Jesus and the Mount of Olives [33 page pdf file]
Jesus said that Jerusalem, the holy city, will be surrounded by armies, and that when it occurs, its desolation is near. "And when ye shall see Jerusalem compassed with armies, then know that the desolation thereof is nigh." [Luke 21:20] What sort of armies did Jesus refer to?
If the "Jerusalem" he meant is not the earthly one, but the church, which Paul called "the Jerusalem which is above" [Galatians 4:26], and which Jesus referred to as "the city of the great King" [Matthew 5:35], its members are scattered in thousands of sects and denominations, and distributed around the world. How could it be surrounded by armies?
In Revelation 11:1-2, John described the church as the temple of God, and he mentioned a court outside the temple, that was given to the Gentiles. The ones occupying the court outside the temple are not truly "in Christ"; they lack the "circumcision of the heart" that Paul referred to [Romans 2:29]. John was told not to measure the court outside the temple.
Could the folks who are only nominal Christians be called armies? They surround the saints of God, and dominate or "trample" them. The prophecy of Zechariah 14:2 says that in the day of the Lord, all nations gather against Jerusalem, and that the city is taken, the houses rifled, and the women ravished. Half the city is taken into captivity. Is this prophecy about the Church?
The description in Zechariah 14:4-5 of the Mount of Olives dividing, and half moving towards the north, and half towards the south pictures the two interpretations of the Olivet prophecy of Jesus that are prevalent amongst Christians, Preterism and Dispensationalism. These theories misinterpret the prophecy of Jesus. Their supporters deny that Bible prophecy applies to the church today!
In the book of Joel, a great army is described. The account is based upon an invasion by an army of locusts! The locust plague makes the land desolate, and it pictures conditions in the day of the Lord, that affect God's people.
What do the locusts represent? These invaders are strong, without number, and they have teeth like lions! Joel wrote: "For a nation is come up upon my land, strong, and without number, whose teeth are the teeth of a lion, and he hath the cheek teeth of a great lion. He hath laid my vine waste, and barked my fig tree: he hath made it clean bare, and cast it away; the branches thereof are made white." [Joel 1:6-7]
The "vine" and the "fig tree" that are destroyed picture God's people, and the lack of spiritual "fruit". Jesus referred to himself, and his disciples, as a vine, when he said "I am the vine, ye are the branches: He that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit: for without me ye can do nothing." [John 15:5]
The invaders have teeth like lions, which picture the fierce, dominating attitude of those who are spiritually Gentiles, towards those who have faith!
The army that Joel describes devastates the land. The land of Israel, which is the territory that was promised to Abraham, represents the promises of the scriptures that belong to God's people.
Joel wrote, "Be ye ashamed, O ye husbandmen; howl, O ye vine dressers, for the wheat and for the barley; because the harvest of the field is perished." [Joel 1:11]
What harvest does this refer to? When Jesus sent his disciples out to preach the gospel, he referred to them as laborers in a harvest. Luke wrote: "After these things the LORD appointed other seventy also, and sent them two and two before his face into every city and place, whither he himself would come. Therefore said he unto them, The harvest truly is great, but the laborers are few: pray ye therefore the Lord of the harvest, that he would send forth laborers into his harvest." [Luke10:1-2]
What a shame it is when the church's spiritual harvest fails. Joel said, "joy is withered away from the sons of men." Is that true today? Joel said the wheat and the barley harvest perishes (few are being turned to Christ); fruit trees wither (fruits of the spirit?); meat is cut off (true understanding of scripture?); there is no joy and gladness.
The seed rots under the clods; there is no pasture; the animals groan. What is the seed? In the parable of the sower Jesus said, "the seed is the word of God" [Luke 8:11]. The gospel that is being preached in the world rots in the ground, and does not produce its intended harvest.
Fire has devoured the pastures, and burned the trees. Why is it that those who believe in Christ don't find spiritual nourishment in the scriptures? Joel's prophecy shows why the day of the Lord is such a dark period. It is a day of darkness, confusion about the gospel, a day of gloominess and trouble, a time of controversy. The army he describes is great, and mighty, and it is a strong people, and they are unique in history.
A fire devours before them, and a flame burns behind them. What is the fire? The threat of infernal punishments after death, derived from paganism, has been used to extend the power of the church, and people have been burned at the stake for heresy!
The land before them is like a Garden of Eden, but behind them it is a desolate wilderness. The "land" which they have invaded represents the promised land, the covenants of God, and the scriptures, which their interpretations have turned into a wilderness.
Their appearance is like horses, and they run like horsemen. The creeds, and interpretations that guide them are like like horsemen riding upon horses.
Joel wrote, "like the noise of chariots on the tops of mountains shall they leap" [Joel 2:5]. The mountains are part of the land of Israel, the promised land, and so represent the promises of God in scripture. The members of this army claim for themselves the promises of God which belong to God's saints.
They generate a lot of noise, like the noise of chariots. They are a people in battle array, they climb walls, they don't break their ranks, and "when they fall on the sword they are not wounded". The sword is God's word, but in their duels, quoting scripture has little or no effect, because they consider themselves immune!
They enter into houses, and climb in at windows like a thief, but notice that Jesus said, "Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that entereth not by the door into the sheepfold, but climbeth up some other way, the same is a thief and a robber." [John 10:1] Christ is the door; many fail to come to Christ, relying instead on church membership, baptism as an infant, or other religious rites. Instead of climbing in through a window, they need to enter the sheepfold through Jesus Christ, who is the door. Jesus said, "I am the door: by me if any man enter in, he shall be saved, and shall go in and out, and find pasture." [John 10:9]
Joel wrote, "The earth shall quake before them; the heavens shall tremble: the sun and the moon shall be dark, and the stars shall withdraw their shining" [Joel 2:10].
The sun becoming dark pictures the truth of the gospel being darkened by false teaching. The sun represents the gospel, as it is called a great light in the creation account in Genesis 1, and the gospel of Jesus Christ is also called a great light. Isaiah wrote: "The people that walked in darkness have seen a great light: they that dwell in the land of the shadow of death, upon them hath the light shined." [Isaiah 9:2]
In Matthew 4:12-17, Isaiah's prophecy is applied to the gospel that Jesus brought. Who does not have to face death? This "great light" shines upon every person! It is the message that Jesus promises eternal life to those who acknowledge him as their Lord. Jesus was identified by John as the true light, who enlightens every man. "That was the true Light, which lighteth every man that cometh into the world." [John 1:9]
The stars withdrawing their shining means the saints of God are silenced. But Daniel said, "And they that be wise shall shine as the brightness of the sun; and they that turn many to righteousness as the stars for ever and ever." [Daniel 12:3]
Joel wrote, "And the LORD shall utter his voice before his army: for his camp is very great: for he is strong that executeth his word: for the day of the LORD is great and very terrible; and who can abide it?" [Joel 2:11]
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