The Hebrew phrase ‘be yom ha hu’ (in that day) occurs 14 times in Zechariah chapters 12-14. This phrase refers to the Day of the Lord, the day when the Lord intervenes to save His people Israel and to set up His Messianic kingdom. So this section of prophecy tells us much about what will happen ‘in that day’ and gives us hope for the future of Israel and the Messiah’s coming reign on earth. It also warns us of the coming time of trouble that will precede the coming of the Messiah and shows us what we should do to be ready for the Messiah.
The section of Zechariah begins with the Lord saying ‘Thus says the Lord, who stretches out the heavens, lays the foundation of the earth, and forms the spirit of man within him.’ Zechariah reminds us that God is the Creator and remains able to intervene in the affairs of this world, as this passage shows us He will do. He has created human beings with a body, soul and spirit, in the image of God and therefore able to relate to God and to know Him through the Holy Spirit dwelling within our spirit, something else which Zechariah is going to speak of in his prophecy.
Zechariah tells us there is a time coming when world attention will focus on Jerusalem: ‘Behold, I will make Jerusalem a cup of drunkenness to all the surrounding peoples, when they lay siege against Judah and Jerusalem. And it shall happen in that day that I will make Jerusalem a very heavy stone for all peoples; all who would heave it away will surely be cut in pieces, though all nations of the earth are gathered against it.’ Zechariah 12.3. This means that there is a time coming when the status of Jerusalem is going to be a matter of concern to all nations and that those who come against it are going to suffer as a result. Today the status of Jerusalem is a key question on the agenda of the nations of the world, the UN, the US, the EU, Russia, the Arab and Muslim world and Israel itself. To understand why this is the case let us have a quick look at the history of Jerusalem between Zechariah’s time and ours.
This prophecy is looking way beyond the time when Zechariah lived and wrote his prophecy (around 487 BC). At that time Jerusalem was being restored after the Jewish people returned from the Babylonian captivity and the Second Temple was being rebuilt. According to the prophecy of Daniel 9.26, during the time of the Second Temple, Mashiach (Messiah) will come and be ‘cut off’ after which the Temple and Jerusalem would be destroyed. ‘And after the sixty-two weeks Messiah shall be cut off, but not for Himself; and the people of the prince who is to come shall destroy the city (Jerusalem) and the sanctuary (the Temple). The end of it shall be with a flood, and till the end of the war desolations are determined.’ Jesus fulfilled this prophecy by coming during the days of the Second Temple to be the Suffering Servant Messiah of Isaiah 53, laying down His life as a sacrifice for the sins of the world.
About forty years later the Temple and Jerusalem would be destroyed by the Romans, as Jesus also prophesied as He rode into Jerusalem shortly before the crucifixion. ‘Now as He drew near, He saw the city and wept over it, saying, ‘If you had known, even you, especially in this your day, the things that make for your peace! But now they are hidden from your eyes. For days will come upon you when your enemies will build an embankment around you, surround you and close you in on every side, and level you, and your children within you, to the ground; and they will not leave in you one stone upon another, because you did not know the time of your visitation.’ Luke 19.41-44.
What ‘makes for peace’ is to know God through the Messiah who has come to redeem us and who is coming again soon to save Israel and the world. The passage in Daniel and Luke connects the coming fall of Jerusalem, which took place in 70CE, with a failure to recognise Yeshua as the Messiah in His day. The deliverance of Jerusalem will come through recognising the Messiah according to Zechariah 12.10.
Following the fall of Jerusalem there would be a long period during which the city would be ‘trodden down’ (ruled) by Gentiles and the Jewish people dispersed to the nations: ‘For there will be great distress in the land and wrath upon this people. And they will fall by the edge of the sword, and be led away captive into all nations. And Jerusalem will be trampled by Gentiles until the times of the Gentiles are fulfilled.’ Luke 21.20-24.
By using the phrase until ‘the times of the Gentiles are fulfilled’, Jesus is saying that Gentile rule of Jerusalem would not be permanent, but that there would be a return of the Jewish people to the land of Israel. At some unspecified time in the future, rule over Jerusalem would return to the Jewish people.
