The Gospel, The True Millennium

Charles D. Alexander on Zechariah 14:

We accept the challenge to produce a consistent “spiritual” interpretation of chapter 14 and would remind our friends that to take this chapter literally involves serious contradictions. The literal interpretation puts the whole of this chapter into a future “millennium”, and in doing so produces a millennium so filled with the horrors of plague, death, and destruction as to make a mockery of the Golden Age which our friends fondly anticipate.

The chapter gives a clear picture of the triumph of the gospel kingdom of grace. When the people are reduced to their last extremity, the Lord appears on the Mount of Olives to open for them a way of escape by dividing the mountain. His judgments are poured upon the pursuers and the gospel goes out in the form of living waters to earth’s utmost bounds. Christ receives the homage and worship of the elect from every nation in spiritual Jerusalem (the Church, as in Galatians 4:26) and raises the status of the gospel economy above that of the Law to the extent that its common things rank with the holiest vessels of the earthly sanctuary. The temple is purged of the Canaanite – which as we shall see, means the spiritual Canaanites, the Pharisees and Sadducees. We shall prove this from the actual words of the Lord Jesus Himself.

Literalism rules itself out of this chapter by its false and contradictory teaching on the Lord’s appearance on the Mount of Olives; by the figure of the living waters issuing from Jerusalem; by the revolting Millennial Plague described (according to literalism) in the chapter; by the impossibility of all the world worshipping at Jerusalem; by the holy harness and kitchen pots; and the exclusion of the Canaanite from the Temple. We proceed:

Verses 1-3: The Siege and the Sack

Under the figure of the siege and fall of Jerusalem is portrayed the passing of the old order and the bringing in of the New Covenant. The Old Covenant preserved in national form the two conflicting elements of the nation – the ungodly and the elect. In the fall of the old order, a final separation is made. Half of the city is devoted to destruction and the other half of the population is preserved unto salvation.

Verse 4: “His feet shall stand on the Mount of Olives”

Is there a more misunderstood prophecy than this? Almost the entire evangelical world says this is the Second Coming of Christ, whereas it is His First Coming. There is nothing in the prophecy which has the remotest bearing upon Christ’s second appearing. Literalism disintegrates completely as the verse is examined. The people of God flee from the city, pursued by their enemies. They take the route which David took when fleeing from Absalom. The Mount of Olives terminates the Valley of Jehoshaphat and presents an obstacle of grave proportions to the fugitives. Like the children of Israel who fled from the Egyptians and found themselves entangled in the land at the shore of the Red Sea – for them there is no escape. But the Lord opens up a way. Christ appears in His glory on the Mount. The mountain cleaves asunder so that the valley is lengthened as far as Azal. The way is open to the plain beyond and the fugitives pour through to safety.

Literalism fails here, because no-one can suppose that an army suddenly confronted with the glory of the Lord standing on the Mount of Olives would or could continue the pursuit. If the sight of an angel smites to the ground saints like Daniel, what will the sight of the Lord of Glory be to the ungodly? Do our friends wish us to believe that the view of that Face from which heaven and earth will flee away, has no more effect upon the wicked than some common sight?

The fact that the flight of the covenant people continues along the newly opened chasm through the Mount of Olives, shows that the enemy is still in hot pursuit – despite the One whose feet are resting on the Mount of Olives.

Verse 5: “And ye shall flee….”

The flight continues, because this is the gospel flight of the people of the Lord who flee for refuge to the hope set before them – even that hope which they have as an anchor of the soul, sure and steadfast. In short, this is the gospel day, the beginning of it, and the continuance of it down the ages.

Verses 6-7: The day without night.

The day of mercy is described as a day without an ending. We are not the children of the night but of the day. We are translated from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan unto God. For the believer there is no night – not even in the eventide of his days – for at eventide it shall be light.

Verse 8: The living waters.

This is the same glorious gospel of life, truth and grace of which Ezekiel speaks, only in Ezekiel the waters flow one way only – to the Dead Sea – bringing fullness of life where all was death, and apostles and preachers become fishers of men along its ever expanding course. In Zechariah the same river has a double flow, east and west. The vision in the two prophets is one. That it is expanded and developed in Zechariah, the later prophet, shows clearly we are in the region of the painting and not of literality. The former and the hinder seas indicated the world-wide nature of the gospel blessing. Summer and winter indicate that God’s mercies are constant, ever the same.

Verse 9: King over all the earth.

