Zech 14:1-5 [NET2] A day of the LORD is about to come when your possessions will be divided as plunder in your midst. 2 For I will gather all the nations against Jerusalem to wage war; the city will be taken, its houses plundered, and the women raped. Then half of the city will go into exile, but the remainder of the people will not be taken away. 3 Then the LORD will go to battle and fight against those nations, just as he fought battles in ancient days. 4 On that day his feet will stand on the Mount of Olives which lies to the east of Jerusalem, and the Mount of Olives will be split in half from east to west, leaving a great valley. Half the mountain will move northward and the other half southward. 5 Then you will escape through my mountain valley, for the valley of the mountains will extend to Azal. Indeed, you will flee as you fled from the earthquake in the days of King Uzziah of Judah. Then the LORD my God will come with all his holy ones with him.
When we talk of the gathering of the Elect it is not quite as simple as a singular rapture into the clouds in some sort of escapism theology. No, the truth is far more engaging, more gritty than this, much closer to home with troubling implications for both Jew and Gentile. Any eschatological perspective that we adopt must be comprehensive, and it must be rooted in the Covenant promises God made to Israel. The promise of gathering is made to her, the promise of resurrection is made to her, the promise of reigning forever is made to her. The church by no means replaces Israel, but then neither does Israel replace the church. If the truth be told, there will be neither Jew nor Gentile, but by virtue of belonging to Christ then we are all heirs of Abraham. Gal 3:28-29. That doesn’t mean, we will lose our ethnicity. In the same way when Paul teaches there will not be male or female, doesn’t mean that we will lose our gender, that’s not the point here, the principle is that the basis of our relationship with each other and with the Lord is not about any earthly, physical or human trait, but about our spiritual re-creation, flesh of His flesh, and bone of His bone, the Bride, the corporate expression of the Body of Christ, made of living stones.
On the Day of the Lord the Elect will be gathered. This does include a rapture, a being caught up together in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air when He comes as the Son of Man, but along with those resurrected, this rapture into the air will only include those who are saved and ready for His coming. At this time, not all Israel is saved, and therefore the Bride will be in Heaven but also upon the earth. The Bride is not quite ready, not until Rev 19:7 are we told the wife has made herself ready. Indeed, at the moment of the Lord’s return in Matt 24, Jerusalem will be in great distress, and though there is the current ongoing return of Jews back to their homeland today, we are told that the tribes of Israel will still be dispersed around the world on the Day of the Lord. Speaking of the Day of the Lord listen to what Isaiah writes:
Isa 11:10-12 In that day the root of Jesse, who shall stand as a signal for the peoples—of him shall the nations inquire, and his resting place shall be glorious. 11 In that day the Lord will extend his hand yet a second time to recover the remnant that remains of his people, from Assyria, from Egypt, from Pathros, from Cush, from Elam, from Shinar, from Hamath, and from the coastlands of the sea. 12 He will raise a signal for the nations and will assemble the banished of Israel, and gather the dispersed of Judah from the four corners of the earth.
So let’s pick up the story and look at what Zechariah wrote in chapter 14. He describes the siege of Jerusalem, when all the nations are gathered against her to make war. There will be great pillage, rape and exile of half the city, the Septuagint puts half the city will go into captivity. No wonder the Lord warns in Mat 24:15-16 NKJV – 15 “Therefore when you see the ‘abomination of desolation,’ spoken of by Daniel the prophet, standing in the holy place” (whoever reads, let him understand), 16 “then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains. Zechariah then follows with the emphatic declaration of the Lord’s return as a warrior to fight against those nations. But there are significant differences in the battle described here in Zechariah 14, from the Battle of Armageddon described in Revelation 19. In Revelation 19, there is no need for escape from the armies who wage war against the Lamb or from the Beast, on that occasion the victory will be decisive and the only one fleeing will be those who dare to oppose the King of Kings and Lord of Lords, those who try to flee from the wrath of the Lamb. Here in Zechariah 14 there is no account of the finality found in Revelation 19, instead we are told the Lord will provide a means of escape for His people by standing on the Mount of Olives. The Mountain will split into two and a passage of escape, a great valley of the mountains will extend to Azal. Just as they had escaped before in the days of King Uzziah, Israel shall do so again. And just as the waters of the Red Sea had been parted to provide a means of escape for Israel from Egypt, so also the Lord will open the mountains to provide a valley in which to flee from her oppressors once more. When will this great Exodus take place? This has been a subject of great difficulty for Bible commentators for centuries, but now that we have firmly placed our chronological markers on our eschatological timeline, I believe it provides opportunity to place this Exodus event with precision also. To be continued.