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Zechariah 8 Commentary

Zechariah 8:1 – And the word of the Lord of hosts came, saying,

As we have seen before, this tells us that we have yet another message coming from God.

Zechariah 8:2 – “Thus says the Lord of hosts: I am jealous for Zion with great jealousy, and I am jealous for her with great wrath.

The word “jealous” is typically used when God is telling of something that He is intensely passionate about. Some translations use the phrase “zealous.” In Exodus 20:5, we learn that God is jealous and will not tolerate anything rivaling His glory. This phrase is being used to show that He is passionate about restoring his covenant with His people.

The phrase “Thus says the Lord” is in this chapter of Zechariah 10 times. When we see this phrase, it is to stress the promises God has made with His people.

Zechariah 8:3 – Thus says the Lord: I have returned to Zion and will dwell in the midst of Jerusalem, and Jerusalem shall be called the faithful city, and the mountain of the Lord of hosts, the holy mountain.

I find it interesting that some versions of the Bible call Jerusalem a “city of truth” and the ESV calls it the “faithful city.” While they can be used to mean similar things, reading it without context can lead to confusion.

A faithful city is one that will be faithful to the Lord. Yes, that does include the truth of God’s Word and love, but I think that we can easily pass by that word in the Bible in our 21st century American minds. When I read other versions and see “city of truth” I perceive a city that is ruled by God and their words and their actions are both based on the truth of God alone.

I believe the phrase “city of truth” needs to be used here rather than “faithful city” because of the tie it has to verse 16. This would make this chapter more consistent with the rest of the book.

We also see in this verse the “holy mountain,” which ties back to Isaiah 6:3. The mountain is holy because God is there.

We need to remember that simply returning from captivity did not end the sin that God’s people would do. This is more prophetic than historical in nature. The sin won’t come to an end until the Savior returns a second time.

Zechariah 8:4 – Thus says the Lord of hosts: Old men and old women shall again sit in the streets of Jerusalem, each with staff in hand because of great age.

Think of what those who were in captivity returned to. Jerusalem’s walls were all destroyed and they were coming back to a city that was a ghost of what it once was.

Between this verse and the next, we see that God is promising to have the city be vibrant once again.

Zechariah 8:5 – And the streets of the city shall be full of boys and girls playing in its streets.

There would be families once again growing in Jerusalem. The Targum (a spoken translation of the Tanakh, or the Scriptures, in a language for the common people) says that instead of playing in the streets, these children will be singing or praising God in the spaces of the city.

Children are seen to be a blessing from God. With these same children playing in the streets, they have nothing to fear. Peace has come to Jerusalem.

Zechariah 8:6 – Thus says the Lord of hosts: If it is marvelous in the sight of the remnant of this people in those days, should it also be marvelous in my sight, declares the Lord of hosts?

The people must have marveled at being called home. I am sure that the captives were struggling to not lose hope, but the situation that they were in must have seemed hopeless.

This one act, bringing God’s people home, was a miracle that only God could make happen!

Zechariah 8:7 – Thus says the Lord of hosts: Behold, I will save my people from the east country and from the west country,

This is a very interesting verse! Think of this in terms of history. The Israelites were taken captive to the north. The western scattering didn’t happen until the first century AD! At this point, there were no Jews in the western world.

I really believe there are two different ways to look at this verse: physical and spiritual. In the physical sense, east and west could mean the entire world. Think of Deuteronomy 30:3: “That then the Lord your God will turn your captivity, and have compassion on you, and will return and gather you from all nations where the Lord has scattered you.”

In the spiritual sense, God is speaking of the salvation that is offered to the entire world. Think of verses like Malachi 1:11 or 1 Timothy 4:10.

Zechariah 8:8 – and I will bring them to dwell in the midst of Jerusalem. And they shall be my people, and I will be their God, in faithfulness and in righteousness.”

When I read this verse, I immediately think of Hebrews 8:10: “For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, says the Lord; I will put my laws into their mind, and write them on their hearts: and I will be to them a God and they shall be to me a people.”

But then I realize that the verse in Hebrews is reverse of this. In this verse, the people must want to be God’s before He will be theirs.

This is one of the most important promises in all of Scripture! Imagine the awesome time we will have with God being our God and us being His people! This is both physical and spiritual. It isn’t just for Jews. It is for all.

Zechariah 8:9 – Thus says the Lord of hosts: “Let your hands be strong, you who in these days have been hearing these words from the mouth of the prophets who were present on the day that the foundation of the house of the Lord of hosts was laid, that the temple might be built.

God is talking about the building of the temple in this case. He is encouraging His people to get the temple built. The foundation of the temple had been laid over 15 years before this was written. As we will see in the upcoming verses, the were running out of money and they were facing opposition.

But one can’t help but think about Ephesians 6:10 in this: “Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord and in the power of His might.”

Zechariah 8:10 – For before those days there was no wage for man or any wage for beast, neither was there any safety from the foe for him who went out or came in, for I set every man against his neighbor.

This is a backward look at a forward promise. God is telling them that where they came from was very poor in condition compared to where He is about to bring them to.

Zechariah 8:11 – But now I will not deal with the remnant of this people as in the former days, declares the Lord of hosts.

God is not going to allow the same fate to happen to this remnant that He did to the people before.

Zechariah 8:12 – For there shall be a sowing of peace. The vine shall give its fruit, and the ground shall give its produce, and the heavens shall give their dew. And I will cause the remnant of this people to possess all these things.

