Zechariah 14: Preteristic Or Pre-Millennial?

   Whenever I deal with Preterists, and get to engaging in a discussion of theological differences, I always bring up Zechariah 14. This is to my mind one of the most important eschatological chapters in the Bible, illustrating as it does what will happen when Christ returns to the Mount of Olives from whence He ascended, and describing in glowing language the ensuing Millennium that will follow Israel’s sanctification in the sight of all nations.

   A few months ago, I wrote some articles in which I dealt with Zechariah 14. Yet since that time, and as my studies have deepened, I’ve found that it forms one of the most compelling topics of end-time dicussion. Not only do the visions the prophet describes tie in with crucial New Testament texts, but the whole passage, when read in its grammatical, contextual, and historical sense, makes any kind of Preteristic view of Christ’s coming impossible. In the following article I hope to demonstrate this, and to confirm once more that Pre-Millennialism is the correct system of eschatology.

I. Preterist Chicanery

   Preterists know that Zechariah 14 is an important link in the understanding of end-time fulfillment. Therefore, when doing a Google search of this Bible-chapter I wasn’t surprised to learn that Preterists have tried, as usual, to monopolize the discussion. But it heartens me to know that there are still several resources which give the correct interpretation of the prophetic text, and which anyone may find. Despite the differences, when notes are compared the Pre-Millennial view will always be found to make the most sense.

   Because of the correspondence between Zechariah’s Apocalypse and the prophecies of the Lord Jesus in His Olivet Discourse, it is alleged by many Preterists that Zech. 14 was fulfilled in A.D. 70. Is this the truth? or is it just another example of Preterist chicanery? A simple reading of the passage will clear things up. Zechariah is talking about the destruction of the enemy nations that will surround Jerusalem. This is a far cry from what occurred in A.D. 70, when the Romans destroyed the temple and the Jews were dispersed. When we try to force the Roman conquest into the context of Zechariah’s vision, the result will surely be confusion.

II. Who Are The Nations?

   Whenever in the Old Testament we see the term “nations” employed, it is always used in contradistinction to God’s chosen people of Israel. In Deuteronomy 32: 8-9 we read: “When the Most High divided to the nations their inheritance, when He separated the sons of Adam, He set the bounds of the people according to the number of the children of Israel.” This tells us that God pre-determined His purposes regarding the people of Israel two hundred years before the call of Abraham (see Gen. 10: 32). For this reason, Israel has always remained distinct from the “nations,” or Gentiles. In Numbers 23: 9, Balaam is recorded as confirming this by prophetic utterance: “Lo, the people shall dwell alone, and shall not be reckoned among the nations.”

   With the above facts in mind, we ask how can anyone see in the phrase, “the nations that come against Jerusalem” (Zechariah 12: 9; cf. 14: 2-3) any reference to the Jewish people? Such an interpretation will surely induce a spiritual blindness as great as that which overtook the scribes and Pharisees. But their error is manifest to all.  As the same prophet predicts the deliverance of the “inhabitants of Jerusalem” from these very “nations” (Zech. 12: 8-9), one must marvel at anyone who would maintain a Preteristic view of Zechariah’s Apocalypse.

III. A Personal Coming of Christ

   It is suggested by Preterists that what Zechariah describes in 14: 4 is not a personal coming of Jesus Christ to the Mount of Olives from whence He ascended to take His seat at the right hand of the Father; but is in actuality a providential and non-personal coming. And of course, they claim that this coming was in A.D. 70, to destroy the Jews! Now, would any unbiased person reading this passage see in verse 4 a mystical, allegorical coming of Christ to destroy the very people He promised through His prophet to defend? If such be the case, language loses all meaning, and the words of God may be spiritualized in opposite directions to suit whatever view each interpreter desires.

