Now I lifted up my eyes again and looked, and behold, four chariots were coming forth from between the two mountains; and the mountains were bronze mountains. With the first chariot were red horses, with the second chariot black horses, with the third chariot white horses, and with the fourth chariot strong dappled horses. Then I spoke and said to the angel who was speaking with me, “What are these, my lord?” And the angel answered and said to me, “These are the four spirits of heaven, going forth after standing before the Lord of all the earth, with one of which the black horses are going forth to the north country; and the white ones go forth after them, while the dappled ones go forth to the south country. When the strong ones went out, they awere eager to go to patrol the earth.” And He said, “Go, patrol the earth.” So they patrolled the earth. Then He cried out to me and spoke to me saying, “See, those who are going to the land of the north have appeased My wrath in the land of the north.” The word of the LORD also came to me saying, “Take an offering from the exiles, from Heldai, Tobijah, and Jedaiah; and you go the same day and enter the house of Josiah the son of Zephaniah, where they have arrived from Babylon. And take silver and gold, make an ornate crown, and set it on the head of Joshua the son of Jehozadak, the high priest. Then say to him, ‘Thus says the LORD of hosts, “Behold, a man whose name is Branch, for He will branch out from where He is; and He will build the temple of the LORD. Yes, it is He who will build the temple of the LORD, and He who will bear the honor and sit and rule on His throne. Thus, He will be a priest on His throne, and the counsel of peace will be between the two offices.” ’ Now the crown will become a reminder in the temple of the LORD to Helem, Tobijah, Jedaiah, and Hen the son of Zephaniah. And those who are far off will come and build the temple of the LORD.” Then you will know that the LORD of hosts has sent me to you. And it will take place, if you completely obey the LORD your God.
We either don’t know our history or we willfully choose to ignore it. The democratic governor of Rhode Island has ordered that the official name of Rhode Island is to be modified, for the time being, until the voters, she hopes, in the state decide to officially amend the name, “The State of Rhode Island and the Providence Plantations.” Her argument is that the word “Plantation” has “horrific” connotations of slavery. Don’t think that I am arguing against the connotations of slavery in the word “Plantation.” Nevertheless I am arguing that she holds a title much more horrifically associated with slavery–“democratic governor.” Is it even possible for a person to hear or read the word nazi and not think of the horrific holocaust? How then can one hear or read the word “Democrat” or, “democratic-governor” and not think of the horrors of slavery? By the democratic governor’s own reasoning, when one hears the word “Democrat,” slavery should come to mind. Yet when one hears the word “Republican,” anti-slavery should come to mind. But hearing the word Democrat shouldn’t only harken back to slavery but the Trail of Tears, Americans interred because they were of Japanese descent and the filibuster during the Civil Rights Act. If Plantation triggers thoughts of slavery, surely the political party of those who owed the plantations should also trigger thoughts of slavery. Much less the party that promoted slavery and ruined reconstruction.
The democratic party when pushed on these issues, which they avoid like Covid19, will say that they have changed. But racial rhetoric against Republicans is not evidence of change. Democratically controlled cities where police run rampant is evidence of the contrary. The president of the United States is not in control of the Minneapolis police department, the mayor of Minneapolis is. Another example of their ignorance or ignoring of history is found in their hypocrisy. Rhode Island was the first state to outlaw slavery and therefore the first to “change.” But the democratic party held on to slavery to the bitter end. But look at democratically controlled states and see the racism that still exists. The system is rigged against not only black people but poor-white and Hispanic people as well. We not only don’t know our history, we don’t pay close enough attention to our times either. The same is true with the prophecy pundits who proclaim that Jesus would rapture his church within the generation that saw the return of Israel. When it didn’t happen, rather than take a longer look at history, they doubled down and changed the definition of the rebirth of Israel and the definition of generation. Like the democratic party, they don’t change their minds but change word meanings. Rather than consider the historical context, they continue in their ignorance or ignoring of the historical context, because the prophets laid it all out perfectly and Jesus perfectly fulfilled the prophecies.
While Zechariah certainly sees different visions, as shown by his lifting “up his eyes again,” each vision progressively builds upon and explains the prior visions–they are all connected. Parts of the visions are also imagery of the same events but from a different angle or perspective, looking at truths foretold through a different lens. For example, we have already seen Joshua, Zerubbabel and their juxtaposition to the “Branch,” who is alluded to as occupying both of their respective offices but in a perfect manner. We see this more fully revealed today as the context continues.
First, let’s look again at the vision in today’s text. “Now I lifted up my eyes again and looked, and behold, four chariots were coming forth from between the two mountains; and the mountains were bronze mountains. With the first chariot were red horses, with the second chariot black horses, with the third chariot white horses, and with the fourth chariot strong dappled horses.” We don’t have to wonder what the vision represents because the angel explains the vision to Zechariah.
“These are the four spirits of heaven, going forth after standing before the Lord of all the earth, with one of which the black horses are going forth to the north country; and the white ones go forth after them, while the dappled ones go forth to the south country. When the strong ones went out, they were eager to go to patrol the earth.”