This verse and the next show the depth of God’s promises to His people. God is about to reverse the curses from Deuteronomy 28 and Jeremiah. Let’s look closer at this.

There will be a sowing of peace. Most other versions have listed “the seed shall be prosperous.” I think I like the other versions more than the ESV again in this. Simply saying that there is a sowing of peace doesn’t show the countering of Haggai 1:6 in which there would be sowing and it wouldn’t come to much.

Then we see that the vine will give her fruit and the ground shall give its produce. This is a counter to Haggai 1:11 in which there was a drought.

The heavens will give their dew. Again, we are countering Haggai 1:11 in which the drought was prevalent.

Zechariah 8:13 – And as you have been a byword of cursing among the nations, O house of Judah and house of Israel, so will I save you, and you shall be a blessing. Fear not, but let your hands be strong.”

Both Judah and Israel are brought back. Unified. God is not going to have them be a curse among the nations, but a blessing. A couple of verses to think about for this:

Genesis 12:2 – And I will make you a great nation, and I will bless you, and make your name great, and you will be a blessing.

Then another one that speaks to this, after Jesus was resurrected,

Galatians 3:28-29 – There is neither Jew nor Greek, neither slave to free, neither male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. And if you are Christ’s, then you are Abraham’s seed and heirs according to the promise.

Zechariah 8:14 – For thus says the Lord of hosts: “As I purposed to bring disaster to you when your fathers provoked me to wrath, and I did not relent, says the Lord of hosts,

So for the idolatry, abominations, and sins of the fathers, God brought disaster to His people. He didn’t end the relationship, however. As these are His sons and daughters, He wanted them simply to turn back. His people needed punishment.

Zechariah 8:15 – so again have I purposed in these days to bring good to Jerusalem and to the house of Judah; fear not.

God has forgiven them and has chosen now to bless them. Just as in Isaiah 14:24 we see that whatever God plans He does, the same can be said here. The time for fear has passed. The time for abundant faith and blessing has come.

Zechariah 8:16 – These are the things that you shall do: Speak the truth to one another; render in your gates judgments that are true and make for peace;

As in all other times, the blessings come with obedience. We can’t expect to see God’s blessings if we choose to be disobedient. We see similar words in Psalm 15:1-5 when David asks who can live on the holy hill.

To stay under God’s blessing, these need to be a people who will speak the truth and execute honest judgment. Ephesians 4:25 tells us to speak truthfully to our neighbor and to put away our lying.

Zechariah 8:17 – do not devise evil in your hearts against one another, and love no false oath, for all these things I hate, declares the Lord.”

Our hearts determine who we are. Our character. Anything that runs counter to God’s Law is hated by God. Just as Paul says in 2 Corinthians 10:5 we are to take captive every thought to the obedience of Christ.

Zechariah 8:18 – And the word of the Lord of hosts came to me, saying,

We are about to get a new message. This is one that includes us Gentiles in it as part of the promises.

Zechariah 8:19 – “Thus says the Lord of hosts: The fast of the fourth month and the fast of the fifth and the fast of the seventh and the fast of the tenth shall be to the house of Judah seasons of joy and gladness and cheerful feasts. Therefore love truth and peace.

The fasts that are listed, which were to commemorate the destructions and/or deaths of others, are now to be feasts that are joyful times to celebrate what the Lord has done for the remnant returning.

Zechariah 8:20 – “Thus says the Lord of hosts: Peoples shall yet come, even the inhabitants of many cities.

This tells us that people from all over the different cities will be coming to Jerusalem. I like to think that this is foreshadowing the travels of Paul. Paul traveled all over the place and the people he came in contact with became part of the family. This is the same family that God is talking about in this verse.

Zechariah 8:21 – The inhabitants of one city shall go to another, saying, ‘Let us go at once to entreat the favor of the Lord and to seek the Lord of hosts; I myself am going.’

The people from the other cities will come to seek the Lord. These Gentiles care about each other. This reminds me of John 13:35 where Jesus tells His disciples that people will know they are His by the love they show one another. The fact that these Gentiles are going to each other to help them seek Christ shows that love that Jesus is talking about.

Zechariah 8:22 – Many peoples and strong nations shall come to seek the Lord of hosts in Jerusalem and to entreat the favor of the Lord.

This is very exciting! People from all around the world will come to seek God and to pray to Him. Galatians 3:8 says that God justifies the heathen through faith and that all nations are blessed.

Zechariah 8:23 – Thus says the Lord of hosts: In those days ten men from the nations of every tongue shall take hold of the robe of a Jew, saying, ‘Let us go with you, for we have heard that God is with you.’”

Ok, here’s a question. Why “ten?” Typically when ten nations is used in a verse it stands for the world governments. This means that the world will be seeking Christ. The Gospel was given to the Jew first, then the Gentile. But God is available for all nations.

Revelations 7:9-10 – After this I beheld, and lo, a great multitude, which no man could number, of all nations, all kindreds, and people, and tongues, stood before the throne, and before the Lamb, clothed with white robes, and palms in their hands.

Zechariah 6 Commentary

Zechariah 6 starts with another vision. This is the eighth and final vision. This vision serves as a connector to the first. The horses that are in the first vision are shown in this vision. This vision shows us the quick judgment that comes upon Babylon.

Zechariah 6:1 – Again I lifted my eyes and saw, and behold, four chariots came out from between two mountains. And the mountains were mountains of bronze.

Here comes the war. Chariots symbolize war. In the previous vision, the sins went out of Israel (physical and spiritual) and were taken to Babylon. Now that the sin is in the world, God is declaring war on the sin.

