The three visions in Zechariah 5:1-6:8 concern the same time: the generation before and including the great tribulation. All three are needed to interpret each other and are explained by the New Testament. (Most Bible verse passages are in the frame to the left on this page.)
I. The Vision of the flying Scroll - Restriction of Iniquity (Zechariah 5:1-4)
This curse over the whole earth makes the earth livable by restraining evil. The 2 sins restrained by this curse, swearing falsely by the name of God and stealing, both have to do with economic trade. The curse is flying, which means that its retribution is swift. The dimensions 10x20 signify a testimony: history testifies that there is a God ruling over the affairs of men. This much is what brother Witness Lee shared.
The dimensions, breadth = 10 and length = 20, also signify the limitations of the curse. The breadth = 10, means that the curse covers the entire earth, because 10 is secular completeness (Gen. 18:32).
The length = 20, signifies how long the curse will last. Length often indicates time as in the phrase “length of days”, which is common throughout the Bible. The number for completeness in time for God's purpose is "7" (Dan. 9:23-27). The number 20 is one short of 21, which is 3 x 7. One unit of time before the completion of the age, the curse ends.
What are the 20 time units, and when do they start? I believe they are 20 centuries after Christ's death and resurrection. This corresponds to the "2 days", each day being like 1,000 years, during which Israel is apart from God (Hosea 6:1, 2 Pet 3:8). Christ's death and resurrection is the major milestone in the Bible, from which all time is counted. During, or at the end, of the 20th century after Christ's death and resurrection, the curse, which restrains dishonesty, ends. This will gradually produce economic chaos and a more ungodly generation than ever was.
Why is the curse only on 2 sins: stealing and swearing falsely? Hasn't God been punishing more sins than these 2? Yes, He has. The point here is not what sins are being cursed, but on what sins will the curse end. If God's restraining power on all sins were to end, that would be too much. Just ending the curse on these 2 sins will cause enough suffering.
2 Thessalonians 2:6-8 And now ye know that which restrains, that he [antichrist] should be revealed in his own time. For the mystery of lawlessness already works; only [there is] something that restrains now until it be gone, and then the lawless one shall be revealed
Here is some support on why the length = 20 means that the curse ends before the end of this age:
The New Testament (2 Thessalonians 2:6-8 above) says that some restraining power over sin would be removed before the antichrist is revealed.
The next vision in Zechariah tells of the eventual loosing of the restraining power over international trade.
The vision in Zechariah 6 tells of the intensification of the black horse (depression) before the great tribulation.
II. The Vision of the Woman in the Ephah - Unrestrained International Commerce
The ephah in "all the earth" (v6) signifies international commerce (Deut. 25:15). It is really wickedness, but its appearance in the entire world is as an ephah, something not bad. The lead plate on top of the ephah (v7) is the divine restriction on international trade so that we can have a peaceful existence. The two women lifting up the ephah with the wind in their wings (v9) signifies the extremely fast spread of international trade over the whole earth. This much is what brother Witness Lee shared.
The “women” signify that the commerce here is not of necessities, but of things for man's pleasure (Witness Lee's Exodus Life Study on Exodus chapter 1). The building and establishing of a house for the ephah (v10) mean that the restricting lead plate on the ephah is circumvented. The “base” upon which the ephah's house is established is the internet and other technology that have flattened the earth removing much of the time, space and communication constraints in international trade.
“In the land of Shinar” signifies a great negative milestone in human history. It is the condition of the world at the time of Genesis 11. Shinar was the name of Babel before God confused the peoples' language. Afterward it was called Babel, meaning confusion. At the time in Genesis 11, if God had not come down and confused man's language, man could have accomplished incredible things apart from God (v6), which would have made it impossible to have 4,500 more years of human history. Now, at the end of the age, mankind has circumvented the restriction with all the computers and networks speaking the same language.
There are 3 women with the ephah. 1st there is just 1 woman. Suddenly two other women appear. They are so strong that they lift up the ephah containing the 1st woman along with the lead weight and fly it to the land of Shinar, where workers from all over the globe compete on a level playing field. Women signify nations. I believe that the 1st woman is the western world, and the two new women are China and India, each 1 billion persons strong, suddenly entering the economy. The 1st woman is sitting, taking it easy, while the latter 2 women are flying fast. The first woman no longer has any control in where the ephah is headed, because the ephah is being carried by the two new women, and the 1st woman, sitting in the ephah, is carried along for the ride.
