Hitting The Highlights of Zechariah; A Colorful Conclusion Immersed in Imagery

Zechariah 1:1, skipping many verses, -14:21

In the eighth month of the second year of Darius, the word of the LORD came to Zechariah the prophet, the son of Berechiah, the son of Iddo saying, “The LORD was very angry with your fathers. Therefore say to them, ‘Thus says the LORD of hosts, “Return to Me,” declares the LORD of hosts, “that I may return to you,” says the LORD of hosts. Do not be like your fathers, to whom the former prophets proclaimed, saying, “Thus says the LORD of hosts, ‘Return now from your evil ways and from your evil deeds.'” But they did not listen or give heed to Me,’ declares the LORD. ‘Your fathers, where are they? And the prophets, do they live forever? But did not My words and My statutes, which I commanded My servants the prophets, overtake your fathers?'”..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.

Boiling down Zechariah’s prophecy from the Lord revolves around the author’s aspiration to his audience. This is why I included the introduction and the final sentences, so that we will remember the historical context and see the future fulfillment. Often times–most times, we forget the historical context by the time we get to the end of a book. But we not only forget the historical context but most of the content as well. Zechariah is an excellent example because it is long enough that most people don’t or won’t read it in its entirety, especially in one sitting. Think about it, Zechariah would be about 4,000 Twitter post. If one read Zechariah in tweet form, two tweets a day, it would take five and a half years to simply read the book, much less explore examples. In an unfortunate and similar scenario, it would take Joel Osteen approximately 150 years to preach through the Bible, based upon the number of verses he rips out of context per week but not, I repeat, not, based upon his repetition of the same verses over and over again–then it could never happen because he only has a handful of verses in his repertoire. Not that repetition is wrong, I do it, a lot, but when reading the Bible, context is king. The same verse can’t mean two entirely different things. Therefore we must take the book of Zechariah as a whole, as it was intended and consider the context, the aspirations of the author to his audience, genre, examples and then divide rightly the word of truth. This is the CAGED method of Biblical hermeneutics. We utilize the CAGED method because we have kept the Bible caged due to our taught traditions, presuppositions, preconceived notions and by our daily crumb–if we ingest it at all. Unless you are learning for yourself you only know what you have been taught.

Contemporary christianity has hundreds of denominations and ten thousand traditions but it should not be this way. Personal preference and taught traditions have taken center stage over the plain and simple meanings in the Bible. The Bible was not written to pastors only but rather, mostly to Jewish people, yet it was recorded for us. Even the epistles were written to a blend of Jewish people and gentiles but some are specifically addressed to the Jewish church. It may sound trivial but is of abundant importance because the Bible is not a western book but an eastern one. One example is that the day began at sunset and not at midnight. We’ll come back to this.

Zechariah was written to a returning, Jewish remnant from the exile in Babylon, hence the historical context. It had its ultimate application to the people present during the time of its writing; “return to me.” In the same way, the book of Revelation was written to seven churches in Asia but we think that it was actually written to a post-tribulation remnant. Hence 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.

Let me ask a rather benign question but with razor-sharp teeth. How egocentric is it of us to believe that we are the generation of the alleged fig tree? Let me rephrase that question to make certain that I don’t miss the mark. How incredible and arrogant is it for us to think that the Bible speaks specifically of our days? The Bible was written over the span of more than a thousand years and was completed almost 2000 years ago but we think that it points directly to our day– what are the odds? Yet we don’t deal with odds but with the continuing context and sublime string.

