In Zechariah 3:1: (1) Is Joshua the high priest and Joshua who led the Israelites to subdue the promised land the same? (2) How did the Joshua in Zechariah became the high priest to the Israelite people? (3) What is the name of the angel standing before the Lord in Zech 3:4? (4) So many years back Joshua (successor to Moses) died – how did Zechariah recognize Joshua?
The Joshua mentioned in Zechariah is not the Joshua, who led the Israelites into the promised land in the book of Joshua. Joshua, the successor to Moses, was the son of Nun of the tribe of Ephraim (1 Chronicles 7:22, 26-27), grandson of Ammihud, great-grandson of Elishama. As such, he was not a Levite and therefore could not have ever been a high priest. Zechariah would have known Jewish history that would include Moses and Joshua. However, recall from the Israelite leader Joshua to the time of Darius in which Zechariah wrote this (Zech. 1:1) was about 1000 years (from the division of the land, the time of the judges, the time of the Jewish kings, the 70 years of desolation after the Babylonian captivity, etc). It would be utterly impossible for this to be that Joshua.
The verses in Zechariah Chapter 3 are meant to be an encouragement to Israel and are full of prophetic metaphor and symbolism and were evidently a vision. The name Joshua signifies “Savior” in Hebrew and in the Greek “Jesus.” Just as this Joshua is a high priest, he is a picture of the Church, the body of the spiritual high priest, Jesus. Thus the angel standing before the LORD is Jesus. Satan of course is the accuser, whereas Jesus is our advocate and is the head or high priest of the Church which is his body. Jerusalem in verse 2 is the Kingdom of God of fleshly Israel among mankind and specifically represents spiritual Israel, the Church (Rev 3:12, 21:2). Both God and Jesus has chosen it (the Church).
In this picture, Joshua represents the Church, the body of Christ. We know this because in the picture, God and Jesus (the angel) are present. The filthy rags show that Joshua represents a human class and is from the fallen race of Adam (Isaiah 64:6), whereas Jesus was not. If Joshua represented only Jesus, he would not have worn rags as he was a perfect human (Psalms 37:37; Eph. 4:13), not of the seed of man, but blameless and without sin. Also, Satan would not be standing ready to accuse one who is without sin as he would have no basis in justice to do so.
In verse 4, the iniquity is taken away and the Church is clothed with new raiment, picturing the covering of our sins with the robe of Christ’s righteousness while in the flesh (Matt. 22:11). It also reminds us that we will be given a resurrection to a new spirit nature. Joshua the high priest is also given a turban or mitre, like a crown representing victory, righteousness, and life
(1 Cor. 9:25, 2 Tim. 4:8, James 1:12, Rev. 2:10, Rev. 3:11). If we are faithful as Joshua was told, we will judge angels and man (1 Cor. 6:2-3) as part of Christ’s body.
We are reminded that God has brought forth a branch from the line of David, our Lord and Savior Jesus (this part of the prophecy fulfilled). Zechariah 3:9 reminds us that God lays a stone before us (Isa. 28:16). Jesus is the stone the builders rejected (Matt. 21:42). The stone cut out without hands (Dan 2:34). This stone, Jesus, has seven eyes showing perfect divine wisdom and he shall oversee the engraving of his character and law upon the living stones of the Church, the Body of Christ in the Gospel age. It will also be the case for all mankind in the one day (2 Pet. 3:8), the millennial day, the 1000 year Kingdom of God on earth. In that day, everyone will be at peace and on earth they will be sustained by the restored and perfected Eden of earth (Micah 4:4).
As you can see, it is a prophecy and an encouragement to Israel, mankind, and the Church.