[K:NWTS 7/2 (Sep 1992) 15-25]

Evangel of the Messianic Angel*

Meredith G. Kline

"In other generations [the mystery of Christ] was not made known to the sons of men, as it has now been revealed unto his holy apostles and prophets in the Spirit" (Eph. 3:5). It was, for one thing, the typological idiom used by the Old Testament prophets that kept their disclosures concerning the new covenant community from being as perspicuous as the revelation of the church given in the New Testament. This relative lack of clarity was especially the case with respect to the reception of the Gentiles as fellow-heirs, fellow members of the body, fellow partakers of the promise in Christ (Eph. 3:6). Nevertheless, as the comparison in Ephesians 3:5 implies and as Paul states explicitly in Romans 16:25, 26, this mystery of divine wisdom, hidden from human discovery (cf. Eph. 3:9; Col. 1:26) but unveiled by divine revelation, had already been manifested in "the scriptures of the prophets." In the concatenation of quotations in Romans 15:9-12, Paul appeals to statements in all three sections of the Old Testament canon—the law (v. 10: cf. Deut. 32:43), the prophets (v. 12; cf. Isa. 11:10), and the writings (vv. 9 and 11; cf. Ps. 18:49 and Ps. 117:1 respectively)—to substantiate the truth that in Christ the Gentiles find acceptance along with Jews in God's kingdom.

One notable example of an Old Testament prophecy of the church is Zechariah 2:1-13 (2:5-17 in Hebrew), with its symbolic portrayal of the future inclusion of a pleroma (fulness) of the Gentiles in the true Israel of God. This third vision of Zechariah consists of imagery (2:1-5 [5-9]), which unfolds in two scenes (2:1, 2 [5, 6] and 2:3-5 [7-9]), followed by a kerygma (proclamation) section (2:6-13 [10-17]). Visions one, three, five, and seven all contain a kerygmatic oracle that makes interpretive application of the preceding imagery. This distribution underscores the structural pattern of the seven visions. For in the arrangement of them into two triads around a central fourth vision, each triad having a concentric (A.B.A) form, the visions with the imagery-kerygma format coincide with the four A-visions.1

That the oracular kerygma is an integral part of the third vision, though often disputed, is evidenced in the way the rationale given for the exhortations in 2:6-13 (10-17) in every case resumes and develops one, or both, of the themes introduced by the speaker in 2:3-5 (7-9), namely, the presence of the divine Glory and the future expansion of Jerusalem. Indeed, the kerygma is a continuation of the words of that speaker and thus the second scene of the symbolic drama (2:3-5 [7-9]) interlocks the kerygma with the imagery section.

I. Imagery—Messianic Angel: Builder of Jerusalem

A. Scenario: Sorting out the dramatis personae in vision three is a more complex matter than usual. Things fall in place, however, as we trace the identity of the main speaker, observing how it remains constant throughout the vision.

In scene one, Zechariah, entering into the vision, queries the man with the measuring line concerning the goal of his mission (v. 2a [6a]) and the latter responds (v. 2b [6b]). There is no warrant for injecting the figure of the interpreting angel as a mediator of the response. It is the measurer who addresses Zechariah directly, and we shall find that from this point on all the first-person speeches are to be attributed (ultimately) to him.

In scene two the familiar interpreting angel makes his appearance and with him appears "another angel" (v. 3[7]). One of these speaks, sending the second to "this young man" with an announcement, which actually furthers the account of the symbolic imagery by its picturing of the future Jerusalem (v. 4[8]). The speaker cannot be the interpreting angel, for his role is never that of controlling the visionary action, as would be the case if he were viewed as sending the other angel to the measurer with directions of some sort (for example, to desist from his supposedly impossible task). Neither would the interpreting angel send another angel to Zechariah (if he is seen as "this young man") to perform what was his own peculiar responsibility of interpreting the visions to the prophet. Hence, the speaker in vv. 4, 5 (8, 9) is the "other angel." Further, since the results of the measuring mission which he announces would naturally be disclosed by the measurer himself, this "other angel" is, if not the measurer, at least an angel-messenger come from the measurer and speaking in his name. The measurer is thus the (ultimate) speaker in vv. 4, 5 (8, 9), his further communication here being an up-dating of his reply to Zechariah's earlier question (v. 2 [6]). And Zechariah is, of course, the "young man"2 to whom the interpreting angel is sent with this elaboration on the symbolic imagery and its meaning. Moreover, the ultimate speaker, the measurer, is identified as divine, for he speaks in the first person as Yahweh (v. 5 [9]).3 This "man" with the measuring line is then one with the "man" riding on a red horse in vision one, identified there as the Angel of the Lord.

