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THE UNDULATIONS IN ZECHARIAH
and the HIGHWAY FOR HISTORY
THE TERRAIN OF TIME
If you think with imagination, then you can see undulations in Zechariah: that is, it is as if hills rise up and move to valleys; and again, as if hills of prophecy come and are exposed to the highest heavens, and then the movement is back to the plain of common events.
There is not a simple progression in time throughout the book, but there are vistas, themes and variations, rather like some vast musical Concerto. Indeed, something a little like this occurs in the book of Revelation, where for example, in Revelation 6 you move from a series in a group of series, of steps towards the End of the Age, but then sweep on in 6:14ff., to a deep recess as historical time draws near to the end of the Age (cf. Isaiah 2:19ff. and the parallels in the day of the Lord there). Here, events seen shoot like a star into the empyrean of distant things to come in judgment. Then in Revelation 7 you see an assemblage of the elect in heaven with tender care after their part in the tribulation; while in Revelation 8 we come to the continuance of a series of judgments numerically simply starting in 6, with many more such to come.
Again in Revelation 11, you have what appears the rapture of the Church in the midst of final persecutions and revelations of evil (cf. Acme, Alpha and Omega: Jesus Christ Ch. 5, Frantic Millenium ..., News 87), while in Revelation 12 you go back to the birth of Christ through the people of Israel and its 12 tribes as the national entity is brought to focus, and so on.
It is not dissimilar in Zechariah.
Thus in Zechariah 1, there is the remonstration and the review, concerning Israel's past fall into sins, the exhortation to turn from these and the exhibition of the fact that the 70 years detention in exile is a period now past (as foretold in Jeremiah 25). We are in the 6th century B.C.
The Lord indicates that He is zealous for Jerusalem and is returning (cf. His departure from Jerusalem as in Ezekiel 10), while in Zechariah 2, we see as it were, celestial oversight in the building specifications for the rebirth. In Ch. 3, there is the vision of the high priest, Joshua, turned by clothes change, as a symbol, before the prophet's spiritual eyes, into the exalted view of the Branch (the Messiah as in Isaiah 11), who is the "stone that I have laid before Joshua: ... Behold I will engrave its inscription, says the LORD of hosts, and I will remove the iniquity of that land in one day."
This as exhibited in Daniel 7, is a long way down the list of Empires; and He, the Christ, is brought in because it is SPIRITUALLY RELEVANT, not chronologically the next thing. That is not the criterion for progress in Zechariah: it is thematic.
This Messianic reference, in turn, is the parallel in turn to Isaiah 53:3-6,11, where we see that in sacrificial terms, that is the Lord who as the Lamb will purge by personal satisfaction, as a divine sacrifice, in Himself, the sin of all who receive Him, who are those who are 'healed'. This is the 'engraving'. We are being stirred, stimulated spiritually to awaken to spiritual insight, and to see the perspective of love, mercy, as it reaches this or that height to come.
Thus in terms of time, this being somewhat incidental, we have moved from the restoration of 6th century B.C. Jerusalem to the death of the Messiah (dated by Daniel at about what we call A.D. 30 cf. Highway of Holiness Ch. 4), and its sacrificial splendour and result, and had heavy correlation with Isaiah, in His Messianic predictions and theme.
In Zechariah 4, we have the vision of the two olive trees and the oil. But before this ending of the Chapter, there is presented this time, not the High Priest, through change of filthy clothing to clean, with explanation, made symbol of Christ to come, as in Chapter 3. Rather, now we see another figure used symbolically. This time, it is Zerubbabel, the Governor, symbol of the majestic rule of the Messiah, as further specified in Zechariah 6, as that of the God-man, both priest and prince, forbidden to lesser beings1 (as in II Chronicles 26:16ff.). For Him, in turn, Zerubbabel is a symbol, for he would complete the physical temple of that day, whilst Christ would BE the spiritual temple of the day to come, physically paying, Himself the sacrifice and the priest combined, for the sin thereby to be removed on "one day"!
SYMBOLS THAT SIGNIFY IN TIME AND MATURE INTO HISTORY
These appointees, High Priest and Governor, then jointly are symbols of aspects of the Messianic completeness, and the finishing of the Temple (3:9) in the presence of the "eyes of the Lord", has also prophetic significance of the Christ who will do this spiritually.
