This post is in response to recent and past questions about whether or not the prophecies of Zechariah 12 have been fulfilled. At a later time I may do my own in-depth study of this passage, but this post draws on a few studies done by others who believe that Zechariah 12 was fulfilled in the first century AD. Here are a couple of questions to consider regarding Zechariah 12-14:
1. Did Zechariah speak of only earthly Jerusalem throughout these three chapters, or did he shift at any time to speaking about the new/heavenly Jerusalem?
2. Did Zechariah possibly have a glimpse of the revelation that Paul had in Galatians 4:21-31, when he spoke of two Jerusalems; one that was in bondage and ready to be cast out, and one that was free and is the mother of God’s people? Isaiah had this revelation to some degree (see Isaiah 65:17 – 66:24).
A. In the first study I’d like to present, Don K. Preston discusses Zechariah 12 in conjunction with Revelation 1:7, a related passage, and gives some historical and contextual background for Zechariah 12:
It seems to have escaped the notice of those who offer Revelation 1:7 as proof of a yet future coming of Jesus that this verse is taken directly out of the book of Zechariah; and as we shall see Jesus also uses this verse in the great eschatological discourse of Matthew 24. Surely the Bible student will want to be fully aware of how the verse is used in those contexts.
In Zechariah 12:10 the Spirit is speaking of a time which he designated as “in that day.” This little term is used extensively by the prophet and is a limiting factor for everything which he discusses. Some of the “in that day” statements are confessedly enigmatic; but enough of them are sufficiently specific as to subject or time that there can be no misunderstanding.
1. “In that day” was to be when God would “break my covenant made with all the people” (Zech. 11:7-11). This is undeniably when the Old Covenant would pass.
2. “In that day” would be “when they shall be in the siege both against Judah and Jerusalem” (12:1).
3. “In that day would be when “there shall be great mourning in Jerusalem” (12:11).
4. “In that day” would be when “there shall be a fountain opened to the house of David…for sin and for uncleanness” (13:1).
5. “In that day” would be when God would “cause the prophets and the unclean spirit to pass out of the land” (13:2).
6. “In that day” would be when the shepherd would be smitten and the sheep scattered (13:6-7).
7. “In that day” would be when only a remnant would be saved (13:8).
8. “In that day” would be when God would “gather all nations against Jerusalem to battle,” (14:2).
9. “In that day” “living waters would go out from Jerusalem” (14:8).
10. “In that day” there would be only one God and one Lord (14:9).
… Is it not patent that all the above… happened in one generation? How then can one divorce the appearance of the Messiah, when they would look on him whom they had pierced, from that same fateful generation?
Interestingly, John the author of Revelation used Zechariah 12:10 on another occasion. In John 19:37 as Jesus hung on the cross the Lord’s favorite apostle records the event as fulfillment of Zechariah’s words. This application of a single prediction to two events is not unknown in scripture… For John, Zechariah 12:10 was applicable to Jesus’ crucifixion; but it would receive final fulfillment when “all the tribes of the earth” would mourn when they looked on him whom they had pierced. To John this would be when Jesus returned in the clouds of glory.
Jesus and Zechariah 12:10
As shown, Zechariah 12:10 is the background for Revelation 1:7 and the context demands the event be in the first century generation. But our Lord also employed the language of Zechariah/Revelation in such a way that all controversy as to WHEN it would happen should be dispelled. In the famous apocalypse of Matthew 24 our Lord predicted the destruction of Jerusalem…
In Matthew 24:29-31 Jesus adopts the classical style of Jewish apocalyptic literature in describing the fall of the Theocracy. In verse 30 Messiah quotes Zechariah 12:10 as occurring when the Son of Man would be seen “coming in the clouds of heaven with power and great glory.” Now notice the emphatic time statements. In verse 32 Jesus tells the parable of the fig tree. When the predicted events began to be seen by the apostles and disciples they were to “know it is near, even at the doors.” He then [states] in positive terms, “Verily, I say unto you, This generation shall not pass away, until all these things shall be fulfilled” (v.34). Our Lord has specifically told us when he would come with the clouds, cf. Rev.1:7, when he would be seen by all those who pierced him. It would be in his generation.
In confirmation of the time frame of his coming with the clouds in judgment one needs to examine Matthew 16:27-28 and compare Revelation 22:12. There is absolute harmony and unity between all these verses. In Matthew 16:27-28 Jesus promised to return in judgment with the angels in the lifetime of his disciples. In Matthew 24 he promised to come and be seen by those who had pierced him and it was to be in that generation. In Revelation he would be seen by those who had pierced him and, “Behold, I come quickly, and my reward is with me to give to every man according as his work shall be,” Rev.1:7; 22:12.
