The subject of Biblical prophecy is a fascinating aspect of Bible study. Unfortunately, very few people understand the keys to understanding the prophecies of the Bible, and because of this many prophecies are greatly misunderstood.
One of the keys to understanding Biblical prophecy is the fact that many prophecies are dual in nature. Many Biblical prophecies have both a short-term and long-term fulfillment (types and antitypes). The type is usually a relatively minor event in history. The antitype symbolizes a major, often eschatological (eschatology is a branch of Christian and Jewish theology concerning death, the end of the world, or the ultimate destiny of humankind) event that will occur later.
One of the best examples of dual fulfillment in prophecy is the Olivet Prophecy recorded in the Gospels of Matthew, Mark and Luke. Events such as the siege of Jerusalem, Antiochus Epiphanes’ sacrifice of a pig on the altar (the Abomination of Desolation) and the destruction of the Second Temple by Titus Flavius are seen as only partial fulfillments of the Olivet Prophecy (which is also predicted in the Book of Daniel). We can clearly see that the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 AD was a type of the Great Tribulation which will occur in the time immediately preceding the Second Coming of Yeshua Ha’Mashiach (Jesus Christ). Yeshua was actually predicting that the Abomination of Desolation which occurred under Antiochus Epiphanes in which he pronounced himself to be God and defiled the Holy Temple (which when corrected by the Maccabean Revolt resulting in the celebration known as Hanukkah) would occur again during the time of the final Antichrist. Yeshua actually prophesied two events in the Olivet Prophecy. Jerusalem’s destruction was the type, and the Great Tribulation is the antitype.
This particular prophecy highlights how vital it is to understand the principles of duality in Biblical prophecy. Many early followers of Yeshua did not understand that the Olivet Prophecy was dual and fully expected that Yeshua’s Second Coming would occur after the destruction of Jerusalem. When Yeshua failed to return at that time, some were very disappointed and disillusioned. Some even lost their faith and stopped believing. This disappointment was a major factor in causing the congregations to fall into apostasy in the closing decades of the first century.
The failure of the Jewish people to understand the duality of prophecy also played a role in their rejection of Yeshua as their Messiah. They thought (and still think) that the Messiah would come as a conquering, human king that would 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 Yeshua and His millennial kingdom. 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 entire prophecy. Yeshua pointed out a very clear example of this in Luke 4:16-21. On a Sabbath in Nazareth shortly after Yeshua began His ministry, He publicly read from the scroll of Isaiah in the Synagogue saying, “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.” Reading this passage from Isaiah 61:1-2, Yeshua stopping abruptly after the first line in verse 2. Yeshua then rolled up the scroll and gave it back to the attendant and sat down. He told the amazed audience, “Today this Scripture has been 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 entire world during His millennial kingdom. If Yeshua had read any further, He would have spoken of events belonging exclusively to His second coming, so He did not claim to be fulfilling them. If these devoted Jewish people has accurately assessed Yeshua’s words, they could have easily avoided the error that led them to reject Him and compell the Romans to condemn Him to crucifixion for blasphemy.
Keep in mind that not all prophecies are dual in nature. 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 chosen people (Israel) or with those who trust and believe in Yeshua (spiritual Israel).
As an 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 Jewish people into captivity between 604-585 BC (II Kings 24-25). In the New Testament, Babylon becomes an antitype of those who persecute believers (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 Biblical prophecy is especially important to believers in this day and age. Many prophecies in the New Testament predicted the great apostasy which took place in the congregations toward the end of the first century (Acts 20:29; II Thessalonians 2:3-12; II Timothy 3:1-8; II Timothy 4:3-4; Jude 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 worldwide congregations. We are actually witnessing some of these prophecies being fulfilled today. Duality in Biblical prophecy is being demonstrated in our very lifetimes and before our own eyes.
For these reasons, 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 congregations, so that we are not caught unaware.
Yeshua warned all of us who are living in these turbulent times, “Watch ye therefore: for ye know not when the master of the house cometh, at even, or at midnight, or at the cockcrowing, or in the morning: Lest coming suddenly he find you sleeping. And what I say unto you I say unto all, Watch.” (Mark 13:35-37 KJV)