Zechariah's Visions of God's Plan

Then thou spakest in vision to thy holy one, and saidst, I have laid help upon one that is mighty; I have exalted one chosen out of the people.--Psalm 89:19

Condensed from a discourse by Joseph Megacz

Did you ever see a stone with seven eyes? Zechariah did. Did you ever see a bushel basket with a cover made of lead and a woman inside? Zechariah saw all these things and more, and he saw them all in one night!

The visions he saw are highly symbolic and some of their details can have more than one reasonable interpretation. We will see an example of that in the first vision. Here is an overview of the eight visions and the primary lesson from each:

                  The first vision: horses among myrtle trees, a picture of the kingdom on earth.

                  The second: four horns and four carpenters, foretelling the Gentile times.

                  The third: a man measuring Jerusalem, a portrayal of the restoration of Israel.

                  The fourth: Joshua the high priest who represents those called to the high   calling.

                  The fifth: a candlestick and two olive trees, showing God’s watchcare over the church.

                  The sixth: a flying scroll, depicting God’s law in letter and spirit.

                  The seventh: a woman in an ephah, or basket, predicting the rise of the nominal church systems.

                  The eighth (two visions in one): horses and chariots giving an overview of the entire plan of God, plus Joshua the high priest, but this time a picture of the glorified church helping mankind along the highway of holiness.

Vision One

The first vision of horses among myrtle trees is recorded in Zechariah 1:7-17, and it is a beautiful picture of the peaceful kingdom on earth: “I saw by night and behold a man riding upon a red horse, and he stood among the myrtle trees that were in the bottom and behind him there were red horses, speckled and white.”

Here God shows Zechariah the end from the beginning by giving him a glimpse of the ultimate goal of his entire Divine Plan of the Ages, the peaceable kingdom of righteousness. The main character in this vision, the man on the red horse, pictures our Lord Jesus. It is through his work of redeeming and restoring mankind that this kingdom will be established. Horses usually symbolize doctrines, and so the red color of this horse represents the doctrine of the ransom sacrifice, the merit of Jesus’ blood which satisfies God’s justice and secures man’s release from the penalty of Adamic death. The myrtle trees symbolize perfect mankind. White flowers on the myrtle trees suggest the righteousness of those who have completed their walk up the highway of holiness. The words “in the bottom” indicate that this peaceful meadow is in a valley—protected on all sides by mountains, the mountain of God’s everlasting kingdom.

What might the other horses represent?There are two reasonable interpretations. Horses usually symbolize doctrines. As the first four of seven seals on a scroll are opened in Revelation 6, John beholds four horses—white, red, black, and pale—with riders; these have come to be known as the four horsemen of the apocalypse. These horses represent the corruption of truth during the beginning of the Gospel age. The truth was at first pure when our Lord and the apostles were on the scene, pictured by the white horse. Then errors crept in such as the trinity, and the mass, which denied the ransom sacrifice. The red horse pictures these corruptions of truth. Later more errors darkened the truth to an even worse state pictured by the black horse. Finally the teachings of the nominal systems were devoid of any truth, pictured by the pale, colorless horse. The sequence of horses picturing the corruption of truth was white, red, black, and pale.

Perhaps Zechariah’s horses in their improving colors—red, spotted, and white in that order—represent the atonement doctrines of resurrection, sin offering, and restitution which make possible man’s progress up the highway of holiness from a sinful, red condition, through a spotted condition as the old Adamic patterns of thought and habit are eradicated, to a white or perfect condition.

Another possible interpretation of these horses is suggested by the words of verses 9-11: “These are they [i.e., the horses] whom the LORD hath sent to walk to and fro through the earth, and they answered the angel of the LORD that stood among the myrtle trees, and said, We have walked to and fro through the earth, and, behold, all the earth sitteth still, and is at rest.”

The horses appear to be watchful sentries on the earth who observe and report back to the man on the red horse that all is well. These faithful sentries, sent by the Lord to walk to and fro in the earth, might well picture the ancient worthies. In the last vision we will see a use of various colored horses to represent classes of people in God’s plan.

