The Pilgrims of Emmaus on the Road, James Tissot (1836-1902) Source: Brooklyn Museum
After considerable research and deliberation, my conclusion is there is no scriptural support for the ‘Law of Double Fulfilment of Prophecy’, as promulgated by Dispensationalism.
This misconception demands a second (or more) fulfilment of certain prophecy concerning the ‘end times’ and Christ’s return.
A major obstacle arises while attempting to catapult into the 21st century, so-called ‘unfulfilled’ Messianic prophecy contained in the Old and New Testaments. The ‘Law of Double Fulfillment of Prophecy’ was created to overcome this difficulty.
I will attempt to prove why I believe Jesus fulfilled all the Law and the Prophets during the lifetime of His generation, and why double fulfilment of prophecy is a misrepresentation of Scripture.
Has Interpretation of Scripture Really Become a Science?
A Quote from David L Cooper’s ‘The Science of Interpreting the Scriptures’
The Statement of the Law
‘The law of double reference is based upon one of the fundamental laws of psychology: the principle of the association of similar or related ideas. Similarities always suggest comparisons. Thus the prophets constantly depicted that which was as a rule in the immediate future or present. Since history repeats itself, as all admit, the prophets looked out into the future and saw similar situations arising like those which were confronting them or immediately in the future. Thus the transition from describing that which was immediately before them to that which was in the remote future was very easy, normal, and natural.’
‘The law of double reference is based upon one of the fundamental laws of psychology’ Is it necessary to study psychology to interpret the Scriptures, or to determine which prophecies have double fulfilment?
‘Since history repeats itself, as all admit’ David L Cooper assumed that all agree history repeats itself, but is that an accurate statement. It’s true there have been similar events in the past, but not to the extent suggested by the author. For example, God in His infinite wisdom permitted empires to rise, and He caused empires to fall. Nevertheless, these empires were never identical in rise and fall; therefore, history does not repeat itself.
History does not repeat itself, but history reveals that ‘man’ repeats mistakes.
Jesus is our Prophet
Deu 18:18 KJV I will raise them up a Prophet from among their brethren, like unto thee, and will put my words in his mouth; and he shall speak unto them all that I shall command him.
Joh 12:49-50 KJV For I have not spoken of myself; but the Father which sent me, he gave me a commandment, what I should say, and what I should speak. 50 And I know that his commandment is life everlasting: whatsoever I speak therefore, even as the Father said unto me, so I speak.
‘and will put my words in his mouth; and he shall speak unto them all that I shall command him’ Jesus is the fulfilment of Deuteronomy 18:18, and the perfect example of the ministry of prophet. He spoke the mind of God and His prophecies are unequivocal. It is a serious matter to tamper with the words spoken by the Lord Jesus Christ.
God is not the author of confusion!
‘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.’ — Canon Ryle on Double Fulfilment
The Complexity of Double Fulfilment of Prophecy
The following is a list of phrases I discovered during my research, to name but a few:
The Law of Double Fulfilment
The Phenomenon of Double Fulfilment
The Principle of Double Fulfilment
Unforeseen Partial Prophecy
Dispensationalism’s Existence Depends on Double Fulfilment of Prophecy
Prophecies with a past ‘spiritual’ fulfilment don’t comply with Dispensationalism’s literal ‘end times’ theory, for example, Malachi 4:5. Hence, a future, literal fulfilment is mandatory. In my opinion, it was for this reason the ‘Law of Double Fulfilment of Prophecy’ was introduced.
Mal 4:5 KJV Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the LORD:
(My article ‘Elijah the Prophet will not Return’ explains my understanding of Malachi 4.)
Leading futurist scholars created their own ‘law’ in an attempt to add a sense of authenticity to their ‘end times’ view. What authority endorsed this law? None, Dispensationalism is simply a law unto itself!
‘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.’ — Samuel Des Marets, in Latin Maresius (1599-1673) French Protestant Theologian
Why Did Jesus Never Mention Double Fulfilment of Prophecy?
Personally, I believe there was no need! Jesus fulfilled all prophecy during the lifetime of His generation.
Christ Came to Fulfil the Law and the Prophets
Mat 5:17 KJV Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfil.
‘I am not come to destroy, but to fulfil’ If Jesus came to fulfil the Law and the Prophets, did He fail to accomplish what He set out to do. Of course He didn’t fail!
Yet many today believe Jesus only fulfilled prophecy concerning His first coming and all appertaining to His return is still unfulfilled, even although 2000 years have passed. However, Jesus did not predict or teach a parenthesis of 2000 years; therefore, double fulfilment was never an issue.
Heaven and Earth Shall Pass Away
Luk 21:32-33 KJV Verily I say unto you, This generation shall not pass away, till all be fulfilled. 33 Heaven and earth shall pass away: but my words shall not pass away.
Psa 104:5 KJV Who laid the foundations of the earth, that it should not be removed for ever.
The Lord declared on more than one occasion the earth shall not be removed… Psalm 93:1; Ecclesiastes 1:4
‘Heaven and earth shall pass away’ Did Jesus therefore contradict the Scriptures? If He referred to this physical heaven and earth, then yes He did.
So what did Jesus mean? He referred to the passing of the Old Covenant, with the destruction of the temple, Jerusalem, and the Diaspora in AD 70.
