Mike Vlach and the implications of Zechariah 14
On Tuesday, 23 August 2011, Mike Vlach posted his discussion of the Theological Implications of Zechariah 14, the last in a series of three blog posts on Zechariah 14. A post by Lynda O on Zechariah 14 and God’s Divine Purpose links to all three posts, the first two of which I responded to here and in this post.
Vlach notes that in Zechariah’s prophecy Christ reigns as king over the whole earth [vs 9]; the kingdom, he says, follows tribulation; the focus of the prophecy is Jerusalem and Israel; it has universal influence, and he concludes that the kingdom and conditions described do not apply to the present age, or to the eternal state, and so all the events described in the chapter must apply to an intermediate period: the seven year tribulation and the millennium of dispensational theory.
In his three posts on Zechariah 14, Vlach failed to consider other prophecies that are clearly parallel to Zechariah 14. One of these is the prophecy of Ezekiel 38-39. Compare these verses:
|Ezekiel 38:21||Zechariah 14:13|
|And I will call for a sword against him throughout all my mountains, saith the Lord God: every man’s sword shall be against his brother.||And it shall come to pass in that day, that a great tumult from the Lord shall be among them; and they shall lay hold every one on the hand of his neighbour, and his hand shall rise up against the hand of his neighbour.|
Both verses describe a conflict between those who come against the people of God and their land. When interpreting prophecy, it is wise to take into account the whole of scripture, and not focus upon a particular prophecy in isolation.
Zechariah’s prophecy also links to Revelation 20:8-9.
|Zechariah 14:1-3||Revelation 20:7-9|
|Behold, the day of the Lord cometh, and thy spoil shall be divided in the midst of thee.
For I will gather all nations against Jerusalem to battle; and the city shall be taken, and the houses rifled, and the women ravished; and half of the city shall go forth into captivity, and the residue of the people shall not be cut off from the city.
Then shall the Lord go forth, and fight against those nations, as when he fought in the day of battle.
|And when the thousand years are expired, Satan shall be loosed out of his prison,
And shall go out to deceive the nations which are in the four quarters of the earth, Gog, and Magog, to gather them together to battle: the number of whom is as the sand of the sea.
And they went up on the breadth of the earth, and compassed the camp of the saints about, and the beloved city: and fire came down from God out of heaven, and devoured them.
Each of these passages refers to Jerusalem, and Israel, which is the “camp of the saints” and the “beloved city.” It is the heavenly Jerusalem that is in view, in both cases, however. Revelation 20:7-9 also links to Ezekiel 38-39, by means of the label “Gog and Magog.”
The Olivet Discourse of Jesus is also linked to Zechariah 14, as the mount of Olives is featured in Zechariah’s prophecy.
|Zechariah 14:4a||Matthew 24:3|
|And his feet shall stand in that day upon the mount of Olives, which is before Jerusalem on the east…||And as he sat upon the mount of Olives, the disciples came unto him privately, saying, Tell us, when shall these things be? and what shall be the sign of thy coming, and of the end of the world?|
Jesus fulfilled part of Zechariah 14:4 during his ministry, when he gave the Olivet Discourse to his disciples. So we can easily link Zechariah 14 to at least three other related prophecies: Ezekiel 38-39, Matthew 24, and Revelation 20.
Expositors who look at particular prophecies in isolation, as Vlach did in his blog posts, commit a serious blunder, because scripture tells us that prophecy is partial; Paul said “we know in part, and prophesy in part. But when that which is perfect is come, then that which is in part shall be done away.” [1 Corinthians 13:9-10] No prophecy of scripture is complete in itself; all has to be viewed in the light of other revelations.
Another problem with Vlach’s approach is his commitment to literalism. Isaiah said that God instructs those who are “weaned from milk;” they have matured to the point that they can handle solid food. And God would speak “with stammering lips and another tongue.”
Whom shall he teach knowledge? and whom shall he make to understand doctrine? them that are weaned from the milk, and drawn from the breasts. For precept must be upon precept, precept upon precept; line upon line, line upon line; here a little, and there a little: For with stammering lips and another tongue will he speak to this people.
The idea that God expresses himself through the words of the prophets in a stammering manner, and in such a way that his thoughts may perhaps take centuries to be fully conveyed, and in “another tongue,” so that everything God says needs to be interpreted, is established by these statements of Isaiah, but the dispensational view, that demands a literal approach, is not.
