ZECHARIAH 14: Does It Support, Or Refute Covenant Eschatology? #1
Don K. Preston D. Div.
Zechariah is a wonderful book and chapter 14 is a marvelous chapter. Chapters 10-14 of this book constitute another apocalypse in the line of Daniel, Ezekiel, and Revelation.
One of the most interesting and significant studies within Zechariah is the term “in that day.” Appearing some seventeen times this term almost invariably refers to Jesus’ work and his generation. To my knowledge not one reference to “in that day” extends beyond Jesus’ generation. We encourage the reader to investigate this fascinating study.
Chapter 14 is especially significant to the study of eschatology. Our intent is to examine some of the vital themes in this chapter and show the correlation specifically to the Olivet Discourse and the book of Revelation demonstrating the first century fulfillment of Zechariah.
ZECHARIAH AND AD 70
There has always been widespread belief that Zechariah 14 predicted the AD 70 parousia of Jesus. From early Christian times the church fathers applied this chapter to Jerusalem’s demise. Eusebius, often called the father of church history, says Zechariah 14 predicted, “the final siege of the people by the Romans, through which the whole Jewish race has become subject to their enemies.” (Proof of the Gospel, Vol. I, Baker, 1981)98).
The Second Coming Bible says Cyril and Theophylact held the view (William Beiderwolf, The Second Coming Bible, Baker, 1972)304). Hengstenberg also cites Jerome and, “several others, particularly of the fathers” who applied this chapter “to the captivity by the Romans” (E. W. Hengstenberg, Christology of the Old Testament, Kregel, 1970)381.
Even Merrill Unger, the millennial writer acknowledged that Zechariah’s prophecy was applied to AD 70 by “many early writers” (Merrill F. Unger, Zechariah: Prophet of Messiah’s Glory, Zondervan, 1974)238-239). The respected scholar Adam Clarke said, “This appears to be a prediction of that war in which Jerusalem was finally destroyed and the Jews scattered over the face of the earth” (Adam Clarke, Clarke’s Commentary, Vol. IV, Abingdon)794. Terry in his Biblical Apocalyptics, says Zechariah spoke of the AD 70 coming of the Lord (Milton Terry, Biblical Apocalyptics, Baker, 1988)166f). In more modern times this view has not fallen out of favor either. Gentry, in the modern apology for post-millennialism, has an excellent discussion advocating the AD 70 application for Zechariah’s prediction (He Shall Have Dominion, Institute for Christian Economics, Tyler, Tx., 199)468-472).
Naturally, some have attempted to counter the application of Zechariah’s prophecy to the fall of Jerusalem in AD 70. Attempts have been made to apply the prophecy to the Maccabean period or to a yet future time, the latter being the millennial posit. The millennialist rejects the AD 70 application because of his insistence on a literal interpretation of scripture regardless of how the New Covenant scriptures apply them. Unger is an example of this. See also Keil and Delitzsch. But long ago Eusebius responded to such views:
“Neither in the time of the Macedonians from Alexander onwards, not even if you include the reign of Augustus, was anything similar to the words of the prophet fulfilled. For when in those days did the Lord, Whom the prophet speaks of as divine, come among men and many nations know him and confess Him the only God, and take refuge in Him and be to Him a people? Or when in the times of the Macedonians or Persians did the king who was foretold come, sitting upon an ass and a young colt? When did He come and utterly destroy the royal array of the Jewish nation, here called Ephraim, and of Jerusalem itself, called chariots and horses, and conquer the army of the Jews?” (Eusebius, Proof of the Gospel, BK. VIII, chapt. 4)144).
(Is it not significant that Eusebius recognized that in the fall of Jerusalem, Jesus came? DKP).
In recent times, Thomas Ice has claimed that no preterist has ever provided any exegetical demonstration that Zechariah 12-14 has been fulfilled. He is adamant that Zechariah has never been fulfilled, and that this definitively refutes preterism. Of course, Ice is prone to making all sorts of false, exaggerated claims, so this comes as no surprise. See the DVD of my formal debate with Ice.
Clearly, Zechariah 14 has a strong tradition of application to the fall of Jerusalem in AD 70. But we do not have to take the words of uninspired men to come to this conclusion. We have the Bible itself as a divine commentary on Zechariah. See my Who Is This Babylon? for a powerful discussion of Zechariah and how John, in Revelation, applies Zechariah 14.
Let’s take a look at just some of the evidence that Zechariah found its fulfillment in AD 70 and the end of the Old Covenant age.
