Recently I responded to part of an interview that Dr. Michael Brown had with Dr. Brock Hollett about his book Debunking Preterism: How Over-Realized Eschatology Misses the Not Yet of Bible Prophecy. Preterism refers to prophecies that have already been fulfilled. For example, the Hebrew Bible includes many prophecies related to the coming of a promised Messiah. Christians believe that these prophecies have been fulfilled in the person and work of Jesus Christ (Luke 24:25-27, 32, 44). Since their fulfillment is in our past (the meaning of preterist), Christians are preterists when it comes to the interpretation of messianic prophecies found in the Old Testament.
In a similar way, there are other prophecies in the Old and New Testaments that preterists believe have already been fulfilled in the lead up to and destruction of Jerusalem that took place in AD 70 when the temple was judged by God who used the Romans as His agent (cp. Dan. 1:1-2). Jesus describes these events in the Olivet Discourse (Matt. 24:1-34; Mark 13:1-37; Luke 21) and in parallel passages (Luke 11:49-51; 12:35-40; 13:34-35; 17:22:37; 19:41-44; Luke 21:1-38; 23:27-30; Rev. 6:16).
There was nothing new in the Brown-Hollett interview. I’ve heard the arguments numerous times and have dealt with them just as many times in my books Last Days Madness, Is Jesus Coming Soon?, and Wars and Rumors of Wars. My book The Gog and Magog End-Time Alliance includes a study of Ezekiel 38 and 39, a prophecy that is most often interpreted as an end-time battle among modern-day nations led by Russia and a Muslim confederacy of nations against Israel rather than a battle that took place around 2500 years ago. The book also includes two chapters of an exposition of Zechariah 12.
In addition, I have written other books on various prophecy subjects that cover many prophetic topics from the man of lawlessness and the antichrist to the “rapture” and Daniel’s 70 weeks of years and time indicators like “near,” “shortly,” and “quickly,” and “this generation” as well as numerous published articles and papers. I’ve done many radio interviews and radio and live debates about Bible prophecy.
In this article, I want to deal with an important interpretive point made by Hollett. It surfaced while I was posting some of my responses to his interview with Dr. Michael Brown. It concerns the interpretation of Zechariah 13:7-9:
“Awake, O sword, against My Shepherd,
And against the man, My Associate,”
Declares the Lord of hosts.
“Strike the Shepherd that the sheep may be scattered;
And I will turn My hand against the little ones.
“It will come about in all the land,” Declares the Lord,
“That two parts in it will be cut off and perish;
But the third will be left in it.
“And I will bring the third part through the fire,
Refine them as silver is refined,
And test them as gold is tested.
They will call on My name,
And I will answer them.”
I will say, ‘They are My people,’
And they will say, ‘The Lord is my God.'”
Hollett claims the prophecy will be fulfilled during a seven-year period called the Great Tribulation. According to his view, that’s shared by many prophecy writers, millions of Jews will be slaughtered. Here are some examples of how prophecy writers interpret the passage:
- Mark Hitchcock writes in his book Could the Rapture Happen Today? (94) that the prophecy found in Zechariah 13:8–9 states that “two parts” of the Jews living in the land of Israel during the post-rapture tribulation period “will be cut off and perish.”
- Prophecy writer Hal Lindsey describes the judgment against Israel in AD 70 as a “picnic” compared to a super-holocaust that will lead to the slaughter of two-thirds of the Jews living in Israel during the Great Tribulation.1
- Jack Van Impe states in his book Israel’s Final Holocaust that when the prophecy clock starts ticking again after the “rapture,” it “will be traumatic days for Israel. Just when peace seems to have come, it will be taken from her and she will be plunged into another bloody persecution, … a devastating explosion of persecution and misery for Israel….”2
- Thomas Ice, a frequent co-author with Hitchcock, writes “that before Israel enters into her time of national blessing she must first pass through the fire of the tribulation (Deut. 4:30; Jer. 30:5-9; Dan. 12:1; Zeph. 1:14-18). Even though the horrors of the Holocaust under Hitler were of an unimaginable magnitude, the Bible teaches that a time of even greater trial awaits Israel during the tribulation. Anti-Semitism will reach new heights, this time global in scope, in which two-thirds of world Jewry will be killed (Zech. 13:7–9; Rev. 12).”3
- Charles Ryrie writes in his book The Best is Yet to Come that during this post-rapture period Israel will undergo “the worst bloodbath in Jewish history.”4
- John Walvoord follows a similar line of argument: “Israel is destined to have a particular time of suffering which will eclipse anything that it has known in the past…. [T]he people of Israel … are placing themselves within the vortex of this future whirlwind which will destroy the majority of those living in the land of Palestine.”5
- On the September 18, 1991, edition of the “700 Club,” Sid Roth, host of “Messianic Vision,” stated that “two-thirds of the Jewish people [living in Israel] will be exterminated” during a future Great Tribulation. He bases his view on Zechariah 13:8-9.
