Disaster...or Not!

Disaster… Or Not! – Zechariah 14:4       10/20/2019 With Zechariah 14 we are now into what would be considered “full-blown” apocalyptic literature.[1]  This genre of literature reveals God’s plans for the future, often using confusing symbolism.[2]  Large breaks in time may be present but not noted… at times it seems as if it hides as much as it reveals.  But it always serves its purpose, to show God radically intervening from the “outside” into human history.[3] Now, I need to start out with a word of caution.  I have studiously avoided teaching much on eschatological prophecy (that is, prophesies dealing with the end of time), partly because it is so confusing, and partly because it can be so divisive.  And so, as we begin to explore this fascinating chapter, I tell you right at the outset that my assumption is that the events described in our passage today are literal events that will literally take place.  I will only shift to spiritual/symbolic interpretations when the text indicates this is the intent. Not everyone will agree with all my conclusions, so don’t see my opinion as the final word.  Others (often people much smarter than me) will disagree my interpretations, and with where I place these events in the flow of human history.  I encourage you to study it for yourself and draw your own conclusions.  All I can do it teach it as I see it, recognizing there is a range of opinion represented within the orthodox Christian Church. Our text today is Zechariah 14:1-5, please take the time to look it up and consider what it has to say.  Chapter 14 opens with an introduction to the “Day of the Lord.”  In Hebrew thought, any day of significance was referred to as, “that day.”[4]  Every act of judgment executed by God was “the day of Yahweh.”[5]  Among Israel’s prophets, the term came to take on an eschatological importance referring to a future day of God’s action which often involved judgment.[6] So we have numerous times that could be referred to as “the Day of the Lord.”  We need to determine which “Day” we’re dealing with.  Could this reference something that was yet in the future for Zechariah but is now in our past?  Well, the reality is it is impossible to find any historic event that fits what this prophecy describes.[7]  The situation was different when Babylon conquered Jerusalem[8] in 607 BC.[9]  At that time the greater portion of the population was carried away[10] and God did not supernaturally show up to deliver them.  The details do not match up with the Maccabean rebellion against the Seleucid Empire and Antiochus Epiphanes in the years from 167 to 160 BC.[11]  Nor do these events align with anything that took place during the Roman occupation from 63 BC[12] to 70 AD and the destruction of Jerusalem.[13] Many interpreters see the passages following Zechariah 14:1 as dealing with the conclusion of a period called the Great Tribulation.[14]  The Great Tribulation is a reference to the final seven years that Daniel speaks about in Daniel 9:26-27.  This is the seven year period dealt with extensively in the Revelation.[15]  God’s judgment will be poured out on mankind in a way never seen before.  It will ultimately culminate in the establishment of the millennial reign of the Jesus.[16] Before we move on, I need to tell you that a strong case can be made for many, if not all, of the events described in the Revelation to have already been completed during the first century.  I don’t personally hold this view, but there are Bible scholars who do.  We need not agree, but we should at least note there is more than one way to understand what’s described. We can use some Scriptural markers, and begin to piece things together.  For instance, we are told what must happen first in 2 Thessalonians 2:3-4.  The Antichrist will seek to exalt himself over God, this must happen first.  Our text today needs to happen after this, and appears to be at the conclusion of the Tribulation period.[17] Now, there are plenty of details that we could look at, but I think the fundamental question becomes, “Who’s in control?”  Well… God is.  The Lord (note, “I will gather” in Zechariah 14:2) gathers the nations against Israel and hands the Jews over to them.[18]  The purpose of this final invasion seems to be the purifying of God’s people, and setting the stage for the judgment of their enemies.[19] When God’s judgment of the Jews is complete, there is a very definite shift in the flow of events; Zechariah 14:3-4.  We see God using a great earthquake to split the Mount of Olives into two new mountains with a valley between them.[20]  This is the first time that the name “Mount of Olives” is explicitly names in the Old Testament.[21]  These events do not appear to be spiritual or symbolic, this appears to be a reference the literal Mount of Olives that Jesus ascended from at the end of His earthly ministry, described in Acts 1:9-11. The Lord comes with all of His “saints” to deliver the remnant of Israel.  The word translated “saints” (קְדֹשִׁ֖ים)[22] [qeḏō šîm´] means sacred ones, holy ones, saints, or set apart ones.[23]  It could be a reference to the saints in Christ, or to angels.  In the context of the book of Revelation, I would conclude this refers to Jesus’ saints. The last sentence in verse 5 points to triumphal arrival of God, in this case Jesus.[24]  I see this as Christ coming to establish his thousand-year kingdom;[25] Revelation 20:4-6.  Again, I need to note that not everyone sees the 1000 year reign of Christ as being a literal kingdom.  They see this as symbolic language.  I don’t read it that way, but this is certainly not something to divide over.  Now, we may not have to deal with a time of great persecution, but there is also the possibility that we will.  Regardless, each of us will face a time of testing, a time to decide, “What do I really believe, and am I willing to die for it?”  In the Old Testament God promised land and wealth and health in response to obedience and faithfulness.  Not so in the New Testament.  Being a Christian does not give us a get out of jail free card.  Suffering and loss are a part of this life; you may believe that the rapture will happen before these things take place.  I hope you’re right, but I doubt it. You may be thinking, “Where’s the practical application for all of this?”  Well… let me tell you.  I’ve recently been confronted with situations that have forced me to ask, “Do I really trust Jesus, even when it all seems to be going horribly wrong?”  Looking into the end of times we can see it will be a time when it will be bloody and ugly and full of suffering.  We can look at these things, and begin to extrapolate back to today.  Do you really trust Jesus?  Are you really ready to allow Him to have free reign in your life, even if it means suffering and death?  The simple fact is, it will, one way or another.  No one gets out of this life (aside from the rapture) without experiencing death and that this entails.  So the question you need to answer for yourself is how much do you really trust Jesus?.  This answer can make all the difference in your life right now.

