Three Appearances, 5

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Eschatology is the study of last things; the events of the last days. It’s by no means settled theology. Within the bounds of orthodox Christianity, opinions vary greatly as to the order of the events of the last days, or even if some of those events will be real or not. I’ve already mentioned the doctrine of the Rapture, the great snatching away of the Church just prior to the the revelation of the Antichrist and the Tribulation. Many Christians believe this will happen. I’m one of them. Yet at the same time, some Christians do not believe in the Rapture. They allegorize and spiritualize certain passages of Scripture that proponents of that doctrine take literally. In the end, though, whether or not you believe that a rapture will take place is for you to decide yourself, after you yourself study the what the Word has to say. Believing it or not doesn’t impact your salvation one wit.

The same “controversy” surrounds the personal reign of Jesus Christ. All believers must believe in the literal, physical, visible return of Christ to the earth. That’s a primary doctrine. But the idea of a literal Millennial kingdom, like the rapture, is a source of some contention. Those who think that God is done with Israel (many in the Reform camp think this) don’t see a literal Millennium. The rest of us see the Millennial reign of Christ as an absolute imperative because of the many promises God made to the nation of Israel – promises of ultimate deliverance and restoration.

There are many prophecies in the Old Testament foretelling this future reign of Christ. Chief among them is what Zechariah had to say. His visions and prophecies are messianic and millennial. Take a look –

Zechariah 2:10

“Shout and be glad, O Daughter of Zion. For I am coming, and I will live among you,” declares the Lord. (Zechariah 2:10 | NIV84)

“Daughter of Zion” is another way of talking about Jerusalem. Elements of the Christian church have appropriated this verse (and ones like it) for themselves. “Zion,” they say, is really the Church. However, this is God talking through His prophet, and God spoke of Zion. The normative way to read “Zion” is not to replace it with “the Church,” but to leave it alone. God is not talking about the Church, He is talking about Zion, a hill in Israel associated with Jerusalem. This is a prophecy given to God’s people and the way to read it is to read it the way they would have read it.

Above all, you must understand that no prophecy of Scripture came about by the prophet’s own interpretation. For prophecy never had its origin in the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit. (2 Peter 1:20-21 | NIV84)

So this word of prophecy, then, concerns a time when the Messiah will come to Zion, Jerusalem, to live among His people. This is not a “spiritual coming,” but a literal one. One day, our Lord will return to earth and He will return to Jerusalem and He will live – at last – among His people. This obviously hasn’t happened yet. This can’t be referring to His first coming.

Zechariah 6:12, 13

Tell him this is what the Lord Almighty says: ‘Here is the man whose name is the Branch, and he will branch out from his place and build the temple of the Lord. It is he who will build the temple of the Lord, and he will be clothed with majesty and will sit and rule on his throne. And he will be a priest on his throne. And there will be harmony between the two.’ (Zechariah 6:12-13 | NIV84)

This passage speaks of an actual event in Zechariah’s time. Three men had returned to Jerusalem from Babylon after the end of the Jewish captivity there. What’s interesting about these three men is that they returned all on their own; they were not part of either of the two groups that would constitute the remnant that would rebuild Jerusalem. Their names were: Heldai (“robust”), Tobijah (“God’s goodness), and Jedaiah (“God knows”). Jewish names are always important, especially here, given what was about to happen. If we link these names together, as God intended us to do, we learn something important: God knows that through His goodness He intends to put His king upon the throne, and He will do it in a robust, powerful manner.

Here’s what Zechariah was to do:

Take the silver and gold and make a crown, and set it on the head of the high priest, Joshua son of Jehozadak. (Zechariah 6:11 | NIV84)

This is a bizarre verse for a couple of reasons. First, the high priest Joshua was to be the first king after the Babylonian Captivity. Funny thing is, it was Zerubbabel, not Joshua, who was in the line of David. Originally, only descendants of David were to be kings of Judah. Yet, here God told Zechariah not to anoint a descendant of David’s but another. Why? It’s because the next descendant of David to sit on the throne will be The Lord Jesus Christ after He returns to earth to establish His kingdom.

