Seeking lost mountains
Revelation 16:17-21 describes the events that occur when the seventh angel pours out his vial with the last of the seven last plagues. In verse 19, John wrote of a great earthquake, unprecedented in scale, and connected with it, he said, in verse 20: “And every island fled away, and the mountains were not found.” The earthquake must be viewed as spiritual in nature, just as the mountains and islands are spiritual.
In his Olivet Discourse, Jesus exhorted those who are in Judea to “flee to the mountains.” This implies that they are able to find the mountains. In each prophecy, the mountains meant are not literal mountains, but they represent promises of God to the saints, who are represented by “them that be in Judea.” The mountains Jesus intended us to seek are invisible ones.
The mountains of prophecy are symbolic of the promises and blessings of the gospel. They are not really lost, but they have been obscured from our view, just as literal mountains are often obscured by clouds.
In Genesis 49:26, when Jacob blessed his son Joseph, he compared the blessings and promises he had received to mountains. The mountains are durable, and high, and this may also be said of God’s promises, and his mercy, which is one of the promises to those who love him. The promises and blessings that Jacob received have a lofty, spiritual meaning, including the promise of eternal life, and so he said they extended to “the utmost bound of the everlasting hills.”
The apostle Peter said that exceeding great and precious promises are available to those who believe in Christ. God’s promises are both great, and hight, as they are promises of a spiritual nature. Mountains are fit symbols for them. Peter wrote: “According as his divine power hath given unto us all things that pertain unto life and godliness, through the knowledge of him that hath called us to glory and virtue: Whereby are given unto us exceeding great and precious promises: that by these ye might be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust.” [2 Peter 1:3-4]
In Matthew 24:16, Jesus said “flee to the mountains,” not to preserve their own lives, but so that they might possess the blessings and promises of God which mountains represent.
Most people lack the desire, and the opportunity, and courage to venture into the mountains; myths about the mountains kept people from visiting them for centuries. For example, the mountains were supposed to be inhabited by dragons.
There are many parallels between the literal mountains, and the figurative or spiritual ones. The literal ones are not found, because they are remote. Most people live too far away from them; the cities of the world are located far from the great mountains, and to go to the mountains requires travel and some expense.
Most men hope for spiritual blessings, such as the promise of life after death, but they view such promises as if these were a benefit that they inherit simply by being born. Jesus taught that the blessings of the kingdom of God have to be sought for, for example in the parable of the merchant seeking pearls, who found a pearl of great price, and sold all he had, to obtain it. Jesus said, “Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness: for they shall be filled.” [Matthew 5:6] David said God’s righteousness is like the great mountains.
People tend to remain in the denomination and religion of their parents, and the adopt the beliefs of families and societies that they were born into. Jesus said, as he was led away to be crucified, that men will say to the rocks of the mountains, “fall on us.” [Luke 23:30] A fall is a random event, and an accident; rocks in natural mountains may fall in an avalanche, or in a landslide, in places where the rocks are unstable. Similarly, the beliefs of men regarding the gospel and God tend to be determined by their environment, and the various cultural traditions that influence them, more by chance than by planning. Most men tend to follow the teachings of men, but Jesus said of the Jews of his time, “in vain they do worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men.” [Matthew 15:9]
The literal mountains may not be found, because the high mountains are places were cold, ice and snow, storms are prevalent. Warm clothing, boots, an ice ax, ropes or other equipment may required by climbers who venture into high mountains. The approaches to the mountains may be places where wild animals such as bears, or cougar are present. Climbers must be prepared for a strenuous effort to ascend into the high mountains; physical fitness and training is required. Young people may greatly benefit from an introduction to the mountains; those who put it off to old age may miss their opportunity. By becoming familiar with God’s promises when young, people may be blessed throughout their lives. The elderly may benefit too.
Some deliberate planning is required for a successful mountaineering experience. Those who venture unprepared to high mountains endanger their own safety. This also applies to the spiritual mountains. To benefit from the promises of God, one must seek them, diligently.
Natural mountains are not found by some, because route finding in mountainous country is a skill that must be developed. Early maps and guides to the mountains were often incomplete, but they were still very useful to later explorers. Pioneer mountaineers and explorers blazed trails and established routes that were followed by others. The ultimate guide to the promises of God is the Bible; people seeking God’s promises need to study it, and know what is there. Many commentaries exist, of varying quality.
When in the mountains, the peaks may become obscured from our view by clouds or mist. In Scripture, false teachers are called clouds, driven by a tempest. Peter wrote, “These are wells without water, clouds that are carried with a tempest; to whom the mist of darkness is reserved for ever.” [2 Peter 2:17] The apostle Paul refers to their words as “wind of doctrine.” [Ephesians 4:14] In contrast, the words of God are represented by mountains, that are durable, and unchanging.
In mountains, weather and snow conditions may either impede, or aid progress. And similarly the teachings of men may either impede or aid progress.
When amongst the mountains, the particular mountain peak one is seeking may be obscured by other mountains. The ones nearby may seem prominent, but there may be others that are greater and higher. A more complete view is seen from the summit of the higher mountains. The view is limited, when one is passing through a valley or a canyon.
Most mountain climbers have discovered at some time that they were following the wrong route, or that they had been climbing the wrong mountain, and have needed to make corrections, or retrace their steps. Christians may have a similar experience, when seeking the promises of God that the mountains represent. Some are climbing the false mountains of academic or denominational status, following material goals, and the lure of wealth, or sectarian involvement, or pursuing other delusions.