Zechariah 13:8 tells us two thirds of humanity will die, in what we can conclude is God’s wrath. Why does God want to do that? Why is humanity "without excuse" for this punishment according to Paul? And the silver lining to this that even Christians forget...
A Reason To Not Read The Bible?
It's an embarrassing fact that most Christians have not read the Bible. I heard a survey that put the number at 95% who have never read the whole Bible. That's only one in twenty Christians.
That statistic does not surprise me because of what I hear my readers say. "I should read the Bible more." "After I reading your book, Know the Future, I finally felt inspired to read the whole Bible..." Etc.
If you're on the wrong side of that statistic, I'm not here to make you feel bad about it. I'm not your pastor trying to improve Wednesday night Bible study attendance. Instead, I want to point out a little known silver lining to your laziness, busy life (or whatever justification you tell yourself about it =).
Because of my book and Bible prophecy website, I have interacted with tens of thousands of Christians. What they share would surely surprise you. One particular admission I have heard more than once is that reading the Bible actually caused them to lose their faith in God. One (older) reader of mine even had a nervous breakdown from what she learned is in Bible prophecy.
Bible Passages To Test Your Faith
What parts of the Bible can cause such a bad reaction, this crisis of faith in God?
If you have read even a little of the Bible, you know there are many head-scratchers in there; many challenging passages you just have to decide somehow God knew was right and knew what he was doing...even if you can't for the life of you see how. (These difficult passages are probably a major reason you never completed your goal of reading the whole Bible.)
The passages that can most challenge faith in God are where God literally massacres the humans he created in his image. You can find accounts of God's massacres in both the Old and New Testaments. Some are historical and some are prophetic:
- In Genesis, God brimstones Sodom and Gomorrah and three other "cities of the plain " (Admah, Zeboim and Bela) for their wickedness.
- In Exodus, God drowns the armies of Pharaoh chasing Israel through the parted Red Sea because Pharaoh reneged on his promise to led the Israelite slaves go free.
- In Revelation God will wipe out the end time nation "Mystery Babylon the Great" for her great wickedness and for leading the rest of the world to sin by her influence.
In all the examples above, the reason for the slaughter is explained and seems justified. The people groups in question were doing wicked things when they were struck down. They deserved punishment.
Nevertheless, it can be troubling for a first-time Bible reader to understand why the punishment has to be death so often. There are a couple times when God is so angry with the Israelites after the exodus that he advises Moses to get away and let him wipe them all out. One time he even offers to make a great nation out of Moses to replace Israel (Ex 32:9-10). You might even say God seems rather quick to snuff out human life in the OT. Especially to our twenty-first century standards and sensibilities where capital punishment is considered barbaric and inhumane.
When God Kills Two Thirds -- Without Explanation
Before I share some comforting insights to explain God's use of capital punishment, let's look at what may be the worst example of God's massacres. It is found in Zechariah 13 where we read:
Zechariah 13:8-9 (ESV) —
8 In the whole land, declares the Lord, two thirds shall be cut off and perish, and one third shall be left alive.
9 And I will put this third into the fire, and refine them as one refines silver, and test them as gold is tested. They will call upon my name, and I will answer them. I will say, ‘They are my people’; and they will say, ‘Jehovah is my God.’ ”
Zechariah does not tell us the cause of this slaughter or clearly when it happens. The one third who survive becoming God's people who call him Yehovah God could only happen in the Millennium. This would suggest the two thirds die right before that.
The meaning of "two thirds perishing" requires no deduction. It's crystal clear: a 66% fatality rate is coming to the earth at some point.
From a historical point of view, that degree of death is horrifying. In warfare, where casualty rates include both wounded and killed, rates of even half that percentage (33%) are rare and considered very bloody. A fatality rate of 66% is on another level. I suggest that it can only be from the hand of God, as in God's wrath on the entire earth at the start of the Millennium when Jesus returns.
I believe this is the correct timing of this two thirds dying prophecy for another reason. The following verse describes something unique: people will call upon God by name (Jehovah/Yehovah) and he will answer and say (Zec 13:9). This has never happened in history and is exactly what will happen next in the Millennium after Jesus defeats his enemies. God's kingdom will be established and the whole world will finally learn about God, his name, his plan and his ways (Hab 2:14). So this two thirds dying and one third survivors calling upon God who says they are his people exactly fits the Millennial prophecies.
God's 7-Stage Wrath
Revelation describes why so many deaths would happen globally or "in all the land" as Zechariah describes. I'm referring to the 7 bowls of God's wrath in Revelation 16 which takes place at the very start of the Millennium. Revelation says that the 7 bowls complete the wrath of God on mankind (Rev 15:1).
