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Lesson 7: The Coming King-Priest (Zechariah 6:1-15)

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I never cease to be amazed at the strange fascination which Bible prophecy holds for people who have no other interest in the things of God. One evening when I was in the Coast Guard, I was sitting alone on the bridge radio watch reading my New Testament, when the chief came up to get some paperwork. He looked over my shoulder and said, “What’cha reading?” He answered his own question, “Oh, ‘Peters,’ huh?” (I was reading First Peter.) Then he said, “You ought to read ‘Revelations’! ‘Revelations’ is really [expletive deleted].”

I thought to myself, “Isn’t that something? Here is a man who is as much a pagan as I have ever met. And yet he was interested in the primary book of the Bible that describes the terrible wrath of God poured out on men like himself who do not repent!”

Christians also are fascinated by biblical prophecy. Announce a conference on prophecy and you’ll pack the auditorium. Change the subject to prayer, missions, or spiritual life, and you’ll have to beg people to attend. The number-one best seller of the 1970’s was Hal Lindsey’s The Late Great Planet Earth [Zondervan]. The past few years have seen Tim LaHaye and Jerry Jenkins’ “Left Behind” series dominate the best-seller lists. Those who authoritatively tell you the inside scoop on how recent events fit into biblical prophecy never lack a following.

I’ll never have such a following. The more I study biblical prophecy, the less certain I am about the details! I was reared and trained under the dispensational, premillennial, pre-tribulation rapture view. But since my seminary days, I have read many books by men who are unquestionably devoted to God and His Word, but who do not see Bible prophecy from that perspective. And so while I am certain that Jesus Christ is coming back bodily and that He is going to conquer every enemy and reign in power and glory (every Bible-believing Christian must hold to these facts), I am less certain about the specifics of how it all works out.

I’m convinced that God did not put prophecy into the Bible so that we could speculate about all the details. Rather, He gave it so that we would subjugate ourselves to the lordship of the coming Savior. So my aim in this message is not to satisfy your curiosity about the end times, but rather to bring each of you into total surrender to the coming King-Priest, the Lord Jesus Christ.

We come to the last of Zechariah’s eight night visions (6:1-8), which reveals God’s judgment that will come on the nations that have afflicted Israel and on all the nations of the earth. Then (6:9-15), God directs Zechariah to make a crown out of the silver and gold donated by some exiles. He is to set it on the head of Joshua the high priest and then put in the rebuilt temple as a memorial to Israel. This prophetic drama said to those rebuilding the temple, “Messiah, the King-Priest, is coming. He will build His temple and reign over all the earth.”

But the Lord did not reveal these future judgments against the nations and the coming of Messiah so that the Jewish remnant could draw up interesting prophecy charts and hold conferences on how many years until Messiah’s reign! He gave them this information so that they would “completely obey the Lord” (6:15). Applied to us, the prophet is saying,

Since God will judge all nations and send His King-Priest to reign, we must completely obey Him.

Biblical prophecy shows that it is God’s will, not the so-called “free will” of man, that is sovereign. Prophecy is not just God’s bare knowledge of the future, where He can see how everything will turn out, and He’s sure glad that it goes His way! Rather, prophecy is God’s purposeful determining the future for His own glory. Men are responsible for the choices that they make. But even the most powerful kings on earth are subject to God’s sovereign determination of all events, and their proud attempts to determine the course of human history only serve to fulfill the sovereign purpose of God. As Joyce Baldwin (Haggai, Zechariah, Malachi, Tyndale Old Testament Commentaries [IVP], p. 132) observes, “From the first to the last (cf. 1:10) the affairs of the nations are under God’s direction, not man’s. It is this certainty that makes prophecy possible.” Zechariah’s eighth vision shows…

1. God will judge all nations: The vision of the chariots and horses (6:1-8).

This eighth vision ties back into the first vision, where the angels went forth on different colored horses to patrol the earth. They reported to the Lord about the ease of the nations. In this final vision, the same imagery is used to indicate the fulfillment of the purposes outlined at the outset. This time the angels go out to bring God’s judgment on the nations (see Rev. 6:1-8).

The fact that judgment is in view is confirmed by the place of origination of the chariots, between two bronze mountains (6:1). Probably the reference is to Mount Zion and the Mount of Olives (many commentators). The Kidron Valley that runs between these two mountains is also called the Valley of Jehoshaphat (Joel 3:2; see also Zech. 14:4), which means, “The Lord judges.”

