Zechariah: The Earthquake and the Parousia, Part 4

"And in that day His feet shall stand on Mount of Olives which faces Jerusalem on the east. And the Mount of Olives shall be split in two from east to west, making a very large valley; Half of the mountain shall move toward the north and half of it toward the south. Then you shall flee as you fled from the earthquake in the days of Uzziah king of Judah. Thus, the Lord my God will come and all the saints with You." Zechariah 14:4-5

Zechariah is typical of almost all of the Old Covenant prophets in expressing his vision in hyperbolic language. His vision of the seige of Jerusalem entails an "earthquake" of epic proportions. The Mount of Olives would be split from east to west and a great valley would be created in which God’s elect would escape his wrath against Jerusalem and the nations.

The dispensational view of this text is literalism in its crassest form. Pentecost refers to Zechariah 14 as proof that "a valley that is not in existence today shall come into being at the time of the second advent." Walvoord, commenting specifically on the judgment of Babylon says "it is hard to imagine a scene of greater worldwide disaster than is described." While his comments are made about the earthquake to destroy Babylon in Revelation, he equates that quake with Zechariah’s prediction.

On the other hand, many writers see that the prophecy of Zechariah "is figurative, and was never intended to be taken literally." As King observes, one of the problems of those who demand a literal view of Zechariah is their failure to understand that Israel’s restoration would come at the time of Israel’s destruction. In other words, while there were physical phenomenon to be seen in the destruction of Jerusalem, there was an inner unseen reality that was the core and focus of the prophecy. There is no need to see a physical earthquake, a literal valley of escape, a literal river of life, etc.

It is clear from the context that this coming of the Lord cannot be an "end of time" scenario. Escape would be possible. This best fits Jesus’ description of the possiblity of escape from the impending demise of the Old Aeon, Matthew 24:15 — "when you see the Abomination of Desolation…flee to the mountains." See also Luke 17:31-37. In addition, there would be worship and service to Jehovah after this parousia. There would still be nations that would be both obedient and disobedient.

Finally, for the amillennialist Zechariah 14 simply cannot be referent to any supposed end of time because it says "his feet shall stand on the Mount of Olives." One of the most dearly held tenets of amillennialism is that Jesus will never set foot on earth again. This view is held to counter the millennial view that Jesus will return to earth to sit on David’s throne. Our argument would therefore go like this:

Zechariah 14 predicted the coming of the Lord in judgment when his feet would stand on the Mount of Olives, Zechariah 14:4.

But the Lord shall never set foot on earth at his Second or Final Coming. (Amillennial view.)

Therefore Zechariah 14 does not predict the Second or Final Coming of the Lord. (As understood by the amillennialist. This will become increasingly significant as we continue our study of Zechariah.)

Eusebius said Zechariah’s prediction of the coming of the Lord referred to the destruction of Jerusalem. However, he believed that the reference to standing on the Mount of Olives referred to the time when "our Lord Jesus, the Christ of God, had visited the olive-grove over against Jerusalem." This is untenable. Zechariah’s prediction does not refer to Jesus’ incarnation/personal ministry. It speaks of his coming against Jerusalem and the nations.

The Shaking of the Earth
The concept of the shaking of the earth at the coming of the Kingdom of God is a common biblical theme. Allow me to briefly outline some of the passages that relate the coming of the Lord and the shaking of "heaven and earth."

Joel 2-3
Joel foresaw "the last days" Joel 2:28, consummating in the Day of the Lord, 3:14, when the Lord would shake the heaven and earth, 3:15-16. The last days would be the time when the miraculous gifts of the Holy Spirit would be poured out on "all flesh" as a sign of that impending Great and Terrible Day of the Lord, 2:28-31.

In Acts 2:15f Peter defended himself and the other apostles against the charge of drunkenness by saying "this is that which was spoken by the prophet Joel"; he then quotes Joel 2:28f. Thus Peter was affirming in no uncertain terms that 1.) the last days were in existence. (Please note that he did not say the outpouring of the Spirit initiated the last days. The last days did not begin on Pentecost! The last days were already in existence in the ministry of John the Immerser and Jesus’ personal ministry, Hebrews 1:1-2; 1 Peter 1:18-20.)

Second, for Peter the outpouring of the Spirit meant the fulfillment of Joel. This is contrary to the futurist millennial view that "At the institution of the Theocratic kingdom the prophecy of Joel will be fulfilled." To deny Peter’s declaration about the fulfillment of Joel is to deny inspiration; it is to exalt preconceived ideas above inspired testimony.

Joel said the outpouring of the Spirit would be a sign of the Great Day of the Lord when the Lord would shake heaven and earth. Peter said the outpouring of the Spirit on Pentecost was the fulfillment of Joel. Therefore Pentecost was a sign of the impending Great and Terrible Day of the Lord. Is it any wonder then that Peter went on to exhort his listeners "Save yourselves from this untoward generation" Acts 2:40? Bales was certainly correct when he said "It has been thought that Peter indicated that some judgment was coming on that very generation. They were to save themselves from sharing it the guilt and doom of that generation."

Joel’s prophecy of the Great and Terrible Day of the Lord and thus the shaking of heaven and earth, can apply to no other event than the fall of Jerusalem. In Matthew 24:29-31 Jesus quotes directly from Joel 2:29-31. Deaver properly notes the spiritual/figurative nature of this language "It is commonly assumed that the vivid descriptives used in verse 29 and 30 relate to the Lord’s final coming and the end of the world. However, such an assumption is entirely without warrant. The Lord employs apocalyptic terminology with which the disciples would be completely familiar. It is imperative that we be familiar with the same kind of terminology."

