ZECHARIAH-SERIES NR 9
Zechariah 6 : 1 – 8
UNBELIEVERS SHUDDER, BELIEVERS REJOICE!
To soldiers upon open ground, there is nothing more fearful than to see the enemy’s tanks and armoured cars. Apart from an air attack, of course. But infantry soldiers on open ground are very vulnerable against armoured vehicles. Then you should hurry to reach mountains and hills! Armoured vehicles and tanks represent trouble, power, destruction and death. That is the way it always was, and still is today.
In antiquity, the time of Zechariah, more that 500 BC, war-chariots were the equivalent to what we know today as armoured vehicles. They were very heavy engines of war with which the enemy could – upon open ground – be annihilated. These antique chariots were a demonstration of brute force that created fear of the enemy in the hearts of men. Add to that the powerful horses that pulled these.
When one understands something of this, you suddenly feel the tense atmosphere of the 8th vision that the prophet Zechariah received from the Lord.
He saw FOUR chariots coming out from between two mountains of bronze. The chariots were drawn by powerful horses of different colours. Red, black, white and dappled.
Initially the four chariots were standing in the presence of God – HIM to whom the whole planet belongs. But when God gives the command, they depart into the four wind directions at high speed. Actually – in the Hebrew – one can see that they only go North and South. The chariots pulled by the black AND white horses go north. The chariot with the dappled horses go south. Of the brown horses nothing is said, neither about the West and the East. Significant that the horses wait for the command: GO! before they depart.
And then – at the end – the last strange sentence: The chariots going to the NORTH have GIVEN REST (Hebrew) to the Spirit of the Lord.
That is the entire vision. But what on earth does it mean? Particularly for us here in 2020? It is truly the absolute Word of God. It is therefore imperative that we understand and especially HEAR what He is saying to us today.
Should one keep in mind what was said at the beginning about WHAT a war-chariot was at that time, you will already have an idea where the message of this vision is tending: There are certain people who are going to be annihilated. And that is true and sure in God’s divine intention. There is a judgment coming where people as if on open ground, will not have any protection against God’s armoured vehicles. And that is the message that the Bible is full of. And that all of us, and indeed the entire humanity should take careful note of!
Come, let us focus closer on the detail:
I bring the following to your attention:
1 -> All the details in the vision are purely symbolic. That means that nowhere in history there was or in the future there will be literal war-chariots and horses and mountains of bronze. They are symbols that represent a message. And it is the message that is to be understood literally and taken seriously.
2 -> The chariots and horses are carriers of God’s judgment. They are angel-like beings that execute the judgments. They are not messengers. They actively execute the judgments. Therefore it is important to be aware of what chariots were in ancient times – as already explained.
Actually, the text is saying that the 4 chariots are the 4 spirits/winds of heaven. Typically apocalyptic images. We must therefore be very careful not to read all kinds of things into it. What Scripture itself does not explain, we must and should not air opinions about. It is simply not necessary that apocalyptic images and symbols must have particular meanings. It is the MESSAGE that is important.
Yes, it is true that Daniel 7:2 talks about the 4 great world empires of that time as the four winds of heaven. The winds can therefore point towards political powers. It is also true that winds are sometimes used to show that God’s judgement will come over unrepentant sinners – for example Jer 49 and several of the Psalms.
The winds have therefore something to do with God’s judgment that comes down and scatter nations apart. And we can therefore understand that it is here connected to the chariots (which are the vehicles of God’s judgment).
It is significant for example that the plague of COVID-19 is moving over the world like a wind of judgment from God and is turning powerful nations upside-down. With that it is not suggested that the present health crisis is a fulfilment of Zechariah 6, but it is a perfect illustration of the way the judgment of God and His warnings can literally turn the entire planet on its head in an instant like chariots and wind. If we look at what is happening with the world in 2020, the words of Zechariah 6 are suddenly not so vague and unlikely.
3 -> The mountains of bronze where the chariots emerge from, are symbolic of the doors of God’s heavenly dwelling place. We know from 1 Kings 7 that the pillars of the temple were made of bronze. And the Holy of Holies in the temple was the place where God was present. Copper/bronze is a symbol of power and strength. Those days the shields of foot soldiers were made of copper. To Jeremiah God said that He (God) is a wall of copper against Judah. It is impregnable, therefore.
