November 14, 2005

Sermon Notes

The End of Zechariah, of the Age,  and of the Preliminaries





How ludicrous! the Lord often showed Israel: to imagine that their prodigious victories as He sustained them in their most exalted past, were 'happenings', in view of their huge scope, timing and reliability (cf. Deuteronomy 32:28ff.)! Foolish and people and unwise, He deemed them, to forget their Rock. It is no less so that our Gentile neologians and pseudo-scientific method dalliers of our own day, imagine the production of law by chance, when chance itself is law in form, devoid merely of known purpose. Is  car a product of chance when you cannot see the driver! (cf. Ancient Words, Modern Deeds Chs.  9,  13).

Instead, you find the source of it, and the reasons for the manufacture, considering wisdom by result.

The LORD not being sought, He nevertheless comes. In His grace, up to this end of the Age time, soon to move past the repentance of Israel as specified in Zech. 12:10ff., for their murder of the Messiah, and moving on to the actual personal  return of the Lord with His people as in Zech. 14:5, millions have found Him. For many of these, in their blessed relationship to the Lord,  it may be said, as in Isaiah 65,

¨ "I was sought by those who did not ask for Me,

¨ I was found by those who did not seek Me".

Now in Zech. 14:1-3, we see the Day of the Lord coming. It is complex: on the one hand, He proceeds to "gather all the nations to battle against Jerusalem", while on the other,  He "will go forth and fight."

First notice the sequence. From Zech. 13:7-8, where the dispersion and the dismemberment of Israel is in view following the epochal movement against the Lord, there is no great leap to Zech. 14. After all, the real leap is in 13:9, where the remnant, the residue, the restored and penitent Israel of 12:10ff. comes again into prophetic focus, Now deliverance is theirs, blessed fellowship with God. First however, this is reversion to … war, decisive as in the days of the Exodus (Micah 7:15, Zech. 14:1-3).

In the end, those refined will once again say, we there find, "The LORD is my God," just as the Lord will once again say, "This is My people!" (13:9). What is true for the Jew is true for the Gentile in this, that those alienated in their minds (Ephesians 4:17-19, 2:1-6), astray in their spirits, whose hearts said, AVAUNT! go, to God, and now say, AVAST! Hold! Stay! Jew or Gentile find one mighty to save, who would have all to repent and return to the knowledge of the truth (Isaiah 63:1, 55:1-6, I Timothy 2, Colossians 1:19ff.).

However, in this section, Zech. 14, it is on Jerusalem and the Jew that we focus, and their long saga now comes to a fitting conclusion (cf. Romans 11 which covers it by parable, ending with the separation severed, and union recast as the light shines and the sight is restored - Romans 11:25ff.).

As the nations thus gather against Jerusalem, half the city goes into captivity and half remains, as happened so very dramatically in 1948, the Mandelbaum Gate being the contemporary separation point between Israel and Jordan then (Zechariah 14:2). People were, we learn from firsthand report, were raped, and the place indeed ravaged as predicted (14:3). The nations assuredly were gathered in international multiplicity of the widest scope:  the UN in its constant hostility, proposing dismembered bits in one section of Palestine as sufficient for Israel, ex-Jerusalem as capital; and many Arab nations were seeking its take-over as Britain evacuated with special help to the Arab Legion, which nevertheless failed; for God had it written otherwise. They were BOTH at it! UN and Moslems.

 Nevertheless, the Lord delivered Israel, reborn May 1948. Of this we have seen much before in Zech. 12, as we have also in Habakkuk 3, Joel 3, Micah 7, Deut. 32, Ez. 38-39, following the dry bones parable, in which God acted twice. As in Ez. 37, His first command restored Jewish people to take their power into Jerusalem physically, with formal existence there; and the second command gave them life which is identified as spiritual (37:11-14), as they then come to know the Lord personally as they should long have done, but did not! He puts His Spirit in them, showing them He has spoken and acted.

These things may be pursued in some detail in SMR pp. 502ff., 510ff., and one short citation from p. 515 will give a brief coverage of much:

II  ORIENTATION:   A short sequence

Israel returns; Jerusalem is liberated; Israel fights triumphant wars; the Gentile period of speciality ends, the church in some of its forms falling away, while false prophets abound; the Confederacy assaults Israel; the Spirit of God is poured out; many Jews are converted; the Lord appears and the whole (composite) church disappears to be with Him (I Thess. 4) at the marriage feast of the Lamb. The antichrist now appears in full force, unhindered by the power of Christians (Revelation 11, II Thessalonians 2:7-8); the Lord returns with His own, destroys the antichrist (Rev. 19, II Thess. 2) and the millennium ensues in which the rule of righteousness is witnessed on the earth through a Christ whose earlier crucifixion shows the height and purity of His love (Revelation 20, Isaiah 65).