The mountains could have a dual meaning. It could be the physical placement of the mountains as many think they are Mount of Olives and Mount Zion. But the Lord calling these mountains of “bronze” or, in some translations, “brass,” means that they hold symbolic meaning as well. Typically we see the color bronze used with strength.

Putting the strength of the mountains together with the chariots and we see both strength and judgment.

The reasoning behind the physical mountains is because it is the actual Kidron Valley. That is the place that Jews, Christians, and Muslims believe will be the place of final judgment.

Zechariah 6:2 – The first chariot had red horses, the second black horses,

The horses, as we will see, match up to the horses seen in Zechariah 1 with one exception. There is the addition of a black horse.

In Zechariah 1 we see that the horses are on reconnaissance. In this, we see that the horses are hooked up to chariots. This means that we are seeing these horses coming in war, not reconnaissance.

These horses are pretty much the same as the horses as in the Revelation of Jesus Christ.

Revelation 6:4 – And out came another horse, bright red. Its rider was permitted to take peace from the earth, so that people should slay one another, and he was given a great sword.

Then again in Revelation 6:5 – When he opened the third seal, I heard the third living creature say, “Come!” And I looked, and behold, a black horse! And its rider had a pair of scales in his hand.

The black horse talks about troubled times and famine.

Zechariah 6:3 – the third white horses, and the fourth chariot dappled horses—all of them strong.

White horses are typically peaceful. The dappled horses are typically mixed times of peace and adversity.

At the end of the day, it is God whose plans are made a reality. Man can plan how this world will move forward, but God’s plan is true. It is timeless. And the strength of these horses show that man cannot have an impact on the mission of these horses.

Zechariah 6:4 – Then I answered and said to the angel who talked with me, “What are these, my lord?”

Again, as we have seen throughout the book, Zechariah is confused and asking for wisdom. This is the wisdom that can only come from God alone.

Zechariah 6:5 – And the angel answered and said to me, “These are going out to the four winds of heaven, after presenting themselves before the Lord of all the earth.

The symbolism here is the four corners of the world. Similar to the four kingdoms in the book of Daniel, these horses go out to the entire world.

These angels are to present themselves before the “Lord of all the earth.” This is the millennial title of Christ.

Zechariah 6:6 – The chariot with the black horses goes toward the north country, the white ones go after them, and the dappled ones go toward the south country.”

Now this is going to get a little deep. If we look directly at the historical significance of these horses in the physical realm, we can match up the horses to different times in history. The red horse, which isn’t mentioned here, has already occurred. The red horse was the time of the Chaldeans. That empire was already gone, so there is no mention of that horse here.

The black horse was Cyrus. He destroyed the Chaldeans and his kingdom is called “the north” in much of Scripture.

The white horse comes after Cyrus, which is Alexander. He was a fairly peaceful ruler.  Which makes sense he would get the white horse.

The dappled horses could be the Egyptian rulers which were had some that were peaceful and others that were cruel.

Israel’s enemies came from the north and south. Babylon and Egypt. God is calling the judgment upon those areas.

Zechariah 6:7 – When the strong horses came out, they were impatient to go and patrol the earth. And he said, “Go, patrol the earth.” So they patrolled the earth.

Who are the strong horses? Rome? Could be. It could also be any of the other kingdoms that strived to go well beyond their boundaries such as the Huns or the Goths or the Vandals.

These horses are told to go an walk to and fro through the earth. This means they have subdued the earth so that they can comfortably go through the world.

Zechariah 6:8 – Then he cried to me, “Behold, those who go toward the north country have set my Spirit at rest in the north country.”

This is most likely a millennial statement. God’s spirit of wrath won’t rest until the Messiah is on the throne. This is looking forward to Revelation 17 – 20.

Zechariah 6:9 – And the word of the Lord came to me:

In Scripture, one of the ways that prophets typically close out their visions is by giving focus to God. Zechariah is no different. He said that the Word of the Lord came to him. This is the moment that the topic moves from the vision itself to the word that God is giving Zechariah about the visions.

Zechariah 6:10 – “Take from the exiles Heldai, Tobijah, and Jedaiah, who have arrived from Babylon, and go the same day to the house of Josiah, the son of Zephaniah.

There are a ton of names here. Each of those names have meanings, as did most names from that day. Heldai is one of the exiles who returned from captivity and his name is based off the word cheled which means worldliness. Tobijah is another man from exile and his name means God is my good. Jedaiah is another formerly exiled man and his name means God has known.

Those three former exiles are to go immediately to Josiah. We don’t really know who this person is other than it is at his house they are crowning Joshua.

An interesting thing is that the name Josiah means God saves. While I am not sure it really works like this, these people were exiled in Babylon, in the world (Heldai). But God’s goodness knows what the exiles needed (Tobijah and Jedaiah)….saving from God (Josiah).

Zechariah 6:11 – Take from them silver and gold, and make a crown, and set it on the head of Joshua, the son of Jehozadak, the high priest.

It is interesting to note here that when Cyrus conquered Babylon in 539 BC, he allowed the Jews to go back to their homeland. When they arrived, they had joint leadership under Zerubbabel and Joshua. Throughout the history of Israel, God has commanded that the civil and the ceremonial leadership should be separate. Zerubbabel maintained the civil law while Joshua maintained the ceremonial.

The question here is why would they be putting a crown on the head of the high priest? This is not a normal thing. The only time we saw the two offices intermingle was in 2 Chronicles with Uzziah and it brought his death to him.

