LAYING THE FOUNDATION
The Messages of Haggai, Zechariah and Malachi
[This study paper is over 57 pages long.]
Table of Contents
Part One - Haggai’s Message
The Book of Haggai serves as an introduction to Zechariah’s more detailed prophesies. It reveals that the earthly temple they were toiling on was a mere shadow of the magnificent spiritual temple, whose foundation would also be laid in Jerusalem.
Part Two - Zechariah's Message
God has a plan. The remnant of Israel that returned from captivity to Jerusalem to rebuild the temple foreshadowed the fulfillment of that plan. By laying the foundation of the new temple they were heralding a crucial turning point in the history of mankind.
Part Three - Pronouncements and Prophecies
Having revealed what the temple foreshadowed through Zechariah’s visions God then revealed what the city foreshadowed. It foreshadowed a time in the future when His presence will once again be in Jerusalem. He also reveals events leading up to the time at the end of this age when all eyes will turn to God and Christ will return as King and SaviourThe city will represent truth and be the centre of God’s government.
Part Four - Malachi's Message
Despite the graphic portrayal of God’s plan revealed through the prophets Haggai and Zechariah, which was also enacted in the rebuilding the temple, the remnant in Jerusalem soon lost the vision of what God wanted to achieve through them. In the Book of Malachi we can see how those in authority led the remnant into a form of religion that was devoid of spiritual understanding and knowledge of the true God.
Laying the Foundation
What has the foundation of an ancient building to do with your future? Is it possible that your destiny is tied to the laying of a foundation over two and a half thousand years ago?
According to the prophets Haggai and Zechariah the future of mankind was being foreshadowed when a remnant from the Babylonian captivity was allowed to return to lay the substructure of a temple in Jerusalem. Their work and accomplishments were shadows of a much greater purpose and plan that God is working to achieve!
What began as a relatively small article about the significance of building the post-exilic temple has escalated to a virtual commentary on the three prophetic books of Haggai, Zechariah and Malachi and should be read in conjunction with them. While various commentaries used for researching this paper generally agreed on matters of interpretation and have provided excellent background material they often fell short in providing the bigger picture of what God was accomplishing through the remnant that returned to Judah. They often fail to link valid interpretation and conclusions to an overall context and thereby obscure difficult passages with equally obscure and difficult interpretations. The Jewish Study Bible (JPS Tanakh Translation) although very helpful, limits itself because the Jews do not accept the New Testament writings and also fail to see the linkages.
The purpose of this paper is to provide an overall context into which the generally accepted interpretations of the visions, proclamations and prophecies fit, making it easier to understand some of the more difficult passages.
The books of Haggai, Zechariah and Malachi were written after the Babylonian captivity. A cursory reading of their writings may leave the reader somewhat confused because of the symbolism used in the messages and visions. But a closer inspection reveals a profound series of prophecies that portray God’s magnificent plan and its outcome.
It is important to understand the concept that ancient names for God’s people like the House of Judah, House of Joseph and Ephraim (Zechariah 9:10, 10:6, 7) are often used in prophetic literature to represent God’s people in modern times who comprise the spiritual body of those who have been called by God and given His Holy Spirit. And on the other hand names like Assyria, Egypt (Zechariah 10:11) and Edom (Malachi 1:4) who were the adversaries of ancient Israel and Judah represent the adversaries of those who are God’s people today.
The prophetic books of Haggai, Zechariah and Malachi are complemented by the historic books of the same period, Ezra, Nehemiah and Esther that help to complete the overall picture.
For example, Ezra tells us the reasons for the delay between the laying of the foundation and the continuation of work on the temple. Once the foundation of the new temple had been laid the efforts of the builders were frustrated by their adversaries who sought legal representation against them, “Then the people of the land weakened the hands of the people of Judah, and troubled them in building, And hired counsellors against them, to frustrate their purpose, all the days of Cyrus king of Persia, even until the reign of Darius king of Persia,” (Ezra 4:4-5).
They made accusations, “And in the reign of Ahasuerus, in the beginning of his reign, wrote they unto him an accusation against the inhabitants of Judah and Jerusalem.” (Ezra 4:6), and used political threats, “Be it known now unto the king, that, if this city be builded, and the walls set up again, then will they not pay toll, tribute, and custom, and so thou shalt endamage the revenue of the kings.” (Ezra 4:13).
Eventually they persuaded the king to force cessation of work on the temple, “Give ye now commandment to cause these men to cease, and that this city be not builded, until another commandment shall be given from me. Take heed now that ye fail not to do this: why should damage grow to the hurt of the kings? Now when the copy of king Artaxerxes’ letter was read before Rehum, and Shimshai the scribe, and their companions, they went up in haste to Jerusalem unto the Jews, and made them to cease by force and power. Then ceased the work of the house of God which is at Jerusalem. So it ceased unto the second year of the reign of Darius king of Persia.” (Ezra 4:21-24).
Work was not commenced again until fourteen or fifteen years later when Haggai encouraged them to complete the work. Despite the delaying tactics of the adversaries completion of the temple was to be accomplished. Haggai and Zechariah encouraged the builders by explaining the significance of what they were doing to give them hope. Because what they were doing foreshadowed future spiritual events they had to be described in physical terms that they were familiar with. And the events being foreshadowed were to shape the destiny of mankind forever.
This paper is a guide to studying the Books of Haggai, Zechariah and Malachi.
Part One - Haggai’s Message
The Book of Haggai serves as an introduction to Zechariah’s more detailed prophesies. It reveals that the earthly temple they were toiling on was a mere shadow of the magnificent spiritual temple, whose foundation would also be laid in Jerusalem.
Consider your ways (First Announcement, Haggai 1:1-15)
Haggai’s first message, delivered eighteen years after the remnant had returned from exile in Babylon, addressed the lack of progress in building the new temple. Having restored the city wall and completed their own homes the remnant excused their reluctance to start work on the temple by saying it was not the right time to do so.
God said that they laboured under a curse because they had put their own priorities first. Their economy had been affected, crop yields were low and water was scarce. He said that if they got on with the job, He would look favourably on them, “Thus speaketh the LORD of hosts, saying, This people say, The time is not come, the time that the LORD’S house should be built. Then came the word of the LORD by Haggai the prophet, saying, Is it time for you, O ye, to dwell in your cieled houses, and this house lie waste? Now therefore thus saith the LORD of hosts; Consider your ways. Ye have sown much, and bring in little; ye eat, but ye have not enough; ye drink, but ye are not filled with drink; ye clothe you, but there is none warm; and he that earneth wages earneth wages to put it into a bag with holes. Thus saith the LORD of hosts; Consider your ways.Go up to the mountain, and bring wood, and build the house; and I will take pleasure in it, and I will be glorified, saith the LORD. Ye looked for much, and, lo, it came to little; and when ye brought it home, I did blow upon it. Why? saith the LORD of hosts. Because of mine house that is waste, and ye run every man unto his own house.” (Haggai 1:2-9). They responded to the message and later that month work got under way.
Spiritual Temple (Second Announcement, Haggai 2:1-9)
When Haggai spoke to them a month later there were some who remembered the splendour of Solomon’s temple and they worried that God would disapprove because the new temple would not compare with the former House of God. Haggai reassured them that God was with them and made it clear through a prophecy that no earthly temple could compare with the magnificence of the spiritual House of God. They were merely shadows of the spiritual temple that they represented, the glory of which will last forever, “For thus saith the LORD of hosts; Yet once, it is a little while, and I will shake the heavens, and the earth, and the sea, and the dry land; And I will shake all nations, and the desire of all nations shall come: and I will fill this house with glory, saith the LORD of hosts. The silver is mine, and the gold is mine, saith the LORD of hosts. The glory of this latter house shall be greater than of the former, saith the LORD of hosts: and in this place will I give peace, saith the LORD of hosts.” (Haggai 2:6-9).
The identity of the latter House is revealed by the time setting. It will come into prominence after the shaking of the heavens, earth and nations which is a clear reference to the Day of the Lord at the end of this age.
God will fulfill the promise to Abraham that through his descendant all families of the earth will be blessed. It will be through Jesus Christ that salvation will be offered to all the world after his second coming at the end of this age when the curses of Genesis 3:15-19, will be lifted and all the families of the earth will be blessed. Christ will become the ‘desire of all nations’ and God’s House will be filled with a glory greater than any of the former earthly temples.
His Father’s House
During his ministry on earth Jesus Christ spoke of this time telling his disciples that he would prepare a place for them in his Father’s House, “Let not your heart be troubled: ye believe in God, believe also in me. In my Father’s house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also.” (John 14:1-3).
This promise was open to all families of the earth as evidenced by Paul when he spoke to an audience of gentile converts, “But now in Christ Jesus ye who sometimes were far off are made nigh by the blood of Christ. For he is our peace, who hath made both one, and hath broken down the middle wall of partition between us; Having abolished in his flesh the enmity, even the law of commandments contained in ordinances; for to make in himself of twain one new man, so making peace; And that he might reconcile both unto God in one body by the cross, having slain the enmity thereby: And came and preached peace to you which were afar off, and to them that were nigh. For through him we both have access by one Spirit unto the Father. Now therefore ye are no more strangers and foreigners, but fellowcitizens with the saints, and of the household of God; And are built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief corner stone; In whom all the building fitly framed together groweth unto an holy temple in the Lord: In whom ye also are builded together for an habitation of God through the Spirit.” (Ephesians 2:13-22).
Laying the Foundation
The significance of what the remnant were doing in Jerusalem in Haggai’s time cannot be dismissed lightly. In rebuilding the city and the temple they were in a physical sense foreshadowing the fulfillment of God’s promise to Abraham. In laying a foundation for an earthly representation of the House of God, they were also preparing the way for a greater and more magnificent spiritual foundation. The spiritual temple of which Jesus Christ is the chief cornerstone will be the greatest of all the temples. The foundation of that temple was laid in Jerusalem over four hundred years later when Christ lay down his life to establish the way to salvation for mankind. He was the chief cornerstone of the spiritual temple and it is through his sacrifice that all families of the earth will be blessed.
Turning Point (Third Announcement, Haggai 2:10-19)
When Haggai spoke to them again he used an analogy from the law to point out that although they were doing God’s work in building a physical representation of God’s spiritual House it did not make them holy or righteous. Nor did it excuse the people of Judah for what they had done. They had spent seventy years in captivity because they had defiled their relationship with God, “Then answered Haggai, and said, So is this people, and so is this nation before me, saith the LORD; and so is every work of their hands; and that which they offer there is unclean.” (Haggai 2:14). God was extending His mercy to them because of His promise to Abraham. He prolonged their existence as a nation so that all the families of the earth would be blessed through a descendant of Abraham.
Haggai reminded the remnant that because they had put their own priorities first they had been labouring under a curse, but from that day on they were to be blessed, “And now, I pray you, consider from this day and upward, from before a stone was laid upon a stone in the temple of the LORD: Since those days were, when one came to an heap of twenty measures, there were but ten: when one came to the pressfat for to draw out fifty vessels out of the press, there were but twenty. I smote you with blasting and with mildew and with hail in all the labours of your hands; yet ye turned not to me, saith the LORD. Consider now from this day and upward, from the four and twentieth day of the ninth month, even from the day that the foundation of the LORD’S temple was laid, consider it. Is the seed yet in the barn? yea, as yet the vine, and the fig tree, and the pomegranate, and the olive tree, hath not brought forth: from this day will I bless you.” (Haggai 2:15-19).
Laying the foundation of the new temple was the point from which the curse under which they laboured was removed symbolizing the historic turning point that would occur when Jesus Christ, chief cornerstone of the spiritual House of God, laid down his life to ensure salvation for mankind. His sacrifice began the process that would eventually reconcile man to God and lift the curses of Genesis 3 under which this world has laboured for so long.
King of Kings (Fourth Announcement, Haggai 2:20-23
Later that same day Haggai elaborated on what he had said earlier, that in the Day of the Lord God shall overthrow the nations, “And I will overthrow the throne of kingdoms, and I will destroy the strength of the kingdoms of the heathen; and I will overthrow the chariots, and those that ride in them; and the horses and their riders shall come down, every one by the sword of his brother.” (Haggai 2:22).
Genealogies recorded in Mathew 1 and Luke 3 authenticate Jesus Christ as an heir to the throne. He will overcome the nations and rule the earth. Compare the following passages from Revelation with Haggai 2:22 above, “And I saw heaven opened, and behold a white horse; and he that sat upon him was called Faithful and True, and in righteousness he doth judge and make war. His eyes were as a flame of fire, and on his head were many crowns; and he had a name written, that no man knew, but he himself. And he was clothed with a vesture dipped in blood: and his name is called The Word of God. And the armies which were in heaven followed him upon white horses, clothed in fine linen, white and clean. And out of his mouth goeth a sharp sword, that with it he should smite the nations: and he shall rule them with a rod of iron: and he treadeth the winepress of the fierceness and wrath of Almighty God. And he hath on his vesture and on his thigh a name written, KING OF KINGS, AND LORD OF LORDS.” (Revelation 19:11-16).
Notice in Haggai that Christ will, ‘destroy the strength of the kingdoms of the heathen’ The ‘heathen’ in Haggai are the same as the ‘nations’ in Revelation. They are those who are not God’s people, they are their enemies, or adversaries.
Zerubbabel, governor of Judah at that time represented Christ who will return at the end of this age to rule, “And I saw thrones, and they sat upon them, and judgment was given unto them: and I saw the souls of them that were beheaded for the witness of Jesus, and for the word of God, and which had not worshipped the beast, neither his image, neither had received his mark upon their foreheads, or in their hands; and they lived and reigned with Christ a thousand years.” (Revelation 20:4).
Zerubbabel will be God’s signet, “In that day, saith the LORD of hosts, will I take thee, O Zerubbabel, my servant, the son of Shealtiel, saith the LORD, and will make thee as a signet: for I have chosen thee, saith the LORD of hosts.” (Haggai 2:23). A signet is the seal of authenticity and authority. In this case Zerubbabel, who had the authority as the governor of Judah, was an authentic heir to the throne of David according to the genealogy in Matthew 1:13.
