In several ways Zechariah is similar to the New Testament book of Revelation. Both describe visions; both give considerable attention to angels; and both contain apocalyptic symbolism. Zechariah is considered the most difficult of the Minor Prophets. It is rich, however, both in its historical significance and in its New Testament connections. With the exception of Isaiah, there are more Messianic prophecies in Zechariah than in any other prophet.
Zechariah was contemporary with Haggai. After returning from Babylonian exile, the Jews, led by Zerubbabel, had laid the foundation for the rebuilding of the temple. But during the next sixteen years no further work was done. “Then the prophets, Haggai the prophet, and Zechariah the son of Iddo, prophesied unto the Jews” (Ezra 5:1). Ezra gives specific credit to the preaching of these men for the resumption and completion of the project (Ezra 6:14). Like Haggai, therefore, the book of Zechariah is concerned with the rebuilding of the Jerusalem temple, but it also looks beyond this to the glorious hope of the coming Christ and His kingdom.
Repent and Build
The book opens with a call to repentance, citing the need to learn the lessons of history (1:1-6). The Lord of hosts had spoken to their fathers by the former prophets, but they had refused to heed and God had “scattered them with a whirlwind” (7:12-14). Their fathers were now dead and so were the prophets that had warned them (1:5). The ruin of Jerusalem and the years of exile were proof that Jehovah’s word would never fail. As surely as the warnings through the earlier prophets had come to pass, so they should be certain that God expected them to heed what was said to their own generation.
God’s promises, however, are as immutable as His warnings and the call to repentance was followed by a series of eight visions, the meanings of which would encourage the people (1:7-6:8). While the symbols seem obscure, for the most part their basic messages are explained in the text. Especially significant was the fourth vision which showed the sanctification of the priesthood (3:1-10). Restoring the city and the temple would mean nothing without the restoration of “HOLINESS UNTO THE LORD” (14:20). Joshua the high priest represented the priesthood and the priesthood represented the people.
This vision begins with “Joshua the high priest standing before the angel of the Lord, and Satan standing at his right hand to resist him” (3:1). Satan’s accusation against Joshua seems to have been that he was spiritually unclean, as signified by his filthy clothing. Satan, always the accuser (Rev. 12:10), sought to deny grace and forgiveness, but the Lord caused Joshua’s filthy garments to be removed and priestly attire to be placed upon him. This portrayed Divine cleansing with the result of Israel’s restoration as a holy priestly nation.
God’s grace did not, however, negate the necessity of faithfulness. The Lord made plain that they were to “walk in my ways . . . and keep my charge” (3:7). In this they would be blessed. Jehovah’s purpose was to prepare for the coming of Christ, “For, behold, I will bring forth my servant the BRANCH” (3:8).
Among the several Messianic predictions was one that indicated a seeming paradox between the Messiah’s character and His majesty. He was described as the “King” who is “just, and having salvation,” but “lowly, riding upon an ass…” (9:9). The fulfillment was literal in Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem on Sunday of the final week (Matt. 21:1-9; Jn. 12:12-16).
The price to be paid to Judas for betraying Christ was specifically named in Zechariah 11:12, and that the thirty pieces would be cast to the potter was foretold in the next verse. So, also, His piercing: “And they shall look upon me whom they have pierced” (12:10; John 19:34-37; cf. Rev. 1:7; Psa. 22:16). The meaning of the cross, however, goes far beyond the cruelty and suffering. Zechariah pictured it as Jehovah pouring out “the spirit of grace and supplications.”
On the night He was betrayed Jesus prepared the disciples for the crushing events of Gethsemane and Calvary. After saying, “All ye shall be offended because of me this night,” He quoted Zechariah 13:7, “Smite the shepherd, and the sheep shall be scattered” (Matt. 26:31; Mark 14:27).