But whether the horses represent doctrines that lead to mankind’s perfection, or the ancient worthies, the picture of the kingdom, the ultimate goal of God’s plan, is presented with clarity and beauty in this first of Zechariah’s eight visions.

Vision Two

Zechariah’s second vision is recorded in verses 18-21: “Then lifted I up mine eyes, and saw, and behold four horns. And I said unto the angel that talked with me, What be these? And he answered me, These are the horns which have scattered Judah, Israel, and Jerusalem. And the LORD shewed me four carpenters. Then said I, What come these to do? … these are come to fray them, to cast out the horns of the Gentiles, which lifted up their horn over the land of Judah to scatter it.”

Horns symbolize power and these four horns are said to have scattered God’s chosen people, Judah, Israel, and Jerusalem. We can easily identify the horns as the four universal empires of Gentile dominion: Babylon, Medo-Persia, Greece, and Rome. God gave these four Gentile powers dominion over the nation of Israel and the entire world. But who are the carpenters? They represent God in his four attributes of wisdom, justice, love, and power. God frays the horns, like a carpenter measures, cuts, shapes, and carves wood. Then God casts them out each in turn, ending with the last of the four Gentile empires when their seven times or 2,520 years of dominion expired in 1914.

Vision Three

Zechariah’s third vision takes up the entire second chapter. “I lifted up mine eyes again, and looked, and behold a man with a measuring line in his hand. Then said I, Whither goest thou? And he said unto me, To measure Jerusalem, to see what is the breadth thereof, and what is the length thereof” (verses 1 and 2). This is a vision of the restoration of Israel after the times of the Gentiles, pictured by the four horns in the previous vision. God had judged Israel and punished them seven times for their sins. Now their punishment at the hands of the Gentiles is complete and God’s favor returns to Israel. This measuring line is called a measuring reed in other Scriptures, and it was used in the construction and building of cities. Consider it a long yardstick.

The vision continues: “Jerusalem shall be inhabited as towns without walls for the multitude of men and cattle therein: For I, saith the LORD, will be unto her a wall of fire round about, and will be the glory in the midst of her. Ho, ho, come forth, and flee from the land of the north, saith the LORD: for I have spread you abroad as the four winds of the heaven, saith the LORD.”

Here the vision portrays the restoration of natural Israel to peace and prosperity after God regathers them from where he had scattered them during the times of the Gentiles. He will be a protecting wall of fire around them and no enemy shall scatter or trouble them again. His presence will be within them in their midst. We have already seen the beginning of the fulfillment of this vision as God is regathering his people to the land of Palestine. And the glorious completion of this vision of the restoration of natural Israel will come soon.

Here are some of the comforting words God speaks to Israel in the remainder of chapter two:

         “He that toucheth you toucheth the apple of my eye.”

         “Sing and rejoice O daughter of Zion, for I will dwell in the midst of thee, saith the LORD.”

         “Be silent, O all flesh before the LORD, for he is raised up out of his holy habitation.”

What a fitting picture this is of God’s favor returning to Israel and of Israel’s restoration.

There is an application of this vision to spiritual Israel, the church in the Gospel age. The vision includes the words, “Deliver thyself O Zion, that dwellest with the daughter of Babylon.” During the Gospel age, true spiritual Israel was captive in Babylon until Jesus returned and the call to the daughters of Zion to come out of Babylon went forth. Now our Lord has come to gather his bride, the apple of his eye, unto him, and now we rejoice with him.

Vision Four

Zechariah’s fourth vision takes up the entire third chapter. “He shewed me Joshua the high priest standing before the angel of the LORD, and Satan standing at his right hand to resist him. Now Joshua was clothed with filthy garments, and stood before the angel” (Zechariah 3:1-3).

The Hebrew name Joshua is identical to the Greek name Jesus. In this vision Joshua the high priest represents The Christ, head with body members. The filthy garments show the unrighteousness of the body members before they are justified. From the beginning, Satan stands in the way to tempt keep them from making a consecration; he tries to thwart God’s plan to select a bride class for his son.

