|Satan Evicted: Dual Purpose Literary Devices|
Dual Purpose Literary Devices
The Bible can be a difficult piece of literature. It employs not only a number of literary devices, but it also utilizes dual purpose literary devices such as biblical types, dual purpose passages, and dual occurrence prophecies. These devices add to the human ability to understand complex issues, concepts, and events – they provide examples and models that help us see and comprehend.
Unfortunately, these devices can easily result in confusion and conflict among biblical scholars especially in the study of prophetic events. It is difficult to differentiate between those events that have already been fulfilled, those that have been partially fulfilled, and those that will be fulfilled in the future.
The difficulty in determining when, how, and by whom biblical prophecies are fulfilled has resulted in three primary eschatological views:1
The conflict between these groups can become hostile and bitter. This conflict is unnecessarily divisive because a broad examination of the scriptures reveals that each view has merit. Many of the “end time” prophecies were fulfilled in 70AD, many have allegorical characteristics, many are reflected in historical events, and many will occur at some point in the future.
Unfortunately, far too many scholars fail to recognize God’s omnipotence and omniscience – they assign God human limitations. This is an error. Biblical scripture was not authored by humans but by the hand of God. They are fluid, they breathe, and they are alive… Unchanging yet adaptive…
Types & Examples of Devices
Dual purpose literary devices, such as allegories,6 serve as models and examples to help the reader understand abstract, complex, or unusual concepts much like other literary devices such as metaphors, symbols, and similes. They can come in positive or negative forms. Positive forms consist of characteristics that are similar to the item under discussion; negative forms consist of characteristics that are dissimilar. For example, the Noahic flood is a positive example of Christ’s second coming – both will come quickly and unexpectedly upon the wicked. The Antichrist is a negative example of Jesus Christ – the Antichrist is wicked while Jesus Christ is holy.
When examining dual purpose literary devices, like any form of figurative language, the reader must be careful not to read too much into the comparison. Although the two items may share similar traits, the comparison is never exact – there are differences that should be considered.
1. BIBLICAL TYPES: a person or event that serves as an example or model for a separate situation.
2. DUAL ROLE: a passage that contains two or more messages, meanings, or prophecies.
3. DUAL OCCURENCE: a single prophecy that will be fulfilled at two or more times or manners.
Full or Partial Fulfillment
Many biblical scholars claim that a prophecy can only be fulfilled once – once it occurs, that’s it… it’s finished. On one level I tend to agree. Once the entire Olivet Discourse prophecy is fulfilled, it’s unlikely that it will be repeated. However, that doesn’t mean that individual elements cannot occur multiple times or that a prophecy cannot be “partially fulfilled.”
The good example of partial occurrence (fulfillment) can be found in the book of Acts:
Acts 2:14-21: Then Peter stepped forward with the eleven other apostles and shouted to the crowd, “Listen carefully, all of you, fellow Jews and residents of Jerusalem! Make no mistake about this. These people are not drunk, as some of you are assuming. Nine o’clock in the morning is much too early for that. No, what you see was predicted long ago by the prophet Joel: ‘In the last days,’ God says, ‘I will pour out my Spirit upon all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy. Your young men will see visions, and your old men will dream dreams. In those days I will pour out my Spirit even on my servants—men and women alike— and they will prophesy. And I will cause wonders in the heavens above and signs on the earth below— blood and fire and clouds of smoke. The sun will become dark, and the moon will turn blood red before that great and glorious day of the LORD arrives. But everyone who calls on the name of the LORD will be saved.’” (NLT)
Since this is a portion of the Bible, we understand that the words spoken by Peter are the inspired Words of God and Peter was not in error in comparing to the events of Pentecost to the prophetic vision within the book of Joel. Yet, Peter seems to be claiming the following:
Did he literally mean all of those things? Probably not. Was there a miraculous demonstration of the powers of the Holy Spirit? Absolutely. However, we understand that the Day of the Lord has yet to arrive so labeling the Day of Pentecost as the “last days” was probably be a stretch. And, it is unlikely that the physical signs in the heaven and earth physically occurred.
Some biblical scholars claim that the Day of Pentecost fulfilled Joel’s prophecy and that it will not be repeated. I think this is error. Some of the individual elements were fulfilled at Pentecost and Peter was correct in applying Joel’s prophecy to that situation. However, it was only a partial occurrence – a partial fulfillment. The Joel’s prophetic vision will likely be fully realized at some future point.
Dividing the Elements Within a Prophetic Vision
Some scholars assert that individual elements of a prophetic vision can be fulfilled on different occasions. For example, some claim that portions of the Olivet Discourse were specific to 70 AD siege of Jerusalem and will not be repeated while other portions of the same discourse are reserved for the “end times.” We see a similar pattern when John’s prophetic visions in Revelation are spread over a period of two-thousand years.
There are examples of where two different elements of a prophecy are fulfilled on two separate occasions such as the resurrection of the saints and the resurrection of the wicked. There are also prophetic visions that are fulfilled over an extended period of time such as Nebuchadnezzar’s vision of the great statue. However, we must be very, very careful in dividing single prophetic visions into individual parts, and there must be ample justification for such divisions. In the case of the great statue, Daniel’s interpretation provides clear and sufficient evidence. In the case of two separate resurrections, the division is less clear and requires far more than a cursory glance – it requires a careful comparison and detailed analysis of related scripture.
We should understand that God’s Word is not limited to human capabilities but is alive, it breaths, and it is fluid. We should also be very cautious in applying such devices to our understanding because they are a source of confusion and conflict among biblical scholars. However, dual purpose literary devices within biblical scripture greatly enhance the human capability to envision God’s eternal plan as they provide examples and models that help us see and comprehend highly complex ideas and issues.
1The concerned with the final events in the history of the world or of humankind.
2“Preterism,” Wikipedia, Oct. 2, 2011. <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Preterism> Nov. 10, 2011.
3“Idealism,” Wikipedia, May 26, 2011. <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Idealism_(Christian_eschatology)> Nov. 10, 2011.
4“Historicism,” Wikipedia, Nov. 7, 2011 <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Historicism_(Christianity)> Nov. 10, 2011.
5“Futurism,” Wikipedia, Nov. 5, 2011 <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Futurism_(Christianity)> Nov. 10, 2011.
6See also Kingdom of God: SIDEBAR: Exploring Allegories
With all glory, honor, and praise to God the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit...
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Calvin E. Roberts, Jr. — San Augustine, Texas 75972 — firstname.lastname@example.org