A picture of salvation

Zechariah’s eight night visions gave him an intense insight into what lay ahead for God’s people. His first three visions focused on God’s relationship with the remnant of Jews that had returned to the Promised Land. Zechariah’s next four visions focused on God’s relationship with the rest of the world. In particularly, Zechariah was given access to God’s heavenly throne room, in order to show him how the intercessory process of salvation worked. It says in Zechariah 3:1-2:

And he shewed me Joshua the high priest standing before the angel of the LORD, and Satan standing at his right hand to resist him. And the LORD said unto Satan, the LORD rebuke thee, O Satan; even the LORD that hath chosen Jerusalem rebuke thee: Is not this a brand pluckt out of the fire?

The Hebrew term translated resist in Zechariah 3:1 is satan (saw – tan´). Satan means to attack and figuratively refers to an accusation (7853). One of the ways the word satan is translated is adversary and the person Satan is sometimes referred to as our adversary, also known as the devil. The interesting thing about God’s response is that he merely states, “the LORD rebuke thee” (Zechariah 3:2) and that’s the end of Satan’s argument. To rebuke someone means that you chide or scold him. Basically, what the LORD did was tell Satan to shut up.

The picture of a brand being pluckt out of the fire indicated that Joshua was not selected randomly, but was intentionally chosen as an instrument of God. Joshua’s selection by God meant that Satan no longer had any power over him, he couldn’t damage his reputation or say anything bad about him in the presence of the LORD. It says in Zechariah 3:3-4, “Now Joshua was clothed with filthy garments, and stood before the angel. And he answered and spake unto those that stood before him, saying, Take away the filthy garments from him. And unto him he said, behold, I have caused thine iniquity to pass from thee, and I will cloth thee with change of raiment.” The association of sin with dirty clothes makes is seem as though the damage done by sin is only superficial, but in reality, Joshua’s garments were ruined, they had become rags that were useless to him. The change of raiment that Jesus gave him was in essence, the shirt off his own back. Joshua was temporarily covered with the LORD’s righteousness because Jesus had not yet died on the cross.

The LORD referred to Joshua as a “stone that I have laid” (Zechariah 3:9), one that he would use to engrave or open up a pathway to salvation for everyone. One way to look at what happened to Joshua was the initial establishment of Jesus’ ministry to save the world. The remnant of Jews that returned to the Promised Land were like seeds that were planted, and expected to take root, and eventually when the Messiah was born, they would bear fruit and be the first to become disciples of Jesus Christ.

Zechariah’s fifth vision contained a personal message for Zerubbabel, the grandson of King Jehoiachin who was taken into captivity in Babylon. Zechariah said, “This is the word of the LORD unto Zerubbabel saying, Not by might, nor by power, but by my spirit, saith the LORD of hosts” (Zechariah 4:6). Essentially, what he was being told was that God’s people would not succeed without spiritual assistance from God. Zerubbabel was asked, “For who hath despised the day of small things?” (Zechariah 4:10). This question referred back to the rebuilding of God’s temple. “Some thought the work on the temple was insignificant (Ezra 3:12; Hag 2:3), but God was in the rebuilding program and, by His Spirit (v.6), would enable Zerubbabel to finish it” (note on Zechariah 4:10).

Zechariah’s sixth and seventh vision began to tie in the larger objective within God’s plan of salvation to the rebuilding of the temple. At the end of Jesus’ parable of the husbandmen (Matthew 21:33-40), he said to the religious leaders that were listening, “Did ye never read in the scriptures, The stone which the builders rejected, the same is become the head of the corner: this is the Lord’s doing, and it is marvelous in our eyes? Therefore say I unto you, The kingdom of God shall be taken from you, and given to a nation bringing forth the fruits thereof. And whosoever shall fall on this stone shall be broken: but on whomsoever it shall fall, it will grind him to powder” (Matthew 21:42-44). Jesus’ comment was most likely a reference to his ability to take away Joshua’s sin(Zechariah 3:9) and yet his gift of salvation, full pardon, was being rejected by the men that had benefitted from the rebuilding of God’s temple. The Jews thought they were the only ones God intended to save, but Zechariah’s visions made it clear that God was concerned with the salvation of the entire world.

