Choose!

Choose! – Zechariah 14:12-15       10/30/2019 Our passage today is Zechariah 14:12-15, certainly not one of the most fun passages to read.  From a literary perspective, Zechariah does something strange to our western linear-thinking minds.  He loops back to the final battle we looked at a couple of weeks ago.  This reflects the presence of what’s called a “chiasm.”  This literary device uses parallel words or topics to bracket the main point.[1]  So we have the battle, Jesus wins, and then we return to the battle.[2]  The main point… Jesus wins! Now, I have to be honest, not everyone who reads this will come to the same conclusions that I did.  Some see this passage as looping back to the point when Jesus strikes the Antichrist’s armies, described in Revelation 19:15.  This interpretation is perfectly reasonable, and I would spend zero (0) energy arguing about it.  However, as I read and studied it seemed to me to be something different.  It seems to me that this is the mop-up operation.  The battle has been won; but not everyone who will follow the Antichrist will be at the Battel of Armageddon.  And… not EVERYONE in the battle will necessarily die. Those who rebelled against God under the leadership of the Beast, and yet survived the Battle of Armageddon, will be punished with a terrible plague.[3]  God’s final act against those who would rebel against Him is almost the most terrible imaginable; their bodies will rot away even while the person is still alive.[4]  This judgment will extend to every individual who is in opposition to God and His people.[5] The plagues that are afflicted on these people are afflicted on them by the Hand of the Lord, the word used is (הַמַּגֵּפָ֗ה)[6] [hăm măg gē pā(h)´] and it always denotes a plague sent by God as punishment.[7]  Following this, the people seem to go crazy, and they begin to kill each other.  Then, finally, the remaining Jews join in the mop-up operation.[8] The battle will move to within the confines of what’s left of the city.  Notice the specificity of the statement; “Judah also will fight at Jerusalem.”[9]  The word “at Jerusalem” is (בִּירֽוּשָׁלִָ֑ם)[10] [bî rû šā lām´] which is a compound word joining “at/in” (בְּ)[11] [bi] with “Jerusalem” (יְרוּשָׁלִַ֫ם)[12] [yrû šā lām´].  The preposition, “at/in” (בְּ)[13] [bi], is a common preposition with a wide range of meanings, primarily in, at or by.[14] The imagery is gruesome and vivid, and the intent is to portray the total defeat of those who would oppose God.[15]  Now, we read a series of passages like this, and they naturally put us off.  How do we square such a thing with the loving God that we worship?  We need to look at what’s really happening.  Who are these who are being killed?  These are people who have willfully chosen to make themselves enemies of God and His reign.[16]  At this point in human history there will be two classes of people, and only two.  There will be those who belong to God, and there will be those who have made a very conscious decision to work against Him and His purposes.  These are the ones who will be utterly destroyed.[17] The reason for this is important to understand.  Something’s about to happen that makes their destruction necessary.  Think about this with me.  The Kingdom of Jesus Christ is about to be established physically on earth, and these people are not suited to be in it.  These people are the ones who followed the Beast, described in Revelation 13:16-17.  Sadly, these people will have made what seems to be an irrevocable decision according to Revelation 14:9-11. Now, what is this “mark”?  I have no doubt that many of you will disagree with me, but I don’t think we need to be too worried about technology and this “microchip” that’s now being implanted in some people.  I wouldn’t do it; it seems to be to be a really bad idea on several health-concern levels.  But I don’t think that taking the Mark will be an accident.  It will be a decision. Satan wants our worship, but worship does not happen by accident.  He needs us to choose to worship him in order to receive it.  Just as in church on Sunday morning, worship does not happen by accident, you have to make a conscious decision to worship God.  The people who experience the things described in our text today have made a conscious decision, one that will have tragic consequences. But it does not have to be this way.  The people who take this mark are those who reject another mark; in Ezekiel 9:4 we find God marking His people.  This is intriguing, is this universal, or limited to the godly Jews in Jerusalem during that period of time?  We don’t have to struggle with whether this applies to us or not.  Those who follow Jesus are marked already, we are marked as belonging to Jesus, John 6:27-29.  This is even more explicitly stated in Ephesians 1:13-14. If we have accepted Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior we – are – already – marked… as belonging to God, sealed to God through the presence of the Holy Spirit, and that mark will stay with us for eternity according to Revelation 22:4.  Those who will remain alive after the final battle, after the mop-up is completed, will be those who have already been sealed to God.  Although Zechariah is very much Jew-centered, the only ones who come out of this alive are those who are followers of Jesus, both Jew and Gentile. If you are a follower of Jesus Christ, Satan will have no desire for you to remain in his kingdom during his seven-year reign, you would be nothing but a disruption and a trouble for the kingdom of darkness, which is frankly what you are right now.  Small wonder that the current world order is trying to shut us up and marginalize us.  The reason for this is we belong to another, and we already bear His “mark.” You may recall the fate of those bearing the Mark of the Beast.  Frankly, that’s not the worst that they have to fear.  That was simply cleaning up the mess in preparation for Jesus’ Kingdom.  Each of us are both physical and spiritual beings, and physical death is not the worst thing that can happen.  There is a day when each of us will stand before the judge, and our eternal fate will be decided; Revelation 20:11-12.  This is skipping forward a bit in the flow of human experience; this event will take place roughly 1000 years after the events in our text today.  (I read the thousand year reign of Christ as a literal event, again not all will agree with me, and that’s OK.) But note this, it is God’s desire that, when that final day comes, everyone would be found written in the Book of Life.  However, that will not happen.  We, each of us have a choice.  We can choose to follow Jesus, or we can choose to follow the spirit that is behind the activities of the Antichrist, but make no mistake.  A choice will be made… and to not to choose is to choose.  Honestly, it seems to me that, by the time we’ve gotten to the point in history our text addresses, a choice will already have been made.  Satan will just make sure it is clear we’ve made the choice.  The situation, and the offer, still stands.  We can serve Satan and his kingdom, or we can serve Jesus and His Kingdom.  Once we choose to follow Jesus, we can be comfortable, failing to truly follow Jesus and remain as marginal and unproductive followers, or we can turn to Jesus and be clothed with His righteousness, but a choice is needed.  That walk of faith will be characterized by the practice of the Spiritual Disciplines as we consciously, intentionally, walk in the Spirit.  It will be characterized by a decision to walk with our eyes on Jesus. Now, what are you going to choose?

