Preterists insist upon "a first century fulfillment of all things
written," because of their interpretation of the statement of Jesus,
that his generation would not pass, till all be fulfilled. [Luke 21:32]
In the next verse Jesus said, "Heaven and earth shall pass away: but
words shall not pass away." [Luke 21:33]
Preterists fail to consider that since Jesus rose from the grave, his generation has not passed away, and therefore it is a unique generation. It will not pass away, ever!
Some preterists say that heaven and earth have passed away, because that is one of the things included in "till all be fulfilled" in the previous verse. And some even insist that the resurrection has already occurred, a doctrine condemned in 2 Tim. 2:18.
What a sad predicament, to be captive to a "first century fulfillment" view of prophecy! That is the preterist view, in a nutshell. But surely it must be a delusion, because it takes such a limited view of things. God claims to be able to foretell the end of things from the beginning.
Remember the former things of old: for I am God, and there is none else; I am God, and there is none like me,
Declaring the end from the beginning, and from ancient times the things that are not yet done, saying, My counsel shall stand, and I will do all my pleasure:
Prophecy was given by the spirit of Christ, Peter tells us.
2 Peter 1:21
For the prophecy came not in old time by the will of man: but holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Spirit.
The interpretation of prophecy is of God too. Joseph said, "Do not interpretations belong to God?" [Gen. 40:8]
Let's consider Zechariah's prophecy of chapter 14. Does a "first century fulfillment" view work?
Obviously, the events related in Zech. 14 did not occur in 70 AD, which presents a problem for the full preterists, who insist upon "a first century fulfillment of all things written."
Some of these problems were discussed by Thomas Ice, in his article "Preterism and Zechariah 12-14."
Ice reported on an exchange he had with Dr. Gentry, a preterist:
During a time of questions I ask Dr. Gentry about Zechariah 12-14 and preterism. I first asked him if he believed, as a preterist, that Zechariah 12-14 was a parallel passage to the Olivet Discourse (Matthew 24-25; Mark 13; Luke21:5-36). He answered, "Yes." I agree! I then noted that Zechariah speaks of "all the peoples" (12:2), "all the nations of the earth will be gathered against it (Jerusalem)" (12:3), and "I will gather all the nations against Jerusalem to battle" (14:2). "This does not sound like the Romans in a.d. 70," I said. Further, Zechariah goes on to say, "In that day the Lord will defend the inhabitants of Jerusalem" (12:8) and "Then the Lord will go forth and fight against those nations, as when He fights on a day of battle" (14:3). I concluded that this does not fit with what happened to Jerusalem in a.d. 70 when the Romans conquered Israel. Finally, it says that the Lord will rescue Israel, in that day (14:3), whereas, in a.d. 70 the Lord judged Israel as Luke 21:20-24 notes. "How does a preterist say that Zechariah speaks of a.d. 70 when the Lord is rescuing His people in that passage," I asked Dr.Gentry?
Now keep in mind that Dr. Gentry is one of foremost preterist spokesmen on the planet. His answer, in essence, was to say that the Church had replaced Israel.
The dilemma of Zech. 14 for preterism was also discussed by Brian Simmons, in: "Zechariah 14: Preteristic Or Pre-Millennial?"
In Zech. 14:4 Christ is described as standing on the Mount of Olives. "And His feet shall stand on that day upon the Mount of Olives." If the Holy Spirit had meant that Christ's coming would be providential and not personal, why did He use terminology which implies the exact opposite?
On the other hand, if He had meant a personal coming, could He have described it any better? For the planting of Divine feet upon a mountain certainly denotes a personal visitation. Therefore, accepting the language of Scripture as absolute and authoritative, we conclude that the coming of Christ as described in Zechariah 14 will definitely be personal, and will constitute the fulfillment of Acts 1: 11, in which it was revealed by angelic sources that the Lord would return in "like manner" as the apostles saw Him ascend into heaven-that is, personally and bodily.
Knowing that this never occurred in A.D. 70, Preterists twist these verses out of their context, enforcing an allegorical and mystical meaning which robs language of any kind of signification. They tell us that Zechariah 14 was written in "symbolic language;" but for some reason, they can't explain to us what the symbols mean. The Hyper-Preterists are the main offenders in this department of eisegesis. But many partial preterists, knowing that their theology, too, is on the line, have agreed with the Hyper-Preterists in their assertions that Zechariah 14 is totally "past fulfillment." Shame on them all.
The gospel accounts clearly show that Christ stood on the Mount of Olives during his ministry, which would fulfill the words of Zechariah, "And his feet shall stand in that day upon the mount of Olives, which is before Jerusalem on the east" in Zech. 14:4.
Dispensationalists look for a future, literal fulfillment of the prophecy. For them, Jerusalem must be the earthly city, not the church, and the Mount of Olives must be literally divided by an earthquake. But why would people flee towards the zone of major earth movements? What would they flee from? That makes little sense.
A preterist explanation of Zech. 14 was attempted by Gary DeMar. In "Zechariah 14 in History and Prophecy: Part 1," DeMar writes:
In Zechariah 14:2, we learn that God will gather "all the nations against Jerusalem to battle" (see Part 2), with the result that the city would be "captured, the houses plundered, the women ravished, and half the city exiled" (Zech. 14:2). While dispensationalists apply this verse to a post-rapture great tribulation, and amillennialists apply it to the persecution of the church down through the ages, I contend that the passage refers to the domination of Israel by the Romans and Herodians in the period leading up to the Incarnation and ministry of Jesus.
In Part 3, DeMar wrote:
Early Christian writers applied Zechariah 14:4 to the work of Christ in His day. Tertullian (A.D. 145-220) wrote: "'But at night He went out to the Mount of Olives.' For thus had Zechariah pointed out: 'And His feet shall stand in that day on the Mount of Olives' [Zech. xiv. 4]." Tertullian was alluding to the fact that the Olivet prophecy set the stage for the judgment coming of Christ that came with the destruction of Jerusalem in A.D. 70 which would once for all break down the Jewish/Gentile division inherent in the Old Covenant.