The vision continues: “Take away the filthy garments from him. And unto him he said, Behold, I have caused thine iniquity to pass from thee, and I will clothe thee with change of raiment. Let them set a fair mitre upon his head. So they set a fair mitre upon his head, and clothed him with garments. And the angel of the LORD stood by.”

The scene has changed and the church class, the body members, are clothed with the robe of Christ’s righteousness, justified by faith in the merit of Jesus’ sacrifice. The King James translation says a “fair miter” is placed on Joshua’s head but the New American Standard better translates the Hebrew as a “clean turban.” Satan is still in the picture, trying even harder to oppose and keep the church from fulfilling her vows of consecration.

 “Thus saith the LORD of hosts; If thou wilt walk in my ways, and if thou wilt keep my charge, then thou shalt also judge my house, and shalt also keep my courts, and I will give thee places to walk among these that stand by” (Zechariah 3:7).

“If thou wilt walk in my ways,” that is, the narrow way, and “if thou wilt keep my charge,” that is, be thou faithful unto death, “then thou shalt judge my house and keep my courts,” that is be kings and priests in the kingdom.

At this point the vision leaves behind the sacrificing church in the Gospel age, and takes a giant leap forward in time to the kingdom: “For behold the stone that I have laid before Joshua; upon one stone shall be seven eyes: behold, I will engrave the graving thereof, saith the LORD of hosts, and I will remove the iniquity of that land in one day” (verses 8 and 9).

The engraving, or writing, on the stone is similar to words in Revelation: “To him that overcometh will I give a white stone, and in the stone a new name written, which no man knoweth saving him that receiveth it” (Revelation 2:17). The seven eyes on the stone picture the divine wisdom of Jesus and his church in the kingdom as the chief cornerstone, just as it is shown on the chart of the ages in the kingdom period when the iniquity of the people is removed. May we be faithful to our covenant, be part of this stone, and receive our new names.

The final verse of Zechariah 3 pictures of the peaceable kingdom of God: “In that day, saith the LORD of hosts, shall ye call every man his neighbour under the vine and under the fig tree” (Zechariah 3:10).

Vision Five

Zechariah’s fifth vision follows: “And I said, I have looked, and behold a candlestick all of gold, with a bowl upon the top of it, and his seven lamps thereon, and seven pipes to the seven lamps, which are upon the top thereof: and two olive trees by it, one upon the right side of the bowl, and the other upon the left side thereof” (Zechariah 4:2,3).

The vision goes on to describe how these two olive trees are connected to the bowl by two golden pipes. The candlestick is like the candlestick in the tabernacle with two notable additions: there is a bowl on the top filled with oil from which pipes carry the oil to the seven lamps, and there are the two olive trees. In the tabernacle, the golden candlestick with its daily renewal of the oil by the high priest pictured the supervisory work of Jesus in seeing that the holy spirit is always available to the church. The trimming of the wicks by the high priest pictures the trimming and pruning of the old nature by trials and experiences. In Zechariah’s vision this candlestick represents the complete organization for the care and development of the church.

This candlestick, like the one in the tabernacle, represents the church as a whole as it is supplied with the holy spirit from the one head, the bowl on the top representing our Lord Jesus. In verse 11 the prophet asks what the two olive trees are. He is told in verse 14: “These are the two anointed ones that stand by the Lord of the whole earth.” The Bible margin says “sons of oil” for the phrase “anointed ones.” There is a similar expression Revelation 11:3,4 describing God’s two witnesses, the Old and New Testaments, as two olive trees standing before the God of the earth. The two olive trees in Zechariah’s vision are also the Old and New Testaments picturing how we receive the holy spirit, the spirit of truth, from our Lord through the word of God.

Vision Six

Chapter 5 contains the sixth vision: “Then I turned, and lifted up mine eyes, and looked, and behold a flying roll. And he said unto me, What seest thou? And I answered, I see a flying roll; the length thereof is twenty cubits, and the breadth thereof ten cubits” (Zechariah 5:1,2).

