Be sure to read the first two installments in this important series by my friend Robert Cruickshank.
Zechariah 14, Part 3: The Day of Battle (Zechariah 14:3)
Copyright © Robert E. Cruickshank, Jr (September 1, 2023)
All Rights Reserved
“Then the Lord will go forth and fight against those nations, as when He fights on a day of
battle” (Zechariah 14:3).
For most futurists, this verse is the key as to why (in their view) Zechariah 14 can’t be about the
destruction of Jerusalem in AD 70. The passage speaks of the city’s deliverance and not its
decimation, they argue. In Zechariah 14:3, God fights against those nations that mount an
assault upon Jerusalem. As the reasoning goes: the Romans were successful in AD 70;
therefore, the passage must be speaking of sometime in the future – a time when the nations
of the world attempt an attack upon Israel, but God intervenes and defeats them. Obviously,
God did not “fight against those nations” that stormed the city in AD 70. 1 Consequently, this
verse serves as the basis for rejecting the idea of past fulfillment in Zechariah 14.
From there it is argued that anything in the Gospels that might possibly speak of the upcoming
destruction of Jerusalem in AD 70 is, consequently, incompatible with Zechairah 14. Since
Zechariah predicts Israel’s rescue rather than its ruination, Zechariah cannot be telling of the
same thing as Jesus in such instances. Weeding through the reasoning of this claim is
somewhat cumbersome but necessary to ascertain if there is any merit to it. If such merit
exists, and Zechariah 14 is about modern Israel’s future rather than first-century Israel’s future,
this is important on at least two levels.
The Significance of Getting Zechariah’s Prophecy Right
As mentioned in previous posts, the timing Zechariah 14 is significant for both Jews and
Christians living today. If Zechariah 14 remains unfulfilled, the Jewish people have some horrific
events before them in the inevitable future – rape, destruction, and captivity (Zech. 14:2), to
name but a few. This certainly isn’t good news. On the other hand, if Zechariah 14 was fulfilled
in the distant past, none of these atrocities await today’s Jew in God’s predetermined prophetic
For today’s Christian believer (both Jew and Gentile alike), past fulfillment of the passage has
tremendous apologetic value. It would mean that Zechariah, along with Jesus in the Olivet
Discourse, foresaw and foretold of AD 70 with incredible accuracy. This being the case, divine
inspiration alone accounts for the precision of both of their predictions. Prior to the rise of
Dispensationalism in the mid to late 1800s, Jesus’s Olivet Discourse was seen as “absolute and
irresistible proof of the divine origin of Christianity,” as George Peter Holford put it in 1805. 2
Since Zechariah’s topic was the same as Jesus’s topic (i.e., the destruction of Jerusalem in AD
70), Zachariah 14 carries the same apologetic value for the believer as does Matthew 24, Mark
13, and Luke 21.
The interweaving of Zechariah’s prophecy with Jesus’s prophecy, however, is precisely where
Futurists think they’ve found an “out” which allows them to sever the two prophecies from one
another. Specifically, they believe Luke’s version of the Olivet discourse contains an escape
clause of sorts. With this supposed loophole in Luke, Zechariah 14 is then catapulted into the
future, disconnected from AD 70, and robbed of its worth in defending the faith.
Zechariah 14 and the Olivet Discourse
In an earlier installment, the point was made that Jesus’s Olivet Discourse, found in Matthew
24, Mark 13, and Luke 21, is basically His version of Zechariah 14. Whatever the Olivet
Discourse is about, Zechariah 14 is about, and vice versa. As Don K. Preston notes, “The parallel
between the passages can hardly be doubted.” 3
2 George Peter Holford, The Destruction of Jerusalem: An Absolute and Irresistible Proof of the Divine
Origin of Christianity (Nacogdoches, TX: Covenant Media Press, 2001 ).