Haggai played a major role in encouraging the people back to work on the temple. He explained the importance of what they were doing in the context of God’s plan for the salvation of mankind. Zechariah, as we shall see, elaborated on how their work foreshadowed the future.
Part Two - Zechariah’s Message
Zechariah’s Visions (Introduction, Zechariah 1:1-6)
God has a plan. The remnant of Israel that returned from captivity to Jerusalem to rebuild the temple foreshadowed the fulfilment of that plan. By laying the foundation of the new temple they were heralding a crucial turning point in the history of mankind.
When Christ took the sins of this world on his own shoulders and laid down his life for all of mankind the foundation of the spiritual temple was laid. His action established the process of salvation that would eventually reconcile mankind to God. Through him the curses caused by sin will be lifted in the future and all of mankind will receive the opportunity to obtain eternal life and enter God’s Kingdom. He was the fulfilment of God’s promise to Abraham that through a descendant of his all families of the earth would be blessed.
Both the religious and civil leaders, Zerubbubal and Joshua, represented Christ who will take over those roles when he returns to rule the world.
Not long after the remnant had resumed restoration of the temple Zechariah, a contemporary of Haggai, had a number of visions. Zechariah’s visions were incredibly rich in symbolism that not only predicted the near future of the people of that time, but also events ranging from around four hundred years to thousands of years into the future.
Jerusalem (First Vision, Zechariah 1:7-17)
Zechariah’s first vision indicated that since the fall of Jerusalem to the Babylonians some seventy years earlier, the world scene was relatively peaceful and God was now prepared to show mercy to the remnant of His people whom other prophets refer to as Jacob. He still had a special purpose for Jerusalem and was keen to have the temple rebuilt because it was preparing the way for the foundation of the spiritual temple that was to be laid. The temple that the remnant rebuilt in Zechariah’s time foreshadowed the spiritual temple that Christ, the chief cornerstone, is building today. He is the chief corner-stone of a much greater temple.
Because the horseman seen among the myrtle trees in Zechariah’s vision, ‘sent to walk to and fro through the earth’ was answerable to the angel that spoke to Zechariah he is believed to be an angelic servant of God sent to assess world conditions. He found the world at rest, “And they answered the angel of the LORD that stood among the myrtle trees, and said, We have walked to and fro through the earth, and, behold, all the earth sitteth still, and is at rest.”(Zechariah 1:11).
The angel then indicated that God had not been pleased with the way the enemies (adversaries) of His people had acted with unnecessary violence when He had removed His protection from them, seventy years earlier, “So the angel that communed with me said unto me, Cry thou, saying, Thus saith the LORD of hosts; I am jealous for Jerusalem and for Zion with a great jealousy. And I am very sore displeased with the heathen that are at ease: for I was but a little displeased, and they helped forward the affliction.” (Zechariah 1:14-15). Because Jerusalem still featured in His plan God was keen to have it rebuilt, “Therefore thus saith the LORD; I am returned to Jerusalem with mercies: my house shall be built in it, saith the LORD of hosts, and a line shall be stretched forth upon Jerusalem. Cry yet, saying, Thus saith the LORD of hosts; My cities through prosperity shall yet be spread abroad; and the LORD shall yet comfort Zion, and shall yet choose Jerusalem.” (Zechariah 1:16-17).
Adversaries (Second Vision, Zechariah 1:18-21)
In a second vision it was shown that the adversaries who had over-stepped the mark in their enthusiasm to destroy and scatter Israel and Judah would in turn receive a similar fate, “Then lifted I up mine eyes, and saw, and behold four horns. And I said unto the angel that talked with me, What be these? And he answered me, These are the horns which have scattered Judah, Israel, and Jerusalem. And the LORD shewed me four carpenters. Then said I, What come these to do? And he spake, saying, These are the horns which have scattered Judah, so that no man did lift up his head: but these are come to fray them, to cast out the horns of the Gentiles, which lifted up their horn over the land of Judah to scatter it.” (Zechariah 1:18-21).
According to the Jewish Study Bible (JPS Tanakh Translation), the horns are symbolic of power and the number four is believed to represent totality by implying the four points of the compass. In this case the four horns represent the adversaries of God’s people whom God had promised would be punished for their over-enthusiasm in the downfall of both Israel and Judah (Jacob). There is a list of nations in Jeremiah 25, most of whom were consumed by the Babylonian empire which in turn was overtaken by the Medo-Persian empire. The final reckoning for Jacob’s adversaries will be on the Day of the Lord (see article – ‘Jacob’s Adversaries’).
The people referred to as ‘heathen’ in verse 15 (above), and ‘gentiles’ in verse 21 are those who were not God’s people, also referred to as the ‘nations’.
The four carpenters are symbolic of the divine powers, or princes that will bring about the fulfilment and could well be indicative of the four angels mentioned in Revelation, “And after these things I saw four angels standing on the four corners of the earth, holding the four winds of the earth, that the wind should not blow on the earth, nor on the sea, nor on any tree. And I saw another angel ascending from the east, having the seal of the living God: and he cried with a loud voice to the four angels, to whom it was given to hurt the earth and the sea, Saying, Hurt not the earth, neither the sea, nor the trees, till we have sealed the servants of our God in their foreheads.” (Revelation 7:1-3). Also, “And the sixth angel sounded, and I heard a voice from the four horns of the golden altar which is before God, Saying to the sixth angel which had the trumpet, Loose the four angels which are bound in the great river Euphrates. And the four angels were loosed, which were prepared for an hour, and a day, and a month, and a year, for to slay the third part of men.” (Revelation 9:13-15).
Daniel talks about the spirit powers behind world leaders (Daniel 10:13, 20-21, also Ephesians 6:12 - see article – ‘Know your Enemies’)
Without Measure (Third Vision, Zechariah 2:1-13)
In his next vision Zechariah saw a young man stopped from measuring the city, “I lifted up mine eyes again, and looked, and behold a man with a measuring line in his hand. Then said I, Whither goest thou? And he said unto me, To measure Jerusalem, to see what is the breadth thereof, and what is the length thereof. And, behold, the angel that talked with me went forth, and another angel went out to meet him.” (Zechariah 2:1-3)
He was stopped because Jerusalem of the future will be without measure. It will be a city without walls to confine it and God will dwell in its midst, “And said unto him, Run, speak to this young man, saying, Jerusalem shall be inhabited as towns without walls for the multitude of men and cattle therein: For I, saith the LORD, will be unto her a wall of fire round about, and will be the glory in the midst of her.” (Zechariah 2:4-5).
In describing the new Jerusalem he saw in his vision centuries later, the Apostle John said, “And I John saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down from God out of heaven, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a great voice out of heaven saying, Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and he will dwell with them, and they shall be his people, and God himself shall be with them, and be their God.” (Revelation 21:2-3).
The city that they were restoring at that time foreshadowed the heavenly Jerusalem of the future that the apostle John also saw in his vision over four hundred years later.
John’s vision portrayed a time when those who are reconciled to God will be part of spiritual Jerusalem, a city that Zechariah indicates has no physical limitations. A city representing God’s Kingdom in which they will dwell in the presence of God the Father and His son Jesus Christ and be without evil, “And I saw no temple therein: for the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are the temple of it. And the city had no need of the sun, neither of the moon, to shine in it: for the glory of God did lighten it, and the Lamb is the light thereof. And the nations of them which are saved shall walk in the light of it: and the kings of the earth do bring their glory and honour into it. And the gates of it shall not be shut at all by day: for there shall be no night there. And they shall bring the glory and honour of the nations into it. And there shall in no wise enter into it any thing that defileth, neither whatsoever worketh abomination, or maketh a lie: but they which are written in the Lamb’s book of life.” (Revelation 21:22-27).
The prophet Isaiah said that there would be no end to this Kingdom, “For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace. Of the increase of his government and peace there shall be no end, upon the throne of David, and upon his kingdom, to order it, and to establish it with judgment and with justice from henceforth even for ever. The zeal of the LORD of hosts will perform this.”(Isaiah 9:6-7).
While Jerusalem was being rebuilt in their time the rest of the remnant of Israel that stayed in Babylonia flourished as a major centre of Judaism. According to the Catholic Encyclopaedia (under ‘diaspora’), “the colony in Babylonia remained a stronghold of orthodox Judaism and produced its own Talmud.”. Other historic sources claim that over a period of one thousand years many whom we now refer to as Jews, dispersed from Babylonia. Over four hundred years before it occurred Zechariah prophesied about the diaspora, “Ho, ho, come forth, and flee from the land of the north, saith the LORD: for I have spread you abroad as the four winds of the heaven, saith the LORD. Deliver thyself, O Zion, that dwellest with the daughter of Babylon.” (Zechariah 2:6-7).
By Zechariah’s time the Babylonian Empire had absorbed most of the enemies of God’s people listed in Jeremiah 25 and had itself had been taken over by the Medo-Persian Empire whose leader had let the remnant return to Jerusalem. But the name Babylon was still used in some prophetic literature to symbolize Jacob’s adversaries not only of that time but also in the end-time.
God referred to the Medo-Persian empire as the daughter of Babylon from which He told the remnant to leave because He would eventually invoke the curse of Genesis 12:3 against them, “And I will bless them that bless thee, and curse him that curseth thee: and in thee shall all families of the earth be blessed.”
He told them to, “Deliver thyself, O Zion, that dwellest with the daughter of Babylon. For thus saith the LORD of hosts; After the glory hath he sent me unto the nations which spoiled you: for he that toucheth you toucheth the apple of his eye. For, behold, I will shake mine hand upon them, and they shall be a spoil to their servants: and ye shall know that the LORD of hosts hath sent me.” (Zechariah 2:7-9).
However, the ultimate fulfillment of this curse will not take place until the final fall of Babylon in the end-time, “And the kings of the earth, who have committed fornication and lived deliciously with her, shall bewail her, and lament for her, when they shall see the smoke of her burning, Standing afar off for the fear of her torment, saying, Alas, alas, that great city Babylon, that mighty city! for in one hour is thy judgment come.”(Revelation 18:9-10).
After Babylon is destroyed there will be a time when people from all other nations shall become God’s people and enter His Kingdom which is represented by the new Jerusalem. He shall dwell among them, “Sing and rejoice, O daughter of Zion: for, lo, I come, and I will dwell in the midst of thee, saith the LORD. And many nations shall be joined to the LORD in that day, and shall be my people: and I will dwell in the midst of thee, and thou shalt know that the LORD of hosts hath sent me unto thee.” ( Zechariah 2:10-11).
During his thousand year reign over the earth Christ who is part of the God-Head, will in effect be dwelling among God’s people (Revelation 20:4-6). And through His Holy Spirit which will then be freely available, God will make His abode within individuals who turn to Him.
Church and State (Fourth Vision, Zechariah 3:1-10)
Zechariah’s fourth vision involves Joshua the High Priest who is portrayed as a brand plucked from the fire, “And he shewed me Joshua the high priest standing before the angel of the LORD, and Satan standing at his right hand to resist him. And the LORD said unto Satan, The LORD rebuke thee, O Satan; even the LORD that hath chosen Jerusalem rebuke thee: is not this a brand plucked out of the fire?” (Zechariah 3:1-2).
His filthy clothes representing sin are taken away from him and he is given clean garments,“And he answered and spake unto those that stood before him, saying, Take away the filthy garments from him. And unto him he said, Behold, I have caused thine iniquity to pass from thee, and I will clothe thee with change of raiment.” (Zechariah 3:4).
In this vision it is believed that Joshua’s role of high priest represents the Branch through whom the whole world will be blessed, “Hear now, O Joshua the high priest, thou, and thy fellows that sit before thee: for they are men wondered at: for, behold, I will bring forth my servant the BRANCH. For behold the stone that I have laid before Joshua; upon one stone shall be seven eyes: behold, I will engrave the graving thereof, saith the LORD of hosts, and I will remove the iniquity of that land in one day. In that day, saith the LORD of hosts, shall ye call every man his neighbour under the vine and under the fig tree.” (Zechariah 3:8-10).
According to Jeremiah the Branch is the Davidic heir who will rule over all the earth, “Behold, the days come, saith the LORD, that I will raise unto David a righteous Branch, and a King shall reign and prosper, and shall execute judgment and justice in the earth. In his days Judah shall be saved, and Israel shall dwell safely: and this is his name whereby he shall be called, THE LORD OUR RIGHTEOUSNESS.” (Jeremiah 23:5-6).
Zechariah says that the Branch shall build a temple and rule in a fashion that combines the roles of both church and state which had been separate since Israel had been established, “And speak unto him, saying, Thus speaketh the LORD of hosts, saying, Behold the man whose name is The BRANCH; and he shall grow up out of his place, and he shall build the temple of the LORD: Even he shall build the temple of the LORD; and he shall bear the glory, and shall sit and rule upon his throne; and he shall be a priest upon his throne: and the counsel of peace shall be between them both.” (Zechariah 6:12-13).
Priest and King
Jesus Christ who came to redeem mankind is our high priest today. Redemption means deliverance from evil by payment of a price. That price was his life which he laid down for all of mankind, “But Christ being come an high priest of good things to come, by a greater and more perfect tabernacle, not made with hands, that is to say, not of this building; Neither by the blood of goats and calves, but by his own blood he entered in once into the holy place, having obtained eternal redemption for us.” (Hebrews 9:11-12).
He is not only our High Priest but also our king, “These shall make war with the Lamb, and the Lamb shall overcome them: for he is Lord of lords, and King of kings: and they that are with him are called, and chosen, and faithful.” (Revelation 17:14).
Christ is the Lamb of God, “The next day John seeth Jesus coming unto him, and saith, Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world.” (John 1:29)
Jesus Christ is the chief cornerstone of that future temple who will remove all iniquity from the world through the redemption he has obtained for all of mankind, “For behold the stone that I have laid before Joshua; upon one stone shall be seven eyes: behold, I will engrave the graving thereof, saith the LORD of hosts, and I will remove the iniquity of that land in one day.” (Zechariah 3:9).