How can one objectively examine these texts and ignore the time frame so inextricably woven into the text? Upon what basis can one say that while Jesus in Matthew 24 cited Zechariah 12 as to be fulfilled at his return in Jerusalem’s fall, that in Revelation, although it emphatically tells us it would shortly come to pass (l:l-3) it has not yet been fulfilled?
…Notice the correlation between the theme of the three texts. In Zechariah we are dealing with a time when Jerusalem would be surrounded and besieged, 12:2,11; 13:8ff; 14:2. In Matthew 24 the subject is the destruction of Jerusalem, 24:1-3. In Revelation the theme is the destruction of the great city “where our Lord was crucified,” 11:8. In all three texts you have the coming of the Lord, Zech.14:3-5; Matthew 24:29-31; Revelation 1:7. In each of the texts those who pierced him would see him, Zechariah 12:10,Matthew 24:30, Revelation 1:7. And of course at the risk of being repetitious, all three [accounts of this event] were set in a specific time frame – “in that day.” Zech.12; “this generation shall not pass away,” Matthew 24:34; and “the time is at hand,” Rev.1:3…
B. The second article I’d like to share is on one of Don K. Preston’s websites, but features the writings of Frank Speer and Ed Stevens as they address an article by Thomas Ice titled “Preterism and Zechariah 12-14.” Frank Speer lists some of the “difficulties that arise from taking a yet future approach to Zechariah chapters 12-14”:
• The battle described in these chapters is waged on HORSEBACK (12:4) with SWORDS! (13:7) Is that how the COMING 21st century Great Tribulation is to be fought?
• Modern Jews do not and will not live in “TENTS” (12:7).
• Modern Jewish people CAN NO LONGER BE divided by their 12 ancestral tribes (12:6-14) since those tribes have long since been genetically diluted – the Jewish peoples of today simply CANNOT be equated with ancient, biblical Israel.
• Zech 13:1 is clearly speaking of “The Cross of Christ” (i.e. a first century event). Has there been no Messianic “fountain” of forgiveness available to the Jewish people since the cross?? Have they been made to wait all this time and then some (until Messiah’s STILL FUTURE RETURN) to have access to divine forgiveness of sin?
• The modern Jews do not and will not worship then “many Idols” mentioned in (13:2) – today’s Jews are mostly atheistic.
• There are no modern Jewish “prophets” (13:2) – nor will there be.
• (13:4) – Will false Hebrew prophets wearing “HAIRY ROBES” soon appear in modern day Palestine in order to deceive a mass of Jewish peoples? …
• (13:3) – The modern Jewish peoples do not obey these ancient “Mosaic Laws” (parents killing children for false predictions etc)!
• (13:4-5) – Will “SLAVERY & AGRICULTURE” once again become COMMON PRACTICE for 21st century Palestinians and ALL NATIONS OF THE WORLD??
• Is the modern Palestinian Economy…based on GOLD, SILVER, FABRIC, HORSES, MULES, CAMELS, DONKEYS AND CATTLE?? (14:14-15)
• Notice that the “ALL NATIONS” of 14:1 are QUALIFIED later by “all the SURROUNDING nations” in 14:14. There is no mention here of ALL THE MODERN NATIONS OF THE 21st CENTURY WORLD! These ancient “Middle Eastern nations” surrounding ancient Israel were the same constant thorns Israel dealt with through their entire history!!
• (14:16) Will the modern Jewish peoples, under Messiah, be keeping all of the Old Covenant “feasts” when the N.T. writers (under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit) clearly state that such things were merely TEMPORARY TYPOLOGICAL TUTORS intended to lead Israel to Christ??
Will Christ then, in the future, lead the “modern Jewish Christians” and ALL THE NATIONS OF THE MODERN WORLD backwards – to those ancient and “rudimentary things” ( Gk: “stoicheion” – Col 2:8, 20; 2 Pet 3:10) that only served to point to Messiah, the cross, the resurrection, etc.???
The N.T. writers tell us that a RETURN to the Mosaic Economy (the OLD covenant system) would be to apostatize from Christ and to INVALIDATE the cross of Christ!!
• (14:16) – Will “all the nations” [of the entire modern world] soon be “GOING UP” to the modern city of Jerusalem each year to celebrate the Jewish feasts?? How will we all FIT??
