When dealing with messianic prophecy it is very important to understand that there are four categories of messianic prophecy, and these distinctions are essential. In his book Messianic Christology (pgs. 10-11), Dr. Arnold G. Fruchtenbaum discusses the fact that messianic prophecies fall into four categories:
- First Coming Only (e.g., Micah 5:2)
- Second Coming Only (e.g., Isaiah 63:1-6)
- Both First and Second Coming (e.g., Zechariah 9:9-10)
- The Entire Redemptive Career (e.g., Psalm 110)
Some prophecies are very straightforward and deal exclusively with either the First Coming (category 1) or the Second Coming (category 2).
The third category of prophecies includes verses that blend the First and Second Comings together in such a way as to negate or conceal the period of time in between. It becomes necessary to study other parallel Scriptures in order to see the distinction. Zechariah 9:9-10 is a good example of this: Verse nine deals with the First Coming, and verse 10 deals with the Second. These verses alone do not distinguish between the two, but this is clarified by other passages.
The fourth category refers to passages which cover the entire messianic program and include four elements: First Coming, Interval of Time, Second Coming and the Messianic Kingdom.
When you study messianic prophecy, carefully note which category the prophecy belongs to.