As we mentioned in previous Q&A’s, the visions in the book of Zechariah relate foremost to our days–even though some of them might also refer to initial and preliminary fulfillments at the time of Zechariah.
Zechariah 4:1-14 reads as follows:
“(1) Now the angel who talked with me came back and wakened me, as a man who is wakened out of his sleep. (2) And he said to me, ‘What do you see?’ So I said, ‘I am looking, and there is a lampstand of solid gold with a bowl on top of it, and on the stand seven lamps with seven pipes to the seven lamps. (3) Two olive trees are by it, one at the right of the bowl and the other at its left.’ (4) So I answered and spoke to the angel who talked with me, saying, ‘What are these, my lord?’ (5) Then the angel who talked with me answered and said to me, ‘Do you not know what these are?’ And I said, ‘No, my lord.’ (6) So he answered and said to me: ‘This is the word of the LORD to Zerubbabel: “Not by might nor by power, but by My Spirit,” Says the LORD of hosts. (7) “Who are you, O great mountain? Before Zerubbabel you shall become a plain! And he shall bring forth the capstone With shouts of ‘Grace, grace to it!'”‘ (8) Moreover the word of the LORD came to me, saying, (9) ‘The hands of Zerubbabel Have laid the foundation of this temple; His hands shall also finish it. Then you will know That the LORD of hosts has sent Me to you. (10) For who has despised the day of small things? For these seven rejoice to see The plumbline in the hand of Zerubbabel. They are the eyes of the LORD, Which scan to and fro throughout the whole earth.’ (11) Then I answered and said to him, ‘What are these two olive trees–at the right of the lampstand and at its left?’ (12) And I further answered and said to him, ‘What are these two olive branches that drip into the receptacles of the two gold pipes from which the golden oil drains?’ (13) Then he answered me and said, ‘Do you not know what these are?’ And I said, ‘No, my lord.’ (14) So he said, ‘These are the two anointed ones, who stand beside the Lord of the whole earth.'”
1) General Overview of the Meaning of the Vision
John Gill’s Exposition of the Entire Bible contains the following remarks: “… this [vision] represents, under the type of Zerubbabel building the temple, the building of the church by Christ; and which is done and finished, not by might or power of man, but by the Spirit, notwithstanding all opposition, and contempt of it… The temple was a type of the church, and Zerubbabel a type of Christ…”
A similar comment can be found in Albert Barnes’ Notes on the Bible:
“For though in the first instance the words, ‘the hands of Zerubbabel etc.,’ relate to the building of the material temple, and announce its completion through Zerubbabel, yet the inference, ‘and thou shalt know that the Lord of hosts hath sent me unto you,’ shows that the meaning is not exhausted thereby, but that here too this building is mentioned only as a type of the building of the spiritual temple; and the completion of the typical temple is but a pledge of the completion of the true temple [the Church of God, compare 1 Corinthians 3:16; 2 Corinthians 6:16; Ephesians 2:19-22]…”
2) The Great Mountain
Regarding the great mountain in verse 7, which will become a plain, John Gill points out:
“This is said in reference to those who opposed the building of the temple, as Sanballat, and others; or the Persian monarchy, and Babylon the capital of it; a mountain being a symbol of a kingdom, or capital city; so Babylon is called… hence the Targum paraphrases the words thus, ‘how art thou accounted a foolish kingdom before Zerubbabel!’ and may denote the opposition made to Christ, and to the building of his church…. and may include all the enemies of the church and people of God, as sin, Satan, and the world; who, though they may look like high and great mountains, and make much opposition, and throw many difficulties in their way, yet in the issue will [be] of no avail…”
3) The Seven Eyes of God and the Lampstand
The seven eyes of God (verse 10) are seven angelic beings which are also mentioned in Revelation 5:6. Please note that Zechariah 1:8 describes four of these seven angels. They are also referred to as seven lamps on the lampstand (verse 2). The tabernacle had a seven-branched lampstand–that is, a lampstand with seven lamps (Exodus 25:31-37). Solomon’s Temple had several lampstands (1 Kings 7:49). A similar description is found in Revelation 1:20, where seven angels are described as seven stars in Christ’s hands, functioning as ministering spirits for seven churches. These seven churches are described as seven lampstands.
As we explain in our free booklet, “The Sacrificial System and the Tabernacle in the Wilderness,” on pages 35 and 36, the lampstand typifies Christ, the Light of the world. It also symbolizes the Church of God and every single converted Church member. The oil for the lampstand symbolizes God’s Holy Spirit. Christians must continuously make use of its power (2 Timothy 1:6).
4) “The LORD Sent Me”
We read in verse 9 that the LORD says that the LORD sent Him to the people. This shows that the designation, the “LORD,” can refer to either one of the two God beings–also known as the Father and the Son. Here, the Son, Jesus Christ, is saying that the FATHER sent Him (that is, Christ) to the people.
