Zechariah: “The Lord Will Go Out And Fight”

Then the Lord will go out and fight against those nations as when he fights on a day of battle. 

Zechariah 14:3

As we continue our study of the final chapter in the book of Zechariah, let’s remember that if we put aside any interpretation that leans on the theological error of dispensationalism, there are still a plurality of interpretations which have a clear basis in the entirety of Scripture and history.  The reader is urged to study further and find his own conclusions.

If Zechariah is prophesying about the destruction of Jerusalem and the temple by Rome in A.D. 70, then verse 3 might be a promise like the one God had given to Habakkuk.  Habakkuk had wondered how God could use a godless nation like Babylon to punish the Jews (1:12-17), and God had replied that he would punish Babylon for its iniquity as well (2:5-20).  Verse 4’s mention of the Mount of Olives would be significant because that would be the same place where Jesus would prophesy about Jerusalem’s destruction by Rome (Matt. 24:1-34).  Foy Wallace views the prophet’s foretelling of the mountain “being split in two” as a reference to how the Roman general Titus would stand on this same mountain during the siege:  “The formations of the battle lines, entrenchments and redoubts, the circumvallations of the Romans, all enter into the graphic description and portrayal of the prophet that the mount should ‘cleave in the midst’…” Bob Winton joins verse 5’s mention of “flee(ing) to the valley of my mountains…as you fled from the earthquake in the days of Uzziah…” (cf. Amos 1:1) to his interpretation that Zechariah 14:2’s “the rest of the people shall not be cut off from the city” refers to how history shows that Christians successfully left the city during a time when the siege was temporarily lifted.  He also interprets the second part of verse 5 (“Then the Lord my God will come, and all the holy ones with him”) as figurative language used to refer to a representative coming of Jesus in judgment on the Jews rather than a literal coming, as would be the case at the end of time.

What if Zechariah is prophesying about the age of the church as a whole, using the battle against Jerusalem as a figurative type of the church (cf. Heb. 12:22-23) to describe how the world will always set herself against Christians?  Verse 3’s mention of the Lord fighting “against those nations as when he fights on a day of battle” could refer to what Paul said when he taught us that we are involved in a spiritual battle for souls (2 Cor. 10:3-5; Eph. 6:10-20), a battle which we do not fight alone because the Lord is with us (Matt. 28:20; Rom. 15:33; 2 Cor. 13:11; cf. Acts 18:9-10).  Homer Hailey, who holds the view that Jerusalem signifies the church in this passage, writes concerning verse 4:  “The presence of Jehovah is indicated by His standing ‘in that day,’ the day in which He fights against the enemy nations, ‘upon the Mount of Olives, which is before Jerusalem.’  The purpose of His standing upon the Mount of Olives is that the Lord may provide a means of salvation for His saints.”  It was upon the Mount of Olives that Jesus gave his final commands to the apostles to bring the gospel to all before ascending into heaven (Acts 1:6-12), so I can see why Hailey connects the gospel – “a means of salvation for His saints” – with it.  If this is the correct view, then perhaps Zechariah’s foretelling of God’s people “flee(ing) to the valley of my mountains” – a reference to the Mount of Olives splitting as described in verse 4 – is meant to direct Christians to remind ourselves that, regardless of what difficulties or persecutions come our way, we ultimately are victorious by means of God saving us from an eternal hell.  Towards that end, the latter part of verse 5 (“Then the Lord my God will come, and all the holy ones with him”) could refer to the literal second coming of Christ when he will usher in that blissful eternal reward for us (2 Thess. 1:7-10).

– Jon

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