In a sense, this morning marks the end of a journey that we began last July in the book of Joel and which has made its way through Amos, Isaiah, Obadiah, Habakkuk, Zephaniah, Daniel, Ezekiel and now Zechariah. Next week, we’ll pause for a moment to reflect upon what we’ve learned on that journey and then on May 2, we’ll begin the next leg of our journey as we begin to examine the Book of Revelation.
Go ahead and turn in your Bibles to Zechariah 14. As we’ll see even more clearly this morning, even though we have looked at each chapter separately, Zechariah chapters 12-14 form one complete prophecy that describes the events of the Day of the Lord which correspond to the return of Jesus the Messiah. And as we have seen with many of the other prophets, this prophecy is not recorded in a strictly chronological manner. So much of what we read about here in chapter 14 actually gives us another view of some of the same events that were described back in chapters 12 and 13.
But before we look at this final chapter of Zechariah, I want to remind all of us that this prophecy, like prophecy in general, is not about drawing up some cool charts that allow us to somehow figure out exactly how and when all these events will take place. God didn’t give this prophecy merely so we could speculate about the end times. He wants us to apply these passages to our lives right here and now. So as always, as we look at this passage, we want to focus on application, and not just information.
Chapter 14 can easily be broken down into two distinct sections, so we’ll look at them one at a time this morning.
JESUS RETURNS TO DEFEAT HIS ENEMIES (vv. 1-15)
1 Behold, a day is coming for the Lord, when the spoil taken from you will be divided in your midst. 2 For I will gather all the nations against Jerusalem to battle, and the city shall be taken and the houses plundered and the women raped. Half of the city shall go out into exile, but the rest of the people shall not be cut off from the city. 3 Then the Lord will go out and fight against those nations as when he fights on a day of battle. 4 On that day his feet shall stand on the Mount of Olives that lies before Jerusalem on the east, and the Mount of Olives shall be split in two from east to west by a very wide valley, so that one half of the Mount shall move northward, and the other half southward. 5 And you shall flee to the valley of my mountains, for the valley of the mountains shall reach to Azal. And you shall flee as you fled from the earthquake in the days of Uzziah king of Judah. Then the Lord my God will come, and all the holy ones with him.
6 On that day there shall be no light, cold, or frost. 7 And there shall be a unique day, which is known to the Lord, neither day nor night, but at evening time there shall be light.
8 On that day living waters shall flow out from Jerusalem, half of them to the eastern sea and half of them to the western sea. It shall continue in summer as in winter.
9 And the Lord will be king over all the earth. On that day the Lord will be one and his name one.
10 The whole land shall be turned into a plain from Geba to Rimmon south of Jerusalem. But Jerusalem shall remain aloft on its site from the Gate of Benjamin to the place of the former gate, to the Corner Gate, and from the Tower of Hananel to the king's winepresses. 11 And it shall be inhabited, for there shall never again be a decree of utter destruction. Jerusalem shall dwell in security.
12 And this shall be the plague with which the Lord will strike all the peoples that wage war against Jerusalem: their flesh will rot while they are still standing on their feet, their eyes will rot in their sockets, and their tongues will rot in their mouths.
13 And on that day a great panic from the Lord shall fall on them, so that each will seize the hand of another, and the hand of the one will be raised against the hand of the other. 14 Even Judah will fight at Jerusalem. And the wealth of all the surrounding nations shall be collected, gold, silver, and garments in great abundance. 15 And a plague like this plague shall fall on the horses, the mules, the camels, the donkeys, and whatever beasts may be in those camps.
This section gives us a further, more detailed description of the battle that was described in Zechariah 2:2-9 and also in the last two verses of Zechariah 13. There is obviously a lot here and we can’t examine every verse in detail, so let’s summarize some of the most important aspects of what will occur when Jesus returns to this earth to defeat His enemies:
1. Before Jesus returns, His people will face tremendous tribulation
By now, this shouldn’t surprise us. This is certainly consistent with what we’ve seen previously in Zechariah as well as in the other prophets. But Zechariah is even more graphic here in his description of what that tribulation will be like. Houses will be plundered and the women will be raped. Half of the people in Jerusalem will flee into exile, but the rest won’t be able to escape from the city.