I admit that the explanation appears as cloudy as the vision. The most difficult thing for a person to admit is when they are wrong but for some reason, the second most difficult thing for a person to admit is when they don’t know. By reading not only the vision but also the explanation without knowing the rest of Zechariah, much less the Bible, we simply don’t know what this passage means. Being ignorant doesn’t mean that one is stupid but simply that one doesn’t know. However there is no reason to be ignorant for those of us who are able to read and have Bibles, something of which we take for granted in the west. Therefore we must study the Bible, letting the Bible interpret the Bible, while considering the context, aspirations of the author to his audience, the genre, examples and then divide rightly the word of truth. We call this 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. Unless you are learning for yourself you only know what you have been taught. And as we have seen lately, much of what is taught is dubious at best.
Therefore we consider the continuing context of Zechariah before we start seeing other Biblical passages which have been ripped out of context by the prophecy pundits and mega-church pastors. Horses are relatively meaningless on their own, as are chariots and mountains. But when they are in a vision and colors and numbers are assigned, we should understand that a meaning beyond the vision is intended for the reader to see. Nevertheless, the reader must consider the context and the aspiration of the vision and not jump to conclusions that the four chariots, with at least eight horses, are the four horsemen of the apocalypse. One also shouldn’t assume that they are not but consider the context.
Let’s look at the number two in Zechariah. We see two people persistently present, Joshua the high priest and Zerubbabel the governor. We have seen two olive trees with two branches. But have we seen two distinct peoples with two distinct plans? We have seen two curses written on the front and the back of a giant, flying scroll. While we don’t usually equate the number two with Jesus, it appears as though we should. Even in the New Testament, concerning discipline, Jesus says that he is there when two or three are gathered in his name. We know that by two or three witnesses every thing is to be confirmed. We know that Jesus came to fulfill the Law and prophets. And in Zechariah we see the two branches representing Jesus as he will take the two offices of Joshua and Zerubbabel. Safely then, we can look at the two bronze mountains and see if the mountains represent Jesus.
Which brings us to bronze. Remember the continuing context of the curses of the flying scroll. Now look at a promise, a covenant if you will, from Leviticus. “If also after these things, you do not obey Me, then I will punish you seven times more for your sins. And I will also break down your pride of power; I will also make your sky like iron and your earth like bronze. And your strength shall be spent uselessly, for your land shall not yield its produce and the trees of the land shall not yield their fruit.”
Look at one more passage of promise in Deuteronomy 28. “The LORD will send upon you curses, confusion, and rebuke, in all you undertake to do, until you are destroyed and until you perish quickly, on account of the evil of your deeds, because you have forsaken Me. The LORD will make the pestilence cling to you until He has consumed you from the land, where you are entering to possess it. The LORD will smite you with consumption and with fever and with inflammation and with fiery heat and with the sword and with blight and with mildew, and they shall pursue you until you perish. And the heaven which is over your head shall be bronze, and the earth which is under you, iron.”
Within the sublime string of the promise of a curse, we see bronze as part of the curse. Zechariah harkens back to the Law of Moses and demonstrates that the promised curse is coming again but this time, it’s eternal, whereas the deportation to Babylon was a warning.
Looking for Jesus in the two, bronze mountains, look at what the angel tells Zechariah. “These are the four spirits of heaven, going forth after standing before the Lord of all the earth.” The four chariots pulled by plural horses go forth after standing before the Lord. That is, they have come from the Lord and are sent from the Lord. Look again at where they came from in the vision– “four chariots were coming forth from between the two mountains; and the mountains were bronze mountains.” The vision sees four chariots coming from between two mountains and the explanation given is that the chariots come from the Lord. Therefore the imagery of the two, bronze mountains is Jesus, sending out the curse on the land.
And who delivers this curse? The four horsemen of the apocalypse. A small joke to those paying attention but I think that the four horsemen in Revelation are related to, or are another angle of, the four chariots in Zechariah. Two clues are the curse and the colors but also one color in Zechariah doesn’t match one color in Revelation. We also see chariots and each chariot is pulled by more than one horse. I believe that we can conclude that the similar images have similar explanations but may not necessarily be the exact same scene. Both are judgement and both are sent by Jesus and both happened at the same time but the scenes are slightly different. Same people, same period, same cause but not the exact same effects, specifically speaking. The context of the explanation enlightens us to this, as does a juxtaposition between the vision in Zechariah and the vision in Revelation. The prophecy pundits would argue, after reading this, that the visions are vastly different because Revelation is far future but in so doing they forget that they proclaim much of Zechariah is about the coming Great Tribulation as well. My argument, based on the context, is that the Great Tribulation happened in the generation of Jesus just as Jesus promised them and Zechariah foretold.