Nevertheless I can’t wait until January first, 2068, the day in which dogmatic dispensationalism dies. (Dogmatic dispensationalistm differs from dispensationalism–I am not here to destroy dispensational discourse but the dogmatic dispensationalists’ discourse) Though truth be told, it should have died on January first, 1988. If you don’t know the significance of these dates, it is good news–you are not a dogmatic dispensationalist. They saw (because they can no longer see) that the latter part of Matthew 24 was fulfilled in 1948, as the alleged “fig tree” put forth its leaves. They then dogmatically determined that a generation was forty years. Problem; forty years has long since come and gone. Nevertheless they did a dogmatic double-down by determining a different date and definition of a “generation.” Nevertheless I carry the literal presupposition, that “this generation ” spoken of by Jesus in Matthew 24 means this generation–his generation. After all, he told the people present in his day that all the prophets spoke of him. This will be our theme for our conclusion of Zechariah– not only did Zechariah point to Jesus, all the law and prophets pointed to Jesus.

I don’t intend to confound or confuse but I am dealing with a confounding and confusing conclusion of the prophecy pundits. The very same people who tell us to “understand the times” alleged that the “rapture” is a sign-less event–meaning, without signs. Hypocritically they speak out of both sides of their faces. On the one hand we are told to be like “the sons of Issachar, men who understood the times, with knowledge of what Israel should do.” And they also instruct; “when these things begin to take place, straighten up and lift up your heads, because your redemption is drawing near.” And yet the prophecy pundits proclaim that the “rapture” is a signless event that comes by surprise and without warning. The prophecy pundits proclaim that Matthew 24 and Luke’s synoptic account in Luke 21, are about the second coming and not the rapture and yet, we are to take heed and “look up.” It can’t be both ways if the “rapture” and second coming are separated by a minimum of seven years. (I believe that Matthew 24 is about Christ coming on the clouds of judgment against Jerusalem and the Old-Covenant breakers.) Also, the prophecy pundits proclaim that “no one knows the day or the hour” of the second coming but if their dogma were true, we would know the exact day–42 months after Mr. European Antichrist sets up the image of himself in the temple in Jerusalem. Once again, the Antichrist is not the beast. If you are not familiar with Matthew 24, this is quite confusing but if you are very familiar with Matthew 24 it’s even more confusing and this confusion confounds the imagery in Zechariah. Only those with taught traditional knowledge of Matthew 24 are not confused. That is, one must begin with a presupposition to mangle Matthew 24 and Zechariah.

I didn’t leave dogmatic dispensationalism behind because I read books or listened to sermons from amillenial or postmillenial preachers–quite the opposite. I still listen to the dogmatic dispensationalists and listen less to preterism preachers. I left dogmatic dispensationalism because of the dubious dogma of the prophecy pundits and the CAGED method. I was reading through the book of Matthew and noticed that the parables of Jesus don’t fit into the dogma of dispensationalism. The wheat and the tares are allowed to grow together, the tares are burnt and then the wheat is gathered. The kingdom of heaven starts small but grows, like a mustard seed. It’s also like leaven which slowly but steadily rises. Then there is the parable of the vinegrower–clearly the kingdom was taken away from apostate Israel and given to true Israel–those who have the faith of Abraham. John the Baptist points us to this conclusion early on in the book of Matthew. And after reading Matthew up to the six or seven woes against the Pharisees and the Olivet Discourse, it became clear that Jesus was judging his generation–and he did this discussion of the dividing of the sheep and goats, while his feet were literally on the Mount of Olives.

In Zechariah we read, “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.”

I believe that Jesus will physically return to earth and I would suspect that he may touch down on the Mount of Olives. Acts 1 reads; “And as they were gazing intently into the sky while He was departing, behold, two men in white clothing stood beside them; and they also said, ‘Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking into the sky? This Jesus, who has been taken up from you into heaven, will come in just the same way as you have watched Him go into heaven.'” This happened on the Mount of Olives. However, is the physical return of Jesus to the Mount of Olives the angels’ aspiration to the apostles?

