Foundation for Fulfillment; Zechariah 14, Part One

Zechariah 14

Behold, a day is coming for the LORD when the spoil taken from you will be divided among you. For I will gather all the nations against Jerusalem to battle, and the city will be captured, the houses plundered, the women ravished, and half of the city exiled, but the rest of the people will not be cut off from the city. Then the LORD will go forth and fight against those nations, as when He fights on a day of battle. And in that day His feet will stand on the Mount of Olives, which is in front of Jerusalem on the east; and the Mount of Olives will be split in its middle from east to west by a very large valley, so that half of the mountain will move toward the north and the other half toward the south. And you will flee by the valley of My mountains, for the valley of the mountains will reach to Azel; yes, you will flee just as you fled before the earthquake in the days of Uzziah king of Judah. Then the LORD, my God, will come, and all the holy ones with Him! And it will come about in that day that there will be no light; the luminaries will dwindle. For it will be a unique day which is known to the LORD, neither day nor night, but it will come about that at evening time there will be light. And it will come about in that day that living waters will flow out of Jerusalem, half of them toward the eastern sea and the other half toward the western sea; it will be in summer as well as in winter. And the LORD will be king over all the earth; in that day the LORD will be the only one, and His name the only one. All the land will be changed into a plain from Geba to Rimmon south of Jerusalem; but Jerusalem will rise and remain on its site from Benjamin’s Gate as far as the place of the First Gate to the Corner Gate, and from the Tower of Hananel to the king’s wine presses. And people will live in it, and there will be no more curse, for Jerusalem will dwell in security. Now this will be the plague with which the LORD will strike all the peoples who have gone to war against Jerusalem; their flesh will rot while they stand on their feet, and their eyes will rot in their sockets, and their tongue will rot in their mouth. And it will come about in that day that a great panic from the LORD will fall on them; and they will seize one another’s hand, and the hand of one will be lifted against the hand of another. And Judah also will fight at Jerusalem; and the wealth of all the surrounding nations will be gathered, gold and silver and garments in great abundance. So also like this plague, will be the plague on the horse, the mule, the camel, the donkey, and all the cattle that will be in those camps. Then it will come about that any who are left of all the nations that went against Jerusalem will go up from year to year to worship the King, the LORD of hosts, and to celebrate the Feast of Booths. And it will be that whichever of the families of the earth does not go up to Jerusalem to worship the King, the LORD of hosts, there will be no rain on them. And if the family of Egypt does not go up or enter, then no rain will fall on them; it will be the plague with which the LORD smites the nations who do not go up to celebrate the Feast of Booths. This will be the punishment of Egypt, and the punishment of all the nations who do not go up to celebrate the Feast of Booths. In that day there will be inscribed on the bells of the horses, “HOLY TO THE LORD.” And the cooking pots in the LORD’S house will be like the bowls before the altar. And every cooking pot in Jerusalem and in Judah will be holy to the LORD of hosts; and all who sacrifice will come and take of them and boil in them. And there will no longer be a Canaanite in the house of the LORD of hosts in that day.

This chapter of Zechariah is probably the best argument for a literal, thousand years reign of Jesus on this earth directly after a future tribulation–the premillenial view. Except that there are many holes and inconsistencies in the dispensationalist discourse’s description of the events prophesied. One being that no rapture is mentioned and another is that the people are told to not only flee Jerusalem but also to fight. Honestly, to me, the contrasting within the context begs the reader to dig deeper into the divine discourse. I am all for keeping it simple but the rest of Zechariah leads me to something very different than the prophecy pundits’ proclamations. What is it about Jesus that makes him so difficult to see in prophecy? After all, neither his disciples nor those of John the Baptist understood, at first. Right now I am in John 16 and Matthew 11– which is figurative language, I am not literally in John or Matthew. Lord willing, we will examine these examples next time. For now, however, we have to lay the groundwork for unexpected events, juxtaposed to expected events. While the waters may be muddied now, I hope that in time we will see the sublime string.

I have to admit that I am somewhat baffled. Nonetheless, forewarned is fore armed. I am attempting to see Zechariah with fresh eyes but I know that I have to have a hermeneutical tool. Enter the CAGED method= Context is king. The author’s aspirations to his audience are apex. The genre is the general, an expository exegesis of examples enlightens. And dividing rightly the word of truth either confirms or cancels our preconceived notions and presuppositions. Unless I am learning for myself, I only know that which I have been taught. Russell P, keep it simple stupid.

