Pastor Aaron Preaching
Asia Bibi in a new prison in Pakistan
Tyler Feeling Better
Courtney's family in the loss of their grandfather
School performance and evangelism
Unity in the Body
Text – Zechariah 14:1-15
We’re in Zechariah 14, the last chapter of this book. This book is wonderful in how it demonstrates God cleansing his people, defeating sin, showing the hopelessness of works-based-salvation, giving salvation by grace, saving people from all nations, and setting Christ as shepherd as both priest and king. It is prophetically rich, naming Jesus by name, stating that he would ride into Jerusalem humble on a donkey, that he would pour out his blood of the covenant for the salvation of sinners, that in a single day he would deal with sin, that he would be pierced but would be yet alive. Almost all of the prophecy of Zechariah 1-12 has been fulfilled, chapter 13 is being fulfilled in the sanctification of the church, but chapter 14 is yet to come.
I want to take just a moment to talk about something I think we went by too quickly last week in chapter 13. In chapter 13, which talks about our sanctification, and ultimately our perfection in Heaven, what does it imply our attitude to sin will be? Utter hatred. That led us to the question about if we can ever practice what is called “discretion”, or tiny lies to save someone’s feelings.
What are some of the reasons we don’t want to tell small lies? It hurts our trustworthiness, it affirms people in delusion, we don’t know at what point we should stop, people should know we love them because of who they are not how they look, it can cause problems if later someone tells them the truth.
What are some benefits to telling small lies? The person feels better about their condition, there is no argument, you don’t get punched in the nose, it might maintain peace.
Now what if someone does ask a question, say I think I’ve got the next big hair trend, I get a slant-wise Mohawk that goes from my behind my left ear to in front of my right ear, and I dye the front couple inches neon pink. I really like my hair, so don’t you dare hurt my feelings! Do you like my hair? I would say the best way to answer a question like this is as with much gentleness, but you can’t ignore the truth. I would probably say something like, “I really like you, and I want you to do well in life and not get prejudged just for your hair, so I’m not fond of your haircut and I think you should consider something else.”
We talked about the GEICO commercial with Abe Lincoln telling Mary Todd she was fat, that’s probably our most difficult situation, right? I don’t think Abe handled that well. If she asked, “Does this dress make me look fat?” I think a better response would have been, “That dress makes you look beautiful.” If the question persists how are some other ways we can handle the situation with gentleness? “I love you just the way you are.” “Does this suit make me look fat?” “Does this top-hat make me look presidential?” (Ok, that one only really works for Abe Lincoln)
There is a chance that feelings might get hurt in situations like this, no doubt about that; but we need to place the truth at a higher priority and a continued relationship more important than just avoiding one hurt feeling. Now you have the guarantee that if I say, “You look nice today.” Or “Good game.” Or “Great piano/tuba/song performance.” Or “Great sermon.” You know I am telling the truth and not just trying to save your feelings.
These sorts of things can be very complicated, but if we are willing to tell the truth and our hearer knows we are known for telling the truth, it takes a lot of the complication out of it. This is especially helped if there is a history of friendship and sacrificial love between us, because you know your performance is not a precursor to me liking you. Let me give you an example, say one of you is going to teach, and you go to teach and it’s clear that you don’t know the topic and you radically misquote easy names, like you say, “This lesson is about Jo-han the Bapetised,” it you haven’t put any preparation in and it’s a terrible lesson, I’m going to tell you that, but it’s not going to make me hate you forever, and hopefully it will cause you to strive to do better in the future.
And finally, let’s take this to an extreme. If he could tell one single lie and it would result in the entire world being saved, would Jesus do it? No, both because he doesn’t lie, and because it’s impossible for him to lie, and also because what sort of lie could he tell to make the whole world believe which wouldn’t rob his Father of glory?
Questions? Comments? Agreements? Disagreements?
Ok, let’s start Zechariah 14, let’s read it first, we’re only going to do the first 15 verses today, but we’ll read the entire chapter. Verses 1-15 are about the war for earth, 16-21 are the result, we’ll look at them next week and do a complete overview of Zechariah.
