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"Amillennialism 101" -- Audio and On-Line Resources
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Eschatology Q & A -- What About Zechariah 14?

eschatology%20q%20and%20a.jpgReg asks (February 2008):

Dr. Riddlebarger:  I have read both of your recent books and found them compelling.  There is one passage of Scripture however which I cannot seem to integrate into amillenialism or even other biblical end times passages, that is Zechariah 14:16-21.  How does this passage fit into the scheme of things. Is this a description of life in the New Jerusalem?  If so what's with the sacrifices, the curse of no rain, etc?  I hope you can explain this for me.  Thanks.

Eric asks (July 2006):  

Premillenialists insist that Zechariah 14 is support for their view. I disagree.  But I am not currently able to explain very well why I disagree. Part of the reason I disagree is simply because so much other Scripture disproves the premillenial theory. One problem is that a few translations, including the KJV, translate Zechariah 14:1 as "the day of the Lord" cometh. Other translations translate it as "A day of the Lord comes...". I definitely believe "a day of the Lord" is the correct way of translating it, but I wondered if you could shed some light on this.

Verse 2 seems to be describing what happened in 70 AD. Verse 4 is one that premillenialists interpret literally but I believe it is referring to the first coming of Christ when he stood on the Mount of Olives. I believe the splitting of the mountain is figurative and refers to the divide that was created between those that are saved and those that are not.  Verse 5 again seems to be referring to 70 AD. But premillenialists point to where it says "the LORD my God shall come, and all the saints with thee". I believe that is a reference to the first coming but I don't know how to back that up with Scripture. Maybe you can help.  I believe verse 8 is fulfilled in John 7:37-39 where it talks about the living water that comes from the Holy Spirit.  Anyway, while I believe the entire passage refers to the first coming of Christ, as well as 70 AD, it is difficult to prove that. So, what is your interpretation of Zechariah 14?


In answering the basic question, “how does one interpret Zechariah 14?” we need to admit from the outset that this is a very difficult passage, in part, because it is never directly quoted in the New Testament, and given a definitive interpretation--although there are a number of allusions (echoes) to it, especially in the Book of Revelation (see, for example, the Scripture index in Beale’s work, The Book of Revelation, Eerdmans, 1999, 1196-1197).

Dispensationalists believe the prophecy describes Christ’s second coming, and the establishment of the subsequent millennial kingdom on the earth (Walvoord, Major Bible Prophecies, Zondervan, 94.)  Walvoord believes that vs. 16-21 specifically refer to the sacrifices made in Jerusalem during the future millennial kingdom (Walvoord, The Millennial Kingdom, Zondervan, 310-311).  J. D. Pentecost believes that these verses refer to Christ’s rule and punishment of any sin which may break out in the millennial age during Christ’s rule (Pentecost, Things to Come, Zondervan, 503).

Calvin saw the passage as tied to the time of Antichrist (Commentaries on the Twelve Minor Prophets, 5:405).  The great puritan John Owen saw this passage fulfilled in the end-times glory of the church (see Iain Murray’s The Puritan Hope, Banner of Truth, 1971, 38, where Murray cites Owen’s sermon “The Advantage of the Kingdom of Christ in the Shaking of the Kingdoms of the World”).  Gary DeMar, argues that this prophecy is fulfilled by the events of A.D. 70, when Jesus returns in the clouds to judge both Jerusalem and the temple (DeMar, Last Days Madness, American Vision 1999, 437-443).

One very helpful interpretation of this passage is found in Gerard Van Groningen’s Messianic Revelation in the Old Testament (Baker, 1990), 911-913).  Van Groningen argues that as we attempt to understand this most difficult passage, there are three very important things to keep in mind.  

First, the prophecy is apocalyptic in terms of its structure.  The use of dramatic symbols and metaphors (the reference to the Mount of Olives splitting open forming a large valley, “living water,” etc.) tells us that a literal interpretation is not likely, and that the prophecy will remain somewhat mysterious until the coming of the Messiah and the dawn of the messianic age.  

