PMW 2021-038 by Kenneth L. Gentry, Jr.
In my last article I began a two-part study on Zechariah 14. Having presented the dispensational view, I will now present a postmillennial interpretation of this famous passage.
The Siege of Jerusalem
The siege of Jerusalem described in Zechariah 14:1–2 points to the AD 70 judgment upon Jerusalem. J. Dwight Pentecost admits that the disciples who hear the Olivet Discourse would naturally apply Zechariah 14 to that event. But then, he says, such requires the confusing of God’s program for the church with that for Israel. So, he and other dispen-sationalists interpret the passage literalistically, with all the topographical and redemptive historical absurdities this creates. As they do this they totally omit any reference to the destruction of the very city and temple being rebuilt in Zechariah’s day. Yet this literal temple (the second temple) is destroyed in AD 70, as all agree.
Zechariah 14:1–2 pictures the Roman imperial forces joining the various client kings who engage the Jewish War AD 67–70. This war is conducted by an empire of “nations” (v 2), consisting not only of the Romans but the lands of Syria, Asia Minor, Palestine, Gaul, Egypt, Britain, and others. Client kings, such as Antiochus, Agrippa, Sohemus, Malchus, and Alexander, provide auxiliary forces for Rome during the Jewish War (J.W. 2:18:9; 3:4:2; 5:1:6). The consequences are disastrous: much of Israel’s population is either killed or led captive. D. A. Carson observes that never was “so high a percentage of a great city so thoroughly and painfully exterminated and enslaved as during the Fall of Jerusalem.” Yet the Lord defends those who are truly his people, insuring their escape from the besieged city (vv 3–4).
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The Lord will fight for his true people “as when he fought in the day of battle” (v 4). The Lord’s feet standing on the Mount of Olives and his fighting for his people need be no more literal than other references regarding the Lord’s fighting for Israel in the Old Testament. The language is similar to that in Joshua 10:14, 42 and 23:3, where the Lord “fought for Israel.” In Joshua these references indicate his providential favor in Israel’s victory and deliverance, not his corporeal presence. Prophecy often mentions God’s feet when his and Israel’s enemies are thwarted and are given success against all odds (Ps 18:9; Isa 60:13; Nah 1:3; Hab 3:5).
The Cleaving of Olivet
The cleaving of the Mount of Olives under him employs the common imagery of God’s conquering and restraining power in Old Testament prophecy. In Micah 1:3–4 we read that “the LORD is coming out of His place; He will come down and tread on the high places of the earth. The mountains will melt under him, and the valleys will split like wax before the fire, like waters poured down a steep place.” Even dispensationalists admit this speaks of the Old Testament subjugation of Israel under heathen nations for her sin. Mentioning the direction of the cleft “indicates the direction of their flight,” i.e., the Christians who flee Jerusalem when God judges it. They ultimately flee to all points of the compass, taking the gospel with them (cf. vv 8–9).
In the latter part of verse 5 the coming judgment upon Jerusalem, which disperses the Christians over the Roman Empire, is ultimately God’s coming in angelic judgment (“holy ones” are angels). Jerusalem’s destruction by Rome is providential destruction by “his armies” (Mt 22:7). It leads to darkness and woe upon Israel (Zec 14:6–7; cf. Ac 2:20, 22; Mt 24:29). Yet, as Jerusalem collapses and Christianity separates from her Jewish constraints, the waters of life begin flowing out into all the world (v 8; cp. Mt 24:14; Ac 1:8; 9:15). The Lord’s kingdom overflows Israel’s limited borders so that the he becomes the King of all the earth (v 9; Mt 28:18–19; Eph 1:20–21).
The subsequent topographical and liturgical references figuratively portray the ethical and spiritual changes that occur under Christ’s spir-itual administration as his worship spreads through the earth (vv 10ff). Even Jerusalem and the Jews shall be nourished by the waters of life eventually (vv 10–11; cf. Eze 47:1ff; Jn 7:38–39). The enemies of God’s people will either be vanquished (vv 12–13, 14), converted (vv 16, 20–21), or reduced to insignificance (vv 14, 17–19).
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The Feast of Tabernacles is mentioned, not as a literal reinstitution of the Old Testament feast, but as the ultimate hope pre-figured in that feast: the time of the full evangelical harvest (cf. Jn 4:35–38). Those who do not convert will be reduced to servile labors, lacking the blessing of God (vv 17–19).
Overall, however, the kingdom of God (represented here by a reju-venated Jerusalem, cp. Gal 4:25–26; Heb 12:22; Rev 21:2) will be spread throughout the earth. All areas of life will be consecrated to the Lord: even the horses’ bells will contain the inscription written on the High Priest’s miter (vv 20–21).