Mountains in prophecy [pdf]
As he was being led away to be crucified, Jesus foretold a time of trouble and grief, to the people of Jerusalem who followed him. He seems to refer to a time of great bereavement, when those women who had never had children would be seen as blessed.
And as they led him away, they laid hold upon one Simon, a Cyrenian, coming out of the country, and on him they laid the cross, that he might bear it after Jesus.
And there followed him a great company of people, and of women, which also bewailed and lamented him.
But Jesus turning unto them said, Daughters of Jerusalem, weep not for me, but weep for yourselves, and for your children.
For, behold, the days are coming, in the which they shall say, Blessed are the barren, and the wombs that never bare, and the paps which never gave suck.
Jesus said that people would say to the mountains, ‘Fall on us,’ and to the hills, ‘Cover us,’ alluding to Hosea 10:6.
Then shall they begin to say to the mountains, Fall on us; and to the hills, Cover us.
For if they do these things in a green tree, what shall be done in the dry?
The mystery inherent in the prophecy is, why would people wish to be covered by hills, and also have mountains fall on them?
The context links the saying to times when women are bereaved of their children, husbands, and parents; a time of burial of the dead.
When people die and their bodies are buried in the earth, the hills cover them.
Why would people say to the mountains, “fall on us”? Do mountains, hills, and rocks have ears? Did Jews say “fall on us!” to the mountains and hills, during the siege of Jerusalem by the Romans, in 70 AD? Of course not!
Preterists interpret these sayings as referring to a future vengeance of God upon the Jews, when the city of Jerusalem and the temple were destroyed. But is that true? As he prepared to give his life for the salvation of men, was Jesus really thinking of vengeance? His death on the cross would be the remedy for bereavement.
Jesus mentioned mountains in another prophecy, where he said that people should “flee to the mountains.”
20 And when ye shall see Jerusalem compassed with armies, then know that the desolation thereof is nigh.
21 Then let them which are in Judaea flee to the mountains; and let them which are in the midst of it depart out; and let not them that are in the countries enter thereinto.
22 For these be the days of vengeance, that all things which are written may be fulfilled.
23 But woe unto them that are with child, and to them that give suck, in those days! for there shall be great distress in the land, and wrath upon this people.
24 And they shall fall by the edge of the sword, and shall be led away captive into all nations: and Jerusalem shall be trodden down of the Gentiles, until the times of the Gentiles be fulfilled.
Most people suppose he meant flee to the mountains for safety, and to save their lives, but that can’t be right, because Jesus also said, “Whosoever shall seek to save his life shall lose it; and whosoever shall lose his life shall preserve it.” [Luke 17:33]
The mountains of Luke 20:21 are clearly the same mountains that Jesus referred to in Luke 23:30, which people would cry to, and say “Fall on us!” These are not literal mountains. And the imagery of people calling to mountains and rocks fall upon them, and saying to the hills, “cover us,” contradicts the notion of fleeing to the mountains for their own safety, in order to escape an invading army, and preserve their lives.
I think preterists and others have misunderstood these sayings of Jesus. The mountains that Jesus referred to are metaphors, and represent the promises of God. They are associated with spiritual things, that are eternal, because mountains are long-lasting, and their superior height points to promises of a higher kind than earthly, temporal things. When Jacob blessed Joseph, he 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.” [Genesis 49:26]
The allusion here is to blessings of a spiritual nature. Jacob received such promises, and he said they would rest on the head of Joseph, who was gifted with wisdom, and the spirit of prophecy.
In the Olivet discourse, Jesus referred to “them that are with child” and “them that give suck,” which seems to refer to women, but there may be another, spiritual meaning; the context refers to having proper clothing.
15 When ye therefore shall see the abomination of desolation, spoken of by Daniel the prophet, stand in the holy place, (whoso readeth, let him understand:)
16 Then let them which be in Judaea flee into the mountains:
17 Let him which is on the housetop not come down to take any thing out of his house:
18 Neither let him which is in the field return back to take his clothes.
19 And woe unto them that are with child, and to them that give suck in those days!
20 But pray ye that your flight be not in the winter, neither on the sabbath day:
21 For then shall be great tribulation, such as was not since the beginning of the world to this time, no, nor ever shall be.
