This detailed chapter describes the fall of Jerusalem to Antichrist at the beginning of the Great Tribulation, and its subsequent liberation by Jesus and his armies at the end of the Great Tribulation. Zechariah describes plagues with which Jesus afflicts enemy fighters, and then the transition of Jerusalem into the Millennium.
In verses 1 to 5a, Zechariah describes the end-time fall of Jerusalem that occurs at the beginning of the Great Tribulation when Antichrist invades with his alliance of nations, as in Ezekiel 38.

This invasion marks the beginning of the 'Day of the Lord' (v1). This is not a literal 24-hour day, but a relatively short time period that Isaiah calls 'the day of vengeance of our God' (Isaiah 61:2). This denotes a relatively short time period during which God releases judgments, and contrasts with the much longer time period called 'the year of the Lord's favour' (also in Isaiah 61:2). Jesus proclaimed the year of the Lord's favour at his first coming (Luke 4:19), but the Day of the Lord awaits his second coming and the events that surround it. It is synonymous with 'the Great Tribulation' (Matthew 24:21).

Israel's possessions will be plundered (v1). In verse 2a, God says that he will gather all nations against Jerusalem to wage war. I take this as a summary statement, describing the nations that wage war over Jerusalem at both the beginning and end of the Great Tribulation. In 12:2 and 12:6, Zechariah refers to the 'surrounding nations'. Similarly, Ezekiel 38 identifies a coalition of Antichrist's allies who invade Jerusalem with him. Psalm 83 gives another list of surrounding nations that seek to wipe the nation of Israel off the map. By the end of the Great Tribulation, when Jesus and the Jews are besieging occupied Jerusalem (12:2) and Antichrist is preparing to make his last stand, fighters will join him from all nations of the world (Joel 3:2, Revelation 16:14).

Zechariah tells us that when Jerusalem falls, the houses will be plundered and the women raped. Half the city will go into exile, but the remainder will not be taken away (v2). In other words, half of them remain in occupied Jerusalem under subjugation, or as prisoners of war. The half who go into exile escape from Jerusalem with the help of God himself who goes into battle and fights for them as 'in ancient days' (v3). God himself sets his feet on the Mount of Olives, on the east side of Jerusalem, and divides it (v4). This is a revelation of Israel's divine Messiah, whom the New Testament reveals to be Jesus. In Old Testament times, God was seen to fight for Israel when he defeated Pharaoh's army at the Red Sea (Exodus 14:13-14), and in various other ancient battles (Joshua 10:14, 23:3, Judges 4:15, 2 Chronicles 20:15). Similar to Moses' dividing of the Red Sea so the Israelites could escape from Egypt, Jesus divides the Mount of Olives so the Jews can escape from Jerusalem. Half the mountain moves north, and half to the south, creating a valley that runs from west to east, at least initially (v4). Zechariah tells us the valley extends as far as Azal, and the Jews will flee as they fled from the earthquake during the reign of King Uzziah in the 8th century BC. The only place known as Azal in ancient times was Sanaa, the modern-day capital of Yemen. If Zechariah is really referring to Sanaa, then the valley must take the Jews across the Jordan and then turn southwards towards Arabia. Zechariah does not tell us how far south they travel before they settle. However, several other prophecies identify northern Arabia (known in biblical times as Edom, with its capital Bozrah) as the location from which Jesus will rescue the Jews from their enemies at the end of the Great Tribulation (e.g. Isaiah 34:6, 63:1-6, Amos 1:12, Micah 2:12-13, Habakkuk 3).

I understand there to be a chronological gap in the middle of verse 5. There are various other prophecies that contain such a gap. For example, in Isaiah 61:2, there is a gap between the year of the Lord's favour and the day of vengeance. In Zechariah 9, there is a gap between verses 9 and 10, between Jesus' triumphal entry into Jerusalem at his first coming, and the establishment of his kingdom and peace at his second coming. In Daniel 9, there is a gap between verses 26 and 27, between the end of the 69th 'week', and the beginning of the 70th 'week'. Here in Zechariah, this gap in verse 5 corresponds to the period of 1,260 days during which the Jews are kept safe in a desert location (Revelation 12:6).