We are that temple built on the foundation that Christ laid as the chief cornerstone, “And are built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief corner stone;” (Ephesians 2:20). And, “Know ye not that ye are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwelleth in you? If any man defile the temple of God, him shall God destroy; for the temple of God is holy, which temple ye are.” (I Corinthians 3:16-17). Also, “And what agreement hath the temple of God with idols? for ye are the temple of the living God; as God hath said, I will dwell in them, and walk in them; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people.” (II Corinthians 6:16).
It is believed that the seven eyes upon the symbolic ‘stone’ that was laid before Joshua implied perfection and omniscience, “For behold the stone that I have laid before Joshua; upon one stone shall be seven eyes: behold, I will engrave the graving thereof, saith the LORD of hosts, and I will remove the iniquity of that land in one day.” (Zechariah 3:9). Also, “And I beheld, and, lo, in the midst of the throne and of the four beasts, and in the midst of the elders, stood a Lamb as it had been slain, having seven horns and seven eyes, which are the seven Spirits of God sent forth into all the earth.” (Revelation 5:6, see also Revelation 1:4 and 3:1).
The day Christ was sacrificed for the sins of this world was in effect the day he removed all iniquity from the world. In that one day he made the necessary sacrifice that would redeem all of mankind. He opened up the way for sin to be overcome and banished forever.
Lamp Stand (Fifth Vision, Zechariah 4:1-14)
In the fifth vision Zechariah sees a golden lampstand with seven lamps and an olive tree either side. When he asked what they signified he was told that the vision of the lampstand symbolized, in summary, the spiritual perfection and power by which God will accomplish His plan to bring salvation to the world and that it will be accomplished through Christ the chief cornerstone, “Then he answered and spake unto me, saying, This is the word of the LORD unto Zerubbabel, saying, Not by might, nor by power, but by my spirit, saith the LORD of hosts. Who art thou, O great mountain? before Zerubbabel thou shalt become a plain: and he shall bring forth the headstone thereof with shoutings, crying, Grace, grace unto it.” (Zechariah 4:6-7). The Jewish Study Bible (JPS Translation of the Tanakh) translates ‘headstone’ as ‘that excellent stone’.
The lampstand of this vision relates to the heavenly lampstand shown to Moses on Mount Sinai as the pattern for the one in the Tabernacle and described in Exodus 25:31-40. A marginal reference in the KJV against verse 40 confirms that it was patterned on that lampstand, “which thou wast caused to see”. It had seven lamps. Seven is believed to be the number of spiritual perfection which the lampstand symbolizes.
Not only does it symbolize spiritual perfection, it is also styled after an almond branch signifying the Branch who brings light to the world. Jesus Christ is that Branch, “Behold, the days come, saith the LORD, that I will raise unto David a righteous Branch, and a King shall reign and prosper, and shall execute judgment and justice in the earth. In his days Judah shall be saved, and Israel shall dwell safely: and this is his name whereby he shall be called, THE LORD OUR RIGHTEOUSNESS.” (Jeremiah 23:5-6). He is the branch that shall build the spiritual temple, “And speak unto him, saying, Thus speaketh the LORD of hosts, saying, Behold the man whose name is The BRANCH; and he shall grow up out of his place, and he shall build the temple of the LORD:” (Zechariah 6:12).
The oil that fuels the lamps is symbolic of God’s Holy Spirit and as Zechariah says, ‘by my spirit’ these things will be accomplished, not by the effort of men. And the reference to a mountain becoming a plain signifies that nothing will stop God accomplishing what He sets out to do, “Who art thou, O great mountain? before Zerubbabel thou shalt become a plain: and he shall bring forth the headstone thereof with shoutings, crying, Grace, grace unto it.” (Zechariah 4:7).
The light from the lamp is the word of God which lights the world, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. The same was in the beginning with God. All things were made by him; and without him was not any thing made that was made. In him was life; and the life was the light of men. And the light shineth in darkness; and the darkness comprehended it not. There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. The same came for a witness, to bear witness of the Light, that all men through him might believe. He was not that Light, but was sent to bear witness of that Light. That was the true Light, which lighteth every man that cometh into the world. He was in the world, and the world was made by him, and the world knew him not. He came unto his own, and his own received him not. But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name:” (John 1:1-12).
Jesus Christ is that light, “Then spake Jesus again unto them, saying, I am the light of the world: he that followeth me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life.” (John 8:12, see also John 12:46). His gospel is light, “In whom the god of this world hath blinded the minds of them which believe not, lest the light of the glorious gospel of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine unto them.” (II Corinthians 4:4).
The headstone in Zechariah 4:7 that Zerubbabel shall bring forth is Jesus Christ, the Messiah, who according to the genealogy in Matthew 1 (verse 12) is a direct descendent of Zerubbabel. The term headstone is believed to refer to the headstone of the foundation, or chief cornerstone from which the whole building is aligned.
God said that He would lay such a stone in Zion, “Therefore thus saith the Lord GOD, Behold, I lay in Zion for a foundation a stone, a tried stone, a precious corner stone, a sure foundation: he that believeth shall not make haste.” (Isaiah 28:16). Paul said that this stone shall cause offence to those who do not believe, “As it is written, Behold, I lay in Sion a stumblingstone and rock of offence: and whosoever believeth on him shall not be ashamed.” (Romans 9:33). The stumbling stone was Jesus Christ.
Although that stone was rejected by the religious leaders in Jerusalem at that time it will not prevent God from accomplishing His plan, “Unto you therefore which believe he is precious: but unto them which be disobedient, the stone which the builders disallowed, the same is made the head of the corner,” (1Peter 2:7, Luke 20:17). The spiritual temple will be built, “After this I will return, and will build again the tabernacle of David, which is fallen down; and I will build again the ruins thereof, and I will set it up:” (Acts 15:16, from Amos 9:11).
That temple is under construction right now! “Know ye not that ye are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwelleth in you? If any man defile the temple of God, him shall God destroy; for the temple of God is holy, which temple ye are.” (I Corinthians 3:16-17). And,“Now therefore ye are no more strangers and foreigners, but fellowcitizens with the saints, and of the household of God; And are built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief corner stone; In whom all the building fitly framed together groweth unto an holy temple in the Lord: In whom ye also are builded together for an habitation of God through the Spirit.” (Ephesians 2:19-22).
After that the Angel said to Zechariah, “The hands of Zerubbabel have laid the foundation of this house; his hands shall also finish it; and thou shalt know that the LORD of hosts hath sent me unto you. For who hath despised the day of small things? for they shall rejoice, and shall see the plummet in the hand of Zerubbabel with those seven; they are the eyes of the LORD, which run to and fro through the whole earth.” (Zechariah 4:9-10). The Jewish Study Bible (JPS Translation of the Tanakh) translates ‘the plummet’ as ‘the stone of distinction’, noting that it can also be translated as ‘the stone of the plumb’ or ‘plummet’. A plumb line is a weighted line used to align the building to the perpendicular.
Joshua and Zerubbabel Represent Christ
Not only did the earthly temple foreshadow the heavenly temple of the future, Zerubbabel the builder also foreshadowed his descendant by whom the foundation of the spiritual temple was to be laid. Both Joshua the high priest and Zerubbabel the governor of Judah represented the coming Messiah who is our High Priest. Christ will assume the role of both High Priest and King when he returns, “Now of the things which we have spoken this is the sum: We have such an high priest, who is set on the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in the heavens; A minister of the sanctuary, and of the true tabernacle, which the Lord pitched, and not man.”(Hebrews 8:1-2).
And, “These shall make war with the Lamb, and the Lamb shall overcome them: for he is Lord of lords, and King of kings: and they that are with him are called, and chosen, and faithful.” (Revelation 17:14).
Day of Small Things
The ‘day of small things’ could imply that the earthly shadow was a small beginning of the heavenly substance and was not to be despised because the end result is the supremacy and omniscience (seven eyes) of Christ in whose hand is the builder’s plumb line (plummet). He is the wise masterbuilder constructing the spiritual temple.
Two Olive Trees
When Zechariah asked about the two olive trees that empty the oil out of themselves into the lamp’s bowl he was told, “These are the two anointed ones, that stand by the Lord of the whole earth.” (Zechariah 4:14). Some translations call them “The two sons of the oil, who are standing by the Lord of the whole earth.” (Darby, and Young’s Literal Translation). ‘Sons of oil’ as opposed to sons of God, or sons of man, seems to indicate that they are angelic beings administering to the Branch who we have already established as Jesus Christ.
The two covering cherubs over the mercy seat in the tabernacle indicate a similar role, “And thou shalt make two cherubims of gold, of beaten work shalt thou make them, in the two ends of the mercy seat. And make one cherub on the one end, and the other cherub on the other end: even of the mercy seat shall ye make the cherubims on the two ends thereof. And the cherubims shall stretch forth their wings on high, covering the mercy seat with their wings, and their faces shall look one to another; toward the mercy seat shall the faces of the cherubims be.” (Exodus 25:18-20). It is interesting that those who where with Christ when he ascended saw two men, or angelic beings, “And while they looked stedfastly toward heaven as he went up, behold, two men stood by them in white apparel;” (Acts 1:10). Were these angelic guardians, or witnesses?
Hundreds of years later the Apostle John had a vision depicting the end-time with similar imagery and it was explained that the lamp he saw represented the churches among whom Christ moved and the two olive trees were described as the two witnesses who will have supernatural powers to do God’s work, “And I will give power unto my two witnesses, and they shall prophesy a thousand two hundred and threescore days, clothed in sackcloth. These are the two olive trees, and the two candlesticks standing before the God of the earth. And if any man will hurt them, fire proceedeth out of their mouth, and devoureth their enemies: and if any man will hurt them, he must in this manner be killed.” (Revelation 11:3-5).
It is possible that the two witnesses in the end-time who proclaim Christ’s return are the same two angelic beings who witnessed his departure?
Spiritual Foundation Laid
Zechariah’s vision of the lampstand depicted the spiritual power by which the physical temple would be completed. Similarly John’s vision of a lampstand depicted the same spiritual power by which the spiritual temple will be built. The spiritual foundation has been defined as, “the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief corner stone;” (Ephesians 2:20). Zechariah indicated that figuratively even mountains could not stand before that power, “Who art thou, O great mountain? before Zerubbabel thou shalt become a plain: and he shall bring forth the headstone thereof with shoutings, crying, Grace, grace unto it.” (Zechariah 4:7). Nothing will prevail against the power of Christ, who is that rock (foundation) upon which the spiritual temple will be built, “And I say also unto thee, That thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.” (Matthew 16:18).
On that foundation the spiritual temple, symbolized by the seven lamps (seven implying spiritual perfection), comprising those who have God’s Spirit are being perfected through Christ by that same spiritual power, “In whom all the building fitly framed together groweth unto an holy temple in the Lord:” (Ephesians 2:21). “Know ye not that ye are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwelleth in you?” ( I Corinthians 3:16).
The same Divine power that laid the foundation and built the earthly temple has also laid the foundation of, and is currently building, the spiritual temple.
Flying Scroll (Sixth Vision, Zechariah 5:1-4)
In a further vision Zechariah saw a flying scroll, “Then I turned, and lifted up mine eyes, and looked, and behold a flying roll. And he said unto me, What seest thou? And I answered, I see a flying roll; the length thereof is twenty cubits, and the breadth thereof ten cubits. Then said he unto me, This is the curse that goeth forth over the face of the whole earth: for every one that stealeth shall be cut off as on this side according to it; and every one that sweareth shall be cut off as on that side according to it.” (Zechariah 5:1-3).
The scroll appears to represent the main divisions of the law which Christ summarized as follows, “Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.” (Matthew 22:37-40). Swearing falsely by God’s name contravenes the ‘love toward God’ aspect of the law and stealing contravenes the ‘love toward neighbour’ aspect.
Paul described the law as a curse because it defines sin, “Christ hath redeemed us from the curse of the law, being made a curse for us: for it is written, Cursed is every one that hangeth on a tree:” (Galatians 3:13). Since sin entered the world mankind has been under the curse of the law’s penalty which is death (see also Genesis 3:15-24), “Wherefore, as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned: (For until the law sin was in the world: but sin is not imputed when there is no law.” (Romans 5:12-13).
Zechariah’s vision indicates that unless sin is overcome it will destroy the sinner because of the judgment that will eventually be executed, “I will bring it forth, saith the LORD of hosts, and it shall enter into the house of the thief, and into the house of him that sweareth falsely by my name: and it shall remain in the midst of his house, and shall consume it with the timber thereof and the stones thereof.” (Zechariah 5:4).
Seat of Sin (Seventh Vision, Zechariah 5:5-11)
In association with that vision he saw a large container into which a woman is cast and sealed up, “And I said, What is it? And he said, This is an ephah that goeth forth. He said moreover, This is their resemblance through all the earth. And, behold, there was lifted up a talent of lead: and this is a woman that sitteth in the midst of the ephah. And he said, This is wickedness. And he cast it into the midst of the ephah; and he cast the weight of lead upon the mouth thereof. Then lifted I up mine eyes, and looked, and, behold, there came out two women, and the wind was in their wings; for they had wings like the wings of a stork: and they lifted up the ephah between the earth and the heaven. Then said I to the angel that talked with me, Whither do these bear the ephah? And he said unto me, To build it an house in the land of Shinar: and it shall be established, and set there upon her own base.” (Zechariah 5:6-11).
The woman probably symbolizes the wickedness of the whole Babylonian system and the false religion that exists within it – all of which will be destroyed. The land of Shinar is associated with Babylon (Genesis 10:10 and 11:2).
The fall of Babylon is described in Revelation 18 where the fall of Babylon, symbolizing the iniquity of this world’s social, economic and religious systems, is finally destroyed, “And after these things I saw another angel come down from heaven, having great power; and the earth was lightened with his glory. And he cried mightily with a strong voice, saying, Babylon the great is fallen, is fallen, and is become the habitation of devils, and the hold of every foul spirit, and a cage of every unclean and hateful bird. For all nations have drunk of the wine of the wrath of her fornication, and the kings of the earth have committed fornication with her, and the merchants of the earth are waxed rich through the abundance of her delicacies.” (Revelation 18:1-3). And the words of verse 10,“Alas, alas, that great city Babylon, that mighty city! for in one hour is thy judgment come.” reminding us that Christ will remove iniquity very swiftly when he returns, “For behold the stone that I have laid before Joshua; upon one stone shall be seven eyes: behold, I will engrave the graving thereof, saith the LORD of hosts, and I will remove the iniquity of that land in one day.” (Zechariah 3:9).