During the time of Gentile rule one power above all others would take possession of Jerusalem. In 638 AD Caliph Omar took Jerusalem for Islam, seizing the area of the Temple Mount and turning the most holy place for the Jewish people into the Muslim shrine of the Dome of the Rock Mosque, built in 691, and the Al Aqsa Mosque built in 701. Islam believes that it has superseded both Judaism and Christianity and that in this age it should be dominant. Also according to Islamic thinking once Muslims have established their rule in a place, they should hold that rule until the end of days.
Significantly the Dome of the Rock was built with inscriptions around the dome saying ‘The Messiah, Jesus son of Mary, was only a Messenger of God’ and denying the Lord Jesus as the Messiah, Saviour and Son of God. It says that those who believe that Jesus is the Son of God and that God is a plural unity of Father, Son and Holy Spirit, should cease from holding this belief. From the point of view of Christianity this is actually an antichrist text (see 1 John 2.22-3). Interestingly Jesus spoke of the ‘abomination of desolation’ standing in the holy place (i.e. the Temple area).
Muslims also hold the belief, based on certain verses from the Koran, that Mohammed made a fabled journey to heaven on a white horse called al Baraq from the Al Aqsa mosque in Jerusalem. This is problematic because the Al Aqsa mosque was not built until 701 and Mohammed died in 632. Nevertheless because of this, Jerusalem has become the third holiest city for Islam after Mecca and Medina.
Jesus said that at the time of His Second Coming there would be a change of the status of Jerusalem from being trodden down of the Gentiles (i.e. ruled by Gentiles). Zechariah tells us that Jerusalem in the last days is going to be a subject of world attention and controversy leading to a great conflict, which will occur ‘in that day’ (in the last days of this age).
In the light of this, the events of the last 100 years are very significant. First in 1917 the British took Jerusalem from the Turks, ending centuries of Muslim control of the city. The Balfour Declaration of 1917 stated that ‘His Majesty’s government views with favour the establishment of a Jewish homeland in Palestine.’ The British went back on their promise to set up a Jewish homeland in Palestine. It took the terrible event of the Holocaust to make way for the UN Declaration on the Partition of Palestine in 1947 and the establishment of the Jewish state of Israel in 1948.
After the first Arab Israeli War Jerusalem was divided, with the western half in Israel and the eastern half in what became the Jordanian administered West Bank. The Old City of Jerusalem, where the biblical Holy Places stood, was in the Arab half of the city and off limits to Jewish people. As a result of the Six Day War of 1967 Israel occupied the whole of Jerusalem and the area of the West Bank, the biblical area of Judea and Samaria. Standing at the Western Wall, Israeli General Dayan said, ‘We have regained our holiest places, never again to depart.’ Nevertheless Israel placed the Temple Mount area, where the Dome of the Rock and al Aqsa mosques stand, under the jurisdiction of the Islamic Wakf (authority). In 1980 Israel issued its Jerusalem Law, stating that united Jerusalem is the Capital of Israel.
In 1993 the Oslo Accords were signed by which it was agreed to work towards a peace settlement, which has now evolved into the proposed ‘two state solution’. This means creating a Palestinian State on the West Bank and Gaza, which would in theory recognise and live in peace with Israel. This has raised the issue of Jerusalem. Should it be the undivided capital of Israel, as claimed by Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu, or should it be redivided, with the Old City of Jerusalem and the eastern part of the city becoming the capital of Palestine? Despite the engagement of the UN and the world powers (specifically the UN, US, EU and Russia), there remains to the present no agreement or solution to this question. Jerusalem is the burdensome stone burdening all nations, as Zechariah prophesied would be the situation in the last days of this age.
Zechariah goes on to describe the nations gathering together against Israel, a theme that is found elsewhere in scripture concerning the last days, for example Joel 3.9-12 and Revelation 16.14 (Armageddon). At this time of extreme need Israel will call upon the Lord, another theme found in several places of prophecy. Terror and confusion will strike Israel’s enemies, as the Glory of the Lord descends upon His people and strengthens them in the great conflict in and around Jerusalem. Zechariah 12.4-9.
At this point Israel will look to the Lord to save them and He will reveal who the Saviour is: ‘And I will pour on the house of David and on the inhabitants of Jerusalem the Spirit of grace and supplication; then they will look on Me whom they pierced. Yes, they will mourn for Him as one mourns for his only son, and grieve for Him as one grieves for a firstborn.’ Zechariah 12.10.