Verses 5b to 8 describe Jesus' victory over the Antichrist in a single day at the end of the Great Tribulation. Although the final battle lasts only a single day (v7), we know from Zechariah 12:2 that it is preceded by a siege of Jerusalem. Comparing Revelation 12:6 with Daniel 12:11, it appears that Jerusalem remains under Antichrist's occupation for 30 days after Jesus liberates the Jews from their 'Bozrah sheepfold' (Micah 2:12-13). This 30-day period gives both sides time to prepare their armies for the final battle which Jesus then wins in a single day. However, we should not presume to know the precise day, for Zechariah describes this as 'a day known to the Lord' (v7). This may be the particular day that Jesus refers to in Matthew 24:36, "But as for that day and hour no one knows it – not even the angels in heaven – except the Father alone". If Jesus is referring to the day and hour of his final assault against the Antichrist, it is understandable that its precise timing remains 'top secret'. In John 5:19, Jesus said that he only does what he sees his Father doing. Presumably as the day approaches, Jesus will be looking to the Father for the signal to go ahead.

Zechariah introduces this battle saying, "Then the LORD my God will come with all his holy ones with him" (v5b). Revelation 19:14 refers to this as a 'heavenly army'. Various prophecies portray Jesus mustering this great army. It appears to include resurrected and raptured believers (Psalm 50:4, Isaiah 13:3-5, 33:4, Joel 2:1-11, 3:11, Revelation 19:14), those identified as 'godly' or as God's chosen people (Psalm 110:3, Psalm 118:10-27, Revelation 17:14), and redeemed exiles from Judah and Israel (Psalm 149:5-9, Isaiah 11:10-14, Ezekiel 25:14, Zechariah 9:13, 10:6-9, 12:6). Jewish resistance fighters from within occupied Jerusalem are also seen to play a role (Micah 4:13, Zechariah 12:5, 8). It is also possible that his army includes angels. In his parables in Matthew 13, Jesus spoke about the role of angels in separating the wicked from the righteous in his kingdom. And in Matthew 16:27 he says, "For the Son of Man will come with his angels in the glory of his Father, and then he will reward each person according to what he has done". So angels come with Jesus and are involved in dealing out judgments and rewards. And they will be involved behind the scenes in spiritual warfare surrounding end-time events (.e.g. Zechariah's vision of four horses, and of four chariots in chapters 1 and 6). But it is not clear whether angels also fight and kill people in the physical earthly realm of Jesus' end-time battles.

According to verse 6, there will be no light on that day until evening. This will enable Jesus to launch his assault under cover of darkness. The heavenly light sources (sun, moon and stars) appear to congeal. Various scriptures prophecy this 'plague of darkness' (Isaiah 13:10, Joel 2:10, 31, 3:15, Matthew 24:29, Mark 13:24, Luke 21:25, Acts 2:19-20, Revelation 16:10). According to Exodus 10:21-23, God sent a similar plague of darkness over Egypt for three whole days, but there was light where the Israelites lived. This suggests it was caused by localised atmospheric phenomena rather than cosmic causes. The darkness was said to be so thick that you could feel it. According to Matthew 27:45, Jerusalem was in darkness between about noon and 3 pm while Jesus hung upon the cross. According to Joel 2:30, this phenomenon is associated with signs in the sky of blood, fire, and pillars of smoke. So it seems that something happens within the earth's atmosphere to produce smoke that blocks out the light from the sun. At the battle of Armageddon, it is likely this smoke is caused by burning oil fields in Edom (Arabia), for Isaiah 34:9 says, "Edom’s streams will be turned into pitch and her soil into brimstone; her land will become burning pitch". Arabia is associated with 'Babylon' in Isaiah 21, and this 'Mystery Babylon' will be suddenly destroyed shortly before the battle of Armageddon (Revelation 17-18). When evening comes (v7b), it marks the beginning of the earth's transition from the present age to the millennial age.

In verse 8, living water starts flowing out from Jerusalem, half to the eastern sea (the Dead Sea) and half to the western sea (the Mediterranean). It flows both in summer (when rivers tend to dry up in Israel) and in winter. In Ezekiel's vision of millennial Jerusalem and its temple, he gives a detailed description of this river (Ezekiel 47). The river brings life and healing wherever it goes. Its banks are lined with fruit trees producing food to eat and leaves that provide healing for the nations. The Psalmist saw this river in Psalm 46:4. John saw a similar river in his vision of the eternal New Jerusalem (Revelation 22:1-2). Although this will be a literal river, it also points figuratively to the healing and life-giving work of the Holy Spirit who will be poured out upon all people (Isaiah 55:1, 58:11, Joel 2:28, John 7:37-38).

