The Coming Exile of Jerusalem in Zechariah 14

The book of Zechariah contains many prophetic visions. Several of them are among the most difficult to interpret of all prophetic texts.

Others yield more readily to inquiry, usually those that instruct us on events we already grasp—at least a little—from other biblical prophecies.

Zechariah 14:1 starts out by stating that the spoil taken from Israel will be divided among Israel. This naturally generates a question: when was the spoil taken from Israel?

Verse 2 explains that the Lord had gathered a group of nations against Jerusalem. At what point this happens, the text does not say. We only know that it had to have happened earlier, before verse 1. The battle went against God’s holy city and His holy people. The city was captured.

Spoil was seized, the same spoil that will later be “divided among” the Jews, per verse 1. This seizure of spoil is described in the phrase, “the houses plundered.”

Worse than the loss of their possessions, the women of Jerusalem are raped by their attackers. They are not abiding by the Geneva Convention, these attackers. They violate the rules of modern warfare and the standards of all civilized nations.

Half of the city is driven into exile. Half remains to suffer at the hands of the invaders.

Those who leave the city are probably to be identified with “the woman” who flees into the wilderness in Revelation 12. Encouragingly, those who make it to the “place prepared by God” (Revelation 12:6) are protected and nourished. They have escaped from Satan and from his henchman, the Antichrist (known in Revelation as “the beast”).

The half of the Jews who remain in Jerusalem will face the Great Tribulation, a period of suffering “such as has not occurred since the beginning of the world” (Matthew 24:21). They will face the “overwhelming scourge”—possibly a reference to the return of the armies time and time again to rape, to pillage, to harass, and to enslave. Whatever this scourge entails, “It will be sheer terror to know what it means” (Isaiah 28:18-19).

Then—at last!—after the invading armies have had their way with the Jews of Jerusalem for what seems an eternity, the Lord rescues them. In my view, the rescue of Judea and Jerusalem happens before the events covered in the remainder of Zechariah 14. Several weeks or months after this rescue, “… the Lord will go forth and fight against those nations” (Zechariah 14:3). At that point, “the spoil taken from you will be divided among you” (Zechariah 14:1).

The rest of Zechariah 14 concerns the setup for this battle, the Lord’s triumph over “all the peoples who have gone to war against Jerusalem” (Zechariah 14:12), and subsequent events—events that include the Thousand-Year Happiness, to which all the Lord’s brothers and sisters look forward with eager anticipation. By then all Israel will be saved, so both we and they will rejoice together in the Lord’s goodness and bask in His unfathomable glory and unsurpassed love. Hallelujah! Maranatha!

Scripture taken, unless otherwise noted, from the NEW AMERICAN STANDARD BIBLE, Updated Edition (NASB), © Copyright The Lockman Foundation 1960, 1962, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

What Did Jesus Know and When Did He Know It? #1

What does it mean that Jesus emptied Himself and became a man?

This is the first of about 50 blog posts that will explore the subject above. Let’s start with Philippians 2:5-11 from the NASB95 —

Phil 2:5-11 Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus, (6) who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, (7) but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men. (8) Being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. (9) For this reason also, God highly exalted Him, and bestowed on Him the name which is above every name, (10) so that at the name of Jesus EVERY KNEE WILL BOW, of those who are in heaven and on earth and under the earth, (11) and that every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

All Christians are familiar with the concept that Jesus is true God and true man (whether or not they accept the concept). But what does it mean in terms of how the universe is put together and what our verses for the day mean? The main point of our passage might seem to be that Jesus was humble and we should be, too. But I want to suggest (and will expound on at length in these blog posts) that the entire essence of salvation hangs on this concept of Jesus emptying Himself.

What does being empty in this context mean? It has to relate to the difference between God and Mankind. The most important difference I see between man and God is that God is infinite while man is finite. Being infinite implies being able to know everything (or at least everything suitable for God to know.) A man, however, can only learn/know a relatively tiny amount, no matter how long he or she lives. Below the difference between being finite and infinite is the difference between being perfect and imperfect. I submit that while we can imagine an infinite being being imperfect or a finite being being perfect, neither of these conditions are likely or stable.

And here we come to the advantage of having a blog rather than just writing for oneself. I would like to have some feedback from what I’ve written so far. Give me your own opinion on the subject. Try to keep the remarks on the specific topic for this post, since there will be plenty of coming posts to discuss other things on. Since we must approve comments before they appear, keep them short and thoughtful. Make sure to re-read your comment before you submit it.