5) The Capstone
Verse 7 speaks of a capstone (or “headstone” in the Authorized Version). This is the last stone to be placed in the building. It is remarkable that the pyramid is the only building where the cornerstone is identical with the capstone. Jesus Christ is the chief cornerstone (Ephesians 2:20; 1 Peter 2:6)–and He is also referred to here as the capstone, showing that the temple is built through Him. He is the beginning and the end (Revelation 1:8)–the very foundation on which the temple–physical and spiritual–must be built. Verse 9 says that Zerubbabel laid the foundation–but “no other foundation can anyone lay than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ” (1 Corinthians 3:11).
The pyramid also describes the governmental hierarchical structure within the God Family. God the Father is over all. Under Him is Jesus Christ. Converted Christians will be changed into Spirit beings at the time of Christ’s return, and they will rule with and UNDER Christ for a thousand years. And so, God’s Church today is also hierarchically structured. Jesus Christ, the HEAD of the Church, ordains and GIVES ministers to the Church to guide and lead the membership (Ephesians 4:11-16).
6) The Temple
Even though the vision is talking about the construction of a physical temple at the time of Zerubbabel, it also applies to the end time. As explained above, one application must be seen in the reference to the spiritual temple–the Church. But it is also possible that another physical temple will be built prior to Christ’s return–and that a modern “Zerubbabel” will be used in some way for the accomplishment of that task.
7) The Two Olive Trees
The two olive trees, as mentioned in verses 11 and 12, have dual or even triple application.
The commentary of Jamieson, Fausset and Brown points out:
“Primarily, the ‘two’ refer to [the high priest] Joshua and [to the governor] Zerubbabel. God… at each of the transition periods of the world’s history has sent great men to guide the Church. So the two witnesses shall appear before the destruction of Antichrist… in [Revelation] 11:3, 4, the ‘two witnesses’ are identified with the two olive trees and the two candlesticks.”
The Ryrie Study Bible adds:
“Joshua and Zerubbabel witnessed to [God’s] power in seeing to the completion of the Temple [in 516 B.C., Ezra 6:14, 15]; and in the Tribulation days two mighty witnesses will yet arise (Rev. 11:4). All true witness must be done in the power of the Spirit.”
The New Scofield Reference Edition adds the following:
“The two olive trees represent Joshua and Zerubbabel, whose witness in that day is the prototype of the two witnesses of [Revelation] 11:3-12. Actually no human being can be the real source of the power that actuates God’s witness. It is only as Joshua [after his cleansing, as described in Zechariah 3], Zerubbabel, or any other human being represents Christ, the true Priest-King, that he fulfills this vision. In their fullest significance the two olive trees speak of Christ, the LORD’s Priest-King (cp. Ps. 110:4).”
The Broadman Bible Commentary contains the following annotation:
“It is proper to identify these two servants with Zerubbabel… and Joshua… Both are directly involved in serving the Lord’s kingdom. These two are the current representatives of a long line of promise… The ‘sons of oil’ (anointed)… are those who serve the cause of the Lord’s presence among his people. They are the ones who build the house… and who are the servants of holiness which must surround the place where the Lord dwells…
“The genuine servants stand to the right and to the left of God [the new King James Bible says, “beside,” in verse 14], who rules over the whole earth… The vision should be seen in the general messianic frame of Zechariah’s prophecy. The Lord is returning to Zion and will set up his kingdom there. In so doing he is fulfilling all the promises made to Israel and to David. This act is not only a comfort for Israel, but a key factor in… his reign for the whole earth…”
The construction of the temple will be accomplished through the power of the Holy Spirit (verse 6). Please recall that the two olive trees are also called, “anointed ones.” They are anointed or set aside by God to fulfill His task for them–and they have to do it by yielding to the power of the Holy Spirit.
In conclusion, Zechariah’s vision of the lampstand and olive trees does not only relate to the time of Zerubbabel and Joshua, but also points at events at the time of the return of Jesus Christ–the Messiah. Christ–the Head of the Church–is the Lampstand who gives us light, strength and understanding through the Holy Spirit. At the very end, two remarkable persons will appear on the world scene–called the “two witnesses”–and perform mighty works in the service of God. Religious, political and military forces, under the influence of Satan, will oppose them and ultimately kill them–but God will resurrect them through the power of His Holy Spirit (Revelation 11:11-14). For more information on the function and identity of the two witnesses, please read our new free booklet, “Is That in The Bible?–The Mysteries of the Book of Revelation.”
The end-time destroying mountain or “great millstone” of the Babylonian system will be defeated by the power of God (compare Jeremiah 51:25-26; Revelation 18:21). At that time, God will set up His Kingdom here on earth which will never be defeated, and “Of the increase of HIS government and peace There will be no end… The zeal of the LORD of hosts will perform this” (Isaiah 9:7).
Lead Writer: Norbert Link