Double Fulfillment Theory Study Archive

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Addressing the Use of “Primary” and “Secondary” Natural Fulfillments of the Olivet Discourse to Point Away From AD70

Double Fulfillment Theory
Prophecies refer to AD70 and to the End of the World

Henry Alford (1855)
‘I think it proper to state, in this third edition, that, having now entered upon the deeper study of the prophetic portions of the New Testament, I do not feel by any means that full confidence which I once did in the exegesis, quoad prophetical interpretation, here given of the three portions of (Matthew) chap. xxv. But I have no other system to substitute, and some of the points here dwelt on seem to me as weighty as ever. I very much question whether the thorough study of Scripture prophecy will not make me more and more distrustful of all human systematising, and less willing to hazard strong assertion on any portion of the subject.’ (July 1855.)

John Broadus
“But if the destruction of Jerusalem was itself in one sense a coming of the Lord, why may we not suppose that the transition from this to the final coming is gradual? Then much in #Mt 24:3-36 may be taken as referring both to the former and the latter topic, while some of the expressions may refer exclusively to the one or the other. In #Mt 24:37 to 25:13 the earlier topic is sinking out of sight; in #Mt 25:31-46 it has completely disappeared, and nothing is in view but the final coming to judgment. (Luke and Mark are parallel only as far as #Mt 24:42) Similar cases occur in Old Test., where a prediction refers to some nearer event, and also, by typical relation, to a kindred event in the remoter future. This view does not rest on the crude notion of a “double sense” in Scripture words or phrases, but on the unquestionable Scripture use of types, prophetic as well as ceremonial. For example, in #Isa 41:8- 53:12, the predictions as to the “servant of Jehovah” make a gradual transition from Israel to the Messiah, the former alone being seen in #Isa 41:8 ff., the Messiah also appearing to view in #Isa 42:1 ff., {#Mt 12:18-21} and Israel quite sinking out of our sight in ch. 53. {#Ac 8:32-35} Comp. above on #Mt 2:15. All the Scripture predictions remained obscure till their fulfilment (comp. on v. 15). Accordingly we may expect here to see somewhat clearly the fulfilment in the destruction of Jerusalem, but the other and yet future fulfilment must remain still quite obscure, and we should be “contented (Alex.) with a careful explanation of the terms employed, according to analogy and usage, and a reverential waiting for ulterior disclosures by the light of divine providence shining on the word.” Some zealous students of prophecy have brought reproach on the Scripture by their lack of moderation and reserve in the interpretation. It should be frankly conceded that grave difficulties attend the interpretation of this discourse in any of the methods that have been suggested. The view above described is believed to involve fewer difficulties, and to yield better results, than any other theory. ” (Destruction of Jerusalem and Coming of Christ)

Anthony A. Hoekema
“No argument for the two-stage coming can be derived from the use of the New Testament words for the Second Coming.  These words are parousia (literally, presence), apokalypsis (revelation), and epiphaneia (appearance).” (p.165)

Benjamin Jowett
‘First, it may be laid down that Scripture has one meaning, -the meaning which it had to the mind of the prophet or evangelist who first uttered or wrote to the hearers or readers who first received it.’

‘ Scripture, like other books, has one meaning, which is to be gathered from itself, without reference to the adaptations of fathers or divines, and without regard to a priori notions about its nature and origin.’

‘ The office of the interpreter is not to add another [interpretation], but to recover the original one : the meaning, that is, of the words as they struck on the ears or flashed before the eyes of those who first heard and read them.’ (Essay on the Interpretation of Scripture, § i. 3, 4.)

Samuel Maresius
“Far be it from us to make God speak with two tongues, or to attach a variety of senses to His Word, in which we ought rather to behold the simplicity of its divine author reflected as in a clear mirror (Ps. xii. 6 ; xix. 8.) Only one meaning of Scripture, therefore, is admissible: that is, the grammatical, in whatever terms, whether proper or tropical and figurative, it may be expressed.”

Philip Melanchthon
“One definite and simple meaning of [Scripture] is in every case to be sought.”