Zechariah beholds a roll, or scroll, flying through the air. And it’s a big scroll: twenty by ten cubits (thirty by fifteen feet) when it is unrolled. The angel explains: “This is the curse that goeth forth over the face of the whole earth: for every one that stealeth shall be cut off as on this side according to it; and every one that sweareth shall be cut off as on that side according to it. I will bring it forth, saith the LORD of hosts, and it shall enter into the house of the thief, and into the house of him that sweareth falsely by my name: and it shall remain in the midst of his house, and shall consume it with the timber thereof and the stones thereof.” (Zechariah 5:3,4).

This scroll is a curse on two classes of people: it is a curse to those who steal, or thieves, whose names are written on one side of the scroll, and it is a curse to those who sweareth falsely by God’s name, or covenant-breakers, whose names are written on the other side. The scroll entering the house of the thieves and covenant-breakers affects this curse upon them; it remains in the house until the house is destroyed. What does this mean?

A clue is that the writing is on both sides of the scroll. It is like the writing on both sides of tablets of stone containing the law: “Moses turned, and went down from the mount, and the two tables of the testimony were in his hand: the tables were written on both their sides; on the one side and on the other were they written” (Exodus 32:15).

The ten commandments are divided into two groups: the first four describe man’s responsibility to God, the last six describe his responsibility to his fellow man. Perhaps the covenant breakers who swear falsely represent those who disobey the first four commandments relating to God and the thieves those who disobey the last six commandments, stealing from their fellows their goods, family harmony, reputation, and even life. This vision is a warning to natural Israel to obey God’s law covenant or else their house would be destroyed. As we know, the Jewish people did not keep God’s law and they were cast off, their house was left unto them desolate, as our Lord stated shortly before he was crucified.

There is also a lesson for the Gospel age church in this vision. Those who have made a covenant by sacrifice with God must be sure to not break their covenant, denying the faith, nor as thieves attempt to rob God of the loyalty and devotion of those hearts promised to him. We do not want our names written on this scroll of the disobedient; we want our names written in the Lamb’s book of life.

In this vision the house is our hearts and the characters we build. If we have the spirit of God’s law abiding in our hearts and controlling our thoughts, words, and deeds, if we build with gold, silver, and precious gems, into a character-likeness of Christ, our work will stand. If we build with wood, hay and stubble, our work will crumble and be consumed.

Vision Seven

Zechariah’s seventh vision of a woman in an ephah is next: “Then the angel that talked with me went forth, and said unto me, Lift up now thine eyes, and see what is this that goeth forth. And I said, What is it? And he said, This is an ephah that goeth forth. He said moreover, This is their resemblance through all the earth. And, behold, there was lifted up a talent of lead: and this is a woman that sitteth in the midst of the ephah. And he said, This is wickedness. And he cast it into the midst of the ephah; and he cast the weight of lead upon the mouth thereof. Then lifted I up mine eyes, and looked, and, behold, there came out two women, and the wind was in their wings; for they had wings like the wings of a stork: and they lifted up the ephah between the earth and the heaven. Then said I to the angel that talked with me, Whither do these bear the ephah? And he said unto me, To build it an house in the land of Shinar: and it shall be established, and set there upon her own base.”—Zechariah 5:5-11.

In Zechariah’s day, an ephah was a unit of dry measure, like our bushel, only a bit smaller, and was used to measure grain, such as wheat. The woman in the ephah is at first pure, and she pictures the true church, the true wheat at the beginning of the Gospel age in its purity. But the church became corrupt in its doctrines and practices. The angel casting wickedness into the ephah and slamming the lid of lead upon it pictures this corrupting transformation. Lead is a kind of counterfeit gold; it is similar in weight but without the beauty and incorruptibility of gold. Gold in the Scriptures is a symbol of things divine, particularly divine truth. Thus the lead cover aptly pictures the counterfeit doctrines and corrupt practices promulgated by the nominal church systems.

