Second Coming of Christ

Zechariah: The Coming of the Lord with His Saints, Part 3

My last article advanced a chart listing ten parallels between Zechariah 14 and the book of Revelation. The points of comparison are not minor but major elements pertaining to God’s Scheme of Redemption. In this and pursuant articles we wish to develop in some detail the significance of these parallels.

Zechariah predicted the coming of the Lord with all his saints, 14:5. Pusey claimed: "Whenever the Scriptures say that the saints and angels come with Christ, it is always speaking of His Second Coming." He is surely correct. The trouble for Pusey and all futurists however is that Zechariah has placed that coming in direct association with the fall of Jerusalem!

How is it possible to divorce the day of the Lord in verse 1 from the coming in verse 5? There is no division in the chapter. Only theological bias constrains the suggestion that while the Romans did fulfill Jesus’ prediction of the siege of Jerusalem "At the end of the age preceding the second coming of Christ, Jerusalem will be in a similar situation."

The concept of the Lord coming with his saints is a common Old Covenant theme and is the source for the New Covenant predictions. In fact, "`All the essential details’ of New Testament portrayals of the Parousia `are found in Old Testament descriptions of the coming theophany.’" Minear says "As one recalls Old Testament passages like these (Joel, Isaiah, etc., DKP) one is forced to conclude that every essential feature of the New Testament prophecies were an echo of these. No Christian prophet tried to explain the meaning of these references to solar disasters, a fact that suggests that the audience was expected to understand the language."

In Deuteronomy 33:2 we are told that at Sinai the Lord came with "ten thousand of his saints". Did Jehovah literally come with ten thousand saints? Not according to the historical record. But Jehovah manifested Himself in majesty and glory on the Mount and therefore He is said to have come. This metaphorical language is the "lingua franca" of passages speaking of epiphanies of the Lord.

Fairbairn, although inconsistent with his own conclusions stated the case beautifully. After considering the metaphoric usage of Old Testament passages predicting the coming of the Lord he concluded:

"So that, as regards the Lord’s presence and coming, the real and the visible are by no means to be regarded as interchangeable; and it is only from the accompanying circumstances and conditions that we can determine, in regard to any predicted manifestation of Himself, whether it is to be patent to the senses of men, or concealed from their view. Such are the conclusions from a consideration of what is written of it in the Old Testament Scripture. And the presumption is, as we have already indicated, that it may not be materially different when we pass from the Old to the New."

This Old Testament background is the fountain from whence flows the New Testament predictions of the parousia of Jesus. If the New Testament writers constantly quote from Old Testament metaphoric language upon what hermeneutical principle does one make the New Testament prophecies predictive of a literal, physical coming of the Lord?

Now if Zechariah 14:5 predicted the A.D. 70 coming of Jesus with his saints in judgment of the Old Covenant World of Israel, and if Zechariah 14:5 serves as the basis for the New Testament predictions of the coming of the Lord with his saints, then it must be true that the New Testament predictions of the coming of the Lord with his saints must refer to the A.D. 70 coming of Jesus. This view is amply supported by an examination of the New Testament texts predicting the coming of the Lord with his saints.

Matthew 13:39f
Jesus said he was going to come with his angels at the end of "this age" verse 39-40. Jesus’ "this age" can be none other than the Old Covenant Age. Jesus was born under the Law, Galatians 4:4, in the last days, 1 Peter 1:18-20, at the end of the age, Hebrews 9:26.

In Matthew 13:43 Jesus said the end of the age would be when the righteous would shine like the stars. This is a quote of Daniel 12:3. Daniel 12 says that prediction of the time of the end would be fulfilled "when the power of the holy people has been completely shattered" verse 7. Thus, the coming of Jesus "with his saints"/angels agrees with Zechariah’s placement at the fall of Jerusalem and must be understood metaphorically in harmony with its Old Covenant usage.

Matthew 16:27-28
Jesus placed his coming with the angels within the lifetime of those standing with him when he spoke these words. Attempts to divide verse 27 from 28 fail. In each of my three debates with Bill Lockwood I devoted one entire speech to an exposition of these verses. In the first two debates he ignored my argument entirely. In the third debate he finally said that both verses could be applied to Pentecost. This can only mean that 1.) The language of coming with the angels is metaphoric; 2.) Jesus judged every man on Pentecost.