[1] William Klein, Craig Blomberg, and Robert Hubbard Jr., Introduction to Biblical Interpretation, consulting ed., Kermit Ecklebarger, (Word Publishing, Dallas, Tx.: 1993), 237.

[2] G. Michael Butterworth, “Zechariah,” in New Bible Commentary: 21st Century Edition, ed. D. A. Carson et al., 4th ed. (Leicester, England; Downers Grove, IL: Inter-Varsity Press, 1994), 881.

[3] Marten Woudstra, Zechariah, in The Biblical Expositor: The Living Theme of the Great Book, Volume II, consulting ed., Carl Henry, (Baker Book House, Grand Rapids, MI.: 1960), 377.

[4] John Peter Lange, Philip Schaff, and Talbot W. Chambers, A Commentary on the Holy Scriptures: Zechariah (Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software, 2008), 112.

[5] H. D. M. Spence-Jones, ed., Zechariah, The Pulpit Commentary (London; New York: Funk & Wagnalls Company, 1909), 159.

[6]Christo van der Merwe, The Lexham Hebrew-English Interlinear Bible (Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press, 2004), Zec 14:12.

[7] C.F. Keil, Zechariah, trans., James Martin, in the Commentary on the Old Testament, The Minor Prophets, eds., C.F. Keil and F. Delitzsch, (Hendrickson Publishers, Peabody, MA.: 2011),  Testament: Volume 10), 624.

[8] H. D. M. Spence-Jones, ed., Zechariah, The Pulpit Commentary (London; New York: Funk & Wagnalls Company, 1909), 159.

[9] The New King James Version (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1982), Zec 14:14a.

[10]Christo van der Merwe, The Lexham Hebrew-English Interlinear Bible (Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press, 2004), Zec 14:14.

[11]Christo van der Merwe, The Lexham Hebrew-English Interlinear Bible (Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press, 2004), Zec 14:14.

[12]Christo van der Merwe, The Lexham Hebrew-English Interlinear Bible (Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press, 2004), Zec 14:14.

[13]Christo van der Merwe, The Lexham Hebrew-English Interlinear Bible (Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press, 2004), Zec 14:14.

[14] R. Laird Harris, “193 בְּ,” ed. R. Laird Harris, Gleason L. Archer Jr., and Bruce K. Waltke, Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament (Chicago: Moody Press, 1999), 87.

[15] Elizabeth Achtemeier, Nahum – Malachi, Interpretation: A Bible Commentary for Teaching and Preaching, ed., James Mays, OT ed., Patrick Miller, (John Knox Press, Louisville, KY.: 1986), 167.

[16] Carl Friedrich Keil and Franz Delitzsch, Commentary on the Old Testament, vol. 10 (Peabody, MA: Hendrickson, 1996), 624.

[17] Carl Friedrich Keil and Franz Delitzsch, Commentary on the Old Testament, vol. 10 (Peabody, MA: Hendrickson, 1996), 624.

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