Zechariah 14. The Return of the King

Walvoord & Zuck (The Bible Knowledge Commentary) say: “This chapter pictures the triumphant return of Israel’s Messiah as the divine King. Thus it portrays the fulfilment of eschatological psalms, such as Psalms 93, 96, 97 and 99, which envision the universal earthly reign of the Lord. This reign is known from other Scriptures as the personal reign of the Messiah on the throne of David. Zechariah 14 progresses from the initial plundering of Jerusalem near the end of the future tribulation, through the catastrophic judgement on the Gentile armies at Messiah’s Second Advent and the establishment of His millennial reign, to a description of the worship in Jerusalem during the millennium. The fact that these events have not yet occurred points to a premillennial return of Christ, that is, His return before the millennium.”

The King returns in power and glory (14:1-7,12-15)

The eschatological nature of the events described in this chapter is clearly confirmed by the fact that they will occur in the coming “day of the Lord” (14:1). Jerusalem will be the focal point of apocalyptic events: not only will the city and the land of Israel be the battlefield for a physical confrontation between the kingdoms of God and Satan, but the Mount of Olives in the city will be the entry-point to the world of the King of kings after a physical absence of about two millennia. His coming will be the beginning of Jerusalem’s elevation to the status of world capital. It will be the illustrious City of the Great King. Before the Messiah will formally inaugurate the dispensation of God’s revealed kingdom on earth by restoring the throne of David, He will deal a crushing blow to His enemies who will be deployed under the leadership of the Antichrist and the false prophet, and obliterate their antichristian world government that will be in power at the time. He will also incarcerate Satan who will be the unseen, spiritual head of the false messiah’s world empire. God says:

“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 towards the north and half of it towards 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. It shall come to pass in that day that there will be no light; the lights will diminish… but at evening time it shall happen that it will be light… And this shall be the plague with which the LORD will strike all the people who fought against Jerusalem: Their flesh shall dissolve while they stand on their feet, their eyes shall dissolve in their sockets, and their tongues shall dissolve in their mouths. It shall come to pass in that day that a great panic from the LORD will be among them. Everyone will seize the hand of his neighbour, and raise his hand against his neighbour’s hand; Judah will fight at Jerusalem. And the wealth of all the surrounding nations shall be gathered together” (14:2-7,12-14).

The Lord says that He will gather all the nations to battle against Jerusalem. He will simply allow the multinational force from all nations to march on Jerusalem because they will, under the instigation of Satan, already have decided to destroy the people of Israel and their coming Messiah. Another Jewish prophet, John, said: “And I saw three unclean spirits like frogs coming out of the mouth of the dragon, out of the mouth of the beast, and out of the mouth of the false prophet. For they are spirits of demons, performing signs, which go out to the kings of the earth and of the whole world, to gather them to the battle of that great day of God Almighty… And they gathered them together to the place called in Hebrew, Armageddon” (Rev. 16:13-14,16).

Such a big war effort by all the nations of the world is not needed to destroy the small nation of Israel. At the time when the nations will mobilise their armies for this war, it will be close to the end of the tribulation period. The number of Jews will have been drastically reduced in the heavy persecution of the tribulation, and the remaining ones will have revoked their covenant with the false messiah, and will consequently have been disarmed and driven from Jerusalem (cf. Matt. 24:15-22; Rev. 12:6,13-17). They won’t be able to pose a military threat to anyone; so, why then all the preparations for the war of Armageddon in Israel, and specifically in and around Jerusalem?

John indicated the reason for the demonic provocation of the nations. The kings of the world, who will form part of the Antichrist’s world empire, will be made to understand that Israel’s Messiah will come from heaven with a big, heavenly army to save the remnant of Israel and to rule the world through them, and from the city of Jerusalem. The enemy forces will lay siege to Jerusalem and await the Messiah there. John says: “And I saw the beast, the kings of the earth, and their armies, gathered together to make war against Him who sat on the horse and against His army” (Rev. 19:19). Their main target will be Jesus, the true Christ.

It will be a bad day for the multinational force as they will be killed with the sword that proceeds from the mouth of Him who sits on the horse (Rev. 19:21). He will only need to speak a single word that will lead to their sudden destruction. Zechariah says the flesh of the enemy troops shall dissolve while they stand on their feet (14:12). “It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God” (Heb. 10:31). The Antichrist and the false prophet will be cast alive into the lake of fire, while Satan will be chained and cast into the bottomless pit (Rev. 19:20; 20:1-3).

