Mountains in prophecy [pdf]
The scriptures say that God is around his people like the mountains around Jerusalem, and like broad rivers and streams.
As the mountains are round about Jerusalem, so the Lord is round about his people from henceforth even for ever
But there the glorious Lord will be unto us a place of broad rivers and streams; wherein shall go no galley with oars, neither shall gallant ship pass thereby.
In many other scriptures, like the above example, mountains and rivers of a spiritual nature are related.
A mountain and a river are both associated with the temple. The temple is sometimes called mount Zion; Psalm 125:1 says that mount Zion cannot be removed, but abideth for ever. Ezekiel 47:1 describes the river that flows from the threshold of the temple.
Similarly a mountain and rivers are associated with Jerusalem. In Isaiah 2:2, Jerusalem is exulted to the top of the mountains; in Zechariah 14:8, rivers of living water flow from Jerusalem.
Another parallel is the mountains of Israel becoming desolate, and the waters and fountains polluted. In Ezekiel 36:4 the mountains of Israel are made desolate, and a prey and a derision to the heathen. In Ezekiel 34:18, the waters where the sheep come to drink are fouled by feet of other animals. In Revelation 8:11, fountains of waters are turned to wormwood and made bitter.
In the mountains, men hide in caves and dens in the rocks, which may be compared to the miry places in the river described by Ezekiel, that are not healed.
Jesus said, “Then shall they begin to say to the mountains, Fall on us; and to the hills, Cover us.”
men hide in the dens and caves of the mountains
the miry places in the course of the river are not healed
The saints are encouraged to go up to the high mountain, in Isaiah 40:9; and 52:7. Jesus said, flee to the mountains; Mark 13:14. In John 7:38, he promised that rivers of living water will flow from the belly of whoever believes in him.
Both mountains and rivers are a way for God’s people. Isaiah 49:11 says the mountains will become a way for the saints; the sermon on the mount also defines a way. Jesus said “narrow is the way which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it” [Matthew 7:14]. David said, “he leadeth me beside the still waters.” [Psalm 23:2] In Jeremiah 31:9, Israel is led by the rivers in a straight way; in Revelation 22:1-3, a river of the water of life flows in the street of the holy city.
On the mountains of Israel, God’s sheep will find pasture, by the rivers. [Ezekiel 34:13]
Mountains and rivers are both mentioned as places for prayer. [Matthew 14:23; Acts 16:13]
In the gospels, a mountain was the place of Jesus’ transfiguration, [Matthew 17:2] and the Jordan river was the place where the Spirit descended upon him like a dove.
Joy is connected with both mountains and with a river. Mount Zion is “the joy of the whole earth,” [Psalm 48:2] where God will make a feast for all people; [Isaiah 25:6] in Isaiah 44:23 the mountains break forth into singing; Psalm 46:4 says “there is a river that makes glad the city of God.”
Peace is connected with both mountains and rivers. Psalm 72:3 says “The mountains shall bring peace to the people.” Isaiah 66:12 says “I will extend peace to her like a river.”
Mountains and rivers are each associated with the other; Joel 3:18 says mountains will drop wine, hills will flow with milk; in Isaiah 30:25 and 41:18, God will make rivers in high places.
Where there are mountains and rivers, there must be a land. If the prophetic mountains and rivers are spiritual, rather than natural, they are associated with a spiritual land, or country.
At Bethel, Jacob dreamed of a ladder reaching to heaven, and angels ascending and descending on it. God promised to give him the land where he was lying. When he woke up, he said of the place, “this is none other but the house of God, and this is the gate of heaven.” [Genesis 28:17]
The place he called Bethel, meaning house of God, was associated with the promise. In his old age, when he blessed Joseph in Egypt, 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.
The saying implies that his blessings were lofty, and high, like mountains, and that there is a higher, spiritual level of meaning to the promises. The reference to “the everlasting hills” suggests they were eternal. Natural hills and mountains are very durable, but they eventually pass away; spiritual ones don’t. Jesus said, “Heaven and earth shall pass away, but my words shall not pass away.” [Matthew 24:35]
In many scriptures, God is referred to a rock. Deuteronomy 32:4 says, “He is the Rock, his work is perfect: for all his ways are judgment: a God of truth and without iniquity, just and right is he.” Also see vs. 15, 18; 2 Samuel 22:3, 32; Psalm 62:7; 78:35.
