For some reason, my wife and I like disaster movies. This is not to be confused with movies which are a disaster. Or maybe it’s just me,and she puts up with it. She does that, – a lot. If there’s a DVD with background information on how it’s done, so much the better. I’m fascinated by the “hows” of the disaster scenes. My comment to my wife is often, “I wonder how they did that.” One of my favorites along that line is “Dante’s Peak.” Even knowing how they do the dam rupturing or the highway collapsing and seeing how they “shoot it,” especially since there’s no such highway near the town where they shot the movie, it’s amazing to me that, knowing all that, you cannot tell it in the movie. It looks real. Another thing that amazes me is the amount of work it must take to build the stuff they destroy in the movie, especially if they have to shoot the scene several times. Along this line, think “Lord of the Rings” or “Matrix”. I know a lot of it’s computer graphics, but a lot of it isn’t.
What brings up this post was a movie we watched recently about “Armageddon.” It was a Christian film purporting to show what is going to happen at “the end of days.” One of the actors used that expression in explaining what was going on. I didn’t think the movie was very realistic, either as to photography or plot.
There is a lot of discussion among Christians, sometimes rather heated, about what is going to happen in the future. This includes a lot of discussion about the Scriptures which talk about the future. Some says it’s all just symbolic, that we shouldn’t look for anything “real” to happen. I don’t agree. Now, I don’t think we have the ability to imagine what is going to happen when this wicked world finally runs into the end of God’s patience, and He begins to give us the “tangible evidence” of His existence that rationalists and unbelievers are always asking for. We certainly can’t picture it on film. Our Lord Himself told us that unless those days were shortened, humanity would be destroyed (Matthew 24:22).
There is an Old Testament chapter which gives a clear and graphic description, without “symbolism,” of what’s going to happen at “the end of days.” That chapter is Zechariah 14. I’ll ask you to read it before continuing in this post. Thanks. All references, unless otherwise identified, are from the NKJV.
There are two main sections to the chapter.
1. The destruction of Jerusalem and the return of the LORD, vs. 1-15
2. The description of the post-return world, vs. 16-20.
The destruction of Jerusalem and the return of the Lord, vs. 1-15.
1. The destruction of Jerusalem, vs. 1-2.
Jerusalem has probably been fought over more than any other city in history. Over and over again she has been surrounded by her foes. Many of them have been temporarily successful in defeating her. Zechariah prophesies a time when it will seem that, finally, Jerusalem has met her end.
The movie mentioned above showed Jerusalem with plumes of smoke rising here and there from the city. I think the scene will be more like pictures I remember from WWII showing the bombed-out cities of Germany after her defeat. There was nothing left. What little that might be left in Jerusalem will be looted, terrible atrocities will be committed against the women, and those citizens who are left will be carted off “into captivity.”
Zechariah mentions that “half the city will go into captivity.” I’m not sure exactly what this means. There are those in our time who want to divide Jerusalem into two. Perhaps this will have happened, and the “half” of the city that’s destroyed is the “Jewish” section. In any event, it will be a terrible and terrifying time, and Israel will seem to be “down for the count,” much to the joy of her enemies. “Peace and safety” (cf. 1 Thessalonians 5:3) will be said finally to have arrived in the Middle East. The cause of all the troubles has been defeated.
However, like in the old western movies where the cavalry comes swooping in at the last minute, trumpets blaring, to rescue whoever is in trouble, something will happen. This brings us to
2. The return of the Lord, v. 3.
Many Christians have this idea of “gentle Jesus, meek and mild,” or of “sweet Jesus.” This isn’t the description given by Zechariah. While it’s true that we receive grace and truth in abundance from our Lord, John 1:14, 16, it is also true that today is the day of salvation, 2 Corinthians 6:2. The time of which Zechariah prophesies are part of what is called the great day of His wrath, Revelation 6:17; Psalm 110:5, 6. Jesus is going to return in flaming fire taking vengeance on those who do not know God, and on those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ, 2 Thessalonians 1:8. [For a little more on this, look at our post on “Sticks”.]
In passing, it is the LORD Who is said “go forth” and Whose “feet will stand on the Mount of Olives” [Olivet]. Yet, in the New Testament, it is Jesus Whose feet will stand on that mountain, Luke 24:50, 51; Acts 1:9-11. Bethany, Luke 24:50, is on the side of Mt. Olivet away from Jerusalem. This is just one of many seemingly coincidental proofs of the deity of the Lord Jesus.
3. Environmental and social changes, vs.4-10.
We can’t even begin to picture the devastation when our Lord comes back to claim what is His.
a. The Mount of Olives will split in two, making a very large valley, v. 4.