Zechariah 14:1-21 Behold, a day is coming for the LORD, when the spoil taken from you will be divided in your midst. For I will gather all the nations against Jerusalem to battle, and the city shall be taken and the houses plundered and the women raped. Half of the city shall go out into exile, but the rest of the people shall not be cut off from the city. Then the LORD will go out and fight against those nations as when he fights on a day of battle. On that day his feet shall stand on the Mount of Olives that lies before Jerusalem on the east, and the Mount of Olives shall be split in two from east to west by a very wide valley, so that one half of the Mount shall move northward, and the other half southward. And you shall flee to the valley of my mountains, for the valley of the mountains shall reach to Azal. And you shall flee as you fled from the earthquake in the days of Uzziah king of Judah. Then the LORD my God will come, and all the holy ones with him. On that day there shall be no light, cold, or frost. 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. 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. And the LORD will be king over all the earth. On that day the LORD will be one and his name one. The whole land shall be turned into a plain from Geba to Rimmon south of Jerusalem. But Jerusalem shall remain aloft on its site from the Gate of Benjamin to the place of the former gate, to the Corner Gate, and from the Tower of Hananel to the king’s winepresses. And it shall be inhabited, for there shall never again be a decree of utter destruction. Jerusalem shall dwell in security. And this shall be the plague with which the LORD will strike all the peoples that wage war against Jerusalem: their flesh will rot while they are still standing on their feet, their eyes will rot in their sockets, and their tongues will rot in their mouths. And on that day a great panic from the LORD shall fall on them, so that each will seize the hand of another, and the hand of the one will be raised against the hand of the other. Even Judah will fight at Jerusalem. And the wealth of all the surrounding nations shall be collected, gold, silver, and garments in great abundance. And a plague like this plague shall fall on the horses, the mules, the camels, the donkeys, and whatever beasts may be in those camps. Then everyone who survives of all the nations that have come against Jerusalem shall go up year after year to worship the King, the LORD of hosts, and to keep the Feast of Booths. And if any of the families of the earth do not go up to Jerusalem to worship the King, the LORD of hosts, there will be no rain on them. And if the family of Egypt does not go up and present themselves, then on them there shall be no rain; there shall be the plague with which the LORD afflicts the nations that do not go up to keep the Feast of Booths. This shall be the punishment to Egypt and the punishment to all the nations that do not go up to keep the Feast of Booths. And on that day there shall be inscribed on the bells of the horses, "Holy to the LORD." And the pots in the house of the LORD shall be as the bowls before the altar. And every pot in Jerusalem and Judah shall be holy to the LORD of hosts, so that all who sacrifice may come and take of them and boil the meat of the sacrifice in them. And there shall no longer be a trader in the house of the LORD of hosts on that day.
Before we begin, we talked a little last week about the end times and how different godly people believe the end will happen in different ways, with the major events of Christ’s return, a rapture, a war with Satan when he is loosed, a perfection of saints, and a judgment of sinners. I believe pretty strongly in the Amillennial View, that Christ is reigning now and Satan is bound, and that at the end of the age he will be set free to war on God and the saints, culminating in a large battle and a complete victory by Christ. This is largely what this chapter is going to talk about.
There is another view though which I did not talk about last week, it is called Preterism, and I hate it. It comes from the Latin word for “Past” and they believe that almost everything has already happened, including Christ’s second return which they weirdly believe happened in AD 70. I will tell you that I HATE Preterism and most, if not all, Preterists I’ve met have no clue what the gospel is and are some sort of weird neognostic who think the important thing about the Bible is accurately figuring out prophecy.
An aside, what is the most important thing in the world for us?
Matthew 6:33 Seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.
Elevating the kingdom of God and declaring his glory, seeing people exchange their sin for his righteousness. Loving the church and Christ and hoping all will be saved.
So we come to Zechariah 14, it destroys Preterism, the belief that everything is in the past; the converse is Futurist, which believes most things happen in the future. The biblical belief is called, “Partial-Preterist” which means, I believe that some things happened in the past and some are going to happen in the future, some things happened both in the past and will happen in the future, a double fulfillment, like a lot of things talked about in the destruction of Jerusalem in AD70 are going to happen in the end of days.
vv.1-2 Behold, a day is coming for the LORD, when the spoil taken from you will be divided in your midst. For I will gather all the nations against Jerusalem to battle, and the city shall be taken and the houses plundered and the women raped. Half of the city shall go out into exile, but the rest of the people shall not be cut off from the city.
This is a pretty harsh prophecy, it says a very violent war is coming on Jerusalem. Does anyone know when Jerusalem was returned to Jewish ownership? 1967, before that it had been in mostly Muslim hands since 1187 when Saladin captured it. Prior to that it was in Roman Catholic an hands for about 100 years, and prior to that it was Muslim, and prior to that it was Roman. All of that to say, for almost 2000 years, Jerusalem was not owned by the Jews.
