70 AD and the desolation of Jerusalem
Jesus likely alluded to Zechariah’s prophecies, when he said, “And when ye shall see Jerusalem compassed with armies, then know that the desolation thereof is nigh.” [Luke 21:20]
He continued, “Then let them which are in Judaea flee to the mountains; and let them which are in the midst of it depart out; and let not them that are in the countries enter thereinto. For these be the days of vengeance, that all things which are written may be fulfilled.”
Many suppose he was referring to events of 70 A.D. when Jerusalem was destroyed after the Romans besieged the city. Perhaps he meant that those events would signal the spiritual desolation of the heavenly Jerusalem, which followed, after the apostolic era. The desolation has continued throughout the whole age of the church.
And in that day will I make Jerusalem a burdensome stone for all people: all that burden themselves with it shall be cut in pieces, though all the people of the earth be gathered together against it.
This could hardly apply to 70 A.D. as the “invaders,” the Roman armies, were not “cut in pieces.” The burdensome stone must be the heavenly Jerusalem, not the earthly one. See Daniel 2:35, where Christ’s kingdom is represented by a “stone cut out without hands.”
Then shall the Lord go forth, and fight against those nations, as when he fought in the day of battle.
This could not apply to the events of 70 A.D. either. Jesus did not fight against the Romans, or send awful plagues on them, and on their horses, mules, asses, and camels. Neither did these armies fight against each other.
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.
On the other hand these prophecies do not apply to armies in the modern era. Horses, mules, asses, and camels would not be employed in any modern invasion of Palestine. They are very vulnerable to modern weapons. And what would be the point of “all the people of the earth” gathering against the earthly Jerusalem? Think of the problems involved in feeding them, and the sanitation problems it would cause–water is already scarce in that country.
Aside from all this, there is the question of the mount of Olives being cleaved in the midst, and half of it moving north, and half of it moving south. This did not happen in 70 A.D. The dispensationalists say it will happen when Jesus returns. But what would be the point?
I suggest that one of the reasons for prophecy, is to reveal how Jesus is reigning, and fulfilling all the things that he foretold, and has been doing so since he ascended to heaven in the first century. This is partly what is meant by his feet standing upon the mount of Olives. The things he foretold in the Olivet Discourse outline the future, from that time to the present.
The Jerusalem to which the prophecies and promises apply, after Jesus ascended to heaven, is not the earthly city, but the heavenly one, the church. The invasion he spoke of was already evident in the time of the apostles. “Gentiles” have trampled the holy city in all ages of the church. Paul said, “For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.” [Eph. 6:12]
Christ fights against those who come against his holy city, by smiting his enemies with spiritual plagues. “In that day, saith the Lord, I will smite every horse with astonishment, and his rider with madness: and I will open mine eyes upon the house of Judah, and will smite every horse of the people with blindness.” [Zech. 12:4]
“Madness” and “blindness” alludes to plagues of a spiritual kind. Those who mistake the Jerusalem of prophecy for the earthly city, are examples of this blindness; they don’t “see” or understand that Isa. 2:2 was fulfilled, when Jesus ascended to heaven, and to the throne of his Father, and since then, the Jerusalem to which prophecy applies is the heavenly one. The apostles understood this. When Peter said Jesus had been “made Christ,” he knew that this meant that Jesus had received an eternal throne, the throne of David, and it meant ruling over the 12 tribes of Israel from Jerusalem. All that was implied by saying he had been “made Christ.” And those Jews who did not believe in him were cut off from Israel, and from the promises. [Acts 3:23] Paul said they were branches broken off their tree. [Rom. 11:17] Both preterists and dispensationalists are blind to this.
Horses in Zechariah’s prophecy probably mean people with no understanding. [Psa. 32:9] When Saul was travelling to Damascus to attack the church, Christ spoke to him from heaven and said to him, “I am Jesus whom thou persecutest: it is hard for thee to kick against the pricks.” [Acts 9:5] He implied that Saul was behaving like a horse or a mule. He was made blind for three days. There is an obvious fulfilment of Zech. 12:4 here. The “horses” in Zechariah’s prophecy are not literal horses. The “Jerusalem” is not the earthly city. Christ fought to defend his saints, the heavenly Jerusalem.