Matthew Henry, while alluding to its symbolic meaning, interprets it in a preterist fashion in events leading up to and including the destruction of Jerusalem in A.D. 70: "The partition-wall between Jew and Gentiles shall be taken away. The mountains about Jerusalem, and particularly this, signified it to be an enclosure, and that it stood in the way of those who would approach to it. Between the Gentiles and Jerusalem this mountain of Bether, of division, stood, Cant. ii. 17. But by the destruction of Jerusalem this mountain shall be made to cleave in the midst, and so the Jewish pale shall be taken down, and the church laid in common with the Gentiles, who were made one with the Jews by the breaking down of this middle wall of partition, Eph. ii. 14."
DeMar appealed to interpretations offered by Tertullian, Eusebius, and Matthew Henry. The significance of the Mount of Olives being split, they suggested, was similar to that of the removal of the partition separating Jewish and Gentile areas in the temple, which Paul related to the gospel going to Gentiles in Eph. 2:14.
A problem with DeMar's suggestion is that the Mount of Olives is not a serious obstacle, for people wishing to travel to and from Jerusalem. And why didn't the apostle Paul, or other writers in the NT, notice, if such a major prophecy had been fulfilled in their time? The preterist interpretation seems far-fetched, inferior, and redundant, and fails to explain Zechariah's prophecy.
While the dispensationalist approach assumes the prophecy applies to the city of Jerusalem, the church is also called Jerusalem. It is the heavenly Jerusalem of Heb. 12:22-23.
When Jesus called Jerusalem "the city of the great King" [Mat. 5:35] he referred not to the earthly city, as that description does not fit. It applies to the heavenly Jerusalem, the church, which is also called the bride of the Lamb. [Rev. 21:9]
In Zech. 14:8, "living waters" flow from Jerusalem.
And it shall be in that day, that living waters shall go out from Jerusalem; half of them toward the former sea, and half of them toward the hinder sea: in summer and in winter shall it be.
Clearly these "living waters" represent the spirit of God and the gospel going forth from the church to the world. Only the church has been promised the holy spirit, represented by "living waters" as Jesus showed. [John 7:37-39]
In Zech. 14:2, the church is pictured, under the figure of a city called Jerusalem, surrounded on all sides by its adversaries. It is similar to the "camp of the saints" and "the beloved city," in Rev. 20, which is compassed about by hordes of people from all parts of the earth, deceived by Satan. [Rev. 20:8-9]
The adversaries of the saints include various rival systems of interpretation. The saints are in all parts of the earth, and many are captive in thousands of sects and denominations, which divide the spoil, the things that properly belong to the church, in our midst. Prophecy is one of the things included in the spoil.
The Lord stood on the Mount of Olives during his ministry, and especially when he gave the Olivet Discourse to his disciples. I suggest the mount of Olives represents Jesus' prophecy in Zech. 14:4.
The Mount of Olives dividing into two halves, and half moving to the north, and half to the south, may represent the two rival interpretations of the prophecy of Jesus, preterism and dispensationalism. Both these theories displace the prophecy from its proper application in time. Preterism insists upon a first century fulfillment. This is represented by half of the Mount of Olives being displaced towards the north, and dispensationalism, which insists on a literal, future fulfillment, is represented by the half of the mountain that is displaced towards the south. Zechariah says to flee to the wide valley between those two halves of the mountain.
4 And his feet shall stand in that day upon the mount of Olives, which is before Jerusalem on the east, and the mount of Olives shall cleave in the midst thereof toward the east and toward the west, and there shall be a very great valley; and half of the mountain shall remove toward the north, and half of it toward the south.
5 And ye shall flee to the valley of the mountains; for the valley of the mountains shall reach unto Azal: yea, ye shall flee, like as ye fled from before the earthquake in the days of Uzziah king of Judah: and the LORD my God shall come, and all the saints with thee.
Thus the Olivet Discourse is not about the Jews in the first century, or Jews in a future seven year tribulation, but about the church, during the entire period of its history. This is supported by W.M. Alexander's commentary, which applies the prophecy of Zech. 14 to the church.