What event within the first century generation qualifies as the coming of the Lord with his saints in judgment? Fairbairn says that no "fair and natural exposition" of these verses can render any other application than to the fall of Jerusalem.

Matthew 24:30-31
In his prediction of the fall of Jerusalem and the associated end of the age, 24:2, Jesus predicted his coming with the angels to gather together the elect. He emphatically placed this event within his generation.

Consistent with Zechariah’s prediction of the coming of the Lord with his saints at the time of Jerusalem’s judgment Jesus said he would come with his angels to gather the elect. The prediction is the same, the framework is the same.

The connection between Zechariah’s prophecy and Matthew 24 is strengthen when it is realized that Matthew 24:30 "then shall all of the tribes of the earth mourn" is taken directly from Zechariah 12:10. Zechariah predicted the time when there would be tremendous mourning in Israel. He said only a remnant (two thirds shall perish) would be saved because of the coming judgment. This would be the time when the fountain for sin would be opened and the descendant of David would sit on the throne, Zechariah 12-13.

The fountain for sin in chapter Zechariah 13 cannot be a different than the living waters of 14:8 and that living water would be offered "in that day"; the day of the Lord’s coming against Jerusalem. Thus, the coming of the Lord with his holy ones in Zechariah 14 is directly the source for the Lord’s prediction of his coming against Jerusalem with his angels in Matthew 24.

Matthew 25:31
France says this passage is a "clear allusion to Zechariah 14:5." While we personally believe that Joel 2-3 serves as the dominant source for this text, nonetheless Zechariah and Joel certainly predicted the same timeframe and events. Joel also predicted the coming of the Lord with his "mighty ones" 3:11. Therefore Matthew 25 is probably a conflation of the two texts. If this is true, and there can be no serious doubt that it is, we are once again forced to place the passage within the framework of the fall of Jerusalem. But a comparison with two texts examined above should remove all doubt. Notice the comparison.

Matthew 16:27-28 Matthew 25
Coming of the Son of Man Coming of the Son of Man
with his angels with his angels
to judge every man all nations gathered
coming in kingdom sits on the throne of kingdom
"Some standing here" sh
all see
Lifetime of those who saw Jesus

Now notice the comparison with chapter 24

Matthew 24: 29-31 Matthew 25:31f
Coming of the Son of Man Coming of the Son of Man
with his angels with his angels
coming in power and glory coming in power and glory
gathering of the elect all nations gathered
This generation shall not pass Same text applies*

* Since there is no chapter division in chapter 24 the time statement of Matthew 24:34 applies to Matthew 25:31. The theory of a divided Olivet Discourse is untenable. See our series of articles for more information.

It should be apparent that Matthew 25 says not one thing different than chapter 16 and chapter 24. Yet traditionally, at least in the amillennial school, Matthew 16:27-28 is divided between verses 27-28 and Matthew 24:29-31 is applied to the fall of Jerusalem in A.D. 70. This mixed bag of interpretations when the identical language and thought is involved is at the least cause for caution. Consistency of language, consistency of thought, and consistency of time references demand identical subject. And if Zechariah 14 is admitted to be the source of Matthew 25 then its application to the judgment at the end of the Old Covenant Aeon is established.

1 Thessalonians 3:13
Bruce says this text is "based on that of earlier theophanies in the OT: when God reveals himself, for deliverance or for judgment he is regularly attended by angels." He references Zechariah 14:5 as the source for this passage. Wanamaker cites several OT passages that spoke of the coming of the Lord with his saints/holy ones and says that Zechariah 14:5 "especially," "may be the source of Paul’s thought."

Now if Zechariah 14 is the source for 1 Thessalonians 3:13, unless one can establish beyond doubt that Paul was simply using familiar language but in a new and different way, then 1.) the metaphoric nature of the parousia language must be acknowledged since Zechariah’s prediction is patently so; 2.) the application to the parousia at the fall of Jerusalem is also established. If Zechariah was the prophecy Paul was quoting in Thessalonians then since that prophecy had not been fulfilled when Paul cited it in Thessalonians, would it not be terribly confusing for Paul to quote it but apply it to something totally different and unrelated to Zechariah?

1 THESSALONIANS 4:13-18

Perhaps no passage predictive of the Lord’s coming with his saints/angels is so hotly contested and adamantly applied to the future than this one. Yet it is interesting and significant to observe the contradictions in the attempts to apply this passage to the future and not A.D. 70.

