Dual Fulfillment of Prophecy

 Son of David
 First and Second Comings

 Outpouring of the Holy Spirit

 A Virgin Shall Conceive

 Abomination of Desolation

 Destruction of the Temple


There are many instances in which a prophecy has two fulfillments: one immediate and one long-term.  The immediate fulfillment is usually a type of the ultimate fulfillment, and stops short of being a complete fulfillment.  This can sometimes cause confusion when it’s not understood.  A fulfillment that serves as a type can be mistaken for the ultimate (antitype) fulfillment, and wrong doctrines as well as bitter disappointment can result.  

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Son of David

One prominent example is the prophecies God told David about his seed sitting on his throne forever.

II Samuel 7:
12 And when thy days be fulfilled, and thou shalt sleep with thy fathers, I will set up thy seed after thee, which shall proceed out of thy bowels, and I will establish his kingdom.
13 He shall build an house for my name, and I will stablish the throne of his kingdom for ever.
14 I will be his father, and he shall be my son. If he commit iniquity, I will chasten him with the rod of men, and with the stripes of the children of men:
15 But my mercy shall not depart away from him, as I took it from Saul, whom I put away before thee.
16 And thine house and thy kingdom shall be established for ever before thee: thy throne shall be established for ever.
[see NASB]

The specific and immediate fulfillment of these verses was in the person of David's son Solomon, who built a house for God's name, after David died. Solomon sat on the throne of Israel in David's place, and it is called the throne of the Lord in I Chronicles 29:23 (
"Then Solomon sat on the throne of the LORD as king instead of David his father..."). 

While the immediate fulfillment of II Samuel 7:12 was in David's son Solomon, like many prophecies there was also another, long-term fulfillment. The coming king's rule will involve putting down those rebellious kings, as described in Psalm 2. In Psalm 72 is a promise that the king's son would judge the people with righteousness, and their oppressors would fear him "as long as the sun and moon endure, throughout all generations" (v. 5).  In addition, it says that he would have "dominion also from sea to sea, and from the river unto the ends of the earth" (v. 8).  (See also Psalm 89:20-27

The immediate son of David was Solomon, but his dominion was neither to the ends of the earth nor throughout all generations. The ultimate fulfillment is referring to the ultimate descendant of David, the Messiah, which God had promised with a covenant (Psalm 89:3-4). Psalm 132 also tells us that God would not turn from His promise to David, and that He had specifically chosen Zion to dwell in. "This is my rest for ever: here will I dwell" (v. 14).  Because of this He would bless the people and establish David's throne, and Messiah’s kingdom would last forever.

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First and Second Comings


Many prophecies about the coming Messiah frequently made no distinction between his first and second comings.  The classic example is Isaiah 61:1-2. It says that Messiah would "proclaim the acceptable year of the LORD, and the day of vengeance of our God; to comfort all that mourn." Yet when Jesus quoted these words in his first public teaching in Nazareth (Luke 4:16-21), he stopped before "the day of vengeance of our God." He read as far as "proclaim the acceptable year of the LORD" and then closed the book, and said, "This day is this scripture fulfilled in your ears."

He proclaimed the acceptable year of the LORD when he was here the first time, but the day of God's vengeance is still future. Another example of this can be seen in Isaiah 9:6-7, where it speaks of a child being born, and then immediately of his government having no end. Still another is in Zechariah 9:9-10, where it refers to the King riding into Jerusalem on a donkey (fulfilled in Matthew 21:1-11; Mark 11:1-10; Luke 19:29-38; and John 12:12-16) and then immediately speaks of his dominion being to the ends of the earth. Many similar prophecies refer to his first and second comings together, with no indication of the interim period which Jesus revealed.

Failure to understand that Messiah would come two different times was one of the main reasons the Jews rejected him as the Messiah.  They did not understand that his coming to establish the Kingdom of God on earth was to be preceded by his announcing the Kingdom and then sacrificing himself for our sins.


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Outpouring of the Holy Spirit


Another example of a prophecy having a fulfillment that is a type of the long-term fulfillment is God’s promise of the outpouring of the Holy Spirit.  God promised a New Covenant in which He would put His Law in the hearts of His people (Jeremiah 31:31-34; 32:37-42).  He specifically promised that He would pour out His spirit upon His people in those days (Isaiah 32:15; 44:3; 59:21; Ezekiel 36:25-27; 39:26-29). The prophet Joel connected this outpouring of spirit with the signs in the heavens and the Day of the Lord.