The two witnesses so starkly noted in Revelation 11, then are designated in the end of Ch. 4, as we move to what in that book are the environs of the end of the entire Age. This is where the term comes from, in Revelation, the famous usage, and the point is that both the ruling and priestly functions are here seen, as Christ in His Church moves them to "Come up here!" as in Revelation, thus securing the elect in what is termed (as in Matthew 24), the rapture.
Here they are seen in official uniform, as symbols of Christ to come, showing the priestly and ruling aspects; and there they are seen as symbols showing forth Christ near the end, who as aspects of the Church, are taken, and so the Church itself. This WITNESS (Matthew 28:19-20) has been their great feature of commission, and now as expressive of Christ's body, just as were the ruler and high priest of old in Zechariah 3-4, they represent the removal of the Church from the scene, one man left, one taken, as Christ foretold.
Thus in the "things to come" in Revelation, this is the place for the fulfilment of this aspect, and in studying Zechariah, we see the way such symbolism is used, the two specified in Zech. 3-4, representing the body of which they are functionaries, just as the aspects IN the Church designate that body, in which Christ dwells. The term 'witnesses' in Revelation, in turn, stresses that they are not the Messiah, but those who witness TO HIM, that is the living body of the Church.
Chapter 4 not only stresses this witness element, but the power of the Holy Spirit, by which these vast things are wrought, declaring: " 'Not by might, nor by power, but by My Spirit,' says the LORD of hosts." All this is wrought, not by the power of man, but by that of the LORD!
In Chapter 5, there is symbolism concerning the curse on Babylon, the nation which had destroyed much of Israel in the 6th century B.C., and there is indication at the end of the Chapter, of the progressive character of the secular spirituality, the maze of wicked substitutions for the truth, which that city has since symbolised, being even used as a name for Rome, as in Revelation 13,17, with the phrase "mystery Babylon" emphasising the point.
Thus do we move from early to late, using spiritual stairs to survey now this aspect, now that aspect of the totality of the divine actions for man; and actual chronological time is by no means the criterion of the assemblage of the words, but rather a differential background which occurs according to the theme and the divinely chosen method of exposing it to the historical eye.
In Ch. 6, we see a spiritual mission through Jerusalem, reminding us of Romans 9:1ff., of the work of the Lord using the nation of Israel in the domain of human deliverance and the message of salvation as shown earlier.
Ch. 7 speaks of the uselessness of mere formalism, ceremonialism, sacramentalism, and exhorts them to be consistent in character, real in spirit, godly in disposition, so that the symbolic appurtenances of worship are not a substitute for, but an expression of the spiritual life of the Lord. Thus "Execute true justice, show mercy and compassion everyone to his brother. Do not oppress the widow the fatherless, the alien or the poor. Let none of you plan evil in his heart against his brother."
This is then contrasted with the evil situation which had led to the devastation of Jerusalem by Babylon, and is an exhortation and reflection combined. Thus we move back to contemporary days of Zechariah.
Ch. 8 bespeaks the Lord's continuing patient zeal for Jerusalem, part of His massive Messianic plan for the race, and indicates that despite all the sins which have afflicted here, and astounding as it may seem, "Jerusalem shall be called the City of Truth, the Mountain of the LORD of hosts, the Holy Mountain," and peace is depicted in its environs. "They shall be My people and I will be their God, in truth and righteousness." This mirrors closely Isaiah 60, in Messianic terms, where this vast result is shown in terms of the risen Saviour and the power of God.
Thus He exhorts them as they rebuild, "Let your hands be strong, you who have been hearing in these days, these words by the mouth of the prophets, who spoke in the day the foundation was laid for the house of the LORD of hosts, that the temple might be built." So with this far vision, the Lord moves on them in their own day, to build.
Indeed, just as the Lord determined to punish Israel, now He will bless (8:14); and again He exhorts to that spiritual manner of life which is tender-hearted and true, godly and loving, about as far from militant Islam as the sun from the moon.
There will be a distinct missionary work appointed for Israel, even on an international scale, and how vast has been the impact, despite its sins, in the godly periods.
Ch. 9 speaks of the Lord's deliverance of Israel, just described for the manner of its due continuance, in moral and spiritual terms, from its enemies; and at once moves many centuries ahead, to the Messiah once more, now seen seated on an ass's colt, for He is their "King" and He is "coming to you. He is just and having salvation, lowly and riding on a donkey, a colt, the foal of a donkey."
Once more the preliminary sight returns, and the defence of Judah is seen, and what wonders the Maccabees performed!