But in 70 A.D. Jesus did not fight to defend the Jews in the earthly Jerusalem. The New Testament shows that “Jerusalem” is the heavenly city where Christ is king.
Preterism and dispensationalism deny that the Olivet Discourse in Matt. 24-25 applies to the church in the present age. They misinterpret the Jerusalem to which prophecy applies. Both say it applies to the earthly city. They deny that prophecy, for the most part, applies to the church in the present age. They remove it to either the past, or the future. But that is obviously a distorted, biased position. They apply the prophecies that apply to the saints to ethnic Jews who deny that Jesus is the Christ.
IMO, Zechariah’s prophecy in Zech. 14:4 depicts those flawed interpretations as the two halves of the mount of Olives moving apart in opposite directions. Preterism, perhaps, is the half that moves north, and dispensationalism is the half that is displaced to the south, and there is a valley between, which represents the present age.
Zechariah said, flee to the “valley of the mountains,” an invisible valley between the two displaced portions of the mountain. The phrase “valley of the mountains” seems to conflate a valley with mountains. Mountains represent promises, and a great promise is given to those who follow Zechariah’s advice, and abandon preterism and dispensationalism: “the Lord my God shall come, and all the saints with thee.” The valley between the two displaced sections of the mount of Olives is a place where Christians are brought together in unity. They are united with Christ, and not among his enemies.
Zechariah 14:4-5 points to a middle course, between those two extremes: apply the Olivet Discourse to the present age, not Jews in the first century, and not to Jews in a future seven year tribulation.
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.
The spiritual gloominess and darkness described in these verses is characteristic of the present age.
And it shall be in that day, that living waters shall go out from Jerusalem; half of them toward the former sea, and half of them toward the hinder sea: in summer and in winter shall it be.
And the Lord shall be king over all the earth: in that day shall there be one Lord, and his name one.
The living waters of the gospel flow from the heavenly Jerusalem, the church. Jesus reigns as king over his saints, on the throne of David, and he also rules over all things in heaven and earth. He said, “All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth.” [Matt. 28:18] The Jerusalem where he reigns is in heaven. Paul said those who believe in Christ are raised up together, and “sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus.” [Eph. 2:6]
When Jesus ascended to heaven, and to the throne of his Father, Jerusalem was raised up, and was “established in the top of the mountains,” and was “exalted above the hills” as foretold in Isa. 2:2. That is when it became the heavenly city, the Jerusalem above. [Gal. 4:26]
The earthly Jerusalem was identified with Hagar the bondwoman who was cast out. [Gal. 4:26, 30] After Jesus ascended to heaven, prophecies about Jerusalem apply to the heavenly city, where Christ is king. So in Zechariah 14:16, the nations who come up to Jerusalem to worship Christ have to come to the heavenly city, not the earthly one.
And it shall come to pass, that every one that is left of all the nations which came against Jerusalem shall even go up from year to year to worship the King, the Lord of hosts, and to keep the feast of tabernacles.
This is also what Jesus said in John 4:21-23. People will no longer go to the earthly city, but will worship God in spirit and in truth.
The feast of tabernacles has a spiritual significance, and pictures God dwelling with man as the tabernacle of God was with the Israelites in the wilderness. This prophecy also applies in the present age.
And it shall be, that whoso will not come up of all the families of the earth unto Jerusalem to worship the King, the Lord of hosts, even upon them shall be no rain.
And if the family of Egypt go not up, and come not, that have no rain; there shall be the plague, wherewith the Lord will smite the heathen that come not up to keep the feast of tabernacles.
Egypt normally has very little rain. Taken literally, it would be quite meaningless, to say Egypt would have no rain. This is speaking of rain in a metaphorical sense; it represents God’s word. [Isa. 55:10-11]
Paul said, “the letter killeth, but the spirit giveth life.” [2 Cor. 3:6]