Zechariah: Prophecies About the Intertestamental Period and the Church

“I will make them strong in the Lord, and they shall walk in his name,” declares the Lord.

(Zechariah 10:12)

The New Testament writers spoke of what we read in the Old Testament as “a shadow of the things to come” (Col. 2:17), “a copy and shadow of the heavenly things” (Heb. 8:5; cf. 9:23), and “a shadow of the good things to come instead of the true form of these realities” (Heb. 10:1).  This biblical principle should be kept in mind when we study Old Testament prophecies.  Many of them serve as “a copy and shadow” of Christian events and principles which would follow them.

For example, the previous article in this series examined the first seven verses of chapter 10 of Zechariah and saw how much of what was prophesied about Judah and Ephraim would only partially be fulfilled by the actions of the Jews in the intertestamental period and would more completely be fulfilled by the Messiah and His church centuries later.  Verses 8-12 are a continuation of these prophecies.  Speaking for God, the prophet says, “‘I will whistle for them and gather them in, for I have redeemed them, and they shall be as many as they were before.  Though I scattered them among the nations, yet in far countries they shall remember me, and with their children they shall live and return.  I will bring them home from the land of Egypt, and gather them from Assyria, and I will bring them to the land of Gilead and to Lebanon, till there is no room for them.  He shall pass through the sea of troubles and strike down the waves of the sea, and all the depths of the Nile shall be dried up.  The pride of Assyria shall be laid low, and the scepter of Egypt shall depart.  I will make them strong in the Lord, and they shall walk in his name,’ declares the Lord” (vs. 8-12).

The Jews were returning to their homeland from Babylonian captivity.  This prophecy foretells that even more Jews would come home.  Decades earlier when Babylon had invaded Judah, some Jews had fled to Egypt.  Babylon herself occupied the territory which Assyria had held, the country which a century earlier had carried off the ten northern tribes of Israel into captivity.  Thus, at this time when Jews were returning home from Babylonian captivity, Zechariah was prophesying that Jews living in Egypt or Jews whose ancestors had been taken by Assyria would also come home by the providence of God.  Intertestamental history would show that the Jews would encounter trials and problems over the centuries after returning home, but God would be with them.

However, this redemptive journey home also serves as “a shadow of the good things to come” in Christianity.  God calls all who have left Him because of sin through the proclamation of the gospel of Jesus Christ to all the world (Rom. 3:23; Is. 59:2; Mk. 16:15-16; Matt. 28:18-20; 2 Thess. 2:13-14).  In fact, the wide scattering of the Jews across these foreign nations would open the door centuries later for the gospel to come to the Gentiles through the preaching of Paul and the other apostles. Anyone in any nation who obeys the gospel will be redeemed by God and become His people (Hos. 2:23; cf. Rom. 9:24-30; 1 Pet. 2:9-10).  Just as Old Testament Gilead and Lebanon was where healing balms were made and huge cedars grew (Gen. 37:25; Jer. 8:22; 46:11; Is. 2:13; 14:8; Judg. 9:15), New Testament Christians would find spiritual healing and shelter under the shade of God’s grace.  God had brought His people out of Egyptian captivity and bondage through the Red Sea (cf. Ex. 14) and had brought them to the promised land.  He had brought both Egypt and Assyria to their knees, as well as others who had opposed His people.  In like manner, God would free from the bondage of sin all who wanted to be part of His people in the New Testament and will defeat all opponents of the church (Rom. 6:17-18; 1 Cor. 15:24-26; cf. Rom. 2:28-29).  He gives Christians everything they need to overcome and serve Him (John 15:1-5; 2 Tim. 3:16-17; 2 Pet. 1:3).

— Jon

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