As it is rightly pointed out in the question, the punishment, as described in the book of Zechariah, deals foremost with the MODERN descendants of the ancient houses of Israel and Judah. It will be inflicted on them just prior to the return of Jesus Christ.
We understand that the modern descendants of the houses of Israel and Judah include the peoples of the USA, Great Britain, Canada, Australia, New Zealand and South Africa, as well as the modern Jews (who live inside and outside the state of Israel). For more information, please read our free booklet, “The Fall and Rise of Britain and America.”
The Bible contains many prophecies dealing with the sins and punishment of these nations. However, in this answer, we want to limit the discussion to the book of Zechariah.
When God challenged ancient Judah at the time of Zechariah, to get involved in the work of God, He explained to them that they were suffering at that time because of their SINS. God’s values have not changed–therefore, His anger towards ancient Judah and Israel because of their sins applies equally to modern Israel and Judah of our day, as they are engaged in the same kinds of sins and transgressions.
God spoke through Zechariah to ancient Israel and Judah, saying that He had been very angry with their fathers. He cautioned them not to be like their fathers, to whom the former prophets preached, encouraging them, without success, to repent. God also stated that His laws and commandments “overtook” them (compare Zechariah 1:2-6).
Amazingly, ancient Judah did finally repent in response to that challenge (verse 6, second half), even though their repentance was short-lived. It is to be hoped–but it is very unlikely–that MODERN Israel and Judah will also repent of their evil ways when they hear the Word of God proclaimed through God’s modern-day servants.
God also explained that when He was “a little angry” with Zion and Jerusalem, nations “helped–but with evil intent,” so that God became “exceedingly angry” with those nations (verse 15). Again, this prophecy is certainly dual and applies to our day and age as well.
God explained very clearly–in Zechariah 7:4-14–WHY He was angry with ancient Israel and Judah–and He tells us at the same time WHY He is angry with the modern descendants of these ancient houses:
“(4) Then the word of the LORD of hosts came to me, saying, (5) ‘Say to all the people of the land, and to the priests: “When you fasted and mourned… did you really fast for Me–for Me? (6) When you eat and when you drink, do you not eat and drink for yourselves? (7) Should you not have obeyed the words which the LORD proclaimed through the former prophets when Jerusalem and the cities around it were inhabited and prosperous… (9) Execute true justice, Show mercy and compassion Everyone to his brother. Do not oppress the widow or the fatherless, The alien or the poor. Let none of you plan evil in his heart Against his brother. (11) But they refused to heed, shrugged their shoulders, and stopped their ears so that they could not hear. (12) Yes, they made their hearts like flint, refusing to hear the law and the words which the LORD of hosts had sent by His Spirit through the former prophets. Thus great wrath came from the LORD of hosts. (13) Therefore it happened, that just as He proclaimed and they would not hear, so they called out and I would not listen, says the LORD of hosts. (14) But I scattered them with a whirlwind among all the nations which they had not known. Thus the land became desolate after them, so that no one passed through or returned; for they made the pleasant land desolate.”‘”
Again, this prophecy is dual. As it applied to ancient Israel and Judah, so it applies to us today. As God scattered ancient Israel and Judah “with a whirlwind”–that is, through invasion and war–“among all the nations,” so God will scatter the modern houses of Israel and Judah.
In speaking of OUR day, God tells us that the modern nations of Israel and Judah WILL repent, but only AFTER they have been held captive by foreign invaders. We read in Zechariah 8:7-15:
“(7) Thus says the LORD of hosts: ‘Behold, I will save My people from the land of the east And from the land of the west; (8) I will bring them back, And they shall dwell in the midst of Jerusalem. They shall be My people, And I will be their God, In truth and righteousness… (10) For before these days… There was no peace from the enemy for whoever went out or came in; For I set all men, everyone, against his neighbor… (13)… just as you were a curse among the nations, O house of Judah and house of Israel, So I will save you, and you shall be a blessing… (14) Just as I determined to punish you When your fathers provoked Me to wrath… And I would not relent, (15) So again in these days I am determined to do good to Jerusalem and to the house of Judah… (16) These are the things you shall do; Speak each man the truth to his neighbor; Give judgment in your gates for truth, justice, and peace; (17) Let none of you think evil in your heart against your neighbor; And do not love a false oath. For all these are things that I hate…'”
Another aspect of God’s anger today over sinful Israel and Judah is their willingness and eagerness to fight wars, which are not approved of or endorsed by God. But God says that this will be changed, and this will be accomplished by Jesus Christ: “I will cut off the chariot from Ephraim [Great Britain] And the horse [symbolic for war machines like tanks] from Jerusalem [the state of Israel]; The battle bow shall be cut off” (Zechariah 9:10).
