Then I lifted up my eyes and looked, and behold, there was a man with a measuring line in his hand. So I said, “Where are you going?” And he said to me, “To measure Jerusalem, to see how wide it is and how long it is.” And behold, the angel who was speaking with me was going out, and another angel was coming out to meet him, and said to him, “Run, speak to that young man, saying, ‘Jerusalem will be inhabited without walls, because of the multitude of men and cattle within it. ‘For I,’ declares the LORD, ‘will be a wall of fire around her, and I will be the glory in her midst.’ ” “Ho there! Flee from the land of the north,” declares the LORD, “for I have dispersed you as the four winds of the heavens,” declares the LORD. “Ho, Zion! Escape, you who are living with the daughter of Babylon.” For thus says the LORD of hosts, “After glory He has sent me against the nations which plunder you, for he who touches you, touches the apple of His eye. “For behold, I will wave My hand over them, so that they will be plunder for their slaves. Then you will know that the LORD of hosts has sent Me. “Sing for joy and be glad, O daughter of Zion; for behold I am coming and I will dwell in your midst,” declares the LORD. “And many nations will join themselves to the LORD in that day and will become My people. Then I will dwell in your midst, and you will know that the LORD of hosts has sent Me to you. “And the LORD will possess Judah as His portion in the holy land, and will again choose Jerusalem. “Be silent, all flesh, before the LORD; for He is aroused from His holy habitation.”
Sometimes I write and it makes sense to me but makes little sense to the average reader who studies the Bible based upon teachings from traditions. If one has been taught dispensationalism for forty years, I must seem like a crazy person. Although I have more than my fair share of mental issues, I consider the context. I have written over three thousand words in this missive and even while reminding myself to keep it simple stupid, I wrote with myself in mind and not someone else who was taught dispensationalism. Therefore I will scrap most of what I have written and start fresh, working our way backward from a pivotal point in Jesus’ ministry–the overturning of the temple trading-tables as recorded by Matthew.
But first, a reminder, we utilize the CAGED method of Biblical hermeneutics, where; context is king, author’s aspirations to his audience are apex, genre is the general, expository exegesis of examples enlightens and dividing rightly the word of truth either confirms or cancels our preconceived notions and presuppositions. We all have presuppositions when approaching the Bible. We all have our taught traditions and some ideas of which have permeated our minds from observation or direct teachings. Even the brand new believer brings baggage based upon their own cultural climate. One baggage which we bring is chapter and verse breaks which were added later for ease of reference. However, the majority have corrupted the Scripture by using verse breaks as license to rip verses out of context. We will eliminate, as always, verse breaks. Let’s start today with the presupposition of a rapture rescue. Let’s presuppose that God has two distinct people with two distinct plans. Does this fit into the context of Zechariah? The prophecy pundits claim that it does but we need to consider the context and New Testament examples to determine if they are correct. Since we have the completed Scripture in our hands and in our own language, we are able to see things from every vantage point. Let’s look at the disciples’ vantage point.
The disciples are with Jesus about to enter into Jerusalem after seeing many miracles; “And when they had approached Jerusalem and had come to Bethphage, to the Mount of Olives, then Jesus sent two disciples, saying to them, ‘Go into the village opposite you, and immediately you will find a donkey tied there and a colt with her; untie them, and bring them to Me. And if anyone says something to you, you shall say, “The Lord has need of them,” and immediately he will send them.’ Now this took place that what was spoken through the prophet [Zechariah] might be fulfilled, saying, ‘SAY TO THE DAUGHTER OF ZION, “BEHOLD YOUR KING IS COMING TO YOU, GENTLE, AND MOUNTED ON A DONKEY, EVEN ON A COLT, THE FOAL OF A BEAST OF BURDEN.”‘ And the disciples went and did just as Jesus had directed them, and brought the donkey and the colt, and laid on them their garments, on which He sat. And most of the multitude spread their garments in the road, and others were cutting branches from the trees, and spreading them in the road. And the multitudes going before Him, and those who followed after were crying out, saying, ‘Hosanna to the Son of David; BLESSED IS HE WHO COMES IN THE NAME OF THE LORD; Hosanna in the highest!’ And when He had entered Jerusalem, all the city was stirred, saying, ‘Who is this?’ And the multitudes were saying, ‘This is the prophet Jesus, from Nazareth in Galilee.’ And Jesus entered the temple and cast out all those who were buying and selling in the temple, and overturned the tables of the money changers and the seats of those who were selling doves. And He said to them, ‘It is written, “MY HOUSE SHALL BE CALLED A HOUSE OF PRAYER;” but you are making it a ROBBERS’ DEN.’ And the blind and the lame came to Him in the temple, and He healed them. But when the chief priests and the scribes saw the wonderful things that He had done, and the children who were crying out in the temple and saying, ‘Hosanna to the Son of David,’ they became indignant, and said to Him, ‘Do You hear what these are saying?’ And Jesus said to them, ‘Yes; have you never read, “OUT OF THE MOUTH OF INFANTS AND NURSING BABIES YOU HAVE PREPARED PRAISE FOR YOURSELF?”‘ And He left them and went out of the city to Bethany, and lodged there. Now in the morning, when He returned to the city, He became hungry. And seeing a lone fig tree by the road, He came to it, and found nothing on it except leaves only; and He said to it, ‘No longer shall there ever be any fruit from you.’ And at once the fig tree withered. And seeing this, the disciples marveled, saying, ‘How did the fig tree wither at once?’ And Jesus answered and said to them, ‘Truly I say to you, if you have faith, and do not doubt, you shall not only do what was done to the fig tree, but even if you say to this mountain, “Be taken up and cast into the sea,” it shall happen. And all things you ask in prayer, believing, you shall receive.” And when He had come into the temple, the chief priests and the elders of the people came to Him as He was teaching, and said, ‘By what authority are You doing these things, and who gave You this authority?’ And Jesus answered and said to them, ‘I will ask you one thing too, which if you tell Me, I will also tell you by what authority I do these things. The baptism of John was from what source, from heaven or from men?’ And they began reasoning among themselves, saying, ‘If we say, “From heaven,” He will say to us, “Then why did you not believe him?” But if we say, “From men,” we fear the multitude; for they all hold John to be a prophet.’ And answering Jesus, they said, ‘We do not know.’ He also said to them, ‘Neither will I tell you by what authority I do these things. But what do you think? A man had two sons, and he came to the first and said, “Son, go work today in the vineyard.” And he answered and said, “I will, sir;” and he did not go. And he came to the second and said the same thing. But he answered and said, “I will not;” yet he afterward regretted it and went. Which of the two did the will of his father?’ They said, ‘The latter.’ Jesus said to them, ‘Truly I say to you that the tax collectors and harlots will get into the kingdom of God before you. For John came to you in the way of righteousness and you did not believe him; but the tax collectors and harlots did believe him; and you, seeing this, did not even feel remorse afterward so as to believe him. Listen to another parable. There was a landowner who PLANTED A VINEYARD AND PUT A WALL AROUND IT AND DUG A WINE PRESS IN IT, AND BUILT A TOWER, and rented it out to vine-growers, and went on a journey. And when the harvest time approached, he sent his slaves to the vine-growers to receive his produce. And the vine-growers took his slaves and beat one, and killed another, and stoned a third. Again he sent another group of slaves larger than the first; and they did the same thing to them. But afterward he sent his son to them, saying, “They will respect my son.” But when the vine-growers saw the son, they said among themselves, “This is the heir; come, let us kill him, and seize his inheritance.” And they took him, and threw him out of the vineyard, and killed him. Therefore when the owner of the vineyard comes, what will he do to those vine-growers?’ They said to Him, ‘He will bring those wretches to a wretched end, and will rent out the vineyard to other vine-growers, who will pay him the proceeds at the proper seasons.’ Jesus said to them, ‘Did you never read in the Scriptures, “THE STONE WHICH THE BUILDERS REJECTED, THIS BECAME THE CHIEF CORNER stone; THIS CAME ABOUT FROM THE LORD, AND IT IS MARVELOUS IN OUR EYES?” Therefore I say to you, the kingdom of God will be taken away from you, and be given to a nation producing the fruit of it. And he who falls on this stone will be broken to pieces; but on whomever it falls, it will scatter him like dust.’ And when the chief priests and the Pharisees heard His parables, they understood that He was speaking about them. And when they sought to seize Him, they feared the multitudes, because they held Him to be a prophet.”
How’s that for some context? The disciples witnessed all of this, especially the fulfillment of Zechariah, still they were confused. Even after Jesus’ explanation to their questions about the temple toppling and his coming in judgment against that generation, they were still confused. Even after Jesus ascended to heaven they were still confused. Even after the Holy Spirit came upon them in the upper room they were still confused. It was not until after Peter was praying on a roof in Joppa and saw a sign, that they began to understand fully. Even in the council at Jerusalem, Peter had to explain it to the elders. And as we read in Galatians, Peter fell back into the old way of thinking. But rather than learn from this progression and regression, we embrace the notion that God has two distinct plans for two distinct people.
