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The Times of the Coming King1
The last three chapters of the book of Zechariah document circumstances surrounding the advent of the coming Ruler, the Messiah. The oracle opens with a battle against Jerusalem (Zech. 12:1-9). The text indicates that Jerusalem and its rulers will be used as a means of judgment against the surrounding nations (Zech. 12:9). Not that Jerusalem gets off scott free. But this scene emphasizes the Lord’s role in defending His people. The next scene (Zech. 12:10-14) shows God eliciting repentance in the several families of Israel through two corresponding events; the pouring out the Holy Spirit, “the Spirit of grace and supplication,” and the people catching sight of One “whom they have pierced” (Zech. 12:10).2
It is worth noting that the advent itself, as stunning as it will be, will not be enough to turn the hearts of the Jewish people to this personage, their long-promised Messiah. The deep mourning that will result from the realization that Israel has “thrust through” (daqar) when He first came to them, will be wrought by the Holy Spirit. In the final analysis, such is the corruption of human nature that it takes the special conviction of God the Spirit to open eyes and hearts so that sinners both see and feel the truth.
The familiar phrase “in that day” in Zechariah 13:1 (and repeated 15 times in this last oracle), looks forward to a time of abundant cleansing for sin which God will provide after the lamentations are over. This will be a new start for Israel – a new future with their covenant God. Idolatry and false prophecy will depart, and anyone who therefore pretends to be a prophet will be automatically deemed a blasphemer; so much so that even his parents will execute the presumptuous son (Zech. 13:2-4). If this occurs after the coming time of repentance and after the re-appearance of Messiah, as seems likely, then the level of sacrilege being committed, and the radical response of the parents to such high-handed presumption are understandable. With the Branch resident as King of the world and His long-expected kingdom reign in full swing, when “the earth will be full of the knowledge of the Lord as the waters cover the sea” (Isa. 11:9; Jer. 31:34), any person who claims the prophetic mantle will do so only to deceive (Zech. 13:4).3 The deception continues with the false prophet lying about his vocation (“I am a tiller of the ground”), and about wounds which were probably self-inflicted (Zech. 13:5-6. Cf. 1 Kings 18:28). Like most premillennialists, I do not take verse 6 as a messianic reference.4 It better fits an unrighteous person chafing under righteous government. The conditions are Edenic (cf. Isa. 51:3; Ezek. 36:35), but the hearts of some men—some born in the kingdom era—will still be hellish.5
What this passage shows is that although the kingdom of Messiah is present on earth, and Israel has been reconciled to Him, there will be some with rebellious hearts; children of those who entered the kingdom, who will persist in their rejection of the revelatory atmosphere they have been brought up in. Hence the kingdom at this stage is not perfect. This is what we saw previously (e.g. Isa. 11:3-5; 32:1; Psa. 89:14-15), and will see again (e.g. Zech. 14:16-19).
However, the passage moves on to speak of the associate of Yahweh (Zech. 13:7), who is God’s shepherd, but who will be struck. The “sword” here is metaphorical (Psa. 22:20). It signifies a violent end, which is a foretelling of Messiah’s rejection. Then Yahweh moves against Israel (Zech. 13:7c-8a), and two-thirds of the population die. Once more in biblical prophecy the prediction is divided between the two comings of Messiah and the surrounding events. The striking of God’s appointed shepherd relates to the first coming, while the destruction of two-thirds of the populace concerns circumstances just prior to the second coming and is probably closely connected to the persecution of Jews by the “little horn” (Dan. 7:20-21), which is ended by the coming of Messiah (Dan. 7:22). The “refining” (Zech. 13:9) of the final third of the Jews (the Remnant of so many passages)6 is to turn them to their covenant God. The words which close out the chapter (“I will say, ‘This is My people’: and each one will say, ‘Yahweh is my God’”) are an affirmation from both parties of God’s covenant loyalty.7
The oracle continues in chapter 14 with a prediction specific to Jerusalem. While only one third of Jews in Israel will be spared, the percentage of the “Remnant” in the capital who will escape will be a half (Zech. 14:1-2). Only after this catastrophe will the Lord intercede and fight for Jerusalem (Zech. 14:3). This will be the promised One, the Lord Himself (Zech. 14:4a). We know this to be messianic in nature, and that Messiah is Yahweh (just as in Zech. 9:9 and 11:12-13), but this was unclear before the ministry of Jesus.