Robert Mounce (1977)
“It will be better to hold that the predictions of John, while expressed in terms reflecting his own culture, will find their final and complete fulfillment in the last days of history. Although John saw the Roman Empire as the great beast that threatened the extinction of the church, there will be in the last days an eschatalogical beast who will sustain the same relationship with the church of the great tribulation. It is this eschatological beast, portrayed in type by Rome, that the Apocalypse describes. Otto Piper notes that many modern interpreters overlook the distinction between the historical fulfillment of prophecy and its eschatological fulfillment. The pattern of imperceptible transition from type to antitype was already established by the Olivet Discourse, in which the fall of Jerusalem becomes in its complete fulfillment the end of the age.” (The Book of Revelation, p. 30)

Herman Ridderbos (1954)
“By “all these things” is to be understood the entire complex of the happening of the last time, including the coming of the Son of Man. In this connection one must again take into consideration the combining character of the representation of the future set forth here…. The starting point of this whole discourse is in the destruction of the temple. And because this, according to the nature of prophecy, is seen in one and the same realm (“in een vlak”) with the great future of the Lord, it can be said that the generation which would be witness of this destruction shall not pass “till all these things be fulfilled.” Here, therefore, the great future is again designated in a complex, undifferentiated way. In the light of the fulfillment it is evident that “all these things” do not come all at once and, therefore, would be seen merely in part by the then living generation…. The exegesis must also here adopt the historical viewpoint, that is, must proceed from the prophetic form of eschatology. See also the commentary on 24:14 (The Gospel according to Matthew, vol. 2, Kok, 1954, pp. 157, 158, in Korte Verklaring; the translation of the Dutch is Engelsma”  

Herbert Edward Ryle
‘The consequences of admitting such a principle should be well weighed. What book on earth has a double sense, unless it is a book of designed enigmas, And even this has but one real meaning. By what laws of interpretation is it to be judged? By none that belong to human language; for other books than the Bible have not a double sense -attached to them.”

“I hold that the words of Scripture were intended to have one definite sense, and that our first object should be to discover that sense, and adhere rigidly to it. I believe that, as a general rule, the words of Scripture are intended to have, like all other language, one plain definite meaning, and that to say that words do mean a thing merely because they can be tortured into meaning it, is a most dishonorable and dangerous way of handling Scripture.” (Expository Thoughts on St. Luke, vol. i. P. 383.)

But we must not suppose that this part of our Lord’s prophecy is exhausted by the first taking of Jerusalem.  It is more than probable that our Lord’s words have a further and deeper application still.  It is more than probable that they apply to a second siege of Jerusalem, which is yet to take place, when Israel has returned to their own land–and to a second tribulation on the inhabitants thereof, which shall only be stopped by the advent of our Lord Jesus Christ.  Such a view of this passage may sound startling to some.  But those who doubt its correctness would do well to study the last chapter of the prophet Zechariah, and the last chapter of Daniel.  These two chapters contain solemn things. They throw great light on the verses we are now reading, and their connection with the verses which immediately follow.”

 David Brown (1858)
” ‘Many attempts,’ says Dr. Urwick, ‘have been made to anatomize this prophecy, and exhibit separately the parts which relate to the invasion of Jerusalem by Titus, and the parts which regard the judgment of the world at the last day. I have not met with any thing satisfactory in this way. If any man could have done it well, Bishop Horsley was the man: he had learning, ingenuity, power, and determination enough for it. Yet one cannot read the sermon in which he attempts to separate the prophecy of the ‘coming’ from the prophecy of the destruction of Jerusalem, without feeling that a giant is grappling with a difficulty he cannot master. The statement of our Lord, ‘Verily I say unto you, This generation shall not pass, till these things be fulfilled’ puts it, I think, beyond question, that the whole range of the prediction was to have an accomplishment before the then race of human beings should all have died from the face of the earth “(David Brown, p. 441).

