An Objection to Preterism, and A Response! Part 1
Don K. Preston D. Div.
Among dispensationalists Zechariah 14 is considered a major problem for the preterist paradigm. “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.”
Unfortunately for the Dispensational world, Zechariah actually supports preterism and falsifies Millennialism.
Let me make a few observations.
First, the objection is presuppositional. It assumes that Zechariah 14 must be interpreted literally, and refuses to allow for Hebraic metaphoric language. More on that below.
Second, and significantly, 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). We will continue our study of Zechariah in part two.