Malachi's prophecy in the last chapter of the Old Testament says
Elijah the prophet will return, before the arrival of the day of the
Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the LORD:
And he shall turn the heart of the fathers to the children, and the heart of the children to their fathers, lest I come and smite the earth with a curse.
Referring to this prophecy, Jesus said Elijah had come already, as John the Baptist was a fulfilment of the prophecy. Thus he showed that the prophecy is not speaking of Elijah's literal return from the grave. But John's ministry did not completely fulfil Malachi's prophecy. And Jesus said that Elijah would "restore all things," which does not fit John's ministry. Luke gives an account of John's ministry:
Now in the fifteenth year of the reign of Tiberius Caesar, Pontius Pilate being governor of Judaea, and Herod being tetrarch of Galilee, and his brother Philip tetrarch of Ituraea and of the region of Trachonitis, and Lysanias the tetrarch of Abilene,
Annas and Caiaphas being the high priests, the word of God came unto John the son of Zacharias in the wilderness.
And he came into all the country about Jordan, preaching the baptism of repentance for the remission of sins;
As it is written in the book of the words of Esaias the prophet, saying, The voice of one crying in the wilderness, Prepare ye the way of the Lord, make his paths straight.
Every valley shall be filled, and every mountain and hill shall be brought low; and the crooked shall be made straight, and the rough ways shall be made smooth;
And all flesh shall see the salvation of God.
No one believes that mountains were literally made low, or that valleys were literally filled up! The Jordan Valley, where John was preaching and baptizing people, is part of the Great Rift Valley. It extends through the Red Sea, and East Africa. The surface of the Dead Sea is about 1,300 feet below sea level. Did the prophets Isaiah and John the Baptist mean this great valley would be literally filled up? Nothing of the kind has occurred.
Obviously, the mountains mentioned in Isaiah's prophecy are symbolic. The mountains and hills of Israel were prominent parts of the land that God promised to give to Abraham and his descendants. In his lifetime, Abraham did not receive the land promised to him. All he received was God's word, the promise. But he saw the land, and its hills, and mountains. The mountains and hills of Israel represent the promises of God, which are the words of God contained in scripture, which includes the gospel. Many of the scriptures, especially prophecy, are in the form of a mystery, or a riddle, so mountains may also represent promises of God that are cryptic. This is commonly true of prophecy. The gospel is a prophecy; God's kingdom is represented by a mountain that fills the earth. [Daniel 2:35]
Mountains consist of rocks that resist erosion for long time spans.
They are usually composed of sediments with layers that seem to end in
air, as if they are missing what once extended over a wider area. Thus
mountains represent partial
revelations; prophecies of scripture also are often missing the
context needed for them to be understood. Consider the story of the
disciples on the road to Emmaus in Luke 24; as the stranger spoke with
them, these disciples began to realize for the first time that many OT
prophecies foretold the coming of Christ, his suffering and death, and
Valleys are regions where the strata has been removed. In Isaiah's prophecy, a valley being filled represents the missing information being supplied. That is, filling valleys represents an interpretation. Similarly, rough places may represent obscure sayings, and it follows that a plain is the opposite: an easily understood explanation. The crooked being made straight suggests that errors and corruptions in scripture will be identified and corrected.
In the ministries of John the Baptist, and Jesus, and the apostles of the early Church, how were mountains made low, and valleys exalted? Many of the prophecies about the suffering of Jesus, and his heavenly kingdom are interpreted, and explained in the New Testament. And the New Testament contains keys that unlock the mysteries of God's word, hidden in the symbolic language of the Old Testament. The fulfilment of prophecy exalts the valleys, which are interpretations and solutions to puzzles and enigmas of prophecy.
Jesus said he would give the keys of the kingdom of heaven to Peter, and Peter's first epistle discusses the importance of prophecy. Peter said all the prophets ministered to the Church. They foretold the sufferings of Christ, and the glory that was to follow.
Of which salvation the prophets have enquired and searched diligently, who prophesied of the grace that should come unto you:
Searching what, or what manner of time the Spirit of Christ which was in them did signify, when it testified beforehand the sufferings of Christ, and the glory that should follow.