Joel 2:
28 And it shall come to pass afterward, that I will pour out my spirit upon all flesh; and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, your old men shall dream dreams, your young men shall see visions:
29 And also upon the servants and upon the handmaids in those days will I pour out my spirit.
30 And I will shew 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 great and the terrible day of the LORD come.
[see NASB]

Yet Jesus told the Apostles that they were to “wait for the promise of the Father,” which he specifically identified as receiving the holy spirit (Acts 1:4-5).  In addition, Peter specifically quotes the prophecy from Joel in Acts 2:16ff, when the outpouring of the holy spirit on Pentecost took place.  But that couldn't be the complete fulfillment of the prophecy, since it also referred to signs in the heavens, the sun being darkened and the moon turned to blood, the Day of the Lord, etc., and we haven't seen those things come to pass. The outpouring of the holy spirit on Pentecost is a type of the ultimate outpouring that will take place when Christ returns.


The outpouring of the spirit is closely associated with the New Covenant (Ezekiel 36:25-27).  There is a dual fulfillment of prophecy there too.  The New Covenant was promised to Israel in the age to come, but there is a partial fulfillment today as well. The blood of Jesus ratified the New Covenant, and the terms are offered during this time.  Anyone who accepts those terms receives the Holy Spirit as a down payment or foretaste of what is to come (Ephesians 1:13-14; II Corinthians 1:21-22; 5:5).  For more details, see The New Covenant, and New Covenant Commandments). 

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A Virgin Shall Conceive

One particular prophecy has been pointed to by skeptics as disproving who Jesus was. Isaiah said that “a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel.”  This prophecy is cited in Matthew 1:23 as being fulfilled by the conception of Jesus in the virgin Mary.

Skeptics have accused Christians of misunderstanding and misapplying this prophecy, since the Hebrew word for “virgin” is almah, which simply means a young maiden.  Further, the prophecy clearly refers to a son that would be a sign regarding the fate of Israel at that time.

Isaiah 7:
14  Therefore the Lord himself shall give you a sign; Behold, a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel.

15  Butter and honey shall he eat, that he may know to refuse the evil, and choose the good.

16  For before the child shall know to refuse the evil, and choose the good, the land that thou abhorrest shall be forsaken of both her kings. [see NASB]


A young woman did indeed bare a son in the next chapter, as a sign from God, although God told Isaiah to name him Maher-shalal-hash-baz. (Some commentators consider it to be the same child that was prophesied, but given a different name, as a further sign from God.)

However, the Greek word parthenos, which is used to translate almah in the Septuagint does actually mean a woman who has not had sexual relations as well as simply a young maiden.  This same Greek word is used in Matthew when it quotes Isaiah.

Matthew 1:

22  Now all this was done, that it might be fulfilled which was spoken of the Lord by the prophet, saying,

23  Behold, a virgin [parthenos] shall be with child, and shall bring forth a son, and they shall call his name Emmanuel, which being interpreted is, God with us. [see NASB]


In this case, no matter how you translate or interpret almah or parthenos, we are told clearly that Jesus was conceived by supernatural means, in a woman that had not had sexual relations.

Matthew 1:

18  Now the birth of Jesus Christ was on this wise: When as his mother Mary was espoused to Joseph, before they came together, she was found with child of the Holy Ghost.
19  Then Joseph her husband, being a just man, and not willing to make her a publick example, was minded to put her away privily.
20  But while he thought on these things, behold, the angel of the Lord appeared unto him in a dream, saying, Joseph, thou son of David, fear not to take unto thee Mary thy wife: for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Ghost.

24  Then Joseph being raised from sleep did as the angel of the Lord had bidden him, and took unto him his wife:

25  And knew her not till she had brought forth her firstborn son: and he called his name JESUS.

Luke 1:

30  And the angel said unto her, Fear not, Mary: for thou hast found favour with God.

31  And, behold, thou shalt conceive in thy womb, and bring forth a son, and shalt call his name JESUS.

32  He shall be great, and shall be called the Son of the Highest: and the Lord God shall give unto him the throne of his father David:

33  And he shall reign over the house of Jacob for ever; and of his kingdom there shall be no end.

34  Then said Mary unto the angel, How shall this be, seeing I know not a man?

35  And the angel answered and said unto her, The Holy Ghost shall come upon thee, and the power of the Highest shall overshadow thee: therefore also that holy thing which shall be born of thee shall be called the Son of God. [see NASB]


So while the original prophecy in Isaiah had an immediate fulfillment with the child that was born to a maiden, the ultimate, long-term fulfillment was the supernatural conception of Jesus in Mary.