Yet we have the completed Scripture and can define “Israel” as Paul has defined Israel. “But it is not as though the word of God has failed. For they are not all Israel who are descended from Israel; neither are they all children because they are Abraham’s descendants, but: “THROUGH ISAAC YOUR DESCENDANTS WILL BE NAMED.” That is, it is not the children of the flesh who are children of God, but the children of the promise are regarded as descendants.” Paul continues to redefine Israel; “For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek; for the same Lord is Lord of all, abounding in riches for all who call upon Him; for ‘WHOEVER WILL CALL UPON THE NAME OF THE LORD WILL BE SAVED.'” Paul paints a picture with words to the nations, “you, being a wild olive, were grafted in among them and became partaker with them of the rich root of the olive tree.”
To the church in Ephesus Paul also writes, “Therefore remember, that formerly you, the Gentiles in the flesh, who are called ‘Uncircumcision’ by the so-called ‘Circumcision,’ which is performed in the flesh by human hands— remember that you were at that time separate from Christ, excluded from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world. But now in Christ Jesus you who formerly were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. For He Himself is our peace, who made both groups into one, and broke down the barrier of the dividing wall, by abolishing in His flesh the enmity, which is the Law of commandments contained in ordinances, that in Himself He might make the two into one new man, thus establishing peace, and might reconcile them both in one body to God through the cross, by it having put to death the enmity. AND HE CAME AND PREACHED PEACE TO YOU WHO WERE FAR AWAY, AND PEACE TO THOSE WHO WERE NEAR; for through Him we both have our access in one Spirit to the Father. So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints, and are of God’s household, having been built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus Himself being the corner stone, in whom the whole building, being fitted together is growing into a holy itemple in the Lord; in whom you also are being built together into a dwelling of God in the Spirit.”
If at all possible, which it shouldn’t be, let’s continue to presuppose that God has two distinct people with two distinct plans. The Bible never says this but many pastors and preachers, theologians and teachers do, and although Paul obliterates this argument, Paul was recorded in Greek and I don’t speak Greek but many pastors and preachers, theologians and teachers have studied Greek. We will therefore give them the benefit of the doubt. I have studied Greek as well and I am lackluster at best. Let’s say, for argument’s sake, the Bible states emphatically that God has two distinct people with two distinct plans. Let’s go to that compositional content and consider its context. Forgive me, but you’ll have to point me in the right direction. I can’t find it, even when attempting to rip verses out of context. Don’t get me wrong, I believed it, with my whole heart. But as I continued to read my Bible, I noticed that it wasn’t there. It is a manufactured dogma used to support dispensationalism. Nevertheless, it is a presupposition of many of my readers, therefore we will continue to consider the context with it in mind–God has two distinct people with two distinct plans.
But what does Zechariah say concerning Jerusalem and the nations? Surely he saw a vision of God’s two distinct people with two distinct plans. “After glory He has sent me against the nations which plunder you, for he who touches you, touches the apple of His eye.” This is one of the prophecy pundits’ favorite verses proclaiming that the nation Israel is eternally blessed by God. Problems; it’s ripped out of context, Israel has been cursed more than blessed, and there is a qualification concerning the nations. We have to consider the continuing context. Look again at the content and what the Lord says.
“Jerusalem will be inhabited without walls, because of the multitude of men and cattle within it. For I will be a wall of fire around her, and I will be the glory in her midst. Ho there! Flee from the land of the north, for I have dispersed you as the four winds of the heavens, Ho, Zion! Escape, you who are living with the daughter of Babylon. After glory He has sent me against the nations which plunder you, for he who touches you, touches the apple of His eye. For behold, I will wave My hand over them, so that they will be plunder for their slaves. Then you will know that the LORD of hosts has sent Me. Sing for joy and be glad, O daughter of Zion; for behold I am coming and I will dwell in your midst, And many nations will join themselves to the LORD in that day and will become My people.” Notice that the Lord speaks about the Lord in the first and third person. Jesus says he is coming to dwell in their midst and many nations will join them. We’ll come back to this. Jumping back to the disciples’ perspective we return to Jesus’ temple tantrum.
After Jesus enters Jerusalem exactly as Zechariah prophesied, he overturned the tables in the temple with his disciples watching. Then he was confronted by the Pharisees and Sadducees and scribes and Jesus also overturned the proverbial table on them. Jesus entered Jerusalem and the temple as foretold by the prophets but not only did many not recognize him, they were using the temple sacrifice to make a profit. Prophets making profits–how perverse. Have you ever looked at Jesus’ temple tantrum from this vantage point? People were making money off the sacrifice. Beware Joel Osteen and the like, God is not well pleased with people making money off the sacrifice–hence the reformation. Jesus enters into Jerusalem and the temple and he is not only confronted by the religious leaders but sees people profiting from the sins of others by selling them doves and the like to sacrifice. Think about this.
