ZECHARIAH-SERIES NR 18
Theme: Triumph of the coming King!
The older one gets, the less you look forward to your birthday. But small children are very excited weeks ahead of their birthday and tell everyone about it – even strangers.
There is a day in the future which the Scriptures mention over and over, and to which people who know the Lord should look forward to. It is called the “The Day of the Lord” and in Zechariah 14 it is the central theme mentioned in verses 1, 4, 6, 7, 8, 9, 13, 20 and 21. Certainly something that we cannot ignore! The question is how it should be understood!
The DAY OF THE LORD is not necessarily a 24 hour day, but the particular day in the future when the Lord will bring the final judgment over all the unsaved people of all the centuries, and also the final blessedness to all the saved people of all the centuries. The NT makes it clear that the essence of this event shall be the second coming of the Lord Jesus Christ to the earth. His coming shall usher in the final reign of God on the newly created heaven and earth. This new creation now already belongs to the children of the Lord according to God’s promise (2 Pet 3:13).
Zechariah 14 is the final chapter of this prophetic book and concludes with a prophetic vision of the final Day of the Lord – and in this respect it connects very closely with the last book of the Bible – Revelation. Revelation assists us to better understand the message of Zechariah 14.
Christians the world over are inclined to look at Zechariah 14 and understand it in one of two ways:
GROUP A > Looks at the chapter as if it is a literal description of Christ’s earthly reign in Jerusalem – also called the Thousand Year Reign of Peace (The Millennium) – derived from Revelation 20.
Group A sees the second coming of Christ as a long drawn-out process split into periods of time: First the Rapture, where Jesus stealthily comes to steal away all the believers, followed by 7 years of Great tribulation on earth where Antichrist rules and which results in a massive battle in the Middle East where international military powers unite against Israel under the command of Antichrist (The Battle of Armageddon). But then Christ appears visibly, accompanied by those He gathered at the Rapture seven years before. He instantly ends the battle by destroying Antichrist. His feet will stand on the Mount of Olives in Jerusalem as Zechariah 14 is saying. All believers are then judged, the entire Jewish nation comes to faith and the Millennium starts where Christ reigns visibly on earth for exactly 1000 years. Almost everything said in Zechariah 14 literally takes place during this period. The entire set of OT temple practices and animal sacrifices, priests, feasts, etc are held all over again. After the Millennium all unsaved people are judged and cast into hell and then eternity commences on the New Earth.
GROUP B > Is of the opinion that Group A’s view does not arise from the Scriptures itself, but that it is a scheme forced onto the Scriptures. Group B believes that the Consumation will be a once only event – the Day of the Lord. The tribulation under Antichrist, the second coming of Christ, the final judgment, the dawning of God’s final kingdom – all of it – must be understood as ONE event. And what the Holy Spirit is doing through the pen of Zechariah in chapter 14, is to use figurative symbolic descriptions – taken from the Old Covenant – to describe the great future realities of the second coming of Christ and the end of the world. It is the realities which are described, that have to be understood literally. It is not the figurative packaging wherein the realities are communicated, that must be understood literally! We must keep separate, and not combine (on the one hand) the packaging and (on the other hand) that which it contains! Exactly the way we deal with apocalyptic descriptions in the Bible, for example the earlier chapters of Zechariah, passages of Daniel and almost the entire Revelation!
Group B would therefore suggest that Group A’s understanding of Zechariah 14 is untenable, because it is (for example) impossible that, after Jesus’s second coming, Judaism and rituals of the old Covenant and OT sacrifices and temple practices would be reinstituted – because it would imply denying the book of Hebrews, because Hebrews clearly shows that the Old Covenant was precisely fulfilled and abolished in Christ. It is obvious that a literal understanding of Zechariah 14 would bring us to a wrong conclusion.
Group A’s view is actually based on a misconception regarding the way the OT prophets often foretold future NT realities. With reference to the Messianic Era, OT prophets used well known Old Covenant practices in a non-literal symbolic way.