An interesting note is that Joshua is basically the same name as Jesus. This is most definitely a call out to the Messiah Jesus Christ. When Christ comes He will rule completely. This is a foreshadowing of the one to come from the Davidic line, Jesus the Christ.

Zechariah 6:12 – And say to him, ‘Thus says the Lord of hosts, “Behold, the man whose name is the Branch: for he shall branch out from his place, and he shall build the temple of the Lord.

In the next 4 verses, we learn a lot about Jesus Christ. First, we learn the Jesus will come from Israel and that He will build a temple.

While the crown was placed on the head of Joshua, they are calling out the Branch (capitalized), meaning Jesus the Christ.

Mark 14:58 – “We heard him say, ‘I will destroy this temple that is made with hands, and in three days I will build another, not made with hands.’”

John 2:21 – But he was speaking about the temple of his body.

John 15:5 – I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.

Zechariah 6:13 – It is he who shall build the temple of the Lord and shall bear royal honor, and shall sit and rule on his throne. And there shall be a priest on his throne, and the counsel of peace shall be between them both.”’

I am very confused by the various translations of this verse and, although I do most of my work from the ESV, I am not impressed with the translation of this verse in the ESV. Many other versions have the following:

Even he shall build the temple of the LORD; and he shall bear the glory, and shall sit and rule upon his throne; and he shall be a priest upon his throne: and the counsel of peace shall be between them both.”

When you read other translations, it is very easily seen as a singular person who is taking the role of both ruler and priest. When you read the ESV, it seems as though there are two separate people in this role.

As I believe this is a millennial verse that would go along with the others, I have to believe that this, too, is a millennial verse. If it is, then we learn several things about Christ here. First, we see the Lord’s glory. Next we see that He will be both king and priest. And finally in this verse we see that there will be peace.

Zechariah 6:14 – And the crown shall be in the temple of the Lord as a reminder to Helem, Tobijah, Jedaiah, and Hen the son of Zephaniah.

This crown that was given to Joshua is meant to be kept in the temple as a memorial to those who returned from exile.

This is a verse to speak to the faithful in Christ receiving the crown of glory.

The name “Hen” means gracious and is evidently another name for Josiah, who is being gracious himself.

Zechariah 6:15 – “And those who are far off shall come and help to build the temple of the Lord. And you shall know that the Lord of hosts has sent me to you. And this shall come to pass, if you will diligently obey the voice of the Lord your God.”

The next thing we learn about Christ is that God is opening His kingdom to the Gentiles, that we will know that this is from the Lord, and that it requires our obedience.

1 Peter 2:5 – you yourselves like living stones are being built up as a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.

Ephesians 2:13-22 – But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. For he himself is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility by abolishing the law of commandments expressed in ordinances, that he might create in himself one new man in place of the two, so making peace, and might reconcile us both to God in one body through the cross, thereby killing the hostility. And he came and preached peace to you who were far off and peace to those who were near. For through him we both have access in one Spirit to the Father. So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone, in whom the whole structure, being joined together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord. In him you also are being built together into a dwelling place for God by the Spirit.

Zechariah 4 Commentary

Zechariah 4:1 – And the angel who talked with me came again and woke me, like a man who is awakened out of his sleep.

I can only imagine how shocking all these visions of the Lord are to a person. The impact on a person’s body must be intense. Just like Daniel in Daniel 10:9, he fell into a deep sleep with his face to the ground. This is the introduction to the fifth vision that Zechariah is about to have.

Zechariah 4:2 – And he said to me, “What do you see?” I said, “I see, and behold, a lampstand all of gold, with a bowl on the top of it, and seven lamps on it, with seven lips on each of the lamps that are on the top of it.

There is a lot of symbolism going on here. This is a pretty descriptive verse! This is a lampstand that would be used in tabernacle. The extra bowl on top of it is to add extra oil to the lamp. This is a very large lamp! The typical menorah has 7 lamps on it. The one in the vision has a lot built onto the traditional menorah. The seven lips on each of the lamps means that there are a total of 49 lips for this menorah. This shows the abundance of the oil supply to provide to the lamps.

The lampstand is all gold. The lampstand itself is the container for the light. The church of Jesus Christ shines the Light of the world, which is Jesus Christ.

Looking at a parallel verse in Revelation 1:20, we see that there are 7 golden lampstands, these are the lampstands in each of the churches listed in the Revelation of Jesus Christ.

The number 7 is the number of perfection. Not perfection that we think of, but more specifically it means “completion.”

As you can see from the verse, we are seeing in the vision everything about God in His church.

Zechariah 4:3 – And there are two olive trees by it, one on the right of the bowl and the other on its left.”

The lampstands have olive trees flanking it. The oil that would be used in the lamp would be a pure olive oil. This makes me think of a limitless supply of oil that is only provided by God, without any affect of mankind.

The coolest thing about this is the impact of the two trees! One represents physical Israel and the other is the grafted branch, the church of Jesus Christ.

Romans 11:24 says “for if you were cut from what is by nature a wild olive tree, and grafted, contrary to nature, into a cultivated olive tree, how much more will these, the natural branches, be grafted back into their own olive tree.”

And this is also the same picture we see in the Revelation of Jesus Christ in verse 11:4 in that there are two olive trees and the two lampstands that stand before the Lord of the earth.

Zechariah 4:4 – And I said to the angel who talked with me, “What are these, my lord?”

Zechariah asks a little bit of a surprising question here, as we will see in the next verse. Basically, he wants to know the meaning behind the two olive trees.