Second, there is a fair bit of prophetic perspective throughout the chapter.  In other words, in previous chapters of his prophecy (especially chapter 13), Zechariah has been predicting what will happen when the messianic age dawns–the Messiah will be pierced, and a fountain will be opened the cleansing of sin, which is a reference to Christ’s satisfaction for our sins upon the cross.  By using images from Israel’s past (i.e., during the days of Uzziah) when YHWH defended his people, Zechariah is now pointing ahead to the fact that although additional trials and tribulation will certainly come, God will continue to deliver his people in the most amazing of ways.  Zechariah foretells of how YHWH will defeat his enemies on behalf of his people (v. 3), that he will reign over the entire cosmos (vv. 4-5), and that he will rule over the nations (vv. 12-15), so as to provide freedom for his people to worship (v. 16).  He will restrain those who oppose his rule (v. 17-19).  Indeed, his Spirit will sanctify all of life (vv. 20-21) which clearly anticipates, and presupposes the out-pouring of the Spirit @ Pentecost.  

Third, this is the final chapter of Zechariah’s prophecy and is clearly messianic.  The death of the Messiah on behalf of his people (depicted in chapter 13), secures the benefits God’s people will enjoy as enumerated in chapter 14.  That YHWH rules and subdues his enemies while protecting his people, is the result of the Shepherd’s death and the cleaning fountain which results.  Jesus’ death is dawn of the new creation and establishes the conditions depicted in chapter 14.

To put it simply, Van Groningen sees Zechariah 14 as a prophecy of the messianic age yet to come, using apocalyptic language and symbols which relate the past experience of God’s people (in great tribulation) to their future expectations in the messianic age to come.  What comes about in chapter 14, clearly flows out of the Messiah’s death and subsequent rule, ensuring that the messianic kingdom yet to come will completely surpass anything that the theocratic kingdom of Israel could ever bring about or experience.

Meredith Kline takes this same general interpretative approach, but takes the prophecy one step farther (which I think is very helpful).  What is inaugurated by the Messiah (all of the blessings secured by the Messiah’s death, and the cleansing and sanctifying power which results) is ultimately brought to realization by the divine warrior (Jesus) who brings judgment to the nations (vv. 3-5), the establishment of the new creation (v. 6 ff).  According to Kline, at that time “the saints will possess a holy and blessed world, purged of all of God’s enemies.  The consummation of joy and glory typified by the Feast of Tabernacles will be realized.  And echoing Zechariah 6:8; 14:9 characterizes that day as the time when Yahweh alone will be king over the whole world” (Kline, Glory in Our Midst: A Biblical-Theological Reading of Zechariah’s Night Visions, Two-Age Press, 2001, 216). 

What Zechariah foresees then, is not only that the Messiah inaugurates the messianic age, but that he brings it to final consummation.

Thus the dispensationalists are correct to tie the prophecy, in part, to Christ’s second advent.  They err when they ignore the elements of this prophecy to be enjoyed in the present messianic age before Christ returns, and especially by tying this prophecy to a future earthly millennium on a partially redeemed earth, as opposed to Zechariah’s focus upon the prophecy's ultimate fulfillment in the final consummation, upon a new heaven and earth.

Reader Comments (4)

Excellent! Very helpful; thanks!
March 5, 2008 | Unregistered Commentercarolyn
This blog provides some clarity on part of Zechariah 14:
May 4, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterFrank
What about the part where people in the new heavens and earth (according to your position) can sin against the King ruling from Jerusalem (vv. 17-19)? That seems to undermine the amillennial interpretation and support that of the premillennialist.
April 29, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterDaniel
The events of Zechariah 14 can not take place upon a new heaven and new earth because in the new heaven and new earth there is no death!
November 19, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterL Green

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