Yes I am writing to myself to remind myself that of which I will also remind you; we have to let the Bible interpret the Bible and adhere to the genre, letting it steer the proverbial ship while constantly considering the context and exploring examples. Only then will we be able to divide rightly the word of truth.

The Bible wasn’t written in chapter and verse and in the original Hebrew, it did  not even contain vowels. All this is to remind myself and the reader to not jump to conclusions without careful considerations. For instance, the translators did an excellent job with a difficult task but I wonder why the person who determined the chapter breaks decided to place a break between Zechariah 13 and 14. Personally I think it should be eliminated or placed after the first couple of verses of chapter 14 because these verses seem to fit better in chapter 13, because of the theme. Also, chapter 13 is much shorter than chapter 14 and it would even them out. Nevertheless the chapters are meaningless and can actually cause one to come to conclusions of which the author never intended. As an example, I, even as I tell myself not to, separate chapter 13 from chapter 14 and therefore chapter 14 from chapter 1, as I read into the text two or more distinct prophecies. The question is, is this warranted? We have to consider the context. Zechariah is a whole body of work and needs to be regarded as such.

The first part of Zechariah 14 seems to be linked to the curse in chapter 13 where two thirds of Israel are cursed and cut off. Then it seems to switch scenarios when we read, “Then the LORD will go forth and fight against those nations, as when He fights on a day of battle.” It appears as if in the time it takes to snap one’s fingers, the Lord swiftly shifts his anger against Israel to the nations. Nevertheless, as quickly as he called for calamity on the nations, he terrifies Israel again when we read; “And you will flee by the valley of My mountains, for the valley of the mountains will reach to Azel; yes, you will flee just as you fled before the earthquake in the days of Uzziah king of Judah. Then the LORD, my God, will come, and all the holy ones with Him!”

The “you” has to be Israel (better Judah  and Benjamin with a few Levites) because this is to whom the prophecy is addressed and because of the reference to the earthquake in Uzziah’s day. Admittedly I am baffled by the barrage of both the details and the sheer amount of information. I honestly can’t make heads or tails out of this part of the prophecy. I carry with me leftover luggage from my premillenial, dispensational days and have heard the amillenial arguments for allegory but nothing seems to fit. I have read the context over and over and explored examples and tried to leave any presuppositions of which I may have at the door. And then I remembered that the genre is the general and I let the genre steer the ship. Coupled with the continuing context and un-exhausted examples, the imagery and literary language begins to leap off the page.

To understand the literary language we look to examples confirmed by Christ. We remember that Jesus told his disciples that they would all fall away on the night of his betrayal. He quotes Zechariah and says, “You will all fall away because of Me this night, for it is written, ‘I WILL STRIKE DOWN THE SHEPHERD, AND THE SHEEP OF THE FLOCK SHALL BE SCATTERED.'” Remember, this part of the prophecy concerning “that day” has been fulfilled. It was proclaimed by the prophecy promiser himself.

We wouldn’t make this connection if Jesus had not made it for us. And I believe therein lies the problem. We believe that we are only to make prophetic connections if the Bible explicitly states them. We are wary about making implicit assumptions about fulfillment of prophecy to the point where we miss the subtle nuances which are not that subtle. Nevertheless,  we assign the apocalyptic address to our lives and to our times. Therefore it behooves us to read the Bible for all its worth and let the Scripture interpret Scripture. Then the simple subtleties become a shower of truth and we will see the sublime string. Because of these things we begin our journey with what we are explicitly told and work our way out, by comparison of contexts.

Jesus confirmed that he fulfilled the prophecy part of shepherd in Zechariah and his disciples fulfilled the sheep–on the Mount of  Olives no less. Why then do we look for a far-future fulfillment of every other sentence in Zechariah when the Lord points the disciples to Zechariah on that night of nights? Notice that Jesus is compared to a shepherd in this part of the prophecy. What else has Jesus been presented as in the Bible? He’s the kinsman redeemer, the lion, the lamb, the rock, the door, the vine, the truth, the word, the light, the cornerstone, the way, the good shepherd and many more examples of the aspects and angles of Jesus could be listed. Yet all of these examples,  while some are temporary, all are essentially eternal and don’t stand alone. In the same way, pieces of prophecy can be specific but they don’t stand alone.

Jesus is presented to us in Zechariah as a rider on a red horse, a shepherd and in other symbolic ways. As in Revelation, where we see Jesus as a lion and a lamb. Also revealed in Revelation is Jesus as an old man even though he died at about 33 1/2 years of age. We are also given the imagery in Revelation of the voice of Jesus as a trumpet and yet, many waters. Let’s look at a particular passage to see an example of these juxtapositions.

