Tuesday, 7 January 2014

Zechariah 12-14 Fulfilled

Someone said Zechariah 12-14 is primarily about Israel's future.

I'm still trying to understand what is now already past, and what is yet to be fulfilled, of Old Testament prophecy - especially in regard to Israel.

But reading Zechariah 12-14 again tonight, my thoughts are that much of it seems to be fulfilled already, for four reasons: 

1) because Zechariah 12-14 includes verses which the New Testament quotes and says have now been fulfilled;

2) because it includes verses which describe Levitical functions taking place in the Temple in Jerusalem. Such functions are no longer relevant under the New Covenant, and in fact these things have been impossible to observe since the Temple was destroyed and Levitical genealogies were lost (in approximately AD70) - therefore those verses must have been fulfilled during Old Covenant times;

3) because Zechariah's prophecy was meant to have a lot of historical relevance to his original audience in his own generation; and

4) because history seems to record that much of it has now already happened, exactly as described by Zechariah; and many of the the things ceased around AD70.


I feel it's important that we don't mistake fulfilled prophecy for unfulfilled prophecy for three reasons:

1)  because it might weaken a prophecy's power as a proof-text for Jesus being the Christ;

2) because it may lead to mistaken ideas about whether or not God requires believers in Jesus, the nations, or the Jews to adhere to aspects of Judaism today or in the future; and 

3) because this might subtly change the single focus that our Gospel message ought to have.


Verses 1,2
My understanding is that Jerusalem truly experienced siege and occupation - already, around Zechariah's time.

Verse 3
The army that gathered against Jerusalem in those days was indeed a multi-national army - the Babylonian empire extended from Ethiopia to India.

Verse 4
The soldiers' method of transport in those days was indeed nothing but the horse - unlike today's modern military hardware.

Verse 6
It indeed came to pass soon after Zechariah's prophecy that the Jews again inhabited Jerusalem.

Verse 7
At that time the people indeed lived in nothing but tents.

Verse 8
Nevertheless their resettlement in Jerusalem, after the Babylonian captivity, was secure.

Verse 9
The multi-national Babylonian force that had come against Israel indeed lost its empire a short time later to the Medo-Persians, and after that to the Grecian kingdom.

Verse 10
Israel then remained in the land for centuries, just as Zechariah had said - and the stage was then set for verse 10 to be fulfilled, which John 19:37 tells us was fulfilled at the cross, "...they shall look upon me whom they have pierced..."

What a wonderful proof-text this whole passage is for Jesus being the Christ! 

Jesus came at a time when all those things which Zechariah described had been historically fulfilled in Israel, just when Zechariah said Christ should come.


Verse 1
Israel's 70 years in captivity, followed by their resettlement in Jerusalem indeed resulted in "a fountain opened to the house of David and to the inhabitants of Jerusalem for sin and for uncleanness", because...

Verse 2
...the idols which had filled the land of Israel prior to their captivity were indeed all abolished.

Verse 7
The stage of history was then set for verse seven to be fulfilled, which Matt. 26:31 tells us was fulfilled at Christ's trial, "...smite the shepherd, and the sheep shall be scattered..."

Another wonderful proof that Jesus was the Christ!

Christ was to come onto the stage of history at a time when the things which spoken by Zechariah had already been fulfilled. And Jesus did exactly that.

Verse 8 
Around Zechariah's day there was indeed a percentage of Jews who were killed and a percentage who were spared (verse 8). 

Verse 9
Those who were spared went through the fire but ended-up in the land of Israel where they enjoyed a restored relationship with God, just as Zechariah foretold.


Verses 1-3
Israel's enemies, who ruled from Babylon, did indeed lose their empire soon afterwards to the Medes and Persians, and later to Greece.

Verses 4-21 
Much of it seems to be a further dramatic description of the restoration which God soon afterwards gave to Israel, delivering them from their enemies, and settling them from Babylon back in their land (verse 11). 

(Perhaps in the process of describing events which were soon to come to pass, some verses also alluded to the spirit and power of the future second-coming. Perhaps. I'm not sure. The language admittedly sounds glorious, but I keep in mind that the old covenant indeed was glorious - it's just that the new covenant is more glorious. Some of it could also therefore have been prophetic symbolism.

