A Preterist Attempts to Interpret Zechariah 14

Zechariah 14There are certain passages of Scripture that when taken out of context appear to support various forms of Preterism.  However, Preterism simply cannot stand under the weight of extensive prophetic narratives found throughout Scripture.  One such narrative is that of Zechariah 14.  This chapter is so favorable to futurist eschatology that the vast majority of preterists simply ignore it.

Thankfully, the somewhat well-known partial-preterist Gary Demar has at least attempted to interpret Zechariah 14 in such a way that is consistent with such presuppositions.  In doing so, Demar has provided a telling example of just how much the plain meaning of the Text must be twisted to make it fit the preterist scheme.  The article may be read here.

Below some verses are provided along with Demar’s commentary and a response to each of his points.

For I will gather all the nations against Jerusalem to battle, and the city will be captured, the houses plundered, the women ravished and half of the city exiled, but the rest of the people will not be cut off from the city.  Zech. 14:2 (NASB 95)

Gary Demar says, “This happened when the Roman armies made up of soldiers from the nations it conquered, went to war against Jerusalem. Zechariah is describing the events surrounding Jerusalem’s destruction in A.D. 70.”

The Roman army was representative of just one nation, that being Rome. Yes, the Roman Empire conquered other lands and thus had soldiers from multiple nations. But Zechariah described many nations against Jerusalem, not just one nation consisting of others it had assimilated.  Indeed, most nations in history were made up of of several others that were previously in existence. Already Demar’s penchant for twising Scripture to fit his Preterism can be seen. And this is a rather timid example of him doing so.

Then the LORD will go forth and fight against those nations, as when He fights on a day of battle.  Zech. 14:3

Gary Demar says, “After using Rome as His rod to smite Jerusalem, God turns on Rome in judgment.”

Based on Demar’s comment here it would be natural to conclude that God must have destroyed Rome in 70 A.D. However, clearly the LORD did not annihilate Rome in 70 A.D., so Demar is forced to explain away the obvious meaning of Zechariah’s words. He quotes fellow preterist Thomas Scott:

“It is observable, that the Romans after having been made the executioners of divine vengeance on the Jewish nation, never prospered as they had before; but the Lord evidently fought against them.”

So, the student of Scripture is supposed to understand the LORD fighting the nations in that “day” as Him taking over 400 years to slowly whittle away at the Roman Empire? This is beyond a special plea. No normative reading of Zechariah 14 would lead someone to think anything other than God defeating those nations in that very day. But if the plain language is not enough we have an excellent Biblical example of God doing battle on behalf of the Hebrews.

“The LORD is a warrior; The LORD is His name. “Pharaoh’s chariots and his army He has cast into the sea; And the choicest of his officers are drowned in the Red Sea. Ex. 15:3-4

Here in Exodus we see what happens when the LORD goes out to do battle. He is not some arbiter of attrition who takes over 400 years to win a battle, but rather a God who lets His power and justice be known.

In that day His feet will stand on the Mount of Olives, which is in front of Jerusalem on the east; and the Mount of Olives will be split in its middle from east to west by a very large valley, so that half of the mountain will move toward the north and the other half toward the south.  Zech. 14:4

After looking at verse 4, it is easy to imagine how the reader of this article may be wondering as to just how Gary Demar and his Preterism can deal with something like this. Well, oddly enough Demar looks to Tertullian of all people for help.

“Tertullian (A.D. 145-220 wrote: “But at night He went out to the Mount of Olives. For thus had Zechariah pointed out: ‘And His feel shall stand in that day on the Mount of Olives’ [Zech. xiv. 4]” Tertullian was alluding to the fact that the Olivet prophecy set the stage for the judgment coming of Christ that came with the destruction of Jerusalem in A.D. 70 which would once for all break down the Jewish/Gentile division inherent in the Old Covenant.”

While it is true that Tertullian might have believed that some elements of this verse were referenced during the deliverance of the Olivet Discourse, it is simply dishonest of Mr. Demar to then imply that Tertullian held to preterist eschatology in regards to the events of 70 A.D. Tertullian was an unapologetic futurist and premillennialist; both being antithetical to Preterism. Please consider this quote from Tertullian so as the reader is not deceived as to his position.