[1] Ralph L. Smith, Micah–Malachi, vol. 32, Word Biblical Commentary (Dallas: Word, Incorporated, 1984), 285.

[2] William Klein, Craig Blomberg, and Robert Hubbard Jr., Introduction to Biblical Interpretation, consulting ed., Kermit Ecklebarger, (Word Publishing, Dallas, TX.: 1993), 311.

[3] William Klein, Craig Blomberg, and Robert Hubbard Jr., Introduction to Biblical Interpretation, consulting ed., Kermit Ecklebarger, (Word Publishing, Dallas, TX.: 1993), 311.

[4] G.M. Burge, Day of Christ, God, the Lord, in the Evangelical Dictionary of Theology, Second Edition, ed., Walter Elwell, (Baker Reference Library, Grand Rapids, MI.: 2001), 319.

[5] James E. Smith, The Minor Prophets, Old Testament Survey Series (Joplin, MO: College Press, 1994), Zec 14:1–2.

[6] G.M. Burge, Day of Christ, God, the Lord, in the Evangelical Dictionary of Theology, Second Edition, ed., Walter Elwell, (Baker Reference Library, Grand Rapids, MI.: 2001), 319.

[7] H. D. M. Spence-Jones, ed., Zechariah, The Pulpit Commentary (London; New York: Funk & Wagnalls Company, 1909), 156.

[8] John Peter Lange, Philip Schaff, and Talbot W. Chambers, A Commentary on the Holy Scriptures: Zechariah (Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software, 2008), 110.

[9] Accessed from http://www.religioustolerance.org/graham01.htm on 10/10/19.

[10] John Peter Lange, Philip Schaff, and Talbot W. Chambers, A Commentary on the Holy Scriptures: Zechariah (Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software, 2008), 110.

[11] Accessed from https://www.bing.com/search?q=maccabean+rebellion&form=PRUSEN&mkt=en-us&httpsmsn=1&refig=5758142f11314a239ee2efdba78501b2&sp=1&qs=AS&pq=maccabean+reb&sk=PRES1&sc=7-13&cvid=5758142f11314a239ee2efdba78501b2 on 10/11/19.

[12] Accessed from https://www.bing.com/search?q=roman+occupation+of+israel&form=PRUSEN&mkt=en-us&httpsmsn=1&refig=5758142f11314a239ee2efdba78501b2&sp=1&qs=SC&pq=roman+occulation+of+&sk=PRES1&sc=8-20&cvid=5758142f11314a239ee2efdba78501b2 on 10/11/19.

[13] H. D. M. Spence-Jones, ed., Zechariah, The Pulpit Commentary (London; New York: Funk & Wagnalls Company, 1909), 156.

[14] Biblical Studies Press, The NET Bible First Edition Notes (Biblical Studies Press, 2006), Zec 14:1.

[15] Biblical Studies Press, The NET Bible First Edition Notes (Biblical Studies Press, 2006), Zec 14:1.

[16] Biblical Studies Press, The NET Bible First Edition Notes (Biblical Studies Press, 2006), Zec 14:1.

[17] F. Duane Lindsey, “Zechariah,” in The Bible Knowledge Commentary: An Exposition of the Scriptures, ed. J. F. Walvoord and R. B. Zuck, vol. 1 (Wheaton, IL: Victor Books, 1985), 1569.

[18] C.F. Keil, Zechariah, trans., James Martin, in Commentary on the Old Testament: Volume 10, The Minor Prophets, eds., C.F. Keil and F. Delitzsch, (Hendrickson Publishers, Peabody, MA.: 2011), 618.

[19] John D. Barry, Douglas Mangum, Derek R. Brown, et al., Faithlife Study Bible (Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press, 2012, 2016), Zec 14:2.

[20] C.F. Keil, Zechariah, trans., James Martin, in Commentary on the Old Testament: Volume 10, The Minor Prophets, eds., C.F. Keil and F. Delitzsch, (Hendrickson Publishers, Peabody, MA.: 2011), 619.

[21] Ralph L. Smith, Micah–Malachi, vol. 32, Word Biblical Commentary (Dallas: Word, Incorporated, 1984), 286.

[22]Christo van der Merwe, The Lexham Hebrew-English Interlinear Bible (Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press, 2004), Zec 14:5.

[23] James Strong, Enhanced Strong’s Lexicon (Woodside Bible Fellowship, 1995).

[24] Ralph L. Smith, Micah–Malachi, vol. 32, Word Biblical Commentary (Dallas: Word, Incorporated, 1984), 287.

[25] H. L. Willmington, Willmington’s Bible Handbook (Wheaton, IL: Tyndale House Publishers, 1997), 511.

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