In prophecy, what does location signify?
For some prophecies and visions, the prophet’s location is specified, and there are patterns, that associate some subjects with mountains, and others with rivers.
In the book of Numbers, when Balak the king of Moab hired Balaam to curse Israel, the two men went up on the tops of the mountains and hills around the plains of Moab, where the tents of the tribes of Israel were pitched. Balaam uttered his parables, or prophecies, on the high places of Baal, on the top of Pisgah, and on the top of Peor. [Numbers 22:41; 23:14; 23:28]
Isaiah 2:1-3 is a prophecy concerning Judah and Jerusalem. Isaiah said the mountain of the Lord’s house will be established in the tops of the mountains, and exulted above the hills. In the New Testament this has been fulfilled, as Jerusalem is raised up to heaven; it is called “Jerusalem which is above” and “heavenly Jerusalem.” [Galatians 4:26; Hebrews 12:22] Paul said the saints are raised up together, and “sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus.” [Ephesians 2:6]
Jerusalem is a name applied to the church, which follows because Jesus is king, reigning upon the throne of David, which will remain forever. When Jesus ascended to heaven, Isaiah’s prophecy about the mountain of the Lord’s house was fulfilled.
Isaiah wrote, “Of the increase of his government and peace there shall be no end, upon the throne of David, and upon his kingdom, to order it, and to establish it with judgment and with justice from henceforth even for ever. The zeal of the LORD of hosts will perform this. [Isaiah 9:7]
In Nebuchadnezzar’s dream, interpreted by Daniel, a stone cut without hands became a great mountain, that filled the earth. Daniel said this mountain represented the kingdom of God. [Daniel 2:35]
Jesus said Jerusalem is the city of the great king: “But I say unto you, Swear not at all; neither by heaven; for it is God’s throne: Nor by the earth; for it is his footstool: neither by Jerusalem; for it is the city of the great King.” [Matthew 5:34-35]
Ezekiel referred to Israel as a mountain. [Ezekiel 17:23; 20:40] In his vision describing the temple, Ezekiel was set upon a very high mountain, south of Jerusalem; it was a visionary mountain, not a natural, or literal one. [Ezekiel 40:2] In a similar fashion, in John’s prophecy about the new Jerusalem, he said: “he carried me away in the spirit to a great and high mountain.” [Revelation 21:10]
The pattern evident in these prophecies associates the holy city, and God’s kingdom, and the church, with a mountain, and a reason is suggested by the blessing that Jacob gave to Joseph, in Genesis 49:26. He said his blessings extended “to the utmost bound of the everlasting hills.” They were lofty and high like mountains, and also eternal. Prophecies about the church are promises and blessings, and part of the gospel, and the promise to Abraham, that in his seed all nations will be blessed.
On the other hand, the times when God appeared to the prophets are often associated with rivers. Ezekiel’s vision of God occurred by the river Chebar, which is the Euphrates. [Ezekiel 1:1] Similarly, Daniel saw his vision of the man clothed in linen beside the river Hiddekel, which is the Tigris. [Daniel 10:4; 12:5-7] John the Baptist said he saw the Spirit descending from heaven like a dove, and abiding upon Jesus. [John 1:32-33] This occurred when John baptized Jesus in the river Jordan.
Ultimately, these two patterns are united, presenting us with the paradox of rivers on a high mountain, as in John’s description of the New Jerusalem, a pure river of water of life flows from the throne of God. The mountain of the Lord’s house is the location of the river that flows in the street of the holy city. “In the midst of the street of it, and on either side of the river, was there the tree of life, which bare twelve manner of fruits, and yielded her fruit every month: and the leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations.” [Revelation 22:2]