Ch. 10 moving back to the days of desolation, speaks of the follies of their false prophets who had so gravely misled them into their ruin (as in Jeremiah 23, and specifically in this phase, in Jeremiah 5:31, written before the fall of Jerusalem, which was predicted: "The prophets prophesy falsely, and the priests rule by their own power; and My people love to have it so, but what will you do in the end?"
So it DID end! Jerusalem of that day, so long and so often and in so many figures (as in Hosea 12:10) warned, at last fell.
THE MESSIAH MOVES FROM PRELIMINARY THEME
TO HIS ULTIMATE FOCUS
However, this is not the way for Israel, and the Lord indicates that just as of old He had used this nation for great things, so "from him comes the cornerstone" (10:4), and that of course is the Messiah as in Ephesians 2. Indeed, we see a great re-gathering of Israel from the lands of the Gentiles, and this is related to a further dispersion (Zechariah 10:9), with world-wide restoration of many to the land of Israel, such as we have seen in our own day. This resembles Isaiah 11:10-11, where the second dispersion is also in view, following the Christ's arrival.
In Ch. 11 move on to the continuing folly of the false prophets, to which is contrasted the Messiah once more, moving on some centuries. This reaches a low point of horror, in 11:17, in a focal exhibit of satanic power. Yet in Ch. 11, before this, we are introduced anew to the Messiah, the recurrent focus, only end to sin and only Salvation! What do we now learn of His coming history on this earth ?
The Messiah now, that stone on which the sins of the believers were inscribed so that the iniquity would be removed in one day, as we saw in Zechariah Ch. 3, He is sold! for thirty pieces of silver!
How amazing that the ultimate in preciousness, the Lord Himself, should be sold like an ass! How asinine is such a sale!
And how ironic (cf. The Bright Light and the Uncomprehending Darkness Ch. 4)! A goodly price! He exclaims in divine estimate of this all but unutterable folly.
Such is His dismissal of this shameless act of drunken, spiritual folly. What a "princely price" for selling the Prince of Peace (as in Isaiah 9, and implied here). So in Ch. 11 of Zechariah, we move once more down the centuries, and making a thoroughfare of history, come to contemporary exhortation, coming realisation, actions of the Messiah, the regathering of Israel and the sale of the King.
This is followed by a later result, on which our study has already touched. This we may readily see, for we are dealing extensively with spiritual cause and effect, inside the thematic perspective, and history is merely an accompaniment, like a dog trying to catch up to his fast travelling master, but he does!.
What is that result ? This is a profoundly evil false shepherd, a lying misuser of divine name, an authentic visitation from hell, complete with horror, thus a matter far into the domain of the future, just as in Revelation 6 for John, moves the sight for the spiritual eye, now here now there, in time, according to theme. This depiction of the evil persona is found in 11:17. It is almost like lightening, moving from the high to the low and spreading, and here moving from the present to the past, to indicate the price of sin, and from the present to the future, to show the source of coming glory, and dwelling with precise movements, like a picture show, with many vignettes on the Messiah.
Sometimes this kind of movement is rather reminiscent of what in mathematics is the graph of the hyperbola, as it moves from far away from the 'y axis', to near it, and then ascends almost vertically, nearer and nearer to it, with a dramatic suddenness. Judas and the underlying power behind him (cf. John 6:70, 13:27), in one sweep come to mind, and the ultimacy of that evil (as shown in Revelation 16:13ff., 19:20, and 12:1ff., and in II Thessalonians 2), is brought up in terms of Zechariah
We move on, then, chronologically travelling in many directions fast, but thematically in clear stride, to Zechariah 12.
Here we have a number of fascinating elements concerning Israel and the Messiah, who, as Isaiah showed so dramatically and poignantly in 49:7 and 53:1-6, was rejected by the nation, as foretold.
First, we see one OUTCOME phase, in the elemental conflict for Jerusalem, where that city becomes a burden, a blight, an insufferable problem for those who seek to 'deal' with it, as now is being done by the USA, USSR, EU and UN, for example. It is also the case for Iraq, at war with it from 1948 to its fall, in stages in the first and second Gulf Wars of recent occurrence. It ... felt the burden of it!
So too did Iran, with its former atomic works bombed by Israel.
Not less, perhaps, has the USA, where the al Qaeda fumings, explicitly based on the US's involvement with Israel, have led to a few devastations in New York and elsewhere. That involvement, which was once unequivocal, has for some time become negative, and with the Madrid Quartet, is quite simply, acting in the direction of REMOVING yet more from Israel's slender hold on existence. It wants to constrict its geography, much already of the land snatched as by a pirate, from the original gift of all of Palestine, by Britain and the League of Nations, during and then after WW I.
