Mountains in prophecy [pdf]
Commentators have long claimed that mountains in prophecy represent nations or kingdoms, and it is quite true that God’s kingdom is represented by a mountain. However, scripture supports a more fundamental interpretation of the mountains; they represent God’s blessings, and covenants, and promises.
Natural mountains may appear differently, when viewed from various directions, and prophecy is similar. Promises of blessing, and covenants, may be represented by mountains, which are prominent parts of the promised land. The kingdom of God is a prophecy, and a promise of blessing, and so it can be represented by a mountain.
There is much evidence to show that prophetic mountains represent promises, and covenants, and prophecies. Promises and prophecies couched in symbolic language are high in the sense that they are difficult to comprehend. Some of the time prophecies are in this category. Isaiah wrote:
For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the Lord.
For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts.
The foremost of all prophecies about time is the 70 weeks prophecy, which remains a puzzle for many. It could be represented by a mountain that is rather difficult to ascend.
Two views of Snowpatch Spire, Bugaboos,
Left: east face. Right: south face
If mountains are symbols of God’s promises to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, and God’s promises to Israel, the history of those promises is outlined in the prophecies about mountains. Psalm 114 shows that the promises may become detached from the earth, as when rams and lambs skip, they become airborne. David wrote:
When Israel went out of Egypt, the house of Jacob from a people of strange language;
Judah was his sanctuary, and Israel his dominion.
The sea saw it, and fled: Jordan was driven back.
The mountains skipped like rams, and the little hills like lambs.
God’s promise that Israel will possess the land of Canaan is represented by a mountain, that may become detached from the literal earth, as rams and lambs are when they skip, because the promised land has a higher, spiritual significance; it represents the eternal inheritance of the saints.
A growing mountain is described in Daniel 2. In Nebuchadnezzar’s dream, a stone cut out from a mountain without hands struck the great image on the feet, and the image was destroyed, while the stone became a great mountain.
Zechariah refers to Jerusalem as a “burdensome stone.” This connects with the stone in Daniel’s prophecy. The stone and the mountain refer to Christ’s kingdom.
The burden of the word of the Lord for Israel, saith the Lord, which stretcheth forth the heavens, and layeth the foundation of the earth, and formeth the spirit of man within him.
Behold, I will make Jerusalem a cup of trembling unto all the people round about, when they shall be in the siege both against Judah and against Jerusalem.
And in that day will I make Jerusalem a burdensome stone for all people: all that burden themselves with it shall be cut in pieces, though all the people of the earth be gathered together against it.
This prophecy applies to the heavenly city, the church.
Christians have come to a heavenly mount Zion, and Jerusalem, and a better country. There are other features in this land that correspond to features of the earthly Canaan, and there are also numerous differences. The topographical changes described by the prophets are figurative, and have a spiritual significance.
The mountains of prophecy are symbolic, not literal ones. In Genesis 49:26, the blessings Jacob received are compared to high mountains and hills. Jacob said, “The blessings of thy father have prevailed above the blessings of my progenitors unto the utmost bound of the everlasting hills: they shall be on the head of Joseph, and on the crown of the head of him that was separate from his brethren.” These blessings were the promises given to Abraham and Isaac, as well as promises he received directly from God. For example, in his dream at Bethel God promised to give him the land of Canaan. Jacob realized that these blessings and promises were spiritual in nature. They were high, as there was a higher, spiritual meaning attached to the promised land. They were also durable, and eternal, and so he associated them with “the everlasting hills.” The mountains and hills of the promised land represent the great spiritual promises of the gospel.
The kingdom of God is one of these promises. It is represented by mount Zion, which Isaiah described as being established in the top of the mountains, and exalted above the hills.
The word that Isaiah the son of Amoz saw concerning Judah and Jerusalem.
And it shall come to pass in the last days, that the mountain of the Lord’s house shall be established in the top of the mountains, and shall be exalted above the hills; and all nations shall flow unto it.
Jerusalem was raised up as Isaiah foretold, in New Testament times, when Jesus ascended to heaven, and to the throne of his Father. Hebrews 12:22-24 speaks of the heavenly Jerusalem; all believers come to it. This is the church that Christ is building in the present age.