So who is the one who is to be pierced and grieved for as for a firstborn son? Rabbinic Jewish teachings point away from any associations with Jesus as the ‘pierced’ Messiah who is coming at a future time to save His people. The Jewish Publication Society translates the verse: ‘And they (i.e. Israel) shall look unto Me (i.e. God) because they (the nations) have thrust him (Jewish people) through.’ The Jewish commentator Rashi says of this verse: ‘They (the Jewish people) shall look back to mourn because the Gentiles had pierced some among them and killed some of them.’
The Hebrew text says V’hibitu (and they shall look) elai (upon me) et asher daqaru (whom they have pierced) and they shall mourn for him. A literal translation of this means that the people who do the looking and the piercing through and the mourning are the same people. The one they look at is unique – the only one. Although the word ‘Son’ is not actually in the Hebrew, the fact that he is referred to as the first born makes it reasonable to assume that it is speaking of a son. The most obvious conclusion is that the people who do the looking are the Jewish people at the time of the end (in that day) and the one they look to is Yeshua the Messiah, who was pierced / wounded for our transgressions and bruised for our iniquities and by whose stripes we are healed (Isaiah 53.4-6). They repent and believe opening up the fountain of blessing which brings deliverance from their enemies and the knowledge of the one true God.
There are Jewish commentaries which do connect this verse with the Messiah. In another place Rashi wrote: ‘The words the land shall mourn are found in the prophecy of Zechariah and he prophesies of the future that they shall mourn on account of the Messiah, the son of Joseph, who shall be slain in the war Gog and Magog.’ Sukkah fol.52 col 1. Rabbi Alshech who lived in Safed in the second half of the 16th century even connects this passage with the Messiah dying for sin: ‘I will yet do a third thing and that is that they shall look unto Me, for they shall lift up their eyes unto Me in perfect repentance when they shall see Him whom they pierced, that is Messiah, the Son of Joseph; for … He will take upon Himself all the guilt of Israel, and shall then be slain in the war to make an atonement in such manner that it shall be accounted as if Israel had pierced Him for on account of their sin He has died; and therefore in order that it may be reckoned as a perfect atonement, they will repent and look to the blessed One saying that there is none beside Him to forgive those that mourn on account of Him who died for their sin; this is the meaning of ‘They shall look upon Me.’
A Messiah who takes upon Himself all the guilt of Israel and who died for the sins of the people – who could this be?
At this time God says ‘I will pour out … the spirit of grace and supplication.’ One of the common themes of the end time events in the prophets is a return of the Jewish people to the land of Israel, a time of trouble and an outpouring of the Holy Spirit. See Joel 2.28-9, Isaiah 32.15, 44.3, Ezekiel 39.29, 36.26-7. In Zechariah the outpouring of the Holy Spirit points to one who has been pierced. This outpouring of the Holy Spirit will convict those who receive it of the sin of rejecting Jesus as Messiah, leading to repentance and faith and understanding of who Jesus is and the meaning of His first coming to die as a sacrifice for the sins of the world. It will also prepare them for His imminent second coming in power and glory as Zechariah goes on to describe.
The Holy Spirit will give wisdom and understanding as the people look to Jesus. The word for ‘look’ in Hebrew is ‘v’hibitu.’ This is not a passing look, but a look of trustful hope and contemplation. It is used of the people looking to the bronze serpent in Numbers 21.9 after they had been bitten by serpents: ‘So Moses made a bronze serpent, and put it on a pole; and so it was, if a serpent had bitten anyone, when he looked at the bronze serpent, he lived.’ Jesus uses this image of the serpent in the wilderness as a parallel with his coming crucifixion in John 3.14-17: ‘And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life. For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved.’
This leads to a mourning in repentance as they look to Me (elai). The one they look to is identified with Jehovah, the Lord. They mourn and confess their sin and are reconciled to Him. As a result of this a fountain will be opened: ‘In that day a fountain shall be opened for the house of David and for the inhabitants of Jerusalem, for sin and for uncleanness.’
In fact this fountain was opened centuries ago when Yeshua the Messiah became the final sacrifice for the sin of the world, ‘the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world’ shedding His blood for our sins at the time of the Passover. Since that time anyone who looks to the Lord in repentance and faith, believing in Jesus as Saviour can know sin forgiven and reconciliation with God. The blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanses us from all sin.