Look for example at Malachi 1:11: “In every place incense and pure offerings will be brought to My Name, because My Name will be great among the nations”. He refers here to the Messianic age (New Covenant).
The problem is however that incense and grain offers could only be brought to the temple in Jerusalem – a temple that was destroyed in 70AD. All those OT practices were abolished. What then did Malachi mean? Well, Malachi made use of Old Covenant-language and OT practices to illustrate New Covenant realities. In the New Covenant believers from all nations would not literally burn incense and bring grain offerings, but they would worship the Lord in Spirit and truth (John 4:21-23) because that is what incense and grain offerings indicate.
If we return to Zechariah 14, we can see how the chapter abounds with places and practices that are so commonly OT. It speaks of Jerusalem and Mount Zion and Mount of Olives and Jordan valley, temple-gates and Judah and Egypt and horses and sacred bowls and the Feast of the Tabernacles ….
Should we however turn to the NT, we see that the earthly Jerusalem no longer play a role in the NT church of Christ. Believers in Christ are people who have ALREADY reached Mount Zion and the city of God, the heavenly Jerusalem (Heb 12:22). The Jerusalem that is above is our mother (Gal 4:26). The NT church IS the restored tent of David (Acts 15:13-18). The NT church IS Zion. Everyone, from all the nations, who come to faith in Christ, is added to the true Zion.
The “Jerusalem” and “Mount Zion” and “Mount of Olives” and “Jordan Valley” and “temple gates” and “sacred bowls” and “Feast of the Tabernacles” that Zechariah 14 speaks of – when he looks ahead and sees the Consumation of time, and the second coming of Christ – are therefore not literal places in Israel. It indicates the glory that is awaiting the true church of Christ when God’s wonderful future dawns and His enemies are reckoned with.
Come let us focus a while on the text and you will see these things and hopefully you will be encouraged and find hope for the future from this word of God.
But first, in a nutshell: Zechariah 14 uses Old Covenant-language to render a prophetic description of what the saved AND the unsaved can expect at the End of the world when Messiah will finally be revealed.
VERSES 1-3: The appearance of the Lord will be preceded by a final conflict between the unsaved nations and the holy city – the church of Christ. This conflict is suddenly ended by the appearance of the Lord God with His heavenly host. Significant that it is the LORD who will gather the nations for the struggle. HE is the One who directs everything the whole time. Not satan. Not the wicked. And initially the enemy is winning and the believers are suffering severely. But then the Lord appears and the enemy is instantaneously defeated. His mere appearance is enough. And in that way, the head of the snake is finally crushed – as God foretold in Genesis 3:15.
This final battle is predicted throughout the Bible. In the OT prophets like Ezekiel, Joel, but also in the NT like 2 Thess 2 and Rev 16, 19 and 20. In one place in Revelation it is called the Battle of Armageddon. That is the so-called SHORT PERIOD of satan – Revelation speaks of – where satan – with the assistance of antichrist powers – seemingly silences the voice of the church, but exactly then will come the End.
The message is very clear that the true church of Christ (Jerusalem/Zion) will suffer severely in the death throes of this dispensation. It will appear as if the serpent is in control. But God will preserve a remnant and the appearance of Christ will transform the defeat into a massive triumph. The eternal future of the unsaved is death and the eternal future of the saved is life.
VERSES 4-5: The Lord’s appearance will be visible and with great power. His feet will touch the Mount of Olives and it will split in two, forming a great valley that will extend all the way to Azel. The believers will use the valley to flee – fleeing to save their lives as at the time when the Jews had fled from the earthquake in the days of King Uzziah centuries earlier. That earthquake was so severe that it was still remembered 200 years later. And the Lord’s appearance is being compared to that. His appearance will shake the earth and bring fear to everyone who was on the wrong side of Him. Yes, the Lord shall appear and all His angels and the departed believers shall accompany Him. Yes, on that day all, but all true saved people who have ever lived will appear again. They will follow the Lord. They were never dead. They were with God all the time!