In contrast with David who was king over a mere fragment, Christ’s dominion is from sea to sea and from continent to continent: No region into which His Word does not enter and no age which is not irrigated with His truth. On the throne of the universe is our great King and Redeemer. The Father said to the Son in the day of Resurrection and exaltation, “Sit thou at my right hand till I make thy foes thy footstool”; for “He must reign till all enemies are put under Him”. Some of our evangelical brethren, it is to be feared, are still waiting for Christ to reign, but the Scripture assures us again and again, that He reigns now; all power is given unto Him in heaven and in earth, and He now wields the sceptre of All-power to break the nations as with a rod of iron and dash them in pieces like a potter’s vessel.

It is because so many of our friends do not recognize the facts of the Second Psalm (see how the Church in Acts 4 quotes that psalm when confronted for the first time with the persecuting might of the world!) – it is because the Second Psalm is neither remembered nor understood that evangelism today is so ineffectual.

Verses 10-11: The change of the landscape.

The city exalted, the surrounding hills leveled to the plain to show the glory of the city. This is the great exaltation of the Kingdom of Christ as compared with its Old Testament manifestation. The figure is akin to Isaiah 2 and Micah 4, but here the hill on which Jerusalem is built is raised high above its neighbors: in Zechariah it is the other hills which are leveled to the plain. This is another indication that we are in the region of the Spirit and not of nature. The details vary between prophecy and prophecy, but the truth indicated is the same.

The mention of place names in this verse, Geba, Rimmon, Benjamin’s Gate, the Tower of Hananeel, shows the city restored to its ancient limits, under which figure the New Covenant of the gospel is symbolically expressed.

Verse 11: The city preserved, inhabited, and safe.

In comparison with what it was as the Prophet knew it. Here is represented the security and prosperity of the Kingdom of Christ forever.

Verse 12: The Plague.

The judgment of God on the ungodly who oppose the Kingdom of Christ. A pretty millennial picture this, with flesh dropping off the living corpses and empty eyeholes and tongueless mouths filling the world with horror. Believe it or not, but prophetical books are being traded amongst Christian people today, disgustingly illustrated with these horrors. To what lengths will literalism go? We prefer the interpretation which shows the judgment of God on what eyes and tongues and flesh represent in spiritual terms.

Verse 13: The tumult of the nations.

Let them rage against the Kingdom of Christ, as they have done through the centuries, but God will turn their swords against themselves. The meaning is: there is no wisdom, counsel or might against the Lord.

Verse 14: Judah spoiling the heathen.

Is this the millennium our friends desire – a time when gold and silver and fancy dress in great abundance are the reward of an earthly people fighting against enemies? Let those who will, have it this way, but we will retain our contempt for all that upon which the world sets value, and we will continue to regard the spoiling of the heathen in this verse as the token of their utter defeat, and the hopelessness of Satan’s cause as he vainly assembles his forces to fight against the people of God. For we war not against flesh and blood, but against principalities and powers, the rulers of the darkness of this world, even spiritual wickedness in heavenly places.

Verse 15: Horses, mules, camel and asses….

This millennial plague even strikes the beasts of the field despite the fact that ‘they shall not hurt nor destroy in all my holy mountain’ (Isaiah 35). Let our friends make what they will of this in a carnal way. To us it is meaningless if it does not indicate that the judgment on the heathen will be complete. As for the horse, we have heard it is going out of use nowadays all over the world. This is an old time picture, and shows we are not here in the region of literal interpretation.

Verses 16-19: The Feast of Tabernacles.

Again our friends are welcome to their literal interpretations, but we refuse to believe it scriptural truth to assert that God will restore the ancient feasts. These were abolished by the death of Christ as being only part of the apparatus for the tutelage of the nation till the time of Gospel reformation. Are we happy about the feasts being restored and imposed upon the heathen under penal sanction of famine, plague and pestilence? Or does this not represent the gospel feast? Those who ignore the gospel ordinances of God do so at their peril. Our own nation today, for long a depository of gospel truth, favored beyond most peoples by such a preaching of the Word of God in time gone by as has scarcely ever been known since men were upon the earth – our own nation has in latter times despised its heritage and cast away the Word of God. It no long “comes up to the feast”. Hence there is a famine of the Word, there is the blight of sin on all our institutions; we are being given over more and more to the consequences of ungodliness, the plague of immorality, vice, violence, murder, deceit.

The feast of Tabernacles is selected here as a figure of that rest the people of God enjoy through the arrival of the gospel day, with its forward look to that of which it is itself but a foreshadowing – the rest that remaineth unto the people of God.

Verses 20-21: Holy Harness and kitchen pots.