The geologic fault lying under the Jordan River goes all the way into the middle of Africa, about three thousand miles. If that is involved in this, it will be “a very large valley indeed”! However, Zechariah does place a limit to it, “Azal,” mentioned only here. So, we’re not sure of the length of this “valley.” Regardless, this won’t be some little tremor that rattles a few dishes and then is over. Isaiah 2:19,21 speaks of a time when the LORD arises to shake the earth mightily. This in the context of what happens in Revelation 6:15-17.
To go along with this, v. 10 says, All the land shall be turned into a plain from Geba to Rimmon south of Jerusalem. This is a distance of about 35 miles (if this is “En-Rimmon” on the map I consulted). It seems to me that this would make room for the things spoken of in Ezekiel 40-48. One of the many complaints against that portion of Scripture is that there isn’t enough room. Who knows what other geologic changes in the land might accompany vs. 4 and 10?
b. There will be one day neither day nor night, vs. 6, 7.
I can’t even begin to explain this. We are so used to day and night, sunrise and sunset – the orderly progression of time. This will be something outside our experience, but known to the LORD. That’s enough for me.
c. Living waters shall flow from Jerusalem, v.8.
Zechariah just mentions it, but Ezekiel 47:1-12 give an extensive description of what will happen with these “living waters”
One thing: there will still be “seasons:” summer and winter. Isaiah 4:6 tells us that there will still be “weather:” storm and rain.
d. The LORD shall be King over all the earth, v 9.
“The Kingdom” is a debated subject. Some tell us that it’s only God’s spiritual rule in the hearts of His people. But “heart religion” is something required throughout the Bible, not just in the New Testament. A large segment of Christendom rejects any idea of a “carnal, political, earthly” reign of the Lord Jesus. I’ve never been able to understand this. What difference would it make “where” the Lord Jesus sits on David’s throne? Would He somehow be less “holy…and undefiled” in Jerusalem than He is in Heaven? This idea seems to me to be a great slander against Him.
This verse is another “coincidental” proof of the deity of Jesus. Zechariah wrote that Jehovah will be King over all the earth. Revelation 19 and 20 refer all this to the Lord Jesus.
Many confidently assert that the Lord Jesus is reigning over all the earth, right now. He is, right now, “King of kings and Lord of lords.” But where is there, today, at this very moment, as you read this, a single nation which submits to Him as such and seeks to live by His laws? That can’t even be said of many churches and Christians, churches which deny His Word and have substituted their own agendas for His. Christians who view Him only as some sort of heavenly Concierge, existing only to fulfill every desire of their “faith”.
The title “King of kings and Lord of lords” is always used in connection with Jesus’ return to this earth, not His absence from it.
When the Lord comes back, there will be no doubt, no argument. It is often taught that when the Lord Jesus comes back, He will sit in the Judgment and then usher in the new heavens and new earth. No “millennial” reign is to be expected. The “1000 years” of Revelation 20 can’t possibly mean an actual length of time, but is only symbolic of the gospel age in which we now live. However, Revelation 19:15 says that He will strike the nations,…and…rule them with a rod of iron. The word translated “rule” means “to shepherd.” It’s the same word used by the Lord in John 10 as He spoke of the Shepherd and His sheep. Zechariah gives us some examples of this later in the chapter.
e. Jerusalem will be safely inhabited, v. 10-11.
There’ll no longer be any disputes over who “owns” Jerusalem. No more rockets fired into her from hostile territory. No more terror and death.
f. Israel’s enemies will be judged, vs. 12-15.
Zechariah gives a graphic description of the plague with which the LORD will strike all the people who fought against Jerusalem. Some try to identity this with the result of a nuclear explosion. Perhaps. I don’t know. The “means” of its happening is unimportant. The fact that it will happen is what is important. Not forever will humanity thumb its nose at God. Vs. 13 and 14 indicate something of the battles that will surround Jerusalem in the end. There is nothing in earth’s history to parallel what will happen then. Ezekiel 39 tells us that it will take 7 months or more to bury all the bodies and 7 years to clean up the mess left behind. It will be no minor thing!
The description of the post-return world, v. 16-21.
There’s only one thing emphasized in this section, and that is the worship that will take place after the Lord returns. A lot of people have great difficulty with the idea of the continuation of some of what seem to be the Old Testament rituals in a time plainly after the end of the gospel age. Ezekiel 40-48, with its detailed and exact description of a Temple and sacrifices – the grain offering, the sin offering and the trespass offering, 42:13, cf. 45:17, is another such portion. These Scriptures seems incompatible with the NT teaching of the finished work of redemption wrought by Christ on the Cross.
