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Pushing the World toward Armageddon

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Hal Lindsey is once again misapplying the Bible to modern-day geo-political events. Here is his claim:

You know, I fear for both President Bush and Secretary Rice. I also fear for my beloved country. They must be ignorant of a prophecy God made 2,500 years ago through the Hebrew prophet Zechariah. It applies to this precise time and situation in history. God said, “Behold, I will make Jerusalem a cup of drunkenness to all the surrounding peoples. …” The people surrounding Jerusalem are all the current Muslim nations.[1]

Zechariah 12 has its own interpretive historical clues to help us identify the time of fulfillment: battles are fought by men riding horses (Zech. 12:4); those in captivity have returned to Jerusalem after a period of exile (12:7; cf. Jer. 30:10, 18); the southern kingdom of Judah is the main population center (12:4, 6, 7, 8); the people are grouped by tribes (12:5, 10, 12, 13); the “glory of the house of David” is still recognized (12:7, 8, 10; cf. Neh. 3:15; 12:24, 36, 45); and the death of King Josiah by Pharaoh Necho (2 Kings 23:29–30; 2 Chron. 35:22–27) is remembered as a national tragedy (12:11). These historical events would not be significant to Jews living in Israel in the twenty-first century. Today’s Jews would recall events related to the Balfour Declaration of 1917, the founding of the State of Israel in 1948, the tragedy of the holocaust, the 1967 Six-Day War, and on-going battles with Muslim extremists, none of which are mentioned in Zechariah 12.

Understanding the historical setting for the time Zechariah 12 was written will go a long way to understand the fulfillment of the prophecy. There was early opposition to the returning exiles from the Babylonian captivity and their rebuilding projects. The resistance groups are described by Ezra as “the enemies of Judah” (Ezra 4:1). Resentment grew beyond the borders of Israel: “Then the people of the land discouraged the people of Judah and frightened them from building, and hired counselors against them to frustrate their counsel in the days of Cyrus the king of Persia, even until the reign of Darius king of Persia” (4:4–5). The resentment extended beyond the borders of Israel: “Now in the reign of Ahasuerus, in the beginning of his reign, they wrote an accusation against the inhabitants of Judah and Jerusalem” (4:6; cf. Esther 1:1). Derek Kidner writes: “For about sixteen years, to 520 BC, the pressure against them was kept up, and as verse 24 [of Ezra 4] will show, it was wholly effective.”[2] It was Haggai and Zechariah who “prophesied to the Jews who were in Judah and Jerusalem” to get busy rebuilding “the house of God which is in Jerusalem” Ezra 5:1–2). The rebuilding commenced in 518 B.C., two years after Zechariah received and delivered his prophecies:

“Then the work of the house of God in Jerusalem ceased, and it was stopped until the second year of the reign of Darius king of Persia” (4:24; cf. Zech. 1:1).

This means that Zechariah’s prophecies must have circulated in the two-year interval between 520 and 518 B.C. Nothing would stand in the way of this God-ordained program of restoring Israel, not even Haman’s plan to destroy all the Jews in all the provinces of the Persian kingdom ruled by King Ahasuerus (Esther 3 and 9).

It is my contention that the failed attempt by Haman to kill all the Jews throughout the Persian empire is the conflict described in Zechariah 12. The Bible tells us that the Jews were rescued in dramatic form. There is no event in history that compares to it or will compare to it. Dispensationalists make a point of how God will once again deal with the Jews after the “rapture.” But their post-rapture scenario has two-thirds of the Jews wiped out during the “Great Tribulation” (Zech. 13:8). When compared to Esther, this hardly counts as a “rescue of Israel” since only a remnant of Jews is actually rescued. Compare the dispensational view with the actual events of Esther:

First, Haman, “the enemy of the Jews,” is hanged (Esther 7:10; 9:25), and his ten sons are later executed (9:7–9).

Second, “on the day when the enemies of the Jews hoped to gain the mastery over them, it was turned to the contrary so that the Jews themselves gained the mastery over those who hated them” (9:1; see Zech. 2:9).

Third, we are told that anyone who sought the harm of the Jews could not stand before them (Esther 9:2).

Fourth, “the Jews struck all their enemies with the sword, killing and destroying; and they did what they pleased to those who hated them” (9:5).

Fifth, more than 75,000 of those who hated the Jews were killed (9:16).[3] This was no small battle.

Sixth, what could have been days of “sorrow” and “mourning” for the Jews were turned into days of “gladness” and celebration (9:22) because the wicked scheme which Haman devised was returned “on his own head” (9:25). Israel was indeed a “cup that causes reeling” and a “heavy stone for all the peoples around” (Zech. 12:2; cf. 2:3–4, 6).

Seventh, this rescue of Israel was so significant that it was to be remembered by “every generation, every family, every province, and every city” so that the “days of Purim were not to fall from among the Jews, or their memory fade from their descendants” (Esther 9:28).[4]

Events in the Middle East today have nothing to do with prophecies found in the OT. Too many Christians are pushing for war because they wrongly believe it’s part of some divine end-time inevitability.

Footnotes:
[1]
Hal Lindsey, “Zechariah’s warning to Bush and Condi” (October 18, 2007)
[2]
Derek Kidner, Ezra and Nehemiah: An Introduction and Commentary (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1979), 50.
[3] The LXX has 15,000.
[4] For a more complete study of this subject, see Gary DeMar, Zechariah 12 and the “Esther Connection,” (Powder Springs, GA: American Vision, 2005)

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