Zechariah 12–14. Will There Be Two Final Wars?

Key Notes: Distaste for eschatology. A pattern of ups and downs. Why would anyone want Palestine? Mass return to Christ. The sheep scattered. Two wars.

Zechariah 12–14 contains vital information concerning the Last Days and the Second Coming of Christ. The phrase “on that Day” occurs 16 times in these three chapters. The phrase does not require a single calendar day, but a period of time in which God acts dramatically in judgment and rescue.
The chapters are detailed and quite clear. They are nevertheless difficult to integrate into other materials about the Second Coming of Christ. We may end with more questions than we began.

The explanations of this part of Zechariah were received well by the class until they were applied to the wider scope of the future. Then wry faces appeared and there was obvious discomfort. The doctrine of the future (Eschatology) has been the source of dogmatism and rancor for many years and has led many thinking people to duck and run when the topic is brought up. However, eschatology is one of the 6–7 major topics of Scripture and we ignore it with danger to ourselves. God does not waste words, even if we do.

J.M.Boice has studied and written on Zechariah. His notes support the historical /prophetic approach that is used in this lesson. {The Minor Prophets. Baker, 2002. Vol.2, pp.545–567)

The last six chapters of Zechariah show an interesting pattern of ups and downs.
Ch. 9   ~ God saves Jerusalem from Alexander’s conquest; Christ is prophesied ~ Up
Ch. 10 ~ From sheep to leaders. Israel is regathered in strength. ~ Up
Ch. 11 ~ The Shepherd is discredited. An anti-shepherd appears ~ Down
Ch. 12 ~ Israel wins an international war ~ Up
               ~ Christ’s Coming leads to large-scale repentance ~ Up
Ch. 13 ~ The shepherd is killed and the sheep are scattered, but refined ~ Down
Ch. 14 ~ Israel loses in international war until Christ intervenes ~ Up
               ~ An enduring reign of peace and justice follows ~ Up

Both of the negative (down) topics are about the rejection of the Shepherd. But the rejection of Christ is part of his First Coming, whereas we think that all the rest of this section except chapter 9 belong to the time after Israel’s regathering.
Why this pattern is used is not clear, although palindrome and chiasmic (up and down) style is seen in other prophets. Further, prophetic “telescoping” is illustrated; the distant vision of the prophet is two-dimensional. Near and far peaks on the horizon cannot be distinguished in time.

12:1–9   The God who will help Israel is the God who made earth and heaven and put the breath of life in Man. That opening sentence suggests how important this event will be.
The "cup of reeling" is a description of intoxication and confusion which God induces in those He is punishing—in this case, invading armies. Isaiah said Israel had to drink this cup before (Isa. 51:22), and it is typically given to the wicked (Psa. 75:8) as part of their judgment. They are rendered mindless and incompetent to carry out their intentions—also defenseless—so they end up ruined.

The horses are blinded but God’s eyes are opened upon the House of Judah.

The idea that all nations would come against Israel was not plausible a hundred years ago. There was nothing in Palestine worth more than a visit. Even now there is only a little oil, no gold or diamonds, a little copper and some mineral salts in the Dead Sea. There is also good silica for making ceramics. The centuries-old hatred of Moslems against the Jews was focused by the return of Jews to Palestine in the 20th century. The hatred of Moslems is hard to understand—Jews and Arabs are half-brothers, their languages are similar, and their religions have common origins. Jealousy is a factor, no doubt, but anti-Semitism is a curse that God put on Israel, as we have already seen.

The invading horses and their riders (cavalry) will go crazy. The components of Israel (“the House of David,” Judah, Jerusalem) be like a fire, but Jerusalem will remain intact. God will shield them and make them virtually superhuman in the fight. Israel will recognize that God is with them. Some fulfillment of this kind has been seen more than once in the last 50 years. So far it has not led to a significant spiritual awakening.

12:10–13:6   God will pour out on Israel a spirit of prayer and lovingkindness toward Him. “When they will look on Him whom they have pierced, they will mourn for Him as for an only child. ”  We are able to clarify the meaning by comparing similar passages.

“They shall look on Him whom they have pierced.” Jn.’:37
The first fulfillment of this prophecy was at the Cross and refers to Christ crucified.