Isaiah said every valley will be exalted and every mountain made low. Later, this same message was preached by John the Baptist.
Every valley shall be exalted, and every mountain and hill shall be made low: and the crooked shall be made straight, and the rough places plain:
And the glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together: for the mouth of the Lord hath spoken it.
In Isaiah 40 and 41, mountains are metaphors, and symbols of God’s promises. The mountains, as the most prominent, and highest parts of the land, represent the high and lofty revelations of God, the truths hidden in prophecies, that need to be threshed, for us to discover their true meaning. [Isaiah 41:15-16] There are kernels and grains of truth in the prophecies that need to be separated from the chaff.
The promises that the mountains represent are hidden from those who believe that the literal land of Canaan was all that the land promise involved. In fact the land of Canaan was a shadow and a type of a better county. [Hebrews 11:16]
The mountains that Isaiah refers to are the promises of God, which are high, and lofty, because they are spiritual revelations, beyond the understanding of most men. The prophecy that every mountains will be made low may be explained as follows. The literal mountains of Israel were types and shadows of spiritual realities; however their true meaning is hidden; but when the meaning of the prophecies is explained so that people understand them, God’s glory is revealed. The hidden mysteries of prophecy reveal the glory of God.
All the land shall be turned as a plain from Geba to Rimmon south of Jerusalem: and it shall be lifted up, and inhabited in her place, from Benjamin’s gate unto the place of the first gate, unto the corner gate, and from the tower of Hananeel unto the king’s winepresses.
And men shall dwell in it, and there shall be no more utter destruction; but Jerusalem shall be safely inhabited.
Zechariah said Jerusalem will be “lifted up,” and all the surrounding land will become a plain. The land becoming a plain implies that the literal land is no longer the focus of God’s covenant, and of the promises of God. The literal Canaan loses its significance, as under the new covenant, the land promise has to be understood in an entirely spiritual or figurative way. “But now they desire a better country, that is, an heavenly: wherefore God is not ashamed to be called their God: for he hath prepared for them a city.” [Hebrews 11:16]
Zechariah’s prophecy of topographical changes in the area around Jerusalem identifies the mountains that Jesus alludes to in the Olivet Discourse, where he said: “But when ye shall see the abomination of desolation, spoken of by Daniel the prophet, standing where it ought not, (let him that readeth understand,) then let them that be in Judaea flee to the mountains:” [Mark 13:14]
Since all the area around Jerusalem was to become a plain, only Jerusalem itself, and mount Zion, remain prominent. They represent God’s heavenly kingdom. In the Judea of prophecy, and the better, heavenly country, there is only one mountain to flee to; it is Jerusalem, the city where Jesus reigns on the throne of david, as king over all Israel.
In Habakkuk’s prophecy, the everlasting mountains are scattered. These everlasting mountains are God’s promises. In the gospel, the promises of God become available to people of all nations who believe in Christ.
He stood, and measured the earth: he beheld, and drove asunder the nations; and the everlasting mountains were scattered, the perpetual hills did bow: his ways are everlasting.
In Zechariah 14:1-2, the armies and nations that come against Jerusalem are spiritual, not armies of flesh and blood. The Jerusalem in the prophecy is the heavenly one. They include every flawed interpretation of prophecy. Zechariah 14:3 says, “Then shall the LORD go forth, and fight against those nations, as when he fought in the day of battle.” The mount of Olives divides and the two halves go towards the north and towards the south.
And his feet shall stand in that day upon the mount of Olives, which is before Jerusalem on the east, and the mount of Olives shall cleave in the midst thereof toward the east and toward the west, and there shall be a very great valley; and half of the mountain shall remove toward the north, and half of it toward the south.
The mount of Olives is not a very high mountain, and it is fairly easy to walk across it; Jesus did so many times with his disciples. The mountain is no obstacle at all for pedestrians. A literal view of Zechariah’s prophecy makes no sense; why would survivors of a major earthquake flee towards the epicenter, which would likely be subject to aftershocks? What would they flee from? And why flee after the event? What could be the point of an earthquake prediction, that says to flee after it occurs?