Jesus also described the kind of tremendous tribulation that will be occurring prior to His return.
Then they will deliver you up to tribulation and put you to death, and you will be hated by all nations for my name's sake…For then there will be great tribulation, such as has not been from the beginning of the world until now, no, and never will be. And if those days had not been cut short, no human being would be saved. But for the sake of the elect those days will be cut short.
Matthew 24:9, 21, 22
Jesus made it quite clear that the tribulation that will occur in the days before His return will be unlike anything the world has ever experienced. But before that tribulation gets to the point where no one would be able to survive, Jesus is going to cut that tribulation short. That is exactly the picture that we see here in Zechariah. When the tribulation that Israel is experiencing reaches its climax, Jesus will return and put an end to it.
2. Jesus will return to the exact place that He promised
When Jesus returns, He will come and stand on the Mount of Olives, fulfilling the words that the angels spoke at the time of His ascension to the Father:
And while they were gazing into heaven as he went, behold, two men stood by them in white robes, and said, “Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking into heaven? This Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will come in the same way as you saw him go into heaven.”
Acts 1:10, 11 (ESV)
Jesus ascended into heaven from the Mount of Olives and that is where He will return to defeat His enemies.
3. Jesus’ return will be accompanied by tremendous upheaval
Zechariah describes the tremendous upheaval of the earth that is going to accompany the return of Jesus. As Jesus comes to stand on the Mount of Olives, there will be a tremendous earthquake that will split the mountain in two and create a valley through which the people can flee to safety. The whole area around Jerusalem will be turned into a great plain, from Geba in the north to Rimmon in the south. But Jerusalem itself will remain high above that plain.
Interestingly, in the Book of Revelation, the seventh seal, the seventh trumpet and the seventh bowl are all accompanied by a great earthquake. We’ll look at that in much more detail when we get to the Book of Revelation.
God will also cause a spring to open up right in Jerusalem – a spring that gives living water. Although there is nothing to indicate that this is not an actual spring that produces physical water, there is obviously spiritual significance here as well since the spring reinforces the idea of the fountain that cleanses from sin that we saw last week in Zechariah 13.
The return of Jesus is also accompanied by signs in the heavens. Zechariah reveals that there will be a day on which there is no light, which certainly seems to be consistent with the signs in the heavens prior to the return of Jesus that are described in Joel, in Revelation and by Jesus’ own words:
“Immediately after the tribulation of those days the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light, and the stars will fall from heaven, and the powers of the heavens will be shaken. Then will appear in heaven the sign of the Son of Man, and then all the tribes of the earth will mourn, and they will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory.
Matthew 24:29, 30 (ESV)
4. Jesus will return with the saints
In verse 5, Zechariah describes those who will accompany Jesus at His return:
Then the Lord my God will come, and all the holy ones with him.
The Hebrew word translated “holy ones” comes from a word that means “to bet set apart” or to be “distinct”. In the Old Testament that word can be used to refer to God Himself, to the angels or to His people and the context must determine the proper translation. Fortunately for us, we have some additional Scripture passages that can help us to identify who these “holy ones” are.
First, let’s go to the book of Revelation. In chapter 19, we have a description of what is commonly known as the Battle of Armageddon, which seems to be what Zechariah is describing here in chapter 14. And in that chapter, we also see that Jesus is accompanied by a group of beings:
And the armies of heaven, arrayed in fine linen, white and pure, were following him on white horses.
Revelation 19:14 (ESV)
Here we see Jesus’ companions described as “the armies of heaven”, but that still doesn’t help us a whole lot. That could still be angels or it could be the resurrected followers of Jesus, or even perhaps some combination of those beings.
The book of Jude also gives us a similar, somewhat ambiguous description of this group:
It was also about these that Enoch, the seventh from Adam, prophesied, saying, “Behold, the Lord comes with ten thousands of his holy ones, to execute judgment on all and to convict all the ungodly of all their deeds of ungodliness that they have committed in such an ungodly way, and of all the harsh things that ungodly sinners have spoken against him.”
Jude 14, 15 (ESV)
Jude actually uses the same phrase that Zechariah uses – holy ones – so we don’t get a whole lot more insight there. But fortunately for us, Paul clears up this mystery for us. Let’s look at two different passages that give us some additional insight:
When Christ who is your life appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.
