Fact or fiction?
When I was about 12 years old, I stumbled across Zechariah 14. It was an amazing discovery.
You see, I grew up in a church where we were told over and over that “there is not one verse in the Bible that even implies that Jesus will ever set His feet on this earth again.”
Well, Zechariah 14 not only implies that the Lord is coming back to this earth again, it says so point blank! The passage is written in simple language that any ten year old can understand.
It says that the Lord will return to this earth at a time when the Jews are back in the land of Israel and their capital city, Jerusalem, is under siege. Just as the city is about to fall, the Lord will return to the Mt. of Olives.
When His feet touch the ground, the mount will split in half. The remnant of Jews left in the city will take refuge in the cleavage of the mountain. The Lord will then speak a supernatural word, and the armies surrounding Jerusalem will be destroyed in an instant. Verse 9 then declares that on that day “the Lord will become king over all the earth.”
A Muddled Interpretation
When I first discovered this remarkable passage, I took it to my minister and asked him what it meant. I will never forget his response. He thought for a moment, and then He said, “Son I don’t know what it means, but I’ll guarantee you one thing: it doesn’t mean what it says!”
For years after that, I would show Zechariah 14 to every visiting evangelist who came to town preaching that Jesus would never return to this earth. I always received the same response: “It doesn’t mean what it says.” That response did not satisfy me.
A Sophisticated Interpretation
Finally, I ran across a minister who was a seminary graduate, and he gave me the answer I could live with. “Nothing in Zechariah means what it says,” he explained, “because the whole book is apocalyptic.”
Now, I didn’t have the slightest idea what “apocalyptic” meant. I didn’t know if it was a disease or a philosophy. But it sounded sophisticated, and, after all, the fellow was seminary graduate, so he should know.
A Discovery Experience
When I began to preach, I parroted what I had heard from the pulpit all my life. When I spoke on prophecy, I would always make the point that Jesus will never return to this earth. Occasionally, some person would come up after the sermon and ask, “What about Zechariah 14?” I would snap back at them with one word, “APOCALYPTIC!” They would usually run for the door in fright.
Then one day I sat down and read the whole book of Zechariah. And guess what? My entire argument went down the drain! I discovered that the book contains many prophecies about the first coming of Jesus, and I discovered that all those prophecies meant what they said. It suddenly occurred to me that if Zechariah’s first coming prophecies meant what they said, then why don’t his second coming promises mean what they say?
The Plain Sense Rule
That was the day that I stopped playing games with God’s Prophetic Word. I started accepting it for its plain sense meaning. I decided that if the plain sense makes sense, I would look for no other sense, lest I end up with nonsense.
A good example of the nonsense approach is found in the book, The Millennium, by Loraine Boettner. He spiritualizes all of Zechariah 14. He argues that the Mt. of Olives is symbolic of the human heart surrounded by evil. When a person accepts Jesus as Savior, Jesus comes into the person’s life and stands on his “Mt. of Olives” (his heart). The person’s heart breaks in contrition (the cleaving of the mountain), and Jesus then defeats the enemy forces in the person’s life.
I would suggest that this theologian should be given an honorary doctorate in imagination! When people insist on spiritualizing the scriptures like this, then the scriptures end up meaning whatever they want them to mean.
Keys to Understanding
I believe God knows how to communicate. I believe He says what He means and means what He says. I don’t believe you have to have a doctorate in Hermeneutics to understand the Bible. The essentials, instead, are an honest heart and the filling of God’s Spirit.
I ask you: How do you treat Zechariah 14 — as fact or fiction?
Thus says the Lord: “I will return to Zion and will dwell in the midst of Jerusalem. Then Jerusalem will be called the City of Truth, and the mountain of the Lord of hosts will be called the Holy Mountain.” (Zechariah 8:3)