The foregoing analysis is corroborated by the data in the kerygma section (vv. 6-13 [10-17]). The first-person-speaking of v. 5 (9) continues here and, as noted above, so do the themes of v. 5 (9). Nothing would suggest there is a change of speaker. On the contrary, the one speaking in the first person identifies himself as the messianic Angel—the (ultimate) first person speaker in v. 5 (9). For he says that he has been sent by God (vv. 8, 9, 11 [12,13, 15]), that his mission is one of visiting divine judgment on the world powers (vv. 8, 9 [12, 13]).4 In short, the kerygma of vv. 6-13 (10-17) is a continuation of the speech of v. 5 (9) and provides confirmation of the identity of the (ultimate) speaker in v. 5 (9)—and thus of the measurer—as the Angel of the Lord.5

B. The Measurer: Supportive of our conclusion that the measurer is the divine Angel are other biblical instances of measuring as a divine activity. Possession and use of the measuring line here signifies that the "man" is not merely some subordinate surveyor gathering information but the Lord himself engaged in sovereign construction.

By the stretching out of measuring lines, perimeters were set. Zechariah 2:1, 2 (5, 6) picks up the promise of Zechariah 1:16 that a line would be stretched forth over Jerusalem as part of the process of rebuilding the city and temple.6 Like this third vision of Zechariah, Jeremiah 31 prophesies of the new covenant restoration (vv. 31-34) under the imagery of a rebuilding of Jerusalem (vv. 38-40), and the going forth of the measuring line there (v. 39) is explicitly a matter of establishing the boundaries.

As expressed in Zechariah 2:2 (6), the purpose of the measurer was "to see" (ra'ah ) its breadth and length. This might suggest that he was to ascertain the dimensions of a city already in existence (in the visionary world). If so, the situation would be analogous to that in the creation narrative. There, a sevenfold refrain states that God "saw (ra'ah) that it was good," signifying that the Maker of heaven and earth subjected the work of the day to judicial scrutiny to ensure that it accorded perfectly with the master plan, and finding, of course, that it did, he so pronounced it "good." Similarly, in Zechariah 2:2 (6), the Angel of the Lord would be seen as going to inspect the future completed Jerusalem, already beheld in his omniscient ken, and as subsequently announcing that it exhibited the vast dimensions he had specified in his architectural plans (v. 4 [8]).

However, the Hebrew ra'ah occasionally has the sense of choose or provide.7 Thus, in 1 Samuel 16:1, the Lord selects (ra'ah) a king from among Jesse's sons. In Genesis 22:8, God provides (ra'ah) a lamb for the altar. And in Deuteronomy 12:13, 14, Israel is commanded not to offer burnt offerings at any place they pleased (ra'ah) but at the place the Lord chose (bachar). Alternatively then, Zechariah 2:2 (6) could mean that the measurer was proceeding to the site of future Jerusalem to mark out what he had determined its dimensions should be. Similarly, in Revelation 11:1, 2, John's temple measuring is not to discover its size but to register a divine verdict. What he measures is thereby set apart unto God and under his protection; what he leaves unmeasured is thereby rejected and abandoned to profanation and desolation.

