Zechariah’s Night Visions: Vision Three

The third vision sets forth the restoration of Jerusalem as the dwelling place of the glory of God (Zec 2:5). As with many Old Testament prophecies, there is a dual reference with an initial (or preliminary) fulfilment in Zechariah’s day, and an ultimate fulfilment in the millennial reign of Christ. The vision was no doubt designed to inspire the people to fervency and commitment in their rebuilding project. Jerusalem had a divinely assured and glorious future – it was therefore worth the effort! The apostle Paul uses similar motivation in view of the glory assured every believer in Christ, “Therefore, my beloved brethren, be ye stedfast, unmoveable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, forasmuch as ye know that your labour is not in vain in the Lord” (1Co 15:58).[1]

The City of Jerusalem: Christ as Surveyor (2:1-5)

Zechariah lifts up his eyes to see a man with a “measuring line” in his hand (v1) – an implement used to define the boundaries of buildings. The man is likely the same individual identified as the Angel of the Lord in the previous chapter (1:11,12) and the Man “whose name is The Branch” (6:12). He is, therefore, Messiah, the Lord Jesus. The measuring line presents Him as the bringer of the future restoration of Jerusalem. In both Ezekiel 40 and Revelation 11, measuring is preparatory to the blessing of God’s coming to re-establish His dwelling place amongst His own people. The Lord Jesus still measures today – both the motives of those who engage in His service, and the true condition of every local church gathered in His name.

The purpose of the Man was “to measure Jerusalem” (2:2) in order to mark out the boundaries of the city, and yet he appears to be measuring something so vast that it is utterly bewildering to Zechariah (probably the “young man” of v4), especially given its present state. Jerusalem was going to be so large and prosperous that it would be inhabited “without walls,” literally as “open country.” City walls acted as protection, but also restricted the growth of the population. Even today, the walls of the old city of Jerusalem only encompass one square kilometre, but in millennial days, the city will overflow with people and animals. The Lord Himself will be Jerusalem’s wall of protection (v5). Popular opinion in Zechariah’s day may have suggested rebuilding the walls as a matter of prime urgency (Hag 1:2), but Zechariah exhorts the people to build the temple first. Worship must take priority.

In the future, then, the presence of Jehovah Himself will be a “wall of fire” surrounding Jerusalem. Security and prosperity will not be achieved by man-made walls, but by the promised presence of God. And where once the glory of God had departed, it will now return in the Person of the King of Kings, for Christ is the glorious, personal presence of Jehovah (cf. Isa 60:19). Only a few recognised and beheld His glory at His first advent. Consequently, the Glory of God (literally) departed from the Mount of Olives as in Ezekiel’s day (Eze 11:23; Act 1:9-12). Yet the Glory shall return to the same place at His second advent and every knee shall bow (Zec 14:4).

The Citizens of Jerusalem: Christ as Servant (2:6-13)

In the second section of the vision, the focus turns from the city to the citizens: to those still in exile (vv6-9), and those in Jerusalem (vv10-13). Again, there is a dual reference to Zechariah’s contemporaries and Jews of a future day. It seems that Zechariah is now speaking, proclaiming the words given him by the angel sent from the Man (v3). The message is a command to “flee” and escape from Babylon (vv6-7). Although Babylon is to the east, it is called the “land of the north” because this was the direction of invasion and gives best access to the land (cf. Jer 1:14; 31:8). This is therefore a call to the remaining captives to return to Jerusalem. Sadly, many were still comfortable in Babylon.

The wider scope of the prophecy is again suggested by the “four winds of heaven.” God, in His purpose, has spread His people out to all quarters of the globe, yet they have a responsibility to flee from Babylon (and the system it represents, cp. Mat 24:31). Furthermore, future Israel is commanded to come forth out of the final world system of Babylon the great, the mother of all harlots (Rev 18:4). The overall message is clear: God’s people must not be part of a city and system which is hostile to God and is subject to imminent judgment. John Stubbs has an arresting practical exhortation: “As the Jew had the choice to go back to his country and build up the city of Jerusalem, so the believer should let the prospect of the heavenly city so thrill him as to stir his heart to be exercised in heavenly things and to build for eternity.”[2]

The secret of Israel’s survival as a nation through the years is because she is precious to God (v8). To “touch” Israel in hostility is to touch “the apple” (lit. gate, i.e., pupil of His eye). To mistreat God’s people is to strike a blow at His most tender and sensitive point. Thus, He will “shake” (wave) His hand in judgment upon all the nations which plundered His people. The Agent in this judgment, referred to as “me” (v8), is the Man with the measuring line – the Messiah. He is the One “sent” to pursue, restore, display and magnify the glory of God by destroying those nations set against Israel. Some commentators take “after the glory” in the sense of time rather than purpose, i.e., after the manifestation of Christ in glory, He will destroy His enemies and judge the heathen. Both are true!

The conclusion of the vision describes the appropriate response of a community delivered from captivity – to “sing [shout] and rejoice,” particularly because Jehovah will come to “dwell” (shakan) in their midst in the Person of Messiah (v10; 6:13). For so long the captives wept by the river of Babylon (Psa 137:1-2); now sorrow is replaced by singing. This will also be a day of blessing for Gentile nations as well as Israel (v11). They will be “joined” (implying a spiritual union) to the Lord and designated “my people.” With Jehovah reigning in their midst, the city (Jerusalem), region (Judah), and “holy land” (Israel) are sanctified by His presence (v11). Jerusalem will once again be displayed before the world as the city of His choice (v12).

The present dispensation is the period of God’s long continued silence with no audible voice or visible interposition. But such silence will be broken as Jehovah is awakened to action (out of figurative sleep) in response to the distressed cries of His persecuted people (v13). His “holy habitation” describes heaven, from which the seals of Revelation 5 are opened, and the work of judgment commences. Mankind is therefore exhorted to be in silent and reverential awe before the Lord – His mighty power is about to be manifested.

[1] All Scripture quotations in this article are from the KJV.

[2] J.J. Stubbs, What the Bible Teaches: Zechariah (Kilmarnock: John Ritchie Ltd., 2007).