According to verse 9, "The LORD will then be king over all the earth. In that day the LORD will be seen as one with a single name". This reflects a revelation of Israel's Messiah king as Jesus who is Jehovah. Jehovah is the God who revealed himself throughout the Old Testament, and to whom Israel prays the Shema prayer, "Listen, Israel: The Lord is our God, the Lord is one! You must love the Lord your God with your whole mind, your whole being, and all your strength" (Deuteronomy 6:4-5). In accordance with Isaiah 45:22-23 and Philippians 2:9-11, every knee must bow and every tongue confess that Jesus is Jehovah, the name that is above every name. It means that the Trinity is not a denial of the monotheism expressed in the Shema. Concerning his kingship, Revelation 19:16 describes Jesus as the "King of kings and Lord of lords". He will reign as king over the whole earth, with every earthly king in submission to him (Psalm 72:11, 102:15, 138:4, 148:11, Mal. 1:11). Any king who does not submit will be executed (Psalm 110:5-6).

According to verse 10, all the land will become like the Arabah (the rift valley) from Geba to Rimmon, after which it will be raised up and remain in its place. In other words, it appears that Jerusalem will first be levelled like the rift valley, and then literally raised up to a higher elevation. Geba is about 5 miles north of Jerusalem, and Rimmon is about 35 miles to the south (13 miles south of Hebron). Present Jerusalem will almost certainly be destroyed in the process, so this implies that Millennial Jerusalem will be rebuilt on an elevated mountain plateau, about 40 miles across. According to Isaiah 2:2-4 and Micah 4:1-3, Jerusalem will become the highest mountain. The combined descriptions of this by Zechariah, Isaiah and Micah, together with John's prophecy of the biggest ever earthquake (Revelation 16:18-20) imply it is to be understood literally. Also figuratively, mountains represent kingdoms, so the raised elevation of Jerusalem represents the dominance of Christ's kingdom over every other earthly kingdom.

According to verse 11, people will settle in Jerusalem, and it will be totally secure. Jerusalem literally means 'city of peace' and it will finally become so. Jerusalem has been invaded, destroyed and rebuilt many times in history.

Verses 12 to 15 describe the plague with which Jesus will strike enemy soldiers and their animals, causing them to panic and attack one another. This is a battle in which God (Jesus) does most of the fighting. To some extent, the Jews will be observers. However, verse 14 tells us they will actually fight at Jerusalem, and will gather up the wealth of the surrounding nations (v14). Given that verse 2 describes the Jews being plundered at the beginning of the Great Tribulation, it means that the Jews will plunder those who plundered them, in fulfilment of Isaiah 33:4, Ezekiel 39:10 and Jeremiah 30:16. The statement that they fight 'at Jerusalem' is one of may verses indicating that the so-called 'battle of Armageddon' is really the battle to liberated Jerusalem. Armageddon is simply the gathering place for Antichrist's armies (Revelation 16:16).

Verses 16 to 19 describe the survivors from the nations that attack Jerusalem. These are people who live through the Great Tribulation and are still alive at the beginning of the Millennial age. Given the severity of the plague described in verse 12, it seems there will be few survivors from among the actual enemy combatants. Some may cry out to Jesus for mercy and be saved (Joel 2:32). But Antichrist will draw fighters from all nations to support him in his last stand. So the majority of survivors in view here are most likely non-combatants from those Gentile nations. These survivors are described in Isaiah 4:3, 10:20, 11:11, 49:6, 65:8, 66:19, Jeremiah 31:2 Ezekiel 20:38-42, 36:36, Amos 9:9-10, Joel 2:32, Zechariah 12:14, 13:8, and 14:16. They are people who are converted at some point in the Great Tribulation, after the rapture that occurs at the seventh and last trumpet (1 Thessalonians 4:17 and Revelation 11:15). They bow the knee and confess Jesus as Lord (Philippians 2:9-11). Consequently, they are saved and enter the Millennium as mortal human beings. They will be joined to God's people (Zechariah 2:11). Zechariah tells us that these survivors will go up to Jerusalem each year to worship Jesus and to celebrate the Feast of Tabernacles (v16 - see also Zechariah 8:20-23). He warns nations, especially Egypt, that any nation which fails to go up will be punished with drought (v17) and plagues (v18).