Zechariah was told concerning a flying roll or giant banner that stretched across the sky, “This is the curse that goeth forth over the face of the whole earth” (Zechariah 5:3). Although God’s commandments were given to the Israelites, there was no exclusion of the rest of the world with respect to their validity or enforcement. By making the Jews aware of the laws that governed his universe, God was allowing his people to avoid punishment by obeying them, rather than violating his commandments through ignorance. According to Zechariah’s vision, “every one that stealeth shall be cut off as on this side according to it; and every one that sweareth shall be cut off as on that side according to it” (Zechariah 5:3).

Zechariah’s seventh vision showed that not only must flagrant, persistent sinners be removed from the land, but the whole sinful system must be removed and would be centralized or contained temporarily within the boundaries of a place known as Babylonia, a land of idolatry (note on Zechariah 5:5-11). Revelation 17-18 depicts the final judgment of Babylonia or Babylon. It says in Revelation 18:2-3,21:

Babylon the great is fallen, is fallen, and is become the habitation of devils, and the hold of every foul spirit, and a cage of every unclean and hateful bird. For all nations have drunk of the wine of the wrath of her fornication, and the kings of the earth have committed fornication with her, and the merchants of the earth are waxed rich through the abundance of her delicacies…Thus with violence shall that great city Babylon be thrown down, and shall be found no more.

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Spiritual insight

The prophet Zachariah could be the most fortunate of all the Old Testament prophets because he was given an extremely close and in-depth look at God’s plan of salvation. There are numerous prophecies contained within Zachariah’s book that show without a doubt that Jesus was the Messiah. Although Zachariah was a contemporary of Haggai and was called to preach at almost the exact same time, the messages of these two men were very different. Haggai spoke in a very practical way about the need for God’s temple to be rebuilt, while Zachariah focused on the bigger picture and shared the spiritual insight he gained from eight visions he was given of God’s transformation of his earthly kingdom. The first thing Zachariah pointed out was that God was not finished with the Jews. They would be restored to his favor and would eventually triumph over their enemies.

Zachariah’s first interactive experience in the spiritual realm involved an interpreting angel that enabled him to understand the activities he was witnessing. The initial scene appeared to be a spiritual outpost where God’s messengers gathered to report their findings on earth. The messengers reported to a man identified as “the angel of the LORD” (Zachariah 1:11). “Traditional Christian interpretation has held that this ‘angel’ was a preincarnate manifestation of Christ as God’s Messenger-Servant” (note on Genesis 16:7). Zachariah 1:11 states, “And they answered the angel of the LORD that stood among the myrtle trees, and said, We have walked to and fro through the earth, and behold, all the earth sitteth still and is at rest.” Looking at Zachariah’s eight night visions as a progressive unfolding of future events, it is likely that the messengers’ report of stillness and rest referred to the period of time when the Medo-Persian Empire existed. For the most part, God’s people were allowed to do what they wanted to during the reigns of  kings Cyrus, Darius, Ahasuerus, and Artaxerxes (538 – 432 B.C.).

Zachariah’s second vision showed that the temporary rest God’s people enjoyed would come to an end when God began to restructure the kingdoms that existed on earth. Daniel’s prophecy revealed that the Medo-Persian Empire that had conquered the Babylonians would be replaced by the Greek Empire, and then, the Roman Empire would be established (Daniel 7:4-7). Each of these kingdoms would become more terrifying than the first, until finally, God would cut-off the Gentile kingdoms (Zachariah 1:21). Zachariah’s third vision revealed that God’s people would flood the borders of Jerusalem at the time of Christ’s birth (Zachariah 2:4-5). Apparently, God would supernaturally enable people to return to the Promised Land that had not previously done so (Zachariah 2:9). According to Zachariah’s prophecy, God’s eternal kingdom would begin to be established on earth during the ministry of Jesus; the evidence being a voluntary joining of all the nations into a single spiritual kingdom. It says in Zachariah 2:11, “And many nations shall be joined to the LORD in that day, and shall be my people: and I will dwell in the midst of thee, and thou shalt know that the LORD of hosts hath sent me unto thee.”