‘If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.’ 1 John 1.8-9.
At that time Israel will say the words of Isaiah 53, not just as a prophecy of the coming Messiah, but as a prayer of repentance and faith in the one who has already come to redeem us: ‘He is despised and rejected by men, a Man of sorrows and acquainted with grief. And we hid, as it were, our faces from Him; He was despised, and we did not esteem Him. Surely He has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed Him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted. But He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities; the chastisement for our peace was upon Him, and by His stripes we are healed. All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned, every one, to his own way; and the Lord has laid on Him the iniquity of us all.’
This will lead to the physical return of the Lord to the earth. Just before the crucifixion, Jesus lamented over the coming destruction of Jerusalem: ‘O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the one who kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to her! How often I wanted to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing! See! Your house is left to you desolate; for I say to you, you shall see Me no more till you say, ‘Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord!’ Matthew 23.37-39. The words ‘Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord’ in Hebrew are ‘Baruch ha ba be shem adonai’ the greeting for the coming Messiah. When Israel says these words to Jesus at the time when the Holy Spirit is poured out as we read here in Zechariah, Jesus will return in power and glory. He will then bring an end to the battle over Jerusalem, judge the world in righteousness and set up His millennial kingdom. In our next edition we will look at Chapters 13 and 14 of Zechariah to see what the prophet says will happen at this event.
More on this subject is available in our booklet ‘Messiah, Israel and the End of Days’, available on request or on our website www.messiahfactor.com
Chapter 13 opens with a fountain of cleansing being opened ‘for sin and for uncleanness.’ As a result the besetting sins of the land are purged – idolatry and false prophecy. God cuts off the ‘names of the idols’ and the ‘unclean spirit’ from the land. This follows Israel’s repentance and faith in the Messiah as described in Zechariah 12.10. The phrase ‘they shall look on me who they have pierced’ is quoted in John 19.37 of the death of Jesus, reminding us that it is through the shed blood of the Lord Jesus that we receive cleansing from sin: ‘The blood of Jesus the Messiah, His Son, cleanses us from all sin.’ 1 John 1.7.
Zechariah 12.10 also describes the Holy Spirit being poured out, as those who look to Yeshua and believe in Him are born of the Spirit (see John 3). Paul describes the ‘washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Spirit’ which God pours out on those who accept salvation through Jesus the Messiah (Titus 3.4-6). Ezekiel prophesies a spiritual renewal of restored Israel in the latter days, as we have already seen in our article ‘Can we use the Bible to justify the modern state of Israel?’
Zechariah 13.6 contains a verse which some have said is a prophecy of the Messiah Jesus as one who was ‘wounded in the house of his friends’: ‘And one will say to him, ‘What are these wounds between your arms?’ Then he will answer, ‘Those with which I was wounded in the house of my friends.’ However this verse really goes with the previous verses and describes the activities of the false prophets who the Lord cuts off from the land.
The next verse however certainly is a prophecy of Messiah: ‘Awake, O sword, against My Shepherd, against the Man who is My Companion,’ says the Lord of hosts. ’Strike the Shepherd, and the sheep will be scattered; then I will turn My hand against the little ones.’ Zechariah 13.7. Jesus in Matthew 26.31 quotes this verse about His coming arrest and crucifixion, at which time the disciples would be scattered: ‘But all this was done that the Scriptures of the prophets might be fulfilled. Then all the disciples forsook Him and fled.
This verse speaks of the death of Jesus. The speaker is the Lord of Hosts. He is smiting with the sword one who is described as My Shepherd and the Man who is my companion. The sword of divine justice falls this time not on guilty, but on one without sin. As Isaiah prophesied of Him, ‘Surely He has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed Him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted. But He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities; the chastisement for our peace was upon Him, and by His stripes we are healed. All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned, every one, to his own way; and the Lord has laid on Him the iniquity of us all.’ Isaiah 53.4-6. He pours out His life unto death in order that sinners might be saved from penalty of sin and receive eternal life.