During the dramatic event of the Messiah’s coming when tremendous earthquakes will spread across the whole world, and the Mount of Olives is split in two, a very sincere and wholehearted reconciliation will occur between the remnant of Israel and their once-rejected Messiah, Jesus. The Jews who fled to the wilderness in the middle of the tribulation period will return to the Mount of Olives to meet the true Messiah. They will do so despite the great danger posed by the deployment of massive antichristian forces in and around Jerusalem as well as in other places in the Middle East. According to the prophecies in Daniel 12 they will know that 3 years will elapse from the day on which the false messiah declares himself to be God in the rebuilt temple in Jerusalem, until the day on which the true Messiah will make His appearance (Dan. 12:11).

Despite their anxiety due to the great war of Armageddon that will be waged they will approach Jerusalem. At a certain stage they will despair, fearing that their hope is gone and that they will all be cut off and killed (cf. Ezek. 37:11). At that critical moment the Messiah will come and as His feet touch the Mount of Olives it will split in two while the darkness of God’s judgements engulf the enemy forces. It will again be like the day when the Messiah was crucified while bearing God’s judgements for sin on our behalf. It became dark in the middle of the day, but at 3-o-clock in the afternoon when Jesus laid down His life, it was light again (Matt. 27:45).

On the day of His Second Coming darkness will prevail in the middle of the day when the judgements of God are poured out upon His enemies. In that time of great confusion among the enemies the fugitive Jews will find refuge in the valley of the cleft Mount of Olives. There, at the feet of the Messiah, they will be safe. Zechariah says: “In that day there will be no light… but at evening time it will be light” (14:6-7). When it becomes light again in the late afternoon, the Jews will look on Him who came to their salvation at the critical moment when they were surrounded by enemy forces, and feared that everything was lost. They won’t only be physically saved from their enemies, but also experience the spiritual salvation of the Messiah in their hearts.

The Messiah’s millennial reign instituted (14:8-11,16-21)

“And in that day it shall be that living waters shall flow from Jerusalem, half of them towards the eastern sea and half of them towards the western sea; in both summer and winter it shall occur. And the LORD shall be King over all the earth… Jerusalem shall be raised up and inhabited in her place… The people shall dwell in it; and no longer shall there be utter destruction, but Jerusalem shall be safely inhabited” (14:8-11).

The whole landscape in Israel will be changed, probably due to the big earthquakes (cf. Ezek. 38:19-20; Rev. 16:18-19). In the millennium, Jerusalem will be raised (14:10). The mountain of the Lord’s house shall be established on the top of the mountains (Isa. 2:2). Living waters will flow from Jerusalem to the eastern sea (the Dead Sea) and to the western sea (the Mediterranean Sea). It will be like that in summer and winter (14:8), thus indicating that the day of the Lord will extend over many years and include the entire millennial reign of the Messiah.

The Messiah will be King over all the earth (14:9). Satan will be incarcerated in the bottomless pit, which will be sealed so that he can deceive the nations no more till the thousand years are finished (Rev. 20:3). As a result of that, the nations will live in peace, beat their swords into ploughshares and stop all military training (cf. Isa. 2:2-4; Jer. 3:17). They will regularly come to Jerusalem to pray before the Lord (Zech. 8:20-22).

One such occasion will be the annual Feast of Tabernacles: “And it shall come to pass that everyone who is left of all the nations which came against Jerusalem shall go up from year to year to worship the King, the LORD of hosts, and to keep the Feast of Tabernacles” (14:16). Although the devil will be bound and unable to deceive people, they will still be born with a fallen, carnal nature and need to be born again to become partakers of a divine nature. Because of their human nature they may often neglect their duties and have to be disciplined: “Whichever of the families of the earth do not come up to Jerusalem to worship the King, the LORD of hosts, on them there will be no rain” (14:17).

The hallmark of the millennium will be “Holiness unto the LORD” (14:20-21). Holiness will characterise public life and it will even be written on the bells of the horses. Holiness will be the nature of all religious expressions as the cooking pots in the Lord’s house, the millennial temple (Ezek. 40–43), shall be like the sacrificial bowls before the altar. This rule will also apply to private households as all cooking utensils will be holy to the Lord. There will no longer be a dichotomy between secular and sacred, as people will be holy in all their conduct (cf. 1 Pet. 1:15). In accordance with the rule of absolute holiness, there will be no Canaanite in the house of the Lord (14:22). The Canaanites were idolaters and their religious practice was symbolic of anything ceremonially unclean and ungodly (cf. Ex. 34:11-15). In the millennial temple, no such defilement will occur as the Lord will remove all idolatry from the land (13:2).