The two women picture mother and daughter, Catholic and Protestant church systems. They have wings and bear the ephah to the land of Shinar to build a house for it there. In Genesis 11:2 we read that the land of Shinar is where the tower of Babel was built; it is a flat plain between the Tigris and Euphrates rivers and it further identifies this vision with the development of Babylon. The wind in these women’s wings represents the power of Satan, the prince of the power of the air. The house built in Babylon upon its own base, the nominal church system, is Satan’s masterpiece, built upon its own foundation of error, not upon God’s truth.

Vision Eight

Zechariah’s last vision is more like two separate visions: “Behold, there came four chariots out from between two mountains; and the mountains were mountains of brass. In the first chariot were red horses; and in the second chariot black horses; and in the third chariot white horses; and in the fourth chariot grisled and bay horses.” (Zechariah 6:1-3)

Brass [copper] in the Scriptures represents the perfect human nature and mountains represent kingdoms. These two copper mountains represent the two perfect human kingdoms, the first in Eden which Adam lost, and the second a future kingdom on earth when what was lost will be restored. The four chariots come from between the two mountains. It is the entire plan of God—the Divine Plan of the Ages—which lies between these two mountains. Notice that there are four chariots pulled by horses possessing five colors: red, black, white, and, with the fourth and last chariot, grisled and bay horses.

“The black horses which are therein go forth into the north country; and the white go forth after them; and the grisled go forth toward the south country. And the bay went forth, and sought to go that they might walk to and fro through the earth: and he said, Get you hence, walk to and fro through the earth. So they walked to and fro through the earth. Then cried he upon me, and spake unto me, saying, Behold, these that go toward the north country have quieted my spirit in the north country.” (Zechariah 6:4-8).

The horses and chariots come out from between the mountains but only the horses, without the chariots, go off in various directions. Horses possessing five colors come out from between the mountains—red, black white, grisled, and bay—but horses possessing only four colors go toward a destination. What does this mean?

The four chariots may represent God, his attributes, and his agencies that bring to fruition his plan for mankind. The five colors represent five classes developed by this plan. The black, which go toward the north and quiet God’s spirit, are the church class. Black is rarely associates with the little flock, but in Song of Solomon 1:5 the queen says, “I am black but comely.” The white horses, which follow the black to the north, are the great company whose robes are washed white in the blood of the lamb. These follow the church both in time and honor. The grisled horses are mankind in the kingdom. They go to the south, the opposite direction, just as the earth is opposite the heavens. The bay, or strong horses as some translations have it, are the ancient worthies who “walk to and fro in the earth” just as in the first vision. And the red horses? They came out from between the mountains but do not go in any direction. They represent the second death class.

In the second scene in this vision, verses 9-15, the word of the Lord comes to Zechariah telling him to make crowns of silver and gold and put them on the heads of Joshua and others. Much is similar to the fourth vision except that the high priest wears a crown, not a turban, and sits on a throne. It represents the glorified Christ, head and body, kings and priests in the millennial age.

The chapter and the visions end with these words: “And they that are far off shall come and build in the temple of the LORD, and ye shall know that the LORD of hosts hath sent me unto you. And this shall come to pass, if ye will diligently obey the voice of the LORD your God” (Zechariah 6:15).

The “they that are far off” represent the world of mankind who are far from mental, moral, and physical perfection when first awakened from the grave. But by and by these come and build the temple of the Lord, meaning they walk up the highway of holiness, build righteous characters, and are fit for eternal life on earth with the help of the glorified church.

God’s closing words to Zechariah were spoken to encourage him and strengthen his faith. “And [all] this … shall come to pass, if ye will diligently obey the voice of the LORD your God.”

         Be obedient to the vows of consecration.

         Keep faith in the coming kingdom strong.

         Trust in God’s abiding protection in life.

         Be neither a thief nor a covenant-breaker.

         Resist the devil and keep the robe white and unspotted.

         Be filled with the holy spirit.

         Hold fast so no man takes our crown.

         Make our calling and election sure.

If we do all this, we will fulfill our part of the visions, Zechariah’s visions of God’s plan.