Even most Futurists would agree with this, but they see neither Jesus nor Zechariah describing
the events of the Roman-Jewish War of the first century. For them, Jesus and Zechariah are
both describing the events leading up to and including the end of the world, rather than the
events leading up to and including the destruction of Jerusalem in AD 70.
This creates a problem for them, however. If such is indeed the case, this leaves Jesus saying
virtually nothing about one of the most significant happenings in the near future of His original
audience. It seems inconceivable that He wouldn’t have mentioned the upcoming calamity at
some point during His earthly ministry.
This being so, some Futurists will actually concede that Luke 21 is about the destruction of
Jerusalem in AD 70, but to exclusion of Matthew 24 and Mark 13. To put it another way, Luke
21 is in fact in the past from our perspective while Matthew 24 and Mark 13 still lie in our
future – according to them. From there, it is argued that what Luke describes in Luke 21 (i.e.,
AD 70) is drastically different from what Zechariah describes in Zechariah 14; therefore,
Zechariah cannot be speaking of the events of AD 70. This in turn gives the Futurist a
workaround to detach Jesus’s words from Zechariah’s words whenever Jesus is prophesying
about the city’s first-century destruction.
Luke 21 vs. Zechariah 14
Tommy Ice is a good example of those who try to break the connection between Zechariah 14
and Luke 21. While Ice agrees that that “Luke 21:20-24 prophesied the A.D. 70 Roman
destruction of Jerusalem,” he contends that there is a significant contrast between Luke and
Zechariah which renders the two passages incompatible. 4
Ice reasons that “Jerusalem” is “destroyed” in Luke, but Jerusalem is “redeemed” in Zechariah. 5
Consequently, the argument is that Zechariah and Luke must be speaking of two different
events entirely. The city cannot be destroyed and redeemed at the same time, or so the
This juxtaposition between destruction (Luke) and redemption (Zechariah) may appear
compelling on the surface, but Luke 21 also speaks of redemption. In Luke, Jesus says, “Now
when these things begin to take place, straighten up and raise your heads, because your
redemption is drawing near” (Lk. 21:28). Thus, Luke speaks of both destruction (Lk. 21:20) and
redemption (Lk. 21:28) at the same time. In other words, the same contrast which Ice claims
sets Luke and Zechariah apart, exists within Luke’s very passage itself. If positing destruction
against redemption necessitates two distinct contexts, this distinction does more than merely
set Luke at odds with Zechariah, it sets Luke at odds with himself.
Is Luke Contradicting Himself?
The question now becomes: is Luke contradicting himself within the space of eight verses? How
can a city be ruined and rescued at the same time? What sense can be made of this? The key to
answering these questions is, of course, Luke 21:21 and the flight to the mountains.
When the time came, the people inside the city had a choice to make between the Zealots’
message and Jesus’s message. In their insane delusion that they could somehow overcome the
Roman onslaught, the Zealots were marshalling the Jews to stay inside the city and fight.
Jesus’s followers, on the other hand, would have heeded His advice and “got the heck out of
Dodge,” so to speak. So, desolation and redemption coexist within the same context. While
some met an awful fate trapped inside the city’s walls, others fled to freedom and escaped that
same fate. Retribution and relief were simultaneous, and Luke’s words are not conflicting.
Those who clung to old earthly Jerusalem, in hopes of successfully defending her, were
destroyed and defeated. Those who clung to Jesus’s words, and were becoming part of the new
heavenly Jerusalem, were rescued and rewarded. Both elements coexist in Luke 21, and they
are side by side in Zechariah 14 as well. Zechariah informs us that some would go down with
the city and/or be captured (Zech. 14:2), while others would flee to the safety of God’s
mountains (Zech. 14:5). This dovetails with the events of AD 70, precisely. Those who followed
Jesus’s advice didn’t die within the city’s walls, nor were they captured or exiled. Old Jerusalem
was destroyed while the members of the New Jerusalem were rescued.