The ‘heaven and earth’ that passed away during Christ’s generation was the Jewish polity, Old Covenant Israel. All the promises of God to Old Covenant Israel necessitated fulfilment before the Old Covenant Age ended.
Mat 5:18 For verily I say unto you, Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled.
‘till all be fulfilled’ Logically speaking, if Jesus was referring to physical ‘heaven and earth’, which has not passed away, then the Old Covenant Law and the Offerings should still be in effect today. Obviously, this is not the case, the offerings ceased with the destruction of the temple and Christ ended the Old Covenant Age at His returned in judgement.
Mat 24:34-35 KJV Verily I say unto you, This generation shall not pass, till all these things be fulfilled. 35 Heaven and earth shall pass away, but my words shall not pass away.
The fulfilment timeline was before Christ’s generation passed away.
A Quote from James Stuart Russell’s ‘The Parousia’
‘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? Can 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.’
Do you believe in double fulfilment of prophecy?
The Road to Emmaus
The two despondent disciples on the road to Emmaus were traumatised and confused, even although there had been reports of Christ’s resurrection. The crucifixion had dashed their hopes.
When Jesus joined them, did He only expound the Scriptures concerning His first advent, or did He include all the Scriptures concerning Him? He expounded all the Scriptures!
Luk 24:27 KJV And beginning at Moses and all the prophets, he expounded unto them in all the scriptures the things concerning himself.
‘Moses and all the prophets’ Luke included ‘all’ the prophets!
‘in all the scriptures the things concerning himself’ Jesus taught from ‘all’ the Scriptures!
Luk 24:44 KJV And he said unto them, These are the words which I spake unto you, while I was yet with you, that all things must be fulfilled, which were written in the law of Moses, and in the prophets, and in the psalms, concerning me.
‘the law of Moses, and in the prophets, and in the psalms, concerning me’ Once again, Luke unambiguously emphasised the importance of the fulfilment of all Scripture concerning Christ.
It is cause for concern to espouse the double fulfilment theory, since it contradicts the clear and concise words of the Lord.
Luk 24:21KJV But we trusted that it had been he which should have redeemed Israel and beside all this, to day is the third day since these things were done.
The disciples had two major issues on their minds, the redemption of Israel and the crucifixion. Consequently, I believe Jesus also taught the events leading to His imminent return and the great plan of redemption.
A Quote from John Gill’s Exposition of the Entire Bible
Luke 24:21 ‘that it had been he which should have redeemed Israel; they thought, hoped, and believed, that he was the Messiah, spoken of under the character of the Redeemer of Israel; and they had been in expectation of redemption by him, though only of a temporal kind, from the Roman yoke and bondage; but now they could not tell what to think of it, since he was dead; indeed they were not altogether without hope, since there was a report of his being raised from the dead; but what credit was to be given to that, they could not say: but certain it is, that he was the true Messiah, and promised Redeemer; and who was to redeem, and has redeemed the whole Israel of God; even all the elect of God, whether among Jews or Gentiles, from the servitude and damning power of sin, from the slavery of Satan, and the bondage of the law, and from every enemy; and that by his precious blood, his sufferings and death, the very things which were the occasion of these disciples’ doubts about him, as the Redeemer:…’
Luk 24:32 KJV And they said one to another, Did not our heart burn within us, while he talked with us by the way, and while he opened to us the scriptures?
Jesus came alongside them, just as He does in times of trouble today, and before He left them their hearts did burn within. Now that’s my type of heartburn!
Would their hearts have continued to burn if Jesus had taught the psychology of interpreting Scripture, or the Law of Double Fulfilment of Prophecy?
I dread to think what their reaction might have been if Jesus ended his discourse by adding “By the way lads, when I said things like ‘at hand’, ‘this generation’, and ‘the hour cometh, and now is’, I meant in a couple of thousand years”. The shock would certainly have cured their heartburn!
‘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.) — John Brown, Double Fulfilment
Why Did Paul Never Mentioned Double Fulfilment of Prophecy?
Paul elaborated on the theme of Old Covenant ‘types and shadows’ not double fulfilment of prophecy. He taught that Christ was the ultimate fulfilment of the Old Testament Law and the Prophets. The New Testament confirms Christ is the antitype, the reality, and the absolute fulfilment of prophecy.
The Scriptures consist of the Old and New Testaments, the inspired Word of God.
The New Testament is the key to understanding the fulfilment of Old Testament Law and the Prophets, and the types and shadows.
What other authority or testament can we now rely on as the key to understanding the fulfilment of so-called unfulfilled prophecy? There is none!
It’s for that reason I believe Dispensationalism has brought embarrassment and loss of credibility to Christendom. The infatuation with empirical evidence has become the norm and is a poor substitute for scriptural authority.
Newspaper headlines, world events, ’end times’ fiction, date setting, and personal interpretation of prophecy by TV preachers, nurture the insatiable appetite for sensationalism.
A Quote from James Stuart Russell’s ‘The Parousia’
‘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.’
Jesus fulfilled all prophecy concerning Him; therefore, Dispensationalism’s ‘Law of Double Fulfilment of Prophecy’ is superfluous.
What do you think?