Home > Book of Zechariah, Dispensationalism, mount of Olives, Mountains in prophecy, New covenant, Preterism > Preterism, dispensationalism, and the mount of Olives

Preterism, dispensationalism, and the mount of Olives

September 15, 2011

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.

Zechariah said:

Zechariah 14:4-5
And his feet shall stand in that day upon the mount of Olives, which is before Jerusalem on the east, and the mount of Olives shall cleave in the midst thereof toward the east and toward the west, and there shall be a very great valley; and half of the mountain shall remove toward the north, and half of it toward the south.
And ye shall flee to the valley of the mountains; for the valley of the mountains shall reach unto Azal: yea, ye shall flee, like as ye fled from before the earthquake in the days of Uzziah king of Judah: and the LORD my God shall come, and all the saints with thee.

Jesus already stood upon the mount of Olives during his ministry, and often taught his disciples there, so that part of the prophecy was fulfilled. Then the mount of Olives is cleaved in the midst, forming a valley to which the saints will flee.

How is that possible? How can Christians who live in remote parts of the earth flee to a valley in Palestine, that does not even exist?

Has the mount of Olives been cleaved in the midst? How can there be a valley in it?

In scripture the promises and covenants of God are represented by mountains. Jacob said, when he blessed Joseph, “The blessings of thy father have prevailed above the blessings of my progenitors unto the utmost bound of the everlasting hills.” [Genesis 49:26] The mountains are durable, and the blessings and promises given to Jacob were, like the mountains, durable and eternal, and spiritual in nature, hence they are associated with mountains.

The mount of Olives represents the everlasting covenant that Christ confirms with his church during the present age, as foretold in the prophecy of Daniel 9:27, “And he shall confirm the covenant for one week.”

The mount of Olives represents the everlasting covenant, which is cleaved in the midst, in the sense that many preachers deny that it applies to Christians today.

Dispensationalists misrepresent the covenant referred to in Daniel 9:27, saying it is a seven-year covenant that an individual Antichrist character will make with ethnic Jews, during a future seven-year tribulation. Their theory displaces the mount of Olives to the south.

On the other hand, preterists say the covenant was fulfilled already, and that it is limited to seven literal years in the first century. Their theory displaces the mount of Olives towards the north.

The consequence of these flawed interpretations is that the everlasting covenant is “cleaved,” as if the mount of Olives was cleaved in the midst, and the two halves were displaced to the north and to the south, forming a valley between.

The Grea Rift Valley

The Great Rift Valley and the Sinai Peninsula

In a literal sense, a tectonic event that would split the mount of Olives, and displace the two sections in opposite directions in the manner that Zechariah described seems most unlikely. The fault systems in the area preclude the formation of an east-west valley by tectonic means. The major fault lines run north-south, being controlled by the Dead Sea Transform fault system.

Nothing is impossible for God, of course, but the meaning of Zechariah’s prophecy is spiritual. A literal view of the prophecy makes no sense; why would survivors of a major earthquake flee towards the epicenter, which would likely be subject to aftershocks? What would they flee from? And why flee after the event? What use is an earthquake prediction, that says to flee after it occurs?

Zechariah’s prophecy exposes those who claim that a literal tectonic event in which the mountain is literally split and displaced to the north and to the south is required to fulfill the prophecy as foolish.

Why would people need a great valley to form in the mount of Olives, in order to get to the other side? The mountain is not very high, and it is fairly easy to walk across in its present state. Christ did so many times with his disciples. The mountain is no obstacle at all for pedestrians.

The cleaving of the mount of Olives, symbolic of the flawed interpretations of preterism and dispensationalism, has already occurred. Some have already abandoned dispensationalism, and some have already abandoned preterism. The prophecy of Zechariah is a guide, which indicates which way to go, so those escaping from delusions will not leap from one false interpretation to another one that is equally false, as has happened to some.

The way to go is represented by the figurative valley, between the two flawed views of the holy covenant. That is, to embrace the holy covenant that Christ promised he will confirm. One of the promises Jesus made is that the Spirit will guide the saints into all truth. [John 16:13]  The covenant includes the New Covenant that he has confirmed with his own blood.

Hebrews 13:20-21
Now the God of peace, that brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus, that great shepherd of the sheep, through the blood of the everlasting covenant,
Make you perfect in every good work to do his will, working in you that which is wellpleasing in his sight, through Jesus Christ; to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen.

  1. October 8, 2011 at 6:50 am

    You make some really good points and raise some good questions, but are missing something very important. Zechariah 14:5 creates a lot of confusion because the translation itself that says people are to flee to a split Mount of Olives is incorrect. The correct translation of this verse is found in the Septuagint (LXX), which is a Greek translation of the Old Testament. Please see http://zechariahfourteenfive.wordpress.com for proof that this claim is true..

  2. October 8, 2011 at 11:27 am

    According to some commentators, in the Syriac version of the LXX, the name Azal translates to ad angustum locum: “to the narrow place.” [1][2]

    The meaning in verse 5 is then, “And ye shall flee to the valley of the mountains, for the valley of the mountains shall extend to a narrow place…” The idea would suggest people who were previously scattered coming together to one place.

    Charles H. H. Wright considered the notion that the prophet meant people will flee from the valley to be mistaken; he stated: “But that translation rests on the mistaken view that the people were to flee from the valley formed by the earthquake, instead of into that very valley, which is the simple meaning of the passage.”

    Zechariah’s prophecy may be compared with Ezekiel’s prophecy of a river flowing from the temple, towards the east, that becomes remarkably deep and wide, at a location which would be somewhere near the middle of the mount of Olives. The river is figurative, and represents the light of the gospel, that flows like a river from the saints during the present age, as Jesus explained. [John 7:38]

    Ezekiel’s prophecy seems to require a valley through the mount of Olives where the river became deep.

    In several reverences to the mount of Olives in the Gospels, it is symbolic of the new covenant, as Sinai represented the old one.

    In Zechariah 14:8, Zechariah speaks of living waters going from Jerusalem, “half of them toward the former sea, and half of them toward the hinder sea: in summer and in winter shall it be.” They flow in two directions, alluding to the blessings of the gospel extending to all nations. They flow both in summer and in winter, which seems to allude to the present age, and the age to come. See The times and seasons of the gospel.


    1. Charles H. H. Wright. Zechariah and his prophecies, considered in relation to modern criticism, Bampton Lectures, 1878. pp. 476-477, note.

    2. William Lindsay Alexander. Zechariah: his visions and warnings. 1885. p. 306.

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