A seemingly simple question that we consider has some very serious theological and practical consequences. The true identity of Jesus Christ seems to be of an issue here, as well as the true identity of the Antichrist.
We should start with the text that those believing that Jesus at the Second Coming will descent to Mount of Olives and will rule from Jerusalem. There is hardly a sermon on the Second Coming of Christ from among most of the American and European Protestant churches, that fails to emphasize that. So, here is the text Zechariah 14:4 in its immediate context. For better understanding read entire Zech.14.
Behold, the day of the LORD is coming, And your spoil will be divided in your midst. 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 the remnant of the people shall not be cut off from the city. Then the LORD will go forth And fight against those nations, As He fights in the day of battle. And in that day His feet will stand on the Mount of Olives, Which faces Jerusalem on the east. And the Mount of Olives shall be split in two, From east to west, Making a very large valley; Half of the mountain shall move toward the north And half of it toward the south. Then you shall flee through My mountain valley, For the mountain valley shall reach to Azal. Yes, you shall flee As you fled from the earthquake In the days of Uzziah king of Judah. Thus the LORD my God will come, And all the saints with You. It shall come to pass in that day That there will be no light; The lights will diminish. It shall be one day Which is known to the LORD — Neither day nor night. But at evening time it shall happen That it will be light. And in that day it shall be That living waters shall flow from Jerusalem, Half of them toward the eastern sea And half of them toward the western sea; In both summer and winter it shall occur. And the LORD shall be King over all the earth. In that day it shall be — “The LORD is one,” And His name one.
As we can see, there are very substantial evidences here in favor of the literal interpretation of this event – particularly the Lord’s feet touching the ground. Those who deny that Jesus at the Second Coming would come on the mount of Olives are usually saying that Zechariah is dealing here with the First Coming of Jesus Christ, and that we have to read those words as symbolic. Usually, however, those who don’t believe that Christ is coming to stay at this time prefer to avoid this specific and unique text and to look at the big picture of Christ’s Second Coming. And as they look at this picture, that I will briefly draw below, they don’t seem have a room or a time for Jesus to touch the ground.
The Purpose of the Second Coming
Indeed, at the second coming of Jesus we read that the righteous will meet him in the air. 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18, Hebrews 12:29 and Deut 9:3 and many more texts suggest that His Coming will carry on a destruction. At the Second Coming the Lord is coming as a consuming fire, and sin, along with those who cling to it will be destroyed at the light of his presence. 2 Thess.2:8 «And then shall that Wicked be revealed, whom the Lord shall consume with the spirit of his mouth, and shall destroy with the brightness of his coming.» This text suggests that when Jesus comes, the Wicked (Antichrist) will already be there, and will be revealed for who he is.
1 Thess 4:13-18 gives a panoramic vision of that great picture: «But I would not have you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning them which are asleep, that ye sorrow not, even as others which have no hope. For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so them also which sleep in Jesus will God bring with him. For this we say unto you by the word of the Lord, that we which are alive and remain unto the coming of the Lord shall not prevent them which are asleep. For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first: Than we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord. Wherefore comfort one another with these words.»
Those believing in Christ coming as the Ruler at Jerusalem usually also believe in the secret rapture prior to this event. They believe, that all the Christians will be taken off this earth, and the Kingdom will be given to the Jews and their Messiah. But, as Paul is making very clear, there is no secret quiet rapture, but a shout, earthquake, great disturbance at the Lord’s return. At the Second Coming in the resurrection of life when the righteous in Christ are raised and when in the righteous living are changed in the twinkling of an eye, together they are all raised up into the air to meet with Jesus and evermore to be with him, but they are going to go to heaven for a period of time. According to this then, Jesus does not touch the ground at this time.
The Timing of Event
I have already mentioned that those believing that Jesus does not touch the ground at the time of His Second Coming attribute the fulfillment of Zech 14 to the First Coming of Jesus Christ. Indeed, this prophecy has been partly fulfilled at Christ’s First Coming. Luke 3:5 shows the leveling of the mountains, and the many people treading the path to Jesus in result of His coming. Same language and effect as Zech 14:5.
Luke 3:5 «Every valley shall be filled, and every mountain and hill shall be brought low; and the crooked shall be made straight, and the rough ways shall be made smooth; And all flesh shall see the salvation of God.»
Yet, sometimes same theologians attribute the fulfillment of Zech 14 to the end of the Millennium, to the time of another great battle – Armageddon described in Revelation. And this is also a lawful application, because the final battle is to come at the end of the Millennium. Rev 20 declares that there will be a period of 1000 years. After that period of time Jesus goes forth to battle against the wicked again at the battle of Gog and Magog. However, attributing Zeck 14 to the First and to the Last Comings of Christ and excluding the coverage by this prophecy of the Second Coming would be a very serious methodological mistake.
More mature Adventist theologians are hesitant to jump to serious conclusions based on the ‘feet verse’. William Fagal, for instance, is giving this answer:
“Thank you for contacting the Ellen G. White Estate. The New Testament’s description of Jesus’ return in 1 Thes. 4:16, 17 suggests that Jesus will not alight on the earth at that time, for we will be ‘caught up’ to meet Him in the air, and so to be with Him forever, not that He comes to be with us forever. Similarly, John 14:1-3 indicates that we are to be where He is, not that He is coming to be where we are. He receives us to Himself; we do not receive Him to ourselves. Again, this implies departing with Him from this earth to go to heaven, not that He comes down to this earth. Though it is widely believed and asserted in Seventh-day Adventist circles that Jesus’ feet will not touch the earth when He returns at the start of the millennium, I know of no statement from Mrs. White that says this explicitly. I believe it is an appropriate conclusion to draw, based on the Bible’s testimony, but I do not know of a statement that says it outright. More to the point, I think, are the statements that describe what Jesus’ coming will be like—not something local (in the wilderness or the desert, for instance), but like that lightning that is seen everywhere. (See Matt. 24:26.) All the tribes of the earth will see Him come on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory, and He will send out His angels to gather His elect from everywhere (Matt. 24:30, 31). Rev. 1:7 says that ‘every eye’ will see Him, ‘even they who pierced Him [this will require a special resurrection]. And all the tribes of the earth will mourn because of Him.’ These are more reliable signs than looking to see whether His feet touch the earth. I hope this may help. Thank you for writing, and God bless!”