I’ll admit that I don’t understand all that might be involved in this. Some have suggested that these sacrifices will simply be memorial in nature, like the Lord’s Supper. Perhaps. I don’t know. Perhaps an analogy may be drawn between the Old and New Testaments. There are things in the Old Testament which were made clear only in the New Testament. Perhaps the things which so puzzle us here and now will be made clear during the time of which Zechariah wrote.
Pay close attention to God’s instruction to Ezekiel about what he was to write. In Ezekiel 40:4, Ezekiel was told, “Son of man, look with your eyes, and fix your mind on everything I show you; for you were brought here so that I might show them to you.” Then in 44:3, And the LORD said to me, “Son of man, mark well, see with your eyes and hear with your ears all that I say to you concerning all the ordinances of the house of the LORD and all its laws.” In other words, I don’t think a casual dismissal of these things because we can’t understand them, or because we might think they’ve all been “fulfilled in Jesus,” as one school of thought teaches, is appropriate. Without any desire to be flippant or irreverent, these things are God’s problem, if I may put it that way, since He inspired both Ezekiel and Zechariah to write them down, and then He preserved them so that they have come down to us and we can read them. It’s up to Him as to their fulfillment.
Returning to Zechariah, some have taught that the section from vs. 16-20 “picture the universal blessing that God will bestow in the final state” (Reformation Study Bible, note on Zechariah 14:16-20, p. 1341). If this is true, then what do the ideas of refusal to worship and the punishment of such refusal mean? – in a perfect, sinless eternity? And if the “kingdom” is simply “Christ’s rule in the hearts of His people,” then what does He “rule them with a rod of iron,” Revelation 19:15, mean? Who are the “them”?
Does all this really matter? We’re told that “prophecy” isn’t really about “the fundamentals of the faith,” that a belief about prophecy isn’t necessary for a person to be saved. And that’s true. Believers in all different views of prophecy will be in heaven, and believers of all views of prophecy will be in hell. So…
why all the fuss? Simply this. It is the Word of God. The prophetic portions of Scripture involve a large percentage of its content. It was inspired by the Holy Spirit. It is important.
Now, I don’t agree with those who spend all their time there. There are some who, every time someone important sneezes in the Middle East, they rush to the Scripture to see what’s being fulfilled. Ministries are built on this. Neither do I agree with the “popularization” of it in movies and books which can’t possibly portray what will happen.
But we should know something about what the Bible says about the future because that where we’re all headed. Cf. 2 Peter 3:11.
As I read over this post, I see places where much more could be said. For anyone who might be interested in a thorough and excellent treatment of the subject, I highly recommend Alva J. McClain’s “The Greatness of the Kingdom.” I’ve made no attempt to make an “exact” chronology of prophecy. I’m not sure that’s entirely possibly. People get into trouble when they try to fit all the details of Scripture into where they think they should go. I expect when all is said and done that all the “schools of prophetic thought” will discover they were wrong in some areas. This leads me to the final thought of Zechariah 14.
In that day there shall no longer be a Canaanite in the house of the LORD.
This seems to be a strange ending to the thoughts of worship and holiness that precede it. Well, who were the Canaanites? They were the original inhabitants of the land of promise, who, because of their sin and depravity, were to be destroyed in judgment. Some escaped this judgment through deceit, – the Gibeonites, Joshua 9, and others simply because Israel was disobedient. The point is that there will be people who won’t be included in the blessings Zechariah wrote about.
Our Lord agreed. In Matthew 7:21-23, He said, Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven. Many will say to Me in that day, ‘Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in your name, and done many wonders in Your name? And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!’ This should be a sobering thought. Some who have been active in “serving the Lord” will be excluded from eternal blessing. But why? Read the statement over again. It’s all about “them:” “what WE have done.” Nothing about what the Lord has done.
Oh, listen. There are many who will be astonished beyond words at their being rejected by the Lord. Jesus mentioned “the will of My Father in heaven.” What is that “will”? Listen to our Lord in John 6:40, “…this is the will of Him who sent Me, that everyone who sees the Son and believes in Him may have everlasting life….” Don’t mistake that “may” as being uncertain. It speaks of purpose. And don’t believe that one actually has to “see” the Son, as in some vision. We see Him by faith. Him, and Him alone, as the Savior of our souls. It isn’t Christ and the Church, Christ and baptism, …and the Sabbath, …and good works, … and keeping the Law, and…. The list goes on and on. Some of these may have their place, AFTER the Lord alone has saved us, but never in order to get Him to save us.
Oh, that none who read these words may be among that group on that sad day.