Zephaniah could be considered the culmination or the compendium of all prophecy as it speaks of the end result of all prophecy in an eschatological or end-times manner. Although it speaks of an immediate fulfillment, it also speaks of fulfillment of God’s great day of wrath at the end of time as we understand it. It is a survey of the universal government of Jehovah, His judgment of the whole earth. When we read of "in that day" what we see is a time coming when time will literally stand still and God is going to take sovereign control and judge the wayward and unrepentant.
The name Zephaniah means 'the watchman of Jehovah'' and his prophecy comes just previous to the national reforms of Josiah. His reforms remove idolatry from the land. The dominate theme in Zephaniah revolve around Christ. Specifically, they revolve around the “Day of the Lord”. Better understood, we could term this day, the “Day of Jesus Christ”. The very One that will come to save, will come later to judge in a great “Day of Wrath”. First a loving God but once long-suffering and patience is done, a God that unleashes judgment in fury.
Zephaniah speaks of an immediate judgment coming for Judah and a later judgment that is again referred to in Revelation 6. A day of wrath in Revelation that will come forth from the Lamb and the question will be proffered: “…the great day of their wrath has come, and who can stand?”
Zephaniah speaks of them as
Zephaniah 1:14-15 ~ “The great day of the Lord is near, near and hastening fast; the sound of the day of the Lord is bitter; the mighty man cries aloud there. A day of wrath is that day, a day of distress and anguish, a day of ruin and devastation, a day of darkness and gloom, a day of clouds and thick darkness…”
Zephaniah reprimands and rebukes Judah to seek the Lord before it is too late.
Zephaniah 2:1-3 ~ “Gather together, gather yourselves together, you shameful nation, before the decree takes effect and that day passes like windblown chaff, before the Lord’s fierce anger comes upon you, before the day of the Lord’s wrath comes upon you. Seek the Lord, all you humble of the land, you who do what he commands. Seek righteousness, seek humility; perhaps you will be sheltered on the day of the Lord’s anger.
Many of these exhortations will echo down into the time of Christ as they are calls to holiness and righteousness that Christians will need to adhere to when they abide by the Gospel. This could be an echo down through the centuries to us in America also as most have abandoned the Lord wholesale.
After pronouncing judgment on surrounding nations like a circling the real intended target, the third chapter shows God turning his wrath on Jerusalem, the once shining jewel of Judah turned to an immoral cesspool. In this chapter we see a description of a soul at a distance from the Lord, distant from Jesus Christ.
Zephaniah 3:1-2 ~ “Woe to her who is rebellious and defiled, the oppressing city! She listens to no voice; she accepts no correction. She does not trust in the Lord; she does not draw near to her God.
We see leaders of a nation that had once been righteous but are now nothing more than reprobate fools, not unlike our nation today in America. Having walked away from the truths of Scripture and abandoned God, they spin in an amoral and immoral chaos…just as we do today. Some within the nation knew God and obeyed His commandments but the leaders were plummeting the nation into madness and eventual judgment. We also see something else. We see the Lord replace these leaders by taking their place.
Zephaniah 3:3-4 ~ “Her officials within her are roaring lions; her judges are evening wolves that leave nothing till the morning. Her prophets are fickle, treacherous men; her priests profane what is holy; they do violence to the law.
In Christ we will see the Lord fulfill all of these roles at some point: Judge, prophet, priest. He comes to the heart of the believer as judge. In so doing He brings the wrong in our lives to light. If we respond correctly to Him we will accept His correction. Those that don’t will bring His judgment to the forefront.
Zephaniah 3:5,7 ~ “The Lord within her is righteous; he does no injustice; every morning he shows forth his justice; each dawn he does not fail; but the unjust knows no shame….I said, ‘Surely you will fear me; you will accept correction. Then your dwelling would not be cut off according to all that I have appointed against you.’
He then comes as the prophet. He declares that we are to wait for Him (me). He speaks of a day to come or “on that day” or “at that time”. The kingdoms will be assembled to pour out His indignation (fury, displeasure or heat of His anger) and they will be consumed.
Zephaniah 3:8 ~ “Therefore wait for me,” declares the Lord, for the day when I rise up to seize the prey. For my decision is to gather nations, to assemble kingdoms, to pour out upon them my indignation, all my burning anger; for in the fire of my jealousy all the earth shall be consumed.
Zephaniah 3:10-13 “On that day you shall not be put to shame because of the deeds by which you have rebelled against me; for then I will remove from your midst your proudly exultant ones, and you shall no longer be haughty in my holy mountain. But I will leave in your midst a people humble and lowly. They shall seek refuge in the name of the Lord, those who are left in Israel; they shall do no injustice and speak no lies, nor shall there be found in their mouth a deceitful tongue. For they shall graze and lie down, and none shall make them afraid.”
Christ then finally comes as king of all. To reign in absolute authority and will do so in love.
Zephaniah 3:15, 17 ~ “The Lord has taken away the judgments against you; he has cleared away your enemies. The King of Israel, the Lord, is in your midst; you shall never again fear evil.
Zephaniah 3:17 ~ “The Lord your God is in your midst, a mighty one who will save; he will rejoice over you with gladness; he will quiet you by his love, he will exult over you with loud singing.
Finally we see the Lord as our Great High Priest. We see the “I wills” of the Lord.
Zephaniah 3:18-20 ~ “I will gather those of you who mourn for the festival, so that you will no longer suffer reproach…I will change their shame into praise and renown in all the earth. At that time I will bring you in, at the time when I gather you together; for I will make you renowned and praised among all the peoples of the earth…
All these future(s) unfolding are foretold for believers, it should also be understood that the first another primary audience for these prophecies is to a remnant Israel which the Lord will most certainly restore once they have recognized the One whom they have pierced (Zechariah 12:10). It must be understood that God’s covenants from man’s viewpoint seem temporary but from God’s viewpoint and position, they are immutable and eternal like his being. When God makes a covenant, He will maintain it even when man utterly fails. When God’s Messianic kingdom arrives, all covenants will be fulfilled “on that day”.