Nope; it’s not. Now I know you want an explanation for my quick quip which appears as if it’s my opinion rather than a careful consideration of the context and we will work it out but I want to switch gears for a moment so that the foundation is fuller before we get to the explanation. Dogmatic dispensationalist discourse and proclamations from the prophecy pundits argue for a very low view of Jesus. First, his church flails in failure. Second, they tell us we need to be busy doing the Lord’s work so that when he “raptures” us, he will find us being busy doing his work. The dogmatic dispensationalists argue that the church goes into apostasy and ultimately needs a rescue–soon– so be busy so that we are not caught by surprise. Some call this “rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic.” An obvious allusion to the sinking ship, this is a metaphor, like much of Zechariah.

I am my own boss, vocationally speaking. Nevertheless my customers are my employers and bosses. But also a few of us work as a collective. We’re building a house in the hot sun this summer. I sent the other fellows to fetch materials in an air conditioned truck while I continued to work in the scorching sun. They were absent for a longer period than I expected and therefore I knew that they must be coming back soon. I wanted to be working when they arrived. But I needed a break, some water and shade. But they would be back soon. But I didn’t know exactly when. But I was extremely hot and thirsty. But I wanted to look busy doing their work when they returned. Do you see where I am going with this? They could clearly see the walls I built and my sweat-soaked shirt, the piles of sawdust and the piles of cutoffs from the lumber, the smaller lumber piles and the box of empty nails. I needed a break and not to look busy. My work was evident as is the work of all the Christians who have since gone to be with the Lord over these thousands of years. God sees, he doesn’t have to threaten a secret return to catch us loafing around and goofing off. Paul said that each man’s work is evident. The argument that an any-minute return of Jesus motivates us not only has a low view of Jesus but a low view of his people, the church, true Israel, his kingdom.

Think about the opposite of my scenario if you are not convinced. My coworkers return to me cutting some lumber and not taking a break. My shirt is dry, the nail box is full, the lumber neatly stacked and no walls were built, but I was busy at the moment they arrived. How much more intelligent and all-seeing is the Lord than my coworkers? Being found being busy by a rescuing Jesus is not a good motivator but doing our jobs, using our spiritual gifts, for his sake is.

And if we believe the Bible, we should believe that the small seed of the fledgling church of the first century, grows into a tree, larger than the rest of the garden plants. This doesn’t mean that the church changes the culture until the entire planet is Israel but it does mean that Jesus is reigning from heaven until he has made all enemies a footstool for his feet; “the last enemy being death.” We certainly see ebbs and flows but constant, measurable gospel growth. We should not see the church fall into apostasy as promised by the prophecy pundits, who rip Paul’s words to Timothy out of context. The CAGED method sees; “But the Spirit explicitly says that in later times some will fall away from the faith, paying attention to deceitful spirits and doctrines of demons, by means of the hypocrisy of liars seared in their own conscience as with a branding iron, men who forbid marriage and advocate abstaining from foods, which God has created to be gratefully shared in by those who believe and know the truth. For everything created by God is good, and nothing is to be rejected, if it is received with gratitude; for it is sanctified by means of the word of God and prayer.”

Paul was writing to Timothy about a specific people during his life. They also really rip the following ot of context: “But realize this, that in the last days difficult times will come. For men will be lovers of self, lovers of money, boastful, arrogant, revilers, disobedient to parents, ungrateful, unholy, unloving, irreconcilable, malicious gossips, without self-control, brutal, haters of good, treacherous, reckless, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God; holding to a form of godliness, although they have denied its power; and avoid such men as these. For among them are those who enter into households and captivate weak women weighed down with sins, led on by various impulses, always learning and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth. And just as Jannes and Jambres opposed Moses, so these men also oppose the truth, men of depraved mind, rejected as regards the faith. But they will not make further progress; for their folly will be obvious to all, as also that of those two came to be.”

The prophecy pundits never proclaim that last part–they will not make further progress– because it doesn’t fit into their narrative and their narrative doesn’t fit into the context. Like the mainstream media, the prophecy pundits ignore the context and only hit on the highlights which forward their narrative. If these men, in the last days don’t make further progress, we have to ask why? Why won’t they make further progress? The answer is found in the context; “for their folly will be obvious to all.” 

