I've heard this described by Piper as "prophetic telescoping". It's also been described in a BH S/E answer as being like working butter into dough, where the butter is, e.g., a description of the second coming of Jesus and the dough is a description of the destruction of Jerusalem. Another common analogy is the mountain climber who sees the peak in the distance - only to reach the peak and be faced with another, yet higher peak. The concept of the Day of the Lord in the OT might serve as a good example of this multi-toned future meaning, as it refers to then future military invasions of Israel and Judah (now in the past), but uses a cosmic language of world-wide fiery destruction that is picked up by NT writers quite matter-of-factually to describe a literal future inferno (e.g., by Peter in 2 Ptr 3) - but also used to describe the death and resurrection of Jesus and the subsequent outpouring of the Holy Spirit in Acts (Acts 2:14 ff., cf. Joel 2:28-32), again by Peter oddly enough! But what is this prophetic device actually called?

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    Isaiah 55:8-11, which speaks to the working of the word of God is a good passage to use in support of your question. This uses two pairs of examples from the natural world to illustrate the working of the word. One pair is rain and snow; the other is seed and bread. Both illustrate a "now and then" aspect of working. So the word goes forth and has an immediate effect (rain and/or seed) and a latter one (snow and/or bread). Not sure if this has been given a name, but it is a correct understanding of a prophetic word from God. Sep 12, 2021 at 14:42
  • Hopefully my question now bears sufficient reference to specific Biblical passages as to warrant being on a forum concerned with hermeneutics. I admit it is not asking about a certain passage in particular. But I would be really grateful if someone has the answer, as it will help enormously in my quest to understand passages with multiple layers of meaning.
    – user36337
    Sep 12, 2021 at 14:49
  • @Revelation lad Thank you, that's a great passage and I will give your explanation a lot of thought!
    – user36337
    Sep 12, 2021 at 14:52
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    All [Hebraic] prophecy has multiple levels of interpretation. Because [Hebraic] prophecy is [always] pattern, not prediction. You look for the ‘pescher’. You ‘look’ for past fulfilment(s), present day fulfilment(s) and future fulfilment(s). That is, multiple fulfilment.
    – Dave
    Sep 12, 2021 at 20:56
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    See biblicalstudies.org.uk/pdf/cbr/bible_bruce.pdf for the apotelesmatic principle.
    – Dottard
    Sep 12, 2021 at 21:49

1 Answer 1


Terminology doesn't have to be complicated - common terms for prophecies for which multiple fulfilments have been identified are "double fulfilment" and "multiple fulfilment"!

But there are other more jargony terms; one is christotelic, which combines the Greek words Christ and Telos, which means the end, purpose, or goal, and refers to prophecies which find their ultimate fulfilment with the Christ/Messiah. So, for example, consider the famous prophecy of the birth of the child in Isaiah 7. It's initial purpose and fulfilment is to rebuke the lack of faith of King Ahaz, but Christians recognise that its final purpose is the birth of the Christ.

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    Thank you for this answer, yes my question has betrayed an unconscious connection in my mind between validity of concept and label: if it’s got a name, it must be true. Essentially, what I’m looking for are further sound exegetical validation / sound examples of Day of the Lord prophecies speaking to both the past and the future. But my takeaway from your answer is that dual fulfillment is a valid concept, and the labels you have given are accessible and easily understandable which speaks well to the ultimate aim of lay teaching on this subject, thank you!
    – user36337
    Sep 13, 2021 at 5:09

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