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Abomination of Desolation


The Prophet Daniel wrote that after 62 “weeks” or heptads (groups of seven years), Messiah would be cut off. Then it says "...and the people of the prince that shall come..." The "prince that shall come" is not referring to Messiah, but rather the future tyrant whom verse 27 says will cause the overspreading of abominations, elsewhere called the abomination that maketh desolate, or the abomination of desolation.  

Daniel 9:
26  And after threescore and two weeks shall Messiah be cut off, but not for himself: and the people of the prince that shall come shall destroy the city and the sanctuary; and the end thereof shall be with a flood, and unto the end of the war desolations are determined.

27  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 11:
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.

Daniel 12:
11  And from the time that the daily sacrifice shall be taken away, and the abomination that maketh desolate set up, there shall be a thousand two hundred and ninety days.
[see NASB]

Many commentaries say that this Abomination of Desolation is a prophecy of Antiochus Epiphanes, a Seleucid king during the Maccabean revolt.  The Web site, Got Questions says the following in an article called Who Was Antiochus Epiphanes?

[T]he most famous conflict connected to Antiochus Epiphanes is the Maccabean revolt. During that time of history, there were two factions within Judaism: the Hellenists, who had accepted pagan practices and the Greek culture; and the Traditionalists, who were faithful to the Mosaic Law and the old ways. Supposedly to avoid a civil war between these two factions, Antiochus made a decree outlawing Jewish rites and worship, ordering the Jews to worship Zeus rather than Yahweh. He wasn’t just trying to Hellenize the Jews but to totally eliminate all traces of Jewish culture. Of course, the Jews rebelled against his decrees.

In an act of brazen disrespect, Antiochus raided the temple in Jerusalem, stealing its treasures, setting up an altar to Zeus, and sacrificing swine on the altar. When the Jews expressed their outrage over the profaning of the temple, Antiochus responded by slaughtering a great number of the Jews and selling others into slavery. He issued even more draconian decrees: performing the rite of circumcision was punishable by death, and Jews everywhere were ordered to sacrifice to pagan gods and eat pig flesh.

Although there are similarities between these events and Daniel’s prophecy, we know that it was not the ultimate fulfillment for one simple reason: Jesus considered the fulfillment to be still in the future in his time.  In addition, the other details in the prophecy were not fulfilled. 

"The end thereof" in 9:26 is translated "its end" or "his end" in other versions. The word for "end" has a masculine singular pronoun ending, indicating that it refers back to the prince that shall come and destroy. "His end" would be the better translation according to several sources, including the Jewish Publication Society Old Testament. Verse 27 begins with "he" which would not fit unless the previous pronoun referred to a person and not the city and sanctuary as some suggest. (Also, if the "end" in verse 26 referred to the city and sanctuary, it would be plural, i.e., "their end".)

Since the prophecy states that the wicked prince would meet his end at the time he destroys the city and the sanctuary, it could not be referring to Antiochus Epiphanes, even though there were similar events at that time. Antiochus set up an idol in the holy place in the Temple, and later destroyed the Temple. But he did not come to his end at that time.  

But there is more to consider. Daniel 12 clearly states that there would be “a time of trouble, such as never was since there was a nation even to that same time” (verse 1), and that at that time God’s people shall be delivered.  But even more significant, it says that, “many of them that sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to everlasting life, and some to shame and everlasting contempt” (verse 2). These events did not accompany the acts of Antiochus Epiphanes. To further establish the correct context of the prophecies, Gabriel tells Daniel that "the words are closed up and sealed till the time of the end" and then tells him to "...go thou thy way till the end be: for thou shalt rest, and stand in thy lot at the end of the days" (verse 9).

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Destruction of the Temple


In the Olivet Discourse, Jesus had told his disciples that the very Temple they were looking at would be destroyed, with not one stone left on top of another, and sure enough it was, in 70 AD.  This is one of the most misunderstood events in history.  Many commentaries consider this to be a fulfillment of Jesus’ prophecies.  And it certainly matches the one statement that not one stone of the Temple would remain on another.  But, as the ESV Study Bible states in the note on Mark 13:4-37:

The disciples assume that the destruction of the temple will coincide with the end of time, but Jesus corrects their thinking (vv. 7, 13). Since Jesus predicts these events, believers must not lose heart. The destruction of Jerusalem (which came in a.d. 70) functions as a type of the last judgment, which will occur when Jesus returns.