But in the early 1900’s it became popular to think that maybe Israel and Jerusalem would be regained by the Jewish people. This was actually an almost self-fulfilling prophecy, because during World War I Christians in charge of the British forces in the Middle East KNEW they would take Jerusalem because it was prophesied in the Bible, and they did, taking it from the Turks. After World War II, in 1948, the United Nations gave Israel to the Jews who had been decimated by Hitler. After some pretty intense fighting over twenty years, the Jews captured all of Jerusalem in 1967.
Verse 1 talks about them regaining what was taken from them. This is most certainly a prophecy for the regaining of the land of Israel and city of Jerusalem. This was seen by theologians both before and after the 1967 “Six Days War”.
Verse 2 describes the Jews in Jerusalem, in intense danger as the whole world comes against them. This has seemed like it was coming true several times, with many nations coming against Jerusalem, but as of yet it has never been more than a small percentage. But we definitely see that it could happen. The violence and looting will be horrendous on that day, there will be amazing hatred of the Jews, which we see rampant throughout the world.
At the end of verse 2 we see that Jerusalem is set to fall, it is invaded, half of the population flee, they are in dire straits ready to be cut off. Then salvation comes. Some believe, I not necessarily with them, though it is pretty persuasive, that this is the great conversion of Jews on the very last day on the brink of destruction, when they will finally turn and believe Christ is their Messiah. It’s tempting to believe it, I’m not sure, but don’t build a church on it.
Here comes their Messiah:
vv.3-5 Then the LORD will go out and fight against those nations as when he fights on a day of battle. On that day his feet shall stand on the Mount of Olives that lies before Jerusalem on the east, and the Mount of Olives shall be split in two from east to west by a very wide valley, so that one half of the Mount shall move northward, and the other half southward. And you shall flee to the valley of my mountains, for the valley of the mountains shall reach to Azal.
The Mount of Olives is a large hill to the east of Jerusalem, it is where the Garden of Gethsemane is. It is where Christ ascended into Heaven, and it is precisely where he will return to.
Acts 1:9-11 And when he had said these things, as they were looking on, he was lifted up, and a cloud took him out of their sight. And while they were gazing into heaven as he went, behold, two men stood by them in white robes, and said, "Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking into heaven? This Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will come in the same way as you saw him go into heaven."
The Mount of Olives is a natural defense of Jerusalem against direct attack from the east, and that’s great, but if you’re surrounded on the north, south, and west, it is cutting off your escape route. But look, Christ steps onto the Mount of Olives and his power splits it in two, east to west, creating a great valley in the middle, leading straight out of Jerusalem.
I love it, God here says, you shall flee through the valley of my mountainS, plural, because where there was one mountain God has just miraculously made two, and provided physical salvation for the Jews trapped in Jerusalem, and they will escape. The word Azal is confusing, it means “near”, but it’s not a place. I almost want to say this is prophecy for Christ as well as this real event at the end of times. I believe, not 100%, that it may be that the Jews flee through this valley straight into God's presence in Heaven... It’s very similar to the curtain being torn in the temple to bring us “near” to God.
Hebrews 10:19-20 Therefore, brothers, since we have confidence to enter the holy places by the blood of Jesus, by the new and living way that he opened for us through the curtain, that is, through his flesh.
So this will surely be the salvation for some Jews, but to say this is the only time many Jews will come to Christ, I believe, is an error. I think we’ll see a great return, over many months or even years, of Jews which will be a sign that the end is nearer than ever.
vv.5-7 And you shall flee as you fled from the earthquake in the days of Uzziah king of Judah. Then the LORD my God will come, and all the holy ones with him. On that day there shall be no light, cold, or frost. 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.
I love it, they will flee to God just like they were fleeing danger. Because they are! Both are they fleeing from men, but they’re also fleeing from the wrath of God, a much greater danger There is a definite call to tell people to flee from the wrath to come.
Then the day will be strange, something big will obviously be happening. Besides that, the landscape will change, a massive prophecy in Ezekiel, which we'll read next week, will be fulfilled.
vv.8-9 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. And the LORD will be king over all the earth. On that day the LORD will be one and his name one.
At this point, though our God, one God, existing in Three Persons, Trinity in unity and unity in Trinity, will make it known to all that he is the true and living God, the only God, the only Saviour, the only King. All other false idols will be cut off. We're going to talk about verses 10-11 next week, these verses establish Jerusalem in peace, but for time's sake I really want to get to verse 12-15 since before there can be total peace, God is going to wage war, I think we're ultimately going to need to move most of this to next week, but I really want to get to a major point that some people believe is happening today.
v.12 And this shall be the plague with which the LORD will strike all the peoples that wage war against Jerusalem: their flesh will rot while they are still standing on their feet, their eyes will rot in their sockets, and their tongues will rot in their mouths.
