This great vision is presented to us in apocalyptic form. This means it belongs to a certain literary genre, just like parts of Daniel, the Gospels, and the book of Revelation. The word apocalypsis (just like the Latin revelatio) refers to an unveiling, or lifting of the curtain. This enables us to see what is backstage; it is not intended to show us what will be onstage, sometime in the future. Apocalypse does not provide a movie of the future.
“Behold, the day of the Lord is coming, and your spoil will be divided in your midst” (Zech. 14:1-21).
In order to understand this prophecy, we should begin with verse 8, because this is the place where we find New Testament instruction on the subject — and this is the pattern we have been seeking to follow. While living water can be a reference to erotic love (Song 4:15), the overwhelming scriptural point of this picture is to represent eternal life. Now remember what Zechariah says in v. 8 — “in that day.” What day? Consider the New Testament.
“On the last day, that great day of the feast, Jesus stood and cried out, saying, ‘If anyone thirsts, let him come to Me and drink. He who believes in Me, as the Scripture has said, out of his heart will flow rivers of living water’” (John 7:37-38).
What flows in the New Jerusalem? The answer is “a pure river of water of life” (Rev. 22:1-2). We see the same thing in Ezekiel’s vision. “And it shall be that every living thing that moves, wherever the rivers go, will live” (Eze. 47:9). Jeremiah lamented the fact that the people had rejected the Lord, their living water (Jer. 2:13;17:13). And of course, Jesus spoke of this to the woman at the well (John 4:10). This orients us. The prophecy is speaking of the time when Jerusalem will be the fount of salvation for the whole earth, which clearly means that we are seeing this fulfillment now.
The day of the Lord will come, and Jerusalem will be sacked and pillaged (vv. 1-2). The city will be captured, the women raped, and many will be taken off into exile (v. 2). But after this destruction, the Lord rises up to defend His people (v. 3).
The Mount of Olives was a ridge on the east side of Jerusalem, running north/south, higher than the city, making flight in that direction difficult. The Lord would deliver by splitting the mountain in two (vv. 4-5). The Lord will come with His saints (v. 5), and the light of heaven will be shaken and then restored (vv. 6-7). Then the fountain of living water will be opened, and the universal rule of the Lord established (vv. 8-9). Jerusalem would be exalted. While the old Jerusalem was hidden away in the mountains, the new Jerusalem will be a city on hill at the center of a great plain (v. 10). The inhabitants will dwell in great security there (v. 11).
The enemies of God will literally melt away (v. 12). They will begin to fight among themselves because God has struck them with panic (v. 13). Remember that panic is God’s judgment. The city of the new Jerusalem will be greatly blessed through the destruction of her enemies (vv. 14-15).
As a result, the whole world will worship God in this festival. This is a picture of universal gospel worship. Jesus said what He did about living water in John 7 at the feast of tabernacles. Those who refuse to worship the true and living God will find that it goes hard for them (vv. 17-19). How must we understand this feast of tabernacles? Literally, or spiritually? Of course, the fulfillment is spiritual but that the blessings and curses are as real as they ever were.
It used to be that the phrase “Holiness to the Lord” was inscribed on the mitre of the high priest (Ex. 28:36-37). But now it will be found in horse’s equipment, and on common pots (vv. 20-21). And no longer will we find hypocrisy in our midst; no longer will there be any Canaanites among us. “In that day there shall no longer be a Canaanite in the house of the Lord of hosts” (v. 21).