Utterly disgusted, and yet winning the day, Jesus retires for the night in Bethany. But as he returns the next day he curses a fig tree. Many have been taught that the fig tree always represents Israel. The prophecy pundits proclaim that Israel returning as a nation, is fulfillment of prophecy from a parable about a fig tree. Problem; Jesus says to the fig tree, “No longer shall there ever be any fruit from you.” Dubious dogma destroys divine discourse. Contextually speaking, Jesus also tells the disciples, to them, that if they, they, again, they have faith, they will say to this mountain, “‘Be taken up and cast into the sea,’ it shall happen.” Context is king. Jesus was pointing to the temple mount. Not all of ethnic Israel was doomed. There was a remnant as in the days of Elijah, as Paul points out in Romans. Jesus was Abraham’s seed, Paul states emphatically and all the early church was Jewish. Nevertheless, the apostate Israel, especially the elders of the people, stood condemned by their religion–the parable of the vineyard-owner couldn’t be more clear. Yet the disciples were still in awe and confusion over the situation.
Following the movements of Jesus, we see that after he cursed the fig tree, he lambasted the Pharisees with 6 or 7 woes. Then he leaves the temple and his doubtful disciples ask him the following after being shutdown when they pointed out the glory of the temple: “Tell us, when will these things be, and what will be the sign of Your coming, and of the end of the age?” The question was in response to Jesus telling them that the temple would topple. They were getting it but were far from “got it!”
We read about the future glory of the temple in Haggai and Zechariah, but clearly that future glory was because Jesus was there. It is not some far-future fulfillment or Herod’s refurbishment but that the coming, eternal sacrifice was in the midst of the temple. The glory of God had left the temple years ago but was made glorious again by the entering in of Jesus Christ, exactly as Zechariah foretold. Yet we are left with a preconceived notion that the true temple will return, because God has two distinct people with two distinct plans and differentiated destinations–one is raptured and the other endures God’s future wrath against descendants who weren’t the ones that crucified him and killed his prophets. Is this what the author’s aspirations were in the book of Hebrews?
“For if that first covenant had been faultless, there would have been no occasion sought for a second…When He said, ‘A new covenant,’ He has made the first obsolete. But whatever is becoming obsolete and growing old is ready to disappear.” We consider the context and realize that the author’s aspirations to his audience are not that the temple would reappear but that it was becoming utterly obsolete. While we certainly could explore other and numerous examples, we have been enlightened enough to consider the context of Zechariah, chapter two. Nevertheless, we will examine an example that is the icing on the cake, to see whether Zechariah speaks of a far-future fulfillment or the coming of Jesus to his temple.
John, the recorder of Revelation and the only one to mention an Antichrist–but not in Revelation, writes; “And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth.” In Zechariah we read, “I will be the glory in her midst.” We also read, “After glory He has sent me against the nations which plunder you, for he who touches you, touches the apple of His eye.” And, “Sing for joy and be glad, O daughter of Zion; for behold I am coming and I will dwell in your midst, And many nations will join themselves to the LORD in that day and will become My people.”
Dwell, live or tabernacle, not reign. It’s actually quite important. After Jesus dwelt and died he was presented to the ancient of days and given dominion and a kingdom. Daniel is clear on this and John sees it even more clearly in Revelation. Psalm 2 we read, “Ask of Me, and I will surely give the nations as Your inheritance, And the very ends of the earth as Your possession.” The sublime string of the Bible is that sin plagues man but Jesus reversed the curse on the cross and the earth suffers birth pangs until the new heavens and earth are completed.
In John, Jesus dwelt among them and revealed his glory, just as he promised in Zechariah. He also promised to bring many nations to himself in that day. Oh how dubious dogma destroys divine discourse. We have a presupposition that God has two distinct people with two distinct plans but without contextual connection. We have been taught that in the future, God will once again deal with ethnic Israel without the Spirit or the church. We have been taught that the tribulation is exclusively Jewish as we are pointed to passages that scream about the nations flocking to the flock. We are taught, utterly ironically, that the 144,000 heard by John are Jewish witnesses to the nations in a time when God is exclusively dealing with Israel. And as the dubious dogma of the prophecy pundits is exposed, and their hypocrisy highlighted, they double down on their dubious dogma.