The bells on the horses’ necks chime the same note of holiness as the holy bells on the High Priest’s robe: HOLINESS UNTO THE LORD. Every pot in the domestic kitchens of the citizens of Jerusalem is the equal of the golden vessels of the sanctuary in Solomon’s day – those vessels dedicated to receive the sacrificial blood which prefigured the death of Christ. What – literal? Alas for the infatuation which has seized the minds of so many excellent people these days, that they can accept this literal conclusion, just because it is Jewish, and they will pass by the deep spiritual truth figured therein – that in the Kingdom of Christ there is nothing save that which is holy. Gone is the distinction between holy and profane, because the sacrifice of the Redeemer has undone the effects of the Fall and re-established in the gospel man’s true relationship to his Maker and Saviour.

Verse 21: No Canaanite in the House of God.

But the Temple has been abolished. There can never be another Temple, for a Temple has reality only if there is a priest, a sacrifice and an altar. Let no-one dare to insult the one true sacrifice and priesthood of Christ by re-erecting that altar and raising up a fresh generation of priests to point to the insufficiency of His own mediation. It is in this region that literalism become positively dangerous. We have pointed out in our first chapter of this study, that there are evangelical men who have taught, and still teach, that a Temple will be built with the approval of Christ – probably in His very presence – and THE TEMPLE VEIL WHICH WAS RENT AND ABOLISHED AT THIS DEATH WILL BE REHUNG IN THAT MILLENNIAL SANCTUARY.  Yet there are some who question the propriety of our making a tumult by venturing into the realm of prophecy and rebuking those theories which if allowed to flourish unchecked can only be subversive of the gospel, of Christian liberty, and of the validity of eternal salvation.

We refuse to be silent or to be silenced in such a cause as this.

In any case we have a sure interpretation of this sentence drawn from the words of the Saviour Himself. Few appear to be aware of the connection of the incident of the cleansing of the temple, with the words of Zechariah. “Make not may Father’s house a house of merchandise” said Christ (John 2:16). Now the name ‘Canaanite’ means ‘a merchant’. Christ by the scourge of His Word drove from the sanctuary of God those Pharisee pretenders to the Kingdom, who bought and sold the Kingdom of Heaven with the merchandise of their own dead and rotten works, and the bad coin of human merit. In the New Testament temple there is no place for the Canaanite, and so the last word of Zechariah’s prophecy confirms and establishes the spiritual interpretation thereof, for in the last verse of all, NO OTHER INTERPRETATION IS TENABLE OR EVEN INTELLIGIBLE.

O.T. Exposition in Abeyance:

One of the saddest and most disturbing products of the Literal theory is that it allows not depth of meaning to the Word of God in the Old Testament. It is surely evident that since this theory prevailed, preaching from the Old Testament – the only Bible of the Apostles – has almost dried up from the roots in the evangelical body. Apart from the obvious Messianic passages, and the usual types and allegorical interpretation (many of which go up to the border, and beyond of the discreditable and the childish), a great deal of the O.T. is a closed book to the evangelical pulpit. But we think Dr. John Duncan was right when he said, “The true Christology of the O.T. is not to be sought merely in some isolated passages, but as the pervading element of the whole Book. The passages which have been selected as Messianic are but the culminating points of the rock whose foundations lie deep in the ocean of Old Testament scripture. Herein is their infinite importance and solemnity, that they speak of Him with whom we have to do, or rather He with whom we have to do speaks to us in them.”

It was statements like this which, many years ago now, set one searching for the true key to the Old Testament. In that search great help has been given by such scholarly tomes as Hengstenberg’s “Christology”. The importance of those orthodox German theologians of the last century, of whom Hengstenberg was one of the greatest ornaments, lies in the fact that they were raised up by God to stem the Rationalistic flood which even then was engulfing the entire continent. It is not sufficiently realized that the Rationalistic heresy was answered on the spot by men who were giants both in piety and learning, and well able to measure their strength with the very best which the Philistines could produce. There has been no comparable Biblical exposition since their day. The wisdom of God did more than provide a counter to Rationalism. The controversy was a fulcrum by which Biblical science was raised to its highest level and at last, at the end of the days, the Church was provided with the tools by which the exposition of the mighty Old Testament Scriptures might rise once more to the expansive dimensions of apostolic times.

Alas, there are few who visit that forge today, and every man now takes his mattock or his ploughshare down to the Philistines or, as in the case of too many of our evangelicals, scarifies the surfaces of the ground with his blunt wooden stump, and wonders why there is such a poor harvest, and looks wistfully to a golden Millennium when things might be expected to better.

- Charles D. Alexander, Prophecy Spiritually Understood