Dr. John Brown (1852)
“Dr. Owen’s remark is full of good sense-” If the Scripture has more than one meaning, it has no meaning at all: ” and it is just as applicable to the prophecies as to any other portion of Scripture.’ (Sufferings and Glories of the Messiah, p. 5, note.)

“It appears, then, that is Scripture be the best interpreter of Scripture, we have in the Old Testament a key to the interpretation of the prophecies in the New. The same symbolism is found in both, and the imagery of Isaiah, Ezekiel, and the other prophets helps us to understand the imagery of St. Matthew, St. Peter, and St. John. As the dissolution of the material world is not necessary to the fulfillment of Old Testament prophecy, neither is it necessary to the accomplishment of the predictions of the New Testament. But though symbols are metaphorical expressions, they are not unmeaning. It is not necessary to allegorise them, and find a corresponding equivalent for every trope; it is sufficient to regard the imagery as employed to heighten the sublimity of the prediction and to clothe it with impressiveness and grandeur. There are, at the same time, a true propriety and an underlying reality in the symbols of prophecy. The moral and spiritual facts which they represent, the social and ecumenical changes which they typify, could not be adequately set forth by language less majestic and sublime. There is reason for believing that an inadequate apprehension of the real grandeur and significance of such events as the destruction of Jerusalem and the abrogation of the Jewish economy lies at the root of that system of interpretation which maintains that nothing answering to the symbols of the New Testament prophecy has ever taken place. Hence the uncritical and unscriptural figments of double senses, and double, triple, and multiple fulfillments of prophecy. That physical disturbances in nature and extraordinary phenomena in the heavens and in the earth may have accompanied the expiring throes of the Jewish dispensation we are not prepared to deny. It seems to us highly probable that such things were. But the literal fulfillment of the symbols is not essential to the verification of prophecy, which is abundantly proved to be true by the recorded facts of history.” (Discourses and Sayings of our Lord, vol. i. p.200).

Adam Clarke (1837)
Verse 34. This generation shall not pass— I think it more proper not to restrain its meaning to the few years which preceded the destruction of Jerusalem; but to understand it of the care taken by Divine providence to preserve them as a distinct people, and yet to keep them out of their own land, and from their temple service. See on Mark 13:30. But still it is literally true in reference to the destruction of Jerusalem. John probably lived to see these things come to pass; compare Matthew 16:28, with John 21:22; and there were some rabbins alive at the time when Christ spoke these words who lived till the city was destroyed, viz. Rabban Simeon, who perished with the city; R. Jochanan ben Zaccai, who outlived it; R. Zadoch, R. Ismael, and others. See Lightfoot.” (Commentary On Matthew 24)

F.W. Farrar (1886)
“It was to this event, the most awful in history – ‘one of the most awful eras in God’s economy of grace, and the most awful revolution in all God’s religious dispensations’ – that we must apply those prophecies of Christ’s coming in which every one of the Apostles and Evangelists fixed these three most definite limitations – the one, that before that generation passed away all these things would be fulfilled; another, that some standing there should not taste death till they saw the Son of Man coming in His kingdom; and third, that the Apostles should not have gone over the cities of Israel till the Son of Man be come. It is strange that these distinct limitations should not be regarded as a decisive proof that the Fall of Jerusalem was, in the fullest sense, the Second Advent of the Son of Man which was primarily contemplated by the earliest voices of prophecy” (Vol. 2, p. 489)

N.A. Nisbett (1787)
“To suppose, on the contrary, that these verses were intended to describe the final judgment of the world, is indeed violently to sever them from their manifest connection – not only with the preceding verses – but, as will presently appear, from the subsequent context; which, in the strongest terms which language can convey, asserts that all the things which he had before been describing, would be in that generation. It would be to violate all the rules of probability and just criticism and to charge the Evangelical Historians with such a confusion of ideas and such a perversion of language as would render them utterly unworthy of any regard; for, as the learned University Preacher has very justly observed – ‘whenever the same word is used in the same sentence – or in different sentences, not far distant from each other; we ought to interpret it precisely, in the same sense, unless either that sense should involve a contradiction of ideas – or the Writer expressly inform us that he repeats the word in a fresh acceptation.'” (Triumphs, p. 112)