Once again: The prophet uses OT-figurative language – even explicit geographical markers – to communicate a clear message. One cannot misunderstand the message. And it is the following:
The Lord God will be clearly visible when He appears. And nobody will doubt that it is HIM. It will be comparable to a massive earthquake. When Jesus ascended from the Mount of Olives, the angels said to His disciples: “This same Jesus, who has been taken from you into heaven, will come back the SAME WAY you have seen Him go into heaven” (Acts 1:11). And now Zechariah 14 again brings the Mt of Olives into the picture. From where His feet left the earth, His feet shall return. That means that He will return in the exact stature in which He ascended. Sounds impossible? Well, GOD will see that it takes place. And His return will be the final triumphant deliverance for all the children of God. It is the final escape. Never again shall there be a battle.
VERSES 6-11: Once the Lord appears for the final deliverance of everyone who is His, He shall REMAIN to reign for ever. There will be light without sun or moon. Living waters shall flow. There shall be universal worship of the true God. Jerusalem will be raised above the surrounding lands. The population of Jerusalem shall be secure. And there shall no longer be a curse.
Everything = the use of things that Israel knew very well – turned into figurative language. It is clear that the flow of living water is figuratively spoken. Also Jerusalem that is geographically raised above normal = pure figure of speech. Figure of speech that communicates a powerful message about what the church of Christ can expect AFTER Christ’s final appearance.
The fulfilment of these verses are actually found in Revelation 21 – the new heaven and new earth – the New Jerusalem. Reading this, one can see the parallels – for example the light without sun and moon, the living water, absence of the curse, etc. Rev 21 makes it clear that the New Jerusalem shall be part of God’s new creation where He Himself will be light. He shall also be the living Fountain from which will flow continuous life and abundance. Paradise shall be restored. The old order of things have passed (Rev 21:4). There is now no interruption concerning blessedness and life and joy. The only true living God shall be central and be worshipped and served for eternity – by EVERYONE who is inhabitant of the New Earth – without exception: EVERYONE. For eternity.
Zechariah 14:6-11 is therefore without a doubt fulfilled in Rev 21-22.
The same is valid for the pronouncement that Jerusalem will be raised to a higher level. It does not refer to the ancient city in the Middle East. It refers to the NEW Jerusalem of which Rev 21 is speaking. And that Jerusalem is nothing else but the true redeemed church of Christ who are to be the inhabitants of the New Earth. The Bride of the Lamb, it says.
The raised position of Jerusalem is actually a theme found in other places in the OT prophets, for example in Isaiah 2:2-3 and Micah 4:1-2 where it says that Zion and the temple shall be raised above everything on earth and that the nations will stream to it to be taught by the Lord. And God’s presence shall be there for ever. Daniel 2:35 again, says that God’s kingdom is like a huge mountain and fills the whole earth. Once more clear figurative speech, but exactly the same message that Zechariah 14 and Revelation 21-22 communicate. It states unequivocally WHAT a true Christ-believer can expect in God’s future: A New creation, the eternal absence of the curse of sin and judgment, the Triune God as the centre of everything, absolute security, unceasing fountain of blessedness and life. Truly, considering what the future holds, it is worth it to suffer for Christ during this present short temporary dispensation
VERSES 12-19: These verses describe the Lord’s final reign over all nations. The nations shall EITHER willingly be subjected to Him OR they shall unwillingly be subjected to punishment. This actually connects to the first 3 verses that deal with that great final conflict where God’s enemies are conquered and God’s nation is more than a conqueror.
It is exactly about these verses 12-19 that GROUP A (above mentioned) would say: “This is what literally is going to happen at the Battle of Armageddon. The Lord is going to bring the unsaved nations against the Jews, against Jerusalem, and He is going to strike and conquer them there – they will rot away while still in battle. And the Feast of the Tabernacles will be celebrated again. All this while Christ is reigning on earth for 1000 years.”