At this point we may conveniently pause to inquire into the meaning and intent of the oracle, the signification of the language of which we have been engaged in investigating. As it is an expansion with fuller details of the prophecy in the close of the preceding chapter, we must start from the assumption that what is referred to here is not any one great historical event, or any series of events, but the kingdom of God in its experience and development and ultimate triumph, in the world. The highly figurative description of the prophet, couched in language which does not admit of a literal interpretation, of itself necessitates our resorting to a spiritual application of his utterance. The appearance of Jehovah on Mount Olivet, the sudden cleaving of that mountain by an earthquake, so as to cause a valley to stretch through its centre, the extinguishing of the heavenly luminaries, causing a darkness that might be felt to overspread the land, the breaking forth of light at evening when, according to natural law, darkness should begin to assume the sway, the sending forth of streams from one point in diametrically opposite directions, the making of the whole hilly region round Jerusalem into a plain like the Arabah, so as that Jerusalem should come to be elevated over the whole land--all that is so conspicuously figurative that a literal interpretation of it has never been seriously proposed by any one except some of the Rabbins. Figurative also is the representation of a gathering of all nations against Jerusalem; this at no time has been realised, nor could it be so at any time. But if all this be figurative, it cannot be of Jerusalem as the actual metropolis of Judea that the prophet here speaks; it must be to Jerusalem as to the centre of the kingdom of heaven upon earth, and as representing that kingdom that the oracle relates. Hence in the overthrow and ruin of Jerusalem here described we are to find the abolition of the ancient economy, the decaying and vanishing away of the former under which the kingdom had been established of old, an event which was brought about by the assault of the hostile heathen powers of the world. The kingdom itself, however, was not thereby averted; amid the general ruin a remnant was preserved, and that not by flight from the city but in it, there permanently to abide. Around this, the nucleus of the renovated kingdom, the protecting care of the Omnipotent should be vouchsafed; on the enemy His judgments should fall, and lest His people should be involved in these, a way of escape should be made for them, and they should flee and be in safety. Seasons of darkness and calamity might come, and amid the ominous gloom the face of heaven might be obscured, and it might seem as if God's favour was withdrawn; but this should be only for a season; the dark day would in due time decline, and at the evening there should be light. Ways should be made by which the kingdom, as it expanded, might extend over the earth--a path should be cut through the most obdurate obstacles, obstructions should be removed, and streams of blessing should flow in all directions over the earth. Then should Jehovah be recognised as King over all the earth, and be worshipped as the one and only God. Then should Jerusalem, "the new," "the heavenly Jerusalem," "Jerusalem the free," which is the mother of all the people of Christ (Rev. iii. 12,xxi. 2; Heb. xii. 22; Gal. iv. 26; comp. Phil. iii. 20), "the Church of the living God" (i Tim. iii. 15), be exalted, and be filled with inhabitants to the full extent of her proper boundaries. Then shall the saints inherit the earth; then shall the true people of God, being all righteous, be free from all calamity, injury or assault; perfect security shall be enjoyed and the calm of a great peace shall settle down on the world, so long troubled and vexed by the storms of evil. The ban which has rested on the race because of sin since the first transgression, shall then be for ever taken off; there will be no need to make men acknowledge God's supremacy by the judgments which He executes; a willing obedience shall be rendered to Him by all; His servants shall serve Him, they shall see His face, and His name shall be on their foreheads.
Zechariah: His Visions and Warnings by Wm. Lindsay Alexander.
James Nesbet & Co., London, 1885.
In Zech 14:4 there is "a very great valley" formed when the Mount of Olives is cleaved in its midst and the two halves of the mountain are displaced from their normal positions, towards the north and towards the south. Since this valley is described as a great one, there is the possibility that the streams draining the area would be captured. The streams that normally flow around the Mount of Olives near Jerusalem would likely flow eastward through the valley between the two halves of the Mount of Olives, towards the Dead Sea, rather than follow their natural route.
Zechariah's prophecy describes events that seem strange and unnatural; the cleaving of the mountain into two parts, and the formation of a valley, and the area of Jerusalem being raised above the surrounding country, which becomes a plain, and the peculiar day of semi-darkness, that turns to light at evening, are all very unlikely events if considered literally.
In Zech. 14:8, a river of living waters flows from Jerusalem, in both summer and in winter.
Most readers will be aware of the figurative nature of this river, which represents the Holy Spirit and the truth of the gospel going to the world. John 7:38-39 identifies the living water that Jesus spoke of with the Spirit.
The mystical river is the subject of Ezekiel's prophecy in Ezek. 47, that flow from the temple.
Consider the symbolic significance of summer and winter in Zechariah's prophecy. Summer is a time of growth when the grain ripens and fruit trees develop their fruit. In contrast, the winter occurs after the time of harvest. Interpreting this, the river in Zechariah's prophecy flows from the holy city, which represents the saints, both before and after the time of harvest, which occurs in the fall. The harvest pictures the resurrection of the saints, so the church is to be the fountain of the healing waters of the true gospel that goes out to the world both in this age, and in the judgment that follows it, which is what "winter" represents. When Jesus said, "And pray ye that your flight be not in the winter," in Mark 13:18, I suggest that this is what he refers to. To have to flee in winter means that one has been "left behind" when the harvest of God's saints occurs. And so he said, "pray that your flight be not in the winter," because to "flee to the mountains" means to seek and become part of the kingdom of God, and his promises, which are represented by mountains. God's kingdom is depicted as a great mountain that will eventually fill the earth. [Isa. 2:2; Dan. 2:35]
great valley that is formed through the Mount of Olives, in Zech. 14:4,
must be the course through which the figurative river of living waters
flows. The river, Ezekiel showed, causes everything to flourish on
either side. Below is a commentary on the figurative river of Ezekiel
47, by Patrick Fairbairn.
Ezekiel and the book of his prophecy: an exposition
By Patrick Fairbairn p. 489-495
VISION OF THE TEMPLE-WATERS.
It is necessary to take the first part of this chapter apart from the second, which relates to a different subject, the new division of the land, and which ought to have formed part of chap. xlviii. The vision contained in the first twelve verses of this chapter is a thing by itself, although it stands in close connection with what precedes, and springs naturally out of it. The prophet has been exhibiting, by means of a variety of detailed representations, the blessed results to the Lord's people of his re-occupying his temple. The way now stands open to them, for a free and elevating communion with the Lord; and the work proceeds, on their part, by the regular employment of all spiritual privileges and the faithful discharge of holy ministrations; God is duly glorified in his people, and his people are blessed in the enjoyment of his gracious presence and the benefit of his fatherly administration. But what is to be the nature of the kingdom in this new form, in respect to the world without? Is it to be of a restrictive or expansive character? Is the good it discloses and provides for a regenerated people to be confined, as of old, to a select spot, or is it to spread forth and communicate itself abroad for the salvation of the world at large? In an earlier prophecy (chap. xvii.), when speaking of the future head of the Divine kingdom, under the image of a little twig, pluckt from the top of a cedar in Lebanon, and planted upon a lofty mountain in Israel, the prophet had represented this, not only as growing and taking root there, but as winning the regard of all the trees of the field, and gathering under its ample foliage beasts of every kind and birds of every wing. The kingdom of God, as thus exhibited, seemed to carry a benign and diffusive aspect toward the entire world. And should it be otherwise now, when presented under the different, but more detailed and variegated form of a spiritual house, with the living God himself for the glorious inhabitant, and a royal priesthood for its ministering servants? No; it is for humanity, mankind as a whole, that God was thus seen dwelling with men; and though everything presents itself, according to the relations then existing, as connected with a local habitation and circumscribed bounds, yet the good in store was to be confined within no such narrow limits; it was to flow forth with healthful and restorative energy, even upon the waste and dead places of the earth, and invest them with the freshness of life and beauty.