During their trials, and up to Christ's return for them, the people of God are kept inside a more powerful presence than any evil can create (Luke 21:14-15 ; Matthew 28:18-20; John 14:21; Mark 11:25; Eph. 1:19). If it were possible, they would be snatched from Him, but it is not possible (Mat. 24:24:24, John 10:27-8). Then they are removed at an unexpected time (Mat. 24:50; Mark 13:32 ff.), taken from this ideological, psychological and unspiritual horror that at that time overtakes the earth.

But when, when is this, the return of Christ to rescue His people and allow the earth to reach its evil prime, ready for destruction ? As well as the pointers already noted and in place, we find from Christ the words of multiplied wars, rumours of wars, earthquakes and famines, a time when people's hearts 'fail for fear' and when, if it were not shortened, ''no flesh could be spared''... But when ? Before, then, no flesh could endure. But when! In a time shortened for the 'elects' sake' (Matthew 24:22). How much shortened ? We do not know, so why should we be concerned!

It is enough that to Christ we look, the Lord of glory soon to appear and come in His love stronger than hate, irresistible and all wise (Jude 24-25), removing all who ''love His appearing'' (Hebrews 9:28; Matthew 24:31-40; Acts 1:7-11; I Thessalonians 4:13-18; I Corinthians 15:50-58; 1 John 3:1-3).

Scenario before that sovereign Spirit, sole Saviour and Governor who is God     

And then, when the rapture or recall to the Lord of the saints is past, and the following return of the Lord with His saints, when these rejoicings are fulfilled; and when the masterly millennium in its time is past; and the final rebellion in its time (Rev. 20:2,7,10,14) is over: then the old heaven and the earth are dismissed and dissolved (Mat. 24:35; Is.  51:6; II Peter 3:10. Rev. 20:11) . What then ... ? Then is the magnificence of the New Jerusalem (Rev.  21) exposed like the butterfly from the grub; and the former things do not occupy the mind (Isaiah 65:16-17).

What is shakeable is gone, and the unshakeable remains (Hebrews 12:25-28). As our sins (Heb. 8:12) are forgotten, so is the trauma, tragedy and trial of the pilgrimage. The race is won; the echoes depart.

Indeed, the new, the later things so far surpass the former things that it would be as if a Professor of Mathematics should think of the former things of school's first stages, as he studies (Revelation 21:1-4; Isaiah 65:16-17).

But Christ, the eternal Son shall not be surpassed: rather shall He be found, as Revelation tells us, in the centre of the throne (Revelation 7:17; 22:3; 21:22-25): He who with the Father is one God, to be worshipped for ever. He is the God, the only God (Isaiah 45:14,21-22), who loved; and sent (Isaiah 48:16); and saved (Isaiah 43:10-11, Isaiah 53:1-12); and has judged and rules and is the delight of His own. For His love is fulfilled, and not frustrated; it is alive (John 17:23-26) in His adopted children.

He has done as He pleased; and His power is the path of His desire; and it is found perfect.


III  Millenial Marvels

Meanwhile, Zechariah 14:5 reveals the Lord's final actions for this Age as He comes with all His saints together (just as in I Thessalonians 3:13).

¨ IF ( and one is inclined to make it the mathematical IFF, 'only if') you have served the Lord and THEREFORE suffered for it;  

¨ if you have been despised by this world for your stand for what it cannot abide;

¨ if your life has been hidden in Christ, and your desire has been to Him,
for whom in heaven do you have but He, and ultimately, who on earth (Psalm 73):

then there is that natural liberation to which you look with relish.

You come at that time with Christ to this earth not as a pilgrim and a stranger (cf. Hebrews 11:13), for so long your appointed role: for you come as a child of God in His direct, immediate and ruling presence in His world, no longer subjected to any outward and dire efforts from the evil 'prince of this world' (John 14:30), but under the Lord's own immediate Shepherd's crook. Is it not strange how our word 'crook' can mean just what the crookedness of this world means; but yet with a Shepherd, it means his comforting implement for our safety!