Have I mentioned that context is king?

Therefore if the prophecy pundits point to Timothy 1 and Timothy 2 to proclaim end-time apostasy, how is it that everyone sees the folly if everyone is apostate? The presupposition of apostasy of our days is ripped out of context. Nevertheless this begs the question; why hasn’t Joel Osteen been exposed? He has, watch American Gospel: Christ Alone on Netflix. Nevertheless even I am ripping Paul’s letters to Timothy out of context because Paul was writing to Timothy about Timothy’s life and times, not our life and times. Certainly we see eternal truth in Paul’s letters to Timothy but Paul was writing about specific situations in Timothy’s day and not our days. Therefore the question becomes, the last days of what?

I would suggest that Paul wrote of the last days of “that day.” Notice in Zechariah 14 that Christ’s feet split the Mount of Olives in twine on “that day.” “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.”

What else are we told about “that day?” “There will no longer be a Canaanite in the house of the LORD of hosts in that day.” In that day a fountain will be opened for the house of David and for the inhabitants of Jerusalem, for sin and for impurity.” “’And it will come about in that day,’ declares the LORD of hosts, ‘that I will cut off the names of the idols from the land, and they will no longer be remembered; and I will also remove the prophets and the unclean spirit from the land.” “Also it will come about in that day that the prophets will each be ashamed of his vision when he prophesies…Awake, O sword, against My Shepherd, And against the man, My Associate,’ Declares the LORD of hosts. Strike the Shepherd that the sheep may be scattered; And I will turn My hand aagainst the little ones.”

Yes, Jesus said that this prophecy, in the middle of “that day,” was fulfilled on the night of his betrayal and arrest. But what else is said about that day? “It will come about in that day that I will make Jerusalem a heavy stone for all the peoples.” “In that day I will make the clans of Judah like a firepot among pieces of wood and a flaming torch.” “In that day the LORD will defend the inhabitants of Jerusalem, and the one who is feeble among them in that day will be like David, and the house of David will be like God, like the angel of the LORD before them. And it will come about in that day that I will set about to destroy all the nations that come against Jerusalem… And I will pour out on the house of David and on the inhabitants of Jerusalem, the Spirit of grace and of supplication, so that they will look on Me whom they have pierced; and they will mourn for Him, as one mourns for an only son, and they will weep bitterly over Him, like the bitter weeping over a first-born. In that day there will be great mourning in Jerusalem, like the mourning of Hadadrimmon in the plain of Megiddo.”

Let’s fast forward from Zechariah to that day of days and night of nights. In Matthew it is written; “And after singing a hymn, they went out to the Mount of Olives. Then Jesus said to them, ‘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.”‘” What was written in the middle of Zechariah’s apocalyptic address concerning “that day” is promised again and fulfilled in the middle of the day of days and night of nights, yet it was not the same day, because days began at sundown. That is, “that day” is not a literal day in the apocalyptic address. But it is a specific time period which I would argue began with Luke 1 and Matthew 1 and found its fruition in 70 AD. Perhaps I am getting too far ahead of myself. Let’s continue to look at the fulfillment in Matthew.

First, Jesus has promised his disciples that they will fall away because of what was written in Zechariah in the midst of “that day.” In Matthew we read of the fulfillment of both Zechariah and Jesus. “At that time Jesus said to the multitudes, ‘Have you come out with swords and clubs to arrest Me as against a robber? Every day I used to sit in the temple teaching and you did not seize Me. But all this has taken place that the Scriptures of the prophets may be fulfilled.’ Then all the disciples left Him and fled. And those who had seized Jesus led Him away to Caiaphas, the high priest, where the scribes and the elders were gathered together.”