The apparent contradictions and conflicting outcomes raised by Ice are a non-issue in either
passage. In Luke 21 and Zechariah 14, there is both destruction and deliverance, slaughter and
salvation, retribution and redemption. It all depended upon which message the people in
question chose to listen and obey –the message of the Zealots or the message of Jesus. There is
no internal contradiction in Luke, and there is certainly no external contradiction between Luke
Against Those Nations or With Those Nations?
These issues aside, the question still remains as to how it could be said that God fought “against
those nations” that came against Jerusalem in battle in 70 AD. The Romans were in fact
successful in their campaign rather than vice versa. This much is true. If God was fighting
“against” them, one would think the outcome would have been the other way around.
As is often the case, the English rendering of a single word can make all the difference regarding
what a particular verse is or isn’t saying. There’s a well-known translational problem here that
would alter the connotation of the verse significantly. Rendered literally, the text simply reads,
“the Lord will fight in nations.” 6 This sounds awkward to us. To smooth things out in English,
translators drop the preposition “in” and add the word “against.” In so doing, the sense of the
verse drastically changes. In fact, this translational choice turns the passage on its head.
As George L. Klein points out, in his commentary on Zechariah: “The statement that ‘the LORD
will … fight against those nations’ contains a significant ambiguity that has the potential to alter
the meaning of the verse dramatically…The question turns on the meaning of the preposition
bē. This preposition commonly means ‘in’ or ‘among’ (Zech 6:5). If this is the intended meaning
of the preposition, it would mean that the Lord continues to fight with the nations against
John Nelson Darby Got It Right on Zechariah 14:3
In a bit of historical irony, John Nelson Darby, who is responsible for bringing Dispensationalism
to the world, translated the verse as follows: “And Jehovah will go forth and fight with those
nations, as when He fought in the day of battle.” 8 He gets God’s name wrong, it’s Yahweh and
not Jehovah, but “fight with those nations” is a much better English rendering of the original
Hebrew than “fight against those nations.” So, Darby deserves credit there.
Darby’s translational choice of wording is supported by the Septuagint. The Septuagint is the
ancient Greek translation of the Hebrew Scriptures, and it was written by Jewish scribes who
understood their language. That said, they rendered the verse: “And the Lord shall go forth, and
fight with those Gentiles as when he fought in the day of war.” 9
Taken in this light, the meaning is that “the Lord fought with those nations as his tools to punish
Jerusalem or that he sided with those nations against Israel to punish Israel as when he brought
Babylon against Israel to punish her for her transgressions.” 10 This comports well with other
Scriptural examples of God using pagan nations to execute judgment upon His People.
6 DeMar, “Making Prophetic Sense of Zechariah 14,” p. 20.
7 George L. Klein, Zechariah: The New American Commentary (Nashville: B & H Publishing Group, 2008),
p. 402; Q: DeMar, Ibid.
God Uses the Nations to Judge His People
In Ezekiel 21, the prophet is told to set his “face toward Jerusalem” and “prophecy against the
land of Israel” (Ez. 21:1). God tells the people of Israel that He is “against” them and says, “I will
draw My sword out of its sheath and cut off from you the righteous and the wicked” (Ez. 21:3).
The theme of God drawing His sword against His own people is repeated several times in the
verses that follow (Ez. 21:4-5, 9-14). Then, in verse 19, it is revealed that this would be
accomplished through “the sword of the king of Babylon” (Ez. 21:19). In other words, the
punishment of God’s people came through the hands of the armies of Babylon.
In the same way, God calls Assyria “the rod of My anger. And the staff in whose hands is My
indignation, I send it against a godless nation. And commission it against the people of My fury.
To capture spoils and to seize plunder, and to trample them down like mud in the streets” (Isa.
Just like God used the Assyrians and the Babylonians against His People in the Old Testament,
He would do the same with the Romans and their allies in AD 70. The Lord fought “with” those
nations in AD 70 just as He had fought “with” the nations, against His own disobedient people,
in the Old Testament.
God Judges Those He Uses to Judge His People
Having said this, God nevertheless judged the Assyrians and the Babylonians, whom He used
against His people, and He would judge the Romans as well.