   But God has not left His children in such darkness. We submit that no interpretation is needed to understand the predictions of Zechariah. For the Holy Spirit Himself has interpreted what man could never understand without a direct revelation. In Zech. 14: 4 Christ is described as standing on the Mount of Olives. “And His feet shall stand on that day upon the Mount of Olives.” If the Holy Spirit had meant that Christ’s coming would be providential and not personal, why did He use terminology which implies the exact opposite?

   On the other hand, if He had meant a personal coming, could He have described it any better? For the planting of Divine feet upon a mountain certainly denotes a personal visitation. Therefore, accepting the language of Scripture as absolute and authoritative, we conclude that the coming of Christ as described in Zechariah 14 will definitely be personal, and will constitute the fulfillment of Acts 1: 11, in which it was revealed by angelic sources that the Lord would return in “like manner” as the apostles saw Him ascend into heaven–that is, personally and bodily.

   Knowing that this never occurred in A.D. 70, Preterists twist these verses out of their context, enforcing an allegorical and mystical meaning which robs language of any kind of signification. They tell us that Zechariah 14 was written in “symbolic language;” but for some reason, they can’t explain to us what the symbols mean. The Hyper-Preterists are the main offenders in this department of eisegesis. But many partial preterists, knowing that their theology, too, is on the line, have agreed with the Hyper-Preterists in their assertions that Zechariah 14 is totally “past fulfillment.” Shame on them all.

IV. Geographical Disturbances

   Another point which proves that Zechariah’s visions relate to a yet future coming of Christ is that the prophet speaks of geographical disturbances which have never occurred in past history. When Christ descends from heaven with all His saints (Zech. 14: 5) and stands upon the Mount of Olives, “the Mount of Olives shall 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).

   For reasons which should be manifest, what Zechariah has depicted is a future event. As the prophet Joel describes the nations being gathered together for judgment in the valley of Jehoshaphat (Joel 3: 2, 14), our suggestion is that the new valley will be created, or the present one significantly enlarged, when the Lord descends from heaven to stand upon the Mount of Olives. According to Joel’s prophecy, this must take place after an invasion of the land of Israel by enemy forces (see Joel 2). We believe that these invaders will be the same enemies mentioned in Ezekiel’s prophecy of “Gog and Magog” (Ezekiel 38-39). A careful reading of these passages is necessary to get the full meaning of Zechariah’s vision. They speak of things which will be verifiable on earth, and in the physical realm: and not of any spiritual and unverifiable “events.”

V. Confusion of Enemies

   We find also that the nations that besiege Jerusalem will be put into confusion by the coming of the Lord. Not only will they be afflicted with sore and grievous plagues (Zech. 14: 12), but they will “lay hold every one on the hand of his neighbor, and his hand shall rise up against the hand of his neighbor” (Zech. 14: 13). This depicts the unprecedented discord which will take place when all the armies are amassed together before Jerusalem. Compare with Ezekiel 38: 21.

   Turning to the prophecies of Jeremiah, chapters 50-51 give us a graphic description of the fall of Babylon. What do these chapters reveal? Is there any “sure truth” on which we may lay hold? Yes! And here is what the Word reveals. Shortly before the time of the end (probably near the close of the last-half of Daniel’s 70th week), Babylon will be invaded by armies which come from the northern regions (Jer. 50: 3, 41-42). These armies are identical with those described by Ezekiel in 39: 2, and by Joel in 2: 20.

   The prophet Daniel gives us to understand that when the “king of the north” (ostensibly Gog) comes against Antichrist “like a whirlwind” (Daniel 11: 40), it will cause him (Antichrist) to “enter into the countries,” “overflow,” “pass over,” and finally enter into the glorious land (Israel), at which time he will “plant the tabernacles of his place between the seas in the glorious holy mountain” (Dan. 11: 45).

