Zechariah: “Living Waters Will Flow Out From Jerusalem”

On that day there will be no light; the luminaries will dwindle.  For it will be a unique day which is known to the Lord, neither day nor night, but it will come about that at evening time there will be light.  And in that day living waters will flow out from Jerusalem, half of them toward the eastern sea and the other half to the western sea; it will be in summer as well as in winter. 

Zechariah 14:6-8

In our study of the final chapter of Zechariah, let’s again be reminded that, aside from the clear error of any interpretation which leans towards dispensationalism, there is room for multiple interpretations of these passages, all of which have a decent foundation in the totality of God’s Word and historical data.  I urge the reader to study more on these matters and come to their own deductions.

If the prophet is foretelling the destruction of Jerusalem in A.D. 70, then the descriptions of the light in verses 6-7 are likely figurative.  Isaiah, while prophesying the fall of the Babylonian empire, used similar symbolic language (Is. 13:10).  Jesus did the same while prophesying of the temple’s destruction at the hands of Rome (Matt. 24:29).  After the temple’s destruction, it would be impossible to practice Judaism strictly according to the tenets of the Law of Moses because of the loss of the genealogical records within the temple.  Bob Winton brings up an interesting possibility along these lines concerning verses 6-7:  “Light is used often in the Scriptures to depict righteousness, knowledge, and godliness; darkness is often used to portray sin, ignorance, and evil in general.  In connection with the demise of Judaism, there was a measure of understanding on the part of the Jews.  They thought they were serving the will of God; their persecution of the church was done in part because they believed it was God’s will for them to oppose this innovation (cf. John 16:2).  That time could be described, therefore, as part light and part night.”  Concerning verse 7’s mention of light in the evening time, Winton proposes this view:  “With the fall of Jerusalem, the gospel would no longer encounter organized persecution and opposition from the Jewish state; Judaism would be no more; the Lord’s people could pursue the task of proclaiming the gospel.  The Gentiles would oppose their work, but the unbelieving world would not have the Jewish state confusing the issue, claiming to be the true followers of the True God, and undermining the efforts of the church by claiming these Christians were only perverters of the true way.”

However, what if Zechariah is prophesying about the Christian age in its entirety in chapter 14?  Bob Winton, again using light to symbolize godliness and darkness to portray sin, points out:  “During the Christian age, there will be a continuation of light and night.  This is due to the fact that many will not learn, or refuse to accept the gospel.  And there are always many who follow their own brand of Christianity (a perverted version) instead of the truth (Gal. 1:6-9; 1 Tim. 4:1-3; 1 John 4:1; 2 Peter 2).”  Along these lines, concerning the mention of light at night in verse 7, Winton proposes another view:  “At the end of the gospel age, which will be reached at the end of time when the Lord returns, only the light will remain; all error and wickedness will be shown for what they are, and will be destroyed: there will be no night in heaven (see Rev. 21:25; 22:5).”  Homer Hailey posits that “at evening time there will be light” means that “help comes from the Lord when distress threatens to become despair” and cites the promises of John 14:18 and Hebrews 13:5 as reassurances to the Christian.

The ”living waters” which “will flow out of Jerusalem” (v. 8) clearly refer to the gospel (John 4:10-11).  The good news was first preached at Jerusalem (Lk. 24:47-49; Acts 1:5-8; 2:1ff).  It continued to spread to the whole world (Matt. 24:14; Col. 1:5-6, 23), the likely meaning behind the living waters flowing both “toward the eastern” and “western sea.”  Evangelism throughout the world would continually take place, “in summer as well as in winter.”

— Jon

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