Zechariah 4:5 – Then the angel who talked with me answered and said to me, “Do you not know what these are?” I said, “No, my lord.”

Zechariah’s question surprises the angel. The angel reacts as if Zechariah should have known the significance of the olive trees.

Zechariah 4:6 – Then he said to me, “This is the word of the Lord to Zerubbabel: Not by might, nor by power, but by my Spirit, says the Lord of hosts.

Zerubbabel was the one who led the first group of Jews home from Babylonian captivity. The preceding verses show that God will supply an endless amount of resources to Zerubbabel to rebuild the temple. This will be to bring glory to God alone.

God is showing that it isn’t by human might or ingenuity that this will happen. It will only happen by a moving of the Holy Spirit. Ezekiel 36:24 shows that God is the one who brings the Jews back into their own land.

Zerubbabel won’t be able to accomplish what his ordained task is through his own power. The angel is explaining this to Zechariah. Zerubbabel will have to rely on the power of the Holy Spirit alone to accomplish the task.

This is so much like ministry in the church. We can only put so much of our own power into it. We can only go so far on our own power in our ministries. But when we step outside of ourselves and allow the Spirit of the living God to take control of our actions and lives, we find that our ministries will show much fruit from it.

Zechariah 4:7 – Who are you, O great mountain? Before Zerubbabel you shall become a plain. And he shall bring forward the top stone amid shouts of ‘Grace, grace to it!’”

The angel is showing that even a mountain of opposition will be leveled and become like a plain. Nothing will be able to stop the rebuilding of the temple. Think of Matthew 21:21 here! Jesus tells his disciples that if they have faith they can move mountains!

We learn that this will happen in Zerubbabel’s life because we see that the “top stone,” or headstone in other versions, will be put in place.

And all Israel will shout! Grace! Grace to it! Ezra 3:11-13 tells us that the people sang to one another giving thanks to the Lord and that they people shouted with a “great shout.” Could this be that shout? Could the shout they were proclaiming be the shout that God has shown them grace?

Imagine if we led our ministries in such a way! Instead of spending all our time over-spiritualizing everything and instead spent more time doing through faith rather than seeking faith, we would realize that our search for God’s power wasn’t what we needed because His power was always there. What our search was for was God’s grace!

We accomplish because of God’s power. We accomplish for God’s grace!

Zechariah 4:8 – Then the word of the Lord came to me, saying,

This is a simple break in the action. Maybe this vision was becoming too big for Zechariah. That is simply my own thoughts that I am adding here. But now we are about to move into the confirmation of the angel’s interpretation.

Zechariah 4:9 – “The hands of Zerubbabel have laid the foundation of this house; his hands shall also complete it. Then you will know that the Lord of hosts has sent me to you.

This angel is the Angel of the Lord. This temple was to be met with all kinds of opposition. And it would take a very long time to complete. But it would happen in the life of Zerubbabel.

Can you imagine how encouraging this is for Christians? And especially for those who lead for the cause of Christ? We know that God will show us through to see the completion of those things we start for Him.

The church we know today began with only Jesus and 12 disciples. Our talents and our gifts seem so small in the immensity of the task that God has given us. But God makes great things from small beginnings. From a baby in a manger to victory over sin and the grave!

Zechariah 4:10 – For whoever has despised the day of small things shall rejoice, and shall see the plumb line in the hand of Zerubbabel. “These seven are the eyes of the Lord, which range through the whole earth.”

The temple that was built was smaller than Solomon’s temple. Ezra 3:12 tells us that many who saw the first temple wept. In Haggai 2:3 the prophet says that those who saw the temple it its former glory are looking on it now as if it is nothing.

This is only a glimpse of what it will look like when the Messiah comes.

The returning remnant of Israel never believed they could finish the temple in their lifetime. And while they didn’t finish something that was as glorious as the former temple, it wasn’t the opulence that God was seeking from them. It was the faithfulness to build the temple in the first place. It was the drive to put God at the head of it and allow Him to lead them.

God turns our little efforts into a lot when we allow Him to lead the dance.

Zechariah 4:11 – Then I said to him, “What are these two olive trees on the right and the left of the lampstand?”

Again, Zechariah is asking about the olive trees.

Zechariah 4:12 – And a second time I answered and said to him, “What are these two branches of the olive trees, which are beside the two golden pipes from which the golden oil is poured out?”

At this point, Zechariah isn’t asking about the trees themselves, but two branches of the trees. During Zechariah’s day, the two anointed ones were Zerubbabel and Joshua. They could have been a branch on each tree or they could have both been branches on a single tree. It isn’t really known by how it is said.

But the trees themselves symbolize the kingly and priestly offices in Israel, whether physical or spiritual. There are many times in history that God anoints two people to work together for a purpose. Think of Moses and Aaron, Joshua and Caleb, Elijah and Elisha, Paul and Barnabas, Peter and John. Even in more modern times we see God anointing two in people such as Whitefield and Wesley or Graham and Barrows.

In the Revelation of Jesus Christ in chapter 11, we see that God is raising up 2 witnesses. This is very similar to what Zechariah is seeing here.

In Zechariah’s day, Joshua and Zerubbabel were the anointed. That literally translates to “sons of oil.” We can see that this oil is coming directly out of the trees.

When we lead in ministry, it is all about giving of ourselves. It doesn’t matter how much that we have to give, but how much of what we have that we give.

Zechariah 4:13 – He said to me, “Do you not know what these are?” I said, “No, my lord.”

