Jesus said, flee to the mountains
In the Olivet Discourse the questions the disciples asked Jesus, when would these things happen? they were referring to the fate of the temple, and wanted to know, what will be the sign of his coming, and of the end of the world?
The disciples would have been well aware of Old Testament prophecies about the “day of the Lord;” for example, it is mentioned in Joel 2:1, and Zechariah 14:1. Zechariah’s prophecy foretold the cleaving of the mount of Olives, half of it moving to the north, and half of it moving to the south.
It cannot be an accident that Jesus’ prophecies about the destruction of the temple at Jerusalem, and the end of the world, were associated with the mount of Olives. Jesus stood on the mount of Olives many times during his ministry, and even lived there, which fulfilled the part of Zechariah’s prophecy that said “And his feet shall stand in that day upon the mount of Olives, which is before Jerusalem on the east.” [Zechariah 14:4]
When the Romans besieged Jerusalem, the mount of Olives did not cleave in its midst, in any sense whatsoever. If any Jews at the time thought that the Roman armies besieging Jerusalem might be the ones Zechariah had foretold, and that God would soon fight on their behalf, and cleave the mount of Olives, and send awful plagues on the Romans and even upon their horses, mules, asses, and camels, they were mistaken. Many were killed, or became slaves.
No doubt, Jesus included the Jewish war when he said, “And ye shall hear of wars and rumours of wars: see that ye be not troubled: for all these things must come to pass, but the end is not yet.” [Matthew 24:6]
When Jesus said, “And when ye shall see Jerusalem compassed with armies, then know that the desolation thereof is nigh,” [Luke 21:20] it is unlikely he meant the earthly Jerusalem. Consider, where were those apostles when Jerusalem was under siege by the Roman armies? Many of them were probably already dead. And how could any but Jews living in the immediate area have seen Jerusalem compassed by the Roman armies?
At that time, the church was established in many nations; most Christians had probably never been to the earthly Jerusalem, and would not get to see any armies camped around it. This applies to most Christians who have ever lived. But every Christian, in every age, has come to the heavenly Jerusalem. [Hebrews 12:22] And that one has been compassed by armies, not of flesh and blood, but the armies of “the rulers of the darkness of this world,” who promote “spiritual wickedness in high places.”
The armies that compass the holy city of the saints are those described in prophecies such as Isaiah 34:2; Ezekiel 38:4; Joel 2:11; Zechariah 14:2; Revelation 9:16; 20:8-9. These are the armies Jesus referred to!
I suggest the Mount of Olives represents the Olivet Discourse of Jesus. His prophecy has been figuratively “cleaved in the midst,” and displaced to the north, and to the south, by the two opposite interpretations, preterism and dispensationalism!
Zechariah said to flee to the valley between those two mountains; that is, apply the things Jesus taught in his Olivet Discourse to the whole age of the church, not to Jews of the first century, or to the Jews in a hypothetical future seven year tribulation. The church is the “Jerusalem” of Zechariah’s prophecies, which God promised to defend!
If there is anything that the history of the siege of Jerusalem in 70 AD should teach us, it is that the Jerusalem of prophecy is not the earthly Jerusalem. But, both preterism and dispensationalism apply most prophecies about Jerusalem to the earthly city. After Jesus ascended to heaven, the Jerusalem to which those prophecies apply is the heavenly city, the Church. This explains why Jews living in the first century, who hoped for the fulfillment of Zechariah’s prophecies, were disappointed.
Jesus referred to the blowing of a trumpet; “And he will send his angels with a loud trumpet call,” [Matthew 24:31] which connects the Olivet Discourse to the book of Revelation, and the seven trumpets described there. These allude to the trumpets at Jericho, which stood at the gateway to the promised land. The trumpets in Revelation precede the resurrection, when the saints of all ages are to be raised up, and inherit the promise of life, and be rewarded for their works.
Jesus included many people, “all the tribes of the earth,” among those affected by the events that he described in the Olivet Discourse. But the events of 70 AD were local to the area of Judea. He said, “all the peoples of the earth will mourn when they see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven, with power and great glory.” [Matthew 24:30]
The scope of the events Jesus described is universal. Isaiah said, “the indignation of the LORD is upon all nations.” [Isaiah 34:2] The armies described by Ezekiel and by Joel also involve many people. [Ezekiel 38:6; Joel 2:2; 3:12]
Zechariah said, “And in that day will I make Jerusalem a burdensome stone for all people.” [Zechariah 12:3] All nations would gather against it. [Zechariah 14:2] This did not apply to the events of 70 AD, where the armies were Roman armies. And the Jerusalem to which these prophecies apply is the heavenly one. Jerusalem has been raised up, as Isaiah had said it would be. [Isaiah 2:1-3]
Jesus said, “Jerusalem shall be trodden down of the Gentiles, until the times of the Gentiles be fulfilled.” [Luke 21:24] This is the captivity foretold by the prophets. Joel spoke of it; [Joel 3:1, 3, 6] Zechariah said, “half of the city shall go forth into captivity.” [Zechariah 14:2] But this prophecy was not fulfilled in 70 AD; instead, the entire city was captured. It applies to the heavenly city, not the earthly one; people have been taken captive in sects, and cults, and denominations, and they are captive to various flawed interpretations and traditions.