For the Night Is Coming

Finish this verse:

“Work, for the night is coming …”

Did you say, “… when man’s work is done”? If so, you’ve quoted a popular old hymn by Annie Coghill. It’s a gem that urges followers of the Messiah to work hard. It also alludes to our heavenly rewards, which is a topic much neglected in modern songs, to the detriment of the Body of Christ.

Here are all three stanzas of the poem by Mrs. Coghill, which was first published in 1854 —

1 Work, for the night is coming,
Work through the morning hours;
Work while the dew is sparkling;
Work ‘mid springing flowers;
Work when the day grows brighter,
Work in the glowing sun;
Work, for the night is coming,
When man’s work is done.

2 Work, for the night is coming,
Work through the sunny noon;
Fill brightest hours with labor,
Rest comes sure and soon;
Give every flying minute
Something to keep in store;
Work, for the night is coming,
When man works no more.

3 Work, for the night is coming,
Under the sunset skies;
While their bright tints are glowing,
Work, for daylight flies;
Work, till the last beam fadeth,
Fadeth to shine no more;
Work, while the night is darkening,
When man’s work is o’er.

This poem encourages diligence, a character trait that I’m working on – though not as diligently as I perhaps should! It’s a wonderful work. However, I differ rather sharply from Mrs. Coghill in my interpretation of the verse this poem has as its foundation, Luke 9:4.

Here is that verse, in context, from the English Standard Version translation —

3Jesus answered, “It was not that this man sinned, or his parents, but that the works of God might be displayed in him. 4We must work the works of him who sent me while it is day; night is coming, when no one can work. 5As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world.” 6Having said these things, he spat on the ground and made mud with the saliva. Then he anointed the man’s eyes with the mud 7and said to him, “Go, wash in the pool of Siloam” (which means Sent). So he went and washed and came back seeing. (John 9:3-7, ESV)

When the Lord Yeshua (Jesus of Nazareth) said, “… night is coming, when no one can work,” did He mean, “Death is approaching, when I will no longer work”?

This interpretation seems unlikely. First, He did not stop working when He died. We know, for example, that He is seated on the throne that His Father is graciously sharing with Him. From there, He is praying for His followers continually.

Indeed, the author of Hebrews argues in chapter 7 that Yeshua’s priesthood is superior to that of the Aaronic priests precisely because He continues to work for us (but the Aaronic priests were all stopped from further work by their deaths).

Consequently, he [Yeshua] is able to save to the uttermost those who draw near to God through him, since he always lives to make intercession for them. (Heb. 7:25, ESV)

Could the Lord have meant, “Your death is approaching, after which you will no longer work?” Perhaps. That appears to be the way that the poet and many others interpret this verse.

Yet the death of the saints cannot permanently end their work. It merely provides a break, a rest before the next assignment.

What seems to be in view is the “night” of persecution. We must work for God’s Kingdom while it is “day,” while we have the chance to pray, meet, teach, and witness. At some point in this world’s history, working for God’s Kingdom will be impossible due to the most severe persecution ever.

For then there will be great tribulation, such as has not been from the beginning of the world until now, no, and never will be. And if those days had not been cut short, no human being would be saved. But for the sake of the elect those days will be cut short. (Matt. 24:21-22, ESV)

May we, regardless of which rapture camp we happen to fall into, take seriously our all-too-limited opportunity to work for the Kingdom of God and of the Lamb! Pray for us in this regard, dear brothers and sisters, and we will pray for you.

If you are regretting your missed opportunities, as I am, then make corrections now. Work! The night is coming!

After that, there will be the grand day of rejoicing and rewards. What rewards will they deserve who have been slack in their work for the One who has given them His all?

Scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version® (ESV®), copyright 2011 by Crossway. Used by permission. All rights reserved. Brackets mine.

Do the Earth Dwellers Give God Praise?

Several verses in the book of Revelation feature a group called “those who dwell on the earth,” which students of Scripture generally shorten to “the earth dwellers.” This group follows after the Antichrist (the “first beast” in Revelation). They oppose Almighty God and His good plans.

They never repent of their wickedness nor of their worship of false gods. They close their ears to the gospel message.

