Summary: The future is assured for Chrsitians because JEsus will return to rule over all the nations
For those Anglicans among us who have been wondering when we’ll get around to mentioning that we’re currently in the season of Advent, today’s the day. Because today we come to the end of Zechariah, to Zechariah’s description of the last day, the day of the Lord’s return. Here we find a picture of the final events of this world, and, more importantly, a description of the world to come.
Now I think most people are interested in what heaven is like. Even those without any particular faith in God, are curious about what we might find there. Will Grandma be there, or Uncle Bob or Aunt Sally? At our Animal Thanksgiving Service this year, the question was raised, whether there’ll be animals in heaven? More particularly, whether our pets go to heaven when they die. For some people that’s a very important question isn’t it? In fact there are some who would say that heaven wouldn’t be much of a place to be if they couldn’t have their pets there; or Bach, or Mozart, or Pink Floyd, or chocolate, or whatever their favourite thing happens to be. But, what if they’re not? What if you discovered that there were no pets in heaven? That Bach or Pink Floyd, were never played there? How would you feel about it? Would it feel less like heaven, do you think? Of course, that begs the question, what is heaven all about? What is the most important thing about heaven? In fact, what’s the most important thing in the world?
Zech 14 gives us a vision of the future. It’s only an outline view, but it’s clear enough to give us a picture of what heaven will be like. You see, Zechariah is in no doubt about what the future holds. He doesn’t mention animals, or chocolate, or Bach. What he talks about is God. Zechariah 14 is about Jerusalem (vs 1-15) and the Temple (vs 16-19). Remember, Jerusalem stands for the rule of God among his covenant people, his rule upon the earth. It stands for the public honour of God. It stands for God’s purposes, his plan, his gospel plan. Jerusalem in this context reminds us that God will achieve his purposes in the world. So for Zechariah it’s vital that Jerusalem stands at the end.
Similarly, it’s important that the Temple stands because it represents the public knowledge of God and the worship of God. In other words, Jerusalem and the Temple standing at the end shows that God will rule visibly & publicly and will be known publicly. And in the end all the nations will come to worship him as God. In fact the key to the whole chapter is v9: "And the LORD will become king over all the earth; on that day the LORD will be one and his name one."
The first 15 verses are arranged in a 5-part pattern like this:
Vs 1-5 deals with the nations
Vs 6-8 deals with the effects on nature,
Vs 9 All the world will worship God (the focus)
Vs 10-11 nature
Vs 12-15 the nations
So how do you respond to that vision of the future?
Does it excite you that the Lord will rule over all the earth? Are you relieved to know that the knowledge of God and the worship of God will spread to all people on earth?
Do you understand that if God is to preserve his public honour and his rule and his people then there’ll be tremendous opposition to God?
You see the world doesn’t mind if we privately honour God as Lord but it does when this becomes public. Have you noticed the reaction we get when we say that truth about God is public truth? Not just truth for you or me, but universal truth? When we announce to the world that there is one Lord, one King, the Lord Jesus Christ, one way to God, through faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. That’s when the knives come out. That’s when we’re accused of intolerance, or arrogance.
Well, there’s nothing new under the sun. This is exactly what Zechariah foresees with the coming of the day of the Lord. On that day, he says, God will gather all the opposition in one place, to Jerusalem, to fight against it. God will focus the opposition against himself and his people. When that happens, the fight against God’s people and God’s plan will be horrific. It’ll be just like the sacking of Jerusalem by the Babylonians. Not that we should read this description literally. This is apocalyptic language, that uses common events to describe what is beyond our imagining. But the point is that the opposition will be strong and merciless.
A couple of questions arise at this point don’t they? First of all, why does God allow this to happen? Look at v2. It’s God who will gather the nations to fight against Jerusalem. So why does he allow it? Well, there are probably a couple of answers to that question. The first is in John 11. In fact it’s the answer to the question, why did Jesus let his good friend Lazarus die when he could have prevented it? On that occasion Jesus said "This illness does not lead to death; rather it is for God’s glory, so that the Son of God may be glorified through it. (John 11:4 NRSV) So one reason that God allows this final culmination to happen like this is so his name will be glorified as those who are opposed to him finally realise the futility of their opposition. But the other answer is found in 2 Peter 3 where Peter addresses the question of why Jesus is apparently delayed in returning. There Peter replies: "The Lord is not slow about his promise, as some think of slowness, but is patient with you, not wanting any to perish, but all to come to repentance." (2 Pet 3:9 NRSV) So the other reason that opposition continues to build until this final crisis takes place is that God, in his mercy, delays to give more people the opportunity to repent and be saved.