There is a reason why we can’t find a Biblical passage promoting the presupposition that God has two distinct people with two distinct plans–he doesn’t. The plan was always Jesus on the cross. One can neither buy nor sell the sacrifice–it is God’s alone to give. Just as John the Baptist said, “You brood of vipers, who warned you to flee from the wrath to come? Therefore bring forth fruit in keeping with repentance; and do not suppose that you can say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham for our father;’ for I say to you, that God is able from these stones to raise up children to Abraham. And the axe is already laid at the root of the trees; every tree therefore that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.” Jesus reiterated this statement time and time again.
All of these things were prophesied by Zechariah during the time of the rebuilding of the temple. The disciples took a long time to get it but they did not have the completed Scripture–we do. Nevertheless, eventually they understood. We remember reading what Peter said at his “ah-ha” moment; “I most certainly understand now that God is not one to show partiality, but in every nation the man who fears Him and does what is right, is welcome to Him. The word which He sent to the sons of Israel, preaching peace through Jesus Christ (He is Lord of all)…”
God does not have two people and he certainly doesn’t have two plans. From the fall of man, Jesus Christ was the only plan. This plan was progressively revealed throughout all the Scripture. It began at the expulsion of the garden and found its fulfillment in the sacrifice of Jesus. This is the gospel. The old, obsolete Law and temple could not save anyone but Jesus’ blood covers a multitude of sins. It’s all about Jesus and not a rapture rescue. Complete was the cross and a different dispensation of neo-temple worship is not only unneeded but absolutely absurd. Jesus came and dwelt among us, revealed his glory and died the death we deserve in our stead.
But don’t take my word for it and certainly don’t take the words of the for-profit, prophecy pundits. Search the Scripture for yourself and see the sublime string. If Matthew says that Jesus fulfilled Zechariah, I am willing to bet that Jesus fulfilled Zechariah. Coupled with the language used by John in his gospel, I would argue that Jesus came, saw and fulfilled that which was said about him.
We focus on words in Zechariah like, “without walls” and “measuring line” but miss the metaphors and meanings. Read the Bible for all of its worth, mining for gold, taking a long view and seeing the sublime string. You can do it, the CAGED method of Biblical hermeneutics can help. Unless you are learning for yourself, you only know what you have been taught. Change doesn’t happen overnight, I not only realize this but proclaim it. I don’t see the prophecy pundits ever changing their minds but the Bible says over and over to change the mind, that’s literally what “repent” means. It took Peter years, 7 to be precise, for his mind to be changed completely but even longer for his behavior to change, according to Paul’s letter to the Galatians. Not only this but also their sensational sophistry sells and is sexy but what I bring for free is boring and takes lifetimes to accomplish. It’s odd to me how the Muslim Messiah, the Twelfth Imam, cannot come unless there is chaos as the dispensationalists’ version of the Messiah cannot either. A horrific holocaust has to happen before Jesus returns to build his kingdom in one day, very much unlike a small stone becoming a great mountain, a mustard seed becoming a tree in which the birds nest and a little leaven which slowly rises. As Doug Wilson says, “the kingdom of heaven doesn’t come like the 82nd airborne division. ”
Yet we look out our windows and believe that I am wrong because of the awful atrocity and horrible injustice done to George Floyd. We look at the Coronavirus and the millions and millions of people who didn’t die but did lose their livelihood. We see the looting in the streets and say to ourselves that the world is going to hell in handbasket. But it never occurs to us that a mere sixty years ago the world was full of people like George Floyd but no one caught the horrific injustices on video. The murderer of George Floyd will see some sort of justice, and already has. The Coronavirus was not the killer it was hyped to be. We can’t compare our lives to the lives of people in the past without contrasting them as well. Jesus said that he was making all things new and Peter, of all people, proclaimed and preached patience to his generation and didn’t tell them to wait for a rapture rescue but to wait patiently for a new heaven and new earth. Even the most dogmatic dispensationalists agree that the gospel is reaching more people now than ever. Ironically it is through what some call, “the Mark of the Beast,” our inter-webbing, in which everything we do our buy is tracked. It is true, people track all the information on cellphones and Bible app downloads have hit a fever pitch.
Zechariah prophesied about Jesus coming to Israel so that they and we would believe. He didn’t write to tell us about precursors to the coming Antichrist. Again, in an irony of ironies the prophecy pundits proclaim that they are looking for Jesus and not the Antichrist but the Antichrist dominates their discourse. The world is not getting worse, as much as it looks like it is, we simply weren’t around when it was worse and neither know our Bibles nor our history. The reason we’re losing the culture war is because we assume that we will lose the culture war. Hypocritically I assume that the prophecy pundits won’t change their minds. Perhaps we really do resemble apostate Israel.