The metaphorical meaning of mountains as symbols of God’s promises and blessings is based upon the words of Jacob in Genesis 49:26 where he said, as he blessed Joseph:
The blessings of thy father have prevailed above the blessings of my progenitors unto the utmost bound of the everlasting hills.
The promises he received were lofty and spiritual, and so were high like high mountains, and also durable, or eternal, so he compared them to the “everlasting hills.”
The table below lists many prophecies that refer to mountains, with brief explanatory notes.
Some Old Testament prophecies seem to have been fulfilled in a literal manner, but others clearly have to be interpreted. Why are some literal, and others not? In prophecy, things of a spiritual nature are represented by symbols.
Here are some prophecies of Zechariah that are said to have been literally fulfilled by Jesus.
Jesus likely alluded to Zechariah’s prophecies, when he said, “And when ye shall see Jerusalem compassed with armies, then know that the desolation thereof is nigh.” [Luke 21:20]
He continued, “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. For these be the days of vengeance, that all things which are written may be fulfilled.”
The following is part of a commentary on Zechariah chapter 14, from: Talbot W. Chambers. The Prophet Zechariah. In: Johann Peter Lange. ed., A commentary on the Holy Scriptures: critical, doctrinal, and homiletical, Volume 14. Scribner, NY. 1874. pp. 109-113.
How prophetic mountains are perceived
Commentators have long claimed that mountains in prophecy represent nations or kingdoms, and it is true that God’s kingdom is often represented by a mountain. However, scripture supports a more fundamental interpretation of the mountains; they represent God’s blessings, and covenants, and promises.
Natural mountains may appear differently, when viewed from various directions, and prophecy is similar. Promises of blessing, and covenants, may be represented by mountains, which are prominent parts of the promised land. The kingdom of God is a prophecy, and a promise of blessing, and so it can be represented by a mountain.
An edited version of an article I wrote about the mount of Olives in the prophecy of Zechariah 14 has been posted on agnus dei – english + romanian blog, without proper attribution. The blog seems to incorrectly attribute some of my work to a person named Justin Taylor. Portions of my original article are omitted. I did not approve of the alterations, apparently made by Rodi Galis. In the post below, my article is reproduced and the portions missing in the unauthorized post are designated in quotes.
In August 2011 Mike Vlach posted a three part series of blogs on Zechariah 14. Part 1 was Zechariah 14 and the Timing of the Kingdom; part 2: Zechariah 14:10-21 and the Nature of the Coming Kingdom; part 3: Theological Implications of Zechariah 14. His concluding comments seem mainly intended to discredit the idea that Christ now reigns as king on the throne of David.
The theological position Vlach defends is dispensationalism, and his posts seem chiefly designed to prop up dispensational dogma, rather than to expound the true meaning of Zechariah’s prophecy. For example, he does not mention the significance of the day of the Lord at all.
In Zechariah 14:1, Jerusalem’s spoil is divided up in her midst. The spoil is her possessions, and prophecy is one of the things given to the church, which many have treated as if it were a spoil. Dr. Michael J. Vlach discussed Zechariah 14:1-9 in his post, Zechariah 14 and the Timing of the Kingdom. In this prophecy, Zechariah described the mount of Olives being cleaved in the midst, and the two sections of the mountain moving apart, in opposite directions.
Vlach denies that the subject of the prophecy of Zechariah 14 is the church. But the name Jerusalem is applied to the church in the New Testament. Jesus said it is “the city of the great king.” [Matthew 5:35] In 1 Peter 1:1-12, the apostle Peter said the prophets ministered “not unto themselves, but unto us.” Perhaps the armies that Zechariah described, who come against the holy city, the heavenly Jerusalem, include those who misinterpret prophecy. Read more…
The following table contains a brief commentary on Zechariah 14, showing how it applies to the whole of the present age of the church.
When Zechariah wrote, “And ye shall flee to the valley of the mountains,” in Zechariah 14:5, it is as if he were to say, “And ye shall flee to the valley of promises,” as the mountains represent the promises of God to the saints in scripture. Read more…
In Matthew 24, when the disciples asked Jesus what would be the sign of his coming, and the end of the world, Jesus listed several events, that would lead up to the end of the world. Preterists filter everything said in this prophecy, and in other prophecies in the Bible, through their interpretation of verse 34, where Jesus said, “Verily I say unto you, This generation shall not pass, till all these things be fulfilled.” Read more…
In Revelation 12, the woman, who represents the Church, is described fleeing to the wilderness in verse 6, and again in verse 14, she flies to the wilderness with eagle’s wings. A question arises, what is her destination? The Israelites, who escaped from Egypt, looked forward to dwelling in the land promised to their ancestors, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. After 40 years wandering in the wilderness, the people crossed the river Jordan and took possession of the territory of the Canaanites, one city at a time.
William Kelly (1820-1906) was an early dispensationalist and a friend of John N. Darby. He published many books on prophecy promoting dispensationalism. He viewed the Israel of prophecy as meaning the Jews, rather than the Church. Jerusalem meant the earthly city. In centuries of scholarly investigation, no plausible figurative interpretation of the cleaving of the mount of Olives, and the displacement of the two halves of the mountain towards the north and towards the south, as described in Zechariah 14:4-5, had appeared. Perhaps Kelly was comforted by this. He assumed that surely, that prophecy must be a literal one, and could only refer to literal earth movements yet to occur, at Christ’s coming.
Preterists misinterpret the teaching of Jesus in his Olivet Discourse. They insist that this prophecy was fulfilled in the first century. They delight in comparing their interpretations against those of futurists. Here the claims of preterists are compared with the teachings of Jesus.
In Bible prophecy, Jerusalem and its surroundings are prominent subjects. Several prophecies speak of dramatic changes in the land at Jerusalem, including vertical and lateral displacements.
When the disciples asked Jesus to increase their faith, he told them that if they had faith as a grain of mustard seed, they could say to a sycamine tree, that was nearby, “Be thou plucked up by the root, and be thou planted in the sea,” and it would obey them. Then he explained that a servant who does merely what is required is unprofitable.
The covenant that Christ confirms with his church includes the fulfillment of all the prophecies about the promised Messiah, Jesus Christ. One of these prophecies, in Zechariah 14, says that he will stand upon the mount of Olives, and that the saints will flee to a valley that forms when the mount of Olives splits, and half of the mountain goes north, and half of it goes towards the south.
The prophet Ezekiel made several references to the mount of Olives, some explicit, and some implied. He said the glory of the Lord went from the midst of Jerusalem and stood upon the mount of Olives. [Ezekiel 11:23] Later, he said the glory of the Lord came by way of the east, and filled the house of the Lord. [Ezekiel 43:5] The river which flowed from out of the temple was only ankle deep, near the city of Jerusalem, but it became a river that was too deep to cross about a mile to the east, which is the site of the mount of Olives. [Ezekiel 47:5]