Trouble

Daniel’s prophecy of end times (Daniel 11) was described to him as a time of trouble. The angel Gabriel told him, “And at that time shall Michael stand up, the great prince which standeth for the children of thy people: and there shall be a time of trouble, such as never was since there was a nation even to that same time: and at that time thy people shall be delivered, every one that shall be found written in the book” (Daniel 12:1). Some have interpreted the time of trouble to be the time when the first century church was persecuted by the Romans. The Hebrew term translated trouble, tsarah (tsaw – raw´) is also translated as tribulation. In Judges 10, the people of Israel cried to the LORD for deliverance from their enemies. His answer to them was that in spite of the many times he had delivered them in the past, “Yet ye have forsaken me, and served other gods: wherefore I will deliver you no more. Go and cry unto the gods which ye have chosen; let them deliver you in the time of your tribulation” (Judges 10:13-14).

It appears that the time of trouble Gabriel was referring to was associated with the resurrection of the dead that is mentioned in Revelation 20:12. Daniel was told, “And many of them that sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to everlasting life, and some to shame and everlasting contempt. And they that be wise shall shine as the brightness of the firmament; and they that turn many to righteousness as the stars for ever and ever” (Daniel 12:2-3). The term “great tribulation” is used in Revelation 7:14 where John, one of the apostles of Jesus said concerning the saints he saw wearing white robes, “And I said unto him, Sir, thou knowest. And he said to me, These are they which came out of great tribulation, and have washed their robes, and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.” The great tribulation is thought to be “the period of final hostility prior to Christ’s return. Some hold that the beginning of this hostility was already being experienced by the church in John’s day” (note on Revelation 7:14).

Daniel’s final encounter with heavenly beings took place on the bank of a river where Daniel posed the question, how long will it be until this is all over? (Daniel 12:5-6). Jesus’ response to Daniel’s question is recorded in Daniel 12:7. It says, “And I heard the man clothed in linen, which was upon the waters of the river, when he held up his right hand and his left hand unto heaven, and sware by him that liveth for ever that it shall be for a time, times, and a half; and when he shall have accomplished to scatter the power of the holy people, all these things shall be finished.” The period of “a time, times, and a half” are also used in Daniel 7:25 to refer to the time when the antichrist, or a world power sharing in the characteristics of the antichrist, will rule over the earth. This time of trouble or great tribulation is believed to be coming sometime in the near future. The only clue we have as to when exactly it will take place is given in Daniel 12:11, where it says, “And from the time that the daily sacrifice shall be taken away, and the abomination that maketh desolate set up, there shall be a thousand and two hundred and ninety days.”

The truth

The angel Gabriel’s second visit to Daniel was opposed by Satanic forces. Gabriel told Daniel, “Fear not, Daniel: for from the first day that thou didst set thine hart to understand, and to chasten thyself before thy God, thy words were heard, and I am come for thy words. But the prince of the kingdom of Persia withstood me one and twenty days: but lo, Michael, one of the chief princes, came to help me; and I remained there with the kings of Persia. Now I am come to make thee understand what shall befall thy people in the latter days: for yet the vision is for many days” (Daniel 10:12-14). Gabriel described for Daniel the spiritual battle that took place as a result of his prayer to understand the vision he had. It took both Gabriel and Michael, two archangels of God, fighting against the prince of the kingdom of Persia to overcome him, and the battle lasted twenty one days.

Gabriel told Daniel he would show him what was noted in “the scripture of truth” (Daniel 10:21). The exact meaning of this phrase is unknown, but Gabriel may have been referring to the divine record of the destinies of all human beings (note on Daniel 10:21). Gabriel’s reference to the scripture of truth indicates that God keeps a record of the events in his realm in the same way that earthly kings do (note on Psalm 51:1). This record is believed to include a list of the righteous, whom God blesses with life (note on Psalm 69:28). David prayed that his enemies would be “blotted out of the book of the living, and not be written with the righteous” (Psalm 69:28). Moses interceded for God’s people and said, “Yet now, if thou wilt forgive their sin; and if not, blot me, I pray thee, out of thy book which thou hast written” (Exodus 32:32). Gabriel told Daniel, “there is none that holdeth with me in these things, but Michael your prince” (Daniel 10:21). Apparently, only the two archangels, Gabriel and Michael have access to this record.