Indeed, part of the possible 'process' is the gift of some of Jerusalem to those who, though in massed millions of people from many nations, and with billions of oil money often spent profligately by rulers and their associates, have not sufficed to eliminate Israel, despite such a desire concerning what they call 'the catastrophe'. The UN gives them a push, as if all the nations of the earth are afflicting Israel, and at this or that kind of battle with it. Do not be deluded by the word of 'peace' for the fact is removal of what a relatively few Israelis, and before that, Jews in the State not yet formed, managed by divine power and according to divine prediction, to secure!
There are many of the peoples against Israel, in the UN, and this makes it, with oil tenderness on the part of many, easier to understand that much exposed and disgraced body, and its multi-national hostility to any sort of consolidation for Israel. On the contrary, with the many nations attacking Israel, it joins its hostile voice: Strip, strip, strip! it cries. So do the nations gather, some with TALK of being kind, but still seeking to strip, some with talk of the 'catastrophe' with desire to turn back history and rid the earth of Israel.
Yet the burden of Jerusalem remains immense for many, and for those who interfere, and hold the hand of the oil-rich nations; and this burden, it is precisely as foretold. It is HEAVY! (Zechariah 12:3). It is a very heavy stone and back trouble readily comes when one attempts to heave such things!
In Zechariah 12, enormous military victories are forecast for Israel, things beyond all normal expectation, and this is precisely what happened against many nations, making their attacks, on a Holy Day of Atonement, or at other times, on Israel, invading and trying to choke it by manipulating usage of the Suez Canal, the Gulf or other means, sending in rockets, acting variously to invade it, harass it, foul its name, injure its citizens, injure its children, using whatever weapons they buy with oil money, or at times, weaponry from the USSR: whatever came to hand.
LIFE magazine had a special very large issue devoted to one of these wars, and it was regarded as an astounding contribution to military history. Such indeed were all three, those of 1948, 1967, 1973, the last leading to the encirclement of an army of Egypt (just ONE of the peoples invading at that time) BEYOND the Suez Canal. It appears that the release of that army occurred not least because the USSR was pondering sending paratroopers to the rescue, while Nixon put the forces on Red Alert in case nuclear or other action were needed.
That is the scope and stature of things precisely forecast in Zechariah 12:5-8. It is not in some past time in the early centuries, or at the time of the life of Zechariah the prophet, himself. It is on the contrary after the arrival of the Messiah to act as Saviour, in removing iniquity by having it inscribed on Himself. It is after His rejection by Israel as seen in Zechariah 11, and the 30 pieces of silver sale price (cf. Isaiah 49:7). It is after His resurrection (as in Psalm 16). It is an episode in the hearts, minds, lives and spirits of many in Israel. It is a REPENTANCE for the killing of Christ, set therefore a vast period ahead of the day of Zechariah himself (cf. the principle of prophecy as in I Peter 1:10-12).
Let us see this:
"Of this salvation the prophets have inquired and searched carefully, who prophesied of the grace that would come to you, searching what, or what manner of time, the Spirit of Christ who was in them was indicating when He testified beforehand the sufferings of Christ and the glories that would follow.
"To them it was revealed that, not to themselves, but to us they were ministering the things which now have been reported to you through those who have preached the gospel to you by the Holy Spirit sent from heaven - things which angels desire to look into."
Amazingly, then, we find this Zechariah action dated BEYOND the death of the Messiah, as indicated in Zechariah 3 and described in detail in Isaiah 50-53, Psalm 22 (cf. Joyful Jottings 22-25, With Heart ... Ch. 6).
Thus at a certain time in this milieu, there is a vision for Israel, or many in it, and there is an outpouring of the Holy Spirit such that they see the crucified Messiah. It is the LORD whom they see, "Me whom they pierced", the very One who will pour out the Holy Spirit (cf. John 15:26, where we see Christ will send Him). It is the Lord, who is speaking, and who declares that they will repent of their piercing of Him, Him who they sold, disregarded, insulted, devalued and despitefully used.
It proceeds to expose what is a coming culmination for Israel, with some resemblance to the repentance seen vicariously through Daniel in Daniel 10, and actually in Nehemiah 9, in terms of the earlier desolation at the hand of Babylon.