The angel asks if Zechariah knows what is going on. With Zechariah’s answer, we can see that even a person like Zechariah cannot stand on his own wisdom. The wisdom needed to understand the mind of God comes from God.

Zechariah 4:14 – Then he said, “These are the two anointed ones who stand by the Lord of the whole earth.”

And this is the culmination of the vision. Again we see the two anointed ones, the sons of oil, Joshua and Zerubbabel. Joshua is the High Priest and a descendant of Eleazar while Zerubbabel is the leader and a descendant of David. These are the two that God will choose to manifest the light of the lampstands.

This is a foreshadowing of the Messiah. Both offices of High Priest and leader are combined in the Messiah. Psalm 110 gives us even more detail into that.

The Messiah is the source of blessing that makes Israel the light to the nations. Isaiah 60:1-3 explains that to us.

And seeing that the final statement in this chapter is that they have offices in the court of the Lord of the whole earth, we see that this is a millennial term that leads us to the final kingdom of Christ (Micah 5:4).

Which Disciple are you Most Like, part 4: John

John is another one of those people in the Bible that can be confusing. There is more than one John in the Bible. The John of Jesus’ disciples was James the Elder’s younger brother and a son of Zebedee and Salome.

John wrote 5 of the books of the New Testament and was known as the Beloved Disciple. In his books he spoke more of love than in any other book in the New Testament. Unlike his brother, James the Elder, who was the first to die among the disciples, John was the last to die. Some say he was martyred while others say he died a natural death. He was, during the time of Domitian, exiled to Isle of Patmos.

John, along with Peter and his brother, comprised the inner circle of Jesus’ ministry. Those 3 men saw miracles that the other disciples didn’t.

Matthew 17:1 – After six days Jesus took with him Peter, James and John the brother of James, and led them up a high mountain by themselves.

One of the things the inner circle witnessed that the other disciples didn’t include Jesus’ conversation with Moses and Elijah. That is something I wish I would have been a fly on the wall for! He and Peter are also the first two disciples to see the empty tomb.

James & John came from a more well-off family than most of the other disciples. They father had hired servants for the fishing business.

Mark 1:20 – Without delay he called them, and they left their father Zebedee in the boat with the hired men and followed him.

This might have fed into their ambition and desire during Jesus’ ministry. For example, in Mark 9 we see John forbidding a man to drive out demons in Jesus’ name because he wasn’t one of the twelve disciples. Needless to say, Jesus rebuked him for that.

Later we see both James & John wanting to call down fire to destroy a Samaritan village because they didn’t welcome Jesus. And yet again, Jesus rebuked them.

Even later we see that, at the request of their mom, they requested to be seated on Jesus right and left sides in heaven. This caused some discord among the brothers and the rest of the twelve.

Matthew 20:20-24 – Then the mother of Zebedee’s sons came to Jesus with her sons and, kneeling down, asked a favor of him. “What is it you want?” he asked. She said, “Grant that one of these two sons of mine may sit at your right and the other at your left in your kingdom.”  “You don’t know what you are asking,” Jesus said to them. “Can you drink the cup I am going to drink?” “We can,” they answered.  Jesus said to them, “You will indeed drink from my cup, but to sit at my right or left is not for me to grant. These places belong to those for whom they have been prepared by my Father.”  When the ten heard about this, they were indignant with the two brothers.

But John matured very well.

His proximity to and discipling by Jesus taught him love. He left his explosive temper behind. He was humbled and dropped his need for human ambition. He left everything but Jesus and His command to love.

John’s gospel is the only to record the washing of the disciples’ feet.

John 13:4-5 – so he got up from the meal, took off his outer clothing, and wrapped a towel around his waist.  After that, he poured water into a basin and began to wash his disciples’ feet, drying them with the towel that was wrapped around him.

I believe this might have been the turning point in the humbling of John.

Jesus had so much confidence in John that, during the crucifixion, Jesus turned to John and told him to care for his mother. John took this task very seriously.

John 19:25-27 – Near the cross of Jesus stood his mother, his mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene. When Jesus saw his mother there, and the disciple whom he loved standing nearby, he said to her, “Woman, here is your son,” and to the disciple, “Here is your mother.” From that time on, this disciple took her into his home.

John’s early ambition melted away for humility and compassion.

Eventually, according to historical evidence, John was exiled to Patmos. According to Pliny the Elder, the Roman philosopher and naturalist, Patmos was an island about 30 miles wide. Other literary evidence shows that Patmos was an island that worshipped Apollo and had fishing villages on it.

Cassius Dio, a Roman historian, outlined how long John might have been exiled. It last up until Domitian’s death, at which point Emperor “Nerva released all who were on trial for high treason and restored the exiles.”

Eusebius, a Christian historian from the second century, adds “the sentences of Domitian were annulled, and the Roman Senate decreed the return of those who had been unjustly banished and the restoration of their property…the Apostle John, after his banishment to the island, took up his abode at Ephesus.”

According to church tradition, Travels of St. John in Patmos was written by the same Prochorus that is listed in Acts 6:5. It is an apocryphal writing that was translated in the 17th century and is very interesting reading, although I don’t put much stock in apocryphal writings as it is also seen as pseudopigrapha. Basically, apocryphal means it goes beyond the revelation given in the infallible Bible and cannot be proven through Scripture and pseudopigrapha means it is outright false. The reason Prochorus’ Travels is in this group is because it cannot be proven to be from Prochorus and there is no earlier text than the 5th century, which makes it a wonder if an earlier text exists. But it does give some accurate history of the island of Patmos around the time of John’s exile.