Were the events of 70 AD the fulfillment of all of the prophecies, including what Daniel foretold?  They couldn’t be, because they were not followed by the Great Tribulation and the coming of Christ, and must be regarded as a type or foreshadow.  If the second coming of Christ had taken place, we would see him now ruling from his throne in Jerusalem, Satan would be bound and no longer deceiving the nations, and there would be no more war.  Clearly this has not yet come to pass.

In addition, there are other important differences that indicate that the events of 70 AD were not the fulfillment of Daniel’s and Jesus’ prophecies.  For one thing, Titus did not meet his end in 70 AD, but went on to become emperor of Rome.  Also, there was no Abomination of Desolation.  Titus came and stood in the ruins of the Temple after the army had destroyed it.  There was no defilement beforehand, no Abomination that would trigger the Great Tribulation.

The destruction and misery caused by Titus and his armies were certainly a time of great tribulation, but not The Great Tribulation.  Jesus said it would be “…great tribulation, such as was not since the beginning of the world to this time, no, nor ever shall be” (Matthew 24:21), or as Mark put it, “…affliction, such as was not from the beginning of the creation which God created unto this time, neither shall be” (Mark 13:19).  As bad as it was, it was not as devastating as the flood of Noah’s time, nor was it as bad as the Holocaust of the 20th Century, in which over 6 million Jews were murdered. It also was not a time when the very fate of mankind was in the balance, but Jesus said, “And except those days should be shortened, there should no flesh be saved: but for the elect’s sake those days shall be shortened” (Matthew 24:22).

Furthermore, Titus deported all the surviving Jews and sent them into exile, but Zechariah 14:2 prophesied that half Jerusalem’s population would go into exile and the rest not be cut off.  In addition, Zechariah 12 and 14 both describe armies of many nations coming against Jerusalem, unlike the single nation of Rome in 70 AD.  And they both speak of God protecting and saving His people in the last days.

Zechariah 12:

8  In that day shall the LORD defend the inhabitants of Jerusalem; and he that is feeble among them at that day shall be as David; and the house of David shall be as God, as the angel of the LORD before them.

9  And it shall come to pass in that day, that I will seek to destroy all the nations that come against Jerusalem.

Zechariah 14:

1  Behold, the day of the LORD cometh, and thy spoil shall be divided in the midst of thee.

2  For I will gather all nations against Jerusalem to battle; and the city shall be taken, and the houses rifled, and the women ravished; and half of the city shall go forth into captivity, and the residue of the people shall not be cut off from the city.

3  Then shall the LORD go forth, and fight against those nations, as when he fought in the day of battle.

4  And his feet shall stand in that day upon the mount of Olives, which is before Jerusalem on the east, and the mount of Olives shall cleave in the midst thereof toward the east and toward the west, and there shall be a very great valley; and half of the mountain shall remove toward the north, and half of it toward the south. [see NASB]

There was no indication of God fighting against the Romans or saving His people in 70 AD, and no splitting of the Mount of Olives.  Neither was there a finish to the transgression, an end of sins, a reconciliation for iniquity, a bringing in of everlasting righteousness, or a sealing up of the vision and prophecy, as predicted in Daniel 9:24.  But the destruction of Jerusalem was a type of the events that are still to come.

The record of the Olivet Discourse found in the Gospel of Luke differs slightly from those in Matthew and Mark.

Luke 21:
20 And
when ye shall see Jerusalem compassed with armies, then know that the desolation thereof is nigh.
21 Then let them which are in Judaea flee to the mountains; and let them which are in the midst of it depart out; and let not them that are in the countries enter thereint

22  For these be the days of vengeance, that all things which are written may be fulfilled. [see NASB]

Some commentators have concluded that Jesus meant the armies surrounding Jerusalem was the Abomination of Desolation, and conclude that the siege in 66-70 AD was the fulfillment. But it doesn't say that; it just says that when you see Jerusalem surrounded, you will know that the desolation is near.  We saw above and in Foundations of Prophecy that the Abomination of Desolation involved the Antichrist either standing in the Temple or erecting an idol there.  Jerusalem was indeed surrounded by armies in 66-70 AD.  But the description in Luke has a few significant differences.  For one thing
verse 22 says, “For these be the days of vengeance, that all things which are written may be fulfilled.” Yet all things which are written were not fulfilled at that time, as we have seen.