4 -> God himself is indicated as THE LORD OF THE WHOLE WORLD which points to sovereignty and authority. The fact that He speaks and commands and the heavens do His will.
5 -> The horses pulling the chariots are very eager and straining to go. That shows how certain it is, and how soon it will be, that God’s judgement will be executed.
6 -> The horses cannot leave before the Lord has given the order. At the right moment the order is GIVEN and then they GO. God’s sovereign decision and command control everything. Without that and apart from that, can and may and shall nothing move or stir.
7 -> The colours of the horses do not necessarily have any specific symbolism or spiritual meaning, although to a great extend it corresponds with the horses of Revelation 6: red (bloodshed/war), white (false peace), black (death), grey/dappled (disease and wretchedness). Though we cannot say with certainty whether that is the meaning of the horses of Zechariah.
Also not whether the order in which they go out has any specific spiritual meaning. Also the directions in which they are running. In the context of ancient Israel, we know that their enemies did not come from the west and the east, because to the west was the sea, and to the east was desert. It was EITHER the south (Egypt) OR the north (Assyria, Babylon).
The point here, is that the Lord is planning to clean up – everything and everyone – EVERYONE who is an enemy of God’s people is an enemy to God. EVERYONE who harmed the covenant-nation. The bearers of judgment consciously and specifically target the enemies of God.
8 -> The last sentence of the vision is important. The chariots that are going towards the north, give God’s Spirit rest. Sounds strange. What does it mean?
The visions started in chapter 1 with scouts who went out observing and reporting back to God what was going on in the nations who had harmed God’s nation. The report was that the nations were flourishing and enjoying rest.
It was however a false rest, because God’s judgment was resting on them without their knowledge.
Now, here in the 8th vision, it is not scouts who go out, but carriers of judgment and punishment to those nations, and it is not them, but God’s Spirit who is enjoying rest. It is therefore rest ensuing from the fact that the judgment was fulfilled and God’s wrath could subside (come to rest).
Why the north is specifically mentioned here, is probably because Israel’s number one enemy was Babylon and they were responsible for taking God’s people into exile. The “north” represents therefore all the enemies of God.
The judgment that is fulfilled over God’s enemy, simultaneously brings protection for God’s nation. Some are annihilated and others enjoy God’s favour and protection.
From history we know that Babylon indeed did come to a fall and that Persia became the next great empire. After that the Greeks and then the Romans. Nobody could however remain standing.
Except God’s true church. Until this very day. God’s enemies have gone under and God’s church remained standing. God’s Spirit has come to rest.
To summarize: We should find the fulfilment of the 8th vision on two levels: 1 -> Within the immediate context of the time that the prophet Zechariah lived in, and 2 -> At the consumation of all things at Christ’s return.
10 -> The message of the 8th vision within the immediate context of Zechariah in 520 BC is that the Lord is going to avenge himself on particularly Babylon for the harm they had done to the covenant-nation. He is going to annihilate them. And He is going to protect His nation and do them justice.
11 -> The message of the 8th vision for the church of all the centuries and for us today is very clear:
The 4 chariots symbolize God’s almighty power against His enemies (and the enemies of His people) that will be fulfilled at the final End. That is the message that people today do not want to hear, but that everyone MUST hear: There will come a final Day of reckoning and judgment and punishment. And not ONE person who was outside Christ, will survive it. And not ONE person who has harmed His children, will survive it. Not a single ONE who has injured God’s children. The living God will avenge himself on His enemies.
A Divine command will sound and at the bronze door of the heavens chariots drawn by powerful horses SHALL come forth and nothing or nobody will be able to stop them and nobody who is outside of Christ will survive it.
This could be compared to those outside the Ark when the great flood of God’s judgment struck. Only Noah and those with him who were inside the Ark, survived the flood-judgment. That was a picture-image of what is waiting at the consumation of the world (Matt 24:37).
The greatest enemy one should fear … is God! HE is the ever-present deadly danger every human outside of Christ should fear MORE than anything or anyone else. Anything or anyone else can only destroy the body, but God destroys the body as well as the soul in hell (Matt 10:28). His punishment is eternal punishment. It is not a virus that kills only the body. He IS exactly what the world (including many false preachers) tell us that we DO NOT have to fear. False preachers mislead millions of people by telling them: “Don’t be stressed, God is your pal, your friend”. They preach peace while there is no peace (Ezek 13:10).