Jesus warned his disciples to watch; he warned about thieves, and becoming victims of theft. Peter said, “But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night.” [2 Peter 3:10] Jesus spoke of our spiritual house being broken up, and the loss of potential eternal rewards. This is the house he spoke of in the sermon on the mount, when he compared the person who did what he taught to a man who built his house on a rock. [Matthew 7:24] Jesus said: “But know this, that if the goodman of the house had known in what watch the thief would come, he would have watched, and would not have suffered his house to be broken up.” [Matthew 24:43]
When we compare what he said here to other prophecies, the members of the army described in Joel “climb up upon the houses,” and “enter in at the windows like a thief.” The hordes of Gog and Magog seek “To take a spoil, and to take a prey; to turn thine hand upon the desolate places that are now inhabited, and upon the people that are gathered out of the nations, which have gotten cattle and goods, that dwell in the midst of the land.” [Ezekiel 38:12] Zechariah said, “thy spoil shall be divided in the midst of thee.” [Zechariah 14:1]
According to these prophecies, the saints have been “spoiled” in some fashion, by the invading armies. Evidently, there are spiritual blessings available that they are missing. Some of the gifts of the spirit are absent; the holy city is trampled by Gentiles. [Luke 21:24] Compare with Revelation 11:2, “But the court which is without the temple leave out, and measure it not; for it is given unto the Gentiles: and the holy city shall they tread under foot forty and two months.”
Mountains are very prominent in the Olivet Discourse. The mount of Olives gives its name to the prophecy. Jesus said, when you see the abomination of desolation, “Then let them which be in Judaea flee into the mountains.” [Matthew 24:16]
Most people reading this think he meant, flee for self-preservation. But 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] Clearly his warning to flee to the mountains was not for self-preservation.
Joel wrote: “And it shall come to pass in that day, that the mountains shall drop down new wine, and the hills shall flow with milk, and all the rivers of Judah shall flow with waters, and a fountain shall come forth out of the house of the LORD, and shall water the valley of Shittim.” [Joel 3:18]
When Jesus spoke of new wine in his parable, it represented new teaching, and new understanding. [Matthew 9:17] The mountains of Israel represent revelations of God, and promises, and covenants. The promises of God are the mountains that Jesus meant we should flee to.
Ezekiel said an enemy had claimed the mountains as a possession, and had made them desolate, and swallowed them up on every side, so they were “taken up in the lips of talkers,” and were “an infamy of the people.” They had become “a prey and derision to the residue of the heathen that are round about.” [Ezekiel 36:2-4]
God promised that the mountains would “shoot forth branches,” and “yield fruit to my people of Israel.” “I will multiply men upon you, all the house of Israel, even all of it.”
These mountains represent the invisible spiritual things promised to the saints. Understanding prophecy is one of them. The enemy will be overcome. “And I will call for a sword against him throughout all my mountains, saith the Lord GOD.” [Ezekiel 38:21]
Another feature of the Olivet Discourse, that this prophecy shares with other prophecies, is that it refers to clouds. Christ is revealed “coming in the clouds of heaven with power and great glory.” [Matthew 24:30]
Clouds and thick darkness are associated with “a great people and a strong,” in Joel 2:2. The hordes of Gog and Magog “come up against my people of Israel, as a cloud to cover the land; it shall be in the latter days.” [Ezekiel 38:16]
John wrote, “Behold, he cometh with clouds; and every eye shall see him.” [Revelation 1:7] Peter described false teachers as “clouds that are carried with a tempest.” [2 Peter 2:17] Similarly, Jude wrote: “clouds they are without water, carried about of winds; trees whose fruit withereth, without fruit, twice dead, plucked up by the roots.” [Jude 1:12]
These contrast with clouds such as Zechariah described, bright clouds, that give showers of rain, the rain representing the word of God. “Ask ye of the LORD rain in the time of the latter rain; so the LORD shall make bright clouds, and give them showers of rain, to every one grass in the field.” [Zechariah 10:1]
Jesus said, “then shall all the tribes of the earth mourn.” [Matthew 24:30] This is about universal repentance. Joel wrote, “Therefore also now, saith the LORD, turn ye even to me with all your heart, and with fasting, and with weeping, and with mourning:” [Joel 2:12] “Let the priests, the ministers of the LORD, weep between the porch and the altar, and let them say, Spare thy people, O LORD, and give not thine heritage to reproach, that the heathen should rule over them: wherefore should they say among the people, Where is their God?” [Joel 2:17]
Zechariah said, “And I will pour upon the house of David, and upon the inhabitants of Jerusalem, the spirit of grace and of supplications: and they shall look upon me whom they have pierced, and they shall mourn for him, as one mourneth for his only son, and shall be in bitterness for him, as one that is in bitterness for his firstborn.” [Zechariah 12:10] The ones who pierced him are not Jews who lived in the first century, but everyone who truly repents. Isaiah said, “But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed.” [Isaiah 53:5]