Will ALL THE NATIONS OF THE WORLD soon SUDDENLY become AGRARIAN BASED in order to begin THE ANNUAL PLANTING AND HARVESTING CYCLE necessary to keep the feast of booths (tabernacles) yearly? Because, if we do not, God is going to bring PLAGUES upon all those wicked nations and destroy their crops by withholding rain on their crops. (14:17-20)
• Is modern Israel under Messiah going to return to bloody ANIMAL SACRIFICES (the NT says that would be nothing short of “blasphemous” – (study the Book of Hebrews)?
Don K. Preston then quotes from Thomas Ice, who argues that Zechariah 12-14 shows Israel being rescued, not judged, and therefore this passage can not be speaking of events related to the Jewish-Roman War of 66-73 AD. According to Ice, those who say that Zechariah 12-14 has been fulfilled teach “in essence…that the Church had replaced Israel.” He says that preterists have made two errors:  believing that Zechariah speaks of “God’s judgment at the hands of the Romans in AD 70 upon Israel,” and  failing to see that “Zechariah 12-14 clearly speaks of a time when Israel is rescued by the Lord from an attack by ‘all the nations of the earth,’ not just the Romans” (Ice, of course, should realize that the Roman Empire did absorb many nations and made up most of the known world at the time).
Ed Stevens then responds to the arguments of Thomas Ice:
Mr. Ice…assumes that ALL preterists (partials and fulls) are guilty of “replacement” theology (when in fact, almost all full preterists, as far as I know, are teaching “remnant” theology). We believe that God did not cut off ALL Israel from his Olive Tree. There was a righteous remnant left who did accept Jesus as their Messiah. Into that righteous remnant of True Israel (the Spiritual Israel) the Gentiles were grafted, in order to make the Jews jealous and entice them to be grafted back into their native Olive Tree and save some of them. Together with the engrafted Gentiles and the re-grafted Israelites, this righteous remnant became the ALL ISRAEL that inherited the promises.
He assumes that the Jerusalem mentioned in Zechariah is the physical city of Jerusalem (when in fact it is talking about the New Heavenly Jerusalem mentioned in Hebrew 12 and Revelation 21-22).
He assumes that the references to “Israel” in Zech are the physical nation of Israel (when in fact it is talking about the New True Spiritual Israel that Paul refers to in the book of Romans 2, and chs. 9-11, as well as the allegory in Gal. 4).
He forgets about the Neronic persecution (AD 64) when both Rome and the Jews combined forces against the Church to destroy her and wipe her off the map. Jesus said in Matthew 24 that unless those days had been cut short, they would have succeeded. Sure enough, two years later (AD 66) the Jewish War broke out and Rome turned its attention away from hunting Christians, to attacking the Jews.
He forgets that by the first century the Hebrew people had become a melting pot of ALL NATIONS, especially in the Diaspora (Persia, India, Africa, Turkey, Greece, Rome, France, Spain, Britain, Germania, Scythia, Armenia, etc.). Just look at the description in Acts 2 of all the nations where “Jews” came from. There were Jewish communities scattered all over Europe, Asia, and Africa. When the Neronic persecution broke out, every Jewish community in the Diaspora (among “all the nations”) took advantage of the opportunity to wipe out the Christians, and used Roman authority to do it. They were just like the wicked Haman of the book of Esther who plotted to wipe out all the Jews. That was when “all the nations” (Diaspora Jews) came against God’s people (the Christians, the New Jerusalem, the true Spiritual Israel) in the Neronic persecution (AD 64). But God turned the tables on the Hamanites. Less than two years later (AD 66) the Jews revolted, and God brought the Romans to wipe out “all the nations” (Diaspora Jews) who had come up against His true spiritual people.
Because Tommy Ice does not know his history nor understand prophetic language, he does not realize that “all the nations” which came against the True Israel and the New Jerusalem, really were destroyed by the Romans. In AD 66, when the war broke out, Diaspora Jews were forced to flee from “all the nations” where they had been scattered and take refuge in Israel. When they got back to the land, they joined the revolt and ended up being killed and enslaved afterwards.
[I don’t agree with Stevens’ final paragraph and did not include it here.]