 Hence we infer that the northern armies mentioned by Ezekiel, and alluded to by Joel, will be raised up against Babylon at the time of the end.  Chasing Antichrist out of his own land, they will force him to flee into Jerusalem, where he will seat himself in the temple and demand divine honors (see Isaiah 14: 13-14; 2 Thess. 2: 4).  The Minister of State Religion (the false prophet) will have already supported his claims (Revelation 13: 12).  But prior to this final profanation, the image of Antichrist alone will be worshipped.  In the middle of the week the image is set up. Toward the end of the week, Antichrist himself takes the place of the image.

   Before Antichrist’s ultimate destruction, the pursuing armies will reach Jerusalem, surround the city, and there will be a great battle, during which the armies will fight against each other. During this juncture the Jews will cry out in their affliction, and God will send Jesus Christ to deliver them from the wrath of the enemy. Now, reader, please ask yourself: did any such scenario occur in A.D. 70?

VI. Restoration of The Land

   Those who still maintain the Preterist view of Zechariah 14 have, however, another piece of evidence which they must get around. And that is, the glorious results of this last battle, as outlined in verses 6-11. When Jesus Christ returns to save His people, the Jews, living waters will go forth from Jerusalem (Zech. 14: 8), cleansing the land from all defilement. Then the land, having been leveled into a beautiful plain, will be “lifted up, and inhabited in her place” (Zech. 14: 10).

   The living waters will proceed from the sanctuary described by Ezekiel in 40-44. The waters will flow eastward from the sanctuary (Ezekiel 47: 1-12), and proceed southward, wending toward the rebuilt city of Jerusalem. From Jerusalem the river will part into two heads (Zechariah 14: 8). Half the river will flow toward the “former sea” (Dead Sea); while the other will find its way into the “hinder sea” (Mediterranean). And the waters shall be healed. Let us simply believe what God says, and we’ll never accept any view which claims a mystical and allgorical fulfillment. After all, haven’t we shown that the texts related to Zechariah 14 harmonize in a wonderful manner, and can only be undertood through an interpretive lens that understands the Divine words according to the established laws of human language?

VII. The Millennium

  As a final point, let us not forget that Zechariah provides an exellent delineation of the Millennial times which shall follow the destruction of Christ’s enemies.  He writes: “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, and to keep the feast of tabernacles” (Zech. 14: 16).  Surely we cannot understand this in any allegorical sense.  Or let the allegorists themselves tell us what is meant by all nations coming to Jerusalem to keep the feast of tabernacles!

   We know, of course, that the fulfillment of that passage will be literal.  And what Zechariah tells us is corroborated by other inspired Scriptures.  David writes: “All nations whom Thou hast made shall come and worship before Thee, O Lord; and shall glorify thy name” (Psalm 86: 9).  And hearken to Isaiah: “And it shall come to pass, that from one new moon to another, and from one sabbath to another, shall all flesh come to worship before Me, saith the Lord” (Isaiah 66: 23).  A glance at the preceding context tells us when this worship will take place.  It is after the Lord comes “with fire, and with His chariots like a whirlwind, to render His anger with fury, and His rebuke with flames of fire.  For by fire and by His sword will the Lord pleasd with all flesh: and the slain of the Lord shall be many” (Isaiah 66: 15-16).

   The nations which are left are evidently those who are mentioned in the latter part of Christ’s Olivet Discourse (see Matthew 25: 31-46).  They are the nations that receive the Jewish witnesses during the Great Tribulation, when the Gospel of the Kingdom is re-proclaimed.  Their reward will be entrance into Christ’s Millennial kingdom; even the kingdom of heaven, which was “prepared from the foundation of the world” (Matt. 25: 34).  This kingdom is quite distinct from the kingdom of God, which was prepared “before the foundation of the world” (Eph. 1: 4).  The nations that enter into the Millennial kingdom are they who shall come to Jerusalem from year to year to keep the feast of tabernacles, when the kingdom is restored to Israel. 