Zechariah’s prophecy is fulfilled in our age by the theories of preterism and dispensationalism. The two halves of the mount of Olives displaced from their positions represent these two opposite interpretations of the Olivet Discourse, and other prophecies, which displace the prophecies of Jesus from their place. Preterism says all that Jesus said applies to Jews of the first century. Dispensationalism says it applies to Jews in a future seven year tribulation.
Both theories deny that Jesus confirms his covenant with his church throughout the whole church age. Both limit the 70th week in the 70 weeks prophecy to seven literal years. Preterism limits the 70th week to seven years in the first century, and dispensationalism says it is limited to a future seven year tribulation. Dispensationalism also mistakes Christ for Antichrist.
Zechariah said, “And ye shall flee to the valley of the mountains; for the valley of the mountains shall reach unto Azal: yea, ye shall flee, like as ye fled from before the earthquake in the days of Uzziah king of Judah: and the Lord my God shall come, and all the saints with thee.” [Zechariah 14:5] The way we need to go is represented by the figurative valley, between the two flawed interpretations of preterism and dispensationalism; that is, apply the Olivet Discourse to the church in the present age.
At the opening of the sixth seal, heavens depart as a scroll rolled up, and mountains and islands are moved out of place.
And I beheld when he had opened the sixth seal, and, lo, there was a great earthquake; and the sun became black as sackcloth of hair, and the moon became as blood;
And the stars of heaven fell unto the earth, even as a fig tree casteth her untimely figs, when she is shaken of a mighty wind.
And the heaven departed as a scroll when it is rolled together; and every mountain and island were moved out of their places.
The metaphor of a scroll being rolled together applies to the scientific revolution. When the two spindles of a scroll are rolled together, they cease rotating. No further rotation can occur while the spindles are together. This aptly portrays the scientific revolution in astronomy. After the discoveries of Sir Isaac Newton were published around the world in the eighteenth century, men everywhere abandoned the old idea of a rigid firmament revolving around the world each day, carrying the stars. The diurnal rotation was assigned to the earth. The heavens ceased their revolutions permanently; all the planetary spheres of the Ptolemaic system vanished forever.
Stars falling to earth like figs from a fig tree that is shaken by a strong wind, probably depicts the effects of the scientific revolution and the enlightenment upon the Christian church. Jesus used a fig tree to represent the church. [Luke 13:6-9; 21:29-32] The fig tree casting her unripe fruit pictures Christians who abandon their faith. The “mighty wind” represents a powerful doctrine. [Ephesians 4:14]
The great earthquake mentioned in verse 12 is best understood figuratively, as in prophecy, the land of promise represents the truth of the gospel. The earthquake pictures the shaking of the belief systems of men. Mens’ faith in the church and in the Bible was shaken, as a result of the enlightenment.
Mountains and islands being moved out of their places represents prophecies and promises in scripture being misinterpreted, and misunderstood. Interest in prophetic interpretation flourished after the French Revolution, and the Napoleonic wars. The variety of interpretations increased dramatically. Flawed interpretations of all varieties are represented by the mountains moving from their positions.
After the great earthquake of Revelation 16:18, the mountains were not found.
And every island fled away, and the mountains were not found.
Islands and mountains represent the promises and revelations of God. They are not found because they are misinterpreted. The flawed interpretations hide the promises of God, like clouds that obscure the mountains.
Misunderstanding the time prophecies is probably the greatest reason that prophecy is misunderstood. One of the purposes of the 70 weeks prophecy was to “to seal up the vision and prophecy.” [Daniel 9:24] This has been accomplished. The meaning of much of Bible prophecy is sealed, or hidd from us, unless the spiritual nature of the time, times and a half, the final half of the 70th week, is correctly understood. The time in this portion of the 70 weeks prophecy is not natural, but figurative, because while the previous portions apply to the earthly Jerusalem, the final half-week applies to the heavenly city, and the mountain of the Lord’s house that was raised up when Jesus ascended to his Father’s throne. [Isaiah 2:1-3] Natural, earthly time does not apply to the city of the living God.
Copyright © 2012 by Douglas E. Cox
All Rights Reserved.