Zechariah 14 and the Olivet Discourse
When one does a comparative study of the Olivet Discourse and Zechariah 14 the parallels become very impressive indeed.
Zechariah 14 Olivet Discourse
Siege of Jerusalem (v. 1-2) / Siege of Jerusalem (Mt. 24:2f)
Day of the Lord (v. 1, 5) / Coming of the Son of Man (24:30-31.)
Coming with his holy ones (vs. 5) / Coming with his angels (24:31).
Jews led away captive into the nations (v. 2) / Jews led away captive into the nations (Lk 21:24).
Flight from judgment (v. 5) / Flight from judgment (v. 15f)
Day known only to the Lord (v. 7) / Day known only to the Lord (v. 36).
The parallel between the passages can hardly be doubted. Interestingly, dispensationalists admit these connections.
Zechariah predicted the “day of the Lord.” Most people assume the “coming of the Lord” language must refer to some yet future event. Deaver addresses this assumption while commenting on Matthew 24:29-31: “It is commonly assumed that the vivid descriptives used in verses 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 which is employed in the Old Testament” (Roy Deaver, Premillennialism: Matthew Chapters 24 and 25 Do Not Teach It, 1977)14.
This is well stated but certainly raises the question as to why we should not apply this principle to passages such as 1 Thessalonians 4; 2 Thessalonians 1; 3 Peter 3; Revelation 21-22, etc–in fact every passage predictive of the Lord’s parousia. This is especially challenging since all New Testament eschatological predictions spring from the Old Testament. If the Old Testament was apocalyptic/spiritual in its predictions of eschatology then upon what principle does one “literalize” that language when it is quoted in the New Testament? See my We Shall Meet Him In The Air, The Wedding of the King of kings, for a powerful demonstration of the metaphoric nature of this language.
Now, take note of some of the key language of Zechariah 14.
Beiderwolf says the phrase “known to the Lord” in Zechariah 14:7 implies that it was known to Him alone (Second Coming Bible, 305). The Pulpit Commentary (W.
J. Deane, Pulpit Commentary, Vol. 14, Eerdmans)157) and Pusey (E. B. Pusey, The Minor Prophets, Baker, 1979, Vol. II) 451) concur that verse 7 means that the Day of the Lord was known only by God. The International Critical Commentary also cross references Matthew 24:36 and Zechariah 14:7 (W. C. Allen, International Critical Commentary, T & T Clark, 1957) 260). The New English Bible renders the verse “whose coming is known only to the Lord.” My Open Study Bible gives Matthew 24:36 as a cross-reference for Zechariah 14:7.
One of the traditional and fundamental arguments offered by amillennialists and postmillennialists for a division of the Olivet Discourse is that in Matthew 24:4-35 Jesus had told his disciples, “precisely when the destruction of Jerusalem would be: during their lifetime and they could read the signs of the approaching army so closely that they could escape it. But of His coming, no one knows when it will be–neither man, nor angels, nor Jesus himself. Only the Father knows, vs. 36.” (Stafford North, Armageddon When? Oklahoma Christian College, Oklahoma City, Ok., 1982) 48). Kik also argues that in Matthew 24:15f Jesus gave signs whereby the disciples could discern the approaching disaster and says that if the parousia was synonymous with that event then Jesus could not say the day and hour was unknown (Marcellus Kik, Matthew XXIV, Presbyterian and Reformed Press, 1948)148). See my written debate with Jerry McDonald in which he makes this argument, and my response to it. It seems not to have dawned on these men that to know the generation of an event is not to know the “day and the hour.”
These arguments fail on several accounts. First, Jesus, in giving the signs simply told his disciples that by watching the signs they could know when his coming was at hand. He did not tell them they could know the day or hour.
Second, Jesus positively said the fall of Jerusalem, which would be his coming, would be in that generation but that prediction did not inform his disciples “precisely” when the fall of Jerusalem would occur.
Ice seeks to escape the force of Matthew 24:34 by claiming: “The use of ‘this generation in all other contexts is historical, but 24:34 is prophetic. In fact, when one compares the historical use of ‘this generation’ at the beginning of the Olivet Discourse in Matthew 23:36 (which is an undisputed reference to AD 70) with the prophetic usage in 24:34, a contrast is obvious.” (Ice, The Great Tribulation. A Written Debate with Kenneth Gentry, Kregel, 1999)103.). Ice’s argument is specious and false. Matthew 23 is ever bit as much “prophetic” as Matthew 24. See my formal public debate with Thomas Ice for a demonstration of the fallacy of dispensationalism.
