Changes in the promised land

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The Creation Concept

Is the river of Ezekiel 47 literal?

How Jerusalem is raised up

Mountains that skip like rams

The valley of the mountains

What is Isaiah's high mountain?

How the desert becomes fruitful

Changes in the land

W. Harris and the stream of blessing

Hengstenberg's comments on Ezekiel's river

John Gill's commentary on Ezekiel 47:1-12

William Kelly: mired in literalism

Charles Henry Wright on the topographic changes of Zechariah 14:8-11

Patrick Fairbairn on the temple waters

Patrick Fairbairn on principles of interpretation

Interpretations of the promised land

Andrew Jukes and the land promise

F. B. Meyer's interpretation of the land of promise

John Owen on the rest of Hebrews 4:1

John Owen and the rest in Hebrews 4:3

Ezekiel and Leviticus 26

Currey's points of contact between Ezekiel and Revelation

Gardiner's Preliminary note on Ezekiel 40-48

Measuring the temple

The inheritance of the priests and Levites in Ezekiel 48

Does Ezekiel describe a literal temple?

Mountains in Prophecy

How Jerusalem is raised up

Very remarkable geographic changes in the promised land were described by the prophets. Dispensationalists typically take those prophecies literally, as they must to, or else their idea that the land promises must be fulfilled to ethnic Jews would be undermined.

One of the more remarkable prophecies says that Jerusalem or Zion will be elevated higher than other lands and mountains. Isaiah said,

Isaiah 2:1-2
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.

Taken literally, Isaiah's prophecy suggests that Jerusalem and Zion will be raised up to become high mountains, but that makes little sense, and it is contradicted by the description that Ezekiel gives of a river flowing from the temple, with such a gentle gradient towards the east, that its depth after 1,000 cubits was up to his ankles, and after another 1,000 cubits it was up to his knees, and after another 1,000 cubits, it was up to his loins, showing that in half a mile, there was a change in elevation of less than three feet. [Ezekiel 47:3-4] The data that Ezekiel provides contradicts the idea that the city of Jerusalem is to be literally raised up to become a high mountain, as such an elevation would increase the gradient of the river, if that is also taken to be a literal one.

Zechariah too described the city of Jerusalem becoming raised up, and the land around about it, to the south, becoming a plain. [Zech. 14:10] This is to be understood literally, according to dispensationalists John F. Walvoord and Roy B. Zuck, of Dallas Theological Seminary. They invoke miraculous earth movements to produce the changes. They wrote, in "The Bible Knowledge Commentary," p. 1571:

The whole land of Judah--from Gebah on its northern border (Josh. 21:17) to Timmon, probably on its southern border, 35 miles southwest of Jerusalem (Josh. 15:32)--will be miraculously leveled to a broad valley like the Arabah, the low plain stretching from below Mount Hermon down the Jordan River Valley and the Dead Sea on to the Gulf of Aqabah. This will help make Jerusalem more prominent (cf. Isa. 2:2), as the capital city of the great King.

Similarly, in "Every Prophecy of the Bible," John F. Walvoord wrote on p. 333:

Attending the second coming of Christ will be cataclysmic events, including the division of the Mount of Olives into northern and southern halves with the great valley between, ... Those who seek to escape Jerusalem will flee by this newly made valley which, apparently, will extend from Jerusalem down to the city of Jericho. This makes clear that the Second Coming is a future event as the Mount of Olives is still intact....

Other topographical changes will take place which apparently will elevate Jerusalem so that the waters flowing from Jerusalem will go half to the eastern sea, or the Sea of Galilee, and half to the western sea, or the Mediterranean (v. 8)....

The millennial kingdom will be distinguished by the fact that the Lord, Jesus Christ as the Messiah of Israel and King of kings, will rule over the entire earth (v. 9). Included in the topographical changes will be the elevation of Jerusalem as described in verse 10. From that day forward Jerusalem will be secure and never be destroyed again.

While Isaiah said Jerusalem was to be "exalted above the hills;" in the New Testament, the apostles said Jerusalem is in heaven! So it is "raised up" far above the mountains of earth. The author of Hebrews said Abraham sought a "heavenly country," so the land of promise is "exalted," too. Paul said, "But Jerusalem which is above is free, which is the mother of us all." [Galatians 4:26]

Jerusalem is "exalted," and located in heaven, in the New Testament, because Jesus ascended to heaven, and his throne is in heaven. He is king of Jerusalem, which he referred to as "the city of the great King." He inherited the throne of David. And David reigned over Israel in Jerusalem. So already in New Testament times, Jerusalem was exulted far above the mountains and hills of the earth. Literal tectonic events were not required! Jesus reigns over the heavenly Jerusalem, and Israel, the saints who submit themselves to him. His throne is eternal. The author of Hebrews said,

Hebrews 12:22-23
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...

The saints are come to the "heavenly Jerusalem." This is what Isaiah foretold. It means the church of all ages, those who are in Christ.

This reference to the "heavenly Jerusalem" in the New Testament fulfills Isaiah's prophecy, that Jerusalem and Zion will be "exalted" above the hills.

It is absurd to insist upon a literal meaning to changes in the topography of Palestine that the prophets described. And there is no need for us to do so, as the New Testament explains. Walvoord and Zuck, and other dispensationalist authors, have promoted a seriously flawed interpretation.

The Mount of Olives dividing into two halves, and half moving to the north, and half to the south, may represent the two rival interpretations of the the Olivet Discourse of Jesus. The two popular views today are represented by preterism and dispensationalism. Both these theories displace the prophecy from any possible application to the present, making it meaningless for people today. Preterism insists upon a first century fulfilment. This is represented by half of the Mount of Olives being displaced towards the north, while dispensationalism, which insists on a literal, future fulfilment, in a future seven year tribulation, is represented by the half of the mountain that is displaced towards the south. Zechariah says we should abandon those flawed interpretations, and flee to the wide valley between those two halves of the mountain. This indicates that we should apply the prophecy and warnings of Jesus to the present, and to Christians today, rather than Jews in the past, or Jews in the future.

Copyright © 2010, 2012 by Douglas E. Cox
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