VIII. Conclusion

   While there is plenty more in Zechariah’s prophecy which we could use to demonstrate that the Preteristic view is flawed, I am sure that readers will agree with us that the Apocalypse of Zechariah awaits a future fulfillment. As Thomas Ice once asserted, Preterists cannot provide a textual interpretation of this most important prophetic passage. But when we use the literal method, the vapors induced by man’s interpretation fly away like mist before a morning breeze. Oh, confusion, away with thee! How refreshing it is to know that God has not left us confounded when it comes to understanding prophecy. Anyone who accepts the grammatical meaning of the words used to describe Christ’s coming will avoid falling into the snares and traps laid out by Preterists.

   My suggestion is that we each take time to study Zechariah 14 as we’ve never done before. Knowing that the scenes depicted therein may take place in our own lifetimes will be a powerful incentive to our belief in a literal fulfillment. And above all, let no man rob you of the comfort of knowing that the victory will be won by Christ on His own ground, and according to His own terms. As Christ is the true Seed of Abraham (Gal. 3: 16), so He must return to His own inherited land to obtain the victory over His foes. And we being Abraham’s children through faith in Him Who shall one day conquer (Gal. 3: 29; Romans 4: 13), let us be assured that we shall see, with our own eyes, the fulfillment of all the promises written in the Holy prophets.

10 Comments Add yours

  1. Tom Joseph says:

    Of course Jesus fulfilled the scripture about Jesus standing on the mount of Olives. He stood there and physically appeared to the Jew’s and began to split the Law from grace. He divided them from that point forward. This was a physical appearance. All was fulfilled in the new testament from Zechariah 14.

    Tom Joseph

  2. Hi Tom,

    That sounds like an artificial and contrived interpretation. When did the Mount of Olives ever signify the law?? I heartily disagree that any of Zechariah 14 was fulfilled in the past. In fact, this is the most pre-millennial chapter in the whole Bible.

    Brian

  3. isaacbennett says:

    I’ve been tossing around the idea that Jesus doesn’t firstly touch down on the Mount of Olives at the Second Coming. Reason being, Acts 1 doesn’t specifically say that He’ll return to the Mount of Olives, but rather “in like manner”, which I believe to mean in the same bodily form, visible to the natural and spiritual eye. Secondly, Zechariah 14 says that His feet will stand on the Mount, not “His feet will First stand.” Throw in the fact that he comes up from Bozrah, Edom, Egypt, Teman (Is. 63, Hab 3, and Is 19). It doesn’t make sense to me that He would first land on the Mount of Olives, then travel up to Meggido, and then travel back down through Israel into Edom and Egypt (or vis versa on Meggido and Edom). What do you think about Jesus following the same route that Israel did out of Egypt and into the promised land? He comes down somewhere on Siani penninsula (cf Ps. 68) and the goes from there into Egypt first and then up through modern day Jordan (Edom) to the right side of the dead and then crosses the Jordan river (like Joshua) and heads west towards Jerusalem – specifically the Mount of Olives, then from there goes up to the battle of Armageddon at Megiddo.

    Anyway, I’d just like to hear your thoughts on this if you have the time.

  4. Hi Isaac,

    Well, I tend to agree that maybe Jesus won’t return to to the Mount of Olives first. Arnold Fruchtenbaum has suggested that Christ will return first to Bozrah or Petra, to fight against the forces of Antichrist. This may be the case. If correct, then your scenario would make sense. I know I should study this issue in more detail. There are probably a lot more details in these endtime prophecies than meets the eye. But like Paul said, “we see through a glass darkly” (1 Cor. 13: 12).

    Peace & Health,

    Brian

  5. isaac says:

    Let us then pray that our eyes would be enlightened- Eph. 1:18.

    Blessings,

    p.s. When do you think Is. 64 happens or happened?

  6. isaac says:

    p.s.s I love this article by the way, sorry if it seems I’m picking random questions.

  7. Dion says:

    Brian,

    I liked how you left out Zech 14:8-9 where “living waters” i.e. the Spirit is poured out manifesting that Christ is lord!