One can only wonder why this "imperative" need to honor apocalyptic literature in Matthew does not apply in Thessalonians and 2 Peter 3. Per Deaver we must honor the Old Testament apocalyptic source and nature of the language in Matthew but totally ignore or discount the Old Testament source and nature of Thessalonians, 2 Peter 3 and Revelation! This in spite of the fact that 1.) 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18 is directly parallel to Matthew 24 — a text that we must honor as non-literal per Deaver, and; 2.) Peter and John, in 2 Peter 3 and Revelation specifically inform us that their prophecies are simply reiterations of Old Testament apocalyptic predictions — even including Joel 2-3.

In Matthew 24:29-31 Jesus quotes from Joel 2-3. Joel’s prophecy foretold the shaking of heaven and earth just as Zechariah 14 foretold the time when the earth would be shaken. In Matthew 24 Jesus said his prediction, taken from Joel 2-3, would be fulfilled in the fall of Jerusalem in his generation, Matthew 24:34. Therefore the prediction of the shaking of heaven and earth would be fulfilled in Jesus’ generation.

Joel and Zechariah
If in Matthew 24 Jesus quotes Joel’s prophecy of the Great and Terrible Day of the Lord — inclusive of the "earthquake" — and applies it to the fa
ll of Jerusalem in A.D. 70 and if Zechariah 14 speaks of the Day of the Lord, the earthquake, and the fall of Jerusalem how is it possible to delineate between the prophecies? Simply put, it is not possible. Further, the concommitant blessings to come at the Day of the Lord are the same in Zechariah and Joel.

Zechariah said in that day a fountain for sin would be opened, 14:8. Joel said in the Day of the Lord a fountain for the cleansing of Israel would be opened, Joel 3:18-21. In Joel the coming of the Lord would result in the establishment of the kingdom of God, 2:28-32. In Zechariah "the ultimate purpose (of the coming of the Lord, DKP), is to establish his kingdom upon the earth with Jerusalem as the center." In Zechariah the Lord’s Sovereignty would be fully restored and established in the earth at that Day, 14:9. In Joel, Jehovah would rule over the earth in judgment, 3:12. In Zechariah Gentiles would come from afar to worship Jehovah, 14:16f. In Joel the Gentiles would be blessed in the kingdom, 2:30-32. In Zechariah the Lord would dwell in Zion after the Day of destruction, vs.8f. In Joel the Almighty dwells in his holy hill Zion, 3:17. In Zechariah the enemies of the elect are judged, 14:16f; in Joel the Lord curses those who have done violence to His people, 3:19f.

In short, Zechariah 14 and Joel 2-3 are directly parallel. They both speak of the identical blessings to flow out of the Lord’s epiphany. Zechariah 14 specifically places its prophecy within the framework of Jerusalem’s fall. Jesus in Matthew unmistakably posits the fulfillment of Joel at Israel’s demise. The shaking of the earth at the parousia occurred with the Jewish War of A.D. 66-70. This is corroborated by other prophecies that we can only briefly examine.

Isaiah 2-4
These three chapters comprise one undivided prophecy. This is shown by the connected references to "that day." The setting is "the last days" Isaiah 2:2. The consummation of those last days would be the "day of the Lord of hosts" 2:12, "when He arises to shake the earth mightily" 2:21.

In the last days Jehovah would establish his house/kingdom and dwell in Zion, 2:2-4, judging the nations. The Day of his coming would be when "the Lord stands to judge his people" 3:13, and a time of warfare, 3:24. But it would also be the time when "the Branch of the Lord would be glorified" and the remnant of Israel would be saved, 4:3, "when the Lord has washed away the filth of the daughters of Zion and purged the blood of Jerusalem from her midst, by the spirit of judgment and by the spirit of burning" 4:4.

We find here the very constituent elements of Zechariah’s prophecy. All of the blessings are the same. The setting is the same because Jesus himself gave us the divine commentary on Isaiah 2-4.

In Luke 23:28-31 Jesus was being led to his crucifixion. As he carried his cross the women who loved him cried around him. He told them not to mourn for him but for themselves and "for your children" Luke 23:28. In verse 30 he alludes directly to Isaiah 19-21 (as well as Hosea 10:8). Marshall correctly sees that Jesus speaks here of the "fate of the guilty Jerusalem." Robertson, commenting on the next verse in Luke 28 say it refers to "what will happen to Jerusalem when its day of judgment comes." Adam Clark takes note of the connection between Isaiah and the verse before us and says Luke 23:30 was predictive of the fall of Jerusalem.

Isaiah, like Zechariah, predicted the time when the Lord would come and shake the earth. Jesus quotes from Isaiah and applies that prophecy to the fall of Jerusalem. Zechariah definitely places his prophecy of the Lord’s coming when the earth would shake at the A.D. 70 parousia.

Hebrews 12:25-28
In this text the writer cites Haggai’s prophecy that one day the Lord would "shake not only the earth but the heaven also." The result of the shaking of heaven and earth would be the full establishment of "that which cannot be shaken" the everlasting kingdom of God, Hebrews 12:27-28.

In the prophecy we find the same constituent elements as found in Isaiah, Joel, and Zechariah. We find the fulfillment of Israel’s hopes for the cleansing of sin, Hebrews 1:1-3; the Lord ruling in Zion, 12:22; the judgment on Jerusalem at the parousia, 10:26-37. As in Zechariah we find the "tension" between the judgment on Jerusalem and the deliverance of Jerusalem.

Hengstenberg rejected the A.D. 70 application of Zechariah 14 because of this supposed contrast destruction and deliverance. To him this contrast suggested that Zechariah was speaking of two different Jerusalem’s: it "requires the prophet, in the third verse, to make a sudden transition from the literal to the spiritual Zion." King has aptly responded to this objection:

J. Massyngberde Ford, p. 264 — Zechariah 14 the city split in two; Revelation 16 the city split into three parts