Scripture teaches that God is a consuming fire (Heb 12:29). A dreadful thing to fall into the hands of the living God (Heb 10:31). He is filled with wrath towards the unrepentant sinner – every day (Ps 7:11). His charge and wrath towards universal humanity is that they know the truth, but suppress it by their wickedness (Rom 1:18). EVERY HUMAN BEING is destined to die once, and after that to face judgment (Heb 9:27).
The essential fulfilment of Zechariah’s 8th vision is without a doubt described in 2 Thess 1 where the Apostle Paul clearly explains what the end will be of everyone who has harmed Christian believers. God is an avenger of such people. Whether it is North Korean or Chinese leaders and authorities who are persecuting Christians, and whether it is the Roman Emperors, or the Communists who imprisoned Richard Wurmbrand and tortured him in a Romanian prison for 14 years, or whether it is Afrikaans speaking persons who spread lies on radio stations and other media to harm the true church of Christ, or whether it is a teacher who offends Christian children at school about the content of the Scriptures – name them. About the Jews of his time who persecuted and harmed the church in Thessalonica, the Apostle Paul writes the following:
“God is just: He will pay back trouble to those who trouble you, and give relief to you who are troubled, and to us as well. This will happen when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven in blazing fire with His powerful angels. He will punish those who do not know God and do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus. They will be punished with everlasting destruction and shut out from the majesty of His power” (2 Thess 1:6-8)
That is exactly what Zechariah’s 8th vision is about. And take note: The Apostle does NOT say that it necessarily will happen here and now during our earthly lives, but certainly at the second coming of Christ. Zechariah’s 8th vision finds its essential fulfilment at the end of time on the Great Day.
The 8th vision also has some wonderfully good news. Firstly is the good news of the truth and reality of God’s perfect righteous justice that shall be done! THAT on itself is good news because we all desire that justice would be served. And it WILL.
There is however good news for everyone who has been saved by the grace of God. People who are in Christ, included in his death and resurrection. Look carefully what it is that the 8th vision is actually proclaiming! It is the good news that we find all over again in the same 2 Thessalonians 1 and in Revelation 6. In 2 Thess 1:10 Paul declares that the same divine action of vengeance upon God’s enemies, also means glory and majesty for the children of the Lord. And in Rev 6:10 the deceased martyrs call to God and ask: “How long, Sovereign Lord, holy and true, until you judge the inhabitants of the earth and avenge our blood?” And then the answer: “Do not be concerned, it SHALL take place, but first the full number of martyrs who are to be killed the way you were, must be complete”.
To the Lord God everything is absolutely only about His redeemed people. That is where His heart is focused – for ever. The way hay is of service to wheat, the same way the purpose of the unsaved is to bring glory to the children of the Lord. In Isaiah 43:4 the Lord is telling His people: “I will give men (the enemies of Israel and of God) in exchange for your (Israel: covenant-people) life…” And in Rom 9:23 the Holy Spirit says that IN ORDER to reveal the riches of His glory for His chosen children, He displays His wrath and power against the unbelievers. The chaff that is burning, has the purpose of increasing the glory gathered in the barn! EVERYTHING, EVERYTHING, EVERYTHING for God is purely about the precious bride whom He had given to His Son Jesus Christ even before creation.
Lastly, Zechariah’s 8th vision reveals the Lord Jesus Christ himself. And especially His terrible suffering and death and burial.
One can never truly understand why Christ had to follow the road of so much suffering and pain, without first understanding the reality of God’s wrath on His enemies and what it entails. Because it is that wrath and punishment that fell upon Christ SO THAT God can by grace adopt and forgive lawbreakers in a righteous, lawful manner – those who come to faith IN CHRIST. God cannot be, and remain righteous, by forgiving and saving people left and right by simply sweeping their transgressions under the carpet. O no, it MUST be punished with eternal condemnation. God is holy. God forgives by means of punishment. And it is that punishment that Christ Jesus took upon Himself.
Are you perhaps still today an object of God’s wrath? O, I plead with you in the Name of the Lord to be reconciled with God by taking your refuge in Christ and put you trust in Him for time eternal.
Translated by Marthie Wilson