Four Chariots (Eighth Vision, Zechariah 6:1-8)
In the next vision Zechariah sees four chariots in a similar role to the four horsemen in Zechariah 1 who were associated with laying of the foundation of the earthly temple, “And I turned, and lifted up mine eyes, and looked, and, behold, there came four chariots out from between two mountains; and the mountains were mountains of brass.” (Zechariah 6:1). They are described as representing, “The four spirits of the heavens, which go forth from standing before the Lord of all the earth.” (verse 5).
The purpose of the four chariots seems similar to that of the four horseman, i.e. either to report that the world powers are relatively stable or to suppress them while the next step of the plan is executed. The significance of chariots as opposed to horsemen in Zechariah 1 may simply be to demonstrate the importance of the spiritual temple compared with the earthly temple, the earthly being a mere shadow of the spiritual. The significance of the two mountains is not made clear.
King and High Priest
Craftsmen are then summoned to make a crown for Joshua the high priest who foreshadows Christ the Branch who is High Priest of the spiritual temple, “Then take silver and gold, and make crowns, and set them upon the head of Joshua the son of Josedech, the high priest; And speak unto him, saying, Thus speaketh the LORD of hosts, saying, Behold the man whose name is The BRANCH; and he shall grow up out of his place, and he shall build the temple of the LORD: Even he shall build the temple of the LORD; and he shall bear the glory, and shall sit and rule upon his throne; and he shall be a priest upon his throne: and the counsel of peace shall be between them both. And the crowns shall be to Helem, and to Tobijah, and to Jedaiah, and to Hen the son of Zephaniah, for a memorial in the temple of the LORD. And they that are far off shall come and build in the temple of the LORD, and ye shall know that the LORD of hosts hath sent me unto you. And this shall come to pass, if ye will diligently obey the voice of the LORD your God.” (Zechariah 6:11-15).
We are informed that Christ the Branch, who will be born in Jerusalem, shall not only build the spiritual temple but will also rule as both King and High Priest. He is our High Priest today (Hebrews 4:14) in an age when gentiles are being called to be part of that temple, “Wherefore remember, that ye being in time past Gentiles in the flesh, who are called Uncircumcision by that which is called the Circumcision in the flesh made by hands; That at that time ye were without Christ, being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers from the covenants of promise, having no hope, and without God in the world: But now in Christ Jesus ye who sometimes were far off are made nigh by the blood of Christ.” (Ephesians 2:11-13).
According to Bullinger the crowns (plural) in Zechariah’s vision referred to a number of circlets forming a composite crown (singular) with which Christ will be crowned.
Part Three - Pronouncements and Prophecies
Two years after the series of visions just described a deputation was sent from Bethal to see if the people should continue to keep a fast that had been kept for the last seventy years as memorial of the day the old temple had been destroyed, “When they had sent unto the house of God Sherezer and Regemmelech, and their men, to pray before the LORD, And to speak unto the priests which were in the house of the LORD of hosts, and to the prophets, saying, Should I weep in the fifth month, separating myself, as I have done these so many years?” (Zechariah 7:2-3).
They had fasted in the fifth month each year, “And in the fifth month, on the seventh day of the month, which is the nineteenth year of king Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon, came Nebuzaradan, captain of the guard, a servant of the king of Babylon, unto Jerusalem: And he burnt the house of the LORD, and the king’s house, and all the houses of Jerusalem, and every great man’s house burnt he with fire. And all the army of the Chaldees, that were with the captain of the guard, brake down the walls of Jerusalem round about. Now the rest of the people that were left in the city, and the fugitives that fell away to the king of Babylon, with the remnant of the multitude, did Nebuzaradan the captain of the guard carry away. But the captain of the guard left of the poor of the land to be vinedressers and husbandmen.” (II Kings 25:8-12).
Through Zechariah God told them that they had been keeping memorials of events that they had brought upon themselves and that they had no religious significance to God, “Then came the word of the LORD of hosts unto me, saying, Speak unto all the people of the land, and to the priests, saying, When ye fasted and mourned in the fifth and seventh month, even those seventy years, did ye at all fast unto me, even to me? And when ye did eat, and when ye did drink, did not ye eat for yourselves, and drink for yourselves? Should ye not hear the words which the LORD hath cried by the former prophets, when Jerusalem was inhabited and in prosperity, and the cities thereof round about her, when men inhabited the south and the plain?”(Zechariah 7:4-7).
The fast in the seventh month mentioned above was a memorial to the time shortly after, when the Governor of Judah was murdered. Gedaliah the governor, appointed by Nebuchadnezzar had advised those that remained in Judah to serve the Babylonians so that all would be well with them. He was consequently murdered and against his advice they went to Egypt where the majority of them perished, “And as for the people that remained in the land of Judah, whom Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon had left, even over them he made Gedaliah the son of Ahikam, the son of Shaphan, ruler.” and “And Gedaliah sware to them, and to their men, and said unto them, Fear not to be the servants of the Chaldees: dwell in the land, and serve the king of Babylon; and it shall be well with you. But it came to pass in the seventh month, that Ishmael the son of Nethaniah, the son of Elishama, of the seed royal, came, and ten men with him, and smote Gedaliah, that he died, and the Jews and the Chaldees that were with him at Mizpah. And all the people, both small and great, and the captains of the armies, arose, and came to Egypt: for they were afraid of the Chaldees.” (II Kings 25:22, 24-26). A more detailed account can be found in also Jeremiah 41 through to 47.
God made it abundantly clear that these disasters happened to them because they refused to obey, “Execute true judgment, and shew mercy and compassions every man to his brother: And oppress not the widow, nor the fatherless, the stranger, nor the poor; and let none of you imagine evil against his brother in your heart. But they refused to hearken, and pulled away the shoulder, and stopped their ears, that they should not hear. Yea, they made their hearts as an adamant stone, lest they should hear the law, and the words which the LORD of hosts hath sent in his spirit by the former prophets: therefore came a great wrath from the LORD of hosts. Therefore it is come to pass, that as he cried, and they would not hear; so they cried, and I would not hear, saith the LORD of hosts: But I scattered them with a whirlwind among all the nations whom they knew not. Thus the land was desolate after them, that no man passed through nor returned: for they laid the pleasant land desolate.” (Zechariah 7:9-14).
Instead of endorsing their traditions, which He pointed out were held for the wrong reasons, God focused them on future events.
Through a series of promises God signified that they should be looking ahead to the future reign of the Messiah. He started by declaring His enthusiasm for Jerusalem, “Thus saith the LORD of hosts; I was jealous for Zion with great jealousy, and I was jealous for her with great fury.” (Zechariah 8:2).
Having revealed what the temple foreshadowed through Zechariah’s visions God then revealed what the city foreshadowed. It foreshadowed a time in the future when His presence will once again be in Jerusalem. The city will represent truth and be the centre of God’s government, “Thus saith the LORD; I am returned unto Zion, and will dwell in the midst of Jerusalem: and Jerusalem shall be called a city of truth; and the mountain of the LORD of hosts the holy mountain.” (Zechariah 8:3, also Isaiah 1:26, 62:2 and Ezekiel 48:35).
According to Isaiah Jerusalem is to be the seat of Christ’s world government when he returns, “And it shall come to pass in the last days, that the mountain of the LORD’S house shall be established in the top of the mountains, and shall be exalted above the hills; and all nations shall flow unto it. And many people shall go and say, Come ye, and let us go up to the mountain of the LORD, to the house of the God of Jacob; and he will teach us of his ways, and we will walk in his paths: for out of Zion shall go forth the law, and the word of the LORD from Jerusalem.” (Isaiah 2:2-3)
Its citizens will dwell in safety and peace, “Thus saith the LORD of hosts; There shall yet old men and old women dwell in the streets of Jerusalem, and every man with his staff in his hand for very age. And the streets of the city shall be full of boys and girls playing in the streets thereof.” (Zechariah 8:4-5).
Although these things may have seemed impossible to those of the remnant He was addressing at that time, He reassured them that it possible for Him to accomplish, “ Thus said the LORD of Hosts; Though it will seem impossible to the remnant of this people in those days, shall it also be impossible to me? declares the LORD of Hosts.” (Zechariah 8:6-7 Jewish Study Bible, JPS Tanakh Translation ).
They shall be God’s people, “Thus saith the LORD of hosts; Behold, I will save my people from the east country, and from the west country; And I will bring them, and they shall dwell in the midst of Jerusalem: and they shall be my people, and I will be their God, in truth and in righteousness.” (Zechariah 8:7-8). The expression ‘my people’ is referring to those people from all nations (from the east and the west) who through salvation become part of that new Jerusalem living as spirit beings with God in truth and righteousness.
It is confirmed that the work restoring the city and temple in Zechariah’s day foreshadowed this incredible future time, “Thus saith the LORD of hosts; Let your hands be strong, ye that hear in these days these words by the mouth of the prophets, which were in the day that the foundation of the house of the LORD of hosts was laid, that the temple might be built.” (Zechariah 8:9).
It foreshadowed the temple that Christ will build. He is the chief cornerstone of the spiritual temple, the prophets and apostles are the foundation and those called to salvation in this age are the pillars, “Him that overcometh will I make a pillar in the temple of my God, and he shall go no more out: and I will write upon him the name of my God, and the name of the city of my God, which is new Jerusalem, which cometh down out of heaven from my God: and I will write upon him my new name.” (Revelation 3:12).
Zechariah 8:10-12 implies that prior to this idyllic future God’s people will be under affliction from their adversaries. But that will change through God’s intervention. Those who turn to God and receive His Holy Spirit become His people and receive their inheritance which is eternal life in God’s Kingdom portrayed as a time of prosperity and abundance.
Curses to Blessings
Whereas God’s people in ancient times became a curse, His people in the future will be a blessing. It is through the promise made to Abraham in Genesis 12:3 all the families of the earth will be blessed, “And it shall come to pass, that as ye were a curse among the heathen, O house of Judah, and house of Israel; so will I save you, and ye shall be a blessing: fear not, but let your hands be strong.” (Zechariah 8:13).
Although God had justifiably executed judgment on the Jews for their sins He had not rejected His plans for Jerusalem. On one hand God had punished ancient Israel for their sins, but He will bless spiritual Israel in the future because they will keep his law (Verses 14-17). Eventually even the ancient Israelites will be resurrected to repent and become part of the spiritual Israel. It should also be noted that the promise of blessing was always there as long as they repented and obeyed with all their hearts. The whole tenor to the theme of this chapter portrays the future when they will have the Holy Spirit and are capable of repenting of their sins and turning to God in complete obedience. Then their fasts will have meaning (Verse 19).
During the Great White Throne Judgment period when all the dead have been resurrected they will know the truth and seek to be part of spiritual Israel which is salvation, “It shall yet come to pass, that there shall come people, and the inhabitants of many cities: And the inhabitants of one city shall go to another, saying, Let us go speedily to pray before the LORD, and to seek the LORD of hosts: I will go also. Yea, many people and strong nations shall come to seek the LORD of hosts in Jerusalem, and to pray before the LORD. Thus saith the LORD of hosts; In those days it shall come to pass, that ten men shall take hold out of all languages of the nations, even shall take hold of the skirt of him that is a Jew, saying, We will go with you: for we have heard that God is with you.” (Zechariah 8:20-23).
The last six chapters of the Book of Zechariah are believed to be the work of another author. The late Ernest Martin (www.askelm.com) believed they were the work of Jeremiah. Regardless of authorship, when the six chapters are read in conjunction with the earlier chapters of Zechariah they appear to be appropriately placed as does the Book of Malachi which follows. Malachi has nothing to identify the time it was written, but given its position between the rebuilding of Jerusalem and the temple and the birth of Christ it provides a message appropriate to the times.
Chapter nine of Zechariah describes the events leading up to the time at the end of this age when all eyes will turn to God and Christ will return as King and Saviour. Those who turn to God will be protected from the armies and oppressors that gather to oppose Christ, “And I will encamp about mine house because of the army, because of him that passeth by, and because of him that returneth: and no oppressor shall pass through them any more: for now have I seen with mine eyes. Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion; shout, O daughter of Jerusalem: behold, thy King cometh unto thee: he is just, and having salvation; lowly, and riding upon an ass, and upon a colt the foal of an ass. And I will cut off the chariot from Ephraim, and the horse from Jerusalem, and the battle bow shall be cut off: and he shall speak peace unto the heathen: and his dominion shall be from sea even to sea, and from the river even to the ends of the earth.” (Zechariah 9:8-10). Their armies will be destroyed (cut off) and the heathen will learn peace.
He who first came on the colt of an ass will return to release the world from spiritual captivity and to rule in peace after he has made war with and defeated the adversaries, “And the LORD shall be seen over them, and his arrowshall go forth as the lightning: and the Lord GOD shall blow the trumpet, and shall go with whirlwinds of the south. The LORD of hosts shall defend them; and they shall devour, and subdue with sling stones; and they shall drink, and make a noise as through wine; and they shall be filled like bowls, and as the corners of the altar. And the LORD their God shall save them in that day as the flock of his people: for they shall be as the stones of a crown, lifted up as an ensign upon his land.” (Zechariah 9:14-16).
To God His people are precious. Malachi spoke in similar terms, “Then they that feared the LORD spake often one to another: and the LORD hearkened, and heard it, and a book of remembrance was written before him for them that feared the LORD, and that thought upon his name. And they shall be mine, saith the LORD of hosts, in that day when I make up my jewels; and I will spare them, as a man spareth his own son that serveth him.” (Malachi 3:16-17).