Such is the change as this stage has its final run for the season, before it is taken down. The transformation is not merely verbal, but virtuous.  Now living waters come from Jerusalem and there is change in its land surrounds. It seems that symbol and geology mix here, and that the Lord's poetical powers are once again moving to make for man a physical symmetry, with the spiritual. Light becomes different also, the darkness not arising, but departing. Indeed, light grows more constant, diffused differently (Zech. 14:6) in the direct presence of the Lord. No more "utter destruction" is there (Zech. 14:11), but "Jerusalem shall be safely inhabited."

The aggressors now are seen languishing with what may be a radiation dissolution in tongue and eye, the flesh losing its natural strength (Zech. 14:12). History is not stalled, but rather scrubbing up for the final operation.

Wealth so long expropriated from the Jew, as in the slavery in Egypt, and the World War II enormities, and the UN denial of the international gift of Palestine for the Jews after World War I, this sordid, snatching sally will end now with seizure of wealth by the afflicted nation (Zech. 14:14, cf. Ezekiel 39:10). It was so in the case of Egypt, a retributive restoration! (cf. Exodus 12:35-36).

From Zechariah 14:16 we learn that there is to be an enormous emphasis on the fact that GOD made a contract, a covenant indeed with Abraham (cf. Galloping Events Ch. 4), objectively, that He realised it, that He applied it. Despite evils including deicide (relative to the fleshly format, in Christ), He has brought them physically and literally, actually and historically into their land. He has excavated them from their broken foundations, and He has restored them to their new life.

He has done what He said. It was not a case of a Jewish people once pulsing with power and then declining, at all: this was not what happened to Israel of old. Rather, it was in its heyday, and even in the preliminary profundities of mercy in its Exodus, a people vitalised by divine dynamic and then later, in squalid and successive stages derailed by poor steering and false leadership, departing from their Lord. It was, moreover, a people to be defended at the end, as at the first, after their intervening nodule of discipline. Why ? because in His love, He undertook to do so! (Ezekiel 36:22, Deuteronomy 32:30ff.).

This appears the general direction of Zech. 14:16, for the Feast of Tabernacles mentioned there, was just such a thing, a graphic, if brief reminder through having leafy little coverings for living in the outdoors, of one basic fact. It was that the Lord led them OUT of Egypt, through a desert to their land.

This is just the same emphasis as in Ezekiel 39:21ff..

" 'I will set My glory among the nations; all the nations shall see
My judgment which I have executed, and My hand which I have laid on them.
So the house of
Israel shall know that I am the Lord their God from that day forward.
The Gentiles shall know that the house of Israel went into captivity for their iniquity;
because they were unfaithful to Me, therefore I hid My face from them.’ ”

Then the scene from other scriptures moves on, for the millennium past, the world goes: there is no more place for it (Rev. 20:11). The Artist has better paintings than these (II Peter 3). It is not that this creation is not a marvel of exuberant wit, marvellous contrivance, towering design, intense integrality, dynamic diversification with vast stores of intense beauty, spread in landscapes, set in seascapes, soaring in skyscapes, witnessed in minute flowers, manufactured with units, surpassed with spirit, spectacles of peace in profundity and glorious exuberance of delicacy. Rather it is the sad case that it has been soiled and spoiled by constant disregard of its Maker.

Indeed, this world has a use-by date, afflicted in much and projected for a purpose (Isaiah 51:6). In it, we do not find no exceptions to the decline of made material things, except in the case of the application of intelligence. Accordingly, God’s own power of course can regenerate what He will, as a mechanic can toil with an ageing car, or fit new parts; but of itself, the natural has decline in its face.

We who are His have no need to wait for our deliverance: it is NOW that we know Him; and on His return, we go to Him and remain with Him for ever. Today we look for Him in heart, as we shall find Him on His return; and in this Lord’s Supper we “proclaim the Lord’s death till He comes” – I Cor. 11:26.
To those who eagerly await Him, He will appear a second time apart from sin, for salvation” – Heb. 9:27. The glories of His reign, of His dismissal of the earth, of His haven in heaven, of His everlasting mercy and ineffable righteousness, the wonders of living eternally with your Creator, your God, your Redeemer leave this earth as a preliminary, a preparation for the light which nothing can contain, but which is Jesus Christ, the same today, yesterday, forever.