Here are the 7 deadly bowls of God's wrath. As you read them imagine how you would endure through them if you were on the earth while they are going on:
- Painful sores on the marked (Rev 16:2)
- Sea water deadly/blood, everything in the sea dies (Rev 16:3)
- Fresh waters deadly, become blood, too (Rev 16:4)
- Sun scorches the marked (Rev 16:8-9)
- Darkness over earth (Rev 16:10)
- River Euphrates dried up for world's armies to gather at Armageddon (Rev 16:12) to fight Christ's return to Jerusalem (Zec 14:14)
- Greatest earthquake in history: levels all cities, flattens all mountains, and sinks all islands (Rev 16:18-20) also 100 pound hailstones fall on people (Rev 16:21)
Most of these are directly deadly (sun, lack of water, earthquake, great hail storms). Complete darkness would also result in many indirect, accidental deaths. It will be the deadliest ten days in history (starting on Tishrei 1 and ending on Tishrei 10) despite there being nowhere near the over 7 billion alive today still alive when it starts. By the time the 70th week/end times start, there will be at least 8 billion people (by 2025). WWIII and Wormwood (first half of 70th week) will probably take out over half of those 8 billion leaving a few billion for the Beast to deceive into thinking he is God (their savior) and put the mark on for worship in exchange for food and security.
Mind you, these bowls all happen after the Rapture (on Tishrei 1). You as a faithful righteous saint of God don't have to worry about going through the wrath of God, only the wrath of Satan. This is why Paul wrote to the Thessalonians that "you are not appointed to [God's] wrath" (1Th 5:9) or the 7 bowls. He was not speaking of Satan's wrath (Trumpet 5 and Trumpet 6 ending on Trumpet 7), also called the Great Tribulation, which is distinct from God's wrath. We are on earth for Satan's wrath but protected through it if we obey God's prophet's end time escape plan of fleeing to the "place prepared" of Revelation 12. God's wrath we are in heaven for as Revelation 15 depicts.
Despite the fact that God spares his servants from his wrath, it's still a troubling issue to imagine God killing a billion or two unlucky people deceived and marked by the Antichrist.
For example, I received the following question on this passage:
Why does Father want to wipe two thirds of us off the planet along with animal and plant life? I'm asking from a biblical point of view, not a 'why me'... I would like to be better equipped with answers, should I live through it and have opportunity to witness.
This is the same question raised by all the slaughters we covered earlier and throughout the Bible. Why does God kill us, what does it accomplish and how is God still love when doing it?
I have a few answers on this to share:
Answer #1 - We All Deserve Death Anyway
According to the Bible, we all deserve death because we have all broken his law (Rom 6:23). God has the right to call in our chips at anytime because of this.
It reminds me of what I heard years ago about our typical home mortgages. That there is sometimes fine print saying although it is say, a 30 year loan period, they can decide to call in the balance of your loan at any time.
I don't know if that's true or not, but our mortal life is like that. We're all sinners deserving of the death penalty. Despite that reality, God's plan for vast majority of us is that we live out our natural lives in the hope that we repent. The more time we have, the more chance to figure out that going our own way does not bring us peace leading us to decide to turn to God in repentance.
Answer #2 - They All Would Have Died Anyway
A past pastor of mine once stated in a sermon: "All of the Egyptian chariot riders God drowned in the Red Sea would still be dead today if God did not kill them."
It may sound obvious to read it, but it is actually profound. With everyone God has killed (Egyptians, Sodomites, Mystery Babylonians), he really only shortened their lives a bit.
In other words, when God decides to take a life in judgment or wrath, he's just ending it sooner than it would have already since we're all mortal.
Answer #3 - Death Is Not Final or Permanent (Like We Imagine)
Still, you might argue, "those years are precious beecause death is so cruel and final."
From a human perspective, death is final and permanent. Therefore, we reason death should only be a punishment as a last resort reserved for the most wicked and incorrigible criminals, like Hitler or psychopathic serial killers. Capital punishment is considered barbaric to our modern advanced civilization for normal one-off murderers.
However, from God's perspective, physical death is not at all final. It is literally just putting someone's existence on hold—until the resurrection.
Unfortunately, Christians easily forget that the Bible teaches there is a resurrection of the dead. That's because the resurrection of the dead does not fit well into what Christians are taught about going to heaven or hell upon death. The common orthodox doctrine that anyone who is not "saved" when they die, goes straight to hell.
While this doctrine may be useful for motivating shy or lazy Christians to proselytize more, it is not the teaching of the Bible.
The Bible teaches there are no less than four mass resurrections (1Co 15:22-24) in God's plan, thanks to Christ's death and resurrection making them possible. One resurrection is already past, the resurrection of the just "firstfruits" including Jesus and those who came out of the graves when he died (Mt 27:52) and accompanied him to heaven to become the 24 elders.