He is described in Zechariah as the Shepherd of Israel. In Ezekiel 34.5-6 we read of the Lord rebuking the ‘shepherds of Israel’ (their spiritual leaders) who feed themselves but do not feed the flock. As a result the flock (Israel) was scattered: ‘So they were scattered because there was no shepherd; and they became food for all the beasts of the field when they were scattered.’ Because the Lord is displeased with the ‘shepherds of Israel’ He will seek for them Himself. ‘For thus says the Lord God: ‘Indeed I Myself will search for My sheep and seek them out. As a shepherd seeks out his flock on the day he is among his scattered sheep, so will I seek out My sheep and deliver them from all the places where they were scattered on a cloudy and dark day. And I will bring them out from the peoples and gather them from the countries, and will bring them to their own land; I will feed them on the mountains of Israel, in the valleys and in all the inhabited places of the country.’ Ezekiel 34.11-13.
Jesus described Himself as the ‘good shepherd’ who gives His life for the sheep in John 10.11-18: ‘I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd gives His life for the sheep. But a hireling, he who is not the shepherd, one who does not own the sheep, sees the wolf coming and leaves the sheep and flees; and the wolf catches the sheep and scatters them. The hireling flees because he is a hireling and does not care about the sheep. I am the good shepherd; and I know My sheep, and am known by My own. As the Father knows Me, even so I know the Father; and I lay down My life for the sheep. And other sheep I have which are not of this fold; them also I must bring, and they will hear My voice; and there will be one flock and one shepherd. ‘Therefore My Father loves Me, because I lay down My life that I may take it again. No one takes it from Me, but I lay it down of Myself. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it again. This command I have received from My Father.’
He came the first time as the shepherd of Israel to gather the people into the kingdom of God through His death and resurrection for the sins of the world. He will come the second time to regather Israel and bring them to know the Lord through faith in Himself.
In Zechariah 13.7 this one is also described by the speaker (who is the Lord of Hosts) as the man who is my companion. The Hebrew word used is ‘amiti’ which implies not only that this one is ‘My companion’ but also ‘My equal’. How can a man be equal to God? Only if He has come from God in the first place and is Himself God. There are a number of scriptures which do point to the Messiah being a divine person: ‘For unto us a Child is born, unto us a Son is given; and the government will be upon His shoulder. And His name will be called, Wonderful Counsellor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.’ Isaiah 9.6-7. See also Micah 5.2, Jeremiah 23.6.
Jesus affirmed His unique relation to the Father: ‘I and My Father are one.’ John 10.30. He has appeared as a man, but He has come from God and is equal to the Father. The mystery of God as a plural unity of Father, Son and the Holy Spirit, and the Son appearing in human flesh in order to redeem lost mankind gives us the only explanation of how this can be.
The verses following verses are some of the most sombre in the Bible. Following the sacrificial death of the Messiah the ‘sheep will be scattered.’ Matthew relates this to the disciples being scattered on the night Jesus was arrested, which did happen as prophesied. However this prophecy must go beyond that event to foretell the scattering of the Jewish people into the nations in the dispersion and their great suffering there. Verse 8 says: ‘And it shall come to pass in all the land,’ says the Lord, ’that two-thirds in it shall be cut off and die, but one–third shall be left in it.’
To what time does this prophecy relate? The destruction of Jerusalem by Romans in the year 70, when over 1 ½ million Jewish people were killed and thousands sent into slavery? The long years of dispersion, when the Jewish people suffered persecution and discrimination, often at the hands of nominal and apostate church? The climax of Jewish suffering in the terrible event of the Holocaust in which 6 million killed at the hands of the Nazi beast?
In one way it would be comforting to think that this prophecy relates solely to a time that is already past, but in the context we have to say that it does speak of a time still to come, the ‘time of Jacob’s trouble’ (Jeremiah 30.7). This period is also described by Jesus as the great tribulation: ’For then there will be great tribulation, such as has not been since the beginning of the world until this time, no, nor ever shall be. And unless those days were shortened, no flesh would be saved; but for the elect’s sake those days will be shortened.’ This will precede the second coming of the Messiah which is described in the following chapter.
Today we see many nations calling for the destruction of Israel and the Jewish people. Iran is calling in chilling terms for the destruction of Israel and Jewish people. Islamic hatred of Israel and of Jews is spreading throughout the Middle East as Muslims quote the terrible hadith, whose words are attributed to Mohammed: ‘The Jews will fight you and you will prevail over them until a rock will say, ‘O Muslim, here is a Jew behind me, (come and) kill him.’’’ There is a rising tide of anti-Semitism in Europe and America, much of it inspired by Islam and anti-Zionist left wing movements, as well as traditional fascists.
