Zechariah 14– He Shall Stand on the Mount of Olives!
Fulfilled or Future?
Don K. Preston D. Div.
Diuspensationalists claim that Zechariah 14 is definitive refutation of the true preterist view of prophecy. The objection is stated something like this:
“Zechariah 14 states that when Christ returns, His feet will touch the Mount of Olives and the Mount will split. Since this has not happened, Christ could not have returned in AD 70.”
As always, we appreciate hearing from those who differ. Let me make a few observations.
First, the objection is presuppositional. It demands a literalistic interpretation of the text, and refuses to allow for Hebraic metaphoric language. More on this below.
Second, it ignores the New Testament commentary on Zechariah.
Third, it ignores the rest of the Biblical testimony about the nature of Christ’s coming.
Let me flesh out these points.
Zechariah predicted the coming of the Lord and the splitting of the mountains and the objection demands a literalistic fulfillment. The objection fails to consider that God had come out of heaven in the past, and the mountains had split at His coming!
Notice Micah 1:3f
“For behold, 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. All this is for the transgression of Jacob And for the sins of the house of Israel. What is the transgression of Jacob? Is it not Samaria? And what are the high places of Judah? Are they not Jerusalem? Therefore I will make Samaria a heap of ruins in the field, Places for planting a vineyard; I will pour down her stones into the valley, And I will uncover her foundations. All her carved images shall be beaten to pieces, And all her pay as a harlot shall be burned with the fire; All her idols I will lay desolate, For she gathered it from the pay of a harlot, And they shall return to the pay of a harlot.”
Note the following:
☛ God was coming down out of heaven.
☛ He was going to walk on the mountains.
☛ The mountains would melt under him, the valleys would split (sound familiar?).
☛ Samaria would be destroyed, turned into a heap.
☛ This coming would be as a direct result of Israel’s sin, her violation of Torah: “All this is for the transgression of Jacob And for the sins of the house of Israel.”
☛This destruction was the invasion of the 10 northern tribes of Israel, in the eighth century BC, at the hands of Assyria.
If a person denies that this was a historical Day of the Lord, a non-literal, non-physical, non-bodily coming of YHVH, (i.e. a time of the manifestation of God’s sovereignty by His use of the Assyrians), and if they claim that it is the same “end of the age” coming of the Lord as in Zechariah, then here is what this demands.
It demands that the coming of the Lord in Zechariah must be at the time of the destruction of Samaria.
It demands that the coming of the Lord in Zechariah must occur at a time when the Law of Moses would still be in effect. Remember, the coming of the Lord in Micah is specifically stated to be coming on Israel for her sin.
I know of no dispensationalists who teach that Israel will one day be destroyed in the manner described in Micah, for the reasons given by Micah. Further, all dispensationalists admit that Torah has been nullified in the first century. It should be noted that Zechariah 14 would also be fulfilled “in the day” in which YHVH terminated His covenant with both houses of Israel (Zechariah 11:9-11).
What this demands therefore, is that we honor the reality of metaphoric language in Micah. And if Micah used the language of the coming of the Lord out of heaven and the mountains splitting, the valleys being destroyed, etc. then this raises the distinct possibility that Zechariah is likewise utilizing a genre of prophetic language that was not intended to be taken literally.
The context of Zechariah 14 is undeniably that of the destruction of Jerusalem. Look at verses 1-5:
“Behold, the day of the LORD is coming, And your spoil will be divided in your midst. For I will gather all the nations to battle against Jerusalem; The city shall be taken, The houses rifled, And the women ravished. Half of the city shall go into captivity, But the remnant of the people shall not be cut off from the city. Then the LORD will go forth And fight against those nations, As He fights in the day of battle. And in that day His feet will stand on the 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 through My mountain valley, For the mountain valley shall reach to Azal. Yes, 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.”
No matter what else a person might say about the text, it clearly predicted a coming judgment of Jerusalem at the Day of the Lord. (See my discussion of Zechariah in the book of Revelation in my Who Is This Babylon book).
So, the context of Zechariah 14 is, without question, the destruction of Jerusalem. The question of course is, which destruction? Millennialists claim that Jerusalem is attacked during the so-called seven year tribulation, after the rapture. But, this will not work.(See my book Leaving the Rapture Behind for a refutation of the rapture doctrine).
Notice that Zechariah predicted the coming of the Lord with his saints, and the time of escape for the remnant from the horrors of the coming destruction of Jerusalem. Likewise, Jesus told his disciples that when they saw the Abomination of Desolation that they were to escape from the horrors of the coming judgment (Matthew 24:15-21). Jesus said that those events would occur in his generation (Matthew 24:34- Note that Jesus also cited Zechariah 12:10 to the AD 70 war in Matthew 24:30).
Only by radically redefining “this generation” can one deny the first century fulfillment of Zechariah. Jesus was not saying that Zechariah would be fulfilled in some distant “this generation.” He was speaking to living, breathing people when he said, “this generation will not pass until all of these things are fulfilled.”
So, the context of Zechariah is clearly the destruction of Jerusalem. Jesus cited Zechariah and said it would be fulfilled in his generation. That alone should definitively answer the objection. But, there is more.
