ZECHARIAH-SERIES NR 3 : CITY WITHOUT WALLS
Zechariah 1 : 18 – 2 : 5
It is the year 520 B.C. Years before, a group of Jews had already returned to Jerusalem after an exile of 70 years in Babylon. Their first task was to rebuild the temple, but after a couple of months the work was stopped because of opposition from the hostile people in the area.
The Lord then sent Zechariah and Haggai to them as prophets to encourage the Lord’s people so that they would resume with the rebuilding of the temple. The city of Jerusalem as such also needed to be rebuilt to a great extent. Although it was the task of Nehemiah specifically to rebuilt the wall around the city.
Zechariah received a couple of visions from the Lord. Last time we looked at the first vision and also learned what exactly apocalyptic literature is and how it works. These visions were apocalyptic visions that was meant to give the Lord’s people new courage and hope. Apocalyptic is a specific literally genre that was used at those times to give messages of hope to God’s people – in code/symbolic language – so that their enemies could not understand it.
Today we look at Zechariah 1:18 – 2:5 > The second and third visions the Lord revealed to the prophet.
VISION NR 2 > > The prophet sees 4 horns and then 4 craftsmen. The same angel that explained the first vision to him, is still speaking to him. Zechariah saw all the visions on one occasion.
The angel explains the vision as follows:
The 4 horns scattered (note the past tense) Judah, Israel and Jerusalem, and harmed them so that no one could raise their head, and so that they got discouraged. The task of the 4 craftsmen was to terrify the 4 horns and wipe them flat with the ground. The angel then explicitly says that these horns are NATIONS. And we know from the Scriptures that horns symbolize power and force.
The four horns were 4 political powers who terrorised and oppressed the Lord’s people from all four wind-directions at the same time (not in succession). And if we look back in history, we know that within that specific historical context, it was the Babylonians (from the north), Egypt (from the south), the Philistines (from the west) and the Moabites and Ammonites (from the east).
But do not think that evil forces can bully God’s children and get away with it! The Lord sends 4 craftsmen to break the power of those 4 horns. The craftsmen come to Israel’s rescue. Most probably these craftsmen refer to angels/spiritual beings sent by God. We know from Daniel 10 how spiritual forces can be directly involved with the wealth and woes of earthly political rulers. A craftsman is someone who builds, not destroys. The Hebrew word which is translated with “craftsman“ means someone who gives form to metal or wood with a hammer and chisel.
One can understand in what respect this second vision could encourage the Lord’s people in Jerusalem, and give them direction and hope. The Lord is actually the true craftsman who builds up His nation, His church/ congregation in such a way that no hostile power or authority can overcome it.
The core message of this second vision is actually found throughout the Bible – right through to Revelation. Jesus powerfully summarises it in Matthew 16:18 where He promises: ”I will build My church and the gates of hell will not overcome it”. That is a summary of the entire book of Revelation that depicts the ways the enemy tries to destroy the church of Christ, but how the Lord himself – and everyone who is in Him – is the final conqueror. Victory has already been settled and documented ahead of time when Jesus rose from the grave.
That is the most wonderful way that the Divine Scriptures are woven together. Whether you read Zechariah or Daniel or Matthew or Thessalonians or Revelation – it is one and the same powerful message. And whether you are part of the despised nation of God in 520 B.C. in a ruined Jerusalem, or whether you are a part of the people of God in 2020 – the hope-filled message stays exactly the same. Because throughout the centuries it is ONE living God who builds and supports and cares for and protects the ONE nation of God, and conducts them from victory to victory. THAT is the message of Zechariah‘s second vision. Yes, it is apocalyptic, it is written in codes, but one cannot misunderstand the message! Psalm 2 says that God has established His King upon His holy mountain and if the kings of the earth have any wisdom, they will make peace with Him, be reconciled with Him – otherwise His wrath will flare up against them. That is the exact message of Zechariah’s second vision.
VISION NO 3 >> In 1:16 we already heard abput the Lord’s promise that He would return to Jerusalem with compassion – it would accompany the people’s repentance. The Lord therefore will stretch the measuring-line out over Jerusalem. The third vision shows how that promise will be fulfilled.
Zechariah sees a man with a measuring-line on his way to measure Jerusalem.
Question is: Why by any means is a building or even a city measured? It is the work of a surveyor certainly, but why? Answer: To rebuild or restore that which was destroyed or damaged. To preserve, to protect and safeguard.
We know that this vision firstly has without a doubt, a direct message for the immediate context where the rebuilding of the city already stood still for approximately 15 years. The physical city of that time, after the exile, had to be rebuilt, protected and safeguarded. And the Lord announced: “Now is the time. I will equip and empower you to do the work”. In this context one can understand why a surveyor is necessary.
The reason why Jerusalem and the rebuilding of the temple, and the protection and safeguarding of both were so important, was because it was the place where the Lord Jesus would eventually come and would minister and where He would suffer, die and rise from the grave. Although God was firstly concerned about the immediate context, there was in His heart the ultimate future fulfilment of His promises to Abraham – promises that would be fulfilled in the coming of the Lord Jesus – but in order to get them fulfilled, Jerusalem and the temple had to be in operational existance!