Unto whom it was revealed, that not unto themselves, but unto us they did minister the things, which are now reported unto you by them that have preached the gospel unto you with the Holy Ghost sent down from heaven; which things the angels desire to look into.
Here Peter shows that the Spirit of Christ inspired the prophets whose words are contained in the Old Testament. Many Dispensationalists dispute this! But it is also confirmed by John in Revelation:
And I fell at his feet to worship him. And he said unto me, See thou do it not: I am thy fellowservant, and of thy brethren that have the testimony of Jesus: worship God: for the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy.
Jesus identified John's ministry with the coming of Elijah, because John had the spirit of prophecy. John the Baptist preached about the coming Messiah, and Jesus indicated that John's ministry was a fulfilment of the Old Testament prophecy about Elijah returning, although he also said Elijah would "restore all things."
And Jesus answered and said unto them, Elias truly shall first come, and restore all things.
But I say unto you, That Elias is come already, and they knew him not, but have done unto him whatsoever they listed. Likewise shall also the Son of man suffer of them.
Then the disciples understood that he spake unto them of John the Baptist.
John's message about the mountains being made low, taken from Isaiah's prophecy, describes the role of the Spirit of God. It is the holy Spirit that restores all things, during the course of history. The discoveries of Isaac Newton were an example of this. Isaiah said that eventually, everyone will see God's salvation. Jesus identified the Holy Spirit as the Elijah who was to come, but he refers to the spirit of Elijah, which the apostle Peter clearly showed is the Spirit of Christ.
Jesus associated a period of three and a half years with the ministry of Elijah.
And he said, Verily I say unto you, No prophet is accepted in his own country.
But I tell you of a truth, many widows were in Israel in the days of Elias, when the heaven was shut up three years and six months, when great famine was throughout all the land;
But unto none of them was Elias sent, save unto Sarepta, a city of Sidon, unto a woman that was a widow.
The period that heaven is shut corresponds to the duration of the ministry of the two witnesses in Revelation 11. They shut heaven, as Elijah did. Their ministry is for 1,260 days, which is three and a half years, where the years have 12 months, each month having 30 days.
And I will give power unto my two witnesses, and they shall prophesy a thousand two hundred and threescore days, clothed in sackcloth.
James also wrote that there was no rain for three and a half years during the ministry of Elijah.
Elias was a man subject to like passions as we are, and he prayed earnestly that it might not rain: and it rained not on the earth by the space of three years and six months.
The significance of the heaven being shut is that the word of God has ceased, during most of the Church's history. It has not been given as it was given to the prophets of old. No scripture has been added, since the New Testament was completed. Isaiah refers to rain as a symbol for God's word.
For as the rain cometh down, and the snow from heaven, and returneth not thither, but watereth the earth, and maketh it bring forth and bud, that it may give seed to the sower, and bread to the eater:
So shall my word be that goeth forth out of my mouth: it shall not return unto me void, but it shall accomplish that which I please, and it shall prosper in the thing whereto I sent it.
The three years and a half is the last half week of the final week of Daniel's 70 weeks, when Christ confirms his covenant with believers. It is not a literal three and a half years, but is symbolic of the entire age of the Church. One of the two witnesses of Revelation 11 is the holy Spirit, which is represented by the return of the prophet Elijah. The other one is the holy Scriptures.
In Zechariah 14:4, the Mount of Olives cleaves in the midst, and half moves to the north, half to south, forming a wide valley. I suggest the two halves of the mountain that are moved out of their positions represent Preterism and Dispensationalism, two flawed interpretations of the Olivet prophecy of Jesus.
Preterism and Dispensationalism claim that the prophecies of the Bible do not apply to the Church today! Preterism says they were fulfilled in the first century AD, when the city of Jerusalem was destroyed by the Romans. Dispensationalism claims they apply in the future, after the Church has been "raptured" up to heaven. The "valley" between the two halves of the mount of Olives represents the interpretation that should be applied to the Olivet Discourse. Zechariah's prophecy shows God's people need to escape from Preterism and Dispensationalism, by means of the valley between those two "mountains." Prophecies such as the Olivet prophecy of Jesus, and Zechariah's prophecy, along with many other Bible prophecies, apply to the Church in the present age, the period of time from the apostolic age to now.
Copyright © 2010, 2011, 2013 by Douglas E. Cox
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