There are examples of miracles that John performed on Patmos written in the book that, to this day, are celebrated at various churches on the island.

Going back to the canon of Scripture, John has a lot to teach us. There is no one in Scripture that has more to teach us about either love or truth than John (except for Jesus, of course).

3 John 4 – I have no greater joy than to hear that my children are walking in the truth.

He gave his strongest condemnation against those who perverted the truth, especially those who claimed to be believers.

1 John 2:4 – Whoever says, “I know him,” but does not do what he commands is a liar, and the truth is not in that person.

Not only truth, but love he preached. He even called himself the “one whom Jesus loved.” His entire first epistle is to believers “whom I love in truth” and he exhorts them to “love one another” as they walk in the commands of Jesus.

John teaches us a lot about the relationship between love and truth. Zeal for the truth must always be balanced by a love for people. Without love, zeal for truth turns to judgmentalism. On the flip side of that, love without care of the truth become simple sentimentality. As John matured, he learned the importance of both.

The next thing we learn from John is that humility needs to win out over personal ambition. While confidence is an important quality to have, if it is not tempered by grace and compassion then we become smug and unapproachable. Jesus took the time to rebuke John when his confidence got in the way of his testimony.

John is an amazing character study when looking at how God trains up people and prepares them for the ministries for which they are called.

Next time I will start looking at the rest of the apostles, those who we don’t hear as much about.

 

 

 

The Churches of Revelation: Part 2 – Ephesus

Out of the seven churches in the Revelation, Ephesus makes the most sense. Prior to Christ’s birth, Ephesus went back and forth between being controlled by the Romans and the Bergamian kings. By 4 AD, Ephesus was known for its wealth and luxury. During Augustus’ rule, the population reached 225,000 and the city became the capital of the region. The city continued to thrive after becoming a port city on the Caystros river.

It was a major city in early Christianity. While John planted the church in Ephesus, it was Paul who put it on the map.  When Paul chose this city on his missionary journeys, the city gained in prestige to Christians. Paul worked to evangelize the Ephesians who were worshiping Artemis. The elderly of the city did not accept him, but, over time, Christianity took roots with the youth, who turned it into a major religion in the city. There are also some experts that place the Virgin Mary in Ephesus around 42 AD to settle down for the rest of her life. There is currently a shared Catholic/Muslim holy site that points out her house at the top of Bulbul mountain.

By 1307 Ephesus lost its significance as their port closed and other port cities rose.

The people of Ephesus had both Greek and Roman influence. Ephesians used both sundials and water clocks to be able to tell time. Owning one of those showed a person’s wealth. Typically people woke at sunrise, although the Roman influence with the festivals added a little more color. The Greek population had boys going to school and women most likely not while the Romans sent both boys and girls to school.

Ephesus had a temple dedicated to their goddess, Artemis. Every day there would be animal sacrifices to Artemis. In most Greek cities, Artemis was worshiped as a secondary deity, but in Asia Minor, she was a primary deity. In most Greek cities she is worshiped for her hunting abilities, but in Ephesus, she was worshiped solely for her fertility. This could be a sign of the Roman influence.

John planted the Ephesian church. The disciples believed the larger cities like Ephesus, Smyrna, and Laodicea would help Christianity spread. It is believed that John and Mary traveled together to Ephesus after Jesus entrusted her to John. Around 42 AD, John established the Ephesian church. When Paul came during his missionary journey, he took over the church until he was beheaded outside Rome in 64 AD. At that point, John took the church over again. John died in Ephesus.

During Paul’s journey to Ephesus, he stayed in the city for about three and half years. Under Paul’s leadership, the church in Ephesus became the head church in Asia Minor. The city was filled with magicians, pagans, and a government that was not friendly to Christians. Even with all of that, Ephesus became the third most important city in all of Christendom behind Jerusalem and Antioch. After three and half years, the statue makers, led by Demetrius, who made a living selling silver statues of Artemis, were upset and performed acts of civil disobedience. The city ran Paul out of Ephesus where he went to Macedonia.

So what does Revelation tell us about Ephesus?

The first chapter of Revelation explains that the book was written BY Him FOR Him. This entire book is written to the seven churches in Asia Minor. Each of the seven churches has unique strengths and weaknesses and there is a distinct message to each. The problems addressed in each of the churches are problems that have happened in the church throughout history. This is shown that it is the case when the Lord wants us to make sure we hear what He has to say.

Revelation 2:7 – “Anyone who has an ear should listen to what the Spirit says to the churches. I will give the victor the right to eat from the tree of life, which is in God’s paradise.

There are multiple ways to analyze Revelation. They all have their strengths and weaknesses.

  • Preterist – The book was fulfilled in the early church. This would mean that the events have already occurred. The thing that is positive about this approach is that it is interpreted in relation to the historical significance in which it was written. Unfortunately, this view diminishes the prophetic nature of the book and turns it simply into a history book.
  • Futurist – This means that the book only deals with end times. If we look at this as an extreme dispensationalist, we would say that these churches are not the churches of the historical day they were in, but only of a future church and can only be applied to churches today. This makes all of chapters 4-22 of Revelation only prophecy and does not include history into it.
  • Continuous Historical – This is the view that says that Revelation is history of the world from the apostolic age until the end of times. While this does see the book as part of history, it opens the interpretation up to subjective views. Most people who fall into this group will view the book of Revelation in light of current events.
  • Idealist – The idealist sees no historical value in the book, but only a symbolic triumph of good over evil.