The man with the measuring-line was an angel of God. And hear how the prophet is using the past tense as if the restoration of the city is already done! That is how CERTAIN it is THAT it would happen! Something wonderful is going to take place and it SHALL happen.
But do not forget that this is an apocalyptic vision that the prophet is seeing. That means that there is not literally a literal man with a literal measuring-line that will physically literally measure the ruined city. It is symbolism that communicates a definite MESSAGE!
Later, in Revelation 11 we again hear that John the Apostle is told to measure the temple of God and the altar. We therefore see how Zechariah cuts in to Revelation. In Revelation 11 the temple of God symbolizes the true church of the Lord, the body of Christ, who was to be protected and safeguarded against the enemies of God – the dragon and his helpers.
Just when the angel with the measuring-line left to do the measuring, another angel arrived with a message for the angel who was leaving. An important message. The second angel says to the measuring angel: “Run, tell that young man (referring to Zechariah), ‘Jerusalem will be a city without walls because of the great number of men and livestock in it. And I myself (the Lord) will be a wall of fire around it and I will be its glory within’.
Wow, what is happening here? Attend closely:
With the message of the second angel, the Holy Spirit is suddenly jumping ahead into the far distant future, and is talking about the reality of the eventual final city of God – the New Jerusalem – of which Revelation 21-22 is speaking. He leaps right over the Jerusalem where Jesus’s cross would stand. He also leaps right over Pentecost, the outpouring of the Spirit and the glorious beginning of the NT church. He also jumps right over the present dispensation of the formation of the church. He also jumps over the second glorious coming of Christ. And he is talking about the ultimate city. BUT: And this is the wonder: The attributes of the ultimate New Jerusalem ARE NOW ALREADY TRUE OF THE TRUE CHURCH OF CHRIST ON EARTH! We will see it in a minute!
This is precisely how OT prophesy works. The prophet speaks something within the historical context in which he lives in the year 520BC – where the nation Israel is at present finding themselves. But within that word another and a next fulfilment are contained further and further away into the future. Usually in the prophets, these type of further fulfilments have to do with the first and second comings of Christ and the eventual End – as in this case. OT prophesy could thus be compared to a double (or triple) decker bus. Different layers of fulfilment.
How do we know that the second angel is talking about the New Jerusalem? Two reasons: 1 > That which he is talking about has never been fulfilled in history. Jerusalem has never been without walls, and has never experienced that the Lord himself was a wall of fire around it nor been its glory within. 2 > The NT confirms that what the second angel is saying applies to the New Jerusalem of Revelation 21-22, but in the same breath it also applies to the attributes that are true of the Bride of Christ, His true church.
What was therefore the God-given future of the earthly city of Jerusalem? The future of the city would not be a physical, literal city in the Middle East. It would be PEOPLE! PEOPLE saved in Christ, who have received the Spirit and forms His church. Not only in this dispensation, but also in eternity, in heaven, in the presence of God.
THAT Jerusalem will be enormously huge. Immeasurably big. It will encompass the entire world. It will be protected and safeguarded. God provides that. Just the same as the Lord was with His people during the exodus from Egypt in the form of a fire-cloud by night. And there will be no walls. Because it is too large for a wall. And a wall will not be necessary, since the enemy cannot enter because of the presence of the Lord before and behind. We would imagine that a city without a wall in olden times was defenceless and vulnerable. And it is true, but the city of God does not need one.
The Jerusalem of which the second angel is speaking, is present everywhere that the Lord’s redeemed people are. Now already on earth (where the struggling church is visible) and also there where the deceased believers are now already (the triumphant church) also after the consumation, in the eternal presence of God – paradise, heaven (the glorified church).
Should we carefully read the NT, we will see that Gal 4:26 and Heb 12:22 make mention of a heavenly Jerusalem that is something different from the Jerusalem of the Middle East. It is the church of the true Christ-believers. Not a building, but a gathering of people who are saved in Christ and in whom the Holy Spirit resides. The gathering of people whose Names are written in heaven (Heb 12:23). Of THEM it is today already true that the Lord is like a wall of fire around them and His glory is within. That which the second angel foretold, is already true and shall be true of the eventual home of all true Christ-believers. Jesus himself is the glory of God within the New Jerusalem. John 1:14 says we have already seen His glory. And Heb 1:3 says that the Son of God’s glory is the exact representation of His Being.
We see therefore that the attributes of the future New Jerusalem, already reflects the church of the Lord here and now. Whoever becomes a Christ-believer by the Holy Spirit, IS part of the New City. Even the least of the God’s children already reflects something of the Holy City, the new Jerusalem. In spite of suffering, strife, problems, persecution, oppression – things that discourage. There are so many small churches that are struggling. Churches who want to remain true to the Word of the Lord. Their circumstances do not disqualify them. They represent the Holy City. The Lord is the wall of fire that surrounds them. He is on the Throne. The enemy will fall in the end. The glory of the Lord is a reality, even though it can not be felt. The measuring-line is stretched over the church. The Lord is building His church. And the powers of the realm of death will not be able to overpower it.
Translated by Marthie Wilson