“I have already observed that the predictions of our Lord concerning the destruction of Jerusalem appear to me, to be the only true key to the understanding the passages we propose to examine, and that the sum of those predictions is continued in the 24th of Matt. and in the parallel chapters of Mark and Luke. It will therefore be necessary to examine those chapters, and to enquire into their true meaning, so far at least, as they are the subject of controversy; for some very eminent commentators and divines have strenuously maintained, that some of these predictions relate, not to the destruction of Jerusalem, but to the solemnities of that more awful day, when the secrets of all hearts shall be disclosed; and it must be owned, that at first sight, some expressions there made use of, appear to favour their opinion.

But an impartial attention to the language of Scripture, and to the connection in which they stand, will, I am persuaded, remove all doubt upon the subject, and convince us that the Evangelists have their eye upon the destruction of Jerusalem, and upon that only. “(An Attempt to Illustrate..)

Moses Stuart
For these and such-like reasons, the scheme of attaching a double sense to the Scriptures is inadmissible. It sets afloat all the fundamental principles of interpretation by which we arrive at established conviction and certainty and casts us on the boundless ocean of imagination and conjecture without rudder or compass.” (Stuart on the Hebrews, Excurs. xx.)

John Noē (1999)
“There is no escaping the obvious truth that the integrity and prophetic unity of Jesus’ Olivet Discourse must stand undivided. His powerful prophecy is a united, end-times discourse discussing only one subject and one fulfillment. No announced or unannounced time division exists. Jesus plainly intended it to be one interconnected, interrelated, interdependent context. Contextually, “all these things” were to occur within Jesus’ time-indicator phrase of “this generation” (i.e., the contemporary “you” group at the end of that Jewish age).” (Beyond the End Times, July 1999.)

James Stuart Russell (1878)
“There is not a scintilla of evidence that the apostles and primitive Christians had any suspicion of a twofold reference in the predictions of Jesus concerning the end.” (The Parousia, p. 545)

“An objection may be taken, in limine, to the principles involved in this method of interpreting Scripture. Are we to look for double, triple, and multiple meanings, for prophecies within prophecies, and mysteries wrapt in mysteries, where we might reasonably have expected a plain answer to a plain question ? Call any one be sure of understanding the Scriptures if they are thus enigmatical and obscure? Is this the manner in which the Saviour taught His disciples, leaving them to grope their way through intricate labyrinths, irresistibly suggestive of the Ptolemaic astronomy – ‘Cycle and epicycle, orb in orb’? Surely so ambiguous and obscure a revelation can hardly be called a revelation at all, and seems far more befitting a Delphic Oracle, or a Cumaean Sibyl than the teaching of Him whom. the common people heard gladly. ” (The Parousia, p. 545)

John Hopkins Morison (1860)
“Matthew 24:36-51 – The Coming Of The Son Of Man in Judgment To All.  A great deal is said about types. May it not be that all the language relating to the destruction of Jerusalem was meant to be a type of the general judgment? Is there not this double meaning running through it? In the sense in which the expressions type and double meaning are commonly used by theologians, we answer, No.

We have endeavored to explain this remarkable prediction of our Saviour. We have shown how the part of it which applied to “that generation ” was fulfilled, not literally perhaps in all its parts, but exactly in accordance with its spirit. And this is the way in which we are to interpret and apply, not only the highest prophecy, but the highest poetry, the profoundest inductions of philosophy, and the grandest generalizations of transcendental mathematics. The literal, precise interpretation of a single expression is often false, and false in proportion to the magnitude of the truth which soars up in its majestic proportions through such words and images as our human forms of speech and thought may furnish. Any one may see that a literal, prosaic interpretation of King Lear, or Paradise Lost, sentence by sentence, in order to show precisely what facts are proved by them, would do no sort of justice to the grander movements of soul which fill out with their inspiration every part of those wonderful works. Far more in the prophetic words of our Saviour, which so far surpass all the other words that have ever been spoken, it is the letter that killeth. No one, whether as the advocate or the enemy of our faith, can understand them, unless he enter beneath the letter into the spirit, and thus catch as he may something of the inspiration, the largeness of thought and affluence of life, which they are fitted to awaken and impart. The humble inquirer, entering thus into the heart of our Saviour’s words that he may cherish their spirit and obey their commands, will come nearer to the essential truth which they are designed to teach, than the ablest scholar, who, without religious sympathies, or with a superstitious regard to the letter, seeks to analyze them by applying critically, sentence by sentence, the rules of the grammar and lexicon.” (Disquisitions and notes on the Gospels: Matthew)

