In Zechariah God makes a dramatic prediction about a day in the future when He will pour out the Spirit on Israel, they will see Jesus, and mourning unto repentance will fill the land. This is the day of Israel’s national salvation, and it is a day we must understand because it is dear to God and because it is emphasized in the New Testament.
While the salvation of Israel as an entire nation is a sudden event, we want to make sure we do not overlook the fact that there will be increasing salvation among individuals in Israel in the time preceding this event. The believing remnant in Israel will continue to grow in strength to the day of Jesus’ return. We want to make sure we make this distinction clear – the day of Israel’s national salvation does not mean that we do not join with the believing remnant in Israel and labor for increasing individual salvation within the nation while we wait for the day of national salvation. Personal salvation can and will increase in Israel even though there will be a day for a sudden, national salvation.
10“And I will pour on the house of David and on the inhabitants of Jerusalem the Spirit of grace and supplication; then they will look on Me whom they pierced. Yes, they will mourn for Him as one mourns for his only son, and grieve for Him as one grieves for a firstborn. 11In that day there shall be a great mourning in Jerusalem, like the mourning at Hadad Rimmon in the plain of Megiddo. 12And the land shall mourn, every family by itself: the family of the house of David by itself, and their wives by themselves; the family of the house of Nathan by itself, and their wives by themselves; (Zechariah 12:10–12 NKJV)
It is important to recognize the key predictions that Zechariah makes in this passage. In verse 10, Zechariah predicts that God will pour out the Spirit of Grace and supplication on Israel. There are three important things to recognize in verse 10.
The first thing is that Israel’s repentance as a nation is not a gradual event. It happens suddenly as the result of an outpouring of the Spirit on the nation of Israel, an outpouring that Zechariah tells us will both reveal God’s grace towards the people and also give them the gift of repentance. Just as we are “born again” in a moment as individual believers, so also corporate Israel will be “born again” in a moment. At this time Israel as a corporate people will experience the full reality of what Jesus explained to Nicodemus about the new birth.
5Jesus answered, “Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. (John 3:5 NKJV)
Corporate Israel was “born once” when she passed through the waters of Exodus, but Israel must be “born again” by the Spirit. Zechariah is describing this birth event when the nation is born of the Spirit. Passing through the waters of the Red Sea was a “birth” for Israel and Israel will pass through an outpouring of the Spirit which will cause her to be “born again” as a people.
The second thing to recognize in verse 10 is that God is the one who will bring Israel to salvation, not man. God says, “I will…” A sovereign work of the Holy Spirit at God’s appointed time is required to bring all of Israel to salvation. God will use various factors to prepare Israel for salvation including the salvation of a remnant of the Jewish people, the salvation of gentiles who will provoke Israel, and the trouble that the nation pass through, but ultimately God is the one who will save Israel.
Third, we must recognize that God cares and is concerned for Israel’s salvation. This is why He tells us that a day will come when He will bring all of Israel to repentance. He is not content with Israel’s present condition and He will not let the age end without giving all of Israel the gift of repentance unto salvation.
In verse 10 Zechariah also predicts that Israel will look upon God as the one whom they have pierced. This tells us the timing of their national salvation. Israel’s national salvation occurs when they actually see the One who was pierced for them. When He makes His appearance in the sky, Israel will suddenly see Him for who He is. When he comes, they will see Him as John saw Him in Revelation 5:6. They will see Him both in great glory and as the crucified King. He will be visible and visibly crucified for them. Israel will suddenly recognize Him as they One who died for their sin. God describes the mourning as they way one would mourn for the death of their only son. The people will grieve as if for a first born son. This language emphasizes the depth of the grief the people will feel.
There will be “great mourning” in Jerusalem “like the mourning at Hadad Rimmon in the plain of Megiddo.” This is a reference to the mourning of Israel at the death of Josiah. When Josiah died the entire nation mourned. Josiah’s death was not only the death of the king; it was the end of the brief revival that occurred before the season of Babylonian destruction. Josiah was Israel’s last hope before judgment and the reference to his death is especially painful because Zechariah is recording this prophecy long after Josiah. Having seen what followed after the death of Josiah, the people can see the great tragedy of Josiah’s death even more than the nation did when Josiah died. The reference to Josiah emphasizes the extent of the morning.
Dramatic mourning that will fill the land. When the nation finally sees their Redeemer for who He is, their hearts will burst and the cry of repentance will erupt all throughout the nation. It is difficult to imagine what this moment will be like. It will be a holy moment. Zechariah describes families going off to weep by themselves.