Let me express my thoughts here succinctly:
The coming of the Lord of Zechariah 14– the time of the splitting of the Mount of Olives – is the Second Coming of Christ.
The Second Coming of Christ is the coming of Christ to bring in the New Creation (2 Peter 3:10-13. It is also the coming of Christ of Matthew 16:27. Hang onto that for a moment).
The coming of Christ of 2 Peter 3 is the coming of the Lord foretold in Isaiah 64-66– the coming of the Lord to bring in the New Creation.
With this in mind, let me establish the nature of the coming of the Lord, the time of the splitting of the Mount of Olives foretold in Zechariah 14. I will do this by noting Isaiah 64:1-3:
“Oh, that You would rend the heavens! That You would come down! That the mountains might shake at Your presence— As fire burns brushwood, As fire causes water to boil— To make Your name known to Your adversaries, That the nations may tremble at Your presence! When You did awesome things for which we did not look, You came down, The mountains shook at Your presence.”
depicted as praying for YHVH to come.
They pray for Him to come out of heaven.
They pray for Him to rend the heavens, to shake the mountains.
They want Him to manifest His name among the nations.
And this is where it gets critical…
They want Him to come down– as He had come before: “You came down!”
They want Him to do awesome things– like He did before: “When You did awesome things for which we did not look, You came down.”
They want Him to shake the heavens– like He did before: “the mountains shook at Your presence.”
They want Him to manifest His name and His presence to the nations – like He had done before.
So, the coming of the Lord of Zechariah 14 is the coming of 2 Peter 3.
The coming of the Lord of 2 Peter 3 is the coming of the Lord foretold by Isaiah 64-66.
The coming of the Lord of Isaiah 64 was to be a coming of the Lord like He had come before.
But, the previous comings of the Lord were never literalistic, visible, bodily descents of YHVH out of heaven.
Therefore, the coming of the Lord of 2 Peter 3 (and Matthew 16:27– the Second Coming of Christ)– was not to be a literalistic, visible, bodily descent of Jesus out of heaven.
Now, take a look at Matthew 16:27 and, John 5:19-21.
In Matthew 16:27 Jesus said that his coming– the Second Coming– was to be “in the glory of the Father.” See my book Like Father Like Son, On Clouds of Glory for an exhaustive discussion of Jesus’ prediction here.
What Jesus was saying was that he was going to come as the Father had come in the past. Is this not precisely what Isaiah 64 predicted? Of course it is! Notice now John 5:19-20:
“Most assuredly, I say to you, the Son can do nothing of Himself, but what He sees the Father do; for whatever He does, the Son also does in like manner. 20 For the Father loves the Son, and shows Him all things that He Himself does; and He will show Him greater works than these, that you may marvel… For the Father judges no one, but has committed all judgment to the Son, that all should honor the Son just as they honor the Father. He who does not honor the Son does not honor the Father who sent Him.”
Note the following:
Jesus said the Father would no longer judge.
The Father had committed all judgment prerogative to the Son.
Jesus would judge in the same manner that he had seen the Father judge.
Men would (should) honor the Son in the same manner, in the same way they honor the Father, as a result of Jesus judging in the same manner that the Father had judged.
Jesus had never seen the Father literally come out of heaven, visibly, bodily. Yet, as seen above, Micah says He did come out of heaven, and the earth melted, etc. in the invasion of Israel at the hands of the Assyrians. This is how Jesus had seen the Father come out of heaven, split the earth, melt the earth, shake the heavens, come with fire, the sound of the trumpet, and with his angels, all in the past.
So, let me offer my thoughts again like this:
The coming of the Lord of Zechariah 14 is the Second Coming of the Lord.
The Second Coming of the Lord was to be “in the glory of the Father” i.e. of the same nature as the previous comings of the Lord in the past, (e.g. when Jesus had seen the Father come).
But, the previous comings of the Lord had never been a literalistic, visible, bodily coming of the Lord out of heaven, at the literal destruction of the earth (Isaiah 64:1-3).
Therefore, the coming of the Lord of Zechariah 14 was not to be a literalistic, visible, bodily coming of the Lord out of heaven.
Just as YHVH had come out of heaven and walked on the melting mountains, by sovereignly utilizing the Assyrians to accomplish His judgment purposes, Jesus was going to come, (and did) “in the glory of the Father” by sovereignly utilizing the Romans to judge the Old Covenant world / age of Israel in AD 70.
To summarize, the objection above ignores the demonstrably metaphoric nature of the “coming of the Lord” language.
The objection ignores the fact that God had come in the past, but had never come visibly, literally, bodily.
When He had come, the mountains shook, the earth melted, etc., the very language utilized by Zechariah.
The objection overlooks the fact that Jesus emphatically says that his Second Coming was to be a coming as he had seen the Father perform.
The objection fails to honor the fact that Jesus was to come in judgment as he had seen the Father come in judgment. And again, he had never seen the Father literally, bodily, visibly come in judgment.
The objection fails to honor Jesus’ application of Zechariah to his generation.
In fact, the objection fails to consider all of the textually relevant, prophetically attested, historically verified evidence.
Our analysis of Zechariah– which has hardly even touched the hem of the garment of the relevant evidence– has totally falsified the objection.
The objection is clearly untenable. Covenant Eschatology provides the very best explanation for this great text.