This fine idea is presented by the prophet under a pleasing natural image. He is brought back by the angel from the outer court, where he was standing, to the door of the temple on the east; and there he sees a stream of water gushing from beneath the threshold, and running in the direction of south-east, so as to pass the altar on the south. He is then brought outside by the north gate, and carried round to where the waters appeared beyond the temple-grounds, that he might witness the measurements that were to be made of them, and the genial effects they produced. But let us take his own account of it.
Ver. 1. And he brought me back to the door of the house; and, behold, waters issued forth from under the threshold of the house eastward: for the front of the house is to the east; and the waters descended from below, from the right side of the house, on the south of the altar. 2. And he brought me forth by the way of the north gate, and led me round by the way without to the outer gate, by the way that looks eastward; and, behold, waters were pouring forth on the right side. 3. And when the man that had the line in his hand went forth eastward, he measured a thousand cubits; and he made me pass through the waters--waters to the ankles. 4. Again, he measured a thousand, and made me pass through the waters--waters to the knees. Again, he measured a thousand, and brought me through waters to the loins. 5. Again, he measured a thousand, it was a river which I could not pass: for the waters were risen, waters for swimming, a river that could not be passed over. 6. And he said to me, Son of man, hast thou seen it? And he led me and brought me back to the brink of the river. 7. And when I came back, behold on the brink of the river, very many trees on the one side and the other. 8. And he said to me, These waters issue toward the eastern boundary, and descend upon the plain, and go toward the sea; in the sea are their outgoings, and the waters are healed. 9. And it comes to pass, that every living creature which creeps whithersoever the streams go, lives; and there is a great multitude of fish, because these waters go thither; and they shall be healed, and everything lives whithersoever the river goes. 10. And it comes to pass, that fishers shall stand upon it from Engedi, even unto En-eglaim; a spreading-place of nets shall they be; their fish shall be after their kind (i. e., of many sorts), like the fish of the great sea (the Mediterranean), very many. 11. Its marshes and its pits, which are not healed, are given for salt. 12. And by the river on each bank, there shall come up all trees for food, whose leaf shall not fade, nor shall their fruit fail; every month they bring forth afresh (literally, produce firstlings--in such undecaying vigour, that they are still, as it were, yielding their first fruit); for their waters proceed from the sanctuary itself; and their fruit is for food and their leaves for healing.
That the description given of this stream and its effects, must be understood in an ideal manner, not of any actual river, but like all the rest of the vision, of spiritual things shadowed forth under it, is so evident as scarcely to require any proof. The source of it alone (the summit of an elevated mountain), and the manner of its increase, should put this beyond a doubt with all who would not convert the Bible into a nursery of extravagance and credulity. For a natural river like this would of necessity be in contravention of the established laws of nature, and could only exist as a perpetual miracle. Supposing that by some new adjustment of the land, a stream might be made to rise on the top of Mount Zion, yet a stream feeding itself as described in the vision, and growing with such rapid strides, is utterly at variance with the known laws of the material world. For, it is to be observed, the increase here comes from no extraneous and incidental sources; it is all along the temple-waters that form the river, and at last empty themselves into the sea; and yet from being at first but a small streamlet, these grow, by self-production, in the space of little more than a mile, into an unfordable river! To expect such a prodigy as this, on the outward territory of nature, is plainly to identify the natural with the miraculous, and confound the hopes of faith with the dreams of superstition. The Bible does teach us to look for things above nature, but never for merely natural things against the ascertained laws of nature.
Issuing as this stream does from the threshold of the temple, from the very foot of the throne of God (comp. Rev. xxii. 1), it must be, like all the special manifestations of God to his church, itself of a spiritual nature, and only in its effects productive of outward material good. It is just the efflux of that infinite fulness of life and blessing, which is treasured up in his spiritual temple, and continually pours itself forth as the operations of his grace proceed among men. It is emphatically a river of life. Wherever it is experienced, the barren soil of nature fructifies, the dead live again, the soul is replenished with joy and gladness. And instead of spending, like the streams of nature, as it advances through the moral deserts of the world, it still multiplies and grows; for it diffuses itself from heart to heart, from family to family. Every time recipient of grace becomes a channel and instrument of grace to those around him; so that the more who partake of the blessing, the more always does the region expand over which the kingdom developes its resources. And in proportion as these are developed, everything around wears a smiling and joyous aspect; the evils and disorders of nature are rectified; peace and order reign where before were the favourite haunts of wretchedness and crime; the very field of judgment becomes a region of life and blessing; until, at last, corruption itself is changed into incorruption, mortality is swallowed up in life, and the earth which God had cursed for men's sin, is transformed into the inheritance of the saints in light.
Such, we have no doubt,
the general import of the vision before us; and to this we must confine
ourselves. It must be contemplated as a whole, and not broken up into
fragments; as if we should inquire, what is to be understood specially
by the fish, what by the fishers, what by the trees, and so on. A
life-giving and ever-increasing stream of heavenly influence,
proceeding from the centre of the Divine kingdom, and diffusing itself
far and wide among men, is what the prophet intends to exhibit to our
mind; and to give this idea form and shape to our apprehension, he must
fill up the picture with the appropriate signs and manifestations of
life. But to take these up, one by one, and adapt them to particular
things in the present or future dispensations, of God, can only be an
exercise of fancy, as likely to mislead as to conduct to sound and
legitimate conclusions. Let us rest in the great reality. Let us
rejoice in the thought, that the Spirit of God should have coupled,
with all the other exhibitions of the Divine kingdom given to the
prophet, so encouraging a prospect of its vivifying, restorative, and
expanding energies. And let it deepen the blessed conviction in our
bosom, that the purpose of God in grace is fixed; and that mighty as
the obstacles are, which everywhere present themselves to withstand its
progress, it shall certainly not fail to make good its triumph over all
the disorders and corruption of the world.