There will be scenes of inconsolable weeping as fathers who have taught their children that Yeshua is a false Messiah realize in a moment that He is the Messiah of Israel and that they have kept their children from the One who would deliver them. Women will wail together. An unparalleled corporate repentance will occur as the Jews who have borne the brunt of the Antichrist’s rage finally recognize their national Joseph – the chosen son who they have rejected and yet who has become their national redemption.
After 2,000 years of rejection, all of Israel will recognize Jesus of Nazareth as the Messiah who paid for Israel sin, loved Israel, and the one who will deliver them from the dreadful hour of Jacob’s Trouble and the unparalleled wrath of the Antichrist against the Jewish people. This scene is so precious and tender to God. It is a passage we should primarily feel rather than analyze.
Not only do we need to recognize the significance of this passage in the Old Testament, it is also imperative that we recognize the significance of this passage in the New Testament. The New Testament emphasizes Zechariah’s prophecy of Israel’s national day of mourning and it is important to recognize this because it means the New Testament authors saw Zechariah 12 as a future event and as one of the primary events of Jesus’ second coming. The sudden, national salvation of Israel was one of the most important parts of Jesus’ second coming to the apostolic church.
Matthew 24 contains Jesus’ longest direct prophecy of the end times. What is often missed is that Jesus’ teaching is basically a summary of what was prophesied in the Old Testament. This means Jesus is emphasizing Old Testament passages that He considers to be key passages that form the backbone of our expectation of what will happen at the end of the age. The fact that Jesus references Zechariah 12 in His brief summary of the end times tells us that it is one of the primary events of the end times that He thinks about when He considers the day of His return.
30Then the sign of the Son of Man will appear in heaven, and then all the tribes of the earth will mourn, and they will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory. (Matthew 24:30 NKJV)
At first glance, if we are not familiar with Zechariah’s prophecy, this seems like the mourning of the nations over their impending judgment, but this is not the case. The confusion can come because Matthew 24:30 is translated the “tribes of the earth” while Zechariah 12:12 describes the mourning of families in the land, but we can quickly see that this is the same event as Zechariah because of the words Jesus uses in the Matthew.
New Testament authors frequently quoted Old Testament passages from the Septuagint. The Septuagint was a Greek translation of the Old Testament that was widely used in the early church because most Jews would have been familiar with it and because the newly saved gentiles were predominantly Greek speaking. Those two factors would have made it the most popular “Bible” of the first century before the books of the New Testament were written and added. When we look at Zechariah 12:12 in the Septuagint, we can immediately see the connection with Matthew 24:30 through the three key words in the passage.
- The word “tribe” (φυλή) in Matthew 24 is the same word that is translated “family” in Zechariah 12:12.
- The word “earth” (γῆ) in Matthew 24 is the same word that is translated “land” in Zechariah 12:12.
- The word “mourn” (κόπτω) in Matthew 24 is the same word Zechariah uses for mourning.
This means when Jesus says that the “tribes of the earth” will see Him, He is referring to families in the land that Zechariah describes in Zechariah 12. He is confirming, with Zechariah, that Israel’s national repentance comes when they see Him in the sky (Zechariah 12:10; Matthew 24:30) as He initiates the process of His second coming. Jesus confirms, as Zechariah prophesied, that His appearance in the heavens will initiated a period of mourning throughout the land as the families of Israel finally recognize their Messiah.
By looking at the language of Matthew 24:30 we can see the primacy of Zechariah 12 in Jesus’ thinking about the end times. The first thing He thinks about when He thinks about His appearing, is the mourning of Israel as they recognize and receive Him. His loves the sound of the nations worshipping Him (Matthew 24:14; Revelation 5:9; 7:9), but His heart aches to see those to whom He came first (Matthew 15:24) receive Him.
This is also yet another confirmation that Matthew 24 predicts and event that occurs at the end of the age. This moment was obviously not fulfilled in 70 AD because, after 70 AD, most of the Jewish community continued to reject Jesus as their Messiah as it has been up to the present day. Many individual Jews have come to repentance, but the national day of mourning has not yet come.
John also makes a brief reference to Zechariah 12 when he records the hour of Jesus’ crucifixion.