- Arnold Fruchtenbaum states that during the Great Tribulation “Israel will suffer tremendous persecution (Matthew 24:15–28; Revelation 12:1–17). As a result of this persecution of the Jewish people, two-thirds are going to be killed.”6
- The authors of Are You Rapture Ready? continue with the Jewish holocaust theme describing it as “Holocaust II” when “66 percent of Israel is wiped out.”7
In his book When a Jew Rules the World: What the Bible Really Says About Israel in the Plan of God, Joel Richardson writes that in the Olivet Discourse (Matt. 24; Mark 13; Luke 21) Jesus Himself “spoke of a time of unparalleled tribulation just before” His return that “would indicate that what was to come in Israel could even be worse than the Holocaust. While this certainly seems to be the case,” Richardson writes, “I would suggest that we should not try to quantify the suffering to come or calculate the lives that will be lost.” It will be a time “of such magnitude and horror” that it’s “a pit too deep and terrifying. I cannot bring myself to peer over the edge. The point is that something terrible is coming and we need to get ready.”8
To lessen the impact of this declared future Jewish slaughter, Hollett and Thomas Ice argue that not only will two-thirds of the Jews living in Israel be slaughtered but so will billions of non-Jews. That’s hardly a satisfying answer, and neither is the argument that God is sovereign and who are we to question what He will do. In one of Hollett’s Facebook posts, he intimated that anyone who does not hold to his distant futurist interpretation is questioning God like Peter questioned Jesus. Thus, God says to the critics, “Get behind Me, Satan!” (Matt. 16:23).
I certainly don’t reject the futurity of the fulfillment of Zechariah 13:7-9 and God’s sovereign right to carry it out. I reject the claim that the prophecy has not been fulfilled.
A quick reading of Zechariah 13:7-9 does not mention a worldwide slaughter affecting billions of people. Nothing is said about what will happen in the way distant future. Read the passage. The prophecy is specific to Israel.
Zechariah’s prophecy is describing events depicted in the book of Acts beginning with the stoning of Stephen and continued with the persecution of Paul and his associates: “Are they servants of Christ?,” Paul asks in defense of his apostleship. “I speak as if insane—I more so; in far more labors, in far more imprisonments, beaten times without number, often in danger of death. Five times I received from the Jews thirty-nine lashes. Three times I was beaten with rods, once I was stoned, three times I was shipwrecked, a night and a day I have spent in the deep. I have been on frequent journeys, in dangers from rivers, dangers from robbers, dangers from my countrymen, dangers from the Gentiles, dangers in the city, dangers in the wilderness, dangers on the sea, dangers among false brethren; I have been in labor and hardship, through many sleepless nights, in hunger and thirst, often without food, in cold and exposure” (2 Cor. 11:23-27).
Hollett’s interpretation and those who agree with him depends on many unproven assumptions too numerous to deal with here. See my books The Rapture and the Fig Tree Generation: A Biblical Study and Last Days Madness. Like so much of Hollett’s position, there is no demonstrable proof for most of his claims. Gaps in time must be read into passages even though there is no indication of a gap.
The tribulation described by Jesus (Matt. 24:15-21) and the New Testament writers (Acts 9:16; 14:22; Mark 16:33; 1 Thess. 3:3; 2 Tim 3:12; Rev. 1:9; 2:9) was local and referred to the generation to whom He was speaking (Matt. 11:16; 12:41, 45; 23:36; 24:34; Mark 8:12 [twice], 8:38; 13:30 Luke 7:31; 11:29; 11:30, 31, 32, 50, 51, 17:25; 21:32). For example, “when YOU see the abomination of desolation” (Matt. 24:15). Jesus’ audience is obvious. It’s not us; it was them. Notice how many times Jesus uses the second person plural (“you”) throughout the Olivet Discourse (e.g., Matt. 24:2, 4, 6, 9, 15, 33). The people of that generation were warned to flee the city when they saw the abomination of desolation (Matt. 24:15) and Jerusalem surrounded by armies (Luke 21:20).
The mention of the temple in the Olivet Discourse refers to the temple that was standing in Jesus’ day (Matt. 24:1-2). Not a future rebuilt temple of which there is no mention in the New Testament.
Unlike Hollett’s position, Jesus and His disciples warned that it was their generation would see the coming judgment on the temple and city of Jerusalem. The nation was warned for 40 years. There is no such warning today among those who teach a future Jewish holocaust. In fact, Jews are encouraged to return to Israel while Jesus warned His audience to flee. Jewish believers even sold some of their property because they knew that in their time judgment would be coming (Acts 2:35; 4:34).
- Hal Lindsey, The Road to Holocaust (New York: Bantam Books, 1989), 220. [↩]
- Jack Van Impe with Roger F. Campbell, Israel’s Final Holocaust (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1979), 37. [↩]
- Thomas Ice, “What do you do with a future National Israel in the Bible?” [↩]
- Charles C. Ryrie, The Best is Yet to Come (Chicago, IL: Moody Press, 1981), 86. [↩]
- John F. Walvoord, Israel in Prophecy (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1962), 107, 113. [↩]
- Arnold G. Fruchtenbaum, “The Little Apocalypse of Zechariah,” The End Times Controversy: The Second Coming Under Attack, eds. Tim LaHaye and Thomas Ice (Eugene, OR: Harvest House, 2003), 262. [↩]
- Todd Strandberg and Terry James, Are You Rapture Ready? Signs, Prophecies, Warnings, Threats, and Suspicions that the Endtime is Now (New York: Dutton, 2003), 77. [↩]
- Joel Richardson, When a Jew Rules the World: What the Bible Really Says About Israel in the Plan of God (Washington, DC: WND Books, 2015), 234. [↩]