In the New Testament, Jesus compared those who do his teachings to the wise man who builds his house upon a rock. [Matthew 7:24] The rock is contrasted with sand. The house built on rock withstands the winds, and the floods, that threaten to destroy it.
In Psalm 90:1, Moses referred to God as a dwelling place; he wrote: “Lord, thou hast been our dwelling place in all generations.” J. A. Alexander commented: “God is a home, a fixed or settled dwelling, even while they wandered in the desert.”
The idea that God is a place where the saints dwell is present in Psalm 91:1, “He that dwelleth in the secret place of the most High shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty.” And in verses 9-10: “Because thou hast made the Lord, which is my refuge, even the most High, thy habitation; There shall no evil befall thee, neither shall any plague come nigh thy dwelling.”
The concept that God is a place where one may dwell underlies the promise God made to Abraham. God promised Abraham that his seed would be as numerous as the stars, and that he would possess the land where he was a stranger, and that in his seed all nations would be blessed. The promise of a land where his seed would dwell is part of the gospel. But possessing the literal land of Canaan was a type and shadow, and a token of something greater, not the full significance of the promise. God said: “Fear not, Abram: I am thy shield, and thy exceeding great reward.” [Genesis 15:1]
The history of Israel’s possession of the land, dwelling there for a few centuries, and their ultimate loss of the land, is the theme of the Old Testament. The whole account is a metaphor. The prophets foretold a future restoration, which is fulfilled by those who come to Christ; in the New Testament, a “better country” is revealed for the saints.
Psalm 125:1 says, “They that trust in the Lord shall be as mount Zion, which cannot be removed, but abideth for ever.” Hebrews 12:22-4 says, “But ye are come unto mount Sion, and unto the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to an innumerable company of angels, To the general assembly and church of the firstborn, which are written in heaven, and to God the Judge of all, and to the spirits of just men made perfect, And to Jesus the mediator of the new covenant, and to the blood of sprinkling, that speaketh better things than that of Abel.” Mount Zion abides for ever; it represents an eternal inheritance.
In the dream of Nebuchadnezzar, which Daniel interpreted, a stone cut without hands smote the metallic image representing human kingdoms, and destroyed it. He wrote: “the stone that smote the image became a great mountain, and filled the whole earth.” [Daniel 2:35] Daniel wrote:
And whereas thou sawest iron mixed with miry clay, they shall mingle themselves with the seed of men: but they shall not cleave one to another, even as iron is not mixed with clay.
And in the days of these kings shall the God of heaven set up a kingdom, which shall never be destroyed: and the kingdom shall not be left to other people, but it shall break in pieces and consume all these kingdoms, and it shall stand for ever.
Forasmuch as thou sawest that the stone was cut out of the mountain without hands, and that it brake in pieces the iron, the brass, the clay, the silver, and the gold; the great God hath made known to the king what shall come to pass hereafter: and the dream is certain, and the interpretation thereof sure.
The stone cut without hands represents Jesus, and his kingdom, which consumes all other kingdoms, and remains for ever. Isaiah wrote, “Of the increase of his government and peace there shall be no end, upon the throne of David, and upon his kingdom, to order it, and to establish it with judgment and with justice from henceforth even for ever. The zeal of the LORD of hosts will perform this.” [Isaiah 9:7]
The promised land was a type of the spiritual territory of Christ’s kingdom. Those who are in Christ are “translated” into it. Paul wrote, “Giving thanks unto the Father, which hath made us meet to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in light: Who hath delivered us from the power of darkness, and hath translated us into the kingdom of his dear Son: In whom we have redemption through his blood, even the forgiveness of sins.” [Colossians 1:12-14]
Deliverance from the power of darkness implies dwelling in the light of the gospel and understanding God’s word. Dwelling in the promised land corresponds to faith in Christ. The scriptures identify God with the land, and the city of Jerusalem, and the temple. Christ is the temple, and he reigns in the heavenly Jerusalem. He is also represented by the land. Because the seed of Abraham will number as the stars, there is a spiritual country connected with the gospel.
Copyright © 2012 by Douglas E. Cox
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