God also pronounces His punishment against the religious leaders of ancient and modern Israel and Judah, in Zechariah 10:3: “My anger is kindled against the shepherds, And I will punish the goatherds [leaders]… ” The context with verse 2 indicates that those religious leaders were engaged in (and that they approved of) idolatry, divination and the preaching of a false hope.
God continues to explain that He allowed His people to be defeated in war and become captives of war. This prophecy is most certainly dual and refers also to our time and age, as God points out that He will free them from their captivity and bring them back to the Promised Land. This did NOT happen in history, as the tribe of “Joseph” never returned. Notice Zechariah 10:6-10:
“(6) I will strengthen the house of Judah, And I will save the house of Joseph [the modern English-speaking nations of the USA and the British Commonwealth]. I will bring them back [out of captivity and slavery], Because I have mercy on them. They shall be as though I had not cast them aside… (9) I will sow them among the peoples, And they shall remember Me in far countries; they shall live together with their children, And they shall return. (10) I will also bring them back from the land of Egypt And gather them from Assyria [modern German-speaking peoples]… (11) Then the pride of Assyria shall be brought down, And the scepter of Egypt shall depart.”
Another remarkable prophecy for our time, which is directed against the modern English-speaking nations (and the religious and political leaders) of the USA and the British Commonwealth, and their future captivity and slavery, can be found in Zechariah 11, beginning with verse 4:
“Thus says the LORD my God, ‘Feed the flock for slaughter, (5) whose owners slaughter them and feel no guilt; those who sell them say, ‘Blessed be the LORD, for I am rich; and their shepherds do not pity them. (6) For I will no longer pity the inhabitants of the land, says the LORD. But indeed I will give everyone into his neighbor’s hand and into the hand of his king. They shall attack the land, and I will not deliver them from their hand.'”
Notice that this is written in a future tense and for a future time. It pronounces events which will still occur, and it was written AFTER both ancient Israel and Judah had already gone into captivity, and AFTER the tribe of Judah had already returned to Jerusalem and had begun to build the temple.
Notice the continuation of this prophecy, beginning in verse 8, referring to three powerful religious and/or political leaders:
“(8) ‘I dismissed the three shepherds in one month. My soul loathed them, and their soul also abhorred me…’ (14) Then I cut in two my other staff… that I might break the brotherhood between Judah and Israel.”
This indicates that in the times just ahead of us, the close relationship between the USA and Britain on the one hand, and the state of Israel on the other hand, will cease. The future will have to show who the three shepherds will be who will be “dismissed” “in one month.”
God continues to prophesy that a worthless shepherd–a political or religious leader–will arise apparently just after the dismissal of the three shepherds and just prior to Christ’s return. This worthless shepherd will only care for himself. We read, beginning in verse 16:
“(16) For indeed I will raise up a shepherd in the land who will not care for those who are cut off, nor seek the young, nor heal those that are broken, nor feed those that still stand. But he will eat the flesh of the fat and tear their hooves in pieces. (17) Woe to the worthless shepherd, Who leaves the flock! A sword shall be against his arm And against his right eye; His arm shall completely wither, And his right eye shall be totally blinded.”
When God intervenes, He will cleanse the inhabitants of Jerusalem from their sin and uncleanness (Zechariah 13:1). He will wipe out idolatry and cause the false prophets and their evil demonic spirits to depart from the land (verse 2). This shows the depth of deprivation which will have overtaken the land prior to Christ’s return. That is WHY God made the following terrible pronouncement for our time and age:
“(8) And it shall come to pass in all the land, Says the LORD, That two-thirds in it shall be cut off and die, But one-third shall be left in it: (9) I will bring the one-third through the fire, Will refine them as silver is refined and test them as gold is tested.”
Continuing in Zechariah 14:2: “For I will gather all the nations to battle against Jerusalem; The city shall be taken, The houses rifled, And the women ravished. Half of the city shall go into captivity.”
But then, so we are told, beginning in verse 3, God will intervene and fight for the inhabitants of Jerusalem and the modern peoples of Israel and Judah who have been brought into slavery and captivity, because of their terrible sins which cry to high heaven. God’s warnings are sure and certain, and they will come upon all of us very soon–unless we repent.
And even though the modern nations of Israel and Judah will–in all probability–not repent in time to prevent defeat in war and captivity, individuals can be spared. Those who turn to God and are willing to follow His direction in obedience to His law, have been promised protection from the evil and terrible times to come. And we DON’T mean some kind of supernatural secret rapture to heaven–a concept which the Bible does NOT teach. For more information, please read our free booklets, “The Great Tribulation and the Day of the Lord,” and,”Is That in the Bible?–The Mysteries of the Book of Revelation!”
It is up to each and every one of us to heed God’s warning and to act accordingly, so that we can be “counted worthy to escape all these things that WILL come to pass” (Luke 21:36).
Lead Writer: Norbert Link