Paul wrote in his first epistle to Timothy that some would come in the latter days, “commanding to abstain from meats, which God hath created to be received with thanksgiving of them which believe and know the truth.” This may have nothing to do with literal foods, but instead refers to food of a spiritual kind. Hebrews refers to strong meat, representing mature doctrine.
For every one that useth milk is unskilful in the word of righteousness: for he is a babe. But strong meat belongeth to them that are of full age, even those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil.
Insisting upon a literal approach to prophecy is equivalent to commanding that one must restrict his or her spiritual diet to a liquid form of nourishment, that is, milk, and abstain from meat.
A further parallel between Zechariah’s prophecy and the Olivet Discourse is seen when the following verses are compared.
|Zechariah 14:9||Matthew 24:30|
|And the Lord shall be king over all the earth: in that day shall there be one Lord, and his name one.||And then shall appear the sign of the Son of man in heaven: and then shall all the tribes of the earth mourn, and they shall see the Son of man coming in the clouds of heaven with power and great glory.|
In Psalm 2, which is cited several times in the New Testament, Christ is king in mount Zion, and he possesses all the nations of the earth. Zion is the heavenly one, to which Christians have come. [Hebrews 12:22]
|Zechariah 14:9||Psalm 2:6-9|
|And the Lord shall be king over all the earth: in that day shall there be one Lord, and his name one.||Yet have I set my king upon my holy hill of Zion. I will declare the decree: the Lord hath said unto me, Thou art my Son; this day have I begotten thee. Ask of me, and I shall give thee the heathen for thine inheritance, and the uttermost parts of the earth for thy possession.|
The book of Joel is another example of a prophecy with parallels to Zechariah 14. This is seen, for example, by comparing the following verses. Each prophecy contains the phrase: “for the day of the Lord cometh.”
|Zechariah 14:1, 6-7||Joel 2:2|
|Behold, the day of the Lord cometh, and thy spoil shall be divided in the midst of thee.
And it shall come to pass in that day, that the light shall not be clear, nor dark:
But it shall be one day which shall be known to the Lord, not day, nor night: but it shall come to pass, that at evening time it shall be light.
|Blow ye the trumpet in Zion, and sound an alarm in my holy mountain: let all the inhabitants of the land tremble: for the day of the Lord cometh, for it is nigh at hand;
A day of darkness and of gloominess, a day of clouds and of thick darkness, as the morning spread upon the mountains: a great people and a strong; there hath not been ever the like, neither shall be any more after it, even to the years of many generations.
The gloom and darkness described in these verses forms a clear connection between the two prophecies. Joel specifies that the events are unique, and there is no day like it, so the prophecy of Zechariah 14 must refer to the same time, and events that Peter puts in the present age. Numerous prophecies have been given to describe the present age, for the benefit of the church. Peter said, referring to the present age that began at Pentecost, when the Spirit was given, “Yea, and all the prophets from Samuel and those that follow after, as many as have spoken, have likewise foretold of these days.” [Acts 3:24]
Finally, another parallel exists between Zechariah 14 and a prophecy of Isaiah. Isaiah said the mountain of the Lord’s house shall be established in the top of the mountains; Zechariah said all the surrounding land will become a plain.
|Zechariah 14:10-11||Isaiah 2:1-3|
|All the land shall be turned as a plain from Geba to Rimmon south of Jerusalem: and it shall be lifted up, and inhabited in her place, from Benjamin’s gate unto the place of the first gate, unto the corner gate, and from the tower of Hananeel unto the king’s winepresses.
And men shall dwell in it, and there shall be no more utter destruction; but Jerusalem shall be safely inhabited.
|The word that Isaiah the son of Amoz saw concerning Judah and Jerusalem.
And it shall come to pass in the last days, that the mountain of the Lord’s house shall be established in the top of the mountains, and shall be exalted above the hills; and all nations shall flow unto it.
And many people shall go and say, Come ye, and let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, to the house of the God of Jacob; and he will teach us of his ways, and we will walk in his paths: for out of Zion shall go forth the law, and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem.
Jerusalem and mount Zion, which are names for the church, the “mountain of the Lord’s house,” were raised up when Jesus ascended to his father’s throne in heaven, where he has been given all authority and power and is head of the church, and king of Israel in the heavenly Jerusalem, upon an eternal throne. The literal territory of Canaan was no longer significant, as it was merely a type and shadow of the “better country.” [Hebrews 11:16]