Also, bronze in the Bible is often a symbol of judgment. Moses lifted up the bronze serpent in the wilderness as a symbol of something that would bear the people’s judgment if they looked at it in faith. Jesus applied that symbol to His own death, where He bore God’s judgment (see John 3:14). The tabernacle had a bronze basin for cleansing and a bronze altar for sacrifices. So Zechariah’s vision means that these war-horses and chariots, manned by “the four spirits of heaven” (6:5, angels) were going out to execute God’s judgment on the nations.

The black horses, symbolizing death, go to the north, followed by the white horses, symbolizing victory. (The NIV has the white horses going west, based on a textual emendation that lacks support.) The north is a reference to Babylon, since they invaded from the north. In 6:8, God says those going to the north have caused His spirit to rest there, an expression that means that His wrath has been appeased by their victory. The dappled horses are sent south (toward Egypt). The sea lies to the west and the impenetrable desert to the east, so they do not need to be mentioned. No one knows for sure why the red horses are not said to be dispatched anywhere. But since the most powerful enemy was defeated in the north, the implication is that the other enemies have been subdued as well (Baldwin, pp. 132, 140). This vision teaches us three lessons:

A. The fact that God will triumph over and judge all His enemies should bring us, His people, great comfort.

The Assyrians that toppled the Northern Kingdom and the Babylonians that destroyed the Southern Kingdom inflicted terrible suffering on Israel. They were agents of God’s anger on His people because of Israel’s repeated disobedience. But, as God makes clear through Habakkuk (and other prophets), He would judge the nations that He used to judge Israel because those nations went too far in their violence.

As our text states (6:5), God is “the Lord of all the earth.” He is the righteous Judge who will bring every nation and every person to account. If a wicked person has wronged you, do not seek your own vengeance. That right belongs to God alone, and He will repay (Rom. 12:19; Deut. 32:35). Evil people may prosper for a few years on earth, but then comes death and judgment (Heb. 9:27). No one will get away with anything!

That fact can bring you comfort only if your sins are atoned for! If you have to answer for your own sins, then to stand before God for judgment should scare you, as I will comment on next. But if you have fled to the cross and your trust is in the shed blood of Jesus Christ, then you can have great comfort in the fact that God will righteously judge all who have done wrong.

B. The fact of God’s judgment should terrify all that do not know Him.

The chariot was the state-of-the-art weapon in Zechariah’s day. The picture of these strong horses champing at the bit to move out into battle with their chariots and mighty warriors would have struck fear into the hearts of the people of that day. The modern picture would be that of our war planes bombing Baghdad or our tanks rumbling down its streets, blowing away anyone foolish enough to challenge them.

In Revelation 6:15-16, John describes the mighty kings of the earth and their commanders, along with everyone else, hiding themselves in caves and among the rocks of the mountains when God’s judgment falls. They cry out to the mountains and rocks, “Fall on us and hide us from the presence of Him who sits on the throne, and from the wrath of the Lamb.” If you have not taken refuge in the Lord Jesus Christ, Bible prophecy should terrify you and motivate you to repent while there is still time!

C. The certainty and thoroughness of God’s judgment should warn everyone that no one will escape.

The number four (chariots, spirits of heaven) probably represents the four compass points, which indicates the universality of God’s judgment. He is also referred to as “the Lord of all the earth” (6:5), showing that no one is exempt. Proud Babylon thought that no one could penetrate her moats and high walls. But when it was God’s time for her to fall, Darius the Mede diverted the Euphrates River, draining the moat, and his troops brought down the city in one night. In the same way, proud Babylon of the end times will fall in one day and in one hour (Rev. 18:8, 10).

I read recently of a guy who robbed a bank. He stuffed the sack of money down his trousers and was making his getaway when the explosive dye canister went off, causing not only a bright red stain, but also some painful damage, to a very sensitive part of his body!

