Exploring the mountains of prophecy
Isaiah wrote about making a highway in the wilderness, and mountains being made low.
The voice of him that crieth in the wilderness, Prepare ye the way of the Lord, make straight in the desert a highway for our God. Every valley shall be exalted, and every mountain and hill shall be made low: and the crooked shall be made straight, and the rough places plain: And the glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together: for the mouth of the Lord hath spoken it.
Interpreting the encoded message of prophecy correctly reveals the glory of God. In Isaiah’s prophecy the mountains are symbols of the prophecies and promises of scripture. Those who investigate Bible prophecy are a lot like explorers or mountaineers seeking a way through unexplored, rugged country.
Before venturing into the mountains, an explorer must equip himself properly, and prepare for possible extreme conditions. He will likely obtain maps of the country, or photographs, and read reports written by those who have made previous attempts to get to the desired destination, such as reaching a mountain top, traversing a mountain range, or ascending a particular ridge or face of a mountain. He must develop the skills and fitness required by a mountain environment.
There are parallels here for those investigating Bible prophecy. They need to become familiar with the things learned by those who have gone before, and master sound principles of interpretation established over the centuries by previous investigators. Isaiah wrote:
Thus saith the Lord, In an acceptable time have I heard thee, and in a day of salvation have I helped thee: and I will preserve thee, and give thee for a covenant of the people, to establish the earth, to cause to inherit the desolate heritages
The goal is to posses the desolate places; that is, to understand the meaning of obscure prophecies that reveal mysteries of the gospel, which enlighten men, and make them free. Jesus said, “And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.” [John 8:32]
The freedom he spoke of is freedom from darkness, and ignorance.
That thou mayest say to the prisoners, Go forth; to them that are in darkness, Shew yourselves.
Those who explore the mystical, spiritual mountains of prophecy do not need to contend with physical hardship, weather conditions, and hunger and thirst. Isaiah said:
They shall feed in the ways, and their pastures shall be in all high places. They shall not hunger nor thirst; neither shall the heat nor sun smite them: for he that hath mercy on them shall lead them, even by the springs of water shall he guide them. And I will make all my mountains a way, and my highways shall be exalted.
Some have found by long and bitter experience that Preterism and dispensationalism are illusions; their followers are in respective prisons, from which they need to be set free.
The preterists are like mountaineers walking in the tracks of men with only local, easy objectives in view. Some rely upon the first century Jew, Josephus, author of a history of the Jewish war. His work is considered as having equal status with the teachings of the apostles. It is cited by them as must as any prophecy in the New Testament. In general the routes that preterists tread lead to no lofty heights, but wander amongst the jumble of fallen rocks and scree commonly found near the base of mountains, in the foothills, where nothing new can be discovered; no notable goals are achieved.
The dispensationalists are like mountaineers too. They too venture only where others have trod. Their route is disconnected, and requires gigantic leaps. There is no continuity in it. They boast of having achieved great things, and compare themselves favourably with preterists, but upon scrutiny, their claims seem grossly exaggerated.
Both groups need to get free of their old patterns and prejudices and try a different approach. Daniel J. Boorstin wrote, “The great obstacle to discovering the shape of the earth, the continents, and the ocean was not ignorance, but the illusion of knowledge.” [The Discoverers: A History of Man’s Search to Know His World and Himself. Random House 1983. p. 86.]
Preterism and dispensationalism are like chains and shackles that restrict how one is allowed to think of the 70 weeks of Daniel 9. Both theories insist that the 70 weeks are weeks of years, for a total of 490 years. Preterism says they were fulfilled in the first century; they were continuous, and the 70th week ended some time after Christ was crucified; dispensationalism likewise says the 70th week is a literal seven years, like the preceding weeks, but it is separated from the previous weeks, and is yet future. Into the 70th week of future tribulation they try to cram most of Bible prophecy, including the Olivet Discourse, and the 4th to 19th chapters of Revelation. Not surprisingly they tend to be fearful, and pessimistic about the future.
The mistake common to both preterism and dispensationalism lies in the application of literal earthly units of time to things of a heavenly, spiritual nature, to which earth time simply can not possibly apply. When Jesus ascended to heaven, after his resurrection, the mountain of the Lord’s house was established in the tops of the mountains, in heaven. Jerusalem and mount Zion were exulted above the hills, as Isaiah foretold.
The word that Isaiah the son of Amoz saw concerning Judah and Jerusalem. And it shall come to pass in the last days, that the mountain of the Lord’s house shall be established in the top of the mountains, and shall be exalted above the hills; and all nations shall flow unto it. And many people shall go and say, Come ye, and let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, to the house of the God of Jacob; and he will teach us of his ways, and we will walk in his paths: for out of Zion shall go forth the law, and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem.
After Jesus sat down in the throne of his Father, how could earth days, earth months, or earth years be applied to Him? Or to the heavenly city, that is built without hands? Christ’s throne is eternal; it transcends earth time. Who would be so foolish as to limit His generation to the first century, so denying his resurrection? His generation remains for ever.
The wall of the heavenly Jerusalem has dimensions measured in units of an “angelic” or spiritual character. [Revelation 21:17] This principle also applies to the prophetic time periods connected with the heavenly Jerusalem, which is the church, the bride of the Lamb. The last half of the 70th week is the time, times and a half, which is represented by various expressions in prophecy; Daniel connects it with 1,335 days, and 1,290 days. [Daniel 12:11-12] Neither corresponds to a literal three and a half years. John in Revelation mentions the time, times and a half, and connects this expression to 1,260 days, 42 months, and to three days and a half. The series of numbers becomes progressively smaller, so depicting a diminishing period, which is characteristic of the remaining time of the church.
In the 70th week, Christ confirms his covenant with many. This covenant is the one made with Abraham, which Paul identifies with the gospel. [Galatians 3:8] Peter said to the Jews,
Yea, and all the prophets from Samuel and those that follow after, as many as have spoken, have likewise foretold of these days. Ye are the children of the prophets, and of the covenant which God made with our fathers, saying unto Abraham, And in thy seed shall all the kindreds of the earth be blessed. Unto you first God, having raised up his Son Jesus, sent him to bless you, in turning away every one of you from his iniquities.
This is the covenant Christ confirmed during in his earthly ministry. Paul said:
Now I say that Jesus Christ was a minister of the circumcision for the truth of God, to confirm the promises made unto the fathers.
Christ continues to confirm the covenant which is to bring blessings upon all the families of the earth in the last half of the 70th week, the time times and a half, which is not a literal three and a half years, but a symbol representing the entire present age of the church, completing the 70th week of Daniel’s prophecy.