Revelation 5 reads; “And I saw in the right hand of Him who sat on the throne a book [scroll] written inside and on the back [like Zechariah], sealed up with seven seals. And I saw a strong angel proclaiming with a loud voice, ‘Who is worthy to open the book and to break its seals?’ And no one in heaven, or on the earth, or under the earth, was able to open the book, or to look into it. And I began to weep greatly, because no one was found worthy to open the book, or to look into it; and one of the elders said to me, ‘Stop weeping; behold, the Lion that is from the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has overcome so as to open the book and its seven seals.’ And I saw between the throne (with the four living creatures) and the elders a Lamb standing, as if slain, having seven horns and seven eyes, which are the seven Spirits of God, sent out into all the earth. And He came, and He took it out of the right hand of Him who sat on the throne. And when He had taken the book, the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb, having each one a harp, and golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of the saints. And they sang a new song, saying, ‘Worthy are You to take the book, and to break its seals; for You were slain, and did purchase for God with Your blood men from every tribe and tongue and people and nation.'”

First, we understand that the lion and the lamb are both Jesus based on the descriptions, even though it is never explicitly stated. But we also notice the juxtaposition between a lion and a lamb. As far as four legged creatures go, a lion and a lamb are almost exact opposites. Nevertheless we understand the imagery that Jesus is ferocious and yet humbled himself, becoming the sacrificial lamb. The problem is that in our minds we keep Jesus in the closet of the lamb and won’t let the lion out. We picture Jesus as passive and not aggressive. We keep the kingdom contained and assign and ascribe apathy to Jesus, concerning the nations and this world. But this is neither the picture painted in Zechariah nor in Revelation but the juxtaposition between the aspects of the different yet equal attributes of Jesus are.

And while we are on this subject, does anyone not believe that Jesus is both represented by the lion and the lamb? Why then do the prophecy pundits proclaim that the 144,000 represent literal, Male, Jewish virgins? It is a similar situation with the same juxtaposition and comparison. “And I heard the number of those who were sealed, one hundred and forty-four thousand sealed from every tribe of the sons of Israel… After these things I looked, and behold, a great multitude, which no one could count, from every nation and all tribes and peoples and tongues, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, and palm branches were in their hands.” John heard about a lion but saw a lamb exactly as he hears about 144,000 but saw a great multitude. And as the lamb to the nations, who was also the lion of Judah, sealed up the 144,000 of Israel, purchased the nations for himself–same scenario from a different perspective–heard and saw. The Lion and the Lamb, and the 144,000 and the great multitude, are different imagery of the same entities. We see a similar situation in Zechariah otherwise the prophecy would not make any sense.

For instance, consider; “And people will live in it, and there will be no more curse, for Jerusalem will dwell in security. Now this will be the plague with which the LORD will strike all the peoples who have gone to war against Jerusalem; their flesh will rot while they stand on their feet, and their eyes will rot in their sockets, and their tongue will rot in their mouth.”

How can plagues exist if there is no more curse? A cursory reading, using the prophecy pundits’ principle, which believes tiny pieces of prophecy can be extracted from the context and be separated by two millennia, could mean that the plagues come before the removal of the curse. But is this the author’s aspirations to his audience? Is this following a literal interpretation? Or is it actually an unprincipled interpretation that lacks any hermeneutical help. It neither jives with the genre nor attempts to ascertain the author’s aspirations to his audience. It also gives no consideration to the examples in the New Testament.

The reversal of the curse only pertains to Jerusalem and not to the nations, according to the prophecy. Yet, we read; “the LORD will be king over all the earth; in that day the LORD will be the only one, and His name the only one.” Once again we are forced to jive with the genre of the apocalyptic address. One must not take every word to literal extremes but understand the imagery and literary language.

One must also explore examples of other apocalyptic addresses. In Isaiah it was written; “Listen to Me, O islands, And pay attention, you peoples from afar. The LORD called Me from the womb; From the body of My mother He named Me. And He has made My mouth like a sharp sword; In the shadow of His hand He has concealed Me, And He has also made Me a select arrow; He has hidden Me in His quiver. And He said to Me, ‘You are My Servant, Israel, In Whom I will show My glory.’ But I said, ‘I have toiled in vain, I have spent My strength for nothing and vanity; Yet surely the justice due to Me is with the LORD, And My reward with My God.’ And now says the LORD, who formed Me from the womb to be His Servant, To bring Jacob back to Him, in order that Israel might be gathered to Him (For I am honored in the sight of the LORD, And My God is My strength), He says, ‘It is too small a thing that You should be My Servant To raise up the tribes of Jacob, and to restore the preserved ones of Israel; I will also make You a light of the nations So that My salvation may reach to the end of the earth.”