It is interesting to note that when the Jewish Study Bible (Tanakh JPS Translation) talks about the time when no oppressor will ever again overrun God’s people (Zechariah 9:8) it is implied that their adversaries will be absorbed into Judah, “But I will cleanout the blood from its mouth, And the detestable things from between its teeth. It survivors, too, shall be long to our God: They shall become like a clan in Judah, And Ekron shall be like Jubasites.” (Zechariah 9:7). It is not talking about being absorbed into the physical nation of Judah, but into the spiritual body of God’s people who are represented by the name ‘Judah’ in prophetic literature.
It is a time when those who turn to God will be set free from spiritual captivity, “As for thee also, by the blood of thy covenant I have sent forth thy prisoners out of the pit wherein is no water.” (Zechariah 9:11).
The blood of the covenant symbolized Christ’s own blood by which the world will be set free, “But Christ being come an high priest of good things to come, by a greater and more perfect tabernacle, not made with hands, that is to say, not of this building; Neither by the blood of goats and calves, but by his own blood he entered in once into the holy place, having obtained eternal redemption for us. For if the blood of bulls and of goats, and the ashes of an heifer sprinkling the unclean, sanctifieth to the purifying of the flesh: How much more shall the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without spot to God, purge your conscience from dead works to serve the living God?” (Hebrews 9:11-14).
In ancient times names like ‘House of Judah’, ‘House of Joseph’ and ‘Ephraim’ referred to the nation that represented God’s Kingdom in physical form (Zechariah 9:10, 10:6, 7). However, when those same names are used in prophecies concerning the latter days they refer to the spiritual body of God’s people who will be incorporated into God’s Kingdom. Similarly names like Assyria, Egypt (Zechariah 10:11) represent their adversaries who will be defeated and through the process of conversion during the Millennium and Great White Throne Judgment period will eventually be absorbed into God’s Kingdom.
Because of God’s protection His people will not need weapons of war ever again, “And I will cut off the chariot from Ephraim, and the horse from Jerusalem, and the battle bow shall be cut off: and he shall speak peace unto the heathen: and his dominion shall be from sea even to sea, and from the river even to the ends of the earth.” (Zechariah 9:10).
They will be protected during the Day of The Lord, “the Lord of hosts shall defend them,” (Zechariah 9:15) and during the last desperate attempt by Satan and his demons after the Millennium when they try to unseat the saints, “And when the thousand years are expired, Satan shall be loosed out of his prison, And shall go out to deceive the nations which are in the four quarters of the earth, Gog and Magog, to gather them together to battle: the number of whom is as the sand of the sea. And they went up on the breadth of the earth, and compassed the camp of the saints about, and the beloved city: and fire came down from God out of heaven, and devoured them.” (Revelation 20:7-9).
Colt of an Ass
When Zechariah predicted that Christ would enter Jerusalem on the colt of an ass he signaled a very significant event that would occur around four hundred years later, “Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion; shout, O daughter of Jerusalem: behold, thy King cometh unto thee: he is just, and having salvation; lowly, and riding upon an ass, and upon a colt the foal of an ass.” (Zechariah 9:9).
Which is exactly what Matthew described some four hundred years later, “And the disciples went, and did as Jesus commanded them, And brought the ass, and the colt, and put on them their clothes, and they set him thereon. And a very great multitude spread their garments in the way; others cut down branches from the trees, and strawed them in the way. And the multitudes that went before, and that followed, cried, saying, Hosanna to the Son of David: Blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord; Hosanna in the highest.” (Matthew 21:6-9)
He cleared the temple of merchants, whom he called thieves, and healed the blind much to the displeasure of the religious authorities of that day (Matthew 21:12-15). When they questioned his authority he addressed them through parables which revealed the lengths they would go to protect their positions of power (verses 13, 23 and 28-32).
He revealed to those in authority that he was the chief cornerstone that according to the prophets would be rejected by them. Because of this their inheritance was to be taken from them. They were to be crushed and their inheritance was to be given to others “Jesus saith unto them, Did ye never read in the scriptures, The stone which the builders rejected, the same is become the head of the corner: this is the Lord’s doing, and it is marvellous in our eyes? Therefore say I unto you, The kingdom of God shall be taken from you, and given to a nation bringing forth the fruits thereof. And whosoever shall fall on this stone shall be broken: but on whomsoever it shall fall, it will grind him to powder.” (Matthew 21:42-44).
Their reaction was hostile. They plotted against him, “And when the chief priests and Pharisees had heard his parables, they perceived that he spake of them. But when they sought to lay hands on him, they feared the multitude, because they took him for a prophet.” (Matthew 21:45-46). When they deliberately tried to trip Christ up with difficult questions, he not only astonished them with his answers but exposed them for their hypocrisy in a blistering attack on their attitude and motives recorded in Matthew 23:13-39. In verse 35 when Christ said that the things predicted by prophets like Zechariah would come upon that generation he was referring to the end of the Old Covenant and the special relationship they had with God which included His protection from their adversaries.
They will not regain that special relationship and enter God’s Kingdom until they accept Christ and repent of what they have done, “Ye serpents, ye generation of vipers, how can ye escape the damnation of hell? Wherefore, behold, I send unto you prophets, and wise men, and scribes: and some of them ye shall kill and crucify; and some of them shall ye scourge in your synagogues, and persecute them from city to city: That upon you may come all the righteous blood shed upon the earth, from the blood of righteous Abel unto the blood of Zacharias son of Barachias, whom ye slew between the temple and the altar. Verily I say unto you, All these things shall come upon this generation. O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, thou that killest the prophets, and stonest them which are sent unto thee, how often would I have gathered thy children together, even as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings, and ye would not! Behold, your house is left unto you desolate. For I say unto you, Ye shall not see me henceforth, till ye shall say, Blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord.” (Matthew 23:33-39).
Many commentators deny that Christ was referring to Zechariah son of Barachias (Zechariah 1:1) simply because there is no tradition of his death. Instead they claim Christ referred to Zechariah the son of Jehoiada (II Chronicles 24:20-22) claiming that because his death is mentioned in II Chronicles, which is the last book in the Hebrew canon, it more appropriately fits the statement Christ made, “from the blood of righteous Abel unto the blood of Zacharias son of Barachias.” They say that it seems the two Zechariahs were ‘likely confused at some stage’, or as Barclay puts it ‘no doubt a slip of the gospel writer in retelling the story’.
Was Christ confused? No! He knew exactly who he was talking about because Zechariah’s prophecies inspired by God four hundred years earlier predicted that Christ would ride into the city on the colt of an ass, heal the blind and lame, cleansed the temple, expose the false shepherds and announce the end of the covenant. The covenant was to cease when he (Christ) was rejected and murdered by these same false shepherds. As we continue through the Book of Zechariah we will see these prophesies revealed. When he rode into Jerusalem on the colt of an ass Christ was in a sense enacting his second coming when he will come on a white horse as King of Kings (Revelation 19:11-16).
The prophet says that it is God who provides blessings for His people not the diviners and idols that they have worshipped. The false shepherds who have led them astray will be brought to account, “Ask ye of the LORD rain in the time of the latter rain; so the LORD shall make bright clouds, and give them showers of rain, to every one grass in the field. For the idols have spoken vanity, and the diviners have seen a lie, and have told false dreams; they comfort in vain: therefore they went their way as a flock, they were troubled, because there was no shepherd. Mine anger was kindled against the shepherds, and I punished the goats: for the LORD of hosts hath visited his flock the house of Judah, and hath made them as his goodly horse in the battle.” (Zechariah 10:1-3).
Despite the false prophets and foolish shepherds God will raise men to be spiritual ‘corners stones’, captains, warriors and mighty men of faith whom He will support, “Out of him came forth the corner, out of him the nail, out of him the battle bow, out of him every oppressor together. And they shall be as mighty men, which tread down their enemies in the mire of the streets in the battle: and they shall fight, because the LORD is with them, and the riders on horses shall be confounded.” (Zechariah 10:4-5).
According to the Apostle Paul these people of faith are the true children of Abraham, “Know ye therefore that they which are of faith, the same are the children of Abraham. And the scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the heathen through faith, preached before the gospel unto Abraham, saying, In thee shall all nations be blessed. So then they which be of faith are blessed with faithful Abraham.” (Galatians 3:7-9). Regardless of whether they are Jew or Gentile they become spiritual Israelites through faith when they receive God’s Spirit. They are the true heirs who will receive the inheritance, "But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name:" (John 1:12).
All nations will become part of the Kingdom of God that ancient Israel represented in physical form, “And I will strengthen the house of Judah, and I will save the house of Joseph, and I will bring them again to place them; for I have mercy upon them: and they shall be as though I had not cast them off: for I am the LORD their God, and will hear them. And they of Ephraim shall be like a mighty man, and their heart shall rejoice as through wine: yea, their children shall see it, and be glad; their heart shall rejoice in the LORD. I will hiss for them, and gather them; for I have redeemed them: and they shall increase as they have increased.” (Zechariah 10:6-8). They will be saved and rejoice when God calls them and they are redeemed. Through resurrection they enter God’s Kingdom which will continue to increase.
God’s people will be redeemed from the sins of this world and brought into their own land, meaning they will receive their true inheritance, which is eternal life in God’s Kingdom, “ I will bring them again also out of the land of Egypt, and gather them out of Assyria; and I will bring them into the land of Gilead and Lebanon; and place shall not be found for them.” (Zechariah 10:10). As the Jewish study Bible (Tanakh translation) says ‘and even they shall not suffice for them’ indicating that this future spiritual nation will not be bound by physical boundaries.
That true inheritance is not an area of land or material wealth, but eternal life in God’s Kingdom as His very children, “He that overcometh shall inherit all things; and I will be his God, and he shall be my son. But the fearful, and unbelieving, and the abominable, and murderers, and whoremongers, and sorcerers, and idolaters, and all liars, shall have their part in the lake which burneth with fire and brimstone: which is the second death.” (Revelation 21:7-8). And, “And there shall in no wise enter into it any thing that defileth, neither whatsoever worketh abomination, or maketh a lie: but they which are written in the Lamb’s book of life.” (Revelation 21:27).
There will be no sin in God’s Kingdom. Those who continue to oppose God and His people - the adversaries - will not survive to enter into His Kingdom, “and the pride of Assyria shall be brought down, and the sceptre of Egypt shall depart away.” (Zechariah 10:11).
This is the salvation and victory that Zechariah was talking about in symbolic terms, “And they shall be as mighty men, which tread down their enemies in the mire of the streets in the battle: and they shall fight, because the LORD is with them, and the riders on horses shall be confounded. And I will strengthen the house of Judah, and I will save the house of Joseph, and I will bring them again to place them; for I have mercy upon them: and they shall be as though I had not cast them off: for I am the LORD their God, and will hear them.” (Zechariah 10:5-6).
In prophetic literature these spiritual outcomes are often expressed in physical terms with reference to nations that existed at that time because the people at that time did not have God’s Holy Spirit and could not fully understand what He had in store for them, “But as it is written, Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him. But God hath revealed them unto us by his Spirit: for the Spirit searcheth all things, yea, the deep things of God. For what man knoweth the things of a man, save the spirit of man which is in him? even so the things of God knoweth no man, but the Spirit of God.” (I Corinthians 2:9-10). Without that Spirit their understanding was limited. What they were participating in at that time represented future spiritual events that had to be described in physical terms to give them hope in terms that they were familiar with.
Most commentaries offer unsatisfactory explanations for events prophesied in Chapter Eleven, but when considered in the context of the Book, conditions of the time and events that followed, its meaning becomes abundantly clear.
God makes it clear that those in authority will not be exempt from His judgment. Neither position, symbolized by the mighty cedars of Lebanon, nor power, represented by the lions of Jordan, will save them from God’s judgment, symbolized by fire, “Open thy doors, O Lebanon, that the fire may devour thy cedars. Howl, fir tree; for the cedar is fallen; because the mighty are spoiled: howl, O ye oaks of Bashan; for the forest of the vintage is come down. There is a voice of the howling of the shepherds; for their glory is spoiled: a voice of the roaring of young lions; for the pride of Jordan is spoiled.” (Zechariah 11:1-3).
Those in authority portrayed as false shepherds who have exploited God’s people for their own ends will be brought to account, “Thus saith the LORD my God; Feed the flock of the slaughter. Whose possessors slay them, and hold themselves not guilty: and they that sell them say, Blessed be the LORD; for I am rich: and their own shepherds pity them not. For I will no more pity the inhabitants of the land, saith the LORD: but, lo, I will deliver the men every one into his neighbour’s hand, and into the hand of his king: and they shall smite the land, and out of their hand I will not deliver them.” (Zechariah 11:4-6).
Christ didn’t hold back when he addressed the rulers of Jerusalem some four hundred years later (Matthew 23). He will hold all to account when he returns, “Saying with a loud voice, Fear God, and give glory to him; for the hour of his judgment is come: and worship him that made heaven, and earth, and the sea, and the fountains of waters.” (Revelation 14:7).
The flock, or nation at that time, was doomed to self-inflicted destruction because of the corrupt rulers who had no concern for those whom they ruled and the flock had become so enmeshed in idolatry,as explained in the previous chapter of Zechariah, “For the idols have spoken vanity, and the diviners have seen a lie, and have told false dreams; they comfort in vain: therefore they went their way as a flock, they were troubled, because there was no shepherd.” (Zechariah 10:2). Their spiritual condition became so bad that they did not recognize the Messiah when he was sent.
For this reason God said He would remove their protection “For I will no more pity the inhabitants of the land, saith the LORD: but, lo, I will deliver the men every one into his neighbour’s hand, and into the hand of his king: and they shall smite the land, and out of their hand I will not deliver them.” (Zechariah 11:6)
Many commentators have attempted unconvincingly to put names to the three shepherds who shall fall in the period of one month,“Three shepherds also I cut off in one month; and my soul lothed them, and their soul also abhorred me.” (Zechariah 11:8). However, because the meaning of the original text was not clear the Jewish Study Bible (JPS translation of the Tanakh) offers a conjectural emendation that suggests the meaning is “a third of the flock” in which case it could be referring to the destruction of a third of the people. If the slaughter of the flock mentioned in verses 4 and 7 referred to the slaughter of the people of Judea in 70 AD, which it most likely did, then it is interesting to note that according to Josephus approximately one third of the people present in Jerusalem at the time of its destruction were slaughtered.
