God called Zechariah to preach to the exiles that had returned from captivity to build the temple in Jerusalem, according to the decree of Cyrus king of Persia (Ezra 1:1-5; 6:14-15). The nations that occupied Canaan in the absence of God’s people were not excited to see the Israelites return; they bullied the returned exiles and schemed against them (Ezra 4:1-5). Yet, through the ministry of the prophets, the Lord motivated His people to get to work. Zechariah’s first sermon was a call for the returned exiles to remember why they and their ancestors were overtaken by Nebuchadnezzar in the first place. It was because they would not return to the Lord of Hosts when He sent prophets to speak His word (Zech 1:1-6; 2 Kings 24-25). Zechariah’s message was that the returned should heed God’s word through the prophets if they wished to survive in the land.
The night visions recorded in Zechariah 1-6 portray elements of salvation that contribute to the storyline of Scripture.
(1) In Zech 2:6-7, the prophet foretold the gathering of the exiled people of God. Zechariah said, “‘Get up! Leave the land of the north’—the LORD’s declaration—‘for I have scattered you like the four winds of heaven’—the LORD’s declaration. ‘Go, Zion! Escape, you who are living with Daughter Babylon.’” Jesus applied Zechariah’s prophecy to the return of the Son of Man in power and glory. Jesus said that when the Son of Man returns, He will gather His elect from the four winds, from the farthest distances of the earth (Matt 24:31//Mark 13:27). The prophet was concerned for the gathering of Israel from exile in Babylon and their return to the land of promise and the second temple; Jesus was concerned for the gathering of the faithful of all nations to celebrate His rule. Zechariah prophesied that many nations that would join themselves to the Lord’s people (Zech 2:10-13). James had this concept in mind at the Jerusalem council when he said that the Gentiles would see the Lord through a rebuilt Israel (Acts 15:16-18).
(2) In Zech 3:8, the prophet spoke to Joshua the high priest concerning the Lord’s servant, His Branch. The prophet took up the same theme in Zech 6:12-13, where the Lord commanded Zechariah to coronate Joshua the high priest with a golden crown. Joshua’s golden crown memorialized the temple and pointed forward to the day of the Branch, the One who would “branch out from His place and build the LORD’s temple” (Zech 6:12). Zechariah said that the Branch of the Lord would be clothed in royal splendor and rule on a throne (Zech 6:13). The prophet’s metaphor pointed forward to Jesus Christ, who would fulfill Zechariah’s promise of a king for Israel. The angel Gabriel announced to Mary that Jesus would sit on the throne of David and rule the house of Jacob forever (Luke 1:31-33). Jesus confessed to Pilate that He was a king, but not a king of this world (John 18:33-37). Jesus demonstrated His royal status by rising from the dead (Acts 2:32; 1 Cor 15:20-28; Eph 1:20-23; etc.). The author of Hebrews described Jesus’ royal status at the right hand of God (Heb 1:3; 13; 10:13) and in Revelation, John reported that he saw heavenly beings praising Jesus as king (Rev 5:9-10; 7:17; 11:15; 12:10-12, etc.).
(3) In Zech 3:1-5, the prophet described his vision of Satan’s attempt to accuse Joshua the high priest. The Angel of the Lord intervened though, telling those before Him, “Take off his filthy clothes!” (Zech 3:4a). The Angel then said to Joshua, “See, I have removed your guilt from you, and I will clothe you with splendid robes” (Zech 3:4b). The author of Hebrews notes that Jesus was a unique high priest in that Jesus defeated the Devil by offering His own blood for the forgiveness of sins once and for all (Heb 1:3; 2:10-18; 7:26-28; 9:13-14, 23-28; 10:10-12; etc.). In Revelation, John saw Satan thrown from heaven, removed from the position he used to accuse God’s people (Rev 12:10). To the Romans, Paul wrote, “Who can bring an accusation against God’s elect? God is the One who justifies. Who is the one who condemns? Christ Jesus is the One who died, but even more, has been raised; He also is at the right hand of God and intercedes for us” (Rom 8:33-34).
(4) In Zech 5:7, the prophet recorded his vision of a measuring basket that contained the iniquity of the land. Inside the basket was a woman called “Wickedness.” In Rev 17:1, John described Babylon as a wicked harlot who deceived the nations. In Zech 6:1-8, the prophet saw sets of horses pulling four chariots sent out to patrol the earth, administering the Lord’s vengeance upon Israel’s enemies. John wrote in Rev 6:1-8 that when the first four seals were broken, horses carried the one enacting God’s judgement upon the earth.