Zechariah’s prophetic book began with a call to repentance (1:2-6) and is concluded with an affirmation that all will be holy to the Lord (14:20-21). Because He is the Lord Almighty and the Holy One of Israel, He will establish holiness throughout the glorious millennium. All people who belong to Him must be sanctified completely before they can appear before Him. “Pursue peace with all men, and holiness, without which no one will see the Lord” (Heb. 12:14).

The Messiah is Lord

The most profound revelation in the book of Zechariah is that the Messiah of Israel is called LORD – the eternal and self-existent I AM. In His pre-incarnate appearance He is described as the Angel of the Lord, in His first coming to Israel as the rejected King and Shepherd who came as a lowly Person to be pierced (crucified) for the sins of all people, but in the prophetic scene of His Second Coming He is fully revealed as LORD God [Yahweh Elohim]: “Thus the LORD my God will come, and all the saints with You” (14:5). He is “the King, the LORD of hosts” who will be worshipped by Israel and the nations in Jerusalem during the millennium (14:16). Zechariah also says: “The LORD shall be King over all the earth. In that day it shall be – the LORD is one and His Name one” (14:9).

The concept “one” which is also used in Deuteronomy 6:4 to describe the Person of the Lord (Yahweh) our God (Elohim), is echad in Hebrew, which refers to a composite unity (three Persons who, together, are one) as opposed to an absolute unity. The Triune God can indeed say: “Let Us make man in our image,” and then, “…male and female He created them” (Gen. 1:26-27). All three Persons in the Godhead can be addressed as Lord (Yahweh) and God (Elohim). The Messiah, the Holy One of Israel, is clearly The Lord God who created the world. John identifies the pre-incarnate Christ as the Word (Logos) who is the Creator-God: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God… Al things were made through Him, and without Him nothing was made that was made. In Him was life, and the life was the light of men… He was in the world, and the world was made through Him, and the world did not know Him. He came to His own [Israel], and His own did not receive Him. But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, even to those who believe in His Name… and the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth” (John 1:1-4,10-14).

He is not only Jesus of Nazareth who had His beginning in Bethlehem where He was born as the Son of Man and the Son of God – He is the timeless and self-existent God who was there before the creation: “He is the image of the invisible God… For by Him all things were created that are in heaven and that are on earth… He is before all things and in Him all things exist… For in Him dwells all the fullness of the Godhead bodily” (Col. 1:15-17; 2:9).

When the Messiah came to Israel the first time, very few people realised who He really is. His disciples exclaimed in amazement: “Who can this be, that even the wind and the sea obey Him! (Mark 4:41). They didn’t realise that He made the wind and the sea. To the agnostic Jews He said: “Before Abraham was, I AM” (John 8:58), and also “I and my Father are one” (John 10:30). When He said that, the Jews took up stones to stone Him. When He asked them why they did that, they replied, “for blasphemy, and because you, being a man, make yourself God” (John 10:31-33). The Jews were in peril of their lives because of failing to accept the Messiah as Lord and God. He clearly alerted them to their spiritual ruin, should they not worship Him as Lord – the eternal I AM: “You shall die in your sins, for if you do not believe that I AM, you shall die in your sins” (John 8:24; Modern KJV). He is “the true God and eternal life” (1 John 5:20).

Only a small remnant in Israel will come to the full realisation of who the Messiah really is, but only after having been ravaged by the false messiah with whom they will wrongfully have concluded a covenant. Frances Havergal entreats all unsaved Jews and Gentiles: “Why will you do without Him? Is He not kind indeed? Did He not die to save you? Is He not all you need?” The Lord Jesus gave a solemn promise on salvation to all who would believe in Him: “Most assuredly, I say to you, he who believes in Me has everlasting life” (John 6:47).

It is this great Saviour about whom Zechariah spoke to his people. But despite these messages, Israel rejected Him when He came for the first time. Shortly before His ascension from the Mount of Olives, the Messiah commanded His disciples to proclaim His love and saving grace to all nations on earth (Matt. 28:19). When He comes again, the whole Israel will be saved. Then, the Messiah and His saints will rule the world in righteousness. All nations will worship the Messiah and honour His people, Israel. They will say to the Messianic Jews: “Let us go with you, for we have heard that God is with you” (Zech. 8:23).