And; “Arise, shine; for your light has come, And the glory of the LORD has risen upon you. For behold, darkness will cover the earth, And deep darkness the peoples; But the LORD will rise upon you, And His glory will appear upon you. And nations will come to your light, And kings to the brightness of your rising.”

Also; “Your sun will set no more, Neither will your moon wane; For you will have the LORD for an everlasting light, And the days of your mourning will be finished. Then all your people will be righteous; They will possess the land forever, The branch of My planting, The work of My hands, That I may be glorified.”

Lastly, only for the sake of time; “For behold, I create new heavens and a new earth; And the former things shall not be remembered or come to mind [Literally; Heart]. But be glad and rejoice forever in what I create; For behold, I create Jerusalem for rejoicing, And her people for gladness. I will also rejoice in Jerusalem, and be glad in My people; And there will no longer be heard in her The voice of weeping and the sound of crying. No longer will there be in it an infant who lives but a few days, Or an old man who does not live out his days; For the youth will die at the age of one hundred And the one who does not reach the age of one hundred Shall be thought accursed.  And they shall build houses and inhabit them; They shall also plant vineyards and eat their fruit. They shall not build, and another inhabit, They shall not plant, and another eat; For as the lifetime of a tree, so shall be the days of My people, And My chosen ones shall wear out the work of their hands. They shall not labor in vain, Or bear children for calamity; For they are the offspring of those blessed by the LORD, And their descendants with them. It will also come to pass that before they call, I will answer; and while they are still speaking, I will hear. The wolf and the lamb shall graze together, and the lion shall eat straw like the ox; and dust shall be the serpent’s food. They shall do no evil or harm in all My holy mountain.”

While I admittedly struggle with some of the imagery in Zechariah, I have little struggle with Isaiah’s imagery. Therefore I let the Bible interpret the Bible and apply the similar sayings in Isaiah to Zechariah, letting the genre steer the ship and not my presuppositions. Isaiah is a much longer and a more ancient prophecy while Zechariah prophesied more closely to the coming of the Messiah. Isaiah was an ante-diaspora announcement and Zechariah was post-diaspora. Zechariah points back to Isaiah and both point forward to the coming Messiah and his coming kingdom. So as we see their similarities, we couple the context together and see the sublime string.

Notice the serpent in the passage in Isaiah regarding the new heavens and new earth. What is the significance of the serpent? Why would the Lord single out the serpent specifically; “dust shall be the serpent’s food. They shall do no evil or harm in all My holy mountain?” Look all the way back to the curse; “And the LORD God said to the serpent, ‘Because you have done this, Cursed are you more than all cattle, And more than every beast of the field; On your belly shall you go, And dust shall you eat All the days of your life; And I will put enmity Between you and the woman, And between your seed and her seed; He shall bruise you on the head, And you shall bruise him on the heel.”

In Isaiah and in Zechariah we see the curse and curse reversal promised in Genesis. But do we see the curse reversed the way of which it is described by the prophecy pundits? Do we see the kingdom drop all at once after the church is raptured and Israel is put through the proverbial ringer? Or do we see a progressive plan in which the world is made new? Notice that in Isaiah’s text, in the new heavens and new earth, the serpent still exists, eating dust. Notice also that people die. Notice that houses are built and vineyards are planted. Yet the prophecy pundits promise us mansions in heaven an the amillenialists argue for allegory. Yes the world is broken and will never be perfect until Jesus returns but once he returns it will be perfect. That is, the curse will be completely eradicated, not for 1000 years but for eternity. Jesus didn’t lose during his first coming and certainly will not lose during the second coming. Both display the progression of prophecy and not the parenthetical plan of the prophecy pundits. Has the curse been reversed? Absolutely, the resurrection of Jesus is ample proof. Yet more than a sacrificial lamb, Jesus is also the King of kings, the Lion of Judah, the living water, the only way and he is sitting at the right hand of the father until he makes all enemies a footstool for his feet. Speaking of the most oft quoted Old Testament passage in the New; it should silence the prophecy pundits and amillenialists alike–this is probably the best prophecy which points to the progression, not regression of the dogmatic dispensationalists or same-stuff-different-day of the amillenialists, of the kingdom. Peter points to it in his sermon of sermons in Acts and Paul points to it in one of his follow-up his letter to the Corinthians. Look at what Peter said in his sermon of sermons.

