Double Reference and Fulfillment

Do you think the double-reference view of the new world order is a likely interpretation of Daniel and Revelation?
Personally, I have a problem with the whole idea of "double reference." Sometimes people distinguish various classes of double reference, such as those in which there are long gaps between the fulfillments of different parts of one prophecy, or a real fulfillment followed by a later typological fufillment, or a real fulfillment preceded by a (perhaps unseen) partial fulfillment. None of these classes of "double reference" can be defended, in my mind, by any scriptural test case.

Except for the "gap" (which is the most problematic class, in my opinion), each class tries valiantly to account for seemingly odd things that happen in Scripture with regard to prophecy. I think, however, that these things are far better explained in terms of intervening historical contingencies and normal typology. In my mind, it is rather like comparing Galileo to Copernicus. The Copernican system worked fairly well most of the time to describe the movements of the planets, but it was wrong nonetheless. Normal typology and the idea of intervening historical contingencies are Galilean system of prophecy.

By "normal typology," I mean typology understood in a more traditional sense, not limited to double or triple fulfillment, or whatever the number may be. For example, there may be an actual fulfillment of the original meaning of the prophecy, then several later typological fulfillments. These later typological fulfillments are "fulfillments" in typology only -- they were not part of the original meaning of the prophecy. All the types and the original may ultimately point to Christ, who again may be said to "fulfill" the prophecy. For example, Isaiah 7:14 was not a prophecy about Christ's birth, or even about Maher-shalal-hash-baz's birth (though he is the child referred to, but his birth is a sign of the truth of the prophecy, not the thing prophesied). When Matthew says that Jesus' birth fulfilled this prophecy, he means that the salvation which God brought in part during the days of Isaiah, he brings in full through Christ. The earlier salvation was a type of the salvation to come. But salvation is not uncommon. In a typological sense, every salvation is a type of the salvation to come, and is typologically related to every other salvation. To speak of a "double reference" when it comes to typology is to ignore far too many other typologically related events. Typology is perhaps the most common way that the New Testament connects Jesus and us to the Old Testament, and is by far the most common way in which the New Testament speaks of Christ as "fulfilling" Old Testament prophecy.

The "gap" has been seen in such passages as Isaiah 61:1-2, but I think there are better ways to understand the passages in question (e.g. Christ actually did proclaim the day of vengeance of our God, and in some ways began to take the vengeance he proclaimed by casting out demons, etc. -- the day of vengeance is after all a gospel blessing to God's people).

With regard to the new world order, I don't think any Bible prophecy speaks about it directly. I think the prophecies given in the Bible pertained primarily to the people to whom they were given, and rarely referred to distant future events. When they did refer to distant future events, it was because those events had a direct bearing on the people who originally heard the prophecies. Prophecy was always relevant to its original audience. With specific regard to Daniel and Revelation, I don't believe any prophecy in either of those books had in mind anything that is happening today, except for the continuing work of the church and of Christ, and such things as are common to all ages.

This is not to say that there may not be close similarities between Bible prophecies and world events at any given time or place in history -- certainly there have been, are, and will be. My point is only that these things are not the subjects of the prophecies. Rather, these similarities occur because the human race is still fallen, the world is still corrupt, God is still God, the demonic legions are still at work, etc. Similarities are helpful to us because they show us ways that we can apply the teachings of prophecy to our own lives: we figure out the original meaning for the original audience, then we figure out how to apply the same principles to our own lives based on the similarities and differences between us and the original audience.

In providing this answer, I should add that our view of prophecy at Third Millennium is somewhat different from any other view current today, though we believe it to be the view the Bible itself teaches. Our view is described not only in the paper on intervening historical contingencies linked above, but also in Richard Pratt's lecture series He Gave Us Prophets, which can be found in the Audio Sermons & Lectures section of the site.

Answer by Ra McLaughlin

Ra McLaughlin is Vice President of Finance and Administration at Third Millennium Ministries.