Verses 20 to 21 describe the holiness of holiness of the people of Israel who will walk in holiness in every area of their lives. The bells of the horses represent public life on the streets. The cooking pots in the Lord's house represent their religious lives. The pots in Jerusalem and Judah represent their domestic lives. In all these areas of life, they are holy like the sacred bowls in front of the altar. This is why people who come to Jerusalem from the nations will take hold of a Jew and say "Let us go with you…" (Zechariah 8:23). The statement that there will no longer be a Canaanite in the house of the Lord Almighty implies that the holiness of God's temple will no longer be tainted by merchants or anyone who rebels against God. In Matthew 21:13, Jesus complained that the temple was supposed to be a 'house of prayer' but the Jews had turned it into a 'den of robbers'.
Places: Jerusalem, Mount of Olives, Azal, Yemen, Edom, Arabia
Tags: Day of Judgment, Antichrist invades Jerusalem, Antichrist invades Israel, Fall of Jerusalem, Second coming appearance, Jesus divides Mount of Olives, Israel escapes to place of safety, End-time exodus, Great Tribulation, Millennium, War and Rapture, Jesus musters an army, God fights for Israel, Plagues, Israel plunders her enemies, Jerusalem liberated, Armageddon, Restoration of Israel and Judah, All nations gathered before Jesus for judgment, Sun and moon darkened, Jerusalem raised up, River of God, Survivors of the Great Tribulation, Nations stream to millennial Jerusalem, Millennial holiness
The Sovereignty of the Lord
1 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.
6 On that day there will be no light – the sources of light in the heavens will congeal.
7 It will happen in one day (a day known to the Lord); not in the day or the night, but in the evening there will be light.
8 Moreover, on that day living waters will flow out from Jerusalem, half of them to the eastern sea and half of them to the western sea; it will happen both in summer and in winter.
9 The Lord will then be king over all the earth. In that day the Lord will be seen as one with a single name.
10 All the land will change and become like the rift valley from Geba to Rimmon, south of Jerusalem; and Jerusalem will be raised up and will stay in its own place from the Benjamin Gate to the site of the First Gate and on to the Corner Gate, and from the Tower of Hananel to the royal winepresses.
11 And people will settle there, and there will no longer be the threat of divine extermination – Jerusalem will dwell in security.
12 But this will be the nature of the plague with which the Lord will strike all the nations that have fought against Jerusalem: Their flesh will decay while they stand on their feet, their eyes will rot away in their sockets, and their tongues will dissolve in their mouths.
13 On that day there will be great confusion from the Lord among them; they will seize each other and attack one another violently.
14 Moreover, Judah will fight at Jerusalem, and the wealth of all the surrounding nations will be gathered up – gold, silver, and clothing in great abundance.
15 This is the kind of plague that will devastate horses, mules, camels, donkeys, and all the other animals in those camps.
16 Then all who survive from all the nations that came to attack Jerusalem will go up annually to worship the King, the Lord of Heaven’s Armies, and to observe the Feast of Shelters.
17 But if any of the nations anywhere on earth refuse to go up to Jerusalem to worship the King, the Lord of Heaven’s Armies, they will get no rain.
18 If the Egyptians will not do so, they will get no rain – instead there will be the kind of plague which the Lord inflicts on any nations that do not go up to celebrate the Feast of Shelters.
19 This will be the punishment of Egypt and of all nations that do not go up to celebrate the Feast of Shelters.
20 On that day the bells of the horses will bear the inscription “Holy to the Lord.” The cooking pots in the Lord’s temple will be as holy as the bowls in front of the altar.
21 Every cooking pot in Jerusalem and Judah will become holy in the sight of the Lord of Heaven’s Armies, so that all who offer sacrifices may come and use some of them to boil their sacrifices in them. On that day there will no longer be a Canaanite in the house of the Lord of Heaven’s Armies.