After Peter cut off the ear of the high priest’s slave on this night of nights, Jesus explained that he didn’t need Peter’s help because he had a million angels at his disposal. Jesus said, “How then shall the Scriptures be fulfilled, that it must happen this way?” Which Scripture? He has already quoted Zechariah and Matthew also points the reader to Zechariah. Judas resembles Zechariah and the pieces of silver in the story of the shepherd. Nevertheless we can’t cover every aspect or angle of that day as seen in the apocalyptic address in under 100,000 words. Even Matthew, who quotes the most Scripture of all the gospels, didn’t write out every prophecy of which Jesus fulfilled. That is because there was no need to rewrite the Old Testament in the New Testament because Jesus clearly came to fulfill both the law and the prophets. Matthew merely sums it up, hitting the highlights. Nevertheless we believe that the prophecies not penned by Matthew have gone unfulfilled. But this should not be the case because of what Jesus said to the high priest at his mock trial, that night of nights, in the middle of “that day.”

“You have said it yourself; nevertheless I tell you, hereafter you shall see THE SON OF MAN SITTING AT THE RIGHT HAND OF POWER, and COMING ON THE CLOUDS OF HEAVEN.” What was the aspiration of Jesus to his audience, namely, the high priest? Jesus wanted the high priest to recall Daniel’s prophecy. In Daniel’s prophecy we see the Messiah ascending (not descending) to the throne on clouds of judgment.

“I kept looking Until thrones were set up, And the Ancient of Days took His seat; His vesture was like white snow, And the hair of His head like pure wool. His throne was ablaze with flames, Its wheels were a burning fire…I kept looking in the night visions, And behold, with the clouds of heaven One like a Son of Man was coming, And He came up to the Ancient of Days And was presented before Him. And to Him was given dominion, Glory and a kingdom, That all the peoples, nations, and men of every language Might serve Him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion Which will not pass away; And His kingdom is one Which will not be destroyed.” 

And because of the proclamation of Jesus to the high priest, that he was going to see Jesus ascending to the Father, coming on the clouds, the high priest, “tore his robes, saying, ‘He has blasphemed! What further need do we have of witnesses? Behold, you have now heard the blasphemy; what do you think?’ They answered and said, ‘He is deserving of death!’ Then they spat in His face and beat Him with their fists; and others slapped Him, and said, ‘Prophesy to us, You Christ; who is the one who hit You?'”

You see, they got it but didn’t get it. They knew exactly what Jesus was saying but didn’t believe a word he said. In this, we need to take the long view and high view of Jesus. He said himself that all this must happen for the Scripture to be fulfilled. Jesus could have wiped them all out in that day by less than the snapping of his fingers. But he didn’t because he had Scripture to fulfill and a people to purchase from every tribe, tongue and nation. He endured the mocking, the blasphemy, the beatings the spitting, the scourging and the cross “for the joy set before Him [he] endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.” Hebrews tells us why Jesus endured the cross and it also points back to Daniel 7. The author of Hebrews harkens back to the most oft quoted passage of Scripture as well as pointing the reader to Daniel and all the other witnesses of the coming Christ. Incidentally, to whom was Hebrews written? We must remember the author’s aspiration to his audience, which was made up of first-century, Jewish Christians. It is an eastern letter written to an eastern people. We can’t carry our western cultural clutter into the context of Hebrews. We have this attitude in the west where we make Jesus our Lord and Savior but rather the scripture states that Jesus makes us a kingdom. We individualize our own experiences rather than see what Hebrews says. The joy before Jesus in enduring the cross was to purchase back people, from every nation, over whom he would reign.

Don’t get me wrong, I love the individual experience and hearing people’s testimonies. It’s actually one of the things that gives me the greatest joy; hearing how God is working in the lives of his people. Nevertheless these are the neat nuances of the greater goal of the gospel. Jesus reigns from heaven at the righthand of the father until all his enemies are subjected to him, the last being death. Your testimony is an integral part in the astronomical array of Jesus reigning from heaven.