Notice the implications of the relationship between Zechariah and Matthew 24, especially for the amillennial and postmillennial worlds. Keep in mind that both camps tell us that Jesus’ referent to “that day and hour” in Matthew 24:36 supposedly marks a contrasting break between his discussion of the impending judgment of Jerusalem and his “Second Coming.”
However, remember that both camps also admit that Zechariah 14 predicted the AD 70 parousia judgment of Christ. Since Zechariah said that “day” was known only to the Lord, it is therefore prima facie evident that Jesus could have meant the same thing in Matthew 24:36. This means that Matthew 24:36 disappears as the “Continental Divide” of the Olivet Discourse! This means that the entire discourse speaks solely of Christ’s coming at the end of the Old Covenant World of Israel in AD 70! See my series of articles examining Kenneth Gentry’s recent claim that a United Olivet Discourse would not materially affect postmillennial futurist eschatology. Here is a link to the first in that series.
Let me frame my argument succinctly:
Zechariah said the day of the Lord was known only to the Lord, Zechariah (14:7).
Jesus said the day of the Lord was known only to the Lord (Matthew 24:36).
But the day of the Lord in Zechariah, that was known only to the Lord, was the fall of Jerusalem in AD 70 (Zechariah 14:1-5).
Therefore the day of the Lord in Matthew 24, the day known only to the Lord, was the fall of Jerusalem in AD 70.
Summary and Conclusion
There are very few ways to counter the force of the argument presented above.
A.) Disprove the parallel between Zechariah 14:7 and Matthew 24:36. But a computer concordance search reveals that there are only two verses in the entire Bible that speak of a day known only to the Lord, Zechariah 14:7 and Matthew 24:36. Unless one can prove that in Matthew 24 Jesus was speaking of another day of the Lord known only to the Lord then the connection between the verses is established. But if Matthew 24:36 is dependent upon Zechariah then since Zechariah is predictive of the AD 70 parousia, then Matthew 24:36 cannot be used to divide the Olivet Discourse into two subjects. Matthew 24:36 must refer to the AD 70 coming of the Lord!
Now since Zechariah 14 speaks of the AD 70 parousia of the Lord and says it was known only to the Lord, it is patently false to argue that Jesus in Matthew 24 was saying his disciples could know the day. It is equally manifest that since Zechariah said the AD 70 parousia was known only to the Lord that Jesus could say the same thing in Matthew 24:36. One simply cannot admit that Zechariah 14 predicted the AD 70 epiphany and then insist that while Zechariah 14:7 and Matthew 24:36 say the same thing about the Day of the Lord being known only to the Lord, that Matthew must refer to an end of time event. Zechariah 14:7 proves beyond doubt that Jesus, in Matthew 24:36, could say the day and hour of the fall of Jerusalem was known only to his father.
B.) Prove that there were/are two different days of the Lord related to judment on Israel–during the Messianic reign–which would result in the establishment of the fountain for the cleansing of Israel’s sin and the Sovereignty of Jehovah. This is what Zechariah predicted, 14:8ff. Jesus also associated the coming of redemption and the kingdom with the fall of Jerusalem in AD 70 (Luke 21:28-32).
C.) Demonstrate that since/if Matthew 24:36 divides the Olivet Discourse into a discussion of the fall of Jerusalem and an “end of time” that Zechariah does as well. The argument is that Matthew 24:36 is the great dividing verse of the Discourse. The trouble is that no one has proven that this verse actually divides the Discourse. The evidence is just not there.
If Zechariah 14:7 and Matthew 24:36 are parallel then Zechariah 14:7 must be a Continental Divide of Zechariah 14. To my knowledge this argument has never been suggested. But if Zechariah 14:7 and Matthew 24:36 are parallel, and if Zechariah 14:1-6 speak of the fall of Jerusalem in AD 70, and if verse 7 does not divide the chapter into a discussion of AD 70 and the “end of time,” then since Matthew 24:4-34 discusses the AD 70 event and verse 36 is parallel to Zechariah, then it cannot be argued that verse 36 divides the chapter into two subjects. Zechariah 14 therefore becomes “super glue” in demonstrating the unity of the Olivet Discourse.
If it is admitted for one moment that Zechariah 14:7 applies to the AD 70 coming of the Lord–and it can hardly be denied–then the AD 70 event was a day known only to the Lord. If it is admitted that Matthew 24:36 and Zechariah 14:7 are parallel, then one cannot argue in Matthew 24 that the AD 70 event w
as a day known whereas a yet future event was/is unknown. This destroys forever the very foundation of the argument for a divided Olivet Discourse.
Stay tuned for more.