Forces being unleashed upon the world today which are leading to the Great Tribulation. Those who are coming against Israel will be motivated by the spirit of antichrist and ultimately come under his power. Therefore true believers in Jesus should stand against these forces and bless Israel and the Jewish people remembering God’s promise to Abraham, ‘I will make you a great nation; I will bless you and make your name great; and you shall be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and I will curse him who curses you; and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.’ Genesis 12.2-3.
At the same time these things coming on the world are a sign to Israel to seek the Lord. Zechariah speaks of a refining process taking place though this time of tribulation. ‘I will bring the one–third through the fire, will refine them as silver is refined, and test them as gold is tested. They will call on My name, and I will answer them. I will say, ‘This is My people’; and each one will say, ‘The Lord is my God.’’ Zechariah 13.9.
Those who call out to the Lord shall be heard. They will become ‘My people’ again. The prophet Hosea also speaks of this event when he describes how Israel will come through the ‘Valley of Achor’ (the place of trouble) where God will open ‘Petach Tikvah’ (the door of hope). He will bring mercy and restoration through the Messiah Yeshua: ‘I will betroth you to Me forever; Yes, I will betroth you to Me in righteousness and justice, in loving kindness and mercy; I will betroth you to Me in faithfulness, and you shall know the Lord. … Then I will sow her for Myself in the earth, and I will have mercy on her who had not obtained mercy; then I will say to those who were not My people, you are My people!’ And they shall say, ‘You are my God!’’ This will bring about the end of the physical and spiritual exile of Israel as the Messiah of Israel returns in power and glory to deliver His people from their enemies and set up His Messianic rule from Jerusalem. The following chapter describes how this will come to pass.
Zechariah 14, begins with the statement, ‘Behold the day of the Lord is coming.’ This describes the most dramatic and visible intervention of God in human affairs since the creation, the Day of the Lord in the Hebrew Bible, which is also the return of the Messiah Yeshua (Jesus Christ) in the New Testament.
At this time the Lord says, ‘I will gather all nations to battle against Jerusalem; the city will be taken … half of the city will go into captivity.’ (Zechariah 14.1-2). This event will follow the return of the Jewish people to the land of Israel (Isaiah 11, Jeremiah 31, Ezekiel 36), the ‘covenant with death’ (Isaiah 28) which Israel will make with the coming Antichrist (Daniel 9.27) and the invasion of Israel by a hostile power to the north (Ezekiel 38-9). It will occur at the end of the Great Tribulation period when the nations will gather for the final battle of this age, which will really be the ‘war to end all wars’ (Joel 3, Matthew 24, Revelation 16, 19). This is the ‘time of Jacob’s trouble’, which will be like none other that has been or will be again, but out of which Israel will be saved (Jeremiah 30.5-7).
Zechariah tells us how Israel will be saved: ‘Then the Lord will go forth and fight against those nations, as He fights in the day of battle. And in that day His feet will stand on the Mount of Olives, which faces Jerusalem on the east. And the Mount of Olives shall be split in two, from east to west, making a very large valley; half of the mountain shall move toward the north and half of it toward the south. Then you shall flee through My mountain valley, for the mountain valley shall reach to Azal. Yes, you shall flee as you fled from the earthquake in the days of Uzziah king of Judah. Thus the Lord my God will come, and all the saints with You. (or with Him).’
This event is clearly a totally supernatural event in which the Lord intervenes in person in order to save Israel at a time when the people are facing annihilation. The phrase ‘as He fights in the day of battle’, reminds us of another day when the Lord intervened ‘as a man of war’ (Exodus 15.3) to save His people from destruction at the crossing of the Red Sea (Exodus 14).
As in the day of the Exodus this event will be accompanied by unique supernatural events. Zechariah describes the Mount of Olives splitting in two to provide a way of escape (verse 5), light continuing through the night ‘at evening it shall happen that it will be light’ (verse 6-7) and ‘living waters’ flowing out from Jerusalem to the ‘eastern sea’ (Dead Sea) and the western sea (Mediterranean Sea) (verse 8). Following this we read that the Lord will be king over all the earth, in that day it shall be – ‘The Lord is one and His name one.’ (verse 9)
Who is the coming one?