    This is clearly how the lord judged those nations Grk ethnay i.e. the Gentiles that came against the New Jerusalem i.e. the church.

    Also explain how Judah in v 14 fights against Jerusalem as well?

    I’d rather go with Eusebius’approach sir.

    We interpret the OT through the NT remember?

  8. Dion,

    The living waters spoken of in Zechariah are actual rivers of water that flow from Jerusalem to Mediterranean and the Dead Sea. Jesus did say to those who believed in Him that living waters would flow from their innermost being; yet was he referencing Zech 14 (could it be Is. 55)? To the preterist or historisict- definitely. By nature of the preterist interpretive action it is impossible to see literal supernatural restoration of a river in Jerusalem.

    Yet, there is much to be desired in the way of fulfillment if Zech 14:8 only applies to the outpouring of the Spirit and gospel mission the first century church. The futurist premillennialist cannot see the fulfillment of the following things in that first century:

    -half of them flowing towards the eastern sea and half toward the western. How did half of the Spirit go to the east and west? How did half of the gospel go the east and west? Can the Spirit be divided? Can the gospel be divided? Can the disciples then be considered the “living waters” who “divided” themselves to carry the message of salvation to the seas?

    -Why is there emphasis on this disbursement of living water happening in both summer and winter? What about spring and fall?

    Both Joel (3:18) and Ezekiel (47) speak of this earthly river.

    Judah fights not ‘against’ Jerusalem. Judah will fight ‘AT’ Jerusalem. The futurist sees this as Jewish men fighting alongside Jesus during the Armageddon campaign. There is no need to seek a symbolic meaning to Judah or fighting because it simply means what it says. They are not resurrected men because they were not saved at the time of rapture. These same men are mentioned in Zech 12:8, “…the one who is feeble among them in that day shall be like David…”

    Jesus said – Mat 5:17 “Do not think that I came to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I did not come to abolish but to fulfill. 18 “For truly I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not the smallest letter or stroke shall pass from the Law until all is accomplished.

    Jesus built upon, He did not throw down. Where was the precedent established that Jesus came to overthrow the Jewish expectation of an earthly millennial kingdom?

    Where does it say in the bible to interpret the OT through the NT?

  9. Dave says:

    I heartily disagree that any of Zechariah 14 was fulfilled in the past.

    How can you deny that the Messiah’s feet standing on the Mount of Olives is a fulfillment? The so-called splitting of the Mount of Olives is not necessarily a direct consequence of that event. It may very well be, but to insist that it has to be is presumtion. You simply don’t know.

    As you say, We see through a glass darkly. So did Zechariah. So did Isaiah when he wrote, “The Spirit of the Lord GOD is upon me… To proclaim the acceptable year of the LORD, and the day of vengeance of our God.” Did the Messiah fulfill this prophecy when he said, “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me… To preach the acceptable year of the Lord. And he closed the book…”. Applying the same logic you apply to Zechariah 14, if you’re honest, you will have to say no.

  10. Dave says:

    half of them flowing towards the eastern sea and half toward the western. How did half of the Spirit go to the east and west? How did half of the gospel go the east and west? Can the Spirit be divided? Can the gospel be divided? Can the disciples then be considered the “living waters” who “divided” themselves to carry the message of salvation to the seas?

    It’s called figurative language which symbolizes the disbursement of the good news to all the world.

    Why is there emphasis on this disbursement of living water happening in both summer and winter? What about spring and fall?

    Because you won’t find spring and fall in the bible (see Genesis 8:22)

    Where was the precedent established that Jesus came to overthrow the Jewish expectation of an earthly millennial kingdom?

    One potent example is when he and the prophets said that the kingdom would be taken from them and given to a foolish nation. God has never wanted or promised an earthly kingdom. Why do you think he said they rejected him when they asked for an earthly kingdom (1 Samuel 8:7-8)? He correlates their request for a king with idolatry. God has has always wanted and promised a spiritual kingdom.

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