Accordingly, the role of the measurer in Zechariah's third vision is, equally with that of the rider of the red horse in the first vision, compatible with the divine dignity of the Angel of the Lord. Ezekiel 40-48 provides another extended example of a visionary appearance of the messianic Angel as a man with a measuring line (cf. esp. 40:3; 43:6; 44:2, 5). In that case, the purpose of his measuring is to reveal to the prophet his sovereign design for his temple-kingdom. In the Book of Revelation, possession of the measuring rod is attributed to Christ, and again it is an insigne of his authority over God's house.8 Thus, in Revelation 11, the one who charges John with the judicial use of the rod (vv. 1, 2) is identified as Christ when he goes on to speak of his commissioning of "my" two witnesses (v. 3). Agreeably, in Revelation 21:15, it is the angel sent to John by Christ who has the golden reed, with which he measures the new Jerusalem (the purpose here being similar to the measuring in Ezekiel 40-48).9 Measuring activity is also attributed to God in his creation of the world, his cosmic temple. We read that he stretched out the measuring line at the laying of the foundations of the earth (Job 38:5) and measured out the heavens with the span (Isa. 40:12). And according to Job 28:25 (cf. Isa. 40:12)l0 God meted out the waters and the land by measure.11

This background of divine acts of measuring performed in execution of sovereign decree and in determination of the boundaries of God's house and city corroborates the identification of the man with the measuring line in Zechariah 2:1, 2 (5, 6) as the Angel of the Lord. He is the Word of God who was in the beginning with God, who was God, the Maker of all things, visible and invisible (John 1:1-3; Col. 1:16). The measurer is the Creator-Lord, seen by Zechariah as now engaged in redemptive re-creation as the architect and almighty constructor of the new cosmos, the heavenly city, New Jerusalem.

C. Metapolis: Descending from heaven at the climax of the history of re-creation, the new Jerusalem will be the realization of the goal set for the city of God at the original creation. The garden-city in Eden already enjoyed the presence of the divine Glory on the mount of God as its heavenly cultic focus. And the kingdom mandate to fill and subdue the earth contemplated an expansion of the holy city to world-wide proportions, to the fulness of Megapolis. Then this global city was to be transformed by the Creator-Spirit into Metapolis, the beyond-city of eternity. There the Glory, no longer a local focus, would fill the cosmos, permeating the fulness of Metapolis. New Jerusalem is that Metapolis arrived at by way of redemptive re-creation. In the symbolic portrayal of it in Zechariah 2, its fulness is the theme in v. 4 (8) and its Glory-focus in v. 5 (9).

As represented in this third vision, eschatological Jerusalem would resemble an open country patchwork of settlements of men and cattle; by reason of its abounding population it would not have the bounding walls characteristic of ancient cities (v. 4 [8]). The outworking of this prophetic symbolism in new covenant history is expounded in the kerygma section (vv. 6, 11 [10, 15]). The roots of the imagery are ancient. They reach back to the oracle of Noah (Gen. 9:25-27). 

Noah's pronouncement concerning his descendants began with his curse on Canaan (v. 25) then proceeded to his blessings on Shem (v. 26) and Japheth (v. 27). From Shem would come the covenant line, set apart to bear God's name (Hebrew, shem), the blessing bestowed in due time in God's covenant with Abraham, particularly in the first stage of the fulfillment of its promise in the old covenant kingdom of Israel. But in the conjoined blessing on Japheth (v. 27), Noah's oracle moved beyond the ethnic particularism of the old covenant: "May God open (yapht)12 for Japheth (yephet)." What was to be opened is indicated in the following clause: "and may he [Japheth] dwell in the tents of Shem." Tent imagery was prompted by the occasion of the oracle, the event in Noah's tent (Gen. 9:21ff.). Shem and Japheth had shared in their godly act within a tent (v. 23) and they were to share the blessing of occupying the (covenant) tent. Until Christ came the covenant tents were for the most part closed to all except the Abrahamic descendants of Shem. Envisioned in Noah's oracle, however, was the day when the entrance flaps of these tents would be flung wide open to welcome the descendants of Japheth—and, indeed, all the Gentiles.

