How do you view the progress of the Kingdom of God? I do not mean its eventual progress, or its eternal victory, but right now, in this very day. Many people feel it is an expression of spiritual discernment to be discouraged, believing that it represents a sensitivity to the horrors of the sin we see.
I believe that attitude is not only a false spiritual sensitivity, it can itself be a sinful assumption that Christ is not fully in charge of His Kingdom.
We would do well to remember the prophecies to Zechariah, who wrote just over five centuries before the Incarnation of Jesus Christ. He belonged to a small detachment of Jews who had, after the Babylonian Captivity, returned to Jerusalem, where they camped around the rubble of its complete destruction in their grandparents’ day. The Persian king had allowed the return of a small remnant with a Davidic king, Zerubbabel, under his authority. Joshua was there as a high priest with no temple.
The situation was very discouraging. The mass of rubble was itself impenetrable. Only the beginnings of a temple inferior to that of Solomon’s were visible. The old Jerusalem was forever gone, its glory days past. Evil seemed triumphant, and the future seemed to offer no real hope of any significant progress in the rebuilding of the city, much less its prominence as a seat of power. We can hardly blame them for walking by sight, because nothing visible to the human eye or discernable to human reason offered any cause for optimism.
In their understandable despondency, Zechariah received a vision. The vision was of a man on a horse standing among myrtle trees in bottom land (1:8). “The man” was also identified as “the angel of the Lord,” an expression used to refer to Jesus Christ in Genesis 16:7 and 22:11. Christ Himself was in the trees. He had horses, which were then only used as engines of warfare, but all were standing quietly in the trees. No attack, and no quick victory, was forthcoming. Zechariah could, however, see that God Himself was watching.
The vision included promises that God’s purposes would be fulfilled. The temple would be built; a line stretched on Jerusalem, indicating a wall would be built to defend it (Zech. 1:16); it would prosper once again; and it would be used as a means of great comfort, a reference, certainly, to the work of Jesus Christ (v. 17). In fact, there was no quick resolution. God did not charge out of the trees, but Jerusalem, its temple, and its wall were rebuilt. Jerusalem, then, did become a blessing, though by the route of a crucifixion.
Jesus Christ was present and watching Zerubbabel, Joshua, and Zechariah in the most discouraging of times, just as He is observing His church today. He assures us of this in Matthew 28:18–20:
- And Jesus came and spake unto them, saying, all power is given unto me in heaven and in earth.
- Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost:
- Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world. Amen.
So much is in these words, they are rightly called the Great Commission, but to help bring Zechariah’s vision of the Lord into better view, let us note just a few.
First, Jesus Christ has been given all power in both heaven and earth; His is not a mere spiritual authority, but one that is sovereign over time and eternity. His power and lordship control history as well as heaven. Second, our commission to teach and baptize receives its authority directly from the power and authority of Jesus Christ; it is not dependent on how our senses and reason assess the current scene. Third, we are to teach obedience in “all things” as the will of Jesus Christ; the “simple gospel” is a reduction of our message to the world, not its refinement. Then, fourth, we are to remain aware that Christ is always with us and will be until the end of history. This later point was exactly the purpose of Zechariah’s vision, to remind the prophet and us that God is present and watching.
In Christ’s own words we are told what Zechariah saw is still true. What we must never forget is that this presence is not of a mere spiritual solace in the midst of triumphant evil. Paul told the Corinthian Christians that Jesus Christ “must reign, till he hath put all enemies under his feet” (1 Cor. 15:25). Christ will not always be an observer, as He was in Zechariah’s vision, for Paul also said the end of history would come only “when he shall have delivered up the kingdom to God, even the Father; when he shall have put down all rule and all authority and power” (v. 24). Christ must put down all authority and power that is not submissive to His own. If we fail to acknowledge that Jesus Christ is present, watching, we refuse His own promise. If we fail to act in terms of His promise that He is with us and is the power of time and eternity, we fail in our commission.
Later, in another vision (chapter 6), Zechariah saw the same horses he had seen standing in the trees with Christ. This time they were harnessed to chariots, which were weapons of offensive war. These chariots were sent throughout the earth. Zechariah no doubt anticipated dramatic judgment, particularly the chariot that went to the north, toward Mesopotamia, the land that still held many of God’s people captive.
Instead of judgment, the scene observed only “quieted” God’s Spirit. Zechariah was likely disappointed. Instead of witnessing judgment, Zechariah was told to make crowns and put them on the head of the high priest Joshua, who was said to represent “The Branch,” a messianic name for the Messiah, who would be both a high priest like Joshua and a Davidic king.
When we are tempted to wonder, “Why does not God do something?” we must remember what He hasdone, is doing, and will do. Jesus Christ has become our Mediator, the promised Branch, who has built the permanent temple, His covenant people, the church. Jesus Christ has promised us that He is now among us, just as Zechariah saw Him viewing the trials of the people of his day, and Jesus Christ will reign until He puts His enemies under His authority and hands the Kingdom to the Father.
Yet another word to Zechariah (4:6) taught him that, “Not by might, nor by power, but by my spirit, saith the LORD of hosts.” The might of Babylon had been overthrown, as would be the might of Persia, Alexander and his successors, and Rome. Even the might of the apostate Davidic kings was overthrown (Ezek. 21:27). Today the might of ecclesiocracies, denominations, and apostate ecumenical organizations may all soon be cast down, as might the power of presidents, legislatures, and international political and economic power brokers.
The power of history is the power of God’s Spirit, and this is with us “until the end of the world. Amen.”
Jesus Christ is still the power of time and history. As He stood in the bottom watching Zechariah, He stands with us, watching. We only reveal our ignorance of who He is and what He has promised when we decry the state of things. If we believe in Him, our duty is “Go ye therefore …” Faith is an assumption, and we are called to assume that Jesus Christ is Lord, that He is with us, and that all is well with His providential plan.