We simply add, in regard to the relation of this prophecy to others in Scripture, that there is undoubtedly a reference, in the whole passage, to the description in Gen. ii. of the garden of Eden; although it seems rather pushing the allusion too far, when Hengstenberg, on Rev. xxii. 2, maintains, the trees here mentioned to be simply the tree of life. The mention of every kind of tree for food, in v. 12, and the prominence given also to the abundance of fish in the waters, show, that there is no servile copying of the description in Genesis; while still it is impossible not to see, that a kind of new paradise was evidently intended to be described by the prophet. Then, as he has, after his own manner, enlarged and amplified the thought which is contained in such passages as Joel iii. 18; Zech. xiv. 8, so his delineation is again taken up by the evangelist John, and in his peculiar manner accommodated to express the last grand issues of God's kingdom toward man: "And he showed me a pure river of water of life, clear as crystal, proceeding out of the throne of God and the Lamb. In the midst of the street of it, and on either side of the river, was there the tree of life, which bare twelve manner of fruits, and yielded her fruit every month (for which Ezekiel has all manner of fruit trees, bearing monthly); and the leaves of the tree are for the healing of the nations. And there shall be no more curse (corresponding in Ezekiel to the beneficent change wrought on the doomed region of the Dead Sea); but the throne of God and of the Lamb shall be in it, and his servants shall serve him," (Rev. xxii. 1-3).
Ezekiel's prophecy of the figurative river from the temple, picturing the Spirit and the gospel going from the church, also illustrates why we should flee to the amazing figurative valley, that forms between the two halves of the Mount of Olives. In the valley we can be nurtured by the river of living waters. Perhaps the saints may be represented by trees that align its banks, and fishermen casting nets for fish. Psa. 1:4 says the righteous are "like a tree planted by the rivers of water." The sea whose waters are healed represents the people of the world. [Rev. 17:15]
Joel's prophecy also describes a river flowing
from the house of the Lord, corresponding to the river in Ezekiel 47
and the one described in Zech. 14:8, and he says it will "water the
valley of Shittim." The valley of Shittim was the valley, located east
of the Jordan, north of the Dead Sea, where the Israelites committed
whoredom with the daughters of Moab. [Num. 25:1] Again, it is a very
unnatural course for the stream flowing from the temple to take, but
this is no natural stream, but figurative. The significance of Joel's
prophecy seems to be that the living waters of the Spirit represented
by the prophetic river that flows from the temple will have a healing
influence on Christians who have been seduced in a spiritual sense, as
Paul alludes to in 2 Cor. 11:3.
What is the significance of the curious darkness that characterizes the day of the Lord, described by Zechariah, that turns to light towards the evening?
And it shall come to pass in that day, that the light shall not be clear, nor dark:
But it shall be one day which shall be known to the LORD, not day, nor night: but it shall come to pass, that at evening time it shall be light.
In his commentary, Wm. Lindsay Alexander remarked on the unnatural and strange "breaking forth of light at evening when, according to natural law, darkness should begin to assume the sway," and he wrote:
Seasons of darkness and calamity might come, and amid the ominous gloom the face of heaven might be obscured, and it might seem as if God's favour was withdrawn; but this should be only for a season; the dark day would in due time decline, and at the evening there should be light.
Visions and Warnings by Wm. Lindsay Alexander.
James Nesbet & Co., London, 1885.
"At evening time it shall be light."
At the evening of the day of the Lord, a time noted for darkness, the light increases. This is when the world is in darkness, but light shines for the church.
Several other scriptures tell of the spiritual darkness of the day of the Lord. Joel called the day of the Lord "A day of darkness and of gloominess, a day of clouds and of thick darkness;" [Joel 2:2] Amos said "the day of the LORD is darkness, and not light." [Amos 5:18]
And Isaiah also showed that in a time of great darkness, which is spiritual darkness, the light would illuminate the church.
1 Arise, shine; for thy light is come, and the glory of the LORD is risen upon thee.
2 For, behold, the darkness shall cover the earth, and gross darkness the people: but the LORD shall arise upon thee, and his glory shall be seen upon thee.
3 And the Gentiles shall come to thy light, and kings to the brightness of thy rising.
The sun turned to darkness
For spiritual darkness to cover the earth, the church's light must have grown very dim, but prophecy shows that it is upon the church that the light will shine. The sun clothes the woman in heaven which represents the church, in Revelation 12:1. The sun would be turned to darkness, Peter said on the day of Pentecost when the Spirit was given to the disciples. Peter quoted the prophecy of Joel.
The sun shall be turned into darkness, and the moon into blood, before the great and notable day of the Lord come:
And it shall come to pass, that whosoever shall call on the name of the Lord shall be saved.
The sun, which represents the gospel, was turned to darkness early in the church's history, when church fathers merged Plato's doctrine of an immortal soul with the teachings of Christ and the apostles. Later, Augustine established the pagan idea of unending infernal punishment of unbelievers as orthodox doctrine, a relic of his Manichean past.
War in heaven
Revelation 12 describes spiritual forces at war, the angels of Michael against the angels of the dragon who deceives the whole world. The armies of Michael are eventually victorious, and the dragon is cast out. This is at the very end of the age, because the dragon has great wrath, as "he knoweth that he hath but a short time." [Rev. 12:12]
That fits what Zechariah said in a remarkable way, as he wrote "at evening time it shall be light." Evening represents the end of one day, and the beginning of another. Evidently, towards the end of the present age, the saints will have light. Other scriptures support this.