This time, it is not just for the destruction of the SYMBOL, such as Jerusalem as the city of the King, and the Temple as heavy with symbolism of His coming sacrifice (cf. Hebrews 7-10), but for the very death of the Saviour Himself and for their national culpability! This One Himself, infinitely better than symbol, this God as man sacrifice, it is He whose murder they repent, when He took human format, when He covered in His own self the price of ransom, the cost of deliverance from the sin's penalty of death.
This coming, this redemption, this bearing of
sin, this is as foretold in kind in Hosea 13:14, where the LORD indicates that
this is what He will personally do and in His own being, accomplish.
"Death, I will be your plagues!" He declared, "Grave, I will be your destruction!" In fact, it means no less than this: "I will ransom them from the power of the grave," He announces, the cost to be born and the manner of it shown in Isaiah as in the Psalm. So does He speak in Hosea 13, as mirrored by Paul in I Corinthians 15. So He foretold, and so He did; and in this instance, it is no just the ordering of history to do what He has in mind and declares of it: He actually personally does it HIMSELF!
Such is the intimacy of Godhead; and such is His closeness to man is securing redemption for those who receive Him (cf. John 1), and such is the glorious result. It is in seeing these things that the people, with the outpouring of the Spirit foretold in Zechariah 12:10, are moved, and in this way they come to the fountain for cleansing, now as in Romans 11, at last to be found in Jerusalem in a highly public way, that is the cleansing through the fountains of unmerited favour, divine grace, the Cross of Christ, in the power of the resurrection of the God whom nothing could hold, and in the presence of Him who, alive from the dead, now acts by His Spirit in their behalf.
In Zechariah 12, we see that they repent bitterly of their contribution as a nation to this worse-than-Temple loss, the Temple of the Lord Himself, AS the temple. They move in families to mourn such folly, and just as in Nehemiah, they mourn the loss of the wonders of the symbolic city and temple, so now they mourn far more, for the loss of the Prince of Peace. What a cost was this, what wars, what persecutions, precisely all as foretold from Moses, so far back, in Leviticus 26. There was the progression, and now in history, here it has come.
It has been for this and its preceding events, that they have suffered.
It is not this time a matter of 70 years, as in the exile into Babylon, but more like 2000 years! That is a huge time, and it is parallel to the entire Jewish history in time, from Abraham to the crucifixion of the Lamb! It is this which was typified by the ram which Abraham found in the thicket when he had been willing to sacrifice his son, but was shown this was not the way. No! instead, the LORD would provide the sacrifice, and so when the time came, not only in the symbol of animal sacrifice, but in the atonement of the death of the Messiah, He did! Psalm 49 expounds the principles behind this with diligence and poignancy. Sons cannot cover; only God can, and it is by redemption. In the end, it is God as in Hosea, Isaiah, the Psalms, who supplies the redemption.
EVIL MAKES ITS PASS BEFORE IT IS PAST
So we move forward some 2500 years from the sale of Christ in Ch. 11, to the acme of evil in his various ways and a final embodiment; and then to our present time with Jerusalem and its wars, 2000 years or so after the sale, and on to a coming event, the restoration of spiritual life to many in Israel by precisely such an outpouring as we noted in the last Chapter - 8 - above. Time is a servant to the exposition, hand to the Lord the elements for His declarations and explanations, like a dental nurse, on call to help. She moves here and there, gets this and that; and so the Lord moves in history here and there, to illustrate, indicate, asseverate, exhort, inform, concerning the themes which He divinely pursues through the prophet.
Zechariah 13 deals with the expulsion of idolatry and the annulment in Christ's name of sin for believers, its guilt and the presence of pardon. Such is the glory of this, that the text reverts with power to the horror involved in the betrayal of Christ, through which sin this pardon is procured, in that the sin led to the sacrifice for sin, and hence to atonement (13:7ff.), and so comes to what Psalm 41, 109, 55 show, the betrayal by Judas. This is back 2000 years from the present time! From this as new base, where the race of the realities unveiled has torn us to behold once more the sheer horror of the smiting of the Shepherd and the scattering of the sheep,.
This is traced to the aweful execution of the people of the Jewish race over time, until a vast proportion is slaughtered, removed, rendered extinct; but the whole remains, however diminished its dimensions. It is from this new base in time, and this theme in thought, that the next Chapter begins. We move now to a climax within the seething and squalid assault on Jewry, to find Jerusalem once more a bustling centre of action, indeed, just as the focus on the Messiah led us back to His being smitten, so that on the fury against Israel in this world, leads us ON now, to a massively significant moment, indeed war, as her day of deliverance approaches.
