Jan 7, 2012

Playing in the Streets and Millennial Implications from Zechariah 8

Michael J. VlachBy Dr. Michael J. Vlach
Theological Studies

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If you are like me you have probably not heard many sermons or messages from Zechariah 8. But this chapter gives some beautiful descriptions of God's coming kingdom when Jesus returns. The chapter begins with God restoring Jerusalem. With "great wrath" and "jealousy" (8:2) the Lord returns to Zion and dwells in Jerusalem (8:3). The great city will have another name—"City of Truth" (8:3).

This capital city of God's kingdom will be characterized by sweet peace and fellowship as the Lord himself says:

"Thus says the LORD of hosts, 'Old men and old women will again sit in the streets of Jerusalem, each man with his staff in his hand because of age. And the streets of the city will be filled with boys and girls playing in its streets'" (Zech 8:4–5).
This section is simple but beautiful and may surprise some. When the Lord comes again and reigns from Jerusalem, the elderly and young people will be talking and playing in the streets. Yes, chatting with friends by the older people and joyous playing by the youth. Are you surprised at this? Did you expect something more profound or spiritual—perhaps singing in the eternal choir or talking to angels? I'm sure there will be plenty of that too, but Jesus' kingdom also means hanging out in the streets and having a good ol' time with other people. Elderly men and women are talking about this and that. The kids are playing and laughing. Perhaps they are chasing each other in a game of tag or kicking a ball around. Whatever they are doing it includes a lot of running and much laughing. That's what kids do.

The blessings of Christ's kingdom are certainly profound but they can also be blessedly simple. As Alva McClain states in regard to this passage, "This is no kingdom of asceticism where the normal impulses of humanity, implanted by divine creation, will be rigorously suppressed." This is a time of "glad release" and "joyous and safe recreation" (The Greatness of the Kingdom, 228). This passage does not have to be "spiritualized." It is not "ideal language" that points to some 'later and greater' spiritual reality. It is what it is. The kingdom of God means peace in the midst of wholesome fellowship and play.

Streets of major cities are often not safe, but not here. Not at this time when Jesus reigns. The old can safely be in the streets conversing with each other and watching children play with no harm coming to them. No threats to their safety. No purse snatchers or criminals to worry about. Children can play and laugh with no threat of harm. No predators. No bullies. No wild animals to devour them.

Evidence for an Intermediate Kingdom

On another note, it appears that age and age discrepancies still exist when the Lord's kingdom is established. Old men and women at this time need the aid of a staff "because of age." They possess some weakness because of advanced years. This strongly suggests the concept of an intermediate kingdom (or millennium), an era that is different from the present evil age but different also from the Eternal State in which all negative aspects of aging and death are removed.

From Zechariah's time until now the conditions of Zechariah 8 have not happened. There has been no historical fulfillment of this yet. On the other hand, there will be no elderly who are weak in the final Eternal State for all remnants of the curse have been removed (see Revelation 21 and 22). What Zechariah describes here, therefore, must take place in an initial phase of God's kingdom before the Eternal State begins. Such an intermediate state between the present age and the Eternal State is described in Revelation 20 where a thousand year reign of Christ is emphasized.

The rest of the chapter is wonderful too. The Lord will bring His people from the East and West to live in Jerusalem (8:7–8). The physical blessings that will occur when God's people are in the land include agricultural prosperity and proper moisture from the sky (8:12). Many people and nations will seek the Lord in Jerusalem (8:22). The blessings of God's kingdom surely include physical blessings too.

Reading passages like Zechariah 8 causes me to long for God's kingdom. I look forward to the day when we can do even the simplest activities of life in peace and happiness. All because of our great King Jesus.

Related Links
Populating the Millennium • BPB (Thomas Ice)
What Did Christians Close to John the Apostle Believe About the Millennium • TheologicalStudies.org (Michael Vlach)
The Millennial Kingdom (Part 1): The Prophetic Context of the Millennium • Bible.org (John Walvoord)
What is dispensational premillennialism / premillennial dispensationalism? • GotQuestions.org
Summary of the Millennial Kingdom • SpiritandTruth.org (Tony Garland)