Prophecy a light that shineth in a dark place
Peter described the church as being in darkness, and showed that prophecy was to be the light that guides the church. He wrote:
2 Peter 1:19
We have also a more sure word of prophecy; whereunto ye do well that ye take heed, as unto a light that shineth in a dark place, until the day dawn, and the day star arise in your hearts:
Four schools of prophecy
In the modern church there are several rival schools of interpretation of prophecy. The main categories are called futurism, historicism, preterism, and idealism. Futurism includes all forms of dispensationalism. These each take a distinctive approach to interpreting the 70th week of the 70 weeks prophecy in Daniel 9.
Dispensationalism inserts a gap after the 69th week, and says the 70th week is future. The final week is usually considered as consisting of two parts, the last of which is identified with the "time, times and a half" of Dan 7:25 and Rev. 12:14, and with the 1,260 days of Rev. 11:3 and 12:6, and with a literal three and a half years. Historicism identifies the 1,260 days with 1,260 years, that ended some time after the Reformation. Preterism claims the 70th week was fulfilled in the first century. Idealism views the time, times and a half as the last half a prophetic week, and symbolic of the entire age of the church.
Selecting the right path
For the light of prophecy to shine a selection between these rival approaches has to be made. Zechariah's prophecy of the Mount of Olives being cleaved points to the right path lying between the extremes of preterism and dispensationalism, both of which deny that prophecy applies to the church of today. If both preterists and dispensationalists would abandon their systems, represented by the two halves of the Mount of Olives displaced from their positions, they could meet in that wide valley through the Mount of Olives, where Zechariah says to flee.
The parable of the tares
The parable of the tares in Matthew 13 confirms that at the end of the age, the church's light is to shine. Jesus gave the interpretation.
36 Then Jesus sent the multitude away, and went into the house: and his disciples came unto him, saying, Declare unto us the parable of the tares of the field.
37 He answered and said unto them, He that soweth the good seed is the Son of man;
38 The field is the world; the good seed are the children of the kingdom; but the tares are the children of the wicked one;
39 The enemy that sowed them is the devil; the harvest is the end of the world; and the reapers are the angels.
40 As therefore the tares are gathered and burned in the fire; so shall it be in the end of this world.
41 The Son of man shall send forth his angels, and they shall gather out of his kingdom all things that offend, and them which do iniquity;
42 And shall cast them into a furnace of fire: there shall be wailing and gnashing of teeth.
43 Then shall the righteous shine forth as the sun in the kingdom of their Father. Who hath ears to hear, let him hear.
The parable shows it is tares, representing flawed interpretations of scripture, that obscure the gospel, represented by the sun. Compare verse 43 above with the picture of the woman clothed with the sun in Rev. 12:1. The true gospel must be clearly revealed for this to be fulfilled. And this occurs at the end of the age, as verse 40 shows. So again, it supports Zechariah's statement, "at evening time it shall be light."
The fiery vengeance of God
The gathering and burning of the tares in the parable of Jesus was to occur at the end of the age. Let's not be found among the tares! Perhaps that is why Zechariah warns us to flee from the false interpetations "like as ye fled from before the earthquake in the days of Uzziah." [Zech. 14:5] Otherwise, we might be the target of the fiery wrath and vengeance of God.
2 Thes. 1:6-9
Seeing it is a righteous thing with God to recompense tribulation to them that trouble you;
And to you who are troubled rest with us, when the Lord Jesus shall be revealed from heaven with his mighty angels,
In flaming fire taking vengeance on them that know not God, and that obey not the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ:
Who shall be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord, and from the glory of his power;
Antichrist is to be revealed
In his second epistle to the Thessalonians Paul explains about the man of sin who he said would be "revealed" sitting in the "temple of God," which he identifies as the church in Ephes. 2:20. John identifies this as the Antichrist, which he referred to as a "spirit of antichrist" rather than an individual human. The fact that he is "revealed" implies that truth will expose the deceptions that have separated the saints, and scattered the church into about 38,000 sects and denominations, and obscured the gospel, turning the sun to darkness. This fits Zechariah's prophecy that says of the day of the Lord, "at evening time it shall be light."
2 Thes. 2:3-5
Let no man deceive you by any means: for that day shall not come, except there come a falling away first, and that man of sin be revealed, the son of perdition;
Who opposeth and exalteth himself above all that is called God, or that is worshipped; so that he as God sitteth in the temple of God, shewing himself that he is God.
Remember ye not, that, when I was yet with you, I told you these things?
For some, the hyper-preterist view becomes an obsession, or spirit, that taints everything that they read in scripture. Dispensationalism may have a similar effect.
Some of those who have escaped from hyper-preterism have acknowledged its blinding effect of them.
Here is what Scott Thompson wrote:
"As a former Full Preterist, I believe it is necessary to explain the reasons why I have repented of promoting this system of bible prophecy. For over 8 years, my deep conviction regarding the superiority of this system blinded me from seeing beyond the confines of the Preterist method of interpretation which, in all its forms, maintains the year AD70 as a focal point for prophetic fulfillment."
Nathan DuBois, and all those listed below, have abandoned belief in hyper preterism. DuBois stated:
"I am writing from personal experience, 8 years worth, of being an active participant in the Full Preterist circle."
Todd Dennis warns of hyper preterism being dangerous:
"Unlike in the past, I now strongly believe that there is indeed such a thing as dangerous hyper-preterism"
Dorothy Anderson wrote:
"I left the full preterist movement"
Roderick Edwards responded:
"I was also a former hyperpreterist"
Dee Dee Warren:
Brian Simmons said:
"As an former Hyper-Preterist I see all too well the dangers of this system"
The antagonism and verbal jousting between hyper preterists and partial preterists, and between the various kinds of dispensationalists, and between dispensationalists and preterists, is pictured in Zechariah 14:13:
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.