Luke 21:
23 But woe unto them that are with child, and to them that give suck, in those days! for there shall be great distress in the land, and wrath upon this people.
24 And they shall fall by the edge of the sword, and shall be led away captive into all nations: and Jerusalem shall be trodden down of the Gentiles, until the times of the Gentiles be fulfilled.

25  And there shall be signs in the sun, and in the moon, and in the stars; and upon the earth distress of nations, with perplexity; the sea and the waves roaring;

26  Men’s hearts failing them for fear, and for looking after those things which are coming on the earth: for the powers of heaven shall be shaken.

27  And then shall they see the Son of man coming in a cloud with power and great glory.

28  And when these things begin to come to pass, then look up, and lift up your heads; for your redemption draweth nigh.  [see NASB]

While Jerusalem was surrounded by armies in 66-70 AD, it is not the only possible understanding of this reference in Luke 21.  Revelation 11:2 links the holy city being trodden underfoot by the Gentiles with the Great Tribulation, and with the period of "forty-two months" (also referred to in Revelation 13:5). This treading underfoot will end when the time of the Gentiles is fulfilled. These things in Luke 21, like those in Matthew and Mark, are all linked to the prophecies in Daniel and Joel (and others), and refer to what will happen just prior to the end of the age marked by "signs in the sun, and in the moon, and in the stars" (verse 25) followed by seeing "the Son of man coming in a cloud with power and great glory" (verse 27).

Some still believe that Rome’s attack on Jerusalem was the prophesied Day of the Lord.  Part of their “proof” was that at the time the historian Josephus reported that visions in the sky were seen, which supposedly fulfilled the prophecy of “signs in the heavens.”

[O]n the twenty-first day of the month of Artemisius [Jyar], a certain prodigious and incredible phenomenon appeared; I suppose the account of it would seem to be a fable, were it not related by those that saw it, and were not the events that followed it of so considerable a nature as to deserve such signals; for, before sunsetting, chariots and troops of soldiers in their armor were seen running about among the clouds, and surrounding of cities. [Josephus, The Wars of the Jews 6.5.3.]

They cite several other Scriptures in which chariots of fire and similar sights are connected with God’s judgment.  There were also a few other signs reported [also in The Wars of the Jews 6.5.3.], such as a star resembling a sword standing over the city, a comet, and a brilliant light around the altar.  Many Preterists have concluded that these signs were the signs in the heavens that were supposed to signal Christ’s coming.

But there is one important element missing from these visions: Jesus himself.  The prophecies don’t just say the armies will be seen.  They say the Son of Man himself will be seen, and will begin to reign on earth.   

What is also not mentioned in the context of these signs are the ones Jesus mentioned specifically in the Olivet Discourse:  the sun and moon go dark, and the stars disappear from the sky.  Nor were the heavenly signs mentioned by Joel seen: the sun turned to darkness, blood, fire, and pillars of smoke, before the Day of the Lord.

Whether the visions mentioned by Josephus were in fact seen or not is impossible to prove, but if they were, it was as part of the more immediate, but not final, fulfillment of prophecy.  There is no question that God’s judgment was upon Jerusalem in 70 AD.  But the fact that the other factors were missing proves that it was not the ultimate, long-term fulfillment of prophecy, but a type of the final fulfillment, which is yet future.

Preterists try to explain it all away by suggesting that Christ came invisibly, but that not only drastically changes the nature of the Kingdom of God as foretold throughout the Old Testament, but it flatly contradicts the statements that Christ’s coming would be seen and recognized by everyone.

Matthew 24:

27  For as the lightning cometh out of the east, and shineth even unto the west; so shall also the coming of the Son of man be.

30  And then shall appear the sign of the Son of man in heaven: and then shall all the tribes of the earth mourn, and they shall see the Son of man coming in the clouds of heaven with power and great glory.

Revelation 1:

7  Behold, he cometh with clouds; and every eye shall see him, and they also which pierced him: and all kindreds of the earth shall wail because of him. Even so, Amen. [see NASB]

As we saw in Foundations of Prophecy and Three Schools of Thought, one of the biggest keys in interpreting Scripture, especially prophecy of the future, is to connect the dots.  Every Scripture about a given subject must fit together, and when an event in history seems to be the fulfillment of prophecy, it must have all of the factors in the right sequence.  If only some factors are present, it is usually the first part of a dual fulfillment, a type of the ultimate fulfillment.

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This page was last updated on June 20, 2018.


Mark Clarke
E-mail: mclarke@godskingdomfirst.org