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The Duality of Prophecy

by Earl L. Henn (1934-1997)
Forerunner, "Prophecy Watch," November 3, 2022


Many people find the subject of prophecy to be the most fascinating aspect of Bible study, and they eagerly pursue it. Some scour the newspapers, books, magazines, and television and radio news for the latest tidbit that fulfills their favorite prophecies. Unfortunately, few understand the vital keys to understanding the Bible's prophecies, and thus many of them are wildly misunderstood.


Among the keys to understanding prophecy is the fact that most prophecy is dual in nature. Throughout Scripture, we see duality in many things, often a physical reality that prefigures or corresponds to a spiritual one. For example, God made a material creation and a spiritual creation (Genesis 2:1-4). The first Adam was physical, and the second Adam, Christ, is spiritual (I Corinthians 15:45-47). The Old Covenant was based on physical descent and physical blessings and cursing. The New Covenant, which superseded it, is spiritual (Hebrews 8). At the first coming of Christ, He came in the weakness of flesh; when He comes again, He will be a powerful spirit Being.


A list of everything in the Bible that demonstrates duality would be a very long list indeed. So it is with the prophecies, most of which consist of two predictions: a type and an antitype. The type, usually a relatively minor event in history, symbolizes a major event that will occur later, often during the end time. The major event is the antitype.


A Source of Confusion


One of the best examples of a dual prophecy is the Olivet Prophecy recorded in Matthew 24, Mark 13, and Luke 21. Many years ago, while studying this prophecy with the "help" of a commentary, I became very confused. At the time, neither the author of the commentary nor I understood this vital principle of duality. Thinking that this prophecy referred only to the destruction of Jerusalem, the commentator frankly admitted that he did not understand why Christ said that His coming would occur "immediately after the tribulation of those days" (Matthew 24:29).


Today, we understand that the destruction of Jerusalem in AD 70 was a type of the Great Tribulation that will occur in the time immediately preceding Christ's second coming. We can see that He actually prophesied two events: Jerusalem's first-century destruction was the type, and the Great Tribulation of the end time is the antitype.


This particular prophecy highlights how vital it is to understand the duality principle. Many early Christians did not understand that the Olivet Prophecy was dual, fully expecting Christ to return after the destruction of Jerusalem. When He failed to appear, some were very disappointed and became disillusioned. Some lost faith and stopped believing. This disappointment proved a major factor in causing the early church to fall into apostasy in the closing decades of the first century.

Failure to understand the duality of prophecy also played a role in the Jews' rejection of Christ. The Jews thought (and still think) the Messiah would come as a conquering, human king to restore Israel to its former wealth and power. This idea was based on the many prophecies in the Old Testament that actually describe the second coming of Christ and His millennial reign. 


An understanding of this principle of duality, along with careful study of the many prophecies showing the suffering and death of the Messiah (like Psalm 22 and Isaiah 53), may have prevented this tragic error.


The typical fulfillment often stops short of fulfilling the whole prophecy. Jesus points out a clear example of this in Luke 4:16-21. On a Sabbath day in Nazareth shortly after He began His ministry, He publicly read from Isaiah 61:1-2, stopping abruptly after the first line in verse 2. He told the amazed audience, "Today this Scripture is 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 whole world during His millennial reign. Had Jesus read any further, He would have spoken of events belonging exclusively to His second coming, so He stopped reading so He would not claim to be fulfilling them. An astute Jew, upon hearing Christ's words, could have avoided the error that led his countrymen to reject and condemn Him to crucifixion.


Not All Prophecies


Not all prophecies are dual, however. God's predictions regarding the fate of ancient city-states such as Tyre, Sidon, Ashkelon, and others do not appear to have an antitype. If they do, God has not revealed them. In general, God seems to have chosen to use the duality principle in those prophecies that deal directly with His people Israel or the church (spiritual Israel; see Galatians 6:16).


For 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 Jews into captivity between 604-585 BC (II Kings 24-25). In the New Testament, Babylon becomes a type of this world's society that rebels against God and persecutes His church (Revelation 17-18), 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 prophecy is especially important to God's church today. Many prophecies in the New Testament predicted the great apostasy that took place in the church toward the end of the first century (Acts 20:29II Thessalonians 2:3-12II Timothy 3:1-84:3-4Jude 3-4). All these prophecies are dual. The falling away from the revealed truth of God that occurred in the first century is a type of an end-time apostasy. Over the past few decades, church members have witnessed some of these prophecies working out within the modern church of God. Duality in prophecy is being demonstrated before those who have eyes to see! And more apostasy will surely happen as we edge closer to Christ's return!


For this reason, we must be keenly aware of this important principle of understanding God's Word. We must constantly be on our guard, watching both church and world events, but most of all, our own spiritual condition, lest we be caught unawares. Listen to the urgent warning Jesus Christ gives to all of us who are living in the end time:


Watch therefore, for you do not know when the master of the house is coming—in the evening, at midnight, at the crowing of the rooster, or in the morning—lest, coming suddenly, He find you sleeping. And what I say to you, I say to all: Watch! (Mark 13:35-37)


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Latest comments

08.09 | 23:52

Thank you for this! You might enjoy my take on the whole 'Christmas' story, not born on Dec 25th etc,

17.03 | 00:11

Praise God! He is so good to all of us!

16.03 | 15:20

I needed to hear this today. Its been sooo very difficult for a long time honestly asked God if I was the toxic one and just didn't realize it so I could repent

11.01 | 20:32

this is so beautiful and such a testimony to the Lord's healing power and sanctification through our suffering. Much of my walk with Christ is similar to yours.

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