The church has been given the holy spirit pictured by "living waters." John explains what the living waters represent in John 7:39. These waters also represent the true gospel. But in Rev. 12, the dragon spews out a flood of "water," intended to carry away the church, pictured by the woman. It is by means of the wings of a great eagle, that are given to the woman, that she is able to escape this flood. [Rev. 12:14] I suggest the two wings of an eagle represent the viewpoint of prophecy, as an eagle flying looks on the earth from above, and prophecy also gives us God's viewpoint on things, when properly interpreted.
The dragon's flood threatens to destroy the witness provided in prophecy, and discredit the true interpretation of it. Flawed theories of prophecy say that prophecy does not apply to the church in the present age, but most prophecy applies either to Jews in the first century (preterism) or to Jews in a future age (dispensationalism). The light provided by Zechariah's prophecy about the Mount of Olives being cleaved in its midst, forming a wide valley to which we may flee, is a guide which may teach those who are wise; but according to Daniel 12:10, understanding is not available to the wicked.
The great city "where the Lord was crucified" in Rev. 11 is Babylon, not Jerusalem, as Babylon is symbolic of worldly society. Jesus was crucified "without the gate," Heb. 13:12.
Jesus said, "Verily I say unto you, This generation shall not pass
away, till all be fulfilled." [Luke 21:32]
In the next verse he said, "Heaven and earth shall pass away: but my words shall not pass away." [Luke 21:33]
Hyper preterists who ignore the fact that Jesus rose from the grave and so his generation still exists have to say that heaven and earth have passed away, because that is one of the things included in "till all be fulfilled" in the previous verse!
In this section I continue my discussion of the metaphorical rivers that the prophets described flowing from Jerusalem and the temple.
Many ancient cities were built beside rivers. Thebes in Egypt, Babylon, Antioch, and many other cities were located on rivers, but Jerusalem relied for its water supply on springs, the most notable of which was located at the site of the temple, and was called the Gihon spring, a name also associated with one of the rivers in Eden.
The location of Jerusalem is in a highland, without access to any great river, unlike many other great cities of ancient times. And yet many of the prophets mention rivers and streams flowing from Jerusalem and the temple. These are invariably spiritual in nature.
For example David wrote:
Thy righteousness is like the great mountains; thy judgments are a great deep: O LORD, thou preservest man and beast.
How excellent is thy lovingkindness, O God! therefore the children of men put their trust under the shadow of thy wings.
They shall be abundantly satisfied with the fatness of thy house; and thou shalt make them drink of the river of thy pleasures.
For with thee is the fountain of life: in thy light shall we see light.
The "fountain of life" which issues forth from God was to give rise to a "river of thy pleasures" for the faithful. David said the streams of it would make the saints glad.
There is a river, the streams whereof shall make glad the city of God, the holy place of the tabernacles of the most High.
This mystical "river" is called the "river of God." It is said to flow with abundant water, that waters the entire earth, so it is no natural river.
Thou visitest the earth, and waterest it: thou greatly enrichest it with the river of God, which is full of water: thou preparest them corn, when thou hast so provided for it.
Isaiah also wrote about Zion and the holy city, and compared the Lord to "a place of broad rivers and streams," which seems to allude to Eden.
Look upon Zion, the city of our solemnities: thine eyes shall see Jerusalem a quiet habitation, a tabernacle that shall not be taken down; not one of the stakes thereof shall ever be removed, neither shall any of the cords thereof be broken.
But there the glorious LORD will be unto us a place of broad rivers and streams; wherein shall go no galley with oars, neither shall gallant ship pass thereby.
For the LORD is our judge, the LORD is our lawgiver, the LORD is our king; he will save us.
J.A. Alexander commented on Isaiah's imagery of there not being ships sailing on these streams:
The most obvious explanation seems to be that ... Jehovah will be mighty for us there. What place is meant: A place of rivers and streams broad on both sides, i. e. spreading in every direction. ... The situation described is one which has all the advantages of mighty streams without their dangers. There shall not go in it as oared vessel (literally, a ship of oar), and a gallant ship shall not pass through it. The parallel expressions both refer, no doubt, to ships of war which in ancient times were propelled by oars. The antithesis which some assume between trading ships and vessels of war would here be out of place. The fine old English phrase gallant ship is ill exchanged by some translators for mighty or magnificent vessel.
prophecies of Isaiah, Volume 1
by Joseph Addison Alexander, p. 553-554
Perhaps Isaiah saw the positive side of things; although Jerusalem was situated far from any navigable rivers, this had the advantage that it made the city less vulnerable to attack from the sea. So the figurative rivers and streams that he described would not bring any ships of war, as had happened to other cities that were built on great rivers or coasts.
Jeremiah spoke of God as the "fountain of living waters," which had been forsaken by Israel.
For my people have committed two evils; they have forsaken me the fountain of living waters, and hewed them out cisterns, broken cisterns, that can hold no water.
Daniel, in his description of Christ, said "a fiery stream issued and came forth from before him." So he adds the element of the fire of judgment to the metaphorical river.
I beheld till the thrones were cast down, and the Ancient of days did sit, whose garment was white as snow, and the hair of his head like the pure wool: his throne was like the fiery flame, and his wheels as burning fire.
A fiery stream issued and came forth from before him: thousand thousands ministered unto him, and ten thousand times ten thousand stood before him: the judgment was set, and the books were opened.
In the prophecy of Joel, the mountains drop down new wine, hills flow with milk, and all the rivers of Judah (that include many dry river beds in wilderness areas) will flow with water. The fountain that comes from the house of the Lord waters the valley of Shittim where the Israelites camped, before they entered the promised land.
The LORD also shall roar out of Zion, and utter his voice from Jerusalem; and the heavens and the earth shall shake: but the LORD will be the hope of his people, and the strength of the children of Israel.