What are we to make, then, of the great earthquake in Jerusalem at the sixth trumpet? The holy city, Jerusalem, has been given to the nations. The Gentiles are trampling it underfoot, except for the holy temple. These unrighteous Gentiles have opposed the ministry of the two witnesses. They throw a party when the Antichrist kills them:

And those who dwell on the earth {will} rejoice over them and celebrate; and they will send gifts to one another, because these two prophets [the two witnesses] tormented those who dwell on the earth. (Rev. 11.10 NASB)

These earth dwellers get the shock of their lives when the two witnesses come back to life again and ascend to heaven. Yet the earth dwellers are still called “enemies” of the two witnesses, not “converts” of them.

Here we come to the bit about the earthquake:

And in that hour there was a great earthquake, and a tenth of the city fell [many buildings collapsed]; seven thousand people were killed in the earthquake, and the rest were terrified and gave glory to the God of heaven. (Rev. 11.13 NASB)

It’s understandable that those living in Jerusalem will be terrified. Yet it is totally unlike the earth dwellers to give glory to Almighty God. We don’t see them praising God or repenting anywhere else in the 70th Week of Daniel or thereafter.

Do they really repent here? There are basically two options. One is that yes, the earth dwellers do give glory to God, but it’s not really the ascribing of worth to His holy name that is usually meant by “give glory to.” It’s a lesser form of praise. While the Greek words involved may technically allow for this option, it is not persuasive.

Could “the rest” refer instead to the Jewish remnant in Jerusalem? Only half of the city was exiled (Zech. 14.2), which implies that a large number of Jews remained in Jerusalem.

The Jewish remnant will not side with their persecutor, the Antichrist. All Israel will be saved, Paul says in Rom. 11.26. The 70 Weeks decreed for the Jewish people will end their transgression and usher in their everlasting righteousness (Dan. 9.24). So we see that those who give glory to God at the sixth trumpet are likely the Jews who have survived, and who sincerely praise their God and give Him the honor due His holy name.

Scripture taken, unless otherwise noted, from the NEW AMERICAN STANDARD BIBLE, Updated Edition (NASB), © Copyright The Lockman Foundation 1960, 1962, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995. Used by permission. All rights reserved. Brackets mine (added to some verses for clarity).

Ephemeral Us

One of my acquaintances lost her adult daughter to an untimely and unexpected death today. This is, sad to say, a major part of life in this present age of the earth. We are hit by nasty surprises. Shocking and tragic events occur. Death hits all age groups. Sometimes there is an obvious cause – disease attacking a vital organ, a sin someone committed (murder or drunken driving), or a series of bad choices (addiction to cigarettes or drugs). Often, there is not. There is only the shock and the pain for those left behind.

We cannot expect to live forever, not in these bodies we were born with. They are corrupted and decaying. We must have new, fresh bodies to house our souls.

Our Lord knows this and has made provision for our need. If we will truly find Him, if we will truly follow Him, then we will have an eternity of living to look forward to. Real living, joy and bounty, love and liveliness. We will not lack for energy, intelligence, health, friends, or any other good thing.

Therefore, truly finding the Lord Yeshua is of paramount importance. With our always-too-short lives, we must expend whatever time is necessary to make sure we belong to Him. Tomorrow may be too late.

Pray for Jerusalem 9-1-1

We had a leader from the Philippines come talk at our congregation several years ago. He asked us to, “Pray for the Philippines 1-1-1.” Each “1” stood for a different concept — 1 new church, 1 worker trained up to share the good news, or 1 partner in prayer. Something like that.

Today Anne Graham Lotz is asking us to join her in praying for Jerusalem 9-1-1. On the day 9-1, September 1st. For 1 hour (or segments totaling about an hour).

Did you know that we’re not instructed to pray for peace in the Bible? The exception is found in Psalm 122 verse 6. There we are instructed to pray for the peace of Jerusalem.

While we don’t agree with all of Anne’s eschatology, we certainly agree with her that praying for the Jews, for Israel, and for Jerusalem is an excellent, God-honoring idea, both today and every day. So Harbinger Dardinger is joining with her and our fellow peace lovers, good seekers, and God followers to pray today for Jerusalem for 1 hour (broken up into segments of 10-20 minutes each).

The call to prayer and the suggested text for this prayer are found here. If you don’t see this until after the 1st, please pray anyway. Jerusalem is likely to need our prayers for a long while to come.