III. The Vision of the 4 Chariots of Horses - Judgments and Spiritual Revival (Zechariah 6:1-8)
The two mountains have to do with the first and second comings of the Lord. From the Old Testament point of view, the Lord's first and second comings are like two mountains in the distance, one behind the other. It looks like the second mountain is right behind the first mountain, but actually it is 2,000 years in the future. The Old Testament does not see the time between the two mountains except for a short time after the Lord's death (until the destruction of the temple in 70 AD) and a short time before the last 7 years before the Lord's 2nd coming (Daniel's 70th week).
The two mountains are mountains of brass. They are not physical mountains. Brass signifies judgment (Deut 28:23). The Lord's 1st coming was followed by judgment on Israel in 70 AD when the Temple and Jerusalem were destroyed. The Lord's 2nd coming will be preceded by the great tribulation, which will be a judgment on all the earth (Matt. 24:21;Rev 7:14; Deut 4:30).
That the 4 chariots come out from between the two mountains means that these chariots concern the time between 70 AD and Christ's second coming. But since the Old Testament does not see the time from 70 AD until the generation before Christ's 2nd coming, it is only the generation just before the Lord's 2nd coming.
The meaning of the 4 chariots of horses is explained in Revelation 6:1-8. The New Testament explains the Old. The Old Testament has details that are not given in the New.
The 4 horses in Revelation 6:1-8 are the history of the world between the Lord's first and second comings. The white horse is the gospel, the red horse is war, the black horse is famine or depression, and the pale horse is explicitly named as Death with Hades (Hell). These 4 are explained by brother Witness Lee in the footnotes of the Recovery Version Bible on that chapter.
The colors of the horses in Revelation 6:1-8 match those in Zechariah 6:1-8, and even the chapter and verse numbers match exactly. The only difference in the colors is that the last is “a pale horse” in Revelation, and “hail-colored, strong horses” in Zechariah (v3). The Hebrew word for "hail-colored" is used in only one other place in the Bible as a color (Genesis 31:10,12), where it is translated "grizzled" by American Std Version, but it is the same word translated “hail” many times in the Old Testament. Hail also occurs 3 times in Revelation, and men blaspheme God because of the hail (Rev. 16:21). Hail is colorless, which is pale, and additionally, comes from the heavens signifying judgment from God.
In Revelation, the 4th horse is 2 horses in one, Death and Hades. In Zechariah, the 4th horses are also 2 in one, hail-colored and strong. Hail-colored corresponds to "pale", signifying death. "Strong" signifies Hades or Hell, which is so strong that no one can escape from it, except the Lord Jesus' resurrection life. (Ps. 89:48)
While the horses in Revelation are the history of the world for the past 2,000 years, and hence are general, the horses in Zechariah are the culmination of these same horses in the last generation before the Lord's return and are more specific. The horses in Revelation have each become chariots of horses in Zechariah, that is they are many-fold intensified.
The order of the horses in Revelation and in Zechariah is the same except that the white horse has moved from 1st in Revelation to 3rd in Zechariah. This is the chronological sequence. From the view of Revelation, the white horse is 1st because the gospel went out right after the Lord's ascension. In Zechariah, in the last generation before the Lord's return, first comes war, then famine (or depression) and then the gospel. The war and depression open people to the gospel.
The black horses go north, indicating that the industrial north will undergo depression. Praise the Lord, that the white horses go forth after them into the north. There will be a great revival of the church, mainly in the north.
The hail-colored horses go south. We may be seeing the beginning of this with the aids epidemic in Africa.
The strong horses seek to go out on their own apart from the hail-colored horses (v.7). Then the angel, who is the Lord (v8), commands the strong horses to go to and fro through the earth. This means that the power of hell is loosed on the earth. This is the beginning of the great tribulation in Revelation 9:1-2. This caused Zechariah to cry out in anguish in v8. Most translate this as "He called me and said to me", but the Hebrew word for called is a very strong word meaning to cry out in anguish, and it is causative, so it should be literally translated "caused me to cry out in anguish".
Where did the red horses go? Possibly east. Zechariah is looking east or west. He can see the horses that go north and south because those travel perpendicular to his line of sight. He cannot discern distance in the east/west direction because that is the direction he is looking, just as he cannot discern the distance between the two mountains. The horses can move far in the east or west direction, yet to Zechariah it looks as though they have not moved at all. To the west of Israel is the Mediterranean Sea, so the red horses must have gone in the other direction, that is east. This has begun with the two Iraq Wars and the war in Afghanistan. The 200 million horsemen who kill 1/3 of the earth's population come from the east. This is surely many-fold intensified war.
Lastly, the Angel, who is the Lord, says that those who went into the north country have given rest to My Spirit in the north country. To give the Lord's Spirit rest is to satisfy the Spirit, and to give Him a home. The church will have been built up as the Lord's house, for His rest. The bride has made herself ready (Rev. 19:7). This surely is a many-fold intensified gospel preaching and revival!
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