In our study of Zephaniah chapter three, we will look at the purification of the city of Jerusalem and the coming reign of God's people from the city. In chapter two, we saw God's judgment on the nations surrounding Israel and now we see God's judgment come home to the city of Jerusalem.
"Woe to the city of oppressors, rebellious and defiled!" NIV translation
Purification is the removal of something that does not belong and here we see the sin that does not belong in the city of Jerusalem. We see that God's people had become polluted by the ways of the world and have ignored the poor among them. In our world today, it seems that everyone (even Christians) are out to get all that they can and to store up wealth for themselves. This is often accomplished on the backs of the poor and that is why the city is called "the city of oppressors".
"She obeys no one, she accepts no correction. She does not trust in the Lord, she does not draw near to her God." NIV translation
For many years, God has sent prophets to His people in the city and so they have heard the word of God. He has even sent partial judgment and yet the people do not turn to God. Even today, we see that the city trusts more in the military might of nations than in the protection of God.
"Her officials are roaring lions, her rulers are evening wolves, who leave nothing for the morning." NIV translation
We see that God describes the leaders of the city as making a lot of noise about prosperity and helping the poor but in reality they are working day and night to get all that they can for themselves.
"Her prophets are arrogant; they are treacherous men. Her priests profane the sanctuary and do violence to the law." NIV translation
The priests have become corrupt and twist the word of God for their own benefit. Meanwhile, the prophets that are sent to give the priests a message of correction do not share the message with them. Instead, they tell the priests what they want to hear in order to gain personal wealth. This sounds like what has happened and is happening even now among God's people.
"The Lord within her is righteous; he does no wrong. Morning by morning he dispenses his justice, and every new day he does not fail, yet the unrighteous know no shame." NIV translation
Jerusalem is the city of God and He is right and just in everything that He does. Therefore, it is easy to see that this corruption is out of place in His city. Even so, the people have no shame and openly continue in their sinful ways.
"'I have cut off nations; their strongholds are demolished. I have left their streets deserted, with no one passing through. Their cities are destroyed; no one will be left - no one at all.'" NIV translation
This verse refers to what is commonly known as the Great Tribulation. During this time, God will bring judgment on the nations in hopes that many people will accept Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior.
"'I said to the city, "Surely you will fear me and accept correction!" Then her dwelling would not be cut off, nor all my punishments come upon her. But they were still eager to act corruptly in all they did.'" NIV translation
This judgment of the surrounding nations was meant to be a wake up call for God's people. If they would only repent and turn back to God, this judgment would not fall upon them but they will refuse.
"'Therefore wait for me, ' declares the Lord, 'for the day I will stand up to testify. I have decided to assemble the nations, to gather the kingdoms and to pour out my wrath on them - all my fierce anger. The whole world will be consumed by the fire of my jealous anger.'" NIV translation
God is going to call the nations together to come against Jesus. Those that have followed the beast and the false prophet will be killed and the beast and false prophet will be cast into hell (see Revelation 19). This removal of those that actively oppose God will usher in what is known as the Millennial Reign.
"'Then will I purify the lips of the peoples, that all of them may call on the name of the Lord and serve him shoulder to shoulder.'" NIV translation
At this time, Satan will be bound and his influence will be removed from the earth for a time. No longer will his blasphemies be heard and all men will have the opportunity to see that salvation comes through Jesus Christ and not through the works of man. Christians will be a shining example in the city of Jerusalem.
"'From beyond the rivers of Cush my worshipers, my scattered people, will bring me offerings.'" NIV translation
During this millennial reign, God's people will be gathered from the ends of the earth to Jerusalem.
"'On that day you will not be put to shame for all the wrongs you have done to me, because I will remove from this city those who rejoice in their pride. Never again will you be haughty on my holy hill. But I will leave within you the meek and humble, who trust in the name of the Lord.'" NIV translation
We see that only those who have put their trust in Jesus Christ and His blood as the payment for their sins will be in the city. Human pride must be dealt with for only the humble can see the need for a Savior and accept the gift of salvation.
"'The remnant of Israel will do no wrong; they will speak no lies, nor will deceit be found in their mouths. They will eat and lie down and no one will make them afraid. Sing, O Daughter of Zion; shout aloud, O Israel! Be glad and rejoice with all your heart, O Daughter of Jerusalem! The Lord has taken away your punishment, he has turned back your enemy. The Lord, the King of Israel, is with you; never again will you fear any harm.'" NIV translation
This purified Jerusalem will be filled with a pure people. These people have been purified by the blood of the Lamb and they will be full of rejoicing. Jesus will be with us in this pure city and He drives away all fear as He is the conqueror of all the enemies. The peace of Jerusalem is coming and His name is Jesus Christ!
"'On that day they will say to Jerusalem, "Do not fear, O Zion; do not let your hands hang limp. The Lord your God is with you, he is mighty to save. He will take great delight in you, he will quiet you with his love, he will rejoice over you with singing."'" NIV translation
We will not be idle in Jerusalem but will be working for the Lord. Jesus will be there to reign with us and there will be peace and singing.
"'The sorrows for the appointed feasts I will remove from you; they are a burden and a reproach to you. At that time I will deal with all who oppressed you; I will rescue the lame and gather those who have been scattered. I will give them praise and honor in every land where they were put to shame. At that time I will gather you; at that time I will bring you home. I will give you honor and praise among all the peoples of the earth when I restore your fortunes before your very eyes,' says the Lord." NIV translation
During this thousand year reign, God's people will be raised up as a shining example. There will no longer be the burden of religious rituals. They will be drawn back to Jerusalem and be honored there as well as in the lands that they had been living in.