Rejection

The prophet Zechariah’s final vision was received late in his ministry and focused on the events that would take place as a result of the Jews rejection of their Messiah, Jesus Christ. A key aspect of this prophecy was the betrayal of Jesus for thirty pieces of silver. It says in Zechariah 11:12-13, “And I said unto them, if ye think good, give me my price; and if not forbear. So they weighed for my price thirty pieces of silver. And the LORD said unto me, Cast it unto the potter: a goodly price that I was prised at of them. And I took the thirty pieces of silver, and cast them to the potter in the house of the LORD.” Following this prediction, Zechariah was told that a foolish shepherd would be raised up to take the place of the Jews true Messiah. This man known as the Antichrist is described in Zechariah 11:16, where it says, “For, lo, I will raise up a shepherd in the land, which shall not visit those that be cut off, neither shall seek the young one, nor heal that that is broken, nor feed that that standeth still: but he shall eat the flesh of the fat, and tear their claws in pieces.”

Jesus’ second coming will bring sorrow to the Jews because then, they will realize their tragic mistake. It says in Zechariah 12:10, “And I will pour upon the house of David, and upon the inhabitants of Jerusalem, the spirit of grace and of supplications: and they shall look upon me whom they have pierced, and they shall mourn for him, as one mourneth for his only son, and shall be in bitterness for him, as one that is in bitterness for his firstborn.” The great tribulation will be a time of testing, when the Jews will have one final chance to declare their allegiance to Jesus. During that time, it says in Zechariah 13:7-9 that God will strike back against the Antichrist’s rebellion. “And it shall come to pass, that in all the land, saith the LORD, two parts therein shall be cut off and die; but the third shall be left therein. And I will bring the third part through the fire, and will refine them as silver is refined, and will try them as gold is tried: they shall call on my name, and I will hear them: I will say, It is my people: and they shall say, The LORD is my God.”

In the final section of Zechariah’s prophecy was a picture of the coming Day of the Lord, the time period when Jesus will rule over the entire earth. Zechariah said, “On that day his feet shall stand on the Mount of Olives that lies before Jerusalem on the east, and the Mount of Olives shall be split in two from east to west by a very wide valley, so that one half of the Mount shall move northward, and the other half southward…On that day there shall be no light, cold, or frost. And there shall be a unique day, which is known to the LORD, neither day nor night, but at evening time there shall be light. On that day living waters shall flow out from Jerusalem, half of them to the eastern sea and half of them to the western sea. It shall continue in summer as in winter. And the LORD will be king over all the earth. On that day the LORD will be one and his name one” (Zechariah 14:4,6-9).

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The harvest

Jesus’ ministry on earth consisted of three primary activities: 1) teaching in the synagogues, 2) preaching the gospel of the kingdom of heaven, and 3) healing every sickness and disease among the people (Matthew 9:35). Thousands of people sometimes gathered to listen to his teaching. On one occasion, Jesus referred to his work as harvesting. It says in Matthew 9:36-37, “But when he saw the multitudes, he was moved with compassion on them, because they fainted, and were scattered abroad, as sheep having no shepherd. Then saith he unto his disciples, The harvest is truly plenteous, but the labourers are few; pray ye therefore the Lord of the harvest, that he will send forth laborers into the harvest.” On another occasion, Jesus told his disciples a parable about the kingdom of heaven (Matthew 13:24-30) and explained the meaning of the harvest. It says in Matthew 13:37-40, “He answered and said unto them, He that soweth the good seed is the Son of man; the field is the world; the good seed are the children of the kingdom; but the tares are the children of the wicked one; the enemy that sowed them is the devil; the harvest is the end of the world; and the reapers are the angels. As therefore the tares are gathered and burnt in the fire; so shall it be in the end of this world.”

Joel’s prophecy about the judgment of Judah’s enemies contained a reference to the final battle between the Lord and all the nations of the world. He said, “Let the heathen be wakened, and come up to the valley of Jehoshaphat: for there will I sit to judge all the heathen round about. Put ye in the sickle, for the harvest is ripe: come, get you down; for the press is full, the fats overflow; for their wickedness is great. Multitudes, multitudes in the valley of decision: for the day of the LORD is near in the valley of decision” (Joel 3:12-14). I believe Joel used the phrase, “valley of decision” figuratively to refer to the separation of believers from non-believers or as Jesus put it, to separate the wheat from the tares. In the final battle between good and evil, some who were thought to be believers in Jesus Christ may actually turn out to be members of Satan’s kingdom. Perhaps, some who have worked for Satan will switch sides and follow the Lord. Decision implies that a determination will be made at that time. The only way to know for sure whose kingdom someone belongs  to is to wait for the harvest.