Colossians 3:4 (ESV)
Paul is obviously referring here to the physical return of Jesus to this earth and when He manifests himself in that way, Paul writes that “you” will appear with him. So who is the “you” he is writing to? His audience in this case is clearly those who were Christ followers there in the church in Colossae. This is confirmed in Paul’s letter to the church in Thessalonica, a letter that was specifically written to address the second coming of Jesus:
…at the coming of our Lord Jesus with all his saints.
1 Thessalonians 3:13 (ESV)
Throughout all his writings, Paul consistently uses the term “saints” to refer to those who have placed their faith in Jesus and committed their lives to Him as their Lord.
So when we put this all together, it becomes clear that when Jesus returns, the resurrected saints will accompany Him into battle.
5. Jesus will defeat His enemies suddenly
As we have consistently seen throughout the prophets, it will not take much time at all for Jesus to defeat His enemies. This is not going to be some long drawn-out military campaign, but rather an almost instant event.
Zechariah certainly paints that same picture here when he describes how the flesh will literally rot while His enemies are still standing on their feet. Although many commentators seem to tie this to the effects of a neutron bomb, which is certainly possible, God is obviously capable of producing that result in any way that He determines.
We also see here that the people and their animals, which are a picture of their military might, are going to succumb to plagues that are brought upon them by God. And like the plagues that God brought against Egypt, these are not the kind of plagues that will require a long time to see their effects. The impact will be nearly instantaneous.
6. Jesus will preserve His remnant
Let’s face it - everything up to this point isn’t very encouraging. But we’ve already seen hints all along about this good news. God will be faithful to preserve a remnant that is faithful to Him. In His infinite wisdom, He knows the exact moment when it will be necessary to bring an end to the tribulation and defeat His enemies in order to preserve that remnant.
Jesus confirmed the fact that He will preserve His remnant:
But the one who endures to the end will be saved.
Matthew 24:13 (ESV)
Jesus promised that those who remain faithful to Him in the midst of tribulation will be preserved. Even if they persevere to the point of losing their physical life, Jesus promises that they will be saved from ever having to face the wrath of God.
Before we go on to the last section of this chapter, let me leave you with just one application that I think we can draw out of this first section:
• Application – Don’t ever give up
On March 3, 1993, just eight weeks before he would die of cancer, Jim Valvano received the first annual Arthur Ashe Award during the ESPY Awards. The speech he gave that night is still remembered as one of the most inspiring speeches of all times. It was during that speech that he spoke the now famous words that became the motto for the foundation he established to help find a cure for cancer: “Don’t give up. Don’t ever give up.” And then he closed the speech with these words:
Cancer can take away all my physical ability. It cannot touch my mind; it cannot touch my heart; and it cannot touch my soul. And those three things are going to carry on forever.
I don’t know whether or not Jimmy Valvano was a Christ follower, but there is certainly a great deal of wisdom in the words that he spoke that evening. No matter what kind of tribulation that we may experience in our lives, that tribulation cannot touch the things that really matter, the things that will last for eternity. Jesus said essentially the same thing when He spoke these words to His disciples:
And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell.
Matthew 10:28 (ESV)
Sometimes in this life it is easy to look around and see how the wicked prosper and how bad things happen to good people and to be tempted to just throw up our hands and say “What’s the use?” But the words of Zechariah assure us that God is faithful to Himself. Because He is holy and righteous and just, He is going to punish those who have rebelled against Him one day – in His timing. And He will also be faithful to preserve those who remain faithful to Him. So don’t give up. Don’t ever give up.
Let’s move on now to the last part of the chapter and see how…
JESUS RETURNS TO ESTABLISH HIS RIGHTEOUS RULE (vv. 16- 21)
16 Then everyone who survives of all the nations that have come against Jerusalem shall go up year after year to worship the King, the Lord of hosts, and to keep the Feast of Booths. 17 And if any of the families of the earth do not go up to Jerusalem to worship the King, the Lord of hosts, there will be no rain on them. 18 And if the family of Egypt does not go up and present themselves, then on them there shall be no rain; there shall be the plague with which the Lord afflicts the nations that do not go up to keep the Feast of Booths. 19 This shall be the punishment to Egypt and the punishment to all the nations that do not go up to keep the Feast of Booths.
