An Amillennial Interpretation of Zechariah 14 (1 of 8)

by | Feb 26, 2019 | Eschatology

Post #1 “The Need for an Amillennial Approach”

The last chapter of Zechariah tends to be neglected by amillennialists, especially in comparison to the emphasis given it by premillennialists. While amillennialists anticipate a single consummation and glorification of God’s kingdom in connection with the single Second Coming of the Lord Jesus, premillennialists use texts like Zechariah 14 to argue for an intermediate reign of Jesus upon the present earth. Such a reign would separate the Second Coming from the eternal perfection of God’s kingdom by at least a thousand years (a time period taken from Revelation 20). The dispensational variety of premillennialism particularly insists upon a strictly literal reading of Zechariah and other Old Testament apocalyptic literature. The result is a Second Coming which radically subjugates sinners and improves their fallen world without banishing sin and death entirely.

Such a “millennial” reign is a problem for the amillennialist because it contradicts the straightforward eschatology of the New Testament. The apostles and prophets and Jesus himself all declare that the very event of Christ’s return will be the end of sin and death. The Second Coming immediately brings the final separation of the righteous from the wicked, the end of the opportunity for repentance, and the eternal glory of a new creation freed from sin’s curse. Further problems also arise when a dispensational hermeneutic is applied to Zechariah 14. Because the role of apocalyptic symbolism is minimized, the result is a renewed Judaism, complete with temple worship and required annual feasts. Although some details may differ from earlier historical iterations, this is essentially the Mosaic system of worship resurrected. It would be a titanic reversal of Christ’s blood-bought accomplishments and a return to those types and shadows which his priestly work has rendered obsolete (Heb. 7:18–22; 8:13; 9:8–10; 10:1, 8–9, 18). A premillennial interpretation of Zechariah’s last chapter, especially that demanded by dispensational literalism, is clearly untenable when seen through the lens of the New Testament.

For these reasons, an interpretation is needed which does not posit an intermediate messianic reign including renewed Judaism and the lingering effects of Adam’s fall. The interpreter must understand that the Old Testament prophets often foretold New Testament realities through the symbolic use of Old Covenant language. A woodenly literal hermeneutic cannot consistently explain such prophecies as that of Malachi 1:11: “For from the rising of the sun even to its setting, My name will be great among the nations, and in every place incense is going to be offered to My name, and a grain offering that is pure; for My name will be great among the nations,” says the Lord of hosts.” On the one hand, literal aspects of the Old Covenant such as incense and grain offerings could only be legitimately performed at the authorized location of the Jerusalem temple. On the other hand, the New Covenant era renders such a sacrificial system obsolete. However, once the interpreter acknowledges that the Spirit speaking through Malachi used Old Covenant institutions as pictures of future, New Covenant realities, Malachi’s words harmonize well with those of Jesus recorded in John 4:21 and 23: “Woman, believe Me, an hour is coming when neither in this mountain nor in Jerusalem will you worship the Father…. But an hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth; for such people the Father seeks to be His worshipers.”

Similarly, the apocalyptic mention of Jerusalem in Zechariah 14 must be allowed to point beyond the earthly city of David. “For here we do not have a lasting city, but we are seeking the city which is to come” (Heb. 13:14). Indeed, those in the New Testament church already “have come to Mount Zion and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem” (Heb. 12:22). We are not of the old Sinai covenant “which corresponds to the present Jerusalem”; we are of the new covenant corresponding to “the Jerusalem above” who “is our mother” (Gal. 4:24–26). James the Lord’s brother points to the prophecy of Amos and thus confirms that God has rebuilt and restored the ruined tabernacle of David so that the Gentiles may seek the Lord and be called by his name (Acts 15:13–18). The nations are now joining themselves to Zion, the redeemed city of God, the New Testament church of Jesus Christ. If James and the other apostles could confidently use such a hermeneutic, so can we. This hermeneutic will provide us with an amillennial interpretation of Zechariah 14. Concerning Old Testament promises fulfilled after Christ’s First Advent, John MacKay rightly says, “The realisation is in terms of the heirs and successors of the Old Testament Zion, Jerusalem and Israel. This is not to rewrite the promise, but to satisfy it in its fullest and proper extent.”[1]

Beginning with the next post, this blog series will present such an amillennial approach to the last chapter of the Book of Zechariah.

 

[1] John L. MacKay, Haggai, Zechariah and Malachi: God’s Restored People, Focus on the Bible Commentary Series (Fearn, Ross-shire, Scotland, Great Britain: Christian Focus, 2010), 417.

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