This is the power of God, that he is able to make a complete end to his enemies. In Revelation it says that the world comes to fight him and he defeats them with a Word.
There are two major beliefs how a tongue can rot away while someone still stands, something which usually takes at least a few weeks. The first is a more physical way, which was utterly unknown until the 1940's, which is the nuclear bomb. This weapon disintegrates people as they stand, not only does it have blasting power, but it also melts skin and changes molecular structures of bodies. The softer flesh is consumed before the harder bone, so during an attack like this, it is more than possible to die standing up, your tongue, eyes, and skin gone. After the bombings of the Naval base at Nagasaki and the Army base at Hiroshima, there were shadows of people on the walls where they had literally melted away.
It is such a powerful weapon that when J. Robert Oppenheimer's team invented the first low-powered version, he quoted a Hindu god, "I am become death, the destroyer of worlds."
I'll show you (at least) two other verses next week that corroborate nuclear warfare at Armageddon, and I think it is definitely likely that there will be unbelievable atrocities with manmade weaponry, and some have even speculated a more violent weapon than a nuclear bomb, like laser or shock wave sniper weapons. The second view is that this is the power of Christ's word, consuming people so quickly that they don't even have a chance to fall to the ground.
Personally I think it is a little of both, nuclear first, then a few days/weeks/moths later it will be the power of Christ; this will be my teaser for next week, as we look at the results of this battle more carefully.
vv.13-14 And on that day a great panic from the LORD shall fall on them, so that each will seize the hand of another, and the hand of the one will be raised against the hand of the other. Even Judah will fight at Jerusalem. And the wealth of all the surrounding nations shall be collected, gold, silver, and garments in great abundance.
After this attack, clearly people will be terrified. But rather than surrender, bowing to Christ as king, they once again mount an attack on Jerusalem. Check this out, even Jews will be fighting Jerusalem, and it sounds like a great defeat for all who come against the kingdom, they are utterly consumed, and all of their wealth is taken. Not only will they die, but so will a great deal of livestock.
v.15 And a plague like this plague shall fall on the horses, the mules, the camels, the donkeys, and whatever beasts may be in those camps.
Have you heard about the bird and fish deaths recently? The 2012 conspiracy is really trying to make this sound like a doomsday prophecy. And the way they present it, it certainly sounds like it is. But, when we look at the truth, we find out that there is an agency in the United States who tracks things like this, I believe it is the Department of Agriculture, but don't quote me on that, and they keep track of things like this and list a major animal death somewhere in the United States practically every other day, as they have for 30 years. Sometimes these deaths are because of disease, sometimes they are because of poisoning, sometimes a big flock of birds just fails to get out of the way of a train or semi-truck. But the deal is that it happens VERY often. Japan right now is bracing for a major epidemic of H5N1 in their birds, and thousands of birds are going to die, but this is not like this plague here spoken of in Zechariah.
This plague will strike animals world-wide, even the bigger more immune animals will perish.
Now, all of this to say, the end is coming. It could be in less than a decade, it may be so far in the future that we might not see it from earth, but from Heaven as we return with Christ. Our goal is not to figure out exactly when it will happen, our goal is to bring as many souls into the kingdom as we can, preaching the gospel, declaring Christ to be the King of kings and the only true God. We must explain to people that there is a great war coming, both with the earth and with individual souls, that there is great animosity between God and men for sin.
We must explain to them that there is no reconciliation available anywhere else but in Jesus Christ, though we were his enemies he died for us, and defeated death by raising on the third day, reconciling all who believe to himself. He commands all people everywhere to repent, for he has appointed a day in which to judge the world in righteousness. He is not a God who loses wars.
Take heart, that just as the Bible has predicted a Jewish recapturing of Jerusalem and the power of nuclear weapons, it has predicted a complete victory for Christ. We can trust what it has to say about the future because it has been perfectly fulfilled in the past.
So go out this week and warn people to flee from the wrath to come, implore them in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ to be reconciled to God. Take heart in the fact that he has overcome the world and has saved our souls. Let's conclude with a powerful Bible verse,
Matthew 10:26-33 So have no fear of them, for nothing is covered that will not be revealed, or hidden that will not be known. What I tell you in the dark, say in the light, and what you hear whispered, proclaim on the housetops. And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell. Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? And not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father. But even the hairs of your head are all numbered. Fear not, therefore; you are of more value than many sparrows. So everyone who acknowledges me before men, I also will acknowledge before my Father who is in heaven, but whoever denies me before men, I also will deny before my Father who is in heaven.