C. Don K. Preston has another article on this topic titled, “Was Zechariah 12:3 Fulfilled in AD 70?” I’ll quote just a couple of portions from that article:
Our understanding of Zechariah is aided by the prophet’s references to “in that day.” These temporal parameters place fulfillment within the borders of a single generation, the first century generation. There are, if my count is correct, some 19 references to “in that day” in Zechariah. Space forbids an extensive examination of the “in that day” references. However, notice that the “in that day” references of chapter 12 take us directly back to chapter 11. In chapter 11 we find the betrayal of Jesus at the hands of Judas, who was paid the thirty pieces of silver (Zechariah 11:12-13). This in turn would be when YHVH would abandon His covenant “with both houses of Israel” (Zechariah 11:6-10), when they would eat their own flesh in the siege that was coming.
This is confirmed by Jesus’ application of Zechariah 12:10 to the fall of Jerusalem in Matthew 24:30, 34, and by John’s application of the same verse to the time when “those who pierced him” would look on him and mourn, in the destruction of the city “where the Lord was slain” (Revelation 1:7; 11:8)…
Please note: This judgment that is described, when the citizens of Jerusalem would eat the flesh of their own children, was to be part of the Mosaic Covenant provisions of wrath for violation of the Mosaic Covenant (Deuteronomy 28:52-57). Here is what is so critical about this fact: All dispensationalists agree that the Mosaic Covenant has been abrogated!
Thomas Ice affirms that the Torah was “forever fulfilled and discontinued in Christ” (Prophecy Watch, Eugene, Or. 1998, 258)! He acknowledges of the AD 70 catastrophe: “Those first century days are called the ‘days of vengeance’ for Jerusalem is under the divine judgment of covenantal sanctions recorded in Leviticus 26 and Deuteronomy 28. Luke notes that God’s vengeance on His elect nation ‘is in order that all things that are written may be fulfilled.’ Jesus is telling the nation that God will fulfill all the curses of the Mosaic Covenant because of Israel’s disobedience. He will not relent and merely bring to pass a partial fulfillment of His vengeance” (Thomas Ice/ Kenneth Gentry, The Great Tribulation , Past or Future? Grand Rapids, Kregel, 1999).
…Here is the issue: All millennialists say the Law of Moses has been abrogated. Yet, Zechariah’s prediction of the assault on Jerusalem would be the fulfillment of the Mosaic Covenant… Zechariah had to be fulfilled at a time when Torah was still in effect.
ROME WAS NOT ALONE!
When our millennial friends take note that Zechariah 12 mentions “all the nations of the earth” it is perfectly justified to ask if they mean “all”? Do they mean that America will fight against Jerusalem? If not, why not? Do they mean that the 17 smallest countries in the world, most of which have no armies, will join the battle? If, after all, one is going to insist that “all the nations” means literally, every nation on earth, then to be consistent, one must argue that every South American country, the USA and every other country on the globe will join in…
In fact, Josephus records that Titus had ten cohorts of auxiliary troops from kings of different countries, such as Arabia, Syria and other countries (Wars, Bk. 4, chapter 4, Whiston, p. 642). In other words, it was the kings of the earth that gathered against literal Jerusalem!
A TALE OF TWO CITIES
It is critical to honor the fact that in Zechariah (and other OT prophetic books), there is what I call the doctrine of Two Jerusalems… What this means is that in some texts there is a seeming conundrum. On the one hand Jerusalem is destroyed, and yet in the same texts, Jerusalem is delivered! This apparent difficulty is resolved by understanding that Old Covenant Jerusalem was to perish, while the heavenly Jerusalem would be delivered. Galatians 4:22f; Philippians 3; Hebrews 12, and Revelation are some of the NT texts that teach this. This suggestion well explains the situation in Zechariah. The Old Jerusalem would indeed be desolated, in the final outpouring of Mosaic Covenant wrath. Yet, the Jerusalem that is above, the True Jerusalem, would be delivered, and it would be in her that deliverance, the fountain for sin would be opened for salvation (Zechariah 13:1f)…
Zechariah’s prophecy demands that it was fulfilled in the first century, “in that day” when Judas betrayed the Lord. The context demands that the prophecy was fulfilled at a time when the Mosaic Law was still in effect. The judgment described is Mosaic Covenant Wrath. The “kings of the earth” did in fact support Rome’s assault. Finally, the doctrine of the Two Jerusalems demands the passing of the Old Jerusalem, but the deliverance of the New Covenant Jerusalem. This happened in AD 70.
What do you think? Does the idea of two Jerusalems, one earthly and one heavenly, help to explain Zechariah’s prophecy? Is Zechariah 12 more clear when it’s viewed in relation to the two passages where it’s quoted – Matthew 24:30 and Revelation 1:7? In the near future, I also plan to post a 3-part study by Gary DeMar on Zechariah 14.