The other bizarre aspect of this verse is that God expressly told the Israelites not to combine the offices of high priest and king, and yet here God intended Joshua the high priest to also be the king. What’s that all about? Zechariah didn’t know it, but he was really foreshadowing the fact that one day, the true High Priest would return to earth as King of Kings. The then-high priest Joshua, a variant of the name Jesus, is representative of Jesus Christ, our great High Priest today. This fact is borne out in Hebrews.

Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has gone through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to the faith we profess. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are–yet was without sin. (Hebrews 4:14-15 | NIV84)

Jesus is our great High Priest right now, today. After His death and resurrection, Jesus ascended into heaven and is function as our High Priest in God’s presence now.

Here’s something really interesting. In the three appearances of Jesus, we see not only the three aspects of our salvation, but also His three-fold ministry. At His first appearance, Jesus came to earth to minister as God’s prophet – He came to speak for God; He Himself was the Word of God even as He revealed God in human form. At His second appearance, in heaven, Jesus is working as our High Priest, ministering for us before God the Father. At His side, Jesus intervenes for us when we sin; He prays for us to His Father. And one day, at His third appearance, He will come back to earth as King of Kings and Lord of Lords.

Zechariah 14:3, 4

Then the Lord will go out and fight against those nations, as he fights in the day of battle. 4 On that day his feet will stand on the Mount of Olives, east of Jerusalem, and the Mount of Olives will be split in two from east to west, forming a great valley, with half of the mountain moving north and half moving south. (Zechariah 14:3-4 | NIV84)

Chapter 14 is the last chapter of Zechariah and it is wholly prophetic. The prophecies in this chapter have never been fulfilled – not historically in Israel, not in our present day. These are true “last days” prophecies. When we read Zechariah 14, we are reading about events yet to occur, events that will usher in the end of time as we know it. You will find many liberal Bible scholars who reject the prophetic word; who will allegorize and spiritualize these prophecies. To people like that, prophecy is anathema. They fight tooth and nail strip the supernatural from the Bible. When you do that, you open the door to all manner of strange interpretations.

A good rule of thumb is to take the words of the Bible – even words of Biblical prophecy – literally whenever and wherever possible. Read the Bible in the normal way; the way the original readers would have read it. Understand it as they would have. Make sure you know its context. In other words, know what came before and after the passage or verses you may be looking at.

Looking at 14:3 this way, we see a picture of Israel’s great Deliverer who will come to fight for His people. When our Lord returns to earth, this is how He will come and this is why all those Jews who are looking for their Messiah will recognize Him.

Verse 4 is a thrilling verse for Christians and Jews alike. It will literally happen. Just look at the specifics; these are real places, real locations. Our Lord will return exactly as prophesied here. When Jesus returns, He will touch down and stand on The Mount of Olives.

Zechariah 14:9

The Lord will be king over the whole earth. On that day there will be one Lord, and his name the only name. (Zechariah 14:9 | NIV84)

Well, it can’t be any plainer than this. When Jesus returns, He will be King. When he comes back, there will be one Lord. Do you understand what that means? No false religions. No more death cults. Only Jesus.

Then will I purify the lips of the peoples,that all of them may call on the name of the Lord and serve him shoulder to shoulder. (Zephaniah 3:9 | NIV84)

This verse tells us what will happen after the dark days of judgment. It means that with Jesus as King, there will be no blasphemy. There will be no profanity or vulgarity or repulsive, offensive speech. The language spoken on earth when Jesus is King will be pure. Not only that, man will serve the Lord. In other words, there will be no rebellion against God or the things and people of God.

This Millennial kingdom of Christ’s – a true theocracy – will be a wondrous place to live. Earth will finally have its “utopia.” Man has always wanted to build his utopia, by the way. Gene Roddenberry’s vision of utopia took place in the twenty third century. On Star Trek, nobody needs money and earth is at peace. But the idea that man will evolve all the badness out of himself and that technology and knowledge will make money a thing of distance memory is preposterous; it  just isn’t possible. Because even in the twenty third century, man will still need to use the bathroom and not every citizen of earth will be the captain of a starship. Somebody will to clean the toilets, and what if that janitor doesn’t want to? Peace and harmony will only be possible when God makes it possible, dealing with the stain of sin in man. It’s not man’s environment that makes man a sinner.  More on that next time.

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