And on that day there shall be inscribed on the bells of the horses, “Holy to the LORD.” And the pots in the house of the LORD shall be as the bowls before the altar. And every pot in Jerusalem and Judah shall be holy to the LORD of hosts, so that all who sacrifice may come and take of them and boil the meat of the sacrifice in them. And there shall no longer be a trader in the house of the LORD of hosts on that day.
This passage has the peculiar reference to bells on horses, a strange thing to mention. It would have been strange to Zechariah’s audience as well. According to Leviticus 11, a horse was ceremonially unclean. Yet in this new Jerusalem, things that were once regarded as unclean are now not only clean but holy. The inscription on the horses’ bells is the same as that on the high priest’s turban. Consider the original giving of this inscription:
“You shall make a plate of pure gold and engrave on it, like the engraving of a signet, ‘Holy to the LORD.’ And you shall fasten it on the turban by a cord of blue. It shall be on the front of the turban. It shall be on Aaron’s forehead, and Aaron shall bear any guilt from the holy things that the people of Israel consecrate as their holy gifts. It shall regularly be on his forehead, that they may be accepted before the LORD.”
The high priest in the Levitical priesthood wore a seal of holiness, which took away the lingering iniquity of the people’s consecrated gifts. Now, Zechariah sees a time when the most common everyday items would be as pure and consecrated as the garments that the high priest would wear in the holiest place of the temple (Exodus 29:29–30).
Clearly, this has implications for new covenant saints. The high priest’s holy crown, which he would bear before God’s own presence, prefigured the perfect holiness of Jesus, our High Priest (Exodus 29:6). Christ’s undefiled holiness makes the spiritual sacrifices of his people acceptable to God, but one day all our lives will overflow with radiant holiness. We will have not only the imputed righteousness of Christ, but we will be transformed to be holy as he is holy.
Zechariah then drives the point harder by bringing up pots and pans. The cooking pots in the temple are going to be as holy as the basins in front of the altar. Even the most common pot would become holy—holy enough for us in sacrifice.
If this is all speaking about a literal temple, why then is there no demand for the strict distinctions between holy and common? If this is what Ezekiel saw in his vision, why is it not a restored temple per the law? The notion that all things are alike holy (as Zechariah is driving home) totally contradicts the idea of a literal millennial temple. E. B. Pusey writes well when he says: “In this priestly-levitical drapery the thought is expressed, that in the perfected kingdom of God not only will everything without exception be holy, but all will be equally holy.”1
Zechariah ends by saying, “And there shall no longer be a trader in the house of the LORD of hosts on that day.” (Some translations have “Canaanite.”) The background of this is probably from Nehemiah’s day when Tobiah the Ammonite had storage rooms within the temple courts and the Canaanite merchants from Tyre sold merchandise in Jerusalem on the Sabbath (Nehemiah 13:4–9, 16, 20–21). With these considerations, Zechariah could be thinking about the pollution of merchants just as Jesus spoke against in the temple courts. MacKay explains,
The mention of the Canaanite is not to debar any on racial grounds, but on ethical and spiritual. “Nothing impure will ever enter it, nor will anyone who does what is shameful or deceitful, but only those whose names are written in the Lamb’s book of life” (Revelation 21:27).2
Through this series, I hope you can see that Zechariah’s prophecy is describing the removal of the present creation and the resultant establishment of God’s eternal kingdom.