I am going to try and look at the historical context of the churches and then analyze them in light of future prophecy.

This means that it is appropriate that Ephesus is addressed first. As seen above, it was an amazing city!

Paul’s first visit was short (Acts 18:19-21) and then Apollos also ministered there (Acts 18:24-28). Paul returned and Christianity flourished throughout the city. Because of the passion that the church had to the gospel, the message spread to the region. To this, Demetrius took offense and had Paul removed from the city.

Paul did pass by Ephesus later because he wanted to reach Jerusalem in time for Pentecost. He called for the Ephesian leaders to meet him at Miletus (Acts 20:16). He explained to them the danger about him returning to Jerusalem.  Paul warned the elders that wolves would come among them and drive people away from the church.

Later, when Paul was writing Timothy, he asked him to stay in Ephesus to deal with those who were teaching false doctrine (1 Timothy 1:3-7).  He focused on the qualities of church leadership with Timothy as those who were leading were driving people away from the church.

1 Timothy 1:3-7 –  As I urged you when I went to Macedonia, remain in Ephesus so that you may instruct certain people not to teach different doctrine or to pay attention to myths and endless genealogies. These promote empty speculations rather than God’s plan, which operates by faith. Now the goal of our instruction is love that comes from a pure heart, a good conscience, and a sincere faith. Some have deviated from these and turned aside to fruitless discussion. They want to be teachers of the law, although they don’t understand what they are saying or what they are insisting on.

As we know John lived in Ephesus in his later years of life, John was instructed to write to the angel of the church in Ephesus. There are a lot of different theories about who the “angel” is that is being admonished, but regardless, the topic is the church at Ephesus.

In opening with the verse that explains Jesus as the One who holds the 7 stars and walks among the 7 lampstands, He shows that He walks among His churches. He is in fellowship with them. He is involved in them.

Jesus points out the good and the bad to the church in Ephesus. He points out that the church in Ephesus cannot tolerate wicked people and that they have persevered. They work hard and have good deeds. They have found the false prophets. They have endured and have not gotten tired of persevering.

BUT…

Jesus tells us that they have forgotten their first love; the love of God and the love of people.

Revelation 2:4 – But I have this against you: You have abandoned the love you had at first.

How many times have you gone to your church, sat there, and pointed out all the things that are good and bad in your church? Many times we allow our feelings to guide us in what we like and don’t like. Do you like the music? Then it must be a good church. Do you dislike the lack of small groups? It must be a bad church. But that isn’t the case.

I believe God is telling us, by pointing out so many positive points in this, and the other churches, and only a limited number of negative points, that there is really only a few critical things when it comes to being a church community.

In Ephesus, one of those points is remembering your love of God and people.

What does Jesus mean by “your first love?”

It must mean that they had previously had a love that they have left behind. It is easy to say that the primary love they had left behind was for both God and people. And that is partially right.

But I believe that the love Jesus is referring to in this passage is primarily for the people of the church and community.

Why?

First, In Ephesians 4:15-5:2, Paul tells the Ephesians to love one another. The context is an emphasis on the relationship between the community of believers.  Second, in Ephesians 1:15-16, Paul praised the church for their love of one another. Third, in Scripture, we are told that in the last days the love that will be lost is the love for one another (Matthew 24:9-12).

Matthew 24:9-12 – “Then they will hand you over for persecution,and they will kill you. You will be hated by all nations because of My name. Then many will take offense, betray one another and hate one another. Many false prophets will rise up and deceive many. Because lawlessness will multiply, the love of many will grow cold.

The Ephesian church worked very hard to maintain their doctrinal purity but in doing so, they have passively neglected the love for one another. I could do a word study here that would show the passive nature of the neglect the Ephesians had for brotherly love, but I will leave that for more others who are more well versed with original language.

The consequence for the church continuing to neglect their love of one another would be for the Lord to remove their lampstand. The lampstand is the church’s ability to function as a testimony to the world. Just as Christians are the light of the world (Matthew 5:14), the church is a lampstand.  Removing the lampstand could mean that the church’s ability to witness is lost. Please note that this Scripture has absolutely nothing to do with losing your salvation. It is simply the testimony of the church in the world that would be lost.

This is shown in John 13:34-35 when Jesus says:

John 13:34-35 – “I give you a new command: Love one another. Just as I have loved you, you must also love one another. By this all people will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.”

The Christian’s love for one another is a very powerful witness to the presence and power of Christ. If that is taken away, then our power to witness and evangelize is hurt.

The way the church in Ephesus, and consequently the church today, can fix this issue is through the 3 R’s:

  • Remember

Through passive neglect they had forgotten to love one another.  They are called to remember when they had that love.

  • Repent

This goes beyond just grieving. This is a genuine change of heart and mind that results in a change in behavior and overall lifestyle.

  • Renewed Response

Begin to put love into practice once again.

The Ephesian church shows a problem that is common for every church and every Christian. We allow Satan to take advantage of our strengths thereby turning them into weaknesses. The truth of doctrine is important, but doctrine can never be the end in itself. Truth and love should never be separated. Truth needs to be proclaimed in love.

Ephesians 4:15 – But speaking the truth in love, let us grow in every way into Him who is the head—Christ.

And love must be proclaimed with truth.

Philippians 1:9-10 – And I pray this: that your love will keep on growing in knowledge and every kind of discernment, so that you can approve the things that are superior and can be pure and blameless in the day of Christ,

We need to remember the church in Ephesus and maintain doctrinal purity, but not at the expense of love.

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