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Location: Greensboro, NC, United States

Sunday, May 13, 2007

Scriptural Speculations #1: Zechariah 14

As I mentioned before, I am part of a Bible study group that is currently discussing the Book of the Revelation. Everybody in the group other than myself is premillennial, if not fully Dispensational, by default, as is most everyone in the American Evangelical church scene these days. Nonetheless the group has been welcoming to my different perspective, and our conversations have been quite enjoyable.

I came in late to the group. They had been meeting for a while before I joined, and had already made it to Revelation 16. The book the group is using as a guide is David Jeremiah’s Escape the Coming Night. The book is a standard, popular-level Dispensational treatment of Revelation. And as much as I have benefited from Dr. Jeremiah’s radio program through the years, we differ significantly on many things, of which the Book of the Revelation is one. To put it less politely, I think Dr. Jeremiah misses the point of Revelation entirely. It isn’t about the events beginning with the rapture and continuing through the end of the world. Rather, the book is about the events surrounding the dissolution of the Old Covenant world, connected with the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 AD.

We just finished ch. 16 of the book, which corresponds with ch. 16 of Revelation. In this chapter Dr. Jeremiah, as other Dispensationalists do, runs through the Old Testament picking out passages about destruction here and there, and links them together to create his schema for the future. One section that figures prominently is the last few chapters of Zechariah. I don’t have the entire Bible figured out (who does?) but I have some thoughts on Zechariah 14 in particular that come from my own preterist perspective. I wrote these up and sent them to our fearless Bible study leader, but he has yet to respond, which I hope is not a sign of just how convoluted my ideas are. I’ve thought for awhile about starting a blog series entitled “Scriptural Speculations” though, and I figured that maybe this wouldn’t be a bad way to start that series. The following is rough, in that it is simply the email as sent with very little editing. I hope it’s possible to follow it anyway. Also, these thoughts are far from conclusive. I haven’t read any commentaries on the passages in question, so I don’t know if any scholars would agree with me. And if you the reader have any thoughts, I welcome them, so please post them in the comments or email them to me.

The questions we’ve been dealing with involve Typology in relation to prophecy. It seems to me that most Dispies like to reserve Typology to the person and work of Christ. In fact, growing up in the Plymouth Brethren, I was taught that Typology in Scripture only functions in relation to Christ. In other words, there are no types that find their antitypes in, for instance, the Church. So I was taught that Israel in the Old Testament couldn’t refer to the Church in the New Testament. But when I became Reformed, I realized that this was wrong.

As a preterist, I would tend to interpret such passages in relation to the first century, as you know. What happens in this approach is that statements that refer to Israel are interpreted as referring to the Church. Also, statements that refer to the nations refer to the enemies of the Church, which enemies would include unbelieving Israel. Of course, this is overly simplistic. Jesus is the True Israel, and the church is Israel only through Him. So Israel could refer to Christ Himself rather than the church.

The thoughts I have refer specifically to Zech. 14. Simply put, it seems to me that the parallel to Zech. 14 (or, at least, one parallel) is found in John 7, and possibly part of John 8. There are two parallels that cause me to believe this. First is the context of John 7. The context is the Feast of Booths (or Tabernacles, as it’s sometimes called). The related passage in Zechariah is Zech. 14:16-19. The second parallel is John 7:37-39:

37 On the last day of the feast, the great day, Jesus stood up and cried out, “If anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink. 38 Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, ‘Out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.’” 39 Now this he said about the Spirit, whom those who believed in him were to receive, for as yet the Spirit had not been given, because Jesus was not yet glorified.

It is interesting to consider what comes right after this as well:

40 When they heard these words, some of the people said, “This really is the Prophet.” 41 Others said, “This is the Christ.”

The parallel to this is Zech. 14:8-9:

8 On that day living waters shall flow out from Jerusalem, half of them to the eastern sea and half of them to the western sea. It shall continue in summer as in winter.

9 And the Lord will be king over all the earth. On that day the Lord will be one and his name one.

See also Ezekiel 47:1 and following, as well as Genesis 2:10-14. Also to consider here is the river that flowed into (or out of – I don’t recall) O.T. Jerusalem (I couldn’t find a text reference for this one). All of these, I would suggest, are parallel, along with Revelation 22:1, 17. The point to be made here, which is typified in each case, is that wherever God dwells, from there, water of life flows out into the whole world. And the water is connected with the Spirit of God. This is often related to the historic defense of Baptismal Regeneration. The picture here is also one of life flowing out to the rest of the world from the people of God, which in the OT meant Israel, but in the NT means the Church. So today, the fountainhead of salvation is to be found in the Church. There’s a rabbit trail I could follow further here, but I’ll resist the temptation.

If you want to carry the parallels with Zechariah 14 over into John 8, one more parallel is possible, and that’s in John 8:12, right after the controversial beginning of the chapter:

12 Again Jesus spoke to them, saying, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”

The parallel in Zechariah is in 14:6-7:

6 On that day there shall be no light, cold, or frost. 7 And there shall be a unique day, which is known to the Lord, neither day nor night, but at evening time there shall be light.

There is little else to consider in looking at John 7-8, because most of the text deals with Jesus defending Himself as a true prophet from God and the various discussions among the Jews about the genuineness of His profession. Nonetheless, I would consider these parallels significant, and would suggest that Jesus is here at least saying, “The fulfillment of Zechariah 14 is coming in conjunction with my ministry.” Now I think part of that came in His incarnation and establishing of the Church (the establishing of the kingdom, Zech. 14:6-11, and the coming of the nations to Jerusalem, Zech. 14:16-21), and part of it came in the destruction of Jerusalem as a covenantal judgment, which included the rescue of the Church (Zech. 14:1-5, 12-15). Part of this might also be projected into the future coming of Christ, depending on how one reads Revelation 22 (see Rev. 22:1-5; parallel Rev. 22:1 with Zech. 14:8 and parallel Rev. 22:5 with Zech.14:7). I don’t really know how all the details play out, but I haven’t spent the time that figuring all of this out would require.

Two other passages you might want to consider in connection with this is Ezra 3:1-7 and Nehemiah 8:13-18. In each case, the Feast of Booths is specified as something key that the Israelites resumed observing in the process of returning from Exile into the land. For Israel, returning from physical Exile also meant returning from spiritual Exile. Jesus, in calling to “anyone” to come to Him, was calling for a return from spiritual Exile. This was true specifically for Israel, though the call was different from Ezra and Nehemiah’s days, in that the call was also now open in a new way to the nations. Cf. again Zech. 14:16 & following.

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