According to Judaism he is the Messiah coming to set up his kingdom. This is one reason why there is a large Jewish graveyard on the Mount of Olives, the place mentioned by Zechariah as the focal point of these events taking place. Jewish people have traditionally sought to be buried here because ‘His feet will stand on the Mount of Olives’, i.e. the Messiah will stand here at the end of days. He will then blow the trumpet for the resurrection of the dead and those closest to the place where he stands will be the first to be resurrected.
This however creates a problem for Judaism. In the text Zechariah states over and over that the one coming is ‘the Lord’ using the name YHVH in Hebrew (Jehovah or Yahweh), which can only be used of God. In verse 3 it is the Lord who goes forth to fight. In verse 4 ‘His feet (i.e. the Lord’s feet) will stand on the Mount of Olives.’ If He has feet presumably He has the rest of a body as well! Verse 5 states that ‘the Lord my God will come’, combining both words used in the Hebrew Bible for God, Yahweh and Elohim. Verse 9 says that the Lord will be king over all the earth. All of this implies the physical coming of the Lord to the earth to appear in a body in which He stands on the Mount of Olives and to reign over the earth in the Messianic Kingdom.
However the Orthodox Jewish view is that he Lord cannot appear in a human body and the Messiah is not a divine person, but a great man, who will bring peace to the world, cause the Temple to be rebuilt and all the Jews to be regathered to Israel. Rabbi Kaplan in his book ‘The Real Messiah’ describes the coming Messiah as a ‘mortal human being born normally of human parents’ who will change the course of history. He says this Messiah will be a ‘charismatic leader’ who will sort out the problems of the present world by using the ‘vast communication networks now at our disposal’ to ‘spread his message to the entire world and change the very fabric of society.’
The scenario prophesied in Zechariah 14 is not of a great man coming to sort out the world, but of the Lord God coming in person with supernatural power to bring a total change to the government of the world and to the physical conditions on earth, something which other passages in the Hebrew prophets also imply (Isaiah 2.1-4, Isaiah 11-12, Jeremiah 23.5-6, Ezekiel 48.5, Zephaniah 3.14-17).
This lines up with New Testament passages concerning the Second Coming of the Lord Jesus Christ as ‘King of kings and Lord of lords.’ He is not a ‘mortal human being born normally of human parents’ but God the Son, who has existed from eternity together with the Father and the Holy Spirit as God. He was made flesh at His first coming through the virgin birth by which He was able to come into the world as Son of Man and Son of God at the same time (see John 1.1-14).
When He comes again, He will not come to be ‘despised and rejected of men’, as He did at His first coming, when He fulfilled the prophecy of the Suffering Servant of Isaiah 53. At His second coming, He will come as the conquering and reigning King with all the power of God at His disposal to put an end to war and the sinful rule of this present world darkness. He will judge the world in righteousness and rule over the nations in the Millennial Reign of the Messiah, which Zechariah goes on to describe.
Why the Mount of Olives?
It is significant that Zechariah locates the place where the Lord will place His feet at the end of this age as the Mount of Olives, just to the east of Jerusalem. This is the place where Jesus gave His answer to the disciples’ question about His second coming (Matthew 24). It was also the scene of His ascension into heaven, forty days after His resurrection: ‘Now when He had spoken these things, while they watched, He was taken up, and a cloud received Him out of their sight. And while they looked steadfastly toward heaven as He went up, behold, two men stood by them in white apparel, who also said, ‘Men of Galilee, why do you stand gazing up into heaven? This same Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will so come in like manner as you saw Him go into heaven.’ Then they returned to Jerusalem from the mount called Olivet (the Mount of Olives), which is near Jerusalem, a Sabbath day’s journey.’ Acts 1.9-12.
He ascended in a cloud, the Shekinah glory cloud, which appeared at times in the Bible to show the presence of God (Exodus 40.34-38, 1 Kings 8.10-13). The angel said He will return ‘in like manner’ which ties in with Jesus’ words about coming on the clouds of heaven in Matthew 24. This corresponds to the prophecy of Daniel 7.13-14 where the ‘Son of Man’ comes ‘with the clouds of heaven’ and takes up His dominion over the peoples of the earth.