So shall ye know that I am the LORD your God dwelling in Zion, my holy mountain: then shall Jerusalem be holy, and there shall no strangers pass through her any more.
And it shall come to pass in that day, that the mountains shall drop down new wine, and the hills shall flow with milk, and all the rivers of Judah shall flow with waters, and a fountain shall come forth out of the house of the LORD, and shall water the valley of Shittim.
The imagery of Isaiah is similar, as he said "the desert shall rejoice, and blossom as the rose," [Isa. 35:1] and there would be "rivers in high places."
I will open rivers in high places, and fountains in the midst of the valleys: I will make the wilderness a pool of water, and the dry land springs of water.
These scriptures suggest that
many of the things in scripture that seemed rather meaningless, will
suddenly take on new meaning and come alive!
Perhaps it is significant that for Ezekiel's river to flow eastward, towards the Dead Sea, in the manner he described, it must penetrate the Mount of Olives, which forms a ridge of hills along the east side of Jerusalem. It may be that Zechariah had this in mind, when he wrote about the great valley that forms between the two sections of the Mount of Olives when it is "cleaved in the midst thereof toward the east and toward the west."
Ezekiel said that in about 4,000 cubits, a bit more than a mile, the river is so deep it "could not be passed over." [Ezek. 47:5] And that occurs right in the midst of the Mount of Olives! The increase in the depth of this spiritual river as it flows through the Mount of Olives shows the profound significance of the figurative valley between the two halves of the Mount of Olives, that each represent one the two opposite flawed interpretations, preterism and dispensationalism.
Below is another discussion of Ezekiel's river that flows from the temple.
sermons on the miracles and parables of the Old Testament
By W. Harris, 1878 p. 364.
I.--The healing, because living waters came from the midst of the temple.
In the midst of Eden there was a well-head of water which, after it had watered the garden of God, divided into four rivers and went forth to fertilize the whole of the surrounding country. So the Church of God does not absorb all the blessings of the Gospel within herself; the whole world is to be blest through the Church. The leaves of the tree of life which John saw by the side of the river of God were "for the healing of the nations" (Rev. xxii. 2). Hence the parting charge of our Lord, "Go ye into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature" (Mark xvi. 15).
II.--The source of this stream of blessing--the living God.
God had returned to dwell among His people before the stream of life issued forth (chap, xliii. 7-9). The river of the Apocalyptic vision has its origin in the "throne of God and of the Lamb" (Rev. xxii. 1). He only is the well of Living Water (John iv). The Eternal God is self-sustaining. His blessedness is from Himself and His store is enough to satisfy, not merely a few of His creatures, but the universe itself. His living temple can drink of "the river of His pleasures" (Psa. xxxvi. 8), and find an overflow sufficient for the needs of every sin-stricken soul. "For with Thee is the fountain of life" (Psa. xxxvi. 9).
III.--The river of life will widen in its influence, and therefore increase the blessedness of the race as it flows onward.
longer the waters flowed, the wider and deeper the river became (verses
3-5). This is the law of a river, and therefore it is a most fit emblem
of the blessed influences of God's kingdom. Beginning, as it did, with
the small number of disciples whom Christ left upon the earth, it has
gradually increased in its power among the nations of the world, until
it has acquired the width and depth which we see to-day. And it must,
from the necessity of its nature, go on to grow until the whole earth
shall acknowledge the Crucified as King. "And it shall be in that day,
that living waters shall go out from Jerusalem, .... and the Lord shall
be King over all the earth" (Zech. xiv. 8, 9).
IV.--This river of living water will change the curse into a blessing.
Wherever the waters came, "they healed." The sea, of verse 8, is generally considered by commentators to be the Dead Sea, whose existence is a most vivid illustration of the death which follows sin.
stream of life flows into this sea of death, it, too, shall become
living and life-sustaining. Its waters shall abound with fish, and its
hitherto solitary shores shall be thronged with busy men. So is it with
every sin-blighted soul. As the touch of God in Christ healed the
bodily diseased, so the same lifegiving hand can and will heal the
soul. And when the earth is filled with healed souls the curse
pronounced at Eden will be no more (Rev. xxii. 3).
We learn from the whole
until God's gospel comes into contact with the soul of man it is dead.
Where the river did not come, and while it did not come, there was
death. Where there is nothing to refresh the earth there can be no
fruitfulness nor beauty, and consequently no life. God is the life of
the soul, and nothing less than the life-giving flow of His salvation
into it can give it fruitfulness and beauty.
II.--It is a Divine ordinance to bless some by means of others. This law is in operation in every-day life. Those who have good in their life or circumstances which others lack are expected by man, and ordained by God, to minister the same "as good stewards of the manifold grace of God" (1 Peter iv. 10). The Dead Sea of the human ignorance of the young is a sea into which the waters of knowledge must flow, if the coming generation is to be an improved edition of the present. But this healing water must come to them through the knowledge of others,--from minds that are filled w1th the waters of knowledge. Those who have riches are expected to minister to the wants of those who are in poverty. If a wealthy man does not help his poor brethren he is cursed by man and condemned by God. And it is pre-eminently the duty of those who have the riches of spiritual knowledge to be the channels of spiritual blessing and life to those who are spiritually igignorant and dead. And God has ordained that it shall be so. The church of God in the first ages possessed the living Spirit of God in the hearts of her members, and though God had ordained that Christ's kingdom should extend to all nations yet these nations could only be reached by human souls who carried within them the wells of salvation. Wherever spiritual life and health was, or is found in the world, it was first carried there by a human soul who had believed, and consequently out of whose heart had "flowed rivers of living water" (John vii. 37). And so the waters from the living temple have gone forth, and still flow forth, to heal the Dead Sea of a sin-stricken world.
Copyright © 2009 by Douglas E. Cox
All Rights Reserved.