Gabriel said to Daniel, “And now will I shew thee the truth” (Daniel 11:2). The Hebrew word translated truth  is emeth (571). Emeth is a shortened form or contraction of the word aman (539) which means to believe or have belief. Aman appears in Genesis 15:6 where it says that Abraham “believed in the LORD; and he counted it to him for righteousness.” In other words, God recorded Abraham’s belief in his book of righteousness. What Gabriel showed Daniel, was a detailed account of a conflict between the north and south that would ultimately lead to a power struggle between Jesus and the agent of Satan, Antichrist for the kingdom of God. In conclusion, Gabriel said of Antichrist, “And he shall plant the tabernacles of his palace between the seas in the glorious holy mountain; yet he shall come to his end, and none shall help him” (Daniel 11:45). Gabriel’s mention of the battle of Armageddon (Revelation 16:13-16) indicated that even before Jesus was born, it was predestined that in his first coming to the earth, he would be rejected by God’s people, and then, in his second coming be proclaimed as Savior, not only of the Israelites, but of the entire world.

Understanding

Daniel’s understanding of events that were to take place hundreds, and in some instances, thousands of years in the future was the result of a spiritual gift he received from the angel Gabriel. It talks about Daniel’s encounter with Gabriel in Daniel 9:22-23, where it says, “And he informed me, and talked with me, and said, O Daniel, I am now come forth to give thee skill and understanding. At the beginning of thy supplications the commandment came forth, and I am come to shew thee; for thou art greatly beloved: therefore understand the matter, and consider the vision.” Prior to this, Daniel had already demonstrated his ability to interpret dreams, so the gift of understanding he received from Gabriel must have been a type of supernatural awareness or divine discernment that went beyond Daniel’s human capability of perception.

The best way to describe Daniel’s understanding would probably be to say he had God’s perspective of things. Daniel was able to comprehend what God intended to do with and for his people in the future. Through divine revelation, Daniel was able to see Jesus Christ in a similar form to what was recorded by the apostle John in Revelation  1:12-16. Daniel said, “Then I lift up mine eyes, and looked, and behold, a certain man clothed in linen whose loins were girded with fine gold of Uphaz: his body also was like the beryl, and his face as the appearance of lightning, and his eyes as lamps of fire, and his arms and his feet like in colour to polished brass, and the voice of his words like the voice of a multitude” (Daniel 10:5-6). Daniel does not say who the person was that he saw. He does not even let on that he had actually seen the face of God. Daniel’s miraculous vision had such an impact on him that he was left speechless.

Daniel was not alone at the time of his vision. His encounter with Jesus was similar to that of the apostle Paul on the road to Damascus (Acts 9:7). Daniel said, “And I Daniel alone saw the vision: for the men that were with me saw not the vision; but a great quaking fell upon them, so that they fled to hide themselves. Therefore was I left alone, and saw this great vision, and there remained no strength in me: for my comeliness was turned in me into corruption, and I retained no strength” (Daniel 10:7-8). Daniel was transformed by his experience. The Hebrew word Daniel used, haphak (haw – fak´) is translated turned, but it also means to change (2015) and refers to the transformation of king Saul after his encounter with the Spirit of God in 1 Samuel 10:9. The interesting thing about Daniel’s conversion was that he went from glory to shame. In the presence of Jesus Christ, Daniel understood that he was a dead man. He was completely corrupted and ruined by sin.

Intercessory Prayer

Daniel took it upon himself to intercede for God’s people. According to Jeremiah’s prophecy, the nations would serve the king of Babylon for seventy years (Jeremiah 25:11). Daniel knew the seventy years had expired when Darius the Median conquered the Babylonian kingdom in 539 B.C. (Daniel 5:31). Therefore, Daniel prayed that God would forgive his people and return them to the Promised Land. Daniel said, “And I set my face unto the Lord God, to seek by prayer and supplications, with fasting, and sackcloth, and ashes” (Daniel 9:3). Daniel did not presume that God would automatically let his people go back to their homes just because their 70 years of captivity was completed. One of the conditions of their return was that God’s people had to repent of their sins and want to restore their relationship with God. Daniel prayed, “O Lord, righteousness belongeth unto thee, but unto us confusion of faces, as at this day; to the men of Judah, and to the inhabitants of Jerusalem, and unto all Israel, that are near, and that are far off, through all the countries wither thou hast driven them, because of their trespass that they have trespassed against thee” (Daniel 9:7).