Many had traveled to Jerusalem to celebrate the Feast of Unleavened Bread and were trapped in the city when the Romans surrounded it. Josephus based his figures on the fact that 256,500 lambs had been sacrificed at the Passover and according to tradition there were no less than ten people for each sacrifice. This puts the population of Jerusalem at that time at around 2,720,000. He claims that approximately 1,100,000 people of all ages were slaughtered (Wars of the Jews, Book 6), roughly one third. One third is also consistent with the number Ezekiel predicted would perish in the Babylonian captivity (Ezekiel 4:1 to 5:17).
The second part of Zechariah 11:8 God said, “my soul lothed them, and their soul also abhorred me.” For rejecting His son which demonstrated their abhorrence of God, He said He would withdraw His protection of them, “Then said I, I will not feed you: that that dieth, let it die; and that that is to be cut off, let it be cut off; and let the rest eat every one the flesh of another.” (Zechariah 11:9).
End of Old Covenant
The covenant was broken by Israel the first time they turned away from God. After centuries of merciful patience God was going to bring it to an end and remove His protection from them, “And I took my staff, even Beauty, and cut it asunder, that I might break my covenant which I had made with all the people. And it was broken in that day: and so the poor of the flock that waited upon me knew that it was the word of the LORD.” (Zechariah 11:10-11). Building the temple foreshadowed future events through enactment by the physical remnant of the once great kingdom of Israel. In its destruction it would bring the final curtain down on the Old Covenant. But at the same time the small spiritually pure remnant of those who waited on Christ had been dispersed to spread the gospel of Christ and to participate in the building of a new everlasting temple.
The final straw that would cause God to end the special relationship He had with Israel/Judah was when they rejected and murdered His own son as foretold by Zechariah, “And I said unto them, If ye think good, give me my price; and if not, forbear. So they weighed for my price thirty pieces of silver. And the LORD said unto me, Cast it unto the potter: a goodly price that I was prised at of them. And I took the thirty pieces of silver, and cast them to the potter in the house of the LORD. Then I cut asunder mine other staff, even Bands, that I might break the brotherhood between Judah and Israel.” (Zechariah 11:12-14). Christ also foretold the same outcome as we read earlier, “Therefore say I unto you, The kingdom of God shall be taken from you, and given to a nation bringing forth the fruits thereof.” (Matthew 21:43).
End of the Temple
It was predicted that foolish shepherds would eventually bring about the nation’s demise, “And the LORD said unto me, Take unto thee yet the instruments of a foolish shepherd. For, lo, I will raise up a shepherd in the land, which shall not visit those that be cut off, neither shall seek the young one, nor heal that that is broken, nor feed that that standeth still: but he shall eat the flesh of the fat, and tear their claws in pieces. Woe to the idol shepherd that leaveth the flock! the sword shall be upon his arm, and upon his right eye: his arm shall be clean dried up, and his right eye shall be utterly darkened.” (Zechariah 11:15-17).
In seeking power and position for themselves foolish shepherds, described by Josephus as tyrants, provoked the Romans to destroy the city and temple and slaughter a third of its population. They laid siege to the city by surrounding it with their army.
Having described the impending demise of Jerusalem, God said that it is going to be a trouble spot - a cup of trembling to all who come against it, especially in the latter days, “Behold, I will make Jerusalem a cup of trembling unto all the people round about, when they shall be in the siege both against Judah and against Jerusalem.” (Zechariah 12:2.
However, projecting ahead to the latter days, He then describes another siege that will end differently, “And in that day will I make Jerusalem a burdensome stone for all people: all that burden themselves with it shall be cut in pieces, though all the people of the earth be gathered together against it.” (Zechariah 12:3)
Seat of Government
At this stage Jerusalem is more than a city surrounded by armies, it is has become the seat of Christ’s new world government from where he will execute God’s judgment against the adversaries and pour out grace on those who turn to him and repent to become spiritual Israelites, “And it shall come to pass in that day, that I will seek to destroy all the nations that come against Jerusalem, And I will pour upon the house of David, and upon the inhabitants of Jerusalem, the spirit of grace and of supplications: and they shall look upon me whom they have pierced, and they shall mourn for him, as one mourneth for his only son, and shall be in bitterness for him, as one that is in bitterness for his firstborn.” (Zechariah 12:9-10).
Isaiah confirms that Jerusalem will become the seat of Christ’s government, “And it shall come to pass in the last days, that the mountain of the LORD’S house shall be established in the top of the mountains, and shall be exalted above the hills; and all nations shall flow unto it. And many people shall go and say, Come ye, and let us go up to the mountain of the LORD, to the house of the God of Jacob; and he will teach us of his ways, and we will walk in his paths: for out of Zion shall go forth the law, and the word of the LORD from Jerusalem.” (Isaiah 2:2-3)
There will be a spiritual cleansing throughout the world and the deception of false religion shall be exposed, “In that day there shall be a fountain opened to the house of David and to the inhabitants of Jerusalem for sin and for uncleanness.”. Idolatry will be a thing of the past, “ I will cut off the names of the idols out of the land, and they shall no more be remembered: and also I will cause the prophets and the unclean spirit to pass out of the land.” And teachers shall not deceive, “neither shall they wear a rough garment to deceive:” (Zechariah 13:1, 2 and 4).
Satan who has deceived the world will be imprisoned, “And the great dragon was cast out, that old serpent, called the Devil, and Satan, which deceiveth the whole world: he was cast out into the earth, and his angels were cast out with him.” (Revelation 12:9). And, “And I saw an angel come down from heaven, having the key of the bottomless pit and a great chain in his hand. And he laid hold on the dragon, that old serpent, which is the Devil, and Satan, and bound him a thousand years, And cast him into the bottomless pit, and shut him up, and set a seal upon him, that he should deceive the nations no more, till the thousand years should be fulfilled: and after that he must be loosed a little season.” (Revelation 20:1-3).
He is loosed for a little while and after one final battle will be defeated (Revelation 20:7-10). He and his demons or ‘unclean spirits’will be destroyed in the lake of fire. The reference to ‘wounds in your hands’ in Zechariah 13:6 is more correctly stated in the Jewish Study Bible (JPS Tanakh Translation) as ‘sores on your back’ in the, referring to self-inflicted wounds of the false prophets. As when the prophets of Baal slashed themselves when challenged by Elijah (I Kings 18:28).
Crucifixion and Scattering
The preceding chapters are then summarized in a brief poem foretelling the death of Christ and the scattering of his followers, an event also described in Isaiah 53, “Awake, O sword, against my shepherd, and against the man that is my fellow, saith the LORD of hosts: smite the shepherd, and the sheep shall be scattered: and I will turn mine hand upon the little ones. And it shall come to pass, that in all the land, saith the LORD, two parts therein shall be cut off and die; but the third shall be left therein. And I will bring the third part through the fire, and will refine them as silver is refined, and will try them as gold is tried: they shall call on my name, and I will hear them: I will say, It is my people: and they shall say, The LORD is my God.” (Zechariah 13:7-9).
Christ later verified that he was the shepherd to be smitten, “Then saith Jesus unto them, All ye shall be offended because of me this night: for it is written, I will smite the shepherd, and the sheep of the flock shall be scattered abroad.” (Matthew 26:31, also Mark 14:27).
According to Barclay the phrase, “I will turn mine hand upon the little ones.” refers to the care and protection God will provide for them. It could also be a reference to the Holy Spirit (comforter) that Christ promised his followers, “If ye love me, keep my commandments. And I will pray the Father, and he shall give you another Comforter, that he may abide with you for ever; Even the Spirit of truth; whom the world cannot receive, because it seeth him not, neither knoweth him: but ye know him; for he dwelleth with you, and shall be in you. I will not leave you comfortless: I will come to you.”. And, “But the Comforter, which is the Holy Ghost, whom the Father will send in my name, he shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said unto you. Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.” (John 14:15-18 and 26-27).
The next major series of events, once Christ has laid the foundation for the spiritual temple with his life, will be those leading up to and including the Day of the Lord some two thousand years later. These events and outcome are summarized as follows: “And it shall come to pass, that in all the land, saith the LORD, two parts therein shall be cut off and die; but the third shall be left therein. And I will bring the third part through the fire, and will refine them as silver is refined, and will try them as gold is tried: they shall call on my name, and I will hear them: I will say, It is my people: and they shall say, The LORD is my God.” (Zechariah 13:8-9).
The words, “In all the land” implies the whole world at that time. And two thirds coincides with some of the end-time statistics given in Revelation, “And power was given unto them over the fourth part of the earth, to kill with sword, and with hunger, and with death, and with the beasts of the earth.” (Revelation 6:8). And, “By these three was the third part of men killed, by the fire, and by the smoke, and by the brimstone, which issued out of their mouths.” (Revelation 9:18). These are before the seven thunders and the final plagues that could well bring the total death toll up to two thirds of the world’s population. The remaining third are those who turn to God and become spiritually purified through the conversion process.
Day of the Lord
The final chapter of the Book of Zechariah deals with the Day of the Lord, “Behold, the day of the LORD cometh” (Zechariah 14:1), when the adversaries will be gathered against Christ and Jerusalem will be under siege, “For I will gather all nations against Jerusalem to battle; and the city shall be taken, and the houses rifled, and the women ravished; and half of the city shall go forth into captivity, and the residue of the people shall not be cut off from the city.” (Zechariah 14:2).
Jesus Christ and his saints will confront the adversaries, “Then shall the LORD go forth, and fight against those nations, as when he fought in the day of battle.”. And, “and the LORD my God shall come, and all the saints with thee.” (Zechariah 14:3 and 5).
The Day of the Lord is the period of time in which Christ will be become king over the earth and God’s wrath will be poured out on the adversaries, “And the LORD shall be king over all the earth: in that day shall there be one LORD, and his name one.” (Zechariah 14:9).
Jerusalem is to be the centre of Christ’s government and those who fight against Jerusalem will be defeated,“And this shall be the plague wherewith the LORD will smite all the people that have fought against Jerusalem; Their flesh shall consume away while they stand upon their feet, and their eyes shall consume away in their holes, and their tongue shall consume away in their mouth. And it shall come to pass in that day, that a great tumult from the LORD shall be among them; and they shall lay hold every one on the hand of his neighbour, and his hand shall rise up against the hand of his neighbour.” (Zechariah 14:12-13).
Notice that Zechariah implied that the Jews will be among those who oppose Christ’s governance, “And Judah also shall fight at Jerusalem; and the wealth of all the heathen round about shall be gathered together, gold, and silver, and apparel, in great abundance. And so shall be the plague of the horse, of the mule, of the camel, and of the ass, and of all the beasts that shall be in these tents, as this plague.” (Zechariah 14:14-15).
Both the RSV and JPS indicate that Judah will fight against Jerusalem. While some are of the opinion that the Jews will be fighting against that part of Jerusalem that is occupied by the adversaries (see verse two), others consider that they will be fighting against Christ whom they do not to this day recognize as the Messiah. The latter view is the most likely because “Jerusalem’ has been used in prophecy to represent the seat of Christ’s world government of the future and there is no indication in this chapter, or elsewhere among the prophecies, that the Jews at that stage will align themselves with Christ who has come to take over the city.
The remnant from the Day of the Lord, indicated by Zechariah 13:9 to be only one third of the world’s population, will be subject to God’s laws, “And it shall come to pass, that every one that is left of all the nations which came against Jerusalem shall even go up from year to year to worship the King, the LORD of hosts, and to keep the feast of tabernacles. And it shall be, that whoso will not come up of all the families of the earth unto Jerusalem to worship the King, the LORD of hosts, even upon them shall be no rain.” (Zechariah 14:16-17).
Those remaining will through the spiritual purification which was also mentioned in Zechariah 13:9, become God’s people, therefore also part of His spiritual temple, “Yea, every pot in Jerusalem and in Judah shall be holiness unto the LORD of hosts: and all they that sacrifice shall come and take of them, and seethe therein: and in that day there shall be no more the Canaanite in the house of the LORD of hosts.” (Zechariah 14:21).
No more Canaanites in God’s House, implies that the gentiles will become spiritual Israelites through conversion, just as those called today become true Israelites when they receive God’s Spirit after baptism (Galatians 3:28-29, II Corinthians 3:15-16 and Romans 9:6-8).
One aspect about building the new temple that may seem puzzling is the significance of the time between laying the foundation and constructing the temple on that foundation. Work was not commenced again until fourteen or fifteen years later when Haggai encouraged them to complete the work. What is the significance, if any, of that gap?
Did it foreshadow the fact that there would be a gap between the time when Christ laid down his life for the foundation of the spiritual temple and the assembling of that temple that would take place at the end of the age?
While it appeared that progress on the earthly temple was hindered, Zechariah’s vision of the lamp stand indicated that nothing would stand in the way of the power through which that temple was completed. Similarly the lamp stand that John saw in Revelation indicates that nothing will stand in the way of the power through which the spiritual temple will be completed.
Nevertheless there is a gap between laying the foundation and the construction that Jesus Christ said the adversaries would try to use to their advantage. Since Christ laid the foundation of the spiritual temple adversaries of spiritual Israel have sought legal means and made accusations to hinder progress. He warned his followers to expect false prophets and teachers who would try and lead them astray, “For many shall come in my name, saying, I am Christ; and shall deceive many.”. And, “And many false prophets shall rise, and shall deceive many.” (Matthew 24:5, see also v11).
The Roman Emperor Nero made false accusations against Christians in Rome that resulted in horrific persecution. The Romans also made law changes to subvert the Sabbath and Holy Days, not to mention the inquisition of the middle ages.
Also the Book of Revelation indicates that there will be future attempts by adversaries to intimidate God’s people. But despite the tactics of these enemies the spiritual temple will be completed according to God’s will and within His timeframe.