Zechariah tells us that He will stand on the Mount of Olives, the place from which Jesus departed into heaven and the place to which He will return. He will then reign on earth as Zechariah 14.9 promises: ‘And the Lord shall be King over all the earth. In that day it shall be, ’The Lord is one’ And His name one.’ The book of Revelation chapter 20 confirms that the Lord will reign on earth for 1000 years, the Millennium of Bible prophecy, during which time Satan will be bound and unable to deceive the nations ‘till the thousand years were finished. But after these things he must be released for a little while.’ (verses 1-3). The saints (saved believers in Messiah) will reign with Him during this time. (verses 4-6).
The armies coming against the Lord will be totally defeated: ‘And this shall be the plague with which the Lord will strike all the people who fought against Jerusalem: ‘Their flesh shall dissolve while they stand on their feet, their eyes shall dissolve in their sockets, and their tongues shall dissolve in their mouths’. (Zechariah 14.12-15). In the same way Revelation 19.19-21 describes the Lord coming in power and glory and destroying these armies, throwing the beast (antichrist) and the false prophet straight into hell: ‘These two were cast alive into the lake of fire burning with brimstone. And the rest were killed with the sword which proceeded from the mouth of Him who sat on the horse. And all the birds were filled with their flesh.’
Clearly this is not something that is accomplished by the influence of the Messiah changing the ways of the nations as Rabbi Kaplan says will happen, but by the judgment which He brings upon them using His divine power and authority.
One interesting detail in Zechariah’s prophecy is verse 5 which speaks of the Lord coming ‘and all the saints with you (or with Him)’. Who are these saints or holy ones? Revelation 19.11-16 also speaks of the Lord coming with the ‘armies in heaven clothed in fine linen white and clean’ (verse 14) who are identified as the saints in verse 8. Jude 14-15 speaks of the Lord coming with ‘ten thousands of his saints’. In the New Testament the word ‘saint’ does not mean a special person set apart as particularly holy, but applies to all who are saved believers in the Lord Jesus Christ.
In 1 Thessalonians 4.13-5.11 Paul writes of the event known as the rapture of the church when the dead in Christ will rise and ‘we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And thus we shall always be with the Lord.’ According to the pre-tribulation view of prophecy, this event will take place before the seven year period known as the Great Tribulation. Those who are taken to be with the Lord at the rapture of the church will return with Him in glorified bodies at His return to the earth in the event described by Zechariah. Those who become Christians during the tribulation (i.e. after the rapture) and are killed during that period will be resurrected and will reign with the Messiah during the Millennium according to Revelation 20.4-6.
Life in the Messianic Kingdom.
The kingdoms of this world will then become the kingdom of our God and of His Messiah (Revelation 11.15). Zechariah gives some details about the changes this makes to the earth. The hill country around Jerusalem will become as Arabah (the Jordan Valley) and Jerusalem will be lifted up and exalted and become a place to be inhabited in safely (verses 10-11). This lines up with other prophetic passages including Isaiah 2.1-4 which describes Jerusalem being lifted up physically and spiritually, being the place where the Lord will dwell and rule the earth from.
There the glorious Millennial Temple will be built (Ezekiel 40-48), the place where the Lord will dwell. Waters will flow from Jerusalem to Dead Sea (the eastern sea) and the Mediterranean (the western sea). This will be a supernatural stream to water the earth in the millennial period and cause incredible fertility promised during this period, cleansing the earth from the pollutions caused by human sin in the last days of this age. (see Isaiah 35.1-7, Ezekiel 47.1-12, Joel 3.18.
The Lord will be King over all the earth as the kingdom is restored to Israel and the times of the Gentiles come to an end (Daniel 2.44, Acts 1.6, Luke 21.24). In that day there will be one world faith with no more competing religions bringing confusion and bloodshed to the earth. Isaiah tells us that at this time all the idols will be abolished (Isaiah 2.18) as the Lord alone is exalted in that day (Isaiah 2.11). Jerusalem, the Vatican, Mecca, Varanasi and all the religious centres of the present world system will be converted to the worship of the true God through the Messiah Jesus and come under His rule as He brings peace and justice to this world. Make sure you have a place in the coming world rule of the Messiah by accepting Jesus as your Saviour today.