THE LORD INTERVENES
Yes it is in the area of “the day of the Lord”, when the crises pulse like heart-beats; and as in, this is not a 24 hour day, but a period of many and varied events, some there listed. It is a ‘day’*1 in which climax is a theme heralded from the skies, and terminal echoes on the land. The preliminaries now are becoming the ultimates and the movement to the end of the Age surges like ocean breakers. With Jews back in Jerusalem and fighting, and indeed doing so with the result that they obtain half the city (Zechariah 14:2), we are well on the way to their gaining ALL of it (thus moving, historically from 1948 to 1967).
This completion is at that latter date; and it is then that the time comes to life, of which Jesus said, we should lift up our hearts since the redemption day draws near (as in Romans 8:30), that day when pain and suffering will become past and the resurrection present.
Accordingly, in Zechariah 14, we see a new vignette, vista or opening into history. While the slaughter imposed on the Jewish people is fresh in our minds, from the end of Zechariah 13, the restoration is now in focus, the critical fighting rushes onto the scene, and the power of God is seen moving to make this a time of historical vigour. We see a vignette of victory in which the Lord makes sure that the climate changes, that the nation comes into vigorous life (it was declared to exist in May 1948, in a radio broadcast).
This time it is a division into two of Jerusalem, and the raping and ravishing that went with this disorderly and horrid action that occurred in 1948, with the Mandelbaum Gate, the division between Jewish and Jordanian parts of that city. In the Chapter 8 above, this has been expounded in some detail.
In Ch. 14, moving on now in this theme of confrontation, desolation and deliverance, the Lord comes to a later development. Nations which have been attacking Jerusalem are now to be met with a divine power which is final, absolute and devastating. He will then in person return, and the Mount of Olives will split (a fault has been found, geologically), and in this development, there will be plagues for the enemy. What has much resemblance to atomic radiation disease appears (Zechariah14:12).
Finally, there is a symbolic representation of the millenial period (as in Micah 2, Isaiah 4, 11, Psalm 72, Isaiah 65, Revelation 20). In this, it is apparent in terms of biblical principle, not least that in Isaiah 66:1ff., that the sacrificial system is a symbolic mode of representing what it STOOD for. As in Jeremiah 3:16, in the coming Covenant, those things will no more even COME TO MIND, but will be bypassed in externals, surpassed in spirit, and fulfilled in kind in the New Covenant (Jeremiah 31:31ff.) things which supplant the Old (Hebrews 8:13), because they are their consummation.
There is no turning back, but symbols may be used by the Lord to explain or indicate; and those for whom they help the understanding may not always realise the impact, but those to whom it has been revealed in principle, not only as in the Old Testament, where it is quite clear, but in the New, have no excuse for confusion. Symbols are to be understood in terms of their significance, when the New Covenant era is in place. What the Bible calls now obsolete, cannot be re-invented. Hebrews is at pains to exhort them to receive the New Covenant, and not to cling to the Old. There is no turning back from the unalterable Gospel, whoever preaches such a thing, as Paul makes so very clear in Galatians 1. It is to be preached as it was preached; it is not subject to change.
In a similar way, 'horses' can stand for military mobility, and the 'sword' for weapons of war by ordinary synecdoche or metonymy, when such terms are used for far future periods. Things with symbolic and clear meaning may be used, at the option of the writer, of events which later they merely symbolise, and we do the same. For example, we may say, The power of the sword will get you nowhere; or the pen is mightier than the sword. The idea that the atomic bomb is a more recent weapon, when one wishes to employ highly meaningful symbolism, is not to the point. The basic and underlying principle is!
Holiness becomes a keynote at the end, as in the beginning of the words through the prophet Zechariah, from the Lord.
Thus there is no mere chronological succession, whether in Revelation, or Zechariah, in either book, but there is a thematic combination of exhortation, intimation, specialised revelation, reflection, grace and mercy, forms of this kind or that, with the need for reflection and spiritual understanding of the use of symbols, of which Revelation for example has a vast array.
It is intended that moving out of Primary School (Hebrews 6:1ff.), one should now be ready in such splendour of symbol and on the other hand, amazing practical detail, to use discernment and to see with spiritual eyes. It is necessary to gain in understanding, increase in knowledge, be more apt in discernment, as not only milk, basic to life, but meat, for its upbuilding is used! (cf. I Corinthians 3:1ff.). It is not a matter of leaving the centrality of the cross of Christ and all that this portends, but of realising the power, motives, message, instructions, wisdom, understanding, depth and coverage, the perspective and wonder of the word of God to the full.