 

Complete devastation

The prophet Joel is probably the most mysterious and intriguing of all the Old Testament prophets. Little is known about the time period or background of his message, but it clearly fits in with others like Isaiah’s and Jeremiah’s that speak about the end times. Joel uses the phrase “day of the LORD” (Joel 1:15) to refer to the warning he has been commanded to give. What seems clear from the overall content of Joel’s message is that he was given a glimpse into the horrible scene that is portrayed in the book of Revelation. A key indicator of the connection between the two messages is that Joel uses language that fits with the complete devastation that will take place when God judges  the human race.

Joel opens his book with a description of the plague of insects that is similar to the one described in Revelation 9. Joel says:

Tell ye your children of it, and let your children tell their children, and their children another generation. That which the palmerworm hath left hath the locust eaten; and that which the locust hath left hath the cankerworm eaten; and that which the cankerworm hath left hath the caterpillar eaten. Awake ye drunkards, and weep; and howl, all ye drinkers of wine, because of the new wine, for it is cut off from your mouth. For a nation is come up upon my land, strong, and without number, whose teeth are the teeth of a lion, and he hath the cheek-teeth of a great lion. (Joel 1:3-6)

Revelation 9:1-3 introduces the plague of locusts with the suggestion that spiritual warfare is taking place. It says, “And the fifth angel sounded, and I saw a star fall from heaven unto the earth: and to him was given the key of the bottomless pit. And he opened the bottomless pit; and there arose a smoke out of the pit, as the smoke of a great furnace; and the sun and the air were darkened by reason of the smoke of the pit. And there came out of the smoke locusts upon the earth: and unto them was given power, as the scorpions of the earth have power.”

The Greek word translated power in Revelation 9:3 is exousia. Exousia as a noun, denotes authority which is drawn from the meaning of “leave or permission” (1849). To a certain extent, the power that is being referred to is power that one has the right to exercise, the power of rule or government. Another way of looking at this type of power is freedom or mastery, the ability to take control. I believe Joel’s prophecy was meant to convey the idea of a total loss of control. All of the Israelites’ freedom would be taken away and they would become subject to another form of government, a satanic one that would prohibit their worship of God.

The good news hidden within Joel’s message was that God would not allow his people to become a part of Satan’s kingdom. Joel declared, “Alas for the day! for the day of the LORD is at hand, and as a destruction from the Almighty shall it come” (Joel 1:15). The Hebrew term Almighty or Shadday (shad – dah´ – ee) is a title that signifies ultimate power and authority, but in actuality, “the title Shadday really indicates the fullness and riches of God’s grace, and would remind the Hebrew reader that from God comes every good and perfect gift – that He is never weary of pouring forth His mercies on His people, and that He is more ready to give than they are to receive” (7706).

The day of the LORD

The prophet Zephaniah talked about the day of the LORD as if it could happen at any moment (Zephaniah 1:7). This was probably because he was looking at it from an eternal perspective. The phrase “day of the LORD” can refer to any time the Lord openly intervenes in the affairs of man. Thus it often applies to separate events in different time periods (footnote on Zephaniah 1:7). Zephaniah’s ministry took place during the reign of king Josiah, not long before Judah was taken into captivity in Babylon. Therefore, his prophecies had a certain amount of correlation to Judah’s current circumstances, but his overall message was about the end times.

The nation of Judah was destroyed by the Babylonians in 586 B.C. At that time, the nation ceased to exist. The people that were taken into captivity eventually returned and reestablished their legal and worship systems, but they did not have a king to rule over them. Zephaniah made it clear in his message that the day of the LORD he was referring to was the final destruction of not only Judah, but also the entire world (Zephaniah 1:2). Zephaniah said, “I will utterly consume all things from off the land, saith the LORD. I will consume man and beast; I will consume the fowls of heaven, and the fishes of the sea, and the stumblingblocks with the wicked; and I will cut off man from off the land, saith the LORD” (Zephaniah 1:2-3).

Judah’s captivity was to a certain extent an illustration of God’s judgment of the world. Living in peace and prosperity for hundreds of years had desensitized the people to the reality of their sinful condition. The kings of Judah had managed to keep the nation stable during the expansion of the Assyrian empire, giving everyone the impression that God’s chosen people were immune to punishment. More than 200 years had transpired since Isaiah had first begun to warn the people of Judah of God’s anger towards them. Because they had been spared from going into captivity in Assyria with the northern kingdom of Judah, the people of Judah were probably thinking they could escape God’s wrath indefinitely.

In order to make the  people understand that there would be an end to their special treatment, Zephaniah spoke in terms of all things and all people being consumed by the LORD. It was only through the association of God’s people with the heathen of the world that they could see themselves as sinners. Zephaniah used language that conveyed a sense of urgency so that the people of Judah would realize that time was of the essence if they were to avoid getting caught up on the destruction that was about to take place. Unlike other prophetic messages the people may have heard in the past, Zephaniah warned of a sudden ending that would catch even the most valiant warrior off guard. He said, “The great day of the LORD is near, it is near, and hasteth greatly, even the voice of the day of the LORD: the mighty man shall cry there bitterly” (Zephaniah 1:14).