20 And on that day there shall be inscribed on the bells of the horses, “Holy to the Lord.” And the pots in the house of the Lord shall be as the bowls before the altar. 21 And every pot in Jerusalem and Judah shall be holy to the Lord of hosts, so that all who sacrifice may come and take of them and boil the meat of the sacrifice in them. And there shall no longer be a trader in the house of the Lord of hosts on that day.
Once again, we won’t look at every verse in detail, but we’ll make some general observations about the nature of the reign of Jesus during what we usually refer to as His “millennial reign”.
1. Jesus will rule absolutely
We actually see this principle alluded to all the way back in verse 9:
And the Lord will be king over all the earth. On that day the Lord will be one and his name one.
In other words, in the millennial kingdom there will be only one religion. The words of Paul written to the Church at Philippi, will find their complete and final fulfillment:
Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.
Philippians 2:9-11 (ESV)
And because He will rule absolutely, He will determine exactly how those in His kingdom are to worship Him. And among the requirements for worship will be that everyone will go up to Jerusalem once a year to observe the Feast of Booths. Why the Feast of Booths and not any of the other feasts? The answer to that question leads us directly to the next observation that we can make about the righteous rule of Jesus.
2. Jesus will dwell permanently with His people
The fact that the followers of Jesus will observe the Feast of Booths in the millennial kingdom is significant for a number of reasons.
First as the seventh and final feast each year, the Feast of Booths was the final culmination of the feast season. It was also known as the Feast of Ingathering and it looked forward to the time when all of God’s people would be gathered together in His kingdom. So its celebration in the millennial kingdom will be a reminder and a celebration of the fact that the ingathering of God’s people is now complete.
Secondly, as you may remember from our study of the Feast of Booths, Jesus used the occasion of that feast to speak these words:
On the last day of the feast, the great day, Jesus stood up and cried out, “If anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, ‘Out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.’”
John 7:37, 38 (ESV)
There is no doubt in my mind that Jesus had Zechariah 14 in mind when He spoke those words. He was looking forward to the day when the living waters that flowed from the spring there in Jerusalem would be a continual reminder of the living water that Jesus would continue to give in order to cleanse the people from their sin and uncleanness. Observing the feast will help the people to remember and celebrate the work of Jesus in their lives.
Finally, and perhaps most significantly, the act of living in temporary shelters as part of the feast looked forward to the day when Jesus would dwell permanently with His people. This is another example of how God uses the “law of the comparative” to contrast the temporary nature of the people dwelling in the desert during the exodus from Egypt with the great blessing of having Jesus dwell permanently with His people.
Because of the significance of the feast in remembering and celebrating the work of Jesus in their lives, there is a serious penalty for those who refuse to participate in that worship experience.
3. There will be no distinction between the secular and the sacred
In verse 20, we find this curious sentence:
And on that day there shall be inscribed on the bells of the horses, “Holy to the Lord.”
The phrase “Holy to the Lord” had a significant place in the history of Israel. In Exodus 28 we find that the phrase was engraved on a metal plate that was attached to the front of the turban of the High Priest. The idea was that he was to be set apart from the rest of the people as unique. He was holy because he had been set apart for service to the Lord.
But in the millennial kingdom, it will not just be the high priests who will be holy, or set apart for service to the Lord. Even the little bells on the horses will be considered holy. And not only that, the common pots and pans in each house will be considered to be holy as well. The point here is quite obvious. In the millennial kingdom, there will be no distinction between the secular and the sacred. Everything will be considered to be sacred because it will all be used in the service of the Lord. And that principle leads us directly to our second application this morning.
• Application – Don’t compartmentalize my life
I know that we’ve focused on this application before, but it is one that is so crucial that it won’t hurt to remind ourselves of it again. It seems to me that if in the reign of Jesus in the millennial kingdom everything will be considered holy or sacred, we ought to be preparing for that time right now by living according to that same principle.
