A double fulfillment or dual fulfillment of a Bible prophecy is the circumstance in which the prophecy has both a short-term and long-term fulfillment. A prophecy is made, and the first fulfillment comes to pass relatively soon thereafter. Later, there is a second fulfillment to the prophecy, and that second fulfillment is usually fuller and more literal. So, there is a “near” fulfillment and a “far” fulfillment. A prophecy having a dual fulfillment helps to unify Scripture and emphasizes God’s masterful control of events. There are several examples of prophecies with a double fulfillment. Here are a few:
Joel’s Holy Spirit Prophecy
The prophet Joel, speaking of the day of the Lord, said, “And afterward, I will pour out my Spirit on all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy, your old men will dream dreams, your young men will see visions. Even on my servants, both men and women, I will pour out my Spirit in those days” (Joel 2:28–29). The first fulfillment of this prophecy is when Peter stood up on the day of Pentecost and spoke the same words to those gathered in Jerusalem (Acts 2:14–18). Indeed, miraculous manifestations of God’s power through the Holy Spirit happened on that day (Acts 2:1–13). However, that was only a partial fulfillment of Joel’s prophecy. The prophecy goes on to speak of “blood and fire and billows of smoke” (Joel 2:30), astronomical signs (verse 31), and the gathering of all nations for judgment (Joel 3:1–2). None of that has yet happened; therefore, the ultimate fulfillment of Joel 2 awaits Jesus’ second coming. At that time, God’s enemies will experience “the great and dreadful day of the Lord” (Joel 2:31; cf. Revelation 16:14–16).
Isaiah’s Virgin Birth Prophecy
In Isaiah 7 the Aramites and Israelites were seeking to conquer Jerusalem, and King Ahaz of Judah was fearful. The prophet Isaiah approaches King Ahaz and declares that Aram and Israel would not be successful in their conquest (Isaiah 7:7–9). The Lord offers Ahaz the opportunity to receive a sign (verse 10), but Ahaz refuses to put God to the test (verse 11). God responds by giving the sign Ahaz should look for: “The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son . . . but before the boy knows enough to reject the wrong and choose the right, the land of the two kings you dread will be laid waste” (Isaiah 7:14). So, Isaiah referred to a woman—a virgin when the prophecy was made—who would become pregnant and bear a son; a few years after that, Israel and Aram would be destroyed. That was the “near” fulfillment. In the New Testament, the apostle Matthew connects the virgin birth of Jesus (Matthew 1:23) with the prophecy in Isaiah 7:14. Jesus’ virgin birth is the “far” fulfillment—fuller and more complete. Isaiah 7:14 is therefore a “double-fulfillment prophecy.” It refers to the situation King Ahaz was facing but also to the coming Messiah who would be the ultimate deliverer.
Samuel’s Prophecy to David
The prophet Samuel had a prophecy for King David that details a promise directly from God concerning David’s son: “The Lord declares to you that the Lord himself will establish a house for you; When your days are over and you rest with your ancestors, I will raise up your offspring to succeed you, your own flesh and blood, and I will establish his kingdom. He is the one who will build a house for my Name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever” (2 Samuel 7:11–13). David’s son Solomon would become king and ultimately build the temple, thus partially fulfilling this prophecy. The complete fulfillment, however, is found in Christ, the Son of David. At the annunciation, the angel Gabriel said about Jesus, “The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over Jacob’s descendants forever; his kingdom will never end” (Luke 1:32–33). Right now, Jesus is building His church, a “house” for God’s name (Matthew 16:18). He will become the eternal king on David’s throne and establish the Holy City, the new Jerusalem (Revelation 21:2). Solomon was the partial fulfillment of Samuel’s words, but Jesus is “greater than Solomon” and the more thorough fulfillment (Matthew 12:42).
Jesus’ Second Coming Prophecy
While Jesus was teaching His disciples about the end times, they asked Him, “When will these things happen? And what will be the sign that they are about to take place?” (Luke 21:7). Jesus answers with a long discourse, which includes this warning: “When you see Jerusalem being surrounded by armies, you will know that its desolation is near. Then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains, let those in the city get out, and let those in the country not enter the city” (Luke 21:20–21). Some Bible scholars believe that this prophecy was completely fulfilled in AD 70 when the Romans leveled Jerusalem. However, Jesus goes on to give additional details about this time. He says, “There will be signs in the sun, moon and stars. On the earth, nations will be in anguish and perplexity at the roaring and tossing of the sea. People will faint from terror, apprehensive of what is coming on the world, for the heavenly bodies will be shaken. At that time they will see the Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and great glory” (Luke 21:25–27). It is clear by these additional details that the ultimate fulfillment of this prophecy is yet to come.
Ezekiel’s Gog and Magog Prophecy
Another prophecy with a dual fulfillment is Ezekiel’s prophecy of the battle of Gog and Magog. This prophecy is different in that both fulfillments are yet future. Ezekiel 38—39 predicts that Gog of the land of Magog will lead a great army that attacks the land of Israel, which is “peaceful and unsuspecting” at the time (Ezekiel 38:11). Magog will not win, because God will intervene to preserve Israel (Ezekiel 38:19–22). Gog and Magog are mentioned again in Revelation 20:7–8 in reference to a different battle. In Revelation, history will repeat itself in a final, end-times attack on the nation of Israel (Revelation 20:8–9). The result of this battle is that all Israel’s enemies are destroyed, and Satan finds his place in the lake of fire (Revelation 20:10). Neither of these two battles, both named Gog and Magog, has occurred yet.
The dual fulfillment of Bible prophecy is one more reason to praise the Lord who says, “I make known the end from the beginning, from ancient times, what is still to come. I say, ‘My purpose will stand, and I will do all that I please’” (Isaiah 46:10).
“Praise be to the name of God for ever and ever;
wisdom and power are his.
He changes times and seasons;
he deposes kings and raises up others.
He gives wisdom to the wise
and knowledge to the discerning” (Daniel 2:20–21).