Part Four - Malachi’s Message
Despite the graphic portrayal of God’s plan revealed through the prophets Haggai and Zechariah, which was also enacted in the rebuilding the temple, the remnant in Jerusalem soon lost the vision of what God wanted to achieve through them. In the Book of Malachi we can see how those in authority led the remnant into a form of religion that was devoid of spiritual understanding and knowledge of the true God.
There are Jewish traditions that claim the name ‘Malachi’ which means ‘God’s messenger’ is a title and that the author was really Ezra, or even Mordecai. Other traditions support the claim that Malachi was a prophet in his own right.
Some scholars believe that the Book of Malachi was written when Nehemiah was absent from Jerusalem for a number of years. While the Book of Nehemiah describes his return to find that things had deteriorated and he had to implement reforms, it does not necessarily confirm that Malachi was written at that specific time. Others claim it was written later when the spiritual state of the remnant had deteriorated once again.
At the start the remnant that returned to Jerusalem had gladly sworn by way of a covenant to keep God’s laws and not intermarry with the locals, “And because of all this we make a sure covenant, and write it; and our princes, Levites, and priests, seal unto it.” (Nehemiah 9:38). And, “They clave to their brethren, their nobles, and entered into a curse, and into an oath, to walk in God’s law, which was given by Moses the servant of God, and to observe and do all the commandments of the LORD our Lord, and his judgments and his statutes; And that we would not give our daughters unto the people of the land, nor take their daughters for our sons:” (Nehemiah 10:29-30).
However, when he returned from Babylon a number of years later Nehemiah had to implement reforms because that covenant had well and truly been broken. He had to clear the gentile Tobias from the temple and cleanse it, “And it grieved me sore: therefore I cast forth all the household stuff of Tobiah out of the chamber. Then I commanded, and they cleansed the chambers:” (Nehemiah 13:8-9).
Nehemiah had to restore the tithe system so the Levites could tend to their temple duties, “And I perceived that the portions of the Levites had not been given them: for the Levites and the singers, that did the work, were fled every one to his field. Then contended I with the rulers, and said, Why is the house of God forsaken? And I gathered them together, and set them in their place.” (Nehemiah 13:10-11).
He also had to restore the Sabbath, “Then I contended with the nobles of Judah, and said unto them, What evil thing is this that ye do, and profane the sabbath day?” (Nehemiah 13:17). And deal with the problem of intermarriage, “In those days also saw I Jews that had married wives of Ashdod, of Ammon, and of Moab:” and “And I contended with them, and cursed them, and smote certain of them, and plucked off their hair, and made them swear by God, saying, Ye shall not give your daughters unto their sons, nor take their daughters unto your sons, or for yourselves.” (Nehemiah 13:23 and 25).
What Christ Found
How quickly they forgot their covenant and neglected the very things that had caused the captivity of their forefathers. Is it therefore surprising that four hundred years later Christ found that the temple housed a ‘den of thieves’ and described the religious authorities in his time as hypocrites and vipers, who had obscured God’s purpose and plan with their own traditions? “And Jesus went into the temple of God, and cast out all them that sold and bought in the temple, and overthrew the tables of the moneychangers, and the seats of them that sold doves, And said unto them, It is written, My house shall be called the house of prayer; but ye have made it a den of thieves.” (Matthew 21:12-13). And, “But woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye shut up the kingdom of heaven against men: for ye neither go in yourselves, neither suffer ye them that are entering to go in.” (Matthew 23:13).
They had also killed the prophets including Zechariah, which was discussed earlier in this paper, “Ye serpents, ye generation of vipers, how can ye escape the damnation of hell? Wherefore, behold, I send unto you prophets, and wise men, and scribes: and some of them ye shall kill and crucify; and some of them shall ye scourge in your synagogues, and persecute them from city to city: That upon you may come all the righteous blood shed upon the earth, from the blood of righteous Abel unto the blood of Zacharias son of Barachias, whom ye slew between the temple and the altar.” (Matthew 23:33-35).
Somewhere between the institution of the temple worship and the ministry of Christ their attitude toward worshipping God had deteriorated to the extent described by Malachi. Because of this their worship was in vain.
Despite the favour given to Israel over their adversaries, who are personified in the first chapter of Malachi as Edom, Israel failed to honour God by their worship. Their form of worship, based on the book of Leviticus, was dominated by sacrificial rituals in which God was respected by sacrificing animals that had no blemish, “And whosoever offereth a sacrifice of peace offerings unto the LORD to accomplish his vow, or a freewill offering in beeves or sheep, it shall be perfect to be accepted; there shall be no blemish therein. Blind, or broken, or maimed, or having a wen, or scurvy, or scabbed, ye shall not offer these unto the LORD, nor make an offering by fire of them upon the altar unto the LORD.” (Leviticus 22:21-22, see also; 1:3, 10, 3:1).
A blemished offering would have been particularly unacceptable as a Passover lamb (Exodus 12:5, 29:1) which represented Christ, who was the ultimate and unblemished sacrifice that was still to come, “For if the blood of bulls and of goats, and the ashes of an heifer sprinkling the unclean, sanctifieth to the purifying of the flesh: How much more shall the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without spot to God, purge your conscience from dead works to serve the living God?” (Hebrews 9:13-14). And, “Forasmuch as ye know that ye were not redeemed with corruptible things, as silver and gold, from your vain conversation received by tradition from your fathers; But with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot: Who verily was foreordained before the foundation of the world, but was manifest in these last times for you,” (I Peter 1:18-20). It was after all, upon Christ and his future role that the post-exilic prophets were focused.
They would not offer blemished animals to their human governors for payment or taxes, but thought nothing of offering them to God, “A son honoureth his father, and a servant his master: if then I be a father, where is mine honour? and if I be a master, where is my fear? saith the LORD of hosts unto you, O priests, that despise my name. And ye say, Wherein have we despised thy name? Ye offer polluted bread upon mine altar; and ye say, Wherein have we polluted thee? In that ye say, The table of the LORD is contemptible. And if ye offer the blind for sacrifice, is it not evil? and if ye offer the lame and sick, is it not evil? offer it now unto thy governor; will he be pleased with thee, or accept thy person? saith the LORD of hosts.” (Malachi 1: 6-8).
It would have been better not to worship at all than to insult God with a polluted form of worship, “And now implore the favour of God! Will He be gracious unto us? This is what you have done - Will He accept any of you? The LORD of hosts has said: If only you would lock my doors, and not kindle a fire on My altar to no purpose! I take no pleasure in you – said the Lord of Hosts - and will accept no offering from you.” (Malachi 1:9-10 Jewish Study Bible JPS Tanakh Translation)
Their vain worship clearly contravened one of the ten commandments, “Thou shalt not take the name of the LORD thy God in vain; for the LORD will not hold him guiltless that taketh his name in vain.” (Exodus 20:7).
The covenant God made with His people at Mt Sinai was a marriage covenant. By becoming His people they took his name to themselves in much the same way as a bride takes the name of her husband to herself and accepts him as protector and provider. The people of Israel were happy to have God as their protector and provider, but when they chased after other gods they committed adultery in a spiritual sense. Because of their behavior their promises to be faithful to Him were in vain.
God’s name received more respect from the heathen than it did from His own people, “For from the rising of the sun even unto the going down of the same my name shall be great among the Gentiles; and in every place incense shall be offered unto my name, and a pure offering: for my name shall be great among the heathen, saith the LORD of hosts.” (Malachi 1:11).
Not only was their worship in vain they insulted God by saying that it is His way that is at fault, “But ye have profaned it, in that ye say, The table of the LORD is polluted; and the fruit thereof, even his meat, is contemptible.” (Malachi 1:12). What an incredibly perverted state of affairs. After all that God had done for them in extending His mercy and opening their eyes to His purpose and plan through Haggai and Zechariah, they turn around and insult Him by their actions.
Messengers, Priest and Teachers
God laid the blame for the nation’s lack of respect in the way they worshipped Him squarely at the feet of the priests who were His messengers assigned to teach His people,“And now, O ye priests, this commandment is for you. If ye will not hear, and if ye will not lay it to heart, to give glory unto my name, saith the LORD of hosts, I will even send a curse upon you, and I will curse your blessings: yea, I have cursed them already, because ye do not lay it to heart.” (Malachi 2:1-2).
As teachers the priests played an incredibly important role in the well-being of the nation. They were warned that if they did not lay their duties to heart they would be disgraced and discredited, “Behold, I will corrupt your seed, and spread dung upon your faces, even the dung of your solemn feasts; and one shall take you away with it.” (Malachi 2:3). The words ‘I have cursed them already’ in verse two indicates that they had previously been discredited. This referred to when the nation had gone into captivity.
God reminded the priests of the Levitical covenant that guaranteed them a life of peace and protection, “And ye shall know that I have sent this commandment unto you, that my covenant might be with Levi, saith the LORD of hosts. My covenant was with him of life and peace; and I gave them to him for the fear wherewith he feared me, and was afraid before my name. The law of truth was in his mouth, and iniquity was not found in his lips: he walked with me in peace and equity, and did turn many away from iniquity. For the priest’s lips should keep knowledge, and they should seek the law at his mouth: for he is the messenger of the LORD of hosts.” (Malachi 2:4-7).
Like most covenants it was conditional. The well-being of God’s people depended on their performance as custodians and teachers of God’s law and way of life. The priests were His messengers (representatives) operating under an agreement (covenant). And their role as teachers was high-lighted by the phrase “For the priest’s lips should keep knowledge, and they ‘should seek the law at his (the priest’s) mouth:’. As God’s representatives (messengers) they were to teach His law and the method of worship required. According to Bullinger this was the first duty of the priests and more important than their ceremonial duties.
The Levitical priesthood began with Aaron along with his sons who were instructed to teach, “And that ye may teach the children of Israel all the statutes which the LORD hath spoken unto them by the hand of Moses.” (Leviticus 10:11). Later the covenant wasconfirmed with the Levite Phinehas because of his zeal, “And the LORD spake unto Moses, saying, Phinehas, the son of Eleazar, the son of Aaron the priest, hath turned my wrath away from the children of Israel, while he was zealous for my sake among them, that I consumed not the children of Israel in my jealousy. Wherefore say, Behold, I give unto him my covenant of peace: And he shall have it, and his seed after him, even the covenant of an everlasting priesthood; because he was zealous for his God, and made an atonement for the children of Israel.” (Numbers 25:10-13).
Just before entering the promised land their role was reaffirmed. “They (Levi) shall teach Jacob thy judgments, and Israel thy law: they shall put incense before thee, and whole burnt sacrifice upon thine altar.” (Deuteronomy 33:10). For which they were to be blessed, “Bless, LORD, his substance, and accept the work of his hands: smite through the loins of them that rise against him, and of them that hate him, that they rise not again.” (verse 11).
Because the priests had failed in their role they had become contemptible to God, “But ye are departed out of the way; ye have caused many to stumble at the law; ye have corrupted the covenant of Levi, saith the LORD of hosts. Therefore have I also made you contemptible and base before all the people, according as ye have not kept my ways, but have been partial in the law.” (Malachi 2:8-9).
Once again their lack of commitment had led the nation into spiritual adultery and because of this God said that He would cut them off, “Judah hath dealt treacherously, and an abomination is committed in Israel and in Jerusalem; for Judah hath profaned the holiness of the LORD which he loved, and hath married the daughter of a strange god. The LORD will cut off the man that doeth this, the master and the scholar, out of the tabernacles of Jacob, and him that offereth an offering unto the LORD of hosts. And this have ye done again, covering the altar of the LORD with tears, with weeping, and with crying out, insomuch that he regardeth not the offering any more, or receiveth it with good will at your hand.” (Malachi 2:11-13).
Their careless treatment of the law that allowed blemished sacrifices to be offered and intermarriage to occur had led the nation into spiritual adultery, “Yet ye say, Wherefore? Because the LORD hath been witness between thee and the wife of thy youth, against whom thou hast dealt treacherously: yet is she thy companion, and the wife of thy covenant. And did not he make one? Yet had he the residue of the spirit. And wherefore one? That he might seek a godly seed. Therefore take heed to your spirit, and let none deal treacherously against the wife of his youth. For the LORD, the God of Israel, saith that he hateth putting away: for one covereth violence with his garment, saith the LORD of hosts: therefore take heed to your spirit, that ye deal not treacherously.” (Malachi 2:14-16).
Because these priestly teachers had not fulfilled their primary function the whole nation had lost sight of the true God, His purpose and His plan. Their very words showed their lack of understanding, “Ye have wearied the LORD with your words. Yet ye say, Wherein have we wearied him? When ye say, Every one that doeth evil is good in the sight of the LORD, and he delighteth in them; or, Where is the God of judgment?” (Malachi 2:17-18).
Because of their failure to teach the people how to worship Him according to the instructions given, God said that He would send another teacher (messenger), “Behold, I will send my messenger, and he shall prepare the way before me: and the Lord, whom ye seek, shall suddenly come to his temple, even the messenger of the covenant, whom ye delight in: behold, he shall come, saith the LORD of hosts.” (Malachi 3:1).”
That messenger was John the Baptist. Christ said, “For this is he, of whom it is written, Behold, I send my messenger before thy face, which shall prepare thy way before thee.” (Matthew 11:10). John’s father was told that his son, “… shall be great in the sight of the Lord, and shall drink neither wine nor strong drink; and he shall be filled with the Holy Ghost, even from his mother’s womb. And many of the children of Israel shall he turn to the Lord their God. And he shall go before him in the spirit and power of Elias, to turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the disobedient to the wisdom of the just; to make ready a people prepared for the Lord.” (Luke 1:15-17).
John prepared the way for one who was greater than he, “The next day John seeth Jesus coming unto him, and saith, Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world.” (John 1:29). According to the New Bible Dictionary Jesus also regarded John ‘as the last and greatest member of the prophetic succession,’ “The law and the prophets were until John: since that time the kingdom of God is preached, and every man presseth into it.” ( Luke 16:16). As God’s messenger John prepared the way for Christ who introduced a new covenant that promised the Holy Spirit and eternal life.
