An Amillennial Interpretation of Zechariah 14 ( 8 of 8 )

by | Mar 26, 2019 | Eschatology

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Post #8 “Zechariah 14:20–21: Jerusalem’s Perfect Consecration to the Lord”

            Last in our series on Zechariah 14, we encounter a description of Jerusalem’s final holiness.

20 In that day there will be inscribed on the bells of the horses, “HOLY TO THE LORD.” And the cooking pots in the Lord’s house will be like the bowls before the altar. 21 Every cooking pot in Jerusalem and in Judah will be holy to the Lord of hosts; and all who sacrifice will come and take of them and boil in them. And there will no longer be a Canaanite in the house of the Lord of hosts in that day.

Why mention the bells on horses? They are mentioned in order to shock Zechariah’s audience. “Shocking here is the reference to an item associated with the horse, a ritually unclean animal according to Lev. 11:1–8. In this new Jerusalem, that which was once treated as unclean is now not merely clean, but holy.”[1] The inscription on the bells of the horses is the same as that on the high priest’s turban! Notice the original context of this inscription:

36 You shall also make a plate of pure gold and shall engrave on it, like the engravings of a seal, ‘Holy to the Lord.’ 37 You shall fasten it on a blue cord, and it shall be on the turban; it shall be at the front of the turban. 38 It shall be on Aaron’s forehead, and Aaron shall take away the iniquity of the holy things which the sons of Israel consecrate, with regard to all their holy gifts; and it shall always be on his forehead, that they may be accepted before the Lord. (Exod. 28:36–38)

Under the Levitical priesthood, the high priest bore a seal of holiness which took away the lingering iniquity of the people’s consecrated gifts; but Zechariah envisions a time when the most ordinary items used in everyday life would be as pure and consecrated as the garments which the high priest would wear in the holiest place of the temple (Exod. 29:29–30)! This should signify even more to New Testament saints. The high priest’s holy crown (Exod. 29:6) which he would bear before God’s own presence prefigured the perfect holiness of Jesus our high priest. Christ’s undefiled holiness renders his people’s spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God; but one day, every aspect of the saints’ lives will overflow with innate holiness. Not only will our high priest’s holiness be imputed to us, but it will have thoroughly transformed us to be holy as he is holy.

Zechariah reinforces his point by also speaking of pots and pans. “Similarly, the cooking pots in the temple would be as holy as the basins in front of the altar. Even the most common pot would become holy, so holy that anyone wishing to sacrifice could readily use them.”[2] Even a premillennial interpreter like Kenneth Barker fails to adequately harmonize these verses in Zechariah with a literal millennial temple. A literal temple would demand a strict distinction between the holy and the common, the sacred and the profane, as premillennialists should acknowledge if they identify Ezekiel’s visionary temple with such a millennial temple (cf. Ezek. 42:13–14, 20; 43:12, 26; 44:13, 19, 23, 25–27; 45:1–7; 46:19–20; 48:10–14). Nevertheless, Barker favorably quotes Perowne in his summary of Zechariah 14:20–21: “All distinction between sacred and secular shall be at an end, because all shall now be alike holy.”[3] These words flatly contradict the entire notion of a literal millennial temple, but they accurately reflect the thrust of Zechariah’s words. As MacKay puts it, “Even the smallest and seemingly most trivial details of life are consecrated to the Lord. This, of course, would involve the cessation of the Levitical distinction between sacred and common.”[4] E. B. Pusey concludes, “In this priestly-levitical drapery the thought is expressed, that in the perfected kingdom of God not only will everything without exception be holy, but all will be equally holy.”[5]

 Zechariah ends by saying that “there will no longer be a Canaanite in the house of the Lord of hosts in that day.” The background to this statement may be similar to the situation in Nehemiah’s day when Tobiah the Ammonite was given storage rooms within the temple courts and Canaanite merchants from Tyre sold merchandise in Jerusalem on the Sabbath (Neh. 13:4–9, 16, 20–21). The word for a Canaanite also came to denote a merchant (cf. the term’s translation in Prov. 31:24 and Isa. 23:8).[6] Given these considerations, Zechariah may be thinking of the pollution of merchants (such as those whom Jesus drove out of the temple) more than the pollution of a pagan intruder. In any case MacKay is right to say, “The mention of the Canaanite is not to debar any on racial grounds, but on ethical and spiritual. ‘Nothing impure will ever enter it, nor will anyone who does what is shameful or deceitful, but only those whose names are written in the Lamb’s book of life’ (Rev. 21:27).”[7]


The glory described in this chapter answers to the prophecy of Zechariah’s contemporary, Haggai. In a text which Hebrews 12:26–29 interprets as describing the removal of the present creation and the resultant establishment of God’s eternal kingdom, Haggai 2:6–9 mirrors the thoughts of Zechariah’s final chapter:

For thus says the Lord of hosts, ‘Once more in a little while, I am going to shake the heavens and the earth, the sea also and the dry land.I will shake all the nations; and they will come with the wealth of all nations, and I will fill this house with glory,’ says the Lord of hosts.‘The silver is Mine and the gold is Mine,’ declares the Lord of hosts.‘The latter glory of this house will be greater than the former,’ says the Lord of hosts, ‘and in this place I will give peace,’ declares the Lord of hosts.

Even so, come Lord Jesus.

[1] Boda, Zechariah, 779.

[2] Gregory, Longing for God, 211.

[3] Kenneth L. Barker, Zechariah, Expositor’s Bible Commentary, rev. ed., ed. Tremper Longman III and David E. Garland, vol. 8 (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2008), 832.

[4] MacKay, Haggai, Zechariah and Malachi, 318.

[5] E. B. Pusey, The Minor Prophets: A Commentary, vol. 2 (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1950), 414.

[6] Boda, Zechariah, 782.

[7] MacKay, Haggai, Zechariah and Malachi, 319.

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