Kenneth Gentry, noted apologist for the Postmillennial Reconstructionist movement, applies Matthew 24:29-31 to the A.D. parousia of Jesus. He well understands the apocalyptic, metaphoric and spiritual nature of the language employed. Yet he applies 1 Thessalonians to a literal event sometime in the future. Now Gentry is adamant that the time parameters of Matthew 24:34 and other texts that delimit the time frame for the Lord’s coming, e.g. "shortly" "at hand" "near," etc. "are to be applied to A.D. 70." Yet Paul says twice in 1 Thessalonians 4:15, 17 "we who are alive and remain unto the coming of the Lord."

Paul’s reference to the living is in direct contrast to the friends and relatives of the Thessalonians that have died before the Lord’s coming. Their death before the Lord’s coming had caused great consternation among those who were "alive and remaining." It is the Thessalonians–that generation–that is the focus of "we who are alive and remain." This is a graphic delimitation of when the Lord’s manifestation would occur–in the generation of the Thessalonians. The question is why does Gentry, and other futurists, not acknowledge the time statements as they insist millennialists must do on other passages?

The parallel between the Olivet Discourse and 1 Thessalonians 4 has been demonstrated in previous articles of the Living Presence. We will not repeat that evidence except to note that every constituent element of Thessalonians finds its direct parallel in Matthew 24:29-31. Further, we have Paul’s statement that he is only reminding the Thessalonians of what the Lord had said, 1 Thessalonians 4:15. The only passage from Jesus’ personal ministry containing every constituent element found in Thessalonians is Matthew 24:29-31. Now if Matthew 24 refers to A.D. 70, Thessalonians must as well.

2 Thessalonians 1:7-12
Robinson says this text is a "pastiche of Old Testament quotations" in addition to being directly parallel with the Olivet Discourse. Paul quotes from Isaiah 2:19f, Isaiah 66:15f; his allusion to the Lord coming with his angels could be from Zechariah 14 or from Joel. But it is clear that as strongly as this text is drawn from the Old Testament the idea of coming with the holy ones cannot be divorced from that foundation. As with the other passages predictive of the coming of the Lord with his saints/holy ones, since the Old Testament predictions of the Lord coming with his holy ones are invariably metaphoric there must be extremely strong contextual reason for changing that understanding in Thessalonians.

Further, if Zechariah or Joel is the source for Paul’s reference to the parousia with angels, then since both of those texts has that epiphany associated with the last days of Israel we must honor that in Thessalonians as well. And the text in Thessalonians demands a first century fulfillment.

This passage is one of the most clearly chronologically delimited texts in the New Testament and yet its time statements are almost totally ignored.

Paul mentions four times the present suffering of the Thessalonians at the hands of persecutors, verse 4, 5, 6, 7. As Wanamaker says "When 2 Thessalonians was written, persecution and affliction were still part of the readers’ continuing experience, as the present tense of anexesthe (you are enduring) shows."

Of the words Paul uses to describe the suffering being experienced, thlipsis is of great significance. This word is used 45 times in the NT and is the word used by Jesus to predict the affliction to come on the church prior to his coming at the end of the Old Aeon, Matthew 24:9. The word thlipsis literally means pressure. The kind of pressure is determined by the context. It can be financial, 2 Corinthians 8:13, or even the pressure of child birth, John 16:21. But the preponderant usage of thlipsis in the New Testament is to the pressure of persecution for the name of Jesus. Paul uses thlipsis four times in 2 Thessalonians 1:4-7.

But Paul also uses another word, anesis, to speak of the relief from the pressure of thlipsis. Anesis is relief from pressure. Anytime anesis is used with thlipsis, anesis is the relief from the pressure being experienced. In Thessalonians Paul said the Thessalonians were being pressu
red by persecution. But he said they would receive rest/relief "when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven with his mighty angels." The coming, (elthe), of Christ would bring relief from the persecution being experienced by the Thessalonians.

The apostle did not say they would receive relief from persecution when they died; he did not say to live as if they would receive relief at the parousia; he did not say the Savior might come and relieve their pressure; he did not say they would die and then at some future time Jesus would come and give them relief — would this not mean they would have to be pressured in Hades if this view were true? Paul said they were being pressured but that Jesus would give them relief/rest from that pressure at his coming.