“With regard to Assyria, the Lord says, “I send it against a godless nation and
commission it against the people of My fury to capture booty and to seize plunder, and
to trample them down like mud in the streets…. So it will be that when the Lord has
completed all His work on Mount Zion and on Jerusalem, He will say, ‘I will punish the
fruit of the arrogant heart of the king of Assyria and the pomp of his haughtiness’” (Isa.
Likewise, once the Lord has used the Babylonians to accomplish His purposes, judgment would
come upon them as well:
“Behold, I am going to stir up the Medes against them, Who will not value silver or take
pleasure in gold. And their bows will mow down the young men, They will not even have
compassion on the fruit of the womb, Nor will their eye pity children. And Babylon, the
beauty of kingdoms, the glory of the Chaldeans’ pride, Will be as when God overthrew
Sodom and Gomorrah” (Isa. 13:17-19).
The Romans Didn’t Avoid Eventual Judgment
Thus, the Lord punishes those whom He uses as instruments to judge His disobedient people.
What is important to point out, at this juncture, is that these punishments were not meted out
instantly. If past precedent is any indication, God’s retribution upon the Romans would not
have been instantaneous either. As Gary DeMar writes, “The fall of Assyria did not immediately
follow its plunder of Israel,” and “it took time for Babylon’s judgment by the Medes and
Persians to occur (5:1-31). Jerusalem fell in 586 BC and Babylon fell in 539 BC, nearly 45 years
later. The same is true of God’s use of Rome to judge Israel.” 11 DeMar continues:
“It is significant that the decline of the Roman Empire dates from the fall of Jerusalem in
AD 70. Thomas Scott concurs: ‘It is also observable, that the Romans after having been
thus made the executioners of divine vengeance on the Jewish nation, never prospered
as they had done before; but the Lord evidently fought against them, and all the nations
which composed their overgrown empire; till at last it was subverted, and their fairest
cities and provinces were ravaged by barbarous invaders.’”
“There may have been an early indication of what was going to happen to Rome with
the eruption of Mount Vesuvius in Pompeii in AD 79 where an estimated 16,000 people
perished. Earlier earthquakes had occurred in AD 62 and 64. They were mostly ignored
since they were a common occurrence. Pliny the Younger wrote to the historian Tacitus
that the ‘earth tremors’ leading up to the disaster at Pompeii ‘were not particularly
alarming because they are frequent in Campania.’ Josephus writes that earthquakes
were common calamities. He describes one earthquake in Judea of such magnitude
“’that the constitution of the universe was confounded for the destruction of men.’”
“In AD 80, the capital city encountered another disaster, another great fire in Rome
following the one that ravaged Rome under Nero’s reign that burned for six days in AD
Zechariah’s Day of Battle is Behind Us
In the end, not even the Romans walked away unscathed. As in the case of Assyria and Babylon,
however, divine retribution came over time. Nonetheless, the point of Zechariah 14:3 is that
God would fight “with” the nations that came against rebellious first-century Israel, rather than
fight “against” them. Either way, the passage finds its fulfillment in history’s past and not in our
11 Gary DeMar, “Making Prophetic Sense of Zechariah 14” (Unpublished Work in Progress, October 1,
2020), p. 25.
12 Ibid., p. 26.
The attempt to discredit this approach by positing Zechariah 14:3 over and against Luke 21:20
fails in that both Biblical writers equally portray a desolation and redemption taking place
simultaneously within each of their respective contexts. Like verses 1 and 2 before it, Zechariah
14:3 concerns itself with events that are now almost 2000 years behind us on the historical
landscape. This means modern-day Israel is not destined for the doom Zechariah describes. For
modern-day Christians, this means we have a powerful tool to use in defending the faith, as
Zechairah’s prophecy finds detailed fulfillment in AD 70 and the events surrounding it. The Lord
fought “with those nations” that came against Jerusalem in “the day of battle” – in AD 70.