It is for this reason that one meditates on it, in Psalm 1, day and night, and that in Psalm 119, we see the passionate desire for understanding of all of God's word. We are to GROW in grace and in knowledge (II Peter 3:18), not shunt away from the depth and the riches of the word, and with this, seek deeply for the will of the living God. Hence we dig deep into the treasury of His word, and find the blessing of Psalm 1, and delight in the passion of Psalm 119. To 'abide' in His words, you need to know them; to know them, you seek to understand them, and this means a deep and consistent study of the Bible. To keep them is a part of love (John 14:21-23). As to the Old Testament, not a jot or tittle will fail (Matthew 5:17-19ff.)
It is in this sense that Christ exhorted, as seen in Luke 24, and reproached the disciples with the failure to REALISE the application of Old Testament prophecies to Himself. Some of them had been expressed in symbolic terms, some in practical detail; but the use of understanding as to DEFINED SYMBOLS, and the heavy emphasis in Hebrews and elsewhere, on INTERPRETING symbols, is a guide, and action to seek the depths of His word is required.
It is, as Christ said, let him who has ears, hear, and be careful how you hear.
Failure to see the sense and significance of symbols was precisely a problem with the follies of formalism exposed and dashed in Isaiah 1, and of traditional, established forms of what is actually spiritual blindness, as in Matthew 23. Such things are derided in Mark 7:7ff.. . Whether morally or spiritually, sight is essential, and understanding is required; and such is a grace the Lord loves to give as in Ephesians 1:17ff..
Far is this from any looseness; for the actual looseness is a failure to see symbol as having SIGNIFICANCE, and ignoring the express definition of terms and exclusions, as in Isaiah 66 and Jeremiah 3:16, of the passing away of Old Covenant modes into the irreversible splendour of the New.
It is this which with thunderous power, the writer of Hebrews is used to convey in Hebrews 6 and 10 in particular, as he asks the Jews, the Hebrews, to AWAKE to the principles and programs the Lord has made so clear, and to cease lurking in the shadows of what has now become ... 'obsolete' to use the translation of his word in Hebrews 8:13.
In this way, we find the beauty of the developments, according to spiritual theme, which demands now this and now that aspect of history, whether in Revelation or Zechariah, books both wealthy in symbolism and assuming understanding of principles. Through such things, the imagination may be stirred, understanding used and depth and beauty achieved in knowledge of the things of the Lord.
Zechariah 14, for example, has a theme of immediacy, of pressing events, of inability to resist the power of the Lord! It is moving through its historical aspects, whatever these may be, and in sucyh ways shows that the time is moving like a fast-flowing mountain stream when you come to this division of Jerusalem, as seen in 14:1ff., amid many foes.
We find when this comes, that their come-uppance presses, and their confrontation comes like an express train. It cannot be escaped. God is acting.
The nations may play with their burdensome stone, Jerusalem (as in 12:1ff.), but many results will come, and the finale is the Lord Himself, coming to reign and rule (Zechariah 14:5), with all His saints. As in Acts 1:7ff.. He will come in a manner like that of His departure (cf. Matthew 24:26-30, Mark 14:62), and in the judgment, as in II Thessalonians 1. There is nothing flimsy or insubstantial about it.
We are CURRENTLY in the very midst of this stream of the finale of Zechariah 14, and foolish is he who ignores it, and passes from the equally devastating fact; for those who want a nice old world to keep rumbling along, that Jerusalem is now back in the control of Israel, must face a condition for the end of the Age (as in Luke 21:24). It is not going to be like that, but like a cyclotron, it will rage and end with power and impact.
Indeed, it is more than that. From the mouth of Christ, it comes: this restoration of Jerusalem to Israel is part of the divinely defined signals that the "time is near". We cannot define 'near' but clearly if someone's removal from hospital is near, it is not a life-time away!
The wars of 1948, 1967, 1973 are also a fulfilment in this milieu, as is the whole assemblage of additional factors framed in the word of God. These are reviewed in some detail in Answers to Questions Ch. 5.
Indeed, we are not given either these:
PRINCIPLES of the movement irreversible in kind,
from the Old Covenant to the New, or
DETAILS, signs, signals and keys to development:
in order to ignore them!