It comes down to definitions. The dogmatic dispensationalists’ definition of “this” is “that.” Even worse is their definition of “you,” it means “they.” Jesus was quite clear in the Olivet Discourse that all of the curses would fall upon their generation. Almost as dubious is the thought that the fig tree having leaves is the signal to restart the prophetic clock, when Jesus cursed the fig tree. I will never change the minds of the prophecy pundits, they make too much money. But perhaps I can help change your mind concerning your eschatology. The church doesn’t lose but wins. I agree with the prophecy pundits on one thing, we don’t go through the “Great Tribulation.” Not because we are raptured but because it has already happened.
Which is easier to believe, that a fig tree blossom is Israel reborn as a nation or Jesus’ words? “Fill up then the measure of the guilt of your fathers. You serpents, you brood of vipers, how shall you escape the sentence of hell? Therefore, behold, I am sending you prophets and wise men and scribes; some of them you will kill and crucify, and some of them you will scourge in your synagogues, and persecute from city to city, that upon you may fall the guilt of all the righteous blood shed on earth, from the blood of righteous Abel to the blood of Zechariah, the son of Berechiah, whom you murdered between the temple and the altar. Truly I say to you, all these things shall come upon this generation.”
Specifically to his disciples, Jesus said, “Therefore when you see the ABOMINATION OF DESOLATION which was spoken of through Daniel the prophet, standing in the holy place (let the reader understand), then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains; let him who is on the housetop not go down to get the things out that are in his house; and let him who is in the field not turn back to get his cloak. But woe to those who are with child and to those who are nursing babies in those days! But pray that your flight may not be in the winter, or on a Sabbath; for then there will be a great tribulation, such as has not occurred since the beginning of the world until now, nor ever shall.”
Who in Israel today is concerned about his cloak. For that matter, who wouldn’t break the Sabbath to get out of dodge? And is nursing a baby a big deal in these days of self-driving cars? This was spoken directly to the disciples with absolute overtones of first-century, Jewish life. Here’s an excellent exercise in futility; ask a prophecy pundit to explain in great detail what the abomination of desolation will look like. Without being specific they will describe some scenario, most of which will resemble what we know, or should know, happened in the first century. From pig’s blood on the altar to a statue of a gentile in the Holy Place, the prophecy pundits proclaim that the generation that saw the rebirth of Israel will see a statue of the Antichrist in the temple, which has not been built, nearly two generations after the rebirth of the nation Israel. Prophecy pundits would make great politicians.
Nevertheless, Zechariah continues to see visions of Jesus coming. He also receives words from the Lord. “The word of the LORD also came to me saying, ‘Take an offering from the exiles, from Heldai, Tobijah, and Jedaiah; and you go the same day and enter the house of Josiah the son of Zephaniah, where they have arrived from Babylon. And take silver and gold, make an ornate crown, and set it on the head of Joshua the son of Jehozadak, the high priest. Then say to him, “Thus says the LORD of hosts, ‘Behold, a man whose name is Branch, for He will branch out from where He is; and He will build the temple of the LORD. Yes, it is He who will build the temple of the LORD, and He who will bear the honor and sit and rule on His throne. Thus, He will be a priest on His throne, and the counsel of peace will be between the two offices.”’ Now the crown will become a reminder in the temple of the LORD to Helem, Tobijah, Jedaiah, and Hen the son of Zephaniah. And those who are far off will come and build the temple of the LORD.’ Then you will know that the LORD of hosts has sent me to you. And it will take place, if you completely obey the LORD your God.”
Knowing who the names are and what the names mean are important but not necessary to see the sublime string. They certainly serve to enhance the prophecy but considering the continuing context we clearly see, once again, the Branch, Jesus, coming to build the true temple and taking over the two offices of high priest and ruler. And in so doing, he brings with him the curses but graciously gives them an extended period of time to repent but the curse comes within the generation that not only killed him but also his disciples. While absolutely true that my sin yelled “crucify” louder than the people present at his crucifixion, Peter went to great lengths to tell his generation that they killed their Messiah in Acts; “Therefore let all the house of Israel know for certain that God has made Him both Lord and Christ—this Jesus whom you crucified.”
Jesus had to die, for me and for you. But he was raised and all authority was granted to him. Nevertheless, those who should have seen him not only disobeyed the commandments but also rejected him and killed him. Why then would he wait 2000 years to punish people who weren’t present at his crucifixion and the persecution of his true people? The Time of Jacob’s Trouble happened in their generation as Jesus promised. Zechariah points to the events of the first century and here’s something that will blow your mind; Revelation does too. Consider the context and see the sublime string. We’re not awaiting a rapture but work in the Lord to subdue the earth with the gospel.
Again, we are not to be antisemitic because Jesus was Jewish and all the church fathers were Jewish. Nevertheless the context is clear, Jesus came to Israel and Israel, for the most part, rejected him. It’s actually the best argument against any form of ethnocentric behavior. Jesus and the early church were all Jewish but went out to all the nations. If one is a true christian, racism of any kind is excluded. Yet we are called the racist one’s. They don’t know their history, let’s be sure to know our history and to learn and grow from it.