And the theological word of the day is: eschaton
Main Entry: eschaton Part of Speech: n Definition: end of the world, end of time, climax of history Etymology: Greek for ‘last’
Webster’s New Millennium™ Dictionary of English, Preview Edition (v 0.9.6)
Copyright © 2003-2006 Lexico Publishing Group, LLC
(definition from www.dictionary.com)
I figure if I use fancy theological terms I get to sound a bit more like I know what I’m talking about. Okay, okay, I’m kidding. But I do like the word eschaton. Feels good to say. And it is a little gratifying to know a word that Merriam-Webster Online doesn’t have in its vocabulary. For this post, I’d like to grab that third definition, “climax of history.”
I was struck in class with Zechariah 12:1 – “…Thus says the LORD, who stretches out the heavens, lays the foundation of the earth, and forms the spirit of man within him…”
It’s a very cool verse, but why does God open up His burden against Israel with this introduction? Why not a simple, “Thus says the Lord?”
I like the way Wes Hall put it in our notes: “The only thing that will sustain us at the end of the age will be the knowledge of God Himself.” If all we knew was that things were going to get really, really bad, we wouldn’t be one whit more prepared for it. Knowing mere information about the end of the age doesn’t benefit us. Knowing the God who set up the end of the age is what will actually make a difference in our hearts and lives.
From where we sit today, the temptation would be to write off Zechariah 12-14 as too outlandish to possibly be true. In fact, many Bible scholars have already done so, spiritualizing the language away into oblivion until there’s not much left to either look forward to or fear. All of the nations coming against one little city in Israel (14:2)? Highly unlikely. Two-thirds of the people perishing in the land (13:8)? Of course that can’t be a precise number. Faces melting in the glory of God (14:12)? Don’t be ridiculous. Clearly this is a reference to something else.
Yet God has preemptively struck out against such cynicism. His thunderous self-revelation overarches the entire passage: “I am the God who stretched out the heavens. It is I who laid the foundation of the earth. I am the One who forms the spirit of man within him. Nothing is too difficult for me.” The God of Genesis 1 is the same God of Zechariah 12-14. Nothing is too difficult for Him to do or predict. He can (and will) bring about exactly what He said He would do.
Zechariah 12:1 will take an entirely different tone in the day of the fulfillment of the surrounding passages. The question will no longer be whether or not God can bring the promised judgment to pass. The question will be whether or not He can pull His people through it. Israel will be facing the bleakest period in their history. The nations will literally be surrounding them with armies, keeping them cornered and hopelessly outnumbered. People are dying. Evil is on the rise. It looks like there is no possible deliverance–and the truth is, there really is none — from man’s perspective, anyway.
However, God has declared from the beginning that He is the God of Genesis 1, who stretched out the heavens and laid the earth’s foundation, the One who created man’s spirit within him. He is the God who is keeping careful watch and absolute sovereignty over it all. He is not caught off-guard by the severity of the circumstances. He is not spooked by the numbers of the enemy armies or the weakness of the band of survivors in Jerusalem. He will do exactly what He set out to do, and bring the ultimate salvation (physical and spiritual) of that remaining 1/3 in the land (12:10; 14:3-5).
He is perfectly wise and just in how He orchestrates these events. His word will not return to Him void (Isa 55:11)–He will do precisely what He promised He will do. Not one life will needlessly slip through His fingers. Not once will His absolute justice ever be suspended in the process. He is the Author of the eschaton, and we can trust Him to bring His perfect work to pass.