“‘THE LORD SAID TO MY LORD, “SIT AT MY RIGHT HAND, UNTIL I MAKE YOUR ENEMIES A FOOTSTOOL FOR YOUR FEET.”‘ Therefore let all the house of Israel know for certain that God has made Him both Lord and Christ—this Jesus whom you crucified.”

And according to our beloved physician, Luke, what was the result of the Holy Spirit coming upon them and Peter preaching to them, “Be saved from this perverse generation?” “And there were added that day about three thousand souls.” And according to the context and the theme, every single one of them was Jewish and every single one of them was in Jerusalem, after the ascension of Jesus to the righthand of the father. Peter proclaims a battle cry for and against Jerusalem–for and against the nations–the sheep and the goats–it is a tale of two cities. The trumpet has been sounded for battle but we don’t wage war with implements of destruction but with the gospel of the kingdom.

Paul also sounds the alarm to the church in Corinth. “But now Christ has been raised from the dead, the first fruits of those who are asleep. For since by a man came death, by a man also came the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ all shall be made alive. But each in his own order: Christ the first fruits, after that those who are Christ’s at His coming, then comes the end, when He delivers up the kingdom to the God and Father, when He has abolished all rule and all authority and power. For He must reign until He has put all His enemies under His feet. The last enemy that will be abolished is death. For HE HAS PUT ALL THINGS IN SUBJECTION UNDER HIS FEET. But when He says, ‘All things are put in subjection,’ it is evident that He is excepted who put all things in subjection to Him. And when all things are subjected to Him, then the Son Himself also will be subjected to the One who subjected all things to Him, that God may be all in all.”

But what’s the context of Paul’s proclamation concerning the resurrection? “Now I make known to you, brethren, the gospel which I preached to you, which also you received, in which also you stand, by which also you are saved, if you hold fast the word which I preached to you, unless you believed in vain.”

Paul is reminding them of the gospel and his preaching to them. He continues in his letter; “For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received, that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, and that He appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. After that He appeared to more than five hundred brethren at one time, most of whom remain until now, but some have fallen asleep; then He appeared to James, then to all the apostles; and last of all, as it were to one untimely born, He appeared to me also. For I am the least of the apostles, who am not fit to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God. But by the grace of God I am what I am, and His grace toward me did not prove vain; but I labored even more than all of them, yet not I, but the grace of God with me. Whether then it was I or they, so we preach and so you believed.”

Paul is clearly not writing about a rapture rescue but gospel preaching and the authority and supremacy of Jesus Christ. Take the principle and promise of Jesus sitting rightfully at the righthand until all his enemies are made a footstool for his feet and apply it to Zechariah. Jesus has declared war against apostate Israel and the unbelieving nations. The imagery evokes the warrior king of whom Israel failed to recognize, not to mention the disciples of John, as do the prophecy pundits. Jesus Christ is not a baby in a manger or perpetually on the cross as the Roman Catholic church sees him. He is the Lion, the Lamb that was slain, the Cornerstone, the Way, the Truth, the Open Door and the Door slammed shut. He is the King of kings and Lord of lords in heaven, waging war against all rule and authority of whom he has conquered by his cross.

One more passage from Isaiah. “The people who walk in darkness Will see a great light; Those who live in a dark land, The light will shine on them. You shall multiply the nation, You shall increase their gladness; They will be glad in Your presence As with the gladness of harvest, As men rejoice when they divide the spoil. For You shall break the yoke of their burden and the staff on their shoulders, The rod of their oppressor, as at the battle of Midian. For every boot of the booted warrior in the battle tumult, And cloak rolled in blood, will be for burning, fuel for the fire. For a child will be born to us, a son will be given to us; And the government will rest on His shoulders; And His name will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Eternal Father, Prince of Peace. There will be no end to the increase of His government or of peace, On the throne of David and over his kingdom, To establish it and to uphold it with justice and righteousness From then on and forevermore. The zeal of the LORD of hosts will accomplish this.”

As a reminder; “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish, but have eternal life. For God did not send the Son into the world to judge the world, but that the world should be saved through Him.”

We are warriors without weapons of carnage but with a weapon of witness–the word of God, which is sharper than a two-edged sword. We are to preach the gospel and to live accordingly. Therein lies the problem. The mark of the Lord or the mark of the beast? Sheep or goats. True Israel or apostate Israel? In which city do we live?

 

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