Opponents of the literal interpretation of Ezekiel 40-48 often cite the impossibility of fitting such an expansive structure in present-day Jerusalem, and they are right. But the great earthquake produced by the contact of the divine Messiah’s feet on Mount Olivet (Zech. 14:4), will create startling changes in earth’s topography (see esp. Isa. 24:14-23). It is “the Lord (Yahweh)” who “will come” (Zech. 14:5c). Again, transforming powers of the King will restore nature (Zech. 14:8). The Lord’s return will almost vaporize His and Jerusalem’s enemies (Zech. 14:12-13). Just as with the exodus from Egypt (Exod. 3:22), Israel will plunder the surrounding nations (Zech. 14:14).
The last prophecy of Zechariah concerns the nations who came up against Israel in the final conflict before Messiah’s coming (Zech. 14:16-21). The King is in Jerusalem, and He is to be worshipped (Zech. 14:16-17; Isa. 66:23); an unthinkable thing unless the King is God (cf. Isa. 12:6). So as in Zechariah 11:12-13, the prophet clearly indicates that the long-looked-for coming King is God Himself. Is this the king of Zechariah 9:9 who rides into the city on a donkey? Is this the one who is pierced in Zechariah 12:10? Zechariah has perhaps the most exalted view of the coming One among the Prophets.
The command on the nations to observe the Feast of Tabernacles indicates that there will be a yearly reminder of where the harvests come from (cf. Mic. 4:2; Isa. 56:6-7). There need not be any more significance to the Feast than this.8 It symbolizes that there is to be no more secularism in the kingdom.9 Rain will be withheld from any nation which refuses the King’s command. Contrary to many commentators, the rains ought to be taken at face value.10 It is quite clear that a temple is standing in the coming kingdom (Zech. 14:20-21a).11
1 For an overview of the OT teaching on the Second Coming I know of no better article than that of Lamar E. Cooper, Sr., “The Second Coming of the Messiah in the Old Testament”, in The Return of Christ: A Premillennial Perspective (Nashville: B & H, 2011), edited by David L. Allen & Steve W. Lemke, 160-205.
2 Hosea may allude to this in Hosea 5:15: “I will return again to My place till they acknowledge their offense. Then they will seek My face; in their affliction they will earnestly seek Me.”
3 This agrees with the fifth accomplishment of the seventieth week in Daniel 9:24, “to seal up vision and prophecy.” (Cf. Mic. 5:12-15).
4 See Baron, 467-469; Barker, 685-686; Also David K. Lowery, “Zechariah”, BKCOT, 1568.
5 Contra Cooper who imputes the source of the evil to Satan not to men’s hearts (“Second Coming”, 181). But if Revelation 20 and Satan’s incarceration coincides with Zechariah 13 this could not be true.
6 These are also “the elect” of Matthew 24:24.
7 “do not love the false oath, for… that I hate” (Zech. 8:17b).
8 According to Deuteronomy 31:10-13, the people of Israel would recommit themselves to their covenant with Yahweh at the end of every seven years. It is therefore, conceivable that some sort of recommitment to the New covenant law will be required every year in the coming Kingdom. But this is speculation on my part.
9 Some Christian thinkers like Harry Blamires, The Secularist Heresy, T.S. Eliot, Notes Toward the Definition of Culture, and John Milbank, Theology and Social Theory, have rightly shown that secularism is a kind of religious heresy. Milbank especially asserts that reality can only be understood theologically. To secularize society is to turn one’s back on all that anchors our society.
10 See Klein, 426.
11 As for the mention of the Canaanite’s omission from the temple in Zech. 14:21b, see Klein, 428-429.
Paul Martin Henebury is a native of Manchester, England and a graduate of London Theological Seminary and Tyndale Theological Seminary (MDiv, PhD). He has been a Church-planter, pastor and a professor of Systematic Theology and Apologetics. He was also editor of the Conservative Theological Journal (suggesting its new name, Journal of Dispensational Theology, prior to leaving that post). He is now the President of Telos School of Theology.