Date: 19 Apr 2005
Time: 14:53:26

David Brown wrote:

“The statement of our Lord, ‘Verily I say unto you, This generation shall not pass, till these things be fulfilled’ puts it, I think, beyond question, that the whole range of the prediction was to have an accomplishment before the then race of human beings should all have died from the face of the earth “(David Brown, p. 441).

“This generation” should be understood within the context of the Scriptures in which the term appears.   Consider Matthew 23:35. There is no question that here the generation was the one Jesus was addressing, the final generation of Israel. That was the end of the world as the Israelites knew it; that was their world.

In 24:36, however, Christ spoke of some astronomical events which our present history does not record. That is the time, I believe, when He appears in glory at His Second Coming – not after some seven year “Great Tribulation,” not will it be to establish the 1000 year “millennial reign.” He is coming in the days when time comes to an end, the end of the whole world. (The Jewish world has ended nearly  2000 years ago.)

His Coming will be preceded by signs which, apparently will accelerate as the time approaches. When He said “this generation,” He had in mind the generation which will begin to see some of these signs. Perhaps most of those living will see Him coming in their lifetime.

The Bible sometimes uses the term “this generation” when speaking of another generation in another time period. Psalms 95:10 is one example.

C. P. Machovsky


 Date: 12 Nov 2007
Time: 20:04:57

If the idea of a double fulfillment is a biblical doctrine it must be proven from scripture.

A non-preterist Dr. Donald Hagner of Fuller Seminary said that this theory can be postulated, but was not in “Matthew’s mind.”

If a non-preterist Greek scholar says that this was not a NT idea, on what basis do futurists believe in it?

Date: 22 Mar 2009
Time: 08:49:21

I arrived at this page through a Google search, but it doesn’t answer my question.

I’m looking for an essay which would answer the objection of a non-preterist:

What is the BIBLICAL evidence that Isaiah 7:14 was intended to have a double fulfillemt (first in Ahaz’ day, and second in Christ’s day)? By “Biblical” evidence I mean before Matthew came along and said it had a double fulfillment. How did Matthew know this BIBLICALLY and not just by divine inspiration?

Now then, how can we say that Matthew 24 or other prophecies do not have a future (double) fulfillment if Isaiah 7:14 did?

If you would, please email a link to me at this address:



Date: 20 Dec 2009
Time: 16:44:50

1.Was not Daniel’s prophecy of the abomination that makes desolate talking about both Antiochus Ephanes and also Titus Vespasian in 70A.D.?
2. Where not the Jews convinced that Isaiah would be fulfilled at one time by the Messiah , and yet Jesus devided the verse and prophecy mid section, the Jews however were totally unprepared for thatwere they not?
3. If both of those statements above are true, why can not Mattew 24 be partially fulfilled and also at a future date other parts to be fulfilled?
4. Did not Ephanes set up an image of a pagan gog in the holy of holies described by Daniel and yet Jesus talked about it being future , which could possibly be Titus in 70 A.D. .If these both touched Daniel the future rising of a world leader who speaks as a lamb but is a ravenous wolve could be future still, if not why?

Date: 11 Oct 2010
Time: 21:25:31

Some believe that Is 7:14 offers evidence of a double fulfillment, however Milton Terry shows that Matthew says it was fulfilled by Christ. Where in scripture does it teach this had a double fulfillment?