Therefore will Jesus return to earth physically on the Mount Of Olives? Possibly; but this is neither the aspiration of the angels to the apostles in Acts nor the aspiration of the Lord,  through Zechariah to the returning remnant. Before we look again at the context of the Day of the Lord, or; “that day,” let’s place our pragmatic thinking caps on, placing preconceived notions and presuppositions aside and consider the author’s aspirations to his audience in Zechariah.

“The LORD was very angry with your fathers. Therefore say to them, ‘Thus says the LORD of hosts, “Return to Me,” declares the LORD of hosts, “that I may return to you,” says the LORD of hosts. Do not be like your fathers…'”

“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.”

Why would the returning remnant be informed of a far-future event? In the same way, why would seven literal churches in Asia, which were listed in order that made up a geographical circle to which a letter would circulate, be informed of events in their far-future? The book of Revelation is is actually a letter on a scroll, sent to seven churches off the island of Patmos. The scroll was addressed to them and therefore we must consider the author’s aspirations to the Asian audience.

Speaking of scrolls, we remember the flying scroll in Zechariah which like the scroll in Revelation was written on the front and back. After we see Jesus prop up Zerubbabel and clean up Joshua we see this giant scroll in Zechariah. “Then I lifted up my eyes again and looked, and behold, there was a flying scroll. And he said to me, ‘What do you see?’ And I answered, ‘I see a flying scroll; its length is twenty cubits and its width ten cubits.’ Then he said to me, ‘This is the curse that is going forth over the face of the whole land; surely everyone who steals will be purged away according to the writing on one side, and everyone who swears will be purged away according to the writing on the other side.'”

Then we see the thieving priest and false prophets in Zechariah. The indication is that the Messiah will come with a blessing for those who return to him but with a curse to those who don’t.

Enter John the Baptist: He calls the Pharisees a brood of vipers and says that “the axe is already laid at the root of the tree.” Jesus preached that the kingdom of heaven was at hand. Clearly in the context of all the examples, Jesus came the first time to fulfill Zechariah and all the other prophets. Yes, Jesus was cut off but that was the plan and the prophetic clock did not stop, the church is not parenthetical and the kingdom of heaven doesn’t drop in a day. That is, the day of the Lord continued after the cross, after the resurrection, after the ascension and after the 42 months that the gospel went exclusively to Israel. But the prophetic clock did stop, or ran out, after the 42 months of prevalent and powerful persecution of the Christians by the beast of Rome, on whom apostate Israel sat and the toppling of the temple. The last days of the Old Covenant ran out as the gospel sun rose upon the the nations and set on the law of Israel. That was the day of the Lord and his judgment upon the Old Covenant breakers as he gave a New Covenant in his own blood, to those who returned to him.

Zechariah wasn’t written about the end of time or the world but about the end of their times and the world as they knew it. The last days we read about in the Bible, usually refer to the last days of the Old Covenant. The day of the Lord began at sunset, figuratively speaking, in that Jesus died but in the middle of the day, he rose again and ascended to the father to judge the Old Covenant and as the sun was setting to a new day, that day came to pass and came to its finish. I realize that this is all difficult to digest–even the disciples of John the Baptist were sent to ask Jesus if he was the One to come or if they should be waiting for another. It wasn’t looking like Jesus was the shoot, the root, the branch or the annointed one. They were confused because he didn’t look like what they saw in Zechariah and the other prophets. But what was the response of Jesus? “Go and report to John what you hear and see: the BLIND RECEIVE SIGHT and the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed and the deaf hear, and the dead are raised up, and the POOR HAVE THE GOSPEL PREACHED TO THEM. And blessed is he who keeps from stumbling over Me.” Notice that Jesus quotes the prophets and without specifically saying that he was the Messiah, Jesus points to the prophets to proclaim with punctuation, I AM.

 

 

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