I also realise that some Old Testament prophecies describe the spirit of God's ongoing dealings more so than predicting a single historical event.)

But for the most part, these verses appear to me to have been necessarily fulfilled soon after Zechariah prophesied, during the Old Covenant, for four reasons:

1) because it says horses, mules and camels were to be the main military hardware, and tents were the main type of dwelling, at the time when the prophecy would be fulfilled (verse 15). Those things are not the main hardware in modern times;

2). because it describes Levitical functions - and history and the Bible show those Levitical functions did begin happening soon after Zechariah, and up until soon after Jesus;

3) because the reality of New Covenant truth is that the physical altar and sacrifices in the Temple in Jerusalem no longer have relevance and cannot have true relevance in future; and

4) because such Levitical functions described in the prophecy can no longer be carried out, and ceased being carried out when the Temple was destroyed (around AD70).

After the resettlement in Israel, it came to pass that people would travel to Jerusalem out of all nations to keep the feast (verse 17). 

Jerusalem was still the required place of worship in those days for they were still under the Old Covenant at at time. After the New Covenant was inaugurated however, Jerusalem has no longer been the required place of worship [John 4:21,23] "...the hour cometh, when ye shall neither worship in this mountain, nor yet at Jerusalem...the true worshippers shall worship the Father in spirit and in truth..."

The nations were still going up to Jerusalem to keep the feast, in fulfilment of Zechariah's prediction, at the time of Acts chapter 2 where people of many tongues were gathered in Jerusalem on the day of Pentecost. 

It was still a requirement to keep the feast of tabernacles, and to do so exclusively in Jerusalem (verses 16,18,19) while the Old Covenant still stood. But it is no longer a requirement to go up to Jerusalem, nor to keep the feast, now that the New Covenant has been inaugurated - nor is it possible to do so in the way the Law required since the Temple and city of Jerusalem were destroyed.)

Zechariah describes a functioning Temple. The temple was indeed rebuilt soon afterwards. Sacrifices were again offered. Israel was purified, compared to their state before the captivity. The physical house of the Lord again existed. Canaanites weren't allowed in it (verse 21). It came to pass, and was still the case when Jesus came.

Many of these things happened soon afterwards, exactly as Zechariah prophesied it. But many of those things forever lost their relevance after the New Covenant was ratified, and ceased happening again after the altar, Temple, Levitical priesthood and genealogies were finally destroyed (in about AD70).

So the timeframe in which Zechariah's prophecy found its fulfilment had to be somewhere between his own time and the time of the the inauguration of the New Covenant and the demise of the Temple soon afterwards. 

Christ came in the timeframe of those events, just as Zechariah had said.


So to summarise my current thoughts: verses in the New Testament - and the reality of the New Covenant - and the record of history - each seem to my mind to indicate a past fulfilment for much of Zechariah 12-14. 


If that's indeed the case, then rather than being a blueprint for Israel's future, Zechariah 12-14 is instead useful as a proof-text that Jesus indeed was and is the Christ. And that seems to be the way the Apostles (John, Matthew and Paul) applied Zechariah. The Apostles explained Zechariah's prophecy not as a forecast of Israel's still far-distant future but as proof of the realities they were already asserting to their own generation by their Gospel message.

If we make Zechariah 12-14 out to be primarily about the future, then we do away with the historical context in which Zechariah said the Christ was to have come, and we therefore lose some of its power as a proof-text for Jesus as the Christ.

If much of it is now fulfilled, then we can assert that Jesus is the Christ because the things which Zechariah said would be done to Christ happened to Jesus exactly as described and within the exact historical context that Zechariah described. 

It we make it out to be about the future, it also might lead to the mistaken idea that believers, the nations or Jews should be adhering to some aspects of Judaism now or in the future. That's a subtly different focus to the simple and powerful Gospel we're meant to proclaim.

If Zechariah's prophecy is now fulfilled, then it is not a basis for the idea that believers in Jesus, or the nations, or the Jews are required to adhere to aspects of Judaism today or in future. Rather if it is fulfilled, then it means that the historical fulfilment of Zechariah's prophecy set the historical timeframe in which the Christ was to come. Christ therefore could have been none other than the Lord Jesus. 

 I don't think I know anything yet though.


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