We are examining the prophecy of Zechariah 14 and its prediction of the coming of the Lord with his saints. This prophecy serves as the source of several NT prophecies of that coming, and we are taking a look at how and when the NT writers expected the fulfillment of Zechariah 14. The first text we we will examine is Matthew 16:27-28.
Zechariah 14 and Matthew 16:27-28
In any discussion of the coming of the Lord with his saints, one must consider Matthew 16:27-28. Jesus emphatically placed his coming with the angels within the lifetime of those standing with him when he spoke these words. Lamentably, in the three futurist eschatological schools, it is common to hear or read that verse 27 is the “end of the age” while v. 28 is Pentecost, or perhaps AD 70. On the other hand, v. 28 is often applied to the Transfiguration which occurred only 7 days later in Matthew 17. However, all attempts to divide verse 27 from 28 fail miserably. See my book Can You Believe Jesus Said This? for an exposition of these verse and full discussion of the attempts to avoid their power. Jesus definitely said his parousia was to be in the first century.
One of the main obstacles to dividing these two verses is the grammatical use of the Greek term “amen lego humin” translated as, “Verily I say to you” at the beginning of verse 28.
Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance reveals that the phrase, “verily I say unto you” (Greek, amen lego humin), is used 95 times in the New Testament. In every occurrence, this phrase, “verily I say to you,” emphasizes a topic already under consideration, and to emphasize additional information that is about to be offered. In other words, it calls attention to what is about to be said, that will emphasize what has just been said. Unless amen lego humin is being used in a totally unprecedented way in Matthew 16:28/Mark 9:1, there is not one place in the New Testament where the phrase introduces a new discussion. The phrase is always used to emphasize a statement about a subject that is already under consideration!
What this means is that verse 28 is emphasizing what was said in verse 27. Jesus, in verse 27 said he would come with his angels, in glory and judge every man. Then, to emphasize that statement, he emphatically stated when it would happen! Grammatically, therefore, there is no justification for dividing verse 27 from verse 28. So, unless you can prove absolutely that, “Verily I say unto you” does not have its normal usage of emphasizing something that has just been said, then its usage in Matthew 16:28 is conclusive evidence that Jesus was indeed predicting his return, with his angels, in that generation! And, unless it can be demonstrated that Matthew 16:27 is a different coming of the Lord with his saints, from the coming of the Lord with his saints in Zechariah, then we have irrefutable proof that Zechariah was to be fulfilled in Jesus’ first century parousia.
There is strong– I would say irrefutable– confirmation of this when one considers the immediate context of verses 27-28. N. T. Wright comments on verses 27-28: “The whole of the story, of judgment for those who had not followed Jesus and the vindication for those who had, is summed up in the cryptic but frequently repeated saying “the first shall be last, the last fist. In other words, when the great tribulation came on Israel, those who had followed Jesus would be delivered; and that would be the sign that Jesus had been in the right, and that in consequence they had been in the right in following him. The destruction of Jerusalem on the other hand, and the rescue of the disciples on the other, would be the vindication of what Jesus had been saying throughout his ministry” (N. T. Wright, Jesus and the Victory of God, Grand Rapids, Fortress Press, 1996) 338.
Zechariah 14 – Matthew 16 — Martyr Vindication
It is undeniable that persecution and martyrdom lie behind Jesus’ prediction in verse 27. Not only would Jesus die at the hands of the Jews, but, his followers would likewise suffer persecution and martyrdom at their hands. But, verse 27f is the promise of vindication for that suffering– including vindication for Jesus himself, in his coming with his angels in judgment of those who had killed him.
The question becomes, do we have any Biblical testimony about the time of the vindication of the martyrs? And of course, the resounding answer is that we have definitive Biblical testimony. It is found (at least in one of the fuller discussions of the topic) in Matthew 23.
Jesus is emphatic in this chapter that “all of the righteous blood, of all the righteous, from righteous Abel to Zecharias, whom you killed between the temple and the altar” would be vindicated and judged in that generation. The language is graphic, undeniable and irrefutable.
So, Matthew 16:27, the coming of the Lord with his angels / saints, is the same coming of the Lord with his saints / angels of Zechariah 14.
The coming of the Lord with his angels in Matthew 16:27 would be in vindication of the martyrdom of Jesus and his “apostles and prophets” in the first century judgment of Jerusalem (Matthew 23).
Therefore, the coming of the Lord with his saints of Zechariah 14 was to be in vindication of the martyrdom of Jesus and his “apostles and prophets” in the first century judgment of Jerusalem.
Unless one can prove that the coming of the Lord with his angels in Matthew 16:27 is different from that of Zechariah 14, then this argument is prima facie proof of the first century fulfillment of Zechariah 14.
Unless one can prove that the coming of the Lord in Matthew 16:27 is not his coming in vindication of his own martyrdom, and that of his first century disciples (per Matthew 23) then this is prima facie proof that the coming of the Lord in Zechariah 14 was fulfilled in the judgment of Jerusalem in AD 70.
Gentry posits fulfillment of Matthew 16:27f in AD 70: “And at v. 21 he warns his disciples Israel’s religious leaders– even her ‘chief priests’ (which included past and present high priests of God’s temple)– will kill him. Not only so, but we must note something quite remarkable here. In Matthew Jesus never mentions Jerusalem until he states that he is going there to be killed by its leaders. This becomes even more significant in that Matthew himself never mentions Jesus’ several visits to Jerusalem until he shows him entering it to die ((21:1f). Yet we know from John’s Gospel that the Lord did visit there often, even very early in his ministry (John 2:23; 5:1; 7:25; 10:22-23; 12:12-14). But Matthew (and Mark) bypasses that information as he builds his case against Jerusalem and Israel. As a consequence of the religious leaders killing him, he teaches in 16:28 that some of his followers will live to see him ‘coming in his kingdom’ (Mark reads that they will ‘see the kingdom of God after it has come with power,’ Mark 9:1). In that only ‘some of those standing here’ will live to see it, this must point to AD 70 destruction of the temple which occurs forty years later.” (Kenneth Gentry, The Olivet Discourse Made Easy, Draper, Va, Apologetics Group, 2010)14. DeMar (Obsession, 1994, 34-35), Leithhart (Promise of His Coming, Moscow, Id, Canon Press, 2004)42); Seriah (End of All Things, (Moscow, Id, Canon Press, 1999)14), all concur in this assessment.
So, we have two connections between Zechariah 14 and Matthew 16:27f. We have the coming with the saints, and we have the judgment on Jerusalem. In addition, we have the emphatic and undeniable temporal delimitation that demands a first century fulfillment. Zechariah 14 cannot be extended beyond that time.
More to come!