First, I have to state my disagreement with those claiming Zech 14 only for the First and/or the Third (Millennial) Comings of Jesus Christ and excluding the Second Coming. Such methodology is a failure. The eschatological prophecies from the Old Testament time usually have a triple implication, with emphasis either on the First, or the Second, or Millennial comings of the Lord. The most apparent emphasis of Zech 14 is not on the First or the Last Comings, but on the Second Coming. While it has some spiritual and symbolical implications for the First and the Last Comings, its stated and explicit purpose is the Second Coming.
Thus, I agree with those, who believe, that at the time of the Second Coming Jesus’ feet will touch the mount of Olives. Yet, I think those believing that it is at that time that the Lord will sit as the King over the Israel are wrong. And while they so adamantly emphasize Jesus’ touching the ground with His feet, they entirely miss the biblical meaning of this event.
From day one of sin entering into this world the Lord specified the role to the Messiah’s feet: “He shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise His heel” (Gen 3:15). Thus, the foot is ultimately to crush the enemy.
Indeed, Jesus says that at His Second Coming He will “stump the winepress of the furious wrath of God, the All-Powerful” (Rev. 19:15). It is for this reason that He is coming. It is the long-awaited fulfillment of the Lord’s promise to David’s heir that he would “put your enemies under your feet” (Mt. 22:44; cf. Ps. 110:1). Similarly, Isaiah predicts that one day Israel’s enemies “will bow down to you and they will lick the dirt on your feet” (Isa. 49:23). Isaiah 63 provides a clear biblical picture associated with the feet of the Lord and His Coming to punish the nations:
Who is this who comes from Edom, With dyed garments from Bozrah, This One who is glorious in His apparel, Traveling in the greatness of His strength? — “I who speak in righteousness, mighty to save.” Why is Your apparel red, And Your garments like one who treads in the winepress? “I have trodden the winepress alone, And from the peoples no one was with Me. For I have trodden them in My anger, And trampled them in My fury; Their blood is sprinkled upon My garments, And I have stained all My robes. For the day of vengeance is in My heart, And the year of My redeemed has come. I looked, but there was no one to help, And I wondered That there was no one to uphold; Therefore My own arm brought salvation for Me; And My own fury, it sustained Me. I have trodden down the peoples in My anger, Made them drunk in My fury, And brought down their strength to the earth.”
Indeed, Jesus does touch the Earth with His feet at the Second Coming, as “He Himself treads the winepress of the fierceness and wrath of Almighty God.” This is why “He was clothed with a robe dipped in blood” (Rev 19:13).
An important use of the foot image can be found in figures of speech implying victory or conquest. In an exaggerated boast the Assyrian king Sennacherib (721-705 B.C.) declared, “With the soles of my feet I dried up all the rivers of Egypt” (2 Kings 19:24). This image can be seen in the victorious conqueror’s putting his feet on the neck of his vanquished foes. In the biblical record, after their defeat at the Battle of Gibeon, five Amorite kings of the land fled to the Cave of Makkedah. When the forces of Israel arrived at the cave, they brought those kings before Joshua. Then Joshua summoned all the army commanders and instructed them to “come here and put your feet on the necks of these kings” (Josh.10:24).
It is also interesting that at the Last Supper Jesus had taught His disciples to wash each others’ feet. He told them: “He who is bathed needs only to wash his feet, but is completely clean” (John 13: 9). Thus, He emphasized, that even as they walk the unholy ground, as they walk among sin, they will be not contaminated by it. They will be victorious in crushing the principalities of darkness. And one day Jesus will put His holy feet on the holy mountain. He does it as He meets us in the air. He does it, as the Israel has passed through the last Red Sea – the great sea of the Earth’s atmosphere – and exited the Earth. Not secretly, in some secret rapture. But triumphantly, as it is the Lord Who goes ahead of us and behind us. And He makes sure that as we safely exit, He destroys all the enemies of His people.
Summary and Conclusions
While I agree that at the Second Coming Jesus comes to take His people to the heavenly mansions, not to settle as the King at Jerusalem, to draw conclusions regarding the manner and the outcome of Christ’s Second Coming based on the simple fact of touching or not touching the ground would be oversimplifying things. There are many other prophetic signs for us to watch in order to see what is important in the prophetic picture of the Second Coming.
I agree with those who say that Jesus’ feet will touch the earth at that time. We also know what this touch will cause: the great earthquake of the Great Judgment, when “And the Mount of Olives shall be split in two, from east to west” (Zech 14: 4). At His Second Coming Jesus is the Judge and the Avenger. We have no biblical references to Jesus coming at that time as the King to reign in Jerusalem or any other place on Earth. His holy feet, that once brought the Gospel, will this time bring Justice. And only after 1000 Jesus’ feet will touch the Earth with peace, as the King.
1000 years is a time needed for the Earth to be cleansed. While at His Second Coming the Lord will destroy sin with the sinners and will cast down Satan to the bottomless pit (Rev 20:1-3), the Third and the Last Coming will reunite Heaven and Earth, will bring Heavenly Jerusalem upon the Earth.
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