Isaiah, foreseeing this same development, when Zion's children would "inherit the Gentiles" (54:3), employed anew the tent metaphor of Japheth's blessing as he called on mother Jerusalem to make room for all these children from afar. "Enlarge the place of your tent and let them extend the curtains of your dwellings; spare not, lengthen your cords and strengthen your stakes" (54:2; cf. 49:18-23; 60:3-16, esp. v. 11, which asserts that Jerusalem's gates will be "continually open"). And when Noah's oracle concerning Japheth was being fulfilled in the mission of the apostle Paul to the Gentiles in the regions settled by the Japhethites, the figure of the opened entry surfaced again. The missionaries reported that God "had opened the door of faith unto the Gentiles" (Acts 14:27) and Paul declared: "a great door and effectual is opened unto me" (1 Cor. 16:9).

On this metaphor-trajectory from Noah to Paul the imagery of Zechariah 2 also finds a place. Zechariah's vision of Jerusalem so expanded that it breaks through the normal pattern of walled cities and becomes a city standing completely open was a variation on Isaiah's picture of Jerusalem as the covenant tent extended without restraint. And when the kerygma section of Zechariah 2 interprets the image of unwalled Jerusalem in terms of the future influx of Gentiles (v. 11 [15]), that comports with the purpose of the opening up the covenant tent/city in Noah's oracle, in Isaiah's prophecy, and in Paul's missionary reporting. 

This attainment of the destined fulness of Metapolis fulfills Noah's blessing on Shem as well as that on Japheth. For one of the covenant promises to Abraham, son of Shem, was that his seed would be multiplied past numbering (Gen. 22:17); through his messianic descendant all the nations of the earth would be blessed (Gen. 22:18) and so he would become the father of many nations (Gen. 17:14-16).

In another way too the Jerusalem of Zechariah's third vision embodies the blessing that Japheth would find in the tents of Shem. For according to Noah's oracle, the Lord would vouchsafe to Shem his covenantal Name-Presence, and such a divine Presence is promised in Zechariah 2:5b (9b) for the future Jerusalem: Yahweh will be "the Glory in the midst of her," the cultic focus of her cultural fulness. The new Jerusalem will be paradise restored but it will be more than a simple restoration of the holy garden-city of Eden, for in it the manifestation of the Glory is not confined to a focal center. God's fiery Presence fills the eternal city to its unwalled limits (v. 5a [9a]; cf. Isa. 4:5). It is in its entirety a temple, hence has no temple within it.13 Nor does it require light of sun or moon, for the God of Glory is its everlasting light (Isa. 60:19, 20; Rev. 21:22, 23; 22:5).

Paradoxically, eschatological Jerusalem as described in Zechariah 2 is unwalled (v. 4 [8]), yet has a wall around it (v. 5a [9a]). By filling the city right to its distant limits, the divine Glory constitutes a wall of fire around it there at its perimeter. However, the idea is not that the city has no ordinary walls because the fiery divine wall replaces such (as though this were analogous to statements about the absence of a temple or luminaries in the heavenly Jerusalem). The absence of the customary walls (v. 4 [8]) is clearly accounted for by the city's overflowing population.14 

Help in determining the function of the divine wall of fire around the city may come from Revelation 21, where we have another version of this symbolic scene. The great, high walls spoken of there (vv. 12-21) serve not as defence against attack (all enemies have been banished to the lake of fire; cf. Rev. 21:8), but as a boundary proclaiming the inviolable sanctity of the temple-city within and excluding all who have not been washed in the blood of the Lamb (cf. Rev. 21:27; 22:14, 15). This may also be the purpose of the divine wall in Zechariah's third vision. Protection against hostile incursions is indeed the point of God's encamping about his "house" in Zechariah 9:8. However, the fiery wall in Zechariah 2:5a is apparently part of the portrayal of New Jerusalem as a restoration of the Eden sanctuary, being in particular an allusion to the wall of fire produced by the flaming sword that turned every way to guard the access to the tree of life and maintain the sanctity of the site of God's Glory (Gen. 3:24). This imagery speaks then of the consuming holiness of the God of the temple-city and the fearful, fiery judgment that stands between the defiled sinner and entry into this realm of life.