35And he who has seen has testified, and his testimony is true; and he knows that he is telling the truth, so that you may believe. 36For these things were done that the Scripture should be fulfilled, “Not one of His bones shall be broken.” 37And again another Scripture says, “They shall look on Him whom they pierced.” (John 19:35–37 NKJV)
When we read John carefully we note that he was not saying that Zechariah 12 was fulfilled on the cross, but rather that the cross was the prerequisite to the fulfillment of Zechariah 12. John is emphasizing Jesus as the one who Israel will look on at the end of the day as their deliver. Because Jesus has been pierced, He now stands capable of fulfilling Zechariah 12. The prophecy being fulfilled was not that Israel has recognized Jesus as the pierced Savior, but that the Savior has now been pierced so that He can appear in glory in the future as Zechariah predicted. John wants to make sure that we do not miss the fact that Jesus is the deliverer over whom all of Israel will mourn over on that precious day which again indicates the significance of Zechariah 12 in the apostle’s thinking.
Peter also made an indirect reference to Zechariah 12 on the day of Pentecost in Acts 2:21:
21And it shall come to pass That whoever calls on the name of the Lord Shall be saved.’ (Acts 2:21 NKJV)
Peter quotes extensively from Joel 2 in his sermon in Acts 2 and Acts 2:21 is a direct quote of Joel 2:32.
32And it shall come to pass That whoever calls on the name of the Lord Shall be saved. For in Mount Zion and in Jerusalem there shall be deliverance, As the Lord has said, Among the remnant whom the Lord calls. (Joel 2:32 NKJV)
Joel 2:32 is a direct reference to the events of Zechariah 12. Joel describes the great cry that will come up as the people call on the name of the Lord as well as the great deliverance and salvation that will accompany that cry. The date of Joel’s prophecy is uncertain so it’s ultimately impossible to determine if Joel was quoting and referencing Zechariah 12 or if Zechariah 12 is an expansion of Joel’s prophecy. Either way Joel 2:32 and Zechariah 12 are parallel passages.
Peter’s sermon reveals the significance of Zechariah’s prophecy to the apostles. Peter saw the outpouring of the Spirit at Pentecost as preparing the way for the day when God will pour out His Spirit on Israel for repentance and for their national salvation.
John not only emphasizes Zechariah 12 in his gospel, he also uses it as a key part of his introduction to the end time story in Revelation 1.
4John, to the seven churches which are in Asia: Grace to you and peace from Him who is and who was and who is to come, and from the seven Spirits who are before His throne, 5and from Jesus Christ, the faithful witness, the firstborn from the dead, and the ruler over the kings of the earth. To Him who loved us and washed us from our sins in His own blood, 6and has made us kings and priests to His God and Father, to Him be glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen. 7Behold, He is coming with clouds, and every eye will see Him, even they who pierced Him. And all the tribes of the earth will mourn because of Him. Even so, Amen. (Revelation 1:4–7 NKJV)
Revelation 1:4-7 serves as one of the primary introductions to the book. John addresses his initial audience (the seven churches) and he then affirms the book as a divine revelation. In verses 4-6 John tells us that this prophecy was given by the Father, Son, and the Spirit and emphasizes the final result of the book – that we would walk before Him cleansed in our priestly identity forever. John ends this statement affirming the origin of the book with “Amen” (“so let it be done”) in verse 6.
After affirming the origin of the book, John summarizes the purpose of the events of the book of Revelation. He says “Behold” to emphasize the significance of verse 7 and then goes on so summarize the message of Revelation by basically quoting Zechariah 12. John emphasizes that every eye will see Jesus because His return will be a global event that will be impossible to miss, and then he immediately associates Israel’s repentance with Jesus’ appearing exactly as Zechariah did. As in Matthew 24:30, the words tribes, earth, and mourn are all the exact same words that we find in the Septuagint translation of Zechariah 12:10-12. Just like Jesus in Matthew 24, John summarizes Jesus’ return as the moment that Israel embraces her Savior.
John’s emphasis on Zechariah 12 is especially significant in light of John’s context. John had heard Jesus teach on and predict the day when the kingdom would be restored to Israel (Acts 1:3, 6). He had heard the promise of Matthew 24 that the nation would turn to Messiah after a great trial. He had seen decades of the gospel expanding among the known gentile peoples in the Roman Empire, the very thing that Jesus told them to do so that Israel could come in her promises (Matthew 24:15; Acts 1:6-8).
However, 70 AD came and went. Jerusalem underwent a brutal siege – their most severe trial to date. However, that trial did not end in the mourning of Matthew 24:30 and Zechariah 12, it ended with the Jewish people in exile and mostly in unbelief. This was the reality John was faced with around 90 AD when he received the Revelation. Israel was not saved. The city of Jerusalem was in ruins. The gospel had spread among the gentiles, but even there churches were facing heresies and a number of challenges. The promised restoration of the kingdom to Israel seemed to have failed.
