The following is my response to an objection lodged against Covenant Eschatology.
“Preterists place the context of Zechariah 14 in the first century. Yet Zechariah prophesied ‘Then everyone who survives of all the nations that have come against Jerusalem shall go up year after year to worship the King, the Lord of hosts, and to keep the Feast of Booths. And if any of the families of the earth do not go up to Jerusalem to worship the King, the Lord of hosts, there will be no rain on them.’ Since we do not see this occurring, how can preterists claim that it is fulfilled?”
As always, we appreciate questions, and even objections from the readers of Fulfilled Magazine. Let’s take a look at this objection.
First of all, take note that the objection is taking a lot for granted, without offering any proof. The objection ignores the typological nature of the Jewish feast days. As a result of the first assumption, it is assumed that the Feast of Tabernacles in Zechariah, is referent to the observance of the literal, Feast of Tabernacles. The objection ignores the actual context of the promise in Zechariah, and the objection likewise ignores the NT application of Zechariah.
My Dispensational friends overlook, or ignore, the typological nature of the Jewish feast days. They seem to believe that the literal feast days were the substance, the reality of what God desired (desires).
As I discuss extensively in my book, Like Father Like Son, On Clouds of Glory, however, the Bible is more than clear that the feast days were not the goal of God’s scheme. JHVH said that animal sacrifices, which stood at the foundation of the feast days, were never what He desired:
“Sacrifice and offering You did not desire, But a body You have prepared for Me. In burnt offerings and sacrifices for sin You had no pleasure. Then I said, ‘Behold, I have come— In the volume of the book it is written of Me— To do Your will, O God.’” Previously saying, “Sacrifice and offering, burnt offerings, and offerings for sin You did not desire, nor had pleasure in them ” (which are offered according to the law), then He said, “Behold, I have come to do Your will, O God.’ He takes away (literally, “is taking away”) the first that He may establish the second.” (Hebrews 10:5-9).
Notice that God said He never had pleasure in animal sacrifices! Yet, we are supposed to believe that His ultimate goal is to restore them in the millennial temple! This alone should cause us to be cautious in positing a literalistic fulfillment of the observance of Tabernacles in Zechariah.
Not only did God say that He never had pleasure in those animal sacrifices, He sent His son to take them away through His own sacrifice. And through the power of his sacrifice, Jesus was, when Hebrews was written, taking those sacrifices away. The Old Covenant which mandated those sacrifices was “nigh unto passing” (8:13).
The question therefore presses itself in on us: If God never desired or even took pleasure in animal sacrifices, why in the world would He re-establish them, after once abolishing them through bringing in the very thing that those sacrifices foreshadowed? This truly would be illogical.
So, the objection denies the typological nature of the Old Testament feast days, and this becomes very ironic. Most Dispensationalists admit that the first four typological feast days were fulfilled in Christ– but not “literally.”
The first four feast days were: Passover, Unleavened Bread, Weeks and Pentecost. Dispensationalists eagerly state that Christ is the fulfillment of Passover, and that the other three feast days were fulfilled “dramatically, and right on time” to cite one Dispensationalist.
Well, if the first four feast days were fulfilled dramatically, and right on time, it is patently clear that those feast days did not foreshadow the literalistic observance of another nationalistically oriented and restricted Passover! Jesus was not a literal, physical “lamb.” The OT lamb foreshadowed Jesus’ death, however.
Likewise, the day of Pentecost, the feast of first fruit, saw the first fruit of the kingdom enter the body of Christ. They were the fulfillment of what the literalistic feast day anticipated. But they clearly were not literal wheat or barley! The literalistic, agricultural feast day foreshadowed the spiritual first fruit of the harvest. Thus, James could write to the very brethren from the regions present on Pentecost, and say that they were “a kind of first fruits unto God” (James 1:18).
Now, if the first four feast days were fulfilled (in Christ and the church) and that fulfillment was not the literalistic observance of a literal feast day, then it is clearly wrong to demand that Zechariah was anticipating the observance of a literal Jewish feast day.
It is critical to honor the fact that the OT feast days were in fact “shadows of good things to come” (Colossians 2:14-16; Hebrews 10:1-2). As shadows, foretastes, they were not the goal, or the substance. The external form of those feast days pointed forward to better things, and those better things are found in the spiritual body of Christ. It is a huge mistake to deny this clear Biblical teaching.
A brief note: Since the first four feast days were fulfilled dramatically and on time, in Christ and the church, this demonstrates in a powerful way that God’s prophetic calendar was not postponed. If Christ’s death as the Passover lamb was “right on time” then that is his death of Daniel 9:26. This in falsifies the claim that his death postponed the prophetic calendar.
Likewise, if Pentecost was the fulfillment of the typology of Israel’s feast day, then it proves that the church was foreshadowed in those feast days, since what happened on Pentecost– in fulfillment of the typological feast day– was the establishment of the church.
Our main point is that the spiritual fulfillment of the first four feast days points us inexorably to the spiritual fulfillment of the last three– including the feast of Tabernacles of Zechariah 14. This alone falsifies the objection, but there is more.
What is the actual context of Zechariah 14? It is the time of the judgment of Israel / Jerusalem! Notice v. 1– the city would be taken at the coming of the Lord! Let me suggest that you read my previous articles on Zechariah for a fuller discussion of this. It is critical, and the dispensational world only gives lip service to it.
What we find in Zechariah– which has been recognized by scholars of different backgrounds– is that we find Two Jerusalems in Zechariah. One city, the Old Covenant City, is destroyed, while the other city, the True Jerusalem, is delivered from her enemies and enjoys life under Messiah.
Paul and the NT writers develop this idea. Significantly, John, in Revelation, draws extensively from Zechariah (cf. chapter 14) and in Revelation John has Two Cities, Two Jerusalems! One is Babylon, the Old Jerusalem, doomed to destruction just as in Zechariah, the other Jerusalem, triumphs over the Old and the citizens rejoice in the life in that city. See my extensive discussion of the Two Jerusalems in my Who Is This Babylon book.
Not only does John develop what Zechariah foretold, he was emphatic that fulfillment was near, and we have powerful testimony to this in the 144,000. Notice the following:
In Revelation 7 and 14 John saw the 144,000 that were of the twelve tribes of Israel. In chapter 14 they are depicted as standing on Mt. Zion – festal imagery– and they are anticipating the imminent celebration of the feast of Harvest, at the coming of the Lord (14:6ff0 in judgment of “Babylon.”
What John says about these 144,000 precludes any application to our future.
The 144K endured the Great Tribulation (7:14f).
The 144K were the first generation of Jewish Christians– the first fruit of those redeemed to God from man.
Therefore, the Great Tribulation– which of course leads directly then to the coming of the Lord and celebration of Tabernacles– occurred in the first century.
In Revelation, just as in Zechariah, Tabernacles is only observed after the destruction of the Old City, i.e. Babylon. Just like the typological nature of the feast days themselves points us in a spiritual direction, this does as well. We are dealing with the “heavenly Jerusalem” enjoying resurrection life (foreshadowed by the feast of Tabernacles).
So, in sum, the objection is based on a false premise that misunderstands the typological nature of the feast days. It misunderstands that spiritual nature of the fulfillment of the feast days, as clearly illustrated in the fulfillment of the first four feast days. The objection fails to honor the context of the fulfillment, the time of judgment on Jerusalem, and finally, the objection ignores what John had to say about the first century fulfillment of Zechariah.
Very clearly, the Objection is Over-Ruled!