22 And except those days should be shortened, there should no flesh be saved: but for the elect’s sake those days shall be shortened.
Obviously, Jesus spoke of clothing metaphorically, in his Olivet Discourse. This is typical of prophecy. The parable of the wedding feast, and of the man who was not wearing an appropriate wedding garment, is key to these prophecies.
11 And when the king came in to see the guests, he saw there a man which had not on a wedding garment:
12 And he saith unto him, Friend, how camest thou in hither not having a wedding garment? And he was speechless.
13 Then said the king to the servants, Bind him hand and foot, and take him away, and cast him into outer darkness, there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth.
14 For many are called, but few are chosen.
The wedding is one between Christ and the church. The “clothes” represent God’s righteousness. Paul spoke of having our “loins girt about with truth.”
Stand therefore, having your loins girt about with truth, and having on the breastplate of righteousness;
Mountains, too, are symbols of the righteousness of God.
Thy righteousness is like the great mountains; thy judgments are a great deep: O LORD, thou preservest man and beast.
When Jesus said, “Then shall they begin to say to the mountains, Fall on us,” he was speaking of metaphorical mountains, God’s promises. This is shown in detail here. The idea is that people would seek salvation, the greatest of these promises; but being born a Jew, or having the label “Christian,” and “having a form of godliness” does not qualify us.
When Jesus said “flee to the mountains” he meant, seek God’s righteousness, and promises of spiritual things, including an understanding of prophecy. This means abandoning our “old clothes” and worn-out theories, such as preterism and dispensationalism. That is why he said, “Let him which is on the housetop not come down to take any thing out of his house: Neither let him which is in the field return back to take his clothes.”
This saying is related to Revelation 16:15; “Behold, I come as a thief. Blessed is he that watcheth, and keepeth his garments, lest he walk naked, and they see his shame.” He refers to metaphorical clothes. Peter said, “be clothed with humility: for God resisteth the proud, and giveth grace to the humble.” [1 Peter 5:5]
When Jesus said, Matthew 24:19, “And woe unto them that are with child, and to them that give suck in those days!” he may have been using prophetic language. The metaphor of “giving suck” in the verse above could apply to teachers, because in the New Testament, bearing children has a spiritual meaning, as Jesus explained to Nicodemus, in John 3, where he spoke of being “born again.”
Those who preach the gospel to others are described in scripture metaphorically as “mothers” who “give suck” to those people who follow their teachings.
Paul spoke of his “travail” over the Gentile converts in the churches.
1 Thessalonians 2:9
For ye remember, brethren, our labour and travail: for labouring night and day, because we would not be chargeable unto any of you, we preached unto you the gospel of God.
Paul described himself as their “mother,” who “travails in birth” over them.
My little children, of whom I travail in birth again until Christ be formed in you, I desire to be present with you now, and to change my voice; for I stand in doubt of you.
Those who “give suck” are preachers, and “milk” represents their teachings. Peter said, “As newborn babes, desire the sincere milk of the word, that ye may grow thereby:” [1 Peter 2:2]
Christians need to become mature, and get beyond the “milk.”
For every one that useth milk is unskilful in the word of righteousness: for he is a babe.
IMO, the sayings of Jesus about “them that give suck,” in Matthew 24:19, refer to preachers, who need to get their teachings right!
To sum up, people saying to the mountains, ‘Fall on us,’ and to the hills, ‘Cover us,’ applies at burial, after a person dies. The dead are placed in tombs, and covered with earth, so the hills cover them. The mountains represent the promises of God, such as the hope of an afterlife. These are the mountains to which men say, “Fall on us!”
Jesus said this shortly before he died to deliver us from sin and death, so he was not thinking of vengeance. His death is the remedy for bereavement.
Copyright © 2011 by Douglas E. Cox
All Rights Reserved.