By comparing the many prophecies that speak of last-days events, we may form a tolerably clear picture of what will be happening on this globe when Christ rends the heavens and comes down (Isaiah 64: 1), to execute judgment on the wicked and give rewards to His faithful servants. Will it be a time of universal peace & plenty, or an era of tumult and unrest among the nations? I think a closer investigation of Zechariah 14 will give us an answer.
The prophet envisions a gathering together of all nations against the City of Jerusalem (Zech. 14: 2). It is at this time that the Lord shall return–in precisely the same manner as when He left; that is, visibly and bodily. The thing to remember is this: When the Lord comes, He will stand upon the Mount of Olives (Zech. 14: 1). This is not figurative & speculative language, for it is obviously the fulfillment of Acts 1: 11. Study these passages very closely, for they contain deep and solemn truths.
At what time will the Lord return? The Bible tells us it will be immediately after “The Great Tribulation” (Matt. 24: 21). We may learn that Zechariah 14 predicts this same tribulation. The event was not fulfilled in the past, because Daniel informs us that a resurrection will occur “at that time” (see Dan. 12: 1 ff.). He writes: “And many of them that sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to everlasting life, and some to shame and everlasting contempt” (Daniel 12: 2).
The key word is “many.” It denotes the non-general nature of the resurrection. Not all men will be raised, but only the Lord’s visible church. This is the “exanastasis ton nekron” of Paul (Phil. 3: 11) and the “First Resurrection” of John (Rev. 20: 5). It is not a general resurrection of all the dead, but a resurrection of the professing church from among the dead.
Instructing Emperor Constantine on the principles of eschatology, Lactantius wrote: “Not all men, however, shall then be judged by God, but those only that have been exercised in the religion of God. For they who have not known God, since sentence cannot be passed upon them for their acquittal, are already judged and condemned, since the Holy Scriptures testify that the wicked shall not arise to judgment. Therefore they who have known God shall be judged, and their deeds, that is, their evil works, shall be compared and weighed against their good ones: so that if those which are good and just are more and weighty, they may be given to a life of blessedness; but if the evil exceed, they may be condemned to punishment.” (Divine Institutes, VII. xx).
Then the wheat & the tares will be separated. Christ refers to the better resurrection, that of the just, in Matthew 13: 43: “Then shall the righteous shine forth as the sun in the kingdom of their Father. Who hath ears to hear, let him hear.” Furthermore, the Lord promises that the “harvest” shall occur at “the end of the age” (Matt. 13: 40). In the same discourse He had already defined “age” (aion) as “This life” (Matt. 13: 22; cf. Luke 8: 14). It is the present world order, which will cease when our Lord returns from heaven.
When Daniel asked “how long it would be to the end of these wonders,” the angel replied that “it should be for a time, times, and a half” (Dan. 12: 7); that is, after three-and-a-half years. This is precisely the same period during which Antichrist is given to persecute the saints (Rev. 13: 5). This the angel implies, saying, “when He shall have accomplished to scatter the power of the holy people, all these things shall be finished” (Dan. 12: 7).
The “scattering of the holy people” does not mean “the destruction of Jerusalem in A.D. 70,” but the persecutions waged against the Saints during the last half-week of the present age. Hippolytus writes: “Now Daniel will set forth this subject to us. For he says, And one week will confirm a covenant with many, and it shall be in the midst (half) of the week my sacrifice and oblation shall cease. By one week, therefore, he meant the last week which is to be at the end of the world; of which week the two prophets Enoch and Elias will take up the half. For they will preach 1,200 days clothed in sackcloth, proclaiming repentance to the people and to all the nations.” (Treatise On Christ and Antichrist, xliii).
And again he writes: “For when the threescore and two weeks are fulfilled, and Christ is come, and the Gospel is preached in every place, the times being then accomplished, there will remain only one week, the last, in which Elias will appear, and Enoch, and in the midst of it the abomination of desolation will be manifested, viz., Antichrist, announcing desolation to the world. And when he comes, the sacrifice and oblation will be removed, which now are offered to God in every place by the nations.” (Fragments From Commentaries; Daniel, II. xxii).