Some criminals may escape judgment on earth, but no sinner will be able to escape the all-seeing eye of God. Although His judgment is delayed, and it may look like sinners get away with their shenanigans, it is the height of folly to think that they will dodge judgment. Jesus warned that in the day of judgment, people will have to give an account for every careless word (Matt. 12:36), and that even a lustful thought is enough to condemn a man to hell (Matt. 5:27-30)! The many warnings of Scripture should cause us to turn from our sins and flee to Jesus Christ before He returns to judge the earth! That leads to the second section of our text:

2. God will send His King-Priest to reign: The coronation of Joshua (6:9-15).

The scene here is not a vision, but rather a prophetic drama to be acted out by Zechariah with three exiles who had come from Babylon with gifts and a fourth man who was their host. (Two of the names are changed in 6:14 from 6:9, leading some to see significance in the meaning of the names, but we don’t have time to explore that topic.) It probably took place the day after the night visions. With their gifts of gold and silver, the prophet is to make (or have made) a crown and set it on the head of Joshua, the high priest (whom we met in chapter 3).

Again (as in 3:8) God refers to the coming Messiah as “Branch,” and predicts that He will build the temple of the Lord. Also, He will rule on His throne as a King-Priest. The crown would be placed in the rebuilt temple as a reminder to these men of this coming King-Priest. The prophecy ends with the prediction that those who are far off will one day come and build the Lord’s temple. Most commentators understand the “me” of verse 15 to refer to Messiah. And, there is a final exhortation to obedience. I want to point out three lessons about Jesus Christ as seen here.

A. Christ will be both king and priest.

In Israel, these two offices were always kept separate. When King Saul took it upon himself to offer the burnt offerings in Samuel’s absence, God vowed to remove him from office. When proud King Uzziah took up a censor to offer incense as a priest, leprosy broke out on his forehead, and he was a leper the rest of his life.

But here, Joshua (whose name in Hebrew is identical with Jesus, which means, “Yahweh saves”) the priest is crowned as king. Clearly, he was not taking over Zerubbabel’s position as civil leader. The priests came from the tribe of Levi, whereas the king had to be a descendant of David, from the tribe of Judah. But in Psalm 110, David predicted that Messiah would not only be a king, but also a priest forever according to the order of Melchizedek (see also Heb. 7:1-3). So this prophetic drama does not center on Joshua, but rather on the One whom Joshua prefigures.

(1) Christ will be the King.

As king, Christ wears a crown. In His first coming, it was a crown of thorns. But in His second coming, it will be a crown of glory (Rev. 19:12), as He comes in victory to reign.

The Lord says (6:12), “Behold, a man….” Pilate inadvertently used a similar phrase to describe Jesus as he derisively brought Him out wearing the crown of thorns and purple robe (John 19:5). He probably only meant, “Here is your accused!” But it is likely that John saw it as a double entendre, perhaps referring back to Zechariah’s prophecy: “Behold, here is the Man, the Son of Man, whom the Lord God calls Branch” (see Leon Morris, The Gospel According to John [Eerdmans], p. 793).

Branch is a Messianic term that is also used by Jeremiah (23:5; 33:15) and Isaiah (11:1; see 53:2). It emphasizes the fact that Jesus began in lowly, insignificant circumstances, but as the Lord says here, “He will branch out from where He is; and He will build the temple of the Lord” (6:12). The line of David had seemingly been toppled. No king from David’s line had sat on the throne of Israel for over 600 years. The tree stump looked lifeless.

But then an insignificant young woman gave birth in a stable in the city of David to the Branch of David. He sprouted into a mighty tree, whose branches reach to the ends of the earth. When He comes again, He will “bear the honor and sit and rule on His throne” (Zech. 6:13). As Charles Feinberg points out (God Remembers [American Board of Mission to the Jews], p. 100), the end and consummation of all prophetic Scripture is the crowning of the Lord Jesus Christ. He is coming as the King to reign!

(2) Christ will be the priest.

“He will be a priest on His throne” (6:13). A priest served as the mediator between the holy God and sinful men. He had to be one with the people, so as to identify with them. But he also had to be separate from the people in holiness, so that he could approach God on their behalf. Even so, the Lord Jesus “had to be made like His brethren in all things, that He might become a merciful and faithful high priest in things pertaining to God, …” (Heb. 2:17).

The priests of the Aaronic order never sat down. There were no chairs in the tabernacle or temple, because their work was never done. They had to offer sacrifices for their own sins, as well as for the sins of the people (Heb. 7:27). But Christ, our Priest, “having offered one sacrifice for sins for all time, sat down at the right hand of God, waiting from that time onward until His enemies be made a footstool for His feet” (Heb. 10:12, 13).