The whole concept of compartmentalizing our lives into the “secular” and the “sacred” is completely un-Biblical. That idea has its roots in Greek culture, where the material and the immaterial were considered to be separate, with a higher degree of worth assigned to the immaterial. And since the early church developed in a world that was under the influence of that kind of Greek thinking, over a period of time, the church began to compartmentalize life and separate the “secular” and the “sacred”. And those early influences still impact us as followers of Jesus today. That compartmentalizing of our lives is reflected in these commonly accepted myths:
o The church building is a sacred, holy place. All other places are secular.
When we hold to this view, then the obvious result is that it requires us to be in a certain location in order to engage in “sacred activities”. If that is the case, then Jesus, was not very sacred, was he? Although He regularly attended the synagogue and went to the Temple to celebrate the feasts, almost all of His ministry occurred outside of those places – on a mountaintop, at a well with a Samaritan woman, in a vineyard, at a wedding, at the houses of tax collectors and other ordinary people.
I am really thankful that God has provided these facilities as a place for us to gather together and be equipped to live our lives for Jesus. But the truth is that most of the ministry of this church occurs outside of these walls – in your homes, neighborhoods, schools and places of work. In grocery stores, on playgrounds and ballfields. Wherever we have contact with other people, there is an opportunity for ministry. And just because that ministry doesn’t take place in this building does not make it secular.
o Sunday is a sacred day. All other days are secular.
This is perhaps the most dangerous myth of all. And we’ve seen evidence of just how damaging this philosophy is in a number of the Old Testament prophets. We’ve seen how the people would worship in the synagogue on the Sabbath and then return to their jobs and cheat and exploit people the rest of the week.
And unfortunately that same kind of attitude and approach is still rampant in our world today. Far too many people who call themselves Christians come to church on Sunday and then leave church completely unchanged and return to living their lives exactly like they did before they became Christians.
And well meaning Christians have even helped perpetuate this myth over the years. Things like “Blue Laws” that restricted certain activities on Sundays, but then permitted them during the rest of the week just served to reinforce the idea that Sundays are sacred but other days are not.
But the Bible is clear that everything we do every day of the week is to be “sacred” in the sense that it is to be done in a way that is consistent with our professed commitment to Jesus. Here are a few verses that confirm the need to do everything we do as if doing it to the Lord. I’ll just read them without comment:
Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward. You are serving the Lord Christ.
Colossians 3:23, 24 (ESV)
Trust in the Lord with all your heart,
and do not lean on your own understanding.
In all your ways acknowledge him,
and he will make straight your paths.
Proverbs 3:5, 6 (ESV)
So here's what I want you to do, God helping you: Take your everyday, ordinary life - your sleeping, eating, going-to-work, and walking-around life - and place it before God as an offering.
Romans 12:1 (Message)
o Pastors and ministers have sacred jobs. All other jobs are secular.
The whole distinction between clergy and laity is completely un-Biblical and was clearly not evident in the early church. Although Dana and I may have different roles within the body than the rest of you, those roles are no more important than those of you who are bankers, engineers, teachers, stay-at-home moms, students, or whatever else you might do as a vocation.
In fact, if you do what Paul commanded in the verse from Colossians and “work heartily, as for the Lord” then whatever work you are doing is, in fact, sacred.
o Since the rest of the world is secular, Christians, who are sacred, should isolate themselves from the rest of the world.
Although there was a monastic-like sect known as the Essenes who lived in the area of Qumran during the time of Jesus, the overall concept of God’s people isolating themselves from the culture around them is certainly foreign to the Bible. In fact, when some of the people in the church at Corinth had attempted to do just that, Paul gave them these instructions:
I wrote to you in my letter not to associate with sexually immoral people - not at all meaning the sexually immoral of this world, or the greedy and swindlers, or idolaters, since then you would need to go out of the world.
1 Corinthians 5:9, 10 (ESV)
In His priestly prayer in the garden just before His crucifixion, Jesus also confirmed that we are not to isolate ourselves from the world:
I do not ask that you take them out of the world, but that you keep them from the evil one….As you sent me into the world, so I have sent them into the world.
John 17:15, 18 (ESV)
In fact, if we do isolate ourselves from the world, it will be impossible for us to carry out the commission that Jesus has given us to go and make disciples.
So let’s make sure we don’t compartmentalize our lives. Instead, let’s follow these words from Paul. Let’s read this verse out loud together to close our time.
And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.
Colossians 3:17 (ESV)