“But we do confess that a kingdom is promised to us upon the earth, although before heaven, only in another state of existence; inasmuch as it will be after the resurrection for a thousand years in the divinely-built city of Jerusalem, “let down from heaven,” (Revelation 21:2) which the apostle also calls “our mother from above;” (Galatians 4:26) and, while declaring that our πολίτευμα, or citizenship, is in heaven, (Philippians 3:20) he predicates of it that it is really a city in heaven. This both Ezekiel had knowledge of (Ezekiel 48:30-35) and the Apostle John beheld. (Revelation 21:10-23)” (Against Marcion – Book III – Chap. XXIV. – Christ’s Millennial and Heavenly Glory in Company with His Saints)

It is therefore just as, if not more likely that Tertullian’s reference to the mount of Olives was to point out that Jesus was going to speak about the future events on the very place where He would return.  As a matter of pragmatism Gary Demar would be wise not to look to early Church Fathers for support. All the Church fathers of the first two centuries that spoke on eschatology were futurists and premillennialists. Irenaeus and Eusebius (among others) even taught that Revelation was written around 96 A.D., which is devastating to Demar’s entire eschatological system as the events then definitely did not occur in 70 A.D.

In that day His feet will stand on the Mount of Olives, which is in front of Jerusalem on the east; and the Mount of Olives will be split in its middle from east to west by a very large valley, so that half of the mountain will move toward the north and the other half toward the south.  Zech. 14:4 

Demar now looks to Matthew Henry for assistance in dealing with the mountain splitting:

“The partition-wall between Jew and Gentiles shall be taken away. The mountains about Jerusalem, and particularly this, signified it to be an enclosure, and that it stood in the way of those who would apptoach to it. Between the Gentiles and Jerusalem this mountain of Bether, of division, stood. But by the destruction of Jerusalem this mountain shall be made to cleave in the midst, and so the Jewish pale shall be taken down, and the church laid in common with the Gentiles, who were made one with the Jews by the breaking down of this middle wall of partition.”

Demar’s appeal to Henry here virtually speaks for itself. Absolutely nothing in Zechariah 14 suggests that the Mount of Olives represents a partition between Jews and Gentiles. It is an astounding level of eiseges and abuse of Scripture to claim that the verse means as Demar says. Furthermore, if the cleave in the mountain is really just an allegory for this partition, then why does Zechariah soon after describe the newly formed valley?

Demar only addressed the chapter up until verse 4. It would be quite interesting to see how he would explain how God already came to the Earth to rule with His holy ones (Zech. 14:5-9).  How would Demar explain away the multiple nations going to Jerusalem, worshiping the Messiah king and celebrating the Feast of Tabernacles (Zech. 14:16-17)? One wonders just how he could claim that God stopping rain from falling on those countries who did not participate already happened?

Just from his treatment of these three verses it is easy to see how Gary Demar’s Preterism forces prophecy to fit what he already believes. His form of Preterism is a sort of systematic eisegesis. Gary Demar makes Scripture fit his interpretation using a presuppositional system that overrides the plain text of God’s Word. The careful student of the bible can avoid his mistakes.  However, the greater concern is that such twisting of prophecy leads to non-believers laughing at how Christians understand their own Scriptures. Who can take such interpretation seriously? Also, those new to the faith can be lead into deception and deep confusion as under Demar’s Preterism, Scripture does not always mean what it says.

Zechariah 14 will happen just as God said it would through His prophet. Amen!

Comments

  1. “He is not some arbiter of attrition who takes over 400 years to win a battle, but rather a God who lets His power and justice be known.”

    By your own admission, he came to those he promised he would in the first century. ‘There are some standing here that will not taste of death till all these things be fulfilled.’

    He came. Otherwise he lied.

    • Matthew Ervin says:

      You quoted a comment I made in relation to the timing in which God goes out and does battle. It has nothing to do with the way in which you are now trying apply it.

      The verse you incorrectly quoted is in all of the synoptic Gospels. And in each of those, the very next thing that is recorded is the Transfiguration. In every example you see the comment made and then followed by a connective. In the case of Matthew 16:28, we immediately see, “and” begin 17:1. The transfiguration demonstrated the Shekinah glory of God manifesting in Jesus. This was a preview of the coming Messianic Kingdom. The apostle Peter even said as much (2 Pet. 1:16-18).

      I’m really concerned that you believe the Second Coming already happened. It would mean that virtually every Second Coming prophesy did not really mean what it said it did. Please take the time to study how the passages Preterists rely on have historically been understood by the vast majority of Christians.

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