Earth movements at Jerusalem

September 20, 2011

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.

Dispensationalists take most of these prophecies literally, but if the various prophecies are compared one with another, it turns out that contradictions preclude any literal interpretation.

Discussions by dispensationalists seldom focus on more than one of the prophecies about earth movements. But scripture encourages us to avoid taking a narrow view, and instead, try to look at the complete picture. Isaiah said:

Isaiah 28:9-11
Whom shall he teach knowledge? and whom shall he make to understand doctrine? them that are weaned from the milk, and drawn from the breasts.
For precept must be upon precept, precept upon precept; line upon line, line upon line; here a little, and there a little:
For with stammering lips and another tongue will he speak to this people.

“Here a little, and there a little,” suggests that the full picture is not found in any one prophecy by itself; all the relevant prophecies pertaining to the subject must be considered.

Ezekiel’s prophecy about a river emerging from the temple, and flowing eastward, and the measurements of its gradient, contained in Ezekiel 47:1-5, seem to contradict prophecies by Isaiah and Zechariah about Jerusalem being raised up. Isaiah 2:1-3 says that the mountain of the Lord’s house will be “established in the top of the mountains, and shall be exalted above the hills.” Zechariah 14:10 says Jerusalem shall be “lifted up,” and all the surrounding land will become a plain. The meaning of the land becoming a plain seems to be that the literal land is no longer the focus of God’s covenant, and of the promises of God. The literal Canaan loses its significance, as under the new covenant, the land promise has to be understood in an entirely spiritual or figurative way. “But now they desire a better country, that is, an heavenly: wherefore God is not ashamed to be called their God: for he hath prepared for them a city.” [Hebrews 11:16]

In Ezekiel’s prophecy the depth of the river flowing from the temple gradually increases as it flows towards the east. In about half a mile, the depth increases from ankle deep, to about three feet. This does not fit existing topography, and if Jerusalem and mount Zion were to be raised up, in a literal sense, the gradient of this river would be greatly increased. This is an example of the failure of the literalist approach to prophecy, which pits one prophecy against another, and attempts to adapt scripture to the views and opinions of men.

Zechariah 14:3 says, “Then shall the LORD go forth, and fight against those nations, as when he fought in the day of battle.” The armies that come against Jerusalem are spiritual, not armies of flesh and blood. The Jerusalem in the prophecy is the heavenly one. These spiritual forces include flawed interpretations of Zechariah’s prophecies, and other prophecies.

Zechariah said that the mount of Olives would split, and half would move towards the north, and half towards the south. This is fulfilled in our age by the theories of preterism and dispensationalism. The two halves of the mount of Olives displaced from their positions represent opposite interpretations of the Olivet Discourse, the book of Revelation, and other prophecies. Both preterism and dispensationalism deny that the week in which Christ confirms his covenant with his church includes the whole church age. Preterism limits the time to seven years in the first century, and dispensationalism says it is limited to a future seven year tribulation. Dispensationalism also mistakes Christ for Antichrist.

Jesus discredited the literal interpretation of the cleaving of the mount of Olives of Zechariah 14:4 proposed by dispensationalists, when he was upon the mount of Olives with his disciples, and suggested that they could say to this mountain, “Be thou removed, and be thou cast into the sea,” in Matthew 21:21, and in Mark 11:23.

Mark 11:23
For verily I say unto you, That whosoever shall say unto this mountain, Be thou removed, and be thou cast into the sea; and shall not doubt in his heart, but shall believe that those things which he saith shall come to pass; he shall have whatsoever he saith.

Zechariah said that the mountain would be displaced towards the north and towards the south, and here, Jesus says the same mountain might be cast into the sea. Only if the cleaving of the mount of Olives, and the displacement of the two sections to the north and to the south are figurative, and likewise, only if Jesus’ reference to the mount of Olives being cast into the sea in Mark 11 is non-literal, can the sayings of Jesus and the prophecy of Zechariah make sense, and be reconciled.

The mount of Olives represents the new covenant, and its being cast into the sea evidently represents the promises of the new covenant becoming available to Gentiles, which is a prominent theme in the New Testament. This is the covenant that Jesus confirms for one week, as stated in Daniel 9:27. The week is not limited to seven years, but spans all the time from the beginning of his ministry to the end of the age. Since it applies to the heavenly Jerusalem, the prophetic time periods that depict the time when Christ confirms his covenant are not determined in terms of earth days, earth years, or earth months, but they are expressed in symbolic, or figurative units.

These examples illustrate how scripture itself discredits the flawed interpretations of dispensationalists and preterists. Zechariah said, “And it shall come to pass in that day, that a great tumult from the LORD shall be among them; and they shall lay hold every one on the hand of his neighbour, and his hand shall rise up against the hand of his neighbour.” [Zechariah 14:13] The on-going warfare between these groups seems to fulfill Zechariah’s prophecy.