Yet, remarkably, this city is thronged by former outcasts, as the Angel presently declares (Zech. 2:11 [15]). We are reminded that the Angel of the Lord who reveals this vision was himself to be pierced by the flaming sword (cf. Zech. 13:7) to open a way through the wall of fire and gain entrance for an innumerable multitude out of all nations (cf. Rev. 7:9, 14-17). The wonder of the burning bush, not consumed, meets us again here, in anticipation of Zechariah's next vision with its gospel of sovereign grace, of the brand plucked out of the fire, removal of defilement, and investment in robes of priestly glory (cf. Zechariah 3).

Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, S. Hamilton, Massachusetts
Westminster Theological Seminary in California, Escondido


*This study of Zechariah 2 continues the series on Zechariah's night visions begun in Kerux 5:2 (September, 1990).

lCf. my "The Structure of the Book of Zechariah," JETS 34:2 (June 1991): 187.

2Though the Hebrew na'ar can serve as a technical term for officials of various sorts, it probably alludes here simply to the prophet's youthfulness (cf. Jer. 1:6).

3If the other angel is the measurer, not just his personal spokesman, he is the Angel of the Lord. On the indefiniteness of his designation as "another angel," compare the appearance of Christ as "another strong angel" in Revelation 10:1 (cf. 14:17; 18:1, 21; 20:1).

4Unable to accept the high mystery of the Angel who describes himself as sent by Yahweh of Hosts (v. 11 [15]) and yet speaks as Yahweh of hosts (v. 8 [12]) or the reality of the presence and participation of the pre-incarnate Christ in these visionary proceedings, many commentators treat the claims to be sent by God (vv. 8, 9, 11 [12,13,15]) as parenthetical interjections by Zechariah. It is alleged that the prophet repeatedly interrupts the divine oracle he is supposedly voicing in order to boast of the future authentication of his prophetic call (cf. Deut. 18:21, 22). But the claims to be sent are thus severed from the attached statements of the purposes of this sending (viz., judgment of the nations and dwelling in Zion) which do not fit Zechariah's role.

5The first-person-speaking in v. 5 (9) cannot be explained then as simply the voice of God breaking through in the words of a spokesman, for this divine one who speaks in the first person is a sent one, the messianic Angel, and is, therefore, to be sought among those who appear in the vision.

6See our earlier discussion in Kerux 6:2 (September, 1991): 34. In vision five (counterpart to vision three in the chiastic arrangement of the visions) another line appears, a plummet, it too employed in the reconstruction process.

7In postbiblical Hebrew, forms of ra'ah are used to express notions of approval, selection, designation. 

8In Mesopotamian iconography the measuring reed and line are found as a symbol of the authority of the god. Thus, on the stele of Ur-nammu at Ur, the moon-god Nannar is seen holding these measuring insignia when approached by the king for instructions concerning the building of a ziggurat. Cf. A. Parrot, Babylon and the Old Testament (New York, 1958), pp. 145-47. 

9Cf. also Amos' picture of Yahweh with the plumb-line of judgment in his hand (7:7,8). 

l0God's measuring is associated in Job 28:25 with an act of divine seeing (ra'ah) in his ordering of the world (v. 24). 

11Of Marduk it is related that as he began to construct the world out of the carcass of vanquished Ti'amat he "measured the dimensions of the Apsu," the subterranean abode of Ea, preparatory to establishing the earth structure on it (Enuma Elish, IV, 143). 

12The sparse evidence for the root patah does not support the translation "enlarge" but rather "open" (cf. Prov. 20:19). Patah is used instead of the common patach, "open," to obtain the pun on Japheth. 

13Similarly, Zechariah 14:20, 21 envisions the elevation of the entire Jerusalem and indeed all Judah to sanctuary status. Cf. in Daniel 2:35 the new mount Zion, which fills the whole earth, and in Revelation 21:10ff. the new Jerusalem, a cosmic holy of holies. 

14Likewise in vision one the stretching of the line over Jerusalem is followed by the Lord's declaration that his cities would be spread abroad by reason of great prosperity (Zech. 1:17). Again in Zechariah 10:8-10 the motif appears of the available space not able to contain God's people, divinely sown, increased, and brought back from captivity (cf. Isa. 49:20).