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Mountains of refuge

July 3, 2011

When Jesus said, flee to the mountains, he did not mean that Christians would need to flee, in order to save their own lives, but he meant that they should flee to those things that the mountains of Scripture represent, which are promises of God. Four times in the gospels, Jesus is reported as saying that the person who seeks to save his life will lose it, showing in an emphatic way that Jesus was not telling people to flee to the mountains to save their own lives.

  1. Matthew 16:25
    For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: and whosoever will lose his life for my sake shall find it.
  2. Mark 8:35
    For whosoever will save his life shall lose it; but whosoever shall lose his life for my sake and the gospel’s, the same shall save it.
  3. Luke 9:24
    For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: but whosoever will lose his life for my sake, the same shall save it.
  4. Luke 17:33
    Whosoever shall seek to save his life shall lose it; and whosoever shall lose his life shall preserve it.

The symbolic meaning of the mountains, and their connection with the promises of God is revealed in Genesis. When Jacob blessed his son 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]

Jacob’s reference to “the utmost bound of the everlasting hills” connects the blessings and promises he was given with high mountains. The promises he received are “everlasting,” and durable, like the hills and mountains; they are high, and lofty, like mountains, because they are spiritual in nature. That also applies to the promises of Jesus in the Sermon on the Mount. They are spiritual, and everlasting promises.

Not understanding the symbolic connection of the mountains with God’s promises, some preachers have interpreted biblical prophecies about mountains being moved, or “not found,” in a rather literal fashion. If the mountains are symbolic, and represent the promises of God, and prophecies, then mountains being moved out of their positions would represent promises and prophecies being misinterpreted, which certainly has happened.

Many people view natural earthquakes as evidence of God’s wrath. They interpret statements of Scripture such as, “then the earth shook and trembled” [Psalm 18:7], and “at his wrath the earth shall tremble” [Jer. 10:10], and prophecies of earthquakes in the Apocalypse literally, and as signs of God’s wrath. David C. Pack cited several prophecies as showing that the earth’s surface will be reshaped by earthquakes. He interpreted the prophecy of Isaiah 40:4-5, that says “every valley shall be exalted, and every mountain and hill shall be made low,” as implying the disappearance of the earth’s great mountain ranges. He said, “These verses speak of dramatic changes in the earth’s surface. Vast mountain ranges will no longer exist.” Pack wrote: [1]

Not only will mountain ranges be removed, more land will be reclaimed from the deserts and oceans as well. These changes in the topography of the earth will accommodate a change in the weather. It will become favorable, rather than the harsh, threatening destructive element as has been the case throughout human history.

Without droughts and floods, and without the terrible extremes of temperature, precipitation and destruction from other elements in nature, farming will be more productive. Even the waters of the oceans will be healed and purified (Ezek. 47:8-10).

Obviously Pack failed to understand the plainest of symbols, the river of water that Ezekiel described flowing from the temple of God, which caused salty water to become fresh. In nature, that is not possible, especially in the environment of the Dead Sea. John explained the symbolic meaning of living water, in a parenthetical comment on the words of Jesus. [John 7:37-39]

Mountains being made low in Isaiah 40:4-5 refer to promises of the Old Covenant, that were reinterpreted in the New Testament, and the Mosaic system being set aside. The Levitical system of sacrifices was only temporary. Its purpose was to foreshadow the true message of the gospel. The revelations concerning it were types and figures of the reality which was brought to light by Jesus. These changes were what Isaiah’s prophecy foretold. Valleys being filled may represent missing revelations being provided, such as were given by the apostles in the New Testament.

The kingdom of God is described under the figure of a mountain, in Daniel 2:35, in the dream of Nebuchadnezzar that Daniel interpreted. It is a mountain that grows from a stone cut without hands, to fill the earth. Jesus promised that if we seek God’s kingdom first, the other things that we need will be given to us. [Matthew 6:33]

The promise of the kingdom of heaven is the first of several promises in the sermon on the mount. “Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” [Matthew 5:3]

The next promise is to those that mourn. They will be comforted, Jesus said. “Blessed are they that mourn: for they shall be comforted.” [Matthew 5:4] The Spirit of God is called the “Comforter.” This great promise, like other promises, is a metaphorical mountain, that everyone should flee to!

Jesus said, “Blessed are the meek: for they shall inherit the earth.” [Matthew 5:5] The meek are blessed because they will inherit the earth; not because they take it by violence.

In the kingdom of God, men will beat their swords into plowshares, and nations will be at peace, and they will not learn war any more. [Micah 4:3]

Jesus said, “Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness: for they shall be filled.” [Matthew 5:6] The earth will be filled with the knowledge of God, as the waters cover the sea, Isaiah said. [Isaiah 11:9]

Jesus said, “Blessed are the merciful: for they shall obtain mercy.” [Matthew 5:7] And, “Blessed are the pure in heart: for they shall see God.” [Matthew 5:8] “Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called the children of God.” [Matthew 5:9]  These are all figurative mountains, as they are great, lofty, and everlasting promises and blessings.

Jesus said, “Blessed are they which are persecuted for righteousness’ sake: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Rejoice, and be exceeding glad: for great is your reward in heaven: for so persecuted they the prophets which were before you.” [Matthew 5:10-12] Even this is a blessing.

These are the mountains Jesus meant we need to flee to, I think; not to save our own lives, but because they are the great blessings of the gospel! Jesus said, “Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you: For every one that asketh receiveth; and he that seeketh findeth; and to him that knocketh it shall be opened.” [Matthew 7:7-8] No wonder he said men ought to “flee to the mountains!”


1. David. C. Pack. Earthquakes and Volcanoes–Their Role in Prophecy. The Real Truth, March 5, 2010.