Through this King-Priest will be “the counsel of peace between them [lit.]” (6:13). There is debate about what “them” refers to, but probably it refers to the reconciling of the two offices in the Lord Jesus Christ (as the NASB takes it). There could be no tug-of-war between the political and religious spheres, because in Jesus, both offices will reside in one person. He will bring true peace to His people.

There is an important application here: You will not know true peace with God unless Jesus is both your high priest and your king. You need a priest to deal with your guilt before God. Jesus Christ offered Himself as the perfect sacrifice, and if you have put your trust in Him, that sacrifice applies to all of your sins.

But Jesus also must be your king. To accept Him as your high priest who opened the way into God’s presence, but not to obey Him as your king is unthinkable! You cannot eliminate either office of Christ. He is both priest and king. He deserves all the honor!

B. Christ will build His temple.

This is repeated twice for emphasis. It was intended to encourage the weary workers on Zerubbabel’s temple to finish their work. But it also points ahead to the church, which Jesus builds (Matt. 16:18) as God’s spiritual temple (Eph. 2:21), as well as to the future millennial temple, where the nations will stream to learn of God’s ways (Isa. 2:2-4; 56:6-7; Ezek. 40-48; Mic. 4:1-7; Hag. 2:7-9).

The main idea of the temple is that it is God’s dwelling place among men. His glory was revealed in the temple. The objects in the temple and its design reflected God’s character and the way in which we must approach Him. The temple was the closest thing on earth where people could see God. And the amazing thing is that we are now the temple of the living God (2 Cor. 6:16; 1 Pet. 2:5)! If we see the incredible importance of the church in God’s plan, we will commit ourselves to seeing it built to His glory.

C. Christ will be worshiped by all peoples.

The coming of these exiles from Babylon and the mention (6:15) of “those who are far off” point to the day when the nations will stream to Jerusalem to bring their gifts and pay homage to the Messiah (Isa. 2:2; 60:1-5; Rev. 21:24, 26). But also it points to the church, in which those who “were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ,” to be built together into “a holy temple in the Lord” (Eph. 2:13, 17, 21, 22).

This points us to the great missionary task of the church. God’s plan is for all peoples to worship Him. We are to be a light unto all the nations, so that some day there will be “a great multitude, … from every nation and all tribes and peoples and tongues, standing before the throne and before the Lamb,” crying out, “Salvation to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb” (Rev. 7:9, 10).

As I said, these prophecies are not given so that we can draw up prophecy charts and speculate about the number of the beast. These things are revealed so that we will submit our lives totally to Jesus Christ:

3. We must completely obey Jesus Christ (6:15b).

When Zechariah says that this “will take place if you completely obey the Lord your God” (6:15), he does not mean that Messiah’s coming and the Gentiles’ participation in the kingdom were contingent on Israel’s obedience. God’s sovereign purpose does not depend on fickle man. What he means is that Israel would not come to the knowledge of Messiah or His kingdom blessings unless they obeyed Him fully (see Expositor’s Bible Commentary [Zondervan], 7:641). God’s prophetic plan for the ages will come according to His sovereign timetable. But we will not be blessed as a part of that plan unless we give ourselves fully to obey the Lord. Especially this means that we must devote ourselves to holy living and the fulfillment of the Great Commission (Matt. 6:33; 28:19-20).

Conclusion

A Gallup poll some time ago revealed that 62 percent of Americans have no doubts about Jesus’ return. Among those who say that religion is very important in their lives, the number jumped to 79 percent. Probably 100 percent of us in this church believe that Jesus is coming to judge the earth and reign as King. But the question is, are we living as if we believe it? Are we living in obedience to Him and giving ourselves to the unfinished task of proclaiming His salvation to those who are yet “far off”?

Discussion Questions

  1. The bottom line of all prophecy should be to exalt Jesus Christ and bring everyone into submission to Him. Discuss the implications of that statement for our study of biblical prophecy.
  2. Should believers fear God’s judgment in any sense? (Consider 1 Cor. 3:10-15 & 2 Cor. 5:9-11.)
  3. To what degree should we use the fear of coming judgment (versus God’s love) in our witnessing?
  4. How would your life change if you were totally committed to building God’s temple (the church)?

Copyright, Steven J. Cole, 2003, All Rights Reserved.

Unless otherwise noted, all Scripture Quotations are from the New American Standard Bible, Updated Edition © The Lockman Foundation

Related Topics: Character of God, Christology, Hamartiology (Sin), High Priest, Kingdom, Prophecy/Revelation, Worship