Mount Olives split 2PMW 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).Getting the Message

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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).

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  1. Alvin Plummer May 15, 2021 at 10:46 pm

    Reblogged this on Acrosss the Stars and commented:
    Some good thinking on Zechariah 14.

    God’s people suffered serious pain, in a partial imitation of the pain Christ bore. But they also receive a good future, in a partial imitation of the reward Christ received.

  2. eze33 May 30, 2021 at 9:05 pm

    There is a duality in prophecy with the greater fulfilment of “in that day” being the return of Jesus Christ as King of Kings to rule right here on earth. LOLGB+

  3. Wayne September 1, 2021 at 1:28 pm

    Zechariah 14 represents (The Second Coming) and (The Eternal Kingdom) in the New Heaven, Earth, Jerusalem

    The claim (The Day Of The Lord) is a 70AD judgement on Jerusalem is false, as this is the last day of judgement upon the entire earth, as multiple scriptures teach

    (1.) In Zechariah 14:1 (The Day of Lord) is taking place also seen in 2 Peter 3:10, that finishes in fire judgement as seen in Zechariah 14:12 below, as men are consumed as they stand on their feet

    Zechariah 14:1KJV
    1 Behold, the day of the Lord cometh, and thy spoil shall be divided in the midst of thee.

    2 Peter 3:10KJV
    10 But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night; in the which the heavens shall pass away with a great noise, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat, the earth also and the works that are therein shall be burned up.

    Zechariah 14:12KJV
    12 And this shall be the plague wherewith the Lord will smite all the people that 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.

    (2.) The river of life is present in Zechariah14:8, a parallel teaching of Revelation 22:1 in the (Eternal Kingdom) as seen below

    Zechariah 14:8KJV
    8 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.

    Revelation 22:1KJV
    And he shewed me a pure river of water of life, clear as crystal, proceeding out of the throne of God and of the Lamb.

  4. Kenneth Gentry September 9, 2021 at 11:50 am

    You can’t win them all!

  5. Caique Matheus Ribeiro Calixto February 7, 2022 at 6:56 am

    Zechariah 12:2 says that Israel would be a cup of wrath to the nations around. How was this fulfilled in A.D. 70? Israel was not a cup of wrath for Rome and the other nations. How to solve this problem?

  6. Kenneth Gentry February 8, 2022 at 2:52 pm

    Actually, the Jewish War with Israel was a cup of wrath for the nations. Rome endured the destructive Roman Civil Wars of AD 69-70, which included the destabilizing Year of the Four Emperors. Rome was an empire of nations.

  7. Kevin Marek November 7, 2022 at 4:41 pm

    Well answered Ken! It’s hard to argue when the opponents don’t take the care to quote the text accurately. I really appreciate the careful consideration of context with other OT prophetic and historical texts to help understand this book (Zechariah), being one of the most obscure and cryptic texts of the Reformed canon. Lastly, thanks for pointing out the need to address also the a priori assumptions and rationales that we bring to the text (see first commenter), as this was a very humbling discovery to me a few years ago, one which I hope all my brothers and sisters realize early in their sanctification. We have to go to the scriptures as though a mirror, not a self-portrait.

  8. Chase Cohee December 20, 2022 at 5:32 pm

    Thanks for the exposition Dr. Gentry. Would love to hear a postmillennial perspective on Zechariah 12. I’ve often heard dispensationalists argue that it refers to Armageddon and God’s decisive victory for Israel at Christ’s return. Do you see chapter 12 as a reference to 70 AD, and if so, why does the text describe God delivering Jerusalem from the nations?

  9. Kenneth Gentry December 24, 2022 at 10:35 am

    I will try to get to that in a future post. God bless!

  10. Andrew P May 19, 2023 at 5:19 pm

    Hi Dr. Gentry,

    I’ve found your arguments about John’s Apocalypse very convincing, and I am very close to being a preterist. However, Zech. 12-14 remains a stumbling-block for my understanding of preterism. I don’t understand how any of this prophecy can have been fulfilled in AD 70.

    There was certainly a siege of Jerusalem (Zech. 14:1-2). However, the nations that came against it in AD 70 were not “grievously hurt” (Zech. 12:2-4), nor did Yahweh come to fight against them (Zech. 12:9; 14:3), nor did they die in a plague and lose their wealth (Zech. 14:12-15). Yahweh did not save Jerusalem in AD 70 (Zech. 12:5-8). The people of Israel did mourn, but not for their pierced Messiah (Zech. 12:10-14). Jerusalem did not “dwell in safety” after this day (Zech. 14:11). And although you said in your post that “those who do not convert will be reduced to servile labors”, that’s not what Zech. 14:16-19 says; it specifically says that “there will be no rain upon them.”

    Although you say that *New* Jerusalem was saved in AD 70, I don’t see how you can get that from Zech. 12. There is no indication of a change in referent. “Jerusalem” seems to refer to the same thing throughout the passage. Likewise, in Zech. 14:10, there are specific geographical markers that apply only to physical Jerusalem. Would the original readers have understood a change in referent? If not, then why should we?

    At the same time, however, I see that “that day” (referred to in Zech. 12:3, 4, 6, 8, 9, 11; 13:1, 2, 4; 14:4, 6, 8, 13, 20) can’t be far removed from the 1st century AD, because one of the events of “that day” was fulfilled in Jesus’ crucifixion (Zech. 13:7; cf. Mark 14:27).

    Is it possible that “that day” has a different referent in chapters 12 and/or 14 than in chapter 13? And if not, then how can you explain the apparent contradictions between Zech. 12-14 and the events of AD 70?


  11. Kenneth Gentry May 22, 2023 at 11:18 am

    Thanks for writing. The preterist understanding of the Book of Revelation does not depend upon our interpretation of Zechariah 12-14. Revelation stands on its own. Revelation generally only alludes to the OT, without directly fulfilling particular verses. For instance, in Rev. 13 we have a clear ALLUSION to Daniel and his four beasts, but John compacts them into one beast. He is often using the dramatic power of OT imagery and employing it to his own ends.

    However, for Zechariah 12-14 I recommend consulting the 1957 edition of the New Bible Commentary.

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