Three Future Resurrections
There are three resurrections left:
- "The First Resurrection" (Rev 20:4; 1Co 15:23) — This is the main resurrection for "the dead in Christ" (1Th 4:16). They rise up on the day of the Rapture (Tishrei 1/Day of Trumpets) at Christ's Second Coming. They go to heaven for the marriage supper of the Lamb and return 10 days later on Tishrei 10/Yom Kippur/Armageddon to reign for 1000 years with Christ. You heard it right: our reward at death is not to go immediately to stay in heaven conscious forever, but to wait for the first resurrection and then to rise and rule on the earth (Mt 5:5) after a short ten day visit to heaven (Rev 15:2). At this time God's word fills the earth (Hab 2:14) and Satan, his demons and their associated deception is gone from the earth (Rev 12:9;20:10).
- Resurrection of the Wicked (Rev 20:5=Eze 37:1-14) — After the Millennium and after when Satan has his final revolt and defeat. The "rest of the dead" come back to life (Rev 20:5). Since the righteous came up 1000 years before, "the rest" left would be only the wicked. This is all those who lived and died but did not hear or become convinced by God's Word/will and adopt it (Lk 8:21). Rather than being summarily damned to hell for all eternity for their ignorance, skepticism or deception regarding salvation (as Christianity teaches), they come up again in physical bodies as Ezekiel's famous "Valley of Dry Bones" vision intends to literally portray to us about all nations through the example of the nation of Israel (Act 10:34-35).
- The Great White Throne Judgment (Rev 20:11-13=1Co 15:24) — After the 1000 years and perhaps after everyone in the previous resurrection dies off. Paul spoke of the "the end" resurrection (1Co 15:24) and Revelation calls it a time when the dead stand before Christ on his great white throne and are judged according to their works (Rev 20:13). This is when those not in the first resurrection are either given eternal life or eternal death (by the lake of fire). This is the end of the phase of mortal flesh and blood humans (Rev 20:14-15) and death; all humans are glorified at this point and living in the New Jerusalem (Rev 21:8; 22:15).
Answer #4 - This is the Judgment You've Been Complaining To God For(!)
This answer includes an ironic aspect to it as you will see.
I don't know if you have noticed, but believers like to complain about how the wicked get away with things and have an apparently prosperous life, God does not judge, etc. It's a theme that the Bible covers, especially in David's psalms.
You hear it in modern believers, too. If you have ever known Christians who have gone through (or have had family or friends gone through) major illness, death in the family, ugly divorce, extreme poverty, rape, or harsh injustice then you know what I mean. They will speak of how God is not there or is allowing the wicked to get away with everything.
Of course, it's dead wrong that God is unjust in this way. Those saying this just need to wait and see. In God's timing there is a reward for everything, both good and bad works. Unfortunately, most of it is paid later. For example, everyone will have their due on judgment day (remember the Great White Throne Judgment above?).
Yet, some of the judgment is in the present day. Some will be alive when it happens to the whole earth in the day of God's wrath, the Day of the Lord. And that is the two thirds dying in Zechariah 13!
Yes, the two thirds dying that Christians don't like and make God wrong for doing, is actually part of the fulfillment of their other complaint, the common complaint that he is not judging the wicked.
Ironic, isn't it? God is wrong no matter what he does, whether he withholds judgement patiently or finally brings the judgment! He can't win (in the eyes of present fallen humanity).
How God's Massacres Are Justified
God will finally be judging humanity for the reason Paul says in the very famous passage Christians quote as proof people deserve to go to hell:
Romans 1:18-21 (ESV) —
18 For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth.
19 For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them.
20 For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse.
21 For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened.
29 They were filled with all manner of unrighteousness, evil, covetousness, malice. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, maliciousness. They are gossips...
30 slanderers, haters of God, insolent, haughty, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents,
31 foolish, faithless, heartless, ruthless.
32 Though they know God’s decree that those who practice such things deserve to die, they not only do them but give approval to those who practice them.
Listen to what an angel says while two thirds are dying on earth:
Revelation 16:5-7 (ESV) —
5 And I heard the angel in charge of the waters say, “Just are you, O Holy One, who is and who was, for you brought these judgments.
6 For they have shed the blood of saints and prophets, and you have given them blood to drink. It is what they deserve!”
7 And I heard the altar saying, “Yes, Lord God the Almighty, true and just are your judgments!”
God's law from the beginning says that blood is required for blood (Ge 9:6). All the innocent blood must eventually be paid.
By the time these judgments rain down, God will have allowed mankind a full 6000 years (six millennial work days as the creation week typifies) to get it together. Plenty of time to figure out the rightness of honoring him, acting with justice and righteousness.
Yet they still will not have done so and are "without excuse." Therefore the wrath must come because God is a righteous judge. His judgment is due for all the injustice perpetrated by mankind. All the innocent blood shed. In God's economy there is a penalty for unrighteousness and a reward for righteousness that must be paid.
Hopefully now you can see that God's judgment is not contrary to his love, but an integral part of it. Just as he must allow free will for there to be love, there must also be judgment for those who continually make the choice of wickedness (and murder) with their free will.