The phrase Daniel used “confusion of faces” (Daniel 9:7) had to do with the identity of God’s people. In part, God’s righteousness meant that he had acted consistent with his character. It was right for God’s people to be punished. They were guilty of the offences they had been accused of. Their “confusion of faces” was in essence saying God’s people had changed, they were no longer consistent with what God had made them to be. Another way of looking at it would be, that the Israelites were no longer recognizable as God’s people, their identity had been stripped from them. Due to the shame they felt, God’s people most likely did not want to return to their homeland. There was probably some feeling that they no longer deserved God’s blessing. Daniel’s intercessory prayer was a plea for God’s mercy. He said, ” Lord, according to all thy righteousness, I beseech thee, let thine anger and thy fury be turned away from thy city Jerusalem, thy holy mountain: because for our sins, and for the iniquities of our father, Jerusalem and thy people are become a reproach to all that are about us” (Daniel 9:16).

Daniel made the argument that God should forgive his people “for the Lord’s sake” (Daniel 9:17). In other words, Daniel was saying, don’t do it for us because we don’t deserve your mercy, but do it for the sake of your Messiah that is still yet to be born. Daniel’s intercessory prayer was responded to immediately. It says in Daniel 9:21, “Yea, whiles I was speaking in prayer, even the man Gabriel, whom I had seen in the vision at the beginning, being caused to fly swiftly, touched me about the time of the evening oblation.” Gabriel told Daniel, “At the beginning of thy supplications the commandment came forth, and I am come to shew thee; for thou are greatly beloved: therefore understand the matter and consider the vision” (Daniel 9:23). Clearly, Daniel’s prayer reached God’s throne room and was consistent with God’s plan for his people. Gabriel laid out for Daniel a timeline for the Messiah’s birth and crucifixion,  and then told Daniel, there was still more to come after that. A prince would come to challenge Jesus’ authority. He would reign for seven years and would instigate the complete annihilation of the entire world (Daniel 9:27).

 

Gabriel’s explanation

Daniel’s second vision provided further details about the difficulties God’s people would experience before their Messiah was born. The location of his vision was significant. Daniel said, “And I saw in a vision; and it came to pass, when I saw, that I was at Shushan in the palace, which is in the province of Elam; and I saw in a vision, and I was by the river of Ulai” (Daniel 8:2). Shushan was the capital of Persia and it was noted several times in the book of Esther as the place where the Jews would face extermination. It could be that God chose to show Daniel the future of his people at this location because it marked a critical turning point in their deliverance from their enemies.

In his vision, Daniel saw a ram “pushing westward, and northward, and southward; so that no beasts might stand before him, neither was there any that could deliver out of his hand; but he did according to his will, and became great” (Daniel 8:4). Then, Daniel saw a goat with a notable horn between his eyes come against the ram and defeat him (Daniel 8:5-7). As a result of his victory, the goat became stronger, but eventually, his great horn was broken and out of it came up four notable horns “and out of one of them came forth a little horn, which waxed exceeding great, toward the south, and toward the east, and toward the pleasant land” (Daniel 8:8-9).

Daniel’s vision concluded with a picture of God’s temple being desecrated by the little horn. At the time of Daniel’s vision, about 551 B.C., God’s temple lay in ruins. It had already been destroyed by king Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon. Daniel was confused and  needed God to help him understand what was going on in his vision. It says in Daniel 8:15-16, “And it came to pass, when I, even I Daniel, had seen the vision, and sought for the meaning, then behold, there stood before me as the appearance of a man. And I heard a man’s voice between the banks of the Ulai, which called, and said, Gabriel, make this man to understand the vision.”

The angel Gabriel is believed to be one of only three archangels identified in the Bible. The fact that he was specifically directed to explain the vision to Daniel indicated that the information was probably only available to this high ranking official in God’s kingdom. Gabriel said of himself in Luke 1:19, “I am Gabriel, that stand in the presence of God; and am sent to speak unto thee.” Unto Daniel, Gabriel said, “Understand, O son of man: for at the time of the end shall be the vision” (Daniel 8:17). What Daniel was expected to understand was that there would be a conclusion to the Israelites’ story. God would one day bring to an end the earthly kingdom that he had once inhabited.