“Behold He comes with the clouds and every eye will see Him, every one who pierced Him, and all tribes of the earth will wail because of Him.” Rev. 1:7
This prophecy extends the concept of the End Times to all people on earth. It also gives the lie to those who say the Jews crucified Him. Revelation says everyone pierced Him.

“Immediately after the tribulation…then will appear the sign of the Son of Man in heaven and then all the tribes of the earth will mourn, and they will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory; and He will send out His angels with a loud trumpet call, and they will gather His elect from the four winds….” (Matt. 24:29–31)
Jesus confirms to us that this vision of the Pierced One comes at His Second Coming, that it is world-wide, and ends with the regathering of the saints from around the world.

Zechariah 12 says that Israel will see Jesus at His Second Coming and weep in remorse and repentance. Jesus adds the important detail that His appearing will be after the Tribulation. The mourning will be intense, with royalty (families of David and Nathan) and priests (families of Levi and Shimei) praying together, with men and women in separate groups.

13:1–6   Their remorse is not like that of Jesus' disciple, Judas’---useless. God will open a fountain for cleansing from sin. The names of the idols will be removed. False prophets will be embarrassed and lie about their vocations. They will not disguise themselves with the hairy mantle of Elijah, later worn by John the Baptist. If they cut themselves as the prophets of Baal did, they will lie about it. Their own parents may kill them as Moses ordered for false prophets. Deut. 13:9

13:7–9   “Awake, O sword, against my shepherd, against the one who stands next to me, says the Lord of Hosts.”  The Shepherd, the One who stands next to the Lord of Hosts, is Christ. (Stephen saw Jesus standing at the right hand of God. Acts 7:56).
"Strike the shepherd, that the sheep may be scattered." Jesus quoted this passage before His death (Matt.26:31) so the passage is a clear reference to His death and the immediate fate of the disciples.
When the shepherd is struck, the sheep will be scattered and only a third will survive. God will purify this remnant, and they will be His people. This may represent the Jewish believers after the 70AD destruction of Jerusalem.

14:1–11   A battle of all the nations against Jerusalem is described a second time. Is it the same battle as in Zech. 12? Plainly not. This time the city is taken, with rape and pillage and refugees. (Rev. 11:2 says the nations will trample on the Holy City for 42 months.)
This time Christ appears not to turn hearts back to Him, but to save the city and the nation. His arrival site is the Mount of Olives (as the angel predicted to the apostles in Acts 1:11, 12 when He ascended). This time He comes with all the Holy Ones. And finally there will be enduring change in the heavens and the earth.

Water flowing from Jerusalem is also described in Ezek. 47:1 and Joel 3:18, flowing from the Temple, and in Rev. 22:1 from the Throne of God.

An earthquake will split the Mount of Olives east and west, with part moving north and part south. A severe earthquake in the time of Uzziah is also mentioned by Amos (Amos 1:1). This is interesting because the Rift Valley east of Jerusalem is an earthquake zone running north and south. An earthquake affected the Temple Mount at Jesus’ death. (Matt. 27:51). The Mosque on the Temple Mount has been damaged by earthquake in the recent past. The Temple Mount has also recently been weakened by excavation underneath.

14:12–21   A plague that causes loss of eye and tongue, that afflicts animals as well as people, and that causes panic but not death sounds like a sickness not yet described.

The reign of peace is seen not to be a time of idleness. The peoples who survive will be obliged to return to Jerusalem yearly for the festival of Succoth. We are puzzled by repeated mention of a rebuilt Temple and sacrifices in the time which must be after Christ’s first Advent. Ezekiel 40–48 is notable for its elaborate descriptions of the new Temple and its functions. On the other hand, the writing prophets are routinely critical of the sacrifices. Paul refers to our bodies as the sacrifices.

We are tempted to try to reconcile these prophecies with the rest of Scripture.
The only other place where two final wars are described is in Revelation.
Rev. 19:11–16 describes Christ appearing to destroy His enemies. A second war is described after the Millennium when Satan is released; and there is another, mercifully short, world war before the final consummation. Rev. 20:7–9

The prophet is telling us for the first time that the mourning that comes with the Lord’s return will be accompanied by wide-spread repentance, the salvation of Israel, and the Lord Jesus’ reign on the earth.
“…and so all Israel will be saved, as it is written, ‘The Deliverer will come from Zion; He will banish ungodliness from Jacob.’” (Rom. 11:26).

Lord, please come Now!