We are not to move on the one hand, as in dispensationalism, which ignores basic principles of change and constancy, stipulated in the Bible; nor on the other, in liberalism, neo-orthodoxy and the vagueness of some neo-evangelicalism, where precision and propositions can be interred readily to meet the flows of philosophy; but so that we might be awake by the word of the Lord, to the work of the Lord.
Blessed is he, is she in whose heart the awakening still to come for Israel the nation,
has come already, and holding fast to the New Covenant and the vast unity
of Jewish and Gentile components of the body of Christ, and realising the sudden increment to come as in Romans 11, keeps clear vision, neither obscured by anti-scriptural laxity, nor by self-confident carelessness about detail, and watching the way, walks in the highway of holiness.
Praise the Lord.
*1 Thus Jesus Christ declared that Abraham rejoiced to see "My day" (John 8:56). It is apparent that this includes all of the incarnate Christ's focus: the incarnation, the growth to become ready for the ministry, the power and grace of it, He being full of grace and truth, the completion of the prophecy that in his seed would be the grace of blessing for all nations, the mode of it and the panorama of the events, at least in outline. To "rejoice" as the one to whom the prediction was made (Genesis 12:3), of such a divine action, would imply very much such an awareness; and indeed in the case of Moses and Elijah we see the knowledgeable discourse in the transfiguration of Jesus Christ, as they DISCUSS the coming death which He would ACCOMPLISH.
At all events, there is much in the day of Christ at which Abraham would rejoice, and it is not some 24 hour period, but an EPOCH which is in view. It is the TIME IN WHICH whatever is in mind transpires. We use the term in much the same way - that was the day of Nazism's power, or English's grandeur.
In Joel 3:9, you have the same epochal impact for the day of the Lord drawing near: it is not some sweet splendour but a developing expression of divine power, here leading on to the millenium as to sequence and thrust of flow; and in this period the Lord does wonderful things for Israel, a nation so long disciplined, so long astray, but now when the moment comes, as in Zechariah 12:10-13:1, entering into a terminal phase of better things, though in a mode intensely dramatic.
"day of the Lord is near," says Joel as these
"Behold the day of the Lord is coming," says
"Now when these thing begin to happen," says Jesus
Joel moreover, we find for this period, that
"the LORD will roar from Zion (3:16),
For this drawing near of the day of the Lord, as shown in It Bubbles … Ch. 10, there is the prelude and then the culmination: the return to their land, the former, and the outpouring of the Spirit of God leading to their conversion in vast numbers, the latter (as in Ezekiel 37, exposited in Ch. 10 as noted). Embodied now in His Church (Isaiah 60), freed from the unbelief of clinging to themselves (Isaiah 65:;13-15), theirs is a blessed future, who believe. The Messiah by that time not only has provided glorious rest for the Gentile (Isaiah 11:10), but also on precisely the same spiritual basis, for the believing Jew (Isaiah 49:6), and all is secured by the one Messiah by the one Gospel in the one faith (Ephesians 4:4, Galatians 1), on the one thrust, that of love (John 3:16), in the one milieu, that of mercy (Micah 3:19ff.), with the glorious result, that Jew or Gentile, Greek or other, they are all one in Christ Jesus (Galatians 3:28-29). Nothing changes here.
The one God in multitudes of marvels throughout a vast panorama of history, using first Jew then Gentile, and tying all together in one Gospel based on one Saviour, who is God, in the appointed time (Daniel 8:24-27, Galatians 4:4) took flesh and died for sin, and risen, called a nation which did not hear, though some in it were apostles in the Christian Church and some a spearhead of bringing the Good News to the Gentiles. He called no less many who did hear among many peoples, at length recalled the nation and will go on to win many in her who rebelled, that all in one, should rejoice in the One over all, who specified a land for a people, for the book of the Lord, and then for the birth of the Lord of the Book, that in His time, all being realised, the realisation of many might be of the wonder of God their Saviour, and history on this earth dismissed, heaven itself be a residence for the many from many places, whose one Lord having created and re-created them now rejoice in His praise (Revelation 5, 7, 21-22).
Whether men be attacked, missionaries killed, truth travestied, distortions indulged in, slanders uttered or libels multiple, nothing changes here. It is always the same; for the word of the Lord endures for ever, and His will is wrought whether man wishes otherwise or not, whether delusively or intrusively. Praise the Lord, for His is the truth which breaks hammers, and manifests itself even in the midst of a reluctant world, which splits accordingly, sadly, poignantly, and in the end must go (II Peter 3).