We have documented that Zechariah 14 serves as the source, at least one of the sources, for the NT doctrine of the coming of the Lord with His saints. Significantly, many commentators acknowledge this connection, even pointing it out, but then, they completely ignore the context and framework in which Zechariah’s prophecy places that coming of the Lord.Be sure to read this entire series beginning here.
In this installment, we examine two key NT texts that are widely accepted as drawn from Zechariah 14.
Zechariah 14 and Thessalonians 3:13
F. F. Bruce says this text is “based on that of earlier theophanies in the OT: when God reveals himself, for deliverance or for judgment he is regularly attended by angels.” (F. F. Bruce, Word Biblical Commentary, 1 and 2 Thessalonians, 1982, p. 73). He references Zechariah 14:5 as the source for this passage. Wanamaker cites several OT passages that spoke of the coming of the Lord with his saints/holy ones and says that Zechariah 14:5 “especially,” “may be the source of Paul’s thought.” (Charles Wanamaker, New International Greek Testament Commentary, Eerdmans, 1990)145).
If Zechariah 14 is the source for 1 Thessalonians 3:13, unless one can establish beyond doubt that Paul was simply using familiar language but in a new and different way, then:
1.) The metaphoric nature of the parousia language must be acknowledged since Zechariah 14 is patently non-literal;
2.) The application to the parousia at the fall of Jerusalem is also established. If Zechariah 14 was the prophecy Paul was quoting in Thessalonians then since that prophecy had not been fulfilled when Paul cited it in Thessalonians, would it not be terribly confusing for Paul to quote it, but apply it to something totally different and unrelated to Zechariah?
It is interesting that few commentators draw the connection between Zechariah 14, 1 Thessalonians 3 and 1 Thessalonians 4. And as just noted, they utterly fail to honor the context of Zechariah.
Zechariah 14 and 1 Thessalonians 4
Perhaps no passage predictive of the Lord’s coming with his saints/angels is so hotly contested and adamantly applied to the future than this one. Yet it is interesting and significant to observe the contradictions in the attempts to apply this passage to the future and not AD 70.
Kenneth Gentry, noted apologist for the Postmillennial Dominionist movement, applies Matthew 24:29-31 to the AD parousia of Jesus. (See his definitive modern apology for Postmillennialism: He Shall Have Dominion, 2009, (Draper, VA., Apologetics Group, 2009). He well understands the apocalyptic, metaphoric and spiritual nature of the language employed. Yet he applies 1 Thessalonians 4 to a literal event sometime in the future, all the while admitting that Paul, in Thessalonians is drawing from Matthew 24! So, Matthew 24 is metaphoric. Paul in Thessalonians draws from Matthew. Yet, Paul is using the figurative language of Matthew literally! This is hardly convincing. What is the hermeneutical justification for this? What is the contextual justification for this? There is none.
Gentry is adamant that the time parameters of Matthew 24:34 and other texts that delimit the time frame for the Lord’s coming, e.g. “shortly” “at hand” “near,” etc. “are to be applied to AD 70.” (Kenneth Gentry, “A Brief Theological Analysis of Hyper-Preterism,” 1995, Kenneth Gentry, Jr. Th.D.). Yet Paul says twice in 1 Thessalonians 4:15, 17, “we who are alive and remain unto the coming of the Lord.”
Paul’s reference to the living is in direct contrast to the friends and relatives of the Thessalonians that have died before the Lord’s coming. Their death before the Lord’s coming had caused great consternation among those who were still, when he wrote, “alive and remaining.” It is the Thessalonians–that generation–that is the focus of “we who are alive and remain.” This is a graphic delimitation of when the Lord’s manifestation would occur–in the generation of the Thessalonians. The question is, why does Gentry, and other futurists, not acknowledge the time statements as they insist Millennialists must do on other passages? But the answer is simple. If you submit to the time parameters established in these texts, then any futurist eschatology must be rejected.
In our formal debate in 2012, Joel McDurmon admitted that there was “a fulfillment” of 1 Corinthians 15, in AD 70. He said the time constraints of the text demand this. So, how in the name of reason and logic can he, did he, find his futurist eschatology in Corinthians if it was fulfilled in AD 70? Well, he argued that prophecy is fulfilled many times, over and over again! See my book AD 70: A Shadow of the “Real” End? for a total refutation of this desperate and untenable claim.
The parallels between the Olivet Discourse and 1 Thessalonians 4are undeniable and they are powerful. We will not repeat that evidence except to note that every constituent element of Thessalonians finds its direct parallel in Matthew 24:29-31. Further, we have Paul’s statement that he is only reminding the Thessalonians of what the Lord had said, 1 Thessalonians 4:15. The only passage from Jesus’ personal ministry containing every constituent element found in Thessalonians is Matthew 24:29-31. Now if Matthew 24 refers to AD 70, Thessalonians must as well.
My argument here is really quite simple, but, I think irrefutable:
The coming of the Lord with his saints in Zechariah 14 is in the context of the judgment of Old Covenant Jerusalem (Zechariah 14:1-5).
Jesus applies the prophecy of Zechariah to his coming in judgment of Jerusalem in AD 70 (Matthew 24).
Paul alludes directly to Zechariah’s prophecy of the coming of the Lord, and, he draws directly from Matthew 24 and the verses where Jesus applied Zechariah to AD 70.
It therefore follows, that unless one can prove beyond doubt that Paul was applying Zechariah in a way totally at odds from Jesus, and totally at odds with the context of Zechariah, that the coming of the Lord with his saints in 1 Thessalonians 4 was in AD 70.
See my book, We Shall Meet Him In The Air, The Wedding of the King of kings, for an extensive demonstration of the parallels between the Olivet Discourse and 1 Thessalonians 4. It is one of the most extensive discussions available, and effective demonstrates not only the unity of the Olivet Discourse, but, the perfect correlatoin with Thessalonians. You will be amazed at the incredible evidence to be found here!
More to come!!