14 A day of the Lord is coming, Jerusalem, when your possessions will be plundered and divided up within your very walls.
2 I will gather all the nations to Jerusalem to fight against it; the city will be captured, the houses ransacked, and the women raped. Half of the city will go into exile, but the rest of the people will not be taken from the city. 3 Then the Lord will go out and fight against those nations, as he fights on a day of battle. 4 On that day his feet will stand on the Mount of Olives, east of Jerusalem, and the Mount of Olives will be split in two from east to west, forming a great valley, with half of the mountain moving north and half moving south. 5 You will flee by my mountain valley, for it will extend to Azel. You will flee as you fled from the earthquake in the days of Uzziah king of Judah. Then the Lord my God will come, and all the holy ones with him.
6 On that day there will be neither sunlight nor cold, frosty darkness. 7 It will be a unique day—a day known only to the Lord—with no distinction between day and night. When evening comes, there will be light.
8 On that day living water will flow out from Jerusalem, half of it east to the Dead Sea and half of it west to the Mediterranean Sea, in summer and in winter.
(Zechariah 14:1-8 NIV)
As we look at the last few chapters of Zechariah, we remember that these are descriptions of events that are yet to happen, both for Zechariah and for us. As we finished chapter 13 last time, we saw the Lord say that two-thirds of the Jewish people in the nation of Israel will perish; only one-third will survive and remain.
As we begin Chapter 14, we see the focus change from the nation of Israel down to the city of Jerusalem.
Verse 1 opens with the scene of Jerusalem already captured by her enemies. The enemies have taken over the city, and have stopped to count the spoils of war and divide up the plunder. The enemies are not passing through – this is their final destination, their crowning achievement.
“A day of the Lord” refers to a general time, not a literal day. We might say, “in these days…”, referring to a specific period of time, such as World War 2.
Verse 2 gives the specifics of the plunder: the city is captured, the houses ransacked for treasure and valuables, the women raped, and half the city sent into exile.
Sounds pretty grim, doesn’t it? And notice that God gathers the nations to fight against Jerusalem. Does that mean that God sanctions or approves of all these horrible deeds? Not at all. These gathered nations are pure evil – they are fighting against God himself as represented through the nation of Israel. They take anything and everything that is of any value to them and will hurt and shame and disgrace everything and everyone else.
So where is God during this time? Verse 3 answers that question. At Jerusalem’s darkest hour, God shows up. God has gathered up the nations to fight them all in one place, at one time.
Verse 4 tells us that Jesus arrives on the scene and stands on the Mount of Olives. And when Jesus steps down out of heaven and onto earth, it creates a massive earthquake (see Revelation 16:18 for more details).
Remember that the Mount of Olives is on the east side of the city, and blocks any escape from the city because of its rugged terrain. The enemies have surrounded the city on its north, south, and west sides; there is no escape for those remaining people. There is one mountain and no valley to exit.
Notice what happens when Jesus sets foot on the Mount of Olives. The one mountain formerly known as the Mout of Olives now divides into two and a valley opens up between the two mountains. God provides a way of escape.
Verse 5 says that God will lead His people through this way of escape. The Lord references the earthquake that happened during the reign of King Uzziah. We don’t know much about this earthquake, other than it was notable in Judah’s history and referred to in Amos 1:1.
So the remnant of Jewish believers is trapped and pursued by its enemies, and God shows up to save the day. Does this sound familiar? Does it sound like God rescuing His people out of Egypt and crossing through the Red Sea (Exodus chapter 14)? Different place, different means of salvation, but the same God.
There is a lot of conjecture about who lives and who dies in these prophetic events. Are the Jewish people who believe and confess Jesus as Savior the ones that live, and the others who die represent the Jewish people who reject Jesus as Messiah? Possibly, but it is not crystal clear in this or other texts, so we’ll not venture down that rabbit trail.
Verse 6 shifts again – from a time period to a single day. When Jesus shows up, there is an earthquake of mountain-splitting proportions. And what else happens? The sun, moon, and stars go dark. Isaiah 13:9-10 tells of this day; John records the same thing in Revelation 6:12-14.
Verse 7 tells us that there will be a source of light that evening. And where will that light come from? Is God going to restore the sun, moon, and stars? No. The source of light will not be a “what” but a “Whom” – it will be God’s glory manifested through His Son Jesus, lighting up the whole world.
When Jesus said, “I am the light of the world” (John 8:12), that was not a temporary statement limited to His first time on earth. This verse tells us that Jesus’ glory is and will be the permanent source of light and truth in all eternity.
One other supernatural event will happen when Jesus shows up on that day. The ground in Jerusalem will crack open (likely caused by the earthquake) and fresh water will come streaming forth. The stream of water will split and flow in two directions – one stream toward the East (flowing into the Dead Sea). The other stream will flow toward the West into the Mediterranean Sea. This will not be a seasonal water source, but a permanent one – through summer and winter. Isaiah says that the desert will blossom like a flower (Isaiah 35:1-2) because of this water source.
This will be a terrible time to be alive, and at the same breath, an incredible time to witness as Jesus returns to earth the second time.
Come, Lord Jesus, Come.