Though not quoted in the New Testament, Zechariah 13:1 is among the most beautiful and meaningful of all prophecies. Messiah would be pierced, His blood would be shed, and “In that day there shall be a fountain opened to the house of David and to the inhabitants of Jerusalem for sin and uncleanness.” In the words of a great old hymn, this is the “fountain filled with blood, drawn from Immanuel’s veins . . .”
Both Isaiah (11:1) and Jeremiah (23:5; 33:15) had described Christ as the Branch. The significance of the term is in the fact that Messiah would grow out of the seemingly dead royal lineage of Jesse and David. It would appear impossible that there could ever arise another king from the house of David, but a stem, a root, a branch would grow up out of what seemed to be a hopelessly dead tree. Zechariah first used the term when he showed that the restored priesthood was in preparation for the coming of “my servant the BRANCH” (3:8). Then in chapter 6 there is a symbolic ceremony that portrays the Branch as the one who “shall grow up out of his place” to become both Priest and King.
Instructions were given that silver and gold were made into “crowns.” This was a double-tiered “crown” (ASV), i.e., a single headdress with the diadems of two offices, priesthood and kingship. In Joshua the priesthood had been restored, but the monarchy had not been restored and none of the royal line would ever again occupy the Jerusalem throne (Jere. 22:30). The symbolic crown(s) of both priest and king was then placed upon Joshua to call attention to the coming of “the man whose name is he BRANCH,” who “shall build the temple of the Lord” (6:12f). Zerubbabel would complete the material temple in Jerusalem (4:9), but Christ, “the BRANCH,” would build Jehovah’s spiritual temple, i.e., the church (cf. Eph. 2:21ff).
“He shall bear the glory, and shall sit and rule upon his throne” (6:13). Here is the majesty of Messiah’s reign. The glory of the Davidic kingdom was never again to be known after the exile, but a more glorious kingdom and King was promised. The throne promised was the throne of David, which in typology is the throne of Christ (2 Sam. 7:11-14). This is completely fulfilled in Christ, who now reigns at the right hand of God in heaven (Acts 2:30-36; 1 Cor 15:24-26).
“And [He] shall be a priest upon his throne” (6:13). The salient theme of the book of Hebrews is the superior priesthood of Christ, who offered Himself as the perfect sacrifice for sins. No one who understands the mediatorial work of Christ can fail to appreciate how that in Him we have an ever alive High Priest who is “holy, harmless, undefiled, separate from sinners, and made higher than the heavens” (Heb. 7:25-26). What is remarkable in the prophecy of Zechariah, however, is that not only would He be a priest, but that He would be “a priest upon his throne.” He would be a priest and king at the same time. That this would be an extraordinary change was recognized in Zechariah 6:13 where it says concerning the two offices (king and priest), “The counsel of peace shall be between them both.” Under the law of Moses it was not allowed that kings should function as priests. The two offices were kept separate.
In the time of Abraham, however, prior to the Levitical priesthood, there was a priest named Melchizedek who was also king of Salem. As he was both priest and king, Melchizedek was used by the Holy Spirit as a type of Christ. In Psalm 110:1, the kingly rule of Christ is foretold. Then in verse 4 of the same Psalm there is the oath that He would be “a priest forever after the order of Melchizedek.” The Hebrews writer brings these points together as perfectly fulfilled in the King-Priest Jesus Christ (Heb. 8:1; 10:11-13; et al). Thus, the prophecy of Zechariah that there would be peace (harmony) between the two offices in that Christ serves perfectly in both roles.
This forcefully refutes the notion of premillennialism that Christ will return to earth to begin His reign and that His reign will be upon the earth. Zechariah said He would be a priest at the same time that He is on His throne. It must follow that He would not be a King without being a Priest. But we find that it was never intended that Christ be a priest on the earth (Heb. 8:4). He is a priest in Heaven (Heb. 8:2). If His priesthood is in Heaven, so also is His throne. As there can be no earthly priesthood, there can be no earthly throne.
David worships at the Charlotte Avenue congregation in Rock Hill, SC.