Malachi 3:1 refers to two messengers; one to prepare the way for the other messenger who will also come to execute judgment, "Behold, I send My messenger, And he will prepare the way before Me. And the Lord, whom you seek, Will suddenly come to His temple, Even the Messenger of the covenant, In whom you delight. Behold, He is coming," Says the LORD of hosts.” (Malachi 3:1 NKJV).
The Living Bible shows this more clearly, “Listen, I will send my messenger before me who will prepare the way. And then the one you are looking for will come suddenly to his temple – the Messenger of God’s promises to bring you great joy,” (Living Bible).
Jesus Christ was represented by the Passover lamb, he is the lamb without blemish. He came to lay the foundation of the spiritual temple. He was also effectively a messenger. He brought a message from the Father about the Kingdom of God and taught a way of life based on the spirit of the law, “And Jesus went about all Galilee, teaching in their synagogues, and preaching the gospel of the kingdom,”(Matthew 4:23). The word‘gospel’ means good news – it was a message of good news about the coming Kingdom of God. His message will be preached to all the world before the end-time, “And this gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in all the world for a witness unto all nations; and then shall the end come.” (Matthew 24:14).
Having divested himself of his former glory he came as a human being to lay the foundation of the spiritual temple with his very life and he will also come again to that temple, which comprises his spirit led people in all his resurrected glory to execute judgment on his adversaries, “And the Lord, whom ye seek, shall suddenly come to his temple, even the messenger of the covenant, whom ye delight in: behold, he shall come, saith the LORD of hosts. But who may abide the day of his coming? and who shall stand when he appeareth? for he is like a refiner’s fire, and like fullers’ soap: And he shall sit as a refiner and purifier of silver: and he shall purify the sons of Levi, and purge them as gold and silver, that they may offer unto the LORD an offering in righteousness. Then shall the offering of Judah and Jerusalem be pleasant unto the LORD, as in the days of old, and as in former years.” (Malachi 3:1-4).
Messenger of the Covenant
The last sentence implies that when the messenger of the new covenant, Jesus Christ, comes to his temple of spirit-led people, represented in this prophecy by the name ‘Judah’ and to the city of Jerusalem, the seat of government, he will be pleased with them. Why? Because unlike their predecessors ancient Judah (and Israel) they will be worshipping God as instructed in spirit and truth, “But the hour cometh, and now is, when the true worshippers shall worship the Father in spirit and in truth: for the Father seeketh such to worship him. God is a Spirit: and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth.” (John 4:23-24).
Both John the Baptist and Christ were God’s messengers and teachers in their own right, hence the name of the Book of Malachi which means ‘my messenger’. It is a book that prophesies the ending of the old covenant and the beginning of the new. The old covenant, the old way of life, and the old temple all portrayed in physical terms the spiritual Kingdom of God that was the subject of Christ’s message and the way of life he taught.
Christ will not only execute judgment on the adversaries, he will also keep his promises concerning Jacob, “And I will come near to you to judgment; and I will be a swift witness against the sorcerers, and against the adulterers, and against false swearers, and against those that oppress the hireling in his wages, the widow, and the fatherless, and that turn aside the stranger from his right, and fear not me, saith the LORD of hosts. For I am the LORD, I change not; therefore ye sons of Jacob are not consumed.” (Malachi 3:5-6). The people represented by Jacob of the old covenant will eventually be resurrected along with the rest of the world in the Great White Throne judgment and be given the opportunity to be part of God’s Kingdom, and the people of the new covenant also represented in prophecy by the name Jacob, will be resurrected when Christ returns. In this way God will keep His promise to Jacob.
Chance of Redemption
In the meantime He gave Jacob of the old covenant yet another opportunity to redeem themselves at that time and to escape the physical punishment that would come upon them, “Even from the days of your fathers ye are gone away from mine ordinances, and have not kept them. Return unto me, and I will return unto you, saith the LORD of hosts. But ye said, Wherein shall we return? Will a man rob God? Yet ye have robbed me. But ye say, Wherein have we robbed thee? In tithes and offerings. Ye are cursed with a curse: for ye have robbed me, even this whole nation. Bring ye all the tithes into the storehouse, that there may be meat in mine house, and prove me now herewith, saith the LORD of hosts, if I will not open you the windows of heaven, and pour you out a blessing, that there shall not be room enough to receive it. And I will rebuke the devourer for your sakes, and he shall not destroy the fruits of your ground; neither shall your vine cast her fruit before the time in the field, saith the LORD of hosts. And all nations shall call you blessed: for ye shall be a delightsome land, saith the LORD of hosts.” (Malachi 3:7-12).
Emphasis on restoration of the tithe system was necessary to maintain the Levitical priesthood as commanded under the Old Covenant so they could perform their role, “And verily they that are of the sons of Levi, who receive the office of the priesthood, have a commandment to take tithes of the people according to the law, that is, of their brethren, though they come out of the loins of Abraham:” (Hebrews 7:5).
But when the New Covenant was introduced the law concerning tithing was changed. It was no longer necessary to support the priesthood because they had been replaced by a new teacher – Jesus Christ, our High Priest, “For the priesthood being changed, there is made of necessity a change also of the law.”. And, “For there is verily a disannulling of the commandment going before for the weakness and unprofitableness thereof.”. Also, “For the law maketh men high priests which have infirmity; but the word of the oath, which was since the law, maketh the Son, who is consecrated for evermore.” (Hebrews 7:12,18 and 28).
The human priesthood which served under the Old Covenant was a shadow of a better covenant that was to be administered by the Son of God, “For if he were on earth, he should not be a priest, seeing that there are priests that offer gifts according to the law: Who serve unto the example and shadow of heavenly things, as Moses was admonished of God when he was about to make the tabernacle: for, See, saith he, that thou make all things according to the pattern shewed to thee in the mount. But now hath he obtained a more excellent ministry, by how much also he is the mediator of a better covenant, which was established upon better promises. For if that first covenant had been faultless, then should no place have been sought for the second. For finding fault with them, he saith, Behold, the days come, saith the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah: Not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers in the day when I took them by the hand to lead them out of the land of Egypt; because they continued not in my covenant, and I regarded them not, saith the Lord.” (Hebrews 8:4-9).
Attitude Tells All
In Malachi’s time the inadequacies of the human priesthood under the Old Covenant were apparent by their attitude, “Your words have been stout against me, saith the LORD. Yet ye say, What have we spoken so much against thee? Ye have said, It is vain to serve God: and what profit is it that we have kept his ordinance, and that we have walked mournfully before the LORD of hosts? And now we call the proud happy; yea, they that work wickedness are set up; yea, they that tempt God are even delivered.” (Malachi 3:13-15).
God said that He was aware of those who had the right attitude toward Him for which they will be duly rewarded, whereas those who didn’t will face judgment when Christ returns at the end of this age, “Then they that feared the LORD spake often one to another: and the LORD hearkened, and heard it, and a book of remembrance was written before him for them that feared the LORD, and that thought upon his name. And they shall be mine, saith the LORD of hosts, in that day when I make up my jewels; and I will spare them, as a man spareth his own son that serveth him. Then shall ye return, and discern between the righteous and the wicked, between him that serveth God and him that serveth him not.” (Malachi 3:16-18).
Evil to be Overcome
God says the day will come when those who respect Him shall flourish and triumph over evil which will be destroyed, “For, behold, the day cometh, that shall burn as an oven; and all the proud, yea, and all that do wickedly, shall be stubble: and the day that cometh shall burn them up, saith the LORD of hosts, that it shall leave them neither root nor branch. But unto you that fear my name shall the Sun of righteousness arise with healing in his wings; and ye shall go forth, and grow up as calves of the stall. And ye shall tread down the wicked; for they shall be ashes under the soles of your feet in the day that I shall do this, saith the LORD of hosts.” (Malachi 4:1-3).
This is the theme throughout the prophets reaching right back to God’s promise to Abraham when He said, “And I will bless them that bless thee, and curse him that curseth thee: and in thee shall all families of the earth be blessed.” (Genesis 12:3).
He reminded the remnant of Malachi’s time to carry out what they had been instructed to do under the Old Covenant that had been ratified in the time of Moses, “Remember ye the law of Moses my servant, which I commanded unto him in Horeb for all Israel, with the statutes and judgments.” (Malachi 4:4).
The closing words in the book of Malachi have caused a great deal of speculation over the centuries, “Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the LORD: And he shall turn the heart of the fathers to the children, and the heart of the children to their fathers, lest I come and smite the earth with a curse.” (Malachi 4:5-6). Somewhere between the time the book of Malachi was written and the Day of the Lord someone in the power of Elijah was going to preach a message that would turn the hearts of the children to their fathers and vice versa.
While most commentaries agree that this refers to John the Baptist, some people believe that it is referring to an end-time Elijah. Claims have been made that a specific person is, or was, the end-time Elijah! Does the Bible validate these claims?
Who did Christ name as the Elijah? “And as they departed, Jesus began to say unto the multitudes concerning John, What went ye out into the wilderness to see? A reed shaken with the wind? But what went ye out for to see? A man clothed in soft raiment? behold, they that wear soft clothing are in kings’ houses. But what went ye out for to see? A prophet? yea, I say unto you, and more than a prophet. For this is he, of whom it is written, Behold, I send my messenger before thy face, which shall prepare thy way before thee. Verily I say unto you, Among them that are born of women there hath not risen a greater than John the Baptist: notwithstanding he that is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he. And from the days of John the Baptist until now the kingdom of heaven suffereth violence, and the violent take it by force. For all the prophets and the law prophesied until John. And if ye will receive it, this is Elias, which was for to come. He that hath ears to hear, let him hear.” (Matthew 11:7-15). There can be no doubt that John the Baptist was the Elijah referred to in Malachi 4:5-6, but will there also be an ‘end-time’ Elijah?
Any claims that a specific person is, or was, an end-time Elijah is pure speculation and cannot be verified by the Bible. The Book of Revelation which reveals what will occur at the end of this age does not mention an end-time Elijah! It does, however say that there will be two witnesses in the end-time who will have powers similar to both Elijah and Moses. They will be able to bring fire down from heaven and to instigate plagues, “And I will give power unto my two witnesses, and they shall prophesy a thousand two hundred and threescore days, clothed in sackcloth. These are the two olive trees, and the two candlesticks standing before the God of the earth. And if any man will hurt them, fire proceedeth out of their mouth, and devoureth their enemies: and if any man will hurt them, he must in this manner be killed. These have power to shut heaven, that it rain not in the days of their prophecy: and have power over waters to turn them to blood, and to smite the earth with all plagues, as often as they will.” (Revelation 11: 3-6).
As mentioned earlier in this paper these two witnesses are described as, “The two sons of the oil, who are standing by the Lord of the whole earth.” (Darby, and Young’s Literal Translation). ‘Sons of oil’ as opposed to sons of God, or sons of man, which seems to indicate that they are angelic beings who administered to Jesus Christ when He was on this earth. They could have been the same two who witnessed his departure, “And while they looked stedfastly toward heaven as he went up, behold, two men stood by them in white apparel;” (Acts 1:10). And it is also possible that these two anointed ones were symbolized by the two protecting cherubs over the mercy seat in the tabernacle (Exodus 25:18-20).
The two witnesses mentioned in Revelation 11:3-6 (above) will appear just prior to the return of Christ, a time when the gospel of the Kingdom of God will be preached to all the world, “And this gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in all the world for a witness unto all nations; and then shall the end come.” (Matthew 24:14). These are the two Zechariah spoke about, the two anointed ones, “Then answered I, and said unto him, What are these two olive trees upon the right side of the candlestick and upon the left side thereof?”. And, “These are the two anointed ones, that stand by the Lord of the whole earth.” (Zechariah 4:11 and 14).
After the two witnesses Christ, the Lamb of God, will return as King of Kings to rule the earth and to usher in a new age, “These shall make war with the Lamb, and the Lamb shall overcome them: for he is Lord of lords, and King of kings: and they that are with him are called, and chosen, and faithful.” (Revelation 17:14). “And I saw heaven opened, and behold a white horse; and he that sat upon him was called Faithful and True, and in righteousness he doth judge and make war. His eyes were as a flame of fire, and on his head were many crowns; and he had a name written, that no man knew, but he himself. And he was clothed with a vesture dipped in blood: and his name is called The Word of God. And the armies which were in heaven followed him upon white horses, clothed in fine linen, white and clean. And out of his mouth goeth a sharp sword, that with it he should smite the nations: and he shall rule them with a rod of iron: and he treadeth the winepress of the fierceness and wrath of Almighty God. And he hath on his vesture and on his thigh a name written, KING OF KINGS, AND LORD OF LORDS” (Revelation 19:11-16).
Malachi in modern terms is a ‘state of the nation’ speech from the throne of God with regard to the remnant of His people, Israel just prior to Christ’s ministry. He defined the problem that resulted in the current state of affairs and laid the blame at the feet of those responsible. And they were the religious leaders who were meant to be custodians and teachers of God’s law and the way of life God’s people were required to live at that time under the Old Covenant as an example to the rest of the world.
He reminded them of their duties, issued a final warning for them to fulfil their role until relieved of their duties. Yes, they are to be replaced by a new regime for which he is sending John the Baptist (a messenger) to prepare the way. The way for a new teacher and leader who will teach those whom God calls to worship in spirit and truth under the New Covenant. A teacher who will take his role to heart to the extent that he will lay down his life so that the rest of the world can succeed. He laid down his life as the foundation of a spiritual temple to which he will return in the end-time to complete the process of salvation of all of mankind.
The Holy Bible, King James Version, NKJV and Living Bible.
The Companion Bible, Reprinted 1964, Samuel Bagster and Sons Limited, London.
The Jewish Study Bible, JPS Tanakh Translation, 2004 Oxford University Press, New York.
The Bible Handbook, Joseph Angus, M.A., D.D. Second Impression 1959, Marshall, Morgan & Scott, Edinburgh.
New Bible Dictionary, Second Edition, Inter-varsity Press, Leicester, England, 1986.
New Bible Commentary, Third Edition, Inter-varsity Press, Leicester, England, 1986.
The Complete Works of Josephus, Flavius Josephus. Translated by William Whiston, A.M. Kregel Publications Grand Rapids, Michigan 49501.