QUESTION: The last chapter of Zechariah, talking about the end times and what will happen to certain ‘nations’ after Armageddon, indicates that those leaders of nations who are not God’s followers will have to go to Jerusalem once a year and pledge their allegiance. Is this alluding to a number of countries and their residents who will live through Armageddon?
ANSWER: The setting of the 14th chapter of Zechariah is the nations making an all-out attack upon Jerusalem and God’s response to it. And the aftermath must relate to the post-Armageddon world.
As we know, “Jerusalem” is only a symbol. In this instance it represents the city of God — the authority of the Kingdom. That is because the underlying foundation for the Messiah’s government goes back to the nation of Israel and to the covenant that God made with David for a kingdom, for that reason Jerusalem oftentimes is used to represent the Kingdom. Thus, the attack upon “Jerusalem” is really the war that the nations will wage against God’s people who are subjects of the Kingdom.
Thus, the opening verses of the 14th chapter of Zechariah depict the city of Jerusalem being captured and pillaged, that “Jerusalem” represents the congregation of Christ that will be desolated during the tribulation. However, verse five states that Jehovah will come with all the holy ones – the same holy ones who are brought to ruin. They are with Jehovah, in that, they are all resurrected at that point, “in the twinkling of an eye.” That is when “Jerusalem” no longer represents Christ’s congregation on earth, but rather, Christ’s Kingdom in Heaven.
In that context Zechariah 14:16-21 states: “Everyone who is left remaining out of all the nations that come against Jerusalem will go up from year to year to bow down to the King, Jehovah of armies, and to celebrate the Festival of Booths. But if anyone among the families of the earth does not go up to Jerusalem to bow down to the King, Jehovah of armies, no rain will fall on them. And if the family of Egypt does not come up and does not come in, they will have no rain. Instead, they will have the scourge with which Jehovah scourges the nations that do not come up to celebrate the Festival of Booths. This will be the punishment for the sin of Egypt and the sin of all the nations that do not come up to celebrate the Festival of Booths.”
The Law required every Israelite male to attend the festivals of Jehovah. As regards the Festival of Booths, entire families attended, as it was a time of great rejoicing. However, no other people were under obligation to attend —certainly not the Egyptians. The Israelites were the only people in a covenant with God. In the book of Amos Jehovah made it clear to them that of all the people on earth only they had such a relationship with him.
So, why does the prophecy state that if Egypt refuses to come up to Jerusalem to celebrate the Festival of Booths then they will be punished?
As stated already, “Jerusalem” symbolizes the Kingdom. But isn’t the Kingdom in heaven? Yes, but as the 21st chapter of Revelation shows New Jerusalem comes down from Heaven, meaning the Kingdom fully establishes its dominion over the earth.
That being the case, all people on earth will come under its law. Unlike in the days of Israel, then all peoples living, that is those — “left remaining out of all the nations” — will be subjects of the Kingdom. Egypt is a fitting symbol of the great crowd who will be left over after the tribulation since during the Exodus the account says that a “vast mixed company” departed Egypt along with Israel.
But only those who experience the first resurrection are free from the second death. That means that those who survive the war of Armageddon and those who are resurrected onto earth must fully comply with the rulings and judgments that come out of “Jerusalem” in order to receive life. Just like now, then people will have the option to obey or disobey. That is what is symbolized by their being commanded to come up to Jerusalem to worship during the Festival of Booths or else be punished for their sin.