GROUP B will however reply: “No, these verses use well known OT-language to figuratively describe how – not the earthly city Jerusalem – but the true church of Christ shall be MORE than conquerors when Jesus comes again. And how ALL God’s enemies (who are also enemies of the church) will be destroyed. But not everyone, because from all the nations there will be those who come to repentance and faith and start to serve the Lord. Whoever does not belong to the true church, shall be punished.”
Once more – Group B’s view is 100% in line with the rest of the Scriptures – particularly also Revelation.
What can we expect to happen at the end of this dispensation, right before the coming of Christ? We can expect that the true church of Christ shall be oppressed from all sides by an entire world – physically as well. War – in the true sense of the word. Where ever the true church stands prominent with a powerful witness, the wicked nations – who are intoxicated with satanic delusions – will attack her. Even out of the ranks of the church – the true church shall be attacked by the false church. As Zechariah says: Judah too will fight against Jerusalem. Although many people from the nations will be added to the church.
One thing is certain: Cold and lukewarm people who are not true disciples of Christ, do not have a rosy future. When Christ appears they will rot away on their feet. The last battle shall be quick and final. But people from all the nations who wholeheartedly love and obey the Lord, shall celebrate – thankful for not throwing in the towel. It will be harvest time! Wheat and chaff will be separated. The Lord’s harvest will be brought in. And the feast of the harvest will be celebrated. The OT Feast of the Tabernacles (Lev 23) was an annual harvest festival that looked prophetically into the future to the eventual heavenly joy where the full number of saved people will be on the new earth for eternity. The meaning of the Feast of the Tabernacles will be fulfilled once more in Revelation 21-22. The final new Jerusalem fulfil the meaning of this Feast. What a glorious expectation! It is truly worth it to follow Christ – through thick and thin – right to the end!
VERSES 20-21: Jerusalem’s final and eternal state! That is what is described in these verses. HOLY means to fully belong to the Lord = completely set aside for HIM. Nothing, but absolutely nothing impure will ever enter (Rev 21:27). The saved people shall be consecrated to the finest detail of their lives.
Look at the powerful figurative speech Zechariah is using. Remember that HORSES were ceremonially unclean in OT times (Lev 11:1-8). And so too the ordinary pots and pans in the temple. The ordinary pots could not be compared with the vessels used at the altar. Ordinary pots were seremonially unclean. Not to even mention the pots and pans in use in the households of the Israelites!
But now observe how the Holy Spirit – through the pen of Zechariah – turns everything upside down. The inscription that was written on the turban of the High Priest – HOLY TO THE LORD – is now inscribed on the bells of the horses. HORSES! Unclean animals. And literally EVERYTHING is holy. The ordinary pots and pans too. And unclean uncircumcised people – like the Canaanites – shall not be in sight.
Should we read Exodus 28:36-38, we shall see how those words HOLY TO THE LORD that was written on the High Priest’s turban, removed all impurity that clung to the sacrifices of the Israelites while they were at work at the temple.
What does this OT-figure of speech say therefore of the eternal habitation of everyone who is redeemed in Christ? What is waiting for them? Exactly that which Rev 21-22 is saying! It shall be a place of total, complete and integral BELONGING TO THE LORD with nothing unclean that will never in all eternity find any entrance.
Such a tremendous outlook must have an effect on a reborn person TODAY – namely it must encourage you and me to never become cold or lukewarm (Rev 3:16), but be a radically devoted follower of Christ.
That is what the Apostle Peter is saying in 2 Peter 3:11 when he writes: “Since everything will be destroyed in this way, what kind of people ought you to be? You ought to live holy and godly lives as you look forward to the Day of God and speed it’s coming!”
Translated by Marthie Wilson