a dragon, he hath filled his belly with my delicates, he hath cast me out.” (Jeremiah 51:34)

However, some people, including me, believe the prophecies concerning the destruction of Babylon have dual fulfillment (the first back in the sixth century B.C. and the second in the future with the destruction of Babylon the Great). One example of why I see dual fulfillment is Jeremiah 50:4-6, which mentions that the people of Israel will seek to enter a perpetual covenant with the Lord. A perpetual covenant is something that is mentioned in passages which pertain to the future like Jeremiah 32:37-41:

Everlasting CovenantGod’s PeopleGathering of Israel
Jeremiah 50:4-6: (4) In those days, and in that time, saith the LORD, the children of Israel shall come, they and the children of Judah together, going and weeping: they shall go, and seek the LORD their God. (5) They shall ask the way to Zion with their faces thitherward, saying, Come, and let us join ourselves to the LORD in a perpetual covenant that shall not be forgotten. (6) My people hath been lost sheep: their shepherds have caused them to go astray, they have turned them away on the mountains: they have gone from mountain to hill, they have forgotten their restingplace.
Jeremiah 32:37-41: (37) Behold, I will gather them out of all countries, whither I have driven them in mine anger, and in my fury, and in great wrath; and I will bring them again unto this place, and I will cause them to dwell safely: (38) And they shall be my people, and I will be their God: (39) And I will give them one heart, and one way, that they may fear me for ever, for the good of them, and of their children after them: (40) And I will make an everlasting covenant with them, that I will not turn away from them, to do them good; but I will put my fear in their hearts, that they shall not depart from me. (41) Yea, I will rejoice over them to do them good, and I will plant them in this land assuredly with my whole heart and with my whole soul.

Another example of how prophecies concerning Babylon’s destruction have a future component is Isaiah 13, which includes the term “Day of the Lord” in verse 6.

“(1) The burden of Babylon, which Isaiah the son of Amoz did see. (2) Lift ye up a banner upon the high mountain, exalt the voice unto them, shake the hand, that they may go into the gates of the nobles. (3) I have commanded my sanctified ones, I have also called my mighty ones for mine anger, even them that rejoice in my highness. (4) The noise of a multitude in the mountains, like as of a great people; a tumultuous noise of the kingdoms of nations gathered together: the LORD of hosts mustereth the host of the battle. (5) They come from a far country, from the end of heaven, even the LORD, and the weapons of his indignation, to destroy the whole land. (6) Howl ye; for the day of the LORD is at hand; it shall come as a destruction from the Almighty.” (Isaiah 13:1-6)

One aspect where the future invasion of Babylon (wherever it is) seems to parallel the invasion of ancient Babylon is the king of Babylon’s stunned reaction when he receives a report about what is coming towards Babylon.

“(5) In the same hour came forth fingers of a man’s hand, and wrote over against the candlestick upon the plaister of the wall of the king’s palace: and the king saw the part of the hand that wrote. (6) Then the king’s countenance was changed, and his thoughts troubled him, so that the joints of his loins were loosed, and his knees smote one against another.” (Daniel 5:5-6)

“The king of Babylon hath heard the report of them, and his hands waxed feeble: anguish took hold of him, and pangs as of a woman in travail.” (Jeremiah 50:43)

The Wilderness Experience

Ezekiel 20:35-38 suggests that the people of Israel will endure a second wilderness experience, particularly verse 36 which says “like as I pleaded with your fathers in the wilderness of the land of Egypt, so will I plead with you”:

“(35) And I will bring you into the wilderness of the people, and there will I plead with you face to face. (36) Like as I pleaded with your fathers in the wilderness of the land of Egypt, so will I plead with you, saith the Lord GOD. (37) And I will cause you to pass under the rod, and I will bring you into the bond of the covenant: (38) And I will purge out from among you the rebels, and them that transgress against me: I will bring them forth out of the country where they sojourn, and they shall not enter into the land of Israel: and ye shall know that I am the LORD.” (Ezekiel 20:35-38)

I believe this passage is relevant to the end times. The passage equates what the people of Israel will endure during the end times to the wilderness experience the Israelites faced following the Exodus. I expand on this observation at the following link

Gog

Although Gog’s invasion has not yet occurred, it will likely someday become another example of how some future events will parallel events that previously transpired. I believe there may be multiple fulfillments of Ezekiel 38/Ezekiel 39 as Gog is mentioned in Ezekiel 38, Ezekiel 39, and Revelation 20:

“(2) Son of man, set thy face against Gog, the land of Magog, the chief prince of Meshech and Tubal, and prophesy against him, (3) And say, Thus saith the Lord GOD; Behold, I am against thee, O Gog, the chief prince of Meshech and Tubal: (4) And I will turn thee back, and put hooks into thy jaws, and I will bring thee forth, and all thine army, horses and horsemen, all of them clothed with all sorts of armour, even a great company with bucklers and shields, all of them handling swords:” (Ezekiel 38:2-4)

“(1) Therefore, thou son of man, prophesy against Gog, and say, Thus saith the Lord GOD; Behold, I am against thee, O Gog, the chief prince of Meshech and Tubal: (2) And I will turn thee back, and leave but the sixth part of thee, and will cause thee to come up from the north parts, and will bring thee upon the mountains of Israel: (3) And I will smite thy bow out of thy left hand, and will cause thine arrows to fall out of thy right hand.” (Ezekiel 39:1-3)

“(7) And when the thousand years are expired, Satan shall be loosed out of his prison, (8) And shall go out to deceive the nations which are in the four quarters of the earth, Gog and Magog, to gather them together to battle: the number of whom is as the sand of the sea. (9) And they went up on the breadth of the earth, and compassed the camp of the saints about, and the beloved city: and fire came down from God out of heaven, and devoured them.” (Revelation 20:7-9)

I believe one fulfillment may occur during the seventieth week of Daniel while another fulfillment may occur at the end of the Millennium. You can find my article on the Gog-Magog invasion at the following link.

How to Find Multiple Fulfillments

It can be challenging to distinguish between verses/passages that likely have multiple fulfillments and verses/passages that likely have only one fulfillment. The main method I use to deal with passages that I am unsure about is to compare certain words and phrases from uncertain passages with passages that I know relate to the future.  The decision rule I use to determine whether a passage I’m uncertain about may pertain to the future is the following:

  • Phrases/verses/passages likely relate to the future when they align with phrases/verses/passages that I know relate to the future and unlikely relate to the future when alignment is lacking.

For example, I worked on a study of Jeremiah 4 a while back. Many believe the chapter saw its fulfillment during the time of the Babylonians. However, I believe Jeremiah 4 will have a future fulfillment as well because certain parts of the chapter have details which appear in passages that I believe pertain to the future. One example is Jeremiah 4:9. The verse describes the downfall of Jerusalem’s political and religious elite, a detail that is found elsewhere in end time Bible prophecy including the passages shown below:

Jeremiah 4:9: And it shall come to pass at that day, saith the LORD, that the heart of the king shall perish, and the heart of the princes; and the priests shall be astonished, and the prophets shall wonder.

Isaiah 3:1-4: (1) For, behold, the Lord, the LORD of hosts, doth take away from Jerusalem and from Judah the stay and the staff, the whole stay of bread, and the whole stay of water, (2) The mighty man, and the man of war, the judge, and the prophet, and the prudent, and the ancient, (3) The captain of fifty, and the honourable man, and the counsellor, and the cunning artificer, and the eloquent orator. (4) And I will give children to be their princes, and babes shall rule over them.

Ezekiel 7:26-27: (26) Mischief shall come upon mischief, and rumour shall be upon rumour; then shall they seek a vision of the prophet; but the law shall perish from the priest, and counsel from the ancients. (27) The king shall mourn, and the prince shall be clothed with desolation, and the hands of the people of the land shall be troubled: I will do unto them after their way, and according to their deserts will I judge them; and they shall know that I am the LORD.

Zepaniah 1:8-9: (8) And it shall come to pass in the day of the LORD’S sacrifice, that I will punish the princes, and the king’s children, and all such as are clothed with strange apparel. (9) In the same day also will I punish all those that leap on the threshold, which fill their masters’ houses with violence and deceit.

I hope you found this article interesting. Once again, I’m not complaining about how difficult it is to study Bible prophecy. I am again just trying to give people who may not be familiar with Bible prophecy a sense of appreciation of how challenging it is to study Bible prophecy, the ultimate puzzle.

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2 thoughts on “Multiple Fulfillments in Bible Prophecy”

  1. Another probable example would be Isaiah 7:14-16. The Virgin gives birth to a son but before he is old enough to eat the two opposing kings have seen their land abandoned. Clearly mostly this is thought of as a future prophecy to the time of Christ’s birth but that would have been little comfort to Ahaz at the time. The word virgin here can probably be looked at in its double sense of someone who has never known a man and someone who is maiden. At the time of Ahaz, the latter would apply and the sign would be the name. At the time of Christ the sign would be both the name and the miracle birth.

  2. Another good example of multiple fulfillment is Jeremiah 31:15, which was initially fulfilled during the deportation of Judah and Benjamin to Babylon in 576 BC, but had a second fulfillment in the slaughter of the innocents in Bethlehem as quoted by Matthew in 2:18

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