There is not a clearer or more emphatic statement as to the time of the Lord’s coming with his saints in all of scripture. The Lord was to come in the lifetime of the Thessalonians, while they were being persecuted, and give them relief from that persecution. There is nothing vague, ambiguous, elastic or extremely relative about these words.

What other event within that contemporary generation fits the description of the Lord’s coming with his saints in judgment than the fall of Jerusalem in A.D. 70? Just as Zechariah predicted the epiphany of the Lord with his saints in judgment and deliverance within the framework of the fall of Jerusalem, Paul, while not directly quoting from Zechariah 14 perhaps, nonetheless so directly limits his prophecy that it must be applied to the event predicted by Zechariah.

Jude 14
Jude reminds his readers of the predictions made by the Old Covenant prophets and the apostles, vs. 14, 17. But more than reiterating those prophecies he is saying that what had been predicted was unfolding before their eyes! The very men foretold by prophets of old were in their midst! The apostles and prophets had stated that in "the last days" before the parousia of the Lord "with ten thousands of His saints" verse 14, immoral mockers would come. Jude says these men were present.

The urgency and imminence of Jude simply cannot be ignored by an honest student of scripture. His entire message is that what had been foretold was now occurring. The coming of the Lord with his saints was therefore at hand. And there is no other coming of the Lord with his saints that better fits the bill than the A.D. 70 coming of Jesus Christ.

Much speculation has been generated about why Jude quotes Enoch. We cannot solve that mystery except to say that Enoch had said what was true; Jude quoted a true statement. What is interesting is that Enoch predicted that the Lord’s coming would be in the 70th generation from Adam. What generation would that be? It was Jesus’ generation, Luke 3.

Revelation 14
The Apocalypse certainly agrees with the rest of the New Testament in predicting the coming of the Lord with his holy ones. His coming would be in judgment against the city guilty of persecuting the prophets, saints and apostles, Revelation 18:4, 20-24. This city was first century Jerusalem. Carrington says the evidence for this identification is so strong that: "Had we not been indoctrinated with the theory that it (Revelation, DKP) deals with Rome, it would never have occurred to us."

Now since the Messiah’s coming with his saints in the Apocalypse is in judgment against Jerusalem, and since Zechariah’s prediction of the Lord’s coming with his saints was to be in judgment against Jerusalem we have some pretty strong evidence not only for the pre-A.D. 70 dating of Revelation but the metaphoric nature of the parousia in Revelation.

The blessings to flow from the Lord’s coming in Zechariah 14 are the identical blessings to follow the parousia in Revelation. The river of life would be available, Zechariah 14:8/ Revelation 22:1-2. There would be light at the time of the end, Zechariah 14:6-7/ Revelation 21:23. The nations would come to worship the Lord, Zechariah 14:16f/ Revelation 21:24. The Lord would be "one" in that day of His triumph, Zechariah 14:9/ Revelation 22:3. It is abundantly clear that Zechariah and Revelation predicted the same time and same events. Since Zechariah is so undeniably speaking of the time of Christ’s end of the age coming against Jerusalem then we must place the parousia of Revelation in the same context.

I have examined every major New Testament text that predicted the coming of the Lord with his holy ones/saints. We have seen that scholars are in wide agreement that Zechariah serves as the fountain for many if not all of these New Testament prophecies. As I have stated repeatedly, if Zechariah is the source for the New Testament prophecies of the coming with the angels/saints then since Zechariah predicted that would occur in the judgment of Jerusalem we must understand the New Covenant prophecies in that same framework.

Further, since Zechariah, in predicting the Lord’s coming with his saints against Jerusalem was patently using metaphoric language to describe that parousia, upon what basis does the interpreter of the New Testament change the language to literal? Where is the example of a New Testament writer quoting Old Testament figurative language but applying it literally? To my knowledge, there is no such example. If there is no Biblical example of such a hermeneutical approach where is the justification for it today?

We are beginning to see how influential Zechariah’s prophecy is on the New Testament writers. His thoughts, which were no different than the other prophets, permeate the New Covenant corpus. Zechariah was plainly, and by candid admission of many scholars, dealing with the end of Israel’s Old Age. One must ponder why students of the New Testament are either ignorant of Zechariah’s influence or unwilling to accept the framework within which he placed his prophecies.

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