This agrees with the predictions of John the Apostle. In the Apocalypse, the resurrection of the martyrs follows on the heels of Antichrist’s persecution (Rev. 11: 12); and this is concurrent with the great earthquake, the subsequent fall of the city (Rev. 11: 13), and the coming of the King to establish His Divine kingdom over the nations of the world(Rev. 11: 15).
Now compare with Zechariah 14. When Christ returns visibly and bodily, in like manner as He ascended, the Mount of Olives “will cleave in the midst thereof toward the east and toward the west, and there shall be a very great valley: and half of the mountain shall remove toward the north, and half of it toward the south” (Zech. 14: 4). Then men shall flee as from before the earthquake in the days of Uzziah (Zech. 14: 5), when the Lord shall come and all His saints. At that time, “The Lord shall be King of all the earth” (Zech. 14: 9).
It is obvious that John the Apostle was referring to Zechariah’s visions when he wrote of the great city being divided into three parts (Revelation 16: 19). The context states that this will occur at the battle of Armageddon–a mass gathering together of the world’s military forces against the City of Jerusalem to prevent the Lord’s visible glorious return to reign upon the earth (Revelation 16: 14).
In order to find out what will be the outcome of this monumental warfare, let us go back to Zechariah. The prophet says: “Then shall the Lord go forth and fight against those nations, as when He fought in the day of battle” (Zech. 14: 3). This occurs immediately after the Great Tribulation. The prophet states that preceding Christ’s visible return, there will be a time of rapine and violence within the city. He writes: “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 city shall not be cut off from the city” (Zech. 14: 2).
The outcome of Armageddon? The nations that fight against Jerusalem shall be utterly destroyed. “And this shall be the plague wherewith the Lord will smite all the people who have fought against Jerusalem; their flesh shall consume away while they stand upon their feet, and their eyes shall consume away in their holes, and their tongue shall consume away in their mouth” (Zech. 14: 12). From a comparison with the Apocalypse, we learn this is the same time when the vials of wrath are poured out! (Rev. 16: 8-11).
And when the enemies (i.e., Antichrist and his forces) are destroyed, the Lord shall rule over all the kingdoms of the world. Then shall all nations go to Jerusalem to keep the feast of tabernacles and do homage to Jesus Christ the King (Zechariah 14: 16). Then His faithful servants shall take part in the “First Resurrection” and will rule and reign with Christ, having “power over the nations” (Rev. 2: 26). Then also will Daniel “stand in his lot” at “the end of the days” (Dan. 12: 13). In the resurrection of the just, all of Christ’s New Covenant people, the entire Israel of God, shall reign as priests and kings with Christ.
Now when will these events take place? To recapitulate, they must occur at “the end of the age.” According to Daniel they will come at the close of a Great Tribulation, which John himself equates with “an hour of temptation, which shall come upon all the world, to try them that dwell upon the earth” (Rev. 3: 10). All nations, and kindreds, and people, and tongues shall go through this tribulation (Rev. 7: 9, 14) but its focal point will be the City of Jerusalem, where the Lord will return to execute judgment on His enemies and to establish His kingdom. When Christ comes, there will be a resurrection of His saints & a worldwide manifestation of His glorious kingdom. Blessed are they who shall attain unto these times.
[Note: In recent years there has been much speculation concerning the true nature of “Armageddon.” As I gather from Scripture, the facts run thus. When Antichrist’s allotted period is almost expired, the supernatural signs preceding Christ’s Second Advent will result in a mad effort to prevent His visible, glorious return. Antichrist will despatch secret ambassadors to all the nations, instructing them to mobilize military forces to the City of Jerusalem–his own personal headquarters. With all the weapons of mass destruction that technology has ever devised, the nations will be gathered together outside the city to battle against The Lord and His saints. This will be the final culmination of man’s wickedness and rebellion against God. But Antichrist will not prevail. Rending the heavens and coming in the clouds with great power, Christ will return to the Mount of Olives from whence He ascended. There will then be a judicial vindication of God’s righteous government in the eyes of all nations, the contrary powers will be beaten asunder & cast alive into hell, and all secular world government will be brought to an end. Until that time, let men scoff and jeer. In the words of Paul, “I know whom I have believed, and am persuaded that He is able to keep that which I have committed unto Him against that day” (2 Tim. 1: 12).]