John had lived most of his life in eager expectation of the fulfillment of all the prophet’s promises, but now they seemed more distant than ever. It is quite possible that John’s grief over Israel’s salvation was a large part of his weeping in Revelation 5:4. E. When we understand John’s grief and the pain he had experienced in the decades leading up to his encounter on the island of Patmos, we recognize that John was burdened to know if the prophet word to Israel really would be fulfilled or not. Like John the Baptist on his deathbed, he wanted the assurance that his life was not in vain and that the Messiah really would fulfill all the promises.
The fact that John emphasizes Zechariah’s prophecy in his introduction to Revelation tells us that he expects us to read the book of Revelation in the context of the salvation of Israel. It also tells us that the book of revelation answered John’s agonizing question of whether or not Israel would ever be used. This is why it’s so important to recognize that the mourning of Revelation 1:7 is a very specific mourning. It is not a universal mourning; it is the mourning of corporate Israel unto repentance. It is not the mourning of the nations because of their judgment. The agony of the nations at their impending judgment is described in passages such as Revelation 6:15-17. It expresses John’s assurance, after receiving the vision of the Revelation, that God would indeed fulfill His prophetic promises.
John doesn’t summarize Revelation as the story of the mourning of the nations over their judgment, but rather as the story of God bringing Israel into her final salvation. This is one of the primary keys for the proper interpretation of Revelation. It is also yet another reason why we know that the book of Revelation does not describe the Roman invasion of Israel in 70 AD. Israel mourned in 70 AD because of destruction, not because of divine deliverance and the visible sight of Messiah.
When we look at Matthew 24 and Revelation1 in both cases we see how important it is to know and understand the Old Testament to begin to rightly understand the New Testament. Matthew 24:30 and Revelation 1:7 are frequently universalized and even understood as a completely different kind of mourning when in fact they are a very specific reference to a prophesied event. Jesus and John are predicting national salvation not the response of the nations at their judgment. Jesus and John do predict the judgment of the nations in the Olivet and in the book of Revelation, but that is done in different verses.
Recognizing how Jesus and John consider Zechariah’s prophesy as one of the primary events of the return of the Lord shows that the New Testament not only clearly predicts the national salvation of Israel, it presents it as one of the primary events of Jesus’ coming. It is so primary in apostolic thinking that John can use it to summarize all of Revelation.
In reading Matthew 24 we can see that the salvation of Israel first and foremost in Jesus’ mind and His emotions when He thought about the end times. We can almost imagine the excitement in His voice as He predicted the mourning and salvation of the nation as His appearing. Jesus was being rejected by the nation when He taught Matthew 24 and that pain no doubt caused Him to explode in pain and joy when He predicted the day Israel would embrace Him. John heart Jesus teach the Olivet Discourse, heard Jesus teach on the kingdom for 40 days (Acts 1:3), and was given direct revelation of God’s end time plan. All of that was summarized by John as the moment that every eye would see Jesus and Israel would finally receive Him as King and Savior.
All of this also tells us that Matthew 24 and Revelation 1 have not yet occurred in history because Israel has not yet entered into national mourning at the sight of Jesus. This further enforces that both Matthew 24 and Revelation 1 speak of a literal, visible return because only the visible sight of Jesus can satisfy Zechariah 12, and this is why Matthew 24:30 and Revelation 1:7 both emphasize the visible appearing of Jesus. This is a future event, not an event in the past. Only a siege on Jerusalem that ends with the visible appearing of Jesus, the outpouring of the Spirit unto repentance, and the repentance of all of Israel over the person of Jesus can fulfill these three passages. Peter had this same burden for Israel’s salvation and this same understanding of what it would take to produce that salvation and this is why he also referenced Zechariah’s prophecy in his Pentecost sermon.
While Zechariah 12 describes a specific event at a specific time in the future, it also illustrates a pattern of national repentance for all people.
- National repentance requires the gift of the Spirit. The Spirit of grace and supplication must be poured out on a people to enable them to repent.
- The sight of Jesus is what provokes men to repent. By nature we are blinded by sin and we need the Spirit to give us sight to see Jesus for who He is.
- National repentance is ultimately a season of intense mourning over how we have responded to Jesus. God will confront us with our response to the One who was pierced for us. When we see Him as the crucified King and our response to Him the most natural response is weeping, wailing, agonizing, and mourning related to how we responded to the crucified One.
Israel’s pattern of national salvation is the pattern for all people. God has promised a unique and total salvation for Israel. We must understand that and labor for it. At the same time, we can understand His divine pattern and implore Him for the Spirit of grace and supplication “in like kind and lesser measure” to be given to our own nations in the earth that a vibrant remnant might love and adore the crucified King of Israel.